Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner

No, wait! Don't answer that! This isn't a guessing game and if it were, you would most assuredly guess wrong. Nor is this a rhetorical question, but simply the title of a film that includes probably one of the greatest scenes in American film history.

This 1967 movie stars Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, and Sidney Poitier. The story is about an interracial couple wanting to get married. Up until June 12 of 1967
interracial marriage was still illegal in 17 states, which is why the principle actors in this film believed so strongly in this story that they agreed to do the film before even reading it's script. The basic premise to this story is:

A young lady named Joanna, who goes by the simple name Joey, meets and falls in love with an African American doctor played by Sidney Poitier. An important side note here is the fact that Poitier's character as a prominent doctor was purposely created so that the only objection to his marrying Joey would be his race. Which gets unveiled when Joey brings the handsome doctor home to meet her parents (hence the title for the movie).

The rest of the film is set during an evening where both sets of parents and a priest are gathered for dinner with the young couple, and the young couple's inevitable task of getting their parents approval for marriage.

Throughout the evening each set of parents tackle the reasons why the two young adults shouldn't get married, and deal with all of the obstacles the couple would be assured of facing. The last one to be convinced in agreement is Joey's father played by Tracy. The conclusion of this story includes one of the greatest scenes you will ever see and I will explain why after an excerpt of Spencer Tracy's famous speech:

"The only thing that matters is what they feel, and how much they feel,for each other. And if it's half of what we felt-that's everything. As for you two and the problems you're going to have, they seem almost unimaginable, but you'll have no problem with me. But you know what your up against. There will be 100 million people right here in this country who will be shocked and offended and the two of you will just have to ride that out, maybe everyday for the rest of your lives. You could try to ignore those people, be sorry for them and for their prejudice and their bigotry and their blind hatred and stupid fears, but when necessary you hold tight to each other and say"screw all those people"!"

"Anybody could make a case, a hell of a good case, against your getting married. The arguments are so obvious that nobody has to make them. But you're two wonderful people who happened to fall in love and have a pigmentation problem, and I think that now, no matter what kind of case some ***** could make against you there would be only one thing worse, and that would be if- knowing what you two have and feel- you didn't get married.
Well, Tillie, when the hell are we gonna get some dinner?"

The human emotions that are shown in this final act are what make this such a memorable scene. There is no acting involved, just the reality of each individuals heart. Throughout this final scene the director scans to each soul that is involved in this story and shows us the tears which are so incredibly visible and real.

The tears are real for two reasons:

1. Everyone involved with this project knew that this was Spencer Tracy's final role.Tracy passed away 17 days after filming. And this was not unexpected.
Insurance companies actually refused to cover Tracy during filming. The director Stanley Kramer and Katherine Hepburn put their salaries in escrow, assuring the film would still be completed if Tracy died before the film was finished.

Katherine Hepburn, who did nine films together with Tracy, took that final cut with her long time acting partner extremely hard. For the rest of her life she refused to watch that final scene.

2. Everyone in that final scene were also visibly shaken by Spencer Tracy's speech because they felt so strongly about it's message.

We've come a long way since 1967 in making strides in breaking racial barriers. But unfortunately, we still have a long way to go.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Old Steps Renewed

It always amazes me how much you can learn from an animal's behavior,and in this case it was the dog. One early morning a couple of weeks ago Francis the dog, who is almost 14 years old, refused to climb up 2 steps. The dog will run around the yard, take a giant leap from 5 yards away onto a 2 step porch with no fear, but inside the house he didn't want to go up a lousy 2 step staircase. These 2 steps he sometimes has trouble with even though he is in perfect health, so my guess is fear and being protective of himself not wanting to get hurt at his old age was his reaction to those two steps. I eventually used the dog leash to help coax him up the steps.

As I was now gone for a week of work in St. Louis, the dog was free from taking those two steps that lead to my bedroom where he would normally sleep at the foot of my bed. Of course when I came back, that fear was still in him for two days,and then it happened. He was back to his normal self, taking that 2 step leap of faith.

