The average American views about 8,000 advertisements per day. That’s an extreme amount of stimulation saying that you need more than you are and more than you have.
The most repeated message heard from birth to the grave is designed to convince you that will never have friends, be sexy, or find success without purchasing something. This consumerism is breeding new forms of depression affecting the young and the old alike.
My pastor is training his children to fight the onslaught. After each commercial they say in unison, “Who are you kidding?” That’s one method.
I chose to mute commercials when my kids were living at home. It just became a habit and we never noticed until one day a friend said, “You guys watch a lot of muted TV.” Yes, the TV was on mute more than sound because commercials rule the airways.
Now, I simply don’t watch network TV. After living without a TV for eight years, I found I can’t stomach the commercials. So we only watch movies or reruns on Netflix.
You see, I need the discipline. I didn’t watch much TV as a child but my father believed his duty was to highlight my every flaw. It’s taken a lifetime to realize they weren’t real flaws after all.
I assume that’s why I cried the other night watching a rerun from season one of Cheers. Coach’s daughter introduces everyone to her fiancé. Roy is the ultimate jerk so Sam convinces Coach to tell Lisa the truth.
A few minutes later in Sam’s office, Lisa agrees with her dad, “Look Daddy, I’m not dumb. I know Roy’s abrasive. I know he’s insensitive. And I know he’s probably only marrying me so he can get the Pennsylvania territory.”
Her bewildered father can only ask, “Why would you want to marry a man like this?” He is further confused when she says that Roy’s the only man who has proposed and she’s afraid he will be the last. This daddy just can’t understand because he knows his daughter. “But you’re so beautiful.”
Here’s where the tears start to roll off my face.
Lisa responds, “Beautiful? Daddy, you’ve been saying I’m beautiful ever since I was a very little girl. But look at me! Not as my father, but like you’re looking at me for the first time. But please, try to see me as I really am.”
Coach moves closer and stares intently. “Oh, my God. I didn’t realize how much you look like your mother.”
“I know. I look exactly like her. And Mom was not….” Lisa struggles to say the words and my heart is pounding. Coach waits anxiously, then Lisa smiles, “comfortable about her beauty.”
I choked. I can’t imagine being comfortable about me. What is it to be content? But read on, there’s more.
“She was really beautiful?” Lisa’s still not convinced.
“Yes and so are you. You’re the most beautiful kid in the whole world.”
Now, right there are the words every child needs to hear from their parents and in their home. With those words a kid can face the world and all its painful lies. A more confident Lisa ended the engagement and went for ice cream with her daddy. No matter the age, she needs constant reassurance of her worth. Her daddy’s job is never finished.
I can do my part to avoid the lies but I still need to hear the truth on a daily basis. There’s a truth in God’s Word that propels me forward. This story tells it best.
An artist was asked how he sculpts an eagle from a slab of stone. While the hammer and chisel delicately works, he replies, “When I look at this marble I see only eagle. I simply chip away at everything that is not eagle.”
I need to remember, when God the Father looks at his children (that’s me) He sees only His beloved Jesus.
My grandson Eli loves anything with wheels. His momma takes him to Target so he can visit with the toys. He walks the aisles, touching and narrating. He gives Spiderman a hug. He growls like the Hulk. He operates every function of the robots. But his eyes dance when he sees a truck or car.
He’ll push that boxed treasure up-and-down the aisle making the appropriate sound effects. Then there’s the labeling of each part to confirm that it is indeed a truck. Wheels. Lights. Driving. (That’s the steering wheel.) Hat. (You guessed it, that’s the visor over the windshield.)
Eli’s favorite is the garbage truck and following in close second is the fire truck. At one time his favorite cartoon was Chuck, the adventures of young trucks and cars. Cat in the Hat, George, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and Super Why? have all gone the way of Chuck into his category of bor-ing.
He discovered the awe of the full-length cartoon, Cars. Disney’s masterful marketing invaded our home. Replicas of Lightning McQueen, Sally, Red, Mack, and of course Mater are now his most cherished possessions.
