Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Rogue One (2016) Spreading a Message of Hope

Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” (New Living Translation)

The mission to save the galaxy begins with a message and ends with a message. A message that saves several planets with countless lives from either complete annihilation or a lifetime of fear and submission.  

Rogue One, Disney's recent addition to the Star Wars saga, serves as a prequel to Episode IV, A New Hope. In fact, it ends moments before A New Hope picks up. It explores the story of the martyred spies who deliver the stolen Death Star plans to Princess Leia Organa.

It is the first in the franchise not to have a light saber duel or a Jedi hero.

It depicts a story deep within the rebellion that is filled with regular people: humble, strong, hard-working, and angry from a lifetime of intimidation by a corrupt and powerful organization. The rebellion is built on an entire army of these folks, and it thrived for years before the Jedi, Luke Skywalker, comes onto the scene.

More importantly, it provides a satisfactory explanation to a major plot hole within the original trilogy.

How could such a fatal flaw in the Death Star plan go unnoticed and unaltered?

Was it arrogant or intentional?

The answer to this question lies with a young rebel named Jyn Erso, daughter of the Death Star's lead engineer and undercover rebel. Jyn grows up without her parents after she witnesses how the empire is responsible for the murder of her mother and the disappearance of her father.

She survives under the comfort of assuming he too is dead. Until she receives a message not only confirming his survival but also detailing his plan to destroy the weapon he helps create.

It is that message that sets into motion the theft of the Death Star plans, hence the beginning of A New Hope. It answers the question, how did Leia come into possession of the plans? What happens to the rebel spies who risk their lives on the battle front to steal the plan for Leia? How did they manage to steal the plans?

Once again, they send a message. A message that saves lives. A message that brings hope. A message with instructions to defeat a deadly threat. The Death Star, which brings fear and panic throughout the good people of the empire. The fate of the galaxy depends on how far the message of hope spreads.

Much like this message of hope, the gospel of Jesus Christ must also spread throughout the world:

Mark 16:15-16 “And then he told them, 'Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.'” (New Living Translation)

Much like the variety of rebel, all Christian are called to spread the message:

Galatians 3:28 says, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile,[a] slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (New Living Translation)

Even at the risk of martyrdom:

Isaiah 41:10 "Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand." (New Living Translation)

What more can we do to spread our message of hope?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Video Review: The Edge of Seventeen (2016) A Story of Hope

Release date: November 18, 2016
Studio: STX Entertainment
Director: Kelly Fremon Craig
MPAA Rating: R (for sexual content, language and some drinking - all involving teens)
Screenwriter: Kelly Fremon Craig
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Hayden Szeto
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Official website: STXMovies.com/ | Facebook | Twitter

"The Edge of Seventeen" is a new coming-of-age movie in the vein of "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club" - an honest, candid, often hilarious look at what it's like to grow up as a young woman in today's modern world.

Everyone knows that growing up is hard, and life is no easier for high school junior Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), who is already at peak awkwardness when her all-star older brother Darian (Blake Jenner) starts dating her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). All at once, Nadine feels more alone than ever, until the unexpected friendship of a thoughtful boy (Hayden Szeto) gives her a glimmer of hope that things just might not be so terrible after all.

The film also stars Kyra Sedgwick as Nadine's well-meaning but completely ineffective mother, and Woody Harrelson as Nadine's History teacher, mentor and reluctant sounding board.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) A Rare and Inspiring Passion

Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." (NLT)

There few things one cannot accomplish with passion, unyielding spousal support, and unlimited resources. What Florence Foster Jenkins lacks in talent, she makes up for in these three things. People desperately fought for the chance to hear her concerts, her program is the most requested from the Carnegie Hall archives, and her recordings have never been out of print. All in spite of her terrible singing voice.

What makes her famous?

Many seem to find humor in the outrageousness of her tone deaf singing. Many remained devoted to her because she was a generous patron of the music community. However, there is another essential ingredient in the character of Florence Foster Jenkins.

Passion. The like of which I have never seen. I know that same passion. I have that same passion. Therefore, I understand and appreciate anyone who shares it. Her passion for music is nothing short of inspirational.

“Music is my life,” she admits.

Her husband even suggests that her love of music is the reason she survives her life threatening disease for fifty years. That kind of passion is a gift from God. It makes her more beautiful than any physical sounds that could come from her voice. It is her reason for living. It is her purpose. It is her legacy.

God gives each person passions and gifts. Each person's job is to discover our purpose and use these gifts in a way that glorifies God. Florence Foster Jenkins is fortunate to have the kind of resources to make her passion a reality with ease. Her generosity keeps music alive. Her passion inspires. Her attempts to sing entertains and encourages. We need more people like that.

God bless Florence Foster Jenkins.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Election Day (2016) The Paramount Importance of Voting.

1 Timothy 2:1-2 says, "I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity" (NLT).

Tomorrow is Election Day, and I have to say I am very distressed. The amount of controversy between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton has been staggering. It makes me question whether either one of them can be effective leaders for the United States of America. Donald Trump is by far the most hateful, intolerant man I've ever seen, while Hilary Clinton appears to be a magnet of wildly illegal accusations.

