“Be Still, My Soul”

Most of my generation, especially those of us raised in church, will always love hymns. They will forever have a special, unique place in our heart. Many of us also love other genres of music, like Christian Contemporary, Southern Gospel, Country Gospel, or others forms of Christian music, but traditional hymns will always have a unique spot in our life. Recently my friend Gowdy Cannon had a March Madness hymn sing-off in which people could vote for their favorite hymn, and his carefully-chosen list which matched up some of the best-loved songs of the ages was featured. All were winners; excellent choices that have blessed the saints for decades or even centuries, and all deserved to be on that list.

I’d like to put another song on my list of great hymns. I’m not saying this particular song is the greatest ever. Much of that is certainly subjective, and I prefer to say that there are many wonderful songs that have ministered to the body of Christ, and have been the body’s vehicle to give praise and worship to the Lord and that there is probably no way to pick the “best-ever.”

I would, however, like to add “Be Still, My Soul” to the list of all-time greats. The music is stellar; written by Jean Sibelius of Finland. It’s actually a classical piece “Finlandia,” which is the national anthem of Finland, and tells the story of that European nation. A portion of the music was then utilized to create the hymn. The lyrics were written much earlier by Kathrina von Schlegel, and this is the only hymn she was ever known to have written.

It was translated into English by Jane Laurie Borthwick in 1855 into the version we commonly sing today. The music has been used for other compositions, such as in Elisabeth Elliot’s book Through Gates of Splendor about the five martyred missionaries in Ecuador “We rest on Thee, our Shield and Great Defender,” and more recently by Gloria Gaither in “I Then Shall Live.” The music, of an unsurpassed beauty, lends itself for many poetic compositions.


My favorite arrangement of “Be Still, My Soul” is that of the group 2nd Chapter of Acts. Converted to Christ during the Jesus Movement, they sang some beautiful compositions, such as “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus,” “The Easter Song (Hear the Bells Ringing”; a song they wrote), and others. I have found their version of “Be Still, My Soul” to be one of my all-time favorite songs.

Unlike some hymns, which are sung in worship to the Lord (think of “How Great Thou Art”), or as testimony songs (“Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine”) “Be Still My Soul” is sung to one’s self as an exhortation, an encouragement, and a reminder of God’s sovereignty and steadfast faithfulness.

Jane Laurie Borthwick’s translation is powerful. I recommend you find yourself a good arrangement of the song; I’d recommend 2nd Chapter of Acts’ version as I mentioned earlier, and listen to this beautiful hymn. Even more, find a copy of the lyrics and meditate on them.

1. Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.

4. Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.


Hymns are nutritious to the soul when we sing them and meditate on their message. The stability, the strength of the believer is found in our steadfast and sovereign God. Our soul can find its rest and peace only in Him. What a blessing to experience this, even in the midst of storms and severe trials! The song “Be Still, My Soul”, both in biblically-based lyric and unsurpassed classical music, brings countless Christians assurance and hope. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.




Five of Our Favorite Easter Themed Songs

It has long been our contention that Easter does not get the kind of attention it deserves. At least, when compared to another religious holiday like Christmas. Specifically, Easter-themed music feels like an afterthought a lot of the time. We think that is sad and unfortunate. Easter is the moment our faith became a reality – the specific moment in time when God defeated sin and death and made our redemption possible. It is a time of reverent contemplation and passionate celebration. So, as is our way, we have to chosen honor this season by highlighting five of our favorite Easter-themed songs. We hope you enjoy the list we put together.

♦ “I Will Rise” by Chris Tomlin

Chris Tomlin may need to leave old hymns alone or “stay in his lane” (I disagree with statements like this but I won’t fight about it), but I don’t think I can stand for people besmirching him over a song like this. This song isn’t a theological essay like many great hymns but the one point it makes is extremely important and it makes it well. Christ’s resurrection isn’t just an empirical fact in history; it means everything for us as far as what happens to our bodies and souls for eternity. 

And it is rife with biblical phrases and allusions. Look at just a few from the very start: 

There’s a peace I’ve come to know (Reminds me of John 16:33) 
Though my heart and flesh may fail (Taken directly from Psalm 73:26 but also reminds me of Job 19:26 and 2 Corinthians 4:16) 
There’s an anchor for my soul (Sounds like Hebrews 6:19) 
I can say It Is Well (Not Scriptural as much as it was clearly taken from the H.G. Spafford hymn, which is entirely appropriate) 

And as he gets to the chorus the number of citations or allusions to how Jesus beat death are multiplied. No, this song isn’t as deep or complex as 1 Corinthians 15’s take on the resurrection. Clearly, this theme can fill thousands of pages of doctrinal discussion. But we rejoice in the mere fact that resurrection wasn’t a one-time isolated event for one man, but the firstfruit of the resurrection of everyone who trusts in that man. I have played this song overlaying an iMovie of Scriptural references, many of them above, the last three times I have preached at Easter at my church–2009, 2013, and 2017. I cannot say enough about how much it floods my heart with the joy and hope of what matters most—how the Bible answers the problem of the vilest, most despicable, unforgivable villain there is: Death. Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. –  Gowdy Cannon

♦ “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” by Charles Wesley

“Christ the Lord” was written by Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley and 17 other siblings.

