Monday, December 29, 2014

Ferguson, New York City, and Justice

One of the most hated words in civilization today is injustice, and rightfully so. When this nation’s founding fathers declared that this should be a nation of “liberty and justice for all”, they weren’t just tossing out random ideals that seemed good for our nation to have. They were tapping in to the very fabric of every person in existence. The hunger for justice is woven into each of us from birth. No one has to explain to a two-year old why it’s unjust for someone to steal the toy they are playing with. They instinctively know that something is wrong the second the teddy bear is snatched from their hands. We all crave justice and we all rebel against injustice, or at the very least we rebel against the injustice that affects us. The big question facing this generation, a question raised by the events in Ferguson, MO and by the recent police and civilian deaths in New York City is simply: how do we effectively fight for justice in our homes, communities, and world? Here are a couple of thoughts:

Be Driven By Justice Not Emotion

If you’ve ever been around a playground full of kids you know that eventually some version of the game Tag will break out. The kids run from each other, turning left, then right, then back left again. They duck and spin, jump to the side, lean forward and back, all in an attempt to avoid their pursuer. At the end of their running, they are normally not very far from where they began. The only purpose of their running was to avoid their pursuer. Being driven by emotion works the same way.

When we are driven by emotion we often have no real direction or purpose other than to act on the intense emotion we feel, to vent it. Emotion isn’t bad, in fact, it’s very good. We should feel strong emotion when we encounter injustice in our world, but that emotion should not control our actions. Our emotion must always serve intentional and deliberate plans to battle injustice. Emotions make great servants, but lousy leaders, or to put it another way, emotions can fuel our car, but should never be allowed to drive it.  We’ve seen our share of protests this year, and they can often be a catalyst to change. As a Protestant, my entire religious heritage is packed full of protests that led to change. Any actions, however (protests included), that are blindly driven by our emotions (normally outrage) are ineffective and normally create more injustice than they alleviate. Take for example, some of the protesters in Ferguson, MO who in their outrage trashed and destroyed small markets and stores in the town. Many of the businesses were owned and run by people who were simply working hard to carve out a life for them and their families, none of those who lost their livelihood had caused any of the injustice of the previous weeks. The attacks on them were incredibly unjust. What is even more baffling and sad is that the damage was inflicted in the name of battling injustice. Undirected emotional outbursts do not lead to justice.

Injustice is an insidious creature. If we are not careful we ourselves can become unjust in our attempts to battle it, and at that point we add to the problem rather than offer a solution. We must seek justice not just for our own emotional satisfaction, but for the good of the people around us. It’s pointless to cry out for justice, if you aren’t willing to care for your neighbor next door. Marching for justice is pointless if your children feel ignored and unloved at home.  The fight for justice must be a proactive marathon, not a reactive sprint that dies out when the emotion dies down. Our fight for justice begins with our passion for the welfare of the people all around us each day at work and home. At its best the battle for justice is a passion that seeks to mirror God’s very own passion for us. Although we will fall short often, our commitment to love people well will keep our mission for justice on the right track. I prayer for greater justice in our world in the coming year, and I pray that you and I might be a part of bringing it to life. 

Photo Courtesy of Clayton, Mackenzie, Lauren, Morgan, and Bailey

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How To Have Hope When Everything Around You Seems Dark....

They are showing Christmas movies on Hallmark Channel.

Gingerbread Latte’s are now available for your consumption.

And, I swear I heard Jingle Bells while in a store the other day. It can only mean one thing....

Christmas is officially upon us. 

I love Christmas, and odds are you do too. I love almost everything about Christmas, but one of my favorite things to enjoy every December is Christmas lights. The world just seems more at peace with Christmas lights strewn from pillar to post. Thousands of people load up cars and vans each year to just drive around and see the holiday lights.

You know what’s not beautiful? Christmas lights in the daytime. (see picture above) Horrible. Not impressive at all. Some things only make sense in the dark. Christmas lights at night are almost magical. They pierce the darkness and flood the faces of onlookers in blue, red, and golden hues. Their brilliance can be most appreciated in the absence of light. The darker the night, the more beautiful the lights.

That’s a pretty close reflection to real life. So many of us are dealing with dark things in our lives; depression, sickness, fractured relationship, stress at work. Most of the time it seems that there is more dark out there than light. As discouraging as it can be, however, we were made to shine into the darkness. Our hope, love, and forgiveness does it’s best work in places filled with hate, pessimism, and bitterness. I don’t think any of us are grateful for the difficult times that we have to endure, but it can bring a bit of peace to know that your light is all the more brilliant in those times. Don’t give up, even if it feels like your light isn't being noticed at all.  The light you bring could be the one thing that someone else desperately needs!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Being Defined By The Things You Hate (aka: How To Live A Miserable Life)

It’s election season, and we are snowed under with emails, mailers, tv and radio ads all trying to sway you to their candidate. Despite the avalanche of information, it’s getting harder and harder each year to get a clear picture of what each candidate stands for. It seems they are less interested in convincing to you to vote for them as they are in having you not vote for the other guy.  

