Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Years Solution

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started."- Mark Twain
As another new year quickly approaches, our minds become settled on what resolutions we should make and try to keep. But really, do any of us really hold onto those resolutions to where we actually succeed in them throughout the year? Oh sure, we might coast through January and February thinking we really can make it this time until, say, May comes around. Then it's off to starting that other resolution, thinking it's not too late to succeed in at least one of our resolutions. Ahh, New Years resolutions. Where would we be without them?
Just recently I found on Face Book some interesting conversations on the subject of following the 
read your Bible in one year plan. Many people admitted that they tried the plan at the beginning of the year, but it was somewhere along the first 50 days where they failed to continue in the daily reading guideline, so that they could actually have the entire Bible read by year's end. Some people even admitted they felt a lot of pressure in accomplishing this feat of strength and became discouraged. Only to try it again the following year, but getting the same results. Why put pressure on yourself to read the Bible in one year? You should be reading God's Word everyday in order to be enlightened and renewed. And also with an enjoyment of reading His Word in anticipation of what He may reveal to you

God wants us to read His Word daily so that we may get these results:

Strengthens us
Encourages us
Humbles us in His sight
Gives us wisdom
Brings us closer to Him
Gives us peace
Shows His love for us 
Keeps the devil away
God's Word is said to be as sharp as a two-edged sword:
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12
Instead of trying the read your Bible in one year plan and putting the pressure on yourself to succeed, resolve to just draw closer to Him through His Word and through praise. 

After all, isn't this what God really wants from us?
You dwell in the songs that we are singing,
Rising to the Heavens, rising to Your heart, Your heart.
Our praises filling up the spaces
In between our frailty and everything You are
You are the keeper of my heart

And I'm restless, I'm restless
'Til I rest in You, 'til I rest in You
I am restless, I'm restless
'Til I rest in You, 'til I rest in You
Oh God, I wanna rest in You
- Restless by Audrey Assad
Resolve to become so close to God that you are able to rest in Him in all circumstances that may come your way. If we put into practice a complete rest and peace in Him when everything is going good in our life; imagine how simple it will be when some unforseen circumstance does comes your way. Preparation is the key to doing battle with the enemy and coming away victorious.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8)



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Number 400 and Counting!

I find it ironic that my 400th blog post would fall just two days before Christmas. When people say
Christmas around the world, I am fortunate to literally see this through the many countries that visit my site especially at Christmas time with my Christmas movie reviews. It is by far, my favorite posts to write and share with all of you.

I love sharing what God is doing through other people's lives, along with building up and encouraging others with the passion of God's Word.

My wish to all of you is a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And may God draw Himself closer to you than ever before.

joyeux noël               Maligayang Pasko

 с рождеством             Wesołych Świąt
 圣诞节快乐                 buon natale
 मैरी क्रिसमस                              Merry Christmas


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Family Stone: Christmas Review

Ben Stone: [to Meredith] Don't dilly-dally there, pretty lady. We're all gonna be down here talking about you. 

Meredith Morton: I don't care whether you like me or not!
Amy Stone: Of course you do.

 Amy Stone: [about Meredith] She has got this throat-clearing tick... it's like she's digging for clams! 

Meredith Morton: [crying after Sybil and Amy come into the kitchen and accidentally ruin the breakfast she made] I'm just as good as any of you!
Amy Stone: [laughing and crying at the situation] Maybe better.
Meredith Morton: [still crying] What's so great about you guys?
Sybil Stone: [laughing and crying along with Amy... patting Meredith's cheeks] Oh, nothing! It's just that we're all that we've got.

Just from reading these quotes from the film The Family Stone, you probably gain the notion that the Stone family doesn't care much for Meredith Morton. In fact you might say they hate her. But that isn't the case. It's just that Meredith is different.

The Family Stone is one of my favorite Christmas movies, one I watch regularly every Christmas season.
Although it doesn't get much fan fare on television, it truly is a great film with an all-star cast.

I probably may have never watched this film, but what struck me was the star-studded cast involved,
so I figured it had to be good.

Meredith Morton is visiting her boyfriend Everett Stone's family for the first time. Meredith is an eccentric, pompous, high society business woman played by Sarah Jessica Parker. And Everett's family is more of the free-spirited type of family living in a Connecticut farm house. Meredith tries too hard to get the family to like her and that's where things go wrong. 

Diane Keaton plays Sybil Stone, the mother of five kids, each child living a different life style but, together as a family they are crazy and love each other in ways that's hard to explain.
I love how Sybil expresses how their family really is,

"Our family, it's all we've got!"

