All Saints | A Movie Review


You can watch the trailer for this movie at http://www.allsaintsmovie.com/.

All Saints is a faith-based film put out by Sony and Provident Films that looks at the inspiring true story of a salesman turned pastor named Michael Spurlock.  He’s assigned to a small church in Smyrna, Tennessee, that has a regular attendance of about a dozen people.  His goal?  To get the building ready to be sold.  The building sits on a prime piece of land that developers would love to get their hands on.

The problem?  When he gets there, he finds that a group of Burmese refugees, along with the dozen or so people already at the church, really need the church, and he struggles with the idea that he has to just shut it down and let it be sold.

If I’m honest (which I try to be…), I’ll admit that I don’t typically enjoy Christian movies.  I often find them pretty cheesy, and not relatable.  But this…. This was a great movie.  It struck a chord with me personally, having been involved in helping Syrian refugees on their arrival in my city, and being someone who believes that profit isn’t everything — especially when it comes to the welfare of fellow human beings.  I think the timing of this movie is poignant — it should be out in theatres in the next couple weeks.  With what’s going on in the news and the world around me lately, it was sure lovely to watch what faith, loving like Jesus, perseverance, persistence, and trust can accomplish.

Maybe I’m just hearkening back to my love of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but I also really enjoy John Corbett as an actor, so when I saw that he had the lead role, I figured it couldn’t be that cheesy.  I was pleasantly surprised, and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

To stay up to date about more Christian films, and when they’re arriving in Canada, check out faithfilms.ca

I was given a screener link to view this film courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. in exchange for my honest review.

You’re Loved No Matter What


I just finished reading You’re Loved No Matter What by Holley Gerth.  I knew I’d enjoy this book.  I’ve read one of her other books and have yet another sitting in my massive pile of books to be read.  I’ve also been following along with her blog for quite some time.  Coffee for your heart, anyone?

For me, this book couldn’t have come at a better time.  I’ve been struggling with feeling the weight of needing to be perfect for a long time, in many areas, and it was so refreshing to receive a release — not just from people saying ‘you put too much pressure on yourself’ — but from Jesus through Scripture as well.

Holley crafts the words of the book into a beautiful breath of fresh air that I know my heart needed.  I don’t need to strive for perfection.  It’s not what Jesus intends for me.  It’s not what anyone should expect of me.  I can go for excellence, and yet rest in the perfect Grace of God when my pursuit of excellence falls short and I don’t make it.  Trust me, I don’t make it a lot.

Holley gave excellent, practical, real-life examples of people who’ve gone through this very thing.  She talks about gratitude as the antidote to perfectionism.  When you can be thankful for what you have, why would you need to strive for what you can’t get?  She mentions Ann Voskamp‘s One Thousand Gifts app.  I had it a while ago; I downloaded it shortly after reading (and loving!) One Thousand Gifts.  I started recording my way to 1000, trying to be grateful, but wound up feeling guilty because I was being grateful for the same things over and over again….. So I deleted the app.  I couldn’t even get gratitude right!  Talk about perfectionism.  When you can’t actually be grateful because you’ve imposed your own rules on how to be just that…. whoa.

So this book has given me the fresh perspective I need to give an ‘attitude of gratitude’ (as cheesy as that phrase really is…) another shot.  If gratitude is the antidote to perfectionism, and releasing my need to be perfect because I can’t be will let me breathe, sleep, and function better as a human being….. I feel like I have nothing to lose.I highly recommend this book, and in fact have already farmed my copy out.  If you’re tired of the try-hard “I can’t do this” “too much pressure” kind of life, relax and have a heart to heart with Holley Gerth.  She really does wiggle her way right into the places my heart needs to relax the most.

Film Review — The Drop Box


The Drop Box is a new film put out by Focus on the Family about a South Korean Pastor named Lee Jong-Rak.

Focus on the Family says this about the movie:

Hundreds of unwanted babies are abandoned on the streets of Seoul, South Korea, every year, forgotten by the surrounding culture.

