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Give Me Your Heart

August 1st, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

What Parents Can Learn from Inside Out About 
a Dangerous Mistake We Make With Our Children’s Emotions

Inside-Out-Hug

“My child, give me your heart.” Proverbs 23:26 NRSV

Disney Pixar’s latest blockbuster has a secret turning point that should serve as a warning sign to every parent. Take the wrong path at this sign, and you can inadvertently cause great pain in your child’s heart; take the right path, and you can help your child grow closer to the heart of God.

In Inside Out, the emotions of Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust are personified as animated characters operating the “control center” of 11-year-old Riley’s brain. Riley is a happy, well-adjusted girl with loving parents, but her world has been uprooted when the family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. (As a dad, I perked up at this point, since I happened to be watching the movie with my soon-to-be-eleven-year-old daughter whom I have just moved to a new home in a new city.)

Inside Riley’s head, dominant emotion Joy finds herself challenged by increasing interference from Sadness after the move. The two embark on an odyssey through Riley’s memory, only able to find their way back once Joy learns the value of Sadness. There’s much to be learned from this “inside” story about how God uses even sadness to accomplish his purpose in our lives, but I want to turn our attention to a specific aspect of the “outside” storyline.

Riley isn’t the only one affected by the move: her father’s new venture is threatened by unpredictable investors; and her mother has to deal with a moving truck that is lost somewhere in Texas. After a stressful day, Riley’s mother tells her that they need for her to be happy—that she should try not be sad for the sake of the family. It’s a well-meaning gesture, spoken without malice and intended to help Riley be strong. Yet it is this conversation that sets off the trouble inside Riley’s head.

The way writer/director Pete Doctor and company tell the story, Riley’s problem is not that she is experiencing sadness as a result of the move; her real problem is that she is trying so hard not to experience sadness. Inside her head, Joy literally draws a circle around Sadness and tells her not to come out of it. That fateful decision cuts Riley off from the help that she needs, driving her into depression and isolation. In one of Pixar’s most poignant scenes, Joy ultimately lets Sadness have control, Riley’s tears finally flow, and she is able to find the emotional support that she needs. I have to admit, not a few of my own tears were flowing by that point, too.

joysadness-inside-out

So what can Christian parents learn from Riley’s inside out adventure? I think the crucial lesson is this: kids need us to set boundaries on behaviors, but we should beware of setting boundaries on emotions. Telling your child how to act is necessary; telling your child how to feel is a disaster waiting to happen.

Like Riley’s mother, we often do this inadvertently and with good intentions. I’ll admit to telling my children “don’t be sad!” when they have experienced a disappointment, thinking I could help them be happy again by sheer willpower. I’ve also fallen into the trap of telling one child to act happy for the sake of a sibling, or for my wife’s sake. Other times, I have confused teaching a behavior, like not whining and complaining, with controlling an emotion.

Perhaps most damaging of all is the insidious belief that God “needs” us to be happy. I’m not sure how, but I fell into this as a teenager. My unconscious line of reasoning went something like this: as evangelical Christians, we tell others that they will be happier if they accept Christ; therefore if I am unhappy, I am being a poor witness; ergo, I must shove down any feelings of sadness.

Simply put, that’s toxic spirituality. It fails as a witness, because the world can see through our plastic smiles, and it’s a recipe for an emotional breakdown if we never allow ourselves to feel difficult emotions for fear that we will be a disappointment to God. It creates a false idol that cuts us off from our Heavenly Father, who so longs to take us into his loving embrace.

But wait, didn’t Paul teach us to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4)? Yes, but we must remember that joy in the New Testament is a more complex idea that mere happiness, one that can include the presence of sadness. The same apostle reminds us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Rom. 12:15 NRSV) If Jesus himself can be “deeply grieved, even unto death” in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:38 NRSV), then surely we too can expect to experience sadness.

Of course, allowing ourselves and our children to express sadness is not the same thing as wallowing in self-pity. Like the Psalmist, we can learn to say, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” (Ps. 42:11 NRSV) But notice the progression: first, acknowledging sadness as real and giving it expression. Second, seeking out the reason for the sadness. Only then does the writer direct his own soul to find hope in God, a pathway which he knows will eventually lead back to joy and praise. This is no easy shortcut to “positive thinking,” this is the hard work of allowing grief and sorrow to have their place even while we hold on steadfastly to hope.

In the Proverb quoted above—“My child, give me your heart”—a father is seeking to guide his son away from destructive temptations. We are called as parents to help our children avoid sinful pathways that we know will lead to pain and heartache. However, for our sons and daughters to trust us with their hearts, they need to know that any emotion can be safely expressed.

