2018 Year in Review

2018…the year is finally coming to the end.  This has been one of the toughest years for me.  I would say right there with 2013 with the level of toughness it’s been.  But by God’s grace I have made it to the end of the year.

Final reading list for 2018:

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Timothy Keller

Replant: How Did a Dying Church Can Grow Again by Mark DeVine & Darrin Patrick

Transformational Discipleship:  How People Really Grow by Eric Geiger, Michael Kelley & Philip Nation

Street Gang:  The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis

The Stark Truth:  The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History by Jayson Stark

Here We Stand:  Enduring Truth and the Reformation of the Church edited by Michael A. G. Haykin

I Will:  Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian by Thom S. Rainer

This is the 14th year of keeping track of books I’ve read. Here’s the number breakdown:

2005: 19

2006: 20

2007: 18

2008: 22

2009: 29

2010: 24

2011: 15

2012: 14

2013: 9

2014: 7

2015: 13

2016: 12

2017: 12

2018:  7

Here is what I learned in 2018:

1) Show love and grace to everyone.  You never know who is hurting and could use the support.  Even more so when you’re hurting love others.  It is helpful in healing.

2) Take it one day at a time.  Literally take things one day at a time.  Sometimes that’s all you can do to make it through the day.

This is a unusually short year in review.  Like I said, this was a very tough year for me.  I hope that 2019 will be a better year than 2018.  That is my prayer for me and for you

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My Favorite Films of 2018

I have been for the last couple of years sharing what have been my favorite films of the year.  This will be tough because there were so many good films I saw, especially in the theater.  They are in no particular order except from around the beginning of the year until the end of the year:

Mary and the Witch’s Flower

A film with a definite Studio Ghibli vibe, this was the first film I saw in a theater in 2018 and immediately was one of my favorites.  The animation, the voice acting, it was all top notch.

I Can Only Imagine

Based on the life of MercyMe lead singer Mark Millard, it is one of the best film depicting the Christian faith I have seen.  There were several really good Christian films in 2018 but this one was the best and my personal favorite.

Ready Player One

I still need to read the book but the film version is tremendous.  Lots of good 80s and video game references and callbacks and the visual effects were great.  It was such a fun journey through the story.

The Miracle Season

Based on the true story of a girl’s volleyball team in Iowa that overcome the tragic loss of their team captain to win a state title.  It was so good I saw it twice in the theater.  One of my top five favorite sports films of all time.

Avengers: Infinity War

The culmination of ten years of Marvel Studio films, this first part of a two part saga was tremendous.  To see all the superheroes in one film was something I wouldn’t have ever imagined ten years ago but it was real and it was awesome.  I’m looking forward to next year and Avengers: Endgame

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

One of the best documentaries and probably my favorite of 2018, the story of Fred Rogers is one that is always good to remember and share with others.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Sequel to one of my favorite films of 2015, this one did not disappoint.  I love how not only they did a great job continuing the storyline of the first film but also brought a fresh aspect to it with new characters and maturing of old characters.

Mission:  Impossible Fallout

The Mission: Impossible film series has seemed to have gotten better with each film especially the last couple of ones.  Fallout is not only right at the top of the series but one of my favorite films period.  It not only called back to previous films and tied up storylines from them but also sets the stage for always going forward with new stories.

Christopher Robin

This was a very fun movie (though I still think that Tigger looks off in this version).  It feels almost like an alternate reality of the real life Christopher Robin Milne that was portrayed in last year’s Goodbye Christopher Robin but I do love the story of this film and I always have a soft spot for Winnie the Pooh and the Hundred Acre Wood gang in my heart.

Operation Finale

Based on the true story of the capture of Adolf Eichmann, the acting in this film is top notch.  Both Oscar Isaac and Sir Ben Kingsley give award winning performances.

Little Women

A modern retelling of the classic novel.  I love how the filmmaker stayed true to the heart of the Alcott story while giving it a modern feel.  This was another film I saw twice in the theater because it was so good.

A Star Is Born

I had not seen the previous versions of this film but when the trailers dropped for it I was super interested and it didn’t disappoint.  Loved the performances of Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga (also Sam Elliott had a great supporting role as well).

The Old Man and The Gun

Based on the true story of career criminal Forrest Tucker, it’s one of the best performances of Robert Redford’s career.  It was both retro (given the time period) and modern at the same time.  I loved it.

