Movies, Movies Everywhere, But Nary a Movie to Watch?!

Do you enjoy movies? Almost everybody loves stories, and even for those of us battle workaholism, a thought-provoking story portrayed well through film is about the perfect way to end the day after all possibility of productivity has ceased. However, it’s challenging to find movies that meet our personal standards for what we consider worthwhile, isn’t it? Personally, I like movies that teach me something and make me think as well as being entertaining…and please—without sex, violence, or profanity! For this blog, I try to review only movies that I can recommend without reservation, but I often try several before finding one that I really think is worth writing home to mother about. Does that happen to you as well? Over the past months, I’ve watched a bunch, and I keep thinking of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s line in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:
“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”

On the other hand, I’ve watched a bunch that I can recommend partially, so I thought it might be time to share a few that are good…but with reservations.  The Post is one of the best movies from 2017, I think. It stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, and is directed by Steven Spielberg, so you know the acting is great. *The Post is based on a true story about our country’s first female publisher, Katherine Graham, and her gruff but great editor, who get The Washington Post embroiled in a battle against with the U.S. government for the freedom to uncover information about the Vietnam War that had been concealed by four presidents.  The language is deplorable at times, but there is no sex or violence, and it’s a story that I’m glad has been made public. I just wish movie makers left out contemptible language, whether or not it was actually spoken. There are ways of expressing anger and frustration without being profane or crass.*Only the Brave (7.7, PG-13, 2017) is based on the amazing true story of Granite Mountain Hot Shot firefighters and their attempt to save a city in Arizona from a wildfire.  It has an excellent message of valor and the struggle to overcome bad backgrounds, but the language is terrible and the end so shocking that I’ve had a little PTSD ever since. However, if you know or love a fire-fighter, this might be one to consider.                                  (I would not recommend it for children.)*The Heart of Man is a 2017, 8.7 IMDb, PG-13 docudrama with stunning cinematography that envisions the story of the prodigal son for modern times and includes interviews with such men as William Paul Young, the author of The Shack The movie deals with dark secrets of the hearts, such as abuse, adultery, pornography, addictions, and how some found their way out through experiencing the love of God for them. Although I highly recommend this for adults, the themes are so deep and difficult that I would only recommend it for young people who who have been exposed to sexual abuse or are struggling with the issues of brokenness, identity, shame, guilt, or suicide.(For an interview with William Paul Young on understanding childhood sexual abuse, here’s a link:    http://goodguyswag.com/heart-of-man/

*The Masked Saint is a 2016, PG-13 story, and is very unusual.            It’s based on true story of a professional wrestler for 10  years  who becomes a pastor of a struggling Baptist church in Michigan, where he helps the community both as a pastor and as a vigilante protector of those who need help from crime.       Although the tale is true, and the moral of the story is clear and positive,  there are so many scenes with professional wrestling violence that Alan kept shielding my eyes (he knows I hate violence), and I couldn’t reconcile pro wrestling or vigilantism with my understanding of the way Christ taught us to live, but it was an interesting story of one couple’s journey to figure out how to use their gifts for good, and it has definitely provoked me to thought!Well, that’s probably more movies than I’ve discussed in two months, but I’ll try to come up with a few that I can unreservedly recommend in the next two months! Meanwhile, Happy Summering to you as we look forward to the end of the school year and the beginning of June coming soon. May the Lord help us all to grow in grace!

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him” (Proverbs 30:5).

(Photo of Coleridge from the National Portrait Gallery of London, England)

Don’t Throw Treasures in the Trash!

I read recently about a masked thief in Denmark who broke into Copenhagen’s Cafe 33 and made off with a vodka bottle from a locked area, drank the vodka, and threw the empty bottle away. Because it was part of a 1,200 bottle collection and on loan from a Latvian car manufacturer, the store owner notified the police, who went in search of the empty bottle. Thankfully, the police found it and were able to retrieve the borrowed bottle from a  construction site in the area. Although the bottle was dented, the owner of Cafe 33, Brian Ingberg, was overjoyed to get it back, not only because it wasn’t his, but also because it was worth $1.3 million! The bottle had been fashioned from six pounds of silver and six pounds of gold crowned with a diamond-encrusted cap in the shape of a vintage car. Can you believe it? How did the thief fail to appreciate it’s beauty and value??

