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May 16, 2012

If The Bible Interests You...

From Brent

My wife is writing an adoption update... after months of delays, it seems we might be getting close. And an Abby update this week too...

For those of you who find the Bible interesting (or WISH it was interesting), you might check out my latest post on my Christian blog:

Apr 3, 2012

Just Do It

I just posted some thoughts over on my other blog called "Just Do It".

Thought I would let you know about it in case it could bless you today.


Mar 13, 2012

Laughter Lives At Our Friends House Too

From Brent

Our friend Susan sent us the following story which is just too funny not to share:

A few years ago I went to visit my dad and step mom in Tulsa, Ok. It was one of those trips where I came home with more than I took, so my stepmom sent me back with an old suitcase of hers that she no longer wanted.

I got home and unpacked it, then put it in the attic where it has been for a few years. I have no use for it. It's an old style with tiny wheels. It is large and taking up too much space, but I have a terrible time getting rid of anything that has useful life left.

So a few weeks ago a person posted on Google groups that she was looking for an old suitcase to take on a mission trip. She wanted one that didn't have to be returned if it were ruined or lost. Perfect! I responded right away. When she got to my house I got out the suitcase, and it was then that I realized it had a 3-digit combination lock on it. I tried all the obvious possibilities (my dad's area code, part of the zip, address, etc.) with no luck. I even called them but they didn't remember it. The woman took the suitcase anyway, thinking perhaps she could get the lock off the suitcase.

A couple of weeks later the suitcase was on my front porch when I got home, still locked. I can only assume she found a different one to take. I didn't even bother to take it back up to the attic. It has been by the front door for a while waiting for me to get rid of it! So today, fed up, I decided that there were only 1000 possible combinations and how long could it possibly take to flip through them? I started with 001. 002. 003... I got pretty fast and was flipping through them at a rate of two or three per second. It wasn't taking that long.

Finally, on my 473rd try, *click*. I opened the suitcase wondering if there was anything in it. Sure enough, there was.

Joy & Strength No Matter What

I wrote a blog post over on my other blog about having joy and strength no matter what life throws at you.

If you are interested, you can read it here:

Feb 9, 2012

Adoption Update and Birthday Pics...

From Michelle

Here's an adoption update and we are working on birthday party pics that will go up shortly... try to see if you can continue life anyway despite the anxiety and expectation of seeing some of our family photos. :)

Adoption Update

Our adoption agency feels we are getting very close to completing this adoption. The last steps they have been all about making sure that the child/children’s birth family is choosing adoption for their child. I love that they are being so careful.

This process has been slowed down a little because of -20 Celsius temps and a lot of snow.  Europe is having a ridiculous winter. Yikes! When it is 50 degrees outside, I wear a coat that is marketed as “perfect for 0 degrees F”. I got cold just reading our lawyers email. I am glad God called us to adopt when clocked Montenegro’s temperatures at 70 degrees F... I doubt we would have chosen Montenegro if the temps were 50 below at the time. J

I have begun freezing meals for my kids to eat when we travel and talking to my family about thing the kids will need help with while we are gone. As silly as it may sound, I am enjoying doing the little things to get ready. It helps pass the time as we continue to learn PATIENCE which is a necessity for international adoption.

Jan 15, 2012

A Joyful Noise Movie Review: Some Things to Be Joyful About & Some Not

From Brent

I took my wife to see Joyful Noise last night, the reportedly "Christian" movie with Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah. Given how easily fads sweep through American Christianity with little discernment, I thought I would give you a review of the movie. I'm not going to try and decide for you whether or not to see it, or promote it as a "Christian" movie. I'll just give you my observations, positive and negative and leave you to consider it.

FYI, I'm not trying to review like a movie critic. I'm not addressing whether the story, acting or production was good. I'm commenting on it for the sake of Christians being able to discern the CHRISTIAN merits of the movie since it's 1) set in a church/Christianity environment and 2) it's already being discussed as a "Christian movie" by Christians.


The movie is about a church choir competition. The plot involves a mother with two kids, a father who left them, the mom's struggle to raise the kids, and the kids struggle with growing up and the ever popular Hollywood premise of "finding out who they really are" (which is most often code language for "don't be like your parents"... this movie is no exception but with a twist that makes it somewhat tolerable).

