Shadowlands Movie Review

Good movies are hard to find, but some films are like diamonds in the rough. They are hidden gems that have always been there; just a few knew of their excellence. One such movie that fits this description is Shadowlands with Anthony Hopkins. It’s a film where Hopkins plays the late C.S. Lewis and his surprise marriage to his wife Joy. Hopkins both excels at his portrayal of Lewis while honoring his faith well, especially for a Hollywood film.

Part of the surprise with this movie is that it came after Hopkins initial portrayal of Hannibal Lecter and Van Helsing in Dracula. Since Lewis is considered a giant in the Christian faith, at least during the 20th century, it is easy that this film may have been forgotten in Hopkin’s lexicon of movies. Afterall, it is not often that one can legitimately contrast Dracula, Hannibal Lecture, and C.S. Lewis in the same paragraph. Despite these odd contrasts, the film is worth watching for the following reasons:

 

  1. Production is Valued – Recently Hollywood has attempted to make a better effort when making Christian films. For example, they will try to bring in a big-name actor. However, the movie is left with either a B-movie or made for TV-movie feel. Shadowlands has neither, which allows the viewer to enjoy the story without distraction.

 

  1. Difficulty is Valued – Too often Christian films love to close the plot in the end neatly. The aim is correct. Often producers want to show the hope of the Gospel lived throughout life. The problem with this approach is, often life does not have the happy ending for some time. Therefore, Christians films can inadvertently portray a lite-prosperity gospel. Though the intention is to inspire Christians; for some, it will offer a false hope that can frustrate in real life when the results are not so soon. Shadowlands does the impossible job of closing the movie by showing a harsh part of life, yet leaving the characters with a profound hope. This dichotomy is an example of how Christians movies should conclude. Not that every movie should end on a depressive thought, but that the consequences of living in a fallen world should remain as realistic as the Gospel hope often portrayed. Remember, the Gospel rescues us from the fallen hurt of the world, which should not be easily dismissed. Such quick dismissals cheapen the cost that Christ paid for both our sins, and it’s practical consequences. While Shadowlands does not overtly preach the Gospel, the movie provides a balanced portrait of the Christian dilemma and hope too.

 

  1. Faith is Valued – Throughout the film Lewis’ faith if valued. Pictures of how he connected his faith with his literary work among his colleagues exist. Apologetic lectures are shot multiple times. Plus, there is a point where he shows his vulnerability and how God can use this grief as a “tool” for his faith. These and other scenes exist throughout the movie. Even the closing line of the film, which I will not spoil, echoes of his devout Christianity to the trained ear.

Continue reading “Shadowlands Movie Review”

Autumn Rest 

“Make it a source of spring water; even the autumn rain will cover it with blessings.”

-Psalm 84:6 (CSB)

Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people.

-Hebrews 3-4 (CSB)

 

Autumn is a season of beauty. The days begin to get cooler from the hot summer season. The leaves change and fall to the ground. Together it creates a beautiful tapestry of foliage across the plains and the mountains of God’s creation.

Autumn is a season of reward. Here the fruits of our labors during the summer and spring are given. Crops are collected, livestock is tended, and gains are made during this harvest season. Each of these rewards is made possible from the hard work and exploration made from the preceding seasons.

Autumn is a season of preparation. After the harvest, winter crops are planted to produce needed resources during cold months. Families invest in firewood to keep warm. Even God’s creatures know that Autumn is a time of preparation, as many animals gather their final collections before winter. Continue reading “Autumn Rest “

Krispy Kreme Flavored Sarcasm = Trouble: Pastoral Redemptions

Krispy Kreme doughnuts are delicious! They also make for a great youth ministry sermon illustration. The trick is, knowing where to find the Krispy Kreme doughnut shop.

In 2004 I was a Summer Youth Minister for a church just north of Charlotte, North Carolina. It was an exciting time, and I wanted to make a good impression with my first sermon for the youth. In other words, it was time to borrow my friend Jeff Prosser’s Krispy Kreme doughnut sermon.

The gist of the message is that you use Krispy Kreme’s mission statement and illustrate the importance of intentional living for Christ. Furthermore, you can use the doughnuts themselves as an illustration to “Taste and see that God is good” as stated in Psalm 34:8.  It is a fun sermon and at the close of it, everyone gets to celebrate with a delicious doughnut. My problem was finding the store’s location.

Not being from North Carolina I had to use MapQuest to print-off directions. Yes, during this time I also used dial-up for the internet and would print off my directions. The iPhone and other smartphones would not be released for another three years.

Finally, with my directions literally in hand, I headed off to the next town where the nearest Krispy Kreme was located. I figured this trip will make for a great adventure. Indeed it did.

