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Showing posts from November, 2011

Standing Up For What Is Right

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The movie "Amazing Grace," which we will be screening tonight, is about a man, William Wilberforce, who was guided by his principles of faith in a world where that wasn't popular. He took a stand on an issue that wasn't popular, and he fought to make a difference.
But most importantly, he did it in a God-honoring way. William Wilberforce was a politician and a devout believer. He believed that the slave trade in England violated God’s law because it failed to show God’s love to those in bondage. He felt God put it on his heart to be an agent of change. He tirelessly campaigned to abolish slavery in Britain. He gave impassioned speeches, offered legislation, and tried to rally people to support the cause. He fought for 26 years before the government abolished slavery. During that time he suffered a decline in his health, he lost his status, some of his personal wealth and his political capital. He suffered because he was a voice standing up against the popular tide, bu…

Faith in Film 3, Week 10

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Title: “Amazing Grace” (2006)Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Albert Finney, Michael Gambon, and Romola GaraiSynopsis: This film chronicles the life and work of William Wilberforce, who was a member Parliament from the late 1700s through the early 1800s. He was a devout Christian and, during his time, became singularly committed to the cause of abolishing slavery and the slave trade within the British empire. The film chronicles that fight, all the principle players, and even the mentorship he receives from John Newton (Finney), a former slave trader turned evangelist who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace.”This film was one of the films released by Fox Faith films. It didn’t have a huge commercial following, but it is a beautiful film and a beautiful film story. It zeroes in on an interesting historical time period, and it’s also a testament to the resolve of someone who puts their faith in action. One of the big themes in the film is how William Wilberforce could remain faithful to the call he f…

On Zombies and Evangelism

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I was slow to the bandwagon with "The Walking Dead." Honestly, I'm not the world's biggest zombie fan, so I didn't really see the appeal of the show. Then, over the summer, I decided to give it a try. What I found was something that was more a fascinating exploration of humanity during inhuman times than anything to do with the dead.
This second season could be accused of being underwhelming. It's hard to deny that it's a bit on the slow side in terms of plot development, but still I've been fascinated by some of the interpersonal dynamics — especially when it comes to the discussions of the dead.
On Sunday, during the show's winter finale, there was an interesting expression of the Gospel. Earlier I remarked how refreshing it was that "Dexter," a show that in no way reflects the Christian worldview, offered a fairly favorable view of Christianity and the concept of forgiveness. It was a powerful reminder of the way God speaks, even throug…

Choose Joy!

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"You have to laugh because it's too early to start crying." — John Madden
I remember I was watching a Monday Night Football and the game was a blow out. The cameras panned to the sideline of the team that was being blown out, and the players on the sidelines were chuckling. Al Michaels said he didn't know what they had to laugh about, which is when John Madden responded with the comment above. It's always stuck with me.
What was true of those players on that sideline is true of all of us during our lives. There are times when we feel frustrated and broken, but sometimes you just have to laugh. That's where our inner sense of Joy comes in. That's what Katy touched on so beautifully this morning.
Our joy comes from the Lord. Whether in tough times or good times, we can be full of joy when our joy comes from Him. And the Lord is with us during all times, giving us strength. Paul, who was a dedicated servant of Christ, suffered greatly during his ministry. He wa…

Coming Soon, December

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Finally, we get to the most anticipated month of the cinematic year. It's a perfect blend of award contenders (all being released prior to the end of the year), big family films, and big tent poles. It's Christmas, why shouldn't everyone get a film they like! Here's a look at what will hopefully be a banner month at the Box Office.
Friday, Dec. 2: Shame — This is not a movie for mass audiences. It's award season bait and supposedly has a great performance from Michael Fassbender, who's a great actor. Carey Mulligan is also in the film, and is also a great performer. However, the movie is rated NC-17 and is about a sex addict... So, yeah, not a family film. This could be a good weekend to watch "Happy Feet Two" again or finish up some Christmas shopping.
Friday, Dec. 9: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy — This film is also generating plenty of buzz, especially for the performance from Gary Oldman. It is a remake of a classic spy tale that featured Sir Alec Guin…

Black Friday

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It's ironic that a day of friends, fellowship, food, faith, and football — all the important Fs — is followed by a day that makes you hate the holidays. Thank you Black Friday...
A few years ago, I was excited to enter the early shopping fray. It wasn't as much fun as I imagined. Over the next few years, I went off and on, but it was always a battle that made me question my own sanity.
Things haven't changed much. This year, because 2 a.m. wasn't good enough, stores began their sales at midnight... on Thanksgiving... to fight with strangers for toys and household goods for Christmas. And even that couldn't stop the outrageous behavior. A quick survey of the morning news features tales of brawls, beatings, shootings, and pepper spray incidents... all customer on customer violence at Black Friday sales (most of them taking place at Wal-Mart...).
Black Friday is supposed to mark the beginning of the Christmas season. It's supposed to be a time of giving and joy. But …