Some Joyful Noise About Joyful Noise

Here are my positive observations about the movie:
  • It's cleaner and more "wholesome" than 99% of what Hollywood and TV produces. That's not a huge endorsement given current entertainment standards but it is true relatively speaking.
  • The movie contains no real violence, overtly vulgar language (again, compared to what Hollywood typically produces, more on the language below because there is cursing in the movie), or graphic sex, immodesty or nudity (a negative about that below too)
  • For most of the movie it appears the typical Hollywood message that "conservative (and especially) Christian parents are intolerant, out of touch, close minded and need to be enlightened by the liberal, worldly and in particular the youthful characters" is going to be played out to the end... but in a refreshing twist, the mother confidently and accurately puts the smart-mouthed rebellious daughter in her place and the movie doesn't use that as "proof" the mom is a jerk. Wow! What a concept!

    The mom gets to say what every parents wants to say to their ungrateful, spoiled, self-pitying teen and it leaves the crowd applauding. Normally, Hollywood only puts in that kind of scene when it makes the parent look even more controlling and close-minded. Not this time. The mom looks like the wise, strong, parent deserving of respect. Amazing that a movie actually (FINALLY) portrays a Christian, authoritative parent in that kind of positive light.  (Caveat: but even still, the subtle final message is still that the mom loosened up and let her 16 year old daughter "grow up" even though she was allowed to put her foot down against the blatant rebelliousness and self pity.)
  • The music is clean and entertaining though hardly "Christian" in any substantive way. It's pop music sang in the best tradition of black gospel.
  • The story ends up with family reconciliation, portrays faithfulness to marriage vows, and implies the strength of traditional family.
  • The movie shows whites, blacks and Asians all getting along and living together just fine in a small, southern town. That drives liberals CRAZY who sincerely believe that all southern states are really just closeted KKK hotbeds. While there is no doubt racism is alive and well (from ALL COLORS) in American MOSTLY IN BIG CITIES NOT RURAL TOWNS, it has been my experience in 40 years of small southern towns that the '60's Lyndon Johnson idea of racism is rarely seen today. Whites and blacks and browns and reds and yellows in conservative small town America live and work and worship and play together without a whole lot of thought of "race". You'll never convince Washington or Hollywood of that though because it would erode the power of people who live and prosper by fanning the flames of racism.

Some Not So Joyful Noise

If I were to stop at merely comparing this to the normal trash that is shown on flat screens today, I would give this film a double thumbs up and tell you to take the family to see it. However, it's not quite that simple from a Christian standpoint. Compared to Godly standards, there are several concerns, and given the impression it leaves about Christianity in general, I'm not all that joyful about it. My observations:
  • Casual fornication (no sex scene but the deed is obvious) between two choir members is played off mostly as a joke and it's never seriously implied (or stated) that fornication is a sin to be repented of.  Even the Pastor makes a joke about it at a funeral (the man died from a heart attack while having sex).  It's also implied several times that if you haven't had sex for several years, you can't help but want to jump in bed with someone.
  • Cursing: there are a couple of scenes when unbelievers or the rebellious say a "mild" curse word and that could have been livable as demonstrating  "real life". But the movie goes much further with a couple of dozen or more curse words used casually and without concern even from the Christian characters in the movie.