In the days ahead, I know that I will need to keep a constant watch on my daughter as she enters a new school and faces the challenges of making new friends. Some days she may be happy, but others she will doubtless be sad. The last thing I want is for her to think there’s something wrong with her for being sad—in my sight, or in God’s eyes. My child, give me your heart—your whole heart. You can trust me.

By Ken Roach. Ken is co-author, along with Dr. Patrick M. Quinn, of the book How to Ruin your Child in Seven Easy Steps: Tame Your Vices, Nurture Their Virtues which shows how the tradition of the 7 Deadly Sins and 7 Cardinal Virtues provide an ancient parenting model for the modern-day parent. Patrick and Ken serve on the staff of Frazer United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Patrick is a father of three and a foster parent, and Ken is a father of four.

Source: enkroach.blogspot.ca

99 Days of Summer

July 1st, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

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Discover New Music

March 3rd, 2014 | 1 Comment | Posted in Uncategorized
Here’s a look at new music coming out over the next few months…

February 4

city harbor City Harbor – “City Harbor”

February 11

kutless glory Kutless – “Glory”

February 18

crowder neon steeple Crowder – “Neon Steeple”

March 4

gods not dead soundtrack Various Artists – “God’s Not Dead: Motion Picture Soundtrack”
john mark mcmillan borderland John Mark McMillan – “Borderland”
united white album Hillsong UNITED – “The White Album”
steven curtis chapman number one collection Steven Curtis Chapman – “Number Ones Collection”

March 11

Jason Dunn  Abandon Progress Jason Dunn – “Abandon Progress”
Peter Furler Band  Sun and Shield Peter Furler Band – “Sun and Shield”

March 18

mat kearney Mat Kearney – TBD
shonlock a night to remember Shonlock – “A Night To Remember”
Rend Collective Experiment The Art of Celebration Rend Collective Experiment – “The Art of Celebration”
Amy Grant Time Again Amy Grant – “Time Again” (Live)

March 25

kari jobe majestic Kari Jobe – “Majestic” (Live)

April 8

manafest the moment Manafest – “The Moment”
mercy me welcome to the new MercyMe – “Welcome To the New”

April 15

jesus culture Jesus Culture Live – TBD
Shawn McDonald Shawn McDonald – TBD
needtobreathe Rivers in the Wasteland NEEDTOBREATHE – “Rivers in the Wasteland”

April 22

Francesca Battistelli If We're Honest Francesca Battistelli – “If We’re Honest”

April 29

JJ Heller JJ Heller –“ I Dream Of You”
Passion Passion 2014 – TBD

May 13

Michael w Smith Michael W. Smith – TBD

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thoughts on singleness…

March 3rd, 2014 | Comments Off on thoughts on singleness… | Posted in Uncategorized

thoughts on singleness…

Let’s face it. We’re a bunch of people who want to do life well. So whether it’s dating or marriage or college or kid-raising, we could all use a few pointers, including especially myself.

The conversation about dating and relationships will continue inevitably in the blogosphere, church, and around dining room tables, but I wanted to include some words on the season of singleness with life, hope, and a focus on thriving in every season.

My friend Jared from church needed someone to share their testimony or story about being single and surviving. To my [non]surprise, he couldn’t find anyone to talk about the subject with authority. [I mean really, who wants to get labeled the 40 year-old virgin and stand in front of 500 people admitting they are waiting for God’s best?]

That’s where I come in!

So I’m married and obviously not single anymore. However, for 30 years I survived sans a wedding ring or a life partner. After my dysfunctional three-year dating relationship with Satan ended, I realized I need to make some healthy changes moving forward. I could get bitter or I could get better.

Around the age of 25 when most Hispanic women are already married off with children, I was in graduate school. I was serving in full-time ministry in an unpaid position in youth ministry, when most people were encouraging me to find a singles group. And I was consciously aware that I could end up a BitterBetty because most single women I spoke to complained incessantly about the lack of spiritual leaders in the church.

I had to decision to make.

  1. I could sit on my spiritual laurels and wish, hope, and pray for Prince Charming to read me Songs of Solomon and refer to me as bone of my bone.
  2. I could put my head down, do some work, and keep my eyes open for a Godly man who is doing the same.

Some of the best memories and moments in life were not on the arm of a man, but reaching for the hand of the One who knew me far greater than anyone else. Of course looking back on my singleness is easier than being in it, but I will say perspective changed my attitude.

