Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tone Deaf Dreamer

I’m an American Idol auditions addict. While I do enjoy the actual competition, seeing a bit of what the judges go through to find finalists is entertaining too – which is why they air it. I like hearing stories, picking favorites, predicting stardom (I don’t have any witnesses, but I called Phillip Phillips’ win from his first audition. True story.)
But it’s not just the talented ones who are entertaining. Perhaps more so are those who don’t have a singing/performing/talented bone in their bodies. Though you have to admire their courage while at the same time roll your eyes at their bravado, really it’s just fun to laugh, right? Along with the judges who have probably seen it all.
Still, it’s just a bit heart-wrenching when the judges break the news – this competition just isn’t for you. Singing isn’t your thing.
Why does it strum the heart-strings, why do we feel bad when it is an obvious fact?
Well, because, in most cases, singing professionally is their dream. And we, as American Dreamers, clutch our hearts and lament dashed dreams. After all, when you wish (be it on a star or not) dreams do come true, isn’t that so?
Lucky for American Idol viewers, the judges have no qualms dashing the dreams, informing the tone-deaf contestant – it’s not your calling, dawg.
King David from the Bible had a dream dashed. I am referring to his zealous desire to build God a temple in Jerusalem, a permanent dwelling for God’s presence that up until that time had accompanied the Israelites wherever they went inside the Ark of the Covenant, a portable, holy encasement carrying God’s glory. And whenever the Israelites stayed in one spot for a time, the Tabernacle was erected as a tent.
David had a dream to build a permanent temple, a radiant palace for God, one that he felt God deserved. Doesn’t sound like anything wrong with that, right? In theory, there isn’t. And David’s motivations may even have been the purest ever in history.
But, it was not God’s calling for him. God had this task reserved for someone else, David’s son, Solomon who would become king after David. And God, as He always does whether He shares them with us or not, had His reasons.
1 Chronicles 28:2-3 says, “David rose to his feet and said: ‘My brothers and my people! It was my desire to build a temple where the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, God’s footstool, could rest permanently. I made the necessary preparations for building it, but God said to me, ‘You must not build a temple to honor my name, for you are a warrior and have shed much blood.’”
In 1 Chronicles 17, when this exchange between God and David actually took place, God gave David quite a list of other honors and promises from His hand, but fulfilling the dream of building the temple was not one of them.
David could have reacted poorly – shook his fist at God (he’d done that before and would do it again), determined to fulfill his dream no matter what after all he was doing it for God’s glory so God will just have to live with it!
But he didn’t. He surrendered to God’s will in this circumstance, even having the character to praise God for His instruction as well as the promises that had been relayed.
Which way do we react when God dashes our dreams?
Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Seems pretty plain, right? Give kudos to God, He’ll fulfill your every wish.
Through the rosy tint of American-Dream colored glasses, we interpret this verse to mean that if we keep our nose clean, more or less obey God’s commands, go to church, maybe even serve on some sort of missions-oriented team, then He will have no reason not to fulfill our dreams…
A grand house…
A baby…
A worldwide platform for preaching the Good News…
The perfect job…
A spouse…
The list is endless, isn’t it?
So, what happens when the wish list is not fulfilled? If you’ve lived long enough, you know, don’t you? Something about the way we interpret that verse isn’t working.
Here’s what I think. There is a difference between your dreams and His calling on your life. True, they aren’t always at odds, but many many many times they are.
One reason for that, I believe, is that we do a pretty good job at identifying the second part of that verse – we are certain of our desires. We fall short knowing what ‘delight yourself in the Lord’ means.
If God called David ‘a man after His own heart’ then I have to conclude that no one in history delighted himself more in the Lord than David did. Yet, David was not permitted to fulfill his dream of building the temple. Why? Because it was not David’s calling to do so. God had many other things for David to do, but this particular dream was not one of them.
Delighting yourself in the Lord, then, has more to do with David’s reaction to God’s instructions. Instead of tenaciously holding on to his own ideas and desires, David surrendered to God’s, thanking Him for His intervention. When you have the heart to do that, you’ve discovered the secret to delighting yourself in the Lord, because only then do His desires become yours.
So, if it is your dream to become the next American Idol, but judges inform you that you are tone deaf, start looking elsewhere for your calling. Funny thing is, in the long run, you’ll be more than glad you did.
Because when it is your calling, anything is indeed possible.
Happy Wednesday, Dry Ground friends! Love y’all!

