Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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My Review of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, rated PG

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a visually stunning, creative and intense animated film that the entire family can enjoy. The film is directed by first-time director Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey (Rise of the Guardians), and five-time Emmy nominee Rodney Rothman (Late Show with David Letterman). The screenplay is written by Rothman and Emmy nominee Phil Lord (The Last Man on Earth, The Lego Movie). The film is dedicated to the memory of Spider-Man co-creators, Steve Ditko, who died on July 6 and Stan Lee, who died on November 12. The film has already received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture – Animated. The film, which had a budget of $90 million, features a strong cast of voice actors to bring the many characters in the film to life.
Miles Morales, voiced by Shameik Moore (Dope), is a Brooklyn teenager who unhappily transfers to an elite boarding school. He is the son of hospital worker Rio Morales, voiced by Luna Lauren Velez (Dexter), and police officer Jefferson Davis, voiced by two-time Emmy nominee Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta, This is Us), who doesn’t like Spider-Man. Miles is close to his uncle Aaron, voiced by Oscar winner Mahershala Ali (Moonlight). When uncle Aaron takes him to an abandoned subway tunnel to paint his graffiti art, Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider, changing his life forever.
Crime lord Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, voiced by six-time Golden Globe nominee Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan, RKO 281), has built a particle accelerator to access parallel universes so that he can reconnect with his wife and son who had died in a car accident. Spider-Man, voiced by Emmy nominee Chris Pine (SuperMansion, Star Trek), tries to disable the accelerator, battling the Green Goblin and the Prowler. Spider-Man is wounded when the accelerator malfunctions, but before he is killed by Fisk, he is able to give Miles a key to disable the accelerator. Unfortunately, Miles inadvertently damages the key beyond use.
As Miles is dealing with the changes in his body after the spider bite, he meets an older and overweight Peter B. Parker, voiced by Jake Johnson (Jurassic World).     Peter has been brought into Miles’s world by the accelerator and needs to return home fast or he will die. He agrees to train Miles after they break into Fisk’s research facility to gather information about the accelerator. There, they encounter the dangerous Dock Ock, voiced by Emmy nominee Kathryn Hahn (Transparent).
Soon, Miles and Peter meet other versions of Spider-Man from other dimensions who are brought into Miles world by Kingpin’s machine:  they are Gwen Stacy/Spider-Woman, voiced by Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Spider-Noir, voiced by Oscar winner Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas), Penni Parker, voiced by Kimiko Glenn (Orange is the New Black), and the pig Peter Porker/Spider-Ham, voiced by two-time Emmy winner John Mulaney (John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City, Saturday Night Live).  Mary Jane is voiced by Zoe Kravitz (Big Littles Lies, Fantastic Beasts), and Peter’s Aunt May is voiced by Oscar nominee Lily Tomlin (Nashville). Miles must work with these other versions of Spider-Man to save New York City from the Kingpin.
Content concerns include intense fight scenes that will be too much for very young viewers. Themes in the film include family, especially the relationship between a father and his son, sacrifice, good vs. evil, doing the right thing and working together as a team.
Everything about this film was well-done – storyline, characters, the animation (hand-drawn, digital, still frames and text panel) with vibrant colors, the music by two-time Golden Globe nominee Daniel Pemberton (Gold, Steve Jobs), humor, etc. There are also several visual recreations from previous Spider-Man films that Spider-Man fans will enjoy.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is an entertaining and intense animated film that the entire family (age 10 and above) can enjoy together. (Note:  my wife thought the film was manically paced and was a visual and audio overload.)  It’s one of the most creative animated films I’ve seen. And don’t forget to stay for the post-credits scene.


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Three New Christmas Albums That I Recommend

I love Christmas music and have a large collection. I’ve made a “Christmas playlist” in my iTunes library, and it currently includes more than 250 songs. New Christmas albums are released every year. Below are three new Christmas albums that I can recommend to you.

The Gift: A Christmas Compilation – 116

The Gift is the third overall studio album from 116, and their first Christmas collection. Noticeably missing from the Reach Records group is Andy Mineo and KB, but there are some surprise guests including Derek Minor on the album. Adam Grason did the cover art, which merges the look and feel of vintage Christmas with traditional hip-hop elements. The album debuted at #1 on iTunes Hip-Hop and Rap chart.