Contrary to popular belief, there are worse things than not being married. Like being married to the wrong person. Or having a sixth toe. Both are tragic.

For those who are married or in dating relationships, here are some things you can do to be supportive in all seasons:

  • If someone tells you they just broke up or are single, don’t wince, sigh, and say, I’ll pray for you. They don’t have a terminal disease, for crying out loud?! Instead, open your house or your calendar to make time to spend with them.
  • ThreeDogNight said it best, One is the loneliness number that you’ll ever hear. If you have a single friend, be available. I know, I know, it’s hard to make time. But do it.
  • If you’re single, mingle. Don’t be a hermit or spend another night watching FRIENDS with Ben and Jerry. Get out! Meet people! Have fun! Use exclamation marks!
  • If you’re single, maybe it’s for a reason. Are your expectations too high? Are you mean? Are you bitter? Do you smell? Ask a married friend to be honest with you and trust them to tell you where you need to change. [Yes, ask a married person. If you ask your single friend if your expectations are too high and she says no, maybe that’s why you’re both single. Jasmine always kept it real with me, You’re single because you cRaZy!]


That’s my two cents for what it’s worth. If you’re single, what’s you reason? If you’re married, what advice can you give to those in a party of one?

Bianca Juarez OlthoffBianca Juarez Olthoff is a writer and teacher passionate about life change through the power of the gospel. She spends her week working as Chief Storyteller for The A21 Campaign, an anti-human trafficking organization, and shares about true freedom for those who are in bondage.

Passionate about God’s word, she teaches around the globe and blogs about life, love, and the pursuit of Jesus. Whether discussing topics about justice or pop culture, Bianca has spent over 10 years dedicated to mobilizing God’s people to action inside and outside of the Church.  www.inthenameoflove.org

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Malcolm Gladwell

March 3rd, 2014 | Comments Off on Malcolm Gladwell | Posted in Uncategorized
BY MALCOLM GLADWELLGLADWELL

When I was writing my book David and Goliath, I went to see a woman in Winnipeg by the name of Wilma Derksen.

Thirty years before, her teenage daughter, Candace, had disappeared on her way home from school. The city had launched the largest manhunt in its history, and after a week, Candace’s body was found in a hut a quarter of a mile from the Derksen’s house. Her hands and feet had been bound.

Wilma and her husband Cliff were called in to the local police station and told the news. Candace’s funeral was the next day, followed by a news conference. Virtually every news outlet in the province was there because Candace’s disappearance had gripped the city.

“How do you feel about whoever did this to Candace?” a reporter asked the Derksens.

“We would like to know who the person or persons are so we could share, hopefully, a love that seems to be missing in these people’s lives,” Cliff said.

Wilma went next. “Our main concern was to find Candace. We’ve found her.” She went on: “I can’t say at this point I forgive this person,” but the stress was on the phrase at this point. “We have all done something dreadful in our lives, or have felt the urge to.”

Vulnerability and Power

I wanted to know where the Derksens found the strength to say those things. A sexual predator had kidnapped and murdered their daughter, and Cliff Derksen could talk about sharing his love with the killer and Wilma could stand up and say, “We have all done something dreadful in our lives, or have felt the urge to.” Where do two people find the power to forgive in a moment like that?

That seemed like a relevant question to ask in a book called David and Goliath. The moral of the Biblical account of the duel between David and Goliath, after all, is that our preconceptions about where power and strength reside are false.

Goliath seemed formidable. But there are all kinds of hints in the biblical text that he was, in fact, not everything he seemed. Why did he need to be escorted to the valley floor by an attendant? Why did it take him so long to clue into the fact that David was clearly not intending to fight him with swords? There is even speculation among medical experts that Goliath may have been suffering from a condition called acromegaly—a disease that causes abnormal growth but also often has the side effect of restricted sight.

What if Goliath had to be led to the valley floor and took so long to respond to David because he could only see a few feet in front of him? What if the very thing that made him appear so large and formidable, in other words, was also the cause of his greatest vulnerability?

For the first year of my research, I collected examples of these kinds of paradoxes—where our intuitions about what an advantage or a disadvantage are turn out to be upside down. Why are so many successful entrepreneurs dyslexic? Why did so many American presidents and British prime ministers lose a parent in childhood? Is it possible that some of the things we hold dear in education—like small classes and prestigious schools—can do as much harm as good? I read studies and talked to social scientists and buried myself in the library and thought I knew the kind of book I wanted to write.

Then I met Wilma Derksen.

