Is God Real or Pretend?

I know what I believe: a very emphatic, loud, resounding YES MA’AM!  I mean, if you read this post , you’ll understand that it’s by His very Grace that I’m alive. In addition, I believe He is a loving God, who through the Christian principles and teachings I’ve chosen to follow from The Bible, compels us to be compassionate, tolerant, non-judgmental and forgiving. And also that, as Glennon Doyle Melton, of Momastery  puts it…“God is forever tries.” In other words, no matter how many times we sin, or how bad the sins are…if you ask Him to come into your life and forgive you….He does. No questions asked.

At the same time, I respect what you believe. Even though your answer to this question may be vastly different from mine. That’s perfectly fine with me, because differences are what make our world a unique place to live. I’ve never been one to force my beliefs on anyone, and I don’t plan on starting now, on the 42nd anniversary of my birth (yes, today is my birthday). The various religions of the world and their individual teachings and guidelines have always fascinated me. I’ve even sought classes on the History of Religions, only to enroll and find out it was not going to supply me with the knowledge I was seeking, so I dropped out. Oh well. I suppose as an eternal student of life, I’ll just have to keep looking. But anyway, enough about that.

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The reason for my post today is simple. I was asked by TLC Book Tours to review a book entitled “Is God Real or Pretend”, by Jennifer Horsman.

Is God Real or Pretend? is the story of young Franklin’s engaging and enlightening journey to answer this age-old question. Franklin’s grandmother, Dr. Wendy Knowles, a professor of astronomy, first provides Franklin with the basic scientific means of determining what is real and what is not and how science distinguishes questions it can answer and those it cannot. Franklin’s mission of discovery continues as he meets a kindly professor of Greek mythology who offers a historical-cultural prospective on the question. Here Franklin meets the Greek Gods and their timeless myths.

Once armed with these new ideas, Franklin meets with representatives of the world’s five major religions: Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Muslim. These knowledgeable teachers from the great religions charm and delight as they shine positive lights on their religion. Franklin asks probing questions, while learning to appreciate and admire the diversity and beauty of these religious beliefs and traditions. Ultimately, Franklin’s dynamic school report on the immensity and magnificence of the universe becomes the backdrop for thinking critically about religion and questions about God.

This book is designed for anyone and everyone, young and old, religious or not, who wants to know more about these five great religions. It’s the most unforgettable and exciting journey, one every thoughtful child (and the curious adults in their life) will enjoy.

REVIEW

Being the mother of The Beans –Sugar, Butter, and Sweet Pea– and having just concluded a glorious holiday season during which they were all three baptized in a beautiful ceremony, our family lit the last candle of Advent–the Christ Candle — at our church’s Christmas Eve service, and then witnessing them open the gifts Santa brought them on Christmas Day…..my biggest issue with this book is that on page 2 it clearly states “SANTA CLAUS IS NOT REAL.”  WTF? Seriously. For a book that is geared towards a young audience, that’s just…well…wrong in my honest opinion. And to think, I almost read it to my youngest two children, who still whole-heartedly believe in the magic of Santa. Talk about dodging a bullet inevitably designed to break a tiny heart! Now, I realize not everyone allows their children to believe this myth based on the assumption that it’s ‘lying’ to them. And hey…to each his own. But I, for one, plan to allow mine to enjoy the magic for as long as they choose to. They grow up fast enough. Besides, I’ve witnessed Christmas miracles in my life that could only be explained by belief in both God and Santa Claus. So there.

All that being said, the book does an effective job of explaining the 5 major religions of the world: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It talks about each one separately, outlines the major rules or principles its followers abide by and explains the differences between the faiths. At the same time, the author manages to highlight how the various religions are similar in their teachings on an elemental level, which I very much enjoyed. In addition, the book addresses the existence of God from a scientific perspective, discusses the history of Greek Gods, or polytheistic belief, and talks about Agnostics, or those who are unsure whether God exists at all. The language is easy to understand, and it flows well, which is definitely a plus for a book about religion. All in all, an interesting read full of useful information.

