500 Words or Less Reviews: To Kill a Mockingbird (Film)

In 1960, Harper Lee published her masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird. It has since become one of the most beloved books of millions of readers. The movie adaptation of the book bearing the same name was released just two years after its original publication. One might have thought that since the movie was released so quickly after the book’s first appearance it would be extremely good at best, but it is debatably the greatest movie adaptation of a book ever. (To be honest, there are several others that are very close contenders. Nevertheless, TKaM gets my vote.)

In the year it opened, To Kill a Mockingbird garnered eight nominations at the Oscar’s, winning three of those. But moviegoers recognized that it was more than merely one of the best movie of the year; both critics and audiences rightly saw it as one of the greatest movies of all time. It has maintained that status.

I don’t think anything made by mankind is ever perfect. Things that we do and make can always be perfected in some way. But I do admit that there are some things pretty close to perfection. This particular work of art directed by Robert Mulligan fits well in that category.

There is so much to appreciate here, from the mastery of the music, the directing, the writing, the cinematography, etc. Everything clicks, everything turns like a well-oiled movie machine, a projector, if you will. A good argument could be made that the acting is the film’s most outstanding feature. This is particularly true of its three main actors: Gregory Peck (Atticus Finch), Mary Badham (Scout Finch), and Phillip Alford (Jem Finch). This is Peck at his award-winning and iconic finest, which is actually no surprise. Peck is always so good at his profession that he could probably out-act most actors at acting while gagged, tied, and encased in a coffin—and still win an Oscar. No, the actual surprise here is the acting of Badham and Alford, neither of whom had been previously trained but who both did a superb job carrying most of the movie alone.

To Kill a Mockingbird is set in a quaint little town and looks at the world from the young vantage points of Scout and Jem. The story is a coming of age one of sorts. Along their young journey they get their first real glimpse into the adult world filled with its selfish pride, racism, death, and hatred. In the midst of this stands the pillar that is their father, Atticus, a lone bulwark of wisdom and mercy and grace and love.

Along the journey, they will adventure with their best friend Dill Harris, and encounter unforgettable characters like Boo Radley (portrayed by Robert Duvall in his debut film appearance), Tom Robinson, Calpurnia, Mayella Ewell, Bob Ewell, and many other wonderful and colorful people.

Lastly, a final shout-out to legendary composer, Elmer Bernstein, for the film’s haunting, beautiful, utterly timeless soundtrack.




Five Classic Toys of Our Youth

Ah, the days of youth, how quickly they flew away. They were the days that we spent hours of fun enjoying our toys of choice to the fullest. Here are five classic toys members of REO loved in the days gone by.


Slip’N Slide

South Carolina is insanely humid in the summers and while I was blessed to have a local public pool to go to and regular beach trips, some days you just wanted something cheap and convenient to help keep you cool (when you weren’t working out in the field, that is). If whatever this was also happened to be fun, then you had done the impossible.

Enter Wham-O’s Slip’N Slide, a marvel of an invention that millions of kids all over the US have enjoyed for decades now. The set up is so simple: water, a garden hose and a thin sheet of plastic a few yards long. Yet it felt like you had your own water park in your own backyard. Hours and hours of fun were to be had, changing up the way you slid and watching and cheering on others and they did the same. The very name conjures up images and memories that bring nothing but the joy of youthful innocence to this middle-aged heart. (Gowdy Cannon)


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I’m still not sure exactly how much of my childhood fascination with the Ninja Turtles was fueled by how much I actually liked the show. I tried to go back and watch some of the original cartoons a few years back, and it hadn’t held up in my mind exactly like I remembered it. The hype at the time, though, was real. And the toys that I played with gave an added physical dimension to the cartoon. One where I created my own stories and added to the lore that was already there.

My favorite toy of them all was the 1989 pizza thrower tank/van. You inserted little plastic pizzas into the top slot, and then a big grey button on the side would launch a pie right out the front, knocking down whatever toy was in its path. The poor foot soldier figurine that I had took regular pizzas to the face, only to be then pummeled constantly by the turtles and friends. Shredder usually put up a better fight, if I recall correctly. I would string zip lines up around my bedroom and have them slide down and crash into the enemies below.

For a kid my age, they were spot on. The toys articulated enough to show lots of expression. They came in tandem with a show that was marketed directly toward my demographic, and they were bigger and bulkier than the G.I. Joes…but in a good way. I probably earned half of my collection by not crying when I had to get a shot at the doctor. My mom always promised me a new toy if I was tough. And for a brand new ninja turtle? Not a speck of moisture would dare pool up in the corner of my eye. (D. A. Speer)


Transformers

It’s cool that the Transformer toys have come to the new generation. It really is. But the new vision has yet to become the bulwark of awesome that is the 80s transformers toys. Although I ever only owned one. It was Jazz – the greatest toy I’ve ever owned. Took me about two months to perfect the transforming process though.

I largely enjoyed every other Transformer toy through my friends. At my elementary school, Transformer toys were huge. Classmates were constantly bringing their newest robots in disguise to school to show the masses. If I was lucky one friend, in particular, would invite me over for a slumber party where we could play with his armies of Autobots and Decepticons all night long. My favorites of my classmate’s toys included Optimus Prime, Megatron, Sound Wave, and all of the Dinobots.

