The Love of Your Life

Stop Dating the Church by Joshua HarrisJesus Christ calls the Church His bride…purchased by His blood (Ephesians 5:25-32).  So why is it that many Christians today regard the church as unimportant and don’t want to be committed to a local body?  If we are to love what Jesus loves, why don’t we value what He regards as utterly precious: His own cherished bride?

Although Joshua Harris has been well known as a popular Christian author and speaker for several years now, his 2004 book Stop Dating the Church: Fall in Love with the Family of God is the first I’ve read.  It was easy to connect with his frank, humble writing style, and every chapter was convicting.  Harris sites the statistics that prove how increasingly negligent American Christians are becoming in their church-going, and reminds readers that “faith was never meant to be a solo pursuit”.

In our independent, individualistic day and age, so many of us are tempted to be critical and judgmental.  But as children of God, part of His plan for our lives involves devoting ourselves to a local body of believers.  Like a flower seperated from the vine, we will wither and starve without the constant nourishment of Christ’s church.  If you are commitment-shy, read this little book with the big message for believers today, and begin the wonderful experience of falling in love with the family of God.

Click here to get “Stop Dating the Church” from the Josh Harris bookstore.

Prince Caspian

Prince CaspianTrumpkin the dwarf was right.  A year after the Pevensie children’s last trip through the wardrobe, Narnia is a more violent and sinister place than they…and movie viewers…recall.  And the film makers make no apology for that.  Director Andrew Adamson admits, “This film is probably a little darker and grittier than the last one.”  And that it most definitely is.  Or, as I mentioned, Trumpkin puts it, “You may find Narnia a more savage place than you remember.”

It’s been a year since Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie’s last journey through the wardrobe.  At least, a year in our time.  In Aslan’s country, over one thousand years have passed, and the palace at Cair Paravel lies in ruins.  Now, a new dynasty reigns under the conquering Telmarines, and the real Narnians live in fear and hiding.  Some wait for Aslan’s salvation, others have lost all faith in his existence.

The heir to the Telmarine throne is Prince Caspian, an orphaned lad brought up under the eye of his murderous Uncle Miraz but fascinated by the stories of old Narnia…the kings and queens of old, the Great Lion, the fauns and nymphs and centaurs…told him in secret by his tutor Cornelius.  And then, in a single night, all Caspian knows is destroyed.  He blows Queen Susan’s ancient horn in his last hope for help…and help comes, in the form of the four young Pevensies…called from a London train station in our world.

Walden Media’s Prince Caspian feels like a war movie.  The writers added scenes…in particular, the tragic raid on Miraz’s castle…which are not in the book, but which were perhaps necessary to make the transition from page to screen.  Still, other decisions were made which were not nearly as vital, nor as successful…most glaringly, the ill-bred and poorly thought-out romance between Susan and Caspian (readers will know that there can be no future for the couple if the film makers are to remain at all faithful to the books).  Other issues have been raised by indignant fans…such as Peter’s inner struggles with selfishness and pride and Susan’s warrior-queen persona (neither mentioned in the book), as well as Aslan’s lack of screen time.  But viewers can judge this for themselves.

Here is what I saw.  When Aslan tells Susan and Peter that they will not be returning to Narnia, I felt their heartbreak.  I, too, felt let-down and disappointed to see the brick walls of the London Strand after the beauty of Narnia.  When the children left Aslan’s country, I felt as though I just had, too.  It was horribly bittersweet…evoking emotions that few films do.

My sentimentality may be partly because I have loved C.S. Lewis’s stories since I was a little child.  But more than that, I sense the deeper story…the one that many believe Lewis was trying to tell…underneath it all.  Aslan…the leader, the friend, the infinitely beautiful king…reminds me of my Savior.  Lucy’s relationship with him in the film is precious.  At one point, he saves her from an attacking Telmarine soldier, roaring with all the furiosity of the great lion he is.  But without fear, the little girl runs to him, burying her face in his mane, laughing joyfully.  And they sit and talk in the forest.  Later, she faces an entire army with only the Lion at her side, and totally unafraid.  These short scenes reminded me for all the world of our walk with our King…our Lion, our Lamb…the strong, the gentle, the magnificent, the humble.  Our Master, our Shepherd, our Lord.  This is the best of Narnia and the film makers captured it.

