Tag Archives: movie

The Latest 05-06-2019

Oh my, it’s been a while since I’ve given a little update on what’s happening in our journey. Here’s a brief summary from this spring:

A New Member of the Family
Garrett proposing to Madison on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.

Madison and her boyfriend, Garrett, were in Scotland this past week paying a visit to Taylor, Clayton, and Milo. A day trip to the Isle of Skye provided a ridiculously stunning setting for Garrett to pop the question to Madison. We’re excited to welcome Garrett into our wonderfully messy family. An autumn wedding in South Carolina is planned.

The Scotland Crew

We are missing Tay, Clay, and Milo terribly. Thank God for FaceTime. Though, no matter how hard we try, we can’t reach through the screen and hug them. Clayton’s academic work is going well. He’s publishing on multiple fronts, has facilitated both undergraduate and graduate classes, and is trying to work on his dissertation in between everything else. Taylor has gone full-time working for Storii and is traveling around the UK conducting on-boarding training for different care facilities. Milo is cuter than ever and he melts my heart every time he looks and me on FaceTime and says, “Papa!” We’re still working on “Yaya.”

Little Milo in his red jacket exploring Scotland.
A Week in So-Cal
Enjoyed exploring the Gaslamp District in San Diego.

Our Spring Break was spent in Southern California this year. Wendy and I jetted to the west coast for a few days in San Diego followed by  a few days (and St. Patrick’s Day!) in Palm Springs with our friends Kevin and Linda. The agenda for the week was simple. We walked, explored, enjoyed good food, good drink, and a wonderful time with friends. We were excited when our friend, Ann, drove up to Palm Springs from Yuma, to spend an afternoon with us.

April Birthdays
Celebrating April Birthdays at The Stuffed Olive.

Our friends Kevin and Beck both have April birthdays, and so do I. Over the past few years we’ve made it a point of celebrating all three birthdays together. This year was a little tough to fit it in with four very busy schedules, but we managed to steal a few hours at one of our favorite places. Wendy provided the party favors and, as always, a good time was had by all.

Celebrating April Birthdays at The Stuffed Olive.
Tulip Time 2019

We just finished Pella’s annual Tulip Festival this past weekend. Once again Wendy and I portrayed our town’s founding couple. We greeted tourists, had our picture taken a million times, and were in five of the festival’s six parades. We also hosted Aunt Linda, Uncle Gary & Aunt Fern, Uncle Brad and Aunt Barb, Mom Hall here at the house for various nights.

Our participation in Tulip Time was limited this year because we found ourselves making a movie and hosting a couple of the members of the film crew, but more about that in a subsequent post.

The weekend was perfect this year. The tulips and trees were all blooming and peaking at the same time. The weather was a little overcast on Thursday and Friday, but pleasant. Saturday was sunny and warm.

Reprising a Few Roles
The Herzog Crew from “Stage” 2019

Wendy and I have not been actively involved in community theatre the last few years as we’ve transitioned our time and energy to work and other endeavors. We were asked, however, to reprise a couple of pieces for a variety show at the end of March. We performed one of our scenes (Getting it Back) from Almost, Maine. I also performed Green Stuff from the musical The Christmas Post.

The Dude Abides

[The man of lawlessness] will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
2 Thessalonians 2:4 (NIV)

Yesterday, as I was getting ready, I had the Cohen brothers’ classic movie, The Big Lebowski, playing in the background. It’s become one of my all time favorites movies. What most people don’t realize is that The Big Lebowski is basically a classic 1940s film noir detective story set in the early 1980s with an unlikely stoner named The Dude unwittingly placed in the role of the protagonist detective.

I grew up watching a lot classic films and the hard-boiled detective movies (e.g. Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade) of the film noir genre were among my favorites. In The Big Lebowski you have all the classic detective movie motifs: the old millionaire, the millionaire’s daughter with whom the protagonist falls in love, blackmail, rabbit trails, crime lords, a secondary detective, and the protagonist detective getting “slipped a Mickey” (drugged with a drink).

