Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of FOREVER MY GIRL

Forever My Girl, rated PG
** ½

Newly out on video, Forever My Girl, based on the novel by Heidi McLaughlin, is a well-acted film that has several positive messages, but is a bit predictable. The film is directed and written by Bethany Ashton Wolf.
The film is set in St. Augustine, Louisiana, referred to by the locals as just “Saint”, not far from New Orleans. The film begins on the wedding day of Josie, played by Jessica Rothe (La La Land, Happy Death Day) and Liam Page, a pastor’s son and country music singer, played by Alex Roe (The Fifth Wave).

***SPOILER ALERT***
Josie is very excited about getting married to her high school sweetheart, but then every bride’s nightmare happens – she is left at the altar by Liam.
She hears nothing from Liam over the next eight years as Liam travels the world as a country music superstar, playing to huge arenas of adoring fans. We hear some of his music in the film. We see him drinking a lot, being rude to his manager, and having one-night stands with groupies.
Not only has Liam left Josie and St. Augustine behind, but he has had no contact with his father, Pastor Brian played by Emmy nominee John Benjamin Hickey (The Big C, The Good Wife), even when his father pursued him. It’s obvious that Liam has hurt in his life, but we don’t know what it is. It is only after Liam hears about the tragic death of his best friend from high school who was to have been one of his groomsmen, being killed by a drunk driver, that he returns to his home town for the funeral.
Josie eventually moved on and bought a nice little flower shop in town. Life is going fine for her and her seven-year old daughter Billy, played by the delightful Abby Ryder Fortson (Ant-Man), until Liam unexpectedly shows up for the funeral. He badly hurt Josie, and to say he is greeted with a cool breeze by Josie, her brother and the entire community, is an understatement. But things get complicated when Liam realizes that Billy is actually his daughter.  Josie tells him that she didn’t find out that she was pregnant until after the date of their planned wedding.
This is when the film gets interesting. Can Josie forgive Liam for hurting her so badly, especially when he never explained why he stood her up at the altar? And how do things change between the two now that he knows that they have a daughter?
**************

The film has a solid supporting cast (Josie’s brother, Liam’s manager and his publicist), and country music star Travis Tritt, who appears in a cameo as Walt, a singer in a bar.
Content concerns involve sexual activity (nothing explicit is shown) and excessive drinking.
Themes include forgiveness, fatherhood, second chances, and the return of a prodigal son.
Forever My Girl is a well-acted PG-rated romance with significant Christian content and several positive themes, even if it is a bit predictable.

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My Review of 25 in 24

25 in 24
****

The film 25 in 24 documents a crazy dream. It was the dream of Christian band Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman. His dream was to play 25 concerts in 24 hours in his hometown of San Diego. The film is directed by Melody League and is beautifully filmed with many scenes of the San Diego area.
Foreman loves to play music. He is able to connect with people through his music. After Switchfoot concerts, he will meet fans outside the venue to play solo impromptu acoustic concerts.
As he released four Wonderlands EPs – Sunlight, Shadows, Darkness and Dawn a few years ago, he came up with a crazy dream. He would play 25, 3-song concerts in his hometown of San Diego in 24-hour period.  There was much to coordinate, and many variables (musicians, transportation, traffic, weather, etc.). Could he remember all of the lyrics to 75 songs playing for 24 consecutive hours? Could he pull off this ambitious project? He tells us that a beautiful dream is worth chasing, even if you fail.
At 10:00 am on October 24, Foreman started out in his van beginning the realization of his dream, an entire day of song. This film follows Foreman as he fulfills his dream, embracing community one song at a time.
I enjoyed watching Foreman and his fellow musicians (only the cellist played all 25 shows) playing in a variety of locations in San Diego – Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park (with Foreman’s mother Jan), Fidel’s Mexican Restaurant with a Mariachi Band, at Rady’s Children’s Hospital with a high school orchestra, singing “Your Love is Enough” at a wedding reception for the first dance for the bride and groom, on the roof of Ironsmith Coffee Shop, a blistering “Resurrect Me” in show 24, etc. Highlights for me were the concert on Mount Soledad, where they watched the sunrise afterwards, the show at Rady’s Children’s Hospital, and the final show on Swami’s beach, where Foreman went into the Pacific Ocean to surf immediately afterwards.
As the evening went on, people began following them from show to show. When it got late into the evening, the crowds became smaller and the shows more intimate. In the midst of it all, Foreman’s van breaks down.
As Foreman and the musicians finished show 25, it was a celebration of family, friendship and community. This was an event that made people come alive.
Foreman tells us that many times it’s the chase that we are looking for. He was chasing after wonder, looking for his Maker, one song at a time. He stated that journey is where life happens. Not in control but in the chaos.
The film is available online where movies are sold (Amazon Prime, iTunes, etc.). Music fans – Switchfoot and Jon Foreman fans in particular – will appreciate this film.


