Top 5 2015 Moments

Another year. Another year that has slipped through my grasp.  The question remains, did I actually take the time to stop and smell the flowers?  Or, did I just let it slide by?  The older I get the more precious time becomes. So, I am going to take a few minutes and list five things that I can take away from this year.  Perhaps it will be a good reminder that I should be a bit more conscious of the moment next year.  Maybe next year I will count every breath as a blessing.

5. Trip to New England

Granted, this trip was for work.  But I had never been back east before, so I was really looking forward to the trip.  I was there for two weeks, but had very little time to explore.  What I was able to do, gave me a new appreciation for the oldest civilized parts of this country.  New England is beautiful.  It is really nothing more that one great big forest.  And, don’t listen to people that say Easterners are mean. They are some of the kindest and most genuine people I have ever met.

4. Marching Band Competitions

My son is a band geek, plain and simple.  He would admit to as much.  We went to many competitions this year because of his involvement in his high school marching band.  One day in particular, we did two competitions.  The first one was in Pocatello, ID and the second was in Logan, UT.  It was a long day, but a memorable one.  It is always a pleasure to see how much time and effort these kids put into something that they may only get to perform just a few times.

3. Church Camp

For the third year in a row, I was a leader at our churches youth summer camp.  Every year we have it in the beautiful Living Waters retreat center in Challis Idaho.  At least a 125 kids show up every year.  It is a lot of work, and very tiring. But, it is worth it.  I am always amazed at how the Holy Spirit moves among the teenagers. I see these young men and women and it gives me encouragement for the future of the church and how it is represented to the world.

2. California

My son also is involved in what they call drum-core.  They participated in a tournament in San Bernardino, CA this spring.  We decided to make a family vacation of it.  We went to Joshua Tree National Park on the way down, and also stopped at the famous dinosaurs made famous in PeeWee’s Big adventure.  After the tournament we decided to explore the L.A. area without going to the normal touristy areas (read Disneyland).  We went to Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, Hollywood, The Observatory, Ripley’s Believe it Or Not, La Brea Tar Pits, and the Getty Museum.  It was a lot of fun.

1. Family

The best and constant theme of the year, was spending time with my family.  I am blessed to have such good kids.  They are amazing and are a lot of fun to hang out with.  Whether it was going for walks, vacations, museums, playing board games, or watching movies; it makes my soul happy to have such a wonderful family.

 

So, these are five of the things that I consider highlights.  Do you have any? Was it a good year? Was it a year you would rather forget?  Tell me how it was, I want to know.

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Here’s to a 2016 that is memorable.

Let’s Talk About Community

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In 2007, after living in Boise, ID for 8 years, my family decided it was time to move back to Idaho Falls.  My wife had recently graduated from college, her sister was having health problems and my mother lived there as well.  It just seemed like the best thing for our family at the time.

During our time in the Treasure Valley, we had bought a house and put down roots.  Consequently, although it was fairly easy to move to Boise, it was a going to be a lot harder to move back.

My wife was able to transfer her job easy enough, so her and the kids packed up and moved over to Eastern Idaho while I stayed behind and began to prepare the house for sale.  This would prove to be a time consuming and difficult task.

It took me two months of working in the evenings and on weekends to get as far as I did.  But, I still had a bunch of stuff that needed done before the house was truly ready to put on the market.  At the rate I was going, I needed at least another month to get everything done. Problem was, I didn’t have a month.

I had worked out a job in Idaho Falls, and only had one week left.

I didn’t know how I was going to finish all of this stuff.  It all seemed overwhelming.  I began to feel discouraged. And, since my family was 300 miles, i was beginning to feel all alone as well.  Then, something wonderful happened.

My neighbor came and asked me if I needed anything.  I told him of my plight, and how much time I had to get these things done.  I said I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. It seemed hopeless at best.  He looked at me and said that he might be able to get some help from some people at his church (he is a member of the dominant religion in this area) and to give him till tomorrow morning to see what he could get done.I was thrilled! The thought of help, any help, would be a blessing to me.

The next night, he had managed to get no less  than thirty people to come and help with what needed to be done.  Painters, carpenters, plumbers, people with big trucks to pull up dead tree trunks.  If you can think of something that could need done on a house, there was someone there that was able to do it.  What would have taken me close to a month to do by myself took less that three hours for everyone to  complete.  I was blessed.  I was humbled.  It was a tremendous show of community from people who had never met me but answered the call.

 

As Christians, We Need to Rethink Community

I have been an active church going Christian for over twenty-five years.  I have heard many sermons on many topics.  And, quite a few of them have been about community.  But, the common theme about community preached from the pulpit revolves around making sure you go to church on Sunday, or bible study on Wednesday.  Community means we support the churches various ministries, whether it be benevolence, shut-ins, single mothers, etc.

