Category Archives: Inspiration

Before Black History Month Ends: Take Time to be Charmed by the Queen of Katwe

queen-of-katwe Have you seen Disney’s Queen of Katwe?
It’s a perfect movie for celebrating Black History Month! queen-of-katwe-enjoying-her-first-snowQueen of Katwe is a glowing tribute to the brilliance and beauty
of African people, as well as their capacity for integrity and perseverance.

queen-of-katwe-accepting-recognitionWhen I first started preparing for this post, I was tempted to complain that the shortest, darkest month has become Black History Month, and that if I were running the country I’d choose March or May—long beautiful months…until I read the reason why. carter_g_woodson_portraitDr. Carter G. Woodson (African American with a PhD from Harvard who is known as the Father of Black History) chose the second week of February as “Negro History Week” because two men who were very influential in elevating African Americans, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, were born then.

lupita-nyongo-as-nakku-harriet-in-queen-of-katwe Do you get frustrated by my rabbit trails? I hope not. phiona-mutesi-in-queen-of-katweAt any rate, Queen of Katwe tells the true story
of a young girl named Phiona Mutesi, kampala-uganda-in-queen-of-katwewho grew up in “Katwe,” a slum of Kampala, Uganda. harriet-in-queen-of-katweHer father had died, and Phiona’s mother, Harriet,
fiercely defended the children, vegetable-market-in-queen-of-katweworking constantly in a street market selling vegetables so they could survive. phiona-at-mission-school-in-queen-of-katwePhiona and her little brother, hungry,
wandered into a mission school, where they were fed. missionary-with-child-in-queen-of-katweWhile there, they also met Robert Katende, a young missionary  robert-katende-praying-with-children-in-queen-of-katwewho coached soccer  chess-game-in-queen-of-katweand taught the children chess with the hope of helping them learn skills benjamin-in-queen-of-katwethat would enable them succeed in life generally. phiona-mutesi-and-madina-nalwanga-in-queen-of-katweThe rest is history
(current history:Phiona is only 21 today and still going strong!), returning-to-school-on-mission-bus-in-queen-of-katwebut I don’t want to say too much so you can fully enjoy the movie. receiving-prize-in-queen-of-katweAnd, if you have any school-aged children in your life, it would make a wonderfully inspirational movie to share with them too. Disney does it so well!

slum-of-katwe-in-kampala-uganda-in-queen-of-katweBear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:2-10)

(I took all the photos while watching the movie, except for the first [publicity poster] and the B&W of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, which is public domain, from Wiki.)

A Study in Aging Beautifully: Gardenias

As I mentioned yesterday, Alan and I just celebrated our 44th anniversary
this past weekend, and it occurs to me that we’re getting pretty old!gardenia-plantHere’s just a little thought, but I have a gardenia plant,
and I’ve been so inspired by watching it bloom! wilting-roses-at-nelson-mandelas-homeDo you know how most flowers turn brown on the edges as they get oldwilting-roses-in-africabecoming wilted and all bedraggled by the time they die? gardenia-flower-unfurlingWell, my gardenia blossoms unfold like a pinwheel of pure white…white-pure-rose-africa-copy-2slowly unfurling their petals day by day until their blooms
are as full and fragrant as the finest rose. gardeniaHowever, as gardenias age, the blossoms don’t turn brown like withering roses, they gradually turn deeper and deeper shades of yellow.gardenia-plantI would like to learn to age beautifully, like gardenias,
continuing to flourish and produce fruit until the day I die!   baobab-tree-the-big-tree-zimbabwe12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree
    and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
    they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They still bear fruit in old age;
    they are ever full of sap and green,
15 to declare that the Lord is upright;
    he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”
(Psalm 92:12-15, NIV, emphasis mine)

(The baobab tree in this last photo is called “The Big Tree.”
We saw it recently while we were in Zimbabwe. It’s somewhere between 1000-1500 years old, and it’s still producing flowers and fruit!
Talk about incredible and inspirational!!)