Interestingly, Charles and John didn’t enter into a personal relationship with Jesus until right after they finished serving as missionaries to Georgia. On the boat ride back home to England, they met a Moravian constituent. Once back in London, he introduced the Wesleys to fellow Moravians who led them to Christ. From them, they learned what it really meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Wesley’s conversion experience took place in 1738 and he wrote this hymn almost exactly one year later. It was written and played as one of the first hymns of the brothers newly founded Wesleyan Chapel in London. This was just the beginning of his hymn-writing career. He would go on to write well over 6,000 more hymns. I have not read or sung all of these songs but I have heard that many of them are mediocre at best. But those that are great are considered the best of the best in all of hymnology (many consider his “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” the most theologically rich Christmas song). And “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” is one of the most theologically rich Easter songs. It has certainly been one of the most popular Easter songs since it was first published in 1739.

Christianity celebrates the entry into new life by dying and that new life through the death and resurrection of Jesus is what this hymn clearly celebrates. It is via our acceptance of this sacrifice that we truly live. I Corinthians 15:19 tells us that if this life alone is all that we can expect, we are of all men most pitiable. But for Christians, it isn’t all we expect. We have a hope of life with Christ after we die. That is why we can confidently say, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). This truth is at the very center of Christianity. That Jesus died and rose again so that we too may die and rise again into everlasting life with Him. 

The first three stanzas of this song remind us that Jesus rose three days after His death, rose to heaven to reign as a glorious king, finalized his work of redeeming grace, and opened paradise for all. But the song also reminds us that this was not just something that happened and finished up over 2000 years ago. The fourth stanza is clear that this is still true for us and that we have reason to sing praises to God above for His great work of love all the world. He, all three persons of the Godhead, did this for us. The last two lines finalize: “Praise Him, all ye heavenly host, alleluia! Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” – Ben Plunkett

♦ “Grave Robber” by Petra

This is not an Easter song. It is a song about what Easter made possible. One thing that Petra (mainly Bob Hartman writing the lyrics) excelled at was incorporating Scripture into their songs. This one is filled with allusions, direct quotes, and paraphrasing. This song, more than almost any I have heard, is entirely focused on the hope the resurrection of Jesus brings to believers. The lyrics are powerful, encouraging, and triumphant. As the chorus of the song so aptly states:

Where is the sting, tell me where is the bite
When the grave robber comes like a thief in the night
Where is the victory, where is the prize
When the grave robber comes
And death finally dies

In the here and now, we still struggle and fight with death, but one day, death will be no more. Death will finally die. That is our great hope, provided to us by the death and resurrection of our Lord. This classic song, by the preeminent Christian rock band of the 1980s, is the perfect reminder of this truth. For my money, few songs can match it in melody, structure, sound, and message. Every year around Easter, this song makes its way into my music rotation and I never regret it. It moves me every time I hear it. I hope it will move you as well even if the style is not your preference. Focus on the lyrics and the truth they convey. One day, the Grave Robber will “wipe away our tears – He will steal away our fears. There will be no sad tomorrow – there will be no pain and sorrow.” That is a truth worth singing about. – Phill Lytle

♦ “Remember Me” by Ben Shive (Performed by Andrew Peterson)

I’ve been listening to Andrew Peterson’s music a lot lately, especially his latest album Resurrection Letters: Volume I, released just in time for Easter last year. I heartily recommend the entire album (along with the Resurrection Letters, Prologue EP and the Resurrection Letters, Volume II album released 10 years prior[1. Yeah, I don’t understand volume two being released 10 years before the prologue and volume one either. ]), but I am supposed to write about just one song.

I strongly considered the modern congregational hymn “Is He Worthy?” (which Chris Tomlin borrowed for his latest album Holy Roar) and my personal favorite “His Heart Beats” which focuses on the actual moment of Jesus’s resurrection. In the end, I chose “Remember Me”.

“Remember Me” was written by Ben Shive (with whom Andrew Peterson collaborated on all of the Resurrection Letters albums) who, in his words, “wrote these songs [“Remember Me” and “Into Your Hands”] to help myself and the folks at my church remember Jesus this Good Friday.”[2. Link] I love that this song wasn’t written primarily to be published and recorded (though I’m glad it was) but was written by someone to help himself and his fellow church folk to remember Jesus.

I chose this song mainly because the lyrics cover the full story and meaning of Easter from our part as “wayward sons” and “prodigal daughters” in need of a redeemer to “ascend that hill” for us, through the story of Jesus during his last week from triumphal entry “as a King” to death on the cross to resurrection, to the resulting hope we have of our eternal life with our Lord when Jesus returns.

Secondarily, I chose the song because of the groovy pop tune atypical in Easter songs. It’s refreshing. – Nathan Patton

♦ “Arise My Love” by NewSong

I love a good power ballad. I love Easter Sunday. Put them both together, and you get “Arise My Love”. 

It is, formulaically, every bit 80s power ballad. A slow build, synth, echoey drums, it’s all there. Stryper could have done this song, and they would have killed it. If they added in a screaming guitar solo, it would be icing on the cake. (I’m still holding out for a Stryper cover BTW).

But this song is so much more than just an epic build. This song is a freight train of theologically sound emotion that is focused on the most victorious moment that humanity has ever witnessed. When you listen to this song, you get the sense that all of creation, all of Heaven and Hell, has been moved to contemplative silence at the tomb. Then you get to the chorus, the airy, heavenly “Arise, My Love! The grave no longer has a hold on you! No more death’s sting, no more suffering! Arise! Arise, My Love!”

