My Report for August (Borrowed from TCM)

I’ve done this type of post before where I write about what I am listening to, reading, and watching in hopes that it might inspire you to share what you’re absorbing these days. Plus, if you’re stuck on ideas, these might be worth checking out at some point in the future.

Musicwise, I am obsessed with the songwriting of Lori McKenna. I’ve trekked home for two days successively with her albums Massachusetts and The Bird & The Rifle. Both are worth picking up if you happen to run across them in a record store. Both are filled with songs that remind me of why I fell in love with music in the first place.

Bookwise, I am about to embark on the latest in the Harry Potter universe with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I’m curious to see how this entry matches the tone and feel of the other books in the series (seeing as how it’s actually a stage play authored by someone other than J. K. Rowling).  I’m also extremely stoked to finally have my hands on a little devotional book entitled Seven Sacred Pauses by Macrina Wiederkehr (which I am fully expecting to rock my world).

I’m revisiting the strange and wonderful world of Twin Peaks, the short-lived, quirky, sometimes bizarre series that is slated to finally get around to its third season 26 years after the last episode aired way back in 1991. Maybe this means that Firefly will have a much-belated second season at some point in the near future? A brown-coat can dream.

Moviewise, I seem to be stuck on a Ingmar Bergman kick. Lately, I’ve watched both Through a Glass Darkly and Winter Light, two out of a trilogy based on Bergman’s struggle with God and faith. I don’t necessarily agree with some of his conclusions, but I have to admire that he was a brilliant filmmaker who was much more interested in creating art with a message than mass-producing eye candy that sells a lot of movie tickets.

That wraps up my report for August. Stay tuned for the next time I get around to writing about all the media I’m consuming. As always, I’d love to hear what you’re listening to/reading/watching these days. I just may add it to my ever-growing list.

 

More Lessons from Lent

It’s been a week since I gave up social media for Lent and so far, I’ve managed to stay away. I’m also trying not to be super-legalistic about it, but I’ve done well so far.

I do miss seeing what everyone’s up to and what their kids and pets are doing. I do feel quite a bit out of the loop when I’m away from social media. I also feel like I’m actually participating in my own life again.

I got to see a good friend of mine in what looks to me like the beginning stages of a dating relationship. I’m to the point now where I can be completely happy and supportive of both of them.

I also was blessed to celebrate the transition of Kairos  leadership from Mike Glenn to Chris Brooks. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of change (as I may have mentioned in passing in a few other blogs), I know that better things are in store for Kairos.

Maybe I’ll actually get back to that novel I started back in December but haven’t been able to get around to in 2016. Imagine that. Reading actual books. It boggles the mind.

I still hope to have more face-to-face conversations and do more of that real life stuff that I’ve been hearing so much about. From what little I’ve seen, I really think I’m going to like it.

In three days, my teenaged geriatric cat turns 16. I almost feel like a parent, wondering where the time has gone from when she was a wee little kitten barely bigger than my hand.

I think at some point in the future, I’d like to take a week or so where I go off the grid completely. No electronics, no phones, TV. Just me getting back to nature and (hopefully) getting my internal clock reset.

I also want to get back to living out of a sense of wonderment. I want to enjoy the moments and give thanks to the Creator not only of the grand universe but also of the smallest details.

There will be more updates as Lent progresses. If you’re pining away without me on social media, you can always reach me at gmendel72@icloud.com (because I get so few actual emails from actual people these days).

 

Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Dwight Yoakum, and The Facts of Life

I had my first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season, courtesy of the good folks at the Starbucks on Franklin Road in Brentwood, Tennessee. Never mind that it was 90+ degrees outside and I was sweating like the soon-to-be-Thanksgiving-dinner turkey. It was still the advent of autumn for me (though fall doesn’t officially start until September 23).

I even ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while. That was an unexpected God-wink moment that reminded me that God is still able to work all things together for good in any situation.

Driving home, I listened to Dwight Yoakum and was reminded of what REAL country music sounds like, as opposed to 90% of what you hear on present-day country music radio stations. I didn’t hear anything about “pickup trucks from where I grew up” or “girls in Daisy Dukes.” I did hear some pretty great music.

