The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel | ★★★★★★★

Ann and I watched and enjoyed the DVD version of this movie last week. This review is compliments of a Netflix member who critiqued it as I would.

This is a very sweet, sentimental movie about 7 Brits that end up moving to India as they try to figure out what to do with their lives after being dealt various blows (money woes, illness, etc). They all end up at the Marigold Hotel which is trying to become a retirement home for "people from countries that don't care about their old people." It's hard to write much more than that without giving away too much! This was a great line up of some of the most beloved British actors! If that is not enough reason to see this film, than the lovely scenes of India certainly are- in my travels there I experienced many of the same things as the characters- especially the scene with the bus! Younger people might not appreciate this film as much as someone closer to retirement but the hopeful message of it's never to late applies to everyone.

I do not think that I could have put it better.
I liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★.

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

Root Beer and Roses

My blogging friend Debby posted her answers to a few questions on her blog and I thought that I would do the same ...
  • What is your favorite Christmas Holiday Movie?
        Like Debbie, I vote for "It's a Wonderful Life".
  • What is your favorite flower?
        Hard to beat a red rose.
  • What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?
        I have been a connoisseur of all things Root Beer for many years.
  • What is your passion?
        Since 1976 I have loved designing computer software.
  • What is your favorite time of year?
        Spring! It speaks to me of new life and warmer days.
  • What is your favorite time of day?
        Early morning. I spend it thinking, praying and writing devotions.
  • What is your favorite physical activity?
        Arthritis has severely curtailed my physical activity but I do like to walk.
  • What is your favorite vacation?
        Anyplace I go with my wife. Our trip to British Columbia was memorable.
Feel free to play along and answer all or a few questions in the comments section.

The Image of God

In this world where religious people often paint a picture of a fallen God, there is nothing that speaks more deeply to me about God than the things that I read in the gospels. When I wonder what God is like I am reminded that Jesus Christ told his disciple Phillip that anyone who has seen Him has seen God. Jesus began his ministry by saying that He had come with:

        •   good news for the poor;
        •   freedom for prisoners;
        •   sight for those walking in darkness;
        •   liberty for those being oppressed and
        •   a message of favor and acceptance.

These words teach me that many have a skewed image of God. Some well meaning people simply teach bad news about God and paint him as one who causes bad things. These folks walk in bondage and seem to embrace a blind darkness about the true nature of God revealed in Jesus Christ.


A few confusing thoughts from a ZDNet post titled:
Anthropologist 'confirms' Apple is a religion.

"Like many Sacred Ceremonies, the Apple Product Launch cannot be broadcast live," she wrote. "The Scribes [and] tech journalists act as Witness, testifying to the wonders they behold via live blog feeds."
Apple is not a religion. It has a loyal following as a company, and it is both the technology industry and the fan base which adds a level of reverence to Apple events -- not because we're hanging on every word that passes the lips of an Apple spokesman -- but likely and simply because the products are cool.

Lincoln the Brit

Anyone else think that it is odd that a British actor (Daniel Day Lewis) is playing President Abraham Lincoln in the new Steven Spielberg movie? One might think it strange unless you consider all of the British actors that are playing Americans these days. This year British actor Damien Lewis won an Emmy for his portrayal of US Army Sergeant Brody Lewis. Here are a few other King's English speaking Brits and Aussies who have played Americans:

    1) Hugh Laurie magnificently spoke American as Dr House
    2) Alex O'Loughlin masks his accent as Steve McGarrett on Hawaii Five-0
    3) Simon Baker is great in The Mentalist - one of my favorite shows

Movies are filled with the likes of King's English speaking Sean Connery, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and others who have played Americans. It may not usually be a big deal but I do wonder why a Brit was cast in the role of Lincoln. That said, I cannot think of another who might have been cast as Lincoln. Can you think of a better actor to play him?

