Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Ezekiel: how shall we treatment the foreigners among us

This month’s study is on Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a prophet of Israel who spoke about the coming judgment against the people of Israel and their enemies. There is a promise to restore Israel to the land and restore the covenant between the people and God. He prophesied during Israel’s exile in Babylon. Normally I would discuss various points throughout the book. However, this month I’m not going to do that. As I finished the book, one particular set of verses stuck out. Even as I planned to write my thoughts as I normally would do, this verse wouldn’t leave my head. So I decided to focus in these particular verses and why it struck a cord with me.

Ezekiel 47:21-23
“’You are to distribute this land among yourself according to the tribes of Israel.
You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance,” declares the Sovereign Lord”

Foreigner. Alien. Essentially anyone who wasn’t an Israelite. The Lord instructed the Israelites about foreigners before first in Leviticus 24:22 “You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the Lord your God.” The Lord calls for foreigners to receive the same treatment as the Israelites under the law. There would be no separate law for the foreign born. It was the same law. So if a foreigner was wronged or injured, he was to receive the same treatment as an Israelite would. Therefore, “an eye for an eye” (Leviticus 24:20) apply to the foreigners as well. In Numbers 15:29, the Lord instructed “One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether he is a native-born Israelite or an alien.” A foreigner is allowed and required to offer the same atonement for their sins as an Israelite.  Again, no separate law. God’s law covered Israelites and foreigners. Isaiah 56:3-8 teaches that God’s blessings were for all people, including foreigners and eunuchs, who were excluded from worship and treated as non-citizens to the Israelites. Isaiah says that any foreigner who “bind themselves to the Lord to serve him” (verse 6), obeys God’s law, follows his Word, loves the Lord, God will gather them together with “those already gathered” (verse 8).

In the New Testament, the distinction is Jew and Gentile. There is the same call to gather together. Paul writes in Ephesian 3:6 “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise of Christ Jesus.” This mystery is God’s plan to include everyone in his gift of salvation. I believe this is what Isaiah talks about in Isaiah 56:3-8. Paul also writes in Colossians 3:11 “Here this is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian [large group of Iranian Eurasian nomads], slave or free, but Christ is all and is in all.” There should be no barriers of nationality, race, education, social economic status, wealth, gender, religion or power when it comes to the followers of Christ. Christ came to break down barriers. First the barriers between God and the people and among the people themselves. We have forgotten this or we have ignored it. We, unfortunately, continue to build barriers. We still separate ourselves according to race, denomination, traditions, creeds and practices. We claim to all be followers of Christ and yet criticize others for their adherence to certain creeds or worship practices.

So what’s the point? Why did Ezekiel 47:21-23 stick in my head? The current climate about foreigners in this country has been on my mind a lot lately. The anti-foreigner sentiment right now makes it hard to ignore. I’m often torn about how I feel. On one hand, I feel and understand the need for foreigners to come to this country. The colonies and then the United States, has always been a beacon of hope for freedom, safety, and breathing room. Multiple branches of my family have come from different parts of Europe at different times for possibly the same reason. The United States has been a land of great opportunity when none existed in their homeland. I want others to have the same opportunity to come if they wish. On the other hand, I understand that many who come to this country would come with ulterior motives. Whether it is to perpetrate crimes or cause great harm to those who are trying to live peacefully. The suspicion of foreigners is nothing new. Any time in history and in any country, foreigners were looked at with distrust. The Lord commands the Israelites to not mistreat or oppress a foreigner twice when Moses gave the law (Exodus 22:21 and Exodus 23:9). So what do we do? I feel those who are here and have built a life peacefully should be allowed to stay here without fear of being sent back. We need to fix the immigration system, I recognize that, in order to allow those who want to create a peaceful life here and, hopefully, keep those who would not.

In conclusion, there is no easy answer to the immigration issue. I know this and I can offer no solution. I believe all I can do is pray that the individuals who are coming to the United States do so because they want a better life and they learn to live peacefully with everyone here. I can pray for protection from those who may come here with evil intentions. We need to remember that not all foreigners are evil. Just like the story of the Good Samaritan, even when a group as a whole is under suspicion or distrusted, there are always exceptions. And just as stated in Ezekiel 47:21-23, when a foreigner comes here and creates a life, we should treat them as any other citizen. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Huntsman: Winter's War: a review

