Friday, May 22, 2009

Babette's Feast

Babette’s Feast won the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 1986. I never heard of it until a few years later a friend told me about this interesting movie of some isolated people who were given a fancy meal. On the basis of his recommendation I taped the film when it was broadcast on PBS.

This is one of those films you can’t appreciate unless you see it through clear to the end. I had taped it off the air and watched the first half of it one evening. That initial viewing seemed sluggish and almost aimless. I wondered what my friend had seen in this movie. The next evening I watched the second half and was electrified. Very few films have made such an immediate and complete invasion of my consciousness. This was more than the story of a remote group of people who were introduced to a little international culinary culture.

The story involves a small home church in an isolated region of Denmark. It was founded by a man long gone by the time of the “Feast” mentioned in the title. His two daughters had become the caretakers for the congregation that had descended to backbiting and spiritual apathy. From out of their past had come Babette, a refugee from war in France. For room and board she because the two ladies’ housekeeper and also the chef behind all the cooking which was given to the indigent in the community. When the 100th birthday of their preacher father came around she volunteered to cook and pay for the meal for the church.

It is in the meal itself that a change takes place, a matter which in a way is analogous to what happens to us when we get into true fellowship with the Lord and His people as we partake of communion. The people relate to one another in a way they have not related for years. Old animosities are given over as they enter into a true fellowship with one another around the table, not one of organizational membership, but of organic unity. It takes an outsider to recognize the true greatness of what they are experiencing, but in the end the spiritual life of this community is re-ignited. The church is seen as a living being, not a museum of past, never to be repeated glories. It is as we confess our wrongs and forgive one another that we come the closest to the grace and mercy of God.

Being a foreign film, there is not only the language to be contended with, but also the body language and customs which almost need to be worked at in order to understand, but once you enter into the world of this feast you will be overwhelmed by what it means to be a part of Jesus’ church and also what it means to rise to the capability of the artist which God has created within you. You will want to amaze and delight the angels yourself.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Top Favorite Film Countdown Number 10

Over a decade ago the American Film Institute presented their list of the top 100 films of the preceding 100 years. I disagreed with many of the choices and felt that many obvious choices had been bypassed. As a result I did my own list of 100 which I eventually expanded to include a ranking of everything I have in my collection.

I’m going to share some thoughts on what are my top 10 favorite films. This is not an assessment of greatness. I like and appreciate “Citizen Kane” and “Gone With The Wind” and many other films that would be top rated, but which are not my favorites. A favorite is a film that I want to see over and over. In some ways these speak to me very intimately and in many cases affirm things deep inside my heart. That’s why this is really a heart list and not an art list by any objective standard.


In terms of a count down, the number 10 film on the list is “A Man For All Seasons”.

I admire films about character. Every one of the films in my top ten is really about character in some way. I’ve read up on the life of Sir Thomas More and discovered that I wouldn’t have agreed with everything he did. For example, he was the lead persecutor of William Tyndale. It was his prosecution which sent Tyndale to the stake. Still, I appreciate the fact that he was a man who operated by principle and not by the whim of the times. That doesn’t mean that principles are equivalent to truth, but that they are certainly the bedrock of character.

More was one of the leading political figures in the court of England’s Henry VIII. Henry, in the search for a male heir embarked upon a course which cut the nation of England off from the Roman Catholic Church. In one sense, I would personally have agreed with such a separation, but More was right that it should not be done for politically correct reasons. He did not see it as a correct procedure. It is his constancy that labels him a man for all seasons, one who was not to be swayed by the winds to or from the court. We need such men and women in leadership in every part of our world in every age. This is a film that should be played for every political science class.

The film is filled with witty and poignant dialogue. The spoken words sparkle off the screen. The categories of right and wrong are directly portrayed. We see, for example, in Cromwell and Rich, the tendency to subdue right to expediency. More, clearly sets for the issues involved and his reasons for silence with regard to them until the time of his condemnation at the end of the film. (That’s no spoiler; without it you wouldn’t even have a story.) The Duke of Norfolk urges socialization as the highest good, but More puts him in his place by asking if he would be willing to go with him to hell for acting against his conscience’s sake for the sake of fellowship.