As much as we hate to admit it, our politicians are often just a reflection of the population as a whole. As a culture, we love to hate things. "It didn’t come quickly enough in the mail", "the lines were too long", "the service was poor", and a thousand other things define our lives. We rabidly air our grievances on Facebook and Instagram. Our lives can quickly become defined by what we don’t like and by who we don’t want to be. This way of living is toxic and exhausting. In her prayer journal, Flannery O’Connor wrote, 

“I don’t want it to be fear that keeps me in church. I don’t want to be a coward, staying with You because I fear hell…I don’t want to fear to be out, I want to love to be in.”

So many times we live our lives running from things instead of running to things. The difference is very real. Running away from things I fear or dislike leads to a chaotic life with little or no direction. Conversely, running to something, the way O’Connor wants to run toward God, gives direction and purpose to life. Live your life moving forward with open eyes and an open heart, don’t live in reaction to everything around you. You were made to embrace great and beautiful things.

Quotation from A Prayer Journal by Flannery O'Connor
Photo Courtesy of Death To Stock Photo

Friday, October 31, 2014

Why Empathy And Not Answers Will Improve Your Relationships

We’ve all had those moments. Someone comes up to you with all sorts of pain or confusion in their life and they want to tell you their story. On our best days, we listen attentively, make good eye contact, and stay connected as they talk. After listening, we weigh in. We might share our experiences or a bit of the pain we are carrying around ourselves. Sometimes, this is just what the doctor ordered. Someone needs direction, we give it, and life works well. We feel good about the good we have done, and we go on about out day. The only problem is that the person who has just shared their heart may not feel as good about the exchange. Here is one relational tip that will save you tons of frustration in the weeks to come:

Don’t give anyone direction or advice unless they specifically ask for it.

Most people come to us seeking empathy not answers. They want to believe that someone cares, or they just may need a safe place to process their thoughts. Giving direction and advice when it isn’t asked for ends up badly for everyone. Relationship runs on connection, not correction. There are times for clear answers and direction, but clarify that before you unload. If you can follow this one piece of advice, your relationships will become must healthier over time, and much more enjoyable as well!

Photo Courtesy of Death To The Stock Photo

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Change Isn't Easy But It Doesn't Have To Be Impossible: 3 Ways To Make The Changes You Want To Make

All of us have things in our life that we wish we could change. Many of us have tried to implement changes: I want to eat less, I want to exercise more, I want to spend more time with the family , etc… Anyone who has tried to grow by changing a habit in their life or to begin a new one knows how hard it can be. How many New Year’s resolutions have you broken? Yeah, me too.  Personal change can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be impossible, here are three things to remember if you are trying to make a positive change in your life:

Start Small

If you aren’t a runner but want to be, committing to running 5 miles every day this week is a brutal goal. It’s not fair to you, and it will never happen. What’s worse is that when you don’t achieve your goal, you will likely get discouraged and stop trying to run altogether. The key to forming a new habit is to start small. Remember, small wins lead to big wins. Accomplishing small goals encourages us and brings us closer step by step to our bigger goals. I know you want to accomplish great things, but those things start with small steps.

Details Matter

It’s so easy when we set out to achieve a lofty goal to get lost in the big picture. Many people are committing themselves to a healthier lifestyle, which is admirable. Lots of people start with trying to get more and better rest. But getting better sleep isn’t a good goal. It’s not clear, and it’s hard to tell what to do or how to measure improvements. Start out by focusing on the small details of your goal. 
          I want to be in bed with the lights out at 10PM. 
          I want to stop drinking caffeinated drinks at 6PM. 
          I want to be in my room reading a book with all of the noise off at 9:30PM.

 Find a routine and stick with it. Being mindful of the details makes our goals fall into place.

Have A Selective Memory

We all remember our mistakes. We tend to bring them up in our mind over and over, which often leads to lessened motivation over time. Make a point to note and remember your successes. They are there, you just don’t tend to notice them as much. Keep a journal if you need to. Once a day go back and review the things you got right. Leave your mistakes in the past and feed the good memories. Your motivation will increase, and as a great side effect, you will find yourself being more merciful and kind to others as a result.

Change isn’t easy, but it’s important. Find your next step, and begin your journey of change. Don’t get discouraged along the way, if it were easy it probably wouldn’t be worth doing!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Your Limitations Are Tearing You Down But They Don't Have To!

There is something that each of us possesses that drives us crazy. It creates anxiety or it can leave us feeling defeated. It leads us to over-work at times, and to be apathetic at others. We do what we can to forget this truth about ourselves, but it continues to show up day after day after day. What is this troubling truth?

We have limitations.

We are imperfect.

We are incomplete.

No matter how much effort we put into our parenting, we say things that should have remain unsaid. We miss opportunities that we should have acted upon.

No matter how hard we work at our job, there are things left undone at the end of the day, projects that could have benefited from extra time. There are endless promotions to pursue that would challenge us more and compensate us better.

Even if we do our best and attain near perfection, there is always more to be done, more great things to be seen, more people to meet, more challenges to conquer.

