Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Diversity has made our Nation a more vibrant and open society—in ideas, perspectives, and innovations. But the full potential of our diverse, multicultural society cannot be realized until ALL Americans, including racial and ethnic minorities, gain access to quality health care that meets their needs. Racial and ethnic minorities have less access to mental health services, are less likely to receive needed care, and when they do receive care, it is more likely to be poorer in quality than whites. This is especially true when it comes to mental health issues in children.

My friend, Denisha Seals, has authored the book, “Butterflies In Me”. It is a children’s picture book designed to create open discussions and critical thinking about the mental health challenges minority children face—which are often ignored. I have read both the “Butterflies In Me” book and companion work book and I highly recommend it to families, therapists, and schools. 

Denisha was sexually abused when she was 5 years old. Her experience led her to suffer from PTSD, anxiety and depression. “Throughout the years of therapy no professional diagnosed me.” She says. “They knew about my childhood and they didn’t diagnose me. My mental health challenges were obviously causing a lot of issues in my life into my teenage years.”  

Denisha is no different than millions of other victims of child sexual abuse. While this is her first published book, she plans to write more in the future. She is also working on a documentary, “No Longer Silent: Hear Our Voices,” which she hopes to license this fall.

The documentary is designed to give survivors of child molestation and sexual abuse an opportunity to have their voices heard, and to have public policymakers and potential allies gain a greater awareness of the devastating effects of such negative social interaction on the lives of individuals, the community and social fabric as a whole.

She hopes that by telling her story it will help other victims tell their story too and start the healing process.

You can purchase Denisha’s books at the following links:

https://www.facebook.com/denisha.seals.77

https://blossomingtogether.weebly.com/books.html

There is healing for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. And having a conversation about it is the first step.

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Ridley Scott’s version of the Exodus story that focuses on the relationship/rivalry between Moses (Christian Bale) and Ramses (Joel Edgerton) reminded me a bit of the dynamic between Christian film-goers and secular Hollywood films, like Exodus, which attempt to adapt the Bible to the big screen.

Raised as brothers and princes of Egypt in the palace of Pharaoh senior, (John Turturro) the two spend most of the movie opposing each other–Moses, as the more benevolent taskmaster and favorite of his step-father/pharaoh, and Ramses, the uncaring, cutthroat heir to the throne.

The Christian audiences can sometimes act like Ramses: stubborn, grumpy, vengeful, closed-minded and unwilling to listen to someone they’ve already decided is an enemy. They can also be a bit hardhearted and skeptical, looking only for what the filmmaker gets wrong and looking for every reason to punish the secular outsider who has the nerve to tell a story that isn’t theirs.

This approach would call foul on all sorts of things: No baby Moses in the Nile scene; instead of Moses holding a staff, he wields a sword and fights with the Egyptian army; no turning his staff into a snake; Moses portrayed as the spokesperson for the Hebrews while Aaron has almost no lines; no repeated utterances of “let my people go”; and every other deviation they pick out from the narrative in the book of Exodus. But most of all, the film had the audacity to depict God as (spoiler alert!) a zealous, wrathful 11-year-old British boy.

Though Exodus: Gods and Kings doesn’t take as many artistic liberties as Darren Aronfosky’s Noah, it still won’t be an easy sell for by-the-book evangelicals. But with an atheist director and a lead actor who suggested Moses could be seen as “schizophrenic” and “barbaric,” (http://www.jewishjournal.com/the_ticket/item/christian_bales_moses_in_exodus_insecure_schizophrenic) we should not be surprised at the Biblical inaccuracies in the film.

What surprises me even more though, is how these same evangelical Christians who are so critical of films like Exodus: Gods and Kings, will praise films like History Channel’s “The Bible” mini-series and the “Left Behind” movie, (That have just as many inaccuracies) simply because it was produced by professing Christians.

I tend to view films the same way I go grocery shopping. While pushing my grocery cart through the store, there many things that I like and place in my cart, while there are other items that I would never eat, so I leave those items on the shelf.

Plot deviations and Biblical inaccuracies aside, key themes of the Exodus story are still there. Moses is rightly portrayed as a reluctant and rough-around-the-edges leader, though ultimately faithful to his calling. I was also pleasantly surprised that characters in the film used the Hebrew pronunciation of Moses’ name, (Moshe) interchangeably with the English pronunciation.

