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All the latest goings-on with Greg and Jenn Wright, Hollywood Jesus Books and DIM.

About Greg & Jenn Wright: Greg and Jenn Wright are Managing Editors of Hollywood Jesus and Past the Popcorn. They both hold degrees in Literature and Theology, and have written and published a number of books. Greg is an internationally-known lecturer on film, Tolkien, and Narnia.
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Study Notes, Feb. 7, 2008

Greg's Study: Genesis 19:18-38

Lot begs off from the big trek to the hills and convinces the messengers that neighboring Zoar would be good enough. So the messengers make the concession, and end up sparing the whole town of Zoar just because of Lot’s laziness (editorial asides mine). Along the way, Lot’s wife looks back toward Sodom as it’s getting pummeled by sulfur and gets turned into the proverbial pillar of salt. Oddly, Lot doesn’t feel “safe” in Zoar, and ends up moving to the hills anyway. There, in the safety of complete isolation and free of the corrupting influences of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot gets both of his daughters pregnant. The excuse? The girls were worried about their biological clocks ticking, and in absence of readily available non-familial seed got Dad drunk so they could father children. No surprisingly, the incestuously bastard children they bore became the bitterest of Israel’s enemies.

  • On the one hand, Lot manages to save an entire town by begging with the messengers for his own safety. On the other hand, he just left behind two entire city-states that were laid waste. I can see why Lot wouldn’t be Public Friend Number One in Zoar. But given that he’s felt safe enough in Sodom, it does strike me as odd that he felt the need to vacate Zoar and opt instead for a mountain cave.
  • The girls’ excuse for sleeping with Lot seems pretty weak. Zoar obviously wasn’t that far away; and what with the decrease of available women in the region due to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (which had apparently had very little call for their services), it seems reasonable that men enough were within a couple days’ walk of the cave. I mean, nothing is too far from anywhere in Palestine – all of which is a much smaller area than Western Washington. So what the girls did is really far nastier than it sounds. (Frankly, it also sounds like the kind of story any sexually abusive father would make up: “It wasn’t my fault! They got me drunk!”)
  • The story also sounds like the kind of thing a gradeschooler would make up about his enemies: “You’re nothing but bastards. Your mothers slept with their fathers. Nyah!”
  • What’s REALLY odd, though, is that the girls apparently didn’t learn anything from watching their home town get nuked. If it were me, I’d have thought, “Let’s see… What happened the last time I witnessed something sexually depraved? Oh, that’s right! God wiped ‘em all out. Guess I’ll pass on sleeping with Dad.” In this regard, the story does ring true about actual human failure to learn from others’ mistakes.

Jenn's Study: Take a Closer Look (for Women), “Stir in a Little Thanks”
Foundation Scripture: Philippians 4:6-8

Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. (The Message)

Lydia lived in Philippi—leading home church

Philippi also place of earthquake that could have resulted in prison break, but Paul and Silas and the others stayed.

Paul grateful for Philippian church while imprisoned I Rome—“easy” to write joyful and encouraging letter, despite his predicament.

Paul instructs us to stop worrying and leave our worries with God. But he also adds that such prayers be couched in thankfulness, regardless of circumstances. His letter exemplifies such thankfulness, despite the circumstances which normally lead to great anxiety.

His message to the Philippians is to replace the time spent worrying with time spent in prayer and earnest worship—and to pour them out with eucharista—expressions of gratitude toward God for all His mercies.

“God delights in being your burden-bearer.”

Peace comes when I stop worrying and pray with worship and thanksgiving over what God has done and is doing in my life. What is worthy of worship in my life? What are the pure, lovely, beautiful, noble things I can think of to replace my basely human thoughts and worries?

We can always find something to be thankful for, no matter what may be the burden of our wants, or the special subject of our petitions… The greatest sufferer that lives in this world of redeeming love, and who has the offer of heaven before him, has cause of gratitude.

Albert Barnes, Notes from the Bible

In general, I think it is fairly easy for me to be thankful for the easy and obvious things, like my marriage, Greg, my family (including in-laws), Grynne and Bearrett. In some ways I am thankful for my illness, because it has led to so many things—connections with people, tempering our lives to a less frenetic pace, not taking so many things for granted. But I think that my expressions of gratitude toward God are emotionally stifled much like my other emotions that I’ve recently acknowledged as being kept in check and not expressed.