I cry every time I hear it. I’m tearing up right now as I write this. It takes a lot to move me to this kind of emotion, but this song captures that most epic moment of all time so very well. Jesus is blazingly glorious, and this song gives just a tiny, minuscule glimpse into that reality. 

“Sin, where are your shackles? Death, where is your sting? Hell has been defeated! The grave could not hold The King!” – D.A. Speer

Hopefully, a few of your favorites were included in our list. We welcome you to share some of your favorites with us in the comment section. Let’s celebrate, through music and song, the resurrection of our Lord together.   





500 Words or Less Review: Captain Marvel

Something you will notice on REO is that we write about the things we love. That means you will rarely see reviews for movies we dislike or are ambivalent about. There have been a few films we have chosen to write about that we don’t consider all-time favorites, but in the end, we would rather spend our time writing about the things we love instead of cranking out reviews for movies that are merely entertaining.

Enter Captain Marvel.

I like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are some great films in that lineup and many other fun movies. I enjoy the blueprint that Marvel has created. Yes, the MCU is starting to show its seams a bit, 20+ films in, but they do the whole superhero thing better than anyone so even at their worst, there is still plenty of entertainment to be had.

Marvel films are not high cinema but they accomplish exactly what they set out to and that is enough for me. Captain Marvel is no different in this regard. It’s an origin story for Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel). It’s full of exposition, action scenes, comedic moments, heart, and MCU world-building. It is perfectly adequate in accomplishing its goals.

Unfortunately, it is rarely more than adequate. That does not make it a bad film. I enjoyed watching it, but it never reaches greatness. It flirts with greatness a few times but those moments are too few and far between. It is saddled with a lead character that is frustratingly a blank slate for much of the film. Brie Larson is a good actress. (Watch Room if you need any proof.) In this movie, she is so muted in her reactions at certain points and then tries so hard in others to strike the perfect “I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR” poses, it’s hard to take the character as seriously as we should. Other actors fare better, with Samuel L. Jackson’s turn as a young Nick Fury being a highlight. The action sequences are fine and a few of them are pretty exciting, but none of them reach the heights of some of the other MCU films. The score is good though I can’t remember any major themes. The soundtrack is way too on the nose for its own good. (The worst offender is No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” during one of the climactic scenes.)

If this sounds like I didn’t like the movie, that’s too bad. It was fine. I laughed plenty – there were some characters that were unexpectedly very funny. And the big moment where our protagonist comes into her own is handled very well.

I’ll leave it at this: If you enjoy the MCU films, you will likely enjoy this one. Your mileage may vary but I imagine you will find something to appreciate. If you are not a fan of the MCU, I have no idea how this film would appeal to you at all.

Captain Marvel is a solid, if unspectacular addition to the MCU.




Five of Our Favorite “Mad Scientists” From Film and Television

What constitutes a “mad scientist”? Single-minded focus? Crazy, sometimes dangerous inventions? Wild and unruly hair? A white lab coat? If those are the qualifications, we think the five we came up with fit the bill almost perfectly. This is not a best-of list. (We give official REO Top Ten rankings when we post stuff like that.) No, these are simply some of our favorites that we felt would be fun to write about. We hope you enjoy the list and feel free to add some of your own favorites in the comment section below the article.


Doc Brown – The Back to the Future Trilogy

You know you belong in this group when actual dialogue from your movie describes you as “a crazy, wild-eyed old man who claims to be a scientist.” Michael J. Fox may have owned the 80s in some sense, but he would have just been an average teenager in these films without its other crucial piece, Doc Brown. He had some timeless catchphrases that my brothers and friends and I still quote today: “88 MILES PER HOUR!!!” and “ONE. POINT. TWENTY-ONE GIGAWATTS!!” He was, to me, the brightest star of these movies.

And we loved Christopher Lloyd for it. I was young and naive when Back to the Future was new and so I thought he looked just like Doc Brown. I remember reading in TV Guide that he was going to do a guest spot on Cheers once and I watched the episode and was stunned at how he looked. Because the crazy wild-eyed (and wild-haired) scientist was nowhere to be found. And that’s how he will always be to me, even though he had a great career outside of this trilogy. Doc Brown is an icon of the 80s and an absolute treasure of a role. (Gowdy Cannon)


Flint Lockwood – Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Flint Lockwood is different. Always has been. His entire life he has cared about only one thing: inventing things that will help others. Most of the time, his inventions end up causing more problems than they fix, but that doesn’t deter him in the least. At a young age he invented spray-on shoes that unfortunately he was never able to take off. He also invented rat-birds for some unknown reason and they have harassed his home-town (home-island?) of Swallow Falls ever since.

When we meet him as an adult near the beginning of the movie, he is working on the greatest invention of his life – a machine that will convert water into food. Any kind of food imaginable. Through some happy accidents, his machine actually works and things start to look up for Flint. He meets a girl. The town loves him – a big change from their usual annoyance. Of course, being a movie, things go wrong, Flint has to save the day and learn a few important life lessons along the way.

