Thursday, December 29, 2016

Sing - Movie Review

This animation is about an entertainment business koala who is about to have his theater foreclosed on. In a desperate attempt to keep his theater, he promotes a singing contest, but things are not what they seem. Also, in the storyline, we get to see into the lives of several contestants and their various plights, and most of us could identify with at least one of them. I, personally, identified quiet a bit with Rosita the pig. 

What a fun movie! I saw this with my 8 year old daughter and we both just loved it! There was even a time when I had to force myself to stop laughing because I thought I was starting to annoy people - if you go see it, it's the Koala car wash scene towards the end. Oh my! I'm chuckling here thinking about it!

The plot wasn't as predictable as I thought it would be so that made it even a better movie. And the music is fantastic. 

If you like reality shows like the Voice or American Idol you will really enjoy this movie. All the contestants have extraordinary voices. Meena - the elephant, all I can say is just "wow". I read that there are about 85 different songs in the movie, so the kids will be entertained.  

Here is a pretty funky "Sing" original by Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande:

 To the Christian: This movie is a great movie to watch with the kids and will not be a hardship to watch for parents like other animations can be. All the songs are secular. Except if you want to count "Hallelujah" as a non-secular song. (K-love might. Don't get mad, you know it's true!)

A great topic to talk about with your kids is what common grace is. God has given all a common grace and one of those common graces is the ability to sing beautifully. Most singers are not saved, but can still produce beautiful music that can point us to a Creator. "How does God use music and other forms of art to reveal His beauty?" and "How can the world use it to influence us negatively?" are both good questions to ask your kids after watching this movie. 

There is nothing that really stood out to me as being inappropriate in the movie.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Star Wars - Movie Review

Don't worry, no spoilers!

My husband introduced me to the Star Wars movies, and I have been a fan ever since. My favorite character being Chewbacca. I just love him! Deep down inside, I think Chewy would understand me. 

Anyway, a couple of days ago, we saw the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One. And although the movie did start off a bit slow and was a little confusing because of the lack of introduction, we soon figured out what was going on. To help you out if you haven't seen it, the movie ties part 3 - Revenge of the Sith and part 4 - A New Hope together. If I would have known that going into the movie, it would have helped me a lot to understand what was going on.

I was a little disappointed that they didn't start the movie with the usual music score that will be forever famous in American culture. And like I said before, there was no traditional written introduction that helped us understand what was going on as the movie opened. I felt lost for about 20 minutes trying to figure out where exactly the movie was in regards to the series.

The director does do a great job in bringing back that Star Wars feel the older movies have. The CG is awesome, but it still feels "old", but not in a bad way at all. It's nostalgic and the director does a superb job in reproducing that, especially in the garb of all the characters.

The end of the movie was spectacular and reminds us that the hope that was given to the Rebellion in The New Hope - Star Wars IV, did come with a tragic cost. 

I recommend this movie to the star wars fan. You will love how everything ties together! It is not a good movie to start with if you would like to begin watching Star Wars movies.

To the Christian: The movie is great and clean! It also contains a good message of sacrifice and selflessness that you could talk about with your kids afterwards - if you decide to take them. As 21st century Christians we too are standing on the shoulders of many who sacrificed a lot for Christianity. A good subject to talk about would be how we got our Bible in English. I took my 8 year old daughter and she did mention that it wasn't as exciting as Star Wars 7 - The Force Awakens.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Pilgrim's Progress - Take 1

Last Sunday, my pastor gave us a brief biography on John Bunyan. What a beautiful life! Obviously, he also spoke about John Bunyan's famous book, Pilgrim's Progress. I vaguely remember a very poorly drawn cartoon I saw as a child about this book. Regardless, I decided to check the book out and read it to my daughter. 

