Freedom

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Freedom

Free to choose

Free to fight, to lie, to hide

Free to say, to give, to do

Free to live

to live alone, to live together

Free to fly the flag

to kneel, to stand

Free to disagree

Free to eat the fruit

Free to choose

 

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Silence

Photo Jun 14, 5 34 04 PMHave you ever noticed, rarely is there silence. 

Traffic hums, trucks rumble, electrical boxes buss, air conditioners kick on and off, my washing machine seems to always be running, kids yell, scream and laugh, adults chatter, laugh and yell, bees buzz, trees rustle, cicadas are loud, birds chirp even the wind blows fierce. 

That the silence invades so suddenly. Finding yourself in a quiet place is startling. What is in the silence? 

Heartbeat

Steady

Ripple

Emotion

Wind

Soft

Sorrow

Loud

Steadfast

Love

Oceans

Tide

 

Stepping into a silent place, feeling it rise, it soothes. 

I’m small, so small… the silence is huge and deep. 

I’m tossed about as the silence rises like a wave.

Something gets swept away. 

Some muck from my soul. 

Some of the noise of this world. 

And I’m restored.

3 Ways to Teach your Child to be Media Literate: How to Consume Wisely

 

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Children are sponges, they are great at taking things in and terrible at interpreting those things. That’s why advertisements work so well on them. Suddenly they just HAVE to have that new LOL Doll. How can you as a parent teach your child to be wise about what they watch?

I was in love with Christian Bale. Don’t laugh, we all had a childhood crush… or two. At least mine grew up to be Batman!

I badly wanted to watch Swing Kids starring Christian Bale and Robert Sean Leonard. For those unfamiliar with the movie, it’s not a kids movie…at all. It’s based on true events in Nazi Germany where swing music was banned. Underground swing clubs sprang up as young people rebelled against the strict Nazi Regime. Swing Kids is about friendship, betrayal and sacrifice. Needless to say my mother was not keen.

I was persistent. So my mother agreed that I could watch Swing Kids only if I watched it with her and discussed it after. She planted the seeds for all my future movie watching experiences. She taught me to not just be a consumer but be an evaluator.

Here are 3 ways I’ve learned to evaluate what I’m watching and be a wise consumer. These are great ways to open up conversation with children of all ages about the films and TV that they are watching.

  1. How did it make me feel?

All movies are created to make you feel. Think about a classic one; Titanic, it recreated a real life event but wanted you to actually experience that event. To walk away feeling like a survivor, to feel the sadness of loss and the nostalgia of the past. One the other side of the spectrum, John Wick, a revenge movie about a retired assassin who has lost all his reasons to stay retired. They want you to walk away feeling empowered and avenged. If movies didn’t make us feel we wouldn’t be interested in watching them. So think about what feelings did the show create in you, were there several different feelings, what did you walk away feeling?

  1. What is it trying to make me believe?

All films have a premise, an idea that they want you to believe. It’s often called suspension of disbelief. It’s easiest to note these in fantasy, sci-fi or superhero films. It’s the out of this world thing that you have to believe in order to take the world they have created seriously.  If the film does its job well you won’t even realize you have agreed to the belief. In the Star Wars universe the belief is that the Force is real and those who wield it can do so for good or for evil. But what about a movie like The Green Book (last years Oscar winner) The Green Book is based on a true story… and that idea is also part of what they want you to believe – They are hoping that you trust them to tell a true story truthfully, but it’s still a story, and so needs to be changed to fit the parameters of what makes a good story. You can use to discuss how a film was made and what they are trying to make you believe.

  1. What have they used to manipulate feelings?

This is where you take the other two questions and start to learn about filmmaking. What did they do to make you feel and believe?

You don’t have to have filmmaking knowledge to find some manipulation techniques. Music alone can be a huge manipulator of emotions. Some basic questions you can ask are; What kind of music are they using, upbeat, instrumental, popular songs, etc. Think about what you like to listen to depending on your mood. Another basic technique is who is the camera focused on in the scenes? In Captain Marvel they want you to strongly identify with Carol Danvers so they are going to move in close during the emotional scenes and show you her face in close up. Another fun way to manipulate is in the use of color. M. Night Shyamalan is really good at this technique. In his recent film, Mr Glass every character has a main color that is used to show their character or how they are feeling. Color can make you feel certain things and he uses it to the extreme. There are other more technical ways a filmmaker can manipulate. This is where some knowledge of filmmaking techniques can really open up the conversation. You can look up some basic editing videos on YouTube to help you get started. Or check out the ones I’ve included below.