 

Loving: More than a Just a Name

loving-movie-posterMuch more than just a name, Loving is “an absorbing, beautiful piece of American cinema” (Paul Heath, The Hollywood News) based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving. marriage-of-richard-and-mildred-loving-from-loving-movieLoving is a PG-13, 2016 movie recently released to video that has been highly rated. It’s already won 19 awards and has been nominated for 82 more, including an Academy Award nomination for Ruth Negga in her leading role as Mildred Loving. February is Black History Month. If you haven’t watched this moving film yet, February would be a great time to see Loving and start putting love into action by understanding and loving our dark-skinned citizens more.   🙂  ruth-negga-as-mildred-in-the-movie-lovingAlthough I sat through the entire movie feeling petrified that something terrible would happen to this young couple—and they did suffer many hardships for their interracial marriage (which was still against the law in Virginia back in 1958), I was able to sigh happily at the end. Their case, trying to legitimize interracial marriages throughout America, went to the Supreme Court in 1967.   richard-loving-in-the-movie-lovingIf you’re a white supremacist, I beg you to look deep into your heart and try to figure out why. What makes you think white is superior to any other skin color?  I promise you that, apart from skin tissue, we’re all the same colors underneath.  richard-and-mildred-loving-with-lawyer-from-loving-movieCaucasians, Mongoloids, and Negroids are all similar in what’s inside our bodies, brains, and hearts. When I look into my heart, I find that I’m a sinner, just like everybody else. I find that I’m imperfect. I find that very, very little of what makes me “good” has anything to do with me. Some of it has to do with how I was created in the womb, who my parents were, and all the advantages I had as a child growing up. The rest is attributable to God’s redemption through Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. The only thing I can claim is believing and surrendering my life to Christ, and even that I know is a gift of God for which I can only thank Him.   mildred-and-their-first-child-in-the-movie-lovingIf you think whites are in any way superior to any other race, on what do you base that? Certainly not the Scriptures, which teach that God created all of us in His image, that we are all marred by sin and in need of a Savior, and that the death of Christ occurred to break down the walls between us and unify us into one glorious body, the Church of Jesus Christ, the bride of Christ. mildred-loving-in-the-movie-lovingIf you separate yourself from your brothers and sisters based on race, you’re separating yourself from the body of Christ and the love of Christ. God calls us to love and humility. Will you answer that call?the-lawyer-who-helped-in-the-movie-lovingBut now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
(Ephesians 1:13-22, ESV)the-movie-loving-mildred-feeding-their-baby

 

What Does Courageous Love Look Like?

courageous_love_movie_posterCourageous Love is being released on Valentine’s Day…perfect timing and perfect contrast with another movie just coming out that looks at “love” from a perfectly selfish (evil) standpoint. Mark A. Knudsen has written a powerful story to demonstrate what real love—courageous love—looks like. In this romantic drama, young Alex Shelby is shocked to discover that he’s become the CEO of his father’s engineering company following the tragic death of his parents.  alex-shelby-in-courageous-loveWhile relying heavily on the wisdom of the remaining executives, his own intuition, and guidance passed down to him from his father, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,” Alex learns to make the hard choices that integrity demands but could lead to bankruptcy for his company.  director-daniel-knudsen-with-actress-patricia-mauceri-1Monday I’ll share more about this inspirational movie (which I had the privilege of previewing last night), but today I want to spend a minute reflecting on the courageous love demonstrated by those who’ve written, directed, acted in, and produced such a movie! These are not Hollywood professionals. They are flesh and blood, every day heroes who have spent a tremendous amount of time and money, and they’ve invested heart and soul in developing a product to impact our culture for good…to give us a choice. Thankfully, I’m finding more and more such movies on the shelves of our local video store, which thrills me no end! actress-holly-houk-with-actress-kristina-kaylenAre we going to watch glamorous stars spewing profanity and teaching immorality as the new morality, or are we going to choose inspiring stories produced by a budding Christian industry that wants to exalt God and promote Truth? Courageous Love was developed and filmed right here in Michigan, and I hope a zillion people watch it, love it, and are inspired by it! Will you give it a try? It’s coming soon. Look for it! (It can also be pre-ordered now.) Please watch it, and let us know what you think!

A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things:
and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things

(Matthew 12:35).