In my humble opinion, this film employs all the cinematic tools at its disposal to create a breathtaking world that would certainly make Cecil B. DeMille stand up and cheer. And although Ridley Scott made the controversial choice to depict God as a young boy, (11-year-old British actor Isaac Andrews) who is only visible to Moses, it makes sense to me.

Before you shout heresy, ask yourself: If you were a filmmaker, how would you visualize God in a movie? Would you use James Earl Jones’ Darth Vader voice booming from the sky? Or would you prefer to have Morgan Freeman appear in his all-white suit? Doesn’t Luke 18:17 tell us that anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it? So what better choice is there to depict God than as a child?

What if we let our skeptical, hardened hearts be softened by considering what is good, true, beautiful, admirable or praiseworthy about the film? (Philippians 4:8) What if instead of posting nitpicky complaints as the theological police, Christians extended compassion as the people of God, grateful to see parts of the Bible’s story told on screen?

Any filmmaker telling this story must make an artistic decision, and though it may not be perfect, I found Scott’s choice to be compelling and interesting, in a good way. Very few filmmakers can make the Bible as cinematic as this film does, and with the help of thousands of CGI artists, the supernatural onslaught of frogs, flies, hail and bloody water shows the plagues scenes in a way that brings Exodus chapters 7-11 come to life. Similarly, the climactic parting of the Red Sea sequence is absolutely epic and awe-inspiring.

Christian Bale admitted to having no idea about Moses at all before agreeing to play the character in Scott’s take on the story of the Exodus and said he studied in depth not only the Pentateuch, (The first five books of the Bible) but also the Torah and the Quran in preparing for the role. Consider that some of the secular moviegoers in the audience may also be inspired to look up the Biblical account of Exodus after seeing this film. Isn’t that a good reason to let your skepticism go?

After anxiously waiting for many years, my good friend Vicki Lynn has finally released her CD, Hannah’s Prayer. It was definitely worth the wait!

God has blessed Vicki with an amazing gift of being able to use her beautiful voice to bring healing to her listeners. It is most prevalent in her song, ‘Healer of Your Heart’…a song that tells us that even through disappointment and loss we can experience redemption and true peace through trusting in a loving God.

I have known Vicki and her husband Gary for many years and I have witnessed their struggles as they passed through the crucible of testings and trials. That is what makes this CD so authentic. Vicki sings from real experiences of struggles on her songs, ‘Misunderstood’…‘Cryin’ In The Night’ and ‘Pieces of my Heart’. But she also sings of victories in her songs…’Run And Not Get Tired’…’The Battle Is Mine’ and ‘You’re Strongest In Me.’

From her inspiring song…’You Are The One’ to her bluesy folk song…’Come On Children’ Vicki proves to be a true minister of music and not just another pretty voice. Vicki’s songs will inspire those who have struggled to hold onto their dreams and at times even felt like giving up. For anyone who is struggling with their Christian faith I highly recommend getting a copy of Hannah’s Prayer. I believe it will inspire you to keep trusting God to fulfill your dreams.

Vicki’s CD is available at:  http://www.sodhouserecords.com/vickilynn/

Or direct from Vicki on Face Book at: https://www.facebook.com/vickilynnw

I watched the movie “Noah” this weekend with my wife. And I have to say in spite of some of the inaccuracies of the familiar Bible story; it was still a powerful film.

Some have criticized that Noah is portrayed as a dangerous religious-extremist who blames people for destroying creation and makes no mention of man’s sinfulness. I suggest that these people watch it again. Because in the very beginning of the film it gives a short synopsis of the story written on the screen and mentions that what happens is the direct result of sin.

I have absolutely no problem with a filmmaker taking a biblical story and adding or subtracting from it as a way to craft a compelling film. There are all kinds of artistic license that have been taken as far back as Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 masterpiece “The Ten Commandments”.

Critics complain that the Noah film portrays Noah as a schizophrenic who goes off the deep end in a fit of self-righteousness that ends with a promise to kill himself and his own family; including his newborn granddaughters. Although this is not mentioned in the Bible, is it possible that Noah had these suicidal thoughts? Would these critics conclude that Abraham was a self-righteous schizophrenic as well? Personally, I don’t know how I would react if I was stuck inside of an ark with a bunch of animals with no idea of when I would find solid ground. Throughout history, people have done terrible, terrible things believing that they were following God’s instructions. (The Crusades come to mind)

Many Christians I know would also have a problem with the “Rock Angels” portrayed in the Noah film. (Sorry for the spoiler) They are more comfortable with their own version of angels portrayed as these huge heavenly beings who fly around with the use of their great wings. Interestingly, whenever the Bible describes angelic visitations, there is no mention of them having wings.

