Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wormholes, Black holes & Plot holes

Interstellar Review

This universe we live in is big. There’s no denying that there are things beyond all of us, whether physical or mental, that we do not understand. Interstellar attempts to delve into both of these realms, and in some cases, it goes too far for its own good. The lack of my own outer space knowledge aside, this film still seems like a stretch for a director who generally likes to have his films play out as realistic and believable, or at least believable in the context of the film’s own continuity. Yet all of this goes out the window with Christopher Nolan’s latest endeavor. Yes, he planted acres of real corn for this film and I’ve even heard that there is not a single use of a green screen either. This is impressive and immersive to be sure. But these facts plus a 30-foot tall screen with speakers that shake the theatre still don’t help me feel immersed in a film where the plot itself is so farfetched.

The film opens with earth in a struggling state. It doesn’t take too long for things to get corny, and I’m not just talking about the corn on the farm. Resources are scarce and the planet is slowly becoming unsuitable for sustaining life. Gruff-voiced Cooper lives with his father-in-law and is taking care of his son and daughter on a small isolated farmhouse. It is revealed almost immediately that Cooper used to be a pilot but now lives his life as a farmer, attempting to help not only the planet, but especially his two young ones, survive. His daughter Murph is gifted with an uncanny intellect and is clearly the favorite of the two children. In fact, the son truly has no purpose of even being in this movie, failing to serve the plot in any meaningful way whatsoever. Yet Murph isn’t just a smart kid who keeps to her books, she has an adventurous side to her as well, which spurs Cooper on to eventually finding a long-lost connection from his piloting days. Here he is presented with the opportunity to go on a journey through outer space, in search of potentially habitable worlds outside of our milky-way galaxy; a chance to save the world, but much more importantly for him, his own children (but really just Murph).

This first act turned out to be the most intriguing to me. Once Cooper departs from earth, the film takes its time getting to more interesting moments and even takes too much time with them once we are there. The take off/departure sequence was one of my favorites in the film; unique in the way it uses the audio of the famous T-minus countdown as we see Cooper leaving his home and his family behind. Then we get to the theatre-shaking power of IMAX. This may have been the shakiest film I’ve seen in an IMAX, and although it didn't wow me, the IMAX experience at least helped me leave the film without being completely frustrated. It would not have been nearly as good on a common screen. The use of the screen for immersion does shine through in a few big set piece moments, but the true power of IMAX for this film was in the use of sound. If you choose to see it in IMAX, get ready for a lot of rattling subwoofer action, during takeoff and even more so when the crew comes to a particularly harrowing and turbulent spot on their journey in space. Yet for all of the time the film spends in space, it does give plenty of time to the happenings on earth, or more accurately, what Cooper’s daughter Murph is doing while her father is away. Between these two distinct settings, there is a lot going on in the film, as is the case with any Nolan project, so be prepared, this is no casual outing at the movies.

Interstellar explores the theme of sacrificing what matters most to you in order to serve a cause greater than yourself. Yet the execution of the film and everything surrounding that theme simply pull down the emotional impact the film and that thought-provoking theme could’ve had. This is a long journey, clocking in at 2 hours and 49 minutes; yet there is no need for it to be so. Now, I don’t mind a slow burner film. You will hardly find me saying “There wasn’t enough action in this film,” about any movie. But I absolutely do admire pacing, where each moment, whether it be a gigantic battle scene, or a conversation between two people, is given its proper time to shine, no more and no less. In Interstellar we are given a handful of scenes that stray far past the barrier that says ‘no more’. A slightly laughable struggle between two people resulting in an agonizingly annoying speech, a neat concept dragging out so long that I couldn’t wait for it to be over, and a lackluster reveal which overstays its welcome by several minutes are the three biggest examples of scenes that not only lacked the brilliance and intensity we’ve come to expect from a Nolan film, but are shining beacons revealing that this film could’ve been much shorter, and therefore much better. It’s not the length of a film that bothers me, but rather the lack of content that can support such a lengthy excursion. Some films I admire and thoroughly enjoy are longer than 150 minutes. But I was left waiting for several sequences of this film to be over long before they were finished.

