Movie Review: LifeMark, directed by Kevin Peeples (four stars)

Movie Review: LifeMark, directed by Kevin Peeples (four stars)

“Hope is at the heart of every journey”

An intensely personal coming-of-age story. Latest Kendrick Brothers Production Christian movie continues trend to increasing technical quality and textual realism. While some reviews (both pro and con) list this movie as anti-abortion, that word (and concept) is not mentioned for the first 90% of the story. It’s more pro-life, pro-adoption.

“Your baby has 10 fingers and 10 toes—please don’t kill it.”

This is a true story, which is a strength as well as a weakness. An intense movie psychologically, there’s not much overt conflict and danger. Lots of dialogue. The folded timeline may be difficult to follow. Flashbacks within flashbacks.

“I don’t think he’d want to talk to me. He probably hates me for what I did.”

Despite the limited distribution—one showing per night at 1,400 Regal theaters—the movie managed to open at nearly a million dollars in revenue. (The showing we attended was more than 50% full, which judging by the parking lot was that multiplex’s best attended show. The average age of the audience was over fifty.)

“God knew this was going to happen.”

Book Review: Against All Odds by Chuck Norris and Ken Abraham (four stars)

Book Review: Against All Odds: My Story by Chuck Norris and Ken Abraham (four stars)

“Ideally martial arts training should help a person avoid physical altercations and other adverse confrontations.”

An entertaining and uplifting autobiography by the well-known martial arts champion and actor. Not well written, but sincere and open. The reader gets Norris, warts (and scars) and all. Victim of ambush journalism.

“Few people become successful overnight at any endeavor. Most successful people have learned to stick with whatever it is they wish to achieve and to work step by step until they reach their objective.”

Up front with the importance of faith and family in his life. Norris is not a well-known communicator, so the pedestrian quality of the narrative rests on Abraham, a professional collaborator.

“Most juvenile offenders are so obsessed with a “the world owes me” attitude that if they were forced to help the less fortunate, they would soon see that life has not really been that hard for them. Something of an infomercial for his business and charitable enterprises.”

(Didn’t know he’s a Christian or anything else about him. I’ve never seen a movie or television show of his, so I came into the book open minded.)

Stanley Jones, 1956 – 2021

Our good friend and brother Dan and my regular breakfast companion, Stanley Jones, died this morning.

Of Covid. He first showed symptoms a week ago. Earlier this morning, his wife Bernadine, said she “just got him to bed for the night.” Ten minutes later, she texted “with a shattered heart” that Stan had passed.

Stan was well-known and loved in his family, church, and music communities.

He played and sang at our 50th anniversary dinner in 2019. (Photo)

Book Review: When a Nation Forgets God; 7 lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany by Erwin W. Lutzer (Four Stars)


Book Review: When a Nation Forgets God; 7 lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany by Erwin W. Lutzer

(Four Stars)

“The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory than man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment—or as the Nazis likes to say, ‘Of blood and soil.’ … prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.” Viktor Frankl, holocaust survivor

A distinctly Christian work. Lutzer, who has written dozens of books about Nazism and American popular culture, explores how Adolph Hitler effectively neutralized Germany’s Christians in his quest to create his Nazi paradise. Lutzer explores seven areas—such as the church itself, education, propaganda, the economy, etc.—where Hitler’s plans eviscerated opposition, leading of course to Continue reading

Movie Review: Unbroken: Path to Redemption, directed by Harold Cronk (Five Stars)


Movie Review: Unbroken: Path to Redemption, directed by Harold Cronk

(Five Stars)

“The war’s over.”

The rest of the story. The 2014 film Unbroken relates the World War Two service and prisoner of war experiences of Louis Zamperini. This movie tells of his struggles after the war. Both are based on Laura Hillenbrand’s book: Unbroken: A World War Two Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.

“In the prison camps they tried to take your humanity, and you wouldn’t let them.”

Over 85% of World War Two prisoners of war in the Pacific theater suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which was not then recognized as a specific disorder until 1980.

“God often uses difficulties in our lives to prepare us for a greater future.”

The movie, like the true story, is unabashedly Christian, but it is not Continue reading

Movie Review: I Can Only Imagine, directed by Andrew and John Erwin (Five Stars)


Movie Review: I Can Only Imagine, directed by Andrew and John Erwin

(Five Stars)

“Every feel like everything in your life is building to one big moment? This is it.”

Not just a really good Christian movie, a really good movie. Well written, well acted, well filmed and well produced. Based on the story behind MercyMe’s song by the same name.

“God can forgive you, I can’t.”

All about redemption, in many different forms.