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Tense Matter

Matthew 28:19 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
This verse is the mission conference’s mantra – as well it should be. But if you aren’t called to missions – long-term, foreign-field missionary work – then this verse, or the popular interpretations thereof, can conjure up feelings of guilt, shame and the idea that perhaps there’s something wrong with you if you don’t feel the pull to sell everything you have and live in an outside-your-box culture.
Where do those feelings come from? Well, aside from the fact that I think, perhaps sub-consciously, that’s part of the design and intent of said mission conferences, I have another idea.
Here’s a question – Would you feel any differently if the verse read like this: “Therefore, as you are going, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”?
Well, at church yesterday, during the annual mission conference message, the pastor revealed at the beginning of his sermon that in the original text, the progressive tense is used – as you are going instead of go. As he went on using this verse in the ‘usual’ recruiting sense, encouraging people to search their hearts for the call of God to a long-term, foreign-field missionary work (which I’m not saying isn’t a good thing to do), I stopped listening and wrote down the revelations I got just from that little piece of word study.
To me, it makes so much more sense to say – as you are going – because then it actually applies to everybody in any situation every Christian finds themselves.
We are commanded to make disciples as we are going…
…to the grocery store.
…to work.
…on vacation.
…across town.
…to visit grandma.
…through the drive-thru.
It doesn’t necessarily mean we preach a sermon in all of these places. It might, but not necessarily. It means, listen for what God would have you do for Him and for His glory in every situation you are in all the time. It means step-by-step obedience to care for, love, invite, help, inform, pray for all of the people, saved or not, you encounter – whether across the world or in your back yard.
It also places the emphasis on your own behavior instead of pointing out the wrongs in others – avoiding that phrase non-Christians like to throw around these days – don’t judge me! The person you are encountering may or may not know the Lord, but your behavior should represent the fact that you do. Listening to God’s call in your life applied to every encounter directs your behavior so that you end up speaking the Truth in Love.
All of us are capable of immediately obeying the ‘mandate’ to make disciples as we are going. Listening and obeying is the key. Is He asking you to dedicate your entire life to digging wells in Africa? Then, do that. Is He asking you to go on short-term trips to assist victims of natural disasters? Then, do that. Is He asking you to invite your co-worker to church? Take food to an ailing neighbor? Email a friend to ask for forgiveness? Smile at the harried clerk behind the counter?
Then, do that.
Have a great week, Dry Ground friends!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Last Line Answers!

1. “And for a brief moment, Gordo Cooper became the greatest pilot anyone had ever seen.” – 1983, The Right Stuff
2. “To live would be an awfully big adventure.” – 1991, Hook
3. “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” – 1985, Back to the Future
4. “As you wish.” – 1987, The Princess Bride
5. “Do I still have to sleep in the cupboard?” – 1991, Beauty and the Beast

Last Lines

So, I’m updating decades… a little closer to the present. But just a little. May the guessing begin!

1. “And for a brief moment, Gordo Cooper became the greatest pilot anyone had ever seen.”
2. “To live would be an awfully big adventure.”
3. “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”
4. “As you wish.”
5. “Do I still have to sleep in the cupboard?”

