Mitchell Richards [Words]

Month: March, 2011

I Hope We Win: The Easter Story As Told By “The Princess Bride”

There’s this scene in the Princess Bride where Buttercup, our damsel in distress if you will, is set to marry another, the evil Prince Humperdink. You see, for those who have not seen the movie, (shame on you) Buttercup is supposed to marry Westley, her one true love. Long story short: Westley is thought to be dead after leaving Buttercup to start a life for them across the sea. In this time, Prince Humperdink finds Buttercup and plans to marry her, and since she has no reason to live because her true love is dead, she gives in. But Westley is not dead, and he and Buttercup are eventually reunited. Humperdink lies to Buttercup telling her that he will find Westley so they can be reunited, by sending his four fastest ships in each direction. Westley is really in Humperdink’s prison, and the following conversation happens:

Humperdink: Aaaaah, my dulcet darling. Tonight, we marry. Tomorrow morning your men will escort us to Florin channel, where every ship in my armada waits to accompany us on our honeymoon.

Buttercup: Every ship but your four fastest, you mean. Every ship but the four you sent.

Humperdink: Yes. Yes, of course. Naturally not those four.

Buttercup: You never sent the ships. Don’t bother lying. Doesn’t matter. Westley will come for me anyway.

Humperdink: You’re a silly girl.

Buttercup: Yes, I am a silly girl, for not having seen sooner that you are nothing but a coward with a heart full of fear.

Humperdink: I would not say such things if I were you.

Buttercup: Why not? You can’t hurt me. Westley and I joined by the bonds of love. And you cannot track that, not with a thousand bloodhounds. And you cannot break it, not with a thousand swords. And when I say you are a coward, that is only because you are the slimiest weakling ever to crawl the earth.

Humperdink: I would not say such things if I were you!

Humperdink then goes to the prison where he is keeping Westley and kills him:

Humperdink: (standing over Westley) You truly love each other, and so you might have been truly happy. Not one couple in a century has that chance, no matter what the story books say. So I think no man in a century will suffer as greatly as you will…

And then he kills him. His screams are heard throughout the countryside, his wails pierce the ears of all those around.

Later, at the wedding of Buttercup and Humperdink:

Humperdink: You don’t seem excited my little muffet.

Buttercup: Should I be?

Humperdink: Brides often are I’m told.

Buttercup: I do not marry tonight. My Westley will save me.

…fighting, yelling, and panic noises can be heard from outside the chapel…

Buttercup: Here comes my Westley now.

Humperdink: Your Westley is dead. I killed him myself.

Buttercup: Then why is there fear behind your eyes?

Westley is alive, and he rescues his bride and off in to the sunset they ride. It is much more dramatic than that, but I will let you experience that for yourself.

I realized that this story, the story of my favorite movie, is very similar to the story of Christ and Easter. You and I will read for the part of Buttercup, the devil will read the part of Humperdink, and Christ the part of Westley.

Devil: lies, lies, deceit, lies.

Me: You are nothing but a coward, with a heart full of fear.

Devil: You and I are to be married tonight.

Me: You may have my body at this particular moment in time, but you do not have my heart. You may have my attention right now, but my love goes to the one that is coming for me.

The devil kills Christ, He suffers, He dies, and darkness is brought on over the countryside. His screams call out the darkness.

Devil: Your Savior is dead. I killed Him myself.

Me: Then why is there fear behind your eyes?

Absolutely beautiful.

Christ is resurrected, the tomb is empty, and He meets us at the altar. Christ becomes sin, He becomes the very thing that got us into this mess in the first place, He becomes what put us on the altar with the wrong groom. We believed the rumors that He was dead and yet He still came for us. And then, He actually dies…and He still comes for us anyway.