Trusting my paper made directions they humorously led me to the 18th hole of a golf course with no Krispy Kreme in-sight. Thankfully there was a nearby drugstore that I thought could help.

Once inside I asked the store associates for directions to the Krispy Kreme. As they provided their assistance it was clear that the doughnut shop was on the other end of town. MapQuest was way off, and the employees struggled to provide clear directions too. After a few attempts, they differed to a customer for better assistance.

The customer – who was in street clothes – was introduced to me when the store associate said, “She can help, she knows these streets well as she is a police officer.” She was in street clothes indicating she was off duty.

Once our introduction concluded my sarcastic mouth spoke before I could stop it. I said, “Oh you’re a police officer. Then you MUST know where the Krispy Kreme is located!” Continue reading “Krispy Kreme Flavored Sarcasm = Trouble: Pastoral Redemptions”

Concluding Pastoral Redemptions…For Now!

Writing this Pastoral Redemption series has been difficult. When I started, I had over 30 stories that I intended to publish. Despite this goal, I believe that some stories are not meant to be shared…For now. In previous times, I did not feel this noble. No, for years I was bitter about many of my church experiences. I did not see God working through them, so I just wanted to play the victim, and felt that when I trash these churches, I am justified. By God’s grace, He never let me write those stories while I was still bitter. Rather, it is only now that I have been able to write any story with two goals in mind:

  1. Write only stories that are humorous
  2. Write only stories that reflect an element of hope and redemption. Remember “God redeems.”

As a result of these goals, some stories I will not share now. Either they are not amusing enough, or they do not display any redemptive qualities…yet. Continue reading “Concluding Pastoral Redemptions…For Now!”

Interviewing the Holy Spirit: Pastoral Redemptions

Discernment of the Holy Spirit is essential. This skill is one that we never master because there is always room for improvement. Still, it is important for Christians to have a baseline understanding on how the Holy Spirit speaks. If anything, to know how the Spirit does not speak. Otherwise, we may just make important spiritual decisions on our own, which we are sure to get wrong from time-to-time.

Unfortunately, it took two difficult pastorates for me to grow in the area of discernment. In fact, as I look back at one set of church interviews, it was clear that God was shouting to me, “DO NOT GO HERE!” Sadly, like many others, I had to learn through the hard path of experience. Continue reading “Interviewing the Holy Spirit: Pastoral Redemptions”

Church Interviews Are Like Speed Dating: Pastoral Redemptions

You have met the person of your dreams, and after knowing them a month, you are ready to marry them. Most people on hearing the last sentence would raise prudent caution. Friends would ask you to slow the relationship. They might even try to talk you out of the hasty engagement. It is not because they want you to ruin your happiness. No, like many in our culture they believe a rushed engagement is unhealthy and will lead to future unhappiness.

Similarly, many congregational churches use this “speed date” method to hire their next pastor. To be fair, not all congregational churches use this approach, but many churches and pastors reflect this “speed date experience.” It goes something like this: Continue reading “Church Interviews Are Like Speed Dating: Pastoral Redemptions”

Parsing About the Parsonage: Pastoral Redemptions

Once upon a time, it was thought that I lied to a church about moving into their parsonage. That is not exactly correct. While I failed to communicate my change of mind, I did not lie. These points and more I accept responsibility. More importantly, I am glad for God’s redemption ability despite challenging church leadership and my poor judgment.

As stated in a previous post, “The Church Parsonage is Not a Benefit,” but many churches believe it is an excellent tool to recruit ministers. In some cases, it still is a significant advantage. More and more pastors though are declining to live in them. Like many in their congregation, they want to build equity for their family’s future, which a provided house does not give. As a result, many churches are choosing to sell their parsonages. However, where I once pastored the expectation was still for the pastor to live in the parsonage.

The conflict over me and their parsonage began when a deacon on the Pulpit Search Committee asked

“Brother Mike, I got a question for you! Are you going to live in our pastorium?!”

On asking his question, there was at least one committee member who interjected against this deacon’s question. His objection centered on the previous pastor who experienced problems when he lived in the home owned by the church. Despite this committee member’s concern, the deacon reiterated with,

“Hey, our former pastor needed to get out. When you resign as the pastor, you need to exit the pastorium sooner than later. Besides, we are better than some churches. I know one church who had the water cut off the next day. We gave the former pastor more time than a day!” 

This scenario was a shock to my senses. Not only did I doubt the long-term benefit of living in any parsonage; the committee was admitting their checkered history with their building. Still, I had to give a response, so I said, Continue reading “Parsing About the Parsonage: Pastoral Redemptions”