Answers posted later tonight. TGIF and Happy Weekending, Dry Ground friends!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Absolutes for the Multitudes

There's all kinds of people in this world.
Shortly before leaving Florida this past summer, we met someone in a professional setting and during a short stint of chit-chat were faced with this exchange:
Her: Do you all have any kids?
Dan: No. Unfortunately.
Her: Oh… well, you know that’s a sin.
No joke. She was serious and quite disturbed on our behalf.
Thankful I hadn’t been in on that conversation. I’d have responded: Well, it’s not for lack of trying, lady!
My first fiery reactionary thoughts faded quickly because let’s be honest, I’m used to hearing outrageous opinions on this issue. Trust me, God and I keep a close dialogue about it so I don’t need or care about anyone’s take on the matter.
Anyway, my point is, that after the first quick thoughts, the main thing that I wanted to know was – why does this woman think not having children is a sin? What Bible did she get that out of? Or what passage from the Bible I read did she interpret to say that?
But she really really believes what she said.
What would this world be like if Truth was based on what we each believed?
Or, what if Truth changed based on who is elected to office or ascends to a throne or usurps authority just because they have the physical power to do so?
In either case, Truth wouldn’t exist at all because its very nature would be impossible. And no Truth at all would be a hopeless state indeed.
So I’m concerned that I’ve been hearing this buzz word on all issues moral: ‘evolve.’ Have you heard this? Our ideas about certain things are supposed to have ‘evolved’ with… what? The times? The culture? The people who declare themselves as the purveyors of Truth? It seems to mean ‘get with the times’ so that whatever anyone ever anywhere wants to do or believe can be considered or spun to sound in some possible way as acceptable. Heaven forbid anything ever be unacceptable. Unless the ‘evolved’ ones declare it to be so.
In principle, the babblers of such rhetoric are saying that Truth is out there, up there, somewhere, and we are to evolve until we reach it.
Big problem with that - how will we ever know when we have? And if we’re not meant to, then… what’s the point?
Is it a wonder that despair has taken up residence in our hearts?
Here’s the good news. Truth exists. It existed before time began, before any of us were around to have an opinion on it. And, Truth doesn’t change.
Cultures, opinions, practices, people, ideas all change but Truth never does.
For Truth to be both of these things – eternal and unchanging – then it can only come from a Source with the same attributes. The only One ever to claim it as well as back it up is the One True God, The Holy One of Israel, The Great I Am, the Lord, God Almighty – and He’s gracious enough to share it with us in His Word, The Holy Bible.
Truth does not cease to be Truth based on my beliefs. I don’t know everything there is to know about Truth – pretty sure no one does. But that is precisely why Truth is the standard and not ourselves. Truth isn’t somewhere hovering above me. Truth is the solid rock foundation upon which I stand – or fall or crawl as the case may be.
So, beware, beware when someone asks you to ‘evolve’ to a truth prescribed by this generation. Talk about a puny worldview.
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Monday, January 21, 2013

Seeing in the Dark

We sang a beautiful song in church yesterday. Here are the lyrics:

You revive me
You revive me Lord
And all my deserts are rivers of joy.
You are the treasure I could not afford
So I’ll spend myself ‘till I’m empty and poor.
All for You
You revive me Lord.

Lord I have seen Your goodness
And I know the way You are.
Give me eyes to see You in the dark.
And Your face shines a glory
That I only know in part.
And there is still a longing
A longing in my heart.

My soul is thirsty
Only You can satisfy.
You are the well that never will run dry.
And I’ll praise You for the blessing
For calling me Your friend.
And in Your name I’m lifting
I’m lifting up my hands.

I’m alive
I’m alive
You breathe on me
You revive me.

Especially the line “Give me eyes to see You in the dark” got me thinking. At that moment, my first inclination was to think about dark times, of which I’ve seen a share. I thought, yes, Lord! Help me to see You when times get tough.
But the next thought was – well, how about taking a look at this past week?
No, not everything went my way. Not everything was roses and kittens… or puppies (which I prefer. LOL!). I even had a morning marked by tears, unusual for me. However, the Lord brought to my remembrance several answers to prayer and highlighted moments that made me smile or sigh with relief or utter a prayer of thanks. And it dawned on me – my past week overflowed with His presence and blessings.
He gave me eyes to see in the darkness of my foggy short term memory.
And I said – Wow. Thank You.
I hope you find some time to listen to the above song. To do so – CLICK HERE. In the course of a lifetime, 7 minutes isn’t really asking too much, right?
Have an incredible week, Dry Ground friends. I pray you too have eyes to see in the dark.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Last Lines - Answers!!