The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016) is a fantasy adventure prequel/sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman (2012). The movie begins as Queen Ravenna (played by Charlize Theron) plays chess with her sister, Freya (played by Emily Blunt), whose powers have not yet emerged. When tragedy strikes, Freya’s powers sudden appear as ice powers. She flees and builds her own kingdom as the Ice Queen. She trains children to be her fearsome huntsmen. She has forbidden love in her kingdom. Despite her decree, two of her best huntsmen, Eric (played by Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (played by Jessica Chastain) fall in love, secretly marry and plan to escape. Their plans is thwarted and Eric is cast out of the kingdom. Seven years later, it is after the events of Snow White and the Huntsman, Queen Snow White has taken ill due to the influence of Ravenna’s evil mirror. The mirror is ordered to be hidden so its dark magic can be contained. On the trip, the mirror disappears and it is feared that Freya is after it. Eric is sent to investigate and recover the mirror. Can Eric find the mirror before Freya? What evil will be released if she gets it?

First, my review will be based on viewing the extended version of this film. There are a few things I liked. First, Chris Hemsworth is great as he returns to the role of the Huntsman. The only reason I wanted to see this film was Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman. I enjoyed this character in the first film and I looked forward to seeing him again. Hemsworth has proven he is capable with an action film. And I have yet to see a movie he’s in that I didn’t like. Granted I haven’t seen all of his films yet, so there may be a film or two I won’t like. I also loved his Scottish accent. Although I’ve read comments that the accent was horrible but it works for me and sounds like many Scottish accents I’ve heard. Second, the action was good and entertaining. Jessica Chastain was great in the action sequences and she and Chris Hemsworth worked well together. I thought their characters’ love story was very moving and believable. Third, there were moments of humor that made me smile or chuckle especially with the dwarves. Nion (played by Nick Frost) and Gryff (played by Rob Brydon) join Eric on his search for the mirror. Along the way, they are joined by Doreena (played by Alexandra Roach) and Bromwyn (played by Sheridan Smith). The interaction between the four dwarves add humor to the story. They aren’t just there for comic relief. The dwarves are in the thick of the action too.

The main issue I had about this film was how it was advertised. The movie was billed as “the story before Snow White” and the first part of the movie takes place before her story. However, the majority of the story and action takes place AFTER the events of Snow White’s story. So how can this be “the story before Snow White?” It reminds me of the movie 300: Rise of an Empire (2014) which takes place before, during and after the events of 300 (2007). If I remember correctly 300: Rise of an Empire was billed as a before, during and after movie unlike Winter’s War which was billed as a prequel. And it’s only a prequel for the first 25 minutes or so. I think the movie fully intended to be a sequel but when the affair scandal between Kristin Stewart and the director Rupert Sanders broke out and Kristin Stewart refusing to do the sequel, I think the producers scrambled about what to do next. Although, in my opinion, I think they could have recast Snow White and the fans would have applauded. There was also a mentioned that Disney may not have allowed the producers to use the name “Snow White” as they have the rights to the name and character. I’m not sure how true that it because she is mentioned in the movie several times and seen in a few scenes.

This movie was heavily criticized by critics and audiences alike. First, many critics and moviegoers pointed out that Freya was similar to Disney’s Elsa in Frozen (2013). They are similar because they were both inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s story, The Snow Queen. Was it smart to create a character who was inspired by the same story as a widely popular Disney film? Probably not, because even through Freya is closer to the cruelty of the Snow Queen, Elsa is still the image of the queen with ice powers. Second, many critics hated that the narrator in the film gives away the story before the movie has a chance to start. There was narration in Snow White and the Huntsman, so it would make sense that there would be narration with this film too. When I watched the film again, I paid more attention to the narration and I don’t think it gave anything away that the audience could already anticipate from just the description of the film. In the movie poster, you see Freya dressed as the ice queen but when you first see her in the film, she hasn’t gotten her ice powers yet. So you would anticipate something happening in order for her to transform into the ice queen. Third, many comments I read had a problem with the prequel/sequel premise and I can see why because I had an issue with it too as I stated above. I think a straight forward sequel would have been better. The Freya character could have introduced to the story without having to explain her backstory as they did. Or her backstory could have been shown as part of an exposition from another character.