Weapons of the Spirit

The Derksens live in a small bungalow in a modest neighborhood not far from downtown Winnipeg. Wilma Derksen and I sat in her backyard. I think some part of me expected her to be saintly or heroic. She was neither. She spoke simply and quietly. She was a Mennonite, she explained. Her family, like many Mennonites, had come from Russia, where those of their faith had suffered terrible persecution before fleeing to Canada. And the Mennonite response to persecution was to take Jesus’ instructions on forgiveness seriously.

“The whole Mennonite philosophy is that we forgive and we move on,” she said. It had not always been easy. It took more than 20 years for the police in Winnipeg to track down Candace’s killer. In the beginning, Wilma’s husband, Cliff, had been considered by some in the police force as a suspect. The weight of that suspicion fell heavily on the Derksens. Wilma told me she had wrestled with her anger and desire for retribution.
They weren’t heroes or saints. But something in their tradition and faith made it possible for the Derksens to do something heroic and saintly.

I never plan out my books in advance. I start in the middle and try and muddle my way from there. When I met Wilma Derksen, I finally understood what I was really getting at, in all the social science I had been reading and in the stories I was telling of dyslexia and entrepreneurs and education. I was interested—to borrow that marvelous phrase from Pierre Sauvage—in the “weapons of the spirit”—the peculiar and inexplicable power that comes from within.

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When I told a friend of mine about my visit to the Derksens, he sent me a quotation from 1 Samuel 16:7. It so perfectly captured what I realized David and Goliath was about that it is now on the first page of the book: “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

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GLADWELL2

Le Chambon

The final chapter of David and Goliath is about what happened in the small town of Le Chambon during the Second World War. Final chapters are crucial: they frame the experience of reading the book. I put the Le Chambon story at the end because it deals with the great puzzle of the weapons of the spirit—which is why we find it so hard to see them.

I WAS INTERESTED IN THE “WEAPONS OF THE SPIRIT”—THE PECULIAR AND INEXPLICABLE POWER THAT COMES FROM WITHIN.

Le Chambon is in an area of France called the Vivarais Plateau—a remote and mountainous region near the Italian and Swiss borders. For many centuries, the area has been home to dissident Protestant groups, principally the Huguenots, and during the Nazi occupation of France, Le Chambon became a very open and central pocket of resistance.

The local Huguenot pastor was a man named André Trocmé. On the Sunday after France fell to the Germans, Trocmé preached a sermon in which he said that if the Germans made the townsfolk of Le Chambon do anything they considered contrary to the Gospel, the town wasn’t going to go along. So the schoolchildren of Le Chambon refused to give the fascist salute each morning, as the new government had decreed they must. The occupation rulers required teachers to sign an oath of loyalty to the state, but Trocmé ran the school in Le Chambon and instructed his staff not to do it.

Before long, Jewish refugees—on the run from the Nazis—heard of Le Chambon and began to show up looking for help. Trocmé and the townsfolk took them in, fed them, hid them and spirited them across borders—in open defiance of Nazi law. Once, when a high government official came to town, a group of students actually presented him with a letter that stated plainly and honestly the town’s opposition to the anti-Jewish policies of
the occupation.

“We feel obliged to tell you that there are among us a certain number of Jews,” the letter stated. “But, we make no distinction between Jews and non-Jews. It is contrary to the Gospel teaching. If our comrades, whose only fault is to be born in another religion, received the order to let themselves be deported or even examined, they would disobey the order received, and we would try to hide them as best we could.”

Where did the people of Le Chambon find the strength to defy the Nazis? The same place the Derksens found the strength to forgive. They were armed with the weapons of the spirit. For over 100 years, in the 17th and 18th centuries, they had been ruthlessly persecuted by the state. Huguenot pastors had been hanged and tortured, their wives sent to prison and their children taken from them. They had learned how to hide in the forests and escape to Switzerland and conduct their services in secrecy. They had learned how to stick together.

They saw just about the worst kind of persecution that anyone can see. And what did they discover? That the strength granted to them by their faith in God gave them the power to stand up to the soldiers and guns and laws of the state. In one of the many books written about Le Chambon, there is an extraordinary line from André Trocmé’s wife, Magda. When the first refugee appeared at her door, in the bleakest part of the war during the long winter of 1941, Magda Trocmé said it never occurred to her to say no: “I did not know that it would be dangerous. Nobody thought of that.”

Nobody thought of that. It never occurred to her or anyone else in Le Chambon that they were at any disadvantage in a battle with the Nazi Army.

