Cats | ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

My friend Missy saw Cats. She gave me permission to post her review here:

1) It seems there are several critical “articles” circulating on FB about problems with CGI, which are absolutely false! The digital animation was incredible!

2) If you don’t like the musical, specifically the music, you won’t like this. While abridged and having some additional dialogue, it is the musical.

There are some character changes that make act 1 far more coherent and add more theatrical tension as well as better character development in my opinion. The decisions weren’t all my favorite, but they work!

I did not like Rebel Wilson in this interpretation of Jennyanydots, particularly her added dialogue, but she’s physical and hilarious. James Corden is tolerable as Bustopher Jones, but easily my least favorite scene. Both of these guys take the humor a bit to far for the tone of the show but their scenes are fun.

Taylor Swift is purrfect as Bombalurina. Even better is the original song she wrote with ALW for Victoria (whose elevated character in the story is very good!)

Macavity is quite a bit more evil in this interpretation, and rather dark-magicky.

Jennifer Hudson is an incredible Grizabella, even as an alto. She is heart-wrenching!

Mr. Mistoffelees is my favorite interpretive character change. I love his development.

Judi Dench and Ian McKellen were cast just right.

The dancing was terrific, especially Victoria’s ballet and an exciting tap rendition of Skimbleshank’s Railway cat scene. Both of these characters are played by incredibly talented dancers.

The singing is great. I have an affinity for the soundtrack because my kids loved it so much when they were little. I really enjoyed the music.

The set is so much fun and more interesting than the staged version.

Overall, I really enjoyed it. If you like Cats the Musical, I suspect you will like this very much.

On a scale of ten I give it ★★★★★★★☆☆☆. Would be 8 stars without Corden and Wilson.

The Two Popes | ★★★★★★★★☆☆

This Netflix papal biopic is worth the two hour viewing time. The casting was perfect. Anthony Hopkins playing Benedict and Jonathan Pryce playing Francis. I loved the vulnerability offered and the peek into papal personalities and operations.

I have to admit that I was concerned that this might be a hit job on one of the popes as they are somewhat polar opposites and have loyal followings. Even so, I felt that a message of brotherly love trumped papal politics and personalities.

I really liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★☆☆.

hope is a force

When things are dark, and the struggle is hard, hope helps me.

In times of weakness and debilitation, hope makes me strong.

When things are chaotic and out of control, hope gives me peace.

Hope helps me to trust the Lord and release my cares to him.

It is a force that keeps me going and optimistic about tomorrow.

I am a work in progress because I have embraced hope.

developing a grateful heart

This is the image that greets me each morning when I enter the hall bath of our downtown KC loft.

It reminds me that thankfulness is a challenge to embrace every single new day.

The words challenge me to live a different sort of life and develop a transformed image of it.

I honestly don't always pay attention to the words - sometimes I am simply not up for the message.

Often I wake up to a life that seems so heavy and I feel so alone and forgotten.

In times like these I think that it is so hard, yet so necessary, to develop a grateful heart.

Some think that thankfulness is purely a matter of perspective and focus.

These folks say things like count your blessings and focus on the positive.

That may work for some but it has not really been helpful in my life.

For me, the journey begins with an acknowledgement that I am a thankful person.

I am so grateful for the love of my God, my wife, my family and my friends.

I think that this acknowledgement is foundational in developing a grateful heart.

Developing a grateful heart begins with the idea that I am grateful.

So it is not so much a change of heart as it is a development of it.

It is not saying that I am thankful for bad things but acknowledging that God is at work.

Believing that God is active in every situation causes thankfulness to grow in me.

If something bad happens it can help strengthen and grow a thankful heart in me.

I think that a strong heart is a thankful one that is able to see unseen things.

Developing inner vision requires feeding, nurturing and training our heart.

In essence a thankful life is one not dominated by the brain but by the heart.

In my experience, leaning into my brain nevers develops thankfulness.

On the flipside, I find thankfulness to bubble up from a strong heart.

It is not so much a matter of counting our blessings as it is knowing we are blessed.

Having this knowledge causes us to embrace the idea that life is a blessing to be lived.

So with each new day we can awake thankful for the blessing of life.

In doing so we make our heart a bit stronger than our head.

