Thursday, June 30, 2016

What We've Been Watching: Theeb, Cinderella, 13 Hours, Joyeux Noel, Kingsman


In the Ottoman province of Hijaz during World War I, a young Bedouin boy tags along behind his older brother on a perilous desert journey.

Simple storytelling, that nevertheless works, in this tale which was dubbed an Arab Western by some film critics. The actors are all genuine Bedouin tribesmen and it was shot in gorgeous Jordanian surroundings. It's not all action and you have to let yourself move at the pace of the tribesmen but it works. If I had boys who'd read captions, I'd corral them to watch this.


Kenneth Branagh's live-action Cinderella. Sumptuous, gorgeous, thoughtfully told, with surprising depth, charm, and a dash of humor. Perfect!

I was especially impressed with the moral underpinning and the way the evil stepmother's story subtly intertwines with Cinderella's by the end. Never has one had a better example of the reason to "have courage and be kind." This is so simple but so all encompassing that I've found it echoing through my head as I face difficult situations in my own life. I didn't expect to be motivated by Cinderella but that is the power of this telling of the classic fairytale.

Joyeux Noël 

About the World War I Christmas truce of December 1914, depicted through the eyes of French, Scottish and German soldiers. Quite well done with characterizations that help flesh out the details of the Christmas Peace ... as well as the problems that resulted. I found adding the woman to the mix was distracting and annoying (much like the German commander did, in fact!). However, it would make a terrific Christmas movie for those who don't mind reading captions, since it is done in the three authentic languages (the Scots almost require captions since their accent is so broad).

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

No one was more surprised than we were to really like this movie. At its most basic it is a war movie about the real-life events in the overrunning of the Benghazi US embassy and the attack on the CIA annex. We follow the security team as they struggle to get the Americans out.

Super intense, but did a terrific job of putting the viewer in the "fog of war," as so many others have observed. I was also impressed (and relieved) that we were spared the up close gore of many modern movies. A study in frustration at how much went wrong but also a look at warriors in action.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

A light feeling spy movie that made me think of the Roger Moore days in the James Bond franchise. I also liked that the violence was not gory or shown close-up, though it can't be denied that there was an awful lot of violence.

The predictable plot has a troubled kid recruited by Colin Firth for a super-secret spy organization. He goes through training. Firth uncovers a villainous plan to destroy the world.

Well, actually it is a villainous plan to save the world. Go figure. And that was the least of the subversive surprises. I didn't expect Kingsman to take on know-it-all environmentalists, churches preaching hate, obsession with technology, consumer culture, and the glorification of killing.

I was stunned to see the pro-human, pro-life underpinning to this fun spy thriller. It's rated R for good reason. There's violence, language, and a really offensive sexual reference. This movie isn't for everyone. In fact, I'm not sure it really was for me. Nonetheless, it was heartening to find that there's something very worthwhile in Kingsman.

Worth a Thousand Words: Landscape Alphabet

Early 20th century, L.E.M. Jones.

I love alphabets and the creative ways that artists find to display letters. When I first saw these I fell in love. It was really hard to choose which to include here to try to lure you into looking at all of them.

I love the C for the creative use of the ocean. I love the Y for the cows. I love the cottage and cottager hidden mid-Z, as well as the little pond at the bottom of the hill.

These can be found at the British Museum. Just click on a letter to see it up close. Their description is brief: "Series of 26 landscape scenes shaped as letters of the alphabet; rebound in a 20th-century binding."

Well Said: A Scarlet Tanager and the Glory of God

The red and black of a scarlet tanager almost elevates me physically; registering it in the midst of wet, green foliage that surrounds it as a cloak of mist and mystery does something to me that I don't have the verb for. Behind that coloration, in that multi-dimensional, infinitely patterned web of life, I witness God's eye for color, God's rejoicing in beauty, God's generosity in sharing that beauty with me. I return home from birdwatching bouncing with love and renewed vigor. I have received. I want to give. I re-experience my own life.
Danusha Goska, God Through Binoculars
Yes. Those moments are ethereal and yet solid. Danusha puts flesh on the framework of my favorite psalm.
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
Psalm 19:1-4

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Genesis Notes: Eve's Resume

Eva from the Brautpforte (Rathaus Hamburg), Jacob Ungerer

We don't know many details about Eve but she was a key player in the beginning of Genesis as Adam's wife and the person who had to deal face to face with Satan's temptation. As with Adam, I like the way that the Life Application Study Bible's profile on Eve makes the key lessons from her life stand out.
Strengths and accomplishments:
  • First wife and mother
  • First female. As such she shared a special relationship with God, had co-responsibility with Adam over creation, and displayed certain characteristics of God
Weaknesses and mistakes:
  • Allowed her contentment to be undermined by Satan
  • Acted impulsively without talking either to God or to her mate
  • Not only sinned but shared her sin with Adam
  • When confronted, blamed others
Lessons from her life:
  • The female shares in the image of God
  • The necessary ingredients for a strong marriage are commitment to each other, companionship with each other, complete oneness, absence of shame (2:24, 25)
  • The basic human tendency to sin goes back to the beginning of the human race
Vital statistics:
  • Where: Garden of Eden
  • Occupation: Wife, helper, companion, co-manager of Eden
  • Relatives: Husband - Adam, Sons - Cain, Abel, Seth, numerous other children.
Key verse:
The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." (Genesis 2:18)

Eve's story is told in Genesis 2:19-4:26. Her death is not mentioned in Scripture.
This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Worth a Thousand Words: The Conversation

Paul Gustav-Fischer, The Conversation, Helgoland, 1896
via Arts Everyday Living

Well Said: Eschewing Adjectives and Jesus

Cornwell imputes ugly motivations to people though he has no way of knowing what drives them. Cornwell uses a trowel to smear thick layers of degrading adjectives on every priest, nun, or merely any Catholic he encounters. These are trite and transparent writer's tricks. Again, telling the truth is all about obeying William Carlos Williams' dictum: "no ideas but in things." Again, telling the truth in that way is not just a writer's discipline. It is a Christian's discipline. ...

Again, I marvel at how the Gospel writers didn't lather Jesus with adjectives. He isn't "kindly Jesus" or "angry Jesus" or "helpful Jesus" or "woman-friendly" Jesus. He is a Jesus of eyewitnesses disciplined and integral enough to record only what they saw: Jesus who lets children sit on his lap, Jesus who whips the moneychangers out of the temple, Jesus who turns water into wine at a friend's wedding, Jesus who has his longest and most interesting conversation with a woman, who saves a woman from killers, and who appears, first, to a woman after rising from the dead.
Danusha Goska, God Through Binoculars (unpublished)
I already loved those gospel writers. This just makes me appreciate them even more.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Scott flies through the air with both guns blazing — in slow motion

— while Julie fires into the air screaming, "Noooooo!" Neither can calm down until they eat their Cornettos. Hot Fuzz is investigated in Episode 136 of A Good Story is Hard to Find.

