Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of the Movie ‘Paterson’

patersonPaterson, rated R
*** ½

Paterson is low-key, well-acted film that follows bus driver and poet Paterson and his creative wife Laura through a week of their lives.
The film is written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, who wrote a version of the film twenty years ago. The film follows Paterson (Adam Driver, who was excellent as Father Francisco Garrpe in the recent Silence), a bus driver and poet, his creative wife Laura (Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani) and their English Bulldog Marvin, through one week of their life in the rather depressed city of Paterson, New Jersey.  Driver actually went to bus driving school to prepare for this role, and got his license one week before filming began.
Paterson, who was named after the town he lives in, follows pretty much the same routine each day. He wakes up without an alarm at about 6:15am, picks up his folded clothes from a chair near the bed, eats Cheerios for breakfast and walks to the bus station. He doesn’t have a smartphone, thinking it would be like a leash. He drives his bus through the heart of Paterson where he overhears the conversations of his passengers, enjoys lunch surprises made by Laura as he writes poetry in the park near a beautiful waterfall, its beauty contrasting with the rest of the town we see. He walks home and grabs the mail out of the tilted mailbox post in front of his and Laura’s small home. After dinner, he walks Marvin, and stops at a neighborhood bar (where we get to know the regulars), to have one beer before heading back home to bed. His life is not unlike ours, in which we go through our routines each day.
Although Paterson’s job is as a bus driver, and he is dutiful in that job, his passion is writing poetry. We often see him inspired to write down lines of poetry in his secret notebook, and the lines of his poetry creatively appear on the screen. His favorite poet was William Carlos Williams, also from Paterson. Laura is constantly asking him to make copies of his poems, which he promises to do.
In many ways, Paterson and Laura, who are very much in love, are also very different. While Paterson’s life is relatively routine and predictable, Laura is just the opposite. She is obsessed with black and white patterns – in her painting (clothes, home decorating), in the cupcakes she bakes, etc. Paterson supports her in everything she does and wants to do, which includes wanting to order an expensive guitar so that she could be a country music singer like Tammy Wynette or Patsy Cline.
The acting from Driver and Farahani is excellent. They have wonderful chemistry on film.  Paterson is an introvert and doesn’t really share his emotions with others, while Laura is just the opposite, full of life, energy and dreams.  They support each other in their passions – Paterson’s poetry and Laura’s painting, guitar playing and baking.
There is not a lot going on in this film. It’s definitely slow moving, and may feel overly long at nearly two hours. While it will not appeal to everyone, I really enjoyed it. None of the characters we meet (Paterson, Laura, those on the bus, or in the bar), give us any indication of God being in their lives, so there is a feeling that they do not really live with purpose.
There is a good use of humor sprinkled throughout the film and after Laura tells him of a dream about twins early in the film, Paterson sees twins around town the rest of the film. Still, I came away enjoying the week I spent with Paterson, Laura, Marvin and Paterson’s friends in the bar.    The juxtaposition of the mundane and ordinary with the beautiful and passionate was an ongoing theme in this movie.  My wife thought Marvin should win best actor in this film.  : )
The film is rated “R” for a relatively small amount of adult language. It also includes a few abuses of God’s name. However, this does not seem like an “R- rated” film. Without the sparse language mentioned above this film could easily be rated “PG”, like the recent film Hidden Figures.