Christian Karma

A few years ago the My Name is Earl TV show resurfaced the old Eastern religion concept of karma. The basic idea of karma is embodied by the phrase "what goes around comes around". According to the wiki:
Through the law of karma, the effects of all deeds actively create past, present, and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one's own life, and the pain and joy it brings to him/her and others.
The bible deals with this idea of cause and effect a bit different in the sixth chapter of Galatians when it says:
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Now some take this scripture and skew it into a Christian-like karma taking the idea of sowing and reaping to formula-like proportions. I know many sincere believers who buy into it lock, stock and barrel. Oral Roberts made a lot of money 30+ years ago when he sold this idea as "Seed Faith". The fallacy I see in this karma like concept of faith is three fold:
  1. It embodies the notion that God always responds in formulaic fashion to our actions and giving.
  2. It creates a carnality in giving and causes people who embrace it to feel that they earned blessings.
  3. It causes people who experience hardship to blame themselves - much like Job once did.
From my perspective these karma-like concepts negate the idea of grace and cause actions to be the products of faith instead of the byproducts of faith. The scripture in Galations is a simple one that simply says that when we respond to the Holy Spirit we sow eternal seeds and when we respond to our flesh we sow temporal seeds. That scripture has nothing to do with Christian karma.

The good news of the Christian gospel is that we do not get what we deserve. We have escaped from judgment by the cross and resurrection of Christ. It is not karma that causes us to prosper.. it is the Holy Spirit.. and sometimes "prospering" has little to do with the temporal aspects of life :)

Security Questions drive me Crazy

This cartoon reminds of the ways that many websites have, over the years, made it hard to access their sites. Here are a few examples of those questions that sometimes drive me crazy when I try to log in:

    1)  What street did you live on in third grade?
    2)  What was your childhood phone number including area code?
    3)  What is your maternal grandmother's maiden name?
    4)  What is the name of a college you applied to but didn't attend?
    5)  What is the license plate number of your dad's first car?
    6)  How many bones have you broken?
    7)  What was your childhood nickname?
    8)  What was the name of your first stuffed animal?
    9)  To what city did you go on your honeymoon?
    10) What was the name of your first pet?

Can you think of another question that drives you crazy?

Why do you watch the Debates?

I am a political junkie and will watch tonight's debate just to be entertained. Doubtful that it will affect the way that I vote one bit. So why will you watch tonight?

        1) Morbid political junkie entertainment?

        2) Information that will help you vote?

        3) Stuff to post on Facebook in the morning?

        4) Other? Please explain.

Please let me know. I'd love to hear other reasons to watch.

The Beaver | ★★★★★★★★

This image is so appropriate for a movie about a guy who split his personality after failing to take his life. I had to admit that the quality of this movie and it's message blew me away. It was nothing like what I had imagined. The premise is a guy who deals with depression by using a beaver hand puppet to communicate with people - and I think that it really worked. For sure the subject matter is quite dark and there are a few scenes that are really disturbing. Yet I thought that it was a unique story about how devastating depression can become to a person and their family. It is hard to imagine anyone doing a better job than Mel Gibson in the lead role - he made it believable and gave the beaver a creepy yet funny persona. Also thought Jody Foster did a good job playing off Gibson as his wife.

I liked it and, on a scale of ten, I give this one ★★★★★★★★.

Ad Censors

Many years ago I switched browsers (from Internet Explorer to Firefox) and became aware of extensions that enabled me to censor what I saw inside of my internet browser. These days I use the Chrome browser and use several browser extensions to control what I see or do not see on websites - it even has filters for Facebook. Some say that people should not use these tools because they hurt revenue streams for websites that we visit. I see it no differently than fast forwarding through annoying political ads on my DVR. Do you use a browser that lets you censor what you see? If not you may want to change browsers.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close | ★★★★★★★

Hard to know how to best describe this movie - maybe heartwarming is the best word? It is based on the novel of the same name written by Jonathan Safran Foer and details the journey of grief traveled by a young boy after his father is killed on September 11th when the towers fell. Here is the way that Netflix describes it:

Believing that his father left him a message before dying in the September 11 attacks, young Oskar Schell embarks on an emotional odyssey through New York City to find the lock that matches a key he found among his father's belongings.