I really enjoyed this album and getting exposed to some artists I was not familiar with, as well as hearing some of my favorites such as Lecrae, Trip Lee and Tedashii.
Below are a few brief comments about each song: Continue reading

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My Review of THE MULE

The Mule, rated R

The Mule was inspired by the story of Leo Sharp, a World War II Bronze Star veteran and horticulturist, who in his late 80’s became the world’s oldest and most prolific drug mule for the Sinaloa Cartel headed by El Chapo. It is a well-acted and directed film that has some content concerns. The film is directed by the legendary four-time Oscar winner, 88-year-old Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, Unforgiven). The film is written by Nick Schenk (Gran Torino) and Sam Dolnick, based on his New York Times Magazine article. Though the film is set in Illinois and Texas, it was actually shot in Georgia.
Clint Eastwood portrays Earl Stone. It is Eastwood’s first credited acting role since 2012’s Trouble with the Curve (he had a non-credited appearance in 2014’s American Sniper). This film is the first time he has both starred in and directed the same film since 2008’s Gran Torino. Continue reading

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Living on Mission for God

This summer I spoke on the topic of “Living on Mission for God” at the “By the Way” Conference at the Lexington Community Church in central Illinois. It was a great time at the church, as my wife Tammy and I got to meet many wonderful people and visit with their pastors. I wanted to share a brief summary of the message I delivered at the conference.
The theme of the conference was being mission minded in our everyday lives. I looked at how we – whether we work in a large organization, a small non-profit, are a stay at home mom, a student, farmer or are retired – can live out the mission God intended for our lives. How can we live on mission for God?
Drawing on the scriptures and a number of excellent books I have read, I started with some foundational information, looking at God’s mission in creating the human race and redeeming us for His glory, the mission of the church (the “Great Commission”), and how we can be a part of God’s mission as individual believers.  I summarized this section by indicating: Continue reading

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A Morning Prayer ~ a Need for Workplace Grace

Heavenly Father, we thank you for this beautiful morning, and the good night of sleep you have given us. Use that sleep to refresh our bodies for this day so that we can serve you in our vocations and callings today.
We pray for our commute into the office, that we leave in plenty of time so that we don’t get upset when someone sits too long at a light that turns green. Help us to show your love on the roads we travel, giving other drivers the benefit of the doubt, even if it “wasn’t their turn” to go.  As we travel, prepare our hearts for the day ahead of us, and we lift up those we will meet with and come in contact with. You are sovereign and we are not. We don’t know what will happen today, but you do.
We pray for your guidance in the workplace today, no matter what our particular job is. Help us to treat others with kindness, so that they will see you through us. We want to shine your light in a dark world and point others to you, people who might never even consider going to a church on Sunday to worship you. Help us to use our words wisely. Perhaps those words will be used to encourage someone who is going through a difficult time. Perhaps our words will be needed as we lead others, perhaps providing constructive feedback. If so, let us do so with kindness. Help us to serve others in the workplace.  Help us to truly get to know our co-workers, finding out what it is that they value in their lives.  Use us for your glory.
Help us to make eye contact with those we pass by, offering them a smile, instead of ignoring them, or having our face in our phones. Give us patience to treat interruptions with grace, putting others needs in front of ours.
Help us to handle difficult people and situations that may come our way today with integrity. Help us to be honest, trustworthy and people of good character, admitting our faults, even when they could easily be covered up.
You are a worker too, and we are made in your image. So, help us to do our work well, with excellence and a positive attitude and approach, not to make ourselves look good, but for Your glory, because we are doing our work for You. We don’t want the credit for a job well done. No, all glory goes to You, who created us and equipped us to do our work.
In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • Without Luther, There Would be no Bach: How the Reformation Influenced Faith and Work Today. Bethany Jenkins writes “The life and work of Bach can teach us what the Reformation so beautifully captured—that our jobs can both love neighbor and glorify God. Through them we can embody the great commandments (Matt. 22:36–40). May we, therefore, offer our work to God by faith.”
  • Why Your Job Matters, No Matter What It Is. Jason Dollar writes “Once you view your vocation as God’s calling on your life for loving labor in His garden, then you’ll begin to appreciate your job so much more. Rather than drudgery and a longing to always be doing something different, you will use your vocation as a form of You will understand the great blessing you are to the lives of others, and how others bless you through their work. And you will feel great honor and dignity as an image-bearer of God regardless of your vocation.”

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More interesting article links on leadership, calling, and how your work matters
  • The Top 10 Faith and Work Quotes of the Week
  • My Review of ‘The Accidental Executive: Lessons on Business, Faith, and Calling from the Life of Joseph’ by Albert M. Erisman
  • Snippets from the book ‘The Economics of Neighborly Love: Investing in Your Community’s Compassion and Capacity’ by Tom Nelson

Continue reading

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My Review of The Christmas Chronicles

The Christmas Chronicles (not rated, but would be PG)

The Christmas Chronicles on Netflix is an entertaining and heart-warming family-friendly holiday film. The film is directed by Clay Kaytis (The Angry Bird Movie) and written by David Guggenheim (Designated Survivor) and Matt Lieberman.
We meet the Pierce family through a series of family videos filmed during Christmas over a period of several years. We see the children, Teddy and Kate, growing up as the videos go through Christmas 2017. But on Christmas Eve 2018 it’s obvious that their father Doug, played by Oliver Hudson (Nashville), has died. Mom (Claire), played by Kimberly Williams-Paisley (According to Jim, Nashville), is a nurse and she’s doing her best to keep the family together. Continue reading