I’m the proud Gramma that brags about how he identifies all the alphabet letters and numbers, knows the names and text of his favorite books, and can phonetically sound out many letters. I marvel at how he reenacts Cars’ scenes with perfect dialogue and acting flair. He’s only two.
Needless to say, I too have the script memorized. Larry “Git-R-Done!” the Cable Guy delivers as Mater, “I’m happier than a tornado in a trailer park.” Eli doesn’t get all the jokes but I laugh. His eyes glaze over during the romantic parts. Again the genius of Disney, knowing moms and grammas have to watch, they make a cartoon about cars into a chick flick plus high-speed racing and crashes for the dads.
I wonder if blue Porsches’ sales increased as women hoped if they could drive in slow motion through the waterfall’s mist and seductively bat their eyes then a hunk in a Corvette would give up his dreams to stay with her. I also wonder how many dads started betting on NASCAR.
There’s even something for grandparents. Sally narrates the scene that takes us to the ‘good-o-days’ when the cars crossed the country in a whole different way. “The road didn’t cut through the land like that interstate. It moved with the land, it rose, it fell, it curved. Cars didn’t drive on it to make great time. They drove on it to have a great time.”
Then scenes of Radiator Springs in its heyday play while James Taylor sings, Our Town. Everyone yields. Everyone’s happy. No one speeds by. They had it good and enjoyed it while it lasted. I’m a sucker for the feel good song. I’ve heard my grandparents talk about how great life used to be. The world’s best backwards driver, tow truck Mater says it best, “Ain’t no need to watch where I’m goin’, just need to know where I’ve been.”
Maybe Disney provides a viable message for kids, “Slow down, enjoy childhood.” I’m certainly saying that to Eli. If I could make the sun stand still, it would be when Eli’s dancing his gig with uninhibited giggles, then cheers for himself, and proclaims, “I funny.”
Now, that’s the good-o-days.
I don’t stand in the checkout line and say, “I can count money because my third grade teacher Mrs. Bell taught me to do it this way.”
My brain stores millions of skills in neural pathways then reproduces those skills as naturally as breathing. Each function happens without giving credit to my parents, dozens of teachers, and hundreds of books. Good thing it’s subconscious because I’d fail miserably if I had to acknowledge each source. Only my life changing moments are remembered in vivid detail.
I have one memory of one fact learned in high school. I was sitting in the second floor classroom of the back wing at Collins High. My desk was to the right of the teacher, the side with the windows. I sat on the front row of three semicircles, third seat from the end. On this day, my teacher sat behind his desk in the middle of the room in front of an unused blackboard. A single textbook, Intro to Psychology, rested unopened on the desk.
I don’t remember Mr. Morris ever giving a test. He assigned reading and then he chatted about whatever popped into his head. Everyone loved him.
“Women can make men do anything they want!”
In that hour, he gave the girls the tools to make life fun. He warned the boys that they didn’t stand a chance. I left class motivated to put the lesson to daily practice.
There’s a scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where Maria taught her daughter Toula the same truth. Frustrated Toula cried, “Ma, Dad is so stubborn. What he says goes. ‘Ah, the man is the head of the house!’”
The wise mother responded, “Let me tell you something, Toula. The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.”
Then the movie went on to teach a wise method to use this power. Maria instructed, “We must let Kosta think this was his idea.”
The scene that follows was brilliant. In a few short lines, Kosta exclaimed his brilliant plan, in the exact words Maria had guided him to discover. The bewildered Toula stared at the satisfied Maria while Kosta patted himself on the back for such genius. Everyone was happy. No one got hurt in the process only because this was a scripted movie. Life is not so easy.
Since the Garden of Eden this truth is undeniable. I offer two reasons. One, men are visually stimulated. Adam looked at his deliciously naked Eve with the juices of that forbidden fruit still on her lips and he chose to rebel with her. For this reason, the porn industry is a growing multi-billion dollar evil in our society.
But there’s another reason, we are by nature a stiff-necked people and will always rebel against a law from outside us. We don’t like being told what to do. Yet, like Maria proved, we joyfully embrace the same law springing up from within us.