The movie spoke to me about the strange ways that we try to find meaning in our darkest moments and how the support and love of family and friends can help us in these times. Hard to know why Hanks and Bullock got top billings - Jeopardy kids week champ Thomas Horn stole the show with his great portrayal of Oskar.
I liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★.

The Election Industry

A few years ago the Supreme Court of the USA opened the monetary floodgates and this years presidential campaigns have seen billions of dollars spent to elect one person to a not very high paying job. It makes you wonder if elections have become just another industry that makes a lot of money for the radio and television networks that air mudslinging ads as well as the 24x7 pundit industry that makes millions off analyzing and criticizing the candidates. Makes me want to stop watching and starve this industry a bit. Even so, could it be that the Election Industry is one of the few things that are really 'made in America these days?

Sprint goes Asian

As an AT&T retiree, long-time Sprint customer and one-time Sprint consultant, I have mixed emotions about the recent acquisition of Sprint by SoftBank. Here are some of the specifics that Larry Dignan details at ZDNet:
  • Softbank will invest $20.1 billion in Sprint. Of that sum, $12.1 billion goes to Sprint shareholders and $8 billion goes to the balance sheet.
  • 55 percent of Sprint shares will be exchanged for $7.30 in cash. The rest will become shares of the newfangled Sprint.
  • The deal closes in mid-2013.
  • The new version of Sprint will float a convertible bond that translates into common stock at $5.25. This move will dilute existing Sprint shareholders heavily.
Here are a few of the positives that Larry lists:
  • Sprint is clearly saved. The company had cash, but also had a lot of debt. It will still have a lot of debt, but a balance sheet that can take a punch. For perspective, Sprint had $21 billion in long-term debt and a market cap of less than $17 billion.
  • The Softbank deal also allows Sprint to keep its current executives and network vision in place. Sprint will be able to compete on LTE with the likes of Verizon and AT&T. Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son is basically betting that Sprint can disrupt the mobile market as Softbank Mobile has in Japan.
And here a few of the things that Larry says the deal does not do:
  • Softbank's cash infusion doesn't really eliminate Sprint's debt. It's not like Sprint deleveraged overnight. That reality will become clear in the years ahead.
  • Boost Sprint's network immediately. For all of Son's talk about how U.S. networks are too slow, it's unclear how exactly Softbank-Sprint are going to leapfrog LTE. At this point, Sprint is playing LTE catch up. 
  • Offer any synergy. Softbank can lend expertise and money to Sprint, but there aren't a lot of natural connection points. ... Softbank and Sprint are on two sides of the world.
  • Enable Sprint to stay independent. Sprint is still going to be squeezed from above and below. AT&T and Verizon lead the U.S. from above and Sprint will still be No. 3. The catch is that Deutsche Telekom orchestrated the T-Mobile-MetroPCS deal. In other words, T-Mobile will be stronger at No. 4 and could breathe down Sprint's neck for years to com. Sprint still could wind up merging with T-Mobile once the LTE rollouts are done.
I guess that last point is the one that has me wondering about the deal. Sprint has struggled for years in the quest for market share. I think that they are poised to take away some of that market share now that they offer the iPhone and have the cheapest data plan in the USA. Of course I could just be rooting for the home town team?

Less Religious?

The NY Times recently reported:
"Twenty percent of Americans say they have no religious affiliation. That is a major shift from five years ago, when 15 percent claimed no affiliation, or 40 years ago, when only 7 percent did. The numbers are even more stark for 18- to 22-year-olds, among whom more than one-third say they have no religious affiliation."

Do you think people are more or less religious that they were several years ago?