I bookended all that with a marathon of one of my old favorite TV shows, The Facts of Life. I had forgotten that George Clooney was a regular cast member (and that he apparently used to jiggle his head a lot). I didn’t forget how much I loved Blair, Jo, Natalie and (my personal favorite) Tootie. It was like travelling back to the 80’s.

I still find it ironic that Labor Day is all about rest. Maybe they should change the name to Rest from Labor Day. According to my research, it celebrates the modern labor movement, as well as the fact that most of us no longer have to work 12-hour days 7 days a week anymore (unless you’re a doctor or a nurse).

Heck, it could be celebrating my big toe and I’d take it. Any excuse to be able to sleep until almost 9:30 on a Monday morning is good by me.

I am thankful for those who paved the way for me to be able to get paid fairly for a 40-hour week. I’m thankful for those men and women who fought and died so that I could live free. I’m thankful for a Savior who thought I was worth dying for and redeeming and calling one of His own.

I may not have everything my heart desires, but I have God and that will always be enough.

 

 

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.

Lessons from Lent

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This may be old hat for you or not. I’m not sure. But stop me if you’ve heard some or all of this before: last year, I gave up only Facebook for Lent. This year, I decided to give up all social media. It turned out to be one of my best decisions ever. Although if I’m honest, I was being obedient to what I felt God was calling me to do. It really wasn’t my decision at all.

I don’t regret for one single second going without social media for those 46 days. I got in more prayer time, I read my Bible more, I read more books in general. Plus, I had a greater sense of peace from not being tied down to Facebook or Twitter.

I think sometimes in order to appreciate something more, you need to step away from it for a while. That was the case for me. I did sometimes feel out of the loop after missing all the news from Facebook. But I can always catch up on that.

Lent is more than just giving up. It’s replacing it with something better. It’s no good to give up social media if you’re going to fill up the time with television. Hopefully, you spend your extra free time in learning to hear God’s voice and hear His heartbeat and feel His love for you. Obviously, the best way to do that is through His Word.

I don’t claim that I was anywhere near perfect in that regard. I wasted too much of the time I had away from social media. But I’m not beating myself up about it. Instead I choose to focus on the fact that I was more discipline in regard to prayer and Bible reading than I’ve been in a long time.

I hope to be able to participate in Lent again next year. I hope that I can be free enough to walk away from anything that enslaves me and takes my eyes off Jesus, whether that be social media or TV or anything else.

Like I said before, it’s really not about giving up stuff or sacrificing what you love. More than that, it’s about prioritizing your life and making sure that Jesus and His Kingdom really and truly are first. Then everything else will line up and fall into proper place.

What I’m Watching These Days

As a public service to you all (and as a result of having nothing better to write about), I’m letting you in on what I’ve been watching these days. Note: I very rarely watch current television and tend to stay away from all reality TV like the plague.

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I’ve just started watching the AMC original drama Breaking Bad, which ended its 5-season run last year. So far, it’s intriguing and has kept me guessing about how the different plot twists will turn out. I’m definitely not about to start a meth lab, but the story and the characters are compelling and believable, if not always quite likeable.

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I also revisted a classic adaptation of the Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice. It almost made me wish for a time machine, so I could travel back to 1800’s England and breathe in the fresher air and take a break from the current overhyped and oversaturated culture that’s obsesses with all things media and electronic. There’s a reason why this is the standard version of Pride and Prejudice, even if it is a bit long at nearly 5 1/2 hours.

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I also saw an old Cary Grant movie. This one won’t go down in history as one of my favorites of his, but it was entertaining, insightful, and amusing. It’s hard not to watch this movie without thinking of the Red Scare in Hollywood, Joseph McCarthy and all those blacklists of actor and directors who supposedly had Communist ties. The movie sometimes feels a bit dates, but you can never go far wrong with either Cary Grant or Jeanne Crain. And it ends happily enough.

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I’m also making my way through all the episodes of Arrested Development, which is probably my favorite sitcom of all time. Granted, it’s not for everyone, but it appeals to my offbeat nature and decidedly weird sense of humor. I recommend it if you’re looking for something funny AND smart AND sophisticated.

That’s my report for April. Check back for my report in May (depending if I hit another creative dry-spell). And as always, I look forward to hearing from you on what you’re currently watching, whether new or old.