Overall, I have watched the film three times now and each time I enjoy it more and more. It is a fun adventure story. It is a great Saturday afternoon popcorn movie. I think so many people now want movies which require you to think and contemplate the great questions of our lives and our world. However, sometimes you need a simple straight forward adventure story which leaves you pumped up and victorious. A movie which you cheer for the heroes and you cheer at the demise of the villains. The Huntsman: Winter’s War is such a movie. In my opinion, you don’t even need to see Snow White and the Huntsman first. You can get enough of the story which happens before in Winter’s War without being lost or confused. So if you have the chance and want to watch an adventure story with humor and great action sequences, I recommend The Huntsman: Winter’s War. It is available now on Blue-ray, DVD and On Demand. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Nightingale: the story of two sisters during the French Resistance of World War II

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is the story of two sisters during the French Resistance movement fighting the German occupation of France in World War II. After the sudden death of the mother, sisters, Vianne and Isabelle were separated as their father couldn’t bear to see their faces and take care of their needs. Vianne soon gets married and starts her family while Isabelle is set to one boarding school after another. War is brewing in Europe and Vianne doesn’t want to think about the possibility that her husband will go to war until he is sent to the Maginot Line. Isabelle is in Paris when the Germans invade and she is among the refugees who flee the city. She makes her way to Vianne’s home in the Loire Valley. Isabelle feels the desire to matter, to do something important during the war. She soon becomes a part of the French Resistance, a network of men and women determined to fight off the Germans. While Vianne is dealing with the German occupation of her town and her home as she is forced to house a German officer. As Isabelle becomes a vital part of the resistance, Vianne discovers she can no longer sit by and let the horrors she sees continue. She helps fight the Germans in her own way. Will the two sisters be discovered? Will they live to see the end of the war and each other again?

Once again, Ms. Hannah has created a beautiful story with a deep emotional impact. Every one of her books has a surprising twist at the end and even though I knew this, the twist in The Nightingale I truly did not see coming. There’s so much to talk about with this book but I can’t because it would give away too much. The historical detail is very well done and as we all know the horrors the Nazis did during the war, Ms. Hannah’s descriptions give the horrors a new light and you are shocked and horrified all over again. I highly, highly recommend The Nightingale.

The Nightingale

is available at all major booksellers

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Passengers: a great movie which received little praise from critics

Passengers is a 2016 sci-fi film directed by Morten Tyldum and written by Jon Spaihts. It’s the story of the starship Avalon as it transports 5,000 colonists and 258 crew members to their new home on Homestead II. The journey will take 120 years as the colonists and crew are safe in hibernation pods. Thirty years into the journey, the ship passes through an asteroid field, causing malfunctions throughout the ship. One passenger, Jim Preston (played by Chris Pratt), wakes up 90 years too soon. His only companion, an android bartender named Arthur (played by Michael Sheen). Jim is alone for one year until Aurora Lane (played by Jennifer Lawrence) wakes up. The two become close and eventually fall in love. Some more time passes when another person wakes up, this time it’s Chief Deck Officer Gus Mancuso (played by Laurence Fishburne). The trio realizes the ship is in serious trouble. Can they repair the ship and save the lives of the sleeping passengers and crew? Will the ship even reach its destination?

I enjoyed a lot about this movie. First, the performances by Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence are great, especially Christ Pratt’s performance. For a good portion of the first act, Pratt is acting by himself. He’s the only character on screen and you feel for his character’s plight as he wrestles with questions with no easy answers and situations with life altering choices. Pratt has proved himself capable of an action movie with Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Jurassic World (2015) and in Passengers, he also shows he’s capable of drama and romance. Jennifer Lawrence has long proven herself in action, drama and romance so this movie was right of her alley. Second, the story itself is compelling. It’s been called “Titanic among the stars” (James Dyer, Empire magazine). The movie plays out like a disaster movie with a love story. And this time the lovers are likable and not as annoying as Jack and Rose. Third, the movie’s central question and dilemmas help make the story thought provoking. For those who have not seen the movie yet, there is a main question and dilemma I will not mention as it is a spoiler. However, when you see it, you will ask yourself what would you do if you were in the same situation?

I can honestly say there wasn’t much about this movie I didn’t like. There is nothing I can point out like “yeah, right that would happen!” I recognized it for what it was, a love story with a sci-fi twist. As I always do, I read a number of reviews to see if critics or other reviewers saw something I didn’t. Most of the time I spent my time shaking my head and laughing at their hatred. They harped over the same stupid details and I wondered if they even saw the movie for themselves or just copied another’s review, changed a few details and posted it as their own. Who knows? There was nothing really about this movie that stood out to me as bad, as a major flaw or even irritating. I liked it all. I laughed at some scenes. I cried and held my breath at others. Sometimes I think people have lost the meaning behind a film. It is a brief moment in time to escape reality and see a world we will never see. Now I’m not going to say that there haven’t been movies I hated. I may have even reviewed a few on here but Passengers was a great movie.

