Archive for December, 2011

Umberto Eco’s Latest

Posted: December 31, 2011 in Book Review

The Prague CemeteryThe Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Conspiracies.Every nation has its own secrets , perpetrating forgeries, plots, and massacres. From the unification of Italy to the Paris Commune to the Dreyfus Affair to “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” Priests, anarchists, satanists… But what if, behind all of these conspiracies both real and imagined, lay one lone man? What if that evil genius created its most infamous document? What if Aryanism, Malthusian rhetoric, Zionism, and World Wars were all the product of one sadistic document…that was the product of one man’s fevered imagination. But wouldn’t certain of these cabals contradict the plans of the other, I mean if they came from one man and all? What if the one was a two…what if he had a split personality…so that the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing. Until they met one another in the pages of their respective diaries and in the middle of their twisted doctrine conceived, as it were, in “The Prague Cemetery”.

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The Heart of Christmas

Posted: December 16, 2011 in Notices

The Heart of Christmas.


With Music from Matthew West

A Word On Migraines

Posted: December 8, 2011 in Devotionals, Uncategorized

Lately, I have dealt with the reoccurring nuisance of migraine headaches. For some reason they seem to be much worse this year. I mean…I’ve always had them, they are in fact a family genetic trait. Just ask my niece Maggie, she has had one every day for the last 5-6 years! If you’ve never experienced one of these things, I have to say that you NEED to be on your knees thanking God every day that you don’t. It’s not you granny’s headache…we are talking pain so bad that at times you can’t see, that frequently causes you to throw up, and makes going out in sunlight an almost unimaginable chore. But here’s the thing…every time the thing goes away it’s like an epiphany. What I mean tnat pain going away is almost like Jesus just came back and there is nothing that will ever be wrong again! See? It’s hard to explain to anyone who dosn’t experience this type of pain. People just assume you’re being melodramatic. I know my wife thinks I over emphasize thepain…which is strange because I always feel like I’m playing it down. It’s probably because I also feel like severe pain (I also struggle with pretty intense athritis pain) gives me license to treat people poorly. My temper is shorter, my attitude frequently sucks, and I always feel entitled to act that way. If I am suffering and I am in pain, why shouldn’t I act however I want and lash out to include othersmin my suffering? That was rhetorical. But in case you haven’t answered it in your head already: It’s because one day the pain will go away. One day the suffering will end. One day it won’t matter how intense or how un-intense others thought your trial was, it will end. And how I’ve acted in response to that pain and suffering is all that will remain in the memory of my environment, myfamily, my community. See…it’s positively eschatological! For the last two days I’ve had a migrain and I have handled it so-so. You’d have to ask those who were around me how I handled it; I KNOW it was a doozy. But about an hour ago Jesus came back…I just thought you’d like to know.

December 5

When we lose one blessing, another is often, most unexpectedly, given in its place.