But here is the puzzle: The Huguenots of Le Chambon were not the only committed Christians in France in 1941. There were millions of committed believers in France in those years. They believed in God just as the people of Le Chambon did. So why did so few Christians follow the lead of the people in Le Chambon? The way that story is often told, the people of Le Chambon are made out to be heroic figures. But they were no more heroic than the Derksens. They were simply people whose experience had taught them where true power lies.

The other Christians of France were not so fortunate. They made the mistake that so many of us make. They estimated the dangers of action by looking on outward appearances—when they needed to look on the heart. If they had, how many other French Jews might have been saved from the Holocaust?

Seeing God’s Power

I was raised in a Christian home in Southwestern Ontario. My parents took time each morning to read the Bible and pray. Both my brothers are devout. My sister-in-law is a Mennonite pastor. I have had a different experience from the rest of my family. I was the only one to move away from Canada. And I have been the only one to move away from the Church.

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I HAVE ALWAYS BELIEVED IN GOD. I HAVE GRASPED THE LOGIC OF CHRISTIAN FAITH. WHAT I HAVE HAD A HARD TIME SEEING IS GOD’S POWER.

I attended Washington Community Fellowship when I lived in Washington D.C. But once I moved to New York, I stopped attending any kind of religious fellowship. I have often wondered why it happened that way: Why had I wandered off the path taken by the rest of my family?

What I understand now is that I was one of those people who did not appreciate the weapons of the spirit. I have always been someone attracted to the quantifiable and the physical. I hate to admit it. But I don’t think I would have been able to do what the Huguenots did in Le Chambon. I would have counted up the number of soldiers and guns on each side and concluded it was too dangerous. I have always believed in God. I have grasped the logic of Christian faith. What I have had a hard time seeing is God’s power.

I put that sentence in the past tense because something happened to me when I sat in Wilma Derksen’s garden. It is one thing to read in a history book about people empowered by their faith. But it is quite another to meet an otherwise very ordinary person, in the backyard of a very ordinary house, who has managed to do something utterly extraordinary.

Their daughter was murdered. And the first thing the Derksens did was to stand up at the press conference and talk about the path to forgiveness. “We would like to know who the person or persons are so we could share, hopefully, a love that seems to be missing in these people’s lives.”

Maybe we have difficulty seeing the weapons of the spirit because we don’t know where to look, or because we are distracted by the louder claims of material advantage. But I’ve seen them now, and I will never be
the same.

BY MALCOLM GLADWELL

Malcolm Gladwell has been a staff writer at The New Yorkersince 1996. Prior to that, he was a reporter at theWashington Post. Gladwell was born in England and grew up in rural Ontario. He lives in New York. He is the best-selling author of five books, including The Tipping Point,Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw and David and Goliath.

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Plugged in Movie Awards

March 3rd, 2014 | Comments Off on Plugged in Movie Awards | Posted in Uncategorized
 Last year, superheroes rescued more than a billion dollars from rapt moviegoers. Arrow-shooting heroines and sword-toting Hobbits both came up with Part 2’s. Americans hustled, princesses sang, minions grumbled, cars roared and starships warped. And to sum all that up, this Thursday the entertainment industry will laud the films it considers the very best of the year—unveiling nominations for the upcoming March 2nd Oscars telecast.

And so, like last year, Plugged In has decided to crash the party and dole out our own awards. These awards, though, are a bit more important than the Oscars … because they’re all about you, not just about the stars and directors and big studios.

Naturally, the awards are for you. These movies represent what we consider to be the best of the bunch that got released in 2013, and not just artistically speaking, but morally and content-wise too. They’re not stamps of approval, of course. No movie is perfect, so please, please read our reviews carefully before deciding to see anything that we’ve listed here.

Our categories are as follows: Best Movie for Kids, Best Movie for Teens, Best Movie for Adults and Best Christian Movie.

BEST MOVIE FOR ADULTS (NOMINEES)

Gravity (PG-13):  It’s an epic just 90 minutes long, an out-of-this-world spectacle that makes us long for home even though we’re mere minutes away at the mall multiplex. Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, is a deceptively simple story about two souls lost in space, doing their best to get back to terra firma. But underneath this gripping movie there are deeper themes at play—the idea of death and rebirth, of loss and redemption. Here we meet an astronaut who’s living out of pure habit. And it’s only when it looks as though her breath might be taken away from her that she truly remembers what it’s like to not just survive, but live.