What makes Flint Lockwood so memorable is that he is not at all like any other heroic lead I’ve ever seen in a film. He is weird. He has very few social skills. He narrates all of his actions in his laboratory as he performs them. He has a pet monkey named “Steve.” Flint is odd, funny, unpredictable, and full of unexpected humor and heart. He stacks up with the best of the mad scientists out there. (Phill Lytle)


Doc Heller – Mystery Men

Doc Heller fits right in with his clientele, the oddball wannabe superheroes on the 1999 superhero comedy, Mystery Men. Doc Heller has a genius mind which he uses for all manner of insane inventions for things such as aromatherapy, laser hair removal, carnival rides, and a chicken rental business. He’s also an inventor of non-lethal weaponry for The Mystery Men team. This includes things like Canned Tornado, the Blame Thrower, the Shrinker, the Hair Dryer, and Glue Grenades.

Heller first garners the patronage of the Mystery Men after they fail to stop the Red Eyes from robbing a nursing home. Fortunately, Doc Heller is there on the scene romancing a resident and witnesses the whole incident. It is then that he tells The Shoveler that he has the non-lethal weapons they need to come out on top. Good ol’ Doc for the win!

While Heller is never actually made an official part of the team, his mad scientist-ery is instrumental in the final defeat of the archvillain, Casanova Frankenstein. (Ben Plunkett)


Doctor Heinz Doofenshmirtz – Phineas and Ferb.

You could argue that the appropriately named Heinz Doofenshmirtz is only one of three “mad scientist” in this fantastic Disney television show. Both Phineas and Ferb are master scientists in their own right. I would not classify them as “mad” as they don’t seem to be consumed by their work. Heinz, on the other hand, is completely consumed. His tragic (and hilarious) backstory sheds some light on how he turned into the crazy and power hungry inventor we see in the show. His inventions (“inators” of various kinds) are always far too convoluted for their own good and his end-game goal of conquering the entire “tri-state area” is incredibly limited in scope, which only adds to his charm.

Doofenshmirtz is full of one-liners, comic pratfalls, and running gags. His epic fights with Perry the Platypus are a thing of legend. (Seriously, if this doesn’t qualify him for iconic status, I don’t know if anyone qualifies.) While his failures are numerous, he keeps on trying, giving all future mad scientists a perfect role model. There are very few TV characters that make me laugh more than Dr. Doofenshmirtz, and that is enough justification for including him in this list. (Phill Lytle)


Frederick Frankenstein – Young Frankenstein


Frederick is of this infamous Frankenstein family line. He is so ashamed of his mad scientist ancestry that he pronounces it Fronk-en-steen in order to hide this embarrassing fact. At the beginning of the movie, Young Frankenstein (directed by Mel Brooks), Frederick has successfully spent years in adamant denial of his mad scientist family lineage. All of this changes after he inherits the castle of his great-grandfather, Baron Beavort von Frankenstein, the father of the infamous Victor Frankenstein, the creator of the even more infamous monster. (Many incorrectly know this monster by the name of Frankenstein when it was really Frankenstein’s Monster. Come on!)

In the end, Frederick (played to comedic perfection by Gene Wilder) returns to his family home, to his grandfather’s laboratory, and learns to embrace his inner mad scientist. With Wilder’s perfectly disheveled hair and mad eyes, one truly believes he has transformed into the mad scientist role. Verily, it is his destiny. He is assisted by the buffoonish yet well-meaning Igor (pronounced Eye-gore), a descendant of a long line of hunchbacks who have served the Frankenstein family; the beautiful Inga (Teri Garr) and Frau Blucher (Cloris Leachman), the Frankenstein castle housekeeper and possessor of a number of dark family secrets.

Frederick’s mad scientist antics do not end with the famous “It’s Alive!” moment. Oh no. Indeed, he is so obsessed with his creation, he loves it so deeply that he takes it to the stage where the two perform “Putting on the Ritz” for the masses. (Ben Plunkett)





Aslan Is On the Move

Winter envelops Narnia. It is “always winter and never Christmas” as it has been for longer than anyone can remember. The White Witch holds all the land with an icy grip. The world is cold and gray and miserable. How long has it been since Narnia had any hope?

Rumors begin to spread. There is a feeling in the air. Something has changed. It is not a visible change – the world is still as bleak as it has been for ages, yet something is different. Hearts quicken. Souls stir. A presence that has been absent for so long is back. Hope rekindles. It is a faint hope. A hope built on desperate longing. A hope that is fragile and at risk of blowing away in the icy winds of the accursed winter. Yet the good animals and creatures of Narnia can feel it. They know. Aslan is on the move.

Aslan, the great lion, the creator and destroyer of worlds and kingdoms. Aslan, who brought the world of Narnia to life with a song. Aslan, whose very voice called the stars into existence. Aslan, who had full knowledge of the deeper magic before the world began. The deeper magic of sacrifice, grace, and redemption. This Aslan is on the move. The good animals know it. The rivers and trees can feel it. The grass and rocks quiver in anticipation.


 

In the here and now, our world aches. Darkness threatens to envelop all of creation. Every year, this darkness seems to grow stronger in power. Stronger in fear and in hate. What light there is seems to shine out in vain, pushing against a force that seems unstoppable. Entire lands are blanketed by this darkness. The Light is attacked from every side. The icy winds of evil threaten to weaken its power, limit its reach, and in the end, snuff it out.

