Salmon Fishing in the Yemen | ★★★★★★★★

I had no idea what this movie was about and was so glad that it got on my Netflix queue. IMDB calls this movie an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible possible. I like that description. Here is a review from Netflix that I resonate with:

"I found this movie to be very entertaining. It was a light romance film with some humor. It lacked the over-the-top action of things getting blown up, shot, eviscerated, etc. which I considered a plus. The emphasis was on character interactions and story progression. It was very fictional and for that reason the reality of what Yemen is and represents had to be suspended in my mind. However, this is true for most movies. The sheik was a idealistic representation of a wise, tolerant, and beneficent ruler. As for the salmon, who knows whether that could be done in real life. It didn't matter for purposes of the film."

I liked the characters a lot - especially the guy played by Ewan McGregor. I much enjoyed  the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★.

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Remembering Eydie

My sister Eydie was born on October 8th in 1942 on Staten Island, NY. She lived on the Island and worked in Manhattan as a legal secretary. In the late 60s Eydie married and lived on the Island until she moved to Elmira, New York. From there Eydie lived in Toms River, NJ where she raised her children, Steve and Lynn. In 1984 she moved to Lakewood, NJ where she met, dated and married Lou. Before retiring a few years ago Eydie was a sales representative for the Gusmer Corporation in Lakewood. Since retiring, Eydie loved to spend time with the ones that she loved so much.

In September, 2008 Eydie was devastated by the news that her daughter Lynn was diagnosed with cancer. Over the years Eydie tried to help in many ways as she and sometimes Lou would travel to be with Lynn, Gary and their four daughters. On many occasions Eydie would stay with them for weeks at a time. Eydie loved Lynn so much and talked to her every day on the phone. They were so very close. In October of 2011 Lynn lost her fight with cancer and my sister was so crushed by the news and grieved that loss ever since. Since then she spoke of missing Lynn every day. On Saturday, January 19th, Eydie was reunited with her daughter. I imagine that it was glorious!

I will always remember the seasons that I had with my beautiful sister. The first season was my childhood and teen years. I cannot think of English Muffin pizzas and not remember Eydie making them for my sister Nancy and me on those Friday nights when she would babysit while our parents shopped for groceries. I remember thinking about how beautiful my big sister was when she was in high school. I loved being around my sister in those days and was so happy when she was happy.

The next season with Eydie was when I came home from the Army and lived just a few miles from her in Toms River, NJ. I remember making whiskey sours with her in her blender and spending time drinking wine and enjoying conversation and TV at her place. I will never ever forget her 30th birthday party – we all ate, danced, drank and had a great time at a place in Toms River.

Most of all I remember in that season how she cared for my wife Ellen when Ellen went blind. If I was out of town on business Ellen stayed with Eydie. If Ellen needed to go 70 miles to the eye hospital in Philadelphia, Eydie was so happy to take her if I could not get off work. I do not know what I would have done in those years without my big sister.

The last season that I want to share was my long distance relationship with Eydie. Since I lived so far away our times together were spent mainly in New Jersey with Mom or Mississippi with Dad. A memorable time in Mississippi was the day that Eydie, granddaughter Cady and a pregnant daughter Lynn visited the home of the king – Graceland in Memphis. We all laughed so much – I laughed a lot around my sister. Eydie was always so full of life and joy.

Lastly I remember how, when my wife Ellen passed away in 1994, Eydie, Mom and Nancy came to Kansas City and greatly helped me and my kids in that dark time. Over the years I had so many great phone calls with her - I loved talking with my sister on the phone. Eydie was such an authentic person. I always knew when she was hurting and felt such camaraderie of spirit with her. I will miss her so much.

Standing in the Need of Prayer

Prayer was a wellspring of strength and inspiration during the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout the movement, we prayed for greater human understanding. We prayed for the safety of our compatriots in the freedom struggle. We prayed for victory in our nonviolent protests, for brotherhood and sisterhood among people of all races, for reconciliation and the fulfillment of the Beloved Community.

For my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. prayer was a daily source of courage and strength that gave him the ability to carry on in even the darkest hours of our struggle.