This is a Christopher Nolan movie, so you know what that means… get ready to see familiar faces from Gotham City! Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine reprise their roles as Catwoman and Alfred; a roguish partner who is sometimes at odds with the protagonist, and an old man who gives that same protagonist the extra nudge he needs to do something both crazy and extraordinary. While I was completely shocked when I realized that Cilian Murphy AKA Scarecrow didn’t sneak his way into this one, Nolan instead opted for the actor who gave us one of the absolute worst film portrayals of one of the best super villains in history. (I know that could be a couple of different people, so I’ll leave that as a surprise for those who want to see the movie for themselves.) And he may not be the only face you’ll be surprised to see. There’s one other actor here whose appearance was so random and unexpected it made me chuckle, though the film doesn’t intend for many moments to be funny. The one character that does serve up some intentional laughs is TARS, an artificial intelligence who offers some clever musings and a surprising level of humanity for a machine, let alone one with no face.

Interstellar may be too ambitious for its own good, but just because it fails to stick the landing doesn’t mean it is a terrible film. As with any film that carries a lot of hype into its opening weekend, the potential for disappointment is also raised. And while I’d much rather see a flawed, but ambitious film, as opposed to another cash-grabbing and poorly executed sequel or reboot, the downfall here comes because we expect more from a director of this caliber. I know Christopher Nolan didn’t see Gravity… but so many others and myself did; and though these are two completely different films, Gravity still took much of the fuel out of Interstellar’s fire by releasing just a year before it, doing so many things on an unprecedented level and surpassing Interstellar in just about every cinematic way possible. Had this not been the case, Interstellar would have had a greater wow factor. Instead we go along a dragging, confusing journey with characters that don’t resonate enough for us to care about, a monotonous score that forces the same theme in our ears throughout the whole movie, and a few exciting moments to keep us engaged along the way. Had the crew traveled back a longer time ago, and cast their galaxy trajectory just a bit further, further away, this may have been an awakening experience… oh well, maybe next year.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013



For all those who have faithfully checked this blog over the last 5 months and found nothing but disappointment, I now say both: Thank you and sorry. It's quite exciting to be returning to the blogosphere and as I've told a few, I will be discontinuing the Marvel-themed posts (even though Peter Parker snuck in here). It was fun for the one, but I obviously did not feel a great enough drive to write more; there were some ideas, but I never liked them enough to actually post them, hence the unplanned hiatus. So, as I let Parker yell for me, "I'M BACK!" and am here to tell you about how ridiculously much God loves you!

"Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption." - 1 Corinthians 1:27-30

Ever feel like you're not good enough? A lot of times, we feel this in areas that we are passionate about. If you're athletic, maybe you feel like you could always do better in a certain part of your game. If you're a musician, even though people say, "It sounded great," even people who actually know what they're talking about when it comes to music, all you can think about are the mistakes you made rather than what went right. (Hello. Yes, I've done that.) Whatever it may be, you just don't feel good enough. When we take this same mindset and transfer it to the practical aspects of everyday life, things can get really nasty. It is so easy for us to view life as a performance and then, rather than enjoying all the good things, we jump out of our bodies, sit in the front row with our arms crossed, and become our harshest critic.