Humanity feels the weight of this darkness. It is around us. It is in us. We fight against it, but it is in our very blood. We are conceived and born into this darkness – the curse of Adam. It is our birthright. Even worse, we have each of us chosen this darkness over the Light. It is in us and we are in it. We are sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. We are broken and lost. We are without hope of escaping it through any means we can contrive. Our best efforts to defeat the darkness amount to nothing more than filthy rags. We cry out in despair. Who will listen to our pleas?


 
In Narnia, a great sin has been committed. A son of Adam has betrayed his brother and sisters. He has betrayed Aslan and the good animals of Narnia. His betrayal and wickedness demand payment. The White Witch demands what is rightfully hers. Blood must be shed for this iniquity. The Deep Magic makes this clear. There is no work around. No way out. This son of Adam has to die. His life is forfeit.

Unless…

Unless there is another way. A way known only to one. The very One who was there before the foundation of the world. The One whose knowledge goes far beyond all beginnings. The One who knows the innermost workings of the Deep Magic and the even Deeper Magic upon which all things hold together. The One who knows that “when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead…Death itself would start working backwards.”

Aslan becomes that willing victim. Quietly, he gives himself over to torture and death. Yet death has no hold on him. His blood pays the price and in the morning, he defeats death.


 
What about us? What to make of Adam’s miserable and hopeless race? “Rejoice! And again I say, Rejoice!” Our “Aslan” has moved on our behalf. Jesus, the Word who was there in the beginning and the very one through whom all things are made, is our “willing victim.” Jesus, who “committed no treachery” has taken our place. He has “regarded our helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for our souls.” He shed his blood and death itself started working backwards. The curse of Adam has been defeated forever. Those who accept this great gift are welcomed into the Kingdom as sons and daughters. We are no longer His enemies but have been reconciled to Him through the blood of Jesus. We are in the Light and the Light is in us.

Even still, lovers of the Light are “hard pressed on every side.” Even with our great hope, our world remains broken. The darkness seems to have no end. It is all around us, seeking a way to swallow us whole. We feel alone and afraid. God seems distant and uncaring. How long has it been since we had any hope?


 
In the darkest of lands, the Light shines all the brighter. Yes, the lovers of the Light are “hard pressed on every side” yet we are “not crushed.” We are “persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” Our King leads the way. “He goes before us and levels the mountains, breaks down the gates of bronze, and cuts through the bars of iron.” Our Great King “is not dead nor doth he sleep.” He moves. He works. He calls and seeks for the lost sheep. He is not idle. He sees and hears. His Light breaks through the strongest cloud of darkness. His Church Triumphant marches on. In lands where the very mention of His name risks death, His Kingdom grows. Every day, every minute, every second, chains are broken and souls are rescued. Yes, there is great evil in the world, but the Light is greater still. Even when our eyes cannot see it, our hope is in the One who conquered the darkness. Sin and darkness are in their death throes – they impotently splutter and flail against the Light but it has already overcome. He stands victorious and He holds us all in His omnipotent hands. In the midst of our endless winter, we know that we are not alone. We can feel it in our bones. We hold our breath and wait in eager anticipation.

Our Aslan is on the move, as He has always been. We do well to remember it.
 

Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.

 




The Curiousest Seesaw of them All

Ah, the illustrious lights of our ever-illustrious times;
Ah, the busy little bees whispering in our elephantine ears
here and there and everywhere:
the songs of power, the rising towers,
the chiefest outrages of our times.

Yea, Verily, yea, they sing our
rising songs and stats,
our stately diplomats
and eternal plaintive ditties:
“ah, but this and that.”
“Ah, but also that and this.”

Such it is; such it is;
tis the curiousest seesaw of them all.

Today an unforgivable smirk says
(It says everything in the world, it does)
“I shall sit idly by and
Tempt and tease, tease
and tempt and tempt.”

We sayest in return:

He and she: “No, nay, and nevermore,
Say it isn’t so, say it ain’t so!”

She and he: “By electronic uvulas,
by giga-belly buttons incongruous,
what an unmitigated outrage, that.”

The boggled of us,
the curiousest seasaw of them all.

Truly, these are the giga-bellies;
they glorify the seesaw,
upside, downside.

The boggled of them.

For
no it ain’t so,
No, nay, nevermore for
the whole tip-to-tip
atom-meet-atom
thing of us is all upside, downside
with all philosiphication
and useless contemplation with our ears like elephants
and the love of popularization and fickle sycophants,
and piles of other things sitting idly
on this tip-to-tip seesaw
stretching its long beam
across this all blue-green strip that is.

Tis the curiousiousest seesaw of them all.




REO Radio

If you have paid any attention to REO, you know we love music. All kinds of music, in fact. I’ve lost track of how many articles we have published that revolve around music and song. We’ve published multiple playlists, a series on the forgotten history of Christian rock, and many, many other articles that are inspired by our love and appreciation of all the wonderful music that has been and is being created.

I love listening to the radio. It’s always fun to hear a song you love play over the airwaves. At least, it is for me. I love Christian music – CCM. I have since childhood. While I love secular music as well, my first love will always be grounded in songs that are infused with a sense of faith, grace, and redemption. You can find that kind of music in the secular world, but you might have to wade through a lot of garbage as well. So naturally, my heart turns toward music that is created by believers.