Worth a Thousand Words: Calling the Roll After An Engagement

Elizabeth Thompson, Calling the Roll After An Engagement, Crimea, 1874, Royal Collection
I'd never have heard of this if Malcolm Gladwell hadn't featured it in the first episode of his new podcast, Revisionist History.
Each week for 10 weeks, Revisionist History will go back and reinterpret something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.

"Because sometimes the past deserves a second chance."
Gladwell's famous for comparing and contrasting things we wouldn't have thought of connecting. I love his books and this podcast is similar to his writing.

Just a note in passing, the website is so hip and modern that it is practically impossible to navigate easily. Yep. I like Gladwell but I don't like that website. Here's the iTunes link if you'd rather just get them there.

Well Said: Adam and the value of each individual life

Adam is an individual, apart from a mob. The Talmud teaches that God created only one Adam, rather than a group of men at once, to emphasize the value of each, individual life. One man, in himself, is an entire universe. The Bible teaches: you matter. Not some ideal you. Not you as a cog in a big machine. You who you are, right now. You matter. The God who created the universe wants contact with you. Bring your moment-by-moment concerns to God.
Danusha Goska, God Through Binoculars (unpublished)
Another thing that never occurred to me. Just when you think you've gotten all the goodness out of Genesis (and Scripture in general for that matter), someone comes along, flips it sideways, and shows you a new truth that was there all along.

Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History by Rodney Stark

Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic HistoryBearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History by Rodney Stark

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have long been aware of Rodney Stark's excellent work using facts and statistics to set the historical record straight.

This might be the best part of the book, at the end of the introduction:
Finally, I am not a Roman Catholic, and I did not write this book in defense of the Church. I wrote it in defense of history.
And we thank you.

The fact that Stark isn't Catholic matters because it means he doesn't have a dog in this fight. Except, of course, as a historian who loves truth more than "what everyone knows." I was really surprised that every chapter had examples of current historians (who Stark calls "distinguished bigots) perpetuating untruths, usually despite clear evidence from modern  historians who had disproven them.

I really loved this book. Even in the cases where I knew a lot about anti-Catholic history I always learned new and surprising facts. Often this was the result of simply reorienting my thinking.

For example, I knew the Church's inhumane behavior to thousands of people during the Inquisition was largely exaggerated, but I was totally unprepared for archival evidence to show that these claims are a pack of lies. Pack. Of. Lies. It's so ingrained to believe that there was at least some level of culpability that I realize it looks outrageous for me to say this. But it is true.

As are the lies that have been perpetuated about motivating anti-Semitic medieval pogroms culminating in the Holocaust, precipitating the Dark Ages (which never existed, by the way), provoking the Crusades, burning witches, supporting slavery, and much more.

I could go on, but you get the point. No wonder the Church has a hard time among moderns. As Stark himself points out, anyone would resent an organization guilty of the hateful acts that the Catholic Church has been charged with committing throughout history. Luckily for us, he has plenty of facts, usually from secular sources, to show that those crimes never were committed in the first place.

You don't have to just take Stark's word for it. Each chapter has a chart of historians whose work contributed to the proof Stark lays out for us, and there is an extensive bibliography with recommended reading.

Get this book and read it whether you're Catholic or not. The proof is there. The truth matters.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Well Said: God looks like Adam and Adam looks like God

Between 1508 and 1512, on the ceiling of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo depicted the spark of life in the fingertip-to-fingertip, eye-contact encounter between one, loving, creator God and one human being – not a teeming mass – just one person. In Michelangelo's fresco, we see Adam's full naked form, from head to toe. God looks like Adam, and Adam looks like God. They are the same size. Every detail here matters – that Adam is just one man, that he is naked, that he is anatomically detailed, that he is the same size as God, that God and Adam are fundamentally structured the same, that Adam is making eye contact with God, that God looks upon Adam with fiercely attentive love – every detail here has an impact on the life anyone can live in a Judeo-Christian society.
Danusha Goska, God Through Binoculars (unpublished)
This is one of those cases where a painting is so familiar that it never occurred to me to consider what the artist might be saying besides the obvious message. Yes, God creates Adam. But the way that Adam is portrayed compared to God tells us a wealth of information about Michelangelo and theology. And what it tells us, as Danusha Goska points out, is wonderful.

Worth a Thousand Words: Immaculate Heart of Mary Church

Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in San Antonio was built in 1911 by the Claretians,
a community of priests and brothers devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
It is one of the Painted Churches of Texas.
Photograph and caption by Jason Merlo, Merlo Photography
What are the painted churches of Texas?
Cross the threshold of these particular Texas churches and you'll encounter not a simple wooden interior but an unexpected profusion of color. Nearly every surface is covered with bright painting: exuberant murals radiate from the apse, elaborate foliage trails the walls, wooden columns and baseboards shine like polished marble in shades of green and gray. These are the Painted Churches of Texas.

Built by 19th century immigrants to this rough but promising territory, these churches transport the visitor back to a different era, a different way of life. ...
Read all about them here. Jason Merlo Photography has some stunning shots.

Unknowns, and Ghosts, and Hidden Rooms. Oh my!

Chapters 15-17 of The Bat await you at Forgotten Classics podcast.

Live in Dallas? Want to make your good marriage better?

Have we got a deal for you!

The Beyond Cana® marriage retreat offers the time and tools to restore and strengthen marriages - with God and His direction for us at the center.

It's a 2½ day retreat designed to enrich the marriages of couples who want to focus on the communication, respect, love, and intimacy that are so integral to a good marriage.

Tom and I've been helping present this retreat for ten years and can vouch for the way it has made our good marriage better.

The next retreat is July 22-24.

To sign up or for more information, go to the St. Thomas Aquinas website.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: A Paper Trail

A Paper Trail, Karin Jurick
Artist's note: A young lady enthusiastically sketches
on the floor in the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco.

Well Said: Holy Spirit, Work in Us Through Grace

Come, Holy Spirit
Let the precious pearl of the Father
and the Word's delight come.
Spirit of truth,
you are the reward of the saints,
the comforter of souls,
light in the darkness,
riches to the poor,
treasure to lovers,
food for the hungry,
comfort to the wanderer;
you are the one in whom
all treasures are contained.