I have done this way too much in my life and have beaten myself up over the dumbest things. Sometimes the soundtrack to my life sounds like this:

What's crazy about that is, when you let yourself think these thoughts long enough, they eventually become your reality. Or as Bruce Lee put it, "What you habitually think largely determines what you will ultimately become." Or another quote, this time from the book 'The Bourne Identity', goes "The easiest thing in the world is to convince yourself that you're right." This is especially true in the negative. Negativity permeates this world, and all it takes is turning those negative thoughts inward to fall into depression and self-condemnation. But the Bible is totally the opposite. Romans 8:1 says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

That means if you know Jesus, any condemnation you get or feel, from yourself or others, is a lie. This is why, as if we need more reasons why, it's so important to spend time with God and in His Word. Joshua Harris put it this way: "The greatest hindrance to knowing God's forgiveness is ignorance about Him." So stop trying to "fix" yourself and fix your thoughts on Jesus (Hebrews 3:1) Philippians 4:8 also tells us what to fill our minds with, and it's not our own thoughts.

If we get into a cycle of viewing God for someone He is not, it's so easy for us to think we've messed up too much to be forgiven; so easy for us to imagine God as that incessant "That's not good enough!", beating us over the head for every failure. Because I know He could do it for way more than an hour if He wanted to... but He doesn't, because that's not His character at all. You may be weak and wounded, but you're also more loved than you could ever dare to imagine.

I'll share some of my story where I had my personal revelation of God's intimate, personal, and unfailing love for me. Just over 2 years ago, I went to Creation 2011. A week of worshiping the Lord passionately, amazing times with Him, and reaching new heights spiritually. Not even two days after I had been home, I fell right back into a sin and addiction that I had been struggling with for years. It was as if I reached the mountaintop and then fell right off, all the way down, and fell further then ever before, straight into an abyss. The thoughts that plagued my mind were thoughts of condemnation, hatred, and despair. I doubted not only God's love for me, but even His ability to heal me; felt like I couldn't even be put back together. I couldn't bring myself to pray, because I couldn't believe God still wanted anything to do with me at that point. So I decided to put on the new Disciple cd I had just bought after having seen them for the first time at Creation, I think in an attempt to escape and get lost in the music... but man, God was up to something. Sitting there in my room, feeling lost and believing that there was no way God still loved me, the first two songs went by. But then the third song started. It was a song called "Invisible". You can listen to it below if you want.

This song being played in my room at that very moment, was a divine appointment. God was chipping away at my hardened heart that first verse, and then the second verse came:

I need you to believe Me
Can you trust Me?
That what you see is not what I see
The reflection in the mirror's telling lies
Cause nothing you have done could change how much I love you!!!

BOOM! There it was. I fell over on my face and cried more than I think I've ever cried in my entire life. Not only did Jesus still love me, but He loved me just as much as if I hadn't even failed him. Truly incredible. That was my personal 1 John 4:19 revelation. "We love Him because He first loved us." This is the revelation that will define our very lives.

This is a lot already. In fact I'm going to stop here 1) To keep this post from going unreasonably long and 2) because I want you to reflect on this revelation. Seek the Lord and let Him reveal His personal, intimate, unchanging love for you in a way you've never experienced before and a depth that you've never known before. May we know what it is to live loved by you, Jesus.

Part 2 soon, Lord willing...


Friday, March 1, 2013

Black Bolt
"The Power of The Tongue"

To kick things off with this new Marvel series, I'm introducing a character that many people have never even heard of. I present to you Black Bolt, the leader and king of the Inhumans.

The Inhumans are a new race that diverged from humanity through genetic experimentation that started with a major Marvel alien race called the Kree (I won't even get into them here). The Inhumans are not humans (obviously) but they are not mutants either. Merely a new species in itself. If you're confused, it's ok. You don't need to understand the Inhumans to get what I'm going to talk about here with Black Bolt.

Proverbs 18:21 says:
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit."
There is perhaps none who could better understand the ramifications of this verse than Black Bolt himself. Black Bolt's main ability lies in the power of his voice. Through his voice, Black Bolt releases quasi-sonic energy that has incredible destructive power. In layman's terms, whenever Black Bolt speaks ... it's gonna get messy. Even the slightest whisper from his mouth has enough force to destroy a mountain. At its greatest potency, the force generated through Black Bolt's most powerful scream would be equal to that of the detonation of a nuclear weapon... This is one voice you never want to hear.