1. Oh, no. It wasn’t the airplanes. It was the beauty killed the beast. - 1933, King Kong
2. This was the story of Howard Beale, the first known instance of a man who was killed because he had lousy ratings. - 1976, Network
3. Goodbye, my wild sweet Cathy. - 1939, Wuthering Heights
4. Mein Fuehrer, I can walk! - 1964, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
5. Hey, Stella! - 1951, A Streetcar Named Desire

Last Lines

TGIF, Dry Ground friends! On the last day of the work week, how about a little Last Line trivia… just for fun. Hope you’ve had a good week!

1. Oh, no. It wasn’t the airplanes. It was the beauty killed the beast.
2. This was the story of Howard Beale, the first known instance of a man who was killed because he had lousy ratings.
3. Goodbye, my wild sweet Cathy.
4. Mein Fuehrer, I can walk!
5. Hey, Stella!

I’ll post answers tonight, just in case the tension prevents any happy Weekending. (go ahead, laugh with me.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Moving is tough business, let me tell you. Moving where you don’t already have friends or family adds an extra challenge. While it is fun (most of the time) to get to know new people, it takes a while – for me, at least, the reclusive introvert. Ha. Even though it’s natural for me to enjoy being alone, I do get lonely sometimes.
In those times, I am thankful for the treasures I’ve picked up along our adventures – so many friends I consider the life-long sort. How did we ever stay in touch before Facebook?? Every time I see a comment or get an email from someone I haven’t heard from for a few, I get a strong urge to start hugging some necks.
Sometimes, the urge gets so great that my only consolation is the hope of Heaven. I fully expect to hug as many necks as I want, whenever I want.
My question is – do I get to be in charge of laying out the neighborhoods? Mine doesn’t even have to on a golden street, as long as the people I love are within neck-hugging distance.
For an invitation to this block party, see Romans 8. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll RSVP.
Happy Wednesday, Dry Ground friends. Proceed with confidence, kindness and grace.

Monday, January 14, 2013


My Daniel and I have been searching for a church since moving here to Virginia. No simple task, let me tell you. While theology is paramount, other factors influence such as style, location, and demographics. I wish I could say the Body of Christ is the same everywhere, but… well…
Anyway, this past Sunday we visited a church that I think might be the one. It at least warrants a couple more visits. Yay.
The pastor was giving his annual ‘vision’ sermon to the congregation for the coming year. He introduced it as his ‘Bellwether’ Address. I thought – what’s that? A name or something? Well, thankfully, he explained it. And it was cool.
A Bellwether is a select sheep from a flock the shepherd picks to train to be his assistant, in a manner of speaking. The shepherd spends extra time teaching this sheep his ways, commands, intentions, and the sound of his voice. After investing time and instruction into the Bellwether, the shepherd places a bell around the sheep’s neck and puts him back into the flock. Then, this chosen sheep co-leads the flock, responding and obeying the shepherd’s voice he’s been intently listening to for an extended time. When the shepherd calls, the Bellwether responds, and then the rest of the flock says – hey, there goes the Bellwether, let’s go too. It’s not that they don’t hear the shepherd as well. But they know they heard right when the Bellwether heard the same thing.
I’ve always heard pastors call themselves shepherds of their flocks, meaning of their congregation. But the pastor this morning stated emphatically – I am not the shepherd. Jesus is the shepherd. I am the Bellwether.
Light bulb. That suddenly made so much sense to me.
So, I thought I’d share. What do you think?
Happy Monday, Dry Ground friends! May your week be better than you can even imagine! (Eph. 3:20)
(photo by

Friday, January 11, 2013

Best in Show

What?! No guesses? Well, I’ll tell you the answers to Wednesday’s Last Lines Quiz anyway…
1. After all, tomorrow is another day. – 1939, Gone with the Wind
2. Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship. – 1942, Casablanca
3. I will see you again, but not yet. Not yet. – 2000, Gladiator
4. We’ve all got our health and as far as anything else is concerned, we still leave that up to You. – 1938, You Can’t Take It With You
5. Eliza! Where the devil are my slippers? – 1964, My Fair Lady
I’ll be throwing more at you one of these days. Just for fun.