The Already but Not Yet

The New Testament teaches that we are in a curious stage of history in which all that is true about us and the world because of Christ is not yet manifested as true. This is what scholars sometimes refer to as “the already-not-yet” tension of the NT. So, as Hebrews 2 teaches, for example, all things are already ‘put under our feet,” but we do not yet see all things put under our feet (Heb. 2:7-8).

Here’s an analogy. When you turn on a light, it looks to you like the room is instantly made bright. Yet, if you were (say) a sub-atomic particle called a muon which travels close to the speed of light and exists for only a fraction of a second, it would take half a lifetime or more for that room to be filled with light. So too, from God’s perspective, the gap between what Christ accomplished when he died and rose again is almost non-existent, though from our perspective it has already taken 2,000 years and may, for all we know, take another 20,000 years before the cosmos reflects the truth of all Christ accomplished. Like Scripture says (2 Pet. 3), a day with the Lord is like a 1,000 years for us.

The same is true of us. We’re sort of a microcosm of the cosmos. It is true that we are entangled with Christ, but we don’t yet see this truth perfectly manifested in our life. Our task, however, is to yield to the Spirit and manifest as much of this truth now as we possibly can. We are to be the “already” in the midst of the “not yet”. We’re to put on display, as much as possible, what heaven will look like when it finally comes. And we do this by first envisioning ourselves as we truly are, taking every thought captive to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5) and by then living our lives in accordance with who we truly are, as much as possible.

That is faith: envisioning the truth about ourselves and every other person we see as a “substantial reality” (Heb. 11:1), and then stepping into that vision by how we conduct ourselves in our day-to-day lives.

Arthritus Day

Some days are better - some worse. Since the late 90s I have been dealing with the pain and limitations of arthritis in my ankles and wrists. A few weeks ago I was depressed for several days after I saw the latest x-rays of my wrists. Not everyone understands the painful affects of this so I thought that it might help you share a few words from the blog of "hurt blogger", a 27 year old Stanford ePatient Scholar who writes to ease the pain of autoimmune arthritis through humor, sarcasm, and community. She puts a beautiful face to this debilitating disease.

I am highly fortunate that my doctors are not denying me pain medication. In fact, I recently emailed my GP and told her I planned to step down to a lesser strength pain medication that I already had on hand, and wanted to make sure that was safe. The response was an immediate phone call from her office manager asking when I could come in. A few hours later, I sat before my doctor being told she feared for me trying to be too tough, and as she filled out the triplicate forms for more of the strong meds, she insisted that this was not the time to be tough.

I have a disease that is actively eating at my bones and soft tissues (sound painful?), and I am only just now getting medicines in my system to treat the underlying problem. Similar meds have either failed me, or I’ve been forced off them to save my life in the previous months and years.

We made a deal. She would allow me enough to get through the next couple weeks till my new meds (should) kick in, then I could try and be tough. ... Any chronic pain patient can tell you we are never totally free from pain. But it is really tempting to get close, to free ourselves from the ever-nagging heinous hell of pain.

I stand there, bottle in hand, debating. What do I want my life ruled by? This miniature white pill that seems to laugh at my plight, or do I want to be ruled by the mental strength that I have worked 20 years to gain? Simple. I am stronger than that. My mind, though currently tempted, is not addicted. Now, just to convince my body of that.

The Genesis Focus

Yesterday, our pastor Adam Hamilton responded, in a Huffington Post article, to a congressman's statement about the Genesis account of creation. Here is an excerpt from the article:
The creation story is placed at the beginning of the Bible not because God felt we needed a science lesson as a preface to the rest of the Bible. Instead it is a lesson in theology. The story is archetypal -- it is intended to teach us that there is a Creator, that life is a gift and that we were created in God's image (with the capacity to love, to make conscious decisions, to transcend our instincts, to reason). In addition it teaches that human beings were created for companionship, that sex is a blessing from God, and, in the most tragically compelling part of the story, that we human beings are drawn to do the very things that separate us from God and others (we are drawn to eat the forbidden fruit). When we do this, paradise is lost.