The actors and actresses make up a fantastic ensemble. This is the role that Paul Scofield was born to play. I know that Charlton Heston wanted it, and did finally play it a later film version, but Heston was too big and rough and lacked the subtlety that characterized Scofield’s playing. Leo McKern’s secretary Cromwell steals the entire screen every time he comes on. Robert Shaw is the perfect over the top Henry VII. Nigel Davenport gives his all as the bumbling political hack. Susannah York is the brilliant daughter of Sir Thomas who sees and knows everything that is going on, but is powerless to prevent it. And then there’s Orson Welles who could take two minutes on screen in any film and turn it into a triumph. This is filmmaking like we have not seen in decades.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


This is the flip side to the sermon quotes Jeanette has been giving. Here you see the raw material that goes with me into the pulpit. You will notice no periods at the end of each idea. This is done to remind me that the Holy Spirit must finish every statement and stamp it with truth. Often times the best quotes Jeanette jotted down came not from my paper, but from the Holy Spirit during the preaching itself.

(Even his clothes had His character!)
Matthew 17:1-13/Mark 9:2-13/Luke 9:28-36

There is a date marker here – after 6 days, again signifying the real world happening of this event

The three were singled out, not for merit, but for what Jesus wanted them to learn and then do

Who were they?

Peter was the first great preacher

James was the one so far out ahead of the rest that he was the first to see Jesus again after the ascension

John was the one who rounded out the century and saw heaven

This was no prestige trip, but a working one

They went to pray

Prayer has its part even in what God has already planned and ordained

It was while He was praying (Luke 9:29) that Jesus was changed before them

How can we expect a change when we don’t pray?

This was not so much a change as a stripping away of earthly figure to show spiritual reality

The change extended to what Jesus was wearing

He was so much what He was that the clothes he wore took on His hidden character at this time

Elijah and Moses appear with Jesus, representing possibly the Prophets and the Law, but also possibly some of the most significant saints of the past

They may have been there for themselves as well as for what they represented

Elijah and Moses were monumental larger than life figures, both in their historicity and in their spirituality

Peter wants to put Jesus on the same level with these two

The building of the tabernacles may indicate Peter’s desire to stop everything else and just stay here with them

There is always an attempt to want to retreat from the real world in a moment of ecstasy

The ecstatic is really designed to equip us for the real world by showing us the truth behind the reality rather than tempting us to opt out

Jesus didn’t want to distract them

He wanted to show them a reason for going on

Peter didn’t really know what to say

God stepped in and settled the matter by pronouncing His approval only on Jesus

The others prophesied or pointed out Jesus, but Jesus alone fulfilled the task of the savior

We are still to listen only to Jesus as a final authority

Fear resulted, but was dispelled by the touch of Jesus

Jesus was the only one there at the end, the only one left standing

This is something they didn’t discuss until after the resurrection at the command of Jesus

These events led into a discussion of farther reaching things, beginning with the work and significance of Elijah

They couldn’t quite get what resurrection from the dead meant

They didn’t perceive the absolute necessity for the cross

Jesus explained that the restoration work of Elijah included the suffering of the Son of Man

They did with John (Elijah) what they wanted, but that didn’t mean they got what they wanted

The same would be true of Jesus

Friday, May 15, 2009

Spiritual Help For A Dark Side Of Everyday Life

People say that Jesus has nothing to do with the real world and that Christians know nothing of the real world. To prove them wrong I’ll show a little bit of what I know about the real world.
For ten years I worked at a collection agency in Los Angeles. While I did not actually work the accounts directly with the debtors, I did have an opportunity to see through data entry and handling the accounting what the debtor mentality is made up of. This is also an unemployment mentality and a poverty mentality as well. Rather than being a “free as a bird” lifestyle, it is one in a cage (totally ungilded) in which many have been trapped.