It made me stop and think about what I might be taking for granted or not appreciating properly, and the first thing that came to my mind is my husband. Hopefully, I’ll never drink him dry and throw him away, but he is a real prize, and I don’t always recognize his true value, which is far greater than silver and gold!

How about you? Got any family or friends who deserve more appreciation than you give them? What about our kids? Got any rebels who are driving you crazy?  When I am frustrated, I meditate on Luke 21:19, “In your patience possess ye your souls.” And, how about this one? “I. . .beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Let’s treasure our treasures. May we never run them dry, throw them under a bus, or discard them as useless. God created each of us as a unique treasure. He “owns” us in a sense, and we are just on loan to one another. Let’s make sure that when the time comes to return our loved ones to God, we’ve protected them and cared for them.

Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not” (Malachi 3:16-18).

Rise Up, My Love (288): Abiding in The Vine

Song of Solomon 8:11 “Solomon had a vineyard.” God had a vineyard. What happened then? Did God give up husbandry when his crops failed? God is amazingly long suffering. Hundreds of years after God predicted giving up on Israel, He was still patiently working with them. When Jesus came, He preached to the nation: “Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country” (Matthew 21:33).   Jesus was reminding them again of the passage from Isaiah, and He went on to tell the Jewish leaders that as a nation they had refused to listen to God’s prophets for centuries. (This is also discussed in Jeremiah 12:10, where the Lord laments, “Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard.”) So, what did God do? “Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him”…but “they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?” (Luke 20: 13,15). “They say unto him, he will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons” (Matt. 21:41).   Let’s review our verse again: “Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon; he let out the vineyard unto keepers; every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of silver.” Just as any good king would expect and deserve loyalty and fair business exchange, so God expected loyalty from his subjects. However, instead of “a thousand pieces of silver,” God received treachery and rebellion, even to the point of crucifying his Son. But, glory of glory, God had a plan all the time! This same Jesus, who was cast out of the vineyard of wild grapes and killed, was resurrected. Like “a root out of a dry ground” (Isaiah 53:2), Jesus himself became the one true and living vine that produced fruits full of the sweetness of God.   Jesus declared in the beautiful passage in John 15:   “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman…Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine,ye are the branches….If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.”   In this wonderful passage, Jesus invites all men to come to him and by faith be grafted into himself as the true Vine. Through abiding in him, and allowing his Word and his Holy Spirit to abide in us in truth (in other words, by continuing in obedience to true truth and grace rather than in rebellion), we will produce abundant fruit full of the sweetness and fullness of God’s love and joy, and bring great joy and glory to God! This is God’s amazing plan of grace for the world, so that anyone who will can become part of God’s vineyard.   Are you part of his vineyard? Are you abiding in him, allowing his Spirit and his Word to flow into and through you, washing away the impurities and bringing sweet nourishment to your soul so that your life is producing an abundance of the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control? Lord, may we be faithful and loyal subjects who bring you “a thousand pieces of silver” for the wonderful fruits of the Spirit we enjoy by abiding in your vine and being keepers in your vineyard. Lord, may we surrender all we are and have to you, once forever, and again and again moment by moment until we are forever changed by your eternal presence. (All photos taken near Veneto, Italy, during a trip to visit our kids who live there, except for this last one, which is from Tasmania.)

 

Refreshing Virgin Pina Colada Smoothies

Those of you who know me well know that I don’t drink anything alcoholic. In fact, I’ve never had an alcoholic drink in my life and don’t intend ever to have one unless Jesus  himself offers me one when I get to heaven (which I’m doubting will happen). However, I love fruit flavors, variety, and pretty stemware, so I love experimenting with various non-alcoholic drinks, and here’s one that’s perfect for a warm day when you feel like celebrating!