13 Basic Editing Techniques

Manipulating with color

Manipulating with music

How Alfred Hitchcock toyed with your emotions    – A little longer but worth the watch!

What do you think? Do you have questions you like to ask your children to get them thinking? Share them in the comments.

Good Omens: Themes of Truth

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Good Omens is the ultimate nature vs nurture experiment. The Antichrist arrives in a basket sent straight up from hell. Presumably born evil intended to be raised by powerful earthly parents. Instead he is switched with the wrong baby and sent home to live with the most normal, boring small town English parents one could hope for. Do your parents really have that much influence over you? Does your innate nature matter more? Adam Young; the Antichrist, is about to find out.

Good Omens is also the ultimate unlikely buddy adventure. Aziraphale and Crowley, an angel and a demon, on earth for so long that they’ve developed an understanding and appreciation for each other. You might even say they are friends. But that might be going too far. They have certainly grown to love their little earthly pleasures, a nice Bentley, a fine cup of wine and of course, books, so they aren’t ready to give them up yet. Teaming up to stop the End of the World, what could go wrong?

** Spoilers Ahead**

 

 

The book, and the Amazon mini series, both contain so much that it’s impossible to summarize or even to properly dissect all the themes. You can read and reread, or watch and re watch (as much of the mini-series is taken word for word from the book) and still take away something new each time. I suppose that is the sign of a great work of art. Each viewing reveals new layers. As from this point on I’m assuming you’ve already read or watched Good Omens I won’t waste time in explaining plot but rather dive into a few of it’s themes that interested me.

Good Omens contains a fascinating depiction of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. The first horseman (or woman) introduced is War. Fairly straight forward, wherever she goes on earth peace disappears and fights break out. The next one, Famine is much more nuanced. Famine has spent his time among the wealthy recently. His latest book, ‘Foodless Dieting: Slim Yourself Beautiful’ is a best seller. He also was the inventor of Nouvelle cuisine, where “a string bean, a pea and a sliver of chicken aesthetically arranged on a square china plate constituted dinner.” pg. 62 This all rings horribly true. When we talk of famine we only think of starving people in poor countries and ignore the thousands of young people who believe they have to starve themselves, throw up their meals, exercise to the point of exhaustion, in order to be beautiful. This description of famine is so eye opening; suddenly all the possibilities of the word take shape. Famine is usually only used in the negative; war torn countries, starving people, a state of being that shouldn’t exist, and so to use it in terms of the pursuit of beauty or novelty in cuisine seems off but does have a sudden jarring ring of truth. For famine is a direct attack on life itself.

Another interesting theme in Good Omens is the idea of God’s ineffable plan. As the end of the world approaches in Good Omens, Crowley and Aziraphale try to influence the boy they believe is the Antichrist, until they discover that something has gone wrong. Some human ‘accident’ has intervened even before they tried to change things. Instead of growing up evil the Antichrist has grown up… normal. Instead of being isolated and controlled he has found friends… true friends and enjoyed the freedoms a young boy does in the English countryside. And it does change him. It does make a difference in how he views the world and even as the voices tell him the world is bad and needs restarted, he has seen enough good to know that hope still exists.  Instead of imagining terrors or tortures he brings to life Aliens whose only job is to bring a message of peace. When the real battle for his destiny begins it’s his friends who remind him of who he is. Adam literally rewrites his own history. The Devil is coming and Adam decides he would rather just have his own Father, the one who has always been there for him. Who is dull but as reliable as a clock. He erases his past and chooses his own destiny. All outside of the ‘grand plan.’ Aziraphale and Crowly are left wondering what if this had been the plan all along. And I agree. The seeming ‘accident’ of Adam being switched at birth lead to the world being saved. God knew, God saw. The only thing I disagree with is that the God talked about in Good Omens is seem as being distant and removed, but maybe Good Omens actually does agree.. For isn’t the narrator God. The narrator who is keeping a close eye on things and knows what is going on in all parts of the world and in heaven and hell.