I know we like to try to think before we speak, but could you imagine being Black Bolt? Knowing that anything you say would have devastating and deadly power? What if we could cause untold destruction with a simple word? According to God's Word ... we can. Not quite like Black Bolt's scenario (praise the Lord!) but the power of the tongue is never something to be underestimated.

I know our ability to speak damage seems like quite a far cry from Black Bolt's destructive power, but the truth still stands. We can really cause serious destruction with our words. Yet the second half of Proverbs 18:21 offers hope. There is also life in the power of the tongue. "And those who love it will eat its fruit." I believe this applies not only to loving the words of life spoken, but also having a deep respect for silence when it is indeed golden. This world we live in HATES silence. But we are not of this world, it is merely where we dwell. Like Black Bolt, we are "aliens and foreigners" to this world, not biologically, but by being made new through Jesus Christ.

God, way too often I say stupid things that hurt others. Sometimes I just need to keep my mouth shut in order to avoid destruction. I pray Lord that You would help me and every one reading this to be mindful of our words now more than ever. Teach us to love and appreciate the incredible power You've given us in our ability to speak, the same ability You used to create all that we see today. Help us to guard our hearts, for out of them spring the issues of life. And Holy Spirit guide me to watch my words with Black Bolt intensity, knowing that every syllable released, or not released, can bring either life or death. In Jesus' name, Amen.


p.s. It had to be irritating for Black Bolt how many times people attempted to play paper football with the field goal device on his forehead.

Monday, February 25, 2013


Before I freak out any faithful readers of this blog that appreciate it for the spiritual and practical applications I try to present through it, I implore you, FEAR NOT. This new announcement is going to be a break from my typical formula, and the first time I'm using a themed series for this blog, but it will not be merely a venture into the comic universe that I love. Instead it will be a deeper look into the characters that inhabit that universe. I intend to choose just one character for each post and, after giving a brief profile, begin to expound upon two main points. 1) What is it about this character that intrigues me. & 2) What practical lessons and deeper messages can we learn from the incredible depth of these characters. THIS is why I love the MARVEL universe so much! Its characters are timeless not just because of the creativity behind each of them or their sheer brilliance, but because they are grounded in a real world just like you and I (real in the sense that many of these characters endure real life trials like you and I. Plus they live and interact in real places like NYC and Los Angeles, not fictional Gotham City or Metropolis. Had to get my DC jab in here.)

It's no coincidence that a poster of this very picture hangs right behind my desk where I write most of my blogs.

I hope that through this series, which has the potential to be quite lengthy given Marvel's stellar and vast lineup, or extremely short if it turns out not to be edifying, you will be introduced to my reason for loving these characters. But more importantly, and my reason for writing this blog apart from getting my thoughts out there, I hope that you will learn practical and real life applications, as well as be encouraged and challenged through it all.

" 'Nuff said."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

It's 5:00 AM ... my eyes are heavy and I could easily crash just by leaning over and letting my head hit a surface, but for some reason I don't want to. So here I am now in the blogosphere. An unlikely destination at such an hour, but it is where I have arrived nonetheless.

Sleep is such a peculiar matter. A few years ago, I would have considered it a blessing if I had the mysterious super power, I trust no one does, to never need sleep. How much more could we accomplish if half our lives were not spent lying down with our eyes closed and our minds wandering off unrestrained? I suppose it's a childhood mindset that never really left, but I've always had a disinclination about sleep, especially naps. While I still personally prefer my days napless (not to be confused with Indianapolis) I have now, thank the Lord, come to the point where I no longer, at least not nearly as much as I used to, sneer at those of you who do enjoy your occasional naps. Good for you.