Come! As you descended on Mary,
that the Word might become flesh
work in us through grace.
St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi,
via Voices of the Saints by Bert Ghezzi
I've read longer prayers to the Holy Spirit, but never better, never richer. This seems to have endless food for meditation. At least, it speaks to me that way.

Free State of Jones movie review

In 1863, Mississippi farmer Newt Knight (Matthew McConaughey) serves as a medic for the Confederate Army. Opposed to slavery, Knight would rather help the wounded than fight the Union. After his nephew dies in battle, Newt returns home to Jones County to safeguard his family but is soon branded an outlaw deserter. Forced to flee, he finds refuge with a group of runaway slaves hiding out in the swamps. Forging an alliance with the slaves and other farmers, Knight leads a rebellion that would forever change history.
Until I saw the trailer, I'd never heard of the anti-Confederate rebellion which came to be known as the Free State of Jones, from which this movie takes its premise. The history around the rebellion and Newton Knight, who has been portrayed as a Civil War Robin Hood, is somewhat muddled.

Perhaps that is why Free State of Jones is a bit of a mess. The director/screenwriter couldn't seem to decide whether he was telling an inspirational story, a morality tale, or a history lesson. The actors do their best but they are given little to sink their teeth into as they are yanked from one focus to another. The result is no focus at all.

Adding to this problem is  a 1960s courthouse tale which is occasionally intercut with the Civil War era story. This was extremely distracting until the very end of the movie where it finally began coming together with the main story.

There were also various anachronisms, beginning with the glass windows in the cabin on Newt Knight's hardscrabble farm.

I was pleased, however, with the way religion was portrayed. It was clear that there was an underlying belief in and reliance on God. If poor people had the luxury of a book it was likely to be a small Bible, and the Bible was used to teach people to read. Despite trying times and several funerals God was never railed against and his promises were always turned to for comfort. This really seemed realistic for the times and, as frequent readers here know, is the way many regular Americans still practice their faith.

Unfortunately, despite some praiseworthy elements, Free State of Jones squanders a fascinating story and the potential of the talented contributors.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Marie Spartali Stillman - Self-Portrait

Marie Spartali Stillman, Self-Portrait, 1871

Summer Reading: My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane
by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and , Jodi Meadows

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.
A GoodReads friend had so much fun reading this that it seemed like the perfect summer book ... and I luckily had an Audible credit burning a hole in my pocket so I plunged it.

For what it was — a humorous, inventive, light, romantic, alternative history — it was practically perfect in every way. It was sometimes silly but always charming and I was glued to it in every spare moment.

There are intrigues, betrayal, arranged marriages, inconvenient shapeshifting, pickpockets, notes slipped under doors, swashbuckling, blackberries, and men with big noses. Mixed with a smidgeon of history. And romances. I can't recall the last time I've been so invested in whether people would kiss.

One could see the major plot points ahead but that didn't matter. The fun ride is the thing wherein the reader is caught.

The story is told from three points of view (Edward, Jane, and Gifford), each of which was written by a different author, but I had to read that information to be sure of it. The story style flows smoothly without any obvious style breaks.  Narrator Katherine Kellgren was over the top sometimes in a way that startled me at first but soon saw perfectly reflected the story. The various accents and voices were perfectly performed.

I loved it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Well Said: We can't leave all our passions behind

My dear Sister, you tell me that you have brought your pride with you. I assure you that I was quite aware of that! If you had left all your passions behind you and were just an unfeeling lump, how could you prove your love and faithfulness to God? Therefore don't worry about your feelings, but fight bravely, leaning on God.
St. Paola Frassinetti
via The Voices of the Saint by Bert Ghezzi
This is something that was pointed out to me recently when I was bemoaning a character trait that I repeatedly try to reform. It is that very character trait which makes me who I am. Perhaps the way I exhibit it might not always be the most pleasing, but I can't leave "me" behind or, as St. Paola says, I'd be a lump!

Worth a Thousand Words: At Ease

At Ease, Karin Jurick

Speak Lord. Your Servant Is Listening.

Breton Girls at Prayer
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1904
via French Painters
Before the Lord the whole universe is as a grain from a balance
or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.
But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things;
and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent.
For you love all things that are
and loathe nothing that you have made;
for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.
And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it;
or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?
But you spare all things, because they are yours,
O Lord and lover of souls,
for your imperishable spirit is in all things!
Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little,
warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing,
that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord!
The Book of Wisdom 11:22-12:2

I present one of my favorite Old Testament passages for our prayerful reflection. It's a wonderful image of love, understanding, and mercy. It also reminds me that Jesus said, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Amen.

Thanks and gratitude for:
  • Rose's job opportunity
  • Deb's father's amazing healing progress
Lord, hear our prayers for:
  • Upcoming Beyond Cana marriage enrichment retreat — for couples attending, for more to sign up, for those presenting the retreat
  • Danusha's healing
  • Zoe's eye to heal
  • Tammy's request
    Continual prayer intentions ...
    • For our government officials to uphold our right to religious liberty
    • An end to abortion and a reverence for life in all stages of age and health.
    • Our priests and for vocations
    • Abortion providers, Lord open their eyes and hearts
    • Strength, joy and peace for oppressed Christians in China, Asia, and the Middle East. Also that their oppressors may have their eyes opened to the truth. And for all those oppressed, actually.
    If you have prayer requests, please leave them in the comments and I'll add them to the list. I keep these in my prayer journal also.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2016

    Worth a Thousand Words: The Gardeners

    Gustave Caillebotte, Les jardiniers, 1875

    Well Said: Understanding Life ... and Living It

    It is perfectly true, as the philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards.
    Soren Kierkegaard

    A Movie You Might Have Missed #56 — Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman

    "In the Oscars someone votes for you or votes against you.
    Racing, you do that yourself."*

    Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman

    Paul Newman's famous for a lot of things: acting, popcorn, salad dressing. But I tend to forget that he also raced cars. I never realized racing absorbed him so much that he ignored his acting career for it. That's just one of the many interesting facets opened up in this film.

    I picked this up because my husband loves documentaries and race cars. This seemed tailor made. I expected to tolerate it but instead I fell in love with this well rounded, subtle picture of a deeply private man.

    As the documentary tracked Newman's increasing love and dedication to racing, we saw him through the eyes of acting buddies like Robert Redford, racing team members, his brother, and his wife, Joanne Woodward. Archival footage fills in the gaps but it is the heart felt stories that draw the viewer in. The film winds up not just being about racing but about everything that Paul Newman loved and his talent for focusing on what absorbed him. In the process, we also learn more about what racing means to those who participate in it.

