Yesterday one of the DYFS nurses was at our house to talk to us about three of the little girls that are living with us now. She also happens to be the nurse for the little guy that was with us back in Feb/March. Just so you don't have to look up my post about it, he came to us at 18 days old and was with us for about four weeks. I was very nervous about having an infant in the house but he became one of the biggest blessings for us and it was very difficult to let him go. Anyway, when we found out that this nurse knew him we had to ask how he's doing. She informed us that he's doing really well, walking around a little, putting on weight, and that he's really attached to the daddy in his household. This news made me realize that even though he was very little, we made a difference. It's not often that you get to know how you've helped as a foster parent. It's a huge blessing to know when you've made a positive impact. Thank you God. Thank you.
Yes, I know I just wrote about a horror film last week but it's almost Halloween. One more and then I promise to go back to family films. Zombieland is a horror/comedy (horrordy? comedorror?). Anyone who thinks that blending horror and comedy is a new concept hasn't seen Arachnophobia. And if you think zombie horror comedy is new then you haven't seen Shawn of the Dead. Both of those are worth a look and a laugh by the way. Anyway, here's what Columbia Pictures writes about Zombieland - "The horror comedy Zombieland focuses on two men who have found a way to survive a world overrun by zombies. Columbus is a big wuss -- but when you're afraid of being eaten by zombies, fear can keep you alive. Tallahassee is an AK-toting, zombie-slaying' bad ass whose single determination is to get the last Twinkie on earth. As they join forces with Wichita and Little Rock, who have also found unique ways to survive the zombie mayhem, they will have to determine which is worse: relying on each other or succumbing to the zombies." Before I say anything, I have to admit two things: I'm not a big fan of Woody Harrelson and I am a big fan of this little sub-genre of horror/comedy. That being said, this film was a pleasant surprise for me. Like any good zombie film there are many many creative scenes of zombies being put to their final rest, lots of splatter and quite a bit of gore too. But there is also a good story here about four people, maybe the last four non-zombies on earth, trying to survive the flesh eating menace and their mistrust of one another. If you like your comedies gory or your horrors funny, this is the film for you. Theologically there is more in this film than you might think for a film of this sort. First - zombies. Zombie movies tend to be commentaries of some sort. George Romero has mastered the technique of commenting on the ills of society through his zombie movies. Zombieland tends to comment on the human condition (our ability or inability to trust, need for companionship/fellowship, wants and needs, etc.) more than society but the commentary is present for those who care to look. More importantly, there is a wonderful message about rules in Zombieland. The main character, Columbus keeps a list of survival rules for himself that get flashed on the screen throughout the movie. Rule #1: Cardio - because then you can outrun the zombies. Rule#2: Double Tap - because this is no time to preserve your ammunition. Rule #3: Beware of bathrooms - because the zombies got smart and learned to attack us at our most vulnerable moments. The rules are not limiting, they are freeing because they are life preserving. The rules are for Columbus' benefit not his punishment. This is a direct correlation to God's rules for humanity. I cannot say how often I have heard about Christianity being about rules and regulations from God. Part of this is certainly true. God gave us the Ten Commandments and Jesus said that there are two important rules - Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. People outside the faith seem to think that these rules are limiting. But those of us who listen to God understand that the rules are for our benefit, for our good, for our protection and for our freedom. God's rules are not punitive, they are life giving. Columbus' rules are not punitive, they are life giving. In fact, it is only because of his rules that Columbus has survived to that point. God wants us to live and thrive too, that's why God gave us rules. Anyway, if you go see one horror film in theaters this Halloween season, make it Zombieland. And if you go see one comedy in theaters this Halloween season Zombieland fits the bill too. If you don't mind the gore, this one is well worth seeing.
We took in our first two children on October 26, 2007 - Two little brothers who had been in the system for a while. Monday was our two year anniversary as foster parents and we celebrated by taking in two little sisters, 4 and 5 years old. They are two very happy, outgoing ladies and they are also loud! But I can live with the noise because it's a joyful noise. This brings us up to fourchildren at presnt (that's capacity for us), all girls ages 3, 3, 4 and 5. It also brings the total number of children to come under our care to 16. Sixteen in two years! I think that I'm truly coming to understand what it means to be blessed in order to be a blessing. God blessed the nation of Israel so that they could be a blessing to the world. We have been blessed with the heart and the resources to be able to care for little children in need. In turn, we reap the blessings of seeing children happy and healthy. God is good.
Just to keep you all informed about how the adoption is progressing, we got a letter from our lawyer yesterday and a phone call this morning. DYFS has signed the consent for us to adopt our little girl, so both contacts were to set up a meeting with him for next week so that we can sign the forms and petition the court to set the adoption date. We've gotten conflicting reports from different people about when they'll be able to schedule the hearing. One judge likes to do a lot of adoptions on National Adoption Day (or as close to it as the court schedule allows) which is Nov. 20th. Family court that week is Nov. 17th. Both of those dates have been tossed around, but the lawyer says that the person that does the scheduling (surrogate?) isn't that efficient and we may not get a hearing that soon. All of this can certainly get a little frustrating, but it is progress and we are excited to be moving forward instead of sitting still.