I don't like sleep. First of all, it's scary what your mind can do to you when your in the sleeping state. You're in no control whatsoever and .... (Time out. I'm listening to Brian Regan as I'm writing this and, as you can imagine, it's EXTRA funny given the current hour. "Donut Lady" currently if you must know the specifics. ... Time in) As I was saying, when the realm of sleep is entered, our minds are at the mercy of our imagination, and that is indeed a frightening place to be for some of us. Dreeaams ... there is depth I could write about on this topic alone, but again, given the hour, I dare not attempt such a thing, both for your sake and my own.

Regardless of what we dream of, or don't dream of ... ("Suff-O-cotting" hahaha).

To this day, I'm still not a fan of sleeping, but I've come to recognize, or at least better understand to an extent, why God made it. The physical energy regained by sleep is the obvious gain, but I believe the greater gift of sleep is the extended period of time for our mind to shut down. I don't mean physically shut down of course, but you all know what I mean, for everyone reading this has fallen asleep before. I now know that God did not make each day 24 hours long by accident. Nothing the Lord does is an accident. Or as Michael Tait likes to say, "God don't make no junk." (Yes, double negative, I know. It's not my quote, but the point remains.) God, in His infinite wisdom, knows that we can only handle so much and then not only our bodies, but our minds as well, need a respite. 6:15 AM. It is with this knowledge that, though I still don't really like it, I thank the Lord for sleep. And with that, it is time I finally go get some....

Simultaneous good night and good morning,


Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Threat of The Unobtrusive

Yet another day working at Barnes & Noble brought with it today, as every day does, an unrepeatable turn of events and moments in time that cause me to ponder. For those who maybe haven't heard me discuss my work in depth, I have been working 7:00-11:00 AM shifts at Barnes & Noble, as I mentioned briefly in my last post. What these shifts consist of is an exercise in tediousness ... shelving. This, when stripped to its basic essentials, means taking specific books off of carts and placing them on the proper shelf where they belong. I'm not complaining. I actually quite enjoy these shelving shifts. By shelving books all around the store I get the opportunity to, sometimes longer than I should, look at the books that are already out on display as well as the ones which I am putting up during my shift. I very much like shelving the "Christian Life" and "Graphic Novel (Comic Book)" sections, but I must be especially careful in those moments to focus on the job at hand, remembering that I am there to work. Perusing is for off time.

As the shift begins I arrive at my first cart that I have been assigned to shelf. Now, it is normally quiet at this stage in the morning, with no music on and not much discussion occurring either. Not very long into the task, my ears perceive an irritating, but not too loud, series of beeps coming from the front of the store. The beeps only lasted for about two seconds, then silence for several more, then the beeps would return. After a mere few minutes, this was quite irksome, as you might expect. As the beeping continued, stopped, started, stopped, started, and stopped I remember thinking two main thoughts: "What could that be?" and "Why isn't someone shutting it off?" This process of consistent annoying sound continued  to trouble me with its unceasing presence for the next 10 minutes or more. Not very long after, certainly less than an hour but greater than 15 minutes, the noise caught my ear again ... but the noise had never left. It was going the whole time, starting, stopping, starting, stopping, starting, etc. Rather than the noise being silenced, something quite different had taken place. I, although entirely unknowingly and unintentionally, had embraced it and my mind had accepted it as "normal". I became comfortable with it.