Instructions Not Included (PG-13):  Sometimes a knock at your door changes everything. That’s what happens to Mexican playboy Valentín Bravo the day a woman arrives at his condo and announces the baby she’s holding is his. She hands the infant over and says she needs to pay the cab … but never returns. In a flash, the commitment-phobic ladies’ man becomes a father. Valentín tries to return the baby to her mother in Los Angeles. But the twist has him staying there and becoming the most deliriously doting dad imaginable. Until, that is, the girl’s mother reappears seven years later … and complicates everything. The heart of this poignant, tear-inducing Mexican melodrama is one of an unlikely father’s deep love for the little girl he comes to cherish more than anything.

Philomena (PG-13):  Evil nuns, an agonizing birth, a tortured young women. Those are all good things—at least from Martin Sixsmith’s perspective. Sixsmith is a cynical British reporter who hopes to weave together a good human interest story that will earn him a little cash, and this scandal-loaded story seems just the ticket. To Philomena Lee, however, that difficult birth and those hard-eyed nuns are all a painful part of her past. A past that involved her being shipped off to an abbey when she was just a girl, pregnant and out of wedlock. And now some 50 years later, she wants nothing more than to find the child, her son who was taken from her and sold to an American family. She just hopes she can have enough faith to see the journey through. This well-acted dramedy suffers at times from some hard-edged Catholic criticism. But it doesn’t stay there as it tells the true story of a gentle woman of faith who reaches for a sense of peace and finds a pathway to forgiveness.

Saving Mr. Banks (PG-13):  If author P.L. Travers had her way, Mary Poppins would have not sung nor danced, and she certainly would never have uttered the silly made-up word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. If Disney moviemakers had their way, they probably never would’ve met P.L. Travers. Yet in the midst of a prickly collaboration, Travers and Walt Disney himself manage to craft a classic film—and we come to understand something about the redemptive power of storytelling. Saving Mr. Banks is a study in contradictions—both sad and joyous, dark and dreamy. And as we watch Travers battle Disney and her own troubled past, we grapple with the stories we tell ourselves, too, about the wonderful loved ones who sometimes failed us.

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (PG):  Everyone daydreams. But for Walter Mitty, a quiet, conscientious manager of film negatives for LIFE magazine, his trance-like daydreams propel him into a realm more like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. But Walter’s life takes a turn toward real-life adventure when the negative for the magazine’s last print issue mysteriously disappears. Ever the conscientious employee, Walter’s determined to track it down—even if that means outracing volcanic ash in Iceland on a skateboard or trekking through the foothills of the Himalayas in search of the elusive photographer who took the picture. It’s a journey of discovery in more ways than one for Walter, whose secret life unexpectedly becomes his real life as he teaches us how to discover our own meaning and purpose in life.

Films in this category are targeting adults, and some of them certainly come with content concerns. But for this category we’re looking for movies with great moral messages coupled with content that’s not extreme. That’s why 12 Years a Slave—as important a movie as it is, and despite the profound issues it deals with—didn’t make our cut.

BEST CHRISTIAN MOVIE (NOMINEES)

Black Nativity (PG-13):  This is not, at least by some measures, a “Christian” movie. It wasn’t made by a church or sponsored by a ministry. Its director, Kasi Lemmons, last helmed the R-rated Talk to Me, and it features some of the most prominent performers in the biz (including Oscar winners Jennifer Hudson and Forest Whitaker). But make no mistake: Black Nativity has as distinct a Christian message as any movie in this category. It’s about a wayward teen at a crossroads. In one direction lies ruin, the other redemption—and the promise of a better life for all. The story is rougher than some, with occasionally foul language, troubled characters and allusions to an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. But its real focus is on a child in need of a shining, saving light, and almost against his wishes he finds it—in the embodiment of the Light of the World.

The Christmas Candle (PG):  What’s the purpose and place of miracles in a Christian’s life? That’s the central question in The Christmas Candle, an adaptation of Max Lucado’s book of the same name. It’s set in the impoverished English hamlet of Gladbury in 1890. There, every 25 years, an angel visits the town’s candlemaker, blessing one special candle and imbuing it with miraculous power to answer the prayer of a needy townsperson. For 200 years, the good people of Gladbury have placed their hope in the blessed candle. But when a young preacher who’s struggling with God’s lack of answers to his own prayers arrives, he’s determined to help them see that raw faith—not clinging to a silly legend—is what matters most. Both the preacher and the townspeople have significant lessons to learn about how their heavenly Father answers prayer … in mundane ways and miraculous.

Grace Unplugged (PG):  Johnny Trey is a one-hit wonder who gave up his chase for fortune and fame to become a worship minister. Grace is his beautiful teen daughter—a headstrong girl with barrels of talent and a dream of stardom herself. What unfolds is a predictable but powerful father-daughter story: Grace learns that musical success is sometimes fool’s gold, while Johnny learns that his little girl is the real treasure. And throughout it all, we see the subtle, saving power of God. Anchored by the multitalented actress/singer AJ Michalka, Grace Unplugged might pull a few tears from the eyes of some of the fathers who watch it.

