Thursday, November 29, 2007

My Favorite Christmas Movies

Before I begin with my list of favorite Christmas movies and their explanations, let me offer a few disclaimers.
  1. These are my favorite movies. I do not believe that these are the best movies for Christmas. I simply mean that these are the movies that bring pleasure to me and my family each year.
  2. This is not an exhaustive list of Christmas movies. If you want that list try, or I have a hunch that these are not complete lists either, but between them you should get a lot of movie ideas. I have not seen every Christmas movie ever made. Therefore, my favorites are limited by my frame of reference.
  3. I have avoided listing some films that may in other ways be very entertaining, even excellent, but violate what I think of as the Christmas spirit. For that reason, movies like Die Hard, Bad Santa, and Scrooged are all excluded.
  4. Unfortunately, the list is skewed to more recent movie releases. I believe there are two reasons for this. First of all, I am more familiar with the more recent titles. It is easier to watch the 'newer' movies as they come out than to watch all the movies that are already available. Secondly, there are more Christmas movies released now than in past years.
  5. Finally, this list is about Christmas movies, not holiday movies. This means that Christmas needs to be a 'character' or a major theme in the film.

So, here is the list in no particular order:

  • Millions. This film about the two boys who found a lot of money is a joy and still a surprise. Be sure to see this one if you haven't already. In fact, move it to the top of your list. You will not be sorry.
  • It's a Wonderful Life. I still cry when I watch this classic. I am still amazed at the emotional highs and lows, how extreme they get, and how efficiently we are moved from one to the other.
  • National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The Griswold family has one problem after another while trying to celebrate a traditional Christmas. There is just enough truth to keep us interested and just enough exaggeration to make us laugh.
  • A Christmas Story. The perfect memory of every child from any generation. Didn't we all want gifts that were not good for us? Didn't we all secretly wish harm to our enemies? Isn't this a great way to remember it?
  • White Christmas. Singing, dancing, soldiers and Christmas, if that will not pull at your heartstrings, what will. And the color is amazing.
  • The Bishop's Wife. Which is creepier, the Bishop's wife falling for an angel, or the angel falling for the Bishop's wife. Calmer heads prevail and everyone learns a good lesson. Don't miss this one, but skip the re-make, The Preacher's Wife.
  • Holiday Inn. More singing and dancing and romantic hijinks. A year round inn devoted to holidays and a movie about the inn. It's a winner.
  • Miracle on 34th Street. If you never believed, you will after watching this. If you did, but now you don't, this will give you hope. If you are not sure, watch it for fun.
  • Elf. What if one of the elves was not really an elf? What if that adult, human-sized elf was turned loose in a jaded world? Hilarity ensues. And a good time is had by all.
  • Meet Me in St Louis. One more singing and dancing movie. This one a bittersweet tale of familial love and stability all thrown askew with turmoil. Will they go or will they stay?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Flywheel is a movie from Sherwood Pictures of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. The story, taken from the Sherwood Pictures website,, is worth repeating.

FLYWHEEL is the first feature film from Sherwood Pictures and the Kendrick Brothers, the creators of FACING THE GIANTS.

Directed by and starring Alex Kendrick, FLYWHEEL was filmed with a budget of only $20,000!FLYWHEEL was conceived in spring 2002 after Alex and Stephen Kendrick, who are both pastors on the staff of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, saw the results of a survey from George Barna's organization that said movies and television shows are more influential in American culture than the church. "We decided as a church to step out on faith and produce a full-length feature film," says Alex Kendrick, who serves as an associate pastor at the church.

A storyline began taking shape not long after that when Alex bought a car. He thought, "What if a minister was conned unknowingly at a car dealer and prayed, 'Lord, treat the salesman the way he treated me.'"With that premise, the plot expanded as Alex and Stephen began to write. Along the way, the movie acquired its title, $20,000 in unsolicited donations, and a prayed-for digital movie camera. The all-volunteer cast and crew came from Sherwood members.

"Prayer was the key to the project," says Stephen Kendrick, who is a senior associate pastor at the church. "We prayed as we worked on the story, we prayed before each day of shooting, and we prayed during the editing process. God repeatedly used the prayers and the passion of this church to bring the movie to completion."

