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Learning from Lars

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In honor of Valentines day, I’m re-posting a blog from a few years ago. As you celebrate love, take a few moments to think about what it truly means to love those around us, and seize the opportunity to Learn form Lars. Lars and the Real Girl is, in my opinion one of the best best love stories found outside the Bible. Here’s why I think so:

I want to give a shout out for Lars and the Real Girl, an unusual but very sweet and endearing movie about the need for community, physical touch, and true, compassionate love. It’s also peppered with a bit of Napoleon Dynamite-style humor, though not to the extreme. Don’t be scared away by the basic description: Lars orders a life-size doll and is convinced that she is his real, live girlfriend. Strange? Yes. Raunchy? Absolutely not. For a plot that has potential to go south fast, Lars and the Real Girl keeps it clean and honest. It’s all part of the movie’s commentary on true, authentic love. I think we can all relate to Lars on some levels, and we can all learn from him and his rather unusual ‘girlfriend,’ Bianca.

Lars loves people.
He just has a funny way of showing it. We see this from the very opening scene when he gives his sister-in-law, Karen, his blanket to keep her warm on the short walk home. He’s afraid of interaction with people, but that does not mean he doesn’t love them. Karen doesn’t understand him and thinks she has something against her, but over the course of the movie, she learns that love does not look the same to everyone.

Physical touch hurts Lars. He equates it to the burning sensation you feel when you’ve been outside in the cold and come back in where it’s warm. He wears layers to help protect him from the pain of physical touch. Lars’ strange ‘condition’ is a commentary on the pain involved in love. By locking himself in his own world he has indeed become ‘cold,’ and as he begins to interact with others, he is stripping off some of his layers and beginning to expose himself. If we are to love authentically, we will have to do the same, and chances are, it just might hurt.

Bianca used to be a missionary. Lars says she is on sabbatical to experience the world, but what he does not realize is that she is still a missionary, actually helping him to experience the world. Bianca brings a message of love both to Lars and to his entire community. She gives Lars the confidence he lacks to begin to interact with his family and his friends from work. And she helps the community — especially Karen and Gus — understand that loving someone means accepting them as they are, and not trying to change them. At the end, the pastor calls her a ‘teacher,’ and a ‘lesson in courage,’ and he is right, because true love, the kind that Lars, Gus, and Karen all learn about, takes an incredible amount of courage.

Lars love for Bianca is genuine. He does not use her, as one might expect a man would use an attractive, life-size doll. In fact, Lars never touches Bianca romantically, save a sweet and simple kiss near the end. To Lars, commitment supersedes anything physical in a relationship. He knows that Bianca is committed to him, and that’s enough. Even when Bianca is unsure about his marriage proposal, he stands by the belief that “a man doesn’t cheat on his woman.” Some of the most endearing scenes are when Lars waits nervously at Bianca’s weekly doctor appointments, when he sings to her at the lake, and when he reads aloud to her. Lars gives of his time and affection out of genuine love, not a desire to get something in return.

Sometimes it’s just about having the presence of another person. In the words of the women from the community, “that’s what people do in times of crisis. They come over and sit.”

Gus tells Lars that you know you are grown up when you decide to do what’s right for everyone else, even if it is not what you want. Ironically, I think that Gus learns this more than anyone. He has to overcome his embarrassment to do what’s right and love his brother unconditionally. And we know that Lars has learned this at the end of the movie when he finally lets Bianca go. He has discovered the hardest thing about love: sometimes it means that we sacrifice that which is most dear to us. I think that Lars sacrifices Bianca because he has grown up, in Gus’ definition of the term. Lars realizes that, while love involves sacrifice, it also does not demand it of others. He cannot show genuine love to those who love him as long as Bianca is in the way and so, he gives her up.

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Written by liferenewed

February 14, 2011 at 5:49 am

2010 in review

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Do you ever have one of those days when you’re brushing your teeth at the end of it all, thinking about how fast it went, and you suddenly realize how much a person can do in a single day? Well, I’ve just had one of those years. On the one hand, it went remarkably fast and on the other hand, so much happened on both the interior and exterior of my life that it’s remarkable to think that only a year passed. One year — and a lifetime. Here are a few of the highlights.