It may be me just glorifying them in my mind, but the T-toys of that era seemed so much cooler, more durable, and way more complex than the cheap stuff you see at the store now.

I also loved the cartoon, but somehow in my mind, I was able to keep the two separate. That is, I would have liked both just as much if the other never existed. But if I was forced to choose one, it would have been the toys. Truly, my friends, they were worth more than all the gold in Erebor. (Ben Plunkett)


LEGO

I grew up in Panama. The country. Not the city in Florida. Naturally, things were different for me as a child than for someone who grew up in the United States. With that said, I had access to pretty much all the popular toys. My brothers and I played with G.I. Joe, Transformers, He-Man, and anything else we could get our hands on. And we got our hands on a lot of toys. I probably owned as many as 70 different G.I. Joe action figures at one time.

When I was in the third grade, we spent half the year near Asheville, North Carolina and the other half in St. Louis, Missouri for what was called furlough at that time. (The name has been changed to “stateside assignment” for missionaries because “furlough” sounds like a vacation.) While in St. Louis, I attended a Christian school. My classroom had the largest collection of LEGO bricks I have ever seen in one place – outside of a store. Inspired by years of watching cartoons like Voltron – where five robot lions join together to form the giant robot Voltron – I decided to create my own giant robot made out of smaller robots all constructed using LEGO bricks. I spent hours working on it – every recess, every break. Each robot had the same design, though some were bigger than others depending on what part of the body of the giant robot they were to become. It was glorious.

I never completed the giant LEGO robot. I arrived at school one day, with just a few more parts to finish, only to discover that all of my robots had been dismantled and placed back in the bin used to store the bricks. To this day, I have no idea who decided to destroy my work. Why had they waited until I was this close to finishing? Why did they hate all the good things? It left my third-grade spirit broken and miserable. It was okay though as I learned an important lesson that day: Bad things happen and when they do, the best way to deal with the sense of loss and disappointment is to go obliterate all competition on the dodgeball court. A nice dodgeball to your opponent’s face is a healing balm. And trust me when I say this, I healed so much that day in recess playing dodgeball. So much. (Phill Lytle)


BRIO Railway

From 1985-87 my family and I lived in the St. Louis, MO area (across the Mississippi River on the Illinois side), and one of our favorite things to do was visit Union Station. My favorite part of Union Station (besides eating chili dogs at the now non-existent O. T. Hodge Chile Parlor) was visiting the toy train store. I enjoyed watching the model trains running all around the store; but, most of all, I loved playing with the BRIO wooden train sets. My parents could’ve dropped me off there and left me all day, and I would never have noticed they were gone. I’m pretty sure they never actually did that…

When I was a kid, those wooden train sets were exotic; and, as far as I knew at least, only BRIO made them. Now, of course, they are very commonplace and affordable. Many children own their own train tables and multiple sets of tracks and trains. I, however, had only the trains at the train store in Union Station, which I had to share with strangers and only got to visit once a month or so. Until…

It was either Christmas of ’86 or my birthday in early ’87, I don’t remember which, I was absolutely shocked to receive not one, but two BRIO train sets of my own. I’m not sure how my parents were able to do it, but it was probably my favorite present of all time. One set was a figure eight track with a small bridge and a small station with little wooden passengers waiting on the train. The other set was a larger bridge.

I have played with those trains for countless hours, possibly more than I’ve played with Legos, possibly more than I’ve played video games. I’ve cared for those train sets with much love. Even the original packaging lasted until just a few short years ago. Yes, I still have them, 31 years later. I’ve passed them on to my own children, adding on some cheap generic trains and tracks from Ikea and many, many trains from the Thomas the Tank Engine stories. All of the original pieces from my childhood are still there, surviving the many purges of moving. And, now, I think I must dust off the conductor’s hat and go play… (Nathan Patton)


In the comment section below, tell us about your favorite childhood toys. And if you enjoyed reminiscing with us, feel free to share this article with your friends.

 

 




Five More Ways to Pretend Your Smart

Long ago I wrote about five incredibly effective ways to make you look smart. However, my teachings are not yet complete, my young Padawans. Here are five more timeless principles of the Smarti Knighthood. Learn them well:


1. Practice “Smart” hand language.
There are many multiplied forms of this. The tip to tip fingers, the beard stroking, the hair twisting, leaning on the fist, the list is long and possibilities multitudinous. All are important, and all can be smartized if effectively used. While all are imperative and must be practiced faithfully, my personal favorite may be the tip-to-tip. One performs this smart hand motion by placing his or her two hands together, fingers touching tip to tip. It is no coincidence that all of history’s world great conquerors were enabled to do so in large part because they mastered the tip-to-tip.

2. Stare Pensively and Ever So Silently into the Distance.
One of the most imperative things you should know about pretending to be smart is that being mostly silent and very brooding is key. This must necessarily be paired with a very pensive gaze into the distance. People will be awed—awed!—because they will assume you are thinking about earth-shatteringly profound idea or revolutionary concept when in reality you are just deciding between Hardee’s and Wendy’s.