In the end, Franklin, the curious child at the center of this story, says  “I learned that religions all have different ideas of God, but that God still remains mysterious,” and, “All religions try to help people be better.”  Both valuable points, I believe. However, ultimately he decides he likes “the scientific way of knowing best.” For me, this is not the conclusion I would prefer my children to settle upon, but that’s likely because I feel the presence of God in my life, have a strong faith and want my daughters to grow up with the same. Because often, at the end of a particularly challenging period in one’s life….hope, belief and faith may just be all you have to cling to.

Think I’ll tuck this book away from the eyes of The Beans until they begin asking questions. For now, they love Jesus with all their hearts, and believe God is very real….which is fine by me!

The Beans just after their Baptisms.

The Beans just after their Baptisms.

Jennifer Horsman is the author of many popular books for both young readers and adults. In addition to a B.A. from UC Irvine in Social Ecology (don’t ask; no one knows what it means), she has spent a lifetime reading about religion, philosophy, history and science.

You can find her books at www.JenniferHorsman.com, or by clicking on her picture below.

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GRACE UNPLUGGED

Every so often, I’m invited to cool events as the result of my incessant over-sharing here  at a calibama state of mind. Some are blogger networking soireés, others are invitations to be part of the audience for a talk show, and others are opportunities to attend private screenings of great films before they are released.  That’s what happened last week, and the film sent such a positive message, I want to tell y’all about it so you won’t miss it once it opens in theaters this Friday!

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**A talented young singer and aspiring songwriter’s Christian faith and family ties are tested when she defies her worship-pastor father and pursues pop-music stardom in GRACE UNPLUGGED, a moving and inspiring new film that explores the true meaning of success.

Grace Trey has just turned 18 and aspires to do more than sing in her church’s worship band, which is led by her father, Johnny Trey, a one-time pop star who gave up his life in secular music when he became a Christian. Grace longs to escape his shadow and make a name for herself singing songs about something other than God, but Johnny warns her that fame is not as glamorous as it looks and reminds her that serving and worshipping God with the talent she’s been given is a far more worthwhile goal.

When Johnny’s former manager, Frank “Mossy” Mostin shows up 20 years after the two parted ways to offer him another shot at the big time, Johnny declines the opportunity. But Grace takes it – without telling her parents. She records a cover version of her father’s old Top 10 hit, runs away to Los Angeles and, under Mossy’s guidance, begins to taste the kind of success she’s always dreamed of, landing on the charts herself, attracting the attention of the entertainment press, even dating a popular TV star.  But with each rung of the ladder she climbs, Grace feels pressure to compromise her Christian values, and her relationship with her parents gets further strained. Even as plans move forward for her to record a follow-up album, Grace learns not everyone who says they’re on her side really is. The one exception is Quentin, an intern at her record company and a fellow Christian who urges Grace to reassess her choices and put God first again in her life. Will everything she experiences lead her to reject her faith … or …rediscover it?

 

Ironically, the screening was scheduled for last Wednesday evening, which happened to be not only the eve of Sugar Bean’s 14th birthday, but also the night she attends her beloved youth group meeting at our church. And as much as I adore attending a private screening (and even more so the party that usually follows) I must admit, when Sugar Bean opted to attend youth group instead of the movie, I smiled a bit. Okay, a lot. Because raising a teenage daughter in LA is really tough, and there is always a moment of pride when you are presented with unequivocal evidence your angel has her priorities aligned properly: God, Family, and Fun. In. That. Order.

Our very important scheduling conflict did not, however, mean all was lost. Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, and a great girl named Briana at Grace Hill Media, who hooked me up with a digital link, and provided me with log-in credentials…we were able to enjoy the film from the comfort of our own home, snuggled up together in our jammies. And it’s such an amazing, feel good family flick, that was an outstanding way to experience it. Quality mother/daughter bonding time is always sheer perfection! And the icing? The film is partly set in Birmingham, Alabama, which is not far from where I grew up, so I recognized the scenery. That’s always fun!

