Lessons Learned from Ernest Saves Christmas

I don't know how many of you are familiar with Jim Varney, As a young person he became interested in the theater. By age 17 he was performing professionally in night clubs and coffee houses. He played Jed Clampett in the 1993 movie version of the Beverly Hillbillies and is also known as the voice of Slinky Dog in Toy Story 1 and Toy Story 2. However, the persona that ushered Jim into fame was Ernest P. Worrell, a bumbling, annoying, but lovable character that began to show up in adds for everything from grocery and appliance stores to Disney itself. The first appearance of the character of Ernest on the big screen was in 1987 with Ernest Goes to Camp.

In Ernest Saves Christmas, we find Ernest working as a Christmas loving taxi driver. Little does he know, one of his passengers turns out to be Santa himself. Santa, played by British classical actor, Douglas Seale, is searching for a replacement. He has done the job, one he loved, for too long, and knows it is time to pass on the magic. His choice, Joe Caruthers,  a mild mannered actor who does a children's television show, The show being canceled, leads Santa to believe that this is the perfect time for Joe to take over. However, passing the torch is not going to be easy for Santa to do.

There are many funny scenes in this movie and it is hard to really find a scene that speaks specifically to the lessons I want to talk about, therefore I will give you the lessons I learned in a list, then leave you with a few of my best loved scenes. 

Lesson 1 - Stay True to Your Gifts

Joe Caruthers loves children. He likes to teach them and you can tell he is more comfortable around kids than most of the adults in the movie. When his children's show gets canceled, he knows he has to find work elsewhere. His agent, Marty, finds a producer who is willing to give Joe a tryout for a movie. Unbeknownst to Joe, the movie turns out to be a horror flick. When he is told to swear in front of two children to show his emotion, Joe says he can't do it. 

Eventually, after turning down Santa's proposal, Joe realizes that this elderly gentleman is Santa and that the job proposal was real. Joe is overjoyed, for he knows he has found his true calling. 

What are you passionate about? What do you like to do? God has given each of us abilities and yes, spiritual gifts that when used for His purposes will uplift and encourage ourselves and the body. I love to write. Other than being a grandma or a shopper, I would rather spend my days reading a good book or trying to write one. 

I will confess, I have been struggling with the idea of becoming a writer, wondering if that is a realistic goal. After all there are so many good writers already out there, telling captivating and inspiring stories. How could I possibly make a difference? But after watching this movie last night and today thinking about the lessons I can pull from it, I have realized I must stay true to the gifting that God has given me. I don't know if I will ever publish a novel, but I will keep trying to tell stories. 

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,
— Colossians 3:23 (NASB)

Lesson 2 - Don't Give Up Hope

After Joe refuses Santa, saying he is going to do the movie, and a teenage runaway, steals Santa's magic sack, the elderly gentlemen is ready to give up hope. It is easy to feel hopeless when things are not going well. Life can get overwhelming, especially when there is illness, job loss or difficulties in family relations. As I've mentioned before on the blog, hope can be rather elusive. (You can see that post here.) But in the end, isn't God the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit the ones from which true, solid hope flows?

Santa felt that all hope was lost, but in the end, Joe accepts the job and becomes Santa, the runaway returns the magic sack and decides to go home and Ernest delivers the sleigh so the new Santa can get the toys delivered to children all over the world. Hope wins. 

Never give up hope. 

Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the Lord.
— Psalm 31:24 (NASB)

Lesson 3 - Be Genuine

This is a bit similar to the first idea of staying true to your gifts, but this is more about how you present yourself to the rest of the world. The teenage runaway in this movie left home after her parents went through some rough times in their marriage. She felt abandoned by them at a critical time in her own development. Pamela or Harmony Star, as she wants to be called, puts on a facade of confidence and bravado, even though inside she is struggling to grow up and deal with her parents' situation. 

Harmony hooks up with Ernest and Santa when she jumps into the taxi Ernest is driving to get away from the restaurant owner she hasn't paid. She hangs out with the for a while, not believing Santa is real, until she finds out about the magic sack. After that she looks for the best opportunity to steal the bag and get away. 