Ancient Israelite king, Solomon, put it like this:
                “…the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing”
                                                                (Ecclesiastes 1:8)

One of my favorite artists of all time is Johannes Vermeer. As closely as we can tell there are 35 paintings done by Vermeer still in existence today. Two of those are, for a limited time, in a new exhibit at the NC Museum of Art. It’s an excellent opportunity to see something rare and beautiful, but my enjoyment of those paintings is clouded with something else. In the midst of enjoying the paintings in front of me, there's a little voice in my mind that says, “I really wish I could see some of his other works…”

The gift I have in front of me is never enough. There is more to see, and more to do. If we are not careful, we can allow our limitations to depress us or drive us into chaotic overdrive, neither of which are very enjoyable. Perhaps the most important thing to know about our limitations is:

It’s All Part of The Plan

You were never created to be able to do it all. We are hardwired to need other people and to need God. In other words, relationship flows out of our limitations. Your limitations are on purpose, and are there with your best interest in mind. Accomplishment is meaningless without relationship. To do our best at what's in front of us, and to enjoy, embrace, and lean on other people is the key to a wonderful life. When we surrender our need to get it all done, see it all, experience it all, or do it all perfectly we can slow down and fully embrace the moments that are right in front of us. Our minds won’t shoot of into thoughts of what we haven’t seen or haven’t done, and we can enjoy the beauty that we are blessed with right now.

So, be grateful for all you can’t do. It’s the secret to enjoying what you are fortunate enough to be able to do!

Photo courtesy of Mindi Holt

Friday, October 17, 2014

Tony here:

Halloween Movies

It’s that time of year again. Time to get your wits scared out of you by some fright filled film. Five years ago, Michael and I began our annual October Horror Movie Festival. We would find 2 or 3 relatively obscure horror movies and watch them. The results have been somewhat mixed but overall pretty positive. So, if you are looking for something to watch to get into the Halloween spirit. Here are our suggestions:

The Best (in no particular order)

The Devil’s Backbone (Spanish w/ English sub-titles)

A terrific ghost story set in an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War seen through the eyes of a little boy.

The Orphanage (Spanish w/ English sub-titles)

Another great ghost story set in an orphanage (what is it about orphanages?)  The kid with the bag on his head is about the creepiest thing you will ever see.

Let the Right One In (Swedish w/ English sub-titles) Maybe the best vampire movie I have ever seen. The scene in the swimming pool still haunts me 5 years later. It also has children as main characters. Is there a theme developing here? There is a shot-for-shot English language remake titled "Let Me In" for those who may not want to tolerate the sub-titles.


A great take on the haunted house genre.  Two time lines, the present and 11 years ago, intersect and overlap as a brother and sister (the fantastic Karen Gillan) battle a possessed antique mirror. Very clever.

The Pact

Another clever haunted house movie.  A hidden room holds the secrets to a horrible past and the answers to the disappearance of two young women.

Honorable Mention:

The Cabin in the Woods

Josh Whedon’s very neat, subversive take on the whole “cabin in the woods” slasher movie cliche. Too satirical to be a true horror movie for my taste.  But very enjoyable nonetheless.

The Middle


Maybe more sci-fi than horror and definitely more mainstream than most of the movies on the list. Gene splicing goes awry and there is a scene between scientist Adrien Brody and the “creature” that is, well, just disturbing.


Two young girls are raised for years in a “cabin in the woods” by a mysterious figure. Some very creepy and memorable scenes.


A couple honeymoon in a …wait for it… “cabin in the woods” where unusual things begin to happen at night.

A Tale of Two Sisters (Korean w/ English sub-titles)

A psychological horror film about two sisters and their disturbing relationship with their step-mother.  The 2009 film, "The Uninvited" is an English language remake .

The Bottom

The Innkeepers 
Standard haunted house fare. Fairly forgettable.

Session 9

Another forgettable psychological horror movie.  You can see what the “surprise “ ending  will be half way through the film.

Attack the Block

I wanted to like this movie better than I did. A British horror/comedy  about an inner city gang battling alien monsters should be pretty good… right? It has a 90% positive on Rotten Tomatoes and apparently has achieved “cult” status. However, for a horror/comedy, I didn’t find it very funny or scary.

So here is the post-mortem (pun intended), if the movie has a cabin in the woods or an orphanage, and it has siblings in danger from a malevolent presence, well, then give it a shot

Thursday, October 16, 2014

How To Turn Your Fear of Change Into Something Amazing

Few things scare us more than change. New expectations with my job at the office, a new teacher at school, new diseases springing up close to home, all of these things cause us stress. Our normal reaction to the fear we experience in the face of change is to try to stop the change. Our hope is that if we can control the changes around us, we will feel more at ease. This usually costs us a great deal of energy and stress, and ultimately doesn’t work. The reason it doesn’t work is that change is constant. No matter what we do, we are changing and the world is changing around us. If you are counting on halting change to stop your fear, then your fear will never go away.

We have two options when it comes to dealing with change:

Passively Endure It

Passively enduring change means that we feel that we are a prisoner to change. We wait for things to happen and then do our best to react. People who simply attempt to endure change often feel overwhelmed and can become very aggravated. When we try to deal with the changes around us as they come, we inevitably end up looking at change as an enemy to be battled against.

