We all have at least one TV series, movie “empire” or book trilogy that we enjoy. There are so many great ones to choose from. However, how many of you have found yourselves really into the 1st season, first movie and/or first book in a series only to be disappointed by the sequels? Of course there are exceptions...some sequels are very awesome. But we all have to admit that for we've wondered what the producers, writers and/or authors were thinking...if those responsible were out of their minds, burned out and grasping for ideas or just high on something. :-)
Let's take the Star Wars movie empire for example. LOL...I can already feel Star Wars devotees squirming at the possibility of insulting George Lucas' greatest creations. I love Star Wars...so no offense is intended.
Star Wars is a great example of a series that started strong and whose follow ups were good on their own level but just couldn't replace the originality of the first few films. So the special effects tech wasn't as sophisticated. Did that really matter? No. Why? Original, quality writing and outstanding performers outweigh other qualities and are perhaps taken for granted in this new age, new way of doing things. I don't have anything against special effects. They're rather cool, but they can be overdone. The overuse of special effects is like high frequency usage of the F-word and graphic sex into a novel to make it more interesting. It is an incorrect assumption that all consumers want that stuff. You'd be surprised how many quality original works use very little or none of that as a foundation of their success.
Rambling point to a close, sometimes once bright and inspired works falter. They fail to go back to their origins to discover what worked and blend it with new possibilities so that they can maintain their success while making the best provisions for their new and existing fan base.
Disappointment in our favorite media is believe it or not similar to the feelings some (or perhaps even most) of us have about our relationships. Relationships with spouses, significant others, friends, family, colleagues, whomever. Many relationships start out great and can be quite invigorating. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of the first date and the excitement of the first day at a new job and meeting new people.
But somewhere along the lines, things can fade. Even in the strongest relationship. Maintaining authentic interest, warmth, happiness and love in all relationships is vital. Being comfortable is nice, but sometimes that leads to taking others for granted and eventual distance or disconnection. Learning to refresh and revitalize is one key to keeping relationships strong.
Maintenance is a heart matter. It's the most difficult part of keeping quality connections with those in our lives because it takes authentic effort (and a lot of it) from all involved...the responsibility doesn't just fall on one person. Throwing money and gifts into relationships is nice, but it doesn't address the core of relationships. As mentioned at the start of this paragraph, this is a HEART matter. Authentic caring. A must. And people change in time so to think what was true about them say 10 or 20 years ago is the same now, is a bit presumptuous. Sure some things could still be the same, but perhaps some things have changed. So it's important to hold dear to what we first loved while making an effort to maintain what is now. The effort is worth it...even if it's all over again and feels like the movie Groundhog Day. :-)
Remember, relationships can grow moldy and stale like the foil-wrapped mystery in the back of one’s fridge. You wouldn't want to serve that up for dinner, would you? No. Keep it fresh and enjoy every moment of it when you have it. And to be fresh, remember that it doesn't require a lot of "special effects".
Now, I hope I haven't lost you with this long post, but I'm about to talk about the most important relationship now.
The most important relationship you'll ever have...
One can't help but give a special shout out to Jesus. It is Palm Sunday after all. It's a great day to examine one’s personal relationship with Jesus. It is the most important and sacred relationship we will ever have. And unlike media stuff and our interpersonal relationships, Jesus is the same today...yesterday...forever. You'd think that would make relationship maintenance with Jesus easier, but if we're all being honest, it's one of the most difficult relationships to maintain. New Christians (and the toughest warriors) are always easy to pick out of a crowd because they're "all in" seemingly most all the time. For some of us (perhaps the majority), it's not as easy. It turns into a task or work. What should be beautiful becomes routine or finds less of a priority in our days. Our narrow path forward with Christ becomes riddled with potholes, mud puddles and overgrown weeds.
Why is a relationship with Jesus so tough to maintain?
Well, many reasons. But the major kicker is the devil. And oh how clever he is, in particular when one is trying to get one's life on track and be a stronger Christian and walk the good path. One of the ways the devil gets us is by distracting us. There isn't a person in this galaxy immune to this tactic. The devil enjoys providing distractions masked as people and things we love. People and things we consciously (or unconsciously) feel are more important than anything else at the time. Work (enjoyable or not). Hobbies. Social lives. Finances. Physical fitness. Social media. TV. Movies. Books. Games. Gardening. Post-grad work. Home improvement. Shopping. Sit-ins at Starbucks. So many distractions. Distractions that are yes important to us, but should never in the long run be more important than our relationship with Jesus Christ.
But I go to church every week…isn’t that enough?
No. Nope. Nada. No way. It requires consistent and authentic effort, dedication and love.
My church has an exit sign in its parking lot that reads “You Are Now Entering The Mission Field” for a reason. Worship, thanksgiving, Biblical love…It’s all so much more than going to church once a week and an occasional prayer.
It’s taking time to read the Life and Death Handbook, i.e., The Bible. Witnessing. Communion with fellow believers—and those who are “on the fence”, who question and who don't believe. Prayerful meditation, i.e., a time when one talks with Him. It's living one’s life according to Biblical values and laws…the 10 Commandments weren’t a suggestion and Jesus’ teachings aren’t just tales to tell at Bible camp.
I’d be a hypocrite if I said I didn’t need to work on my relationship with Jesus. My walk with Him, living in His image…those need to be primary. I do need to be consistent about what's most important. I’m not a “religious nut”, I’m a Christian; an imperfect little girl in an imperfect middle-aged woman’s body trying to make her way in the world and trying to share what I feel is important in hopes of making a difference.
I’d also be a hypocrite if I said I didn’t need to work on relationships with my family and friends…if you’re reading, I love you and you aren’t far from my heart and thoughts. If we haven’t texted, emailed, talked or visited with each other in a while, perhaps we should.
Now, having read this post, what do I, the reader, need to work on?
Taking the first steps to improve any and all relationships might be tough and tedious, but it will get easier in time. Have honest conversations with Jesus. Read a few passages from the Bible. Call your dad. Instead of going out to eat, cook dinner with your significant other and instead of turning on the TV, simply talk to each other. Visit a friend in the hospital. Help your colleague with that assignment that keeps him up at night. If you feel like you’re having to do all the work, talk to your spouse, significant other, friend, family member, colleague, whomever about that. Pray about the relationship(s) that need work. Jesus always listens, even during the times when you think He’s silent.
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