We’d talked about a Major Cruise to places I’ve always wanted to go.
It didn’t work out.
So, instead, we went on a “Stay-cation” to celebrate our 35th anniversary.
Does it need any further explanation?
A Stay-cation is where you stay in town, but treat it as a holiday. You’re a tourist in your own hometown.
(Or your adopted one.)
We checked into a famous old hotel 15 minutes away from our west-coast abode.
15 minutes, but Light Years away.
The Forties? Fifties? Hollywood’s Golden Era?
I’m not sure.
All I know is that it was a planet away from Culver City, 2011.
My husband is really sweet about surprises.
Our suite was completely incredible.
Champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. Pink marble garden tub with an enviable view of arriving celebs.
If you judge us harshly for this little extravagance, remember this:
It was 35 years.
(And not always a picnic in Central Park.)
But we made it to this milestone.
Worth celebrating in a major way.
And we did.
We walked past John Cusack leaving the pool.
That night, we went to Spago for dinner. Don Rickles was at the table next to us with his extended family. (An efficient manager defended them as I walked past to the Ladies Room, forming a Human barricade. I thought, huffily, I’m one of the few people in this place old enough to even know who that is. And I wasn’t going to speak, anyway.)
At the hotel the next morning, Quentin Tarantino and entourage had breakfast at a nearby table. He looked like he’d rolled out of bed and put his clothes from the night before back on. But they were whooping it up over there.
Saturday night, our girls (sacrificially) pooled their very limited resources to hire a limo to pick us up for dinner at Mozzo in Hollywood. James so charmed the Grey’s Anatomy star at the table next to us that she insisted that it must be our 5th anniversary, not our 35th. (Celeb Stalking Tip: I think Middle Child had thrown Woody’s hat under the chair of the star in question, so he had a reason to roam over there and be adorable. Sometimes we pretend to be cool, but we’re actually quite shameless.)
The next morning, my husband had a breakfast business meeting at the hotel. I ate yogurt in the room, got my stuff together, and waited in the lobby for Middle Child to pick us up for church.
And waited and waited.
My husband emerged from the restaurant. We waited by the valet for over 30 minutes. Finally, I went back inside the lobby to sit down.
Fuming, imagining all the great LA-talent praise music we were missing at church, I stared at the passersby.
Three adorable boys ran by, chased by a young, athletic father in a backwards-facing baseball cap.
He was followed by a striking woman in a long, flowing black dress, obviously very pregnant. Hair in a severe bun. Gigantic sunglasses covering much of her face; no discernible makeup.
Delayed reaction. Seconds pass.
Delayed reaction. Neurons fire.
That’s someone very famous.
Someone I’ve seen at the Royal Wedding.
I walk back down the gangway to Valet Service and pretend to be irritated to my husband. I poke hard him in the back as I ask him if he’s heard from the late Middle Child.
Surreptitiously, I watch.
The beautiful boys are rowdy, busy.
(Not really. Now that I know one personally, I realize they were just being boys.)
The cute young Dad makes them get in the car and say goodbye to their mom. (“Mum.”)
She doesn’t look happy.
He comes back and kisses her tenderly on the lips. Whispers something in her ear.
And catches me looking.
But doesn’t seem angry that I’m gawking. Gives me a tiny half-smile. An acknowledgement. I look away quickly.
Not a pap in sight. Just us and them. And the valets at a respectful distance.
My husband pokes me in the back as the husband helps his very preggers wife into a separate SUV. “Look at that tat,” he whispers.
On the back of the young man’s neck is a cross, surrounded by angels’ wings.
Middle Child was blown away when we told her whom she’d just missed.
“Man, that’s the best sighting next to Brangelina.”
We made it to church just in time for the sermon.
After my weekend of pretending to be on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” God must have thought I needed a quick reality check. Right between the eyes.
The congregation read the scripture together outloud.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
…Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves…
Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited…”
At no time in the history of the world has there been such a frenzied Cult of Celebrity. Unless you move to the Amazon, it’s difficult to avoid.
It’s easy to buy into the hype that surrounds the air-brushed images of modern idols.
And come away feeling diminished. Less-than. Lacking.
As the pastor said that morning, we may find ourselves “valuing things that are passing away instead of living for the eternal things that God has called us to.”
Maybe we subconsciously believe that others who are more talented or beautiful or athletic or wealthy or famous are of more value than we are.
But, as the scripture passage points out, each ‘member of the body’ is equally as important as the next.
Different, but equal. Unique. Special. Vital.
As Dr. Brewer reminded us: “You have a purpose that nobody else on earth can fill. God has a hole in his heart just for you.”
God loves diversity. He created it.
The last thing He wants you to be like is anyone else.
But we try. We try to look like the people on the magazine covers, buy what the people on TV buy. Wear what everybody in our peer group wears. Conform to (what we believe is) the norm.
Too often, Christians try to squeeze themselves into a mold of outward perfection. We think we’re supposed to look alike, act alike, talk alike.
God doesn’t want that. It’s monotonous. Boring. Stupid, actually.
He sees us as we are. He understands us in a way that no human being ever will. He knows full well that we’re not perfect.
In the Romans 12 passage, Paul reminds us not to “hyper-value” ourselves, but to acknowledge that God can use us in spite of our imperfections. And to be willing to let Him. He needs every one of us.
Sometimes I feel like I’m not very effective. I don’t accomplish much, contribute much. I’m not as valuable as some.
Thoughts such as those tend to shut you down, cause a type of paralysis. Draw you into yourself.
But whether from selfishness or insecurity, living for yourself alone leads to spiritual death.
“And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.” (Rev. 2:17)
God alone knows your essential essence. Your true name.
And I bet He drops it all the time.
“There goes (Beautiful Name) who persevered with joy when her husband left her for another woman.”
“Oh, look, there’s (Beautiful Name) who daily fights a tough battle against addiction.”
“There’s my dear child, (Beautiful Name), who still trusts Me, though he’s lost everything he ever wanted in life.”
“I see my sweetheart, (Beautiful Name), who clings to faith in the midst of her fight with depression and insecurity.”
“There’s (Your Beautiful Name) who allows me to use her suffering for the good of others.”
The celebrities of heaven.
And the angels might just whip out their phone cams and preserve our images for eternity.
"Remember, dear brothers and sister, that few of you were wise in the world's eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world consider foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God."
(I Corinthians 1: 26-29)