On April 9, 2003, FLYWHEEL debuted in a Carmike Theatre in Albany, and ran as an independent film for an unprecedented six weeks, often outdrawing Hollywood films on adjoining screens.FLYWHEEL received a 4-Dove review from the Dove Foundation and received a strong review from MOVIEGUIDE magazine; it aired on TBN; it won Best Feature at San Francisco's WYSIWYG Film Festival; and it was chosen favorite film by festival attendees at the Saboath International Film Festival in Milan, Italy.

Flywheel is not a big-budget hollywood movie, but it is well worth renting or buying and definitely watching.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Movie Ratings

The movie rating system, devised and administered by the MPAA, the Motion Picture Association of America, is no good. In fact, it stinks. It does virtually no good, at least for the purposes that it was instituted. (There are individuals who think that a movie is not worth watching unless there is enough violence, sex, nudity and profanity to garner at least a PG-13 or R rating.)

Part of the problem is that many people have bought into the idea of the R rated movie being of better quality than any others. Because movie producers know this, potential G-rated movies are made a little juicier so they will get a PG. PG movies try for a PG-13 and many PG-13 movies are transformed into R movies just so Hollywood can make a little more money.

But here is my biggest problem: An R rating tells me next to nothing. I know that there will be either profanity, nudity or extreme violence, but I do not know which, or to what level. In fact, sometimes the nudity and profanity in PG-13 films leave the viewer wondering why they were not rated R.

I propose that the movie rating system be changed. There should still be four ratings, R, PG-13, PG and G. However, like television ratings, there should be more information. An R movie that is sexually explicit should be rated R-S. Bad language would make a movie R-L. Violence would be denoted as R-V. This would be true of all four ratings categories.

This ratings system would give the viewer (and parents of viewers) more information about what they are seeing. Violence may not bother me as much as nudity. With this system I could avoid a movie that would give me problems.

I believe that movie producers should be allowed to make whatever movies they want. I also believe that people should be allowed to view whatever movies they would like. My system in no way inhibits or censors anyone. I am advocating more information. I think that everyone could win with this system.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Thanksgiving has become a secular holiday rather than a religious holy day. Our culture has re- translated giving thanks to God into, giving thanks to our friends, family members and others who have helped us. Make no mistake, giving thanks to our loved ones is important. We are woefully deficient in the gratitude department. We should be reminded to thank those who care for and support us regularly.

But let us not forget to thank God as well. No matter how much you do for yourself, no matter how much you earn, save or receive, no matter how much you create or produce, it all comes from God. No matter how good your network is, God put it together. And at the very least, God made it possible for you to accomplish whatever you have accomplished.

And then there are those who are having a hard time thinking of anything for which they can be thankful. At the risk of seeming uncaring and trite, remember to be thankful anyway. Things can always be worse. One of the keys for people to get better is to recognize that there are people in worse circumstances. Even if it does not seem like it, you should thank God. Thank God in every circumstance, no matter how bleak. Allow him to see your gratitude. Let God know that you are open to his work and blessing in your life, so that he can bless you and work in your life.

We ought to learn to be thankful in every situation. This means that our gratitude should not be limited to one day, or even one season of the year. We should be thankful every day. Thanksgiving should be a mark of your life. Offer to God thanks on a regular basis.

As far as this holiday season is concerned, take advantage of this occasion for thanksgiving.
  • Be sure to thank your family and friends for all they mean to you.
  • Spend as much time with your family as possible and savor every moment that you have with them.
  • Go out of your way to be with them.
  • Be gracious and forgiving, if that is necessary.
  • Stop holding grudges or relating to others with animosity ill- will.
  • Be willing to compromise.
  • Do not feel like you always have to get your way.
  • Be generous- more generous than ever before.
  • Love everyone with all your might.
  • Spend time with God.
  • Count your blessings and thank God for them.
  • Recognize where your blessings come from.
  • Practice simplicity.
  • Be humble.
  • Live in an attitude of thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Why Christmas is So Important

I often get into arguments with people about this time of year. I get a little frustrated about the early onslaught of Christmas music, lights and shopping that bombard us from Halloween onward. I wonder why Christmas seems to overshadow Easter and other significant Holy Days. I get angry at how commercial and consumer-oriented the holiday has become. Sometimes I get so upset that I am tempted to throw out the celebration of Christmas altogether. But I have learned not to do that.
Christmas is too important to be ignored. It is too significant for Christians, and has become a behemoth in our society that calls us to respond in loving and godly ways.