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

CHRISTIANS SHAPING CULTURE:culture

your-work-matters

  • Why Work Matters. Watch this message from Trip Lee as he discusses why every job and task is important in God’s Kingdom.
  • To Be a Diaper Changer. Nick Batzig writes “To be a diaper changer to the glory of God is a glorious thing. Jesus said, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10).”
  • Women, We’re Co-Workers, Not Competitors. Bethany Jenkins writes “When we see that Jesus is our identity, we have new eyes to appreciate others’ contributions rather than fearfully guarding our own choices. When our goal is to advance his kingdom, not our own, we can rejoice in all sorts of work being done since we’re on a shared mission. Women making different choices are co-laborers, not competitors. It’s a team effort, so it’s a team sense of joy.”
  • Career. Calling. What’s the Difference? Hugh Whelchel writes “Rather than equate vocational calling with a specific occupation or career, we are called to be Christians in whatever situation we find ourselves. Vocational calling stays the same as we move in and out of different jobs and careers. It is directly related to the discovery of our God-given talents. We develop and hone these talents into useful competencies for the glory of God and the benefit of others, often in various jobs or occupations.
  • On Christian Retirement. Hugh Whelchel writes “A Christian never retires from serving God through his or her vocational call. While we may have moved into a new season in our lives, God still calls us to grow and invest our gifts and talents in the work that he is doing in the world.”
  • Essential Keys to Finishing Your Race Well. Dave Kraft shares these essential keys for the Christian leader to finish well. He writes that he regularly teaches these, and by His grace, seeks to practice them in his own life and work.
  • In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell encourages us to be an everyday learner. We should keep learning and keep earning so that we can be returning.
  • It’s Not Only Athletes: What Platform Has God Given You? Randy Alcorn writes “But regardless of what vocation or position or role in a family God gives us, when God gives His people a platform to stand on, and a voice that can be heard, He expects them to represent Him faithfully. When they achieve something, whether as a farmer, factory worker, teacher, nurse, clerk, or salesperson, He calls upon them to give Him glory.”
  • Ken Costa on How to Discover Your Calling, Hope in the Workplace, and Connecting with Millennials. Carey Nieuwhof talks to Ken about integrating faith at work, finding your calling, Alpha and what millennials are looking for.

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

this.n.that-small

Courtesy of World Magazine

Courtesy of World Magazine

CURRENT EVENTS:

  • Last week I had a great time in Atlanta with team members located there. We enjoyed the Escape Room as a team building exercise. Tammy and I worshipped at Passion City Church where Crowder led worship. We enjoyed the city and the people we met there, but definitely not the traffic.
  • Why Tim Keller, Max Lucado, and Hundreds of Evangelical Leaders Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban. Jeremy Weber writes “More than 500 conservative evangelical pastors and leaders representing all 50 states are urging President Donald Trump to reverse his temporary ban on refugee resettlement.”
  • Most Refugees Who Enter the U.S. as Religious Minorities are Christians. Katayoun Kishi writes “A little over a third of the refugees who were admitted into the United States in fiscal 2016 (37%) were religious minorities in their home countries. Of those, 61% were Christians, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center.”
  • The Boy Scouts Succumb to Radical Gender Ideology. Denny Burk writes “I can’t help but grieve that the Boy Scouts are going along with this radical redefinition of what it means to be a boy. They are making a big mistake in this, and it will be one that hurts not only their organization but also the very boys they wish to serve.”
  • 7 Ways to Do Political Punditry Wrong in a Polarized World. Kevin DeYoung writes “Perhaps a look at the negative will point us in a positive direction. Let’s briefly consider seven ways to do political punditry wrong in a polarized world.”

CHRISTIAN AUTHORS & FILM:

  • Henri Nouwen’s Weakness Was His Strength. Wesley Hill writes “Before Brené Brown appeared on the TED stage, before spiritual counseling and small group ministry in evangelical parachurch ministries had encouraged believers to disclose more of their doubts and insecurities, before movements like the charismatic Cursillo and the contemplative Taizé and Renovaré had gone mainstream, Nouwen was already advocating a spirituality that took its cue from Christ’s nail-scarred risen body.”
  • C.S. Lewis’s View of Women, and How He’s Impacted My Thinking. Randy Alcorn writes “The following questions and answers are from my contribution to Women and C. S. Lewis: What His Life and Literature Reveal for Today’s Culture, edited by Carolyn Curtis and Mary Pomroy Key. I highly recommend this unique and well-reviewed book, which has excellent contributions by 26 others, including Alister McGrath and Kathy Keller.”
  • Trapped: A Short Film on Teen Unplanned Pregnancy. Randy Alcorn writes “Most prolife films are short clips or movie length, and unfortunately, the short ones don’t allow viewers much time to experience the emotions or to ponder. This one, on the other hand, has a large amount of silence, allowing for contemplation. The fact that the air doesn’t get filled with words helps listeners draw their own conclusions based on the obvious facts.” Watch the 20-minute film.
  • silenceOn Silence and More. Steven Garber writes “The best stories always tell the truth of the human condition, the truth about who we are, so the heart of a good story is that we can see ourselves, both the glory and the ruin of the human heart. And that is the main reason Silence is a story for all of us, if we have ears to hear.”