Sybil is the mother figure who runs the family, kind of like the Godfather patriarch of the Stone family.
She loves each of her kids no matter what their choices in life are. One son Thaddeus, is not only deaf but gay. So, naturally during Christmas Eve dinner with the entire Stone family, Meredith inserts her foot in mouth and causes discomfort to a family she hardly knows. Upon Thaddeus and his partner Patrick announcing their move to adopt a child, Meredith suggests the child would be more fit in a better home and in the process insults Thaddeus. Sybil gets offended and becomes angry with Meredith, than offers a support of love that only a mother could give to her son:

Sybil Stone: [Signing to Thad after Meredith has insulted his being gay] Hey. Hey, you.
[he doesn't look her way, she tosses a fork at his plate to get his attention]

Sybil Stone: I love you. And you are more normal than any other... *****  sitting at this table. OK? OK. I need a fork. 
Having grown up in a large family myself, I can relate to some of the family events that show up in this film, not just the controversies, but the choices my siblings and I may have made in the past. But through it all, our parents never stopped loving us.
Upon Meredith spending Christmas with Everett's family, Everett has notions of asking Meredith on Christmas Day to marry him. He wants to give her his grandmother's ring, but Everett's mother refuses. Sybil believes that Meredith is not the right person for her son and that he would be making a huge mistake.
This portion of the film has some unusual twists to it with much humor and a big surprise. If you do decide to watch this film, you will need a box of kleenex at various points throughout this comedy drama, especially at the end.

This film is one of my favorites not only for the unexpected twists and the humor, but the love that they have for each other. The Stone family truly lives out the aspects of being a close family, sticking with each other through thick and thin. And, after all, isn't that what family is all about?


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Scrooged: My Movie Review

"It's Christmas Eve! It's... it's the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we... we... we smile a little easier, we... w-w-we... we... we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be!" 

The above quote comes at the end of this film and I love it. It's the best ending speech I can remember for a Christmas film, aside from Gregory Peck in Meet John Doe( another film I reviewed here in the past for Christmas)

I just recently watched this 1988 version of a Christmas Carol starring Bill Murray, I have no idea why it took me so long, perhaps it's because this story has been re-done over and over, but I loved this one.
It was written to fit in and relate to the culture it was filmed in, the 1980's.

Bill Murray plays Frank Cross the youngest president to oversee a television network. Here in the beginning we see Frank and his staff choosing some productions to show on Christmas day, their goal is for their station, the IBC Network, to own Christmas. It would be kind of like TBS today which shows 
A Christmas Story over and over for 24 straight hours so they can own Christmas ratings.

Three of the amusing shows they are thinking about for their Christmas lineup:

1. The Night the Reindeer Died (the Six Million Dollar Man Lee Majors comes to Santa's rescue)
    2. A Robert Goulet Cajun Christmas (opening shows Goulet in a tuxedo rowing a boat while singing)
3. Father Loves Beaver (an updated version of Leave it to Beaver)

Frank Cross laughs off at his staff. Frank wants high flying action and drama, and chooses to do a live version of  A Christmas Carol with risque dancers and Olympian Mary Lou Retton to play Tiny Tim. 
Tiny Tim will rid himself of his crutches and vault through the air acrobatically.

Frank Cross is such a scrooge, his Christmas gifts to his brother and staff...a Christmas towel.
So, how did Frank become such a scrooge? When the ghost of Christmas Past appears in the form of a cab driver, he takes Frank on a trip to his childhood. Their first stop is Frank's childhood home.

" I get it. You're here to show me my past, and I'm supposed to get all dully-eyed and mushy. Well, forget it, pal, you got the wrong guy", Frank shouts.

 "That's exactly what Attila the Hun said. But when he saw his mother... Niagara Falls!" says the ghost as he wipes his eyes as if crying.

Frank's childhood consisted of only one form of relationship..with his television set. When he asks his father what he brought him for Christmas, his dad's reply along with telling him to get a job,

"All day long, I listen to people give me excuses why they can't work... 'My back hurts,' 'my legs ache,' 'I'm only four!' The sooner he learns life isn't handed to him on a silver platter, the better."

What I love about this version is we get to see how Frank became who he was through his rough childhood, and television was his way of escaping reality. A lesson to learn if you come across someone who may always appear angry at the world. Some people may have had a bad childhood or bad parents, so we need to take that into consideration when dealing with or ministering to people within our society.

As Frank got older we see his love affair with a woman named Claire, but the relationship goes sour when Frank chooses a career over love. Something he regrets later in life we see through the Ghost of Christmas Present.

