Pick your movie of the week: WWII Remembrance (Nov 5-11/17)

The poppies are out and it’s time for us to remember. Last year we looked at WWI movies, and this time it’s the second world war. Which movie—each very fitting for Remembrance Day—would you choose to be this week’s movie?

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Fury (2014)

Dunkirk (2017)

My 9.5 Theses

9932971973_2e4e95bee8_zThis Tuesday will not only be Halloween, it will mark exactly 500 years to the day since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg. He had problems with the Christian church of his day, especially with it’s use of “indulgences” (i.e. paying money to lessen punishments for sins—a medieval version of a televangelist scam) so he wrote them down, nailed it to a door, wrote “A Mighty Fortress,” and 500 years later we have Kirk Cameron movies.

It changed the religion and the world so much that A&E’s Biography listed him as #3 most influential person in the last 1,000 years!

We all have some issues we would like to see get addressed. I don’t have 95 and I won’t be nailing them anywhere. So, here are my 9.5 theses (NOTE: There are disclaimers under the Quote of the Week; they are very important! Please read!):

1. “You may be the only Jesus some will ever see.” No. You’re not. Please stop saying that. Yes, Christians are the “hands and feet of Jesus,” which is a wonderful way to live. But Jesus will find other people, things, and situations to reveal himself—with or without you.

2. Helping family members when they need it most. This one hurts to talk about because it reminds me how often I’ve been guilty of this. When there’s a split-up, a blow-up, an embarrassment, or a scandal (we like to call this a “moral failure”), there needs to be people reaching out. And when, at times, the person(s) in questions doesn’t react well, don’t shrug and say, “I tried,” or “Whaddya do??” I’m trying to train my brain to view a person in any of these situations being one of my children or relatives and respond in kind.

3. Smile, God loves you. I realize how strange this sounds, but we might just be smiling too much. I remember hearing Russians say that this was their main criticism of (North) Americans. In a sense it’s kind of cool that our culture encourages smiling and being nice to each other, but our weakness is in relying on those smiles to hide how we’re feeling. As strange as this sounds, I think we’d do well to have the freedom to walk into church and answer the ubiquitous “How ya doin’?” question with “Sucky.” Or even adding, “In fact, I really don’t want to talk right now.” I think I’d be more inclined to talk about my problems at church if I felt comfortable enough to do this. (Again, my finger is not pointing right now. I’m not talking about you, nor me. I’m talking about us.)

4. Our trademarks. I recently overheard two Christians talking. One said that her husband was approached at his workplace by a new co-worker who said to him, “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?” Then she said that her husband’s reputation preceded him. He didn’t smoke, drink, and watched his language. These are admirable things, but they are a constant in our language to describe someone being an example as a Christian. Wouldn’t it be great if people would instead say, “You can tell s/he is a Christian. They are very involved in helping the poor, they’re kind to everyone, and they never judge.” Besides, the other three really matter so little.

5. Who is the enemy? I am not one to claim Christians aren’t active in fighting for the oppressed. It’s just that to me it’s 1) not something we’re known for (and let’s not kid ourselves, this is the bed we’ve made for ourselves) and 2) in our informal everyday discussions it takes a backseat to talking about other perceived enemies. Even though I believe Christians are angered by human trafficking (e.g.), we seem to be more inclined to energetically discuss bathroom laws. Let’s fight people who oppress, not people who disagree or are on “another team.”

6. Comfort the broken-hearted and those in despair. Whether we like it or not, people whose lives have been destroyed, turned upside down, or who have “hit rock bottom” are inclined to run away from the church instead of to it. It doesn’t mean we’re horrible people, we just need to talk about what we can do to change this. Perhaps their needs should be driving the direction of our churches instead of the perceived needs of those who seem to have it all together.

7. False martyrdom. Simply put, I would love it if we would stop saying “Now if that was us…!!!”). This is how my kids talked to Joy and me when they were little. I think we can talk about our problems without getting defensive.