I remember one very difficult day when he came home bone-weary from the stress that came with his leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In the middle of that night, he was awakened by a threatening and abusive phone call, one of many we received throughout the movement. On this particular occasion, however, Martin had had enough.

After the call, he got up from bed and made himself some coffee. He began to worry about his family, and all of the burdens that came with our movement weighed heavily on his soul. With his head in his hands, Martin bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud to God: "Lord, I am taking a stand for what I believe is right. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I have nothing left. I have come to the point where I can't face it alone.

Later he told me, "At that moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced Him before. It seemed as though I could hear a voice saying: 'Stand up for righteousness; stand up for truth; and God will be at our side forever.'" When Martin stood up from the table, he was imbued with a new sense of confidence, and he was ready to face anything.

--Coretta Scott King from "Standing in the Need of Prayer".

Zero Dark Thirty | ★★★★★★★

Film director Kathryn Bigelow says this about the movie title: "it's a military term for 30 minutes after midnight, and it refers also to the darkness and secrecy that cloaked the entire decade-long mission." That is an accurate depiction of this story that centers on the hunt for al Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden by CIA operatives.

I liked this movie and thought that Jessica Chastain did a great job playing the character that was written for her. I was disappointed with the unimaginative and superficial way that her character was written though. Unlike the Showtime drama Homeland, at the end of the movie you really did not know much about any of the characters in it.

The movie felt more like a documentary than a drama as it paints a dark picture of the underbelly of what is done by covert agencies and agents to obtain the intelligence needed to combat terrorism and terrorists. For that reason I am reticent to see it as an Oscar winner. I liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★.

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A Bit of 2013 Hodgepodge

The folks at This Side of the Pond have a meme called Wednesday Hodgepodge. Here is my entry for today ...

1. Lake Superior University has once again published a list of words/phrases they think should be banished from the Queen's's the list for 2013:
fiscal cliff, kick the can down the road, double down, job creators/creation, passion/passionate, yolo (an acronym for you only live once), spoiler alert, bucket list, trending, superfood, boneless wings, and guru.
Which of these words/phrases would you most like to see banished from everyday speech and why.
Bucket List mainly because I have given up on mine.
2. When was the last time you rode a train? Where did you go?
If you don't count subways, in 1968 when I took a three day train ride from El Paso to New York. In the nineties I road one from the Jersey Shore into Manhattan and back.
3. Bagels-yay or nay? Favorite 'flavor'? Favorite topping?
This New Yorker absolutely loves poppy seed bagels with strawberry cream cheese. 
4. 'Tis the season of awards shows...
       if you could star in a movie already made which one would you choose?
Chariots of Fire comes to mind. I'd love be Eric Liddell for a few weeks.
5. The move towards single gender classrooms has been making the news in recent months....what say you? Do you think kids perform better if separated by gender and are taught differently or is that discrimination? If you're a parent, is this something you'd support in regard to your own children?
I do think that boys learn differently than girls but I am not sure that separating them is the answer. Perhaps a middle ground approach could be used where some classes are coed and some are not?
6. What's your favorite thing about staying in a hotel?
When I traveled on business a lot I loved the tranquility of room service.
7. Do you have a 'word' for 2013? What's the story behind your choice?
Just today thought of 'opportunity'. Wonder which ones might come my way this year.
8. Insert your own random thought here.
My friend and pastor Scott wrote this today: "History is on the side of the rule breakers when it comes to a life of faith." I like that!
Let me know if you play along or how you might answer any of these.

On finding peace ...

I kind of like lists. So I was interested when a Facebook friend linked to a post titled "8 Things You Must Give Up to Find Peace". Here are a few brief thoughts about the list of 8 things to be abandoned ...
  1. Old regrets and excuses.
    Nothing has crippled me more than the past.
    Nothing has empowered me more than hope.
  2. The burning desire to have all the answers.
    I have come to peace with the notion that there are things unknowable.
  3. The false hope of a pain-free life.
    I think that pain has changed me more than anything else.
  4. Ties to insensitive people.
    We must never be influenced by those who do not love us.
  5. Obsessing yourself with negative news.
    Yikes! I am a news junkie. I probably need to listen to music instead.
  6. The belief that fulfillment resides in the end result.
    It is such a cliché but such a truth as well - life is all about the journey.
  7. Measuring your success by material wealth.
    Trust me. Wealth brings more chaos than peace. The more you get the more you want.
  8. The need to keep everything the same.
    Change is the constant. Peace does not come from the status quo.
I recommend that you read the excellent post in full here.