I’ve observed that most people watch films in a vacuum, as though each film sort of stands alone. The reality is that all good stories and films borrow themes and motifs from one another. All of my favorite epics, for examples, have the overarching theme of good versus evil. Usually an epic story is about an ancient struggle coming to a climax. There’s always a prophecy woven into the storyline, as well. In Harry Potter there is the prophecy Harry retrieves from the Ministry of Magic. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe there is the prophecy and deep magic of the stone table. In The Lord of the Rings Aragorn is led to take the Paths of the Dead because of the “words of Malbeth the Seer.

I say it fairly regularly: “All good stories are a reflection of the Great Story.” Our stories reflect our own humanity. Deeper still, I believe that human history is a Great Story being told across the ages. I believe that evil exists and there is a very real struggle between good versus evil. I believe in the prophetic.

Along my life journey I’ve experienced the prophetic. I have found it to be both mysterious and messy and therefore quickly dismissed by many. I have come to believe that tragedy lies on either side of the tension between two possible errors: Dismissing the prophetic altogether or drowning too deeply in the mystery. I’ve always tried to hold the tension between the two.

In the early years of the Jesus movement there were many prophecies given concerning where the plot line of the Great Story was going. This led to many arguments and mistaken assumptions.  In today’s chapter, Paul is addressing some mistaken assumptions  in today’s chapter. Without drowning too deeply in the specifics, I find myself being reminded of two things.

First, there is evil, and evil opposes good. Jesus was very aware of the evil opposing Him. He knew that His coming was prophesied (He proclaimed Isaiah’s prophetic word in His first sermon). He cast out demons throughout His ministry. He knew He was being tempted by the evil one to abandon His sacrificial mission. We don’t like to think too much about the reality of evil, but it exists.

Second, evil cannot create but, instead, it always counterfeits. Tolkien clearly picked up this theme in his epic stories. Orcs were counterfeits made in opposition to elves. Trolls were counterfeits made in opposition to ents. Paul says there is prophesied a counterfeit messiah to come whom he calls the Man of Lawlessness. The Greek term he uses is anthropos (man, mankind, humanity; as in anthropology the study of humanity) anamos (opposition, lawless, wicked; from which we get the English word animosity). Paul explains that it has been prophesied that this counterfeit messiah will come before Jesus’ return in a climax to this Great Story.

In the quiet this morning I find myself pondering all of these mysteries. I don’t want to get lost in them, but neither do I want to dismiss them. Again, I find myself trying to hold the tension. I believe my life journey is part of the Great Story. How it fits and weaves into the larger plot lines is a mystery to me. I’m just trying to stick to the path appointed for me, to follow the steps I’m led, to do the good God calls me to do, and to be shrewd as a serpent and gentle as a dove, aware of both the evil and the good around me.

Or, as Jeffrey Lebowski would put it: “The Dude Abides.”

Abide well today, my friend.

A Bit Player. The Unlikely Hero.

[Rahab] said to the men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that dread of you has fallen on us….”
Joshua 2:9a (NRSV)

Wendy and I love the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) website and app. There’s hardly a movie or television show we watch that Wendy doesn’t have IMDB up on her phone looking at where we’ve seen that actor before and who that person was in that bit part.

When you think of the characters in the Great Story there are always the red carpet stars that everyone’s heard of: Adam, Noah, Moses, and David to name a few. As I’ve journeyed through God’s Message over the years I’ve gained more and more respect for some of the bit players, the role players, who get little press. We find one of these bit players in today’s chapter. Rehab is an unlikely hero whose presence is quietly woven throughout the Great Story. She is unlikely because she is a woman amidst a patriarchal society. She is a foreigner amidst the nation of Israel. And, Rahab is a prostitute; A morally fallen, socially unacceptable woman of the night amidst a rigidly puritanical people.

Rahab lived in the city of Jericho, and when Joshua sends two men to spy out the land, Rahab takes them in. She hides the spies and throws the Jericho security forces off their trail. She takes a leap of faith. “I know the Lord has given you the land,” she says, adding “The Lord your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below.”

For her faith, Rahab and her family were spared. Rehab would be adopted into the people of Israel, but her role does not end there. She would eventually marry and when you read through the fine print of Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew’s biography, you’ll find Rahab there. Rahab, the foreign prostitute who has a line of descendants that reads like a who’s who of starring roles in the Great Story including Boaz, Jesse, David, Solomon, and Jesus.