One day a while back I started a list of the things which made up this mentality. I present it now, not as a condemnation of anyone, but as exposing the presuppositions of this mentality for what they are. No one ever said these things to me explicitly, but their actions and attitudes expressed them implicitly. Here’s the list as I thought over what I’d seen in the past:

*Only I count.
*Live for the present (as opposed to living in the present).
*Don’t count the cost.
*Don’t think of consequences of my own actions to myself.
*Do what I feel like now.
*Don’t be concerned for what my actions do to others.
*Want more things.
*Be what I want. (This only applies to me, not to you.)
*Whatever it takes to get whatever I want.
*Responsibility? What’s that?
*The world owes me a living.
*Get while the getting is good.
*No sense of History.
*Expecting more than is due.
*I’m not responsible for this.
*Someone else will pick up the tab.
*What does it matter?
*I don’t care how this affects anyone else.
*It IS all about ME!!!
*I don’t care if anyone else is hurt.
*Every wind of desire influences me.
*No resistance.
*No self control
*Never look at bills or billfold.
*Ignore just claims and they’ll go away.
*As long as I’m not made to do anything, I don’t have to do anything.
*Disregard of law and right.
*First things last.
*Job; Schmob!! [I’ve heard that latter attitude, even though I’ve never heard anyone use the word.]

If you summed the whole thing up under two principles they would be these:

Live for today only.
Live for yourself only.

Now for the spiritual side.

Someone may have recognized themselves here. These are not simply negligible attitudes, but ones which will destroy a life and a family. What can you do about them. A person may try to overcome this by will power and turning over that new leaf I used to hear so much about as a child, but there is only one sure antidote to such a mentality. It is to live for something outside yourself and your time. There is only one thing that will ultimately provide such a ground for living. Paul mentioned it in Philippians 1:21. Only if you’re living for Christ will death be a gain, and since you have to die anyway, shouldn’t you make the best of it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I had wanted to see the 1936 version of “Romeo and Juliet” for years even though I knew it would not match the Zeffirelli version of 1968. I finally saw it this week. In looking at the play again I saw a spiritual truth. The roots of tragedy are always in something small; the roots of grace have to be in something big.

If only Mercutio had been more patient he would not have fought Tybalt and been killed. If only Romeo had gone for the police instead of taking matters into his own hands he would not have killed Tybalt and thus been banished. If Friar Lawrence’s emissary had reached Romeo in Mantua there would have been no suicide. If Romeo had come to the tomb ten minutes later he’d have seen Juliet alive. If Juliet had woken up even three minutes earlier she could have prevented Romeo’s suicide. The play, as so many of Shakespeare’s, turns on these small short coincidences which lead to tragedy. Even though we may not experience so much woe, we are tempted to the same expressions of anger and impatience which lead to tragedy every day. Tragedy does not stop on a dime. In the play it took five deaths (Mercutio, Tybalt, Count Paris, Romeo, Juliet) to bring the tragedy of this play to its end.

Grace, too, is brought to an end by death, a single death. While not a suicide, it was a voluntary death. It was larger than the result of someone’s impatience. It was designed to draw off and satisfy the entire wrath of God against all sin for all time. Only the sacrifice of an entire blood supply, a body broken beyond recognition enabled us to receive grace. Jesus Himself told us that laying down the life is the greatest act of love anyone can express.

Tragedy or grace are the only two prospects we have to look forward to. Let us not be moved by small things, but stand on the solid one.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Do You Play The Notes Or The Song?

This past Sunday evening harpist, Greg Buchanan, presented a concert in Paris, Illinois. I had heard of, but never heard him before. It was a great experience, one for which superlatives have been laid up and must now be set forth. If I could sum him up in one sentence I would say that he is a musician who plays songs rather than notes. I believe that he would appreciate that assessment. I’ve known it to be a real distinction, and in the past few days I’ve been thinking again about what it means and what the heart of music is.