Sometimes when us humans get older we may have that initial fear in taking steps we may have taken in our younger years. It could be in something we enjoy doing like: biking or running long distances, snow boarding or skiing,or scaling a tall mountain. It could also be changing jobs or just driving on snow and ice. What we are actually doing is protecting ourselves from getting hurt. This also could pertain to some of us who have been been believers in Christ for many years. We kind of get that momentary lapse of faith when a situation arises to disrupt our life and we have forgotten our identity in Christ.

I thought it was ironic that in the past couple of months my Pastor has been teaching on renewing our mind with the Word of God so we don't fall into that trap of having a lapse of faith; and a couple of weeks ago I also found myself sitting in on a conversation on the word "power".

Renewing our mind with the Word of God and power co-exist. Thanks to biblegateway.com I was able to easily do a word search on the word power and came up with 335 verses. And over 50 of those verses are directly resulted in us believers having that power within us to use at our disposal. God has given us easy access to Him through prayer. Sometimes we underestimate or minimize the power of God. That's when it is time for us to renew our mind with His Word.

For the kingdom of God is not of talk, but of power. ((1Cor.4:20)

One of the greatest verses to remind ourselves daily is:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil.4:13)

The next time you find yourself in a quandry or a lapse of faith, tap into God's power by renewing your mind with what God says about the situation you may be in.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


"Today we are faced with the preeminent fact that,if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships--the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together and work together in the same world,at peace."

-F.D. Roosevelt,1945

I saw this quote while visiting the museum at the St. Louis Arch and thought it was ironic because here I was at a staff conference for Intervarsity Press who publishes books on racial reconciliation. And not only that, but I was also amongst about 1200 college students of all different ethnic backgrounds, who work on college campuses around the country and probably deal with this subject on a daily basis. To be amongst this large of a crowd and feeling a sense of peace was very gratifying.

I also belong to a church which has probably the largest variety of ethnicity that one could ever hope to be a part of and within those four walls there is peace.

If we are going to succeed at peace than surely God must be used within that involvement for peace.

And hopefully peace will be accomplished before the 100 year mark of when Roosevelt had dreamed of peace.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ascending One Step at a Time

When you think of mountain climbers who scale treacherous heights for enjoyment you probably think of them as either people who are crazy to risk their life for pleasure, or admire them for their mental toughness and willingness to try something so dangerous. I kind of side both ways but do admire them not only for their mental toughness, but having faith in their ability to climb to such heights. These climbers love the risk factor and have faith even when not knowing what awaits each step of their climb.

One of my favorite mountain climbing stories of 2010 came from a preacher believe it or not. He was taking one of those Holy Land tours and told the story of climbing
Mt. Sinai which is located in Egypt. Mt. Sinai is most noted for being the place Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. It is also known for it's breath-taking, spectacular sunrise views up at the summit which also includes small chapels.

The preacher and some other tourists were given the chance to witness one of these sunrise extravaganzas. Due to the extreme heat of the day their tour guide chose to bring them up Mt. Sinai in the evening when the temperatures were cooler. With the guide leading the way and the only one carrying a flashlight, they ascended the mountain in an orderly single file, as they each held the hand of the person in front of them. Some of the tourists had pen lights with them, but obviously a pen light does not do justice when scaling a mountain. So each person literally had to trust the person in front of them, just as mountain climbers need to trust the other climbers they are paired with. Once they reached the top, which is about a 2 and a half hour climb to where they were ascending, they camped there until sunrise.

Their climb was worth it as they did get to view one of the more spectacular sunrises you will ever witness. Once they were ready to descend down Mt. Sinai, the guide led them to the same trail they had used to climb in the dark. But taking a daylight view of this trail brought with it some "Uh,Oh's", and "Oh, my God's". The preacher declared that if he knew the trail they were climbing up Mt.Sinai was such a narrow trail where one misstep and your taking a long tumble downward, he never would've climbed it. On the trail you literally had room for only one step in front of the other. The point the preacher was trying to make in this story was:

Sometimes it is best not to know the steps that are in front of you in life because if you did know you probably wouldn't take them. And thus, your trust in God within those steps of your life wouldn't be there. If you can declare for 2011 what Psalm 27:1 says,

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

,then this year you will scale to great heights. Allow God to be your guiding light.