Also, we were joined last week by another little one. She is also three years old but unlike our long-term little girl, she is very, very quiet. She's probably spoken 20 or 25 words to me in just over a week. We've been told that she's a short-term placement, but they don't have a realistic time frame just yet.
So keep us all in your prayers. And thank you for your support!
So it's getting near to Halloween and all the premium channels are playing horror movies... a lot of horror movies. One that I've seen before and found interesting is a film called 30 Days of Night. This film stars Josh Hartnett and is based on the graphic novel (that's a big comic book for those of you unfamiliar with the comic book scene) of the same name. The basic premise of the film is a "what if" story. What if vampires decided to invade a town above the arctic circle during its month-long winter night? Well, they certainly wouldn't have to contend with that bothersome lethal daylight thing, now would they?
Actually, 30DoN isn't a bad film, at least as far as vampire/horror films go. To be sure, there are loads of horror films produced today that are little more than slasher porn. How can we kill the most people in the most gruesome ways we can think of and get away with it? Don't believe me? Take a look at Hostel, Turistas, Hostel 2, the remakes of Friday the 13th and Halloween as examples. Just make sure that you keep a bucket handy in case you have a weak stomach. Anyway, back to the film at hand. We're certainly familiar with vampire movies, how to kill vampires, what vampires are capable of and how they operate. There's nothing new in this film as far as that goes. What is different is the claustrophobic feel of this film. The humans that over winter in this small town are cut off from civilization very early on and are forced to try to hide and survive as the troop of vampires holds sway over the town.
Before I say anything about the theological ideas in this film I want to make sure that I mention that this movie is rated R and there are many scenes of bloodshed, violence and peril. It's definitely not a film for children.
Anyway, two theological points jumped off the screen for me in 30DoN. The first was a scene where a human woman was begging for her life with the leader of the vampire troop. She says, "Oh, God." He looks at her and replies, "God?" pauses for several seconds and looks around and up at the sky and then looks back at her and shakes his head saying, "No God." The situation reflected the contrast in thinking between believers and non-believers. When faced with trouble we turn to God. We seek God's help at the worst of times and we thank and praise God at the best of times. Non-believers look at us, shake their heads and think to themselves, "No God."
The second point occurs at the end of the film (this is a spoiler alert. If you haven't seen the film and you might like to skip this next paragraph as I'll be revealing plot points at the end of the film). When things seem to be hopeless for the few remaining humans, Ethan (Hartnett) takes a syringe of vampire blood and injects himself with it so that he can fight the vampire leader. After Ethan defeats the leader the other vampires slink away and our heroes survive, except Ethan. Having turned himself into a vampire, he chooses to sit and watch the sun rise, effectively committing suicide. Because of his self-sacrifice Ethan becomes a Christ figure in this story. He sacrifices himself and his life in order to save everyone else. Jesus said in John 15:13: No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Not only does Ethan demonstrate his love for his friends, he demonstrates the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ.
While 30 Days of Night is not the best horror movie you can rent this Halloween season, it is an entertaining film with a somewhat different twist on the traditional vampire flick. If you like vampire or horror movies it's worth a look.
So to start off this movie blog thing I thought I'd write about a film that I've preached from before and one that I enjoy watching. Labyrinth is a Jim Henson directed and George Lucas produced muppet movie, but it's not your typical muppet movie by any stretch of the imagination. The overwhelming majority of the characters in this film are Henson muppet versions of goblins and other fantasy denizens that are definitely not cute like the muppets of TV and Sesame Street fame. David Bowie stars as the Goblin King and Jennifer Connelly plays Sara in this imaginitive, coming of age fantasy. This film, originally released in 1984, centers around a young girl named Sara who finds herself thrown into a fantastical adventure in a magical maze in order to save her little brother from the Goblin King. Along the way she learns a series of life lessons and she learns about what's really important.
Early on in Sara's adventure she encounters a talking worm who gives her the following advice - "Things are not always what they seem in this place, so you can't take anything for granted." To be sure, this is good advice no matter where you are. In this world things are rarely what they seem and it's almost never good to take things for granted.
One thing that's striking in this film is someting that Sara says many times over, "It's not fair!" How many times do we hear people cry about the fairness of things today? I'm sorry to inform you of this, but life isn't fair. God promised us salvation but God did not promise that life would be fair. But this thought is something that Sara overcomes during the course of the movie by taking control of her situation instead of letting it control her.