Here’s how it works, take a stiff-necked woman who is selfishly wanting to rule over the man to get something to satisfy her lust and then have that same motivation controlling an equally selfish man who doesn’t want to be dominated and only wants to satisfy his lust of her body and well, you soon have domestic violence and divorce. Everyone gets hurt.
But suppose this stiff-necked couple learn a higher truth. What would happen if they let the Almighty, loving, unselfish God take possession of their necks, their heads, and their wills?
Movies entertain me. The dictionary defines entertainment as the action of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment. I choose feel-good movies when my brain tells my body it’s had enough. Violence and intrigue stress me out. But laughter, even if it’s internal, relaxes my soul.
Few movie scenes cause me to activate the rewind option. There’s a scene in Ghost Town between Ricky Gervais, Kristin Wiig, and the imposing Michael-Leon Wooley as the hospital lawyer that’s classic humor. Gervais plays the dentist Bertrand Pincus who had a routine colonoscopy by surgeon Wiig. Strange things begin to happen and he returns to the hospital to investigate.
“I died! For seven minutes!”
“We brought you right back. People die all the time.”
“Yeah, but it’s usually just once…at the end.”
The dialogue before is a stumbling mumbling exchange between Gervais and Wiig. The lawyer is called in and he remains quiet until a lawsuit is mentioned and well, he perks up. No words on paper can do justice to the humor of this scene. Here is where characters, setting, and dialogue merge to perfection.
But the movie is more than just a comedy to entertain. It’s the story of a man who can now see ghosts, they want his help, he hates people dead or alive, and then he meets a woman. So yes, it’s a romantic comedy with an interesting theme: ghosts don’t have unfinished business, people do.
There are three little words in this movie that hit my soul. In life, there are combinations of three words that are always powerful no matter who speaks them. Hearing “I love you” sends currents of pulsating pleasures through our veins. The words “I hate you” can crush a spirit to the depths of despair or ignite a fury of revenge.
“I forgive you” frees two bitter or broken hearts while “Please forgive me” humbles the proud.
We love to hear the challenge “Go for it.” But at times we need to hear “Wait for it.”
In this movie when Dr. Pincus recognizes a patient he found irritating was in his life to serve a purpose, he could only say, “I didn’t realize.” Yes, we only die once and then these words may emanate from every mouth, “I didn’t realize.”
I didn’t realize everyone around me was a part of that purpose.
I didn’t realize the purpose was for my good.
I didn’t realize good can be wrapped in pain.
I didn’t realize God was real.
I didn’t realize death was final.
This list is endless but it doesn’t need be.
Realize now, God is good.
I married a Trekkie. We raised two Trekkies. I suppose that makes me a Trekkie as well. Our collection of memorabilia includes the pewter replicas of all their ships, commemorative postage stamps, and even a battery operated Tribble. Of course we own every movie.
When news hit our home that J.J. Abrams would direct the new Star Trek motion pictures, we all said “fascinating” in our best Vulcan logic. Mike skipped work to go to the theatre on opening day, twice. I enjoyed it once.
I watched it for the second time last night paying more attention to the dialogue than the action. I’m sure guys marveled at the special effects. I enjoyed the tender and yet logical Vulcan family interactions. There’s childhood bullying and bar room fighting. It’s the story of a rebel kid turned good and friendships conquering all obstacles. But there’s more, so much more.
The bitterly vengeful Romulan Nero declared war on the world. He destroyed every ship in his path and threatened every planet in Starfleet. Thousands died in battle. Billions of innocent Vulcans perished when their planet collapsed into a black hole. It was the horrid justice of Nero’s sickness.
In the final moments, Kirk used Nero’s weapon against him. When the villain realized he had no hope of victory, Kirk offered grace, “Your ship is compromised, too close to the singularity to survive without assistance, which we are willing to provide.”
A bewildered Spock interrupted, “Captain, what are you doing?”
Kirk responded, “Showing them compassion may be the only way to earn peace with the Romulus.”
Now pay close attention to Nero’s reply, “I would rather suffer the end of Romulus a thousand times. I would rather die in agony than accept assistance from you.”
Kirk then gave him what he wanted, “You got it! Arm phasers. Fire everything we’ve got!” The next footage showed the enemy, his crew, and his ship annihilated only because they chose death over grace.
