Jersey Boys | ★★★★★★★★☆☆

I walked into the theater last week wondering if the singing of John Lloyd Young would cut it for me. I was a huge Frankie Valli fan when I was a teen and wondered if Young would pull it off. In my opinion he did. And in the end that was all that mattered for me.

Yes, I did love the story of the Four Seasons. I really liked how it felt like a Broadway play without the limitations of that venue. But in the end I loved the singing. I loved the songs. Hearing those old Four Seasons' songs carried me back to a simpler time. My days with Johnny, Tommy, Ray and Albert back on Summerfield Place in Staten Island.

That said, I do wonder if non-Baby-Boomers will like it. Will the Rap generation enjoy listening to Frankie Valli? Not sure they will. I think that the movie may only appeal to folks like me who grew up on the their music. Even so, on a scale of ten, I give it ★★★★★★★★.

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

Religious Schism

A funny word, schism is. The dictionary says that it is a split or division between strongly opposed sections or parties, caused by differences in opinion or belief. Some in the United Methodist denomination (I go to a UM church) want to split off because of issues like the marriage and ordination of gay church members. Some want to stay together being united as followers of Jesus Christ. The issue is complex and hotly debated. It points to how hard it is to find a way to agree to disagree that works for people of strong opinions.

I wish this were a new phenomenon among religious folks. Sadly, it is not. Each day we see evidence in the news about age old schisms between people who supposedly follow the same God. Sunni Muslims cannot live alongside of Shia Muslims. Christians of one church see heresy in other churches. And Jews are divided along differing lines of orthodoxy.

At this point I want to offer some sort of win-win cliché. I want to quote John Wesley about finding a way to love each other even though we differ in opinion. Or speak about not majoring on the minors. Sadly, I no longer embrace such rhetoric. The sad truth is that people do not find much value in unity. Many prefer schism over finding common ground.

I guess that is the real truth. Schism is a preference. For sure it is a distasteful one for many. A necessary evil for some. A capitulation of sorts to a so-called greater truth - whatever that means. Yet religious schism is a hard reality in our world of low road winners and losers. And for sure, there are no real winners when we choose to divide.

But perhaps there is a better way? I would be interested to hear your thoughts concerning religious schism.


"Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago."

This Warren Buffett quote reminds me of the trees that I have sat under.
  • My parents planted many trees. I still sit in the shade of their love for me.
  • Taxpayers in New York City planted trees that gave me an excellent education.
  • A company planted a pension tree and I enjoy a comfortable retirement.
  • Our nation's founders planted trees that provide shade to those who long to be free.
  • A man once planted a tree of eternal life for me as he hung on a cross.
My prayer is to be a tree planter. A man who thinks past today. One who is concerned more about providing shade than sitting under it. Someone who wants to leave a legacy of love and compassion. It is my prayer for you too.

The Greatest Gift

The only way love can last a lifetime is if it's unconditional. The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love. -Stephen Kendrick

Unconditional love is an illogical notion, but such a great and powerful one. -A.J. Jacobs

Truly loving another means letting go of all expectations. It means full acceptance, even celebration of another’s personhood. -Karen Casey

The greatest gift that you can give to others is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance. -Brian Tracy

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. -Martin Luther King, Jr.

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them. -Thomas Merton

Happy Summer Solstice Day

Goodbye to Spring (my favorite season) and hello to Summer. I am not a fan of hot weather but like it better than cold. It is almost hitting 90 around here but promises to settle back down to around 80 in the coming days as a few rain showers move in. That said, I am enjoying it anyways. How is it where you are? What is your favorite season?

Crisis in South Sudan

More than a million people have been driven from their homes in South Sudan since intense conflict began on December 15. Fighting and displacement have prevented planting for the rainy season. Hunger is set to worsen if crops cannot be planted. Almost a quarter of a million children are predicted to be severely malnourished by the end of 2014.

World Vision was working in South Sudan long before the country gained independence, and they are increasing their disaster relief work in response to the current crisis. But they need your help. The situation is critical as the number of people in urgent need of life-saving assistance has grown significantly. Please consider helping them provide basic food and nutrition supplies, as well as clean water, sanitation, and protection for the most vulnerable children and families in South Sudan.

Because World Vision has been awarded government grants, gifts will have 2X the impact to help provide urgently-needed food, clean water and sanitation, mosquito nets and household goods, and safe places where children can learn and play. To learn more please click here or on the image at the top of the left sidebar.

The Birth of Crazy TV and the 24-hour News Cycle

Can you even remember a time before American Idol, Survivor, The Amazing Race, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News?

"Twenty years ago this today, OJ Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and a friend, Ronald Goldman, were found stabbed to death in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles. Simpson, a famous actor, running back and Heisman Trophy winner who was one of the most recognizable personalities in the country, was implicated in the killings and would soon be charged with double murder.

What came next — the slow-speed white Bronco chase, round-the-clock television coverage, a riveting trial and not-guilty verdict that split the country along racial lines — offered the United States a gateway drug its residents eventually couldn’t live without.

“What I realized is, this is entertainment,” said Gerald Uelmen, one of Simpson’s defense attorneys. “This is not news.”

In the years since, the lineage of so many cultural phenomena - the 24-hour news cycle, a never-ending stream of reality television shows and many Americans’ unquenchable thirst for celebrity gossip - can be traced to this nearly 16-month span."   This post was excerpted from a Washington Post article. Read more here.

Edge of Tomorrow | ★★★★★★★★☆☆

If you are looking for plot twists and surprises in this flick ... well you might be disappointed. The words in this image on the left (Live. Die. Repeat.), along with the movie trailers prepare you for the plot of this Groundhog Day kind of story. That said, I found the movie to be very enjoyable. Tom Cruise makes good action flicks and this SciFi thriller is no exception. It is an exciting thrill ride with a bit of self-reflection thrown in.