Well, as you might imagine, I’m interested in the Oscar nominations announced yesterday. I’m about 50/50 in agreement/disagreement. Of course, I have my favorites. And I’ll be sure to make February 24th an occasion, a little more so than this weekend when I’ll be tuning into the Golden Globes too.
Award season, however, always gets me thinking – as much as we love to judge ‘best’ in a myriad of circumstances in our lives, there’s just… no such thing.
That’s one reason I love movies so much. I’ve said it before, one person’s Picture of the Year is another person’s most wasted hours ever spent.
So… how can ‘best’ be judged? By anyone?
Well, we do. They do. It’s just our nature, I guess.
That’s why it’s so difficult not to judge people.
Now, I do believe in absolute Truth. The Bible clearly defines right and wrong. And tells us consequences and benefits to obedience and disobedience. But as I understand it, we are not saved to become judges. We are saved to become priests.
Now, in some respect, our job as priests involves pointing out right and wrong and warning fellow wayfarers of the critical pitfalls of sin. HOWEVER, speaking the Truth in love is the process, not condemnation. Pointing out right and wrong, warning of pitfalls, that’s not judgment. Judgment is condemning someone – which tears people down and makes them feel like they have the fate pronounced.
But none of us have that authority.
Only One does. And only One has the authority and right to spare us that judgment.
Let’s, then, stick to the calling and be priests. What do you say?
As far as reward season is concerned, though, I’ll stay the judge. K?
Happy Weekending, Dry Ground friends!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Famous Last Words

The other day, my Daniel and I watched Sunset Blvd., the classic of all classic movies from 1950 starring William Holden and Gloria Swanson. Weaving mystery and melodrama with witty remarks to form high film noire entertainment, this one is a must-see. At the conclusion, the final line is given with flourish: Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up.
We got to thinking about last lines. So many movies wrap up with something punchy, memorable, particularly identifying. You don’t even have to be a film buff to know some of them, for example – There’s no place like home.
It is the same with our words. The things we say leave impressions, and if we think about it – which we rarely do – every word we say could quite possibly be our last. So… shouldn’t we take more care in what we say on a regular basis?
I know, we get mad, our emotions spike and dive, we go with the flow – and our words suffer for it. That’s the human side we all can relate to. Sometimes, we can’t help but get in the last word, and it leaves a punchy, memorable impression for sure.
However, perhaps giving it thought might help, and our words can become punchy and memorable for good reasons – encouragement, love, kindness, forbearance, forgiveness.
Just as easily as some of us who know them the best can identify films by their last lines, people can identify me by the things they’ve heard me say. May those words, if they be my last or not, bring smiles instead of pain.
In the spirit of this idea, I have a little game for you. Following are a couple of last lines from of my favorite films. Can you guess what they are?
1. After all, tomorrow is another day.
2. Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
3. I will see you again, but not yet. Not yet.
4. We’ve all got our health and as far as anything else is concerned, we still leave that up to You.
5. Eliza! Where the devil are my slippers?
Let me know your guesses and I’ll post the answers on Friday.
Hope you’re having a good week, Dry Ground friends!

Monday, January 7, 2013


Do you ever face arguments that have taken your words out of context and twisted them into something you didn’t intend? Maybe it’s just me and my lack of oration skills, but I find it amazing how easy it is to miscommunicate on these grounds.
Recently, I’ve had the time to read whole books of the Bible in one sitting, relating to some of my favorite, well-known verses in context. While knowing single verses out of context doesn’t necessarily cause miscommunications, the verses come alive in light of the bigger picture. Meaning is confirmed and enhanced when we read a verse in its intended setting.
I know the chaos of life does not always permit lengthy reading, and holding single verses close to the heart on a daily basis is vitally important, but if you get a chance, I encourage you to expand your horizons to include context.
Here’s an example. It’s not even the full chapter. Just a little more than the ‘famous’ verses at the end of the passage:
Look up into the heavens,
Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
Calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
Not a single one is missing.
O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
The Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will becomes weak and tired,
And young men will fall in exhaustion,
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:26-31
Have a great week, Dry Ground friends!

