Blue stained wood with crimson carnations

Monday, December 31, 2012

Can You Hear the People Sing?

I rarely go to see movies in the theater.

However, the much anticipated film adaptation of the musical "Les Miserables" officially arrived in theaters this week- and anyone who knows me knows that I am a sucker for musicals.
Generally, when a film I want to see is out I wait for the DVD and watch it in the comfort of my own home and with my own blanket and snacks and a firm grasp on the remote for 'scenes of a questionable nature' that I want to skip. This time however the pull of seeing a musical on the big screen in all its glory was too big of a draw and from the first of my hearing of it almost two years ago now I knew that I would be going to see it.

Last night I went and saw it. And I loved it.

This film will be known years from now as the benchmark for many things. The cinematography is remarkable and different than anything that has been done in generations. In fact, I think it will come to be the "Citizen Cain" of our generation. In many places the scope and surreality of the style reminded me of another favorite of mine, "Fiddler on the Roof". The director made bold choices in showing sweeping views with solitary figures and more strikingly in the strategy he took in using extreme closeups of the actors. At first I really didn't like this tactic, it feels too invasive and too personal, and too raw. You cannot help but to feel the same emotions as the characters are dealing with and it sends you on an emotional roller coaster right along with them.
Then I realized that is just the point.
Yes, the point is that you feel ground down, that you feel the dirt and the grime, it is even the point that you feel the disgusting nature of sin. But it is also the point that you feel the repentance, the love, the joy, and the ever stirring surge of hope.
Additionally, the benchmark that is laid down in the acting/singing department is tremendous. The acting is flat out superb! With the exception of Russel Crow whom I have an intense dislike for all the other players are great favorites of mine and played their roles with skill and grace. Anne Hathaway destroyed herself in her portrayal of Fantine and broke my heart too while she was at it! From her gut wrenching "I Dreamed a Dream" to her death I sat and cried my eyes out! Hugh Jackman is utterly convincing and equally moving through out his portrayal of Jean Valjean. He again brought me to tears as he wound down and brought the movie to a close.

But my love of this movie had as much to do with its grand themes as it did with is visual appeal and 'star power'.
This story's greatest asset is its themes of redemption, love, and mercy.
Earlier this week I ran into this article posted on Desiring God. I won't attempt to recreate the adeptly illustrated points the author makes in showing the reader how great a gift mercy is and how undeserving of it each one of us is, but I would encourage you to go read it for yourself. In the past I have seen the Liam Nisson version of the story and was left wondering and wanting with its portrayal of the story. I never got what the point was because I was to caught up in following the intricacies of the plot. The thing I discovered I've always been missing from this tale was the mercy. From the very beginning of the (2012) film and Valjean's conversion to his selfless acts throughout, to his quiet fade into glory this story screams from the rooftops of the power of God's redeeming one man and that man's demonstration of life changing mercy to all he encounters. After all, who  better to show mercy than one who has received it and knows it power?

Some have objected to seeing this movie based on some of the stronger, adult themes portrayed in this movie. I can respect that and I understand that while those people will likely enjoy this movie as a whole that they have every right to sit at home (like I usually do) and wait for the ability to control what they view. Commitment to their principles are commendable.
However, I would like to ask what one expects to see in a movie called "The Miserables" and deals with the horrors of prostitution and the unthinkable repulsiveness of leaving one's child in the clutches of vulgar and crude people? Let's not look at this subject matter with rose colored glasses! If one is familiar with the story and with the musical score nothing portrayed in the film should shock you. It is all right there all along. In fact, while I like seeing those subjects portrayed as much as the next person, which is to say not much, I felt that they dealt with the hardest of them well. The one scene of a raucous and bawdy nature occurs in the "Master of the House" number, if one wishes not to see this type of behavior this number is best avoided.  All in all none of the difficult scenes are done or shown in a gratuitous manner, with perhaps the exception being one brief flash of a couple in the Thenardier's inn that was just unnecessary.

One thing I would like to bring up as a counterpoint to the above is what drives Fantine to prostitution in the first place. When we meet Fantine she holds a respectable job earning her own respectable money and is in fact known by those around her for her virtue. What happens to her next however makes me seethe! After bemoaning the advances and groping that all the women in the factory have to put up with from the overseer in order to keep their jobs those same 'moral' self-righteous hypocrites turn on Fantine and have her thrown out when they discover she has a child and is an abandoned woman. They indeed have no mercy for her or her situation- how difficult it must be for a young woman to support a child on her own! You can view a clip of this here. What benefit does this brand of 'morailty' have to anyone? I sat there and couldn't help but think of some church people I've known- "pick a little, peck a little, talk talk talk, pick a little more"! It isn't any wonder what people sometimes think of Christians...?

Aside from the two previously mentioned scenes I felt that nothing seen or portrayed in the film is anything different than you would expect to see in a PG13 rated film. There is swearing, there is death and blood, there is evil men but such is the nature of both the fallen man and the plainly stated rating.
And I dare say that there are just as many bosoms to be seen in Jane Austen film as this- so don't take me to task over the 'liberal' view I'm taking here.

So what's the bottom line here? Should you go and 'hear the people sing'?
First, this movie is not for children. At least not in the theater. If you're going to go see it leave the kiddies at home and go for yourself. At home, where you can control what is seen, for even younger teens this movie should be fine.
Second, if you are a fan of period dramas, musicals, the Les Mis story, or the actors involved go see this movie! Go enjoy it and ride the emotional roller coaster and feel the despair and the soring joy of hope!