The one occasion out of my past which Sunday night reminded me of was a concert we attended in the late 1990s at the Hollywood Bowl. It wasn’t that the music or instruments were the same, but that the spirit was. Jean-Pierre Rampal, the great flautist, was playing. I had been listening to his recordings for years, but nothing prepared me for the overwhelming presence of the musician in the flesh. As he played the fourth Brandenburg I knew we were experiencing the kind of worship that goes on in heaven. This was not just a response to artistry, but to the heart.

The virtuoso can play all the notes and play them as no one else can, but he doesn’t always get to the soul of the music. There is a soul in all music. Pachelbel, whose canon Greg Buchanan played Sunday night, had it. My personal favorite classical composer, Haydn, had it more than Mozart did. Bach had it even more than any other. That’s why Glen Gould could do three recordings of the Goldberg Variations (one of them was a recording just recently released for the first time which was originally done for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation the year before the famous 1955 recording) and each time breathe a new life into the notes. Gould was a great eccentric in many ways. In the later recordings you can actually hear him humming along with his own playing, but this was a sign of how deeply the music was rooted in him. He didn’t care what anyone thought about him, only what he thought about the music.

I would be the first to acknowledge that I don’t have the skill of a virtuoso when I sit down at Gould’s instrument, but that hasn’t kept me from finding the soul of the songs I play. It’s there, but it has to come from inside of the player. Neither the printed score nor the instrument contains it. This is something that we shouldn’t just discover when we listen, but something that we should express in every area of our lives.

All that we do is art for God’s appreciation. A person does not have to play a musical instrument to do something original for God. Whatever we create, let us create a real message to the world of God’s grace and mercy and love. Let us not just make music. Let us breathe praise to God.

Bach signed every composition Sola Deo Gloria.

So let it be.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Since Jeanette is going on to one blog and I’m more or less taking over this one I thought I would express myself on some favorite things which will be explored more singly and in depth in the future. I’m not an outdoorsman or sportsman, but as I’ve stated in the profile I’m more arts minded. The three art forms I most consume are books, music and films.

I was brought up in a home where reading was important. I remember when I was in grade school that it was a major event for our family when we first got a library card and then got to use it. I don’t remember that title of the first book I checked out, but I do remember that it was some kind of story of a young Indian boy. That’s how reading will stick with you. I’m currently reading Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson. I’ll probably have some comments to make on that when I’m done, but to just throw in one now, he stated several times that he felt reading to be the most important part of writing and that children should be free to read as high above their perceived level as they liked. I even did that myself in first grade. I was tired of being in the bottom reading group, so one time when the teacher called us to go to our groups I picked up my chair and went to one above and they never challenged me! So, in days to come I’ll be sharing some of the favorite things I’ve read.

I’ve sung as long as I can remember and started taking piano lessons when I was in the third grade. My mother wanted me to just be able to play out of the hymn book. My piano teacher thought I would be the next Van Cliburn (this was in 1959, the year after the great triumph that catapulted him into international news.) I didn’t make it to Carnegie Hall, but I think I’ve done better than just playing out of the hymn book. My interest in music was nurtured by a school teacher and a mentor a few years older than me. My musical schematic includes Southern Gospel music, Black Gospel music and Classical music. Then, too, I’ve written over 1650 songs or compositions.

I’ve loved the movies since the first. Having the technology to watch what I want (provided, of course, that it has been released on saleable media) is a great improvement over the old days of depending on what showed up on television or at the neighborhood theater. I’ve got a collection of films and have rated them according to their status of what are my favorites (not to be confused with a catalogue of objective greatness).

These are some of the things I would like to share as well as thoughts on the Bible and ministry, other arts, writing music, issues of the day, my opinions (I’ve written The Book Of Opinions which at present numbers 5,689 opinions, none of which have been published), holidays, ice cream and coffee.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Passing the Baton (or, Why I Don't Shop with Toddlers)

For me, managing two blogs is like taking a toddler shopping without a stroller. You can keep ahold of the toddler, or you can shop. You can’t do both. One is sure to suffer, and the one is probably you!

