The Sea of Light

To the left drifts the glowing star
promoting the night with its oblong light
caressing the dark with a deep, deep rite.

We see the star, the star, the oblong star,
the longish memoir from beyond time’s time,

beyond the cosmic jar
of the speckled, swirling galaxies of light.

We see the glowing star,
here and here, there and there;
we stare there and here,
within the blowing seas of sand

at
the unseen devil in the constellations,
the gelatinous dragon with his hideous secretions,
the struggle with our Sea
stamped on our stars.

Of the star we watch,
we magi of the light,
classified before time’s time,
yes, our sights are on the light.

Beyond the glow, we watched with all of the
night’s inanimate riders of the oblong winds;

As such here and here, right and left,
we see the star in a sea, a sea of light,
classified beyond the first watches

of the time in time we watch,
our sights on the light to the left;
yes, our sights are on the Light.




Five of Our Favorite Christmas Movies

Watching Christmas movies during the Christmas season is one of our favorite traditions. We have a number of articles dedicated to Christmas movies on REO – some good and some bad. We’ve argued that some popular movies are not actually Christmas movies and have received a good amount of pushback. We’ve even given a primer on how to put together your very own Christmas Movie watch list. Yet in all of our Christmas movie writing, we have never done a collaborative article about some of our favorite Christmas movies. Today is the day we fix that glaring oversight. These are not necessarily the movies we consider the BEST Christmas movies. They are simply movies we each love to watch and share with our own family and friends. We hope you enjoy our list.


How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Gowdy Cannon – I get this movie is somewhat polarizing, at least in my circles. Most seem hate it or dislike it while folks like me love it enough to watch it every single year in December.

I confess that when it came out, I didn’t go to the theater to watch it. And when I did see it I was very “Meh” about it. Like millions of other people, I adore the book and the original cartoon version. It’s a perfect half hour of Christmas entertainment for ages 2 to 102. Simple and poignant and with no fat. And not to be insane but the Grinch is kind of like a kids version of DC’s Joker: he doesn’t need a backstory and trying to explain him actually detracts from him. That was my biggest negative about this live action version.

But then one year I showed it to my ESL class for our Christmas party and they laughed all the way through it and even clapped boisterously at the end. And [Narrator voice] I thought of something I hadn’t before: Maybe this movie can’t be bought in a store! No, seriously, what I learned was that I was clearly over-thinking it.

Honestly, if you get past the unnecessary Grinch childhood history, it’s a fun and funny ride with plenty of holiday cheer and the kind of sentimental moments we have come to associate with Christmas in America. I laugh out loud multiple times at it every year (“Even if we’re HORRIBLY MANGLED…there’ll be no sad faces at Christmas,” “Aardvarkian Abakanezer Who..I HATE you!) as Jim Carrey was definitely in his comedic prime at this point in his career. And while it adds, it doesn’t subtract and nails the right touches of the original story. The Grinch’s character transformation at the end is heartwarming be it cartoon or Carrey in a ridiculous amount of makeup. And I cannot lie: I’m a huge fan of the meta, self-aware trope that TV shows like Scrubs, Community and Arrested Development use and Ron Howard brought it to the big screen years before any of these shows were made, including his very own AD. When the Grinch says “I’m speaking in rhyme!” and when he mocks Howard’s directing I smile every time.

So this movie definitely earns some criticism but at the end of the day, entertainment goes beyond reason and critique to me and if all you want is a joyful and triumphant 100-minutes of Christmas spirit, this is a good choice.


It’s a Wonderful Life

Mark Sass – It’s a Wonderful Life is the only Christmas movie that I watch every year. During the holiday season, I intentionally set aside time for this film. And as the appointed date (usually Christmas Eve) nears I often wonder if this will be the year when the movie loses its charm or magic. You should know that generally speaking, I do not enjoy older movies. They feel dated to me and show their age in almost every scene. Furthermore, I am not someone who watches their favorite movies every week, month, or even year. I can get too much of most films to a degree that I don’t enjoy them as much as I once did. But that has yet to happen with It’s a Wonderful Life! After 20+ viewings I still thoroughly enjoy the film. The movie never seems old or dated. The story, characters, themes, and even the humor (which is something that frequently doesn’t translate well from one generation to those that follow) are all superb! The best films transcend time and hold up after numerous viewings. It’s a Wonderful Life is certainly among the best and greatest films of all-time.


The Santa Clause

Phill Lytle – I love this movie. I have since the first time I saw it. I realize it’s not a great film by any objective standards, but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying it every time I watch it.

It’s a great concept – turning Tim Allen into a reluctant Santa. Allen does a wonderful job of bringing his style of humor to a family movie, with some of the edge taken off, and his gradual transformation into jolly Saint Nick provides plenty of visual gags. It has good laughs, plenty of heart, and enough Christmasy moments to make it a perfect family film for the Holidays. The supporting cast is great, with Judge Reinhold adding his perfectly delivered condescension and David Krumholtz bringing sarcasm and wit to what could have been a bland character. The music feels familiar in a way that actually works – it feels like “Christmas movie music” and that makes me feel all warm and snugly on the inside.

