On Idols, Liturgies and the Oscars

by | Mar 3, 2014 | Lent


Four of us shuffle in to the only empty row of padded seats left in our new church, an L-shaped space with floor to ceiling windows looking over what I imagine as a Southern movie set. Morning light glints through moss swaying from low churlish branches of monstrous Live Oaks, yellow daffodils scatter underneath broad trunks.  “I can’t see anything when we sit here,” H whispers across the laps of our children. I forgot about the brick column blocking his view of the pulpit, my only concern is grabbing the last comfortable seats in haste.

Two rows in front of us, I notice a man leaning over repeatedly and speaking to the woman seated next to him wearing pearls around her neck, asking questions throughout the sermon. When we rise to recite the Lord’s Prayer and pass the peace he stands longer than usual, lost in the swarm of words and movement. Staring with his mouth hanging open, he clutches a piece of paper while everyone around him is seated.

It is in the slowness of response, the lingering in swathes of time when life rushes past, that an uncomfortable awareness of decline in our loved ones becomes prevalent. It is a grievous, yet telling stage of life for those who are bystanders.

He may not recognize words that before were rote or recall names associated with familiar faces but the liturgy falls from his tongue like savoring soup. The Creed and ancient hymns — they are firmly rooted in his memory bank.

When we have lost all preoccupation with ourselves the focus turns outward and we are children in God’s presence. Life is not about what we wear, how we look and who notices; what we offer through philanthropy and acts of service but a realization that spiritual poverty is wealth. We are desperate for His divine kindness daily.

It’s prideful, thinking that my compliance toward God’s favor somehow makes me spiritually fortunate in our relationship. Can I tell you something? This realization that pride is an idol is ugly and painful.

Prayer is a conversation of survival when I grasp the definition of what Jesus means when he says, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

Watching the beginning Alzheimer stages in a once vital life is a mirror to my futility. When I declare my worth by the summation of what I can offer, comparison becomes my undoing and pride, the root of my foolish thinking. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

What is your legacy? It’s the question I sense God is asking me as I watch the Oscars later. One minute I’m noticing beautiful dresses and then tears are streaming down my face. And I’m learning to pay attention to what the tears are saying. You?

We enter the Kingdom of God in the same posture, on our knees thankful for His forgiveness despite success and loss.

When striving for affirmation is no longer possible we will be left with the liturgies (or idols) that shape our heart pouring out from the depths of our character. Embracing brokenness is the trophy of greatness. For by it we come to the awareness of God’s ability in our inadequacies and learn to trust Him.

It turns out we grabbed the best seats in church this morning; there are no obstacles to the message of Christ and no awards for his favor.

love idolI’m joining Jennifer Lee in a heart-changing movement to evict the #LoveIdols in our lives, to make more room for Christ. In conjunction with the April 1st launch of  Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval – and Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes  (available for pre-order) we’re doing some soul searching during Lent. What are the idol’s in the way of your peace and  intimacy with Christ? Join me in giving them up?


In community with Michelle and Laura and Jennifer.

Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here: https://shellymillerwriter.com/free-resources/


  1. Alyssa Santos

    Oh, when the heart is yielded, our loving savior leaves no stone unturned. Funny (or scary) how quickly we turn even our ministrations, our attendance and our movements of worship into clever little idols that steal the true heartbeat of the gospel from us. I know this place that you speak about, the dark recesses, the pride I wish I didn’t glimpse in myself. This makes me think of Romans 12….

    • Shelly Miller

      No stone unturned indeed Alyssa. Now you have me wanting to go read Romans 12, thanks for sharing your thoughts. You always inspire me to think.

  2. Kelly Greer

    Oh my Shelly….what you do with those words….you wrote out what it is like when you suddenly loose everything you were as I did in brain injury. I was suddenly a nothing….but in God’s economy…in my weakness, my lowliness, my understanding of God was the highest and strongest it has ever been. He had removed all that separated us – pride, strength, widsdom, education, vocation, – and left us there face-to-face. It is a beautiful thing that I long for more and more even to this day. As my mind and strength have gained strides, I must die to them in order to live in Christ. Thank you for sharing this perfect truth.

    • Shelly Miller

      You just have no idea how much your comment blesses me Kelly, thank you. I can hear the exuberance in your voice.

  3. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Idolatry, in its many insidous forms, is the greatest obstacle between God and me. It’s so insidious that I don’t even recognize it, until a post like this jerks me awake. And the Oscars? Idolatry on steroids. So why do I even bother to watch them? Now that could be a blogpost for me, in itself, if I blogged!
    Thanks for your insights and humility, Shelly.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’ll miss you here over Lent even though I support your decision Lynn. Love you.

  4. JViola79

    Thank you for these words. Having inlaws, both of whom have advanced Alzheimer’s, I so appreciate what you have shared. I am so grateful that while all else may be almost all forgotten, God’s truths remain. So glad I stopped here from Playdates this morning. Thank you & Blessings!

    • Shelly Miller

      My grandmother had dementia, its so sad to watch the decline of a once mentally sharp person, isn’t it? I’m glad you were encouraged here.

  5. Jillie

    “Spiritual poverty is wealth”–Amen, and Amen..
    “Embracing brokenness is the trophy of greatness”–Amen.
    “Learning to pay attention to what the tears are saying”–Amen.
    Thank you for these beautiful words, Shelly. You certainly have me thinking about my own stupid pride. And the Oscars? Makes me sad. Sad for these people who think the Golden Statue on the mantle is the measure of their worth in the eyes of their peers and the world. All the glitz. All the glamour. All for naught.
    Didn’t watch them, but caught sight of the jewels displayed on a Hollywood Entertainment show last night. I recall 9/11, when the ‘Stars’ refused to wear them out of respect for the tragedy. Looks like all is back to ‘normal’ again. Pfff.

    • Shelly Miller

      Did I mention how much I love having you back in the comments?

  6. Rhonda Quaney

    This resonated loud: “When we have lost all preoccupation with ourselves the focus turns outward and we are children in God’s presence.” Thank you for the beauty of your soul, spilling words out here.

    • Shelly Miller

      What a lovely compliment Rhonda, thank you.

  7. Nancy Ruegg

    I, too, say AMEN to “embracing brokenness is the trophy of greatness.” The brokenness which results from hurt, failure, disappointment, etc. can be the catalyst for greatness–great maturity, humility, and usefulness. What once caused pain stands like a trophy on a shelf, reminding us of the work of faith that brought us from there to here. Thank you, Shelly, for reminding me of what God can do when we surrender our sorrows and trust Him.

    • Shelly Miller

      Before Lent began, I was reading a new book to me, Embracing Brokenness by Alan Nelson, good stuff. You might enjoy it Nancy.

  8. June

    As Miracle Max said, “look who knows so much.” Ugh! I make myself sick sometimes with all I’ve convinced myself I “know” – God is so merciful with me – I am in awe of His infinite patience! But you know what? I’m GLAD I make myself sick, because that feeling of disgust is the Holy Spirit working within me – and that gives me such HOPE! Great post, Shelly!


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