Friday, February 23, 2007

A Twist on Reading a Good Book

Brittany Shahmehri shares her family's twist on reading a good book in a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor. (Hat tip: Al Mohler). This sounds like a tasty idea:

We have a tradition of trying foods from the books we read aloud. It started when we read Elizabeth Enright's "The Saturdays," and one of the boys asked, "What are petit fours?"

An answer, my husband and I felt, wouldn't be as good as a sample. So one Saturday we all sat down to tea and little cakes, iced in pink, green, and yellow. It was exciting for the boys to try a dessert they had learned about in a book.

Later, when we read C.S. Lewis's "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," we had Turkish delight. "I don't think I would betray my brothers and sisters for this!" said one child.

We read "The Penderwicks," written by Jeanne Birdsall, and had gingerbread. We read Paddington Bear and tried marmalade.

The world that a good book creates is whole and real, but it lies flat on the page until a reader animates it. Stories, when read, are visceral: We believe in the characters. We can see their lives, hear the things they hear. We can almost taste the food they eat. Almost. Because while stories are visceral, they aren't tangible. Petit fours, however, are tangible.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Discovering William Wilberforce

Until recently, I knew very little about William Wilberforce, the British member of Parliament who led the campaign to abolish the slave trade in the British Isles. Now, his story has been made into a new movie, Amazing Grace, that looks like it's going to be fantastic. We're planning on taking our daughters and going to see it this weekend (it opens Friday).

As preparation for the movie, we took the time to read John Piper's book Amazing Grace In the Life of William Wilberforce (free- Adobe Acrobat Reader required) together. It's a great overview of Wilberforce's life and provides tremendous insight into the passion that drove his campaign to end slavery.

I'm also planning on reading two other related books. The first is Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas. This is the companion biography to the film.

The second (which is heavily excerpted in Piper's book) is William Wilberforce's A Practical View of Christianity. Wilberforce wrote the book to speak out against what he saw as nominal Christianity of his day. Sadly, many of the problems he cites in his book (which was first published in 1797) are still true today.

Take the time to go and see this important movie. It is a story that needs to be told not only because of what Wilberforce accomplished but about what his life teaches us about what it means to truly serve Christ.

Friday, February 16, 2007

10 Movies I Never Get Tired of Watching

I love to watch movies and there are a handful that anytime they are on television I'll stop and watch them no matter how many times I've seen them before. I own most of them so anytime I'm in the mood to see one I'll pop it into the DVD player. Here are 10 movies that I never get tired of watching. I've listed them below in no particular order:

Rear Window (1954, not rated)
James Stewart is a photographer sidelined by a broken leg who has nothing to do but watch his neighbors out the rear window of his New York apartment. But he ends up seeing more than he bargains for and ends up getting mixed up with a murderer. The elegant Grace Kelly is Stewart's love interest in one of Alfred Hitchcock's best movies.

To Catch a Thief (1955, not rated)
A series of jewelry thefts on the French Riviera starts rumors that the notorious Cat Burglar (Cary Grant) has come out of retirement. The trouble is, he's innocent and no one believes him. As he desperately tries to clear his name he meets up with a rich young heiress (Grace Kelly). Is she interested in helping him or is she more interested in love? It was while filming this movie that Grace Kelly met Prince Ranier of Monaco whom she eventually married.

North by Northwest (1959, not rated)
Considered by many to be one of Hitchcock's finest films, it is a classic example of mistaken identity. Cary Grant portrays Manhattan ad executive Roger Thornhill that manages to innocently get mistaken for spy George Kaplan. After narrowly escaping an attempt on his life, Thornill sets out on a cross-country trip to clear his name and solve the mystery of who George Kaplan really is. This is suspense at it's best.

Charade (1963, not rated)
A film that could have easily been directed by Alfred Hitchcock was actually directed by Stanley Donen. Audrey Hepburn is the widow of a mysterious man murdered on a train. Others who knew her husband are after money they insist is theirs but that she insists she doesn't have. Cary Grant is the man who comes to her rescue to sort everything out - or is he? Wonderful plot twists all through the film, a marvelous cast (including Walter Matthau in a surprisingly sinister role) and wonderful on-screen chemistry between Hepburn and Grant make this a true gem.

Apollo 13 (1995, PG)
The Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969 was a huge accomplishment for all of the folks at NASA and it had captured the imagination of the world. But just a few months later by April 1970, the third moon landing was considered merely routine. As it turned out, nothing would be routine about this mission as disaster struck just 3 days into the flight. This is the true story of that voyage and the courage of not only the astronauts but everyone behind the scenes at NASA that made it possible for the crew to make it home safely. Wonderfully directed by Ron Howard and featuring a first-rate cast including Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinese, and Ed Harris this is a fascinating look into the space program during NASA's heyday.

