Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Unstoppable by Kirk Cameron: A movie review

Earlier this month I took the kids out of school in order to see Kirk Cameron’s documentary, “Unstoppable”, at a theater not-so-near to us.  My sister and niece joined us to make the three-hour round trip because we had seen the trailer (watch it above) and thought it would be worth the time and expense.  It was.
Kirk Cameron has said of this film, “this is the most personal project I have ever made regarding my faith”.  It was prompted by the death of a close family friend and in it, he seeks to tackle the monumental questions, ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ and ‘Why does God allow evil in this world?’  The kind of questions all people of conscience ask at some point in their lives.  Kudos to Kirk for his integrity, inspiration and strength in creating a documentary that rips across the current of feel-good, shallow secular humanist films that are typical of Hollywood.  
The film wasn’t exactly what I expected, but yet I wasn’t disappointed either.  I had expected more interviews and insights from others, but this is very much Kirk Cameron’s take on Holy Scripture, beginning with a recreation of Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden.  This was well done, discreet and thought provoking;  I was given pause to consider how Adam may have viewed the earth in those first days.  The depiction was even more beautiful as Eve beheld Adam for the first time.  As a side note, I thought how this imagery is missing from modern films -- the notion of subtlety vs. explicit images, of male, female and agape love.  
The youngest of our crew is in 6th grade and, although this film is unrated, it does contain some graphic scenes relating to Eve’s creation and the murder of Abel that may be disturbing for a young audience.    In fact, the brutality of Cain is my only criticism of the whole documentary.   I thought the scene of Abel’s death was too long and gruesome... but then again, perhaps the idea was to emphasize the life force in the blood. 
Cameron isn’t seeking to answer these tough questions in a simple, concise manner.  Rather, he utilizes story telling from modern experiences in view of God’s Word to prompt the audience to consider God’s response to evil since the creation of the world.  It worked for us;  we’re still talking about it four weeks later.  The soundtrack is stirring, too.  I was introduced to Warren Barfield’s, “The Time is Now” and my daughter has added several of the songs from Unstoppable to her ipod.  
The highlight for me was being allowed a glimpse into the humanity of Kirk Cameron.  It takes an enormous amount of strength to live our Christian life in this world-- maybe even more so for those who command a spotlight based on American pop/entertainment culture.  The insight I gained  into his humility leads me to believe that he is a genuine Christian man with a fierce love for God. 
If you’re just hearing about Unstoppable for the first time, it’s too late to see it at the theater.  It showed only twice (and grossed $2 million on 700 American screens ~ wow!) and will be made available in January 2014 on DVD for home use.  I’ll be purchasing this as well, as it really is a very thought provoking, useful way to share our Christian faith and promote discussion about the tough questions of life and death.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

the Facebook Fast

I used to feel THIS way about Facebook:

You know, all warm and fuzzy and sipping my cup o joe and looking at the photos posted by my friends...laughing, ooing and ahhing at peeps who are venting anger, "tellin' it like it is"...clicking my "likes" to let others know 'hey!  I agree with you!'...  or finding those rare gems of theological discussion/debate that I could put my .02 into.  

Lately, I feel THIS way about Facebook:

 You know, icky and disturbed at the plethora of statuses  - stati? , the images and news shared.  The news that makes me spend countless hours reading related articles to determine the veracity.  The constant ads (why does facebook want me to hook up with singles in my area?  don't they know I'm married?)...the waste of time and then to realize that - I - am a part of that at some level.  I mean, don't I post stuff to boost my ego?   to see how many peeps will "like" what I say?    Ugh.      

The longer I stay away, the less I want to return.  So, I'm doing the Facebook fast.   It's having a positive effect on me spiritually -- and, by turning my attention here, where I can sit quietly and pound out my thoughts in a therapeutic way, that beneficial effect is doubled.    

I've been checking in every few days to see if I have a private message on FB, but that's it.    So, for the few peeps who read this, you know where to find me ; ' )   

Blessings to you as you find your own peace and resources for spiritual growth! 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Spiritual Fitness

Ever since Fr. Olaf, our priest, delivered his homily on spiritual growth a few weeks past, his words have remained with me.  I wish I had the quote from the desert father he used to share,  but alas, I didn't make note of it.  The essence of his sermon was this:  when we spend years on our education, grade school through high school and then embark upon college and graduate years in order to obtain the knowledge and skills we need to begin a career, why do we think that spiritual growth/education comes without study?  

