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Characters Series: Heroines in the Worst of Times

When I was a kid, I wished that I could do something really BIG and dramatic that would save the day.  I think that I still do have this desire, and I think it is a common one.  We humans want to know that our lives have a purpose and meaning.  It’s all very well to talk about character when things in life are going so nicely.  Of course, character is needed in everyday life.  But it’s so much harder when you’re in the midst of scary events. 

We’re usually not aware of these kinds of heroines until we put them in the context of history.  The real-life heroines are the most admirable, for they show us that it is possible to have integrity for real and that it’s not just for fiction.  One of my personal favorites ever since I was little has been Queen Esther—Persian queen (Jewish commoner) in disguise!  Even though she was in the prime of life and could easily talk herself out of it, she felt a duty to go to the king on behalf of her people because she could do something. 

One our favorite Lord of the Rings quotes goes something like this: 

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. 

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”  

Thinking of history not that long past, there are the character role models of Diet Eman and Corrie ten Boom.  They were also both women in the prime of life who did what they could while their country was occupied by the Nazi regime.  I cannot think of anything more terrifying than facing a concentration camp, yet that is what they risked experiencing (and did experience) because of their belief that all people matter.  What heart, what courage these women modeled!  Come to think of it, why else do heroes do what they do, other than because of their value for human life and freedom?  In the moment of their action, they put aside their safety and sometimes very lives for the treasuring of another. 

I have never read the book, but I recently watched the movie The Help for the first time.  This story is full of women in a particular place (deep Southern America) in a particular time (violently racial 1960’s).  Some did what was popular and easy in the community—letting others bully them as to their personal decisions and relationships.  Others saw their neighbors as human beings with souls.  And still others decided to take a stand, to say ‘enough is enough’, and try to help each other in the middle of what was impossible conditions.  They were scared; they were hesitant at first or said no at the beginning, because they were risking so much.  But each decided that their friends and family were more important than their present fear and took the step forward that eventually became fruitful.  No longer ‘Strange Fruit.’ 

Sometimes heroines will never see the fruit of their labors.  In Tangled Ashes (Michele Phoenix), Marie is a seventeen-year-old girl living in an obscure village in France during WWII.  She is just an ordinary teenager, but living in extraordinary times.  She is forced to serve in a nearby manor house where strange and secretive things are taking place under the German occupation.  She “hears nothing, she sees nothing”– until she is forced to face the facts that her best friend is pregnant with an enemy soldier.  Suddenly, she cannot live for her preservation alone.  She has a tiny, innocent life to look after and it ends up costing her dearly.  But her love puts others first, and she has to trust that her courageous actions are more important in the long run. 

What becomes of the people we have influence over?  Maybe we will never know.  Or maybe their lives will touch others in a great, wide ripple effect that never stops.  All we can do is strive to pass on a heritage that will be life-giving and honoring for others.  And maybe this idea is not relegated to the big, grandiose acts of queens, but starts with the everyday little yeses and considerations in this world. 

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2: 3,4) 

 
 

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A Post Full of Audio Dramas

I came across something entirely new to me– the ATC Seneca Awards, which recognizes the best in family audio dramas.  The Awards are according to the opinions of the Audio Theatre Central podcast which you can check out here.  I thought it would be fun to dredge up trailers for as many nominations as I could find and collect them all in one place on this post.  Audio dramas are a great source of favorite family memories and long car trip entertainment.  Have fun!

Captain Bayley’s Heir – (Heirloom Audio Productions; John Fornof (writer/director); starring John Rhys Davies, Finty Williams)

The Trials of St. Patrick – (AIR Theatre; Paul McCusker (writer/director); Philip Glassborow (producer); starring John Rhys Davies)

Ode to Saint Cecelia – (AIR Theatre; Paul McCusker (writer/director); starring Derek Jacobi, Hayley Atwell)

The Giant Killer – (Lamplighter Theatre; John Fornof)

Wulf the Saxon (couldn’t find a trailer) – (Heirloom Audio Productions; Todd Busteed (writer/director); John Campbell (score))

*You can find reviews of all of these audio dramas and more on the ATC podcast.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2018 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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Non-Fiction Books I’m Liking (Spring 2018)

Think outside the box this spring by reading up on God’s creation– both the supernatural and yourself!