Home Run (PG-13):  When an arrogant, alcoholic pro baseball player accidentally elbows a young fan in the middle of a dugout rant, it proves to be just the catalyst Cory Brand needs to take an honest look at his out-of-control life. That rant is followed by a rehab stint back in his hometown of Okmulgee, Okla. Away from the bright lights of big-city ballparks, the All-Star slugger battles relapses and inner demons related to his alcoholic father as he slowly reconnects with the family and friends his boorish behavior has alienated for years. Along the way, Home Run delivers an unvarnished glimpse at the power of addiction … and the possibility of deliverance for those who are willing to humble themselves and ask for God’s help to change their destructive ways.

Not Today (PG-13):  Caden Welles lives large in a huge California home with a swimming pool. One evening while partying, he and some buddies agree to the wacky plan of traveling to whatever city they happen to hit with a dart thrown at a world map. Turns out the metal tip lands on a city in India, so he and his friends head there for some merrymaking. But something else happens there. Caden refuses to help a starving man who comes across their path, and when he attempts to right his wrong, he discovers the man has sold his only daughter. With his eyes now open to a thriving human trafficking trade, Caden and this father forge an unlikely friendship in an attempt to track down this little girl. The subject matter is obviously harsh, but Not Today creatively tackles one of the most important, most tragic issues of our day.

Films in this category are made by Christian film companies and/or feature strong Christian themes. They target both Christians and non-Christians.

BEST MOVIE FOR KIDS (NOMINEES)

The Croods (PG):  There are those who might’ve stayed away from this DreamWorks movie because of the name alone. But it’s not like that at all. Not really. Sure, the Crood family may be a bit rough. But bathroom humor is surprisingly minimal and the story here is just short of magical. Eep is the film’s focal point—a cave teen who longs to get out on her own while her stick-in-the-mud dad, Grug, tries to bottle her up inside the family cave. Guy is the film’s handsome, adventurous leading man who has eyes for Eep. But it turns out that this is really Grug’s story—a tale about a father trying to do the very best he can for his family in a world that’s rapidly changing.

Despicable Me 2 (PG):  That once-nasty Gru is having a difficult time with his transition from supervillain to loving dad. Raising three adorable daughters is way more difficult than coming up with fiendish plots to rule the world. Besides that, there’s the question of a job: He’s never had a position that didn’t involve a death ray. But then a super-secret agency called the Anti-Villain League offers him employment and Gru starts getting the knack of changing careers. A lanky female agent named Lucy Wilde is helping the process. She’s a little obnoxious and overbearing, but when she starts zapping people with her lipstick Taser, it just makes Gru go all weak in the knees. This rollicking pic about adopted daughters, a reformed-baddie dad and a bunch of slapstick silliness stirs a little bit of toilet humor and some Three Stooges-style roughhousing into its crime-solving mix. But it’s still a frenetically enjoyable yarn about heroic choices, and the life-changing impact of love and family.

Epic (PG):  Mary Katherine (who these days prefers M.K.) goes back home to spend the summer with her dad for the first time since her parents went their separate ways years before. She isn’t hoping for much, though. Quite frankly, the guy’s a little nutty—obsessed with this idea that a kingdom of small people live in the forest near his house. But when she accidentally spots a tiny person herself and is magically shrunken to the size of an ant … Dad doesn’t seem so crazy after all. Based loosely on William Joyce’s book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, this is a good-vs.-evil fairy tale that clothes itself in environmental concerns. It’s a cute story about tiny warriors who battle to keep a forest green while pushing back the crusty forces of mold and decay. Light lessons of family and reconciliation are endearing and colorful.

Escape From Planet Earth (PG):  Planet Baab’s most famous muscle-bound heroic dude, Scorch, undertakes a rescue mission to that dark, deadly place called … Earth. And things go wrong in a hurry. Before you can say “E.T. phone home,” Scorch is captured and on his way to Area 51 in the evil clutches of the large and vengeful General Shanker. So it’s up to Scorch’s nerdy and oh-so-not-muscle-bound brother, Gary, to come to the rescue. The two blue bros don’t always see eye to eye, but somebody’s got to do the brave thing when the glugorps are down. This animated sci-fi spoof probably won’t ever be confused with a Pixar pic, but it’s fun, goofy and packed with meaningful messages about familial love, friendship and feisty fearlessness. There’s not a lot to wave a blue flag of warning over other than a bit of toilet humor and some—dun-dun-dun—SCARY HUMANS!

