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Random Books: Fall’s Hurrahs

And then… 🙂  I went to two more book sales over the weekend and came home with EVEN MORE!

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2018 in Book Shopping

 

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Movie Review: “Charlotte’s Web”

Based on the book by E. B. White.

Version: 2006; starring Julia Roberts; Oprah Winfrey; Robert Redford

Genre: children’s classic

Plot Summary: Everyone thinks the phase won’t last when a runt piglet is adopted by a young girl.  Obviously, pigs are raised for one purpose only… consumption.  Wilbur won’t last a chance unless his friends can do something.  One brave and intelligent spider sets out to save him.

My Review: It’s hard to believe this movie has been around for 12+ years now.  I remember when it came to theaters and I was so excited to see it!  But our family couldn’t go to the movies very often, and so I never got the chance.  My friend saw it with her family though, and I heard her tell all about it while I harbored feelings of envy.  It was so good, she claimed that even her dad cried over it!

Finally I found this movie at my local library bookstore for $1.  I’ve been saving it for sometime special and watched with family over New Year’s.  But actually, this movie is quite an ordinary type of story.  No, not ordinary in that it lacked creative entertainment value.  Rather, I mean the story is about noticing and enjoying the ordinary miracles we encounter daily.

Perhaps it might sound like a worn out theme– this one of mindfulness.  But one we need to be reminded of over and over again until we get it and even then refuse to ‘get it’ because then we will close ourselves off from discovery.  I’m very familiar with the story of “Charlotte’s Web.”  I read the book in 3rd grade (the first one I ever cried over), and watched the old ’70’s animated version countless times.  But I’m not sure I ever picked up on this message in the storyline.  I appreciated this newer version for the quiet simplicity with which they mined the story, and staying true to the spirit of E. B. White’s tale.  One reason this story seemed to jump out at me so is because I spent a lot of last year struggling with contentment with my time in life.  I finally came to the conclusion that there are things I enjoy and also things I do not enjoy about now, but my business is to seek out the joy of the present things that God has for me in today.

For Wilbur, this is his natural born gift.  Being a young spring pig, he marvels in sunrises and sunsets, he treasures the gift of a carrot and every silvery wisp of web.  The other barnyard animals have been around for a time or two and have become complacent in their everyday living.  But by the end of the story, they too have fallen under the magic of everyday-ness.  It was a beautiful transformation to watch.

I also noticed how it was of great significance to Wilbur what things were named.  And Charlotte searched for just the right word to describe something.  It was important that it be correct and true.  Somehow, naming something affirms that that person or event in time (no matter how small) has value.

Charlotte lived and used her life to save her friend, and then died. As the narrator (the late Sam Shepard) said at the end of the film, “…but she lived on in the hearts of those who knew her.”  It was ironic because my pastor had just said that morning that our Savior Jesus is alive– “not just in the hearts of those who remembered Him, but as a real scars and eating-grilled-fish alive.”  Because of that, we can truly live too.  And we can enjoy abundant life and all of the beautiful gifts He blesses us with.

I always wondered how life-like animals would work for Charlotte’s Web.  When it came out in 2006, it was one of the first successful of it’s kind.  Of course, animation and cgi has made great leaps and bounds since then.  I was relieved to discover they didn’t churn out a hokey production.  Voice actors were chosen with care.  I’m not always a big fan of choosing big name celebrities for projects just because of their name.  They have to earn the voice acting role in my book.  But I have to say they were all pretty good, even the young actor who played Wilbur (cute as all get out).  The only exception where I’m not sure I was 100% convinced was Julia Roberts as Charlotte.  She has a splendid, proper voice, both stern and soothing when need be and suitable enough.  Yet she didn’t seem to “fill out” all the colors of her character.  My personal favorite was the voice of Templeton.  I encourage anyone to watch the special features (if available) to see the behind-the-scenes casting decisions and recording studio.  That stuff always fascinates me!

I know this was a successful adaptation of the book, because it made me tear up just like the story did when I was 8 years old.  Definitely a family movie I wouldn’t mind seeing again!

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2018 in Movie Reviews

 

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My 1ST BOOK CLUB! & Book Review: “Sensible Shoes,” by Sharon Garlough Brown

16204594Genre: Christian fiction

Plot Summary: [from goodreads.com:] “Sharon Garlough Brown tells the moving story of four strangers as they embark together on a journey of spiritual formation: Hannah, a pastor who doesn’t realize how exhausted she is. Meg, a widow and recent empty-nester who is haunted by her past. Mara, a woman who has experienced a lifetime of rejection and is now trying to navigate a difficult marriage. Charissa, a hard-working graduate student who wants to get things right. You’re invited to join these four women as they reluctantly arrive at a retreat center and find themselves drawn out of their separate stories of isolation and struggle and into a collective journey of spiritual practice, mutual support and personal revelation. Along the way, readers will be taken into a new understanding of key spiritual practices and find tangible support for the deeper life with God.”