“I saw God transform him from the man I hated to the man I wanted to become.”

Christian books and movies need to be good books and movies. They don’t get a bye because they are faith-based. This movie vindicates that opinion.

“The dad I wanted is about to leave me. How is that fair?”

Book Review: This Life I Live by Rory Feek (Four Stars)


Book Review: This Life I Live: One Man’s Extraordinary, Ordinary Life and the Woman Who Changed It Forever by Rory Feek

Four Stars

“People pass away. It’s part of life. It’s hard and it’s terrible, but it’s gonna happen to all of us.”

An extraordinary story told very well. Feek bares his soul and talks from the heart about his life, which started badly and got worse as he lived it. The conversational tone pulls the reader in as if this was a chat over coffee.

“A different perspective from what I had most of my life. Finally opening my hands and turning my life over to God.”

So many quotable epigrams that I filled four pages of my notebook. The man is a professional writer: it shows.

“The only way this can work is if we are both willing to give everything up for the other person.”

I never heard of Rory Feek or Joey Martin. I’m not a fan of Country and Western music, but the man has a powerful message: admittedly Christian, but without the trappings and jargon of professional religion. He used only one theological word.

“The point where I did everything wrong was just the bigger of a bigger story. Just the setup.”

“I just wanted a little bit of something good, what I got was a lifetime of something great.”

If you read this book, be prepared to be moved, both by the hash Feek made of his own life and to its incredible outcomes. He takes you deeper inside himself than many memoirs and tell-alls. He shares his heart.

“A story that will live long after the man who told it is gone.”

“Her love strengthened my faith.”

Movie Review: I’m Not Ashamed (Four Stars)

theatrical release poster

theatrical release poster

Movie Review: I’m Not Ashamed, Directed by Brian Baugh

Four Stars

Rachel Joy Scott died during the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999. This movie chronicles the last year of her life. For an admittedly Christian movie, there is little preaching and no one is perfect, least of all Rachel. The story is drawn from her journals. It’s about forgiveness and compassion in the pressure of modern life set into bold perspective by Rachel’s murder. The film also explores the motives and plotting of the shooters.

The production values and acting are good for a small,  independent production. (It was shown once a day in the smallest venue of our local multiplex.) The actual shooting is realistic but not gory.

“I just want to make a difference.”

She did.

Book Review: Pensées by Blaise Pascal (Part One)

Book Review: Pensées by Blaise Pascal (Part One)

Five Stars (provisional)

“Do you wish people to believe good of you? Don’t speak.”

Pascal was the master of the one liner. Pensées is laced with aphorisms. It also overflows with serious considerations. Not to be read fast or superficially. (Unfortunately my first reading in the 1960s was both.) Therefore, this review will be in sections, as I read the major subdivisions of the text.

“The last thing one settles in a book is what one should put in first.”

Since Pensées was not published before Pascal died in 1662, textual inclusion and order are disputed. This 1958 English translation (available free on Project Gutenberg) includes an excellent Introduction by Nobel laureate T. S. Eliot.

“It is far better to know something about everything, than to know all about one thing.”

Being an unfinished work, inconsistency of flow and expression are not surprising. What is unexpected is that he beat the Enlightenment by a century and even anticipated some modern thinking.

“Who doubts that our soul, being accustomed to see number, space, motion believes that and nothing else?”

One of the greatest mathematical and scientific theorists of his time, Pascal intended Pensées to be a defense of the Christian religion, but boldly admitted the case of the sceptic. Pascal’s other great work, Provincial Letters, addressed the abuses of contemporary Catholicism even though Pascal remained a communicant his whole life. He died in Paris at age 39.

“What is a man in the infinite?”

Book Report: Don’t Waste Your Sorrows by Paul E. Billheimer (Four Stars)

Book Report: Don’t Waste Your Sorrows: New Insight Into God’s Eternal Purpose for Each Christian in the Midst of Life’s Greatest Adversities by Paul E. Billheimer

Four Stars out of Five

An amazing book, first published in 1977, which addresses the most vexing issue of modern Christains, “Why do good people suffer?” Billheimer’s answer, simply, is that’s how people grow spiritually. Not seeking the easy path. Not awards or riches, but perseverance through sorrow and suffering grows character.

He offers support from the Bible and historic and contemporary (for his time) Christian sources. (Billy Graham is cited. His place in the American Christian community much the same forty years ago as today.) Most of Billheimer’s exposition is logical, straight-forward and easy to follow. Slightly repetitive, but that fits with the teaching character of the book.

Those of other faith or non-faith communities will find it opaque. More a teaching than a devotional reading, but worthwhile for Christians.