Sunday, February 25, 2007

Amazing movie

Yesterday I went to the theater to see Amazing Grace. It's the story of William Wilberforce, a man at the forefront of the abolition of the slave trade in British Empire (which happened nearly 60 years before slavery was abolished in the United States). It was his mentor, friend and former slave ship captain, John Newton, who wrote the words of the beloved hymn.

It is a beautiful, touching, disturbing movie about something important. Hollywood will put the "important film" label on lots of movies, but this one truly fits. Not only does it teach you about something horrible from our past, the film makers also seek to remind us that the slave trade may be over in some places, but it still flourishes around the world.

Didn't know that? Well, check out The Amazing Change Campaign website.

And go see the if you can. These days if a film doesn't do well at the box office in the first few days, it can't survive in the theatres no matter how good it is.


On a side note, tonight is Hollywood's biggest night, their most important self-congratulatory event. They will award each other with praise, gold-colored statuettes, and tax-free swag, and celebrate how wonderful and beautiful they all are. And millions of people around the world will watch.

I won't be one of them.

I haven't watched in years, since I realized the "best this" and "best that" was just a way for a small society of elites to reward those who made the right kind of movies and right kind of politcal statements. It's a big kiss-up to the cool crowd from the cool crowd.

I will be shocked beyond words if Amazing Grace is nominated for anything next year. Oh, maybe a costume or lighting award, but nothing signifant. Because this movie doesn't fit the mold. It's a true story of moral absolutes, which don't exist in Hollywood.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

What is love?

Today it seems "love" is all around us. Hearts, flowers, candy, cards...those are all symbols...a way to show our "love" on this particular day.

But what about the other 364 days of the year? What does the word "love" really mean? I've had several encounters in the last few weeks that caused me to give this subject some serious thought.

First, it was a conversation with my friend Father Mark, who brought up love in a conversation about politics (specifically about welfare). Then it was another preacher, a man I don't know, who gave an interesting sermon on that classic description of love in I Corinthians 13. Finally, a page on a daily calendar from yet another preacher wrapped it up for me. I think this is the best definition of love I have ever read:

Love is not a feeling we have; it is a decision to treat people the way Jesus would treat them.
So how do we do that? The second preacher suggested we replace the word "love" in I Corinthians 13:4-7 with "Jesus". Cool, that tells us how Jesus would treat people. Then, we were to replace it with our own name. And here's that result:

Judie is patient, Judie is kind. Judie does not envy, she does not boast, she is not proud. Judie is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, she keeps no record of wrongs. Judie does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Judie always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Notice how none of these are feelings that I have, but actions I take (or don't take) that define my love for others.

I'm not currently in a romantic relationship, so I don't expect to receive any flowers or candy or a card today. But that's OK, because I know I am loved by the actions others take towards me.

Friday, February 02, 2007

My kind of college

As many of you know, I went to Princeton University.

That statement is technically correct. I did go to Princeton. For one week. For a youth convention. In the summer of 1978. Except for the 125% humidity, the showers in the dungeon, the towels that never dried, the weird bugs crunching under our feet on the sidewalk because the maintenance staff picked that week to clean out the gutters, and a breakup with my boyfriend, I remember having a pretty good time.

The fact is that, except for the three credits I earned in Music Appreciation last year (yeah for me), I have not attended college. I have no serious educational experience beyond earning my Chicago public high school diploma. My understanding of what goes on in the halls of higher education is limited to what I hear from others. So I would never claim to be an expert on the subject of college.

On the flip side, what makes anyone think that a person who goes from high school to college to graduate school and then right into a teaching position knows about what the world is like outside the academy? They may be experts on their subject matter, methods of learning, and the politics of the sheltered world they inhabit. But it would be arrogant, to say the least, for them to speak with any assumed authority about the "real" world.

On her January 31st radio show, Laura Ingraham interviewed Nido Qubein, president of High Point University. Here is a man who is the embodiment of the American Dream. He came to this country with nothing, succeeded big-time in business, and is now leading a university dedicated to ensuring...

"...that we build a bridge that connects the hallowed hallway of academia with the practical, ever-so-demanding, ever-so-competitive, ever-so-changing highways and byways of life."
Qubein goes on to say...
"A student ought not simply major in college in business or sciences, etc. But rather should also know how to get along with people, how to communicate effectively, how to manage their money, how to invest their time, and so on."
Practical knowledge from someone who knows what he is talking about. If I had the means I would pursue a degree full-time, but only at an institution that hires teachers like these.

I don't think I'd live in the dorm, though. Unless it was the "lights out at 9:30" dorm. Do they have those? That would be my kind of college.

(An audio clip of the interview "Nido Qubein's American Dream" is available free for a few weeks at Laura's website.)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Mercy me!

When I wrote last week that conversations during my recent vacation had caused me to rethink the way I practice some of my beliefs, I wasn't quite sure how to articulate what I was feeling. But God has a way of giving us what we need at just the right time.

During my trip I was challenged several times about mercy. Having an attitude of mercy towards everyone. Mercy versus judgment. Mercy without enabling. God's mercy being a gift to us that we are then supposed to give away.

Well, it's one thing to know what you're supposed to do, and another thing to figure out how to do it. That's why God puts many teachers in our lives. The person who challenged me gave me the what, making me open to the person who just gave me the how.

Joyce Meyer's "Enjoying Everyday Life" broadcast from yesterday (available as a podcast on her website or through iTunes) is called "If You Sow Mercy, You Will Reap Mercy".

This one's a keeper.