There were two books to choose from at our local library and I picked the one with the prettier cover. (YES! I broke the first cardinal rule of book worms! Stop judging, you've done it too!) Although the illustrations were great, this particular book (published by Christian Focus) was in its original text, and I had all kinds of trouble reading it out loud to my daughter. So as I read, I "translated" it to a more modern English, but that got a little frustrating. Also, there were asterisks almost on every page about odd sentence structure and word usage and where I could go in the book for an explanation of what the heck I just read!

Needless to say, we didn't finish the book. The story - regardless of my choppy reading - was interesting to my daughter though, so I still think it will  be a great book to read to her. I will just get a version that uses a more modern English. 

I do not recommend this specific translation of the book, unless you are studying the English language or want to expand your knowledge of the language. It was a tough read, even for me. 

This is something Charles Spurgeon had to say about the book: 
"Next to the Bible, the book I value most is John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. I believe I have read it through at least a hundred times. It is a volume of which I never seem to tire; and the secret of its freshness is that it is so largely compiled from the Scriptures."

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Alchemist - Book Review

If you are looking for a good book on audio, then this is a great book!  I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it! I had never read a Paulo Coelho book, but had heard of him. This book came as a recommendation from some of my family members, and I am so grateful to them for it.

The book is about a young man who is looking for his treasure and his personal legend. Throughout the book the reader is unaware if the treasure is actual gold and jewels or if it's a person or if it's some form of knowledge. The young man sets off to find this treasure and meets several very interesting characters along the way. The story is set in southern Spain and North Africa and there is a lot that I learned from that part of the world in regards to their culture and customs. The book also provides a bit of magic in the book that is just enough to make for a great story. 

The book is easy to understand and at the same time it is very deep and profound philosophically. There are a lot of life lessons and positive perspectives that could be learned from this book. The boy in the book is a natural optimist and that was very attractive to me. He learned a lot on his travels and we learn with him as he journeys to find his treasure. 

Recommendations: I recommend this book to the wanderer or traveler at heart, to the person who loves stories about wonder and adventure, and to those who may want something easy and fun to read. I also recommend it to anyone who has an unfulfilled dream that they may still aspire to accomplish one day.

To the Christian: The book is clean and at its center it reveals a God in control of His creation. Knowing the history of southern Spain and northern Africa, you would assume that there is a lot of mention of the Muslim faith, and there is. There is even mention of some Hebrew practices. I had a slight problem with God and Allah being interchangeable in this book, but I took all this very lightly due to the magical and fantastical subjects found in the book. For example, one of the characters found a way to change any metal into gold; and the sun and wind can literally speak. There is also transfiguration and immortality is attainable. So I didn't take his interpretation of God too seriously. The alchemist in the book does cite Jesus' words several times as words of wisdom, and unlike a devout Muslim, he even mentions Jesus as the Son of God. There are also dreams and visions that are important within this book and the author references back to Joseph the son of Jacob and his ability to interpret those dreams and visions. My only caution would be that Mr. Coelho does have a universalist leaning, but again, to me that wasn't a problem due to the fantastical prose of the book. There are some beautiful things written about God. If you have a young reader this would be a good book for them to read. You could discuss with them later about who God truly is and what God's Word has to say about man and the nature of his heart. Mr. Coelho believes that God can be found if we look within ourselves. I would argue that we, ourselves, are found if we look within God. 

You can get the book here. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Collision - Poem


In the womb of a virgin girl, the spirit and the flesh collide
Never before has this kind of contact opened so wide
The understanding that God is now also man and abides
With His creation that can now see Him and not hide

Now He is born and the mystery is revealed
That God has shown himself and has sealed
The eternal promise to save and to heal
His betrothed from the grasp of the one who kills and steals.

And when He died and rose for his bride to save her from her sin
We experience something that has never been.
The sinner is sinless and the wrongdoer does right
The deaf can hear Him and the blind have sight;

But not the sight of physical things, but of the spiritual
We worship, learn and love without monotonous ritual
For now, it is ingrained, it is part of our nature within
To seek out the holy, and purge out our sin.