Best movie of 2010

I recently read a movie critic’s list of 2010’s top ten movies and I must admit, several of his picks were films I haven’t even heard of. So, from my limited viewing experience, I bring you what I believe are two of the year’s best movies from two completely separate genres.

Inception

Undoubtedly the best—most original—film to come out of Hollywood in quite some time, Inception made the top of my 2010 movie list months before the year was over. I’m not typically a nail-bitter, but halfway through the film, I suddenly realized the tips of my fingers were in my mouth. I won’t say too much for fear of spoiling anything for those who may have not seen it yet. (Seriously, remedy that ASAP!) But I will say that it’s not an easy task to write a movie based entirely on a reality you will have to help your audience understand and believe. Inception does this seamlessly, all while weaving a multi-layered story and delivering a frustratingly brilliant ending.

Toy Story 3

I honestly didn’t expect much from this movie. Typically, when you get to the third of anything, you’ve basically compromised quality and storyline for a name that people feel some sort of allegiance to or affection for. But Toy Story was by far the exception to the rule. Based on the opening scene alone, I think this movie did a better job capturing a child’s imagination than the first two Toy Stories combined. It’s definitely my favorite of the trilogy.

Best books I read in 2010

I thought I knew what my favorite books of 2010 were, and then I started looking over my reading notes from the year and became more conflicted. So, at the risk of leaving some wonderful, well-deserving titles out, I’ve boiled it down to two books from vastly different categories.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee’s classic novel was one of those books that I’d always felt as if I should have read, but just hadn’t. When I finally picked it up along with my book club ladies, I literally didn’t want to put it down. It’s a well-written, fascinating story that quickly captures your attention and manages to deal with difficult themes and serious issues without compromising the free-spirited, lighthearted narration. And in the end, I think it poses several pertinent questions about human nature.

Forgotten God

This book completely challenged the way I think about the Holy Spirit and forced me to question the strength of my own faith. It’s a vivid—and apt—reminder of power we have in us a Christians, delivered by Francis Chan, a wonderful communicator.

Lessons from 2010

A year ago, when I reflected on 2009, I talked about uncertainty, my desire for control, and the need to trust God with the details of my life. Looking back on 2010, I’m so thankful to see that he didn’t leave me off the hook—he continued to prod me to give up control of my life and gently reminded me just how little I do have control over. I’m still a work in progress, but one thing God showed me this year is that allowing him to change our hearts is indeed a slow process.

This year, I started surrendering my battle for perfection. God is still teaching me how—and that it’s okay—to let go, but what I’m finding as I do is a great deal of freedom and joy. And it gives me hope and excitement for the future because it means that as I let go of my attempts at perfection I leave room for God to do more in and through me.

Over the past year, I also watched many of my friends go through unprecedented trials and learned first-hand how God uses suffering. Through it all, I’ve realized that God has a way of giving us exactly what we need for the moment. The year’s unexpected turns have shown me that, no matter what happens, God will make sure we have the patience, grace, and strength to deal with it. And that too, excites me for the future, because it means there’s potential for me to do things that are bigger than myself. I don’t have to stick with just dreams I know I can accomplish, because I have the power of the Holy Spirit—a power that can help me accomplish anything God calls me to. And, I don’t have to worry, because God knows what I’ll be facing, and even if it’s not easy, he’s going to prepare me to deal with it.

None of this is new to me intellectually. I could have told you this a year ago, but now I know it on a deeper level. My heart is more convinced of it, and I understand exactly what it means on a personal level. I’m grateful that God lets us learn, and I pray that my heart would continue to be receptive.

And just for fun, completely trivial things that changed my life in 2010

  • Pandora (I discovered this before 2010, but it continues to change my life, so it still counts)
  • Netflix
  • Frozen grapes (don’t comment until you’ve tried them)
  • Adidas Sequence running shoes
  • This American Life
  • Portland (this city will never stop changing my life)
  • Short hair

Written by liferenewed

December 31, 2010 at 6:07 am

Posted in Books, Life lessons, Movies

Highlights of 2009

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It’s time to look back at what was great (and maybe not so great) about the past year. Hopefully soon I’ll write about what’s been rolling around in my head in regards to goals for 2010—I’m still processing some things—but for now I thought it would be fun to share some memorable moments from the last 12-months of being alive.