There is nothing groundbreaking about The Santa Clause but that doesn’t seem to diminish it for me at all. I will gladly watch this one every single Christmas.


Jingle All the Way

“Put that cookie down! NOW!”

D. A. Speer – Much to the chagrin of my wife, it’s a yearly tradition in our house to watch Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “smash holiday classic” Jingle All the Way. I love so much about this movie. First, the comedic talent. You have two top-notch comedians featured prominently throughout the film: Sinbad (playing disgruntled mailman Myron) and Phil Hartman (playing creeptastic neighbor Ted). Both of them were at their peak and gave top-notch performances in the movie. Secondly, there are just tons of memorable scenes in the film. From the all-out brawl of fake Santas at the knock-off toy factory (“I’m gonna deck your halls, bub!”), to the frenzy at the shopping mall that ends with Arnold trying to take a ball away from a kid in a ball pit (I’m not a pervert!!!”), to the grand finale at the holiday parade (“Out of my way, box!”), the greatness just keeps coming.

No, the movie isn’t perfect. It’s full of cheese, and even contains an over-the-top, yet charming performance from internet favorite Jake Lloyd (pre-Phantom Menace). But that’s just part of the whole picture of what makes this a classic movie for me. This was still in the age when movies could be made just for the sake of telling a whimsical, goofball story. There wasn’t anywhere near the amount of pressure to have to include some kind of important agenda. It seems like the kind of movie that just wouldn’t fly today in a pitch meeting, or if it were to be made, I doubt that it would go to theaters. Probably straight to Netflix at best.

I’m glad that this movie exists, and it’s worth viewing at least once in your life. Not sold on it yet? Let “Arnold” himself try to convince you:


Christmas in Connecticut

Ben Plunkett – Growing up, my family was hugely into the classics. We discovered another old classic we hadn’t watched yet–boom!–we were there. (Incidentally, we’ve discovered many a time through the years that just because a movie is old, doesn’t mean it’s a classic. Some need to be forgotten, locked away never to be seen or heard from again.)

Anyway, when Christmas rolled around we watched many of the great Christmas classics of yore like A Christmas Carol, The Little Shop Around the Corner, The Bishop’s Wife, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Lemon Drop Kid, and many others. It was not until around the mid to late 1990s that I became aware of an old Christmas classic known as Christmas in Connecticut. Since those days it has become one of my favorites (I can’t say it’s my top favorite since I have so many way up there.) Christmas in Connecticut is actually a pretty basic romance, but it is so much more than that and done in a very entertaining, witty way. It is also chock full of heart, an ingenious central plot, outstanding writing, and excellent and unforgettable characters (the side characters are particularly good here).

Barbara Stanwyck plays Elizabeth Lane, a very city-loving journalist, writing for a popular magazine, pretending to be a wife and mother who lives and thrives on a farm in Connecticut. Her immediate supervisor is in on the act. The lead publisher, Alexander Yardley, not so much. One fine Christmas time he suggests that war hero, Jefferson Jones, come join her family on their farm for the holidays. Fortunately for Lane, her architect fiancé just happens to own an actual farmhouse in Connecticut and agrees to go along with the ruse. She also happens to be the favorite niece of Felix, a master chef, (my favorite character) who comes along on the holiday escapade.

Except for the set up first few minutes, the entirety of the movie takes place on this beautiful farmhouse, one that exudes cozy, homey Christmas. I think it’s safe to say this is the sort of place Santa takes his holidays.


Those are Five of our favorites. What are yours? Let us know in the comment section below. And be sure to like and share this article (and all of our articles) on Facebook and Twitter. You are our hands and feet, people! Each one reach one and all that. Thanks for reading.




Corporate Worship Throughout Bible Times

The Word of God in the read and spoken word is the epicenter of worship. From this lifegiving epicenter flows elements of worship of God with such things as thanksgiving, repentance, adoration, supplication and praise. Corporate worship, the gathering of worshippers to worship God as a unity, is something we should do every week. It takes many different forms throughout the long story of Scripture. This not meant to be a thorough look at all the intricacies of corporate worship in Scripture, but rather a broad look at its changing faces throughout.

The Birth of Worship

In the very beginning, Adam and Eve had full and personal communication with God, but this ended after they disobey God and broke off that close communion. The hearts of all humanity was separated from God by a deep gulf of sin. Yet via personal and corporate worship, we have long been able to maintain some semblance of communication with and focus on God. From this focus flowed such crucial aspects of worship as prayer, personal sacrifice, beauty, unity, divine adoration, and love.

With all corporate worship, God has also been clear that order is necessary. To this end, throughout Scripture, he has always ordained leaders to guide the people in worship. This individual or individuals was to lead worship entirely based on the word of God.

And then there is music. Music has so often been the vehicle of adoration, praise, thanksgiving, and supplication. We see its human development first mentioned in Gen. 4:20-21. In the centuries afterward to the present time, it has played a crucial role in corporate worship. God showed that He loved music, especially when its emotional power and beauty were used in the worship of Himself. He engrained worship music into the very fabric of His rules concerning the worship practices of His chosen people, the Israelites. It became part of who they were. Just a few of the many examples: Exodus 15:1 and 20-21 record how Moses and his sister Mariam led the newly freed Israelites in worship songs of praise and thanksgiving to God after they were freed from slavery in Egypt. When God would set up the order of the priesthood, he would dedicate a sizeable branch of them just to song and the playing of instruments. The entire book of Psalms is composed of worship songs.

