...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tyler Perry's "I Can Do Bad.."

Whenever I have the pleasure of seeing one of Tyler Perry's latest films, I feel a spiritual energy at least as authentic and as powerful as can be known at real church! I also sense that his films are for Christians who just do not or cannot see how they affect others for better or worse.

Perry's most entertaining character, Madea, is typical of many Christians who just aren't in church. Her cussing, Bible illiteracy, troubles with the police (po-po), and all her other problems like living in her house with an eternally obnoxious brother, don't keep her from being there and being strong for others who need a Madea in their life. Madea has backbone if nothing else- but she has much, much more.

In most of Perry's movies, the theme of self-preservation through forgiveness runs very deep. In the latest film, I Can Do Bad All By Myself, you hear great music by Mary J. Blige and Gladys Knight, you witness great preaching by Pastor Marvin Winans, and you experience the drive of the gathered church- all of it electrifying the entire story line.

As Blige performed the soul- full title song, I couldn't help to think about Job's friends and the church. How often do we, without even thinking, pile on someone- anyone- who is doing bad, who has made a mistake, made a poor choice? Why do we assume the worst and form judgments that are neither just nor helpful? Why?

To begin with, nobody asked us. We don't have to have an opinion on everyone and everything. And like Job, people aren't looking for advice or fake reassurances that you've been where they are when you both know you haven't. Doing that is not only uncalled for, but also, it just contributes to the sense of isolation.

So the genuine love of real Christians, displayed throughout the film, is finally received as it was meant to be given: as a gift, as grace. Love- knowing it as gift and not as tool of manipulation or power over- and choosing to receive it as gift- is why the main character played by Tarji P. Hensen can begin to love herself and those closest to her for the first time. In the end, this mysterious love and healing grace is our only way out of doing bad all by ourselves.

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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

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