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the movies I saw this week, including the new "Twilight" movie and Disney's gift to us for Thanksgiving, the return of the Muppets!
Breaking Dawn Starring: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner Synopsis: At this point in time it seems undeniable that the “Twilight” franchise holds a special appeal for a dedicated core fan base. And that appeal has little to do with traditional filmmaking metrics. The romance between Bella and Edward, and the triangle that include Jacob are what kept people talking about the books, and that’s what keeps people coming back to see how the drama will play out on the screen. With “Breaking Dawn, Part 1” not much happens in terms of plot structure, but a great deal transpires in the arenas that fans seem to care about most. The film picks up on the eve of the wedding between Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson). Both are nervous and preparing for the big day. Alice (Ashley Greene), Edward’s si…

Giving Thanks

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I woke up at 3:30 a.m. with a migraine. I wasn't pleased. First, I didn't want to be awake at 3:30 a.m. on a work day. Second, I didn't want to be in pain. And third, I thought it was really inconvenient. While none of those things are inaccurate, and while many people would probably feel the same, but when you put it in the scope of things, it's a relatively minor complaint.
At my fingertips I had medicine to relieve my pain, got to come to a job and a place I love, got to visit with friends and co-workers. Though I was in discomfort and tired, there was a lot to be thankful about. There are a lot of blessings I enjoyed today that most people dream about.
It can be easy, in the relative comfort of the United States, to forget how blessed we are. Even when we have minor complaints, or things don't work out as we hoped, there is still plenty to be grateful for. What I loved about Abraham Lincoln's speech, which I posted yesterday, is his giving Thanksgiving to God…

Thanksgiving, a Historical Perspective

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Sometimes it's hard to be thankful. I've heard this a few times in 2011, a year in which the economy is down, the world seems to be in a state of unrest, and we still have troops in several places overseas. But what makes that ironic is the fact that Thanksgiving as a National Holiday was born of a similar time of unrest.
In November 1863, the country had been torn apart by three years of bloody conflict. In July 1863, the battle of Gettysburg was the single biggest battle in United States history. Thousands were killed. It was a turning point in the Civil War, yes, but it was by no means the end. The war would rage until 1865.
Still, President Abraham Lincoln recognized that it was important to be thankful for God's bountiful gifts even when you couldn't feel the joy of those gifts. So on Nov. 26, 1863, he declared a National Day of Thanksgiving, a day we still celebrate today. In proclaiming a day of Thanksgiving, Lincoln wrote the following proclamation:
The year that …

The Curious Case of Kanye West

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Over the past couple of days, I've looked at hip-hop/rap artists and lyrics. I wanted to end that exploration with Kanye West, one of my favorite musicians and one that makes me the most sad.
Kanye is incredibly talented. He has great beats and has made some really popular songs. He's also generated beats for a number of other artists, including Jay-Z. But he's also generated something else — controversy.
What's always made me curiously drawn to Kanye West is his self-professed stance as a Christian. His faith was a big part of his earlier work. In fact, it was his first album that generated one of my favorite songs, "Jesus Walks." While that song is raw at times and flawed at times, as we all are, it is a beautiful profession of a Christian faith. Consider this section from the closing to the song:
Now hear ye hear ye want to see Thee more clearly I know he hear me when my feet get weary Cause we're the almost nearly extinct We rappers are role models we rap w…

Talent

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" I know we're all pretty small in the big scheme of things, and I suppose the most you can hope for is to make some kind of difference, but what kind of difference have I made? What in the world is better because of me?" — Warren Schmidt, "About Schmidt" (2002)
Today we wrap up the T3 series with a look at Talent. I love that quote from "About Schmidt" because I think it's reflective of how many of us feel at times. That quote comes from the end of the movie, when Schmidt is looking back on his life and trying to see what good he can and has done. What gifts has he contributed to the world. He doesn't see that he's done any good or contributed any gifts.
How many times in our lives have we felt that same way? I know I've wondered that same thing. Then, beautifully, Schmidt gets a letter from a small boy he supports overseas. In that moment, he sees how he's used his gifts to make the world brighter by sharing with someone in need. W…