On Rotten Tomatoes, critics gave this movie a rotten rating of 31% with a consensus of “Passengers proves Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence work well together---and that even their chemistry isn’t enough to overcome a fatally flawed story.” The majority of complaints were about the science of the story. It’s a SCI-FI movie!!! Sci-fi meaning science fiction. In most sci-fi movies, the science is usually stretched a bit to add suspense and drama. While critics hated the film, audiences loved it. Many audience reviews praised the film’s beautiful space scenes, its drama and suspense, even the love story. Quite a few reviews I read online by audience members swear the professional critics were paid off to hate this film. One reviewer on IMDb.com said it best: “Passengers is yet another example as to why you should go see the movies professional critics hate & save your money on the ones they absolutely love.” Great advice. Some critics also dwelled on the predictable action of the story. HELLO!!! Did we all miss storytelling 101?!?! There is a general progression in storytelling. First, act 1 is the setup, the opening, the exposition. Second, act 2 is the conflict with a rising action and usually ends with a climax. Third, act 3 is the falling action and resolution. Every good story has these elements, so it would make sense you would see it everywhere!

In conclusion, if you are looking for an action-packed, Star Wars or Star Trek kind of movie, this movie isn’t it. If you are looking for a suspenseful, dramatic love story with thought provoking questions, this movie is for you. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and would watch it again and again. Critics be damned and see this movie for yourself. It is currently available on DVD and Blu-ray, I highly, highly recommend you check out Passengers

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Bridge Across the Ocean: a mystery surrounding an iconic piece of history

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner is the story of the World War II brides who came over on the RMS Queen Mary. The story opens with a presence watching as the passengers come aboard the beautiful ship and one passenger sees this presence. Fast forward to present day San Diego where Brette Caslake is at a baby shower and encounters a ghost. Brette has the Sight, a gift which is passed on to the daughters on her mother’s side. The gift seems to skip generations and appear out of nowhere. Brette has grown up trying to keep the ghosts at bay and not let on about what she sees. She learned that lesson the hard way. Until one day when an old high school classmate looks her up and desperately asked for her help. His daughter swears she saw her late mother during a tour of the Queen Mary. Soon Brette is brought into a mystery aboard the ship as a ghost leads her to a name, Annaliese Kurtz. The story moves back and forth in time as the mystery is revealed about what happened to Anneliese. Brette is determined to help a young girl grieving her mother as well as set the record straight about Annaliese Kurtz. Will she be able to find out the truth?

A Bridge Across the Ocean is a beautiful story about a piece of history that many do not know. The RMS Queen Mary has been docked in the Long Beach since her retirement in 1967 and now serves as a tourist attraction, hotel, museum and event facility. I’ve lived within driving distance of the Queen Mary all my life and have yet to visit her. After reading this book, I will definitely visit her now. A Bridge Across the Ocean intertwines the present and past with a beautiful story and an interesting premise. The Queen Mary has been rumored to be haunted since her docking in Long Beach. Whether or not you believe in ghosts or hauntings, you will love this story of women trying to escape the horrors of the life they left behind and rebuild in America. I highly recommend A Bridge Across the Ocean.

A Bridge Across the Ocean

is available at all major booksellers

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Fathers are important too: every day not just on Father's Day

Tomorrow is Father’s Day. A day meant to celebrate the fathers in our lives. This day is often not given the same emphasis as Mother’s Day and that just seems so wrong to me. Fathers are central to the emotional well-being of their children. Studies have shown that if a child’s father is affectionate, supportive and involved in a child’s day to day life, he can contribute immensely to a child’s cognitive, language, academic success and social development. Fathers have a great impact on our lives wither its good and bad. Fathers influence our relationships. His relationship with our mothers also influence our relationships. When dads are absent, there are men who step up and take over the role for so many children.  

Fathers influence our relationships in many ways. For a little girl, her father is the first man who will love. The man she will judge all other men by. He is the man who will teach her how a woman is treated and how to interact with men. If he is controlling or abusive and disrespects women, she will grow up thinking it’s okay for a man to beat her and abuse her in many different terrifying ways.  Many people may have the image of Daddy’s little girl as the spoiled brat who gets whatever she wants because daddy says so. Being Daddy’s little girl doesn’t have to be negative. When a dad showers his daughter with affection, with his time and attention, he shows her that she is loved, valued and worthy. Notice I didn’t say showers her with money and gifts. There’s the difference. Girls tend to do better in math and science when they have a good relationship with their father.