 "Do we assume this education comes to us by osmosis?", Fr. Olaf asked. 

You could also liken it to an athlete.  Why do we easily see how endurance training and eating properly and lifting weights contributes to a fit body and successful competition, but we fail to see how training in the spiritual realm benefits our soul?

We could spend a lifetime training for spiritual fitness.  Reading Holy Scripture, praying, fasting,  and reading the lives of the saints are great places to begin.  Making these things a part of every day, whether we feel like it or not, has great benefits for the soul!   Who doesn't want to be stronger in this regard?  To be a great oak that others may lean on in times of trouble, or an anchor among friends going through traumatic circumstances... being a source of peace and able to share the light of the Kingdom of Heaven.

And something I've noticed about myself:  the more time I spend on strengthening my spirit, the less inclined I am to succumb to temptations.  It takes EFFORT, just like training for our business, academic or athletic goals.  An effort that, toward the end of our days, will prepare us to share in the sentiments of St. Paul when he said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith."

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Unlike the Whitewashed Tombs...

We, as Christians are called to be full of Truth so that our outward appearance of serving Christ matches the inner reality of honestly serving Him.  We have a high calling in this life!  We, the Church, are the Bride of Christ and called to holiness, to be light in this world... to be a beacon on the hill. (St. Matthew 5)
I am feeling very blessed today, very humbled and profoundly grateful for the events that have come my way in the past three weeks.  For more than a year, since learning about human sex trafficking, I have felt compelled to do my part in stopping this horrific crime - to raise awareness, to pray for captives and encourage others to do the same.     At times I’ve felt despondent, even angry with God for not showing me what to DO with all the STUFF welling up in my heart.  
There are so many lessons to learn in our journey with Christ on this earth, not the least of which is from Isaiah 30 - to wait patiently upon the Lord.  All things come to us for our salvation and He grants us blessed freedom in how we respond to all situations.  We have a God of justice and he hears our cries, he works all things for good according to his purpose for those who love Him. (Romans 8) 
Sometimes I understand the answer to a particular prayer through a gradual unfolding of events... the words of a friend or certain passage in Holy Scripture or other spiritual writing.  Sometimes I understand answered prayers because of healing or joy --  but in this recent case, the answers came like a BOLT of lightning to my soul:  resources that I needed came abounding, people came into my life (very unexpectedly) who have the same desire of heart, and doors have opened... hearts have opened; prayer warriors have come forth.  I am renewed in my faith and that’s why I’m sharing this with you.

Tree of Life, Bahrain

Do not be weary, do not give up ~ you will reap a harvest when the time is right!  (a paraphrase from Galatians 6:9)  Like a tree during seasons of drought, the roots are made stronger by digging deep for nourishment... so is our faith made stronger by waiting upon the Lord.  Be faithful to Him Who created the world and holds us in His mighty Hands, do not fail the test given to you.  
Know this:  when you are doing something to advance the Kingdom of Heaven, be prepared for attack from our enemy.  It is precisely those who are on God’s path that the enemy wishes to strike down; be prepared for battle.    Yes, that whole Ephesians 6 thing.   The spiritual armor spoken of there isn’t literary eloquence, it’s quite literally the shield of the human race.  Remember this when doubt comes... when your ideas are opposed by mediocre minds..when depression seeks to rob your joy.  Remember that the enemy wishes to overwhelm you, to render you numb and voiceless.  Remember the flaming darts of the enemy are extinguished by faith in our risen Savior, Who has overcome the world. 
Higher ground in the spiritual life is not achieved by comfort, when life is sterling.  It’s achieved by digging in, by doing what’s difficult, standing firm in your faith when  prayers are dry and answers seem hidden. .. it’s achieved by seeking humility amid anger, discouragement and fear.    It’s achieved by obedience to God.

      Whatever your struggles are today, may the God of peace be with you.

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