Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Of Gran Torinos and Aging Backwards

We don't do movie reviews. But I'm going to do a movie review anyway. Take the money you were planning to spend to see Timothy Buttons (or whatever his name is) grow younger for three hours that seems like a week and spend it on watching Clint Eastwood mumble and snarl his way through Gran Torino. My wife and I saw the Buttons thing last Friday night and, about 45 minutes into the movie, he was still an old man. About an hour in, I found myself hoping he would die soon or at least that there would be a car chase or some kind of action. Unfortunately, it would take another two hours for him to regress to infancy and finally die backwards. Okay -- so that might be a spoiler. You knew he was going to die, though, didn't you? And I really don't think it is possible to spoil that movie.

On the other hand, Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino is a gem -- a must see for guys and my wife even liked it. Now I have to warn you, his character is a foul-mouthed bigot. In fact, the R rating comes mostly from some really bad language in the movie -- evidently crusty old war veterans, Hispanic, Black and Hmong street gangs don't say, "Doggone it!" very much at all. Don't take your kids! However, if there ever were some claim that a film required bad language to be taken seriously, it would probably be legit here. Street gangs don't talk nice. At least they didn't when I was accosted by a gang selling drugs back in the late 60s, and I don't think they've cleaned up their act a whole lot since.

I digress. Disclaimers due to bad language aside, there is much to value in this movie. You have a war vet curmudgeon who hates the fact that his neighborhood is changing, that his neighbors are Hmong, and that he has lost his wife. You have a very young priest trying to minister to a guy who doesn't want any part of his ministry. And you have an immigrant family trying to make it in a new world. And you have conversions -- maybe not conversions to Christianity but conversions in the way people think and view each other. And finally -- and I've saved the best for last -- you have some pretty interesting Christian imagery/symbolism. I'm not going to do a spoiler here, but I think your men's group could talk about the end of the movie for a long time -- especially as it relates to Christianity and being a man.

A movie with Clint Eastwood and a shiny, classic Ford Gran Torino has to be a guys' movie! And the bonus -- it's not set in LA or New York!

Have you seen it? What do you think?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Steroids - What Does It Matter?

Is anybody surprised about Alex Rodriguez' steroid revelation? Not me....

While I don't think any individual player was the problem, they were just doing everything possible to win and that is what they are paid to do. Was it stupid? Sure. As far as I am concerned, somebody at the league office was asleep at the switch. I mean, come on! Do you remember the homerun derby between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa? McGwire looked like a superhero and Sosa wasn't far behind? Where were all the league officials when these comic-book superhero characters showed up on the field? Someone surely noticed.

I am in the camp that would like to put an asterisk on these records - denoting these guys were juiced up. The real casualty is the integrity of the game and - to a certain extent - the integrity of the player. I still think old Hammerin' Hank and Roger Maris are the men to beat.

So, these players went to extreme measures to perform at the highest level; they bent rules and probably damaged their body permanently. These guys are easy to criticize, but isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?

I bet every guy has bent the rules at some point to get the edge.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Life Changing Moment - Marriage

Are you married? I am. How did it happen? I mean how did you come to the decision that this was the right woman? When you asked her, did you spring it on her in the movies where she was completely taken by surprise, nearly panicking at your offer? Or was it something that just seemed to make sense -- a decision that just kind of came about?

Now when she said, "yes," the idea of being married moved from the conceptual to practical, and that's where things can get a little dicey. The wedding is planned. Not since the Normandy Invasion has this much detail been put into any project. Guest lists, the wedding gown, tuxedos, registries, churches, halls, colors, attendants, housing, food, drink, honeymoon, songs, photography, flowers, cake, music, and all other sorts of details are attended to -- all with the goal of everything coming together for the perfect wedding. At some point, I know I and many of my married friends who have gone through the planning stage have entertained the brainstorm of a quick Vegas wedding as a more reasonable option. You know this is true, and don't get all righteous on me. Most weddings are 90% hype. The Women's Entertainment Network even has a whole show dedicated to the problem of the wedding called, Bridezilla

Like I said, I am married. Was the wedding worth it? We let me put it this way -- we got some nice pictures and the wife was happy. When you marry the right woman, life gets better in ways you can really appreciate only after you've been there. You need to put in some time and experience, some bumps along the road. I can't really explain it well. I wish I could, but it's well worth it. You know, it makes so much more sense to me now why God uses the metaphor of marriage to describe His love for us. He calls the Church His bride. Not surprisingly, it is the perfect metaphor. In our limited capacity, we can glimpse the vast amount of love He has for us through the context of marriage. It is and will be better than we could ever imagine.

So how was your wedding? Did you get any surprises? Would you do it the same way? Was it all worth it?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Life-changing Moment - The Move

When did you move? Did your dad get transferred? Are you a military brat, a pastor's kid, or was your own move out of your parent's place the first time you left home? As a kid, you probably didn't have much say in the matter, but at some point in time it was your decision and most of the time it is voluntary. Sometimes out of necessity, sometimes for a better opportunity, but no matter what the reason, a move comes with mixed emotions. Yes, having to move to another house, another city, another state, or even another country changes the course of one's life. Good-bye familiarity. Hello uncertainty.

If there is family involved, the move is even more traumatic. This is especially true if you are the reason for the move. Moving your wife away from her friends (and in most cases, her family) is going to create some angst. Your wife may be completely behind the move, but that doesn't change the fact that you are the reason she is pulling up roots and taking off for parts unknown. And, if you have kids, you're toast. No amount of spin about new schools, new friends, and new opportunities will convince them this is a good thing. Don't even entertain the notion; it's not going to happen. Depending on your child's age, you're going to get anything from long, sad faces mixed with tears to slammed doors and rude behavior. It's quite possible you'll even hear outbursts like these: "You don't care about me!" "You're ruining my life!" "I hate you!"

The children of Israel were not all that happy to leave Egypt. They complained how much better it was back in Egypt and how they really didn't want to be in the wilderness. While you may think moving to the wilderness would be a grand adventure, most of them got bogged down with the journey and missed the joy of anticipating the destination. God gave them a land flowing with riches; they had more than they could imagine and each became happy. The good thing for us on this side of heaven is that most of the time that happens in our earthly moves, too. We get to the new destination and find out how really wonderful it is.

As we move throughout our lives, we can always count on our heavenly Father to be by our side -- guiding, sustaining, uplifting, and comforting. What about you? Did you have to move? How did that work out?