 

Yet More Life Lessons from Downton Abbey

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I watched the season finale of Downton Abbey season 4 and learned that yes, there will be a season 5.

I promise there will be NO spoiler alerts for those who haven’t made it this far in the show. There are a few life lessons I picked up from tonight’s episode, with all names and plot-twists left out to protect those who are still on season 3.

One character commented how another helped her to find the strength to no longer be afraid of any consequences from her past. I like that. I like that quite a bit.

That is community, where we can be strong for others when they’re weak so that when we’re the ones who are weak, someone else will be strong for us. We hold each other up and bear each others burdens, to put it in more biblical language.

The first part of that equation is the strength to admit weaknesses. You would think strength is keeping up the appearance of self-reliance and self-preservation, but really it is admitting that you and I need each other.

Ultimately, when we are at our weakest, that’s when Christ’s power is strongest in us, according to some dude named Paul who wrote a considerable amount of the New Testament. I think he knew what he was talking about.

I believe this strength is manifested in the context of community and flows through the hands and feet of brothers and sisters serving one another.

See? All that from one two-hour episode and no plot details given away. Not bad, eh?

So in summary, it’s okay to confide your struggles and weaknesses with committed fellow believers. It’s okay to let your weaknesses show so that you can allow others to use their gifts and strengths to meet your needs, knowing that you have gifts and strengths that will serve others in their own weakness.

Most of all, let Jesus be your strength and rest in His perfect sufficiency each and every day.

Theology from a BBC Sitcom

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I’ve discovered a great new (to me) BBC sitcom called Miranda. It’s about a very tall and very awkward English woman named– wait for it— Miranda, played by –again, wait for it– Miranda Hart.

The whole concept of the show is Miranda being socially awkward, clumsy, and hapless in just about every situation. Something none of you can relate to, I’m sure.

Maybe you find your self talking to someone you’re romantically interested in and you find the most bizarre things coming out of your mouth. Your mind is thinking, “What in the world?” but is completely helpless to stop your mouth from talking.

No one? Then how about this one, sports fans?

I’m not a woman. Big shocker.

And I’m not 6’1″. At least everywhere except in my own happy little world.

But I’ve had my share of socially awkward moments, of trying way too hard to be friendly, of being both obsessive and compulsive with certain relationships, and of not being “normal.”

But I’ve come to the place where I wouldn’t trade places with anyone. I’m having way too much fun being me. I’ve finally caught a glimpse of God’s heart for me and His dream for me and how He made me like no one else.

Not everyone will get you. That doesn’t make you inferior or less worthy. Trust me, God will bring people into your life who will more than just get you. They will embrace you and celebrate you and champion you. They will make you feel like a superhero on days when you can’t even button your shirt up right.

Remember that God Himself more than gets you. He made you. He designed you just the way you are to be like no one else and play a part in His ongoing Story that absolutely no one else could possibly fill.

I’ve seen 5 episodes so far and I love it. I also love the way my family and friends love me. I adore how God adores and celebrates and rejoices in and dances over and shouts over me.

I call that a very good reminder for this All Saints Day.

Things I Love 29: She’s The Tear That Hangs Inside my Soul Forever

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“How my eyes see, perspective, is my key to enter into His gates. I can only do so with thanksgiving. If my inner eye has God seeping up through all things, then can’t I give thanks for anything? And if I can give thanks for the good things, the hard things, the absolute everything, I can enter the gates to glory. Living in His presence is fullness of joy- and seeing shows the way in.” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are)

Just to give you a context for this particular blog, I have the TV on. Late Night with Conan O’Brien to be specific. So I apologize in advance for any random goofiness that filters into this blog. Oh wait. That’s filters in every other time. Never Mind. Back to #836.

836) Impromptu dashes to Starbucks in the pouring rain for a cold foam mocha that was totally worth it.

837) A tall glass of orange juice.

838) Conan’s wacky brand of humor.

839) Watching a thunderstorm from a safe place.

840) Hugging my grandmother and telling her I love her.

841) The way my little niece’s eyes light up when she sees me.

842) The way the song “Easy to Love” as sung by Ella Fitzgerald perfectly captures the way I feel about a certain someone.