This movie is for anyone who has never understood the biblical book of Revelation. If you cheered when Captain James T. Kirk defeated the villain, then you must also cheer when the Almighty God of Creation destroys the wickedness from this earth.
So many people wonder how a loving God could send such devastation on Earth: earthquakes, diseases, pestilence, famines, bloody water systems, blackened sun, and tormenting flying demons. Revelation is this scene in the movie.
“God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Hebrews 10:26-29 reads, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left but only a fearful expectation of judgment and raging fire that will consume the enemies of God…How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot.”
Revelation 9:20-21 reveals the Nero’s of mankind throughout history, “The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality, or their thefts.”
God’s compassion never ceases to offer forgiveness upon repentance. Yet like Nero so many respond, “I’d rather die a thousand deaths. I’d rather suffer the agonies of judgment than to accept forgiveness from the Loving God.”
God then answers, “You got it.”
It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:31
“We are all in the gutter. But some of us are looking at the stars.” Lord Darlington from Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde.
I found few lines that matched Wilde’s original play in the 2004 remake, A Good Woman. The movie was set in 1930 Italy with cinematography that delights the senses. The Mediterranean blue waves kiss the white beaches and caress the stone embankments along the Almafi coast. The slender seductive roads clinging to the mountain ridges and skirting the water’s edge twist and interlock like the scandalous affluent men and women shirking the disastrous consequences from their elegant gutters.
The characters in this movie are as ornate and colorful as the stone and stucco dwellings that cling to the steep cliffs. The wanton Mrs. Erlynne, the scheming playboy Lord Darlington, and the selfish gossips threaten the starry love of newlyweds Meg and Robert Windermere. No one believed in love and marriage but the Windermeres. Contessa Lucchino expressed her sentiment with, “Undying love is like the ghost in your villa. Everybody talks about it, but try and find one person who has seen it.”
The humorous elderly Dumby and Cecil poke fun at marriage. They try to stop Tubby from proposing to Mrs. Erlynne, “Do you think she’d look at you if you were poor?” Tubby replies, “Do you think I’d look at her if she were ugly? Fair’s fair, exchange rates and so forth.” So they try again, “You know why they call it the altar? It’s where they make human sacrifices.”
When Mrs. Erlynne described why she ran away from her marriage and daughter twenty years prior, her poetic words sucked me into her pain, “Marriage. When I think of it, I think of a room where you can’t open the window. Everyday, you wake up, and the room is smaller. You don’t notice, not at first. It happens slowly. In inches. Then one morning, you open your eyes and the room’s so small you can’t move. You can’t take a breath. You have to get out. You can’t think of anything else, or anyone else.” Tubby tried to console her, “You married the wrong man.” Mrs. Erlynne conceded, “He married the wrong woman.”
My first trip to Italy was for our 25th wedding anniversary. We toured Rome, Pisa, Florence, and Assisi. Most of the ten days were spent leisurely driving through the Tuscan countryside stopping in to savor the magic of each small village. Our children used their savings to buy us the trip. They gave all they had so we could experience our dream vacation. Their sacrificial love made Italy a special place for us. Someday I hope to return, with all my family, and give them a vacation to match the stars.
Just maybe as we stand on the beach, I can share with my loved ones the advice Mrs. Erlynne gave Meg, “A marriage takes your whole heart. Selfish people can’t pull it off, but you’re not that… Never step over your love to pick up pride and guilt.”
Many nights I put myself to sleep taking my favorite protagonist through adventures I can only dream of having. She’s young, beautiful, gracious, but most of all brilliant. She exceeds the intellect of the Einstein’s throughout history. She creates life-saving technology, pens best-selling novels, gives guidance to world leaders, and solves unsolvable crimes.
When Yahweh God offered King Solomon anything he wanted, Solomon asked for wisdom. Brilliance, the proper genius, is my highest unattainable goal. Maybe that’s why I love the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. The new BBC series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman excels in bringing a 19th century character into the modern technology of the 21st century. The edgy photography, superior writing, and brilliant acting have made this series to be an instant hit. Only three shows per season and we addicts have to wait far too long between seasons.