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My Review of OVERBOARD

Overboard, rated PG-13
** ½

Overboard, is a surprisingly entertaining gender-reversed remake of the 1987 film which starred Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. The film was directed by three-time Emmy winner Rob Greenberg (Frazier), and written by Greenberg and Bob Fisher (Wedding Crashers), adapted from Leslie Dixon’s original story.
Anna Faris (Mom) plays Kate, a single mother of three young girls living in Elk Cove, a small Oregon coastal town. She delivers pizzas and cleans carpets to try and make ends meet while also studying for a nursing exam. She is assigned to clean the carpets on a huge yacht owned by Leonardo Montenegro, played by Eugenio Derbez (Instructions Not IncludedHow to Be a Latin Lover). Montenegro is a playboy billionaire and heir of the third richest man in the world. Leonardo is obnoxious and has never worked a day in his life. He denies Kate her pay, insults her looks, and pushes her and the $3,000 carpet cleaning equipment she was using overboard.  On top of having to repay the cost of the carpet cleaning equipment, Kate receives an eviction notice from her home.
Later we see Leonardo himself go overboard and wash up on the beach with amnesia. He has no knowledge of his identity. When Theresa, Kate’s boss at the pizza shop ~ played by Golden Globe nominee Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives) ~ hears about this, she tells Kate she has a plan to get back at Leonardo by making him work for her while she studies for her exams. Kate talks to the girls about their plan and they reluctantly agree. We then see Kate go to the hospital where she pretends to be Leonardo’s wife of 15 years. Leonardo is stunned to see that he is poor, sterile and works construction, where his soft hands earn him the nickname of “Lady Hands”. Quickly, Kate has “Leo” learning how to cook the family’s meals. He is told to sleep on a cot in the shed. He is told that he’s a recovering alcoholic, so no more alcohol or sex for now. Most of the above can be picked up from the film’s trailer. But what happens after Leo gets settled in the home is what makes this film worth seeing.
A side plot has Leonardo’s father Papi, played by Fernando Lujan near death. With Leonardo apparently dead, his sister Magdalena played by Cecilia Suárez tries to gain control of the family business.
Some of the dialogue is in Spanish, with sub-titles.  Content concerns include brief rear male nudity (played for laughs) and Leonardo’s partying with young women in bikinis.  There is some adult language and several abuses of God’s name.
Themes include deception, positive messages about family, hard work, friendship and responsibility.
Overboard is not a great film, but it was surprisingly entertaining and included some good messages about family, particularly the importance of a father.


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Music Review:
Abide with Me – Sara Groves

****

Sara Groves follows her acclaimed 2015 album Floodplain with her thirteenth studio album. She has stated that her previous album found her on the floodplain reflecting on the kind provision that comes when she finds herself in a place where she cannot rescue herself. Abide with Me is a collection of hymns and songs that were with her on the floodplain. The album was recorded in a 105-year old church (the construction of which is shown on the album cover photo), that the Groves purchased in 2011 and converted into Art House North, a creative community for the common good, in the West End of Saint Paul, Minnesota. Groves has stated that it was appropriate that the album was recorded in a space built for congregational singing. The album was recorded with her long-time bandmates, Aaron Fabbrini (bass, pedal steel) and Zach Miller (drums), produced by John Mark Nelson and mixed by Ben Gowell. The album includes songs carefully selected from Groves’ personal list of hymns. Each song has provided a source of healing and comfort to her throughout the years. Groves’ husband first came up with the idea of a hymns album about fifteen years ago and has been compiling possible songs for inclusion since then.

The album is recorded simply and sparsely and may underwhelm on initial listen. However, I encourage you to give these hymns additional listens and the project will grow on you with each listen. I would also recommend you have the lyrics to these hymns in front of you as you listen to this beautiful recording.

Below are a few comments about each of the eleven songs: Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Devoted: Great Men and Their Godly Moms by Tim Challies. Challies. 128 pages. 2018
**** 

Tim Challies’ latest book, which celebrates mothers who were used to shape the men who changed the world, began as a series of articles. Rebecca Stark and Melissa Edgington added helpful “Questions for Reflection” for each chapter, and Edgington also adds “A Mother’s Reflection” at the end of each chapter.
He tells us that it may surprise us to learn how many of our Christian heroes were shaped by the attentiveness and godliness of their mothers. Even though they may have had fathers who were present, involved, and godly, they would insist that their primary spiritual influencer had been their mother. In this book, he takes a brief look at some of them. Below are a few items I highlighted about each of the remarkable women profiled in this short book:

The Hidden Strength of a Weak Mother – John Newton

  • Elizabeth consistently trained her son in Reformed theology.
  • Elizabeth prayed and hoped God would call him to ministry.
  • As biographer Jonathan Aitken says, “The spiritual lessons the boy had learned at his mother’s knee were never forgotten. They become the foundation for Newton’s eventual conversion and Christian commitment.”

