Category Archives: Biographies

Will Brett Kavanaugh Be Confirmed?

If you’ve been distressed by all the debate over whether or not to confirm Judge Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, consider watching Marshall this weekend. Marshall is the inspiring true story of Thurgood Marshall, 96th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and our first African-American justice.  He served in the Supreme Court for thirty-four years, from 1967-1991, retiring during the administration of George H.W. Bush and succeeded by Clarance Thomas.  Marshall was a champion for the oppressed, a crusader for the cause of equality, and a brilliant lawyer. Over the course of his career, he argued 32 times before Supreme Court and won 29 times! The film keys in on Thurgood’s courageous and career-defining case defending Joseph Spell, who was accused of raping his socialite employer, Eleanor Strubing in The State of Connecticut v. Joseph Spell From research, I gather that the movie is quite accurate except in two points: Sam Friedman had already been practicing for fourteen years, had a “stellar reputation as a trial lawyer,” and was a brave man.* Also, Roger Friedman (movie critic and nephew to Sam Friedman) stated, “It is unimaginable that Marshall, a man who was highly intelligent and educated, would have ever addressed Sam that way [using F***].” Friedman also reported that “his family cringed when they heard it at a private screening.”* Indeed, my only problem with the movie was the bad language, which apparently was unfairly included! Come on, Hollywood! Let’s elevate, not degrade. I’m not sure how you feel about the impassioned testimony of Christine Blasey Ford (and as a woman, I tend to believe women), but after watching Marshall, it does occur to me that emotion doesn’t necessarily translate into truth.  Also, just for the record, I’d like to point out that although Marshall Thurmond is one of my heroes, here are a few bits from his youth, mostly gleaned from Wikipedia:

“Marshall showed a talent for law from an early age, becoming a key member of his school’s debate team and memorizing the U.S. Constitution (which was actually assigned to him as punishment for misbehaving in class).”  While in college at Lincoln University: “Initially he did not take his studies seriously, and was suspended twice for hazing and pranks against fellow students.”

Among his classmates was the poet Langston Hughes, who was a lifelong friend but described Marshall as “rough and ready, loud and wrong.”  “His marriage to Vivien Buster Burey in September 1929 encouraged him to take his studies seriously, and he graduated from Lincoln with honors (cum laude) Bachelor of Arts in Humanities, with a major in American literature and philosophy.” In 1933 he graduated first in his class from Howard University School of Law.

I’m thinking that we’ll never truly know whether or not Brett Kavanaugh is innocent of his alleged sins against women as a college student, but I will say that it appears he settled down after marrying and has had a pretty impeccable record since graduating from college (as was also true of Thurmond Marshall).

With just minutes to go before the vote is taken, I would like to encourage us with words originally spoken three thousand years ago by one of the world’s most beloved kings, King David of Israel. I think they’re words most of us can echo:

Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord” (Psalm 25:7).

*http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/marshall/

(Just FYI: One of Marshall’s great grandparents was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo but brought to America as a slave back in the 1800’s. His father was a steward and his mother was a teacher. When Marshall was little, his father took the kids to watch court cases and debated with them afterward, and Marshall became an able debater. He said his father never told him to become a lawyer, but he turned him into one! Regardless of our background, we can become upstanding members of our communities and inspire our children. Let’s do it!)

 

Have You Heard The Music of Silence?