Deliberately Embrace It

The other option is to make our peace with the fact that life is constantly changing and to embrace it. When we choose to embrace the changes around us, we no longer see change as an enemy, but as an opportunity. Change is my chance to grow. Change offers me the ability to see life and myself in new ways.

A Final Word About Change

Mercifully there is one port in the storm of our constantly changing world. The authors of the Bible described God as the one thing in the universe that is unchanging. His love for you doesn’t waver. His thoughts of you won't ever change, and He will never leave you alone to face all of the difficult things that life can throw at you. 

Photo courtesy of Makena Madden

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Praying With Flannery

Prayer is less a skill and more of an art. You don’t learn to pray by reading a manual on prayer any more than you learn to ride a bike by reading an instruction manual that might have come with it when you purchased it. We learn to pray by being around those who pray. We hear their words and feel their emotion. When we are very young or new to the faith we often parrot the words of other prayers until we can find words of our own. That’s why I was so excited when I stumbled across a recently released prayer journal kept by Flannery O’Connor. Journals like this one allow us to pray alongside people that were seeking God before many of us were even born. I have decided to document my journey through this process in case you also want to pray with Flannery.

                Please help me to get down under things and find where You are.

This short phrase from the opening entry we have in O’Connor’s journal is beautiful and a good reminder that God is all around us in the people and the things He has created. Sometimes our hectic pace of life hides beauty from our eyes. Behind each person, regardless of their behavior, is a glimpse of the God who created them. Each gust of wind, drop of rain, and lazy cloud are ours to enjoy. I pray with Flannery that I will indeed be able to get down under things and find where God is today.

Excerpt from A Prayer Journal by Flannery O'Connor

Monday, October 13, 2014

3 Ways To Stop Being Offended And Start Making A Difference!

The cardinal virtue that a person can attain in 2014 is “being offended”. A quick glance at any social media site will reveal floods of “offended” posts.  
                “I can’t believe that we have soldiers in Iraq!”
                “How dare we refuse to send more soldiers to Iraq!”
                “Join me in boycotting this restaurant that serves….”
                “Read this to see what that candidate thinks about you and your grandmother!”

It doesn’t seem to matter what the issue is that offends you, just so long as you are offended. We lie in wait like crocodiles watching for a celebrity to get a D.U.I., say something stupid, or hit their spouse and then we attack! Never mind that the very real issues of alcohol abuse, personal responsibility, and spousal abuse have been significant and serious issues for many, many years, we are outraged now! We want people to pay! We will never get over this, well until someone else does something wrong…

There’s nothing wrong with having strong opinions about what you feel may be right or wrong.  It’s just that venting moral outrage over social media or in our cubicles at work has only short-term if any impact at all. There are serious issues out there in the world that need to be addressed. Verbal attacks do little to address them, and often times simply allow us to avoid taking action in a meaningful way. If you are tired of being offended and ready to make a difference, here are some things to think about:

Start Being Specific

There are thousands of worthy issues to be addressed, and you can’t address them all. You can probably hate them all on Facebook through pithy put-downs and determined diatribes, but that doesn’t solve anything. Find an issue that touches your heart and research that issue. These questions may help: Who is being hurt? What attempts are being made to help them? What will happen if this issue isn’t addressed?

Get Involved

Once you’ve researched the issue you care about, get involved. Take action and make a difference. Spend your minutes and money making someone’s life better. There may be organizations that are already established to help with the issue at hand. If so, find a way to join up and help. It may be that a smaller scale intervention would be best. Battling cancer by donating to cancer research is great, but so is visiting your neighbor who is having chemo and in need of company.

Stop Judging

Please talk to people about the issue that you are passionate about, but don’t get upset if they are not as passionate as you are. It doesn’t mean that they are a bad person or that they don’t care. There are so many issues that need attention, so it' s probably best that we all have difference passions. Leave other people alone, and focus on the difference that you can make!

Our world needs you and the difference you can make. I hope that you find an issue that care about, and that your effort changes the world for someone in need!

Photo Courtesy of Death To Stock Photo

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Films That You Absolutely Can Not Miss!!!! (The Best Year Ever Edition)

1939 was the greatest year in the history of film. Period. 

No other year has produced as many high quality films. AFI’s Top 100 Movies of the Last 100 Years included 5 movies from 1939 in it’s top 100 list that was tabulated in 1997: Gone With The Wind (#6), The Wizard of Oz (#10), Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (#26), Stagecoach (#63), and Wuthering Heights (#73).  AMC has a similar list of movies which included all of the previous five and added Ninotchka, a charming movie starring Greta Garbo, to their list.

A few things to consider about film in 1939:

-Victor Fleming directed two of the top 10 movies of all time, Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz, and did it in the same year.

-Thomas Mitchell who took home the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, performed in three of the movies that were nominated for Best Film: Gone With The Wind, Stagecoach, and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.