I’ve found myself playing the part of Buttercup quite a lot in my life. It seems as though it doesn’t take long for me to find myself dining with the enemy, being courted by sin with extravagance and nonsense, and all I remember are rumors of the Jesus that actually holds my heart. In the movie, it takes a hostage situation sort of thing for Buttercup to remember Westley (as some time had passed since his leaving her and the courtship with Humperdink) and once she realized whose eyes she was gazing into, she fell all over again. I love when Buttercup begins to combat Humperdink by telling him he is full of it, because, in true devil fashion, all he has to say is that he wishes she wouldn’t say such things. When we catch him in his lies, all he can do is shoot back simple retort that does not match the truth he knows.

When the devil thinks he has won, he begins to drag us down the isle to our wedding. He has killed Christ, but me must continue to believe that the ruckus and fighting coming from the outside of the chapel is indeed our Christ.

The fear behind Satan’s eyes will tell the story.

Friends, family, fellow Buttercups…the tomb is empty, our Savior is coming, He is alive.

Happy Easter.

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No Particular Place

I’ve been reading in Genesis a lot lately, the stories of Creation and progression through the beginning. I’ve noticed a few trends early on in the Bible, it seems as though God is deeply connected with His people. The Bible says that God and Adam walked in the garden together, and it seems as though every major character that follows has conversations with God. Abraham and Noah are almost always in constant contact with God, in conversations through out the day. The writer suggests that this isn’t a prayerful kind of connection, but rather an audible conversation. When Adam and Eve sin in the garden and hide, God goes looking for them. He is turning over bushes and climbing up trees, audibly asking “Adam, where the heck are you?” Like a father looking for a lost boy at the circus, God searches for Adam.

In Genesis 27, Jacob screws his brother, Esau, over for their father Issac’s blessing. Esau gets upset and wants to kill Jacob, so Jacob runs for the hills. On the run, Jacob stops and rests in no particular place and God speaks to him through a dream. So even after deceiving his family, God is still speaking to Jacob. A few chapters later in Genesis, Jacob has a full-on physical encounter with God as he wrestled him throughout the night.

Before that, God tells Noah to build the ark for the flood. They make a covenant together.

God was in constant communication with his people.

So I ask, what has happened?

Is God being silent? Is God only speaking to a select few? Or are we missing something here? Who is documenting the voice of God for the future? And with all these voices out there, how can we know if it really is God’s voice?

I recently turned in a resume to get a job that I would really love to get, and before I turned in the resume I sat out in my car and decided to pray for what was about to happen. I turned off my car, set my resume on my lap, and laid a hand on it and closed my eyes. I can’t really describe what happened next. It was like I uncorked a shaken up bottle of champagne, words from God just began to explode into my mind’s ears. Like God had filled up my voicemail box with some certain instructions and was just waiting for me to listen.

And you can call me crazy, because I don’t really care.

But I knew what I was doing was right, regardless if I get that job or not, God let me know I’m heading in the right track. He told me.

I do believe God is still in constant contact with His people, everyone, because I am no one special. I am just a confused young man who tries to make sense of what is going on and passes it along to you via a web. I believe God still speaks, I just don’t think very many people are listening.

Sitting in the car the day, nearly brought to tears by all that God had to say, reminded me of the nights I couldn’t sleep. The nights where I would stay up all night, tossing and turning, not because of being cold or the volume of the TV, but the conversations going on in my head. It’s hard to stop listening to God when life slows down and everything is quiet. It is however easy to turn and run away from those instructions.

I was talking with my friend one day about spirituality and religions and all of that good stuff. The topic of fate and destiny got brought up. She asked if I believed in fate (everything that happens is by chance) or destiny (everything that happens was always supposed to be). I told her that it was probably a little bit of both, because I have felt that God has definitely pointed me in certain directions in my life, but I often times ignore those directions. But the first time I ignored His voice and went my own way, it wasn’t long after that I heard His voice again. I told her that I think that God has a very extremely detailed map for our journey but when we miss the signs and directions, God doesn’t throw the map away, He just draws up a new plan. I also thought that the end of the journey isn’t always the same as the original plan, but God is always wanting to communicate with us, and He is always trying to get us somewhere that is good for us. Easy? No. Good? Yes.