This cannot be, this could not have existed
Without God who sought out and persisted
To live a life completely obedient to every single law
Even unto  death without blemish and without flaw

So now my eyes see, but they see so much more
Because they look to a Creator who never before
Had taken on flesh to give me his Spirit
That now even my ears can hear it.

Can hear, the Spirit, the Spirit of God
As I worship with the angels and my brothers here and abroad.
As I hear His Words spoken from words written long ago,
I cannot help but to kneel and just be smitten now that I know.

Now that I know who He is and what He did and continues to do
There is no lie in Him, He is forever true.
And I cannot wait to join Him or see Him return
To go home and no longer yearn,

For something better, something more than this life I live
Something this world can never provide and never give
It sometimes makes me sick at the things I seek for pleasure
Knowing full well I am His and He is my treasure

So though there is beauty and joy for me here
I want to be with You and no longer fear
Of what may come or may not come my way
In, you and you only I want to stay.

So help me remember the reason why you left your home
Help me remember you left it, to make one for me and I’m not alone
So, as I use my heart, soul and mind to get closer and closer to you
Knowing that no matter my circumstance you will see me through

Yes, I am never alone, you are with me always
Let me share this knowledge through all the highways and byways
Enjoying what you have provided and not getting lost in the mundane
Not worried if all those around me think I’ve lost it or insane.

And when the world disappoints me, like it always tends to do,
Let me remember it was I, it was I, who forgot You
Let the things of this world grow more and more dim
As I focus on what is eternal, as I focus on Him.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Fantastic Beasts - Movie Review

I first picked up a Harry Potter book when I was a married woman and already had my first kid. I didn't grow up with these books like many others have, and I am kinda sad for that. Either way, I learned of Harry Potter when The Goblet of Fire was playing on a friend's TV while we chatted. The kids had finished watching the movie and the DVD was on the menu screen and the little shrunken human heads hanging from the bus driver's window kept warning the watcher to "mind ya head" in his little Caribbean accent. 

Once I began reading Harry Potter, I read all the books one right after the other and watched and anxiously waited for the movies to come out. My family loves Harry Potter!

This year I also read the screen play "The Cursed Child", a sequel to the Harry Potter anthology. It was a great book and now as I write, I am wondering why I didn't write a review on it. Hmm, that's odd. But I totally recommend it to the Harry Potter fan.

Anyway . . .

I say all this because I watched the Harry Potter movies with a lot of knowledge of the characters, their magical world, and the jargon used that I got from the books. Harry, Ron and Harmoine were already known to me because I had spent long moments getting to know them in the book series, so when the movie came along, it was "nice to meet you again". And of course! the books were far better than the movies, but the movies were also fun to watch, and frankly still are for me.

With "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them", I didn't know the characters before hand so I felt a little lost during some of the movie, and I don't believe the director did a good job in developing the characters as we journeyed throughout the escapade of finding the "little" beasts that escaped from Mr. Scamander's well-traveled luggage/portal. I really like Eddie Redmayne (Newt) as an actor, but I had trouble understanding him in some instances. I am guessing his character is to be shy, but I had trouble hearing him (maybe it was the movie theater). I also felt that a lot of the movie was not in the magical world, so the magic that was done, felt awkward and so did the underground gangster goblins . We learned about the magic world with Harry, and I wanted to learn along with Newt Scamander and get to know him. I wanted to know more of the history of the beasts, but I was left wanting. I wanted to know more. More!

And there does seem to be more that is coming. Besides checking out IMDb - which does provide information of a second Fantastic Beasts coming in 2018. The movie did hint at a continuation of the series by showing us a bit of a relationship-gone-wrong between Newt and a "Leta Lestrange". According to IMDb, Leta is played by Zoe Kravitz, and I doubt they're going to cast someone like her, just to then not use her in the second movie. And I know it is not the end of Grindelwald, why use Johnny Depp for 15 seconds and not use him some more in the second movie. So, I am hoping that the second Fantastic Beasts will tell us more about all these characters and give us some more background and depth to them.