The Front Runner

Based on the 1988 Presidental campaign of Gary Hart, it is a film very timely given the nature of politics in America today.  Hugh Jackman gave (in my opinion) an award winning performance and I walked out of the film wondering how things would’ve been different in America had things went differently in that 1988 election

Creed II

Sequel to the first Creed (which was one of my favorite films of 2015).  This one not only built on the legacy of the first film but also into the deeper Rocky franchise.  I loved how it tied a lot into Rocky IV (which is one of my favorite films of all time).  If they wanted to keep it going with a third film I would be more than happy to see it.

Green Book

Based on the true story of the friendship between Dr. Don Shirley and Tony “Lip” Vallelonga.  This was not only a well acted film but a great story told as well.

Mary Poppins Returns

The long (coming? awaited?) sequel to the the 1964 original film, Mary Poppins (this time played by Emily Blunt) returns to help the Banks family (the kids now grown up and one with kids of his own).  It is a fun film and definitely has that vibe that the original film had.

Bumblebee

This is the best live action Transformers film.  It definitely has the vibe of the 80s cartoon and animated film.  I would hope if they make more live action Transformers film, they abandon the canon of the earlier films and just start fresh with this one as the first one.

So that’s my list of favorite films of 2018. What is your list? Do we have similar films or are there other films that you have on your list? I’d love to hear what your films are and I’m excited to see what film will make the list in 2019

MoviePass Adventures: Month 13

At this point, I’m surprised that I can still use my MoviePass.  But another month has gone by and was able to use it.  Here’s what I’ve seen this month (not counting seeing The Old Man & The Gun, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Grinch  with AMC A-List):

1.) Indivisible

Indivisible is based on a true story about a U.S. Military chaplain and his family and the ups and down and the celebrations and struggles of life in the military and serving in Iraq during wartime and coming home afterwards.  For a Christian film, it’s one of the better films I’ve seen because it deals with doubt and struggle in dealing with one’s faith lived out.

Total films seen overall with MoviePass: 54

(Number of unique films seen overall: 52)

(Number of films seen in 2018 with MoviePass: 40)

(Number of unique films seen in 2018: 39)

The Five: Five Albums on Constant Rotation

It’s time for another edition of “The Five”.  This time I thought I would look at the five albums that I would have on constant rotation.  It is kind of a correlation to the TV shows question but if I could only listen to five albums for the rest of my life, what would they be?  Granted I have very eclectic musical tastes so to narrow down is tough but here’s my five (one caveat, no greatest hits albums…that would be kinda like cheating):

1.) Switchfoot Nothing is Sound

This was probably the easiest one to pick for “The Five”.  Switchfoot is right up there as far as favorite artists.  I got introduced to them in college at Union by my best friend and roommate and I’ve been a fan ever since.  This album released in 2005 while I was living and working in Seattle.  Pretty much every song on the album has resonated with me at some point in my life through the ups and downs of life and ministry.  I can listen to it beginning to end and it just flows from one song to the next.  For me, this album is a no brainer for the list.

2.) Coldplay X&Y

I don’t know why but 2005 was that kind of year for music and me.  This album by Coldplay just hit me right in the feels as the kids would say.  So many of the songs on this album just stick in my head and I feel the words as I sing along.  So many of the songs resonated with me at that time and place and in a lot of ways still do.  So I have to include it in my five.

3.) Third Day Offerings:  A Worship Album

I knew some Third Day songs at a teen but it really wasn’t until I got to college that I really heard their stuff.  This album released in 2000 is one that was in regular rotation when I was in college.  I got to know these songs by heart and were a part of my time growing in my faith in college.  Just as my faith is integral to who I am, I definitely think it’s important to have an album like this in The Five”.

4.) Garth Brooks No Fences

I feel like I need a country album given how I grew up listening to country.  So I went with Garth Brooks and his album No Fences from 1990.  There are a lot of iconic songs from this album and it’s one that I can go back to and listen to with fondness of my childhood.

5.) The Fray The Fray

I was having a hard time narrowing down the final entry here.  There are several albums from several artists that have a lot of meaning to me.  But I decided to go with The Fray and their self titled album that released in 2009 is one that still sticks with me.  I’m a fan of the band ever since their debut album so it was a toss up between that one and their follow up self titled album but the number of quality songs on The Fray pushed it over the top.  It was a go to album that I listened to frequently during my time in seminary.