    In that sense it reminded me of Muscle Shoals where we came for the music but found surprising depth. Most documentaries don't have that sort of range but Winning is a welcome addition to documentaries that left me feeling inspired and that I could gladly watch again.

    * Paraphrased.

    Monday, June 20, 2016

    Worth a Thousand Words: See America

    WPA Poster

    Well Said: A Great Love Constrains Us

    Do not see us as coming to force upon an unknown people benefits against their will. Be assured that only a great love constrains us to do this. For we long, beyond all the desires and glory of the world, to have as many follow citizens with us as we can in the Kingdom of God.
    St. Augustine of Canterbury
    via The Voices of the Saint by Bert Ghezzi
    I like this way of putting it. I'm so accustomed to seeing Christianity attacked that I can become diffident about wanting others to join me in the faith. When you hear the voices long enough you are in danger of beginning to believe them.

    This is a wonderful reminder that it isn't because I want to force people to something. It's because I want them to join me in my great happiness and freedom!

    Genesis Notes: Adam's Resume

    Adam, figure from the Brautpforte (Rathaus Hamburg), Jacob Ungerer

    The Life Application Study Bible has a great feature for major Biblical characters. They do a profile on each one including a summary of their lives, a resume style listing of information, and key verses. It really helps bring the lessons learned from each into focus. I won't reproduce the entire thing here but liked this summary for Adam.
    Strengths and accomplishments:
    • The first zoologist -- namer of animals
    • The first landscape architect, placed in the garden to care for it
    • Father of the human race
    • The first person made in the image of God, and the first human to share an intimate personal relationship with God
    Weaknesses and mistakes:
    • Avoided responsibility and blamed others; chose to hide rather than to confront; made excuses rather than admitting the truth
    • Greatest mistake: teamed up with Eve to bring sin into the world
    Lessons from his life:
    • As Adam's descendants, we all reflect to some degree the image of God.
    • God wants people who, though free to do wrong, choose instead to love him
    • We should not blame others for our faults
    • We cannot hide from God
    Vital statistics:
    • Where: Garden of Eden
    • Occupation: Caretaker, gardener, farmer
    • Relatives: Wife - Eve, Sons - Cain, Abel, Seth, numerous other children. The only man who never had an earthly mother or father
    Key verses:
    The man said, "The woman you put here with me — she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it. (Genesis 3:12)

    Adam's story is told in Genesis 1:26-5:5. He is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 1:1; Luke 3:38; Romans 5:14; Corinthians 15:22, 45; 1 Timothy 2:13, 14.
    This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

    Friday, June 17, 2016

    Worth a Thousand Words: Girl with a Pomegranate

    Girl with a Pomegranate, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1875

    Well Said: What gets us into trouble ...

    What gets us into trouble is not what we don't know. It's what we know for sure that just ain't so.
    Mark Twain

    3 Godfathers

    3 Godfathers


    This is a sweet Western about three desperados who come across a dying woman and promise to save her newborn baby. The outlaws seem like pretty decent guys, except for their habit of robbing banks, so we aren't ever worried about the child's fate as they immediately bend all their slim resources to getting the baby to civilization. That isn't easy because there's a posse on their trail.

    I've been interested in this movie since seeing Tokyo Godfathers which is a family favorite. The idea of the Japanese director being so taken with this film that he created his own version (and an excellent one it is), almost boggles the mind. It certainly makes me take the movie more seriously than I might have otherwise.

    The fact that John Ford shot this in Technicolor in 1948 shows how seriously he took it and how much pull he had with the studios at the time. That made it very expensive indeed.

    Is it the best movie I've ever seen? No. But there was something about it that I can't quite shake so I thought I'd mention it to y'all.  It is worth keeping in mind since it'd make a good Christmas film to break the monotony of the usual candidates, as we often do with Tokyo Godfathers.

    Thursday, June 16, 2016

    Wednesday, June 15, 2016

    Blogging Around: Real Christian Responses to Massacre

    Chick-Fil-A's Example of Living the Christian Faith

    Chick Fil A has made national news for its owner’s stance on gay marriage. Anytime they do something even remotely non-PC, their supposed slip up goes viral. ...

    In a shocking move the Orlando location, at University and Rouse Road, fired up its grills on Sunday. The chain is notorious for not being open—ever—on the first day of the week. Employees cooked up hundreds of their famous chicken sandwiches. They brewed dozens of gallons of sweet tea.

    Then, instead of making a single dime, they crated the product of their labor to the One Blood donation center. The food and drinks were handed out, free of charge, to all the people who had lined up to donate blood.
    This is how we show love ... or should. And they did it without seeking any publicity for it. Read it all here at the DC Gazette.

    More on Orlando, and the depths of meaning in this tragedy.

    Gerard M Nadal says it well. This is only on Facebook ... be sure to click through and read the whole thing. Here's a bit from the body of his comments.
    So into a club walked an Islamist extremist who only saw entities who, in his eyes, all commit sexual sin. What he never saw was the beauty, the care, the grace present in these people. In fact, he never saw persons at all. He never contemplated "The Book" his faith reveres, whose Psalm says, "If you should mark our guilt, Lord, who would survive?"

    Well Said: I could never be a Catholic because ...

    9 May. Miss Shepherd's funeral is at Our Lady of Hal, the Catholic church round the corner. The service has been slotted into the ten o'clock mass, so that, in addition to a contingent of neighbors, the congregation includes what I take to be regulars: the fat little man in thick glasses and trainers who hobbles along to the church every day from Arlington House; several nuns, among them the ninety-nine-year-old sister who was in charge when Miss S. was briefly a novice; a woman in a green straw hat like an upturned plant pot who eats toffees throughout; and another lady who plays the harmonium in tan slacks and a tea-cozy wig. The serve, a middle-aged man with white hair, doesn't wear a surplice, just ordinary clothes with an open-necked shirt, and, but for knowing all the sacred drill, might have been roped in from the group on the corner outside The Good Mixer. The priest is a young Irish boy with a big, red peasant face and sandy hair, and he, too, stripped of his cream-colored cassock, could be wielding a pneumatic drill in the roadworks outside. I keep thinking about these characters during the terrible service, and it reinforces what I have always known: that I could never be a Catholic because I'm such a snob, and that the biggest sacrifice Newman made when he turned his back on the C of E was the social one.
    Alan Bennett, The Lady in the Van
    This might be one of the biggest compliments to the Church I've ever read.

    Worth a Thousand Words: Wavering Canal

    Wavering Canal, 2001, Andrew Jones


    Rich walnut-oatmeal bars with a baked-in sweet chocolate filling. And they're super easy and super popular. Pick them up at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

    In which Miss Cornelia gets sneaky.

