Category Archives: Movie Reviews

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)

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 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).

Where Love Found Me

If you’re looking for a highly rated (IMDb 8.8) but watchable movie (PG-13) dealing with the problem of orphans in the world today, try Where Love Found Me.                   It’s  gut-wrenching tale about a photo journalist, Hudson,                            who tracks behind a policeman in the Philippines. Although Hudson starts out intent on making a name for himself, he ends up risking his life to protect a little band of orphans,              and in the process, exposes the problems of human trafficking.  Although Where Love Found Me was inspired by true events, it didn’t end with the usual postscript explaining what happened “afterward,” so I contacted David Bolt, the director and producer, who graciously filled in a few of the details.  The movie is true-to-life based on a compilation of stories, but it’s more historical fiction than a true docudrama.  David’s parents adopted from China after he was grown, and he was so inspired by their courage and joy that he wanted to start an orphanage in China. However, David was eventually redirected to a camp ministry that has worked really well. David started Bright Hope (Bring Me Hope.org), a ministry that has worked with hundreds of orphans (mostly in China), and they have been able to help some of the children find safe, adoptive homes in America.Where Love Found Me came out in 2016, but David told me it was more than seven years in the making! His hope is that people will be inspired by the movie.  According to Google, there over 150+ million orphans in the world today. If you’ve got the heart and energy to take in a child, consider adopting an orphan!  If you don’t know where to start, think about watching Where Love Found Me, and if that melts your heart (as it did mine), contact https://bringmehope.org/                What a worthwhile investment in sharing God’s love!

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).  Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy” (Psalm 82:3).

 

Even If You Can’t Dance, You Can Zumba!

By the time I was five, I was trying to imitate my swingin’ teenaged brothers as they danced to hot new songs like “The Terror of Highway 101.” By six, I was learning to “Rock Around the Clock,” and by seven, I was practicing Elvis the Pelvis’s swinging hips from songs like “I ain’t nothing but a hound dog.” By twelve, I was practicing the Peppermint Twist with my girlfriends at slumber parties. And then, I surrendered my life to Jesus, and the dancing stopped. It wasn’t just that I started attending a very conservative church where they considered dancing the “vertical expression of horizontal thoughts,” I was beginning to think there might be something even more exciting in the world of guys than being nicknamed “Buckwheat” and allowed to play first base on their ball team!

Long story short, I decided that dancing was way too provocative and romantic to be a part of my life if I wanted to make it to adulthood keeping my name in tact. (Kathryn means “pure.”) Marriage didn’t exactly stop all attractions to the opposite sex either, and so it seemed wise to continue a hands-off, no-dance policy indefinitely.  However, 45 years into marriage and finding myself pretty stable emotionally, Alan and I both noticed that we were becoming the least bit unstable physically. One bit of advice we’ve heard repeatedly about aging well is to participate in new physical activities that stress grace and balance, such as dancing. So, we decided that it’s time to start dancing again…together…in our basement…with our video Zumba instructor, Beto Perez, the Colombian dancer and choreographer who developed a fitness program called Zumba in the 1990’s. Zumba combines dance steps with various martial arts moves and is the perfect combination of fun and aerobic exercise. It really took off in 2006, and today there are more than 14 million people who participate in some 160,000 classes in 185 countries…and counting! At 14, Beto was working 3 jobs to support his single mother and their family in Columbia. Today?! Talk about the American Dream come true!! The wife of one of our psychiatrists sponsors a Zumba class on Tuesday afternoons where Alan works, but we are a little too old (or self-conscious) to join that group. However, for $7.99 we got Zumba 101: Can’t Dance? from Amazon, and we’ve been working out ever since! At first, we could hardly make it through the first two songs without needing a rest, but now we can dance through the entire hour session and are ready for something more. The funny thing is, it’s just as appealing to our grandchildren, and when they come to visit, the kids beg to work out with us! It’s just SO. MUCH. FUN!

So, if you’re looking for a way of exercising that doesn’t bore you to tears and makes you feel happy, consider giving Zumba a try…maybe even in the privacy of your own basement! Alan is still struggling to swing his hips, but…I’m back to my roots! 🙂

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die. . .a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4; this is our time to dance~).