There is one more thing that Good Omens got right. Humans don’t need too much tempting to think up evil to do to each other. Don’t we seem to get into enough trouble all by ourselves? Crowley takes credit for the Spanish Inquisition but really that was all us. We are born sinful, with our own sinful natures that seeks self above all else. We hurt others and disguise it as good intentions.

There is so much going on in Good Omens that it’s hard to narrow down just a few things to talk about. I’d love to hear your perspective. What things in Good Omens stood out to you?!

Portrait of a Woman with a Summer Cold

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I walk into the room, tripping over a pair of hastily discarded tiny flip flops, with no small child in view I pick them up and turn to take them back to the front door. My eye catches a glass sitting on a table leaving water rings. Flip flops now in their place I pick up the glass, wiping the water away with my hand and head to the kitchen. Placing the glass in the sink, along with other dirty dishes I need to take care of then I notice several empty cartons ready to go to the recycle bin. I pick them up and head to the laundry room to deposit them in the bin and see the washing machine has finished its cycle. As I am transferring the dryer load out to put the wet load in I hear a piercing cry and two small hysterical girls come rushing into the house. “Mommy! She yelled at me!”   – “No I didn’t” tears…

Half finished projects, half finished thoughts, burning calories by going in circles all day.

Then… the unthinkable happens… I Got Sick!!  Everything goes on hold. A still small voice whispers to me, “You are not superwoman. You are not single handedly keeping your family happy and your house running smoothly. You are not in control” and I will admit a part of me said, “What?! Have you been watching? Have you seen all that I do everyday?!” But the other part of me, the part that has learned to listen to that still small voice, trust that voice, that part of me said, “oh, right. The world will still turn round without my constant input. My children will still be fed. My house won’t fall on our heads.”

Slowly I realize, there will always be a mess to cleanup, things to put away but there will not always be small children to play with and hold. There will always be need but I’m not always the answer.

Then that voice, that soft, painfully truthful, loving voice said, “You have worth, not because of what you do but because I made you.”

For whatever is true about who I am, at my core, as a human… must be true about everyone. For me, today is not part of my normal. I don’t wake up every single day and feel this bad. My cold will go away and I will return to my ‘normal’. For several of my friends that is their ‘normal’, to awaken each day in pain, to struggle to think through the fog, to see each trip out of the house as an ordeal. And yet, they have worth, they have value, and I cherish them. They, and I, have an intrinsic dignity of life. Who am I to believe I have earned that right.

Yahweh created me, made me in his own image, and gave me dignity. He knit me together, he knows when I sit and when I rise. If he cares for even the smallest sparrow and the weeds of the field then surely he cares for me. We are all held together in his will.

So my job today is to sit, drink lots of water, keep my tissues close and know that I am loved. I am known. I am cared for by the God who clothes the lilies of the valley.

Matt 6

Ps 139

Col 1

Faces Places Documentary – an exploration on Dignity

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Visages Villages (Faces Places)  Directed by Agnes Varda and J.R.

Growing old playfully. Agnes Varda is a unique presence in the art world, starting with her photography and moving into how she views the world through a film camera lens. Looking through her ‘eyes’ always leads you to new discoveries about life, around and in us. Faces Places is no exception. Only this time Agnes needs to borrow someone else’s eyes. JR is young and brings his giant portable photo booth along for the ride as together they explore France’s villages.

There is a certain poignancy about Faces Places as Agnes explores parts of the country she knew so well and now cannot see clearly. She faces it all with a playful expectancy and thoughtful introspection. One mining village has been all but abandoned. One lone inhabitant is all that’s left but the memories of the place still remain as people come out to see what Agnes and JR will do. Memories become photos become parts of the walls themselves as dignity is restored to a dying breed of miners and their families.

Agnes and JR stop along the way to reminisce, compare stories and just remark on life. Reminding us to sit back and take it in every once and awhile. Life is remarkable, even the small moments, the impermanence of the little things can be awe inspiring. JR’s giant photos disappear over time as the wind and the weather constantly alter them, sometimes even overnight. But the dignity they give to the subjects of his photos is life changing. Elevating the everyday and mundane to something extraordinary.

Agnes approaches documentary film making with a spontaneity that is refreshing. Allowing her camera to capture the perfect moments and the imperfect ones. In one town a barista’s unexpected rise to fame makes her uncomfortable. JR’s giant stylish photo of her pasted onto the town square has rocketed her to local icon and her honest reaction makes Agnes sad. However, in another place the whole town turns out to bring to life an abandoned subdivision. Their holiday mood and creation of place brings joy and happiness to an otherwise depressing landscape. Each reaction genuine and unvarnished.