The Drop Box is a documentary about the work of Pastor Lee Jong-rak and his heroic efforts to embrace and protect his community’s most vulnerable children. By installing a drop box outside his home, Pastor Lee provides a safe haven to babies who would otherwise be abandoned on the streets to die.

It’s a heart-wrenching exploration of the physical and emotional toll associated with providing refuge to save those deemed unwanted by society.

But it’s also a story of hope. And a celebration of the reality that every human life is sacred, has a purpose and is worthy of love.

I was given a link to watch an advance screening of it before it comes out in select theatres March 4th and 5th.  Check out this link to see if it’s showing up in a theatre near you!  I checked Ontario and there are many locations.  Focus on the Family says it’s playing in the States as well, so for my American friends, I’m sure it’s coming somewhere near you too!  Here’s a spot you can put your zip code in and check to see where it’s appearing 🙂

I suppose though, if you’re reading this you’d like to know what I thought of the movie, so here it is!

 

I have an aching-heart passion for kids who get abandoned.  It breaks me when I hear stories of children who just aren’t wanted.

This documentary highlights that so well.  Pastor Lee sacrifices so much of himself to be available for disabled and completely abandoned children.  He puts a box on the door of his house so people stop abandoning children on the streets of Seoul to die.

It tugged at my heart in a very real way.  Normally, when I watch movies, I’m doing a couple things at a time.  If you intend to watch this movie you’ll find that’s not a possibility because it’s mostly subtitled and spoken in Korean (I’m really not sure why I was surprised by that, because I should not have been).  When I focused though, I found it to be a very engaging and beautiful story.

I was inspired by the love Pastor Lee and his wife and all of the kids they’ve taken under their wings shared for each new child that came to live with them.  My heart soared with happiness when I saw the real love of Jesus poured out through this family.  I know the Jesus I love isn’t happy with children being abandoned.  I know that’s why every time I’ve asked for my heart to be broken for what breaks the heart of my Saviour, I’ve felt more strongly that kids are a big deal.

I hope you’ll check to see if it’s popping up near you in early March.  It’s worth the watch, and I recommend it to anyone, but most of all to those looking for a clear picture of what it means to love sacrificially, like Jesus did.

 

Meet Manira (Why I won’t give up my World Vision Sponsorship)


I sponsor a child through World Vision.  Her name is Manira, and I love her.

She lives with her parents, her brother, and her sister in a French speaking country in Africa (Score:  I can write to her in French!), and I’ve been sponsoring her for 5 years.

Allow me please to tell you a little about her.  She’s 10, in Grade 5, and her favourite subject is biology.  She’s a beautiful girl with a gorgeous smile.  She told me once in a letter that when she grows up, she wants to be a nurse.  The fact that she is even in school right now, learning and loving biology, warms my heart right up.  She loves to dance and sing, and being the oldest child, she does a fair bit of babysitting while her parents work.

Five years ago, I had no real inkling to sponsor a child, but World Vision literally came knocking.  They showed up at my apartment door and asked me to consider sponsorship.  The representative showed me pictures of kids who needed help, and she explained that for $35.00 a month, I could provide benefits not just to this beautiful girl and her family, but to her community as well.  In my profile on World Vision, I can look at a community report along with updates on Manira.

Look at the things going on in Manira’s community (pasted verbatim from my World Vision profile).

Education

  • We helped build and equip four classrooms at a primary school, easing overcrowding and improving the learning environment for children.
  • 14 literacy centers are offering basic classes in reading and writing for adults and young people who did not have the opportunity to attend school, equipping them with important skills for everyday life and making it easier for them to start small businesses and manage their households. 350 people attended the literacy centers.
  • Teachers were trained in new teaching methods to strengthen the quality of education.
  • Awareness campaigns were held on the importance of education for all children, including girls, who are often kept home from school to do chores and married early.

Health and Nutrition

  • More than 2,500 malnourished children and nursing mothers were treated at nutritional recovery centers operated with World Vision’s support.
  • We partnered with the Ministry of Health to hold immunization campaigns, helping them reach more children with life-saving vaccines.
  • We supplied two health centers with antimalarial medication, distributed 2,025 mosquito nets, and organized two malaria-prevention campaigns. We also facilitated training in malaria prevention for 16 health officers.