Are You Optimizing Your Brain Fitness?

A week ago, I wrote about Alan’s attending the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatrists’ annual meeting and the tidal wave of Baby Boomers hitting retirement age, and I suggested that we start learning to surf so we don’t get crushed. This week, I want to offer a few ideas from what I’ve been learning in my own quest for health.

Are you familiar with The Great Courses? I am a fan. Through audio or video, this organization can bring a world of research and learning via professors from some of America’s best universities right into your car or home. I can drive and learn, sit quietly on a couch with notebook in hand, or work out on my elliptical while absorbing information.

Granted, these college-level courses won’t keep you awake like Hollywood’s glitzy entertainment, but they are excellent resources for brightening your brain! I ordered a couple of series last fall and have been completely satisfied with the quality of their programs and what I’ve been learning. My personal favorite way to optimize both brain and body fitness is to work out while keeping a notebook right beside me for scribbling down ideas. Stopping to write notes does effect my workout stats, but I figure the mental stimulation is worth the hit to any personal pride that may be lurking behind my attempts at physical conditioning.

Simple tips from the series on Optimizing Brain Fitness that impressed me:

*In an experiment with rats, those who were fed 35% less food lived 35% longer!
*Best diet tip? Stop eating deep-fried foods.
*Walking 1 mile daily decreases your chance of developing Alzheimer’s by 50%.
*Get enough sleep. The current generation is getting 45 minutes less sleep per day than the older generation, but it’s had a negative effect on learning.
*Power naps are good; they reset your energy and help process learning.
*Most important aspect of memory is learning to focus and pay attention!
*”If you can see, look. If you can look, observe…attend…study!”
*Your brain needs exercise, so take up some new hobby.
*Scientists have discerned that you improve long term retention more by repeated testing than by more study.

This last bit of research made me understand why we have tests in school and in life! The Lord is training us to learn and grow, not just have brains full of data that doesn’t stick!

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Just in case you’re interested in more information about The Great Courses, I’ll include their contact information: https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses. 1-800-832-2412. For classes on Christianity, though, I’d rather refer you my son Jonathan’s Aqueduct Project [https://aqueductproject.org/ ], or the new Center for Global Theological Education, which he’s developing at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

Are You The Same Kind of Different As Me?

When Same Kind of Different as Me came out last October (2017), one of my friends told me that I’d love it and to watch for it. So, when it came up on the play list during a recent flight to Hawaii, it was the first thing I watched!  Same Kind of Different as Me is based on the New York Times’
best selling memoir by Ron Hall and Denver Moore.  Ron, a successful art dealer in Fort Worth, Texas,  is married to Debbie,
a woman “with a heart bigger than the whole state of Texas.”

When their marriage almost ends, they embark together on a mission to serve others that’s prompted by a dream Debbie has one night. The story is full of suspense, pain and healing… the transformation of men and women by the power of love.

It all started in a rescue mission in the slums of Dallas, Texas  but has expanded to inspire millions to help with the homeless in America.

In an interview, I heard Denver say something to this effect: “The movie tells the story of a nobody who shares the good news with everybody that Somebody can save anybody.”  Here’s another wonderful quote from Dallas’ obituary (after the book was written): “Miss Debbie saw through all the anger and confusion and saw straight to his heart,” Mr. Hall recalled. “It was like the old hymn he used to sing on the plantation, ‘When nothing else would help, love lifted me, love lifted me.’ He said it was her love that gave him hope and reason to change.” (https://www.dallasnews.com/obituaries/obituaries/2012/04/08/denver-moore-homeless-man-turned-inspiring-author-and-speaker-dies-at-75)

Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32)

Love Lifted Me
(by James Rose, 1912, public domain)

  1. I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
    Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
    But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry,
    From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.

    • Refrain:
      Love lifted me!
      Love lifted me!
      When nothing else could help,
      Love lifted me!
  2. All my heart to Him I give, ever to Him I’ll cling,
    In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing,
    Love so mighty and so true, merits my soul’s best songs,
    Faithful, loving service, too, to Him belongs.
  3. Souls in danger, look above, Jesus completely saves,
    He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves;
    He’s the Master of the sea, billows His will obey,
    He your Savior wants to be, be saved today.