For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing,
whether it be good, or whether it be evil
” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

New Records Set in Super Bowl 2017: It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over!

tom-brady-wiki-by-jeffrey-beallSuper Bowl LI set nearly 25 new records and tied another 7, making it the most startling and exciting in Super Bowl history! A sampling of the firsts included:

* First Super Bowl ever to go into overtime

*Tom Brady appeared in 7 Super Bowls, the most by any one player

*Bill Belichick won his 5th Super Bowl, the most games won by a head coach

*Tom Brady won his 5th Super Bowl (at age 39 no less), the most games won by any quarterback

*Most points scored: New England’s James White set two new records for a running back, 20 points and 14 receptions

*Tom Brady set a record for most receptions completed: 43

*Tom Brady also set a new record for most yards in Super Bowl history: 466

*New England Patriot’s set a new record for the largest deficit to overcome: 25 points (biggest before that had been just 10 points)

*Patriots set a new record for offensive plays: 93

*Tom Brady set a new record for most passes attempted: 63

super-bowl-51Talk about an exciting game!! Did you watch the Super Bowl? I didn’t.  Alan watched until near the end of the fourth quarter when Tevin Coleman received the six-yard pass that left the score at 28 for the Atlanta Falcons to only 3 for the New England Patriots. In all of Super Bowl history, no team had been able to recover and win with stats like that, so Alan didn’t want to stay up just to watch the bitter end. Fine by me. I was getting sleepy anyway, and I didn’t know one team from another.

Imagine our surprise the next morning when we heard that the Patriots made an unbelievable comeback, tied the score at 28:28 by the end of the game, and then went on to win 34:28 in overtime. As the beloved catcher for the the New York Yankees, Yogi Berra used to say, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” And, he should know, because he had a lot of exciting comebacks over the years after his games looked lost. He was a fighter! Did you know that Yogi’s record of winning 10 World Series Baseball Championships and being an 18-time All Star hasn’t been broken in the 45 years since he retired? Talk about never giving up. Super inspiring!1953_bowman_yogi_berra-wiki

To me, this Super Bowl is also super inspiring! Are you struggling with something? Feeling discouraged and overwhelmed, like you’ll never be able to climb out of the hole you’re in? Your life and my life ain’t over ’til they’re over. Let’s keep fighting and never give up! Recovery from the “largest deficit in history” may seem impossible, but don’t give up and fall asleep! Victory is possible, whether it’s financial, moral, physical, emotional, spiritual, or whatever! By the way, if you’re over your head and need help, God is here; He loves you; He’s available! Just ask! It probably won’t be easy, and it probably won’t be pretty, but it’s possible. Know it. Do it!

superbowlliA bruised reed he will not break,  and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory (Matthew 12:20, ESV).

The Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jeremiah 31:3, ESV).

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jeremiah 33:3, ESV).

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ
(1 Corinthians 15:57, ESV).

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4, ESV).

 

Larry Rivera and Elvis Presley: Choosing the Slow Life

aloha-begins-with-me-larry-rivera-and-alanWhile at the Mayo Clinic conference last week, we saved mega bucks
by eating at various hole-in-the wall restaurants in nearby Koloa alan-at-the-grand-hyatt-kauairather than venturing into the luxo locations on site at our resort. garden-island-grill-menu-kauaiAmong these, one of our favorites was the Garden Island Grill, ono-fresh-catch-of-the-day-at-garden-island-grille-kauaiwhere, between 6-8 pm on the weekends, Larry Rivera entertains his friends, larry-rivera-with-his-new-friend-alanfamily, and new friends (whoever happens to be passing through).

