Archives For Pass the popcorn

Deadly words

February 15, 2012 — 2 Comments

Here is a movie trailer that talks about the three deadliest words spoken in the world today.

Watch it and weep. Then pray and act.

Enchanted August

August 31, 2011 — 3 Comments

There’s a glorious movie from the early 90s which, I’ve discovered, many people don’t know about. Enchanted April** is one of my all-time favorites, the story of 4 women who escape a dreary April in London in the 1920s and rent a villa in southern Italy, called San Salvatore. Two of them arrive at night, coming to a deserted train station in the middle of a fierce thunderstorm. Suddenly a man appears, whisks them into a carriage, and drives them on a perilous journey to the villa.

It was August instead of April, and the city was dry and dusty, not wet and soppy, but I had a similar feeling a few weeks ago when I travelled to France for a friend’s wedding. I flew to Paris, took the TGV to Poitiers, and then boarded a local train to reach a station so small and remote it didn’t rate a picture on the French train network website. From there, someone would pick me up and take me to the wedding location. But as I started my journey, I realized that was all I knew. I didn’t have a phone number for the place; I didn’t even know the street address. If no one came for me, I was going to be sunk. I had to take it on faith that I wouldn’t be forgotten and everything was going to be alright.

The little train headed out of Poitiers, filled with families returning or going on vacation. The train started to climb, through a forest, then past fields of dying sunflowers.

It soon arrived at my station and a handful of people got off and quickly dispersed into cars. The parking lot was empty. There were no stores, no pay phones. My nightmare was coming true.

There was one other man waiting but he didn’t seem to be looking for anyone. Then we exchanged glances and tentative hellos, and found out that we were both wedding guests. Each of us breathed easier. Soon the groom came to pick us up and whisked us away on a perilous journey on a narrow two lane road [driving as if he was back in Egypt where he lives].

Then we arrived at the wedding site. It felt like coming home. I only knew the groom and his family, but I soon met old unknown friends from South Africa [the bride’s country] and the Middle East and France, and the States and England.

We found our sleeping spots in one of the half dozen stone buildings on the property. It reminded me of an old song we used to sing:

“I can’t wait to see heaven

and to walk those streets of gold

I can’t wait to check into my mansion,

and get my sleeping bag unrolled.”

I slept in the “Petite Maison”

We gathered with the rest of the guests [about 60 at that point] for supper, eating on long tables.

Then some went off to worship while others pitched in to prepare the next day’s wedding feast.

The next morning, I got up early to help serve breakfast.

I joined with another new friend to cut the wildflowers other guests had collected that morning from the fields.

Then it was time for the wedding. There was something heavenly about the service, conducted at various points in English, French, and Afrikaans. The pastor pointed out how this wedding celebration was an illustration of the one that awaits us. The bride and groom had done the legal paperwork several weeks earlier in Egypt. But this was the day they were joining together in marriage–just like Jesus has taken care of the legal formalities for our entrance into the celestial wedding banquet, and we are waiting for the actual celebration.

After the bride and groom said their vows, they washed each others’ feet. I’ve seen this done many times before but it was particularly moving to see the groom and the bride kneel down on the grass in their fancy wedding clothes, and perform this humble act of service. It was a powerful illustration of what Jesus did when He washed the disciples’ feet.

At the end, the guests blessed the newly married couple.

Everyone gathered for the obligatory group photo.

Then came the amazing wedding feast–a combination of South African barbeque [with two meat courses] and French wine, cheese, and salads.

Throughout the weekend, there were so many examples of heaven:

people traveling from all over the world,

meeting strangers who were family,

the hospitality of the family friends who opened up the farm and all the buildings for a week,

everyone pitching in and doing their tasks to make the celebration

And all around us, there were fruit trees and flowers in bloom.

It was almost Eden.

No one wanted to leave, but Sunday, after a South African breakfast, people started to leave to catch trains and planes.

I got a ride back to Paris with a saint from Mali, and spent midnight in Paris…but that’s another story.

Then the Angel showed me Water-of-Life River, crystal bright. It flowed from the Throne of God and the Lamb, right down the middle of the street. The Tree of Life was planted on each side of the River, producing twelve kinds of fruit, a ripe fruit each month. The leaves of the Tree are for healing the nations. Never again will anything be cursed. The Throne of God and of the Lamb is at the center. His servants will offer God service—worshiping, they’ll look on his face, their foreheads mirroring God. Never again will there be any night. No one will need lamplight or sunlight. The shining of God, the Master, is all the light anyone needs.

Revelation 22:1-5 The Message


Enchanted April…a must-see movie

See what your hear

March 24, 2011 — Leave a comment

I’m a visual learner and one thing I love about the Bible is how visual it is. The writers give wonderful little details that make a scene come alive, like the time Jesus healed a deaf mute, and put his fingers into his ears and after spitting touched his tongue. Or when Zacchaeus ran on ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. Or when Jesus noticed a poor widow put in two small copper coins into the offering.

And in our visual age novels and as well as nonfiction books end up on the screen for our viewing pleasure. The Bible is no exception. I remember watching the six hour Jesus of Nazareth film several years ago and being captivated by the dramatic re-enactment of the incarnate Son of God on earth. There’s also the two hour Jesus film**, and more recently, The Passion of the Christ.

Now in Sunday School, we’re watching the Visual Bible: Matthew**. I didn’t go the first few weeks, but people kept telling me how good it was. They were right. What sets this screen version apart is that it dramatizes the entire text, with either the characters or a narrator speaking the words in Matthew. So there is a brief scene to illustrate Matthew 14:13 Now when Jesus heard this he went away from there privately in a boat to an isolated place. You see him wading into the water [a reminder that they didn’t use docks for small boats]with his cloak getting wet, and then hoisting himself up. There is something very moving about that glimpse of what the incarnation looks like.