3. Make a Habit of Almost Always Talking About Grammar on Social Media.
One of the chief things I absolutely love about social media is that people will let you know when you have made some sort of grammatical blunder. That, my friends, is an excellent way to bolster your smart profile in the eyes of the world. To cap it off perfectly it helps to go ahead and call them a “bloviating ignoramus” and/or an “odious pachyderm.” Indeed, make a practice of constantly talking commas and there, their, and they’re. All will love you and despair.

4. In All Conversations Consistently Remind Everyone with An Ear to Hear that You Possess Encyclopedic Knowledge of all Things from the Foundations of the World to the Present.
This is another of life’s great joys to be found in abundant use on both Twitter and Facebook. When these very gifted and learned people speak their vast knowledge, people listen. They soak it up. In reality, this is a very simple thing to do. Very is actually very little knowledge out there so just pretend like you know all the answers to everything.

This works for real-world conversations as well. In this case, you should be sure to do so only if you’re in at least decent shape. Such is the case since after you regurgitate a “fact” you should run away and hide as quickly as possible while they check your “facts” on Wikipedia.

5. Wear a Cape.
In my last article on pretending to be smart, I mentioned that a wizard’s staff is an excellent clothing item to complement your pretended smartness. While that is an ancient and very respected smart accessory, it is certainly not the only helpful one. There is also the cape. Edna Mode will not tell you that yet another reason that she has the “No Capes!” rule is that she has found that the cape makes her superhero clients look smarter than herself. Imagine Superman or Dr. Strange or Batman without capes. Superdorks, that’s what you would get. Nothing but superdorks.

To utilize a cape to maximum efficiency walk into the wind so that it furls dramatically behind you as you walk. If possible, walk in slow motion.




Five Things Our Mothers Taught Us

Mothers. None of us would be here if they weren’t around. Am I right or am I right? But our moms are so much more than just the person who brought us into the world. I don’t know about you, but there is a universe of knowledge I gleaned from my mom. For this Mother’s Day, the REO team wanted to honor our moms by relating five of the important lessons we learned from them.


Vickie Speer

When I was around 6 years old or so, I was at the supermarket with Mom, and we had finally made it to the checkout line. I asked her if I could get some Starburst candy, and she flat out said “No”…but I just couldn’t take that for an answer. When she wasn’t looking, I wedged the Starburst in between a few other items on the conveyor belt and hoped she wouldn’t notice.

My devious plans were foiled, but not before the cashier had already scanned the candy into the register. My mom held her up from her scanning, and the cashier asked if she should take it off and shelve it. For some reason, mom left it on the bill and bought it. And then, she didn’t let me have the candy. Oh man, it was so much worse knowing for weeks that the candy was in our possession, sitting alone up in the cupboard. The poor, lonely candy. The poor, deprived child.

I probably learned my lesson: No means no. At the very least, I haven’t forgotten it. Still, once enough time had passed, I snatched the candy out of the cupboard and asked Mom if I could have some, and she just hurriedly unwrapped it and let me eat it. I think she forgot about its significance. I ate it with the weight of shame upon me. How could something so sweet be simultaneously so bittersweet? Cast your pejorative gaze upon my childhood shenanigans and learn, O reader. A Starburst eaten with a clear conscience is worth 500 eaten in shame. (D.A. Speer)


Betty Lou Plunkett

When we were kids Mom told us that “Here at The Rock, we have two basic rules. The first rule is: obey all rules. Secondly: Do not write on the walls, as it takes a lot of work to erase writing off of the walls.” Just kidding. That’s Barney Fife. Though she kept decided discipline and order, Mom was definitely not a Barney Mom, constantly spouting off rules, regulations, and long rants of “wisdom.” Mom was not one to dole out a lot of such talk and sage quotable diatribes. Her wisdom was largely displayed through how she lived. Most of what I learned from her I learned by watching her live life and interact with those around her. And I learned so much. One of the ways she most impacted me was via her enduring innate joyfulness and contentment in all situations no matter how dark. Mom had been through a lot of heavy moments in her life: Months in the hospital as a child after accidentally drinking a glass of lye soap; months worth of hours spent in the hospital with me for various reasons; raising four kids; years of serving as a home missionary, foreign mission, and teacher; and finally lymphatic cancer. Yet, for as long as I knew her (since 1973) she always maintained her contented spirit. This is not to say she never got sad or anything like that. Yet even in sadness, there was always that feeling of joy radiating from her. No matter how dark situations got, she had a way of making it feel like matters weren’t that bad. This was even true with her final battle with cancer. Like Paul the Apostle, she had learned the secret of being content even in the darkest moment. That secret was their hope in Jesus. Her contentment and joy came to a head just minutes before she died. During those moments she expressed an almost rapturous joy in Jesus, and we who were present could almost see heaven itself. (Ben Plunkett)


Yvonne Cannon

I remember once my senior year in high school my best friends Wade and John came over one afternoon on a school day – I don’t recall why – but they ended up staying for dinner even though we hadn’t planned for them to do so. My mother cooked extra without even a second thought. Then, again without really planning it, they slept over. On a school night.