Frozen (PG):  Let’s face it: Disney has the princess market cornered. From Snow White to Tiana (from The Princess and the Frog), the Mouse House has made a fortune on them, so perhaps it’s little wonder that this return-to-glory Disney flick features two—and they’re just as pretty and charismatic as we’ve come to expect. But even though there are music and balls and curses and kisses, Elsa and Anna tell an altogether different story than Disney’s told in the past. Here, true love is found not just by suitors, but sisters, and sacrifice holds the key to saving grace. Frozen isn’t perfect: Some kids may find it scary in the slick spots. But it has the power to melt the hearts of the iciest of critics.

BEST MOVIE FOR TEENS (NOMINEES)

42 (PG-13):  42 tells the inspirational story of Major League Baseball’s first black player: Jackie Robinson. Many folks, of course, know that Robinson was a superstar player for the Brooklyn Dodgers. What you may not know is the battle against racism he faced off the field—a battle that might well have picked him off at second base were it not for the advocacy of Dodgers owner Branch Rickey. This sports drama/biopic doesn’t hold back when it comes to racial slurs hurled at Robinson with the same force fastballs were hurled at his head. Along the way, however, this unflinching depiction of Robinson’s trailblazing example offers a glimpse at what overcoming the virulent racism of the era required: courage and determination, self-control and faith. As Rickey told Robinson, “Like our Savior, you’ve got to have the guts to turn the other cheek.”

Ender’s Game (PG-13):  Earth is eying its end. Decades earlier, a race of giant insect-like invaders were beaten back while trying to colonize our planet. But all the years since have been spent living in abject fear of the big bugs’ return. But Colonel Graff has an idea that he hopes will save the planet from these massive creepy-crawlies: Seems to him that humanity doesn’t need another super-soldier, but rather someone who can attack the enemy with video game-like precision. We need someone like Andrew Ender Wiggin―a skinny teen who just happens to be the best military mind any junior high has ever produced. This Young Adult fiction-based sci-fi pic transforms kids into world-savers. The action is intense and there’s some bullying shown, but there’s no bloody warfare. Instead, we’re given video game space battles and questions about the morality and politics of war.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (PG-13):  Katniss Everdeen thought she’d never have to go back to those awful Hunger Games. But after she and Peeta tricked the government into letting them both live last time around, President Snow wants to get rid of them both, once and for all—and in front of the whole of Panem. The only way they can survive is through a little help from their … adversaries? Yes, the movie is violent. That’s well established by this point in the series. Yes, the subject matter can be uncomfortable. But this dark story gives a platform to some luminous acts of heroism and sacrifice while presenting some seriously deep thoughts about the intersection of persecution and entertainment. Ultimately, this movie isn’t about how long you can live, but how much you can give—and give for a cause more important than any one person.

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Man of Steel (PG-13):  It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s another Superman movie! The latest reboot by director Zach Snyder focuses on ol’ Supes’ willingness to sacrifice himself, if necessary, to stop General Zod from devastating Metropolis. Of course, despite Superman’s efforts, Zod still uncorks plenty of apocalyptic mayhem. That and a few profanities are the primary content issues here. Amid the smoldering ruins of leveled skyscrapers, however, Snyder focuses on what he dubs Superman’s “inherent goodness.” “If you really think about it,” he said in one interview, “you still want him to be right and to make the right choices and to do the right thing. I think that we all hope for that in ourselves, and I think that’s what always has made him a very interesting character. He’s a Christ-like figure. There’s no two ways about it.”

Oz the Great and Powerful (PG):  Oscar Diggs may be merely a small-time magician/con man with a traveling circus, but when his hot air balloon is accidentally swept up and plopped down in a faraway land called Oz, well, his fortunes start to change. There are beautiful witches living in this colorful place, and talking China dolls, even flying monkeys. And they all seem to think he’s a predestined wizard sent to save the land. There’s a royal throne and a trove of riches waiting just for him, it seems. All he has to do is rid Oz of its one wicked witch. You know, the one who lives in the West. This version of the story of Oz is brighter and bears far more CGI sparkle than the classic 1939 version. Its ghosts and fireball-hurling magicky things are a little scarier, too. But in amongst its emerald flowers and shadowy talking trees can be found some solid lessons on faithful friendship and choosing selflessness over selfishness. In Oz we learn that leaving behind a life of lies always trumps empty dreams of fame-filled greatness.

Source: pluggedin.ca