Anyway, the film itself is just the kind of movie I love to show The Beans. It’s packed with teenage angst, disobedience and rebellion. Wait…what?! Did I just say that? Yes. Yes I did. It’s incredibly relatable, and the rebellion is dealt with sensibly; emphasizing faith, family and the importance of remembering your roots, following your beliefs, maintaining strong morals, and trusting God to lead you along the path to where you belong. It’s packed with teachable moments. Yes, it’s a Christian film. But it’s much much more than that, so don’t shy away from seeing it, even if your spirituality and faith is rooted elsewhere. Because with all the horrifying images and behavior exhibited these days by the very pop stars whom our youth once viewed as ‘role models’, this movie is a gust of fresh, clean air our children can breathe in and be inspired by. The character of Grace Trey is just the kind of girl anyone would be overjoyed to have as a daughter, and fortunately….I’m pretty sure I’m raising three of her, with help from positive works of cinematic brilliance like GRACE UNPLUGGED. 

Starring AJ Michalka, James Denton, Kevin Pollack, Shawnee Smith, Michael Welch, and Jamie Grace, GRACE UNPLUGGED arrives in theaters October 4 from Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions. Inspired by a true story, GRACE UNPLUGGED is directed by Brad J. Silverman and produced by Russ Rice, the team behind NO GREATER LOVE.

AJ with Dad Performing In Church[1]

Grace Piano & Guitar[2]

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You can visit the official website, view the trailer and follow the journey of this film by clicking the links below:

Website: www.graceunplugged.com

Official Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0zIUGjIR1Q

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/GraceUnplugged

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/GraceMovie

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**Denotes synopsis provided by Grace Hill Media. All images provided by Grace Hill Media, with permission from Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions.

The opinions stated here are entirely mine, and mine alone, and I did not receive any monetary compensation in exchange for my review. 

Like mother, like daughter…and some horn tooting :-)

It has come to my attention over the past 6 months, that two of  The Beans are gifted writers. Sugar Bean is making straight A’s in Advanced English, and Butter Bean was named “Writer of the Month” for her class in December. Woo-hoo…they can take over the blog when I die, right?!

So, it really came as no shock to me yesterday when I picked Sweet Pea up from school and she announced that she’d been given an award for writing at the morning assembly. Another chip off the old block….yippee 🙂 Normally, I would have been there to see her receive the award, but for some reason, I didn’t get a notice about her accomplishment. Apparently, the Korean Parent’s Association presented awards to the students based on an essay each of them wrote about New Year’s Resolutions, to commemorate Lunar New Year.  And Sweet Pea was one of two students to win in her class. She received the certificate pictured below, along with a Barnes and Noble gift card!!

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 This in itself had me BEAMING with pride. 

What brought me to tears, literally, was when she showed me her essay. It’s short and simple, but so powerful. Especially to a mama who is trying very hard to make sure her Beans realize the importance of  these lessons, through living examples like this.  Anyway, here is what she wrote, and illustrated. I believe it speaks for itself:

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If you look closely, you can see the two kids depicted on the left are saying ‘No toys’ and ‘No fair’, and on the right, there is Sweet Pea holding bags of toys to give them as they exclaim “Toys!”, “Yay!”. What an incredible drawing. Even if My Bean is the artist, and I do say so myself.

I wept silent tears of joy all the way home from school, knowing that even when The Beans have bratty, selfish moments, and I would swear it’s not….parenting by example really is sinking in 🙂

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Eating mudpies

God made dirt. It won’t hurt.

I’m not sure there has ever been anything written about parenting multiple children more true than this ecard. Yes, it’s effing hilarious. But the truth often is, right? It also reminds me of the perceived ‘Curse of the Middle Child’, and the over-abundance of photographs I have of Sugar Bean and Butter Bean as infants and toddlers, but the lack of pictures of Sweet Pea during those stages. For awhile, I was worried she might think we stole her, and couldn’t take pictures because of it…lol. Anyway, I believe the photo ratio has finally evened out because THEY ALL LOVE THE CAMERA. And the feeling is mutual 🙂

But, I digress.  Back to eating dirt.

