Essential reading

I wouldn’t call myself an avid devotional reader. Apart from the Bible, the devotional literature I have read is minimal. So minimal in fact, that the devotional book I’m currently finishing is the only devotional book (apart from the Bible) I’m about to finish in its entirety.

It’s so good I couldn’t put it down. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis is essential reading for any Christian or anybody.

It’s humbling, challenging, inspiring, and glorifies God, and can put ego in perspective.

This God-focussed book may boil it down to Christ divine, his grace and love for fallen humanity is available for those who want to seriously follow him.

Of course, that summary may simplify this special, spiritual book, which will take one by the heart and spirit as much as the mind.

It’s also beautifully written as if God was orchestrating his music through it.


Perilous undertaking to save Middle Earth

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) ***** Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm. Director: Peter Jackson. I watched this film at the 171min length (DVD Widescreen Edition) Originally 178 minutes There are also the 208min length (Special DVD Extended Edition) and the 228min length (Blu Ray Extended Edition).

At school, we had to listen to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings being read. I never liked the book much. It was a bit unusual and strange with its epic themes somehow devoid of reality and a cast of strange characters of elves, hobbits and conjurers. The Lord of the Rings is now a film and a blockbuster at that. This makes all the difference to someone feeling foreign to the book.

The journey through Middle Earth could have felt like tedium, arduous for viewer. Yet the first part of The Lord of the Rings trilogy works and progressively ups the stakes.

The story is set in the world of Middle Earth which is undergoing a seismic upheaval as Sauron’s denizens the Ringwraiths seek a ring that in Sauron’s possession will control Middle Earth under an oppressive spiritual darkness.

A diminutive hobbit, the earnest, honourable Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), gets possession of the ring and on the advice of Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), a wisely, well-beared wizard, Frodo must take the ring out of his homeland, the Shire. If he does not leave, the Ringwraiths will track Frodo down to the Shire and kill Frodo and take possession of the ring.

Frodo and fellow hobbit, the faithful, good-humoured Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin) embark on an escape, without knowing anything much of the details of their journey onward. Yet with a mental road map of where to go next and one thing in mind: don’t let Sauron get possession of the ring.

Keep away from the roads, says Gandalf. Frodo will take the country. The Ringwraiths, dark and foreboding, who succumbed to evil but were once men, are tracking Frodo down on horseback and the danger makes for action, suspense and excitement.

Writer and director Peter Jackson doesn’t make it look easy for the hobbits. Even so there are some things that require one to suspend disbelief.

The film may get one thinking about the deeper meaning.

Like when Arwen (Liv Tyler) appears “out of nowhere” to assist Frodo, I thought that’s hard to believe because Frodo should have died. But thinking about it more, Arwen helps Frodo despite the dark or sinful influences, the “poison”.

The outcomes of Gandalf’s hopeless plight on a tower in Mordor will also make you think twice, in unbelief, but also awe.

The powerful scene of Gandalf trying to escape the demonic clutches of Sauron’s right-hand man Saruman (a deeply resonant Christopher Lee) leads up to it.

The middle breaks at Rivendale for the introduction of the fellowship of the ring, where representatives of the tribes of Middle Earth meet and join Frodo on his quest to eliminate the ring.

At Rivendale, there is time to explore, in this very long movie at almost three hours, the characters. Not necessarily a bad thing in slowing down the action, as the moments with the characters are rich, but may be aloof nevertheless.

I think The Fellowship of the Ring is better when it moves along with the action and creates meaning out of those actions, out of miracles, daring escapes, and facing conflict and evil.

The Fellowship of the Ring gets better and keeps on getting better, making this a vivid, panoramic tale where it is indeed a perilous undertaking to journey Middle Earth to save it.

New Year’s reality

On New Years, a dose of reality can be good for you. It makes you see the facts and where you stand. But if one gets depressed by it, a way out is utterly necessary, so one can find a “rebirth”, a fresh start, to begin again. How does one find that? Just re-think, not act on inspiration, but a practical response to a situation. Those are my thoughts on New Year’s.

Slice of life cuts to the heart

Places in the Heart (1984) ***** Starring: Sally Field, Danny Glover, John Malkovich. Director: Robert Benton.

The ending of Places in the Heart was considered by critics as out of place. The ethereal ending in a church where even deceased members of a Texas community in the 1930’s appear again was not logically following the sense of plot, they said. As the living and the dead sat around the communion table to remember the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made, the young black man who accidentally shot the sheriff because he was drunk offer one another a sign of peace by eating, in remembrance, the body and blood of Christ. The young man was lynched for his behaviour by the white males in the community and dragged through the town on a four-wheel drive. But at communion the perpetrator and victim reconcile because that’s what communion is about, how Christ can reconcile others.

The scene isn’t out of place. It resolves the relationship between the young man and the sheriff in the best way possible. The young man didn’t mean for the incident that took the life of the sheriff to happen, but it did, and these two victims come to communion and share forgiveness and reconciliation. They don’t have to be alive. It doesn’t have to be entirely literal and precise. The previous scene showed the problems and obstacles that black people faced in the 1930’s. In the next scene it shows how it can be resolved, around reconciliation.

A black man named Moses comes into the life of the widow of the sheriff although it’s through a sense luck rather than invitation. Blacks were considered second class citizens. Edna Spalding is kind and good at heart and gives Moses work, however unlikely. Moses encourages Edna to pay off the bank this season with his cotton-picking knowledge. Even if Moses must go, because of the Klu Klux Klan in the neighbourhood, she at least will know how to pick cotton next season. Moses, like the Moses of the Bible, is her deliverer.

Yet this inherently well-meaning and substantial story unwraps leisurely as a slice of life. Beautifully rendered storytelling, beautiful cinematography, and a vivid cast of characters in real life situations. Despite the hardships, forgiveness and facing the world with strength and resolve breaks through.

The best thing I can tell you

It’s a song chorus that has stuck in my mind because it is so simple and defined and to the point. Among a hubbub of various voices that say good things, some bad perhaps, some that are neither good or bad, this lyric stood out: The best thing I can tell you. What is the best thing any of us can say? What would it come down to when all is said and done? Benny Hester, the singer, said the best thing I can tell you is that God loves you. It’s as simple as putting everything down to that. Surrounded by theology and Bible verses, it comes down to God’s love in the end. I love that simplicity and resonance. For me, it comes down to Jesus really. That’s the best thing I can tell you.

Never say die

With three publishers wanting to see my work, you’d think I’d be happy about that. Well, I am, but it’s just three isn’t it? It’s casual writing work. Short writing or thereabouts. Like it. Would like more avenues but am grateful for what’s in the writing department.

With avenues for writers scarce in the religious genre, the younger ones are being promoted.  Did a lot back in the day when the publishers were still going. Hope the younger ones do well.

May just find something else as well. So I keep the possibility open. Have two websites I use for information on publishing somewhere else.

With the thought of possibility, one may never let the possibility die. Opportunities may come and go, but possibility can be forever, whatever happens. Because one thinks, what if? Then you keep on going.