My protagonist is oftentimes a female Sherlock Holmes though she is kinder than this self-described high functioning sociopath Sherlock. She’d never belittle others with, “Dear God, what is it like in your feeble little brains. It must be so boring. Look at you lot, you’re all so vacant. Is it nice not being me? It must be so relaxing.” Then to the mortician who Sherlock despises he adds, “Anderson, don’t talk out loud. You lower the IQ of the whole street.”
In episode one, after four victims of apparent suicides, yet all died of the same poison, Sherlock deducts a serial killer. He loves the brilliant killers, “They’re always so desperate to get caught.” Why? “Appreciation. Applause. At long last, the spotlight. That’s the frailty of genius, it needs an audience.” Now I’m beginning to wonder if I should pray for brilliance. Can humans handle such a gift? Solomon proved he couldn’t.
A Study in Pink offers this puzzle: “Who do we trust, even though we don’t know them? Who passes unnoticed wherever they go? Who hunts in the middle of a crowd?” When Sherlock finally comes face-to-face with the killer in a game of chess with one move, one survivor; I find my favorite lines.
Sherlock sits across the table in a vacant classroom late at night. He refuses to move until he studies his opponent. “You didn’t kill four people because you’re bitter. Bitterness is a paralytic. Love is a much more vicious motivator.”
I would have never put love and vicious together. Synonyms like brutal, ferocious, savage, ruthless, heartless, and barbaric stand in stark contrast to love. Yet, I marvel at the power of these words to illicit a vivid picture in my brain. Right now, I’m momma-bear ferociously protecting my babies from harm. Yes, love can be vicious. Sherlock has once again challenged my intellect and renewed my passion to learn.
“The fool and his money are soon parted.” Thomas Tusser said it; lotto winners prove it. A fool is anyone who believes that easy money produces happiness. They foolishly spend their earnings in pursuit of instant wealth. Fools fail to understand that wealth never births wisdom. If they weren’t smart enough to earn it, they won’t be smart enough to keep it.
In the 1998 movie, Waking Ned Devine, Jackie O’Shea conceives a plan; “We’ll find the lotto winner and make sure we are their best friend when they cash the cheque.” With the help of his wife Anne and his best friend Michael O’Sullivan they wine and dine the small burg of Tullymore. The hilarious antics of elderly men skinny-dipping, motorcycling in the buff, slipping on intestines, and primping a dead man’s face reveal how the lure of wealth can overtake and deceive the noblest of men.
His friends asked Jackie what he would do with a million dollars. He declared, “I wouldn’t waste it on a car when me bike’s outside…I wouldn’t be floating around the Caribbean when I can float in the cove for free…I’d take what I needed and treat me friends to the rest.” He may have said these words in jest but they spoke from the overflow of his heart. For beneath his conniving plan was a man who played fair and cared for his friends. He just needed a test of conscience.
So I test myself, “What would I do with a million dollars?” I try to convince myself that the stress free life of financial security would make me content and young again as I did noble things with the wealth while at the same time indulging in some much needed plastic surgeries. It’s when my list turns toward selfish gain I’m glad I never play the lottery and reveal my foolishness.
The most endearing scene of the movie is at a funeral. To cover their lotto fraud, Jackie eulogized Michael instead of Ned Devine. “Michael and I grew old together. But at times when we laughed, we grew young.” Now that’s a good line.
I suggest you first watch A Knight’s Tale for the love story and humor while you cheer the underdog to victory. Then watch it a second time with the volume maxed out and head bob to classic 1970’s rock. Finally, read this blog and watch it a third time and ask yourself, “What am I believing?”
Two flashbacks in this film reveal the heart of the movie. My favorite character, William’s father, can’t even be found in Google images. While everyone else is focused on William, Adamire, Jocelyn, or Chaucer, I’m asking, “Why didn’t I have a father like John Thatcher?”
I dreamed of greatness as a young girl. So did William. “Someday I’ll be a knight.” The cynic in pillory, played by my father, said, “A Thatcher’s son? A knight? You might as well try to change the stars, ha”
But even these words left alone are worthless and empty. Words are only powerful tools when engaged with action. John Thatcher knew to make his son believe enough, he had to make the ultimate sacrifice of proof. He gave William to a knight and left these final words to guide him, “It’s all I can do for you son. Now go, change your stars and live a better life than I have.”