Agriculture and Environment

  • A veterinary store was opened to improve availability of feed and medicine for livestock, which are the primary source of food and income for many families.
  • An assessment was carried out to determine the status of 25 community grain banks. We followed up with training for the committees who manage the grain banks and stocked them with 63 tonnes of millet to reduce families’ vulnerability to drought.
  • We worked with community partners to restore 108 acres of environmentally degraded land.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

  • Eight borehole wells were drilled to decrease the prevalence of waterborne illness. Children can now attend school instead of fetching water and women have more time for business activities and to care for their families.
  • We contributed materials to help 53 families build latrines, improving sanitation.
  • 60 women have formed volunteer groups to promote healthy hygiene and sanitation practices in the schools and the community.

Economic Development

  • Two vocational centers were established to train women in sewing so they can provide for their families.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about Manira in the past 24 hours since the Internet exploded with news of World Vision (US) changing their hiring policy twice in rapid succession to accept and then reject those in same-sex marriage relationships in their hiring process.

My opinion on the actual mechanics of that decision isn’t really relevant here for a couple of reasons.  First, World Vision Canada is a separate entity, and I actually kind of liked their statement in response to it all.  Second, I truly believe that my need to continue giving sponsorship to this child is so much more important than any of the kerfuffle that’s gone on the last couple of days.

Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours sifting through mainly reactions to the events that have transpired, though I will admit there were a few well crafted responses.  Jen Hatmaker’s is one of them.  I really resonated with hers, as I do with pretty much everything she writes.  I think she and I would be good friends.

What broke my heart while I was reading was the sheer number of people who have decided that, effective immediately, they needed to withdraw their support of children who so desperately need that involvement in their community.  I mean, do what you gotta do I guess, but I immediately pictured Manira, who’s able to go to school along with many other girls in her community.  She’s able to just love biology, and her dream of being a nurse has a chance at actually happening.  I know I’m not solely responsible for those things, and it would be naive of me to think so, but the thought of withdrawing my support from her over a decision made at the administrative level made me kind of sick to my stomach.

My thoughts on anything else, right now — they’re completely irrelevant…. because I feel so strongly that my support needs to stay with Manira, not with a side on the issue.

Are there other charities doing equally great things in communities around the world?  I’m sure there are.  But if I just threw in the towel because I didn’t like an administrative change, who would explain to Manira why she had support one day and then didn’t the next?  I sure wouldn’t want to.

In fact, you know what?  I’m currently prayerfully considering sponsoring a second child, because I think that the needs of the orphans, the marginalized, the poor, and the disenfranchised are bigger than administrative decisions that impact offices in corporate America.  I have an opinion on the right vs. wrong side of the debate itself, but that’ll only detract from my point here.  It’s not important what I think about gay marriage.  And while it IS important what scripture says in every instance in life ever, about everything, I can’t help but think that for me, it’s more important that I love Manira than that I get up on my soap box and start to preach, one way or the other.  After all, I think the greatest commandment is love, is it not?  Yeah.  Love.

 

Are YOU my husband?


When I was younger, this book came out called Are You My Mother?  I thought it came out much earlier than it did… my experience reading it must have been to groups of young children… because it came out when I was in Grade 8 so I guess it’s not something that my Mom would have read to me.

Anyway, if you haven’t read it, the premise of the book is this:  This baby bird starts to hatch, and its mother decides it’s going to need something to eat when it comes out.  Well wouldn’t you know it, after the mother bird has flown off to get ready to feed her baby, the egg hatches, and this poor baby bird wonders where its mother is.  He winds up out of the nest, hopping around like the precious, lost little baby bird that he is, and he hops up to many things, asking “Are you my Mother?”  The dog says no, the construction equipment says no… pretty much everything says no.

To be truthful, I honestly can’t even remember how the story ends… so you’ll have to watch it yourself…

I was talking to someone yesterday, and we were talking about being single and online dating a little bit.  I asked her if she ever feels like every time she goes somewhere new, she’s sizing up who’s in the room, wondering if she might meet her husband there.

