Thursday Quote Day: G.K. Chesterton

For this week’s “Thursday Quote Day”, here’s a quote from G.K. Chesterton, writer and theologian who was born on this day 140 years ago.

“Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.”  G.K. Chesterton The Innocence of Father Brown

Should You Be Surprised?

A couple of days ago, I was checking out my Instagram feed.  I don’t have many pictures on my account (just 1 at the moment) but I have lots of friends who have lots of pictures on theirs.  So anyway, as I was scrolling down I came across one picture.  It was a picture posted by a friend that I knew from college but haven’t had much contact with since then.  The caption more than the picture is what caught my eye.  The caption read “This girl went to church today.  Some of you will be proud; others surprised.”

It got me to thinking, as most things usually do.  If I said that I went to church, would there be people that are surprised?  Should you be surprised that I was in church?  Now granted I’ve served in the ministry so for a lot people the answer would be no but still.  Even among my non-believing friends, would they be surprised that I went to church this past Sunday?

When I lived in Seattle and worked with church plants and served on staff with a campus ministry at the University of Washington, I also participated in a recreational co-ed flag football league that played on the weekends.  Over the course of about two years or so, I got to know several of my teammates fairly well and vice versa.  They knew I served in ministry and that I followed Jesus.  I’m sure if you had asked them were you surprised that Michael went to church, they would say no they weren’t surprised.  And some of them weren’t followers of Jesus either but yet they wouldn’t be surprised.

The reason I say that is because gathering together for corporate worship is a component in the life of a follower of Jesus.  If you say you’re a Christian, then one of the components is to join together with other believers on a regular basis to worship God in a corporate way.  Just as much as spending time in prayer and studying the Bible, it’s important to gather together to worship to be encouraged and to challenge one another.  And it’s a place (hopefully) that all people can come and hear the Gospel and grow as followers of Jesus (or become one if they’re not one).

Should you be surprised?  No matter who you are, one person for sure wouldn’t be surprised…Jesus.

Miyazaki Mondays: The Secret World of Arrietty

For this week’s “Miyazaki Monday”, it is the 2010 film The Secret World of Arrietty:

The Secret World of Arrietty tells the story of a young man named Sho (named Shawn in the English dub) who spent a summer at his mother’s childhood home.  He stays there with his great aunt Sadako (named Jessica in the English dub) and the house maid Haru (named Hara in the English dub).  On his first day at the home, he discovers Arrietty coming out of a bush after Niya the cat chased after a crow.

Arrietty is a “Borrower”, a little person that lives in the house and ‘borrows’ small things to live on.  She lives in the house along with her father Poddo (named Pod in the English dub) and mother Homiri (named Homily in the English dub).  Poddo usually is the one in the family to go on missions to ‘borrow’ but Arrietty is finally at the age to be able to go as well.  Late one night, Poddo and Arrietty go and try to get a sugar cube but Arrietty is spotted by Sho.  Sho tries to get Arrietty to stay but she leaves with her father.  The next day, Sho leaves a sugar cube out for Arrietty.

The “Borrower” family realize they have been found out about and begin to plan to leave.  Sho learns from Sadako that there had been “Borrowers” seen in the past and that the dollhouse that was in Sho’s room was custom built for the “Borrowers” that lived in the house to have but they were never seen.

Sho tries give some of the contents of the dollhouse to the Borrower family but that frightens them more and they hurry to try and leave along with Supira (named Spiller in the English dub), a young Borrower who helped Poddo out when he was injured during a borrowing mission.  When Arrietty revealed to Sho that they were leaving, Sho revealed to Arrietty that he was to have surgery on a heart condition he’s had since birth.  In the end, they encourage each other to keep fighting to live.

While Sho is happy about seeing the Borrowers and wants to protect them, Haru on the other hand believes they are pests and tries to capture and get rid of them.  At one point, Haru is able to capture Homiri and it’s up to Sho and Arrietty to save Homiri and have Haru get her comeuppance.

The Secret World of Arrietty is based in part on the famous children’s book The Borrowers by Mary Norton.  Miyazaki wrote the screenplay for the film as well as produced it.  The director of the film was Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who had been an animator on Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away and Ponyo.  It was released in theaters in Japan on July 17, 2010.  It ended up being the highest grossing Japanese film that year.  It was distributed in North America again by Disney.  The English dub cast included Bridgit Mendler, David Henrie, Amy Poehler, Will Arnett and Carol Burnett.  It was released in North America in theaters on February 17, 2012 (it received a screening in New York city prior to this on January 21, 2012).  It opened in a record 1,522 theaters for Studio Ghibli.  It opened at $6.45 million that weekend (and $8.48 million for the 4 day President’s Day Weekend) which beat Ponyo for the highest grossing weekend for a Studio Ghibli film.  It would go onto gross worldwide over $145 million dollars.

