Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lord I want to go to heaven.... but I don't want to go tonight....

The title of this post comes from a Joe Diffie song called "Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die" - I think that it is pretty emblematic of a number of Christians that I know, and frankly, of myself on frequent occasions.

This morning I read the following article in Relevant magazine:

in which the author offers up an opinion piece about what it means to really be a Christian and look to heaven as our daily destination - rather than a place we'll go once we "reach our earthly goals."

This article really resonates with me, because so many of my friends have said things to me like "Well, I really want Jesus to come back - but I want it to be after I get married (read: have sex) and have kids." And my internal response to this comment (ok, sometimes my external response, too) is always, "Really?!?!"

I think that this shows how little we really think or know about what it will be like to be in heaven, or on earth for that matter. We completely underestimate the grace of God on earth and the presence of God in heaven.

In "The Four Loves" C.S. Lewis says "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

When I first read the quote above, it really struck me how little I had been letting God infuse my day to day life. (I often still live this way, mud pies and all) And as I grew in Christ, I was continually reminded through scripture and prayer and experience, how much better heaven is and will be than this earthly coil.

As I experience my friends' marriages and learn about their struggles, I see that heaven will be a LOT better. (even better than the best marriages) As I play with my friends' children and enjoy their presence, I see the heaven will be a LOT better. Heaven will even be better than the feeling I get when my dog rushes to greet me when I come home.

I mean a LOT better.

But when we are living here on this planet, its really hard to remember that day in and day out. We get sort of coated with the reality of earth, lulled - like Dorothy in a sea of poppies - into thinking that the best of earth is the best there is anywhere. I think this is one of the devil's best tricks. If we can be convinced that the best there is is the best there is on earth, we will turn our heads aside from heaven, and ultimately God, and be satisfied with the mud pies.

My friend Karen always says that its like we are drinking glasses of toilet water when the freshest, coldest waterfall is right next to us just waiting to fill our glasses.

So for 2011, my prayer for me and for you, friend, is that we would enjoy what we have on earth, but only in the context of what we will have in heaven. That we will look expectantly toward God's coming with joy and not live in fear that God will return "before I have sex" or "before I get pregnant" or "before Baylor wins the Women's NCAA tourney" whenever any of those things may be. May instead we pray with the disciple: Come quickly Lord Jesus and do not tarry.

Monday, December 27, 2010

True Grit (Movie Review)

Last night my parents and I headed up over to the Cine Capri in Scottsdale to see True Grit. My mom remembered the original fondly, and was convinced that my dad and I would like it (despite neither of us having seen the original).

The story is that a man is killed by a drifter, and the man's 14yr old daughter, Maddy, decides that it is her responsibility to see the man caught and brought to justice - since no one else seems to care. She hires a drunken US Marshal, named Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), to search for the killer. She says that he's the one she chooses because he has "true grit." Along the way, they team up with and spar with a Texas Ranger named Le Beouf (Matt Damon).

The dictionary defines grit as "indomitable spirit or pluck" - which ironically, is the thing that the young woman has in spades and that by her sheer presence others develop or display. In some ways, this young woman reminds me of Anne Shirley (of Green Gables fame) whose very outlook on life causes others to reconsider how they've been living. While Maddy does not have Anne's happy outlook on life, she does have a courageous sense of justice and stubborn opinion about how justice should be pursued. When others balk at her resolve or question her decision to find the killer, she fixes them with a steely-eyed gaze that shames them into going along with her plan. Along the way, she grows up a bit, and melts the hearts of the hardened men along the road.

As expected from the Coen brothers, the cinematography is great, and the script is very tight. There are beautiful landscapes of the plains, forests, and mountains. There are lots of moments of silence and staring, but  somehow it doesn't seem uncomfortable or awkward. Maddy is charming and watching it, you desperately want her to succeed on her quest. Rooster is hardened, but as in all good stories, has a soft heart. La Beouf is a braggart, but funny, and brave.