I’ll confess I’ve done it.  I don’t do it all the time, thankfully… I think that’d drive me over the edge… but I’ve done it.

I compared it while talking with her to that little baby bird… I sometimes feel like I hop from new setting to new setting, and like maybe I’m sending off this “Are you my husband??” vibe to every single man in the room.  I don’t mean to, but it’s hard sometimes not to be thinking ‘maybe I’ll meet my husband here!’

It’s funny though, because I have actually never been more content with being single than I am right now (we’ll see how I feel in ten months when I turn 30, haha), but those habits are so engrained that it’s hard to convince my brain that we’re not on the lookout for the first man with no ring.

And… to end this post on kind of a bummed out note… I thought that this analogy — my comparison of myself to the baby bird in Are You My Mother? — was really original.  I found it extremely humorous… and I had a brief moment this afternoon while thinking through this post in my head where I thought it’d be kind of neat to write a book in the same style as Are You My Mother? but change it to Are You My Husband? and kind of make fun of myself in the process in a children’s-book style.

I went to Amazon though to find Are You My Mother? to link into this post…. and I found this brilliant, yet terribly disappointing gem called Are You My Boyfriend?

Not gonna lie…. I might buy it.

You’re Loved.


So for a little while, I’ve been following this fantastic blogger (and I now own a couple of her books) named Holley Gerth.  She’s another one of those who writes into my heart.

She’s started “Coffee For Your Heart,” which allows those what want to join in a chance to be encouraging (with prompts she sends out) every Wednesday, whether through their blog, their Facebook, or a Tweet.

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150I was apprehensive about whether or not I’d join in on this… but I’ve decided that it’ll be good to be stretched beyond a random prompt and into one that is kind of serious.

So today’s prompt is simply “You’re Loved.”

I’ve decided to write a letter to all my students.  I understand that they won’t see it, but I find that when I really focus on the reason that I keep teaching, even on the hard days, it makes me better at what I do, and that helps me encourage my students by extension.

So here it goes.

Dear Kidlets:

I want you to know that the reason I drag my butt out of bed on weekday mornings is not just because I have to and because they pay me to.  I do it because you make me laugh with your antics, with the way you see things, and with the things you say.  It’s because I’m not succeeding unless you’re succeeding, and so neither of us can succeed if I’m not there.  It’s because when I see you finally get something that you’ve been struggling with, your persistence makes me beam with pride.  It’s because I’m watching you grow up before my very eyes, and I’m so proud of the people you’ll become some day.  You’ve all got potential to be someone amazing, and I truly hope that each one of you harnesses that potential and soars.

Some days it may not seem like I love you that much.  You see, sometimes love from a teacher looks tough.  Sometimes I say no to things you really want, or I make you do things you really don’t want to do.  Whether you’re 6, 10, or 14, I promise I’m doing my best to make decisions that are best for you, even if they seem like I’m out to make you miserable.

Sometimes you may think my rules are stupid, but they’re there to keep you safe.  Like this morning in gym when I said we’re going to do a relay where we have to hold hands, and so I said NO RUNNING because when we run holding hands, it’s really really dangerous and we can fall and hurt ourselves… I was doing it not because it’s less fun to walk, but because I didn’t want you to get hurt.  It nearly broke my heart when one of you wiped out and bumped your head, and that’s why I ran to you to help you up and scooped you up to get you some ice.

I want you to know that the reason I’m there every day is so I can teach you about more than just what’s in the books.  I want to teach you how to handle conflict.  I want to teach you how to get along with each other, even if you don’t like each other.  I want to teach you how to be kind to one another, show compassion, and to accept people’s differences so that we can all live together peacefully.  I know these are lofty goals, but if I can be an influence in even one of your precious lives, and make an impact that years from now makes you remember me and smile, I’ll know I’ve done my job.  I’ll know I’ve done it very well if you can remember me and smile, and then remember an important lesson that I taught you.  Hopefully it’ll have nothing to do with curriculum.