The story likely drew upon the best thinking of the time regarding the origins of the physical universe, but that is not the point of the passages. It is not meant to teach cosmology, or biology, geology or physics. It is teaching theology and, one could argue, anthropology, sociology and psychology. But to suggest that the creation story was intended to teach science, and that any scientific theory that contradicts these accounts is a lie "straight from the pit of hell" is to misunderstand and misrepresent these chapters.
I do think that we trivialize the Genesis account a bit when we make it all about science and not about theology. I agree with Adam about how much we can learn from the Genesis account when we focus on theology instead of science.
I suggest that you read the whole article here and let me know what you think about it and the focus of Genesis.

VP Debate Tweets

I continue to be fascinated by the way that technology is impacting American and glogal politics.

What is Success?

In my younger years I loved formulas and rules that spoke to being successful. I embraced Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and carried their time management binder every where I went. These days I am retired and do not need more than a calendar to navigate my days.

That said I did enjoy reading these suggestions for success. The first three are key - your spouse, your work and your attitude are so important. Here are a few thoughts about some of the others.

5. Forgiveness will open doors that seem to be nailed shut.

6. Every day I struggle to be more generous than the day before.

7. Gratitude is so important but rarely included on these lists.

8. Successful people simply do not give up.

9 Saving for the future requires a lot of discipline.

10. The golden rule is the best practice in business and in life.

13. Temporary happiness is over-rated.

14-15. Integrity matters in business and in life.

17. The converse is analysis paralysis. It is okay to be wrong.

21. This is a bit schmaltzy but pithy advice all the same.

Any thoughts about the list? Anything stand out?

Sage of Solomon | September Recap

In August I began a series of devotions on the the wisdom and sage of King Solomon. I would love to have you join me there in the coming days as I continue to share. Following are a few excerpts from last month's devotions ...

A heart of humility causes the spotlight to shine on others rather than ourselves.

It could be argued that people are the reason we exist - why we arise from bed each day.

An old preacher once said that waiting on th Lord is not like waiting on a bus.

There is one constant in life that wise people understand - failure is necessary to succeed.

I think meekness is mainly about our relationship to God.

Drunkenness and gluttony are symptomatic of struggling lives that seem to be out of control.

Christian Casual?

This funny Shoebox cartoon reminds me of how my Sunday morning wardrobe has changed over the years. Up until the 90s I religiously wore a jacket and tie to church on Sunday morning. Gradually the suit morphed into khakis and more recently I usually wear jeans - this summer I even wore shorts on a few Sunday mornings.

I like that many US churches have embraced Christian Casual on Sunday mornings. The pastor and worship leader of the church that we attend regularly wears jeans. I think that it creates a relaxed atmosphere that focuses more on the inner self rather than the outer one. Not that Sunday morning is all about your clothes. :)

What do you think? How casual should we be on Sunday mornings?

Soul Surfer | ★★★★★★★★★★

Again, I am quite a bit late to this party as I am sure that many of you have already seen this great movie. The story is a true one based on the real life events of Hawaiian teen Bethany Hamilton who courageously returned to competitive surfing after losing her left arm in a shark attack. I loved these messages in this story:

    1) Faith and trust is so important in the way that we deal with tragedy.
    2) Family, and their love, can be a firm foundation in times of trouble.
    3) Friends are those who are there for you in times of trouble.

I found the movie to be really inspirational. The life of this young Hawaiian woman touched me. Watching her bravely recover and puruse her dreams moved me. She is a living example of one who believed that all things are possible with Christ.

No surprise that I loved it and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★★★.

People are like Stained-Glass

"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within." - Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

This quote gives me a bit of license to share the newest addition to our loft. It is a 100+ year old painted glass window that was removed from St Mary's Church in Maryville, MO (my wife's childhood church) around 1980 when the church was demolished. Ann's dad bought it and had it encased in a box backlit with flourescent bulbs. I recently got it from storage, had it removed from the oak case and framed. It looks great hanging in our loft and will now remind me of the people that make my life beautiful.