So, here are some thoughts that have helped me. Maybe they will help you as well.
  • Christmas is a significant day in the Christian year. It is not Easter, but without the celebration of the Advent and coming of Christ at Christmas we would not have an Easter to celebrate. We should celebrate the coming of Immanuel, our Messiah.
  • The gift-giving of Christmas, although often out-of-control, is a good practice to remind us of the gift that God gave us, his Son.
  • The lights and decorations that are everywhere should remind us of the joy of the coming of new life and the Advent of the light of the world.
  • Sharing greetings with others at Christmas time is a perfect way to share your faith with someone else. Do not give in to the pressure to eliminate Christ from your celebration. Boldly share what God has done for you.
  • The entire celebration of Christmas, even when taken to its most extreme, is evidence that the world wants to believe. People all around you want to celebrate. They want to have Santa- a benevolent, miraculous gift-giver, to be real. They want a Father God and the gift of His Son. Use and meet these desires in your family Christmas celebration.
  • People are more open to the work of God at Christmas than at any other time of the year. Do not let these seekers down. Be loving, gentle and joyous as you celebrate this year.

Whether we like it or not, Christmas is here. Ready or not, someone needs to hear. I plan to be sharing this holiday season. How about you?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Revelation

This is not a new thing, but I was reminded of this truth in a dramatic fashion this weekend.


Nothing will cause an organization to die a more agonizing death than when it gets boring. As boredom takes root in an organization it permeates the whole. Meetings get boring. Plans are boring. Programs and projects and products get boring. And when boredom starts, death is the next thing.

There are two alternatives to dealing with boredom.
  1. Do not allow boredom to start in the first place. Keep things interesting. Never do the same thing twice. If you have to do the same thing again, do it a different way. Keep improving meetings, products and programs. Just because it is acceptable now does not mean that it always will be.
  2. When boredom starts, stop it as soon as possible. Be on the lookout for boredom. When you see the first signs make some changes. Do things in a new way. Do some new things. Take a break. Find inspiration. Remember the excitement you used to have and learn to recapture it.

Remember, if you want to live, don't be boring.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Recruiting Leaders

Jesus told a story about a farmer who scattered a lot of seed in a lot places. He apparently had no expectation that all of his seed would take root and grow. It turns out that some of the seed landed in bad soil, some on rocky soil and some even ended up on a well-worn path. Certainly no seed could be expected to thrive in these settings. And in fact, it does not. However, some of the seed does have some success in each of these less than ideal soils.

The point that Jesus is trying to make is very simple. Spread your seed all over. Drop it wherever you can. The more seed you scatter, the more that will take root. And the more seed that takes root, the more that will flourish and ultimately bear fruit.

This philosophy is also true in recruiting leaders. Recruit leaders from everywhere. There is nowhere (NOWHERE) that you should not be recruiting, or at least thinking about recruiting. I am always on the lookout for someone who can assist me in my work. I am constantly encouraging people to get training, to spend time in study, to try new things so I can see their leadership potential.

Jesus also said that we should be praying for more workers. As far as I am concerned, this is a clear admonition to leader recruitment. There is enough work to do for everyone. In fact, there is too much work. We need help!

So, that quiet teen-ager is a potential leader. The single mother with no job is a potential leader. The elderly man in poor health, he is a potential leader. (Remember that Moses was 80 years old when God called him.)

All of this means that every conversation I have is a job interview. Every place that I go is a job search. I am always looking for leaders. Once in a very great while, someone will come to me and volunteer. That is by far the exception to the rule. Almost always the most effective leaders have to be sought out and encouraged from the very beginning.

