Happy 2 Year Anniversary

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I forgot that last Friday was the 2 year anniversary for the blog.  I am thankful that this blog is carrying along like it has in the vein of the “Little Engine That Could”.  I don’t know if many people read this blog or not but the main thing is that it his helpful in sharing my thoughts and my journey.  Hopefully this blog has been a blessing to those that have read it.  I do not take for granted to opportunity this blog affords me.

What does the next year hold in store?  Probably more of the same with hopefully more inspired posts than I have written before.  Thanks again for joining me on this journey and may there be many more stories to share in the journey.

Miyazaki’s Kingdom: Looking at “The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness”

Not too along ago I watched 2013 documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness.

the_kingdom_of_dreams_and_madness

The documentary is focused on Studio Ghibli, the animation film studio that Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.  The film specifically looks at the year leading up to the release of two films.  Those two films were Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises and Takahata’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya.  People get a look into the life of the studio as well as that of the two founders of the studio.  Miyazaki is featured prominently in the film because he’s more well known.  However, Takahata is shown as well, even though he is more of a recluse.

What makes this documentary special, along with getting a look behind the scenes of Studio Ghibli, is the fact that it was announced during this time that Miyazaki would be retiring following the release of The Wind Rises.  It gives the film a bittersweet feeling as you know that things will never be the same once the films were finished.

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness was released in Japan on November 16, 2013 and in the United States the next year.  The documentary is in Japanese with English subtitles.  It is worth watching and seeing the behind the scenes of how an iconic studio made films.

Sunday Devotional: 2 John

“The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.

I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.  And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another.  And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.  For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.  Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.  Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,  for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

The children of your elect sister greet you.”

The letter of 2 John is one of the shortest books in the New Testament.  However, there are a lot of important things in this brief letter.  The main thing is the importance and the interconnection between truth and love.  John made it a point throughout the letter that the wrote to a congregation that he knew and loved to emphasize this.  Truth and love are intertwined.  You cannot separate the two.  If there is love but no truth, then there is not real love there.  If there is truth but no love, then it is legalism and not the whole truth.

Jesus was all about truth and love.  He was the way, the truth and the life.  He demonstrated His love for us.  If we are to be followers of Jesus, we need to be about truth and love in our lives.  This week, let us show love and speak truth together to others and to ourselves.

Sunday Devotional: Psalm 117

“Praise the Lord, all nations!
    Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
    and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord!”  (Psalm 117)

This is a pretty short psalm.  It only has two verses.  Yet these two verses pack a lot of truth in them.  This psalm sings of God’s love for us and how it is steadfast and true.  It sings of God’s faithfulness which endures forever.  And it reminds us of how we are to respond: “Praise the Lord…Extol him…”

The psalmist calls for all the nations and all peoples to praise the Lord and rightfully so.  God is faithful and He loves us so much.  Our response should be to give Him the praise and honor He deserves.  This week, let us remember how great God’s love is to us and how His faithfulness endures.  Let that call us to join with others in praising God.

Sunday Devotional: John 21:15-23

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”  He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”  He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.  Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”  (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”  Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”  When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”  So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”  (John 21:15-23)

These verses are some of the more well known verses.  It is the story of Peter and Jesus talking after the resurrection and Jesus forgiving Peter and giving him a mission.  We all fail.  We all mess up.  But the great thing is Jesus forgives us when we repent.  And what’s even better is He still wants to use us for His kingdom.  He had a plan and purpose for Peter: “feed my lambs”, “tend my sheep”, “feed my sheep”.  He has a plan and purpose for your life too.  You just have to be open and ready to receive it.

The other big thing from this story is to focus on one’s own mission.  We sometimes get caught up in what other people are doing or how God is using them.  We have to be responsible for what God has called us to do and not worry about what others have in store.  Peter got caught up in worrying what would happen with John.  Jesus reminded him that it wasn’t Peter’s place to focus on John.  Peter was to focus on following Jesus.

This week, let us repent, let us accept forgiveness, let us be ready to follow Jesus and serve Him in whatever roles He has called us to do.

Thursday Quote Day: Carter Stepper

For this week’s “Thursday Quote Day” is a quote from teacher and writer Carter Stepper:

“We are defined by our stories. In each stage of our lives, there are marked moments where we can perceive with clarity how are lives have changed, shaping our individual identities in unique ways.” (Carter Stepper Bigger on the Inside: Christianity and Doctor Who)

Sunday Devotional: Revelation 21:5-7

“And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.  The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”  (Revelation 21:5-7)

We all look forward to the future, to a brighter day.  For those who are followers of Jesus, we look forward to being with Jesus and seeing the Father face to face.  We long for that new Heaven and the new Earth that is described in Revelation 21 & 22.