However, the real tragedy is America's response to them. What distresses me even more is the number of facebook proclamations from people determined not to vote. Let me say, this is not the solution. The right to vote is an honor and privilege given to us by the countless patriots who gave their lives for this country. The refusal to vote slaps that honor and privilege in the face. It slaps our veterans and soldiers in the face. It shows no gratitude in being a free citizen.

While voting, it is essential to keep in mind that there other presidential candidates from whom to chose. As a registered Libertarian, I vote for Gary Johnson. Elections are not only about choosing the President. You also have the opportunity to vote for state offices, local offices, and Propositions.

Who's to say these articles aren't as important as the President?

Who's to say this won't be the year a third party candidate makes it into the White House.

How can you know unless you contribute?

Tomorrow, exercise your rights and show you value your voice.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Married By Christmas (2016) A New Level of Sibling Rivalry

Married By Christmas takes sibling rivalry to a whole new level. Even in my experience as one of seven. In the case of executive Carrie Tate and restaurateur Katie Tate, the sisters embark on a race to the alter in order to inherit the family business, Emerson Foods.

As the third youngest of seven children, even I was shocked by the amount of animosity and competition between the sisters. As a wife, I am offended by her behavior. Marriage is a serious contract, one that should not be used as a legal loophole.

However, it is a brilliant illustration of how dedicated Carrie is to her work. She puts her job above relationships, above self-care, and above family. She even blurs the line between personal and professional. Her lack of professional courtesy while on the job is enough to make one question her ability to lead Emerson Foods.

During her devious plan, never once does she consider the sins she commits against her sister and the company:

  • She doesn't communicate her plans to her family.
  • She plans to divorce her mystery husband almost immediately and after she takes the company.
  • She would be robbing her sister of her own bridal thunder or the chance to be a Matron of Honor.
  • She is also robbing the company of the opportunity to go in a new direction that Katie and her future brother-in-law could provide.
  • Above all, she would rob herself of future opportunities and a meaningful relationship.

Will she go through with her plan? Or will God open her eyes?

Tune in to UPTV tonight at 7 p.m. to find out.

Cara Introduces Christ In Culture

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Hush (2016) A Killer's Grave Underestimation

Philippians 2:3 says, "Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves."

Maddie (Kate Siegel) is an author and a brilliant strategist. She is a beginning cook. She is a devoted friend and sister despite her desire for solitude. In her secluded home, she struggles with her feelings over a recently dissolved relationship, and her only living companion is her cat. She finds herself utterly alone.

She is also deaf and mute. Her ability to communicate is very limited. Her ability to heed her surroundings is very limited. She spends much of her time on her phone, on her computer, and in her head. She bears all the appearance of easy prey. At least that is what the sadistic hunter thinks when he happens on her secluded cottage. He thinks she would be fun, easy prey due her her handicap, one limitation in spite of all her other qualities.

This is a lesson he learns the hard way after he embarks on a reign of psychological and physical terror. He does not expect her to fight back, but fight back she does. In spite of her handicap, she has two advantages over him. First, she is familiar with her surroundings. She knows her home, its tools, its hideaways, and its escapes. Second, she has the ability to stategize her defense and escape. She can look at a situation and determine the outcome. In the end, her ability saves her life.

It is never revealed who this hunter is, from where he comes, or the reason he kills innocent women. He never even reveals his name. What is clear is how skilled a hunter he is. He is obsessive, he hunter controlling, and truly disturbed. This is an adversary few could defeat, and he knows it. He is too proud to properly estimate Maddie's intelligence. There inlies his fatal flaw, which leads to his downfall.

The moral of this story is so fundamental, but sadly underrated. NEVER JUDGE. NEVER ASSUME. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE. NEVER treat another human being with any less regard than you would wish upon yourself. It is a mistake from which you many never recover.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Concussion (2015) An Impartial Point of View

Based on a true story, Concussion depicts the heartbreaking journey of Dr. Bennet Omalu in 2005 when he makes a groundbreaking medical discovery.

“Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma.” (Concussion Legacy Foundation)

Dr. Bennet Omalu is a brilliant and devoted neuropathologist. He is also a devout Christian with a heart of gold, a deep compassion for the victims he examines, and a drive for the truth. He does his job very well, because he heeds his instincts. It is those instincts that leads him to his discovery, a discovery that could save lives.

So, what is the problem?

There shouldn't be a problem.

Dr. Bennet Omalu simply does his job.

What does he get for his revolutionary discovery? His credibility is questioned and attacked. He is shunned. He is called un-American. He and his wife are harassed, and the tremendous stress leads to an even greater loss. His boss is investigated. There appears to be no end to the reach of the football world, and they use it to shut down a humble doctor. Meanwhile, people continue to die in confusing and terrifying ways.

Dr. Omalu has the truth on his side. No amount of money and power can bring them close to the power of the truth. No amount of pulled strings or character assassinations can get in the way. They cannot deny the rising body count, especially the death of a powerful football veteran. Inevitably, Dr. Omalu wins his turn to speak.