The Continuing Need of Renewal Through Corporate Worship

Authentic worship of God has so often resulted in heart revival, both personally and corporately. In Genesis 35:1 Jacob and his sons experienced history’s first recorded revival after returning to Bethel where Jacob had earlier had a strong spiritual experience.

But the Bible made it clear early on that one revival does not necessarily mean there will never be a need for another one. Many years after Jacob and his sons had died, the freed Israelites, the direct descendants of Jacob, were discontent despite their newfound freedom and almost continually in need of renewal.

Shortly after being freed from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites came to Mt. Sinai where God gave His human leader, Moses, the Ten Commandments, which Moses in turn presented to God’s unruly people Israel.

Not coincidentally it was also at Mt. Sinai that God led the people into another revival. Moses spoke the Words of the Lord, and the people responded positively. This is important because by doing so, the Israelite nation was giving their agreement that these words and commands were authoritative and binding.

When we hear the Word preached, we also ought to respond positively, acknowledging that what we hear is the authoritative, binding Word of God. By hearing the Word and truly acknowledging our accordance and agreement with the beauty of God’s Words, the Holy Spirit helps instigate the worship that can result in heart revival. This is still needed, by the way. The revival at Mt. Sinai, nor many after it, did not fix everything for all of eternity. We are still afflicted by the curse of Sin and are in constant need of fixing our wayward hearts through worship of God.

The Transitions from Tabernacle Worship to Temple Worship to Synagogue Worship

Not long after they left Egypt, God instituted tabernacle worship for the wandering children of Israel. Even after they were settled in the Promised Land of Israel, this would remain the case for many years. It would not be until the time of King Solomon that a temple would be authorized by God to be a permanent place of worship.

In the years afterward, temple worship became a deeply ingrained part of Israel’s cultural identity. This ended after they were exiled in captivity. Beginning in the 6th century the dispersed Jews began the practice of synagogue worship in an attempt to regain and save some of their Israelite identity lost to them in the absence of the temple. From the very beginning, synagogue worship emphasized reading and discussing Scripture, praying, and singing. All three of these primary characteristics of Synagogue worship would be imitated in early Christian church worship.

The Transition to Jesus

The Jews were eventually able to return to their homeland, resuming temple worship but still keeping synagogue worship as well. And then Jesus stepped onto the scene and changed everything. Luke 1 and 2 tells us how God the father introduced His Son Jesus as a man-child into this world in part by way of song. His birth was lauded in this way by several sources: Angels, Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon.

Jesus grew to remold man into a new creature and to, therefore, remold worship into a new creature as well. He had come to die for the sins of all men on earth. On the night before His death, Jesus gave some last warnings and words of instructions to his fearful disciples. In John 16:7 he tells them that although He will soon be going back to heaven, He will be sending down a Comforter in His place to help the believers. This Advocate was the Holy Spirit who among many other things has always been instrumental in Christian worship.

The Transition to Church Worship

It was on the Pentecost of around A.D. 30 that the Holy Spirit first came upon the followers of Jesus in a definite and dramatic way. About 10 days prior to this annual Jewish celebration around 120 of Jesus’ most devoted followers united in fervent prayer. The Holy Spirit came upon the group so powerfully that His presence filled the whole house. The spirit was so full in these believers that day that the revival spilled out into the community with the results that 3,000 more people were added to the church.

While not all worship services have as vibrant a Holy Spirit revival as was seen on this particular Day of Pentecost, we should always pray that the Holy Spirit have a very real presence in our gathered assemblies. In addition, while it is excellent whenever such a dynamic revival does occur, we should never assume our worship service has failed and that the Holy Spirit has not worked in magnificent ways if there are no dramatic, visible movings and emotion.

It has been mentioned that the church worship borrowed several key features of synagogue worship. However, these were not the only things Christianity borrowed from Judaism. In fact, for a long time, most of the secular world at that time thought it was just one of its branches.

Many of Paul’s divinely inspired epistles lay out various regulations about how we are to conduct worship in church services. The books make it abundantly clear that church worship is always to be centered on God’s Word, Jesus Christ, unity with other Christians, and the joy in Christ through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

Here through Paul God gives crucial commands concerning how to carry out worship in general:

“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with
the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual
songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving
thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of
our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the
fear of Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-21)

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom;
teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and
spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16)

What is interesting about both of these key worship passages is that in both of them Paul stresses the importance of music in worship.

The early church would live during some interesting times in its first century of existence. Israel’s second temple would be destroyed in A.D. 70. After Rome destroyed the temple the close connection between Christianity and Judaism was forever severed.

Perhaps the best non-canonical description comes to us via Justin Martyr. These were both written sometime around A.D. 100. While the Bible should clearly be taken much more seriously as the inspired Word of God, many non-inspired ancient Christian documents do present some good doctrinal points to consider and interesting historical insights. This is such an example.