Behind this scene I see a father who reached into his chest and ripped out his heart, slammed it on the altar then sliced it in half. But William started believing that moment and he never ran away from the challenge. He changed his stars, became the greatest knight of his time and won the heart of royalty.
I’ve heard my Heavenly Father say, “Believe me! I chose you and made you my warrior princess. You are my beloved child, pure and blameless in my sight. Now believe me. Live it.” He proved His words by coming into this wickedness and enduring a brutal death on a rugged cross. His sinless blood washed me clean and validated His claims.
If I believe, my enemies will ask like William’s archenemy Adamire, “How would you beat her?” The answer would knock them flat on their backs, “That woman is unbeatable.”
Take that! voices in my head, skeptics, and demons for “you have been measured, you have been weighed, and you have been found wanting.” Welcome to my new world.
I was seven years old when I l first dreamed of being the one beauty who would win the heart of the handsome prince, just by walking in the room. I imagined that’s all it would take. He would see me with my eighteen-inch waist, full breast, and swan neck adorned in a gown of fabric that glittered like the stars, and instantly know that no one else in all the universe compared. I had no idea where I’d find the fairy godmother that would make me so beautiful. But if it happened for Cinderella, then it could happen for me, at least in my dreams.
Since the 1965 Rodgers and Hammerstein movie, I’ve been a sucker for this classic story. I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve watched the 1998 remake starring Drew Barrymore as the strong-willed, sharp tongued, tomboyish Danielle de Barbarac, aka Cinderella. The writers masterfully blend the fairy tale into historic fiction and for short time; I think this could be real. I overlook the forced accents and low-budget props. I don’t miss the plump godmother and the singing birds or mice from the Disney version. I must admit I’m thrilled this Cinderella doesn’t have to sing like an angel but instead she quotes from Thomas Moore’s Utopia and the prince is hooked. Yes, I could be this Cinderella.
Ever After is more than a story of a young abused girl who gets her chance and wins the prince. The movie shows 16th century France and puts me into the lives of noblemen, peasants, gypsies, and even Leonardo de Vinci. He makes me laugh as the loveable and witty godfather who walks on water, builds flying machines, and will go down in history as the man who opened the door. I even learned he painted with his left-hand.
Woven throughout the story are intrigues, competition, conspiracies, and vengeance. My sense of righteousness is fulfilled when the wicked stepmother and step sister are punished with life-long servitude, when the squealing page gets his scull cracked open with a pot, and when the rotten teeth, well-endowed Pierre Le Pieu is nearly sliced from navel to neck by the sword wielding Danielle.
I want the bad guys to lose and the good guys to win. So in court when the King and Queen confront the Baroness and Marguerite in their lies and conniving ways, I expect justice. I’m not disappointed as they are instantly stripped of their title and ordered shipped to the Americas on the next available boat. It’s only fair.
But then Danielle’s voice comes from behind and silences the courtroom, “I’ll speak for her. After all, she is my stepmother.” She offers mercy, “Your Majesties, all I ask is that you show her the same courtesy she has bestowed upon me.”
Cinderella gave grace. Not only is she independent, strong, beautiful, plus she has a loving heart. This is a true heroine. I’m changing my dream template.
But did she really give grace? She gave an eye for an eye judgment. That seems fair, more than fair. They got what they deserved. But that’s not grace. Grace is receiving what we don’t deserve and not receiving what we do deserve. Allow me to rewrite that scene showing true grace.
“I will speak for her.” Cinderella appears in royal attire where just hours before she traded her rags for riches. She had been forgiven her lies and deceit to the Prince. He loved her for who she was. A slave girl was now a princess.
Cinderella continues, “I know the gift of forgiveness. I don’t deserve these riches yet they are mine forever because of his love.” The room loses all air as every inhabitant gasps at once.
“Your Majesties, all I ask is that you pardon their sins and free them to live in my home as my sister and mother so that they can know the love I have.”
Grace always leaves me speechless.