    Episode 309 of Forgotten Classics, The Bat, chapters 13-14. Come join us!

    Tuesday, June 14, 2016

    Worth a Thousand Words: Place d'Anvers

    Place d'Anvers, Paris; Federico Zandomeneghi; 1880

    Genesis Notes: Pride and Suffering

    Thomas Cole, Expulsion from the Garden of Eden

    GENESIS 3:16-19
    The punishment meted out to Adam and Eve seems severe. What about another chance? It turns out that human suffering is that second chance.

    All Adam would have had to do was to cry out to God for help from the serpent. Yet he didn't. Genesis Part 1: God and His Creation looks at this using the example of a good parent who must punish their child to get them to save them from a greater ill.
    That singular act in the Garden — crying out for God's help — would have altered the course of human history. Why? Because it would have given expression to the life God's grace intended man to live. Man's faith would have prized the unseen God as his greatest good, no matter how intimidating the serpent or how appealing the fruit. His cry for help would have meant humility and obedience. Instead of love for God, man chose self-love. In his pride, there was silence.

    Is it any wonder, then, that God allows a measure of suffering to overtake the human creatures? When they lost God's grace, and spiritual blindness set in, they would need some strong incentive to choose to do what they were originally designed to do-put themselves into God's hands, no matter what. Suffering, then, means that God has not given up on His human creatures. He wants them to run into His arms, as every good father delights in the love and trust of his children. He will do whatever it takes, even if it means playing the ogre, to provoke His children to cry out to Him. If Adam and Eve have lost the grace of God in their lives, a loss they will pass on to their progeny, then this kind of suffering and misery, still with us in the world today, is the greatest act of love God could bestow on them and us. Anyone who suffers has an opportunity to experience his own frailty, powerlessness, and desperate need for God's help. One cry will change everything.
    The Complete Bible Handbook points out that the Jewish understanding of The Fall is about as opposite as you can get from the Christian view.
    Judaism does not see in the Genesis story the "Fall of Man." It may be that Adam and Eve disobeyed God, but God stayed in conversation with them. Seeking wisdom and distinguishing between good and evil become essential human attributes. Toiling for food and suffering pain in childbirth are the prices paid for knowledge. For Judaism, if there is a "fall" in Genesis, it is a fall upward into new opportunities of responsibility and achievement. Christians see a radical fault that affects all subsequent humans. The fault of the first Adam has been dealt with by Jesus, who as the second Adam, brings redemption to the world.
    This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

    Julie wants to look at Medusa. Scott wants a second ride on the scorpion monster.

    Virgil reminds them this isn't an amusement park. There's serious work to be done when you go straight to Hell.

    Inferno, the first volume of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy is the subject of Episode 135 at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

    Monday, June 13, 2016

    Worth a Thousand Words: 1930's Modern Publicity

    Via BibliOdyssey
    Many more images from this early commercial art magazine may be found at BibliOdyssey.

    A Movie You Might Have Missed #55: Ushpizin

    You see a lemon. They see a miracle.

    #55. Ushpizin

    In Jerusalem's orthodox neighborhoods, it's Succoth, seven days celebrating life's essentials in a sukkah, a temporary shack of both deprivation and hospitality. A devout couple, Moshe and Mali, are broke and praying for a miracle. They can't afford to build a sukkah, they can't afford food for a feast, and they have no guests. Their prayers are answered. But those answers bring their own tests of faith, beginning with the Ushpizin, the guests that unexpectedly show up on their doorstep.

    I really can't believe I haven't mentioned this movie here before. It became an instant favorite as soon as we watched it.

    Above all, the story is that of Moshe and Mali as we watch their relationship tested. Their chemistry and love is undeniable and forms the backbone of the story. Each wants the best for their marriage and each other and yet, as is always the case, life and especially the upcoming holiday throws unexpected challenges their way.

    This is a tale of love and living your faith to the fullest which is, of course, why it resonates with me. The fact that this is managed in a light, humorous piece about such a foreign culture just goes to show the artistry that went into this film.

    What's helpful to know before you watch:
    • Succoth is a 7-day Jewish festival when meals are eaten in a sukkah, a temporary booth of both deprivation and hospitality. Men also sleep there. It is considered a blessing to have guests at that time.
    • Moshe's orthodox Braslov Hasidism particularly emphasizes personal and emotional connection to God.
    • The four species are four plants mentioned in Torah in connection with succoth, one of which is the etrog (citron fruit).
    • Low level criminals in Israel can get out for a while on leave, evidently being on the honor system for showing back up again.
    If you want more background information after watching, read Joseph Suzanka's review which I how I first heard of it. He has some wonderful insights and the background of the movie is almost as good as the movie itself.

    Scott and I also discussed it at A Good Story is Hard to Find, where Leah's comments on the blog gives some excellent clarification on questions of the faith and attitudes in the film.

    Well Said: The Rhodora

    On being asked, whence is the flower.

    In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
    I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
    Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
    To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
    The purple petals fallen in the pool
    Made the black water with their beauty gay;
    Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
    And court the flower that cheapens his array.
    Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
    This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
    Tell them, dear, that, if eyes were made for seeing,
    Then beauty is its own excuse for Being;
    Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
    I never thought to ask; I never knew;
    But in my simple ignorance suppose
    The self-same power that brought me there, brought you.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Friday, June 10, 2016

    The Vatican Cookbook by David Geisser

    The Vatican Cookbook: Favorite Recipes, Stories, and Prominent Portraits of the Holy FathersThe Vatican Cookbook: Favorite Recipes, Stories, and Prominent Portraits of the Holy Fathers by David Geisser

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    This is as much about the Swiss Guard as it is a cookbook, but I counted that as a plus. With the brief biographies and history of the Guard, plus the gorgeous photography, I wound up feeling as if I'd gotten an insider's tour of the Vatican and met some of the people who live and work there. One interesting point, which shows just how varied the Swiss Guard's members are, is that the person who wrote the recipes was an accomplished and respected master chef before he left that behind to join up. Originally the Guard had planned to write a little booklet of their history but after he came on board the book took on a new life to become The Vatican Cookbook.

    The recipes themselves range from gourmet to such familiar basics as Spaghetti Carbonara. They are drawn from the home country favorites of Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI, and Holy Pope John Paul II which is another nice touch that makes you feel a bit of connection with the Vatican. Also included are favorites of major Vatican and Swiss Guard officials, so there is a wider range than you might expect.

    This is a lovely coffee table book but I plan on trying out some of the recipes too. It would make a perfect special occasion gift for your favorite Catholic friends.