It’s also no accident that the DVD cover shows Jesus smiling [a sharp contrast to the sorrowful Jesus on the cover of Jesus of Nazareth]. The Visual Bible portrays Jesus as joyful and playful with the disciples and with children, and taking great delight when he heals someone. It rings true that the person who incarnates life and light would be someone of great joy.

Seeing is not always believing, though. Time and again in the Bible, people who have seen God perform stunning signs have then balked when it came time to put their trust in him [Numbers 14 being a case in point]. But there is a real benefit to watching a film like the Visual Bible. Several times in the gospels, Jesus says a particular phrase to his listeners. It’s usually translated as Consider carefully what you hear or Pay attention to what you hear. But if you translate the original Greek literally, word for word, what he actually said was, See what you hear.” See, envision, perceive: that’s what the Visual Bible helps us do. One day we shall see face to face, but for now we see only a poor reflection as if in a mirror. The Visual Bible helps us see what it is like when the Word is made flesh and makes it a little easier to open the eyes of our hearts.

The Visual Bible is best to watch slowly, at a reading pace. We’re taking it a chapter or two at a time. There’s plenty to reflect on and discuss after twenty minutes of viewing. The entire production is 4 and a half hours–making the $15 DVD a great deal. The gospel of John and Acts are available in the same format too.

The Jesus Film You can watch it online and choose from hundreds of languages, including Cishingini,
Erzya and Tamazight.

When Malcolm Gladwell wrote his book, Outliers**, he focused on people who were exceptionally successful, outside the statistical norm. The examples demonstrated how talent plus opportunity plus hours of practice equals success.

But that equation doesn’t apply when you look at God’s outliers. His chosen success stories are often unassuming people, because to follow Jesus doesn’t take special human talent. You don’t have to be not wise or influential or come from a prominent family. In fact, it may be easier if you are poor rather than rich. Think of David, the shepherd, and Peter the unschooled fisherman. God doesn’t seem to mind taking people who are nothing in the world’s eyes and turning them into His faithful servants.

Over the centuries, there have been thousands of unsung saints like this whom we’ll never know about while we are here on earth. Although spiritually ‘successful’, they lived their humble lives without seeking the limelight and their sacrifices went unnoticed. If it hadn’t been for World War II and then a reporter trying to uncover spectacular stories, Gladys Aylward would have been one of these quiet saints. She would have lived an extraordinary but obscure life for God in China. But thanks to Alan Burguess, her amazing acts of faith and love became known, first in a book, The Small Woman, and then in a movie, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness [played by Ingrid Bergman no less].**

So now we’ve learned the thrilling story of how she quelled a prison riot, gained the confidence of the local magistrate, and took in abandoned children.**

Then after eight years, the Japanese invaded China, and bombed the area where she lived. She led 100 orphans in her care on 12-day trek to escape the Japanese through the mountains since it wasn’t safe to take the roads or public transportation. Some nights they found shelter with friendly hosts [with 100 children!]. Some nights they spent unprotected in the mountains, always afraid of being captured or killed by the Japanese. After walking 100 miles they finally reached safety.

It may sound exotic and glamorous but there was little in her life that suggested she would be one of God’s heroines.

*She was short, [under 5 feet]
*Not particularly religious growing up
*Uneducated without any exceptional talent, leaving school at age 14 to work as a maid]
*When she did feel called to share the gospel in China, she was rejected by a missions agency, in part because they didn’t think she had the ability to learn a difficult language like Chinese.
*She had no money, and no husband.

But she worked extra hours and saved her money, and at the age of 28 she set off for China to help an elderly Christian worker in a remote mountain city south of Beijing. There she settled down and started her 10,000 hours in the school of sainthood, living without heat or running water, eating strange food, having no friends or church, with little money, and no chance to go on home leave or visit Beijing. She became one of God’s outliers by living faithful day after day, coping with boredom and frustration and hardship and suffering. Eventually, she became known in the area as A-Weh-Deh, “the virtuous one”.

After the war she moved back to England to recover her health. Along the way, thanks to the book and the movie, she became famous. But that didn’t stop her. Having acquired influence and money, she started another orphanage in Taiwan where she died at the age of 68.**

Son of one of the children who made the mountain trek with Gladys, now a pastor in France

For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”
made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

II Corinthians 4:5-7

Bedtime Snacks: The Outliers
Gladys Aylward’s life before the war
The story of her life during and after the war

Pass the Popcorn
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness

We watched a great movie the other week called Henry Poole is Here. It’s about a sad man who, in a kind of self-imposed exile, returns to the neighborhood where he grew up. But he’s unable to fully retreat when the woman next door insists that the face of Christ has appeared on his outside wall. Soon other people are tramping through his yard to see the sight. Lives begin to change, miracles happen, hope is given, while Henry continues to resist. To him, it’s just a rust stain.

The film is a thought-provoking springboard about faith and the power of Jesus. Roger Ebert said Henry Poole is Here “achieves something that is uncommonly difficult. It is a spiritual movie with the power to emotionally touch believers, agnostics and atheists – in that descending order, I suspect. It doesn’t say that religious beliefs are real. It simply says that belief is real.”

I appreciated how the movie raised questions without giving pat answers, and yet it managed to be uplifting. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, so I’m not going to talk about the most powerful scene in the movie–you’ll have to see it yourself.

Snack bar rating: three tubs of hot buttered popcorn