Best Book(s) I Read in 2009

Irresistible Revolution and Jesus for President

These books—both by a truly revolutionary guy named Shane Claiborne—literally changed the way I think about what it means to be a Christian. Claiborne discusses what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus in a country where people—many of whom call themselves Christians—place their hope and trust in material possessions and political power. He challenges the way we see the world and, through his words and actions, encourages us to embrace a different reality, one that is informed by the mission of Christ. I read both books early in the year and I am still digesting many of the things Shane has to say. These are definitely re-reads for 2010.

Best movie of 2009

Due to the broad variety of elements that can make a movie memorable, it’s difficult to set several great movies side by side and say that one was exclusively better than the others. For this reason, I’ve narrowed it down to my top three. In no particular order:

Slumdog Millionaire

There are few movies that make me feel like clapping as the credits roll in the theatre. This was one of those movies. Deals with some very difficult and important topics, but leaves you smiling at the end. Brilliant soundtrack.

Doubt

Fascinating, well-told, thought-provoking story. This movie doesn’t give you answers, but rather, leaves you with the same questions and doubts that the main characters will struggle with for the rest of their lives. It’s so well done that I felt completely differently about the priest’s guilt the second time I watched it than I had the first. This movie is also very well acted—another phenomenal performance from Meryl Streep.

500 Days of Summer

It’s about time that we have a story of boy meets girl that is not a love story and actually embraces the contrast between harsh reality and expectations when it comes to relationships.
500 Days of Summer rejects the traditional love-story formula and isn’t afriad to make the statement that sometimes, what looks alot like love, isn’t. While making the point that sometimes, love sucks, the film also suggests that we learn from relationships and completely rejecting them is not the answer. Beautiful, creative, and artistic, this was one of those movies I couldn’t wait to see again after leaving the theater.

Worst Movie of 2009

I’m completely ashamed to even admit that I saw this, but in the spirit of honesty:

Land of the Lost

I watched this by myself at the $3 theatre when I had a few hours to kill and nothing else was showing. Though it looked dumb in the previews I thought that Will Ferrell may be able to partially redeem a ridiculous story line by bringing in at least one or two moments of brief comedy. My faith in him was far too great. Not only did I not laugh at all, but I lost two hours of valuable life that would have, I’m sure, been better spent trying to walk across a bed of hot coals. At least then my pain would have given me some sort of bragging rights.

Things I fell in love with in 2009

Running

I can’t believe this is actually on the list. I started running almost on a whim and really didn’t think it would last. But running is addictive, and eight months later I’m still lacing up my tennis shoes and hitting the streets of Fircrest every morning that I have free. It just goes to show that sometimes the things we reject out of fear are those that we would most love.

Portland

One of the highlights of my year was a weekend trip to Portland, Oregon. I fell in love with this city almost instantly. Their public transportation system alone is enough to make me want to live there, and if that’s not enough, they also have a beautiful waterfront, the lively Saturday market, Stumptown coffee almost everywhere you go, and a huge variety of original and artistic restaurants and stores. Literally everyday I think about returning to Portland to eat omelets at Mother’s Bistro and read at Powell’s Books.

The most important thing I learned in 2009

Though for me, this past year was full of uncertainty, God blessed me in ways I never would have dreamed, and thanks to his constant presence, the feelings of instability that accompany change never completely overwhelmed me. Even when I failed to acknowledge God or neglected to seek his advice, he was faithful, and I honestly believe that he saved me from my own stupidity.

When 2009 began I was working 12-hour days, rushing from a temp job at World Vision to a part-time job at the Federal Way Curves. It was hectic and crazy and I lacked time for God or a Christian community. Come March, I was down to just the job at Curves, and without clear direction for the future, I felt apathetic and confused. Then, just as I began to wonder what God was doing, I was offered full-time temp work at World Vision. What was originally a two-month assignment continues to be extended. I may not know where I’ll be in a few months—or whether or not I’ll have work—but through his daily provision God continues to remind me that my direction for the future comes not from having control over my circumstances but from trusting that God knows what’s next. This means acknowledging that I don’t have control and I can’t do this thing called life on my own.