I went and saw The Secret World of Arrietty on my birthday.  I enjoyed the film and while it is not in my top 5 Miyazaki films, it is another classic film in line with other Miyazaki greats.

Sunday Devotional: Matthew 10:40-42

“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.  The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.  And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”  Matthew 10:40-42

Jesus is speaking to the disciples and giving instructions for them.  This is the last things he said to them before sending them out to share.  He reminds them that they are going in Jesus’ name and that when they are received by the people that they are receiving Jesus because the disciples are ambassadors of Jesus and the Father.  Those of us who are followers of Jesus, we are ambassadors of Jesus.  When we go out and share with others, we should be encouraged.  When people receive us, they receive Jesus.  We are not going out alone.  And it’s not on us whether people receive the Gospel, it’s on them because they choose to either receive or reject.

The Cautionary Tale of Adam Muema

I was surfing the web today and came across this article.  It’s on ESPN.com and is going to be in the next issue of ESPN the Magazine (here’s a link to the article).  It was written by Kevin Van Valkenburg entitled “Hiding in Plain Sight”.  It’s about the story of Adam Muema.  He was a college football player at San Diego State University.

For those that don’t know who he is or don’t remember, he was a running back with the Aztecs and inexplicably left the NFL Combine this past February.  The story was that “God told him to leave the combine and if he did he would get drafted by the Seattle Seahawks”.  Back in February, I remember hearing about the story because A) Because of the circumstances of why he left and B) I’m a Seahawks fan.  Besides the initial sounding weird thought, I didn’t give it much thought after that.

That was until today and Mr. Van Valkenburg’s article.  There was much more to this story.  It turned out that he was supposed to be at a pro day on the campus of San Diego State and he didn’t show up to the event.  For those that don’t know, pro days are workout events that happen on college campuses so that scouts can see players in action.  As Mr. Van Valkenburg began to dig deeper into the story of Adam’s weird behavior and apparent disapperance, there’s a rough story underneath.

It turns out that Adam had fallen into the teachings of a self proclaimed “messiah” Lord RayEl.  When I read this I was like “Who?!  So I did a google search and what I found made both angry and sad.  Apparently, there is this guy who claims to be the second coming of Jesus and that he came back in 2011.  And among some of the answers in his FAQ, he said that one of the “two witnesses” that was prophesied in Revelation was Harold Camping (the guy that said the world was ending in 2011 on the day that ironically was the day I graduated from seminary) and that people should leave their churches if their churches weren’t aligned with him.  He also said that he was the Son of God among other reasons because “his striking resemblance to most artistic depictions of Christ”.

Unfortunately Adam, who didn’t have a strong male role model growing up, latched on to this guy (who’s real name is Raymond Ellwood Howard-Lear) and now is one of his followers.  The article ends with the author trying to meet in person with Adam but got snubbed.  Adam still has an online presence but his actual whereabouts are unknown.

This article made me both sad and angry.  It made me sad because this young man is hurting and searching.  He needs the love and truth that comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ.  It made me angry because this false teacher is flat out lying and acting in such a way that is leading people astray.  This article was also a reminder.  It’s a reminder of the importance of discipleship and relationship.  The truth needs to be taught.  As followers of Jesus, we have a responsibility to share the truth with those around us.  When the Gospel is shared, the true Gospel, then lies like the ones that ‘Lord RayEl” teaches are exposed.  And it’s important to be in community.  When we’re not connected in community with a body of believers, then perspective is lost and falsehoods can have access to creep into those who are new to the faith or those that are checking out Jesus.

I pray for Adam.  I pray that real truth can be spoken into his life.  That true followers of Jesus can speak into his life and show him what the Gospel really is.  And for those of us who are followers of Jesus, I pray that we find those Adam’s in our lives and preach the Gospel to them so that they know the truth and can choose the real Gospel as opposed to the fake ones that are unfortunately out there.