And find thanksgiving and gratefulness developing in us.

on the judging of nations and societies

“Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members - the last, the least, the littlest.” -Cardinal Roger Mahony

“The measure of a society is found in how they treat their weakest and most helpless citizens.” -Jimmy Carter

"The degree of civilisation in a society is revealed by entering its prisons." -Winston Churchill

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” -Mohandas Gandhi

“A society will be judged by how it treats its weakest members.” -Harry S. Truman

The Mule | ★★★★★★★★☆☆

This movie was not at all what I expected. Not Dirty Harry. Not Gran Turino. But an amazingly tender and thoughtful experience. The story took me on a journey through family, priorities and love. It highlighted forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption.

The creative genius of Clint Eastwood was on display and his acting was spot on. Loved how his character was beautifully transformed by his granddaughter's love for him. His care for a cartel soldier was endearing and showed a loving side of the character.

I love bio-pics like this movie. On a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★☆☆.

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

The Favourite | ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

First of all. I have to say that this period comedy (of sorts anyways) is way different than I imagined it to be. Much darker. Pretty racy - R rating earned and then some.

Olivia Colman got an Oscar for her performance and I really don't know why. Did not find the story or the acting to be anything great. Cruelty seemed to replace comedy and I am not sure that it was a drama either. I am not a fan of this one.

So I am scratching my head wondering why this one got an oscar nod. Even 'First Man' would have been a better nomination. On a scale of ten, give it ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆.

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

Lilies of the Field | ★★★★★★★★★☆

A few days ago my wife and I watched this beautiful movie. I am generally not a fan of the black and white genre. Yet the presentation was wonderful as the story of a black man helping five German nuns evolved and hearts changed.

I loved the way that Homer Smith, played flawlessly by Sidney Poitier in an Oscar winning performance, felt drawn to helping the nuns. Despite the self-righteous persona of the nun's leader, Homer persevered and, with help from the community, (spoiler alert) completed the chapel that the nuns dreamed about.

It is a great story about how God often uses broken and imperfect people to accomplish beautiful things. I loved it. On a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★★☆.

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


A Facebook conversation this morning reminded me of this thought from the bible:
"let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger"
It has been said that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.

I like what this picture quote says. 80% seems to be a good goal for us when we are having a conversation. That said, it is challenging to do when we are the more outgoing person.

I think that listening is an art form of sorts. My wife is a great listener.

In my counseling days I tried to use the phrase 'what I hear you saying' to communicate that I am listening and that I am wanting to know what the talker is actually trying to communicate.

On several occasions Jesus spoke about having ears to hear. That is a challenging thought. It speaks to me about how difficult it is to hear ideas that challenge us. The underlying thought seems to be to keep open to new ideas and different concepts.

I think that listening is a form of love. Most of us want to really be heard and when someone listens to us it shows us that they really care. I think that a side effect of listening is that it turns our focus away from ourselves. And that is a good thing. Especially for people like me. ツ

Good Friday Reality Check

I think that the images at the left represent the different ways that people see the scourging of Jesus on that first Good Friday when He suffered at the hands of the religious and political leaders of His time.

In truth the image on the far left is the one that I want to cling to - the one of a super-human man who endured a beating and walked triumphantly to death.

The other image just breaks my heart. It haunts me. It challenges me. It confronts me with a reality that I don't like.

I pray that this will cause you to ponder the reality of Jesus' sacrifice for us.
It is a good thing to do on this Good day.

- I first posted this in 2010. Seemed appropriate to republish today.

Palm Sunday Meditations

The entrance into Jerusalem [on Palm Sunday] has all the elements of theatre of the absurd: the poor king; truth comes riding on a donkey; symbolic actions... even parading without a permit! Also, when Jesus "set his face to go to Jerusalem," what was involved was direct action, an open confrontation and public demonstration of the incompatibility of evil with the Kingdom of God. -David Kirk

But everyone who lined the streets had a different reason for waving those palms. Some were political activists; they'd heard Jesus had supernatural power, and they wanted him to use it to free Israel from Roman rule. Others had loved ones who were sick or dying. They waved branches, hoping for physical healing. Some were onlookers merely looking for something to do, while others were genuine followers who wished Jesus would establish himself as an earthly king. Jesus was the only one in the parade who knew why he was going to Jerusalem - to die. He had a mission, while everyone else had an agenda. -Bill Hybels

messy grief

I love the representation of grief presented in this image.