...And if you're lucky, the folks in your theater will sing along as the credits roll too!   

Monday, December 24, 2012

Year in Review 2012

Tonight is the eve of Christmas Eve and as I sit here tonight in front of the glowing giant of a Christmas tree in my living room and sit and watch the old classic film The Bishop's Wife, and read the holiday greetings of friends I am very much thinking about what has happened this year in my life and began to wonder if I too shouldn't sit a while and write a few words about the comings and goings of my year.

I think I shall. But I want to be quite transparent in my confessions and not just relate the high points of my year but some of the lowest points too. I think it's only right that in sharing our good blessings we share God's blessings in trials too.

The year began for me quite difficultly with a severe flair up of my Arthritis that lasted for weeks on end. My regular check up in March confirmed that my disease continues to progress slowly and has reached the point of osteoarthritis in my bad ankle. This means that in that ankle joint it is no longer an inflammation problem but a mechanical, degeneration problem that nothing can be done about. After experiencing 8 weeks solid of pain that word from the doctor was actually quite a relief as my imagination can, and had, run quite wild!
But the story really doesn't end there. I seems that in shutting me down God had something to teach me too.
"And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

It's a difficult lesson to keep re-learning but I'm trying to keep up! 

February brought a cool event in business and a new member to the family!
First, mom and I baked ourselves into a frenzy getting ready for a Chocolate Festival event sponsored by the local Red Cross.  We took all our dummie wedding cakes and plenty of samples of real cake and cookies too!

Also in February, David got a birthday buddy when his daughter, Isabella Rose, was born! Isabella quickly became our greatest joy and caring for her this year has been incredibly fulfilling!

As I have spent this (almost) first year with Isabella I have been reminded of the joy that comes by living life thorough the eyes of a child. They see everything differently and everything is new. To Isabella family means joy, music means kicking and bouncing and occasionally putting her ear against your mouth so she can hear the vibrations of singing, blankets and naps mean snuggling and looking trustingly into your eyes as she drifts off, and just about everything- from the first time I held her, right up to today- means laughter! She is without a doubt a bundle of joy in it's purest form!

Spring held new challenges for me as I was contacted by a woman in another state informing me that she owned the national trademark for (a variant) of my bakery name and as I was infringing on her rights she demanded I stop using the name! I was shocked to say the least and when legal paperwork began arriving at my door I must admit I was rather terrified.
Over the weeks that followed I again had quite a lot of thinking, and growing to do. You see the struggle over what to do wasn't just a legal one or a personal one but a spiritual one. As a professing child of God everything I am, and everything I have, is His.
Everything including my business.
And what God was clearly telling me through a series of circumstances and His distinctive, clear, small voice was to give it up. Next year, hopefully will bring a time of new beginnings and new frontiers in cake baking!

I took the summer off and focused on other, happier things! Some of my favorites were:

The Highland Games

Turning out to support Chick Fil A

Attending the grand opening of The Creation Museum's Stellar Observatory that now houses the Johnsonian telescope!

 I also continued my love of photography with the purchase of a new camera (a Canon PowerShot SX40) that I absolutely adore!! With it I have gotten some of the best shots of my life!

One of the best things about my year has been continuing to work with Bright Lights! Though the group started just last October our one year anniversary saw us with 26 girls in our group! Working with this ministry has challenged me in many ways and forced me to creatively look at challenges to find the good, the character opportunities, and the lessons out of them. Ministering in this group I have also gotten the very awesome opportunity to teach when my friend and leader Dani is out of town! I love teaching and it has made me dig deep into the Word to be able to communicate to the girls biblical principles!

Teaching on the Seder and it's relation to Christ

As we came into the fall I spent time volunteering with American's for Prosperity doing phone banking calls- yes, I was one of those annoying political callers! But it was fun and I felt I needed to get out there and work for a positive outcome in the upcoming election.
Despite disappointment in that department we found much to be thankful for and had a wonderful, delicious Thanksgiving dinner!


Rounding out the year has been participation in church choir, Bible Study Fellowship, gardening in the summer trying to nurture my tomatoes and herbs, scrapbooking, visiting Gran, volunteering at the local chapter of the National Bible Bee, teaching AIG's Demolishing Strongholds series to a group of my Bright Lights girls, Dog sitting, and making new friends like the ladies at Daughters of Decision!

All in all it has been a very full year!
A very hard year.
A very blessed year.

A dear friend has challenged me this year. Every day she has posted to her Facebook three things from her day that she was grateful to God for. Easy right? I tried it myself for a month- and failed miserably! It is so difficult to take my focus off of me and my problems and to find gifts from God in my day.
But this year I am going to change that.
I am going to journal one thing every day that God has blessed me with and given me and that I can be thankful for.
I hear it's revolutionary.
The journal I created to keep my thankful things in!

So here I sit, and it's rather late now. The family has all gone to bed and Christmas Eve has 'officially' arrived! Tomorrow (today), we will be off to celebrate with my Gran, and will be attending the candlelight service at church. It's something I love, and look forward to every year. But tonight, tonight I sit and bask in the glow of the first real live tree that we've ever had and I look at the glittering ornaments and my eye falls to the base of the tree where our newest nativity set stands regally and I smile.

Christmas is coming.
Christ mass is here.

Christ is here in my home, in my life, in my heart.
That is a daily challenge to live up to, a daily blessing to embrace.

And this year, with His presence, has been amazing!