Personally, I was scared shitless when Sugar Bean came along, and I was a new mommy in Los Angeles. Because, y’all….I was raised in the South, by a mama who was 40 when I was born. Which, in itself was not cool for the 70’s. I mean, from what I understand, she was told there was a 50/50 chance I would either be of genius level intelligence or suffer from some sort of mental deficiency, simply based on her age, and the risks associated with having a baby during ‘THE CHANGE’. And I guess the jury might still be out on which one I grew up to be depending on whom you ask. My point is, because most of my childhood friends’ parents were the ages of my older siblings–I’m the youngest by 12 years in my family–which meant my mom’s friends had teenagers, not toddlers….I was a solitary child. Didn’t really have friends over to play, for this reason, and hardly remember going to others’ homes until I was well into elementary school.  Playing with other kids wasn’t referred to as a ‘play date’ when I was young and  ‘Mommy & Me’ groups/classes didn’t exist. In other words, the raising I got in the South, and the parenting I witnessed my siblings exercise upon my nieces and nephews, didn’t really jive with the world of motherhood in Los Angeles I was thrust into in 1999. To say I was clueless, is, well….an understatement. So I did the only thing I knew to do…try and fit in. Especially since the alternative, stereotypical (and often mocked) familiar traits of a Southern mama involved standing around barefoot in my front yard, with my baby girl propped on my hip wearing nothing but a diaper while  gossiping  with my neighbor about what ingredients she used to make her version of a 7-layer Surprise (it’s a dessert). No, I’ve never made one, and we lived off Melrose, so I never ventured over to meet the neighbors either.

OH. THE. HORROR.

At first, I attempted to do everything the other ‘hip moms’ did. I had a fancy diaper bag, and bought Sugar Bean’s clothes from trendy little boutiques I heard about, to wear on play-dates, or to our Mommy n’ Me classes. Hell, I even jumped on the bandwagon of ‘organic’ baby food, which was rumored to be an absolute must for my angel, despite the fact that all it’s really made of is vegetables grown in the dirt with only sunlight and water to help them along. In other words….just like the ones I helped my Papa tend to in his garden…my whole life. Once harvested, pureed, jarred, labeled and sold at inflated prices in stores like Whole Paycheck, Whole Foods, it’s then referred to as gourmet organic baby food.  Who knew? We went so far as to hire a nanny for a little while, to be an ‘extra pair of hands’, because I convinced myself I needed help…with ONE CHILD…even though I was a SAHM, without so much as a shred of a job beyond housewife/mother. My siblings were laughing, my girlfriends were laughing, my in-laws were laughing, and in hindsight, it’s rather embarrassing, I have to admit. Why, you ask? Because it was obvious to everyone but us, that The Man and I were clearly , trying to Keep Up with The Whoevers. It ended up biting us on the ass some years later, after Butter Bean was born, when said nanny went rogue on us and almost turned our fairytale into a “life imitates art” exhibit straight out of  “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle”. THANK GOD my sisters had some sense, and managed to stage an intervention.  But that, is a post for another day….and several bottles of good Pinot  🙂

Things moved merrily along, and we added Butter Bean to the mix, just when Sugar Bean started Kindergarten.  Given my over-achieving, type A nature, and obvious need to ‘win’ I even took part in the evil world of competitive birthday party throwing. If you know what I’m talking about, you’ve probably done it…at least once. If you don’t, it’s best not to even ask for details. Trust me on this one, and laugh at the notion…if it were in fact an Olympic sport, this village idiot would be decorated like Michael-freaking-Phelps.