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Thousand Words

Sometimes, I think more in pictures, especially when I don't have a whole lot to say. So here are a few that make me smile. I hope your weekend is full of smiles and beautiful thoughts.

photos by Yours Truly... except the last one of the bird - that one is my dad's!
Happy Weekending, Dry Ground friends!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Must-See Movies of 2012

Job 8:7 says, “Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.” I’ve decided this is my verse for 2013. More on that some other time.

Because I have one more post concerning 2012. Movies, of course. It’s ten of the ones I enjoyed most last year.

10 – Rise of the Guardians – I liked this one so much, I wrote a review about it here on Dry Ground. (CLICK HERE to read the review) Funny how I turn my nose up at a trailer for one reason or other, but end up adoring the movie. That’s the film-world version of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’ This one is rated PG and appropriate for all audiences.

 9 – Lincoln – I know, I know. Historical epics either end up being boring, grossly inaccurate, or so un-epic like that you have to laugh. And this one has had its share of nay-sayers. But… I really enjoyed it. Prime reason – Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln. He’s not the only highlight and he doesn’t diminish the quality performances of the others. He doesn’t grandstand or mug the camera. He’s just… perfect. I mean, there’s no other word for it. Not just in a – geez, he really looks like Lincoln – way. He’s engaging. Mesmerizing. Captivating. It almost doesn’t matter what he says because how he says it enchants. Of course, I’m not all that upset about the content either. This historical film is anything but a drag. It’s rated PG-13 for war violence and some language.

8 – The Hobbit – I read the book a couple of weeks before the movie hit theatres, not to nit-pick every detail of the film version when I got the chance, but to have an understanding of the story. Sure, my imagination ignites and I wonder how characters and events will be portrayed, and I judge in my own small way. Still, I know a book can never, ever be translated to screen exactly as it is written. There’s an art to making a successful translation, and I guess that’s what I’m critiquing when I watch the movie. Well, and I know there are a few who’d disagree with me, I thought the translation was spot on. The spirit of the story shined through. In addition, the filmmakers had a larger task to tie in this prequel with the other three Lord of the Rings movies already out there. And in that, they succeeded as well. I didn’t agree with all their decisions, but not enough to take away from my enjoyment of the film. My favorite part was the scene with Bilbo and Gollum because it was chillingly perfect. PG-13 for fantasy ‘violence’ if you want to call it that. Really, a fine film for all audiences aside from the very young.

7 – Dark Knight Rises – Despite the tragedy everyone remembers that happened to involve this movie, the film itself is masterfully done. Again, as in The Dark Knight, the villain is awesome. But for the hero to prevail, shouldn’t the villain be worthy of the fight too? I especially liked the introduction of Robin who, according to this version of the fable, isn’t Batman’s sidekick but possibly his replacement. The last five minutes of the film, with the music and the montage of wrap-up scenes and the voice-over – sublime. PG-13 for violence and, as the MPAA would say, ‘a scene for sensuality.’ 

6 – Act of Valor – I went to this one for my Daniel. I thought – another war movie with the hook of using ‘real’ Special Forces members. I ended up teetering on the edge of my seat the entire movie, my heart thrilling, cheering, wrenching. The story was much better than I expected and the action kept a good pace. One of the best aspects – it shows 100% honor and respect to the USA military. Unfortunately, due to the nature of its subject matter, this film isn’t for everyone. It’s rated R for violence and language throughout. But if your personal ‘line’ is set to accommodate those things for the sake of an incredible story, I absolutely recommend this one.