In his “First Apology,” Justin wrote how most of the worship service was designed to show their unification and adoration of Jesus. But he describes how the early church worshippers not only practiced unity with Jesus but with one another:

“Now we always thereafter remind one another of these things
And those that have the means assist them that are in need;
And we visit one another continually.”

Justin relates that the early Christians worshipped on Sunday (instead of Saturday) for the following reason:

“We hold our common assembly on the day of the sun, because
It is the first day, on which God put to flight the darkness and
Chaos and made the world, and on the same day Jesus Christ
Our savior rose from the dead…”

Today, while Sunday remains the primary day most Christians continue to meet together for corporate worship, it is not the only day. Corporate worship, whenever it takes place during the week, is a holy and magnificent moment of worship ordained by God. It has had many faces in Scripture, but all of this has made it abundantly clear that God values prayer, personal sacrifice, song, heart revival, order, beauty, unity, divine adoration, and love in everything that goes on in such times. And it is also clear that all of this springs from a thorough focus on His Word and on Jesus Christ, God the Son. Indeed, the Lord God in all three persons, He who has created us all is more than worthy of all of this worship. Worthy is the Lamb!




First Zombie Candidate Makes Vast Improvement on U.S. Political Landscape

Beginning in the first decade of this century, U.S. politics began to reach the bottom of the proverbial barrel as far as presidential candidates were concerned. And this made many very sad. After Justin Bieber’s term in office (2032-2036), there was no more down to go. Yet in the fullness of time, a brilliant idea emerged. Ten-year-old gamer Bobby Brown said that his dad told him dead people had long been used to bolster votes. Bobby postulated that the undead “should run them government things.”

Up until then the U.S. Constitution stipulated that a presidential candidate be a natural born citizen of the United States, a resident for 14 years, and 35 years or older. In 2036 the first stipulation was changed to “must be a living or undead sentient being currently existing in the United States.”

Earlier this year, Z. Xander, mayor of Romero, California, the village of the undead, will make history by becoming the first zombie to ever run for the nation’s highest office. His campaign team so far includes a non-partisan dragon slayer, a wise old owl, and a really nice pet rock with a genetically manufactured brain. At a recent political rally, Xander simply stated, “Ahgggg!” and “grrr” to wild applause by the gathered crowd. His future main opponent, Bill Bligh, strongly disagreed. Bligh is now deceased.

Directly following the announcement, political commentator and internationally revered constitutional expert, Dwight Billingsley, said that in his considered opinion Xander is “by far the best candidate to run for any U.S. political office in decades.”

At this time Xander has yet to select a running mate. In serious consideration is his great-great-grandfather Jacobus Xander, a war hero famous as the last casualty of the Civil War in 1865.

Political experts the world over agree that the potential of the 2044 lineup for the U.S. presidential elections is staggering. Senator Orrin Hatch has finally put his name in the ring as well. (No word on whether Hatch is running as a living person or as one of the undead as it has long been unclear with which group he identifies) and Hillary Clinton has announced that she is running for President for the 9th consecutive time. (Hillary is very much alive, confounding all reason and scientific knowledge.) Billingsley states that ” few current voters under 50 will have ever voted on a candidate lineup this good.”

 




Five Neglected Comedies from the 80s We Highly Recommend

The 80s had its problems but it gave us a lot of awesome things like Lunchables, the Transformers, trapper keepers, the Rubik’s Cube, and the list goes on. One of the best of the best (to some) is the excellent lineup of comedy movies throughout the 80s. Many of these are very well known and still loved. However, REO is horrified with the greatest of all horrors that several of our favorites have been forgotten, forsaken in the dusty, grimy back alley of cinematic history. Here are our recommendations of five great but relatively forgotten comedies from that decade.


The Private Eyes

Don Knotts and Tim Conway were a legendary comedic duo, yet it seems this movie is far more under the radar than anything else they did. And that is a shame. Because it is hilarious from start to finish. Released in 1980, my family owned it on an old VHS tape and I watched it so much I had essentially every word of dialogue memorized as a child (which interestingly made my mother quite proud). It was such clever writing for that era and Knotts and Conway, as the bumbling Inspector Winship and Doctor Tart, brought the humor to life with once in a generation talent and chemistry.

Rife with samurais, hunchbacks, gypsies, mysterious shadow figures and Wookalars (you have to watch), this comedic murder-mystery set in England really keeps you on your toes. And in typical Knotts and Conway fashion, shows us how easy it is to love “two idiots what going to leave their mark wherever they go.” Not counting cameos, this is the last ride for these two men. And they went out in style. With a Wookalar!! (Gowdy Cannon)


Fletch Lives

Fletch is widely considered one of the great comedies of the ’80s. It’s witty and razor sharp and Chevy Chase is at his sarcastic best. Fletch Lives, the sequel that came a few years later is widely derided as a pale imitation of its predecessor. I find that opinion to be ridiculous. No, Fletch Lives does not reach the highs of the original but it admirably captures its tone, style, and humor. Chase is given a chance to play a handful of memorable “characters” – Ed Harley and Claude Henry Smoot to name a couple. The supporting cast included screen legend R. Lee Ermey as a smiley, smarmy televangelist and Cleavon Little as Calculus Entropy, perhaps the best side character in either Fletch movie. Seriously, I would watch multiple films about Calculus.