The leaders are there. The work will get done. Part of my job is to find and prepare the people who will do the work.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Philosophy of Leadership Development

One of the things that is the most energizing to my life is working with, training and developing leaders. I love recruiting, encouraging and helping those who lead other people. Because leadership development is so fulfilling in my life I have begun to develop a strategy to continue to develop leaders. This philosophy is by no means set in stone, but it provides a framework from which I can work to build leaders.
  • Leaders that you are training must have a stake in the organization. Potential leaders must be included in planning, decision making and policy proposals for the group. Give them the opportunity to contribute early on. The success of the program, and your leadership development, will depend upon sharing responsibility.
  • Potential leaders must be given the opportunity to lead. Shielding leaders from the actual work of leading does no one any favors.
  • You must be open and honest with your future leaders. Dishonesty and secrecy will hinder your relationship with any potential leaders.
  • Your relationship with your leaders is more important than any content you might share with them. There is no substitute for time and attention with those who will become leaders.
  • Leaders must be encouraged at every point, even when they fail. Never become so negative that your protege becomes discouraged or disheartened.
  • Reinforce positive behaviors too much. Do not ever be afraid that you are over-doing the praising of your leaders. Praise is the one thing that most of us do not get enough of.
  • Create a team atmosphere with all your projects. Always be looking for the next person that can take over leadership and include them as a teammate. Do not be 'in charge,' be cooperative.
  • Listen to suggestions and ideas of team members. Give everyone an opportunity to share and contribute.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Living on Purpose

When I was in high school I dated a girl that was a couple of years older than me. This was not an issue until election time rolled around. She was over 18 and was planning to vote. I, on the other hand, wanted to vote in the worst way, but was too young. This was extremely frustrating to me because I was politically aware and engaged, and she was not. A further complication was that she was planning to vote for candidates that I did not support. Finally, I could take it no more. I asked her why she was supporting all the wrong candidates. She told me in no uncertain terms that she was voting that way because that is what her dad told her to do.

Many of us live our entire lives that way. We drift from one event to another, one day to the next. We never know what we are doing, or why we are doing. Since we have to vote, we might as well vote for someone else's preference. Too many people have bought into the philosophy that life happens. So what?

In one way, everything is so much simpler if we take life as it comes. If we don't consider the implications of our words, or the consequences of our actions we do not have to feel bad about what we have done or caused. Some individuals have never considered the possibility that there might be a reason to do a particular thing (or not to do it).

It was Socrates that said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." I have to agree with that, and all it's implications. I am committed to knowing all I can about my life and the world I live in. This means that I must not only make good choices, but I need to know why those choices are good. I need to know what I am doing, why I am doing it and what will happen because of it.

I must live my life on purpose. I will make plans and set goals. I will think about what comes next, and after that and after that. I will consider the motivations for my actions. I will quit living by chance. No more life by happenstance and coincidence. I am in charge of my own life and my own decisions. How about you?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How to Think Like a Christian About Abortion

Abortion is terrible thing that happens way too often. That is an understatement. One abortion would be way too many. But it is not helpful to simply make a statement like 'I am opposed to abortion,' or 'Abortion is morally wrong.' One needs to consider what abortion is and what it means about life.

Abortion has become a political issue (in the church and out of the church), but it should not be. It is an issue about the values that individuals and cultures hold. Our society (21st Century USA) believes that an individual has the right to end a pregnancy for any reason. When it becomes a political discussion an appeal is made on behalf of women's health and safety, abuse, neglect and rape, as well as the potential disabilities that a baby might have. In practice, however, inconvenience, gender selection and personal preference are more often the reasons for terminating a pregnancy.

Many Christians have sided with the pro-choice faction when discussing certain abortion cases. They would say that a woman should be allowed to have an abortion if she was raped, or if her health is in danger. These same Christians are adamantly opposed to abortions of the second category. No one should be allowed an abortion for the purpose of gender selection, they say.

My question is, why are some abortions acceptable and some are not? If a pregnancy is a gift from God, and if a new baby is a child of God, why should we abort any children? Do we have the right to determine that a mother's health and life are more valuable than that of their unborn child? I say no! If abortion is wrong, it is wrong. There should not be exceptions. Killing is killing. Murder is murder.