At the surface level, there is nothing wrong with any of these things.  I am not trying to speak out against going to church and “fellowshipping” with one another.  Churches who have ministries who reach out to the poor, or single mothers, or whatever should be lauded for having such things.  But, I can’t help but think that community means more than this.  Perhaps community actually means sharing lives with one another outside the church walls and ministries.

What would our neighborhoods, our friendships, and our families look like if we actually lived in community, if we shared our lives with one another?  What if we looked at community as sharing our time, our money, our food, our talents, or whatever with each other? What if living in community meant we did this no matter the income level of the person we are helping?

I know it’s hard in this culture to live this way.  We live in America.  And, Like it or not, we have a very American way of looking at things.  We believe that we are supposed to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.  We believe that God helps those who help themselves.  We are so afraid of communism or socialism that helping somebody out, whether they are wealthy or not, is beyond our comprehension.

We live in a culture where we are so self absorbed, that we can’t look past our family problems to the greater community.  Families are important.  In fact, it is the most important aspect of our lives.  But this idea of a nuclear family is something that is unique to our culture and I would argue very destructive to our society as a whole.  Although I may not agree with the way Hillary Clinton thinks a village should raise kids, I do believe in the concept.

So what does this look like? What am I talking about?  Well, the best example is what I opened this blog with.  These people didn’t have to help me.  I wasn’t financially desperate.  I wasn’t a single parent. I was just a guy who was trying to get his house ready to sell.  But yet, my neighbor cared enough for me to get the help I needed.  That’s what community is.  That’s what love is.  This is a very real representation of the gospel.

I will Start

All this to say, I am going to stop talking and thinking about this, and put it into practice.  I want to start this new year right.  I want to learn how to live in community better.

Soo…What do you need?  Sidewalks need shoveled? House need painted?  Need somebody to watch your kids?  Heck, do you just need someone to talk to?  I am here.  Call me. Text me. Facebook me.  I will do everything within my power to help you in whatever capacity you need.

On the flip side, I am going to be asking  for more help. I can’t do everything on my own, and I’m done trying.

I am done just seeing people on Sundays.  I want to live in authentic community where we truly share life together.  It starts today.  What do you need?

Nate’s Short Movie Review: Interstellar

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Interstellar
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Nate’s Good Sense Rating: PG (frankly the only thing that makes it PG-13 is the use of one f-bomb)

Synopsis

The earth is dying and someone needs to save it.  Will they be able to?
Nate’s Review

In this social media drenched age, it’s almost impossible to watch a movie that, for the most part, you are unaware of the major plot points.  This only happens on very rare occasions these days.  But for me, Interesteller was one of those occasions.

On even more rare occasions do I come across a movie that is so unique, and so grand in its story telling that I am convinced I have never seen anything like it.

Interstellar starts out showing a pilot crashing some sort of ship. Thirty seconds later, we find ourselves following what we assume is the same person farming in some ambiguous region of a not too distant future America. Through the course of about a half hour of moderately slow pacing, we are led to believe that the earth is dying, and we need to save mankind by finding a new planet that can sustain life. Our pilot is given the job of leading the expedition. The rest of the movie focuses on finding the planet and relocating human life elsewhere. If I gave more of the plot away, you the reader, may not have the same reaction as I. So that is as much plot as I’m willing to give.

Masterfully directed by Christopher Nolan, Interstellar portrays a space adventure unlike anything seen on the big screen since perhaps 2001-A Space Odyssey. It is brilliant in the tiniest of details. The movie plays on many themes;
-Humanity’s charge to take care of the earth
-Our ability to destroy
-Our ability to rebuild
-Our desire to constantly explore

This movie is part environmental lecturer, part space adventure, and part SCI-FI Fantasy. And 100% creative. There is a sense of restlessness that thrives in the underlying currents of the 162 minute epic. And, it will leave you disturbed on one level, and excited on another.

Just like Nolan’s epic Batman trilogy. You will continue to think about this movie long after the credits are over. What will our future look like? What will future space travel look like? What is gravity really? And the biggest question of all, what makes us human?

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 nateys

ratings info
1=better used for trash liners
2=okay but not great
3=good and average fare
4=excellent and worthy of many awards and a trip to the theater
5=Simply Divine

Nate’s Short Movie Review: Mad Max-Fury Road

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Mad Max: Fury Road
MPAA Rating: R
Nate’s Good Sense Rating: A soft R. (mostly for intense violence)

Synopsis
A Nomadic individual roaming the waste lands of a post apocalyptic dystopian world finds himself helping a woman who is rescuing women from a dictator who is keeping them as breeding slaves.