If I were handing out grades, Fletch gets an A+ and Fletch Lives gets a solid A-. To put it more bluntly, for all the Fletch Lives haters out there, I wouldn’t want to live in a world where Fletch Lives never got made. Perhaps I’m wrong. If so, I can only respond like Fletch would, “It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong. I am NOT a big man.” (Phill Lytle)


The Gods Must Be Crazy

My parents spent time in Cote D’Ivoire as dorm parents at a missionary school for about half of the 90s. While there they fell in love with a movie called The God’s Must Be Crazy. They came back, introduced it to me, and I’ll be dogged if I didn’t fall in love with it too. To be honest, much of the camera-work of the movie is not great. This is possibly because it was extremely inexpensively made from donations from local sources. That location: South Africa. It isn’t set there though. It is set in the nearby country of Botswana with the Kalahari Desert playing a crucial role. If you can get past the somewhat shoddy cinematography, you will find the entirety of the writing and plot chock full of wit, charm, and a variety of different kinds of great humor. This is particularly true when it comes to the main character, a bushman named Xi (played by an actual bushman named N!xau). The central plot begins with an empty Coca-Cola bottle discarded by a pilot flying over the Kalahari. It lands where it is discovered by Xi’s tiny, peaceful family tribe. In the ensuing greed and jealousy that erupts, the tribe determines that the bottle is indeed an “evil thing” sent down by the gods to test them. Brave Xi then sets out on a quest to cast the “evil thing” off of the ends of the earth. Then the real madness and insanity begins. (Ben Plunkett)


¡Three Amigos!

I’m pretty sure no movie of the 80s made me laugh more than this one did. In my circles, it is hard pressed to call it “underrated” because so many people I know love it. But it didn’t make a ton of money and it has a very mediocre rating on IMDB.com, so I think it fits in general.

At a time when Chevy Chase, Steve Martin and Martin Short were all extremely funny actors, they brought it together for a ridiculous yet heartwarming masterpiece of comedic cinema. From the very opening where they hold out the first AH sound in “Amigos” for a stupidly and hilariously long time, to their discussion of what “infamous” means to their unforgettable “My Little Buttercup” song and dance in front of a terrified cantina, the Amigos make sure the laughs do not stop in this movie.

Not to be outshone, even a little bit, is the superbly named and utterly outrageous villain El Guapo. He is truly one of the greatest antagonists of all time in this genre. His overdone machismo and his scathing one-liners are the stuff of legend to me and my friends. And he even has a perfect sidekick, Jefe. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have told Phill, “I am still here El Guapo!” to encourage him that I stand behind REO 100% (Thankfully Phill hasn’t shot me like El Guapo did Jefe.)

On the short list for the most quotable movie of all time to me (“Can I have your gun when you are dead?”, “Good night, Ned!”), I couldn’t get enough of ¡Three Amigos! in 1986 and, unlike most 80s movies, it still holds up well today. It has made me laugh until I have cried. (Gowdy Cannon)


The ‘Burbs

I think The ‘Burbs is one of Tom Hanks’ best films and one of his best performances. I realize how absurd that might sound to a lot of people. The ‘Burbs is a ridiculous comedy about a group of nosy and meddlesome suburbanite neighbors. They come to believe their new neighbors, the Klopeks, are mass murderers who are burying their victims in the backyard. The film is populated with hilariously colorful characters – from Bruce Derns’ insane Lt. Mark Rumsfield[1. You can read more about him here.] to Rick Ducommun as the hapless conspiracy nut Art Weingartner. Not to mention Carrie Fisher’s great performance as the patient and slightly exasperated wife. The film provides laughs on multiple levels – pratfalls, subtle quips, and clever wordplay. But the glue that holds it all together is Hanks. He is equal turns the voice of reason and the most paranoid of them all. His final monologue where he defends the odd Klopek family is delivered with such authenticity you actually believe it deserves to be in a much more serious film – except that Hanks is in on the humor and absurdity and makes sure all of that still comes through loud and clear. I’m happy to report that The ‘Burbs has found a small fanbase after it’s lackluster reception in 1989. In a perfect world, it would be considered a classic. (Phill Lytle)


Those are our picks. What are yours? Let us know in the comment section. Thanks for reading.

 

 




Coming to You

Sometimes when I think about the immensity of the universe I am both overwhelmed and humbled. This line of thinking also leads to a fuller joy, security, and boldness.

Consider the huge and complex dance:
The universe is so incredibly big many scientists believe it doesn’t even have an end. Our small, finite minds have a problem comprehending that. It is really hard to register the endlessness of anything. That is one reason, it is so hard to really fathom the enormity of what we know or guess is out there.

Space and spatial bodies are so large the measurement of light-years is used. A light-year is the distance light travels in one year. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. One year’s worth of those seconds comes to almost 6 trillion miles. Well, the average galaxy is about 1,500 to 300,000 light-years. That’s huge!