~ C.S. Lewis

It is amazing the things we will miss if we refuse to embrace the adventure of riding the tilt-o-whirl of Life.  It can sometimes seem scary.  It can be intimidating.  It can be not-fun and just plain tedious.   However, when we embrace the ride, as opposed to simply enduring it, there is not end of great things that might happen.  Walter had been like that.  He had been an animator for years in the privacy of his little bedroom.  Now as a teen, he had been given a scholarship to the prestigious Chicago Institute of Art.  He studied all kin of art, but was particularly intrigued by commercial art, as it used cartooning a lot and he was invested greatly in this.  He and his brother, a talented artist himself, decided to start a business together that used cartoons in advertising.  He supplemented this with the income he made doing political cartoons for local Chicago newspapers.  By this time he and his brother had developed a network of cartoonists and moved to Kansas City.  Here they began working with local PR firms who were using cartoons in film to do advertising on the big screen.  Walter convinced his boss from one of these firms to let him borrow one of the animation cameras, and in this way he taught himself what would become his lifelong passion…animation.  Walter was convinced that animating cells was the wave of the future, and all he needed was a good character (Felix the Cat was the most popular cartoon at this time) and he could begin making animated short films of his own.  His first tries were fairly successful.  He made films called laugh-o-grams that showed all over the Kansa City area…they caught on.  Now if he could just find that elusive popular character that the American public could buy into nationally.  His good friend Ubbe Iwerks would be the one to solve the puzzle.  The character was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit…he was an instant hit.  Thanks to the distribution of film producer Margaret Winkler, the films were put on show before the American public through Universal Pictures.  Unfortunately, it was also through Miss Winkler that the rabbit would be stolen from Ubbe and Walter.  For in the next few years Winkler married a man named Charles Mintz who took over the day-to-day operation of the film works.  Unbeknownst to Walter, Mintz hired away all his animators (except Iwerks who would never have gone) and tied up the copyright of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit with Universal…making it so they controlled the property and not Walter.  He had struggled and strived for almost 20 years, just to get to the point where he had one property that America wanted to see.  And when he arrived what did he get?  Treachery, that’s what.  He would have to begin all over again. The heartbreak, the discouragement he must have felt must’ve seemed insurmountable at the time, but he had his good friend Iwerks and his brother Roy, and that was something.  All he needed was one good idea…one more hot property that would capture the imagination of the masses.  He experimented.  He kept at it, and it was a good thing he did.

Because the next character he created was a little fellow you may have heard of…Mickey Mouse.  It was on this day in 1901 that Walter Elias Disney…Walt Disney…was born.  He would be with us exactly 65 years and 10 days…way too short a time for a man who won 22 Academy Awards to live.  I wonder whatever happened to Oswald the Rabbit.  In 2006 when NBC wanted to have Al Michaels host Sunday Night Football, they had to buy his contract from ABC.  Did you know that ABC I owned by…Walt Disney Company?  Did you know that NBC was owned by Universal?  Guess what ABC asked for as part of the remuneration for Al Michaels contract buy out.  Welcome back to Disney Oswald…you Lucky Rabbit!

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

December 1st

As long as you don’t forgive, who and whatever it is will occupy rent-free space in your mind. ~ Isabelle Holland

It has been said that convictions are born where Truth runs up against real life. It is one thing to make an intellectual assertion, and quite another to physically live out that assertion.  For instance, if the rights of individuals in America have been an evolving thing, then black women were definitely the last in line.  Nowhere in art has then been demonstrated more clearly than in the novel and subsequent film, “The Color Purple”.  Through this story we are able to feel what it must’ve been like to be a black women in the early days of freedom.  However, the term freedom is one used here loosely…there was more like a new kind of slavery that appeared as much as anything else.

Celie, the protagonist and narrator of The Color Purple, is a poor, uneducated, fourteen year-old black girl living in rural Georgia. Celie starts writing letters to God because her father, Alphonso, beats and rapes her. Alphonso has already impregnated Celie once. Celie gave birth to a girl, whom her father stole and presumably killed in the woods. Celie has a second child, a boy, whom her father also steals. Celie’s mother becomes seriously ill and dies. Alphonso brings home a new wife but continues to abuse Celie.

Celie and her bright, pretty younger sister, Nettie, learn that a man known only as Mister wants to marry Nettie. Mister has a mistress named Shug Avery, a sultry lounge singer whose photograph fascinates Celie. Alphonso refuses to let Nettie marry, and instead offers Mister the “ugly” Celie as a bride. Mister eventually accepts the offer, and takes Celie into a difficult and joyless married life. Nettie runs away from Alphonso and takes refuge at Celie’s house. Mister still desires Nettie, and when he advances on her she flees for her own safety. Never hearing from Nettie again, Celie assumes she is dead.