Unfortunately, most Christian radio these days is stuck in an endless loop of recency bias. Christian radio stations play the same handful of songs, all of which have released in the last year or so, and they play them repeatedly. (We dealt with this idea in more depth on our Christian Rock series – you can read those starting here.) Based on the popularity of those articles and playlists, I know we are not alone in our desire to hear songs from every generation and multiple styles and genres.

That is where this playlist comes in. We have been putting this together for some time. We’ve spent hours selecting the songs, sequencing the order, and doing our best to find the right blend of sounds, artists, and styles. If you are familiar with secular radio stations that play hits from various eras and genres, this is that, only featuring Christian music. We tried very hard to include as much variety as possible. If you have any history with CCM, you will be familiar with a lot of these songs though I’m sure there will be some news songs to just about everyone – that is intentional. While we focused on including artists and songs that would be easily recognizable to as many people as possible, we also wanted to do our best to introduce our readers/listeners to some music that they might have missed. And for those that love the newest Christian music, don’t worry. We included plenty of those songs and artists as well.

So, without any more delay, we present to you REO Radio. The playlist is 150 songs. We recommend that you follow it on Spotify and listen to it in the order we created – though that is not an absolute necessity. We think you could easily put this playlist on in the morning when you get to work and listen to it all day and you will not repeat a song. We hope it will serve as a journey through the varied textures, styles, and sounds of Christian music. We hope it’s a journey that many of you will take and enjoy. We know we enjoyed putting it together. Thanks for reading and thanks for listening. Feel free to share this playlist with your likeminded friends. Oh, and this playlist will evolve over time. We will continue to tweak it, adding and subtracting songs as they come to mind.




500 Words or Less Review: Winchester ’73

While growing up the Jimmy Stewart Western, Winchester ’73, was a much-loved family treasure. Through the years this movie has been quoted by our clan hundreds, perhaps thousands of times. While it has long remained close to my heart, I long considered I loved it so much because I had grown up loving it along with my kin.

Nay, my friends. Nay, I say. For after much time of having not watched it (A couple of years), I viewed it again this past weekend. It earns all the praise it gets and well deserves to be considered a great Western classic.

Released in 1950, Winchester ’73 was not Stewart’s first foray into the Western genre. He had dabbled in it years before. His most recent prior to Winchester ’73 was Destry Rides Again in 1939. However, this was his first entry in a string of Westerns throughout most of the rest of his career. It was also his first time working with director Anthony Mann, with whom he would go on to do four more Westerns by 1955.

As the title suggests, the movie is partially about a prized gun and how it is stolen from the man who won it legitimately (Stewart) and thereafter passes from one ill-fated possessor to another. However, it is also about a long-standing feud between two childhood friends, both crack shots.

The story commences in Dodge City with a shooting competition to win the legendary gun. The deadly feud began many years before, but both are there for the much-heralded prize. After a phenomenal competition, our hero Lin McAdam wins by successfully shooting through a stamp midair. However, his sworn enemy (“Dutch” Henry Brown) steals the gun from him immediately following the competition. And so, the movie follows two storylines, the line of the Winchester as it is passed from one person to another and another line following McAdam and his friend and partner High Spade as they continue the pursuit of Henry Brown.

To give any further details would be to ruin it for those who have yet to see this gem. The two story-lines run close together, sometimes even crossing paths until they are finally united. Along the way, you will meet a battle-scarred Indian chief, an Indian trader, a beleaguered cavalry unit, and a “crazy yellow” coward. While most of these guys are bad to some degree, the main baddies are two bank robber gang leaders (a very memorable “Waco” Johnny Dean and the aforementioned “Dutch” Henry Brown.)

The movie stars some heavy hitters of the silver screen of yesteryear including Stewart, Shelley Winters, Dan Duryea, Milliard Mitchell, Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, and Jay Flippen. Out of context, the dialogue isn’t that extraordinary, but these actors (and probably their director) made it eternally quotable.

Suggestion: Don’t watch this movie expecting the best Western you have ever seen. If you do, you will be disappointed. While Winchester ’73 is a superb example of the classic Western, it is not in the very top tier of all time.




Lucy Hosts a Dinner Party

Lucy Hosts a Dinner Party

The setting is Ricky Ricardo’s Club Babalu. Lucy has invited three book club friends and one guest of these friends to join her, Ricky, and their besties the Mertzes for dinner. The nine gathered dinner guests include Lucy, Ethel and Fred Mertz; Jerry Seinfeld and Elaine Benes; Lucille and Gob Bluth; Kate Austin and Jack Shephard. Prior to their arrival Ricky has just finished performing his favorite song. All except his wife, Lucy, silently rejoice at this since they all unanimously hate it with every fiber of their being. Gob is sure that act can be vastly improved with a bit of magic…and candy. Now they impatiently and hungrily await Ricky while he changes backstage. (The waiters have been instructed not to begin dinner until he arrives.) Like a gracious host, Lucy breaks the ice.

Lucy: Early this afternoon Ethel and I were really bored and I just looked at Ethel and said, “You know what we ought to do? You know what we ought to do?! You want to go downtown and have dinner with the boys tonight?” And she said…tell them what you said, Ethel.



Ethel
: I said, “yes!…What boys?”


Lucy: And I said, “Fred and Ricky, silly.” And then she said, “Oh yeah.” Just like that “Oh yeah,” and she obviously wasn’t at all excited about it. So I suggested we invite some of our book club friends and their significant other.


Ethel: Or a friend.