    I did NOT get this as a review book but spent my own hard earned cash on it. It is just the sort of book my beloved mother-in-law would have gotten me for my birthday were she still alive. So I stood in for her.

    Worth a Thousand Words: Rain at Yabakei

    Rain At Yabakei, Goyo Hashiguchi, 1918

    Lagniappe: Nobody Walks Slower Than You

    "Who did you pass on the road?" the King went on, holding out his hand to the Messenger for some more hay.

    "Nobody," said the Messenger.

    "Quite right," said the King: "this young lady saw him too. So of course Nobody walks slower than you."

    "I do my best," the Messenger said in a sulky tone. "I'm sure nobody walks much faster than I do!"

    "He can't do that," said the King, "or else he'd have been here first. ..."
    Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There

    Thursday, June 9, 2016

    Jennifer the Damned by Karen Ullo

    Jennifer the Damned
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    I can't recall how this book got on my radar but it immediately piqued my interest. A teenage vampire, adopted by nuns, who goes to Catholic school, and yearns for the chance to take Communion ... with many reviews at Amazon praising it as "literature, rich with vampire lore and intertwined with Catholic doctrine." I was thrilled when the author offered me a review copy.

    Sixteen year old Jennifer Carshaw, isn't living in a world where vampires are taken as a matter of fact. The nuns had no idea why their adopted charge would only eat raw meat.

    With her unusual background, Jennifer's got full knowledge of good and evil. She also, which is more important, longs for the capacity to experience true love and closeness to God. All of which are impossible for someone without a soul. This provides a rich background for a fast-paced horror novel which is also funny, intelligent, and spiritually deep.

    It is a YA novel so when we meet Jennifer she's worrying about the usual high school problems. This is no sparkly vampire tale. When Jennifer matures into a full-fledged vampire the true horror unfolds as she spirals out of control, pinging between good and evil desires.

    This is also when the true horror unfolds for the reader. We've learned to like Jennifer by this point and watching her become evil is hard to take. The lack of a soul has real consequences and we see the devastating trail of destruction.

    In fact, there was one point where I put the book down, distressed by my inability to reconcile Jennifer's decisions with the character I loved. It took me months to pick it up again. However, I am very glad that I finally did. The author opens the door for the reader to really grapple with evil, deliberate sin, the consequences of lost hope, and redemption. This is all done with full belief in Catholic dogma but without ever hitting the reader over the head with religion, believe it or not.

    I didn't love some of the more obvious YA elements such as all the romances and vignettes of high school at the beginning. However, I'm not the book's prime audience and I've ignored much worse in pursuit of a good story. Since this is an excellent story, they are indeed minor quibbles.

    To give you a sample, here is the bit where I knew I was really in for a unique ride.
    What happens during Mass — more specifically, during Holy Communion — is one of the most contentious issues between Catholics and Protestants. Catholics believe that, during the Eucharist, bread and wine are transformed into the actual Body and Blood of Jesus, in accordance with the words He spoke at the Last Supper. Most Protestants believe Jesus was speaking in metaphor and Communion is merely a symbol. Centuries of holy wars could have been avoided if people had just invited a vampire to Mass. If the Catholics were right — if the Eucharist was really the Blood of the Son of God — then it would send us into a frothing, rabid rage.

    Which, of course, it does.

    My mother had discovered this truth for herself nine hundred years ago. She was walking past a tiny, rustic church in France when a scent slammed against her olfactory nerves, so overpowering that she burst through the doors and killed six people just by throwing them out of her way. As she snatched the holy chalice from the altar, one single purple drop still glistened in the golden cup.

    "I am only alive today, Jennifer," she said, "because I found the strength not to drink it. That one drop would have satisfied a thousand years of thirst ‚ and that one drop would have killed me."
    It is rare to find a book of this calibre. Having just finished rereading Dracula for the umpteenth time before I finished this book, I've had "the blood is the life" resonating in my head for days.

    Lagniappe: Which Way to Go From Here

    "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

    “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

    “I don’t much care where –” said Alice.

    “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

    “– so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.

    “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
    Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

    Worth a Thousand Words: Hunting Flight

    Hunting Flight
    taken by Remo Savisaar

    This is spectacular when seen full size. Click the link above for a larger view.

    Wednesday, June 8, 2016

    Genesis Notes: The Consequences

    Gustave Doré, Adam and Eve hiding from God
    GENESIS 3:7-15
    This is the scene when God comes calling and Adam and Eve hide from Him. I almost could laugh at the whole "blame game" they play, pointing fingers at everyone but refusing to take any personal responsibility. No one even says they are sorry at all. However, it is too serious to laugh at because this doesn't just affect them but all of us, which is still how it is when we sin today. Also, just as today, is the fact that God already knows what they have done. He is giving them a chance to redeem themselves by confessing their sins. He doesn't need their confession. It is for their benefit. What a shame that they didn't take advantage of that chance. Even today we fall into the same trap. I think that is why Reconciliation is such a wonderful sacrament. There is nothing so wonderful as being able to face up to your sins, confession and being forgiven, as well as being strengthened for future struggles against temptation.

    The surprise for me in this segment of study was realizing that when God tells how the devil will be defeated, He is deliberately choosing the most ignominious way to do it. What could be worse than knowing you will be put in the power of those you despise as the devil does humans? This is when we see what is a major theme of Genesis: God does His work through reversals.
    ... a battle already existed in the rebellion of Satan against God. The difference now is that God is gong to extend the battle to include the human beings. Initially, the humans had been targets of the devil's wrath against God. But now God is going to enlist the humans on His side. Could the serpent have possibly imagined this incredible twist? It is the first great reversal in the story of man. From this point on, reversal will be the underlying theme of our human history. Pause now to think carefully about this. However we come to understand ourselves and our world, we must get this one truth firmly in place — God does His work through reversals.

    Remember the contempt for the humans that filled the serpent, infusing that deadly conversation he began with Eve? The devil despised Adam and Eve. They must have looked like such dupes to him. He decided he would strike out at God by striking out at them. He made patsies of them in short order. They appeared to be weak links in the chain. So, when God announces that the serpent, as his punishment, will face a battle with human creatures, the woman and her seed, in which he will be defeated, it is a crushing, mortal blow to his pride and arrogance. We need to linger long enough to let it really sink in. Whatever the devil attempted to rob from humanity — our life, our dignity, our exalted position in God's family-is more than made up for in the punishment meted out to him. God will vanquish His enemy through human beings!
    This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

    Well Said: Fulfillment

    Fulfillment does not lie in comfort, ease, and following one's inclinations, but precisely in allowing demands to be made upon you, in taking the harder path. Everything else turns out somehow boring, anyway. Only the person who recognizes an ideal he must satisfy, who takes on real responsibility, will find fulfillment. It is not in taking, not on the path of comfort that we become rich, but only in giving.
    Pope Benedict XVI

    Worth a Thousand Words: Cypress Trees in Cibolo Creek

    Cypress trees reflected in Cibolo Creek, Cibolo Nature Center - Boerne, Texas
    by Jason Merlo Photography, used by permission

    Tuesday, June 7, 2016

    A Movie You Might Have Missed #54 : Tell No One

    Tell No One

    (2006 ‘Ne le dis à personne’)


    Eight years ago, Alex's wife was murdered.