DOCTRINE AND CHURCH LIFE:

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4 Reasons to Consider Starting a Faith and Work Book Club in Your Workplace

book-club
For the past few years, I’ve enjoyed participating in a Faith and Work Book Club in my workplace. We meet early on a Friday morning and are currently working on our fifth book since the group began. It’s a highlight for me each week as I get together with a small group of peers to discuss the book and how to integrate our faith and work and be a positive influence and representative of Christ in our workplace.

I can think of 4 reasons that you should consider starting a Faith and Work Book Club in your workplace:

  1. To help others with the concepts of calling and vocation. While some people think of their work as a career, many think of it as just a “job”, and a way to pay the bills. They look forward to each weekend and can’t wait for retirement. In your Faith and Work Book Club, you help participants see their work as a clear calling from the Lord. They can see that the work they do Monday through Friday in the workplace is a way to serve the Lord.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord. (Colossians 3:23-24)   

  1. To show the value of “secular” work in comparison to “full-time Christian ministry”. Many believers (and I used to feel this way) don’t think that their secular work has value in God’s eyes. Yes, their jobs provide for their families and allow them to support their churches and missionaries, but does God really care about what a computer programmer does in an insurance company, for example? In other words, can they code for the glory of God? I’ve seen the light come on when people realize that the answer to this question is a resounding “Yes”!

One of the books we have read and discussed is Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. In the chapter entitled “Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5”, Piper writes:  “Seek to do your work in such a way that Christ looks more important than your work. Seek to make and use money in such a way that Christ looks more important than money. Seek to have relationships with people in the workplace such that Christ is more important than those relationships”.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

  1. I know far too many people who are unhappy in their jobs. When you are unhappy in your job, it can easily carry over into your home life, negatively impacting relationships with your spouse and children. I’m also aware of some who have actually retired earlier than originally planned because they were unhappy in their work. You don’t want your group to become a “gripe session”, but you do want it to be a place of encouragement.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (2 Thessalonians 5:11)

  1. Prayer and Fellowship. A Faith and Work Book Club can be a place in which rich relationships can be made and strengthened. We share what is going on in our lives and pray for each other (and others) in our group.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

These are just 4 reasons that I can think of why you should consider starting a Faith and Work Book Club where you work. Do you have others? Have you started a Faith and Work Book Club in your workplace? If so, please let us know what your experience has been. And feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about how to start a Book Club in your organization.

There are many excellent books being published to help us integrate our faith and work. Here are 5 that I would recommend that you consider for your Book Club:

Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work by Tom Nelson

Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work by Tom Nelson

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Tim Keller

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Tim Keller

God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith

God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith

The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert

The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert

How Then Should We Work

How Then Should We Work? by Hugh Whelchel

 


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My Review of “Explore by the Book”

explore-by-the-book-90-days-in-john-14thru17-romans-and-james-by-timothy-keller-and-sam-allberryExplore by the Book: 90 Days in John 14-17, Romans & James by Timothy Keller and Sam Allberry. The Good Book Company. 192 pages. 2017
***

Explore by the Book looks at John 14-17, with verse by verse readings/commentary written by Sam Allberry, Romans, written by Tim Keller, and James, written by Allberry. The 90 devotionals included in this book are taken from the Explore Quarterly devotional.  The book is referred to as an “open Bible devotional”, in that you will need to keep your printed or digital Bible open as you use these studies. You’ll be asked questions throughout so that you think about the text. While it is commendable to provide a product which will have you interact with the Scriptures such as this, I feel it was a major misstep to not include the actual Scripture text (or at least a hyperlink to the passage in the e-book edition), being discussed in the book. I read almost all of my books in the Kindle version. As I read the book, I had to constantly exit the book and look up the passage in my Kindle version of the Bible. This decreased my devotional experience with the book.

It is suggested that you set aside a half an hour a day for 90 days to work through these studies, and to respond to the questions that are provided. Each study has sub-sections of the passage covered. After each small chunk of teaching there will be questions to address, and one or both of the headings Apply, and Pray. You are to use these sections to turn what you have read in the Bible and speak back to God.

This book, which features excellent content, would best be read in the hardback edition, which comes with ribbon marker and space for journaling.  It is suggested that before you read each study that you read the passage and then include several things:

  • The Highlight: the truth about God that most struck you.
  • The Query: the questions you have about what you have read (and your best attempt at answering them).
  • The Change: the major way you feel the Spirit is prompting you to change either your attitudes, or your actions, as a result of what you have read.

After you have completed each study, record:

  • One sentence summing up how God has spoken to you through his word.
  • A short prayer in response to what you have seen.