I think I generally began intentionally suppressing my emotions when Deet died. While I did express the immediate grief for a few weeks, I stopped when I thought it appropriate. However, since then I have been generally less emotional (Greg’s observation) and perhaps emotionally stunted. Greg has made the comparison of the three-legged stool—spiritual, physical, and emotional—and hinted that it can’t stand the way things are now. I guess in some ways I resent that when he talks about it, I feel like he’s blaming me for the missing and/or broken legs of the stool. I will tell him that.

I think for me, though, I need to focus more on letting my emotions surface. And perhaps watching the Deet movie would kick things off. I don’t know that I’ll ever be emotionally “ready” to see it, but it may spark some other emotions that I think may be lurking inside, much like an emotional abscess that needs to be lanced and drained.

Spiritual Disciplines Reborn

Through the first several years of our marriage, we were pretty rigorous -- as teachers should be -- about our own spiritual development. We prayed together regularly, fellowshipped weekly with a local body of believers, participated in small group studies, and made a point of working our way through the Bible once each year together through daily readings.

When the chapter of our life called Health Issues began nearly five years ago now, we were just wrapping up our third time through the Bible. For our fourth tour of duty, we decided to do something different: copy out the scriptures by hand. Not long into this effort, the very idea of "normal life" got derailed, and every sense of predictability along with it.

Many of you have no doubt noticed how "flaky" we became, how unable we were to follow through on the simplest of commitments, how once-vital friendships came to seem as mere afterthoughts.

Relationships and such weren't the only things that suffered. For better than four years, we have also failed to maintain any kind of regular spiritual disciplines. It's all been about surviving, and about keeping Jenn in the workplace.

Well, that's changed. Our new routine is to spend a focused time in Scripture and reflection three times a week, barring interference from health emergencies. Jenn is working her way through Scripture with the help of Take a Closer Look for Women, and I've picked up my transcription of Scripture where I left off four years ago -- a third of the way through Genesis.

We're going to start sharing our studies and reflections here. Through them, I think, you'll get a better picture of where we're at and what we're dealing with.

And you'll get much more frequent updates than once every eight months!

The Latest on the Health Front

Okay... So, what's happened since last Easter? Well, yes -- there was an iron deficiency there, and we got that treated with an eight-week series of iron infusions. But as the summer wore on, it became apparent that Jenn's lack of energy (and her increasing propensity to fall asleep at the drop of a chart) was not going to be solved by stable iron levels. By the end of August, it was plain that she needed a sleep study -- but because of simultaneously-worsening failure of her intestinal tract, and the need to, shall we say, clean that up so Jenn could stay in the workplace, the sleep study didn't happen until December.

By that time, Jenn was on temporary medical leave from her job at the hospital because of an inability to stay awake through an eight-hour shift. Her hours had been reduced to 32/wk. by the middle of July, but four days a week were still just too much.

And then we found out, through the sleep study, that Jenn had been suffering from chronic sleep deprivation due to a vaguely understood underlying sleep disorder whose symptoms are similar to narcolepsy. The upshot? Even with some symptom alleviation with a treatment of ritalin, Jenn would not be going back to work on any kind of regular basis.

In the middle of all of this, just after Christmas, Jenn also came down with an infection to her Portacath, which had to be surgically pulled -- and then came another bout of sepsis. So Jenn spent New Year's Eve in the hospital this year. Whoopee! And she's still on antibiotics to treat unrelated infections (and an abscess) around her J-tube site, which also had to be replaced... All while nursing Greg through some unknown intestinal virus a week ago. Still in the offing? A surgery to place the new Portacath so Jenn can get the temporary PICC line in her arm pulled...

As of today, all of Jenn's paperwork is in for recognition as a long-term disabled employee of The Regional Hospital. The disability insurance we carry through the hospital provides a 60% salary benefit, which should just about keep our medical insurance costs covered for the foreseeable future.

So Jenn expects to merely volunteer a few hours a week at the hospital now that her medical leave is exhausted; long term, those out-of-the-home volunteer hours will probably decrease. Her primary job will now be Past the Popcorn, which has continued to go strong through all of this. (Greg will be shifting more of his focus to the job with Hollywood Jesus.)