We all have times in our lives where we put on a face. I don't mean putting on make up, I'm talking about that happy face we wear, when inside we feel like dying or feel like we are invisible. Christian recording artist Mandisa has a great song that addresses this very issue. 

God doesn't want us to live fake lives. The best way to help each other is to be real. Obviously, it is good to do that with an attitude of love and tact, but if we all tried to convey the truth about who we are and who God made us, I think, like Harmony, we would realize we could give the "sack" of all our troubles and issues, back to God. 

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
— Galatians 6:2 (NASB)

I hope you learned something along with me from Ernest Saves Christmas. If you have the time, this is a great movie to watch with the family and will provide clean, kid-friendly fun. Enjoy a few of my favorite scenes in fond memory of Jim Varney, who passed away at age 50.

This next few show a number of Ernest's many personalities!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Confession Time

There are days when I am working on this blog that I feel pretty good about what I'm putting out there. Most days, however, I feel pretty overwhelmed. I thought, why not share with all of you some of my struggles. After all, aren't we in this together? Maybe you are a blogger also. What made you start your blog? Was it your fantastic body of knowledge and information; knowledge that you wanted to share with anyone who would listen? Maybe it was your desire to help others. That is always an honorable reason. Or maybe you are like me. Maybe you've been through some things. Maybe you have felt feelings you never thought you would feel, or have experienced hurts so deep you didn't think you would survive. But here you are! You have survived, and now you feel, maybe something that you went through might make a difference for someone else. I mean, wouldn't all of it be worthwhile if it made a difference in some other person's life?

Photo credit -  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit - Rebecca Trumbull

What if it doesn't? What if we never have one word back of encouragement or positivity about what we are doing? What if no one ever thanks us or says, "Wow! I really needed to hear that today," or "You gave me such good ideas about what to do with that sweater in my closet." I'm human. Of course I want to hear those things. I want to know that all the writing, thinking, rummaging through my closet to create outfits is actually worth while. This is not a plea for you to pat me on the back and tell me what a good job I am doing...although you could comment in the comments section below....ha, ha!  No, this is more a confession that I do not have it all together! 

When I read other blogs, I think, "Oh my goodness! How do they do it all? They work jobs, have families, make money on their blogs, network, write for e-zines and journals, have already published a book...." Well, you get what I'm saying. They do it all and look amazing while they are doing it. That is not me. You might think I have it all together, but I don't. I struggle more often than not with why I am even doing a blog. Aren't there a zillion other good writers out there? Aren't there a zillion and one beautiful fashion bloggers, who already have thousands of subscribers? How is my one little voice and my one little opinion going to make a difference?

I'll tell you how....one person at a time. 

When Jesus walked the shores of Galilee, he spent most of his time with a small group of men who became his closest companions and followers. While Jesus did his fair share of teaching to large crowds, his most memorable encounters were with individuals. Think about the woman at the well, the man with leprosy, the blind man, the lame man, the boy with the loaves and fishes. Each of these individuals was personally influenced and touched by Jesus. Jesus never worried about how many people he was getting his message out to. He lived to do His Father's will and to glorify Him. 

StockSnap -  Zukiman Mohamad

StockSnap - Zukiman Mohamad

If you are like me you have a passion to write. You may even believe that God has given you both the ability and the desire. If that is the case all that is left is obedience. I truly want to glorify God. Do I always do it? No. But it is my heart's desire. Would I also like to make a living writing? Oh yeah! Would I also like to know that the message I am writing makes a difference? Yes, of course. But, when the doubts come and I want to give up, it is not my desire to make a difference or my message that keeps me going it is obedience. I want to stand before God one day and hear Him say, "Well done!"

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men
— Colossians 3:23 (NASB)

I love that verse and often find myself repeating it. Whatever you do, whether it be chores in your home, taking care of kids, grandkids or aging parents,  your tasks at work, writing a blog post or taking pictures, remember who you are doing it for. Yes, making a difference is awesome, but the reason we do what we do is for Him. 