Updated 2018 Book List

It has been a long time since I updated the book list for this year.  I got bogged down over the summer and didn’t read much.  One book really bogged me down (haven’t finished it yet and had to switch to another).  But here’s the updated list:

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Timothy Keller

Replant: How Did a Dying Church Can Grow Again by Mark DeVine & Darrin Patrick

Transformational Discipleship:  How People Really Grow by Eric Geiger, Michael Kelley & Philip Nation

Street Gang:  The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis

The Stark Truth:  The Most Overrated & Underrated Players in Baseball History by Jayson Stark

The Five: Five Films That Define Me

It has been awhile since I had a series of posts.  I like doing series but sometimes I either finish them or run out of inspiration.  I mentioned recently how I was in a writer’s block for a time but I feel like (at least at the moment) I’ve got some more inspiration to write more often again (which is good because it helps me express myself).

One of the big trends the last couple of months on Twitter are these questions that people ask that get trending where people ask about favorite films or books or TV shows and such.  And I’ve participated in some of that on there.  And I thought, “Hey, how about I do like a series on such things on my blog?”  Hence the creation of “The Five”.

What “The Five” will be is a series where I will take a topic and give a list of five that ties into that topic.  It’s not necessarily a ranking but just a list (so in no particular order).

For this edition of “The Five” I wanted to look at the films that define me.  As in, if I was meeting someone for the first time and they asked me what films should I watch to get a definition of me, these would be the five films I would recommend.  For people that know how much I love films this is a tall order.  I will add this caveat.  For a film series, I will only pick one film in that series.  Like instead of watching the entire Lord of the Rings I could say Return of the King (that’s not one in “The Five” but just an example)  So here’s “The Five Films that Define Me”:

1) Return of the Jedi

Of course there had to be a Star Wars film in the list.  I don’t think it would be even possible to have a list without one on there.  So why Return of the Jedi?  First, it was the first Star Wars film I ever saw in the theater.  Granted it was a year after it released and I was 4 and I barely remember it then but that’s the record.  Second, as a kid I loved the Ewoks (and to be honest I still do).  But really as I’ve gotten older I’ve really resonated with the maturation that Luke has in the film.  He’s not the young farm boy he was in A New Hope.  He’s not the impetuous Jedi student he was in The Empire Strikes Back.  He is battle tested and carries scars with him.  He still struggles but he has grown.  Plus Jedi has the iconic scene in the Emperor’s Throne Room when Luke is hiding from Vader and the light catches his face in such a way that half his face is lighted and half is in darkness.  Such an iconic moment that sticks with me to this day.  If there is one Star Wars film that defines me, it’s Return of the Jedi

2) Short Circuit 2

I went back and forth between the first Short Circuit or the sequel.  Both are films that are a part of my life growing up.  But I think I would lean with Short Circuit 2 because of one particular scene (which I have blogged about before here).  That scene in and of itself merits watching (and being included in The Five) but the film as a whole is good as well.

3) The Holiday

I am a hopeless romantic.  So anytime there is a romantic film, I’m usually sucked into watching it.  Yes I’m a single guy who loves romantic films.  And out of all the romantic films, this one I connect with.  Particularly with the character of Iris (played by Kate Winslet).  Unrequited love is a dagger and it is one I have dealt with personally.  And yet, I still am hopeful that someday I will find the right one and get married.

4.) From Up on Poppy Hill

I figure to best include a film that is an anime in “The Five” because of my love of anime (especially of Studio Ghibli films).  So out of that list I would say From Up on Poppy Hill.  From the animation to the story to the music, it all comes together in a manner that just clicks.  And while in my ranking of Studio Ghibli films I had The Wind Rises ranked higher, in defining my story I would say From Up on Poppy Hill resonates more.

5.) I Can Only Imagine

My faith is a big part of my life.  I would not be who I am without Jesus Christ.  So I have to have a film that reflects my faith and to me that film is I Can Only Imagine.  Not only is it a good film that speaks on faith, love and forgiveness but that song released at a time in my life (college/grad school) when I say that I really took ownership of my faith.  So that song resonated with me then and still does and the film does the same as well.

So this is the first edition of “The Five”.  I hope to have more of these to come.  I would love to know what you would say are the films you would recommend someone to watch that define you?

Five Year Anniversary

Today marks the five year anniversary of this blog.  When I started this blog, I was in a real rough spot in my life.  And to be honest, that hasn’t changed that much.  These last five years have been some of the hardest, toughest, depressing years of my life.  This blog has helped in dealing with some of that but even still it has been a struggle.

Each time I reach this anniversary I hope that there will be some good news, something that will be a turning point.  But here I wait still.  God ultimately knows what the future will hold but in the meantime it has been tough in the waiting.

There have been seasons with this blog when there has been a lot of content and also times when there hasn’t been.  That has been a struggle as well.  When you don’t have the words to express the emotions and thoughts you feel.

If you have been with me all this time, thank you.  May this next year of blogging bring newfound hope and a turning of the corner in my life.