And that brings me to the most important thing I learned this year. I struggle with wanting control, and I like to think of myself as strong enough to not need help. But when I look back at this last year, I can see clearly that the areas in which I relied on myself are the ones I am most dissatisfied with. Like my work situation, I’d be better off trusting God with these things than trying to control them. And I’d be better off seeking help than trying to go it alone. This year, God blessed me with a strong Christian community that constantly serves to remind me of my need for others; contrary to my attempts, the Christian life cannot be lived in isolation. All that said, I think the primary thing that I learned in 2009—or more accurately, am continuing to learn from 2009—is the fact that I must start each day at the foot of the cross. This position forces me to admit that I cannot do it alone and allows me to accept the grace of God that covers the times that I have tried. Once I have given up control, I have freedom to live as God intended.

Written by liferenewed

January 3, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Learning from Lars

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I want to give a shout out for Lars and the Real Girl, an unusual but very sweet and endearing movie about the need for community, physical touch, and true, compassionate love. It’s also peppered with a bit of Napoleon Dynamite-style humor, though not to the extreme. Don’t be scared away by the basic description: Lars orders a life-size doll and is convinced that she is his real, live girlfriend. Strange? Yes. Raunchy? Absolutely not. For a plot that has potential to go south fast, Lars and the Real Girl keeps it clean and honest. It’s all part of the movie’s commentary on true, authentic love. I think we can all relate to Lars on some levels, and we can all learn from him and his rather unusual ‘girlfriend,’ Bianca.

Lars loves people.
He just has a funny way of showing it. We see this from the very opening scene when he gives his sister-in-law, Karen, his blanket to keep her warm on the short walk home. He’s afraid of interaction with people, but that does not mean he doesn’t love them. Karen doesn’t understand him and thinks she has something against her, but over the course of the movie, she learns that love does not look the same to everyone.

Physical touch hurts Lars. He equates it to the burning sensation you feel when you’ve been outside in the cold and come back in where it’s warm. He wears layers to help protect him from the pain of physical touch. Lars’ strange ‘condition’ is a commentary on the pain involved in love. By locking himself in his own world he has indeed become ‘cold,’ and as he begins to interact with others, he is stripping off some of his layers and beginning to expose himself. If we are to love authentically, we will have to do the same, and chances are, it just might hurt.

Bianca used to be a missionary. Lars says she is on sabbatical to experience the world, but what he does not realize is that she is still a missionary, actually helping him to experience the world. Bianca brings a message of love both to Lars and to his entire community. She gives Lars the confidence he lacks to begin to interact with his family and his friends from work. And she helps the community — especially Karen and Gus — understand that loving someone means accepting them as they are, and not trying to change them. At the end, the pastor calls her a ‘teacher,’ and a ‘lesson in courage,’ and he is right, because true love, the kind that Lars, Gus, and Karen all learn about, takes an incredible amount of courage.

Lars love for Bianca is genuine. He does not use her, as one might expect a man would use an attractive, life-size doll. In fact, Lars never touches Bianca romantically, save a sweet and simple kiss near the end. To Lars, commitment supersedes anything physical in a relationship. He knows that Bianca is committed to him, and that’s enough. Even when Bianca is unsure about his marriage proposal, he stands by the belief that “a man doesn’t cheat on his woman.” Some of the most endearing scenes are when Lars waits nervously at Bianca’s weekly doctor appointments, when he sings to her at the lake, and when he reads aloud to her. Lars gives of his time and affection out of genuine love, not a desire to get something in return.

Sometimes it’s just about having the presence of another person. In the words of the women from the community, “that’s what people do in times of crisis. They come over and sit.”

Gus tells Lars that you know you are grown up when you decide to do what’s right for everyone else, even if it is not what you want. Ironically, I think that Gus learns this more than anyone. He has to overcome his embarrassment to do what’s right and love his brother unconditionally. And we know that Lars has learned this at the end of the movie when he finally lets Bianca go. He has discovered the hardest thing about love: sometimes it means that we sacrifice that which is most dear to us. I think that Lars sacrifices Bianca because he has grown up, in Gus’ definition of the term. Lars realizes that, while love involves sacrifice, it also does not demand it of others. He cannot show genuine love to those who love him as long as Bianca is in the way and so, he gives her up.

Written by liferenewed

February 5, 2009 at 12:32 am