With that in mind, Kevin and I have agreed that this blog will now be his toddler. Actually, I asked him to pleeeeeeese take it over, because I need to devote myself more to my new baby, Audience of One, which is my heart for writers and the literary world.

Being an agreeable and kind person, but not particularly verbose (except in the pulpit) Kev said, “Okay.”

Therefore, when you pop over here, as I hope you will continue to do, you will find Kevin’s musings and messages. Perhaps he’ll ask me to be a guest blogger occasionally! After Audience of One grows up a little, and affords me some spare time.

Thanks for supporting us both! We love and appreciate you all! Gotta run and change a diaper…
--- Jen

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hosting the Perfect Pity Party

The following is a humor article I am shopping to a magazine (at least I hope it's humorous! Let me know what you think. If it's not too funny, I will tweak it...)

Five Elements of the Perfect Pity Party

1. Preparation: When something horrible threatens to ruin your day or your year, believe you are the only one this has ever happened to. Or at least that your case is worse than anyone else’s.

2. Guest List: Anyone who will feel sorry for you and tell you how unfairly you were treated. Angry, depressed individuals who will wallow with you. DO NOT invite mature believers who know the Word and walk closely with the Lord. They will ruin the party by praying with you and for you, or sharing helpful verses and truths. They may cry with you and hug you and simply hold your hand, but that would give genuine help, and what you want is pity.

3. Refreshments: Junk foods, especially those high in sugar and starch. These make you feel yummy for an hour or two, then plunge you into more despair, which is, after all, the goal of your party.

4. Games: “Pin the Blame on the Person” and “Satan Says” are excellent choices. Do not play games that make you laugh; laughter is not allowed at Pity Parties. Do not have physical activities that release endorphins, giving you a sense of well-being and perspective. The last thing you need at a Pity Party is logic. Do not go visit someone who is more troubled than you, or call a friend you know is tromping through a valley. That may cause you to count your blessings, and Blessing-Counting is not a Pity Party game.

5. Music: Anything heartbreaking, like “Dad Gave My Dog Away,” or hateful, like “You Can’t Give Me Nothin’, ‘Cuz I Already Got Plenty of That.” Uplifting, praiseful tunes not allowed! These drive the devil insane, and he is your guest of honor.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Happy Birthday to the love of my life,

My best friend,

My laughing place,

The strength of our family,

A wise and godly man.

You make me proud to live in the same universe with you.

All my heart,

Your Jeanette

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What Will be Missing in Heaven

Did you ever think about what won’t be in Heaven? Here are my ideas…

Hospitals, doctor’s offices, dentists, veterinarians.

Pharmacies, drug companies, vitamin manufacturers

Tissues, band-aids, crutches, wheelchairs, canes, hearing aids, eyeglasses

Funeral homes, cemeteries, memorial stone manufacturers

What else? Let’s look forward together…


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Quotes from Today's Sermon

I had a rough time concentrating on Kevin’s sermon today; thinking about my dad in the hospital, wondering if this is his final week on earth. But, I did manage to get down some great truths:

“Jesus doesn’t just call us to sacrifice, but to action.”

“If satan (I purposely do not capitalized his name!) can get us to look at things through the world’s eyes and not God’s eyes, he can curtail the power of God in our lives.”

“The cross is the stepping stone into the kingdom.”

“Nothing is beyond Jesus. There is nothing in our lives He won’t fix. There is no sin in others, or better yet, our own lives, that He did not die for.”

“Too many Christians don’t want to follow Jesus to the cross, they want to follow Him in a limousine.”

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Words to Encourage You

I keep a journal of encouraging quotes. Here are a few I hope will lift you up today:

“Life doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be peaceful and happy.”—Richard Carlson

“God will always strengthen those who are willing to look at their weaknesses in the face and say, ‘you cannot stop me!’” – Joyce Meyer

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“Persist in prayer.” – Paul the Apostle, Romans 12:12