8. Oh, we have problems. When someone is frustrated by either their local church, their denomination, or the Christian church within our culture, they shouldn’t be so quickly labeled as someone who is “church bashing” (I hate that term. It’s so sulky!). You can love the church to death but that doesn’t make problems go away. I love my family, but we have things we can learn in improve on as family members and as a family unit.
Practically speaking, people on the outside looking in say we, the church, are judgmental. So, in this case, maybe it’s time to stop getting defensive and simply accept the fact that we just might be that 
and try our best to correct it.

9. Musically top-heavy. Historically Christians have had a hard time reconciling music styles, music instruments, and the number of songs being sung. Seems like it’s all about preference, right? But honestly I don’t care what style of music makes it way into services. Sing the dreaded southern gospel stuff if you must, I really couldn’t care less. Play the bagpipes, a banjo, or even a kazoo. I’m fine. My problem isn’t even that we sing a lot. It’s just that it seems to be all we know how to do in order to worship. We pray, but that’s mainly closing your eyes and listening to someone else do it. And the other things we do are usually video clips, skits, or other such things that we sit and watch (then get back to singing). Worship can so easily drift into a contest of how “worshipful” you are when singing, praying, etc. I just don’t think the solution to church being boring is in making it cool with lighting, backdrops, and cool sounding songs. I don’t have the answer, but I do think it may help to explore options beyond singing songs.

9.5 Kirk Cameron movies. These must be stopped. Christians unite!

Congratulations The Silence of the Lambs. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…


Best Actress: Sigourney Weaver as Ridley in Alien.

Best Actor: Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in The Shining.

Best Quote:All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” — Typed by Jack Torrance in The Shining.

— This is not a critique of the church I attend nor its staff. I like and love each one and they are all very talented, passionate, and caring. I write above about music, and this is not a despising of the music nor the leaders in my church. In fact, my church has a knack for having amoung the most talented musicians I’ve ever heard in churches. They amaze me and they should be applauded, not criticized. Above, I criticize our tendencies and practices, not these individuals nor their capabilities. The same goes for our pastor, staff, and volunteers. They’re truly above average. Except for that one youth pastor we had in late 2010-early 2011. Good lord that was awful!

DISCLAIMER #2 — This is not a list of things I have figured out for myself while all others are lacking. I’d love to hear your own 9.5 theses, as I believe we should all be working but our problems within our family.

DISCLAIMER #3 — While it’s true that I experienced heartbreak and difficulty while working in the church, and seeing how it’s an entity run by human beings, that’s normal. It happens. And none of what I write here is an angry reaction to any of my experiences. It’s just my family. And within our family we all have a voice.


Movies That Broke My Heart

Sometimes I wonder why I expose myself to movies or books that tear me up inside. Schindler’s List, The Passion of the Chirst and others are “so good” to so many of us, but we have a hard time sitting through them. But I’m always reminded why I still subject myself to them….they tell someone’s story. Even if it’s fiction, chances are the injustice, hurt, or terror has happened to someone, somewhere in real life.

Now there are stories like in this week’s winner, Invictus, that are happy and victorious. The evil was there, it’s been conquered, and now we see the next chapter. But that previous chapter must be read, it must be watched. They’ll break our hearts, but so do children. And like children, they’ll make our hearts stronger and better.

It is my hope that if you’re reading this, you’ll watch at least one of the following that you haven’t seen before:

Congratulations Invictus. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.

Best Actor: Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler in Downfall.

Best Quote:It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll / I am the master of my fate – I am the captain of my soul.” — Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela quoting Invictus, which was Mandela’s favourite poem.

And here are some cool facts about Nelson Mandela that you may or may not have heard yet:

– His birth name was Rolihlahla, which means “troublemaker.” And that is interesting considering he protested Apartheid ever since he was in college making life difficult for the white powers that be at the time.

– Speaking of protesting, he was expelled from school for leading an anti-Apartheid strike while a student at the Fort Hare Missionary College.

– He has a cameo in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X.

– He liked eating tripe. It’s the inner lining of the stomach in farm animals. Knock yourself out Nelson. I’ll pass.

– He both evaded an arranged marriage and managed to marry a woman who had already been a presidential “first lady.”

– Today we can enjoy reading Mandela’s memoirs. He wrote them while in prison and would hide his writings in the prison’s vegetable garden.