The beasts where great. I really loved the little shiny-loving platypus (I forget what they are called). He was so funny and cute. And the blue, feathered snakes that filled in the spaces and the four winged griffin were beautiful. 

The evil manifested and known as an Obscurial was also a very interesting take on the wicked characters Ms. Rowling is so good at conjuring. It is also a sad character due to the self-hatred one must endure in order to even produce an obscurial. An Obscurial is a dark phenomenon created by an abuse on one's magical ability. The witch/wizard suppresses their unwanted magic so much that the obscurial they create can actually kill him/her. I will not say more on this as to not spoil the movie.

I recently found a Harry Potter wiki page that helped a lot in regards to knowing the characters better. 

 I recommend this movie to the Harry Potter fan and to those who like magic and fantasy movies. 

To the Christian: I was afraid  when I saw "The New Salem Philanthropic Society" that they were going to really lay it on thick on Christians, but thankfully they didn't. Although, maybe the name is enough to oust us as jerks. There was also a subtle tinge of maybe the obscurial could be someone suppressing"who they are" (i.e. their gender) and that having an adverse affect by producing an obscurial. All of this plus the abuse given by the head mistress of the New Salem Philanthropic Society created the darkest obscurial ever known. So tying these things together, one could draw a conclusion to the church's abuse on those "different" from them. But, I really didn't take too much out of it. Maybe later we will know more from J.K. Rowling what exactly she was trying to express - like finding out way later on that Dumbledore was gay. Other than that, there are no bad words or anything too frightening. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Moana - Movie Review

I didn't really want to see Moana, but I have an 8 year old daughter who has been wanting to see it for about 2 months now. She even marked the calendar, so there was no hoping she would forget. 

Moana is the newest Disney princess. It is a story of a young woman who will soon be chief of her tribe. But she is drawn to the ocean and was chosen by the ocean to return the heart of Tafiti that was taken by the demigod Maui. Maui is a narcissist anti-hero who thinks only about getting back his fishhook, and predictably he ends up being a good guy in the end. It is his fault that the islands surrounding Moana's are dying. We find out through Moana's grandmother that Moana needs to have Maui (who has been exiled to a deserted island for 1000 years) return the heart to Tafiti, but in order to get there, they must journey through very dangerous territory. Their last foe is the most scary and the CG on the volcanic Te Ka is outstanding. There is a twist at the end story when Te Ka is defeated that I didn't expect and that I won't share in order not to spoil the movie. 

This movie was not stirring at all. The plot was bland and the "villains" didn't really personify evil or hate like other Disney villains have so perfectly done before. Also, it really frustrates me the lack of strong male roles these princess movies have been producing. I get it that she's independent. I get it that the only wisdom in the movie comes from a grandma. I get it that her father is irrational and risks starving his people. I get it that Moana's mother and not her father encourages her to "seek out her heart". I get it that the other leading character Maui is a self-absorbed demigod male. And the ending (which I won't spoil, but I want to) just confirms my thoughts: men aren't needed and just ruin everything. No clear line between good and evil. No love between male and female partnership.

In the end, my daughter and her friends loved the movie. The chicken and the little pig were pretty funny. And the animation was great. I can't get over how real their hair looks. The music was not that inspiring, but like all Disney movies, the princess' voice and ability to hit super high notes was admiring.

I recommend this movie to little girls. Also, if it isn't obvious, Moana is Polynesian. So there is a lot about their culture that was nice to know. Although, I don't think they had female chiefs, but I may be wrong.

To the Christian: There is really nothing wrong with the movie. Disney is not proactively bashing strong males, they just seem to not think they're that important to make them co-heros.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Doctrine of Repentance - Audio Book Review

This book was published in 1668 and written by Thomas Watson. When reading older books, I am always a bit hesitant in reading them because I am fearful that I will not understand some of the details because of the older English vernacular. Thankfully, this wasn't the case in this edition. 