-Hattie McDaniel won Best Supporting Actress for her unforgettable role in Gone With The Wind, making her the first African-American nominee and winner of an Academy Award. Due to the racial prejudice that existed at the time, she had to sit in the back during the ceremony, away from her co-stars.

Each of the movies listed above should be on your Watch Now list if you haven’t seen them, but if I could recommend one other movie to watch from 1939 that is often overlooked it would be the French film, The Rules of the Game.  It opened to harsh criticism in 1939 and the original negative was destroyed during WWII. Director Jean Renoir was able to restore the film later, and in many circles it is considered one of the top 10 films of all time. It's a story about love, duty, and social class, and is well worth your time. 

Happy Viewing!!!!!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Why Can't I Get This Right?!: How To Break Free From Your Past

I think I have found the least likely verse in the entire Bible to be put on a t-shirt:

                “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.”
                                                -Proverbs 26:11

Go ahead and cross-stitch that on a pillow for the living room. I guarantee it will be a conversation starter!

It’s true though isn’t it? It’s so easy to repeat the unhealthy things we do and it always leads to the same predictable disappointment. We’ve all had those moments when we stop and realize that we are struggling with the same bad decisions, addictions, or fears that we were struggling with 10 years ago, and the thought makes us shudder. So how do we break the cycle and escape the bad decisions that are impacting our lives each day? Here’s a few things to consider:

Be Honest With Yourself

It’s much easier to keep life on cruise control and keep motoring along, than it is to stop and have an honest look at ourselves. Your ability to be honest with yourself hinges on your ability to trust that God’s love for you is bigger than your bad decisions. God doesn’t stop loving you when you sin. God hates the sin that is wrecking your life, but He loves you completely and unconditionally.

Be Honest With Someone Else

Getting your struggle out in the open is a big step on the path to dealing with it. It’s easy to ignore our mess when life gets better or busy, especially if no one knows about it but us. Admitting my struggles to someone else helps me see how real they are.  Don’t tell just anyone! Choose someone who loves you and who won’t judge you. Share what you are wrestling with, but don’t make excuses or explain it away. Be honest and be clear and if possible, ask for help.

Form a New Habit

Old habits don’t just go away. If a new habit isn’t formed in it’s place, old habits are nearly impossible to escape. As you think and talk through what you are struggling with, examine when it happens the most, and what triggers may bring it to the surface.  Choose a routine, activity, or thought process that you can engage in when those moments hit. Be patient, it takes 63 days for a habit to be deeply entrenched. You won’t be perfect, but you must be relentless. It will be worth all of the work!

We all fail, but failure doesn’t have to define us. As you work on your new habits, talk to God often. You are not in this alone, and He isn’t waiting for you to get your life straight to have a relationship with you. He wants the relationship He has with you to be what gives you strength as you grow.  

Photo Courtesy of Death To The Stock Photo

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Beginnings: 1930-1938 (Tony's Addendum)

As usual Michael is spot on with his movie selections. However, I think in this case he made one significant omission. No list of essential movies of the 30's is complete without the incomparable "The Thin Man" (1934). The movie stars William Powell and Myrna Loy as charming and witty husband and wife sleuths. How many TV shows have been built on this concept (Hart to Hart, Moonlighting, Castle?) The movie was so popular it spawned 4 sequels.

The other omissions are not as grievous, but more personal for me.  No listing of 30's movies is complete without mentioning the advent of the Universal Studios horror films. Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein (my personal favorite), Dracula, The Mummy and The Invisible Man all debuted in this decade. They set a standard for horror movies that still resonates today. When I was a kid, no all night Halloween movie marathon was complete without a few of these classics included.

One added note, I see that Michael stopped his list before 1939, which is arguably the greatest year for film ever. He could make an entire list of "essentials" from 1939 alone. I will be anxiously waiting to see what he chooses.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Films That You Absolutely Can Not Miss (The Beginnings: 1930-1938)

The 1930’s were the most explosive decade in the history of film. The popularity of movies blossomed as the first “talkies” hit the screen. I refer to this decade as “The Beginning” for lots of reasons, the most important of which is that this decade boasted the beginning of almost every movie genre alive today. Most of the movies you see today play off of a rubric that was set in the 1930’s. If you haven’t settled into a comfy chair with some of these movies, you have been missing out, not just because of their importance in the overall story of film, but because so many of them are incredibly enjoyable! This list does not include 1939, the reasons for which will become clear in upcoming posts.

A few of the remarkable things that film gave us in the 1930’s:

---Katherine Hepburn starred in her first movie, A Bill of Divorcement (1932)

---The Three Stooges, Shirley Temple, Donald Duck, and the great John Wayne all starred in their first  major film

---Spencer Tracy won back to back Best Actor Academy Awards for his roles in Captains Courageous (1938) and Boys Town  (1939). It would be over 50 years until that feat was repeated by Tom Hanks. (Tracy is one of the greatest actors ever to have lived, and is almost universally underappreciated)

So, without further hesitation, here’s some movies that you absolutely must see:


Little Caesar (1931) – The Beginning of Gangster Movies
 Starring James Cagney in a role that would make his career, Little Caesar is the grandfather of all gangster movies. The Godfather and Goodfellas have this movie to thank for their existence.