These verses give hope.  They remind us of the one who makes “all things new”.  They remind us of the one who is “the beginning and the end”.  The one who loved us so much to die for us so that we may have life.  That we are able drink from the “spring of the water of life without payment”.  And the awesome thing is we get to have a relationship with God forever.  That is our hope.

During the time that Revelation was written, there was mass a persecution of Christians going on by the Roman Empire.  Believers needed to stand firm in their faith and hold onto their faith in Christ.  John reminded them of the hope that comes for those who endure, who overcome.  That same promise is given to us today.  We have that hope that once sin and death are finally defeated, we get to gather together wall all those who love Jesus and get to worship together for eternity.  That’s a hope worth remembering as we continue on following after Him in the present.

“Okay…that’s it?”: Thoughts on “Fantastic Four”

Fantastic Four

There has been a lot said about the newest Fantastic Four film.  Most of what has been said has been bad…real bad.  As in horrible bad.  And giving the history of the making of the film, there is no surprise that is the case.  The reviews that came out just prior to its release didn’t help it at all.  Even the trailers didn’t give the film much help, especially the initial teaser trailer.

But given all that, I went and saw it.  Because A) it’s a superhero film, B) I for the most part like superhero films, and C) I had a gift certificate for a free ticket.  So basically, I was going to see it for free.  I didn’t really have anything to lose, except losing one free ticket.

I will try and not spoil the film but I will share some of my thoughts here.  The main thought that I had as I walked out of the theater was what the title of this blog was.  “Okay…that’s it?”  It wasn’t bad, or at least I didn’t think it was bad.  Was it good?  No, it was not good.  So it was not good and it was not bad so it lands in okay.

There is a story there.  Unfortunately, it feels like a half finished film.  The visual effects are great.  The cast is great.  I thought that Miles Tellar, Michael B. Jordon, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell did a great job.  The Thing actually looks like The Thing.  There is a lot of potential there.

The problem is like I said, it feels like a half finished film.  There are several points of exposition that don’t really connect well (or in some cases at all).  There are several points in the film where there are time jumps (one point it jumps seven years, another one year) and that has the potential (especially the second one) to kinda throw things off.  It hits a lot of the beats of an origin story movie but at the same time feels like it misses some of the connections that weave through it.  Reed and Ben don’t feel like best friends (hurt by the time jump).  Not much is developed as far as showing the connection between Johnny and Sue (but at least there’s more shown there than with the friendship with Reed and Ben).

Then there is Victor Von Doom.  Yes, he is the villain of the film.  They kinda make that obvious even before he is shown on screen.  And the first scene he is on screen does give off the impression of the rumors of him being a computer hacker (but he isn’t any of the sort).  But even though he’s the villain of the film…he doesn’t really feel like a villain for a lot of the picture.  In fact, there’s a decent amount of time where after he’s introduced, he’s not even in the movie.  The real villain is the guy who chews gum a lot and either is a board member of the Baxter Institute or a government official (or both? It’s not really explained well or I missed it).  This guy basically uses The Thing (and tries to use Johnny) on military assignments while Sue and Franklin (Johnny and Sue’s father) try to find Reed.  And where’s Reed?  Reed goes into hiding after escaping from the government facility where the group was transported following the accident that gave them superpowers.  He basically pulls a Bruce Banner, which doesn’t make sense to me.  If anyone would pull the Bruce Banner and run away, it would be Ben Grimm.  But they went with Reed doing it.

Another kind of a pet peeve, New York City is pretty much non existent.  Aside from a few exterior shots early on in the movie, the city doesn’t play a part.  Which if you know the Fantastic Four (or for that matter most Marvel comics and films), NYC is almost like another character.  But it is relegated to almost a Stan Lee cameo (which by the way I blinked and missed his cameo cause I didn’t see it).

So I mentioned the title of this post is “Okay…that’s it?”  Well the ‘that’s it?’ part comes with the ending of the film.  Or I guess I should say the final third of the film.  The film kinda builds up and then all of a sudden you get to the end of the film and it’s over…and it almost seems to easy or that there should be more.  Now I say this knowing the film is 1 hour and 40 minutes.  And yet, I still felt like the final battle could’ve been longer or broken up into multiple parts or something.  It was kinda like a piece of chewing gum that had a decent flavor but the flavor was gone pretty quick and you left chewing and thinking “That’s it?”  That’s what the ending felt like to me.  It also suffered from the “Marvel Movie Syndrome” of how to deal with villains.

To sum up, Fantastic Four is not horrible.  It’s not bad.  On the flip side, it is not good.  It is not up to the standards that Marvel Studios puts out.  It’s unfortunate that Marvel Studios does not have the FF franchise.  Because I’m sure, they would do a better job with it.  I do think it’s worth seeing.  But I’d probably wait for a matinee or the dollar theater if you want to see it in the theater, otherwise you could wait until it comes out on DVD.  There’s potential there but I guarantee that Josh Trank will have nothing to do with the sequel…and that’s more that likely a good thing.