The Unseen Realm, by Michael S. Heiser~ I had questions and lots of them.  Of course I knew the answers are in the Bible, but there are many things I didn’t understand.  It was so frustrating!  Then I heard a Bible scholar interviewed on the Moody program, In the Market with Janet Parshall (which you can listen to for a limited time here).  What he had to say was so informative, interesting, and outside the box that I actually tried calling into the program with a question to ask but couldn’t get through because the lines were lit.  Since that didn’t work, I set about to order his book through the library.  I spent countless hours reading, rereading, and copying two composition notebooks full of reference notes.  Even the footnotes were as fascinating as the rest of the book.  I read it so much I was thoroughly wore out with the thing by the time I reached Chapter 42!  And then I went exploring through his website, blog, articles and podcast because he has even more amazing footnotes.  Is this book about spiritual warfare?  That is what I thought it was before I started reading it, but it is not that exactly.  It is more all-encompassing than that.  I would say it is rather more the story of created, spiritual beings and the world’s history from a biblical perspective from the beginning to the end.  Is it about weird, alternative doctrine?  No, you don’t have to worry about that.  Heiser may not always side with traditional teaching, but he always backs his statements up with rock-solid exegesis and his extraordinary knowledge of Hebrew.  I felt in awe of the creativity and majesty of God while reading his explanations of various bible passages.  There is one area where I would disagree with, and that is over the question of whether the Flood was a local or global catastrophe (I side with global).  Although I’m not sure that he specifically intended this, I sometimes felt like God was portrayed as continually bummed out in His plan to be in relationship with people and kept moving to the next best plan until He finally came up with Plan Z (Jesus Christ).  It didn’t feel in keeping with the truth of God’s omniscience.  However, I admire his goal of taking the academic out of the stuffy halls and bringing it to the ordinary Christian.  I will be on the lookout for more books by him, and hope there will be soon! [*Note: If you have a hard time getting your head around intense bible study, you may prefer Heiser’s easier version of this information in another book called Supernatural.]

It’s Just My Nature!, by Carol Tuttle~  Remember the old Color Me Beautiful style system from way back when?  All you had to do was match certain colors up to the season you were diagnosed with and you were told you’d be magically transformed.  I devoured that book in my teens and have ever since been interested in color analysis and other systems and classification for personal fashion style.  I love the idea of being one’s own unique personality!  Of course, there are the new 12 or 16 color seasons now.  But I stumbled across Carol Tuttle’s website and videos and learned of a different way to look at things.  Instead of matching colors, her system is more 3-D in that it takes into consideration a person’s inherent energy.  The end result is an honoring of not just the person’s appearance, but also of the way they process life.  One of my resolutions this year was to explore this new ‘typology’ to better understand myself.  I’ve never gone through Carol’s Dressing Your Truth program as far as purchasing anything or setting up an appointment in person, but I enjoyed reading her book and watching her videos online for free.  I love seeing the transformations that come about after someone has worked with her!  (After going through the process, I believe I am a Type 2.)  It’s amazing how it really does involve more than just outer looks and delves into a study of the way we approach and think about life.  I loved getting better acquainted with myself and it even broadened my understanding of how I viewed myself in the past.  Although I don’t subscribe to all of what Carol teaches, I believe one could comfortably embrace most of her energy profiling program.

 
 

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Audio Dramas for Easter!

Happy Easter!  Do you remember your earliest Easter memories from when you were a kid?  I remember one of mine is listening to a dramatized version of the death, burial, and resurrection story of Christ being played on the radio on Good Friday.  It was a departure from the norm (usually it was a music station).  The solemnity of the event came across very clear to my mind.  It felt like I was actually listening in on the true events as they were happening.  I couldn’t have been more than 6 at the time.

Audio dramatizations can have such an impact on our lives, especially children.  I came across this blog post from Audio Theatre Central listing a bunch of religious, Easter-themed audio dramas for families to enjoy and links to be able to purchase them from Amazon.  I have listened to a couple of them and I have to say that Ben-Hur is my favorite!  Do you have any others you would add to the list?

Enjoy your weekend!

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2018 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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Non-Fiction Books I’m Liking (Winter 2016-17)

Life is full of secrets and adventures…  Read all about them this winter in these two fascinating books!