King Kong (1933) – The Beginning of Monster Movies
You’re welcome Godzilla, and all other special-effect monster movies need to tip their hat to this groundbreaker in the genre. There were monster movies before King Kong, but none rivaled the big fella.  Ranked #41 on AFI’s Top 100 Movies of the Last 100 Years

It Happened One Night  (1934) - The Beginning of Romantic Comedies
Every zany romantic comedy has it’s roots in this 1934 classic. Claudette Colbert is brilliant, and Clark Gable (who I’ve never been a huge fan of), plays off of her beautifully. They are funny, clever, noble, and romantic. Everything you hope to find in a romantic comedy. Ranked #46 on AFI’s Top 100 Movies of the Last 100 Years.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) - The Beginning of Animated Features
This first full-length feature animated film started it all. Without Snow White there would be no Elsa, Simba, or Gru. Walt Disney changed the world of film, and it all started with a down on her luck teen and 7 vertically challenged miners. Ranked #34 of AFI's Top 100 Movies of the Last 100 Years.

Swing Time (1936) – The Archetype of Dance Movies

If you don’t think you enjoy dancing in movies, I dare you to watch Swing Time. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are perfect as dancing partners and romantic counterparts. Every dance movie made since has tried to capture the magic of Fred and Ginger and with the exception of Singin’ In The Rain, no one has done it. Ranked #90 in AFI’s Top 100 Movies of the Last 100 Years.

If you have some free time this weekend, grab some popcorn, a comfy chair and settle in with one of these classics, and as always feedback is welcome. Let me know if you feel that I left out a must-see movie from this time period!

Monday, September 29, 2014

How To Truly Conquer Your Fear

Fear feeds off of the unknown. All good filmmakers know it. It’s the thing behind the closet door that scares us the most. It’s that person out in the dark just beyond what we are able to see. When we can’t see what  out there to get us, our imagination takes over and fear floods our minds.  The only way to send the fear scattering… to turn on the light. When we see what we are up against, it’s not so scary. The deepest fears that haunt us, however,  aren’t generated by what’s under the bed or in the woods or behind that closed door, it’s inside of us. The things that we’ve hidden deep inside of ourselves, the doubts and insecurities, the assumptions about life we’ve made because of how we’ve been treated by others. That stuff is truly scary, and we very rarely turn the light on to have a good look.

If you really want to be free from the fear that has been beating you up for so long, here’s a few things to remember:

The truth about you is much better than you imagine.

Most of us don’t take a close look inside of ourselves because we are afraid of what we might find. Your imagination is actually part of the problem. When you think about you, you almost always spend more time thinking about the bad stuff, the words you shouldn’t have said, the relationships you shouldn’t have held on to. Most people assume that God is the little voice in your head reminding you of all the bad you’ve done. In truth, it’s just the opposite. He is there to remind you that He has better plans for you than you could ever imagine for yourself.

Get some help.

We pay people to fix our cars, to wire our houses with electricity, and to clear those viruses out of our computer that makes Facebook run so slowly. But, when it comes to the incredibly complex inner working of our minds and bodies, we feel that we have it all figured out. Not even close! Getting help, whether from a close friend, counselor, or mentor is a life-line that should not be ignored.

You are not alone.

When you turn the light on and have a good look inside of your heart and mind, you will realize that God is there to face whatever you fear with you. God does not ask us to solve our own problems or conquer our own sins. We’ve all tried, and we’ve all failed. God wants to work with us as we deal with our junk. He loves us fully as we are and at the same time He never forgets all that we can become. 

Photo Courtesy of Death To Stock Photo

Friday, September 26, 2014

Stress Kills!!! Here's 3 Ways To Do Something About It

Stress kills. Not only is it a leading contributor to several types of illness, it is also one the main reasons our effectiveness suffers at work and at home. It also severely limits our ability to enjoy life. If you are interested in increasing your quality of life, then eliminating stress is a good place to start! Here are three things you can do today:

Say “No”

Odds are that you have too many things going on in your life, in fact it’s almost a guarantee. It doesn’t matter that all of your things are good things because even good things bring stress. Stress escalates exponentially as our calendar becomes more and more full. Opening up some margin in your life will immediately begin relieving the stress you feel.


There’s just too much noise. It’s everywhere. We roll out of bed to silence our blaring alarm, and the noise doesn’t stop again until we fall asleep (sometimes not even then if you sleep with the tv or music on). Noise keeps your brain constantly engaged. Your mind tries to process sounds or filter them out. Like background programs that aren’t fully closed on your computer, constant noise keeps your brain running and expends precious energy that you can't afford to waste. Small , intentional periods of silence (wherever you can find them), allow you to center and relax.


As simple as it sounds, people for centuries have understood the importance of controlling their breathing as a means to stress relief. When we are fully engaged, adrenaline pumping, stress rising, our breathing tends to be shallow and more rapid. Reminding ourselves to stop for a second here and there to take a couple of deep breaths is a simple way to recalibrate in the middle of a hectic day. As your breathing goes, so goes the rest of your body and mind.

