Awakenings and The Gift of Being Alive

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Leonard Lowe: We’ve got to tell everybody. We’ve got to remind them. We’ve got to remind them how good it is.

Dr. Sayer: How good what is, Leonard?

Leonard Lowe: Read the newspaper. What does it say? All bad. It’s all bad. People have forgotten what life is all about. They’ve forgotten what it is to be alive. They need to be reminded. They need to be reminded of what they have and what they can lose. What I feel is the joy of life, the gift of life, the freedom of life, the wonderment of life!” (Awakenings, 1990).

First of all, when did this movie get to be 25 years old? Where was I? Why wasn’t I consulted about this occurrence?

I do so love this movie. It reminds me of what a gift being alive is. It reminds me of the blessings of all those things that I daily take for granted that so many people don’t get to experience– waking up, breathing in fresh air, having the freedom to go and do as I please, being able to worship God freely.

The saying goes that every day may not be a good day, but there is good in every day. No matter how hard-pressed or stressed you are, you can still find the good if you look for it. Even in the midst of incredible loss and grief, there are blessings waiting to be found.

You have to train your eye. If you expect bad to happen, that’s all you’ll see. If you expect good, you’ll find it. You project onto others what you see in yourself (I learned that in one of my Psychology classes way back in my Union University days).

The best way is to look for God in every situation. You’ll find Him and you’ll also see whatever you’re going through in the best possible light.

As a friend of mine always says at the end of his blogs, just you think about that.

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Back at McKay’s

“Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of ‘the brightest and the best’ among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies’? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God” (1 Corinthians 1:27-31, The Message).

If you’ve kept up with my posts, you know that my idea of heaven is a place like McKay’s Used Books, CDs, Movies & More. It’s a place where the inner book-nerd can bask in the glow of the warmth that comes from a warehouse filled with everything to satisfy his geeky little heart.

I went Saturday and did my usual trading old unwanted stuff for new wanted stuff. I picked up The Beatles Anthology Volumes 1 & 2. Lo and behold, when I got home I discovered that Volume 1 consisted of two Disc 2s and no Disc 1.

So I went back today. What else could a self-respecting multimedia nerd do?

I ended up trading in a bit more and picked up a fantastic (to me) CD called Music Box Christmas Creations (which I am currently listening to as I write this) for the princely sum of 19 cents.

I also got the Beatles Anthology Volume 1 with both discs.

I had thoughts of putting up a hammock and calling it home, but then I realized my cat Lucy might object. She’s already camping out on my backpack to keep me from leaving home after I spend four nights dog sitting in the Bellevue area.

The best place is still in the “Very Scratched” section. Most people will pass that up, but I’ve learned that with the miracle of a little 70% rubbing alcohol (and occasionally some toothpaste) you can get any CD with scratches to play, In fact, you really have to work hard to make a CD unplayable (as I’ve learned).

Most of us are like that. We’re not new. We’ve got some scratches and scars and wear and tear from a life of poor choices, unfortunate circumstances, and that old persistent problem called a sin nature.

God still chooses to use us. He goes to the discarded section and picks us out because He has plans for us. I love that about God.

I only wish I had more stuff to trade at McKay’s. Maybe one day soon.

 

Holy Ground

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I watched Scent of a Woman for the first time tonight, and I really liked it. Okay, so I was biased by the film’s autumn setting. Any movie that’s set around the fall season is automatically a winner in my book. Especially if the background is a historic school campus.

There was a shot of the school’s motto in some shots that I noticed. It said,” The place where people meet to seek the highest is holy ground.”

That’s worship. Seeking the highest. What else is there that’s higher than God and what other purpose do we have other than to seek out the God who created and sustains everything that is?

The beauty of it is that God didn’t wait for us to seek Him. He didn’t play celestial hide and seek with us and manufacture a bunch of rules in order for us to get to the place where we could find us. We don’t have to speak any dead languages or perform secret rites or know the right people, because we have a direct line to the throne of God. We don’t have to find a way to get to God because God has already made a way for us to come.