My Book Review: I first heard of this book on Midday Connection, where it was once recommended for one of their on-air book clubs.  It never really seemed to appeal to me as far as reading genres go.  No excitement, no adventure, intrigue, etc.  But a lady from my church whom I highly respect and who is also in charge of our women’s ministry had an inspired idea to start a women’s book club throughout the summer with this book for discussion.  It turns out, she personally knew the author Sharon Garlough Brown, and contacted her about visiting our church in October around the time the third in the Sensible Shoe trilogy was released.  Well, how could I pass on something this neat?  I signed up for the book club discussions, and got a copy of the book.

The book’s publisher, IVP, is not in the habit of printing fiction books. Their attention is directed toward non fiction (usually in the contemplative genre) that help people grow in their spiritual walk.  But when Brown approached them with her manuscript, they decided to change their rules for once and publish it.  They felt strongly that even though it was fiction, it taught great spiritual disciplines.  Through the emotional medium of fictional characters, biblical truth can be effectively taught in a way non fiction can’t.  This is what has meant so much to fans of the Sensible Shoes club.  Truth climbs in the back door of our heart and helps us see that we truly are God’s beloved and we long to walk more closely with Him, overcoming the walls and barriers that have closed off life for so long.

At first, I had a hard time getting into the story.  It still wasn’t my thing.  It was well written, but just not exciting.  One of the main reasons I had joined was because I knew that the topic of contemplative Christianity would be brought up, and I wanted to learn more about it.  I had come to the right place.  The four female characters in the book—Mara, Charissa, Meg, and Hannah—meet one another at a spiritual retreat center, where a wise spiritual director introduces them to disciplines that help them grow in their walk with the Lord.

a71db3c4fc05f755450487872d6e06fdThere are probably some of you reading this review and already the hackles have gone on the back of your neck. You’ve heard about this strange “pagan form of New Age religion” called contemplative Christianity and you’re scared to death.  I’m glad the author addresses those concerns in her book.  It takes a mind fully bent on discerning truth under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and not someone who gets creeped out because of something new or outside of the comfortable box to embrace this book.

90 women showed up at our church to begin the book club discussions. Even our pastor picked it up to read and got into it.  We split the book up into 3 chapters at a time and got together in smaller groups at a local log cabin retreat center (WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE!).  We talked about the characters and how we identified or didn’t identify with them, and also about the spiritual disciplines taught along the way, and what God was teaching us through them.  It was my first time being a part of a book club, and I really enjoyed the conversations.

As far as the story itself went, I finally started to get more into it around 2/3 of the way through. The plot gained some suspense and I wanted to know what happened next.  I would probably say I identified the most with the character Hannah, though not in the way some in my group supposed I did.  I knew God was wanting me to dig through some stuff I kept on wanting to shove under the rug.  I would like to go back through the book again and incorporate the spiritual disciplines into my routine.  It’s definitely something I want to explore more deeply.

004October came and we had our big shebang at the end of the bookclub. when Sharon Garlough Brown came to visit our church. Unfortunately, the even started at 9:00 in the morning.  Um, no.  I don’t do mornings well.  I got myself around the earliest as best I could and arrived an hour and a half late, but was able to sit in on the last half hour of her lecture.  Amazingly, it was exactly at that spot in her speech that I needed to hear.  She was talking on Romans 8:31-39 and it was like it was just for me!  I took lots of notes.

We broke for lunch and reconvened later for music worship and then Sharon came on stage again to talk, mainly about her inspiration and background for writing the book. Then it was Q & A time and giveaway time.  At the end of the afternoon, Sharon sat at a little card table with a flower in a vase and we lined up to get our copies autographed by her.  That was so much fun!  I even got my picture taken with her, but I don’t post my pic on the net.  I’ll just post the one I took of her signing books.

Sharon Brown was a lovely person to meet, and such a regular-body, too. I found a video of her promoting her series, and more can be found on Youtube:

It seems these books are the type of thing you read and pass on to someone else, and they spread and grow among friends. I even recommended it to my uncle!  I lent mine to another friend who appreciated it, but also said she felt like the problems the characters dealt with were gotten over ‘too quickly.’ She has a point– there are usually no quick fixes in life.  But at the same time, a story arch has to fit within a certain page structure.  Then too, there are two more in the series, so who knows what will occur in the next segment of their journey?

This is a highly recommended novel, because of how it causes one to examine their heart with God at the helm. If this scares you, I encourage you to give it a try in small parts anyway.  A book won’t bite, and it gives the brain something to chew on.