When I was in middle school, I felt God calling me to be a youth minister, so everything from that moment on was driving in that direction. I later transferred to a Christian private school thinking it would boost a little college resume action, attended a Christian university, and got a job at a church. I regret none of these actions, I think I lived in a peaceful communication with God in these times. But while I was working at the church, I decided that I didn’t like it. The key word in that last sentence is “I”. It was I who made a decision, not God. So, I dropped out of college, thinking I would return once I knew what “I” wanted to do with my life.

For the record, “I” still haven’t gone back.

And I think that moment in my life set of a whirlwind of confusion that is still going on today. I haven’t’ felt that same peace from God like I did then until just recently, and even that is more of a glimmer of what it once was. I think the reason for all of this isn’t because God is trying to punish me for ignoring Him, but simply because “I” have been ignoring Him. I feel as though God has done nothing but forgive me, and draw up a new map. I think I’ve been running from Him ever since I dropped out school, probably crossing a couple time zones in the process. But fortunately for me, God is still there with a plan. I may have got a little of course, but God still has direction for me, He still has a plan.

And just as He did with “Jacob”, in no particular place, He is still speaking to me after I screw over my brothers and sisters. Still communicating. Still moving in the foreground when I am trying to push Him to the background. Still keeping me up at night. I just have to shut-up for 10 seconds and let the floodgates open.

God is around every corner, in every song, in every conversation. He is in every sunrise, in every animal, in every breath. He has not stopped speaking to us, we have just stopped listening.

Stuck On Repeat In The Belly Of A Whale

I remember when I was a young teenager, maybe even a preteen, and music was just starting to mean something to me. I will spare you the trivia of what the first CD I bought was, but I remember my first favorite song. Looking back, and listening to the song again, I really have no idea why I liked the song “Sex and Candy” by Marcy Playground so much. I think it was mostly because of how he sang the words “disco lemonade”.

I remember going to the local music store and buying a copy of the album, and listening to that song on constant repeat…and I mean constant. I didn’t even really listen to the rest off the album, I just listened to “Sex and Candy” over and over and over again.

Weird things happen when you listen to one song for days on end. I actually put the song on repeat as I was sleeping one night and woke up the next morning and the song seemed slower. At first, I thought it was the CD player messing up since it had been stuck on the same song all night. But I soon realized that the song seemed slower because I knew every beat and every change in the song. It seemed slower because I had memorized it to such an insane degree, that it slow motioned into my ears in normal speed. The song was still good, but the song was overplayed and figured-out.

This morning in church, the pastor was talking about Jonah and how he deliberately disobeyed God. Before he ends up in the belly of the fish, God asks him to go to a certain town and deliver his message, but Jonah almost flamboyantly goes in the opposite direction. Fast forward the story and Jonah is screwed, caught in the middle of a storm, thrown overboard, swallowed, and hanging out in the belly of the fish. He knew what he was doing the whole time, he was running from God.

I sat there in church this morning and realized that that is exactly where I am in life. I remember a day when it seemed like God talked to me all the time, like we would sit down by the fire and just talk about our future plans together. I remember acting upon those plans, trying to seek them out and to make them happen. While everything wasn’t exactly smooth sailing during those times, I always felt comfort in knowing that God was there. Fast forward this story and you see me running the opposite way, away from those plans, caught in the middle of a storm where I don’t feel God’s hope for me, dumped on the curb of real life, swallowed up in my own self and selfish desires, and thank God I live in Oklahoma or else I feel as I would be in the belly of some great fish in the sea.

My life right now is like the song, it’s slowed down so much that I know it all too well. It is a good song, but it is overplayed and has now become uninteresting. The beat and the melody has not changed in years, and the words sing a tired old song. I am stuck on repeat in the belly of a whale, awaiting to be vomited up into the next dead end job.

Lord, give me a new song.