As simple as these measures are, they can have an immediate impact on the level of stress that you carry. Do yourself a favor and pay attention to your stress levels today, you’ll be glad you did!

Photo courtesy of Mindi Holt

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Silent Film Edition (Tony's Addendum)

I completely agree with Michael's selection of "not to be missed" silent movies. Each is a classic and a masterpiece (I especially love The General.) However, I wanted to add a couple of my favorites for consideration. My favorite Chaplin movie is Modern Times (AFI #81). It is a brilliant satire of the "modern" industrial era and its effects on society and it is Chaplin's last "silent" film. The film also stars the terrific Paulette Goddard as the orphan girl who is the perfect compliment to Chaplin's "Little Tramp." When it comes to Chaplin movies, whether City Lights, Modern Times or The Gold Rush, you can't go wrong.

My other favorite silent era movie is "Pandora's Box." A much darker take on society as it tells the story of a beautiful woman's fall from grace. It stars the iconic Louise Brooks.

I can't wait to see what movies Michael selects next.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Films That You Absolutely Can Not Miss!!!! (Silent Film Edition)

There hasn’t been a lot of “film” on this “faithfilmandfood” blog lately and it’s time for that to change!

People have been making truly remarkable films for over 100 years. Great films have the power to impact us in ways that few other things can. A story that is well-told visually can affect our emotions and thoughts at deep levels,  but with all of the films out there, it can be tough to know where to start. So, in this series of posts, I am going to attempt to offer a foothold to anyone who would like to get a broad view of film over the past century. I will take various genres and time frames and select two movies to watch that will give you a good glimpse of the entire category. An effort like this is absurd, as there are so many more good films to consider than the couple that I will offer up, but my list will give you a place to start, and your feedback is always welcome! What movies would you include in each area???

So, let's start at the beginning....

Silent Movies

Silent movies have long been avoided or reserved for only the serious movie buffs, but there is a lot to enjoy in the realm of silent pictures. True, you have to pay close attention to enjoy them fully. You won’t be able to just turn back to the screen when you hear an explosion to see what may be going on. Silent filmmakers, actors, and directors had to be truly creative to communicate without the help of sound effects or spoken dialogue. Those demands led to some brilliant performances. If you want to sample the beauty of silent movies, I offer up the following two suggestions:

The General (1926)

Directed by and starring Buster Keaton, The General is both funny and heart-felt. Keaton plays Johnnie Gray, an engineer whose has two precious things stolen from him by Union soldiers, his train and his beloved Annabelle Lee. The scene where Keaton is clearing crossties off the rails in front of his train is cinematic gold! Ranked #18 in AFI’s Top 100 Films From The Last 100 Years.

City Lights (1931)

City Lights was written, directed, and starred Charlie Chaplin. There have been few stars in the history of Hollywood as talented as Chaplin, and his talents are on full display in City Lights. Playing his beloved Tramp character, Chaplin tries to find ways to help a beautiful blind girl that he has fallen in love with. The physical comedy is flawless and incredibly funny. The story arc is charming and full of heart. It’s hard not to fall in love with this classic film. Ranked #11 in AFI’s Top 100 Films From The Last 100 Years.

Honorable Mentions

Sunrise (1927)

A powerfully emotive film with character depth, well-acted, and well-written! Ranked #82 in AFI's Top 100 Films From The Last 100 Years.

The Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Sergei Eisenstein was a brilliant filmmaker. Countless films have borrowed scenes from this classic movie.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Spanking vs. Time-Out: Parenting in 2014

Everybody’s parents disciplined them in some way or another, and as they look back now, they either hate the way their parents did it or they love it. Their approach to parenting is most likely based on what they experienced growing up. Therefore, nobody is neutral when it comes to how to discipline children. The conversations usually go something like this:

“My mom and my dad spanked me and I turned out just fine!”


“My mom and dad never laid a hand on me, I can’t imagine what I would have done if they had!”

Remember that when you challenge someone’s approach to disciplining their children, it probably feels to them like you are insulting them and their parents before them.  My recommendation is to find your method of discipline and quit telling other people how awful their way is. The truth is that time-outs, restrictions, spanking, grounding, etc… are all acceptable forms of discipline. They can also all be misused and become abusive, and abuse is never ok. When it comes time to discipline your child(ren), here are two things to remember:

Constant Discipline Is Deflating 

If you discipline your child more than you relate to your child, then your discipline (regardless of what discipline you choose) is worthless. Remember you are not after complete compliance (which is almost impossible with some kids), you are looking for growth and character development. All kids are wired differently, some are naturally  more compliant and some will make you earn your pay!

Lack Of Discipline Is Unloving

It takes discipline to play athletics, to learn to play a new musical instrument, and to get the job you desire in life. It takes effort and the ability to receive correction well. If you refuse to correct your child or require effort out of them, you are making their future incredibly difficult.

The right discipline plan, perfectly administered (like that would ever happen!) does not guarantee perfect children. There are no perfect children, they are like their parents in that respect! Teaching them a system of right and wrong and about responsibility and consequences will give them an opportunity at a great life, and in the end, that’s all we can really do. So, don’t get discouraged, you don't have to be perfect to make a difference!