17623735101 Secrets for Your Twenties, by Paul Angone~ I first heard of this book when I heard the author interviewed on Moody Radio by Melinda Schmidt. I was about to turn 27 and was convinced I was having a quarter life crisis.  And so I came across this interview that I had saved on ‘Programs to Listen to Sometime Before They Expire’ list and decided it was a good time to hit the play button.  I liked Paul Agone (see his website here) and his message.  He could empathize on the struggles of Twenty-somethings, having just graduated to his Thirties and being a Millennial himself.  The topics they discussed resonated withme, and I knew I wanted to read his book.  Problem was, none of the libraries among all of my state’s vast interlibrary loan systems had it.  My solution was to order a copy for my church library.  I knew if I could benefit from it, so could others.  (:) But I got first dibs! Ha ha!)  I wish that I had had this book much earlier, but better late than never.  Angone has a humorous writing style and had me Laughing Out Loud (I refuse to abbreviate) throughout.  But more importantly, there are many spots I want to copy out into my quotebook before I turn this over to the church.  It makes life much more bearable when you know that others are going through similar hurdles as they live out their adulthood.  It gives one hope that these same hurdles have purpose.  The author is a Christian and writes from that worldview, but is not preachy.  I suggest this for anyone anywhere in their twenties, and would make a good gift for highschool/college grads.

1441778The Lost Shipwreck of Paul, by Robert Cornuke~ It’s hard to remember when or where I learned of bible explorer Robert Cornuke. Somehow I just ran into his adventures while surfing the internet many years ago and became intrigued by him.  As a former police investigator (and now president of the BASE Institute), Cornuke has made it his mission to explore mysteries from the Bible, such as… The Lost Ark of the Covenant, the location of the real Mt. Sinai, and Noah’s Ark.  Even though many, many people have tried their best to hunt for the same things and made great claims, Cornuke is no sensationalist.  He treats the people he meets and interviews with respect, often gaining their trust and having access to places many other outsiders are not able to obtain.  He also has some unique theories that appear to come closer to the truth than many others.  I’ve been wanting to read one of his books for a long time, and have finally got my hands on one of the least talked about.  I’m still in the middle of reading it, but it is fascinating.  I love how he tells of his adventure from a storyteller’s point of view,– building suspense and making it a fun read.  I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.  If you want to watch some of his videos, Youtube has several of them, including the Temple of YHWH.  I highly recommend them!  You can visit his website here.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2017 in Non-Fiction Books I'm Liking

 

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Movie Review: My “BEN-HUR” Experience

b64a44c9e00fd891e11b829d49fa28fbBased on the book by Lew Wallace.

Version: 2016

Genre: drama, Christian, bible era

Plot Summary: Judah Ben-Hur is the son of a Jewish nobleman.  Mesala is a Roman who grew up orphaned.  The two share a bond as (adopted) brothers but a misunderstanding takes place turning their affection to hatred.  As Judah is sent to the prison galley slave ships and Messala rises in military rank, all looks as though there is no place for God, peace, or love in this world.  But Judah is given a second chance, to either choose faith in a Carpenter from Galilee, or seeking revenge in the Roman circus.

My Review: I have awaited this day for so long.  The day when Ben-Hur would be brought to it’s full glory and excitement on the big screen with a full-blown budget!  I remember staying up late into the night the summer I was fifteen years old when I was staying at my grandparents’.  The cause of my insomnia was the novel, “Ben-Hur,” by Gen. Lew Wallace.  The book has remained among my top favorites, though I’ve read hundreds over the years.

I’ve seen the old 1959 Charlton Heston version. And contrary to most people’s opinions, I’ve never cared for it.  I’m sure it was a huge deal when it came out back then, breaking records with being the  biggest budget film and using the most paid actors’ of its time.  But watching it after the era of The Lord of the Rings… it just failed to get my heart racing.  And Charlton Heston fails (IMO) to look the part of Judah Ben-Hur; too old and he’s just not how I imagined him.  So many things needed improved upon.  I didn’t even bother with the 2010 tv movie, having heard how certain themes I don’t agree with were inserted into it.  And I’ve seen a couple of scenes on TCM from the ancient 1907 one, but even though I’m sure it was a big deal 109 years ago… I mean, come on.

That was when I began to wish and pray for the epic remake. And I was thrilled earlier on this year to find out that was the case (see my post here).  It was a rainy day today and made perfect for having an adventure at the movie theatre!  And so I got my wish.