Kiddos, I know this has been sappy, but I have to tell you… that even when you’re challenging to teach, I still love you.  Without you guys, I wouldn’t have a job to do at all, but you certainly keep it interesting.  Keep it up.

A Duck Call for love.


So I had this gigantic ranty post written about the whole Phil Robertson explosion…. And I woke up this morning and hated every word I wrote because I hadn’t practiced what I was calling all of us to preach, so I deleted every word. I’ve never scrapped a 1600 word, link-filled post before… And now, post-ice-storm at my Grandparents’ farm, their internet is down and so I write with my thumbs from the 3G on my iPhone because the words are burning to get out of me. So here we go. Round two.

You see, my rant from yesterday was full of angry accusations that Phil Robertson wasn’t being very loving with the things that he said in his interview with GQ, and that our job as Christians is to speak in love. Do you see an issue here? I do. God must have softened my heart up overnight because I read my words this morning and became so grateful that I’d saved the draft before publishing. Guilty. It’s so easy not to speak in love when we get all fired up.

I’ve decided that rather than rewrite my rant, I’ll share and echo the thoughts of three of my favourite bloggers. Their words are more eloquent than mine, and I’d like to share the words of women whose writing I respect deeply. And I agree with each of them wholeheartedly. So especially while I write with my thumbs, why reinvent the wheel?

So here we go:

Jen Hatmaker, my favourite author, says

“As for me, I care deeply for all the watching eyes, waiting for something real, something that heals instead of wounds. I dream of a faith community that demonstrates a love so scandalous and embarrassing that only the foolish and the rejected and the misfits and the cynics will find any solace in it. My heart’s cry is that someone far outside the sphere of Christian endorsement might whisper, “Even me?” and be stunned by Jesus’ answer: “Always you.””

Jen tells us to make the gospel real. Making it real means making it loving. Love love love. Love is so vital. It’s what God is, after all.

Ruthie Dean talks about the stark difference between making a point and making a difference in the lives of others.

Ruthie says:

“But then, something changed. I awakened to the truth that the Gospel is an absurd love story. That God gave his only Son over to ridicule, torture and death that we may have life. The Bible says that people outside the church will know Jesus because of our love for one another. Nothing else, just love.”

She also says:

“We cannot be content to sit back behind our computers and make a point. As Christians, we are called to make a difference in people’s lives–and making a difference is usually slow and messy because when you’re meeting someone in the mud, in the darkness, in the betrayal, in the pain, they’ll need the healing power of Jesus flowing through you. They need us to be with them, not preach at them.”

And finally, a woman whose words pack so much punch… Always…. Ann Voskamp talks beautifully about the power of words and how desperately important it is to choose them carefully and speak them with love.

I have huge quotes from her, but her blog post is so well done, and there’s so much more there that I didn’t quote…. So please if you only read the work of one of these three ladies in its entirety, let it be this one. Let it be Ann’s words.

A guy I know often mails books.

And every time the postal clerk asks him the obligatory question about if there’s anything hazardous or flammable in the package, he always speaks truth: “You bet — words.”

Whoever said sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you?

Was dead wrong.

Ask a bearded guy from Louisiana or a tweeting PR exec en route to Africa to comment on that.

Don’t ever forget it, kids:

There is nothing more explosive than words.

Words are nitroglycerin. Words can literally ignite a heart, detonate like a global bomb — or explode in your face.

She also says, and I love this:

You can mean something — but if you say it mean, no one can hear your meaning.

Have convictions — but if you don’t have compassion, you will have trials.

Please, say what you believe — but please, always be love.

Or you’re an annoying, clanging cymbal who a whole lot of people will be desperate to make silent.

Also:

Hear me, get this, don’t ever forget this: The tongue is the tail of the heart. The heart is known by how the tongue wags.

And lastly, the ones with the biggest punch. The ones that made me gasp in air after I’d written my own rant that I ultimately trashed…. These…

The only words that are infallible — is the Word of God Himself.

So — we grant grace.

Grace is air — without it we all die.