Luke 8:17 says, "For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all." (NLT)

There are few things I find more despicable in this world than abuse of power, and those who enable it are no better. It sends the message that the only people who deserve justice are those with money or high rank, and it gives them an unchristian sense of entitlement. What happens to Dr. Omalu over his pursuit of the truth is a travesty.

It makes me glad that I never wasted a second of my attention on professional football. Like Dr. Bennet Omalu, my sight is not tainted by prejudice against the pure intention of saving lives. I celebrate Dr. Bennet Omalu for his genius, his devotion, and his kindness. Despite all opposition, his discovery led to better care for athletes and veterans. He prevents death. Let us all celebrate him.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Blacklist (2016) Season 4 Premiere

Season 4 of the Blacklist premieres tomorrow night, September 22 on NBC.

The Blacklist is the story about the important FBI work of Raymond Reddington (James Spader) and Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) taking down the most dangerous criminals in the world.

The trick is that Reddington is a member to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List. He is a cunning, dangerous criminal. He is a thief, a murderer, and everything in between. He is also a man of steadfast wealth and wisdom.

Why, then, would he risk it all by turning himself into the FBI and betraying his fellow criminals?

There in-lies the true mystery of The Blacklist. Why?

That reason's name is FBI Profiler Elizabeth Keen. Who is she? From where does she come? What is her connection to Reddington?

Throughout the first three seasons, these questions are slowly answered. The pair put away many horrible criminals, and Elizabeth experiences many revelations about the depth of Reddington's role in her life.

He is protective of her. He takes care of her. He goes to great lengths to save her life. She is the only human being on the Earth he would risk his life to keep safe. He loves her.

One question that remains unanswered: What sets her apart? Why is she so special? What is their connection?

One of the most common theories is that Reddington is Keen's biological father. Though it is understandable, I doubt it. With three years in the running, there is no need for a biological connection. Over three years, their relationship rises above technicality. They are forever linked by the good work they do together.

He becomes her surrogate father and guardian angel.

I am eager to see what answers Season 4 will provide. Hopefully, the premiere will tell us more about this new villain, Keen's captor, who claims to be Keen's biological father in Reddington's attempt to save her from him. It is bound to be an exciting journey.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Jungle Book (2016) The Destructive Path of Revenge

Luke 6:37-38 says “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven."

The Jungle Book is an unbelievable live-action remake of the 1967 animated film about an Indian child named Mowgli. He is abandoned in the jungle as an infant, adopted and raised by wolves, and eventually reunited with humans after an dangerous tiger drives him out of the jungle. It is a bittersweet adventure the whole way, but the remake takes the story to a whole new level.

Though the dangers of the jungle remain, Mowgli also struggles with his own identity. He is an individualistic and inventive human raised in a family that demands unified thinking and teamwork. This discourages and alienates him from the family he loves. He struggles for a way to win his family's acceptance for his approach to living life.

That opportunity comes in the form a tiger called Shere Khan and the most feared animal in the jungle. Shere Khan hates humans, because of a vicious injury that leaves his face scarred. It drives his mind into prejudice. Upon his discovery of Mowgli, his bitterness and rage drives him to destroy the innocent child. If one human is guilty, then all humans are guilty.

He could not be more wrong about Mowgli, because Mowgli is an intelligent, kind, love, and self sacrificing child. Even when his family faces the decision

In his efforts to destroy Mowgli, he becomes a worse monster than the human he claims to despise. He murders the head of Mowgli's family and takes control of the wolf pack. He attacks Mowgli's savior and best friend, Bagheera. Worst of all, he attempts to turn Mowgli's family and friends against him by imposing his prejudice on them. He attempts to spread his hate like a cancer.

Psalms37:8 says "Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper— it only leads to harm."

Fortunately, he gravely underestimates the unconditional love Mowgli's friends and family give him. They accept him. They value him. They cherish him. They forgive his mistakes. They consider him family. Not because he is human, but because he has a kind heart. They know he has a kind heart.

Meanwhile, Shere Khan's desire for revenge drives him directly into his inevitable downfall. He is so blinded by anger, he fails to see the trap constructed by Mowgli. Instead of heeding his survival instincts and leaping into his own destruction.

The Jungle Book is a terrific story about the fruits of one's attitude. Mowgli has a kind and giving heart. Therefore, he is blessed with love from friends and family. He also earns the respect of the most revered animals in the jungle. Shere Khan is bitter, violent, and unforgiving. Therefore, he lives a unproductive, lonely life which leads to his own destruction.

I urge you, friends, to heed this lesson. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Suicide Squad (2016) Rebellion vs. Redemption.

Titus 2:7 says, "And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching." (NLT)

Let me begin by saying that it is impossible to properly introduce nine characters in 123 minutes. It simply cannot be done.  It seems that the DC universe is trying so hard to catch up to Marvel's firmly established timeline that they're sprinted over many needed origin stories. Too many necessary scenes were written out or cut in favor of saving time.

Suicide Squad has been severely criticized for this very problem. Granted, this DC franchise intends to keep focus on the heroes of the Justice League, so how much focus can we expect on these anti-heroes? However, that should not suggest that Suicide Squad lacked in excitement, humor, and a firm lesson.