I went into this having read a review preparing me for the fact that this version leaves a lot of the Christian gospel out. I was disappointed to hear that, but I still wanted to go see it.  I’m sorry to report that despite my excitement over it, I came away rating it only 3 out of 5 stars.  I will write my pros and cons of it below.  Be aware there it is riddled with spoilers:

serveimagePROS: Oh, boy! Was it ever exciting! Movie-makers really outdid themselves when it came to recreating a gigantic Roman circus arena, a nail biting Roman sea battle, and a heart pounding chariot race.  If that is what attracts you about the book, then by all means you’re going to love this!  Drums, hoofbeats, fire, drama, peril, battles, horses, crashes, crowds, roars!  This movie is not lacking in adventure!

Costumes and props are so beautiful to look at. Loved the women’s hairstyles, and Tirzah’s pink evening toga.  Bright colors and gorgeous jewelry.  I’d watch it again just for that!

I felt the characters were well-cast. Although Mesala (Toby Kebbell) wasn’t quite how I pictured him in the book, I thought he was the best actor out of the whole movie.  I would be interested in seeing him in future movies.  Judah looked right for his role.  Esther was how I’d always pictured her, and Tirzah and Mrs. Ben-Hur also were gorgeous actors.  It was also enjoyable getting to see Morgan Freeman as the sheik  Ilderim and loved how they featured him as narrator in the opening scene.

I am happy to say that there are no sex scenes to worry about! The trailer is actually more suggestive than the film.  Anyone watching based on this hope will be mightily disappointed.

serveimageCons: This is where the 3 stars come in. It all boils down to how a story is told, and this film version got a lot of things wrong in this area.

Let’s start with how it holds up to the book. I am not one of those who believes movie versions should be exactly like the original book.  However.  A lot of liberties were taken with this story and it doesn’t do it any justice.  It just makes things confusing and unbelievable.  I ended up not caring too much for the characters like I’d wanted to.  I didn’t feel emotionally involved with them.  I was just there for the chariot race.

Some of my favorite characters were left entirely out. There’s no Quintus Arrius.  There’s Amrah.  There’s no Iras.  QA is one of my favorites because he provides the story with heart.  He is the kind Roman captain of the slave ship Judah is sent to, who Judah ends up saving during the battle, and who adopts Judah and leaves his inheritance to when he dies.  Judah comes back to Jerusalem like a bible era Count of Monte Cristo. I can see why the movie scriptwriters decided QA was expendable, but I genuinely missed him.  Amrah is Judah’s old nurse, who also provides heart in the book.  The character that is NOT expendable is Iras, the wily daughter of Egypt who tempts Judah from his goals and what is good.  She is in cahoots with Messala and creates a rivalry against Esther for Judah’s affections.  Why does every film version leave this character out?  Not that I’m wishing for it, but if Hollywood wanted steam, they could find a way with this ‘Cleopatra.’

Which leads me to the romance between Judah and Esther. I must say it was a lot better than the old Heston version in which man sees woman, man kisses woman.  The end.  But whoever rewrote Ben-Hur this time around completely killed any suspense they could have made with plot element as well.  They marry them off too quickly… in the beginning!  Now, we loyal Ben-Hur fans know that Esther doesn’t come into the novel until somewheres in the middle.  I get why Hollywood would introduce her earlier in the movie, but where’s the tension?  There’s tension in a story where Esther waits and hopes for 5 long years and then finds Judah again when he comes back, but he’s not the same anymore being filled with hatred for Messala, and meanwhile Iras is fighting for his attention. What will happen next?  Will love conquer all?  But no, they completely ruined the tale by rewriting it.

Where they snipped the romantic tension in one area, they tried to add it in another. Tirzah and Messala are now lovers.  This wouldn’t have been a big deal to me, except that it makes for a completely unbelievable situation when Messala all of a sudden orders Judah’s sister crucified.  Why, when he had genuinely seemed to love her?  And at the end when everyone is hugging and cuddling and crying, and Messala hobbles up on his one existent leg, Tirzah doesn’t seem to mind a bit and it’s assumed the two get together in the end anyway.  Yeah, I’d totally if a hot man ordered me to death by crucifixion!