This example was just a simple noise and a minor aggravation. The scary thing is the thought that came to my mind after I realized what happened with the beeping noises ... I can do the same thing with sin. I speak not of grand and obvious sins. Those sins, any one who has been called by Christ and seeks to follow him daily, are quite clear; and conviction strikes swiftly and surely with them, leaving no room for tolerance. Instead, I am speaking of what can commonly be mistaken as "small sins". If I were to sum up things that God showed me over the course of Bethel's recently-ended 21-day-fast, it would be three different things. The first one was cleaning house. Getting closer to God takes you further from yourself; the very self that lets sin creep in and find a home. As I spent time with God over the fast, He showed me things that I had let into my life, and my very home, that had ... to ... go. I was so moved that I took and got rid of several movies and video games that I once used to permit and enjoy. I got comfortable with them because I didn't do anything about them that first time I allowed them into my life. No different than an irritating beeping were these idols I had let creep into my heart. I got so friendly with these sins that I didn't even realize I was using as entertainment, things that Christ died on the cross to free me from!
"It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts," - C. S. Lewis (as Screwtape)
I pray that God would help me to see these sins as He sees them! I can't afford to fight against certain sins and tolerate others. Sin is sin. God doesn't compare it ... I do. I've been so ashamed of sins which I deemed 'worse than others'. This is a lie straight from the father of them in order to bring shame and despair into our hearts. God, I am a sinful man. I'm not better or worse than anyone else. (Romans 3:9, 23) I am sorry for loving sin. Lord, You hate these abominations, I must hate them also. Jesus, may You truly break me. Give me Your eyes and Your heart, so that I don't get comfortable with sin of any kind; but rather let me draw closer to You, knowing that as I do, You will "make darkness light before me, And crooked places straight."


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"I've been waiting for this time all day long
So that we can be all alone
Worship You with my heart, my soul, and my mind
And leave it all behind." - Disciple (Not Since Breakfast)

I've been convicted by the lyrics of this old-school song multiple times. It makes me ponder: Of all the moments in my day, what is the one I look forward to the most? Is it that moment I get off of work? Is it the reading? Is it enjoying the simplicity of the little joys throughout the day? Or is it the moment that I get to come into the very Presence of the King of Kings, my Lord & Savior? Oh, how many years this last option was completely absent! I can only imagine how painful this was for the Father to watch His child, longing just to be with him, yet watching his eyes wander to other things, fake and temporal things. All the while He just wanted to be with me. It's the very reason He sent His Son ... love!

On the daily 7-11 shift that B&N has had me working at the present, I'm given bountiful amounts of time once that morning shift ends, every moment of which is a gift, that I can choose to do a variety of things with. Today was productive and nice. Lots of reading took place, including an in depth look at a few select verses in Jeremiah 38, as well as other books. I only seriously got into reading as one of my favorite things to do about a year ago, and I'm lovin' it more and more! I'm so thankful for authors that God has used to speak to me. Proverbs 9:10 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (NKJV) God has shown me that if I truly love Him and desire Him, I will have a deep longing to know more about Him, His very character. This is a crucial part of the Christian walk, but there is another element which is even more important.

After a lengthy afternoon, I finally fell to my knees to spend time with my God and what happened next brought me to tears. A lot of times, it takes a while to enter into the presence of the Lord, and then we experience Him in that moment, and we come alive. But tonight, no more than 10 seconds after my knees hit the ground, I felt God speak to me a statement that both broke me and filled me with beautiful joy. I believe this is what I heard Him say to me:
'I've been waiting for this all day. I love when you read & seek knowledge of Me, and when you enjoy the simplicity of the carefree life. But there is nothing I love more than these moments.'
I teared up almost instantly as I felt His love so powerfully. After some time, a thought in line with the path of my day came to my mind. I believe this was also the Holy Spirit teaching me a very important lesson. Reading about the Lord and learning about the knowledge of the Holy One & our walk with God is a wonderful thing. But spending one on One intimate time with God is far better. This hasn't diminished my passion for reading, but rather enhanced it by giving it its proper place.
"... knowledge of someone does not guarantee intimacy with them." - John Bevere
We can know all there is to know about God, our human nature, and Scripture itself and still be far from God if what we learn and read never gets past our mind and into our heart, our will. Another way to view this idea is to take a picture of a close friend in hand. It's nice to see them and think about them, but I'd much rather spend time with that friend and be right there with them, for it is in those moments that encouragement, love, and laughs are shared, and we get to know one another better as the relationship/friendship is grown.

God, help me to always take the time just to be with You everyday. And may it not just be a routine moment of the day ... but rather my favorite and most anticipated part of each day, because I know it's Yours as well.