Refreshing Pina Colada Smoothies
(makes four 8-0z. servings, although only three are pictured here)

In a juicer or blender that can handle ice, add:
2 cups ice
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup crushed pineapple
1/2 cup cooled coconut syrup (recipe here if you need it:  https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2018/04/21/pineapple-pancakes-and-coconut-syrup/ )

I was serving it for dinner so didn’t add yogurt, but if you want a healthy breakfast drink with some protein, add 1 cup of plain Greek (or regular) yogurt. With yogurt added, it will serve 5. If you add another cup of ice, you can serve six, and it still tastes plenty strong and sweet.

For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you” (Philemon 1:7, ESV. May we be a source of refreshment and joy to those who visit our homes this summer!)

What Makes America Exceptional: Ninety-Second Video by a Harvard Professor

Clay Christensen on Religious Freedom (His personal views, not HBS)

I hope you’ll take a minute to listen to what Dr. Christensen has to say, because I think he’s absolutely right. But, if you’re unsure or have never heard of this Harvard economist, let me introduce him, because I think he’s earned the right to one minute of our attention! His pedigree includes being a Rhodes Scholar, studying econometrics at Oxford University (M.Phil.), an MBA and later a DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) from Harvard. Christiansen set a record for becoming a “full professor” at Harvard’s Business School in only six years. In 2011 Forbes called him “one of the most influential business theorists of the last 5o years” in their cover story. In both 2011 and 2013 he was ranked #1 in the Thinkers 50, considered “the most prestigious ranking of management thinkers” (Wiki). His seminal work, The Innovator’s Dilemma (1997) received the Global Business Book Award for the best business book of the year. According to Wikipedia (where I garnered this biographical info), “He’s best known for his theory of ‘disruptive innovation,’. . .which has been called the most influential business idea of the early 21st century.”

Now are you willing to listen? https://www.youtube.com/embed/YjntXYDPw44

 “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).

How Are You Feeling About Growing Older?

Here is something that’s been going around on Facebook. I have no clue who originally wrote it, but it seems to resonate so well with the Baby Boomer set that I thought it might encourage my blogging buddies too! You don’t have to be really “old” like me to participate. Apparently anybody over 25 might feel “old,” so anybody’s welcome to add a photo or thought, and it doesn’t have to be limited to women. I’m thinking even men might feel a little insecure as you age, since growing older isn’t just a problem women have to grapple with!   If you can’t leave a photo in the comment box, send it to me via FB (Kathryn W. Armstrong) or email (kathrynwarmstrong@gmail.com) and I’ll make a post for us all! I also very much welcome any thoughts or encouragements you might have heard or learned on your own journey through life so far.

Here’s how it goes:

To all my female friends of “age”… Most of us are going through the next stage of our lives. We are at that age where we see the wrinkles… gray hair… extra pounds. Menopause has already shown up or just waiting around the corner. We see the pretty 25 year olds and sigh. But we were 25 too, just like they will one day be our age. What they bring to the table with their youth and zest for life, we bring with our wisdom, experience and good hearts. For all we’ve been through earning each gray hair… raising kids, bills and ills and whatever else life brought you/us over the 30s, 40’s, 50’s, & 60’s we are survivors… we are warriors… we are women. Like a classic car or fine wine. While our exterior may not be what it once was, it is traded for our spirit, our courage and our strength to enter this chapter of our lives with grace and pride for all we’ve been through and accomplished. Never feel bad about aging. It is a privilege denied to many. 🙏🏻
Ladies [and I’ll add: “Men”], I’ve just posted my photo above, and I challenge you to add your photo, age, and any bits of wisdom you’d like to contribute in the comment box below!                          My age is 67.

“Also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come” (Psalm 71:18).