843) Any day without Fox News.

844) Bacon.

845) Kevin Bacon (just because he’s the coolest . . . and in a very non-gay way).

846) Peanut M & Ms

847) The most recent screen adaptation of Les Miserables.

848) Changing machines that could turn my brother into a puppy (if only I had a brother).

849) Finally getting past level 33 in Candy Crush Saga.

850) Melatonin that helps me sleep at night.

851) James Bond movie marathons.

852) Encouraging facebook messages sent at just the right time.

853) Remembering when Bruce Willis had hair.

854) BOTH pairs of  Crocs that I still wear, regardless of whether they are in fashion anymore or not.

855) Every single episode of Firefly and the movie follow-up called Serenity.

856) Pretty much everything Joss Whedon has ever been associated with.

857) The peace of God that comes out of nowhere when I least expect or deserve it.

858) The drive-in movie theatre in Watertown.

859) Driving anywhere late at night with good friends.

860) That the wheels on the bus DO go round and round.

861) That Nosferatu is still the creepiest and most effective adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

862) God picking me up every single time I fall.

863) The concept of flying monkeys. Brilliant.

864) The ending of It’s a Wonderful Life that tears me up every single time.

865) That the thief on the cross was the first person Jesus welcomed into heaven.

866) Never having seen a single episode of Honey Boo Boo (a record I intend to keep going).

867) The first two Die Hard movies (after that. . . . not so much).

868) True beauty that comes from within.

869) Those rare moments when I am totally selfless and God-focused.

870) That God knows me and calls me by name.

Things I Love 27: Every Rose Has Its Thorn

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Even on a Monday there’s plenty to be thankful for. In fact, having a mindset of thankfulness can make even the worst of Mondays bearable and even good. And even the worst of Mondays are only 24 hours. Unless you’re Bill Murray on Groundhog Day. Then good luck. On to #761.

761) Hiking the Ganier Ridge trail at Radner Lake in the rain.

762) Knowing that even the worst of days last only 24 hours.

763) Seeing a baby deer with its mother.

764) The thought of having a bowl of cereal as a reward for finishing this blog.

765) Yard sales and garage sales.

766) Looking forward to another Kairos tomorrow night.

767) Being 100% condemnation-free in Christ.

768) Rescued pets.

769) Finally releasing my cares into the more than capable hands of Jesus.

770) Corn on the cob.

771) Being reminded of my dependence on Jesus and how it’s not up to me.

772) All those Back to the Future movies (even that confusing Part II).

773) Knowing that Jesus won’t ever give up on me.

774) That knowing is half the battle– thanks to the 80’s G. I. Joe cartoons for that reminder.

775) That all I have to to is stand and watch and God will fight my battles for me.

776) A good game of gin rummy (even though I never ever win).

777) The possibility, however remote, of going on a date with Kari Jobe.

778) Watching Halloween and Halloween II back-to-back on Halloween night.

779) Remembering all those late nights at Perkin’s when I was a student at Union.

780) That tree-lined road between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

781) Those moments of clarity in the middle of the hazy days.

782) That God didn’t give me most of the things I prayed for.

783) The Pauline Baynes illustrations in The Chronicles of Narnia.

784) The fruit tea at Calypso Cafe.

785) Fried chicken at family reunions.

786) Bette Davis in Now, Voyager.

787) Picnics at Arrington Vineyards on Sunday afternoons.

788) How my cat looks so peaceful and serene when she’s sleeping.

789) Victor Hugo’s beautiful story of redemption and hope in Les Miserables.

790) Wading in a creek on an especially hot and humid day.

791) How much better I feel right now than when I started this blog.

792) Serving breakfast at an ungodly hour at the Nashville Rescue Mission.

793) Pure 100% Vermont maple syrup.

794) The beautiful and sad movie, Bright Star.

795) Not ever giving up on people because God never gave up on me.

796) Vh1’s Behind The Music– especially about the bands I loved growing up.

797) Whitney Houston’s 1991 version of The Star-Spangled Banner.

798) High fives and fist bumps.

799) Oscillating fans.

800) Whoever came up with the brilliant idea of those combination squirt guns and portable fans.