The reasons these things happened is because my mother created a home environment where people felt welcomed to treat it like it was theirs. My living room was often packed with our friends on weekend nights when we were teenagers. Some of our friends didn’t even knock when they came over. People of other races and ethnicities were welcomed into our home. My dad’s hunting buddies, Super Bowl parties, Seinfeld finale parties, Bible College visitors, church prayer times…our house was (and still is) constantly being used to host people. Even though our house was well kept, even when my mother worked full time, we worried far less about stains on the carpet and spills in the kitchen than we did about making sure everyone in Turbeville, SC knew there was a place where all were welcome. My dad is a great man, but my mother was the main reason this was so.

So of the million things I have learned from her, most of them from observation and not words, hospitality rises to the top. It takes humility and sacrifice to open up your home to so many people. It’s supremely inconvenient. I wish I could say I appreciated it back then, but I do now. It’s one of the most Jesus-like things about my mother’s life. And one I hope to emulate here in Chicago. (Gowdy Cannon)


Judy Lytle

There is nothing more empowering than hearing the words “you are good at…” It may even be more important for a parent to affirm the things their children do well than to correct their short-comings. As a teen, I more or less floated through life. I am not particularly athletic, musical, or creative. I was fairly shy and just starting to take an interest in academics. Some people can do well just about anything they attempt. Well, I had (have) very few skills. I just was. When I was in high school, my mother told me that I would make a good history teacher or perhaps a good chef. Studying history and cooking were two things I did well and loved doing. That conversation with my mother established the trajectory of my life. This morning I got up early to pray with 30 of my students before taking their AP United States History exam. I also baked them homemade cinnamon rolls. It has been 20 years since my mother said, “You are good at…” but I am living out the empowerment from that conversation nearly every day. (David Lytle)

 

My mom is the hardest worker I know. If there is a job to do, she does it. If there is a meal to make, a person to visit, a floor to tile, a room to paint, a class to teach… You get the point. Unfortunately, I did not inherit that impressive work ethic from my mother. In my defense, no one in the history of the world has a work ethic like my mother, but it would have been nice to get even 50% of the inner drive she possesses. Also in my defense, I do work very hard if it is for something I love. But my mom works hard period. Full stop. Love or no love, she jumps into every task as if it is the most important thing in the world. And while I don’t have that same character trait, I do have the best example anyone could ask for to push me, nudge me, and even unintentionally shame me a little into working harder on things that I don’t love that much. (Phill Lytle)




Ranting Ever On: The Five Edition

There are days when you just need to rant and rave about stuff. Moments when you need to get it off your chest. You know the drill. If there is something that is bothering you or getting under your skin, this is a safe space to vent. But keep a few things in mind. First, do your best to keep the object of your rant as illogical and pointless as possible. Nobody has time for a rant about something serious and important. Second, try to keep it short and sweet. Long rants wear out their welcome very quickly. Finally, be honest and transparent. Nothing is worse than a ranter ranting about something that doesn’t really bother them that much. It’s plain to everyone around that it is an empty rant, devoid of purpose and passion. Mean it or keep it to yourself.

In our ongoing effort to be helpful and generous, we here at REO have decided to give you, dear reader, a short collection of rants to help guide you in your future ranting. A primer, if you will. Here are five mini-rants about five different things that are deserving of the best we have to offer. We hope you will enjoy this Ranting Ever On, Friday Five style. And please, feel free to add your own rant in the comment section below.


How Pluto has been Dismissed As Not an Actual Planet

Back in grade school, we learned the acronym My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas to remember the planets. The truly awesome thing about this acronym is that we were getting nine pizzas. Nine! But now…now our innocence is lost. No more carefree hours of staring at that pizza planet in the sky (I don’t think we can actually see it, but we can imagine its there). Now It’s just My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine…  And that’s it. Nope, nothing, nada. But there is hope. In recent years there has been a movement afoot to include all of the dwarf planets with the regular planets. If this dream transpires it will be Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Cerus, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris. I have seen a number of suggested acronyms if this does, in fact, become reality. Unfortunately, none of the suggestions I read have included pizza, which makes me think many people are missing the important point here. Let me suggest My Very Educated Mother Christine Just Served Us Nine Pizzas Having Mucho Everything. So I say its high time we take back our childhood. Let’s take matters into our hands and put that pizza back in the acronym as it so justly deserves. (Ben Plunkett)


Wendy’s “Fresh-Never-Frozen Beef”

Why does Wendy’s now advertise that their beef is fresh and NEVER FROZEN? It is in every commercial they do now. Freezing beef is now up there with being a Nazi as one of the worst sins you can commit in 21st century America. People freeze meat all the time. They buy giant deep freezers just so they can buy a lot of meat and freeze it.

Now Wendy’s has decided that it is horrible to freeze beef. WHAT IS NEXT, WHERE WILL THIS END!?!?!?! (Mike Lytle)


Why Does Carey Elwes Have to Be So Much Cooler Than Me?