Suicide Squad is an illustration of the difference between two extreme ways to treat "bad people," and the two extreme results that follow. Abuse yields rebellion while respect yields redemption.

Government worker Amanda Waller recruits seven of the worst criminals in her custody to form a special task force. They would work for her in exchange for a sentence reduction. The concept bears potential to give them a chance of redemption. She claims, "getting people to act against their own self-interest is what I do for a living."

However, her approach is threatening, forceful, selfish, and unproductive. Their first mission in itself is an insult. When a super-natural force threatens to take over the world, they are recruited to extract Amanda. There are no plans to end the threat. These seven anti-villains are threatened, beaten, abused, verbally discouraged, and undermined. They go to work only because death is the alternative.

Philippians 2:3 says, "Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves." (NLT)

Of course, the mission proves to be an impossible task that leads to failure and chaos driving everyone into an equal state of humility. In that moment, the squad faces the OPPORTUNITY to face the evil force and save the world from annihilation. This time, they make a free choice to save the world, and it is a selfless choice. Only then do they become an equal team. A whole team. A true team.

Granted, their actions cannot and do not grant them redemption, because redemption cannot be earned. However, in their selfless decision to save the world, they take the first step into redemption. The squad begins with seven angry and rebellious souls and ends with a variety of decisions ranging from no lesson learned to self-sacrifice and everything in between.

That is indeed a worth while lesson, despite any technical flaws with the film.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Scream: Season 1 (2016) Purging Guilt

The second season of MTV's Scream: The TV Series is less than a week from concluding where Piper's partner will reveal him/herself. I am ashamed to admit I am stumped. Season 2 has veered far from the infamous Scream formula. Unfortunately, the only time a suspect is eliminated is when he/she is literally eliminated.

The new killer could still be ANYBODY, though marketing campaigns heavily imply the killer is one of the six survivors from Season 1 aka the Lakewood Six. The second season of MTV's Scream: The TV Series is less than a week from concluding where Piper's partner will reveal him/herself. I am ashamed to admit I am stumped. Season 2 has veered far from the infamous Scream formula. Unfortunately, the only time a suspect is eliminated is when he/she is literally eliminated.

The new killer could still be ANYBODY. It could be any of the minor characters including Emma's father, Emma's mother, or Brandon James. It could be Gustavo, the Sheriff's son who is fixated on the Piper's survivors. It could be Audrey while setting up a brilliant alibi. It's even possible that Emma's psychological break could lead to obsession or homicidal tendencies.

The lack of clues that would typically narrow the suspect list is proving itself to be very frustrating. This mystery is neglected to make room for a focus on the psychological effects that the first round of murders have on the Lakewood Six. 

Jake is immediately murdered.

Brooke's story is rather pathetic while she primarily mopes over her missing boyfriend and daddy issues (both conveniently deceased). She is so absorbed with her own petty teenage problems to be a supportive presence to her fellow survivors. She is suspiciously absent during much of the main plot.

Brooke Maddox is my main suspect.
Kieran though still alive becomes a plot casualty. His struggles drown in the drama of his fellow survivors, including his failed relationship with Emma. After losing his father, he gets stuck with his irresponsible and opportunistic aunt, who appears more suspicious that he. However, I cannot disregard his absences as anything less that convenient for a serial killer.

Emma's PTSD drives her into a mental facility over the summer, but her PTSD remains past her return. She is so haunted by her experiences that she has reoccurring nightmares. She pulls away from her mother feeling betrayed by her secrets. There are far too many people showing interest in her, including Piper's mysterious “partner”.

Noah on the other hand takes extreme advantage of the experience by starting his own radio show he cryptically titles “The Morgue.” He obsessed over the murders, Piper, and the identity of the new killer. Even after losing a second lady near to his heart, he cannot fight the urge to continue the show and his investigation. He is truly obsessed.

Meanwhile, Audrey becomes the favorite toy of Piper's real partner. She is driven to the point of exhaustion by her own guilt as well as the killer's persistent taunts. Of everyone in the Lakewood Six, she suffers the most. She suffers from both internal and external guilt over a terrible secret. No one knows she intentionally brings Piper to town. Except Piper's partner. She feels responsible for the murders. All of the murders. The only way she can purge the guilt is through confession. She confesses her actions but also her feelings. Only then is she free from the dark figure's hold on her, and with Emma's reluctant forgiveness, she can rebuild her relationships.

Proverbs 28:13, "People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy." (NLT)

The question remains: Whodunnit? Who is Piper's partner?

I have my theory, but it could still be any one of them.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) Intelligence vs. Brute Force

Proverbs 24:6 says, "So don't go to war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many advisers." (NLT)

An incredible sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, to the twenty year-old Sci-Fi hit, Independence Day. premiered June 24.

It's remarkable the number of characters that returned for the sequel:

Jeff Goldblum returns as David Levinson.

Brent Spiner returns as Dr. Okun. 

Judd Hirsch returns as Julius Levinson. 

Vivica A. Fox returns as Jasmine Dubrow. 

Bill Pullman returns as former President Whitmore.