Jerry
: Or mortal enemies (He looks meaningfully at Elaine).


Lucy: Good times! Now, all we need is Ricky.



Jack Shepherd:
 Shouldn’t he already be here?


Lucy: Hold your horses. And, say, won’t he be delighted to see you all.


Ethel: You mean he doesn’t even know yet?


Lucy: Well, he knows the three of us are.



Mrs. Bluth
: GAAAH! Why am I even here? Gob!…


Jerry: And why haven’t we given our orders yet?


Lucy: We’re waiting for Ricky. He has to tell the waiters when we’re ready.



Elaine
: I’m ready.


Jerry: I thought we had reservations.


Lucy: We did. I made them. 


Jerry: Did you? Do you even know how reservations work?


Lucy: Yes, I know how reservations work, Jerry, thank you very much.


Jerry: I don’t think you do. If you did, we’d be eating.

(He looks at Fred). Am I wrong?



Fred
: Don’t look at me, I’m just here to for the chow.



Elaine
: (scoffs) Lucy.


Lucy: Excuse me…Have we met?


Elaine: No, but I’ve heard of your show. “Murphy Brown”, right? I’m writing a script for it.


Lucy: What? I’m on “I Love Lucy.”



Elaine: Yeah, whatever, I don’t care.


Jerry: Let me get this straight, you haven’t even seen the show and your writing a script for it?


Elaine: (Ignores Jerry and looks at the food on the other tables). GAAAH, I am so hungry!


Lucy: Now listen, Ethel, when Ricky gets here and sees everyone you distract him with something that will make him forget about being mad at me.


Ethel: Huh? How?


Lucy: Dance with him, talk, sing…That’s it! Ask Ricky to sing.



Ethel
: Sing?! You know he won’t!


Lucy: Oh, WON’T he! There is nothing he would rather do, ever!


Jerry: My but isn’t it great to see such familial love and trust in action.


Elaine: What’s the point of waiting for this guy. Let’s eat!


Lucy: “This guy”? I’ll have you know—


Kate: Just a little plate of chocolates. Is that too much to ask? Just one plate. 



Gob
: Oh come on! She just wants some chocolate. Garkon! Garkon! A plato ofo chocolatos for the senioraitos and the seniorettees.


Lucy: No! No, never mind, Sam. No chocolates.


Fred: You just had to ask for chocolates. Ethel and Lucy have had it with chocolate since that time they scarfed down all those chocolates at the chocolate factory.


Lucy: Well…that was all your fault.


Fred: My fault?


Lucy: Yes. Yelling all those crazy things.


Fred: That was dinner talk.


Lucy: Yeah well…you scared me!


Ethel: My sentiments exactly, Lucy. (scowls at Fred)


Lucy: Thank you, Ethel.


Jack: I got to tell you ladies, if you don’t learn to get along with your husbands…you’re going to eat alone.



Kate
: (turns to Gob) He always says stuff like that.


Jack: Yeah, well. I love you.



Kate
: I love you more.


Jack: No, I love you more.


Kate: Okay.


Gob: That’s the Christmas Spirit.


Jack: Back on the island we didn’t celebrate Christmas at all and liked it.


Kate: (To Gob) He loves talking about the island.


Jack: The island told me to.


Gob: (Pulls out a deck of cards and shows the top card) Hey Kate, see this King of Diamonds?


Kate: Sure.


Gob: That’s me. You’re the queen who the king of diamonds showers with diamonds. (pulls a queen of clubs from the deck)…I mean Clubs…Club sauce! He showers her with club sauce!!!



Mrs. Bluth
: Ugh, I hate club sauce. If I wanted my sauces touched, I’d eat the inside of your ear!


Gob: What does that even mean?!


Lucy: Okay, okay, okay, everyone. While we wait for Ricky, let’s play “Going On a Picnic.”


Jerry: Yeah, cause we really need to work up an appetite right now.


Ethel: Really?


Jerry: No.



Mrs. Bluth:
Lucy, dear, I don’t like these games and I won’t respond to them.


Lucy: I’m sorry you don’t enjoy these games more. I guess you are just a heathen who doesn’t “get” what fun is all about.


(Lucy and Ethel enthusiastically begin the game but Fred refuses to continue and everyone else is good with that. Except for Gob)

Gob: I’m going on a picnic and I’m taking an artichoke, a bacon sandwich, and….a Chimpanzee with a cup of cold coffee…and an illlluuuusion.


Elaine: (Says quietly to Jerry) Ya know, we shouldn’t have to wait for her husband to eat. I feel like just going over there and taking some food off somebody’s plate.


Jerry: I’ll tell you what, there’s 50 bucks in it for you if you do it.


Elaine: What do you mean?


Jerry: You walk over that table, you pick up an empanada, you don’t say anything, you eat it, say ‘thank you very much’, wipe your mouth, walk away. I give you 50 bucks.


Elaine: 50 bucks, you’ll give me 50 bucks?


Jerry: 50 bucks. That table over there, the three couples.


Elaine: OK, I don’t wanna go over there and do it, and then come back here and find out there was some little loophole like I didn’t put mustard on it or something…


Jerry: No, no tricks.


Elaine: Should I do it, Lucy?


Mrs. Bluth: (applying lipstick) Its Lucille. Don’t mistake me for that red-headed bimbo over there.


Lucy: I’m right here.