– Ronald Reagan put Mandela on the US Terrorist Watch List as they perceived him to have communist ties with the Soviet Union. He wasn’t removed from said list until 2008.

– While in prison he could have left a free man any time he wanted to. All he had to do promise to stop fighting and protesting against Apartheid. But, of course, he never did agree to that.


Pick your movie of the week: Biopics! (Oct 22-28/17)

It’s been since January that we’ve done biopics, which is considerable restraint on my part as this is my favourite movie genre. This time, every biopic is centered around a political figure. So when you pick, you could choose based on the movie, the person it’s based on, or even the performance by the actor. Which one is your pick?

Downfall (2004)
– Adolf Hitler –

Frost/Nixon (2008)
– Richard Nixon –

Invictus (2009)
– Nelson Mandela –

The Iron Lady (2011)
– Margaret Thatcher –

The Big Bad Movie Monster Royal Rumble!

If you took all the movie monsters in the history of cinema and pitted them against each other in a kind of gladiator-style tournament, who do you think would win? Here’s my breakdown:

The first casualty would have to be The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. He’s certainly more threatening and destructive than he looks, but if he’s truly made of marshmallow (which the movie Ghostbusters seems to imply) he would be no match for the gargantuan killers below.

Cooper, the monster from Super 8 looks pretty bad, and he could definitely destroy Stay Puft, but he lacks the destructive power of his fellow movie monsters. Plus, he was captured by the US military and held captive for years. How tough can he be?

Susan (aka Ginormica) from Monsters vs Aliens doesn’t seem very scary or destructive, but she is smart, athletic, and has a lot of heart. She can hold her own and I have no doubt she could outsmart and defeat all of the above. The below, however…

It’s hard to argue that any monster could defeat Godzilla. He’s not only as big as a skyscraper, but he can breathe fire! I believe he would not only soundly trounce Ginormica, Cooper, and Stay Puft, but that he could do so when taking them all on at the same time. Of course, whenever Godzilla’s name is brought up it is often followed by discussions of who would win a fight between him and King Kong. And…

You may disagree but my money would be on King Kong in that fight. Though he could certainly get barbecued pretty quickly in Godzilla’s fiery halitosis, he is much more dextrous and agile. He could move out of the way of the flames and I think the lizard would have a tough time keeping up with him.

But I’ll never forget seeing what came on screen after Liam Neeson uttered the now famous line, “Release the Kraken!” Unbelievable! If you haven’t seen Clash of the Titans (2010), it is worth watching just for that scene. I’m afraid that is one giant monster that even Kong and ‘Zilla couldn’t handle.

But I’m not sure even the Kraken could escape The Blob (1958). It doesn’t sound too scary at first, but that enormous pile of slimy goo is freaking relentless! And it won’t matter how big the monster is, The Blob just takes over and keeps growing. It’s practically indestructible!

But there is an indisputable king of giant movie monsters, and that is The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ Balrog. Gigantic and powerful like the Kraken, firey like Godzilla, and fast moving like Kong, the Balrog adds another element: It is underworldly. Scarier than any monster mentioned so far and could eat any one of them for breakfast. In fact, I’m sure he does. Balrog, you may have had your butt handed to you by an old man in a pointy hat, but you take the cake in this week’s battle royal.

Congratulations The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Emilia Fox as Dorota in The Pianist.

Best Actor: Adrien Brody as Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist.

Best Quote: [a wall of soldiers line the ramparts and the top of Gimli’s helmet barely peeks over the top]You could have picked a better spot.” — Gimli to Legolas in TLOTR: The Two Towers.

There is one more monster that should be listed and could possibly beat all the others, but I don’t even want to mention it. This is because when I saw the film I didn’t know there was a monster, which made for an awesome movie experience. So just in case any of you haven’t seen it and could possibly have the same experience I had, I will keep silent on this one…

Pick your movie of the week: Oct 15-21/17

Another good year in movies. It was the year that brought us Spider-ManGangs of New York, Catch Me If You Can, Lilo & Stitch, and The Bourne Identity. The following nominations were also great, and they all made it to IMDb’s top 250 list (And, as you can see, even the top 50!). Which one is your choice?

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002, #15)

The Pianist (2002, #21)

City of God (2002, #40)