The most frightening characters that return are the alien invaders, and they return with a vengeance. Despite twenty years of preparation, global peace and technological advances, humanity finds itself woefully underprepared when round 2 begins. The invaders come with bigger ships, bigger weapons, bigger armies, better technology, and a giant queen. Physically, Earth's chances of a successful defense are slim.

Earth once again unites in the common interest of survival.

Yet, what is humanity's saving grace?

Answer: Intelligence. Same as before.

The survivors of the first war share their experiences from their primary victory. Each one of the survivors find a way to contribute their knowledge into defending Earth or providing aid to refugees. More importantly, find they bare a psychic link into the invader's communication.

Through their insight, they find a key to their salvation. A ray of hope that freely presents itself to Earth.

Another alien life form in the form of artificial intelligence and former victim of the invaders arrives in an attempt to aid and Intel. She is kind. She is giving. She is generous. She is selfless. She also brings information about the invaders and the refugees they left behind. With twenty years of preparation, the insight of the 1996 veterans, and the aid of the peaceful alien visitor, Earth stands a chance to remain victors over the hostile alien invaders. 

Independence Day: Resurgence brilliantly and excitingly illustrates the consequences of brute force in warfare. The alien invaders use brute force twice against Earth, while humanity uses intelligence to defend itself. Both times, intelligence prevails.  

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ghostbusters (2016) Erin vs. Rowan: What is their Differential?

The unbelievably entertaining remake of the iconic 1984 comedy premiered on July 15, 2016. It gives a modern look to a classic comedy. It must be no easy task to successfully improve upon such an iconic film, but it happily was by honoring the spirit of the story while providing its own flavor.

I love the way that Ghostbusters (2016) honors Ghostbusters (1984). Yet, it stands on its own. The new Ghostbusters are women. They are more brilliant, more passionate about ghosts, better equipped, and much more scrutinized.

Erin Gilbert is a brilliant and renowned physician. Jillian Holtzmann is a bizarre and brilliant engineer. Abby Yates is a scientist, die hard ghost researcher, and Erin's childhood best friend. Patty Tolan is a security guard and self-taught expert on the history of New York. Each member brings something unique and productive to the table. They work together with passion, loyalty, teamwork, and hard work.

Ephesians 4:16 says, "He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love." (NLT)

Kevin is their terrible receptionist. Though physically fit and gorgeous, he is not very bright. However, he is sweet and passionate to the cause, and the team is loyal to him.

Last but not least, Rowan North is a brilliant and vengeful janitor who shares Erin's difficult past. He is angry, bitter, and destructive. He is also alone.

Both Erin and Rowan are bullied and teased as teenagers for their belief in ghosts. Above all, this new Ghostbusters illustrates a question that can apply to anyone in any situation. How do two people with the same background and experiences end up on different paths? What is the fork that divides their paths?

Answer: Abby Yates, her best friend.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, "Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble." (NLT)

Erin grows up with support, encouragement, and friendship. Despite the resistance of those around them due to their belief in ghosts, their loyalty keeps them on a constructive path. They write a book together, they become scientists, and eventually start their own ghost-catching business. They do these things in each other's support and company.

No one ever believes in or supports Rowan. His loneliness drives him into a vengeful attitude. He struggles to succeed in his life and earns his living as a janitor. His colleagues dislike him. He has no family, and his only friend is Erin and Abby's book. This path leads him an end of complete annihilation.

Rowan's evil and brilliant plan nearly destroy the city of New York. He focuses on a life of causing death, destruction, and sorrow instead of spending his valuable time on Earth contributing to the welfare of humanity. He is sneaky, he is dishonest, and he breaks the law. He risks everything including his own life. He does it alone, and he falls alone.

The Ghostbusters on the other hand work together to save New York. They do it selflessly, They do it  for truth and justice. They do it lovingly. They do it together. Ghostbusters is more than a copy of an iconic film from the 80's. It is a brilliant illustration of the importance of friendship, teamwork, and the pursuit of truth.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Childhood Stories Due To Hit the Silver Screen

This has been an exciting year for films. Many serve as a call back to a story that guided me through my childhood in one way or another. Each one sends me back to a happier, simpler, and less stressful time in my life. The memories make me happy. Let us take a trip down memory lane.

JUNGLEBOOK - 15 April 2016

The 1967 animated film is an exciting story about a young boy raised by wolves, befriended by a bear, kidnapped by monkeys, hunted by a tiger, and eventually freed back into the hands of humans. The family that raised him realized that the child remains in danger as long as he's alone. They love him enough to let him go.

In 1999 an exciting animated adventure premiered about a boy taken by a family gorillas in an uninhabited part of the world after his ship wrecked parents are killed by a leopard. He grows to be a strong, acrobatic, kind, and curious man. After meeting a beautiful explorer, he faces the decision of staying with the family that raised him or returning to civilization to live with humans. 
The Legend of Tarzan explores the consequences of making the decision to return to civilization. The live action effects take the excitement to a whole new level.