Yeah, Carey, I get it. You got to be Westley in The Princess Bride, getting to kiss Robin Wright, hang out with Andre the Giant, have the greatest sword fight of modern times and make women all over the world fawn. And you got a turn as the Dread Pirate Roberts, as if being a pirate isn’t a lifelong fantasy of mine. Yeah, you got to actually be on the set with, run lines with, and act in the same scenes with George Costanza and other characters from Seinfeld once. No big deal. Not like I wouldn’t light myself on fire to have had that opportunity. You got to match wits with Shawn and Gus as the mesmerizing, out-of-the-park home run recurring villain Despereaux in Psych. You even got to prove that when your role is a lame character, like Jerry on Liar, Liar, that you still make it totally unforgettable and quotable! You have the perfect looks, the sublime accent and the filmography I would die for.

And yet all of that apparently isn’t enough, as you have now signed on for Season 3 of Stranger Things. Why do you do this to me, Carey Elwes? Why do you take my perfectly content life and make me yearn for more? (Gowdy Cannon)


Clipping My Fingernails

I hate clipping my nails. It’s boring. it’s tedious, and it seems like I am having to do it more often these days. My nails just won’t stop growing! Why do they have to grow so fast? I’ll admit, I would hate NOT having nails because then my fingers would look like little fleshy protrusions growing out of my hands, but all this nail clipping is just a complete headache. Sadly, there is no good answer here. No nails and I’m a mutant. Long nails and I’m a creep. So I have to clip them. Fine nails! I’ll clip you on a regular basis but don’t expect me to be happy about it! (Phill Lytle)


Internet Lists

Do you know what we need a lot fewer of on the internet? Lists. Some lists are cool, such as this fine websites weekly list of musings from various contributors. I have benefited greatly from sitting down in the morning and creating a daily to-do list But I think the internet has really gotten out of hand and we need to stop. Every time I turn around someone is publishing some inane list of something and they are usually way more than just a few items. “Twenty-five reasons why the number two is cooler than the number eight” or “99 reasons that 1999 was the best year ever!” or “22 reasons that Barb from Stranger Things is the greatest character in the history of fiction”. I haven’t always felt this way. I remember when they celebrated 100 years of film with the top 100 movies of all time. I enjoyed watching that because it was compiled from years of cinema and it made me want to watch some movies that I had never before thought of watching. Now, however, we are just using lists willy-nilly as if they are some magic device that makes our opinion more valid. Why do we like making lists and looking at the lists of others? Is it because we like ranking stuff and seeing if others agree with us even if the things we are ranking aren’t that important and/or really don’t require any sort of ranking? Are we not content to have a group of stuff that we like that isn’t broken down somehow? Do we have to catalog every single aspect of our life and share it with other people and then find ourselves arguing over the ways their list is different than ours? Maybe it annoys me so much because I’ve caught myself ten points deep into a 35 point list that I saw on the internet and realized that my life will not be improved by knowing all of the times that Hurley from Lost proved himself to be the smartest person on the island. Lists are not bad. Lists are fine if used in moderation. But can we please show a little restraint on our usage of lists.

I hope you will revisit the site next week when I publish my list of 19 reasons why I believe that The Walking Dead is all happening inside Jack from Lost’s head. (Jonathan Postlewaite)




Edna Mode’s Five More Reasons Why No Capes!

This summer movie audiences will be treated to the long-awaited sequel to the 2004 Pixar masterpiece, The Incredibles. One of the many amazing highlights of the first of these films is the great Edna Mode, fashion designer extraordinaire who is the former uniform designer for the now defunct superhero program. Edna has seen it all and learned it all concerning superhero uniform lore. And one cardinal rule she lives by: NO CAPES! And why is she so adamant about this? Mr. Incredible really wants a cape for his new costume, but for Edna that is a no can do, and she jots out five good examples for why not: 1.) Thunderhead’s cape snagged on a launched missile.; 2.) Stratogale’s cape caught in a jet turbine.; 3.) Metroman’s cape was caught one express elevator.; 4.) Dynaguy’s cape was snagged on takeoff.; 5.) Splashdown’s cape caused him to be sucked down into a vortex. However, these were not Edna’s only reasons for the no cape rule. They were merely the only ones that came to mind to prove her point in that moment. There are more that are probably a little more bizarre and require more explanation, which is likely why she wisely chose not to use them. Behold five more of Edna’s reasons:


1. Dazzler was humiliated to superpowerlessness after being mercilessly laughed at and mocked for his flowery, fancy boy cape. Dazzler was born gifted with the power to shoot glitter and liquidified gold from his fingertips at will. To go with his sparkly theme, Dazzler had Edna create the most dazzling, breathtaking superhero suit of all time complete with a flowing, multicolored cape filled with lots of tassels, beads, and floral designs. One fateful day he encountered the evil Green Boys who were called that because they were green and boys. My friends, on that day they defeated Dazzler, not with knife or gun or any sort of supernatural weapon, but with killing words. It was his cape that did him in. The Green Boys mercilessly, callously mocked his cape until no shred of his former superhuman self remained. He was reduced to normalcy. He and his family moved to Detroit where he took on the miserable life of the miserable apprentice of a miserable party clown for the rest of his days.


2. Invector was distracted because he couldn’t find his invisible cape. Most of his super colleagues mistakenly assumed that he was among the new breed of modern capeless superheroes. This was not the case. He had had Edna fashion him an ordinary invisible cape for the sole purpose of thinking, “hey, I’m awesome because I have an invisible cape. Plus, Wonder Woman will dig me with her invisible jet.” But alas the invisible cape was his undoing. In the midst of a battle he lost his cape and not finding the invisible article, his arch nemesis, Arabian Knight, was able to easily able to slay him with his gleaming laser scimitar.