“In my opinion, the only way forward in this world is with faith, which not only explains the reason for life but also fills it with joy and hope. Faith transforms what would be a tragedy into a marvelous story with a happy ending. If all of this is reflected in my singing, how happy that would make me.” —Andrea Bocelli Do you have a favorite singer? My mother requested that Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman’s rendition of “Time to Say Goodbye” would be played at her funeral, and ever since I’ve thought they have the most hauntingly beautiful voices in the world. So, I was delighted to discover that a movie has been made about this amazing Italian singer’s life. It’s an extremely emotional but inspirational story.  I always wondered how Andrea Bocelli happened to have a voice so full of passion and warmth but for some reason had never realized that he was blind…or that his faith in God had helped him overcome his blindness. His parents were advised to abort Bocelli before he was even born, warning that he was likely to have multiple birth defects. However, his parents disregarded the surgeon’s advice. He was born with congenital glaucoma and became blind at twelve, yet today he’s one of the world’s greatest opera singers and has sold over 80 million records!  The Music of Silence tells the story of his birth to his incredible rise to fame by 2000 (although he’s still actively singing in the present). It’s a beautiful story of faith and love. I was a little sorry I did research, because his life from 2000 to the present is not as lovely, but I suspect he feels the same way, because the movie ends very happily around the turn of the century.  As the mother of a musician, I was especially intrigued by the title, The Music of Silence, and what that meant. Bocelli’s maestro explained how music can be found in silence this way:  “You [speaking to his blind protégé, Bocelli] have a great advantage, you’re already familiar with sounds. They guide your steps through life. But the music of silence will be your guide through the interior of yourself. And that, which you discover, you will express through the beautiful perfection of song.”  And that he does! I smiled when Celine Dion was quoted as saying, “If God would have a singing voice, he must sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli.” I have definitely thought that if the Lord would give me any voice when I get to heaven, I would like to sound like Andrea Bocelli! (Or, maybe Sarah Brightman if I’m supposed to sound like a woman. 🙂  ) Even if you’re not a big fan of opera, I’ll bet you find yourself inspired and encouraged by watching The Music of Silence, the story of how one young man overcame one of the world’s most difficult challenges and became one of the world’s greatest singers!  These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5). If you want to hear Andrea Bocelli singing “Time to Say Goodbye with Sarah Brightman,” it can be found here:  https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-pty-pty_maps&hsimp=yhs-pty_maps&hspart=pty&p=sarah+brightman+singing#id=1&vid=68f961961443db9fb4c62c25d24f8778&action=click

Whom Would You Nominate As The Greatest Showman on Earth?

Did you ever attend a circus when you were young (or older)?  If so, and you’re looking for a light-hearted, highly rated (IMDb 7.7), family friendly (PG) musical this summer, you might enjoy The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman and based (quite loosely) on the life of P.T. Barnum. Can you remember what you first wished to become when you were little?

My oldest son, who’s now a managing engineer for LinkedIn, had as his first ambition (at the tender age of three) the desire to be garbage collector, because he thought there was nothing more exciting than the banging and clattering he heard while watching a powerful garbage truck latch on to huge dumpsters, hoist them high in the air, and empty their contents into the truck’s yawning belly.       However, when I was a little girl, I could think of nothing more glorious than to be one of those beautiful women who’d “float through the air with the greatest of ease, this daring young (wo)man on the flying trapeze.”  Going to the circus was the highlight of my family’s summers back in the early 1950’s, and I felt quite ambivalent when the Barnum & Bailey Circus closed down on May 21, 2017 after 146 years of continuous operation! As a little girl, I didn’t consider how risqué some of the costumes were (which would also be an issue for anybody who wants to watch the movie),  nor did I think about racism, or the possibility of animals being mistreated, or people being exploited because of their unusual appearance, but such concerns really did cause the decline and eventual demise of circuses. Nevertheless, for nearly 150 years, traveling circuses such as P.T. Barnum’s “Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Hippodrome” were a centerpiece of American entertainment and culture, and Barnum’s circus really did come to be known as the “greatest traveling show on earth.” I don’t want to ruin anything by telling you too much of the story, but I do want to correct a couple of fictions just in case you—like me—prize loyalty and faithfulness. Barnum married  Charity, whom he always loved dearly. He wrote that when they married, he “became the husband of one of the best women in the world,”    and she was his bedrock throughout their marriage until she died in 1873. The real Jenny Lind (known as “The Swedish Nightengale”) did travel with the circus for awhile and left after 93 performances, but only because she didn’t like being “marketed.” Her goal had always been altruistic, and she donated the entire $350,o00 in profits (worth about 10 million today) to endow free schools in Sweden. Isn’t that awesome?! Does it ever strike you as strange that Hollywood would take a perfectly good story and makes it worse because they think it will sell better? What’s that all about? It reminds me of people who brag about being bad or think they’re terrible, when in fact they aren’t as bad as they say they are. Do you ever do that? If you (or someone you loves) struggles with self image, can I encourage you with these words: Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:12-14). On the other hand, if you think you’re the greatest showman on earth, then I’d recommend this advice from Romans 12:3, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” God doesn’t want us to think we’re terrible, nor does he want us to think we’re the best ever! He encourages us to Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). In that light, perhaps I would nominate P.T. Barnum as the world’s greatest showman, given that a “showman” is someone who “produces or presents shows as a profession, especially the proprietor, manager, or MC of a circus, fair, or other variety show” (Oxford Dictionary). However, I think Hollywood both glamorized and demoralized the real P.T. Barnum…which I think the world also does with Jesus Christ. Jesus is glamorized by some, demoralized by others, and all too often fictionalized. Do you know Him? If you don’t really know who Jesus is, please read the Bible and find out the truth for yourself. He was not a showman, but I do think he was and is the greatest man on earth!