THE BFG - 1 July 2016
The children's book by one of my favorite authors Roald Dahl is a story about an young orphan taken from her unhappy conditions into a mystical, adventurous world with the Big Friendly Giant. He gives her clothes. He gives her food. He gives her a look into his beautiful world. He show her his peaceful way of life. They eventually work together to save the London from an invasion by evil giants.

GHOSTBUSTERS - 15 July 2016
The original film premiered in 1984 and became an instant sensation. It is the story of three scientists and a trainee stumble upon a huge break in their research of the existence of ghosts existence and turn it into an ghost catching enterprise. The million dollar question is where do these ghosts come from after such a long dry spell? The answers differ in the original and its remake. However, the moral remains the same. Ghostbusters are heroes regardless of their origins, gender, office location, or level of recognition.  

PETE'SDRAGON - 12 August 2016
The original film and musical premiered in 1977. I hardly remember it. It is the story of a young orphan with an invisible friend, Elliot. This friend turns out to be a dragon who protects Pete from a series of villains. It is a touching, albeit cheesy story. Next month's remake will completely restructure the original from the origin story, setting, and much needed improved effects.

Unfortunately, I haven't read the three book series, Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children. So there is little I can say about the stories. The story is based on a series of photographs indicating children with special abilities. The film looks a lot like a 1940's version of X-Men. We'll see.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – 17 March 2017 
Belle from the 1991 animated film Beauty and the Beauty was my favorite Disney princess as a child. I identified with her the most. She is an outcast. She is a dreamer. She is loyal to family. She sees beyond the surface of things and people. Most of all, she is a book worm. 

Last but not least, the most exciting premiere of all. The Hey Arnold cartoon series that ended on a maddening cliff hanger in the final episode, The Journal, on November 11, 2002. For fourteen years, die hard Hey Arnold fans (including myself) have been aching and petitioning for the story to wrap up. The Jungle Movie was originally due to premiere after that final episode. However, the series was cancelled due to poor office box numbers of Hey Arnold! The Movie

Next year, our dream will come true. Hey Arnold will get the closure it deserves. In the film, we hope to see Arnold search for and find his parents as well as Arnold confess his returned love for Helga, a poor and neglected girl who suffers most of her life with unrequited love for Arnold.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Major Risks Involving the Pokemon Go App

Pokemon Go is an overnight sensation. It is a mobile game where the player must physically catch Pokemon creatures or "a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game." (Wikipedia)

It encourages users to get up, go outside, and walk around. The only way to catch Pokemon creatures is to walk to the place on the map provided. Its popularity skyrocketed over night. Myriads of people are going outside. The main street in town was crowded with people today playing this game. 

This is encouraging considering how notorious our current culture is for our lack of exercise due to gaming. I'm saying we all are guilty of this. I am merely addressing a stereotype. In fact, I commend all of those who make wellness a priority. Therefore, I am pleased that a game finally exists that encourages exercise.

There is, however, a severe down side to this. While the massive highway accident story (and other stories like it) have been proven to be a hoax, there have been other accidents related to the game. One driver crashed his car into a tree while playing the game and driving. Talking on a cell phone while driving is illegal in my state. Texting while driving is illegal in my state. Playing this game is exponentially more dangerous than talking or texting. 

Words cannot express how dangerous this is. NEVER play and drive. NEVER. 

It has also been reported on the radio that some employees are frustrated over the way players disrupt their business. Other reports include falls, stumbles, sunburns, and bike accidents. 

To all Pokemon Go players, I urge you to always be vigilant while playing. Be aware of cars while crossing the street. Be aware of pedestrians while walking on the sidewalk. Be aware of the businesses you disrupt while walking into buildings. 

Be aware. BE AWARE. BE AWARE. For the love of God, be aware.

No game is worth the risk of a human life. Pursue wellness in all manners. This includes safety.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane

Galatians5:22-23 says, "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!" (NLT)

10 Cloverfield Lane is a mind boggling thriller where three people share an underground bunker completely detached from the outside world. What lurks outside is a complete mystery, especially for Michelle who was brought into the bunker against her will.

Has the world ended, or is she the hostage of two dangerous conspiracy theorists?

That is what Michelle struggles to answer. All she knows is what she sees before her, two strangers, Howard and Emmett, who tell her the world has ended. How can she trust a word they say with little evidence and a very unstable man to give the message. So, she not only questions the message, she suspects Howard of unspeakable things.

Credibility absolutely relies on a number of things:

Emotional Stability: Howard is clearly unstable. He has consistent violent outbursts. He screams, he swears, and he pounds his fists. He makes threats, and eventually does the unthinkable. Michelle and Emmett live in fear of him, which is no way to live. Thus, he becomes an unreliable messenger.

Resignation: Howard's most concerning quality is his inability to relinquish control. He dictates every moment of their time in his bunker. He controls what they eat to their number of bathroom breaks. Life in the bunker becomes an obligation, not a privilege. Thus he becomes an unreliable messenger.

Transparency: Michelle knows from the moment of their meeting that Howard's story of how she comes into the bunker. She discovers many hidden truths about his history. Questionable truths. Disturbing truths. Frightening truths. Truths that make her doubt every word he says. Keeping truths from her makes him an unreliable messenger.