Nate’s Review
In the fourth Mad Max reboot, Max is thrust into an escape attempt by women who were being kept as “breeding” slaves. They travel across the wasteland and barely make it to their destination alive. After they reach their destination, they decide to turn back around and drive back to the place they were trying to escape from to begin with. All the while trying not to get caught or killed by the strange looking dude they are trying to escape from.

Mad Max has had a cult following since the first low budget, Australian made movie came out in 1979. George Miller expertly crafted a movie that dealt with themes in a way that had not been seen in cinematic history up to that point. Mr. Miller returns to direct this reboot some 30 years since the last one. A lot has changed in the movie industry since 1985. We have been bombarded with over the top action movies (think Transformers 2), and more CGI than we can sometimes even wrap our finite brains around (think Transformers again…). And, even though there was perhaps 3 pages of dialogue for this entire movie (I want that writing job),this new Mad Max movie feels fresh and alive. And, even though 90% of the movie is nothing more than a giant car chase, it is a tremendous spectacle and it is next to impossible to take your eyes off the screen. And all this accomplished using VERY little CGI.

There are definite moments of cheese (a traveling war minstrel, puppet, guitar playing, flame thrower, dude for instance), Lots of octane, and cool looking vehicles. The movie is intense, with action sequences that will melt your face off. If you are looking for a heavy dose of testosterone entertainment this summer, than this movie is for you.

 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 nateys

ratings info
1=better used for trash liners
2=okay but not great
3=good and average fare
4=excellent and worthy of many awards and a trip to the theater
5=Simply Divine

Nate’s Short Movie Review: Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6
MPAA Rating: PG
Nate’s Good Sense Rating: G-PG (I have seen more violence in a Tom and Jerry cartoon)

Synopsis

A teenage genius loses his brother in an explosion. He spends the rest of movie trying to capture the person responsible.

Review

Our hero (not so ironically called hero) is a genius with a pension for robotics. He decides to apply for a robotics school that his older brother is enrolled in. But, to be accepted, he has to wow the school in a competition to showcase their talents. hero creats a sort of nanobot that when combined can be controlled by a visor through thought control. The only limit is your “imagination”. After the competition, the building catches on fire and his brother is killed. Hero unites with his brothers robot, a medical robot that looks a tad like the Michellin Man without the rolls. Together they try to figure out who was responsible for the explosion.

Although this a Disney cartoon, it still had Pixar’s John Lasseter at the helm. So, it is hard to separate one company’s cartoon from another. I found myself laughing quite a bit during the movie. And, I was able to have an emotional connection with some of the characters. I did feel however that the storyline suffered from a bit bad pacing.
All in all it was a fun movie and I would recommend it….

3.5 out of 5 nateys

ratings info
1=better used for trash liners
2=okay but not great
3=good and average fare
4=excellent and worthy of many awards and a trip to the theater
5=Simply Divine

Dear Facebook…

Dear Facebook,

I would like to confront a few things I see on my page every day.

-God is not mad at you.

-Obama is not the Anti Christ

– there is no illuminati trying to take away your Christian freedoms

-vague posts are obnoxious. If you don’t want the world to know what’s going on, don’t even titillate them…

-Israel is not perfect and without fault

-Israel is not evil

– Racism exists. Regardless of who’s hating.

-Cops are not all bad. Cops are not all good.

-if you wouldn’t shout it in front of a large crowd with a megaphone, don’t post it!

-If you believe the persona that families have on Facebook, you’re being duped. They are just as screwed up as you.

-Your Facebook “friends” are not friends. A friend is someone who will give you a shoulder to cry on, kick you in the butt when you need it, let you wake them up at 4 in the morning to complain about your boyfriend/girlfriend that just broke up with you. All Facebook friends can be is 21st century voyers.

– liking a charity or dumping a bucket of water on your head without actually working with them or donating money is not activism. It’s laziness. All you are doing is adding another “badge” to your page,

-Facebook is not real life.

 

 

Do you have others that you would add to this list?

Should We Love the Boston Bomber?

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As things always do, things started out innocently enough. People woke up, did their morning routine, and went off to work. Just another normal day. That is, until bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston marathon. Suddenly, there we were, thrust back to the way we felt 12 years ago. And even though it was on a much smaller scale and only in one city, the nation held it’s collective breath as we watched the events of the week unfold in graphic, raw (sometimes wrong) detail on the 24 news cycle.

Last night, the drama came to a harrowing close as the last (as far as we know) suspect was taken into custody. The city cheered. The Nation breathed a collective sigh of relief. At this point, it seems there will be no invasion of countries, or worldwide manhunts as a result of this tragedy. And I am glad for that. A decade full of this type of storyline has exhausted me.