Meanwhile Mister’s son Harpo marries a tough modern black woman, Sophia.  Played in the movie by a new almost unknown weather woman (Oprah Winnfrey) she represents more the type of woman we will come to associate with black women in general.  In fact, many of the abuses enumerated in the story happened to a young Winnfrey, and indeed mirrored much of her own story.  Sophia had suffered many of the same things Nettie had suffered at the hands of whites and men in general…but she refused to be cowed.  She refuses to work as a maid for the Mayor and when he strikes her for her insubordination she strikes him back, for which she is sentenced to being his maid anyway…for 12 years!  Disgusted with the lack of help from Harpo she puts him away as her husband, shocking Celie that a woman would treat a man so…especially in the face of the terrific beatings she would receive whenever she stuck up for her rights.

Through a series of subsequent events, though, we discover that Nettie is still alive, and that Mister has been keeping them from Celie.  It turns out that letters indicate that Nettie befriended a missionary couple, Samuel and Corrine, and traveled with them to Africa to do ministry work. Samuel and Corrine have two adopted children, Olivia and Adam. Nettie and Corrine become close friends, but Corrine, noticing that her adopted children resemble Nettie, wonders if Nettie and Samuel have a secret past. Increasingly suspicious, Corrine tries to limit Nettie’s role within her family.

Nettie becomes disillusioned with her missionary experience, as she finds the Africans self-centered and obstinate. Corrine becomes ill with a fever. Nettie asks Samuel to tell her how he adopted Olivia and Adam. Based on Samuel’s story, Nettie realizes that the two children are actually Celie’s biological children, alive after all. Nettie also learns that Alphonso is really only Nettie and Celie’s stepfather, not their real father. Their real father was a storeowner whom white men lynched because they resented his success. Alphonso told Celie and Nettie he was their real father because he wanted to inherit the house and property that was once their mother’s.

Nettie confesses to Samuel and Corrine that she is in fact their children’s biological aunt. The gravely ill Corrine refuses to believe Nettie. Corrine dies, but accepts Nettie’s story and feels reconciled just before her death. Meanwhile, Celie visits Alphonso, who confirms Nettie’s story, admitting that he is only the women’s stepfather. Celie begins to lose some of her faith in God, but Shug tries to get her to re-imagine God in her own way, rather than in the traditional image of the old, bearded white man.

Celie and Mister reconcile, and begin to genuinely enjoy each other’s company. Now independent financially, spiritually and emotionally, Celie is no longer bothered by Shug’s passing flings with younger men. Sofia remarries Harpo and now works in Celie’s clothing store. Nettie finally returns to America with Samuel and the children. Emotionally drained but exhilarated by the reunion with her sister, Celie notes that though she and Nettie are now old, she has never in her life felt younger.

It’s as if she has been born again.  In fact, that is what has happened.  In the beginning she could only express her true feelings, without regard to consequence, through her letters to God.  She thought she was writing to some old benevolent white man, but finally realizes that we are all the sum of the choices we make…even when we believe we have no choice.  Each of the characters in the Color Purple demonstrate to us a different consequence for different choices made.  How many of us would not give most all we have to be able to see the different routes our choices might make our life take, if we could but just see them all from the beginning.  For Celie, it becomes a little bit easier to see the others choices as how they survive…they become just a little bit easier to forgive.  Realizing all this, that each person is responsible for their own choices and has to make their own peace with God and the world, she is at last able to enjoy the satisfaction of living out loud and being herself…of showing who and what she really is without apology.  Things just seem to work better then.  That’s how it is with Jesus and us.  When we realize that he isn’t just some angry old codger who is continually put out with us, but is lovingly correcting us through our choices, then we are able to live more boldly.  We know if we stumble he has covered us in his righteousness, and that he has given us instruction in the meantime on how to make good choices…obedience.  And obedience is better than sacrifice.  Celie saw the Truth and the Truth set her free…go and do likewise.

It was on this day in 2005 that The Color Purple, now produced by Oprah, opened to rave reviews and much success on Broadway.

John 8:31 Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.