Love: Howard's motives appear plentiful. However, love is nowhere among them. He is controlling, selfish, and violent. There is also an unclear hint of lust. None of these traits are side effects of love.

Whether or not danger lurks outside the walls of the bunker, whether or not the world ends, whether or not the air is toxic, the only danger clear to Michelle is Howard. All she knows, thinks, and works toward is GET AWAY FROM HOWARD. His message may be valid, but his delivery destroys the message.

Proverbs13:17 "An unreliable messenger stumbles into trouble, but a reliable messenger brings healing." (NLT)

The Christian message of salvation was given to us with love, kindness, transparency, and without judgment. As it was given by Christ, it must be delivered this way. Lovingly, openly, selflessly, and kindly. Otherwise, receivers of the message will desperately run from it… at all cost, and into danger.

That is not a risk we can afford to make. The message should live and breath in every part of our lives. It lives in what we say. It lives in our treatment towards others. It lives in everything we do. It lives in the functionality of our relationships.

Matthew7:21 says, “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter."

We live the message more than we speak it. We must live love, honesty, acceptance, and generosity. It is the most effective way to give messages to others. Anything less is hypocrisy. Anything less is counter productive. Anything less will drive away subjects of the message, just as Howard drives Michelle into unknown danger.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Sense of Humor by Max Elliot Anderson

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” (NLT)

Max Elliot Anderson breaks out his typical genre of pre-teen mystery and adventure novels with The Sense of Humor. The first half is dedicated to a thorough study of positive effects humor has on the physical body. The second half provides almost two hundred pages of a variety of jokes appropriate for family, work, ministry and much more.

I am very pleased to see this book come into existence, because it has always been my firm belief that the emotional and the physical are linked.

The three year period between graduating college and getting married was the most depressing and stressful time in my life. I suffered from daily twitched and frequent stomach pains. 

Now, I proudly frequent YouTube for stand up comedy routines and funny clips after a stressful or infuriating day at work. I even keep comedy routines on my mp3 player. My husband's natural prone to comedy keeps my mood from slipping into that old depression, which is easy for me due to my thyroid condition.

The Sense of Humor confirms my belief beyond a shadow of a doubt. In a time of great stress and uncertainty in a terrible economy, it is easy to forget to take care of ourselves and forget to focus on little pleasures. They seem frivolous in the bigger picture of surviving. On the contrary, little pleasures are essential.

I applaud Max Elliot Anderson for his work on this study on humor essential role in physical health. The Sense of Humor is a must for every book shelf. Let us all learn from it for the sake of our emotional and physical welfare.

Find it on Amazon.

Also, visit Max Elliot Anderson's blog: http://yourhumorsense.blogspot.com/

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Christ In Culture Under Attack

Psalm 91:1-3 says, "Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease." (NLT)

These past several weeks have been an emotional, spiritual, and physical drain on me. My proudest creation, Christ In Culture, has been hacked and infiltrated. Hundreds of Japanese ad pages were added ranging from children's toys to adult content. The webmaster and I have been working tirelessly to clean the site of this garbage and set up every possible security to prevent any further hacks. So, far it has worked. I changed my password to an impossible guess, the website has been cleaned, and Google cleared as a safe site once again.

Now, we must deal with their nonstop attempts to re-hack Christ In Culture. We have shut them out completely, and they are furious. This morning, I met the day with an email alert that there have been non-stop hack attempts from early this morning until this very moment.

For years, I have struggled to understand what they wanted from me. Christ In Culture makes no money. It is a place for people to express the positive in modern art and current event. A place to receive affirmation, love, and acceptance. So, what could these devilish scammers hope to accomplish with me?

This experience told me everything.

Since there is no money to steal, they want what I hold dearest. My clean reputation, and thus, my integrity. They tried to use Christ In Culture's good name to advertise their garbage, so they can make their own money.



For those of you who frequent Christ in Culture know that there are few things that boil my blood more than scammers and hackers.

Link 1, Link 2, Link 3, Link 4, Link 5

These people spend their precious time on this Earth to avoid an honest living at all cost by stealing from those of us who do work hard. If not our money, then our reputation.

To these hackers who have been launching an endless stream of assaults on my dearest brain child:

How dare you? 

Who do you think you are?

You will NEVER take hold of my brain child again. 

Give it up.

I don't care if I have to spend the rest of my life fighting you. It will be worth every ounce of effort knowing that hackers can fail, that the devil that drives you failed. For I am a servant of Jesus Christ As long as I belong to him, the devil cannot hurt me.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Alice: Through the Looking Glass (2016)

Romans 12:6-7 says, "In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well." (NLT)

When first we met Alice, she is a girl facing an undesirable future. Desperate to escape, she runs after a curious looking white rabbit and finds herself on a hero's journey in Underland (aka Wonderland). She returns home after learning to accept herself, her dreams, and her drive to make a difference in the world.

In this fantastic sequel, she returns to Underland after experiencing another personal crisis. Despite her accomplishments, society remains against her. Her seeks comfort in her fashion. She seeks fulfillment beyond marriage and motherhood. She seeks to carry on the legacy of her father.