It never ceases to amaze me just how much we still have in common with people throughout the generations. The spiritual struggles Christians had in the 1600's are the same ones that we have today. As an "old soul" I tend to think that people were nicer in previous generations, but I have found that people are people and there is nothing new under the sun. 

In this book, Mr. Watson is very organized. He makes out different lists on how to identify an unrepentant spirit, or how to apply repentance daily and even how to combat sin.  He also uses every day life to help the reader understand the point he is trying to make, and his word usage to compare and contrast is quote worthy. 

I also appreciated all the Bible citations he gave after many of his sentences. He made his case for what he was saying by going back to the Bible. The opinions and advise he gave were founded not on his own wisdom, but on Scripture. Many times, I remembered a citation and went back to read it and it was as he had said.

Because of so many citations and so many quote worthy sentences, I do not recommend this book to be listened to as an audio book. This book is meant to be read and highlighted. Maybe, from now on, I will only use Audible for fiction. Thankfully there is a "bookmark" link on Audible where if I hear something I like, I can "bookmark" it and then go back to it later.

Here are some of those compare and contrast quotes I was talking about:
The more regret we have first at our conversion, the less we'll feel afterwards.

Speaking about the Apostle Paul: He had persecuted saints to death before, now he preached sinners to life. 

Someone who can believe without doubting should suspect his faith, and someone who can repent without sorrowing should suspect his repentance.

On temptation: Is he not a fool who would believe a temptation and not a promise.

So as God has two places where He dwells - Heaven and a humble heart. So does Satan have two places where he dwells - Hell and a hard heart.

And here is a quote that explains repentance with word pictures:
Blessed repentance that has so much sugar at the bottom of the bitter cup!

 The key to personal awakening and revival is repentance and the elation of forgiveness. Believe it or not it is also the key to joy. For when I am truly repentant because I have offended God, I find joy in His forgiveness. When I am repentant I can't judge hypocritically, for I too am a sinner. I can't hate what is done to me, for I have done far worse to the most Holy One. I can't sit idly by and do nothing for my neighbor, for He has done so much for me to be able to grant me forgiveness. I can't hate, for I am loved. I can't complain, for I am grateful.

Thomas Watson
So much in my Christian walk would change if I would just practice repentance daily. This book has helped me to see that. Mr. Watson has so many illustrations and breaks down what he is trying to say so well. His examples of how to apply this and why we should apply repentance are so helpful and clear. He just makes logical sense throughout the whole book. I remember several times just being astounded when he made a point and then clarified it with a reasoned analogy. 

The book is actually about 128 pages, so it could be read in one day. And as I researched more I found he wrote several other small books about different topics.  If you would like a list of the books he has written click here.  

I recommend that every Christian read at least one book by Thomas Watson. This was a beautifully written book. His grasp on the English language and his thoughtfulness in regards to Scripture is profound. 

As I read more on him, I found out that he died suddenly while in private prayer. What a way to die! A thought that came to mind when I read that was that I don't even pray that much to be caught dead doing it. What are the odds of that for me, much less than Mr. Watson's or many other strong Christians?

The book is available free here Or you may also buy it here


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Church Lady vs Mechanical Bull

For a while now, I have had on my bucket list: ride a mechanical bull. Unfortunately, the only place I could think of riding one was at bars - probably the kind of bar that solely played country music. Being somewhat close to Nashville, I knew I could easily find a bar or an event where I could unleash my desire to ride one of these things; but the thought of riding a bull, with my top heavy self, in a bar with men, as a 3rd grade Sunday school teacher, just didn't sit quiet right with me. So I looked elsewhere. 

