One Thing I Learned About Mary Poppins…
Interesting that Ron Dunn would be leading a deep dive into the 10 Commandments at One Th1ng the same week I watched “Saving Mr. Banks”. I just might not have seen the connection between this movie and the second commandment, had God not juxtaposed these two events so closely.
No big spoiler here – if you’ve read the title of the movie, you know “Saving Mr. Banks” is a statement of identity for Mary Poppins. It’s what she was created to do: save Mr. Banks. The movie covers two stories in parallel: the childhood of Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers and the 1960s collaboration between Walt Disney Studios that gave birth to the big screen film. So, what does this have to do with the Ten Commandments, much less you and I?
Thanks, for asking. Let me dive into the “you and I” part first and the Commandment part should become pretty obvious along the roadside.[Spoiler?] As Travers’ father’s alcoholism began to take its toll on her father’s health and her mother began to break down under the stress, her aunt enters the picture – on whom she’d later base the beloved Poppins. But, this Mary Poppins – to save the family from utter destruction. But, while this Poppins could offer help to Travers’ beleaguered mother and siblings and limited care to her dying father, she couldn’t save her father from the damage already done. The story left me wondering how much of our adult lives we often spend trying to right childhood wrongs. Travers, who loved her father’s whimsical imaginations, apparently shut her self off from all childhood fun, save that which she wrote about in her books.
Mary Poppins was sent to save Mr. Banks since her own aunt could not save her own dad. In other words, Travers created for herself a savior who would make all things right that she could not…
I know, that’s a little heavy for Monday Morning Momentum, isn’t it?
Not for the Christian. For those who are in Christ, we understand God as the loving father far better than Travers’ faulty dad. Our Sovereign Father doesn’t have an alcohol problem or a bad temper at work, and He appreciates whimsy far more than even Colin Firth can revel in. Because He loves us now, and Israel long before us, He gave the command to worship no rival gods. The second commandment warns us not to even dream up our own physical representation of Him, because such things always fall short, and will consequently leave us only temporarily fulfilled and unsaved from our greatest need. The Disney story shows Travers reaching a final, cathartic salvation when she sees her father figure, Mr. Banks, alive and well and frolicking with his children – eventually flying kites they repaired with money her own father would have made her invest.
Who Made Your God?
Though she may have experienced temporal justice, without a true Savior, she’d never truly know the good of a perfect and loving Heavenly Father.
Do not act like the other nations…Their ways are futile and foolish.
They cut down a tree, and a craftsman carves an idol.
They decorate it with gold and silver
and then fasten it securely with hammer and nails
so it won’t fall over… such gods,
for they can neither harm you nor do you any good. (Jer. 10:2-3,5)
If Travers spent much of her adult life writing, forming a savior decorated with earthly wisdom, silvery songs, and fancy on pages her typewriter hit like hammer and nails, she’d have created a god that could only save her from the wrongs of her childhood. Easy mistake: even the disciples often mistook Jesus as one who would merely save them from the oppression of Rome and earthly princes. They would scatter at His death because they missed the fact that He died to save them, save Travers, save all of us, from something far greater – a future eternity separated from God. Ironic that Mary Poppins would be so famous for quoting that “some people cannot see past the tip of their own nose…” Her man-made idol’s power went only so far.
The Good News:
In Christ, you have a Savior – capital “s” – who does not promise you mere temporal justice. Things done to you or not done for you in childhood may not be reconciled this side of heaven. But, one day, He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and we will reign with Him in glory. Wrong will be made right. The wicked will be cast off. And, those who are cleansed by the atoning work of Christ will not gloat over this, rather rest in the peace and joy that only a Savior created by God can promise.
So, Lemme Askya
Is there anything – a situation, a relationship, a deal, an ideal – that you’ve created in your life to fix what didn’t happen or didn’t happen as well as you wished in childhood? Any temporal problem you’re striving and striving to save yourself from while God is calling you to set your eyes on the greater problem of eternal salvation? Do as Moses did – crush the idol to powder and feed it to the Israelites… Okay, maybe not the second part. But, repentance for this is simple – “Lord, I’ve bowed down to a god that can scarcely save me from my own past. I want a God who can save me from my future.”