Other motives didn’t seem to make much sense. Like Druses’ saving Judah’s family’s lives after Judah threatens to kill him.  Huh?  And then there were certain other smaller parts of the film that came across as being hokey, like Judah’s sister and mother suddenly being healed of leprosy… by being rained upon.  No, no, no!  In the book it was Jesus who touched them and had compassion on them!

I went into this having read a review that prepared me to not expect to see a gospel presentation here. OK, I don’t have to have preaching.  But I do need a reason why Judah’s heart and life was changed.  I was glad to see parts of the story of Jesus portrayed, and Judah’s encounters with him, especially when he is a witness to Jesus’ death at the cross.  But without the resurrection, there is no meaning to it all and there is no purpose to us forgiving and loving one another.  And that is one of the biggest ways in which this movie fails big time: the lack of the Resurrection.  It’s not even hinted at.  There can be no inspiration for a changed life by seeing a man hanging on a cross, simply because there is no life at all.  But by faith in the living Jesus and with His life at work in us, we know that this life is not all there is and can therefore have peace and joy, and his victory and power enable us to forgive and love our enemies.  None of that came across in the film, and I’m afraid anyone who knows little about this spiritual aspect of things would fail to make the connection.

The worse, from a storyteller’s point of view, was the ending. This may come across as sounding pretty terrible, but I felt it was ruined because Messala lived and forgave Judah and all became one big happy family again.  That is cleaned-up Hollywood.  In the original book, Messala becomes paralyzed/crippled for life and ends up killing himself.  Judah does gain the ability to forgive him, but Messala’s life is not changed.  To see the ‘two brothers’ flip their attitudes toward each other on a dime, after they each tried to murder each other by various cruel and unusual punishments, is totally unbelievable.

Lew Wallace was a storyteller, you know? There’s a reason why his book has been well-loved for a hundred and fifty years.  Why must Hollywood think there’s a need to rewrite it?  And then they’re a surprised when it’s a ‘big box office flop.’  I’m sorry for that, but they asked for it!  You can’t just bank on a big budget to make an excellent film.  You have to tell a good story.  A believable one, where viewers identify with the characters and can empathize with them.  But this was not that story.

Would I recommend it? It depends on how much of a stickler you are for the original.  If you’ve never read the book and just want a clean, exciting flick, I think you could enjoy it.  (Be aware there are some gruesome battle images, and scenes that include crucifixion.)  But if you’re too much of a loyalist like I am, you might want to wait another 55+ years for them to do the tale justice.

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2016 in Movie Reviews

 

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New in the Audio World

204dbdf2d2c944349ce242b41a54d77cI’ve listened to a fair number of audio dramas in my time.  One of my favorite memories from my growing up years was laying on the living room floor in the evenings after supper, with my mom and my sister, with a pillow under my head and a blanket over me, eyes closed and listening to audio dramas.  We listened to the Focus on the Family radio theatre adventures, old time radio programs, Adventures in Odyssey, and anything else good we could get our hands on.

A friend of mine sent me a link to some relatively new dramas in the world of audio adventures, which she was considering purchasing for our church library.  Heirloom Audio.  Hmm, I’d never heard of it before.  (Probably because I’ve been out of the homeschool arena for some time now.)  But as soon as I watched the trailer to the first drama based on G. A. Henty’s historical novel, “In Freedom’s Cause”, I knew I was completely hooked!  No, I am not a paid spokesperson for Family Audio Adventures.  But I know good quality when I hear it.  The acting, the diction, the energy, enthusiasm, excitement, passion, and talent really shine and I can’t wait to get my ears hooked up to one of their complete adventures and escape.

This isn’t podunk acting as far I can tell.  Trust me, I’ve heard a few in the Christian audio world where I just wanted to stick a finger down my throat rather than swallow the lemon and honey.  Well-known actors are brought in for these productions who know what they’re doing in creating a good story.  Here are a few that caught my eye: Skandar Keynes, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Joanne Froggatt, John Rhys-Davies, Kirk Cameron, and Audie Award winner Katherine Kellgren.

I am unsure at this point whether Heirloom Audio Productions plan on only dramatizing the Henty adventure novels, or if they will branch out, but they have already won numerous awards, including being nominated for an Audio Award for “With Lee in Virginia.”  I was also thrilled to find out that John Campbell composed the original soundtracks for each production.

You can watch all four trailers to their first few productions below.  Apparently, a fifth adventure (Beric the Briton) is expected out in the near future, along with a few others.

 

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2016 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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