And he shall judge the world in righteousness,
he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness” (Psalm 9:8).

(All photos from the movie, except the one of my oldest son and his wife!)

 

Saying Goodbye to Christopher Robin

Although I grew up cherishing Winnie-the-Pooh stories, my children grew up practically quoting some of the stories by heart, and a couple of my grandchildren remind me of Christopher Robin (like this one, whom I’ve been visiting the last while, and who’s recently become a big brother, again!),

I never knew much about A.A. Milne, who authored the tales of Christopher Robin and his plush playmates. Goodbye, Christopher Robin (2017, PG, rated 7.1 on IMDb) tells the heart-rending back story of the Milne family.                 A.A. Milne, and his wife Dorothy, were rich British socialites.

In the movie, the real Christopher Robin (nicknamed “Billy Moon” by his parents) appears to have been largely neglected by his mother, although according to his biography, it was his mother who came into the nursery and told him stories about what Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends did and said, and he felt that it was his mother who actually created most of the ideas for Milne’s books. However, it was absolutely true that little Billy was very devoted to his nanny, Olive, who was responsible for his daily care. (I gather this is often true for children who grow up with caring nannies!) Milne had suffered severely from (probable) PTSD after serving in World War I and wished to use his talents as an author to write something that would inspire the world to stop resorting to war as a way of “resolving” conflicts.

Although Milne published a serious plea against war, Peace with Honour, he became famous for was his playful, four-book series based on his son and the little boy’s stuffed animals. These books were incredibly successful, and the Milne family became extremely rich!

Billy Moon (aka Christopher Robin) didn’t mind becoming a celebrity as a child…until he was sent away to boarding school at age eight, where he was mercilessly bullied for his fame.

In response, Billy enlisted in the army during World War II, where he contracted malaria and took some shrapnel to his head (although he recovered completely). It was during the war that Billy came to terms with all the difficulties in his life, because he realized that the Winnie-the-Pooh stories helped people recover from the pain and disillusionment of war by allowing them to retreat into the happy bliss of childhood innocence. Since the original books were written (almost 100 years ago), they have never been out of print, and they have sold over 20 million copies in 50 languages! However, Christopher Robin never accepted royalties from any of the books.  Instead, he married his cousin, Lesley de Sélincourt, founded the Harbour Bookshop in Dartmouth, and wrote a book of his own, Enchanted Places, finding it more gratifying to make his own life rather than live in his father’s shadow.

Now, you may fairly criticize me for telling you so much of the story, but in order to experience all the depth of pathos and charm, I highly recommend that you see Goodbye Christopher Robin for yourself! It made me appreciate that life is always much more complicated and difficult than we can ever imagine, and even the joyous affirmations of innocent childhood—in the real world—often come at great cost.

I also want to say that, unlike Christopher Robin, who didn’t want to stand in his father’s shadow, I am eternally grateful for our loving heavenly Father, who invites us all to stand safely under His shadow! “Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice” (Psalm 63:7).

               Beneath the Cross of Jesus
(Elizabeth C. Clephane, 1868)

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.

O safe and happy shelter, O refuge tried and sweet,
O trysting place where Heaven’s love and Heaven’s justice meet!
As to the holy patriarch that wondrous dream was given,
So seems my Savior’s cross to me, a ladder up to heaven.

There lies beneath its shadow but on the further side
The darkness of an awful grave that gapes both deep and wide
And there between us stands the cross two arms outstretched to save
A watchman set to guard the way from that eternal grave.

Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by to know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.

 

 

I Can Only Imagine…Can You?