Mrs. Bluth: (Ignores Lucy) Sure, why not. It’s your grave. Frankly, I don’t trust anything served in this place.


Jerry: True. You also notice most of the waitresses are really ugly. Totally undateable!


Elaine: Just when I think you’re the shallowest man I’ve ever met, you somehow manage to drain a little more out of the pool.


Mrs. Bluth: (ignoring Elaine) I noticed that. The male waiters are pretty hideous as well….That settles it. (She gets up and leaves without telling Gob who just said he is taking a lovely lava-lamp on a picnic).


Elaine: (Leans over to Gob). Hey buddy, your ride’s leaving.


Gob: What?…come on! (He gets on his Segway which is beside his chair and quickly exits).


Lucy: Oh, don’t leave you two! Ooooh!


Jerry: (He turns to Elaine) So?


Elaine: So, what?


Jerry: The bet?


Elaine: On one condition. That you follow me and that having completed the task, we immediately leave and go get something to eat.


Jerry: Yeah, whatever. (Leans across the table) Hey Lu, we got to go.


Lucy: Oh no. Not you two too.


Jerry: Yeah, we gotta go.


Lucy: Ohhh, why?


Jerry: Yeah, its Elaine, uhhh…she’s like really frightened and has to go home.


Jack: Frightened?


Jerry: Yeah, she has what the doctors call a condition, it comes and goes and if she doesn’t go home soon she could die. DIE!



Jack
: Let me tell you something about being frightened. On the island–


Kate: Comes and goes?


Jerry: Mm…it comes…and it goes, it comes and goes.


(Elaine takes a bite of an empenada from another table after which she and Jerry leave. At the same time Gob reenters on his Segway and approaches Kate)



Gob
: So mon senioritaria, can I get a ride home. I have candyyyyyy…in a piniata.


Kate: Why don’t you just go on that thing?


Gob: Are you insane?! That’s like an hour on this baby. An hour!


Narrator: 15 minutes.

Kate: (Thinks) And you say you have candy.


Gob: And an Xbox. And more…oh, so much more.


Kate: I’m sold, let’s go. Later Jack.


Jack: What? Kate, we go home together, or you’re going to die alone.


Kate: (smiles) Oh honey. I love you, but seriously, I’m with Gob now. He has candy! (exits with Gob on his Segway).


Ethel: I wonder why he didn’t offer us any candy.


Jack: I have to go back!


Lucy: No, oh, don’t go!


Jack: I have to go back! (Exits)


Fred: We might as well go to, Ethel.


Ethel: Fred!


Fred: Well I’ve had it. I’m hungry. (Exits)


Ethel: (Turns to an increasingly distressed Lucy.) Oh!


Lucy: Just go ahead, Ethel. I’ll be okay here all alone.


Ethel: Oh! Say, now you and Ricky can have a real nice romantic dinner. See you later, dear. Love you. Ooooh! (Exits)


(Lucy sobs)

(Ricky enters. Kisses Lucy)

Ricky: Hello honey. What’s the matter?


Lucy: Don’t you honey me!


Ricky: What happened!


(Lucy gives him the evil eye)

Narrator: It was then that Ricky discovered he’d made a huge mistake.

Ricky: Cometí un gran error.





500 Words or Less Review: Watership Down (Netflix/BBC)

Watership Down, the novel written by Richard Adams, is one of my favorite books of all time. When I try to explain why I love it so much, words tend to fail me. It is a book about rabbits, after all. How could a book about rabbits be something an adult man would love? Easy. Think of it less as a book about rabbits and more as an epic story about friendship, survival, and hope. The ties that bind these heroic rabbits are easily identifiable and relatable.

That’s the book. The new Netflix/BBC series is a different thing. Fortunately, it’s not different enough to significantly lessen its impact. A few caveats about the new series: First, the animation is not up to the big-budget Pixar or DreamWorks standards. That might be a deal-breaker for some. Trust me and be patient with it. The story is worth it. Second, if you are a book purist, try to set that aside as much as possible when watching this series. Stuff gets changed. Know that going in and it might save you some frustration.

There is good news, though! While liberties are taken the filmmakers prove they have a deep love for the source material and do their best to maintain the spirit and the tone of the book. The series is divided into four 51 minutes sections – each with their own title and focus. I loved this format because it gave the filmmakers a chance to really dig into the story – more time than a two-hour film – but not too much time which would have tempted them to really mess with the key dynamics. It’s a good balance and makes for a mostly focused story.

For my money, the two standouts in this version are the voice actors and the music. The cast does great work in bringing these wonderful characters to life. We get to know Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, Kehaar, General Woundwort, and the rest. James McAvoy and John Boyega are particularly good in their key roles. And the original score by Federico Jusid is in turns epic, subdued, and poignant.

One of my favorite aspects of the novel is that while these characters are relatable, they also operate on very non-human levels – driven more by instinct and need. For the most part, the series gets this right. There are attempts to shoehorn in a few modern points of view, but they wisely avoid making those things the focal point.

I highly recommend this new series by Netflix and the BBC. It is entertaining and moving. There is a beautiful melancholy that hangs over most of the series, which is also true for the book, and that made my heart very happy indeed. A word of warning: neither the book or series are intended for young audiences, even though they are about rabbits. Older children should be fine but be aware that the story goes to dark places and there is some bloodshed as these brave rabbits fight for their futures.