However, no one in society supports her. No one acknowledges her accomplishments. No one understands her ambitions. Not even her mother. She is even committed to an asylum after she is witnessed crawling under furniture. Thus, she is diagnosed with female hysteria, described as "excitable, emotional, and prone to fantasy."

This presents an intriguing question not mentioned in the first Alice: Is Underland real or is Underland in her head?

Here is what we know.

Underland calls to her in times of crisis.

Alice: She falls into Underland during her engagement party. Her engagement is arranged, and she has no desire to marry. She wants to follow in her father's footsteps and make a difference. Marriage would have restricted her from her goals. From freedom itself.

Looking Glass: She falls into Underland during her ex-fiance's party where she learns he seeks to take her father's ship. He presents her with an ultimatum to hand over the ship or lose her house. He strips her of her title as Captain and bullies her into the position of clerk. That would be enough to distress any strong woman.

In Underland, she embarks on a quest that teaches her a valuable life lesson.

Alice: Her quest is to fight the Jabberwocky and restore the White Queen to the throne. In doing so, she proves that she is capable of anything. She emerges with the strength to stand up for her calling to follow in her father's footsteps. Instead of settling for the marriage she dreads, she embarks on a quest to honor the legacy of her father.

Looking Glass: Her quest is to save the Hatter's life and find his family. Again she finds herself in a battle against the Red Queen, but emerges victorious with a sacrificial heart. Having saved the Hatter's family from the Red Queen, she then makes a sacrifice to protect her mother.

Whether it's real or not, Underland serves as a positive influence in her life.

"The only thing worth doing is what we do for others," she affirms.

This is her primary motto that she applies to everyone in her life from the Hatter to her mother. It gives her the strength she needs to own her personality, follow her calling, and ultimately fight for the family she loves.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Martian (2015) Overcoming Adversity

The Martian, based on the novel, is a story set in the future about Botanist and Astronaut Mark Watney becomes the first man to colonize the freezing, hostile, and uninhabited planet of Mars.

He begins as a member of a six person crew who visit the planet to collect soil samples for study. Unfortunately, a terrible storm disrupts their mission, and the crew faces an emergency evacuation under the impression that Watney perishes in the storm. With no other choice, they leave him behind and set into motion his fight for survival unlike anything the world has ever seen.

The following are only some of the troubles he suffers in the 551 sols (Martian days) he spends on Mars and how he manages to overcome them:

Injuries: He is fatally injured during the storm in which he is left behind. His bodice is penetrated by a pole. First order of business is to remove it and close the wound. His habitat is fortunately stocked with medical supplies and he has the training required to perform his own surgery.

Limited Resources: Also stocked in his habitat are rations and equipment necessary to sustain his body. However, they are limited. In order for him to sustain himself in the time required to wait for rescue, he finds a way to create more sustenance. As a botanist, he would know how. He builds a green house and plants potatoes.

Communication Restrictions: The next big obstacle is to get a message to NASA that he is indeed alive. Only by dumb luck and an intitive NASA employee do they come to that realization. From there, Watney finds a way to communicate through an old rover and signs. Over time, it improves to the equivalent of interplanetary instant message.

Authoritative Restrictions: NASA then wastes no time hatching a plan to launch a mission to bring him home, but it is a sweet and sour relationship. They proceed to micro-manage his crops and rations, and Watney is not the type that takes orders and criticism well. Yet, he follows orders, because he knows he has no other choice if he is to achieve survival.

The worst thing about NASA’s decision making is their refusal to allow his crew to turn around for him. They recognize that such an act is mutiny and treason, but their love for Watney overrides their own sense of self-preservation. They come to understand that turning back for him is the the best option for Watney at great risk to their own survival and reputations. Love turns them around.

Loneliness: Despite support from NASA, no amount of instant message can take the place of face-to-face companionship. He spends almost two years with none. How can a man stay sane without any other human soul with whom to interact? Again, Watney uses what is at his disposal: video logs. He talks to a camera every day, detailing every step of his journey beginning moments after surgery until moments before climbs on the ship that takes him off Mars. He leaves no opinion, feeling, plan, or achievement restrained. Of course, the camera cannot talk back, but it is enough to keep him sane and his communication skills sharp.

Fear/Depression: There is no denying the amount of fear, loss, hopelessness, and depression putting stress on his body and mind. There are times he almost reserves himself to possible demise. He even writes a message to his crew requesting they contact his loved ones in case he doesn’t make it. Words cannot even express the severity of Watney’s feelings, because no one else on Earth can share his experience. However, he matches these feelings with wit, humor, outright defiance, and the unquenchable urge to return home.

Scripture says in James 1:2-4, “…when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

There is no story like The Martian. It takes a series of life’s adversities to a whole new level and characterizes a man who is able to rise above them all using a unique mix of faith, intelligence, skill, bravery, and wit.

Bottom line: Mark Watney is the ultimate survivor.

He is an inspiration. He defies every single odd against him. With the help of his team. With the help of his colleagues. With the help of his intuition. With the help of his drive to survive.

Let us all take inspiration from this story and remember God is with us during the good and the bad. Trust in him and persevere.