I like the way that Bill Cage (played by Cruise) matured into a different person when confronted with the horrors of war and caring for another person. The movie does a good job developing that character and I think that Emily Blunt does a decent job playing the warrior hero. I thought that it had a pretty good ending and I walked out of the theater feeling pretty good about it. 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.

Why Blog?

You’ll become a better writer.
I do think that blogging has helped me to be able to articulate my thoughts and feelings.

You’ll become a better thinker.
I absolutely agree with this point. Blogging here and commenting at other blogs (i.e. Mad Mike Erich's blog) has helped my better understand why I believe what I believe.

You’ll meet new people.
I love the idea that blogging is a community of people who enjoy not only writing but reading about things that we have in common. Bloggers have become good friends.

You’ll inspire others.
I always hope to do that in one way or another but I feel that I am inspired more than I inspire. Reading of the ways that folks overcome trials so encourages me.

You’ll become more well-rounded in your mindset.
I was a fairly narrow thinker when I began blogging in 2004. Interacting with blog folks have softened my understandings of many things. I am grayer now than I was then.

-Talking points taken from the Becoming Minimalist blog. Read more reasons here.

Should Love be Unconditional?

"Groundless hope, like unconditional love, is the only kind worth having." John Perry Barlow

Aaron Ben-Zeév begins his Psychology Today post, titled Should Love Be Unconditional?, with the above quote. It makes me think about the ways that I love. I sometimes think that love should be sacrificial but am reminded of how the focus is then on the one who sacrifices not on the unconditional aspect of love. An excerpt from what Ben-Zeév writes:
Ideal love is unconditional in the sense that it is unaffected by the conditions of reality-reality cannot change it. Accordingly, it disregards reality and considers love to be beyond the reach of mundane altering events. It is also unconditional in the sense of willingness to give everything to the beloved.
We should characterize unconditional love in more moderate terms, seeing it as referring to love that endures despite unfavorable circumstances. In characterizing it thus, we do not require such love to totally disregard external circumstance, but rather to involve awareness of unfavorable circumstances as well as a profound wish and intention to prolong this love-sometimes, without even fully implementing it. In this concept of love, the lover does not disregard reality, but merely regards it as an obstacle to overcome or to bypass, or even one on which a compromise must be found. There is no ignorance here, merely an evaluative faith and the hope of overcoming such obstacles.
I like the connection he makes to reality. Unconditional love is not an ignorant love. It is not a love that enables bad behavior. It is, as a wise pastor once said, an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person. It is a love that sees no one as an enemy. It is a love that sees the best in others. It is a love that unifies. It is a love that never fails.

A Holey Holiday

"For those who might want to justify those sticky guilty pleasures with which they filled their hands Friday, National Doughnut Day is actually a patriotic remembrance of the time in World War I when Salvation Army volunteers handed out doughnuts on the front lines to soldiers. The doughnut-dishers were all women dubbed "doughgirls," and at the time, the plain cake yummies were just exotic European creations." [more here]

I have not eaten one in a long time. My favs are glazed. How about you?

Mandela :: Long Walk to Freedom | ★★★★★★★★★

This story, based on Nelson Mandela's autobiography, is such an inspirational story. Idris Elba is magnificent in the lead role. I am astonished that it was not nominated for many awards. The movie felt like like a documentary but was so much more. Interestingly enough I got this Mandela quote emailed to me on Monday:

"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."

That thought is the essence of this movie. It shows how Madiba rose from hatred to love ... from war to peace ... from rebel to leader. But even more than that, this movie will break your heart. It is a honestly brutal look at both the man and the ungodly conditions that he, and other people of color, endured for so many years. Your heart breaks for Nelson and his friends as they are imprisoned. It breaks for South Africa.

I loved the movie and recommend it. On a scale of ten, I give it ★★★★★★★★★.

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

The Ordinary God

“Do you believe in a god who can change the course of events on earth?”

        “No,” the woman answered, “just the ordinary one.”

This was the interesting beginning to an article in Saturday's KC Star.

Here are a few clips from the article:
"As of 2012 only 13 percent of the world’s population would describe themselves as convinced atheists, according to a global survey by WIN-Gallup International. Here in the United States, only 5 percent would accept that designation.

However, religion has been growing much less important. God once was seen as commanding the entire universe and supervising all of its inhabitants — inflicting tragedies, bestowing triumphs, enforcing morality. But now, outside of some lingering loud pockets of orthodoxy, we have witnessed the arrival of a less mighty, increasingly inconsequential version of God.

God is becoming, in that woman’s sense, ordinary."
I wrote about this idea of a reduced view of sovereignty here. In that post I said:
My view is that God has a different style of management and sovereignty. When I think about the word sovereignty I see a pyramid where God has delegated sovereignty to nations, to communities, to families and finally to the individual. Both groups of peoples and people themselves exercise an incredible amount of sovereignty in the world.
I am interested in your perspective on this idea. Have your views of how God interacts with His creation changed?
Do you think this diminishes our view of Him (I do not) or do you feel that this is a theology that helps us?

I like this new Image

A small tweak to an old image can make all of the difference. Such is the case with this new wheelchair image that you may (eventually) find posted around your neighborhood.

I like it because it symbolizes the energy and strength of those (like my wife Ann) who are blessed to be able to navigate this great earth in their wheeled chairs. I am amazed every day by the way that Ann roams around the city visiting the library, market and restaurants.

What do you think about the new image? Do you think it is a better representation?