3. Ghorozoid was tangled in his Guinness Book of World Records long cape. He had convinced Edna to create for him the longest cape in superhero history. This thing was an incredible 20 feet long. This meant that while on the job he had to keep running really, really fast so it wouldn’t drag. But although it was so impractical and high maintenance, he still wanted to have it for his uniform. It was his precious. One day he fell into the pursuit of the nefarious Maze Master who led him on a baffling chase here, there, up, down, all the directions you can think of, it was there. Pretty soon Ghorozoid was wrapped up in his cape like a moth in a cacoon. Took him a week to get out. Invector kindly spoon fed his colleague during this time. No, Ghorozoid didn’t die, but he left the profession in abject humiliation.

I don’t know why he was called Ghorozoid. Quit asking so many questions.


4. The Rolling Stone fell off a cliff after his dangling cape’s technology malfunctioned and took rock form. A fateful nuclear accident in his laboratory gifted Dr. Edwin Magma with the ability to transform himself into a Rock-and-Roller made entirely of rock. From that day forward he was gifted with stone transformability, song, dance, and a golden electric guitar that shot lightning bolts. His signature move in the heat of battle was following a lightning bolt kill with a totally legendary guitar solo. To match his rock and rocking power, Edna fashioned a suit girded with a cape chock full of the latest igneous rock formation technology. Thus, when Stone took rocker rock form, so did his cape. To take this form he had but to hold aloft his golden guitar and summon the power of the Castle of the Rolling Stones. But very sadly for Rolling Stone, the cape short-circuited at a most inopportune moment. As he gazed for his foe from a high cliff, his caped dangled over the edge malfunction, and you know… To this day, Edna contends that it was not her suit that malfunctioned but user error by the Rolling Stone who was too busy shredding a totally rad guitar solo atop the high precipice to notice that he had inadvertently activated his cape’s rock powers.


5. OnomonoTia was blown away when the wind caught her billowing cape. It was as a very young girl that Tia Watson first felt a desire to rid the world of evil and darkness by filling this void with words that sound like what they mean. We’re talking things like snap, crackle, pop, whiz, bang, pow, etc. This desire grew and grew. She attended college, graduating with a degree in English. It was during this years that she became BFFs with a fellow English student who would one day become her arch nemesis, Princess Punctuatress. After graduation, the two assumed their secret identities and parted ways. They were only to meet again three years later on the shores of the Pacific for a last stand. Their battle was fierce that day my friends. There were “pows!” and “zaps! And “Whams!” aplenty. Commas and periods and semi-colons were flying everywhere. Suddenly a strong wind blew in from the east, collecting in OnomonoTia’s parachute-like cape and whisking her away, “Whooosh!” was her parting word of wisdom to the civilized world. “Exclamatioooon!” Cried Princess Punctuatress in victory and defiance mixed with some bit of sadness. Watson was soon lost to view, never to be seen again. Legend says she happily lived out her days on a mysterious island far, far away where the bees buzz, the duck’s cluck, the leaves rustle, and everything else sounds like what they mean. And she also married an islander named Chief Onomono.


So if you intend to live a life of daring do, you are best to heed the very learned and experienced advice of Edna: NO CAPES!

 




REO Pays Tribute: F. Leroy Forlines

I have lost count of the great Free Will Baptist leaders and individuals I have heard say Leroy Forlines had a profound impact on their Christian life. Teacher, writer, speaker, thinker, and short-term missionary, all of these were chapters in one of the greatest books in Free Will Baptist history. God continues to use his spiritual legacy in all of these roles, educating and inspiring many generations of Christians. His passage through the brief span of time given to all men and women has left a lasting and extremely significant footprint for many generations of disciples who have followed and are following his lead.

Forlines had felt a call to the ministry as a teenager. He was born in 1926 in Greenville, North Carolina, the eldest son of John and Leta Forlines. Early in his life, he worked as a mechanic at Elbert Smith’s Esso Station. In October 1944 at the age of 17, he converted to Christianity. Two years later he decided God was calling him to preach. So, in 1948 he moved to Nashville to begin his education for the ministry at Free Will Baptist Bible College. During his time as a student, he preached his very first sermon on a downtown Nashville street corner. It was also during his early years that he was deeply impacted by L.C. Johnson’s class on Arminian Theology. Throughout these college years, he had a strong role in student body leadership, serving as the president of his 1952 graduating class.

After graduation, he immediately entered the ministry, serving as pastor of First Free Will Baptist Church in Newport News, Virginia from June 1952 to August 1953. He resigned this role and returned to Free Will Baptist Bible College to join the teaching faculty, a role which he would continue to hold full-time for almost 40 years. In 1957 he met and fell in love with Carolyn Le Fay Gilbert. They married and had two sons, Jon and James.

During those early years in the professorship, he was continuing his own education. In 1959 he attained his M.A. from the Winona Lake School of Theology. In 1962 he earned his B.D. from the Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 1970 he earned a Th.M from the Chicago Graduate School of Theology.