Music and Theology from Jay-Z

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One of the most fascinating books I read this year was "Decoded," the autobiography from Jay-Z. It was a fascinating and detailed read that offered a lot of information about Jay, his music, his politics, and his thoughts on life.
Though many don't appreciate his musical style, it's undeniable that Jay-Z is one of the most successful musical artists of all time. Only the Beatles have more No. 1 albums, which Jay-Z himself notes in the song "Reminder." He is good at what he does.
What I was more fascinated by, in reading "Decoded," was learning more about Jay-Z. He sees his music as an outlet, as a means of expressing his worldview, and as poetry. Reading his description of what rap should be gave me a greater appreciation for his artistry and for the genre itself. Reading about his life story was fascinating, and reading his thoughts on the world, politics, and the music business were also fascinating.
One of the best parts of the book is that Jay-Z …

The World of Hip Hop

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I like Hip Hop, or rap music. There is something about the beats that gets me going, especially when I'm doing work. But people often criticize the style of music for the content. While it's true that some songs are quite graphic in the lyrics and ideas presented, some artists actually use the form as a way of expressing higher ideas. Don't believe me? Check out these examples.
A couple weeks ago I included this verse from J Ivy on a track featured on a Kanye West album. From "Never Let Me Down" by Kanye West Feat. Jay-Z & J Ivy (Verse 3, J Ivy) Determination, dedication, motivation I'm talking to you, my many inspirations When I say I can't, let you or self down If I were of the highest cliff, on the highest riff And you slipped off the side and clinched on to your life in my grip I would never, ever let you down And when these words are found Let it been known that God's penmanship has been signed with a language called love That's why my breath is felt…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the films now playing in theaters.
Immortals Starring: Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Stephen Dorff, John Hurt, Luke Evans, and Frieda Pinto Synopsis: If you liked "300," this is for you. It's all CGI backgrounds, swords, sandals, odd costuming choices, fake accents, fake acting, and LOTS of bloody violence. If you're concerned about story, this isn't the film for you. There is plenty of action, but it's hard to see what the point it. I don't know a ton about Greek mythology, so it was a little harder to follow the parts pertaining to the Gods. That being said, I don't think the movie was really meant to be that informative. It's pure fantasy... or at least someone's version of a fantasy. If you're looking for a couple hours to kick back, watch some ridiculous action, and laugh a bit of unintentional comedy, this is a pretty good time. I didn't love "300," or even really like it, but I would say "300"…

Faith in Film 3, Up In The Air

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In 2009, Jason Reitman delivered his finest film with "Up In The Air." It earned six Academy Award nominations, but didn't win a single award. Still, I thought it was the best film of the year, even better than the more heralded films "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker." I still do.
The film presented two interesting aspects. First, Reitman perfectly captured the economic climate of our country during this period of unrest and depression. In fact, he sought to be as authentic as possible. In both St. Louis and Detroit, where the movie was filmed, he advertised for recently terminated employees to come out and participate in a documentary. The best representatives of that effort actually appear in the film. In that way, I think it is important in that it captures the mood and reality of this time in America.
But the other thing that I like about the film, and the more important theme for our purposes, is what the movie says about connections to people and thi…

Faith in Film 3, Week 9

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Here is a look at this week's worksheet.
Title: “Up In The Air” (2009)Starring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, and Anna KendrickSynopsis: “Up In The Air” is the third feature from writer/director Jason Reitman, and it is perhaps his most complete film. Reitman offers a unique brand of off beat humor and drama mixed with cultural satire. Reitman began with the film “Thank You For Smoking” in 2005 then followed that up with the Academy Award-nominated film “Juno,” which was written by Diablo Cody. With “Up In The Air,” Reitman freely adapted the novel from Walter Kirn and did a wonderful job of crafting a funny movie that presents an interesting perspective of life and perfectly captures America during a period of economic unrest. Many critics had it at or near the top of every Best Film of the year poll.“Up In The Air” garnered a great deal of critical praise, including from Academy Award voters. It was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (C…

Pilot Roundup, Week 9

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Thus, we have come to the end of the new fall shows. This will be the final pilot roundup for the fall, but once new shows come out again in January, I'll pick up the reviews again. Below is the final weigh in on "Hell on Wheels," which is awful, and my picks for the three new shows I like the best.
Sunday Nights: "Hell on Wheels," 10 p.m. on AMC Synopsis: This show is trying to revive the Western. It's also trying to trade on AMC's reputation for quality. For me, this show falls into the realm of many of the AMC shows in that it feels painfully slow and boring. Add to that the fact that the point is muddled, the characters lack definition and clarity, and there seems to be no point. I've watched two full shows and can remember the names of just two characters. I can actually remember more names of actors in the show than characters featured in the narrative fabric... that's a problem. I like Westerns and I am a huge Civil War geek, yet this show c…