Thursday Quote Day: Grant Horner

For this week’s “Thursday Quote Day”, here’s a quote from Grant Horner.  He is the author of the book Meaning at the Movies:

“Millions of people have watched movies about Jesus–even theologically accurate ones–but this does not make them followers of Jesus anymore than watching ET makes me want to ‘phone home’ or ‘be good.'” (Grant Horner Meaning at the Movies)

Lessons Learned from a Random Movie Scene

A few days ago, I was watching a movie on Netflix.  It was one of those nights that there wasn’t anything on TV so thought I’d check something out on streaming Netflix.  I ended up watching a random movie I found on there.  The movie was okay, wasn’t great but wasn’t bad.

There was one scene towards the end of the movie that had me thinking.  Now this movie was an indie low budget movie so that was taken into account.  The scene was at a park.  It was at night and it was raining.  An actor and actress were standing out in the rain having a key conversation.  Instead of paying attention to the conversation, I was distracted from it.  How was I distracted?  Well the rain in the scene looked like the rain machine was turned all the way up and was drenching the characters.  The wind machine was turned all the way up and was howling.  It make it look like the characters were standing in a hurricane instead of just in the rain.  The music sounded like someone was playing the same three notes on the piano.  But the main thing was all this background noise drowned out (pun not intended) the voices of the actors.  I could barely hear the actress speak and couldn’t really hear the actor at all.  I don’t know if it was a bad microphone or if the actor was just whispering the lines or what but I had a hard time hearing what was said.  It took away from what the scene was trying to get across.

So what lessons did I learn from this?  I learned that sometimes distractions in my life can be like that wind and rain machine and the monotone music.  It can keep me from hearing what God is trying to say to me.  That noise drowns out and keeps me from hearing God.  It’s not to say those things that are “distractions” are bad, just like the wind machine and rain machine and the music are good things they need to be used in the right context.  That’s why it’s good sometimes to just get away from everything and pray and listen to what God has to say.  Jesus regularly would get away from everything, away from distractions and pray.  That should be our example as well.

God used a scene from a random movie on Netflix to teach me a lesson.  You have to be open to listening to what He has to say.

Miyazaki Mondays: Ponyo

This week’s Miyazaki Monday film is 2008’s Ponyo

Ponyo is the story of a fish-girl who becomes friends with a human and wants to become a human herself.  Her name initially is Brunhilde.  She lives with her “sisters” and her father Fujimoto.  Fujimoto is a human wizard who lives underwater and who has sworn off humanity to live under the sea.  One day, Brunhilde gets separated from her family to see the world.  She ends up getting trapped in a bottle and washing ashore.  She is rescued by a young boy named Sosuke.  Sosuke then renamed her Ponyo.  Thinking that Ponyo was kidnapped, Fujimoto calls on the wave spirits to bring Ponyo back to him.  Sosuke is heartbroken and while his mother Lisa tries to console him, he misses Ponyo.

Ponyo has an argument with her father and due to some of Sosuke’s blood, she turns into a human.  Before Fujimoto can call on Ponyo’s mother Granmamare, Ponyo escapes with the help of her sisters.  Ponyo then returns to Sosuke and Lisa as a human girl and goes to live with them.  Meanwhile, the moon is falling out of orbit and disrupting the seas.  Fujimoto meets with Granmamare and it is revealed that nature is out of balance.  Granmamare tells Fujimoto that Ponyo can stay a human if she passes a test.  It would also mean that nature would then be put back in balance.  However, if Ponyo does not pass the test, she will turn into sea foam.

Ponyo’s mom Lisa leaves the children to check on the residents at the nursing home where she works.  The rising waters trap Lisa and the residents and it’s up to Ponyo and Sosuke to come to the rescue.  It becomes a race against time to save the people as well as for Ponyo to stay human.

This film is inspired by the classic Hans Christen Andersen story The Little Mermaid.  It was done completely in traditional hand drawn animation and there were 170,0o0 separate images drawn for the film.  That is a record for a Miyazaki film.  It was released in Japan on July 19, 2008 to a record amount of screens in the country (481).  It was distributed in North America again by Walt Disney Pictures.  The English dub was directed by John Lasseter, Brad Lewis and Peter Sohn.  The English dub voices included actors such as Tina Fey, Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett, Lily Tomlin and Betty White.

The film got several prescreenings in the U.S. before it’s theatrical release including at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con.  The North American theatrical release was on August 14, 2009.  It opened in 927 theaters, which had been the most to that point any Studio Ghibli film had such a wide release.  The film would go on to gross over $201 million worldwide.