I have no problem watching Bible-based movies produced by unbelievers for the sake of making money. And that’s all the Noah movie is. What I DO have a problem with is self-professed Christians who say they produce movies to show the truth of the Bible in a dramatic way, but have just as many, if not more, biblical inaccuracies as those done by Hollywood’s elite atheists.

When I was a kid all I had was a King James Bible with a small concordance in the back. But today my kids and grand-kids have a ton of resources to help them at learning some of the best stories in the Bible. (Including Hollywood movies) As a Christian, I find this to be truly amazing. If there are things that don’t line up in these Bible-based movies with your opinions on what happened, then you have a great chance to follow up at dinner with your family or friends or small groups and talk about it.

Talk about what you agree with and what you don’t. (Remember, you also have a ton of resources for Biblical truth) And then bring the conversation back to Jesus. As Christians, that’s supposed to be the point, isn’t it?
Imagine what would happen if, instead of a heated debate about the inaccuracies of the Noah movie, we just had people from all walks of the Christian faith share the great stories of faith from God’s Word. What if we embraced these movie versions and used them to point people to the Gospel? Wouldn’t that look a lot like Jesus?

Today, Christianity is under attack more than ever. Christians with a biblical worldview seem to be targets for ridicule and other forms of bullying in the public schools, universities, culture, and in the media. So when a film affirms a Christian worldview in any sense, it’s hard not to be excited.

The production quality of God’s Not Dead was good for a Christian themed movie, and I highly recommend this film. When we viewed the movie with our two granddaughters, we hoped that it would be an example to them of how to argue for one’s faith in public school, as the stats show that this is one area where young Christians struggle and even lose their faith.

There are multiple subplots in the movie which are all introduced in its first few minutes, but although they are not developed immediately, they become fairly predictable. However, the main story is that Josh, a college freshman, is taking an Introduction to Philosophy class from an atheistic professor, Dr. Radisson. (Played by Kevin Sorbo who is known for his many roles on TV shows)

On the very first day of class, the professor stands up and gives a short discourse about the virtues and intellectual superiority of atheism. He then gives the class their first assignment. He passes out blank papers, and demands that each student write “God is dead” and sign their names in order to get a passing grade. Josh refuses, so the professor forces him to take an alternate assignment: Josh will be given time in the next three lectures to prove the existence of God. If the students in his class are convinced, he passes the assignment. If not, he fails the semester, and thus jeopardizes his chances of attaining a law degree.

Although Dr. Radisson’s blatant requirement to reject one’s faith in writing seems hard to believe in even today’s culture, but the reality is that many Christian students are facing similar experiences to the one Josh faces in this film. Many high school biology teachers demonstrate their own bigotry in classrooms by teaching students that evolution is a fact rather than one of many theories of how our world came to be. So if so few believers are equipped with and boldly share a viable defense for the biblical worldview, is it any wonder that people might ultimately conclude that science has proven that the Bible is just a bunch of stories, and thus, “God is dead”?

Interestingly, the film’s harshest critics have been from other Christians. Many of them complain that the movie mistakenly stereotypes Christians as shallow and unrealistic and that atheists were portrayed as evil God haters. They also claim that the characters did a bad job of defending their faith, which could be dangerous for new believers who use the same arguments when confronted with the same challenge.

Although there was some stereotyping throughout the movie, overall we enjoyed the film and it gave us a great opportunity to have a serious discussion about standing up for our faith with our granddaughters.

When your faith is tested, can you explain what you believe?
The Apostle Peter commands all believers to, “…always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you …” (1 Peter 3:15)

Fulfilling the role of a ‘defender of the faith’ requires us to make an effort to study– Studying God’s Holy Word as well as studying the atheist’s views.
So take action today and equip yourself and your family with the readily available resources that will make a difference not only for you, but also for your children, and in their ability to confidently and boldly defend their faith and share the Gospel.

“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of then, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:13-17)