For a little boy, Dad is the role model for how a man acts in this world. He will emulate his dad’s behavior in all aspects of his life. As a husband and a father, he learns how to be loving, supportive, and protective of his future wife and children. As an employee, he learns to be hard working and even as a boss, he learns how to be supportive of his employees and a leader. On the flip side, if his dad is abusive and cruel, he will continue this behavior pattern in all of his future relationships. A dad’s influence on his son is not just seen in relationship patterns. In academics, when a boy has an actively involved dad, he tends to get better grades and perform better on achievement tests.

A father’s relationship with his child’s mother is just as important as his relationship with the child. When a child sees his or her dad being loving, affectionate and supportive of his or her mother, he or she learns how healthy relationships are supposed to function. Even during arguments, when a child see his or her parents working out their differences, their conflicts, a child learns conflict resolution. However, when a child sees or hears his or her father disrespecting his or her mother by name calling and demeaning behavior, a son learns it is okay to treat women like that and a girl learns to accept this behavior from other men in her life. I know this is hard for separated and divorced parents. No matter how much he or she may deserve your anger, please refrain from speaking ill of your child’s father or mother in front of them or even when they could be within earshot. Despite your anger, disgust or hurt at his or her behavior, your child is watching. Not only are you possibly tainting his or her relationship with his or her child, you are also teaching him or her to disrespect others simply because you are angry, hurt, etc.

The saying goes “Any man can be a father but it takes a special man to be a dad.” I am grateful that my husband is such a dad. He adores our daughter. He spends time with her, actively talks and plays with her. She eagerly awaits her time with her dad. I also want to acknowledge the extra special men who stepped up to the plate and took the role of dad for so many children whose fathers aren’t here for whatever reason. Grandpas, uncles and stepdads or any man who stepped in and helped mold a child to his or her potential. I’ve been blessed with many male role models in my life when my own father decided not to fight for a place in his children’s lives. My Grandpa Ken and my five uncles taught me a strong work ethic. I’ve watched as my uncles’ build businesses from nothing into successes, persevering to provide for their wives and children, despite struggles and the ups and downs of the business. Through their faith, I learned that God provides through thick and thin. By their example, I married a man who has a strong work ethic. A man who works hard despite his exhaustion and frustration to provide for his family. A man who never gives up, despite his desire to do so, because there are others counting on him.

Despite the hard work of moms and no matter how hard she tries, she cannot replace the importance of a dad. The male influence is just so important to a child’s development and well-being in all aspects of his or her life. I know that some men walk away without a care, leaving behind the children they helped create and it sickens me that some men can be so heartless. So Dads, please take an active role in your child’s life. I know you are tired from work, but you have no idea the impact your full attention has on your child. For non-custodial dads, you can still be active in your child’s life despite not living with them. For the men who have stepped up and became great dads to their children and the men who took responsibility for children who aren’t his, Happy Dad’s Day. You are greater than just a father. You are a boy’s hero and a little girl’s first love. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The 7 Myths about Love...Actually: an examination of what we falsely believe about love and happiness

The 7 Myths about Love…Actually by Mike George is an examination of common misconceptions about love, happiness, our identities and our world. The book is structured into three parts. Part 1 is entitled “A Love Story” in which Mr. George discusses the myths about love and debunks each myth. Part 2 is entitled “A True Story” in which the author discusses the labels in which we identify ourselves by and as well as why those labels are wrong or not necessary. He calls these labels “Pretends.” Part 3 is entitled “A Happy Story” in which Mr. George discusses thirteen myths about happiness and what happiness truly is. How can someone truly love and be happy in today’s world?

I was interested in this book when I saw the title. I was eager to see these love myths as I know many people who believe so desperately in them. However, the book I read wasn’t what I anticipated. It is a self-help book to help readers become self-realized. Self-realization is the fulfilment by oneself of the possibilities of one’s character or personality. It is a term often used in psychology, philosophy, spirituality and Eastern religions. While I agreed with some of Mr. George’s premises, I found myself rolling my eyes and disagreeing with many of his statements. In his introduction, he tells the reader to not to believe a word. He urges readers to “believe nothing but examine everything.” I agree with this statement, do not believe simply because someone told you; however, I did not agree with his statement that all beliefs are lies. There are things in life that one must take on faith and your belief is rewarded or not later. While I did not agree with many statements made in this book, I am recommending it to those who are seeking why they often lose in love or are unhappy. The one main truth in this book is love and happiness is found within and once you have it there, you will find it in the world.

The 7 Myths about Love…Actually
is available on Amazon

in paperback and on the Kindle