There are some implications to our current national position on abortion.
  • When we approve of abortion we increase the value we put on ourselves. We are endorsing the view that the individual is the most important in any situation when we allow an individual the 'freedom' to choose abortion. In Christian terms, this self-exaltation, whether or not it accompanies an abortion, is a sin. If this is true, abortion is merely a symptom of a deeper kind of sin.
  • When we approve of abortion we decrease the value that we put on life in general. If we can eliminate a life before it is born it means that it is insignificant to us.
  • When we approve of abortion we move down a slope toward voluntary euthanasia (think Jack Kevorkian) and ultimately to active elimination of the elderly, sick, handicapped and inconvenient. If this sounds familiar remember Hitler and the 3rd Reich.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Always Praying

There are a lot of times when I hear people say something like, "Our thoughts and prayers are with you." I wonder what that means. How does it help someone in crisis if I am thinking about them? I mean, really, what is the benefit for someone else if I think about how terrible their situation is? Or, how much better off I am than they? And who in the world am I praying to? If I tell you that my prayers are with you, does that mean I am praying to you?

I know that people who say these things mean well. I just do not think they are being reasonable and thinking about what they are saying. It is our way of doing three things at once. I am trying to make you feel better by wishing you well. I am trying to make myself feel better by appeasing my conscience. And, I am carefully avoiding doing anything at all.

Instead of spouting empty promises or pompous platitudes, wouldn't it be better if we actually prayed for people? What would happen if every time we wanted to say, 'my prayers are with you,' we prayed instead? The next time a person tells you about the tragedy of their life, grab their hands and pray for them. Begin to pray for people instead of telling them that you will pray for them. Then, continue to pray for them. Do not feel as though you have done your duty just because you prayed one time. Pray later, regularly and often. Pray until you learn that your prayers have been answered.

There is one more problem with this issue. Sometimes we find ourselves in no position and with no attitude to pray. We feel like we have to get in the right frame of mind before we can pray. There is a verse in the Bible that says that you should always be praying (1Thessalonians 5.17). We should always be thinking about prayer, looking for opportunities to pray and sharing our concerns with God. When a person comes to you with a crisis, be ready to pray. Have your attitude always set to spend time with God.

Friday, November 9, 2007

24-7 Faith

Everyday someone disappoints. Someone is dishonest. A friend uses foul language. A co-worker helps himself to the office supplies and takes them home. A respected leader is caught in an affair or in a financial scandal. It happens all the time. In fact, I have come to expect it. I am no longer surprised when someone who appears to be honest and upright takes a stumble. I am pleasantly overcome with joy when people lives as they say.

We live in a world that is filled with hypocrisy. Attorneys are famously used as the butt of many jokes about the lack of integrity that Americans have. But we also believe that business people are dishonest. I have come to the conclusion that a doctor who is concerned about me as a patient is the exception rather than the rule. More often than not, a physician would not recognize me on the street without the assistance of that folder with all my medical information.

The bigger problem in this situation, however, is not that people do bad things. It is not even that people are pretty bad. What makes this problem so terrible is that we have all come to accept this as the way things are.

And church people are the worst. They pretend to be holy and spiritual for a couple of hours each week. But get them away from church, or on any day but Sunday, and we learn that Christians are too often just like everyone else. They screw up. Worse still, they don't seem to care that they screw up.

But wouldn't a true Christian, a true follower of Jesus, be consistent in belief and lifestyle? I mean, doesn't it stand to reason if you should behave a certain way on Sunday that you should behave the same way on Tuesday? And if you don't use vulgar language at church, shouldn't you avoid using it at work, or the ball game, or anywhere else?

I believe that all people are called by God to be 24-7 Christians. We are to do the work of Christ every moment of every day. Our lives should be a constant reminder of the love of Jesus to everyone around us.

And our churches should produce people who live consistently what they believe. They should be examples good works and mercy to other institutions and programs in our communities. They should be welcoming, healing places where all people can experience the touch and love of God. That is the church I want to be a part of. That is the kind of Christian I want to be.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Appropriate Worship Settings

There is nothing like a majestic cathedral with candles and incense for a moving worship experience. The soaring tones of a glorious pipe organ accompanying a choir give me chills, and remind me of the grandeur of God.

However, I also love to sing praise choruses around a camp fire and hold hands with a small group while praying for the needs of a close friend. Reading the Bible by flashlight is an experience that everyone should experience.

But then there is the fellowship group that laughs and talks too loud at the local pizza joint. A brief prayer before eating does not seem like worship, but it can be just as significant and meaningful as any other dialogue with God.

