Childhood Cinema Redux

3460Over our recent winter break, my husband and I introduced our two older kids to some comedies from our youth. The criteria were simple: streamable through Netflix, not too much bloodshed or T&A, and shorter than, say, 100 minutes.

Revisiting a childhood movie as an adult can be a disarming experience. I never understood all the fuss about A Christmas Story, for example, until I watched it as a parent. I screamed with laughter when the mom shut little Randy in the cabinet with his milk—not because it shocked me but because it could very well happen in our house.

We began this mini-festival with Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989). (Hey, it was sitting there most bodaciously for the taking.) It made me laugh as a teen and made me laugh now, especially Ted’s observation that “strange things are afoot at the Circle K.”

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An Introvert’s Resolution

womenaloneMy husband and I saw a stage production of Harvey in Milwaukee last month.

The Pulitzer-Prize winner, written by Mary Chase in 1944, certainly evokes a fair share of laughter and inquiry into the realms of belief, reality, and social norms. However, I left ruffled by Chase’s clear intention of presenting Elwood, the best friend of an imaginary rabbit, as a hero for chatting up the people he meets, inviting everyone from telemarketers to cab drivers to dinner.

What a nightmare. Sometimes I’m not even up for having dinner with my family or best friends, let alone the pharmacist at Walgreens.

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In Defense of Fruitcake

Runyan photoAt some point or another, every Christmas celebrant in America has to draw lines in the sand over the following doctrinal issues:

When is it acceptable to begin listening to Christmas music?
What are your thoughts on front yard inflatables?
Will you shop on Black Friday or boycott it and buy all the crap a couple weeks later?
To what lengths will you go to ensure that your tenth grader still believes in Santa?
What will be your game plan regarding the song “Christmas Shoes”?
How much fruitcake will you consume?

The first five questions have been known to tear families and friends asunder during this glorious time of year. But the one that unites enemies? Fruitcake. [Read more...]

A Tradition without Tryptophan

pb210006November is always an interesting time for a family of vegetarians.

While my three children have never lifted turkey to their lips, they’ve come home from school with a multitude of smiling birds cut out in the shapes of their hands, illustrated plates labeled peas, potatoes, and turkey, and all manner of pilgrims and Indians sitting before bulbous, crayoned drumsticks.

My children have also studied the confusingly whimsical psychology of turkeys facing certain death, a standard subject in contemporary childhood cinema and song. In second grade, my oldest daughter, Lydia, participated in several morbid numbers at a school performance, including “Five Fat Turkeys”:

Five fat turkeys short and plump.
The first one hid way high upon a stump.
The second one said, “We should run, run, run.”
The third one said, “or we’ll be done.”
The fourth one said, “I don’t want to be dinner.”
The fifth one said, “I wish I were thinner!”

Her performance was not convincing.

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Praying the “Sleeping Tune”

joypaintingIn an effort to help believers who struggle with prayer, many evangelical speakers and books have attempted to break the discipline down into manageable parts. As a young adult, I learned the acronym ACTS as a way to structure my conversations with God (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication). I’ve purchased, begun, and abandoned at least a dozen prayer journals and apps.

There’s nothing wrong with methods that help us commit to spiritual practices. However, these strategies haven’t helped me, at least lately, feel any more in tune with God. Or, to be more honest, I haven’t even tried to use them. I feel burdened by these resources then guilty for remaining silent while believers in other countries literally risk their necks to speak to their Creator.

In his book The Naked Now, Richard Rohr writes that “prayer is actually setting out a tuning fork. All you can really do in the spiritual life is get tuned to receive the always present message.”

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