    There is one scene where the mom comes down on the daughter about cursing,  the mom spouting some curse words then saying "see I can cuss too. It's easy and it proves your stupid" (I'm paraphrasing). That kind of message I can live with. The gratuitous cursing for a laugh or simply because no one, even the Christians, think it is any big deal is not something I can pass over as no big deal. The movie in total leaves you with the impression that "mild" cursing is not a concern. I guess that's a good selling point in light of some of today's Christian writers like Doug Giles (whose thoughts I agree with but I'm concerned about his growing use of crass verbiage and cursing).
  • The typical Hollywood message (particularly to the youth) that no one who is a serious student and Christian can possibly be living life to the fullest is present and never completely debunked.  The rebellious daughter, the wayward grandson and the worldly grandmother are sympathetically portrayed as compassionate, thoughtful, earthy, feeling and really embracing life. The uptight mother and pastor are close minded, controlling and stifled.  A couple of other Christians are buffoonish rednecks and simpletons. Yawn.... typical Hollywood.  It's not NEARLY as blatant in this movie as most but the message is clear. At the end of the movie the mom's strictness is shown to be somewhat positive AFTER she softens towards her daughter and the rebel boyfriend. Three steps forward, one step back.
  • In one scene, the black gospel music presentation is almost clownish (specifically their "competition" from a Detroit black church)... on a positive note, the primary choir the story revolves around is entertaining and dignified even though the music is not Christian, it's pop music.
  • Other than some casual contemporary Christian stanzas, no serious Christian music (doctrinally speaking) is used in the movie; the choir sings pop music from the likes of Michael Jackson. The church service is where the performances are rehearsed.  It adds to the overall subtle message (in my opinion) that Christianity is more social than anything, and not something to be taken very seriously. Unbelievers are invited to be in the choir because of their music talent and the Sunday church gathering is trivialized. The rebellious unbelievers come to accept the Christians because they like the music but it's never portrayed or implied that they accepted the Christian Gospel.
  • The Christians in the movie are wholesome for the most part but apologetically worldly and no serious Christianity or Gospel message is portrayed in any substantial way.  Even though the entire movie is about Christianity, "Jesus" and supposedly faith, not one single serious message about Christ, the Bible, prayer or any Christian doctrine is expressed; not even a hint about the Gospel.
  • The Pastor declares the church can only remain "open" because of rich a member and her support (any real Pastor would recoil at referring to the Church as a business that depends on rich donors). In the end, the Pastor sends that same member packing because she tries to demand his obedience for her support. But... she then pulls another (weird, not very creative) trick out of her bag and ends up with the Pastor in her pocket again at the end of the movie.  Of course, typically, the uptight Pastor eventually comes around and loosens up like everyone else.


Overall, the movie is fairly enjoyable and certainly "wholesome" when measured by Hollywood standards. Christianity is not openly attacked or mocked (as is typical on TV or movies today almost without exception) but the way morality, holiness and "church" is trivialized throughout the show, it leaves Christians with concerns. What's worse? Outright mockery of Christianity, or the subtle trivializing of it?

(Something to think about: the movie "Soul Surfer" portrays a faithful Christian family without mockery but the whole movie is filled with teenage girls in bikinis [the real life girls looked more like prepubescent children, but the movie girls were post-puberty]; is that better or worse than a movie like "Joyful Noise" that's not start-to-end-teen-girls-in-bikini's but trivializes morality, faith and Christianity for the most part? Just something to think about...)

The usual message that authoritative parents and/or serious Christians are uptight and close-minded is loud and proud for most of the movie... then knocked down momentarily towards the end... then left as implied truth when the movie ends.  The flipside is also clear: the worldly, the youthful, and the rebellious are the enlightened, happy and compassionate people who really know how to enjoy life. The movie knocks down (appropriately) the worst of the rebellious behavior from the teens but still leaves the final underlying message that they were mostly right about everything, they just needed to be a little more respectful about it.

About the best I can say is this: it's downright clean and wholesome compared to most movies. However, if you do choose to see it, you should not be undiscerning about it and promote it without concern. I would also be careful labeling it a "Christian movie" when it's more accurately "a movie whose characters go to church and sing in a choir".  Maybe that's enough to call it "Christian" but it's nowhere close to a movie that clearly communicates the Christian message (no one says that was the purpose; but if they aren't calling it a "Christian" movie, should Christians?). 
  • A good clean family movie compared by Hollywood standards? Yes.
  • A "Christian" movie that portrays morality, holiness and faith seriously and accurately? No.
  • A movie devoid of liberal Hollywood messages about enlightened youth and close minded authoritarians? No.

I just want Christians to be discerning. We are so used to the garbage and filth in most movies or books, that we jump on any "Christian" scrap media throws us with very little scrutiny or discernment. I would not take my children under 12 to see it unless I could edit out the cursing and the fornication jokes.  I would only see it with my teens or older if I was ready to explain to them where the movie falls short of true Christian messaging.

Contemplation: isn't it amazing that we are at a point in Christianity where we consider a movie with a dozen or more curse words, unrepentant fornication, church favoritism, a manipulated Pastor and a trivialized Christian experience something we would even CONSIDER seeing because it's a wholesome family movie compared to the rest of Hollywood trash?

Jan 13, 2012

It's A Dogs Life

From Brent

The kids got a puppy for Christmas. Let's just say that the dog had no problem getting comfortable in our family.  Ya think?

That dog is sound asleep... never even blinked when the kids
thought it would be funny to put underwear on her.. and it was!

I don't have high standards... I just want to be treated as well as a dog.

I guess we could all learn a lesson about being carefree, huh?