In 1963, he began working with the Commission for Theological Integrity and was made its chairman. He would remain highly involved in its leadership for the next 50 years. He officially and publicly stepped down as its chairman at the 2012 National Convention.

Although Forlines retired from a full-time position from FWBBC in 1992, he has remained involved in its work, being granted the honorary title, Professor Emeritus. In this capacity, he continued to teach at the college until five years ago. But he kept fairly regular hours in his Welch office until the college campus moved to Gallatin. He has also taught overseas throughout his retirement. Beginning in 1996, with the assistance of Free Will Baptist International Missions he made numerous trips to lecture in Ukraine and Russia to Baptist pastors.

Forlines’s ministry has spanned six decades. He has written multitudes of great Christian articles and books during his long ministry. Among his best and most influential may be Biblical Ethics, Biblical Systematics, Morals and Orthodoxy, The Doctrine of Perseverance, The Romans Commentary, Classical Arminianism, and The Quest for Truth. His entire career has been characterized by writing book after book. He just finished another one for which he is now seeking publication. For his hours of writing and study, he uses an office which Sylvan Park Free Will Baptist Church graciously provided after the school’s relocation. Welch has an office waiting for him in its Gallatin facilities into which he will soon relocate once again.

Today, Leroy Forlines is a healthy 91-year-old, having celebrated his most recent birthday in November. He and Fay continue to reside in the house they have lived in for almost 55 years.




The Other Stories of J.R.R. Tolkien

Considered by many as one of the greatest authors of the 20th century, J.R.R. Tolkien is best known for his two masterpieces of the fantasy genre: The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Yet the good professor wrote so much more than just those two great books. With the recent announcement of a previously unpublished story by Tolkien that is to be released this August (The Fall of Gondolin), we felt this was a good time to shine the light on some of his lesser-known works. Ben Plunkett, Nathan Patton, and Phill Lytle discuss some of their favorite “other” stories by J.R.R. Tolkien. After you read their recommendations, stick around and tell us about the other Tolkien stories that you love in the comment section below.


The Silmarillion – Benjamin Plunkett

 

To make a huge understatement, J.R.R. Tolkien was a slow and very meticulous writer. It took him 14 years to write The Lord of the Rings. That right there is a very long time for an already published author to write a novel for an expectant editor. But that has got nothing on his writing of the text of what would become The Silmarillion. He began working on it in 1917 during World War I and kept on working on it until his death in 1973. His son, Christopher, took up the task of compiling the many texts that would ended up becoming what we now have. It was as a soldier in the trenches that Tolkien started composing the vast and rich mythology of the Middle Earth universe. The Silmarillion begins at the literal creation of Middle Earth. Much of the rest of it discusses the history of the elves, with the other races playing very key roles throughout time.

As you probably know, elves are immortal so although the book spans many thousands of years, there are elves most readers will be familiar with who were living at the time of LOTR, which chronicles a story that comes at the tail end of The Silmarillion.

Like the LOTR story, many of the stories herein are expounded upon more fully elsewhere. But don’t think of The Silmarillion as just a book of summaries. It is a masterpiece. It is probably my second favorite Tolkien book after LOTR. There is so much more of rich complexity than I have mentioned here. There is so much more depth. There is the Ainur, Beleriand, Glaurand, Hurin, Morgoth, the rings of power, Gondolin—and these are only the tip of the iceberg. But if you are not familiar at all with The Silmarillion, be warned: It does not read like a regular novel. It is first and foremost a history of Middle Earth which gives Tolkien’s vast mythological creation an incredible richness.


Mr. Bliss, Roverandom, and Letters From Father Christmas – Nathan Patton

 

Many of Tolkien’s books began as stories that he told to his own children, inspired by events in the lives of their family.

Mr. Bliss

In 1932, Tolkien went out and bought himself a motorcar and, evidently, had a series of misadventures with it that inspired this tale.

This is a silly story about a man named Mr. Bliss who buys a motorcar on a whim and experiences rather ridiculous events as a result. It is a delightful and charming read. We also see our first glimpse of Sergeant Boffin and Gaffer Gamgee, whose names, at least, we will see again in Lord of the Rings.

Sadly, this book is out of print. Even the 2007 25th anniversary edition is no longer available. (However, the audiobook version, read by the excellent Sir Derek Jacobi, is quite affordable on audible.) If you can manage to find a copy, though, you really should read the hardback edition, as it contains copies of the entire original manuscript including many original illustrations by Tolkien himself.

Tolkien had originally attempted to have Mr. Bliss published as a picture book, but his publishers deemed it too expensive at the time.

Roverandom

In 1925, the Tolkien family took a holiday to the Yorkshire coast where a five-year-old Michael Tolkien lost his favorite toy: a miniature lead toy dog.

Papa Tolkien, in order to console his heartbroken son, told him the tale of what happened to that toy dog afterward. That story became Roverandom.

It turns out that the toy used to be a real dog named Rover, who got on the bad side of a grumpy wizard and found himself turned into a toy as a punishment. That toy spent some time with a nice young boy who unfortunately misplaced him on the beach. The toy dog then meets a “sand-sorcerer” who sends him on a series of adventures including a trip to the moon and a journey under the sea.