No. God came to us in Jesus. God found us. After all, we were (and still are sometimes) the ones who were lost. We’re the ones running and hiding. Or more accurately, trying to hide like Adam and Eve in the garden with their makeshift fig-leaf outfits and overwhelming fear and shame.

Worship is seeking that which wants to be found and has already found us. Worship isn’t a demand made of us so that we can hope to gain God’s favor but a privilege given to those who already have it. While worship may be all about extolling the greatness of God, it’s also where our greatest good and our greatest joy can be found.

By the way, the movie was really good. Al Pacino deserved his Best Actor Academy Award for sure. And the falling leaves were pretty.

 

 

 

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Epiphany

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“There’s no present like the time” (a great line from The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel).

My life hasn’t gone the way I planned. In fact, for most of my life there really hasn’t been a plan. My first job when I moved to the Nashville area fell into my lap in a stroke of providence and blessing.

I can say that while I haven’t always gotten what I wanted, I find I always got what I needed just when I needed it.

Tonight, I saw the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the sequel to . . . you can probably figure out the title to the first movie. It was just as good and clever as the first.

I remember when I heard the line that I quoted, my brain wanted to reverse it and have it say, “There’s no time like the present.” That’s how I’ve always heard it and that’s what I hear when people are wanting you to act NOW and buy NOW and decide NOW.

But truly, there is no better present than the time you’re given. There’s no better present than the present. You only get one today and never a do-over on yesterday (unless you happen to live inside the movie Groundhog Day).

So take it all in. Be sure to pay attention. For me, it means noticing the beautiful cloud formations in the sky on the way to work and actually paying attention to the scenery on the drive. It means stopping for a moment to breathe a prayer along the lines of “Thank You, God, for this life, and forgive me if I don’t love it enough.”

I’m still learning never to take anything (or anyone) for granted. I hope I wake up tomorrow, but I can’t guarantee that I will because it’s not promised. The same goes for all my family and friends. Even my cat Lucy.

Savor your life while you live it. Don’t waste your time during the week pining away after the weekends and holidays and summer vacations. Each day is a gift that is good for only 24 hours and has a no-return policy. Open it.

 

What Would Your Groundhog Day Be?

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I was browsing through Netflix looking for something to watch and I ran across a movie I hadn’t seen in a while– Groundhog Day ,starring one Mr. Bill Murray.

It’s one of my favorites (though honestly when I first saw it I got a bit annoyed with its premise and would have been very happy to not hear “I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher for a long, long, long time).

The premise (for those of you living under a rock who haven’t heard of the movie) centers around a weatherman who gets stuck in Punxsutawney, PA in a time-loop where it’s always February 2 a.k.a. Groundhog Day. No matter what he does, he always wakes up in the same bed with that same Sonny and Cher song playing on the alarm clock radio.

That got me thinking. If I could relive one day over and over– and got to choose that day– what day would I pick? What day would you pick?

I might pick a day from one of my memorable vacations growing up (especially the ones in Gatlinburg)

. Or maybe one of the family reunions or Christmas Eves where everyone I loved was in the same place.

I’m guessing you’d pick a day based on who would be there. It wouldn’t be that day that you made your first dollar (or your first million). It probably wouldn’t be the day you got that bonus or that promotion or that raise.

In the end, it won’t be all the awards and certificates that we are asking for. It will be those closest to us, those whom we want to share one last word of blessing, to say “I love you” one last time.

For me, I wonder if reliving those moments might take away some of the magic, kind of like watching the same program over and over. After a while, it wouldn’t mean as much or be as special. Maybe it’s better that I can carry those moments in my memory.

 

Your January Report from Yours Truly (Borrowed from TCM)

I always love when they have the monthly updates from TCM about new DVD releases, as well as biographies about the classic movie stars and information about upcoming classic movie festivals.