There are hundreds of billions of galaxies in this universe. Each of these galaxies contains hundreds of billions of stars. In addition, they contain lots of other bodies and substances. We live in the Milky Way galaxy, which is a spiral galaxy. That means it has several arms coming out from a hub and it looks like it is spiraling like a whirlpool. It is about 100,000 light years in diameter.

We live relatively close to the edge of this whirlpool in a minor arm called the Orion Spur in the Solar System. Our Solar System lies on the outskirts of this arm. For the size of the galaxy, our Solar System seems really small. Scientists estimate the Solar System is between 7,348,981,944 and 9,320,567,882 miles in diameter. Within this expanse are a number of familiar bodies: the Sun, the planets, moons, comets, asteroids, and meteoroids.

One of these eight planets is Earth—our Earth. As far as we know, it is the only place in the universe that sustains life. At this point in time, there are about 7.6 billion people inhabiting the earth. These 7.6 billion people are spread throughout 195 countries on 7 continents. Zoom to your continent. Zoom to your country. Zoom to your city. Zoom to your street. Zoom into your house, dorm, apartment, igloo, whatever. We have come to you.

This is a very, very, very brief description of the universe. All of this grandeur of the heavens and the earth came to us from God Himself. God was the creator of it all (Genesis 1:1)!

Yes, we are a teeny-tiny part of it all. In essence, each one of us is a speck on a speck (the world) on a speck (the Solar system) on a speck (the Milky Way galaxy) on a speck (that’s right, the endless universe is a speck in the mind of God). We are less than nothing, but the sovereign God who is the omnipotent Creator of the universe, the divine choreographer of this great complexity yearns to have a personal, intimate relationship with you. You! He is the endlessness beyond the endlessness who cared for you before you were born, who cares about every aspect of your present life, and who wants to be forever with you after death.

Did I mention this is the God of the universe? That part needs all the emphasis in, well, the universe. Sometimes it seems we forget that part. We are mere specks and know so little. As mere, selfish specks we do not even deserve His attention. For some reason He gives it. For some reason, He cares for our lives—both this and the next. How is this not a reason for a greater joy and boldness? The God behind the endlessness is at work in you!

 

*A version of this article was originally published at The Brink Online.




Where I Will Throw Sticks and Rocks in the Waves

I go, then,
to enjoy one of those under-the-evening-
out-of-the-exhausted-daylight-hours moments.

Here is a freshly laid table of
half-eaten desserts and nameless cups of coffee
with the streams of
night flowing toward us
like clouds of sawdust,
with a streamlined echo of animal sounds with tedious edges.

With the darkening dark,
it is an enhanced evening,
an overwhelming experience,
it is a table of love
greater than the daylight hours.

Oh, how I long to ask what it is
that ties our streams
to the virtual world,
that temporary visit.

All the hours,
in they come, out they go,

All the hours.

So I go to enjoy one of those dreams in the evening,
the warmer hours of night,
to this selfsame place wherein is a freshly laid table of
cups of coffee and panels of bread and literature and la-la-la-ing
streaming into an irreplaceable night.

This is the world,
this, this the setting of shops and airports,
this world of words and people and trees,
this trying stream of animal sounds
beyond the table, this indispensable, tedious
cold cloud of sounds.

This table that sits before the growing darkness,
It is an enhancement of our evening.

Yet in the end,
this is not a lasting hour.

We are but experiencing a
stream leading to a joy
beyond all manner of daylight hours.

Oh, how the evening
of these temporal worlds
lengthen;
how the hours prolong
these temporary visits.

Oh, how I long for forever docks
where I will always throw sticks and rocks
in the rick-rocking waves.

 

———-

If you enjoyed this, check out these other original poems!



Five Failed Ideas for Today’s Five

We love writing The Five. We do it every week. Most of the time, putting one of these together is just a pure joy. A blessing, some might say. But if we are being completely honest, which we always are, there have been a few times when we really struggled to come up with something worthwhile. We have even published a few less-than-optimal Fives in our time. (I’m looking at you Sick Five.) In the spirit of complete transparency, today is not one of our finest moments. We agonized over this one. We suggested idea after idea and nothing seemed to stick. Nothing got our creative juices flowing. So, instead of beating our heads against this bit of writer’s block, we have decided to share Five of the ideas we had that never really got off the ground. We hope you enjoy this little peek behind the curtain even though we realize you probably won’t. It’s not good.


1. National Pumpkin Day by Benjamin Plunkett

Today is National Pumpkin Day. We says to ourselves, “Mayhap we can get a Five out of this.” A few ideas were bandied about: Carved pumpkins, roasted pumpkins seeds, Linus and the Great Pumpkin, The Smashing Pumpkins, pumpkin catapulting, pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice…everything. Although we love some of this (pumpkin pie certainly had my eye), the idea itself did not really float our boat, shiver our timbers, no, nor bake our cake. So alas, my friends, twas not to be…for we had seen the empty jack-o-lantern of our souls!