The Royal Wedding Reflects on The Song of Solomon

Did  you watch any of England’s royal wedding over the weekend? England’s Prince Harry of Wales married America’s Meghan Markle on May 19, 2018, but not at Westminster Cathedral, as I assumed. Because Harry is sixth in line to the throne, they were able to avoid inviting political figures (such as Barak Obama or Donald Trump) and instead had a smaller, more intimate ceremony at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. I hadn’t really followed this wonderful celebration while it was occurred, but I had several friends urge me to watch, particularly because Prince Harry’s aunt read the scripture lesson from the Song of Solomon, which was also the text for the message given by The Most Reverend Michael Curry.  If you have fourteen minutes to hear the message, it can be found here: http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/cwn/2018/may/read-the-powerful-sermon-on-love-bishop-michael-curry-preached-at-the-royal-wedding

Although British royalty don’t often speak of their faith, some of them have a clear and deep testimony to their faith in Christ, particularly the reigning Queen, Elizabeth II, who spoke of her beliefs in the forward to a book published by the Bible Society in time to celebrate the queen’s 90th birthday in 2016, entitled The Servant Queen and the King She Serves. One of the co-authors, Catherine Butcher, reported to Premier.org: “So to have a monarch who talks openly about Jesus in a very relaxed and natural way, we find that a huge encouragement and hope that Christians across the country will take a leaf out of The Queen’s book and learn to talk about Jesus in a natural way with friends, relatives and colleagues, so people can discover more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.” Amen? Amen!!One of the best parts of the wedding (to me) was the singing of “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” which reportedly moistened Prince Harry’s eyes, perhaps because it was his mother’s favorite song and also sung at her funeral. May the words of this Christian anthem be true for England’s beautiful royal family, as well as for each of us!

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
(— William Williams, 1745)

“Guide me, O thou great Redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
Hold me with thy powerful hand:
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven
Feed me till I want no more.
Feed me till I want no more.

“Open thou the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream shall flow;
Let the fiery, cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through:
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer
Be thou still my strength and shield.
Be thou still my strength and shield.

“When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side:
Songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever give to thee.
I will ever give to thee.”

For thou art my rock and my fortress;
therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me
” (Psalm 31:3).

Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory” (Psalm 73:24).

 

*First photo is one of the official wedding photos; the rest I found on CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network).

Rise Up, My Love (287): What Kind of Grape Are You?

Song of Solomon 8:11 “Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon; he let out the vineyard unto keepers; every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of silver.” Baal-hamon means literally “Lord of a multitude” or “possessor of abundance” (according to Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, 1099). Scholars have not been able to tie this name to a particular geographic location, so there is debate over whether or not the bride intended this comment literally or figuratively.   However, rather than enter into insolvable supposition (and in keeping with our approach to understanding the entire book), let’s simply take this verse at face value and consider it on both levels. Let me try a generously amplified and expanded attempt at paraphrasing the bride’s statement: “Solomon, who is the Lord of a multitude and possesses great abundance, has a huge vineyard that he rents out to husbandmen. Each of these men pays Solomon a thousand pieces of silver year by year for the privilege of tending (and profiting from) his excellent grape vines.”   That’s a pretty straight forward declaration, and Isaiah 7:22-23 describes a similar picture of Israel experiencing a time of “butter and honey” with many locations “where there were a thousand vines at a thousand silverlings.” It seems probable that during Solomon’s reign, each vine of a vineyard would rent out for one piece of silver, but the harvest would be so bountiful that the husbandman would make a handsome profit even beyond the silver required for rent. This verse in itself is just background information given by the bride to explain her actions in verse twelve, so both verses need to be examined to understand the bride’s activities.  However, verse eleven is rich with spiritual implications for our greater-than-Solomon husband, the Lord Jesus Christ. First, let’s consider the fact that the king had a vineyard. Where was his vineyard, and what was its name? “Baal-hamon”…“Lord of a Multitude.” God promised Israel that his descendants would be “as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude” (Genesis 32:12).   In the Old Testament, we find that God was the Lord of a multitude, and that multitudinous vineyard was Israel. Isaiah 5:1-7 begins, “Now will I sing to my well beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard.” The wording sounds like Solomon speaking to his bride, but it is God speaking to Israel as if she were His vineyard: “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel” (Isaiah 5:7).   God explained that he had chosen an ideal location and planted the choicest vine (which sounds like the definition of Baal-hamon to me), building a tower for protection and a press for productivity. In fact, he asked, “What could have been done more to my vineyard?” He did everything possible to prepare it for fruitfulness, but what happened? In Jeremiah 2:21 the Lord laments, “I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?” Instead of being a fruitful vine, Israel turned away from him and produced only wild grapes!  What do you do with wild grapes? I can tell you. Have you eaten wild grapes? We call our home Tanglewood Cottage because it is in a woods practically over run by wild grape vines. The grapes are small but turn a beautiful purple in late summer and look wonderfully attractive. For the first few years, the kids and I would always try to harvest some, but they were consistently so sour that we finally gave up and bought some commercial grape vines advertised as producing large, sweet grapes, and planted them along the fence around our pool. We patiently tended those domestic vines for three seasons, hoping for many years of delicious fruit for our labors!  Our oldest son was married in a beautiful vineyard not far from here where his bride’s relatives produce grapes they sell to Welch’s to make grape juice, and the fruit is wonderful. Our California cousins live in a state where there are awesome grapes. We’ve seen hillsides full of luscious grapes from Italy to Tasmania, but can you guess what happened to us? Our new grapes turned out to be small and sour…not much different from the wild grapes. What happened?   I don’t know. I blamed our failure on bad soil, but God chose “a very fruitful hill” and still Israel failed. The whole process taught me a little bit about the frustration the Lord was expressing over Israel. He’d done everything for the Israelites, but instead of loving him and living godly lives…being a “fruitful vine,” as a nation they turned away from faith in him and disregarded his commands.   In Isaiah 5:5-6 God goes on to say that since Israel produced only “wild grapes,” God let his vineyard be wasted. Oh, Lord, as we consider this today, may we not be sour grapes that are good for nothing! Help us to produce sweet fruit by abiding in your Spirit!