The Prayer of a Godly Mother – Hudson Taylor

  • She determined to pray for her son until she came to a sense of assurance that God would save him.
  • Rightly would he be known as one of the great Christian missionaries. And his story cannot be told without giving due credit to the power of a praying mother.

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THIS & THAT: A Weekly Roundup of Favorite Articles and Quotes

  • Do the Biblical Warnings Against Riches Apply to Most Americans? In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper responds to the question “I struggle with feeling peace with God when I feel that he will judge me harshly for living as comfortably as I do. I am wondering if God wants me to give up the pleasures and comforts that this country offers?”
  • Should I Attend a Homosexual Wedding? Kevin DeYoung writes “A wedding is not a dinner invitation or a graduation open house or retirement party. Even in a completely secular environment, there is still a sense—and sometimes the wedding invitations say as much—that our presence at the event would honor the couple and their marriage. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to attend a wedding (let alone cater it or provide the culinary centerpiece) without your presence communicating celebration and support for what is taking place. And, as painful as it may be for us and for those we love, celebrating and supporting homosexual unions is not something God or His Word will allow us to do.”
  • What Does It Mean to be Pro-Life? Is pro-life more than pro-birth? Why isn’t the pro-life movement committed to the whole person? These are common questions aimed at the pro-life movement. In fact, one of the most frequent criticisms of the pro-life movement is that those who hold such views only care about ending abortion. In this episode of Signposts, Russell Moore addresses these questions and offer my perspective on the pro-life movement by thinking about what it means to fight for justice and human dignity.
  • I’m Addicted to Pornography. How Can I Defeat This Sin? In this three-minute video, Russell Moore encourages those who are addicted to pornography to seek help by confessing sin to other believers who will preach the gospel to them and encourage them towards holiness.
  • Can a True Christian Have Depression? Watch this ten-minute video as Dr. Jeremy Pierre of Southern Seminary addresses this question in Honest Answers.
  • Are Mega-Churches Biblical? Can a church ever be too big? Dr. Hershael York answers in Honest Answers.
  • What Is Definite Atonement? In this one minute plus clip from the 2012 Ligonier Ministries Theology Night, C.Sproul explains that God’s purpose in the atonement was limited and definite.
  • Brother, Are You Saved?C. Sproul writes “What do you need to be saved from? You need to be saved from God! Not from kidney stones, not from hurricanes, not from military defeats. The thing that every human being needs to be saved from is God.”

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • How Should We Respond When a Leader Implodes? Eric Geiger writes “Regardless of whether or not the reality of leaders falling is more common or the same as it has always been, it’s happening too much. The moral failures are far too frequent. So how should we, those of us who are believers, respond when a leader disqualifies himself or herself from their role?”
  • The Sanctity of Labor. Are you working “for the weekend”? Or counting the years to retirement? From his series Christian Ethics, R.C. Sproul explains that work is sacred and we are called to labor diligently to the glory of God.
  • Work’s Toll and Significance. Bill Peel tells us that work can have a high toll on us but also a lasting significance. Learn how to work smarter for the Kingdom of God.
  • John Coltrane’s Faith and Work Story Behind A Love Supreme. Caroline Cross writes “Like Coltrane, we too are working toward the consummation of a calling.”
  • Strengths or Weaknesses: Which Need More Attention? Hugh Whelchel writes “God intends for us to use our gifts and talents to glorify him, serve the common good, and further his kingdom in all we do in our churches, our families, our communities, and at our jobs.”
  • How to Establish a Workplace Cultures That Actually Sticks. Art Lindsley writes “In today’s culture, we are desperately seeking a renewal of character but are not willing to give it a sufficient foundation.”
  • Practicing Curiosity: How to Connect Better with Congregants. Amy Sherman writes “To shepherd well, a pastor must know his sheep. To know implies curiosity about the people God has entrusted to your care. Curious pastors will study their congregations, they will seek to understand their lives and contexts, and they will give particular attention to the vocations of their people. Curious pastors will want to know what their sheep do Monday through Saturday and how they do it.”
  • Discerning the Season of Your Life. Ron Edmondson writes “Review your life by how the seasons molded you. God never wastes a season. Ask God to place in your heart what He wants you to learn during this specific season of your life. Invite God to speak into your seasons.”

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