5 – The Avengers – Here’s a lesson in marketing if there ever was one. Patient and calculating, the studio powers-that-be have introduced the Marvel characters into our lives for years. Yes, through the decade-old comics, but through the movies recently inviting us to get to know individual super heroes – Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America – and then to weave them all together in an entertaining, smart script… I only wish I could be that witty with words. The scary thing, in these set ups, is the risk of epic failure. If the combo doesn’t work, if each hero doesn’t shine through as themselves as well as work perfectly together, if the script sucks or the action is too Transformers 3, then everything goes down the tubes. Fortunately, or as I like to think ‘by design’, Avengers works. It doesn’t just work, it shines! It rocks! It wins in my book. PG-13 for super hero violence and some language.

4 – Wreck-It Ralph – This one is an animation, a clever fairy tale of sorts based on the classic video games of the 80s, the dawn of said media. For a 30-something like me, that alone is reason to watch it. The delightful surprise is that smart writing and colorful characters make this a knock out show. And the moral of the story comes through without being preachy. It was sweet without being gag-me-with-a-spoon (might as well stick with the era at hand!). It’s rated PG for what they like to call ‘crude’ humor, but it’s only like picking-your-nose kind of crude. So, appropriate for all ages then.

3 – Silver Linings Playbook – This is the only one on my list I can only recommend to a few people. However, I have to include it because this movie spoke to me. Yes, it is wrought with bad language. But a huge heart lies beneath and I found it was worth discovering. It’s about a guy, Pat, who snapped when he witnessed his wife’s infidelity. His break-from-reality beating of the other guy landed him a stint in a mental facility. The film begins with his release and explores mental illness, heartache, family ties, and love. Not just the boy meets girl kind, but the agape kind too. Many scenes can be described as ‘messed up’ – so much shouting and fighting and chaos. But the whole picture reveals truth about people, about relationships. I related to these people on a certain level, and I know many others could too. Yes, this is a Hollywood film with the obvious absence of God, for the most part, in dealing with these all-too-human problems. However, it is so perceptive, that taking what I learned from it and marrying it to my faith in God – well, it was kind of like “Eureka.”  I don’t know – maybe I’m just crazy. Rated R for pervasive language. I mean, throughout. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

2 – Les Miserables – A story from the pages of an 1882 Victor Hugo novel, which I have yet to conquer but would love to some day, this movie brings to the screen the beloved opera-esque stage version. Therefore, it is 99.9% sung. That may deter a few of you. However, it is also acted, and in such a way that the story lives and breathes and speaks. The fact that they are singing about it falls out of consciousness. Unless, of course, you’re paying attention because you are in love with songs, and then you’ll notice how well they are performed. And then… you cry. Fabulous film. Simply fabulous. Rated PG-13 for what they used to call ‘adult content’ though I have no idea where they draw the line on THAT nowadays.

1 – Moonrise Kingdom – Alrighty - #1 – but only as numbers fall since I do not necessarily rate ‘best’ or ‘favorite’ movies because there are too many that I love – is this Wes Anderson tasty coming-of-age morsel set in the 60s. It’s quirky, it’s tongue-in-cheek, it’s bizarre, but it’s also clean, sweet, relatable, and it touches a part of your heart way, way back in the back you haven’t visited for a while – the pre-teen years. Sure, there are awkward moments, but meant purely for fun. I adore this movie. Once I saw it once, I watched it three times in a week, gobbling up all the odd things that made me laugh out loud. It explores mistakes and resolutions, ambitious and failures, and again, it focuses on relationships. It’s PG-13 for that awkwardness I mentioned, but also because the MPAA must rate it thus if any character smokes. Silliness, if you ask me, but there you have it.

Stories – tales of relationships – upon which our lives should be based. Is it any wonder I love writing about this stuff? (I didn’t have room to tell you about The Amazing Spiderman,  Argo, Snow White and the Huntsman, or The Odd Life of Timothy Green!)
Hope you’re all having a wonderful 2013 so far, Dry Ground friends!