Brain Drains

LOL, I am sure that they are joking about numbers two and four!

Any habits on the list surprise you? Think about number nine and leave a comment!

Les Misérables | ★★★★★★★★★

I have seen the play/musical, the dramatic version movie and have caught the full (almost three hour) 25th anniversary production on DVD (you can watch that in full on YouTube here). So it would be accurate to say that I love the Les Misérables saga. My problem with this movie was how much it was hyped before I saw it. One reviewer called it the best musical movie ever. Even so, I greatly enjoyed seeing this big screen epic. The story still captivates my heart. I wept when Ann Hathaway sang I dream a Dream. My soul arose within me when Hugh Jackman sang several of the songs - I love the way that Jean Valjean is written as a man of faith and integrity. Other singers were outstanding as well. Even Russell Crowe's singing was better than I expected. All that said, I do think that you might be a tad disappointed if you are expecting the operatic voices that accompany the Broadway Musical. Movies are generally more about acting and actors rather than singing and singers. I loved Les Misérables, recommend it to you and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★★.

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

Remembering the King

Today would have been Elvis Presley's 78th birthday. In honor of the day I thought it might be fun to solicit your Elvis song memories. Here are the ones I think of when I think of Elvis:
  • Are You Lonesome Tonight?
  • Can't Help Falling in Love
  • Don't Be Cruel
  • Hound Dog
  • How Great Thou Art
  • Love Me Tender
  • Suspicious Minds
Were you a fan? Which songs do you think of when you remember Elvis?

No Space? Leave the Place!

Two Way Mirror Test shared by a Facebook friend ...

Do you know how to determine if a mirror is 2-way or not?

Just conduct this simple test: Place the tip of your fingernail against the reflective surface and if there is a GAP between your fingernail and the image of the nail, then it is GENUINE mirror. However, if your fingernail DIRECTLY TOUCHES the image of your nail, then BEWARE! IT IS A 2-WAY MIRROR!

"No Space, Leave the Place" So remember, every time you see a mirror in a public place, do the "fingernail test." It doesn't cost you anything.

Post Update: Looks like this not quite be all that accurate for all mirrors. Check out the Snopes article for more info.

Two Dreams :: Act II

Yesterday I reflected on a few verses from "I Dreamed a Dream", the banner song from Les Misérables. Songs like that one have such a way of bringing out the rawest of our emotions and experiences. I love the way that music embodies such poetic expression. Today I would like to pick up my story where I left off by reflecting on another song from a different musical. I saw "Man of La Mancha" on Broadway in 1968, months before I was drafted into military service. Its song, The Impossible Dream, was the dream that died for me when Ellen died. It came alive when I started to live it. Here are a few thoughts about it ...
To dream ... the impossible dream ...
I have always been an ideological windmill fighter. When I was young it got me in trouble.
To fight ... the unbeatable foe ...
It took me years to understand that there are fights not worth fighting. Battles that could not be won.
To bear ... with unbearable sorrow ...
Years ago I broke down crying when I heard that verse sung. I remarried after Ellen died. Our first eight years of marriage were so wonderful. Then Ann was hit with a disabling disease that devastated us. These past years have been filled with sorrow that at times seems so unbearable.
To run ... where the brave dare not go ...
I never knew how ordinary and common bravery could appear. My wife is one of the most courageous people I know. Watching her persevere in suffering is so inspirational. I so admire her.
To right ... the unrightable wrong ...
I have learned that righting wrongs is all about forgiveness and letting go of the past.
To love ... pure and chaste from afar ...
This speaks to me of unconditional love. To love with no expectation of love returned.
To try ... when your arms are too weary ...
Arthritis has hit my joints. I remember this verse and fight through the pain.
To reach ... the unreachable star ...
This verse reminds me of a verse in the bible that says this about people of faith:
They were stoned, sawed apart, murdered with the sword; they went about in sheepskins and goatskins; they were destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (the world was not worthy of them); they wandered in deserts and mountains and caves and openings in the earth. And these all were commended for their faith, yet they did not receive what was promised.
Godly dreams are meant to shape us. These dreams are always impossible in nature because we need God to see them become reality. With God we can: defeat the unbeatable foe; bear with unbearable sorrow; run with courage; right the unrightable wrong; love as He does; and try when our bodies are too weary. This is the dream that I still embrace. I guess I am still a windmill fighter.