2. Five Non-Scary movies to watch for Halloween if you are not a horror movie fan by Phill Lytle

So, it’s almost Halloween and everyone you know is watching as many scary movies as they can. But you feel left out because you don’t like scary movies. They scare you and you don’t like being scared. It makes you uncomfortable. Well boo freaking hoo! Grow a spine, you whiny baby! In recent years, Halloween has been characterized by a few things: Candy, women losing all inhibition and dressing like two-bit prostitutes, and scary movies. Since we are Christians here, we hopefully will have nothing to do with the second one so that leaves us with candy and horror films. If you are too big of a wuss for horror films then you are left with only candy and that clearly makes you a child. If you are in fact a child, then don’t worry about anything I’ve written here and enjoy the veritable feast of candy that awaits you in a few days. But if you are not a child, but a grown adult person, then crying and whimpering about all the scary movies is just pitiful. For the love! Find your courage man!


3. Five random things by Benjamin Plunkett

The debate over this one was incredibly fierce. Two factions emerged from the growing ferocity of this controversy. One side was adamant that it be “things” while the other fought long and hard for “objects.” In the end, discussions devolved into madness and the idea eventually discarded. Pity too because we had come up with five perfectly random subjects: Spotify, Monarch butterflies, crushed soda cans, A Streetcar Named Desire, and fat Val Kilmer. It would have been of a masterpiece, this Five Random Things (or Objects).


4. Five Favorite Andy Griffith characters by Gowdy Cannon

To my shame, my knowledge of The Andy Griffith Show is woefully lacking considering how I was raised and who my group of friends are. Andy Griffith was on in syndication in the background of my house a bunch I would guess. And two of the pastors at my church quote the show to each other about the same way I quote Seinfeld with my friends.

Yet it’s never been a show I’ve sat down and watched significantly. I could tell you a moment here or there, like when Barney knew how to sing “A Capella” or when oregano was the secret ingredient in everyone’s spaghetti. But to write a blurb about it? I would struggle. To my shame.

This show is lauded so highly for good reasons. Somehow those reasons have not translated to my TV viewing. To my shame.


5. Five Types of Boulders by Phill Lytle

Who doesn’t love a good boulder? I know I do! In my 40 years of living there have been few things in life that have brought more happiness than boulders. They are big…obviously. They are hard….sure. They are bouldery?

Nope. I can’t do this. Who cares about boulders? They are giant rocks. That’s it. That’s all they have going for them. Some are really big and some are just sort of big.

I just don’t see the big deal about boulders…pun fully intended.

That said, there is the park in Missouri called Elephant Rocks State Park[1. Go visit a State Park in your area!] and it contains these massive boulder-like rocks. I guess they are boulders. I’ve never really done research on the distinction between giant rocks and boulders. Are they the same thing? Aaaaah! This is so boring to talk about! Elephant Rocks State Park is pretty cool but other than that, boulders are a big waste of time. They hardly qualify as a topic of conversation. Get it? HARDly! Because they are hard?

I’ll see myself out.


See. We weren’t overselling the complete dumpster fire that is this article. No humble, self-deprecation on our part. We are straight shooters who call it like it is.

But here’s the rub: We won’t apologize for this train wreck. In fact, we are oddly proud of it. It became such a hideous and unwieldy thing that it developed a sort of haunting beauty. A pulchritude, if you will. And we will. Oh, believe you me, we will.

If you were wondering about the clown picture, we figured that since this was our pre-Halloween Five, it needed to have some creepy factor to it. And a creepy and sad clown doll seemed to fit the bill perfectly.




“Say What?”: Song Lyrics We Completely Misunderstood.

Everyone’s done it. Whether as children or even as adults, we hear a song and our brain processes what we are hearing incorrectly. We substitute words or phrases in place of the actual lyrics and we proceed to sing nonsense. Sometimes, we get pretty close  – (See Gowdy’s “Africa” by Toto blunder below) and sometimes we aren’t even in the same ballpark – “We built this city on sausage rolls” instead of “We build this city on rock and roll.” Seriously, that’s a real thing.

In that spirit, here are five song lyrics we totally botched.


Money For Nothing by Dire Straits (Gowdy Cannon)

I knew so many factual things about this song when it was released. I knew it was released in 1985. I knew there was a longer version of the song that would be extremely Non-PC today. I could recognize the song after two seconds of the drum intro, or if I had to from about one second of the opening guitar riff. This song played over and over in my life when I was seven and eight years old, including on rides to school in the back seat of my brother Tracy’s T-top convertible.

But 7-year old Gowdy was badly, badly mistaken by the lyrics. I had no idea if it was “chicks for free” or “checks for free,” but that is a common misunderstanding of the song, at least if the Google search bar on my computer is right when I type in “Money for nothing and my…” But even more embarrassing was that I thought the song was saying “Money for workin’.” It was around 1989–four years later–that my future sister-in-law corrected me. I pretended I got it wrong on purpose but that was a lie.

Also, I just found out that in the song “Africa” by Toto it’s “bless the rains” and not “miss the rains” but I forewent that one based on how I already displayed my ignorance about its lyrics in another REO article on the 80s.