I was doing everything right, or so I thought, until it came to discipline. That is the one area of “Parenting LA Style” that always baffled my mind, as it seemed to be entirely absent from the motherhood spectrum as exhibited by the moms I encountered, once Sugar Bean started school. You see, I was taught to obey when my mama or daddy said “No”. Not to ask why, and then be given an explanation, followed by a ‘choice’. If I didn’t behave as I was told, I faced consequences, sometimes involving wooden spoons, belts or switches I had to fetch from the yard myself. There was no talking back, or ‘using my words’, no timeouts and certainly no dedicated ‘cool down corner’, complete with burning candles and calming music, for me to go and chill out in, if I disobeyed. I can just imagine the place my Daddy would have put me in had I ‘used my words’…lol. Nonetheless, I did my best to conform, only reverting to REDNECK MAMA every now and then when I just didn’t have another feasible choice. At the end of the day, I’ve done what works for our family, and used a combination of methods that appear to be most effective. Punishment fits the crime so to speak, and it’s different for each Bean. I guess that’s all we can do, right? Sure, my way is different from the vast majority of moms in my circle, but nobody judges. Anymore…lol. But I have tried REALLY REALLY hard to make The Beans say ‘yes ma’am, no ma’am/yes sir, no sir’, in an effort to hold on to some shard of dignity when we visit the South. Not only is it ingrained in my personality, it’s just plain respectful. I’m 41, and I still say it when responding to those older than I by a span of years. It’s about 50-50 at this point with The Beans, and it does set them apart from the pack when they utter those words in mixed company. Also, I must give them props for their table manners and social graces, and for remembering never to call their friends’ parents by their first names. Not even when THEY give permission. Simply unacceptable.  Basically, I’m trying to raise open-minded, socially aware and tolerant, respectful, independent, strong women who have impeccable manners and behave like Southern Belles. Oh, and to know when to utter “Well, Bless your heart”  as opposed to “WELL. BLESS YOUR HEART!” 🙂

Right about now, you may be wondering how on Earth this is all going to come together at the end of the post, and why I chose to write about it today. It’s because Sugar Bean is 13 now. THIRTEEN. She thinks I’m over-protective, and admittedly, I am. All of her friends have a Facebook page and I am making her wait, under the ‘terms of service agreement’ that you must be at least 14. I flipped out when she signed up for Instragram, and gave this long spiel about NEVER posting pics of herself, or sisters, because I worry about cyber-geo-tagging of pictures. Again, I warned her of the threat of the people behind the profiles not being whom they say they are, and assured her it has nothing to do with my trust in her, but my distrust of others. So she made her account private, and posted pictures of her toenail polish, our dog, and our bearded dragons. That got old, so she deleted her account. All of her friends stay connected via some form of social media, and I am depriving her of that. I also feel like she doesn’t try and forge friendships as often because she is afraid of not being able to participate in activities that appear to be normal for the tween set. And I don’t want that.  Am I crazy for being so protective?  I mean, I did relax and relent on the issue of allowing her to walk down to a pick up spot with her friends after school each day. Of course, I’m there waiting when she arrives and there is no ‘hanging out’. Go ahead, call me a Helicopter Mom. No, wait…don’t. I’ve never been one to fight her battles, or forbid climbing on a jungle gym out of fear she might fall. So maybe I’m more of a Tent Mom. You know, attempting to shelter her from the possible storm that may be awaiting her in the world of social networking. Hmm.

I realize I am a big hypocrite, as I am baring my soul here, being public and posting pictures from time to time….of The Beans. And maybe I am being too paranoid. It’s been on my mind a lot lately, so I talked about it in a therapy session this morning. Turns out, my doc has a 13 year old daughter, and he talked me off the ledge. Reassuring me I am doing all the right things…staying involved, monitoring things, and explaining my concerns and hesitation due to my skepticism of others, not because I distrust her. Then he admitted his 13 year old daughter has a Facebook page. It’s the way EVERYONE connects, arranges outings, and communicates in general. He also said the chances of any of my valid, yet paranoid concerns, coming to light for Sugar Bean under my watchful eye, would be basically less than being struck by lightning. Twice.

So, after much deliberation, both through internal dialogue with myself, and discussion with The Man and The Doc…..Sugar Bean will be connecting to the social networking world this evening.

But she has no idea….yet 🙂 I imagine her reaction will be better than when she got her iPhone for Xmas.

Breathe in, breathe out….breathe in, breathe out…repeat.  Oh, screw it. Who am I kidding?

I’m gonna need a Xanax washed down with some Jack Daniels before sitting down to sign her up on Facebook.

The teenage years are going to put me in the dirt….eating mudpies.

 

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