Two Dreams :: Act I

This week Ann and I saw the great movie musical Les Misérables. For me, the most moving scene was when Fantine, a destitute young unwed mother, sings the the beautiful "I Dreamed a Dream". Many who have experienced life's devastation can relate to the words that she sang. I thought that I might share a few thoughts on a few of them ...
There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong
Who cannot relate to youthful dreams. When I was young I had visions of being the president of our country. I planned to go to law school. Then reality hit and I found myself drafted and in Basic Training. Yet a dream persisted of doing something great with my life. I married a beautiful girl and within a year my young wife went blind. She was blind for three years. I stopped dreaming. It all went wrong.
I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
At my lowest God came into my life and gave me new dreams. My wife's eyesight miraculously came back. We had children whom I so loved. My faith was alive. For years I loved everything about my life. I loved work and church. The dream was coming true. Nothing seemed impossible. Then my wife had heart and kidney failure. I prayed every day for her. Then four years later she died. And my dreams died again.
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.
Stayed tuned for Act II. Tune in next time for my thoughts on the second dream.

Putting God back in Schools

"In the Kansas City area, the church I serve has partnered with six elementary schools in which a majority of the students live near the poverty line. We build playgrounds for these schools and paint and rehab their buildings. We fund literacy efforts and provide free books. We ensure that each child has a winter coat, gloves and hat, and school supplies, and we provide funds for special programs the schools otherwise could not afford. We also have tutoring programs with hundreds of volunteers who read to children and otherwise help the teachers and support their work. Every Friday we send backpacks with nutritious snacks home with 1,400 children who are at risk of being hungry on the weekends. We also distribute beds for children who we discover are sleeping on the floor in their homes. Our people are motivated by their faith to do these things. They don’t talk about their faith, but it is clearly seen in their actions." -Adam Hamilton

Total Recall | ★★★★★★

I vaguely remembered liking Arnold Schwarzenegger's cheesy version of this movie and added this new edition to our Netflix queue. Glad I did. I liked it way better than the old one. The plot is different than the first movie so you do not feel that you are watching it all over again. It is set in a post worldwide chemical warfare 22nd century and is filled with nonstop action and special effects. Colin Farrell is a believable hero and Kate Beckinsale is an okay adversary. The movie did carry the darkness, as well as the good conquering evil theme, from the first one. Overall it was a pretty good re-imagining of a SciFi classic.

The movie pushes the limits of a PG-13 rating with brief flash of nudity and a lot of violence. Overall I liked it and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★.

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Parable of the Donkey in the Well

Saw this one on Facebook an thought that I would share it ...

One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey.

He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement he quieted down.

A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up.

As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!

Moral of the Story: Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a steppingstone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up!

Happy 2013

I have so enjoyed sharing Christmas devotions at An Eye for Redemption. I hope that you have had a chance to catch a few of my musings on the nativity story. Today I begin the New Year by sharing devotional thoughts from the book of Romans. The epistle is the longest of ones written by Paul. It was written to a church composed of both Jews and Gentiles. Paul dictated it to his friend Tertius around AD 56 when he was in Corinth. British theologian NT Wright says that it is "neither a systematic theology nor a summary of Paul's lifework, but it is by common consent his masterpiece." I invite you to travel with me (HERE) in a journey to unwrap this beautiful masterpiece.