(The photos are of vineyards near Veneto Italy and Castello Scaligero, taken during a trip to visit some of our kids, who live there, except for the photo of the wild grape vine, which was taken at our home, and the beautiful grapes, which was taken in Tasmania. [The grapes in Italy weren’t ripe yet.])

Chocolatey-Chippy, Sure-to-Get-Eaten Banana Bread

Probably everybody makes banana bread when you’ve got some extra ripe bananas that need using up, but my son Joel’s turns out so well that I asked if I could share his recipe. “But Mom!” he protested, “I just use your recipe, except I use half the sugar and add a package of chocolate chips.” Okay! We can do that. Here it is:

Chocolatey-Chippy Banana Bread

Cream together:
1 stick of softened butter
1/2 cup sugar

Then add:
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-4 bananas (whatever you have left over; the more bananas, the longer you’ll need to bake it)

Beat until smooth, then add:
1   12-oz. package chocolate chips for sure, and if you want
1 cup walnuts or pecans (totally optional)

Pour into a loaf pan and bake at 350°F. for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown on top and somewhat firm to the touch (starting to form a crust). We usually make banana bread for dinner (since it takes so long to bake) but serve the rest with breakfast the following morning. You can also make this recipe into muffins or glaze the tops with cream cheese frosting to make them into cupcakes, but then they’re undeniably a dessert rather than any semblance of a “bread” or morning “pastry!”  🙂

Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel
” (Proverbs 27:9).

Don’t Forget (to) Breathe

If you want to be inspired by an incredible story of love overcoming all, be sure to watch the 2017 account of Robin and Diana Cavendish, an amazing love story recounted by their son as a tribute to their unfailing love for one another through devastating illness.  The acting is excellent.  (The heroine, Claire Foy, totally charmed us in her role as Elizabeth in The Crown, a fascinating look into the reign of England’s longest [and still] reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth.) I don’t want to tell you too much of the story lest I ruin it,  but it is a beautiful example of love and faithfulness  despite overwhelming challenges. As a result of their unbounded devotion to one another —and to making life worth living—their work has resulted in helping thousands of severely disabled persons! Ready to be inspired? Then it might be time to watch Breathe!For in him [the Lord] we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).