True Grit is definitely one of my favorites of 2010. I give it a solid 5 $10 ponies out of 5. See this one in the theater if you can!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Films of 2010

I've mentioned my friends over at The Three Hands ( before - they have a great movie review website (as well as other reviews, including books etc). They are total movie lovers, like me, and even though they like more zombie-related fare than I do (read: any), I find that for the most part, our movie sensibilities line up and so if the crew over there likes a movie, there is a good chance I will, too.

At the end of each year, the crew puts up their best/worst of 2010 lists. Included in one of the lists was the video above, which is pretty stinkin' awesome. Its a sort of compilation of clips and bites from this year's movies. TOTALLY worth checking out. You will love it.

Seeing their list made me think of the new movies that I've seen this year and what I thought of them.
(movies are listed based on their release date to theaters, not in the order in which I saw them - some of them were not viewed in theaters but instead on my DVD-player, laptop, or on an airplane)

Leap Year: Totally cliche, but still Matthew Goode is hot and it made the flight back from London almost bearable (despite my annoying seat-neighbor).
The Book of Eli: I loved it. You can check out my review of it on the blog. Others did not like it. They are wrong.
When in Rome: Totally cliche also, but Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel make up for it because of their combined hotness. Frankly, this movie was ridiculous, but it made me laugh a lot as I winged my way across the atlantic toward London.
Valentine's Day: Disappointingly average on first viewing, improves marginally with second viewing. A better use of your time would be to re-watch Love Actually instead.
Bounty Hunter: Average, but also improves marginally with second viewing. There are some funny moments, but mostly Gerard Butler is not a very good comedic actor - I think its the way he has to super-enunciate to try to sound American.
Babies:  OMG. My mom and I just watched this movie and it was so stinking adorable and fascinating. Makes me want to adopt approximately 12 babies. Loved it.
Clash of the Titans: I thought it was alright - not as cheesy as the original, and included some fun elements. I saw it in 2D (on the plane, with annoying seat-neighbor interrupting me) and thought it was probably improved by being in 2D rather than remastered 3D (even though a friend of mine worked on the 3D conversion).
Last Song: Cheesy but sweet. I cried at the end, and not because the movie starred Miley Cyrus.
Date Night: I actually saw this movie on a first date. I enjoyed it a lot - except that my date kept trying to do weird things like feed me popcorn. Yes, seriously. Steve Carrell is not the most believable actor, but because he and Tina Fey will pretty much say or do anything for a laugh, I liked it and laughed a lot.
Iron Man 2: Not as good as the first, but still entertaining and exciting.
Sex and the City 2: I was forced to go to this movie by the girls in my bible study. Pretty much hated this movie more than any other movie I've seen in the last 10 years, and I saw "The Forgotten", so you know that I hated this movie. Don't see it, and if your wife/girlfriend/sister/mom/friend wants you to see it, turn and run.
The A-Team: I loved it. Don't hate on me, haters, I laughed, I was suspensed (is that a word), and some of those dudes are hot. I will totally see at least one more in this franchise if not all of them (but I will not see any of them in 3D if it comes to that).
Toy Story 3: A sweet romp through childhood. I won't buy these movies, probably, but I enjoyed seeing it a lot.
The Switch: Now this is a Jennifer Aniston movie that I could love. I love Jason Bateman, and this story - though predictable - was also just so sweet and funny.
Social Network: Mixed feelings here. This movie was brilliant, and the actors were incredible. The story was good and at the end, you are left with a lot of questions and suppositions. For me, at the end, I had a spiritual lesson on the price of Pride and trying to prove your worth to someone.
Life as We Know It: OK, yes, I know this cheesy Heigel/Duhamel flick didn't look that great, and yes, it was pretty predictable. But I got some good laughs, and thought that Heigel's grief scene in the beginning after she finds out her best friends have died was really terrific. (Duhamel's? Not so much)
Megamind: I had high hopes, they were dashed. There were a few funny moments, and a good message, but overall just average.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (p1): Was pleasantly surprised at how faithful this movie was to the book, and at how they managed to recover after leaving out key info from book/movie 6. Not my favorite movie of the series, but still very good.