What I Remembered at the Daddy Daughter Dance…
I have a dirty little secret. It mostly only comes out at parties and weddings, but Friday night my firstborn and I attended our very first “Daddy-Daughter Dance” and it reared its ugly head: I can’t dance to save my life. Not that I don’t try… I used to think I was pretty good. I believed in my reputation of being a “great dancer” until a look of near panic came over my then fiancee’s face when we were at a wedding together. One look at my “interpretation” of the moves and she immediately thought: “Oh, NO! He’s a MESS on the dance floor!” While I was initially offended at her opinion, I eventually faced reality. Not an ounce of rhythm in this dancer…
She’s now my wife of nearly 7 years. But, she who has all the moves still doesn’t understand how I can know so much about music yet be so “white” and clumsy on the dance floor. Having a ton of knowledge and doing the right motions, doesn’t mean you’re doing them with soul. It’s different to “know about” rhythm than to “have rhythm”. Wouldn’t you agree?
Jesus had a hard time with the Sadducees, Pharisees, and other religious types of His day because many of them were so caught up in their religious moves – outward behavior – that they didn’t realize they had no soul… Pharisee [Hebrew parûsh’] means “set apart”. And, I really believe that these guys started out in the same good place many of us do when we first come to know how holy God is and how utterly sinful we are apart from Him. I learned this in 2001 and immediately wanted to be “clean” in His presence. The problem for the Pharisees is that the ones Jesus was confronting had become so caught up in the moves – the external behavior – that they neglected the proper attitude of the heart: soul… rhythm… love for God and others.
They were Chris Brown in their minds… Montgomery Burns in their hearts… Therefore, Ed Grimley in their moves.
In the Sermon on the Mount beginning in Matthew 5, Jesus essentially tells thousands in attendance that the Pharisees, etc., had all the right moves in God’s eyes, yet no rhythm. How do you think they felt? Offended to know they had no rhythm? They had boiled a relationship with God down to a list of behaviors that demonstrate piety, but were devoid of it. In fact, throughout His interactions with them, Jesus exposes some of them as using God’s name and God’s law for their own gain. “Selfish ambition” is a drive for “progress” devoid of love for God and love for others. But, when it shows up in our own mirrors, ouch. Hurts to find out you’ve got all the right moves and no rhythm… Offensive.
Lately, I’ve heard a number of people talk about being “radical for God” or being “offensive for Jesus”. Most of them, are well meaning – out of devotion to God, and love for how the truth of Christ offends “those who are perishing”, they say offensive or radical things. Their initial hope is good: wake those who are slumbering to the love of God and the atoning work of Christ. However, there is a fine line between offending those enslaved by sin with the truth that can set them free, and being offensive just for the sake of offending.
How to Properly Offend?
We are in grave danger of walking in the Pharisees’ shoes when we seek to offend merely for offendings’ sake. The Lord didn’t offend merely to be countercultural and offensive. But, exposing “inconvenient truths” about deeply held convictions will offend those who do not have “ears to hear” constructive criticism. Jesus only offended with the “you ain’t got no rhythm” truth so that He could teach them “the unforced rhythms of Grace“, rooted in love for those who have all the right moves with the wrong heart and soul. Agape love – the kind of love that God offers us through Christ – is the kind that seeks to elevate others at our own expense, not vice versa. This is the proper starting point for offending others – aim with restoration in mind.
So, Lemme Askya…
Before you say one more thing to that guy who’s a hypocrite at work, before you send that private Facebook message, before you send that Tweet – are you seeking to offend only to be offensive or because you’d love to see the hypocrite transformed by the Truth, set free by the Lord, and welcomed as your brother/sister in Christ?
Much love (and a whole lot of rhythm),
Longing to be Set Free?
We’ve all heard the story of the Golden Calf, haven’t we? Exodus 32, Moses goes up the mountain, the people begin to doubt he’ll return and in their wicked need for a tangible representation of God, melt down all their personal “bling” to form a golden calf. They sing and dance around it… Moses comes down and loses it, and the Levites slaughtered 3,000 of the offenders that day. God alters the game plan – no longer will He lead the nation, but an angel will be taking lead because if God were to go with them personally, He might have to kill them for their stubbornness. He’d set them free from 400 years of slavery under the wicked rule of idol worshippers. You’d think they’d have had enough of that, not to mention a little more practical devotion to the God who parted the Red Sea for them… But, when we’re used to living as a slave, it’s very possible to be “set free, but not living free.”