I celebrated last night, along with everyone else, that the perp was caught. I am glad they were able to take him alive. But, my reasons for that extend further than justice. As a Christian I know that this man, this seemingly evil man, is loved by our savior. He is loved, just as my children are. He is loved just as I am. He is loved just as you are. That is the conspiracy of grace. It extends further than the most evil thing we can comprehend. It reaches further than the human mind can grasp. If it doesn’t, than how do I know it even extends far enough to save me from my wretched sins? I am no mass murderer. I have never killed a human. But, I have lied, I have caused physical and emotional hurt to others. By all accounts, my life is not worthy of being saved, according to what God thinks righteousness is. But, my life is covered by the mighty work that was done on the cross, and so is the life of this man who committed this unthinkable act of cruelty.

If we, as Christians, claim to be pro-life then it has to extend further than the unborn. It has to respect human life no matter what age, no matter how evil. It can be no other way. Jesus won’t allow it.

As the late Brennan Manning said in his book “The Ragamuffin Gospel”,

“The pro-life position is a seamless garment of reverence for the unborn and the age-worn, for the enemy, the Jew, and the quality of life of all people. Otherwise it is paste jewelry and sawdust hot dogs.”

May this man, as horrible as he may be, be more than just sawdust and hot dogs to us.
Amen.

Nate’s Short Movie Review: The Croods

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The Croods
MPAA Rating: PG
Nate’s Good Sense Rating: G-PG (I have seen more violence in a Tom and Jerry cartoon)

Synopsis

A caveman family finds their world collapsing around them. They are forced to flee and find safety with the help of a homosapien.

Review

When Jeffery Katsenberg left Disney, he joined with Stephen Spielberg and David Geffen to create a new multimedia company called Dreamworks (SKG). Over the years Dreamworks has been the only company that has managed to give Pixar/Disney any serious competition. But, unlike Pixar, many of Dreamworks animated features have been hit and miss. The Croods, unfortunately is a miss.

Throughout the course of The Croods, I found myself wanting to care for this prehistoric family, but I just couldn’t. Maybe it was because they were cavemen? The movie tries to have a sweet side, but misses. I couldn’t care less about the fractured father/daughter relationship…until the end.

The ironic part for me was the father caveman played by Nicholas Cage. His character was shallow, not well developed and lacked emotion. Perhaps that’s why Cage was perfect for the role?

Oh and what was the deal with the cave-family’s youngest child? Was she their daughter or the family pet?

Over all the movie was okay. But, if I were you, I would wait for it to be on instant streaming or cable.

1.5 out of 5 nateys

ratings info
1=better used for trash liners
2=okay but not great
3=good and average fare
4=excellent and worthy of many awards and a trip to the theater
5=Simply Divine

Nate’s Short Movie Review: Life of Pi

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The Life of Pi
MPAA Rating: PG
Nate’s Good Sense Rating: PG

Synopsis
An Indian family who owns a zoo is forced to relocate to Canada. The family along with the zoo animals charter a cargo ship bound for North America. During a major storm, the ship sinks and the boy (Pi) survives along with the zoo’s tiger.

Nate’s Review

Ang Lee has had some hits and misses throughout the years. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was a masterpiece, while Lee’s version of Hulk…not so much. The Life of Pi is a masterpiece. The story is told from Pi’s perspective as he relates it to a journalist. Part of the movie is spent giving some basic detail of Pi’s young life in India. But, most of the movie takes place after a shipwreck and Pi is the only survivor along with a Bengal tiger.

The movie is not full of action. But the story is compelling. What makes this movie a must see is the visually stunning cinematography. We have become so desensitized to cgi these days, that it takes a lot for most of us to be awed. This movie does it. Not with massive space robots, or with giant dinosaurs, but with simple scenes set in the middle of the ocean. There are scenes where the emptiness and loneliness is portrayed so vividly that I almost felt seasick (it helps to have a 110″ screen and blue ray). Please take the time to watch this work of art. You will not be disappointed.

Rating: 5 out of 5 nateys

ratings info
1=better used for trash liners
2=okay but not great
3=good and average fare
4=excellent and worthy of many awards and a trip to the theater
5=Simply Divine

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A Few Words Can Make the Difference

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Recently I received an email from a friend that mentioned I had encouraged him to follow his dreams and not give up. Here is an excerpt..

“I always remember how much inspiration I got from you years ago when you encouraged me to follow my dream of making movies.”

On very rare occasions, people will tell me that something I said to them made a difference. Usually it was something I have no recollection of ever saying. It makes me wonder how many more things I have said that were not positive or life affirming.

How about you? Have you ever had somebody come up to you years later and mention that something you said to them made all the difference?

Sticks and stones may break bones, but words can hurt much deeper. Choose your words wisely. They have the power to build up or to tear down…

Here is a short movie that my friend recently had the privilege of showing at the Sun Valley Film festival. Congratulations Andrew!

Morning Mic from Andrew Crawford on Vimeo.