I highly recommend this film to all who love the books and the first movie.  Don’t expect this story to be exactly like the one in your dog-eared paperback.  It is changed, as even the most beloved classics must be changed when they make the transition to film, and not perfectly changed at that.  But it is still beautiful, and it still tells a long-loved story.  Best of all, it gives us glimpses of a better story still…the story that Jesus is writing every day in the lives of every believer.  The story of uncompromising faith even when others doubt and the valley is one of death’s shadow.  The story of trust in a God greater than any army and any military might or force.  The story of a daily walk with the Creator and Master of all, as He bends down to hear our whispered fears and happinesses, just because He loves us.  And every time we see Him, just as Lucy finds, He grows bigger in our sight.  Never old, never dull, never rote.  He is always magnificent, and He grows with our understanding of Him.

Enchanted

Last evening I saw a romantic comedy that was sweet, funny, clean, clever and innocent.  I listened to charming songs and saw dazzling dances, state-of-the-art special effects, and poufy princess dresses.  And I laughed and sighed and smiled.

I am Enchanted.

Giselle is a beautiful auburn-haired cartoon princess who has just met the love of her life: Prince Edward, heir to the Andalasian throne. But Edward’s stepmother, Queen Narissa, is hardly willing to give up the throne. Instead, she plunges the unsuspecting bride to her doom in “a place where there are no happily-ever-afters”. And that place is, of course, New York City.

Narrated by Julie Andrews and featuring Amy Adams as the innocent princess Giselle (opposite James Marsden, Susan Sarandon, Timothy Spall and Patrick Dempsey), the Oscar-nominated flick Enchanted is equal parts caricature of and honor to the formulaic but good-hearted Disney princess stories. The filmmakers describe the film as a “giant love letter to Disney classics”. Nevertheless, a few winks here and there give the film a smart, comedic presence, livening up the strawberry-shortcake sweetness.

Newcomer Adams shines in her Golden Globe Award-nominated performance as the naïve but ever-optimistic princess, whose starry-eyed romanticism contrasts to the love-lost heartache of a divorce lawyer named Robert (Dempsey) whom she meets in the city. Robert is a moral, good-hearted man whose bitterness towards love started when his ex-wife left him and his six-year-old daughter Morgan. He begrudgingly allows the lost damsel to stay with his family, and soon finds himself charmed by her perpetually sunny outlook and generous charity towards others.

But as magical figures begin to pop up like daisies in the Big Apple, including gallant Prince Edward (Marsden), a feisty chipmunk named Pip, evil henchman Nathaniel (Spall), and even the Queen (Sarandon) herself, Giselle begins to win the hearts of all she meets (as any good princess ought to). Despite Robert’s criticism, she never looses faith that her prince will come for her. But by the time he does, Giselle is beginning to wonder if a certain someone else is her real prince, after all.

The words “predictability” and “Disney” are somewhat intertwined (cough cough) and this film is no exception. But it is the good kind of predictability…the kind where you know that the good guy will win, and the bad guy (or gal) will loose in the end. Morality is rewarded, selfishness punished and true love endures forever. Still, Enchanted may well have fallen into forgettable oblivion but for picture-perfect casting and surprisingly rich insight.

There’s Giselle herself. Irrepressibly idyllic, unfailingly generous and commendably innocent, she’s a role model that parents wouldn’t mind their little girls admiring. At first we enjoy a few giggles at the sight of a naïve and ditzy princess tripping her way through New York City in a huge dress complete with enough embellishments to make Belle downright green. She even recruits New York’s “wildlife” (mostly rats and pigeons) to clean Robert’s apartment with her, Snow White-style, and also creates fantastic frocks in about thirty minutes from an obliging curtain or two, or mayhap a rug. Sure it’s silly, but sweet, too. Like when Robert gives her money for a ride “home”, and she promptly gifts the entire wad to a homeless woman. Or takes little motherless Morgan on a girl-time shopping spree. Or, best of all, when she reminds a divorcing couple (Robert’s clients) of the things that made them fall in love in the first place. When she finds they are separating she innocently bursts into tears. In the end, the couple reunites (“Everyone has bad times…do we sacrifice all the good times because of them?”).

Lessons on developing relationships with a strong foundation of understanding, the importance of working through troubles together, and the faithfulness of true love, are morals that no one but a true Scrooge could humbug. And a surprising but beautiful insight on how sad divorce truly is, and how a loving couple can work through difficulties together, rather than letting those difficulties take the best of them, bumps the film from an A to A+.

I enjoyed this sweet family movie, and your family may, too. Unfortunately, a few content issues may cause parents to wish to preview the PG-rated flick before letting their youngest children watch (some potty humor and two quick “gay” jokes are disappointing). Also, Giselle’s off-the-shoulder wedding dress and other royal frocks are immodest at times.

But if you are looking for a sugary sweet film that supports the value of family, innocence, femininity and purity of heart, than you really can’t go wrong with Disney’s Enchanted, a film that well deserves a place among Disney’s finest classics.