Did you love this book? Why or why not?

I would also recommend:

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2018 in Book Reviews

 

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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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Faith Conversations with Nancy LeSourd

I am relatively new to Anita Lustrea’s podcast Faith Conversations, in which she explores different points of view within Christianity.  I have to say that I’m enjoying it, even if I don’t agree with everything that is suggested.  In Episode 106, Anita’s featured guest was Nancy LeSourd– the daughter-in-law of inspirational author Catherine Marshall and granddaughter-in-law of “Christy”.  I found their topics fascinating, as well as Nancy being a heroine in her own right.  The discussion on the spiritual legacies one generation can bless the next with really got me stoked!  I hope you will try the episode out for free on itunes.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Movie Review: “Lincoln”

 

3dead818f8bb0491dba54bfac1dd62b2Based on the book, “Team of Rivals,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Version: 2012; Daniel Day-Lewis; Tommy Lee Jones; Sally Fields; David Strathairn; Lee Pace; Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Genre: historical drama

Plot Summary: [from IMDb:] As the Civil War continues to rage, America’s president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.”

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not be comparing it to that work.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

I remember reading high praise for this movie when it first came out. Actually, I believe I had my eye on it when it was first announced it was in the making, and Daniel Day-Lewis was cast in the role of Abraham Lincoln.  The similarities between their looks are amazing, but would the movie do history and the man himself justice?

Oh wow. I can’t begin to tell you about the amount of research that went into the creating of this film.  I would love to know more about the ‘making of’ it.  I do know that the actors and actresses really gave this one their all and went into full-depth character to accurately portray these historical people.  Day-Lewis in particular researched Lincoln’s mannerisms, way of walking, speech, and voice in order to become him.

I am not so steeped in Civil War history as to know how many facts in this movie are correct, but I do know that it was inspired by the thoroughly researched book, “Team of Rivals,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. The author worked closely on the making of the film as well.

LINCOLNActing is top-notch. I really felt as though I were viewing a fragment of my country’s history, and that felt exciting.  Even though I knew how history played out, this movie caused me to doubt for a little bit what would happen.  The behind-the-scenes politics of history made for a tense plot and kept me on the edge of my seat.  In fact, it was so identifiable in this day and age and maybe that’s why I felt nervous for what would happen.

One drawback of the film is that many of the historical facts presented escaped me in one viewing. I will definitely need to rewatch it to glean more from it.  Because of this, I felt somewhat confused and didn’t understand some of the plot structure.

However, I did learn a lot about the genius of Abraham Lincoln. I’ve always had the impression that he was so morally simple as to be sort of uninteresting.  Not so!  This man had a talent given to him by God that he used in the time and position he was placed in.  He was an absolute chess-master at politics, but had a core of integrity that kept him straight and true.  I believe watching this shed some light for me in deciding how to vote this past presidential election.  It also caused me to love a person I’ve never met, and left to wonder why God would allow such a man who did so much good and suffered greatly for it, to die at the hands of an assassin so soon after victory was achieved.

My favorite scene is near the end, with the singing of “Battle Cry of Freedom.” It was so inspiring, and caused me to be grateful to God for His working in our country’s history.  When’s the last time you felt excited about history?

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2018 in Movie Reviews

 

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Katherine Kellgren, Inspiring Storyteller

Audiobook Narrator, Katherine Kellgren

I remember seven years ago.  With a little tinny microphone and Windows Movie Maker as my editing tool, I performed my first two short stories for Librivox.org and a whole new world was opened to me.  Immediately I knew what I had been searching for for years: I wanted to be an audiobook narrator/voice artist!  A counselor suggested I read up on all I could find on the subject so that I knew what it took to get there.

I started my research on youtube, of course!  And I learned about professional studios, home studios, how audiobooks were made.  This was just as the audiobook boom hit and was growing in leaps and bounds.  I learned about big names in the industry: Simon Vance, Scott Brick, Jim Daly… and Katherine Kellgren.  Each one had their own unique voice, but Kellgren’s was a voice that contained culture, beautiful diction, and soul.  I enjoyed watching any video I could find with her in it because I found her to be inspiring.  I learned her background story of how she became an audiobook narrator (reading to her father who had a fatal illness).  Every year when the Audie Awards were announced, her name was nominated for at least one– usually several– and she was a winner.

I was sad to hear that Katherine Kellgren passed away just a few weeks ago.  She will leave such a big void within the audio world.  Her beautiful, classical voice will be missed by her captive audience, as I’m sure will her person by the people who knew her.

(For the record, I’m really loving her bookshelves behind her as well!)

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2018 in Inspiring Voices Series

 

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