My bright idea was to rent one for our annual church women's Christmas party. I felt I could "let loose" a little more, not having to worry about being a stumbling block to any males because there is a sensuousness to riding a bull. After being a bit disappointed at the super expensive quotes I got, I finally found a reasonable one. (If you live in the Western Kentucky area, I highly recommend them! They were great and super friendly and accommodated all my theatrical whims. Click here for their website.) I told the owner my plight and whispered - because that is what church ladies do - "I need a bull for women. Because - you know- men." He chuckled at my modesty and affirmed me he had actually done a couple of events at some churches and he completely understood since he's also a pastor! I gasped! He gasped! But I knew he would turn his eyes the other way if things got a little too sexy on the bull, up at the church lady's Christmas party! So he e-mailed me the contract, I signed and returned it with a check. The date was scheduled, but as fate would have it, it rained the day of our event and rain and mechanical bull don't mix well. I would have to wait to check off "mechanical bull riding" off of my bucket list. We rescheduled for my daughter's birthday party, but alas, it rained again. I was discouraged. Distraught. It was as if this would never happen. But it did!

A tough little guy.
Every year our church has a fall festival INSIDE a large convention center and we have all kinds of games, prizes, food, hay rides and even a petting zoo. I called up Ethan (bull guy) again and re-rescheduled him one more time. I told him that this event is indoors and even if did rain, it wouldn't matter. So again, we set up a date.

The only problem though, was that I face paint at our fall festival, and I face paint A LOT of little cute faces. And I don't take a break from face painting because I just don't have the heart to tell an adorable little bumble bee to wait while I make a fool of myself on a mechanical bull. So I just painted along. We had hundreds of visitors come to our festival, and a lot of people enjoyed the mechanical bull. I guess I would just have to sacrifice my whimsical bucket list item, for the kingdom of God. And in reality, it really wasn't that difficult.

But, as our event was ending and there were no more faces to paint, I went up to Aaron (the bull guy's helper) and gave him permission to end the bull riding. (Going over our allotted time would cost me more money, and I didn't want to go over!) He asked me if I wanted to get on. I looked around and there was mostly just church people there! "Oh yes please!"

I got on the inflatable and raised my leg to mount the bull. But I couldn't get on! You know when your mind thinks it can do something, but your body just doesn't respond? That is what was happening here. Oh no! I tried by putting both hands on the bull and hoisting myself up! As if I had that kind of upper body strength! Finally, Aaron told me he could help me. Thankfully he's a pretty tough guy, but how was he going to help me? What if I killed him? Thankfully, I am sure of it, Aaron has dealt with bigger women trying to mount a mechanical bull at a church event. He got on a knee and told me to use his other knee as a stool to get up on the bull. I huffed, I heaved and I got on.

What happened next was the most anti-climatic thing that has ever happened to me. I got on the bull ready for him to buck me off. Ready to prevail in the battle between woman and machine! Ready for my hair to fling one way and then another! I was ready! So I clutched the rope, steeled my back and then the mechanical bull moved ever so slightly and I remembered that I have no core muscles. None. I quickly then bear-hugged the hunk of bull and slowly, every so very slowly melted off the bull. Have you ever baked bread? You know when you knead the dough, form it into a ball and then set it in a greased bowl to let it rise? And then you punch said dough and "pour" it onto a floured surface for shaping. That is how it looked like. The pouring part of the dough. And that is kinda how I felt. A turned over, punched, ball of dough ready for shaping. I laid there in my shame realizing that my mind is so much more fun than my reality. I log rolled a little away from my victorious foe and got out of the inflatable arena. Two more deacons went after me and I just walked to my face painting table flushed and defeated. No, deflated would be a better word to describe myself.  

Some of the church ladies wedding dress shopping.
I checked off "mechanical bull riding" off of my bucket list. But it wasn't an assertive check, but in the end that really didn't matter. I did have fun laughing, mostly at my lack of athletic ability. A lot of people did have fun and like we always do at these events, we shared the Gospel and God's love to the people in our community. 

I don't think I will ever have the opportunity to ride on a mechanical bull again, but it's okay. After all, life is made up of memories, not fantasies.