Dignity is allowing people their own voice, unedited, including the filmmakers themselves. Agnes allows the camera to follow her to her eye appointment where she explains what life looks like to her now. She also allows the camera to walk with her into the past as they visit places of significance and pain. Finding healing in the journey and disappointment. Reality sets in firmly at the end when a surprise visit ends in feeling rejected. Dignity is allowing for both happiness and pain to exist together in ourselves and facing both with courage.

 

Mom: A Poem

Mom: A Poem

 

Nose wiper

Cheek kisser

Short order cook

 

Laundry folder

Floor sweeper

Fantastic butt wiper

 

A secret heart where lost things go

A secret spot

Memories of who you once were

Memories that are molding

 

A finder of lost things

A secret keeper

Memories in the making

Memories that will sustain

Why is Avengers Endgame so popular?

Marvel just completed* an epic assortment of films, sweeping through the public consciousness and securing a place for themselves in our decade. Not every film was beloved, some were outstanding, some were forgettable, but collectively they sparked something in our imaginations.

Why did we weep with Tony Stark as Peter Parker turned to dust? Why did we cheer so much when Captain Marvel showed up in headquarters? And why were our hopes so high (with a touch of fear) as we filed into the theater to see Endgame. 

Marvel has tapped into something bigger than the franchise, bigger than superheros, they have found a nugget of The Truth. Think about the biggest stories of our time, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and the Avengers. Think about some of the popular stories of our generation, Twilight, any Stephen King book, Neil Gaiman’s much anticipated Good Omens. They all have one thing in common. — The world is at stake, there is a great evil approaching, but good still exists and must rise up and fight against overwhelming odds.

The world is at stake. We are in grave danger. The seas are churning, the mountains quake, the trees are dying and we are sleeping. Evil has been busy, building an army, blackening, numbing hearts to feel no remorse. Bodies piling up in remote corners of the world, stinking, bodies of the young, the old, the helpless. While we are slumbering. Chaos reigns amid a plan, a deep dark, evil plan. To destroy all that is good and beautiful.

Good still exists. It’s not wiped out yet. It’s clinging to our hearts, giving us hope… see, there is a spark, there is a glimpse of beauty, see, there is a kind word, a generous soul. ‘Hope is a thing with feathers, that perches in the soul’ (Emily Dickinson) Everywhere that beauty is found, in a perfect dew drop on the tip of a blade of grass, in the reflection of every cloud in motionless water, in the light that bounces off exquisite oil paintings, there hope is too. Yet we feel so small and the darkness so large. But we are not alone, we have a Rescuer, when all seems lost we are found.

We must rise up and fight. We have a part to play in this vast cosmic conflict. This is where the stories get it right the most! Spider man wakes up and realizes he has powers, Frodo finds himself tasked with taking the ring to Mordor, Luke Skywalker finds his destiny; and you too have a purpose, a unique path, a part to play in the battle. The difference is, the battle is for your mind, your heart and your very soul and Jesus has given you everything you need to win that battle.

*** Warning spoilers for Avengers Endgame Next ***  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Endgame drags you back into the Marvel Universe with a heartbreaking scene. Forcing you to face the agony of loss that you felt at the end of Infinity War, once more. Just in case you had forgotten. Then they lead you down a path of hope that ends crashingly at Thanos feet. What is the purpose of all this pain and heartache. Couldn’t they have just fast forwarded to the part where they figure out how to save the day? It’s hard to wait, to sit, to feel, much easier to skip ahead to the ‘good’ part. But it’s in the slow parts of our story that the real work is done, the real battle is fought.

I had a conversation after Endgame with someone about what moment was it that really turned the tide and changed the future. The truth is it’s in the little moments, the little choices that were made, even the ‘accidents’ of an exploratory mouse, that changed everything. The same is true in our lives. We always have a choice, to swallow our pride and speak kindly, apologize, find hope and give hope, to speak truth in love, and change everything.

Tony Stark steps back into hope when he says ‘Resentment is corrosive’  He realized that unforgiveness was damaging himself, made of Iron, corroding on the inside. He choose instead to re engage with the battle and to forgive. Forgiveness is powerful. Gamora later does the same for her sister, she sees past the moment and gets a glimpse of a possible future where she and Nebula work as one. She has hope and hope changes things.