larry-riveraLarry is 86. The day we visited, he was celebrating his 60th anniversary with his lovely bride and says he’s still on his honeymoon! They have 6 kids, 17 grand kids, and 18 great grand kids. Furthermore, he can say all their names in 35 seconds (±). Want to hear his story?  larry-rivera-sings-at-the-garden-island-grilleLarry was born in 1931, the sixth generation in a long line of Hawaiians born in Kauai. He started working at the Coco Palms Resort at 20, was called to serve in the Korean War, and by 24 (1955), he was back to work at the Coco Palms singing with his group called “The Beach Boys.” He says the ones we know today “stole” his band’s name and ended up with all the money and glory, but who cares? “I’ve got all this love!” he beamed, his arms sweeping the audience where his wife sat smiling and then flying out and up to embrace his island and the sky, where His Father sat smiling. (Rivera is an ordained minister as well as a musician.) larry-rivera-singing-with-a-friend-and-his-wife Larry’s long musical career included such highlights as teaching Bing Crosby how to sing (Hawaiian style), watching Frank Sinatra nearly drown on Wailua Beach (surfers rescued him), having John Denver join in a hula with his daughters while Larry sang, and having Elvis Presley and Patti Page sing background vocals for him while they were visiting at Coco Palms. (Actually, Larry said Elvis was an unusually sweet person. He would bus tables just to be kind if things got to hectic at the restaurant, and he paid $500 for one of Larry’s songs!) In 1961, the wedding scene from Blue Hawaii, starring Elvis Presley, was filmed at Coco Palms. Larry was 30, and Elvis was 26. Very sadly, Elvis Presley died just 16 years later at age 42 from “cardiac arrhythmia” (caused by an overdose of a pain killer, Codeine, and a nonbarbituate sedative, Quaalude). He was divorced by then and only had one child, Lisa Marie. He has four grandchildren (whom he never met), and no great grandchildren at this time.  kathi-at-the-garden-island-grille-kauaiI don’t know about you, but I would personally choose Larry Rivera’s life over Elvis’s any day. Larry has lived more than twice as long, is still fit at a fiddle (balanced on one leg and did other tricks for fun), working hard, living well, and full of love and joy. Alan and I were both totally delighted and inspired. If we make it to 86, we’ll have been married 64 years. (That’s 20 more years; think we’ll make it??) Would I ever love to be able to work a few hours singing and sharing the love of God and man with those around me at his age, wouldn’t you?  hawaiian-time-signHow did he do it? Well, for one thing, he chose the slow life. He chose to stay in his homeland among his own people. He chose to stay with his wife. He chose to remain faithful to His God. To me, those are admirable choices! What do you think? Would you rather have fame and fortune, or love and happiness?dinner-at-the-island-grille-kauai“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

(“Aloha” is used by Hawaiians as a greeting, both “hello” and “goodbye,” but ultimately it means “Love… affection, peace, compassion, and mercy!”)

 

 

Unsullied Sully: The Miracle on the Hudson

sully-front-coverOne of my favorite movies from 2016 is a thrilling biographical drama about American pilot Chesley Sullenberger, “Sully.” Sully was a 57-year-old fighter-pilot-image-from-sully-movieformer fighter pilot, glider pilot, and expert on aviation safety as well as the U.S. Airways pilot assigned to Flight 1549 on the morning of January 15, 2009. sully-and-jeffry-skiles-in-movie-sullySully and copilot Jeffry Skiles were commissioned to fly from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte, North Carolina with 150 passengers on board.airway-flight-leaving-laguardia-sully Just three minutes after takeoff, their Airbus A320 collided with a flock of geese and lost all engine power. air-traffic-control-officers-in-sullyAlthough some air tower control officers thought Sully
might be able to reach an airport, hudson-river-sullySully (who had logged 19,633 total flight hours) believed his only hope
was to land his craft in the icy waters of the Hudson River, preparing-for-crash-landing-sullywhich had never been accomplished successfully before. sully-passengers-preparing-for-crash-landingAlthough this event became known as the “Miracle on the Hudson” ditching-airplane-on-hudson-riverand was described as “the most successful ditching in aviation history,” ditching-aircraft-on-hudson-river-sullythe incident was carefully scrutinized and debated in court. ferrry-to-the-rescue-sullyI don’t want to ruin the suspense if you haven’t already read all about it passengers-on-wings-of-airbus-320-after-crash-landing-on-hudson-river-sullyor remember the incident when it occurred, but even if you have,rescuing-passengers-sully I still think the movie is very inspiring…waiting-on-the-wings-for-help-sullyto see the way people worked together to survive,emergency-helicopter-crew-to-rescue-sully and the bravery, valor, and courage of the many officers and citizens aquatic-rescue-helicopter-jump-sullywho were involved in the rescue. chesley-schIf you want to be inspired to live an unsullied life of integrity and heroism
…this is for you!

The integrity of the upright shall guide them” (Proverbs 11:3).interviewing-survivor-on-sullyHe [God] delivers and rescues;
he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth
” (Daniel 6:27, ESV).