Ponyo was the first Miyazaki film that I saw in the theaters.  It is another visual and storytelling masterpiece from Hayao Miyazaki and added to the collection of films that are classics that he has helped bring to life.

Sunday Devotional: Jeremiah 9:23-24

“Thus says the Lord:  “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches,but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.  For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”  Jeremiah 9:23-24

In this passage, God is speaking to the people of Judah through the prophet Jeremiah.  He makes it clear that if there should be any boasting, it should be in knowing where the truth, the power and the riches truly come.  They come from the Lord.  What we should boast in is having a relationship with God, in knowing the one who is righteous and just.

What do we put our trust in?  Or to tie to the text, what do we boast in?  Do we boast in our knowledge?  Do we boast in our strength?  Do we boast in our wealth/possessions?  Or do we boast in the Lord?  It’s great to have knowledge, it’s great to be healthy and strong, it’s great to have money and possessions.  But it’s not great to make that the focal point, to boast about those things.

To have a personal relationship with God, now that’s something to boast about.

Godzilla Review

Godzilla poster

I went and saw Godzilla today.  This is a movie that I’ve been looking forward to for years now.  Yes, for years now.  I am a huge fan of the Godzilla movie franchise.  I have watched the films since I was a kid.  I grew up loving to watch Godzilla smash through Tokyo (and other locations) and laying the smackdown on various monsters.  So when I heard that there was going to be a new movie, I was super excited.

When you have a movie like this, a movie that you’re super excited about seeing, it can leave itself up to live up to (or exceed) expectations or fall flat.  And for me, it lived up to the expectations.

(Don’t worry, no spoilers)

This movie, directed by Gareth Edwards, pays a lot of tribute to the original 1954 Japanese film Gojira.  Gojira was the first Godzilla film and is considered a masterpiece in its own right (If you have never seen that film, I totally recommend seeing it.  You don’t need to have seen it to watch the new film but it’ll help catch some things).  Edwards mentioned that he wanted this film to be an homage to that classic.  That sentiment comes across in this film.

The movie opens in 1999 and two scientists tracking a strange incident in the Philippines.  These two scientists are Dr. Serizawa (played by Ken Watanabe) and Dr. Graham (played by Sally Hawkins).  This incident led to an “accident” at a nuclear power plant in Japan has a devastating effect on an area north of Tokyo.  This included plant supervisor Joe Brody (played by Bryan Cranston) losing his wife Sandra (played by Juilette Binoche).

Fifteen years later, Joe is still trying to find out the truth behind the “accident”.  Meanwhile, his son Ford (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has grown up and got married to Ellie (played by Elizabeth Olsen) and has a son named Sam.  Ford is in the U.S. Navy and is an explosive ordnance disposal technician (i.e. he disarms bombs & explosive devices).  Joe and Ford’s relationship is strained at best in the fifteen years that had passed but circumstances bring them back together & they find out the truth about what happened that day long ago.

Come to find out, it’s a M.U.T.O. (or a Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) that hatched in the Philippines and fed on the radioactivity of the power plant and awoke 15 years later.  It escapes and heads east.  Dr. Serizawa and Dr. Graham then meet the Brodys and begin to share the truth about what has been going on.  They reveal about the M.U.T.O. as well as another creature that has been around since the early 1950s.  That creature?  Yes, Godzilla.

Godzilla is sort of “brings balance to nature” kind of monster.  That and he’s the apex predator.  So when this M.U.T.O. shows up, Godzilla begins hunting it down.  Meanwhile, the humans begin to mobilize to defend themselves from the oncoming threat.  The target is San Francisco, where Ellie and Sam are and Ford is trying to get back to them.  It becomes a showdown between Godzilla and the M.U.T.O.s (yes there’s two of them) with the military thrown in as well.

I thought the movie was awesome.  There wasn’t anything that I was disappointed about with it.  There were a few things I was surprised about (but I won’t mention because of spoilers) but it wasn’t really a negative thing.  I saw it in IMAX 3D and it looked and sounded amazing.  If you’re going to see it, you need to see it in that format.

From my perspective, Gareth Edwards did a great job in paying tribute to the past of Godzilla and making a good film for today.  I think this could be the beginning of a new series of Godzilla films.  And like I mentioned before, if you haven’t seen the 1954 version, I would recommend seeing that as well either before going to see the new film or even after.

My first reaction after the film ended was one word:  awesome.  I think that pretty much summed up Godzilla for me.