You see, I believe that wherever you are, God is with you. That means that wherever you are right now, is a good place for worship. The woods, the ocean and a church are all places that we think are appropriate for worship, but we should also consider a factory, a school, even Starbuck's.

If Jesus promises to never leave nor forsake me (Hebrews 13.5), and that he will always be with me (Matthew 28.20) then I should be prepared to worship at any time or place.

The first implication is that I may need to be more careful where I go. If I find myself in a place, or in company that would make worship uncomfortable or inappropriate, it is probably a place that I should not be. If worship in a tavern is impossible for you, do not be in a tavern, ever. If worship is impossible with a certain group of friends, maybe you need different friends.

Another implication has to do with the priority that we give to worship. Too often we relegate worship to one hour on Sunday morning. The Sunday morning ghetto is the only place that we even think about God. Remember that if Christ is always with you, you should be worshiping throughout the week.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Holidays and Holy Days

Having just finished the madness that is Halloween (with almost no regard for All Saints' Day) and with Christmas shopping already weaving it's magic over the retail world, it seems appropriate to think about what makes a holiday. There are several categories of holidays in the USA.
  1. There are civic holidays. These are occasions like Independence Day, Flag Day and Memorial Day in which our government and institutions recognize the importance of a specific detail of Americana.
  2. There are greeting card holidays. These holidays are made-up. That is, someone who wanted to sell a product, a card, flowers or candy, invented these occasions. Some examples include Secretary's Day, Grandparent's Day and even Mother's Day.
  3. There are quasi-religious holidays. These are generally secular events that through the years have taken on religious, or spiritual, tones. Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving are among these events.
  4. There are social holidays. Social holidays are those dates that we save only for the purpose of celebrating. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day fall into this category.
  5. There are also religious, or Christian, holidays (holy days). Easter, Christmas and others constitute some of the religious holidays that we celebrate.

One of the problems with our holidays is the secularization of holy days. Here are a few examples.

  1. St Patrick's Day was originally a celebration of the great saint who brought Christianity to Ireland. It had nothing to do with leprechauns or green beer.
  2. Easter is a recognition of the resurrection of Jesus, the foundational event in Christianity. However, we have allowed it to become a time for hiding colored eggs, eating chocolate and visits from magical rabbits. (Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all of Lent have largely been lost in the secularizing shuffle.)
  3. All Saints Day, celebrated on November 1, is a remembrance of all the Christians who have gone before and are no longer with us. This long-forgotten holiday has served for many to be an after-thought from All Hallow's Eve (now commonly know as Halloween).
  4. Christmas, the birth of Jesus, is celebrated by virtually everyone in America. It matters not the religion, people shop and give and spend and regret throughout the month of December. A controversy a few years ago reminded us that we celebrate "Christmas" not "Happy Holidays," but it was, and remains, a largely semantic distinction.

There are reasons for Christians to celebrate. We ought to be celebrating our Holy Days more gloriously and graciously than anyone else. We should be using our holy days to bring the love and grace of God to bear on our world.

Monday, November 5, 2007

When Someone Dies...

I have had occasion to think about death lately. There are several reasons that I have been thinking about the end of life and the afterlife, but suffice it to say that death has come closer than I like.

I have tried to look at death objectively: It happens to all people. But that does not seem to help at all. I encourage people to avoid it. Like the rest of America I am somewhat obsessed with delaying death as long as possible. To that end I check my blood pressure, cholesterol and other statistics pretty regularly. I admonish friends and loved ones to see a physician frequently. I do not like dealing with death.

But the other side of the equation is that I do deal with death a lot. I am a pastor, after all. I attend funerals and preside over them rather frequently. I am comfortable in funeral homes, hearses and cemeteries. I like funeral directors. I even get a certain amount of satisfaction from ministering to grieving families. It is very fulfilling for me.