As I see it, the most theological aspect of this movie is he idea of fellowship. Sara finds companions of like mind along the way, companions who ultimately help her find her way through the labyrinth and rescue her baby brother. At the end of the film, when she's back home and deciding to put away her childish things (1 Corinthians 13), Sara becomes nostalgic for her old friends. They show up and the film ends on a high note with the cast of muppets singing and dancing, having an ultimate celebration. I find this idea reflects what it may be like in heaven when one person is saved. I also believe that the fellowship of friends on a journey reflects the fellowship of Christian believers. We are all on this journey together. There are times when we just need one another, times when we need to celebrate growth, celebrate milestones, even just to celebrate little steps of faith. Paul wrote extensively about the community of the church and how we are to love and support one another. Jim Henson seems to have grasped this idea in Labyrinth, whether he was a Christian or not.
2009 is the 25th anniversary of this film and there was a recent DVD re-release, so it is available for rent and purchse. A word of caution to parents - there are occasions in which the main characters are in peril and a few scenes in the dark that little ones might find scary. But overall, Labyrinth is a wonderful family film with a healthy message. Enjoy it.
OK, if I'm going to pontificate theologically on movies it's probably worthwhile that you all know a little more about my movie preferences and such before we begin. Afterall, I wouldn't want people expecting me to do something that I might never do.
First, I'm a guy. That means two things; I like "guy" movies and sometimes I'm not too discerning about the quality of a film. I may occasionally comment on a film's acting or script or whatever, but I'm certainly no critic. Also, don't expect me to be watching too many "chick flicks." I will not be reviewing Fried Green Tomatoes or Steel Magnolias anytime soon, if at all.
Second, my reviews will not always be of current movies. I have a pretty large collection of DVDs at home and I get premium channels on cable. Whatever I write about will simply be whatever has sparked a thought for me this week. I'm also not going to limit myself just to movies. I could comment on a recent television show, a CD I just bought, a book I'm reading or anything else that's going on in popular culture.
Third and finally, I'm not the only game in town and I know it. I read several websited that comment on movies and popular culture from a theological perspective. HollywoodJesus.com is one of my favorites and I recommend it. If you just want a heads-up on current movies read RottenTomatoes.com.
All in all, I'm just a Christian guy who likes to watch movies. Hope what I have to say is interesting and maybe a little informative.
MrsRev spoke to the caseworker today. They'll be out on Tuesday to finalize the paperwork with us and are moving to expedite the adoption. They'd like to schedule the adoption hearing for Nation Adoption Day, November 20th, also coincidentally MrsRev's birthday. Does this mean I'm off the hook for a birthday gift this year?
We got a call from the law guardian of our little girl today and they've finally heard from the appeals court. Birth mom's appeal? Denied! She has two weeks to appeal this to the state supreme court, but most often this doesn't happen and even when it does it is rarely heard by the court. This now clears the way for us to adopt this little girl and makes MrsRev and I very happy. We've already bugun the paperwork for the adoption and things will move fairly quickly once the two weeks passes. So, the likelihood is that within a month or so I'll be able to post some pics and pass around a few cigars. I'll keep you all posted.
MrsRev and I are still foster parents and still loving it. Since the last time I updated folks on our foster situation we've had a few more children pass through our home. The five year old boy that was with us in February has been moved to a special needs home. The ten year old turned eleven in May and went back to live with his dad in July - it's a success story in that the dad got his act together. The baby was with us for four weeks before he went to family in preparation for going back to his mother. Since then we've had one boy and three little girls come and go, each for short stays before going to family. The three year old little girl that was with us is still with us and we're still waiting for her case to clear the courts so that we can adopt her. As of right now the local DYFS office told us that they've never had a case in appeals court for this long. It's nice to set a record, but this isn't exactly the kind of record one would want to be a part of. T, my twenty four year old daughter moved out in May. She's doing really well out on her own and we're very proud of her. So now it's just MrsRev, me and little D in the house. We get occasional calls for placements and have either not had the room or the kids went to family before they ever got to us. MrsRev was just elected to head the volunteer unit for foster parents in Salem county so our involvement just increased. That's good, in fact it's all good. I wonder if any of you have room in your hearts and/or your lives for children in need. Fostering isn't for everybody, but it is an amazing reward in and of itself. Wanna talk about it?
Obviously I'm not very good at this blogging thing (yes I know I've said that before). But I was thinking about this site this week and an interesting thought came to me. I am a pastor and I am a movie fan. I don't just like movies, I love them. I watch at least one and usually more like two or three movies a week. Sometimes it's for entertainment but usually it's a part of my preparation for preaching and/or just being relevant. Anyway, it occurred to me that it might be interesting for people to read what I thought about some of the movies that I watch, especially if I were analyzing with a theological mindset. So I'm going to give it a try just to see what happens. Oh, and since this blog is linked to my facebook page, every one of my FB friends gets the pleasure of being notified about my ramblings. Lucky you. I haven't figured out a schedule for this thing just yet; it'll likely be a work in progress for a while but it should be fun.
In the last year or so I've come to focus more on looking for God and Christianity in popular culture, so that's what you're going to find here. I'll write about my impressions of movies, television, popular music, books... really anything that is in the news or the popular consciousness. I'm not always on point, so to speak, but I am always willing to hear a differing opinion. So feel free to comment on anything that I post.