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
— Galatians 6:9 (NASB)

God knew we would get weary. Doing good can be hard work. It can be long hours, mentally and emotionally exhausting and thankless. He knew this, but He knows the end result. He knows that one person who came to Him because you posted your testimony. He knows that one lady who saw your article on dressing for work and got a job because she followed your advice. He knows that struggling wife who decided to start praying for her husband because of what you shared about your own marital struggles. He knows in due time you will reap the beautiful and bountiful harvest if you don't lose heart. 

StockSnap -  Ray Hennessy

StockSnap - Ray Hennessy

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
— Isaiah 40:28-31 (NASB)

Another of my favorite passages! Even if we are weary and tired and thinking we should chuck it all out the window, whether it be blogging, parenting, being a spouse, a friend or a worker, He does not grow weary and He will give us strength. 

 

 

 

Waking Up from Our Black Sleep

In all areas of life, remaining static is not an option. One of the grocery stores I shop at has a small rise in the middle of the parking lot. As much as I try to not park there, I still seem to end up at the top of that small rise. You can guess what happens when I get my cart to the car and try to open the trunk. The cart starts to roll away. Those who say multitasking is really not a very efficient way to do things have never seen a 52 year old grandma fling open the car trunk, hang onto the cart and stuff the bags of groceries inside. Multitasking is essential. In the same way growth is essential in our lives. Life, so often, is like a juggling act, one that takes off even as we struggle to hang on, just like my gravity bound cart. If we do not make purposeful choices to grow, life will get away from us.

Growth in our Christian lives should always be our goal. I don't mean to be the bearer of bad news, but no, we have not arrived and we never will until we meet Jesus in the air. We are to be imitators of Christ (Ephesians 5:1). We are called to be Christ-like (Philippians 2:1). We are to do whatever we do for the Lord, rather than men (Colossians 3:23). Unless you know of some special pill we can take to make us instantaneously Christ-like, we have to grow.

Photo Credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo Credit Rebecca Trumbull

It sounds so simple. You've heard sayings such as, "Bloom where you are planted," and "Sew seeds of love." So quaint. So easy. Not! True growth is like exercise: repetitive, grueling discipline. Wanting to do better, go higher and be more is a choice. And most often, not an easy one. Paul spoke in Philippians 2:12 of working out our salvation. Notice in the verse there is a four letter word - work. Work implies effort, but it also implies reward. When God gave Adam the job of naming the animals and tending the garden (see Genesis 2) he was rewarded, not only with a beautiful companion, but with the satisfaction of his effort.

Some of you may be gardeners. I like to play with flowers and plants. I find something richly satisfying about getting my hands dirty. I love the feel of the soil in my hands and the tearing of weeds from their deeper holds. This comparison transfers easily to our Christian growth as well. Is is satisfying to read God's word with attention and understanding. It can be enriching to find a church home where you can have fellowship and teaching with other like-minded individuals.

Think of growth like a river. As long as the river flows freely, growth and health are taking place. When the river hits debris in its path, it may become backed up resulting in a stagnant, murky pool. Do you want to be a stagnant and murky Christian? Or do you want to allow Christ's Spirit to flow freely, directing your life and taking you where He wants you to go?

Photo Credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo Credit Rebecca Trumbull

Is growth necessary? Absolutely! Examine your life and ask Jesus to show you where you need to grow. Maybe your prayer life is weak or nonexistent. Maybe you have secluded yourself because you have been hurt. Take steps to reconnect with those who care about you. Maybe you feel God calling you to get back into His word. Why not start a Bible study with other women at a coffee shop? Even in our wilderness wanderings, we still need to grow. In fact, it is often in these times of loss, loneliness and suffering that we have the most opportunity for growth, but it is up to us.

If you were a tiny seed or a bulb, down in the dark earth, you would not think to question, "Gee, should I grow this year?" As soon as the earth started to warm in the spring sun, an energy would fill you with urgency to push yourself up and out of that black sleep, to rise and bloom. We are the crown of His creation. If a little seed can be transformed into a beautiful plant then we too need to push ourselves our of our black sleep and grow.