    Today she emailed him.

    Tell No One, as Jack Black says in School of Rock, "will test your head, and your mind, and your brain."

    Partly that's because it is a truly fast paced thriller which one must keep up with while reading French subtitles. Sometimes we had to go back and reread a couple which were obliquely referring to plot points while delivered quickly in brief bursts. However, it was definitely worth it.

    This director must love American thrillers. Tell No One has the pacing, sound, look, and (most importantly) plot of a top notch Hollywood thriller. Partly that's because the original story is from Harlen Coben who cowrote the script with the director. Partly that's because the acting and directing were right on target.

    The many twists keep you guessing and just when you are convinced that you've seen a couple of loose ends go by, they get neatly wrapped up. I was even more impressed when I read Roger Ebert's review afterward and realized many of the subtle points that I missed.
    If you give enough thought to the film, you'll begin to realize that many of the key roles are twinned, high and low. There are two cops closely on either side of retirement age. Two attractive brunettes. A cop and a crook who have similar personal styles. Two blondes who are angular professional women. Two lawyers. One of the assassins looks a little like Alex, but has a beard. Such thoughts would never occur during the film, which is too enthralling. But it shows what love and care went into the construction of the puzzle.
    This is a movie that is definitely worth watching at least twice.

    Well Said: Each and All

    Little thinks, in the field, yon red-cloaked clown,
    Of thee from the hill-top looking down;
    The heifer that lows in the upland farm,
    Far-heard, lows not thine ear to charm;
    The sexton, tolling his bell at noon,
    Deems not that great Napoleon
    Stops his horse, and lists with delight,
    Whilst his files sweep round yon Alpine height;
    Nor knowest thou what argument
    Thy life to thy neighbor's creed has lent.
    All are needed by each one;
    Nothing is fair or good alone.
    I thought the sparrow's note from heaven,
    Singing at dawn on the alder bough;
    I brought him home, in his nest, at even;
    He sings the song, but it pleases not now,
    For I did not bring home the river and sky; —
    He sang to my ear, — they sang to my eye.

    The delicate shells lay on the shore;
    The bubbles of the latest wave
    Fresh pearls to their enamel gave;
    And the bellowing of the savage sea
    Greeted their safe escape to me.
    I wiped away the weeds and foam,
    I fetched my sea-born treasures home;
    But the poor, unsightly, noisome things
    Had left their beauty on the shore,
    With the sun, and the sand, and the wild uproar.

    The lover watched his graceful maid,
    As 'mid the virgin train she stayed,
    Nor knew her beauty's best attire
    Was woven still by the snow-white choir.
    At last she came to his hermitage,
    Like the bird from the woodlands to the cage; —
    The gay enchantment was undone,
    A gentle wife, but fairy none.

    Then I said, "I covet truth;
    Beauty is unripe childhood's cheat;
    I leave it behind with the games of youth:" —
    As I spoke, beneath my feet
    The ground-pine curled its pretty wreath,
    Running over the club-moss burrs;
    I inhaled the violet's breath;
    Around me stood the oaks and firs;
    Pine-cones and acorns lay on the ground;
    Over me soared the eternal sky,
    Full of light and of deity;
    Again I saw, again I heard,
    The rolling river, the morning bird; —
    Beauty through my senses stole;
    I yielded myself to the perfect whole.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Worth a Thousand Words: A Domestic Interior

    Charles Joseph Grips, A Domestic Interior, 1881
    It's the cat that makes it work. As anyone who has a cat would tell you. Or any cat would tell you, for that matter. If they deigned to bother with conversation.

    Rose on Reading Envy: A Good Era for Communists

    Rose joins Jenny on the Reading Envy podcast ... where they cover a lot of ground, historically and geographically, from moody moors to being raised by vampires for political reasons to whether or not an Oprah Book Club sticker makes us more or less interested to read a book.

    I can't wait to hear this! Two of my favorite people, both ambitious readers, finally together!

    I see that the "books mentioned" list manages to rival my own. Nicely done ladies!

    Monday, June 6, 2016

    June 6, 2016 by George Allan England

    Jesse came across this story, written a hundred years ago, which predicted what life would be like "in the world of tomorrowwwwww."

    I read it aloud and then Jesse, Paul, Maissa and I discuss it at SFFaudio.

    I was surprised at what George England got right and interested in some of the inventions he got wrong. I wonder what the author would think of the future? Listen in and find out.

    Well Said

    Look around. You can't tell who was conceived with wine and roses and who was conceived on a street corner.

    Worth a Thousand Words: Cat Nap

    Cat Nap,
    public domain from the British Library's Children's Book Illustrations
    via Lines and Colors

    Thursday, June 2, 2016

    Vikings at Dino's: A Novel of Lunch and Mayhem by Will Duquette

    Vikings at Dino's: A Novel of Lunch and MayhemVikings at Dino's: A Novel of Lunch and Mayhem by William Duquette

    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    When the Viking war party burst through the front entrance of Dino’s Burgers & More, it was second nature for me to slide quietly under my table. When you’re small for your age, it’s often useful not to be noticed. Once on the floor I waited on events, peering out as best I could past the swivel seats, and wondering what was going to happen. Vikings are not a usual sight at Dino’s. I could tell they were Vikings, because they were wearing bear-skins and helmets with horns on them. There were six or seven of them, all heavily armed. I use the word “heavily” with precision—the battle axes they were toting so nonchalantly looked too big for me to lift. I admit to being suspicious of their motives. Most people I see walking into Dino’s, I figure they are there to eat something. Vikings, well, you have to assume Vikings are there for plunder. The big question in my mind was, were they planning to plunder the living or the dead?
    This book is great fun. It is also a wonderful adventure as Michael tracks down not only the Vikings' origins but other mysteries. And tries, repeatedly, to have lunch.

    I don't want to say too much because a lot of the joy is in letting the story sweep you along. I will say that I was greatly impressed by Will Duquette's imagination and the way I could "see" the different, exotic locations. I was put in mind of C.S. Lewis's ability to create "worlds" for Mars and Venus in his science fiction series.