The Great Escape (1963, not rated)
Perhaps one of the greatest movies about World War II ever made, this film tells the true story of the Allied prisoners who staged a mass escape like no other from Germany's Stalag Luft III in March 1944. Sturges and his crew went to great pains to get the details right including bringing one of the former prisoners to the set as a consultant. The film is a marvelous tribute to the ingenuity and courage behind one of the most amazing prison breaks in history.

The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976, PG)
Peter Sellers portrayed the bumbling Inspector Clouseau five times on film but this installment of the series is by far the best. His former boss, Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus (wonderfully portrayed by Herbert Lom) has escaped from a mental asylum and intends to kill Clouseau - no matter what it takes! Hilarity ensues as Clouseau manages to survive multiple assasination attempts. Many laugh out loud moments are in this film and the jokes are still funny even after seeing it multiple times. If you had to watch only one of the Pink Panther movies, this should be the one.

It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963, not rated)
The movie starts off simply enough: a man runs off the road in a car accident. Several people are there to see the accident. When they go down to find out the driver's condition he tells them a secret before he dies: a hugh stash of money is buried in a park. Quickly it becomes a mad dash to see who can get to the money first. Boasting a huge cast, this movie contains appearances from a veritable who's who of film comedians. It's a funny, funny movie on a grand scale that is unlikely to be duplicated ever again.

That Touch of Mink (1962, not rated)
Doris Day is the naive small-town girl that has a run-in with big time operator Cary Grant. Love is sure to blossom. Or is it? This is another terrific comedy that is made most special by it's supporting cast: Gig Young, Audrey Meadows, and John Astin who are all wonderfully cast.

The Princess Bride (1987, PG)
Throw together a little swordplay, pirates, revenge, giants, an evil prince, a beautiful princess, rodents of unusual size, a magician, a little kissing and you've got the formula for a perfect fairy tale. This film has more great lines than any other film I think I have ever seen. Except for some brief language this is a film that has everything for the entire family to enjoy.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Playing Golf With My Daughter

This spring, I made it my goal to teach my oldest daughter (who is 11) to play golf. Encouraged by friends who also play, she has developed a very natural swing and it looks like she'll be able to pick up the game quickly. This is a good thing since her dad normally can't break 100 on a good day. I have my doubts about my abilities to teach her how to play but I will at least give it a try.

I first learned to play golf from my dad when I was about 6 years old. When I was younger, he and I would play together often while we were on vacation. At least we did play until it got to the point that I would beat him regularly.

I still play occassionally but not very often and certainly not enough to develop any consistency in my game. But that's not the point.

The point is that by teaching my daughter to play golf it will allow us to do something we can enjoy together for the rest of our lives. It will allow us to have time together as father and daughter as we play this wonderfully maddening game.

Golf will also allow me to teach her about honor, perserverance, success and failure all at the same time.

Golf is unique in that there is no referee. Each person must learn to play honestly if they wish to be successful.

Golf is also a unique test of one's patience and perserverance. In a split second a seemingly brilliant shot can be ruined by a bad bounce. Golf is cruel in how it tests a player's mettle. But those who can handle the ups and downs of the game are more likely to be successful in handling the ups and downs that life throws at us. A golfer must learn to play the ball as it lies meaning you take what you get and deal with it as best as you can.

I'm hoping that my daughter will enjoy playing the game as much as I do. It is a skill once learned that can provide a lifetime of enjoyment. More importantly, I hope that she learns the lessons that the game has to teach us. Those lessons learned from golf serve us well in life also.

This post originally appeared at DadBloggers.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Christians and Elections

For better or worse, the 2008 Presidential election campaign is already underway. While it's too soon to be thinking too much about specific candidates (I think there were at least 12 candidates the last time I counted), there are things Christians can be thinking about as they try to make wise decisions about who to vote for next year. Mark Daniels has an excellent series on the criteria that Christians should be using in approaching the election. (Hat tip: Hugh Hewitt)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Quick Takes

Random thoughts including interesting items surfin' the blogs....

C. S. Lewis and Calvinism....Mark Dever sifts through some letters written by Lewis to discover what he thought about the key points of Calvinism. An interesting read.

It's an issue that hits a little too close to home since I was personally involved once in a situation involving plagiarism in the pulpit...still it's terrific insight on a growing problem in the church.

I'm just trying to imagine how my life might have been different before I got married if I had received this kind of sound advice.

Just finished reading....A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin. Perhaps the most thoroughly detailed history I have ever read on the Apollo moon landings. A must read for anyone who wants to learn more about the people that made one of the greatest achievements of history possible.