Unlike Mr. Bliss, Roverandom is still in print and widely available.

Letters From Father Christmas

Starting in 1920, when John Tolkien, the eldest child, was three, every Christmas the Tolkien children received a letter from Father Christmas detailing the happenings at the North Pole that year. His primary companion is the North Polar Bear who is continually getting into mischief. Later letters include Snow-elves, Red Gnomes, Snow-men, Cave-bears, and the North Polar Bear’s nephews. There’s even an attack by Goblins attempting to raid Father Christmas’ cellars.

This book contains the letters from 1925 through 1938 as well as the final letter and a short note from the North Polar Bear written in an invented alphabet based on Goblin drawings. Each letter is accompanied by illustrations by Tolkien himself.

We, as a family, traditionally read the letters, one per day, in the days leading up to Christmas.

Like Mr. Bliss, the hardcover version is the way to go with Letters From Father Christmas as it includes copies of the original letters and illustrations; however, it is also, like Mr. Bliss, seemingly out of print.


The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien – Phill Lytle


Professor Tolkien is my favorite author of all time, and much of that is due to his two most popular works The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. But my love for his writing goes well beyond those two. Tolkien was a prodigious letter writer, a skill-set that I fear is quickly becoming extinct. He wrote letters to friends, to family members, to fans, and to publishers. This book – The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien – selects some of the best correspondence to and from the great author. His wit is on full display throughout the book. His passion for language, faith, and family is evidenced as well. Tolkien was a man of strong beliefs and not so insignificant stubbornness. His back-and-forths with his publishers are a highlight of the book. Perhaps the best moments though, are when he engages with fans or his family and you can see the teacher, the father, and the deeply committed believer shining through. This book does a fabulous job of adding insight and clarity to his other books once you see the man behind the words.

 




The Progression

The Progression

 

I.

I took my icy water in white cups
when we sipped the evening’s streams
beside the round lava rocks
freezing our forest with dreams.

 

II.

I take tiny cups
with icy water from the evening’s wells
when we dip them with deep
dips in dreaming wells

beside my tick tocking clock
on my mantle of bells.

 

III.

I dip them pell-mell,
the white cups
in the dipping well
of my deep dipping dreams

and
I think thoughts,
and thoughts and droughts,
beside the lithe, long legs of the thinking tree

when I dip my pen
in deep letters
that aren’t the words I mean to say.

 

IV.

And at last we
forgive our human language,
you and me,

in deep wells beside the round, rocking tree

where I
dreamt of the deep deeps

and the deep,
rocking hum of the earth
dreamt and dreams.

 

V.

And there were round founts
where I froze my deeps with dreams
around round river mounts
in the light of day,

and there were uncovered founts
by the long legs of the tree

when we dipped our pens
in deep letters
that weren’t the words we meant to say,
when nostalgia transpired,

and there was heaven
gesturing toward
its gates all along;

that is all
we really needed after all,
that is all.

 

 




Ranting Ever On: Mondays

Let’s take a brief look at six days of the week: There’s Tuesday, not a bad sort, really, but rather non-descript; Wednesday, better than Tuesday because it marks the halfway point of the week, and there is Awana to look forward to; Thursday, which is a bit more interesting and funny than Tuesday especially if there’s a good comedy on that evening (an event which is increasingly rare); Friday, the coolest, most awesome of all the weekdays and mark of the march into the lazy, hazy weekend (theoretically); Saturday, probably the most enjoyable day of the entire week of all civilized society; Sunday, the glorious day of fellowship with God and His disciples here on earth. Your opinion of these will change from person to person based on your lifestyle and habits, but most will be united on the subject of my loathing, the epicenter of my rant: Mondays.

I doubt that very many people out there are thinking, “My goodness, he hates Mondays? How very unusual” or “I can’t believe he would stoop to such a low view of such a kindly, fun-loving day.” No, I doubt that. We all know that Monday is horrible (for most of us). It’s famous for that status. Even Garfield the iconic cat hates Mondays. Garfield who just sleeps, eats, and watches TV all day every day. It’s the February of the week that we experience at least four times a month, sometimes more.

Monday is so horrible because…well, it just is. I don’t know why, exactly. Just a freak of nature, I guess. That and you’re just coming off the sugar rush level highs of the weekend. Also, you’re beginning the mundaneness and drudgery of the work week all over again. So I guess those are two pretty good reasons. I guess. All I know for sure is that it is the day of the devil. Let us unite in an international movement to ban all Mondays. We’ll have the famous Mamas & Papas song, “Monday, Monday” as our theme song. The song actually starts out rather pro-Mondays (“Monday, Monday, so good to me; Monday morning, it was all I hoped it would be”) so one might jump to the conclusion that it is full of lies and that the truth is not in. But then it launches into great truths like how we can’t trust Monday and that it just turns out that way, that every other day is fine and dandy except for Monday’s which are always tear-inducing. Let us stand together and rage against the day, my brethren, let us sing our songs of revolution. Yet, sadly, my friends, I greatly fear that Monday, Monday, is here to stay. Oh Monday, Monday, how we despiseth thee. OH MONDAY, MONDAY!!!