Treasure

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"The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind." — Gordon Gekko, "Wall Steet" (1987)
Today we continued out T3 series with a look at treasure. When it comes to money, it's always a hard subject to talk about, especially in church it seems. That is especially true when it comes to how the world values money.
I started this post with a quote from "Wall Street." It's probably one of the most oft-quoted sections of the movie. Optimists would say that the quote is oft repeated because people find it a distasteful analysis of our culture. True as that may be, it seems to accurately reflect the way our culture views money, and the lust for material wealth.
This, of course, runs contrary to the Bib…

More than a Game

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"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." — Edmund Burke
Today, Penn State plays its final home game of the season. The team still has a shot at a Big 10 Title and a BCS bowl berth. They are playing Nebraska, and it should be the biggest game of the season so far. It's senior day and the culmination of four years of work for Penn State's most experienced players. But the game played between the lines is of secondary concern. The outcome of the season is of secondary concern. And the future of this program — historically one of the most stable — is in serious doubt.
That's the new reality of Penn State, which endured a turbulent week. On Wednesday, the Board of Trustees fired the University President and Coach Joe Paterno, who is 84-years-old and has been a fixture on the sidelines during football games for the last 61 years. What's more shocking than the fact Paterno was fired is why he was fired — which has nothing to do with…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.
A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas Starring: Kal Penn, John Cho, Neil Patrick Harris, and Danny Trejo Synopsis: Hail, hail, the gang's all here... again. This is the third (and possibly final) installment in the Harold and Kumar stoner franchise. Each chapter has brought something different to the table. When the pair went to "White Castle" in the first installment, it was surprisingly funny and endearing. It was a movie I thought I wouldn't like, but I ended up finding it funnier than I expected — to the point where I was somewhat excited for the second installment, 2008's "Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay." That movie wasn't as good as I'd expected, and was crass in a way that was barely palatable. Given that, it was hard to know what to expect from this latest installment. Oddly, this film felt more like the original. It still had portions that were wildly offensive. There is an e…

Faith in Film 3, There Will Be Blood

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Ladies and gentleman, if I say "There Will Be Blood" is an oil film you'll agree, but it's so much more. Excuse the pun, but for those of you that have seen the film, you'll get the reference. And it's also true. The film is about the oil industry in the early part of the 19th Century, and yet it's so much more than that.
"There Will Be Blood" was written for the screen and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It garnered several Academy Award nominations the year it came out, winning two — Best Actor for Daniel Day Lewis and Best Cinematography. It's easily Anderson's best film, and it also garnered plenty of praise as the best or one of the best films of the decade.
Anderson adapted "There Will Be Blood" from the Upton Sinclair novel. Sinclair wrote pieces that challenged the economic and political climate in many ways. His most famous work, "The Jungle," chronicled the deficiencies in the meat packing plants in Chicago …

Faith in Film 3, Week 8

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Here's a look at tomorrow night's worksheet.
Title: “There Will Be Blood” (2007) Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Paul Dano, and Ciaran Hinds Synopsis: Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the most unique writer/directors working today. His films are always challenging on a number of levels. He directed “Boogie Nights,” “Punch Drunk Love,” and “Magnolia,” all of which feature broken people caught up in self-destructive situations. “There Will Be Blood,” arguably his best film, follows the same pattern. The film is loosely based on the Upton Sinclair book Oil — which was meant as an expose of the oil industry and the titans of that industry. The film follows much the same pattern with the fictional Daniel Plainview (Day Lewis). The power of that performance was a catalytic force for the film, which became a strong contender during Academy Award season. Day Lewis won Best Actor for his portrayal, and the movie was nominated for several awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. In addit…

A reflection of America?

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I like watching the show "Dexter" on Showtime. It doesn't, in any way, reflect my world view. It's sometimes quite violent. It's a cable show, so they explore all the ways they can push the limits. And it's a dark show.
It's also got some incredible acting, especially from Michael C. Hall in the title role. I am fascinated by the storytelling, enjoy the dark comedy, and am fascinated by the different ways they try to explore the social and moral constructs of this character. Those who have seen the show will know that's no easy feat.
That being said, I was nervous about this season. Coming into the season, the writers said the focus of season six would be on Dexter's exploration of religion. Whenever a secular show covers Christianity, I get nervous. Even more so with a show as worldly and a-religious as this show. But I've been pleasantly surprised with what I've seen. Watching this last episode, I think that this show has somewhat perfectl…