Also just finished reading....First Off The Tee by Don Van Natta, Jr. A wonderful look at Presidents and the game of golf. A key quote from legendary golfer Jimmy Demaret: "If the people wish to determine the best candidate [for president], put all the contenders on a golf course. The one who can take five or six bad holes in a row without blowing his stack is capable of handling the affairs of the nation." Not a bad idea.

Speaking of Presidential politics....I really wish this guy would run. I'd vote for him in a heartbeat.

While we're at it...any chance we can make this happen?

James Lileks has found the solution to the childhood obesity problem.

House is one of my favorite television shows (and one of the best on the air). However, I didn't know it could be used as a way to illustrate fallacies with certain doctrines such as the way Strange Baptist Fire did with the doctrine of free will. (Thanks to Mike for the tip)

Each month, 9 Marks offers free interviews with leading pastors, theologians, and evangelical leaders (free to download). This month's interview is with Joshua Harris and is well worth the listen.

Fun with audiobooks...we just finished listening to Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events on audio. The books are extremely smart and well-written, chock full of literary references throughout the entire series. Most of the books are read by Tim Curry (and those are by far the best of the series).

Just finished reading to the kids...Peter and the Shadow Thieves by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. The second of the Peter Pan "prequel" novels (the first was Peter and the Star Catchers) is another delightful adventure involving pirates, a desert island, some strange creatures and the mysterious starstuff. These are great books to read aloud to your kids. The final installment is supposed to appear this fall and we can't wait.

Fun (but not necessarily real) technology: The Fundamentalist answer to the iPod. (Thanks Mike for the tip)

Finally, here's a sure-fire way to save money on groceries.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Screwtape Letters as a Movie?

Walden Media, the company behind the film adaptation of C. S. Lewis' "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe" and "Prince Caspian" (currently in production) has signed on to take on another of Lewis' classic books (hat tip: Justin Taylor):

Walden Media, the family-friendly and just-a-bit religious company behind The Chronicles of Narnia, has announced plans to make another, non-Narnia film based on the works of CS Lewis. But this time, it’s the turn of The Screwtape Letters.

The book takes the form of a series of letters from an experienced demon called Screwtape to his young protégé, Wormwood. Set against a background where demons, out in the world, attempt to turn people away from faith and generally cause mischief, the letters highlight examples of human weakness and chinks in people’s faith that the young demon can take advantage of in order to corrupt and weaken those he targets.

It’s a little difficult to see how it would be turned into a film with an actual plot, and there remains the problem of getting the (probably) religious target audience to go see a film about a demon, but it’s an undeniably interesting read and a humourous look at human foibles, so it could work very well, even for those who are less than committed to any religion at all.

There’s no word yet on a writer or director, let alone cast, but it’s to be produced by Fantastic Four producer Ralph Winter, along with Randy Argue and CS Lewis’ stepson Douglas Gresham.

Anyone who has read the book (and it is among my favorites of Lewis' works) can see the difficulties that the producers will have in trying to weave this into a coherent story for film. It will be fascinating to see if they can pull it off. I hope they do.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Finding a Church

For the past year, we have been without a church home. In other words, we're not currently part of a local body of Christians where we serve and worship regularly. Naturally this is not what we desire for our family. We want to be and need to be part of a local church.

But how do you find a church? How do you determine what criteria to use in determining whether a particular church is right for you?

As I was pondering these questions, I ran across this article from Stand to Reason that nicely summarizes the four factors that should be considered in choosing a church.

First, does the church have a high view of the Scriptures? Is the Bible treated as the Word of God and that is authoritative? Is Bible study a central activity of the church? If the church has a high view of Scripture you can bet there is a lot of time in energy spent on study and application of God's Word.

Second, is the church a place where you can be useful? Too often Christians view church membership as a one-way relationship meaning they are taking in all they can without giving back to the church. Church should be a place where you can be used.

Third, is the church a place where you can be accountable? Church is not simply a place to show up on Sunday morning for worship. It is a place to build relationships with fellow believers who you can encourage and be encouraged by as we walk together as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Finally, is the church a place where you can be fed? This, for me, is a question to be answered before I can determine whether the church is a place I can be useful. If I'm serving without being nourished spiritually at the same time I'll burn out quickly. So it is just as important to make sure that the church is a place that we can be fed. We need to have the freedom to worship God without worrying about what others may think. We need to be challenged by the teaching we receive.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Should Christians Use Birth Control?

It's a hot topic of debate in many Christian circles: should couples use birth control? What's the proper scriptural response? Tim Challies has posted a very thoughtful response to this question that sorts through many of the questions that most couples are likely to wrestle with.