This morning I am reminded that there are those who get starring roles, and those unlikely heroes who faithfully play bit parts. God honors them both.

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We’re All Suckers for a Love Story

skyfall_bond_girls-620x359I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.
Ezekiel 14:5 (NIV)

Let me confess something to you. I am a sucker for a great love story. Wendy, Taylor, Madison and Suzanna can all tell you that I’m a real softie when it comes to a well written tear jerker. Don’t get me wrong. I am a guy and I love my action movies, but have you ever noticed that even that all great action movies have a love story woven through them? Script writers learned long ago that love stories are a core part of the human experience and a big part of what we respond to as we sit in front of that screen.

I believe that this has a great deal to do with how God created us. The Great Story that God reveals between the beginning of Genesis and the final chapter of John’s Revelation is a love story. It is the love story between God and humanity. God even uses the metaphor of marriage to describe the relationship between Jesus and His followers.

There is no relationship that doesn’t have its ups and downs. Even the best of marriages suffer their share of conflict. So it is with the Great Story. At the point of the story in which Ezekiel is telling, the relationship between God and His people is experiencing acute relational pain. God’s people have been adulterous. Their hearts and spirits had strayed. They had given their greatest affection to other idols and gods. There was a significant break in the relationship, and God was intent on “recapturing the hearts of the people.”

I find it hard to imagine worshipping the kinds of idols that stole the hearts of people in Ezekiel’s day. Worshipping at a pagan shrine or making an “offering” to have sex with a temple prostitute of the local fertility god is something I can’t even fathom. And yet, it seems to me that being driven by lust to have sex with a prostitute in service to Asherah is really no different than being driven by lust to masturbate to pornography or have sex with a prostitute in service to the almighty dollar. Our idols have changed faces over the millennia, but the core relational issues remain the same.

Today, I am thinking about the idols that steal my affections from God. And, I am grateful for God’s never ending desire and efforts to recapture my wayward heart.

The Sour Feeling in My Gut

source: stickyii via Flickr
source: stickyii via Flickr

So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Revelation 10:9-10 (NIV)

As artists, Wendy and I love stories that are honest and well told, even when the honesty includes characters acting and speaking in ways we would find unacceptable for ourselves. Some people are offended when they hear a single profane word uttered in any context, but it typically doesn’t bother us when a truly profane character in a movie swears on the screen. Profane people say a lot of profane things. We usually roll with it without thinking much of it.

Having said this, there have been many times over the years that Wendy and I have felt spiritually soured when watching television, a movie, or when reading a book. For a couple of years we avidly watched a television program that was, and I’m sure still is, brilliantly written and well acted. It was network television, so there wasn’t anything in the weekly program which we found particularly objectionable. However, one night Wendy mentioned to me that she felt a “sourness” in her spirit watching the show. Coincidentally, I had been feeling the same gross feeling over the course of the previous few weeks, but without being sure why, I hadn’t said anything. To this day, I can’t tell you any one thing that was wrong or objectionable about the show, but in our gut we both felt spiritually gross watching it. So, we stopped.

I love the word picture of God asking John to eat the scroll in today’s chapter. The connection between God’s word and food is a recurring theme throughout God’s Message. For example, Jesus said when tempted to satiate his physical hunger that “man was not made for bread alone, but for every word that comes out of God’s mouth.”

A couple of related takeaways this morning:

There is a difference between reading and digesting. It’s one thing to have a small taste of greens, but popping a pea or two is not going to do you much good. You have to consume the green vegetable in larger portions if you want any health benefit. I have found the same to be true with reading God’s Message. For maximum spiritual health benefit, you can’t just have an occasional taste. It should be fully consumed and digested over time.

Transformation doesn’t take place without significant change, and change is often motivated by discomfort. When you get used to eating a healthier, more balanced diet you soon find that unhealthy things have a discomforting affect on your body and its functions. I don’t like the way I feel after eating all of those sweets or fats, and it motivates me to avoid doing it again. Once I changed my spiritual diet to include regular consumption of God’s Message, I found that I started feeling soured towards spiritually unhealthy things. I still can’t tell you what it was about the television program Wendy and I stopped watching, but the sourness in our spirits told us we needed to cut that program out of our entertainment diet. Call it what you want. I just know that when I something is spiritually off, the sour feeling in my soul motivates me to get things back in line.

