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.

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Beautiful Perspectives

Mountain top outlooks are gorgeous. Growing up near the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky I hiked to many mountain tops. Rarely did the view disappoint, which made the journey to their summits worth the effort. At the pinnacle of each mountain, I could appreciate the view, and the path required to reach my peak destination. Mountain tops are a great illustration of life too.

Within the journey of life, we each experience a host of paths and obstacles towards our eventual destination. Challenges might be steep hills, tight trails, or various animals like snakes. These adversities cause us to question our need to continue our journey. We must weigh the risk over the reward. After all, the view might not even be worth the trip. Though if we only desire a beautiful view, then our journey is already wasted.

No, a mountain peak both literal and in the journey of life is not just about the view we see. Rather, it’s about understanding and appreciating the path taken to one’s current outlook. It’s at the mountain top we can understand, appreciate, and see our past obstacles with appreciation. This 20/20 hindsight lets us reframe the good and the bad of our journey into even more optimism. We may look back and be frustrated that we didn’t handle an issue with more grace, calm, or poise. However, such self-criticism is not the point because it’s a journey into our negativity.

No, our point is that we are to use our accomplished outlook with appreciation. We can rejoice that we handled things as well as we did. Then we can choose to learn from our mistakes. We learn because we are reframing our past errors towards future hope. That’s the beauty of the mountain top. Not that we see something we’ve never seen before, but now see both the big picture of the past while we view the beauty of our future. Let’s then journey through our paths in life because a beautiful perspective is just over the horizon.

Facing Fear & Embracing God’s Unknown Opportunities!

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.” (Ephesians 4:9-10)

Over three (3) years ago I attended and completed the Army Chaplain School or officially known as Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course, or CH-BOLC for short. This experience was one of the most intense and difficult experiences of my life. It was thirteen (13) weeks of long days that consisted of many physical, emotional, mental, and even social challenges. One of the social challenges was being able to relate to approximately 120 other classmates from other Christian and religious backgrounds. Obviously since there were so many classmates it was impossible to know all of them on a personal level. Even those that I did not interact with much during CH-BOLC we share a common bond. As a result, in the three (3) years since my CH-BOLC graduation I have ran into various classmates in many different situations and settings, and each time we meet there is camaraderie because we know what we went through together. In this past few months God has shown me this with the development of my friendship with Scott Speight.

Scott and I were in completely different platoons during CH-BOLC. I was in platoon one (1) and he was in platoon four (4), which meant we rarely interacted with one another. However, through Facebook and God’s providence in recent months we have connected and the Lord has developed a strong bond (Chaplains, no pun intended) with one another. This bond began as I wanted to pursue Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) for myself and Scott is a CPE supervisor. He is also the CEO of Spiritual Care Center, which is a Christian coaching firm that you should check out at www.spiritualcarecenter.org. As Scott and I began exploring a professional partnership with one another a personal friendship has blossom. This would not have happened if it were not for our CH-BOLC experience, which provided the foundation and the camaraderie needed for us to have a mutual basis of respect and credibility for the other. As a result, I’ve been grateful to get some CPE experience, but I’ve also been elated to begin a friendship with Scott on a foundational experience that was laid three (3) years ago.

Ephesians 4:9-10 reminds us “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.” I don’t know what the future holds for me and Scott’s and friendship, but I do know it never would have happened if we had not allowed God to place us in the same difficult experience. Therefore, our “good reward” has allowed us to “lift the other up” and as Proverbs 27:17 indicates, we have sharpened each other’s iron for God’s glory.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me encourage you to embrace the experiences that God provides you with, even if you are afraid of them. I had plenty of fear going into to CH-BOLC because I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn’t let the fear get the best of me. Rather I trusted the Lord and believed there would be lifelong benefits from CH-BOLC, plus it was better than doing nothing with my life. Therefore, we must remember that our experiences become a platform of opportunity for our lives, but we have to put ourselves in the position to experience them.

So let me encourage you to ask yourself; what can you do with your life today? What is God calling you towards in your life? You may not be able to go join the military or other endeavors, but I’m willing to guess that you have more opportunities than you may want to admit. Be encouraged, open your eyes and find God’s opportunity for you today. Remember, these opportunities may be scary, but by experiencing them they and the Lord provide us with even more opportunities and blessings in the future, no matter how big or small. It begins with your obedience to God’s leading in your life!

Remember it’s not about what you CANNOT do; it is about what you CAN DO!