Explore by the Book is a wonderful concept that is best used with the hardback edition of the book and a physical copy of your Bible open. I would not recommend the e-book format, due to the concerns expressed above.


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My Review of Silence

silenceSilence, rated R
***

Silence is a well-acted film that deals with the subject of apostasy (denying the faith).
The film is directed by Oscar winning director Martin Scorsese (The Departed), and is based on a 1966 historical novel written by Shusaku Endo. Scorsese was given the book in 1988, and has been wanting to make a movie of it ever since. Jay Cocks co-wrote the screenplay with Scorsese.
The film is set in 17th century Japan. Father Cristovao Ferreira (Oscar nominee Liam Neeson, Schindler’s List) from Portugal, has gone missing while working as a Jesuit missionary in Japan. He hasn’t been heard from for years. Rumors are that he has committed apostasy (denied the faith). His former students Father Sebastiao Rodrigues (Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield for Hacksaw Ridge) and Father Francisco Garrpe (Adam Driver, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) fail to believe that their teacher and mentor has apostatized. They finally convince Father Valignano (Ciarán Hinds) to let them go to Japan to try to find Ferreira. They will be aided by a drunken Japanese guide named Kichijiro (Yoshi Oida). He is a complex character, not the simple “cut and dry” Judas to Rodrigues that he may appear.
As the priests arrive in Japan, they find a church that has gone underground or hidden, in the midst of persecution. Christianity has been outlawed in Japan, but there are those who remain faithful, despite the lack of priests. Those who are caught and suspected of being Christians are forced to trample on wooden figures of Jesus, called fumie. Those who refuse (and even some who do actually trample on the image of Jesus), are tortured to death. The film depicts Christians being tortured – boiling water poured on them, hung upside down in a pit, tied to stakes in the ocean, etc. That makes this film difficult to watch.
The film is well acted, particularly by Garfield, who deserved an Oscar nomination for his work here, but had already received a Best Actor nomination for Hacksaw Ridge, perhaps taking away his chances for a nomination here. The cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto, particularly his depiction of the landscapes of Japan, is excellent, earning the film it’s only Oscar nomination. You can also feel the heat and the irritation of the insects of Japan, as the Japanese persecutors constantly fan themselves.
The film is extremely thought-provoking, as it deals with themes such as silence (of God particularly), faith, persecution, fear, apostasy, and doubt. You’ll be talking about the ending as you leave the theatre. But the theme of apostasy is the key one in the film. Jesus said “Whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33).
The film, which had its premiere at the Vatican, is overly long at 2 hours and 41 minutes, and for the most part is pretty slow. The film cost $40 million to make, and will most likely have a limited audience, but was well done and is thought-provoking.


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My Review of Split

splitSplit, rated PG-13
***

Split features an outstanding performance from James McAvoy, and a triumphant return to form for director M. Night Shyamalan.
This low budget ($9 million) film has been the number one film in the country for the past three weeks and has already grossed over $102 million in the U.S. alone. It is directed by two-time Oscar nominee M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) in his follow-up to 2015’s The Visit, and stars James McAvoy as well….several different personalities. You see, he has 24 personalities, from 9 year-old Hedwig to a fashion designer named Barry. For the sake of this review, we’ll refer to him as Kevin. Betty Buckley stars as Dr. Karen Fletcher who works with Kevin on his dissociative identity disorder.
We see Kevin kidnap three teenage girls – Claire (Haley Lu Richardson, The Edge of Seventeen, Marcia (Jessica Sula) and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy – as they are leaving a birthday party with one of the girl’s father. Kevin takes them to an undisclosed location. We see the girls interacting with several of Kevin’s personalities as they try to figure out how to escape, and over time we see them have some of their clothing removed.
Claire and Marcia are good friends, while Casey is the outsider, invited to the party only because everyone else in their class had been invited.  The film shows many flashbacks of Casey hunting with her father and creepy Uncle John (Brad William Henke).
This horror film is dark, and could have easily been rated “R” for violence. Other content issues include a small amount of adult language and the above mentioned removal of some of the girl’s clothes.
McAvoy was outstanding in his performance of the multiple personality Kevin, oftentimes switching from one personality to another in front of the camera at close range.
Filmgoers will be talking about something that happens at the end of the film that connects this film to one of Shyamalan’s earlier films and sets up his next one.