I Can Only Imagine is not only  one of the world’s most popular songs today, it’s been made into a fantastic movie sharing the painful life story of composer Bart Millard and his abusive father, who was transformed by the power of God’s forgiveness and love. The beauty of  I Can Only Imagine (2018, newly released to video, PG, IMDb 7.4), is in understanding the change that really can occur in someone who gives their life to Christ.             The movie is deeply moving, and I wish everybody could see it! We watched it on Father’s Day, and it would make a wonderful father-son bonding event (particularly if there’s been any strain in their relationship).  As Bart has explained in various interviews,“I got a front row seat to see this guy go from being a monster to falling desperately in love with Jesus.” “By the time he passed away when I was a freshman in college, not only was he my best friend, he was like the Godliest man I’d ever known.” “It’s literally changed the trajectory of my life.” “I guess I grew up thinking that if the Gospel could change that guy, it could change anybody. There was no denying it.”There were a few things that didn’t come out in the movie that I want to add, because it made some of the puzzle pieces fit together in my mind. Bart’s father didn’t drink (the usual precursor to abuse), but he suffered a closed-head injury at work that left him extremely impulsive (a common side-effect of closed-head injuries). Bart’s father never beat his mother, although he smashed everything she treasured, and he didn’t abuse Bart until after the mother left. (As a mother, I couldn’t imagine leaving my child undefended with an abusive father.)The chronology of events is also not exact. Bart’s father came to faith in Christ after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer while Bart was still at home. It was during his high school years, while Bart cared for his father, that he learned how to forgive through God’s mercy and formed a wonderful bond with his dad. One of the happiest discoveries from research was finding that the love story between Bart and Shannon was probably very true.

They’ve been married now for 20+ years and have five lovely children!
(The romance is so special…reminded me just a little of Alan’s and mine.)If you get a chance, please watch it! I think it will touch your soul!

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9

“I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk, by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When you face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
Surrounded by You glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine when that day comes
When I find myself standing in the Son
I can only imagine when all I would do is forever
Forever worship You
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for You, Jesus
Or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I…”  (—Bart Millard)

Faith of Our Fathers…and Other Inspiring Father Figures

Have you ever noticed how some people are larger than life? I remember when my spiritual big brother’s father passed away, he said having his father in his life had been like seeing a big mountain out the picture window every day…but on the day his father died, he felt like the mountain disappeared. I’m guessing that’s how Uncle Milt’s sons must have felt when their dad passed away last week. Do you remember my writing about “Filling Cinderella’s Slippers” a few weeks ago? That story recounted the life and loss of Milt’s beloved bride of almost 72 years, and within a few weeks of her death, he also graduated to glory. Diagnosis? Well, Larry (his son and Alan’s lifelong friend) told us that his dad died of a broken heart. Uncle Milton was amazing to everybody…and that included me. Just one example: One night thirty years ago while Alan was in medical school and we were poorer than church mice, Alan and I were trying to get home to the Soo from Detroit in our leprous old car. Our little Vega was so rundown that the windshield leaked and the heater was broken, so I’d wrap our two toddling boys up in blankets and hold them on my lap while we traveled. We had just enough gas money to get home and back with nothing to spare. (These were the days before seat belt laws or credit cards.) Our car died on the freeway, but Alan was able to get it to glide off the highway and near a gas station, where he called his dad. His dad was sick and couldn’t come get us, so Alan’s mom ran across the street to Milton and Faye. Milt drove all the way down to Saginaw to pick us up and drove us home through the night. He even went to work the next morning!! The church (which he helped build) was full; the pastor’s voice cracked, and there were lots of tears shed. To know him was to love him, and everybody in Dafter knew him! Milt was also a man of quiet faith, and I want to share just one more story. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer and told he wouldn’t live six months about 17 years ago. God miraculously  healed him! I know most people die when they have a terminal illness, but I also want you to know that sometimes God chooses to extend someone’s life miraculously, and God chose to do that for Uncle Milt. If anybody deserved some extra innings, I’d say he was one of them!  When Aunt Faye passed from this life to heaven, her kids sang “Blessed Assurance,” but this time Milt’s four sons and their beautiful brides sang “Faith of Our Fathers,” and one of his grand daughters signed “I Can Only Imagine.” Uncle Milt wasn’t my father…or Alan’s father. In fact, he’s not really even our uncle, but he was like an uncle to us and a most inspiring father figure. I hope everyone who knows  him or reads this also embraces faith in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, and in whom we can have life eternal just by asking God to forgive us for our sins and save us through the blood of Christ! Uncle Milt and Aunt Faye are now in heaven together. I hope we all join them someday!!

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26)

Faith of Our Fathers
(—Frederick W. Faber, 1849, public domain)

  1. Faith of our fathers, living still,
    In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword;
    Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy
    Whene’er we hear that glorious Word!

    • Refrain:
      Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
      We will be true to thee till death.
  2. Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
    Were still in heart and conscience free;
    How sweet would be their children’s fate,
    If they, like them, could die for thee!
  3. Faith of our fathers, we will strive
    To win all nations unto thee;
    And through the truth that comes from God,
    We all shall then be truly free.
  4. Faith of our fathers, we will love
    Both friend and foe in all our strife;
    And preach thee, too, as love knows how
    By kindly words and virtuous life.

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)