The Ghost of Christmas Present appears in the form of a fairy godmother, only with different ways of communicating with Frank. Instead of a prissy approach as a fairy might do, this one appears annoying and violent..she like to head-butt.

This ghost take Frank to visit his brother who loves Frank and only desires to see him more. Frank would rather work and be cooped up in his own little soap box world.

She also takes Frank to look in on his assistant Grace who is living in poverty with kids and could use a real raise.

Grace's daughter asks," Mom, when are we gonna get a real Christmas tree?"

                        "When they're free!"

Just like the other versions of  A Christmas Carol, Frank doesn't see the errors of his ways until he's visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future and sees his death in an incinerator. Frank Cross now has remorse for becoming who he is and, just like the other stories of Scrooge, he changes.

He interrupts the live telecast of the IBC Network's A Christmas Carol, and admits his faults in life in front of millions of people. Frank even hands out pointers to the audience,

"There are people who are having trouble making their miracle happen; there are people who don't have enough to eat, there are people who are cold, you can go out and say hello to these people. You can take an old blanket out of the closet and go to them and say 'Here!', you can make them a sandwich and say 'oh by the way, here!"

 Frank even apologizes for the programming he was producing on his network,

"The Jews taught me this great word: Schmuck. I was a schmuck, and now I'm not a schmuck!" 

The lesson learned from this version of the nasty old Scrooge, is exactly what Frank Cross tells the audience:

Be a miracle to someone in need this Christmas Season.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Madea Christmas: My Movie Review

Buddy: "Did you hear the one about the two rabbis and the black dude?" 
Madea: "Did you hear the one about the stray bullet who killed the redneck for telling the story about the two rabbis and the black dude?"

It is very rare to have a Christmas film such as this one that deals with not only the true meaning of Christmas, but forgiveness and a real observation on racism. If your unfamiliar with the Madea character, she is a 6'5" grandmother played by Tyler Perry. Madea is a vindictive, ornery woman who's not shy about causing a stir nor telling it like it is, such as in this scene when she plays Mrs. Claus at a department store:

Madea: "How you doing there? What can I get for you?"
Child: "Does Santa really work at the North Pole?"
Madea: "Uh no, he don't work. He lays on the couch and he drinks all day. He's trifling. I have to pay all the bills. He kinda like your mama, now, bye. Next!"

Madea offers to drive her friend Eileen to a small rural town in Alabama to surprise Eileen's daughter Lacey for Christmas.
One of the funniest scenes upon their road trip is when they stop at a small town so Madea can use the bathroom; the gas station attendant leads Madea in the direction of a door, which upon Madea's entering is not a bathroom, but a KKK meeting. Never saw a 6'5'' grandmother in high heels move so quickly!

And, as for their Christmas surprise of visiting Lacey? They are in for a huge surprise when they find out Lacey has secretly married a white man named Connor. Lacey tries to cover up the marriage until the time is right, while Connor's red-neck parents show up to spend the holidays with them as well. Uh,oh.

Larry the Cable Guy plays Connor's dad Buddy, which makes for some hilarious conversations between him and Madea (as per the opening lines of this post). One of his other great liners,

"Lacey's vegetarian? That's alright, I'm Baptist and I still eat possum stew."

Within the tension filled home, it's Madea who uses her humor to stop the family feud and restore some holiday cheer. But not before going through some more funny stints, such as at the school where Lacey teaches and Lacey asks Madea to watch her class for a few minutes:

 Madea: "I'm sorry. Watch, watch your class? She wants me to watch her class. Children? Child, me and children don't get along. Now let me see, ankle-biting, disease-carrying little children of God or your mama, satanic, loud mouth, diarrhea woman from hell? I think I'll go with the children. Praise God."

Madea's decision was a wise one because Lacey's mom Eileen is wicked and has difficulty accepting that her daughter is in an inter-racial marriage. But, as I stated, it is Madea who calms the feud.

This film not only deals with inter-racial marriage and the hardships it may bring within families, but the struggles of racism in general. Lacey has a strong connection with one of her students who comes across as gifted, but the boy's father doesn't like Lacey, so we see another true episode of racism.

One of the other stories within this film is the town's struggle to financially bring forth their annual Christmas Jubilee. A sponsor donates $100,000 to the event, but doesn't want Christ or  nativity scene within the jubilee.

Overall, this Christmas film is not only funny, but touches on so many subjects that unfortunately still exist today. If your not familiar with the Madea movies, this film would be a good start for you and your family to share.