It communicates to me that grief is:

  • anything but neat and tidy;
  • different for each person that experiences loss;
  • multifaceted and often repetitive;
  • not limited to the five Kubler Ross steps.
In my experience grief is one of the most chaotic experiences of life.

If you are experiencing it I pray that you will be able to find peace in the chaos.

what it means to stay positive

These words speak to me about having a resilient attitude.  They remind me to keep going in hard times.

I have had a rough week. I needed to be reminded that success often looks like just keeping on keeping on.

So in the coming days I will purpose to live one day at a time and find joy in things both small and large.

developing my inner voice

A few thoughts that I recently shared with a friend ...

It has been hard for me to discern and develop my own inner voice. Here are a few thoughts about my journey:

  1. Acknowledging the existence of my beautiful inner heart/self/voice seemed to be the starting point. Getting past the idea that my heart was actually trustable and not desperately wicked was a good start.
  2. Trying to figure out why I have done, or am doing, things is sometimes hard but necessary. My big discovery was that I did a lot of things because I was a rules follower. I still love rules and principles but now understand a tad more about how impotent and limiting they can be.
  3. Focusing on becoming more loving seems to sometimes identify the battle between head and heart. I am always aware about how much fear is a part of my journey. Even today I struggle with the future because I am fearful of future health problems for Ann and me.
  4. Being open to change has been really been hard for me. I retired at 49 from a job that I loved. A few years later I left a ministry position that I did not want to leave. Each time I tried to lean into the still small voice of my inner self. In each case I was glad that I did.
  5. In my early years I really judged myself harshly. I had grace for everybody but me. Being comfortable in my own skin and owning who I am seems like a cliche but it took a long time for me to get there.
Hoping that this might help someone who struggles finding their inner voice. I welcome your input.

Losing sleep over losing an hour of sleep?

Just a reminder for you in the United States and other places that observe Daylight Savings - this weekend is the time that we proverbially spring ahead. I am a big fan of DST. I love having an extra hour of daylight in the evening.

The idea of daylight saving time was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 but some think it was first proposed in 1895 by George Vernon Hudson. It was first implemented by Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1916. The US began implementing it in the 1940s.

How about you? Are you a fan of this practice or will you lose sleep over losing an hour of sleep tonight?

a christian litmus test

A few excerpts from an article by Stephen Mattson titled "Not Everything 'Biblical' Is Christlike".

"While the Bible can be manipulated to say and mean almost anything, the words, actions, and life of Jesus aren’t as pliable."

"For Christianity, the litmus test should always be: Is this Christlike? Imagine all of the times were read, see, and hear the term ‘biblical’ used. Now practice changing the wording to ‘Christlike’: Would you rather your church be biblical or Christlike? Would you rather a political policy be biblical or Christlike? Would you rather someone’s actions be biblical or Christlike? Would you rather have your beliefs be the most biblical or the most Christlike? Would you prefer a life that is biblical or Christlike?"

I recommend the article to you. You can read it here.

God’s Dream for the World

“Christ in Silence” by Odilon Redon circa 1897

"God’s vision for humanity is nothing less than for us to be participants in the perfect love that he is throughout eternity. He wants the love of the Trinity to be the replicated toward us, among us and through us to the whole world. God’s dream is for us to be in him, and he to be in us—in the same way the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father. The dream is for humanity to be loved by God, and to in turn love God, with one and the same love that is the eternal triune God." -Greg Boyd, God’s Dream for the World. Read more here.

Weird Lincoln / Kennedy Trivia

Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846.
John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860.
John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960.

Both were particularly concerned with civil rights.
Both wives lost a child while living in the White House.

Both Presidents were shot on a Friday.
Both Presidents were shot in the head.

Lincoln's secretary was named Kennedy.
Kennedy's Secretary was named Lincoln.

Both were assassinated by Southerners.
Both were succeeded by Southerners named Johnson.

Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln, was born in 1808.
Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, was born in 1908.

John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Lincoln, was born in 1838.
Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated Kennedy, was born in 1939.

Both assassins were known by their three names.
Both names are composed of fifteen letters.

Lincoln was shot at the theater named "Ford."
Kennedy was shot in a car called "Lincoln" made by "Ford."

Booth and Oswald were assassinated before their trials.