Get on Your Knees and Fight Like a Man by Petra (Phill Lytle)

I don’t have a lot of excuses here. The lyric I “misheard” is literally the title of the song, and yet, to this day, I can’t hear it correctly. (In my defense, I was pretty young when this album came out – 10 or so.) The entire song is about the power of prayer, something that Petra sang about often, and the lyrics were a great subversion of the world’s idea of manliness and what Scripture says about it. I understood that even then, yet I still always heard (and sang along) to “Get on your knees, and cry like a man!” It made no sense to me, yet that is what I heard so that is what it was.


We Three Kings (Ben Plunkett)

The first line of this song has always been a bit frustrating to me in that it is actually written to make it confusing. We three kings of Orient Are? It makes it even more frustrating that sometimes the song is actually called We Three Kings of Orient Are. (insert Tim “the tool man” Taylor question grunt). So I was a kid in church at Christmas time and I was always like, “Where is this magical land called Orient Are?”

Like many poetic type works, the blame is on the author awkwardly manipulating it for the sake of rhyming. I can’t stand it when poets and songwriters do that. In this case, this little bit of manipulation madness was brought to you just so the author could rhyme “are” with “afar”. Just say “we are three kings of Orient” and end our misery. Come on! (Of course, that creates a little awkwardness in itself, but at least it’s a starting point for a revision).


Brother by NEEDTOBREATHE (Michael Lytle)

A few years ago the band NEEDTOBREATHE scored a hit with the song Brother. It’s a great anthem on the theme of brotherly love. My family enjoyed the song, but one line in the chorus gave us some trouble. For those who are unfamiliar, the chorus says:

Brother let me be your shelter
Never leave you all alone
I can be the one you call when you’re low
Brother let me be your fortress
When the night winds are driving on
Be the one to light the way, bring you home

The second to last line was the one we couldn’t figure out. Various alternatives were suggested. My son was convinced it was “In the night with the diamond ore”. My personal favorite was “When you might need a Tylenol”. Eventually, we figured it out. Or maybe we just looked it up. Either way, we all can now sing “When the night winds are driving on” with confidence, and all is right with the world again.


Bringing in the Sheaves (Ben Plunkett)

It never crossed my young mind to wonder why they were singing “Bringing in the Cheese” on “The Little House On the Prairie” nor did it phase me when we sang it at church. Never mind that the rest of the song offers the biblical metaphor of harvesting. Actually, at that point in my life, it would not have mattered what food product they were bringing in, sheaves, cheese, beef steak, pizza. it was all the same to me. While sheaves alone really does fit best with the visual and biblical context of the rest of the song, I was a kid, I didn’t give a hoot for context–so get off my back! Now I want some pizza. Bring in the cheese!


Now it’s your turn. Tell us what song lyrics you have butchered – use the comment section below. And if you enjoy this article, please consider liking and sharing it on Facebook or Twitter. We appreciate the support!

 

 

 




500 Words of Less Reviews: The Count of Monte Cristo (Book)

 

Sprawling, epic, multifaceted, ingenious. Those are just four great words that describe the 1462-page unabridged copy of The Count of Monte Cristo. This massive work was written by Alexandre Dumas. It was published in 18 installments in a popular French newspaper. Do you want to know what happens? Everything. Everything happens. The tale recounts the long story of the young, promising seaman Edmund Dantes. On the eve of his marriage to the beautiful Mercedes, three jealous rivals (technically four, but he is very drunk and doesn’t really know what’s going on) plot to get him thrown into prison for treason.

Halfway through this term, he is on the brink of madness and committing suicide when he meets the kindly, wise, industrious and extremely knowledgeable Abbe Faria. For the next few years, the abbe bequeaths to Dantes all of his substantial earthly knowledge and on his final deathbed the knowledge of a vast fortune hidden on the island of Monte Cristo. After the death of his friend, teacher, and mentor, Dantes escapes and indeed finds this mountain of treasure securely hidden on the island for many, many years.

Despite the wise words of the abbe that revenge will not bring him peace, Edmund (who now calls himself The Count of Monte Cristo) spends the next ten years concocting an incredibly complex plan of vengeance of the men involved in his wrongful imprisonment with almost 1200 pages worth of carrying out his end game.

The synopsis I have just given might be sufficient to describe the recent 2002 movie adaption of the book (it is to that popular adaptation I will be referring to when I mention the film version), but it is certainly not an adequate representation of the novel itself. The staggering complexity of the novel is something the movie did not even hint at. I love the movie, I really do, but it is barely an outline of the real deal. It is really only minorly inspired by the full story. The real story is infinitely more complex, rich, and, as mentioned, sprawling. When I say that everything is in this book I mean there is just that. And that is only a slight exaggeration. There is action, adventure, mystery, comedy, drama, romance, and at least a hundred subgenres in each of these genres. There are stories in stories and stories in stories in stories.

There are so many richly drawn characters and subplots here that for sizable chunks of the book the count isn’t even involved or is but a secondary character. One of the overarching of these characters: God. Not surprisingly, almost all talk of God is exempt from the theatrical rendition. As a result, I think the ending is very different and the conclusions of the count are very different from the cut and dried tale on film.

In conclusion, although the trip is long and sometimes tedious, it is a trip incredibly worth it. Here’s to them making the wise decision to make this into a two-week miniseries.

 

This is the cover of the edition I read.