    Full disclosure. I am friends with the author and read the book in various stages of development. That's no guarantee I'd like it or say that I liked it. But I really, really did.

    Worth a Thousand Words: Persephone and Sisyphus

    Persephone supervising Sisyphus in the Underworld,
    Attica black-figure amphora (vase), c. 530 BC
    Photo source

    Well Said: Continual Tide of the Human Condition

    Treading water isn't good enough. There is a continual tide of the human condition that can carry us away. If we're not actively trying to move forward, then we're falling behind.
    Father John Libone
    Oh and how well I know it. I still catch myself trying to float on that tide, so to speak, for a bit of a holiday. And how do I catch myself? Because I realize how far I've been swept back by the tide.

    UPDATED - Blogging Around: Dear Hollywood, Why Do You Want Me Dead?

    I hadn't heard of Me Before You, either the book or the movie, but am appalled at the premise. (Sometimes living under a rock is a good thing.) 

    An 11-year-old wheelchair athlete responds to the upcoming movie, Me Before You, which celebrates choosing suicide as a response to being handicapped or paralyzed.
    This could have been a great movie. It could have been the love story of two people and one of them just happens to use a chair. It happens all the time. The people in love don’t think about the chair. It’s the other people who think it’s a big deal.

    The thing about the chair is it’s just a thing. It’s my legs. It’s how I get around. That’s it.

    While you’re sitting in your offices crying about the bravery of this guy who kills himself and leaves everyone else to mourn him, which seems pretty selfish to me, I’m going to be out living the amazing life you didn’t even bother to know was possible. I have friends, and go on sleep-overs, and live a regular life. A life that doesn’t make me want to die. It makes me happy that it’s mine.
    Amen! Read the whole article at Alateia.

    ALSO: as the other side of how to tell this story, allow me to recommend two movies, both French as it turns out — Intouchables and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Unlike Me Before You, both those films are based on real stories.

    Sherry at Semicolon wrote a review of the book a few years ago which she has reposted for anyone interested. Short version: she calls the book "poisonous."

    Rebecca Frech says Me Before You highlights society's bias against disabled people. As the mother of a wheelchair user, she had supplemental questions to add to the book club discussion questions in the back of the book. See her whole piece at National Catholic Register. Here's are a few of the questions, which I found good as a refresher for regular life.
    • Will’s life is portrayed as being valuable only in relation to other people and in what he means to them. Does his life have intrinsic value independent of anyone’s opinion, even his own?
    • This book/movie has been applauded by the able-bodied community, but almost universally condemned by those in the disability community. Is that an indication that perhaps there’s a problem with the way his life has been portrayed?
    • The only suicides that are shown as acceptable by Hollywood standards, and applauded by audiences, are those of disabled individuals. Can the suicides of healthy, able-bodied people be justified in a similar way?

    Wednesday, June 1, 2016

    Genesis Notes: Temptation and Response

    The Fall of Adam and Eve as depicted in the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo

    GENESIS 3:4-5
    We also are shown how Satan cleverly twists the truth, putting a "spin" on it to serve his own purposes. He makes his offer in such a way that Adam and Eve must have total trust in God to prevail. This makes it a little easier for me to understand Adam and Eve's behavior. I always wondered how anyone who got to walk with God every day could make such a choice. Well, we've all got weak spots, right? Genesis Part 1: God and His Creation prompts me to have a little more compassion for Adam and Eve who are looking the devil right in the eye and having to think on their feet.
    They know what God has revealed to them to be good and evil, although they have not yet experienced it. The serpent suggests not that they shall experience evil (for where is the attraction in that?) but that they will be able to determine for themselves what is good or evil. This temptation strikes at the heart of their relationship with God. Can they trust God to be the only reliable authority about what is good and evil? Don't they want to figure it out for themselves?

    John tells us that Satan "is a liar and the father of lies." Satan is adept at lying under the cover of partial or twisted truth. When he says "You will not die," there is a grain of truth in it. Adam and Eve do not die physically the moment they eat the fruit. Their death was a spiritual one, and, as we will see, it happened immediately. This characteristic of Satan-mixing a little truth with a lie-is what makes him so cunning and dangerous.
    This is probably one of the most surprising things I read about Genesis ... that Eve wasn't alone when she was tempted. The use of second person plural in Hebrew makes it clear that Adam was there too. Holy Moly! That changes my view of the whole thing. It also is interesting because it shows the two ways we tend to respond to temptation ... taking action as Eve did or passive acceptance as Adam showed.
    Because Eve turns and gives fruit to her husband, it appears Adam is right there with her in the garden. Some Bible translations are more specific: the NIV says she "gave some to her husband, who was with her." That is perhaps the only way to get across in English what is abundantly clear in the Hebrew. All the verbs the serpent uses are in the second person plural, indicating that he is speaking to more than one person. We are not told why Adam is silent. Given that he is in charge and sees it all happening, he should do something. Quite possibly the snake was intimidating, if not physically, then by the fact that he appears to have superior knowledge and contradicts God. Adam may be wondering where he came from -- why God didn’t warn him -- where God was at the moment -- whether the serpent was right, and whether he should do what it says because right now it looks pretty dangerous. Perhaps Adam perceives a veiled threat from the serpent when he assures Eve that they wouldn’t die if they eat the fruit. "No, eating it won’t make you die, but not eating it might." At the most basic level, the serpent’s challenge causes Adam to wonder whether he can trust God. And-like uncertainty does to us so often-he’s rendered speechless and unwilling to act ...

    Adam’s status as child of God, husband of Eve, and keeper of the garden requires him to stand up in some way to the serpent, and he does not. He should have stepped in to defend his bride, the garden, and God’s name in whatever way that battle had to be fought. If the thought of that was frightening to him, he could have cried out for help from God: "Oh, Father! What do I do now?" Was he silent because he was calculating the cost of opposing the serpent? Did he think it might cost him his life, or, if not his life, at least some pain? Did he find no encouragement in the presence of the Tree of Life? God had said the only way he would die would be to eat of the forbidden fruit. Does he not trust God?

    No, he does not. His trust in God dies when he encounters the serpent. He does not trust God enough to face down the challenger, whatever it might cost. Adam’s unwillingness to act, even if it meant suffering, left Eve vulnerable to the serpent. She is left to manage all on her own. She valiantly tries to make the best of it, but what effect does Adam’s silence and inaction have on her? Adam’s self-donation would have confirmed her in what she knew to be true about God. His living example of putting complete trust in God’s Word would have led her to do the same.
    This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.