As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so here’s my own January report:

I recently read a fantastic book by Mark Batterson (In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,  Wild Goose Chase, The Circle Maker) called The Grave Robber. It looks seven miracles of Jesus from the Gospel of John from the viewpoint that the God who did those miracles back then is the same God who is just as capable of producing miracles in this day and age. It definitely came at a time when I needed a spark of renewal and revitalization in my own faith, so I give it two thumbs way up.

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Also, I’ve been listening to some old Bob Dylan. By that I mean his first eight studio albums, remastered and released in mono. I love the way he has with words, even if I don’t always understand completely what he’s singing about. Plus, I’m sure my two uncles are smiling down from heaven at this musical selection.

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In keeping with the 60’s theme, I went to the library and checked out an old movie adapted from a Neil Simon play, Barefoot in the Park. It features Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, both looking radiant and very young in this film. It’s a comedy that manages to be funny and intelligently witty at the same time, a rare feat for Hollywood.

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I think that wraps up my report for January. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep you updated on my latest book, movie, and music finds that will probably not be new (or possibly even new to you) but they will be new to me.

So until next time, watch TCM and keep me posted on what you are reading, listening to, and watching these days.

 

 

 

O Captain! My Captain! Part II

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I’m currently watching Dead Poets Society, featuring the late Robin Williams. It’s one of my favorites but I hadn’t seen it in a very long time. I don’t have a good reason for that. I’m just stating a fact.

In it, Robin Williams references a poem by Walt Whitman written in honor of the late Abraham Lincoln just after his assasination. It seems very fitting in tribute to Mr. Williams now.

“O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;

But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;

Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.”

Sometimes You Just Need a Little Ella in Your Life

 

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I am about to go on record and make a bold statement: I have old fashioned tastes in movies. I’m not a fan of movies with lots of unbelievable car chases and overblown dialogue and cars that turn into robots. I don’t like moves that are a BLAST (Big, Loud, And Stupid, Too).

I like movies with characters and situations I can relate to. I like well-written dialogue and well-thought out plot twists. I want to have to think a bit and not always be able to predict what’s coming next.

I like old movies. I think if I could only have one channel on my TV, it would be TCM. They show the best classic movies.

I also am becoming more and more of a fan of old music. I know I sound like an old fart when I say what I’m about to say, but I don’t care. I like music with a melody and singers who can sing. Like Ella Fitzgerald.

I love her voice and her impeccable phrasing. Truly, there was no one else like her. And there never will be.

Sometimes, I need to take a break from modern music and get my Ella fix. Her music makes me feel nostalgic for an era that was way before my time. It relaxes me and makes me feel better.

What was the point of all this? I forget. Maybe that it’s good to go old-school and retro every once in a while. Or maybe to like what you like and not card whether it’s hip or cool or if anybody else likes it.

Yeah, that must be it.

Choices

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“It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices” (Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets).

Yes, I know. I just quote from a Harry Potter movie. Egads.

I’ve read all the books and seen all the movies and I liked every one of them. I especially liked the magic as metaphor theme. I think that these books aren’t really about magic as much as they are about growing up, discovering who you are, and learning what truly matters. But that is a topic for another blog on another day.

I do think that it’s not our abilities but what we do with them that ultimately matters in the end. I’ve seen people with loads of natural ability bested by people not nearly as talented but far more determined. Especially in the arena of sports.

One of the most famous choices is the one Joshua made early in the history of the nation of Israel. He basically said that while the others were free to worship whatever gods they wanted that he and his family would choose to serve Yahweh and Yahweh alone. No other.

That same choice is offered to me. Daily. And daily I must choose whether I will serve Jesus or something else, which usually ends up being my own selfish desires. Sometimes I actually choose right, but more often than I’d like I choose wrong. I choose me.

Also, I think we choose whether or not we’ll give up on those who let us down or give them second chances. We choose who we let into our inner struggles and who we shut out. We choose role-playing versus authenticity and honesty.

But ultimately, it’s about who to serve. As the famous theologian Bob Dylan said, you gotta serve somebody. So who will you choose?