Idols enslave. That’s what they do. Sin is sticky and familiar. Sometimes, it’s hard to shake and easy to shift back into even when you’re liberated from it. So, what’s stuck to you right now? And, how do you get it off and keep it off?
God didn’t give the nation of Israel the 10 Commandments until after He’d already set them free – His rules were established after their relationship was established. The famous maxim – “rules without relationship lead to rebellion” is typified here. But, Moses somehow sees the big picture here. Thank God.
“If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth? (Ex. 33:15-16)”
Moses understood God wasn’t on some power-tripping mission to make the Israelites follow a bunch of baseless rules and play Simon Says: Desert Edition at His beck and call. Moses had a relationship with God. Moses understood early in the game that the only reason God would have them as His people, further ever have a people – Israel, the Church, etc. – is for distinguishing Himself and His holy name. Holy people reflect a holy God more clearly. For this reason it seems Moses refuses the angelic point man and returns to first principles: if it’s not You, Lord, in the lead – anyone in our path will miss Your point. Moses pleads for more of God.
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation… If the Son sets you free you will be free indeed… In Christ, we’re no longer obligated to answer to our inner teenager who wants what they want, when they want it, the way they want it. But, don’t we all have a “pet sin” that stirs up godly sorrow every time we commit it? Aren’t there seasons of your sanctification you wish you could fast forward beyond? Feeling… stuck? Feeling… like the Israelites a bit? But, you’re free!!! Shouldn’t this be easy? As Moses understood – it’s simple, but not easy.
Had Enough? How about More?
If you’ve had enough of slavery to sin or a sin in particular, you don’t need “wisdom and discernment” (#1 prayer request of the decade). You need deliverance. You need to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. So, let me ask you: when is the last time you found yourself on your face before the throne with that kind of attitude? Refusing to move forward without His presence? Your greatest need isn’t wisdom or even courage – you know what you’re doing is offensive to God, you’ve just pushed God away thinking He can’t or won’t see what you’re doing in “secret”. I’ve been there, too. If there’s a sin or groups of sin in your life that you keep finding yourself stuck to, even though you are set free, perhaps it’s not an end to the sin you seek. Perhaps it’s just more of the presence of God. How about a little “on-your-Facetime” with God this week? Got a half hour you can carve out in your schedule to just lay prostrate, call out to God, and listen for His reply… wait on His presence?
Hope it’s the best 30 minutes you’ve spent all week…
in it with you,
Breaking Breakfast News:
The week after “Snowmageddon” had most of Atlanta iced into their homes, we drove a quick hour away for a quick “staycation” in Helen, GA. Nothing fancy, bargain hotel deal with a pool to wear out the toddlers and breakfast included. Just had to get out of the house, you know? After a post-breakfast stroll, I went back to the hotel to find 3 urgent voice mails eagerly awaiting on my cell. It wasn’t “good” news: my sister Shanua, had suffered a stroke… in India… and the brain bleeding looked like it could go from bad to worse. Shortly after admission to ICU, the doctor gave her 24-48 hours to live. “Fine, how was your breakfast?”
I’m 42. My sister’s only a couple years my senior. Nobody in my family dies of a stroke in their 40s! Do they?
A few days pass, tons of prayer across the country, some emergency expediting of visas takes place and a few family members make haste to her side at the ICU. She’s better, still a little numb on one side, but would have to return to the States to complete her very miraculous turnaround and recovery. The day before she arrived home I got the news one of our most beloved uncles died. It was tough news for me and would be tough news for her even under normal circumstances. I spoke with her on the phone yesterday morning, she had taken it well. I could tell she was a bit busy wrapping her brain around the fact that her brain had almost taken her out… “Less than 10% of people who went through what I went through survive.”
Today, with my sister’s miracle as the first word of the sentence and Uncle Rufus’ death as the period, I understand a phrase that Shanua now knows in all too vivid detail: we all have an expiration date.