The collecting of the Infinity stones leads down memory lane and into past regrets and wishes, where it would be easy to get lost and forget your purpose. Thor having to face his mother with the knowledge that she will be dead by day’s end. Captain America just a window away from his beloved. Without the bigger picture it’d be easy to lose context. We don’t have the luxury of time travel, we have no bigger picture, just the moment, no future self to show up and tell us it’ll all be OK. But we do have someone who holds the bigger picture, someone who holds the future, someone who has stepped into time so that we could have hope.

Hope holds strong as the battle rages, despite terrible loss. But even hope has its limits. At the last moment, when all seems lost, Tony sacrifices himself to stop the darkness. He does what no one else could, and in his death all are reborn. All the dead come back, all those families are restored and the darkness is destroyed. Unlike in Tony’s case, Jesus didn’t stay dead. His sacrifice opened the doors to Heaven itself. His resurrection defeated Death itself. Hope has a name and it’s Jesus.

 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

 

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

 

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

  • Emily Dickinson

 

WHEN by my solitary hearth I sit,

When no fair dreams before my “mind’s eye” flit,

 And the bare heath of life presents no bloom;

   Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,

   And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head.        5

Whene’er I wander, at the fall of night,

 Where woven boughs shut out the moon’s bright ray,

Should sad Despondency my musings fright,

 And frown, to drive fair Cheerfulness away,

   Peep with the moon-beams through the leafy roof,        10

   And keep that fiend Despondence far aloof.

Should Disappointment, parent of Despair,

 Strive for her son to seize my careless heart;

When, like a cloud, he sits upon the air,

 Preparing on his spell-bound prey to dart:        15

   Chase him away, sweet Hope, with visage bright,

   And fright him as the morning frightens night!

Whene’er the fate of those I hold most dear

 Tells to my fearful breast a tale of sorrow,

O bright-eyed Hope, my morbid fancy cheer;        20

 Let me awhile thy sweetest comforts borrow:

   Thy heaven-born radiance around me shed,

   And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

Should e’er unhappy love my bosom pain,

 From cruel parents, or relentless fair;        25

O let me think it is not quite in vain

 To sigh out sonnets to the midnight air!

   Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,

   And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

  • John Keats, To Hope

Beauty from ashes.

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I watched as it burned, horror stricken, and my heart ached. Something so beautiful destroyed in one night. I watched as people crowded the Paris streets in silence to bear witness. It had stood strong and proud through two World Wars, a symbol of hope and beauty in the midst of darkness.

I stood in the rubble and the dust, turned in a full circle in the middle of Port au Prince, those few walls that still stood forever marked by deep cracks. Years of poverty, corruption and now natural disaster. The waters still washed over the beach nearby, the sun still shone, bathing it’s warm light, comforting the broken.

I walked over the open sewer running down the middle of the road and on top of garbage in a layer so thick it had become the ground. Kibera’s children; their naked eyes looking at me were hungry, weary, and blank. The little wall rose above the tin roofs, unassuming, inside joy rose in worship of a God who still stands, who doesn’t burn, and cannot be destroyed.

Beauty is real. When a thing of beauty is destroyed or damaged, or attacked we should mourn. It is right to feel the pain of loss. It is right to rise up in righteous anger and plead for change. It is good to rebuild, to fight against the destroyer.

For we do have an enemy, a destroyer, a thief who seeks to kill. Make no mistake. The odds are beyond scary. On that fateful Good Friday, the enemy thought for sure he’d won. There on that cross was the broken, beaten, bleeding Son of God. Dying. The clouds darkened, the earth trembled and shook. The whole earth knew something terrible was happening.

And yet… The story doesn’t end there for we have a God who is a master planner, a re-builder, a fighter, a justice seeker, who knows the odds and laughs, because He has a secret. Jesus was there when the world was created. Death could not hold him. The bringer of Truth and Life conquered death and changed everything.

Up from the grave He Arose, a mighty triumph Over his foes! For our Savior Lives! And our lives are now secure in Christ. Every time we rebuild, we seek justice, we speak on the behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves, we are joining God. Let’s be careful that we don’t tear one another down (destroy) and unwittingly help the enemy.

John 10:10 ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’

James 3:16 -18 ‘For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.’