New Kitties

Welcome Grynne (r) and Bearrett (l) to our household -- two foof-tabby sisters adopted from a cat-rescue service in Kirkland. They're eight months old, and are loaded with energy, affection, and fuzz!

Health Update

Well, we managed to stay out of Virginia Mason for over three months! But just as Christmas was "spoiled" for us by a trip to VM, so also was Easter. Jenn was in for Good Friday to get a blood transfusion.

Blood transfusion -- on Good Friday. How appropriate, eh?

We were there for less than 24 hours, though, a new record. Jenn's experiencing what appears to be a chronic iron deficiency due to absorption issues in her not-so-active gut. So the docs will be starting her on monthly iron infusions, which should hopefully ease the need for period blood boosts. You may recall that Jenn needed blood back December, too.

At any rate, we're home again -- and just a little immobile: both from the aftereffects of extreme anemia, and the aches of iron infusion. Happy Easter!

More Articles and Conferences

On April 21, while Jenn is attending the Christian Women's Retreat at Warm Beach, Greg will be representing Hollywood Jesus at the Biola Media Conference. No speaking this time -- just staffing a booth and getting the word out about HJ's resurgence.

Greg also just published the second in a series of articles at ThinkChristian, "Publicity -- Whose Business Is It?" Check it out.

Greg & Jenn on the Radio

Starting the first of the year, the "Living Christian" show at KCIS has featured a monthly entertainment segment, live in-studio with show host Michelle Mendoza. For 15-20 minutes, we get to chat about new and upcoming releases, all from the "Past the Popcorn" perspective. Michelle and her producers are a big fan of the website.

Starting this month, "Living Christian" moves to the AM drive-time slot, from 7 to 9:30 AM. We're on the shoe the final Friday of the month. Tune in and have a listen! Check the website for the daily schedule.

Spring Book Sale

To celebrate the launch of our new online bookstore, we're offering a 10% discount on all books purchased at HJ Books through the end of May. Just browse around, and enter coupon code LAUNCH at checkout for the discount on your entire order.

If you've been waiting to pick up any of our books or scripts, now's the time!

Hollywood Jesus Once Again

On February 16, we officially rejoined the staff of HollywoodJesus.com as consulting editors. In this part-time paid position, we have assumed editorial oversight under the direction of webmaster David Bruce (as usual). HJ's transition to new website technology last May proved to be a difficult one, and there were, unfortunately, some casualties along the way.

In early February we got a call from the website's owners checking our availability to return to the site -- and we agreed, on the condition that we would be editing only, and not writing for the site. Past the Popcorn will continue to be published as usual, and our PTP staff will remain separate (though we all hail from HJ originally).

While Greg works to get HJ's technical and workflow issues resolved, Jenn is stepping up by taking over the lion's share of PTP's editorial flow.

We're excited to be doing the kind of writing we want to do at PTP, and also excited about helping to get HJ past some difficult bumps.

Reviews, Articles, and Conferences

In addition to the complete lineup of reviews, interviews, and commentary we've been regularly running at Past the Popcorn, here's a rundown on other things that Greg's been up to lately:

  • The HollywoodJesus.com Lord of the Rings coverage republished (Feb. 1).
  • Guest editorial at theonering.net about the proposed Hobbit movie (Feb. 5).
  • "Ethics, Hollywood, and the Church: Who Cares?" at thinkchristian.net (Feb. 16).
  • "On Movies, Morality, and Film Ratings" in Christian News Northwest (Oregon regional, March issue, print only); reprinted online at PTP this month.
  • One Ring Celebration, Burbank, March 10-11. Three papers presented: "The Scouring of the Shire: What We (and Jackson) Missed in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings," "The Hobbit: More Than Just a Fuzzy Children's Tale," and "Why We Should Care About The Children of Hurin." The talk on "The Scouring of the Shire" was a reworking of the lecture Greg delivered at Notre Dame in November of 2005. Outlines of his talks on The Hobbit and The Children of Hurin are available online in PDF format.
  • Northwest Christian Education Conference, March 23-24. Two workshops presented: "Bibliodrama: Improvising Bible-based Scripts" and "The Eyes Have It: Blogging and Forum Administration." Greg will also be moderating a panel entitled "Hollywood and Spirituality," which will also feature Jenn as well as PTP writers Kathy Bledsoe and Mike Smith.

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