2010 movies I will be seeing in theaters in the next two weeks:
True Grit
Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

There were also a lot of 2009 movies that I watched in 2010. The best of them are the following:
The Hurt Locker
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Whip It!
Crazy Heart

Movies I should have seen (or want to see) and which are already on my Netflix queue so that my errors can be rectified as soon as they are released on DVD: (or which I may see in theaters, should they still be around when I get my act together)
The Town
Despicable Me
King's Speech

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Dad on TV!

Hi Friends!!

I'm so excited to tell you that my dad was on TV this morning, singing with the Phoenix Symphony Chorus. Dad has been a part of a number of choruses. He was part of the Seattle Symphony Chorus when we lived in Seattle and then in Phoenix was a part of 4 or 5 different choruses, including the Phoenix Symphony Chorus, which sometimes performs with the Phoenix Symphony but frequently performs together without the symphony.

The Symphony Chorus has been featured on a number of local morning shows the last few weeks, in promotion of their upcoming series of concerts performing Handel's Messiah. However, today was the first day that my dad was free from school (its finals) and able to be there. Check out the interview below with the director of the Symphony, Michael Christie, and an excerpt from the Messiah performed by the Chorus. My dad is in the back row on the left!

Just in case you aren't sure what my dad looks like, here is a photo of me and dad from Ben's recent wedding.

Friday, December 3, 2010

"My name is ____ and I'm a ninth generation circus performer"

I struggled with even how to title this post. I didn't it to be just about clowns or my long-held desire to be a clown. But I didn't know a circus-y phrase that would capture the spirit of what I'm about to tell you about.

People - listen to this: There is a miniseries on PBS (6-1hr episodes) called "Circus"  - which documents the life in one year of the Big Apple Circus.

If you are like me, that sentence alone should be enough to make you want to check your local PBS listings and figure out how to carve 6 hours in order to watch this really fascinating show.

Just in case it isn't... here's a more elaborate review after having watched 2 gripping hours of this journey.

The Big Apple Circus is a "traditional one-ring European-style circus." This series is the story of all the people it takes to make a circus - from the talent who are the most obvious members of the circus troupe (trapeze artists, equestrian, clowns, jugglers, etc) to the producers and directors to the "ring crew" the people who really make the magic happen as the circus moves from town to town. You learn about their history, their lives, their performances, and how it all comes together. And its magical.

I'm not kidding - MAGICAL and fascinating. I wondered if watching this documentary would sort of ruin it for me. You know, that if I saw the "man behind the curtain" I would no longer believe in the Wizard. But if anything, it actually makes me love the circus MORE by seeing how it all comes together. The series gives you a glimpse into how the "circus people" live: the ring crew and staff live in basically "walk-in closets" (bunks and shelves, with no internal bathrooms) - food is provided for them by the circus; the producers/directors/performers live in RV's. The children attend school in a one-room schoolhouse (which is also a trailer). And people have real lives throughout the year, as you watch (one gets arrested, another becomes ill, etc). It gives you a glimpse into how the acts come together, how new people are trained, and how the show itself is shaped.

You can buy the series on PBS, if you know someone who would like it. Since PBS is in jeopardy around the country, it would be worth it to do so. But you can also watch full episodes online (as well as some exclusive web clips).

I give "Circus" five big tops out of five - for compelling drama, exciting athletics, and entertaining people. Check it out.

First - respond in the comments about what performer you'd like to be in a circus (if any) - or what your favorite part about the circus is!

Next - check out this clip, which is about clowns (because I've always wanted to be a clown and go to children's wards and cheer up kids):

Watch the full episode. See more Circus.

Finally, you can go to this website for more clips and full episodes.