Photo Courtesy of Death To Stock Photo

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

True Guilt vs. False Guilt (And Why The Difference May Be Wrecking Your Life)

True guilt can be an incredibly healthy thing. Feelings of guilt allow me to look honestly at myself and my actions. This enables me to address what I’ve done wrong, and if needed,  I can confess and seek forgiveness. Once the guilt has been addressed, the feelings will begin to dissipate over time. Honest feelings of guilt are an incredible gift.

False guilt on the other hand is corrosive and devastating. Few things can derail your life more than false guilt. False guilt often feels exactly like real guilt. That’s what makes it so difficult to deal with. The difference is that it tends to linger regardless of what action you take. False guilt is what happens when you feel guilty even though you've done nothing wrong. Those of us with especially sensitive hearts can be ravaged by false guilt. 

True guilt is present when objectively wrong actions have occurred by your hands. In other words for it to be true guilt, it has to be wrong, and you have to be one the one who did it. If either of these are not present, then that feeling churning in your stomach is false guilt . Here’s two important questions to ask to avoid carrying around the weight false guilt.

Is what I’ve done morally wrong?

Just because someone isn’t happy with you doesn’t mean that you have done something wrong. Remember, you are not responsible for how others feel! Using the Bible as direction, I believe that lying is morally wrong, as is stealing or lust for example. It is not wrong, however, to miss someone’s call, or to not be able to read their mind and predict what they want from you. If you haven’t done something morally wrong, then it’s not true guilt that you are feeling.

Was it my responsibility/decision?

Just because something bad happens around you doesn’t mean that you have done something wrong. Remember, you are not responsible for other people’s decisions! We can impact people, influence them, and encourage them, but when all is said and done, we have no power over what decisions they will make. You can raise a child as perfectly as you are able but, they still get to decide for themselves whether or not they want to become a drug addict, go to law school, or marry their cousin. So, don’t apologize for things you have no control over!

False guilt impacts our health and well-being in countless ways. It takes courage to admit when you are wrong, but it takes just as much courage sometimes to admit that you aren’t actually the one to blame. I hope these questions will help you know how to tell the difference!

Photo Courtesy of Death To Stock Photo

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Finds - September 12

This week's Finds are all in video form! It's been a long week, kick off your shoes, curl up with your laptop and be inspired by some truly amazing leaders!

N.T. Wright should be mandatory reading for all Christians. He is intelligent, compassionate, and is able to write and speak in ways that are guaranteed to make you think.

Miroslav Volf has spoken more passionately and with greater conviction about forgiveness than any theologian on the planet. His incredible book , Exclusion and Embrace is one of the best on forgiveness ever written.

It’s hard to imagine a better coach or more powerful leader than John Wooden. His TedTalk is one I return to often. It is worth every second of your time….

Have a great weekend!!!!!

Photo courtesy of Death To Stock Photo

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Honest But Uncomfortable Definitions: Mercy


1-Something everyone loves to receive, but few people enjoy giving. 
2- Refusing to take enjoyment out of the mistakes others make and the punishment they receive.

Imagine for a moment that a news van on the way to cover a story happened upon an act of heroism. Let’s say that they catch on film a car packed with senior adults toppling off a bridge into a river in the middle of winter. As they are calling emergency services for help,  a 6 year old boy jumps into  the icy, frigid waters and one by one drags each of the people to safety on the shore. Not only that, while saving them, he sees and rescues 3 baby seals and a tiny puppy who had also managed to fall into the deadly water.

That would be an incredible story, and would likely be the lead on the nightly news, unless…..

A celebrity, politician, athlete, etc… made a colossally bad decision.

These are the stories we love to see the most, and there is unfortunately a never ending supply of them for us to revel in. Drug abuse, money-grabbing schemes, affairs, physical abuse, and the list goes on and on. We want to hear about the story as soon as it happens, and we want constant updates after that. How quickly did he know? Where did she hide the money? Who else was involved? We want access to all of the gruesome details.

And it’s a toxic way to live.

I hunger deeply for justice, and I despise injustice (especially when I am not at fault – but that’s for another post). I believe that people should answer for their crimes, and reap the consequences of their behavior. It’s healthy to hate injustice. It’s important to seek to bring justice to our world. Enjoying the downfall of others, however, has nothing to do with justice.  Hours after the latest scandal has been unearthed, thousands flock to Facebook and Twitter to weigh in. All are sure the punishment, whatever it will be, will not be enough. The true motives of anyone who does not seem sufficiently enraged are called into question. Drunk driving or physical abuse were just as important hours before the scandal, but few people took time to write anything about them at that time. What’s even more troubling is that after the scandal of the hour passes, people often stop writing and stop thinking about the dangers of abuse and the need for care for it’s victims. Instead, everyone travels forward in a social media mob in search of the next injustice to rail against.

The fight for justice is a never ending battle. It doesn’t stop when it’s no longer “trending”. My plea and my goal is simply to fight for justice but at the same time to love mercy. It’s the combination our world needs the most.