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A Guy’s Getaway

For the past four years I’ve talked about and desired to have a winter guy’s getaway to the lake. Even though there is relatively little to do on the lake, the opportunity to get out of Dodge and have a little of R&R with the boys is a good plan. This year I was finally able to pull the trigger and make it happen.

Matthew and I headed down late in the day on Thursday. The thermostat at the Playhouse is set on 40 degrees during the winter while we’re not there and I knew that it would take a while to warm up the house. In addition, there were beds that needed to be made, supplies to buy, and you never know what problems you might encounter after three months. The thermometer inside the house read 42 degrees when we arrived, but the thermostat’s LCD display was blank and wouldn’t come up. I hit the button that should kick on the furnace and the fan kicked in, but I couldn’t get the display to work.

Matthew and I headed to the grocery store to pick up our list and figured we’d see if things were warming up by the time we got back. It was still 42 degrees when we returned, so I pulled the thermostat apart, changed the batteries, tried to warm it up with a hair dryer in case the liquid crystal display was frozen, and prayed. After about 15 minutes of wrangling the display suddenly worked and we were able to get the furnace working. Even then, it was a chilly few hours waiting for the house to warm up.

Friday was spent in preparing for Paul and Chad’s arrival. We also went into Osage to get a new thermostat and caught a matinee showing of “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.” After returning to the Playhouse we threw two whole bbq rubbed chickens on the grill with some hickory smoke. By the time Paul and Chad arrived, we had a huge spread ready for them. The theme of the evening was “Who am I?” Dinner conversation around the table went until about 10:30-11:00 p.m. before we moved to the more comfortable living room. It was interesting as the conversation revolved around the men who were (or were not) mentors for us that shaped who we’ve become. It was almost 1:00 a.m. before we called it a night.

Saturday morning we had breakfast together and immediately the conversation from previous night launched into further give and take. About mid-morning we called a halt and went into a few hours of individual quiet time. I took my camera outside and walked down the shoreline, spending some time in prayer and taking a few pictures of the winter landscape. We reconnected for lunch and then sat down to watch “Captain Phillips” on DVD and ended up downstairs playing eight-ball on pool table Wendy’s grandpa made.

Dinner on Saturday evening was surf and turf. We had salmon and steak on the grill (mesquite smoke this time). The theme of conversation on Saturday was “Where am I?” and we each shared where we find ourselves in the journey and what are some of the questions, concerns, joys, and dreams with our current waypoint. Once again the conversation went into the late hours before we called it a night.

Sunday morning came early and we fixed one last big meal as we packed up. The conversation over breakfast was “Where am I going?” and we shared ways that we could pray for and encourage one another as we returned home. We switched things around for the return trip and Paul rode with me, allowing us the opportunity to connect during the drive.

Looking back, it was everything I wanted the weekend to be. Relaxing with a handful of men, eating well, having fun, watching good movies, and having great conversation as we share the journey together. I think this might be the beginning of a tradition.

Hollywood Endings

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There are three things that are never satisfied—no, four that never say, “Enough!”: the grave,the barren womb,the thirsty desert,the blazing fire. Proverbs 30:15-16

Several years ago I watched an action movie called Ronin that centered on a group of mercenaries hired to protect and transport a metal briefcase. The team quickly learns that there are many others who are willing to expend any and all means to get their hands on that case. Plenty of Hollywood stunts, explosions, gun fights, and car chases ensue. But, here’s the kicker: you never learn what’s in the metal case!

Many people told me they hated the film, but I found it an interesting premise that touches on a theme of human existence: life is full of unanswered questions and unsatisfied longings.

We would all love for life to always have a happy Hollywood ending. Perhaps we’ve allowed Hollywood to subtly deceive us into thinking that a Hollywood ending is what we deserve and should expect. Jesus’ teaching continually painted a different picture. While promising eternal joy, He also told us to expect temporal difficulties. We don’t discover the former without experiencing the latter.