I have made some observations about death, dying and funerals.
  • People who attend funerals, particularly families and friends of the deceased, are very open to hearing about Jesus. In fact, they expect and appreciate it.
  • People who are grieving do not necessarily want to hear someone spouting pat answers about the afterlife. Sometimes the most important thing to offer is a warm embrace, a listening ear and an open heart.
  • Those who have died do not haunt places, people or objects. I know that when I leave this world I will not be hanging around spiritually.
  • A deceased person does not become an angel. Angels are a completely separate entity of creation. Humans will eternally be humans. Angels will eternally be angels.
  • Living a good life is commendable, but it will not get you to heaven when you die.
  • The most important thing that you can do for someone in grief, is to "be there."
  • Understand that everyone expresses grief in different ways. Just because the wife of the deceased is not crying does not mean that she is not grieving, or that she did not care.
  • Grieving, visiting, funerals, meals, wakes and burials all take time. Do not rush through them.
  • Life is too short to take anyone you love or anything you enjoy for granted.

I will die someday. I hope that it is many years from now, but I will die. The end is coming and may be very near. I am going to be careful for the rest of my life, to live as though I might die tomorrow, but to plan for living forever.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Hit Me, Baby (One More Time)

Britney has done it again. I do not know how she can be more outrageous or more irrelevant. And yet, somehow she is. She has done it again. This week court records were released showing the spending of Britney Spears and her ex-husband, Kevin Federline. Their divorce is final, but these figures are needed to determine the ultimate custody of the couple's two children.

Britney makes a lot of money. Even though she is certainly past her heyday as a revenue-generating celebrity, Britney still brings home about $737,000 each month. Not bad for a has been. That is not the problem, though. The difficulty that Americans should have with Britney's life is not the amount of money that she makes, but what she does with her money.

She has all the normal expenses that everyone else does. She makes two mortgage payments each month that equal almost $50,000. She spends $16,000 each month on clothes. Her largest reported expense is entertainment, which costs the pop princess $102,000 every 30 days. Britney spends over $4,700 eating out each month.

There are three problems with Britney's spending:

  1. Britney Spears spends more money on her clothes than she spends on her children. (Britney pays $15,000 each month in child support.) Now I am sure that there are out of pocket expenses that Britney has for the children when they are in her care, but she is certainly more committed to herself than to her children.
  2. Britney gives about $500 each month to charity. Just so there is no misunderstanding, she gives about .06% of her income to charity. That is not 6%. It is .06%. To give it some context, if you were to give away .06% of $1000, you would be donating 60 cents.
  3. The things that would make Britney a better person, education, savings, saving for her children's educations, do not appear in this report. That does not mean that she is saving and it is not reported here. There is no question about the fact. Britney is not saving. She is not planning for that future. She is not becoming a better person.

A wise man once said, 'For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6.21)' It is pretty apparent that Britney Spears' heart is all about Britney Spears.

for more information on Britney Spears financial disclosure refer to,2933,307492,00.html

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Across the Universe

Usually, when I tackle a movie review it is because there is some lesson that should be learned from the film. There is a moral to the story that needs to be extrapolated and explored. And although there are plenty of lessons in Across the Universe, that is not the point of these comments.

Across the Universe is one of the most enjoyable films that I have seen for quite some time. As such, it should be viewed, the first time at least, for the sheer joy of it. Enjoy the story. Enjoy the music. Enjoy the characters and the cast of actors. Enjoy the special effects. And especially, enjoy the mood.
  • The story is somewhat predictable. A working class boy from England travels to America where he meets a privileged Ivy-league friend and falls in love with his sister. The romance is met with many complications and obstacles, but the end leaves nothing to surprise.
  • The music is classic Lennon-McCartney fare with a little Harrison and Starr thrown in. However, you do not hear the Beatles performing the music. These are all new arrangements. And although you can hear the originals, they are completely different. The cast does all of the singing. Highlights are I Wanna Hold Your Hand, and Oh Darling.
  • The characters follow the story and there is not much new here. There is a Janis Joplin character and a Jimi Hendrix character in addition to your typical romantic movie characters. The key here is the cast. The young people who make up the cast are great. All of them, with the exception of Evan Rachel Wood, are virtually unknown in the US. Look for Bono and Joe Cocker in great roles and wonderful performances.
  • The special effects come into play almost always in the context of some musical production number. And although these are sometimes hard to understand, they are immensely entertaining.
  • Finally, the mood is joyful. It is an event. It is fun.

Across the Universe is flying somewhat below the radar. Don't miss it, though. You won't be sorry if you see it.