The Identical Opens This Weekend. I’m Taking My Family to See It. You Should Too.

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What is it about Elvis?

Decades past his death, his magic remains. Is it the smoky eyes, the unique voice and style? Or is it the good guy, the gentle, deeply-spiritual soul that behind those blue, blue eyes?

I think it was and is the whole package. Elvis was American and his story was the story of much of America at that time, only writ large.

His family suffered during the depression, clawed their way out of deep poverty after World War II, and Elvis himself took off like a meteor, right along with his country, in the 50s. Elvis was energy and maleness, wrapped in basic decency and kindness. He was us, as we were then.

He must still be us on some level. Why else would his image and his story continue to captivate so long after his death?

The Identical is a bit like Elvis himself, in that it is based on good people making hard decisions in tough times. The Christian ethos of Elvis the man runs throughout the story in a deliberate but unselfconscious way.

The story uses an Elvis look-alike as its main character and is based — very loosely — on the fact that the real Elvis had a twin brother who died. I’ve read that Elvis felt the presence of this brother throughout his life.

In the movie, both twins survive, but one of them is given up for adoption, due to hard times. Both boys grow up loved and cared for by parents who adore them. The adopted child ends up experiencing something I’ve witnessed in adopted people I know: The call of a heritage that doesn’t quite fit the family they love and that cherishes and loves them.

We are ourselves from the moment of conception. This innate self is shaped by and reacts to the environment in which we are raised and live. But no matter the environment, this innate self will always win out at some level.

A person who has a deep and abiding talent for, say, music, will feel the call of that talent, no matter if he or she is raised by a family of people who are tone-deaf and without rhythm or not. This difference between the adopted and the family that adopts them is a fundamental expression of the innate person they are.

It has nothing to do with loving their parents or being loved by them. It does not change the fact that this is their family. But it does mean that adoptive parents will raise happier adopted children if they give space for the real person their child is to emerge in healthy ways.

The Identical is a tale of adoption, and the striving to be oneself in a sphere that doesn’t quite fit.

It is also a story of love and grace.

Because love has the power to make all things right between people. And grace from God is the transforming agent that lifts love up.

I had an opportunity to see a preview of the The Identical.  I recommend the movie. It has a fine cast, topped by Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd. It demonstrates the maturing of Christian entertainment that is beginning to occur.

Ray Liotta puts in a beautiful performance as the adoptive father. This performance sharpens the movie’s dynamic and gives it power. He manages to create a character that is both a stern and a loving man; someone who is full of human weakness but who is also deeply and absolutely honorable and loving. His character is balanced by Ashley Judd’s performance as the gentle Southern mama.

It is no easy trick to give artistic dimension to good people. Any painter will tell you that the light is the hardest — and most important part — of the image.

Liotta pulls The Identical together and makes it tick because he achieves that.

The Identical will open in theaters this weekend. I’m taking my family to see it. I recommend you do the same.

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New York Judge Rules that “Close Friends” Can Legally Adopt Children

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Surrogate Rita Mella

Let me repeat myself:

I try to be cynical, but I just can’t keep up. 

A New York judge has ruled, by way of a “new interpretation of intimate,” that close friends may now adopt a child together.

From the National Catholic Register:

NEW YORK — A New York state judge has delivered an unprecedented ruling that says close friends who live in separate households can legally adopt children together.

“KAL and LEL are two loving adults who are both functioning as G.’s parents and have a relationship with each other built on a solid, decade-plus friendship,” stated Surrogate Rita Mella in her Dec. 27, 2013, ruling from Manhattan surrogate court.

Surrogate Mella’s ruling, “The Matter of G.,” involves two friends, living in separate households, who decided to adopt a child from Ethiopia together in 2011. According to court papers, the woman, identified as KAL, first wanted to conceive a child via artificial insemination. She then told her wish for a child to her male friend, identified as LEL, who then offered to donate his own sperm. Both KAL and LEL have been friends since 2000, and LEL’s offer meant KAL would not have to use an anonymous sperm donor. After failed attempts at in vitro fertilization, KAL and LEL decided to adopt “G.,” a 2-year-old child from Ethiopia …

 

…  “It’s madness,” Ed Mechmann, director of the family life office for the Archdiocese of New York, told the Register. “It just shows how far our society has gone once we move away from marriage as the norm, and we leave these things up to judges. It really just shows there is no limit.”

While Mella’s ruling may be unprecedented, the judge outlines the legal basis for how she came to the conclusion that close friends could adopt under New York state law. Mella noted that the state’s domestic relations law was amended in 2010 to allow “any two unmarried adult intimate partners together” the ability to adopt, alongside single persons and married couples..

But Mella said it was “difficult to identify a definitive plain meaning of [the term] ‘intimate partners,’” since the New York Legislature did not bother to define the term.

She added, “It is a relatively new phrase, and one of many imprecise terms used to describe relationships along a continuum between ‘acquaintance’ or ‘friend’ and ‘sexual partner’ or ‘spouse.’”

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/close-friends-go-ahead-and-adopt-rules-n.y.-judge?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2014-01-15%2006:25:01#ixzz2qUYI8Sd8

Book Review: Trusting God on the Rocky Bottom of Life

To join the discussion about Rock Bottom Blessings, or to order a copy, go here RockBottomBlessings 1

Rock Bottom Blessings is Karen Beattie’s autobiographical description of finding the hidden blessings in the losses that everyone faces in life.

The rock bottom for Mrs Beattie was losing her job and her dream of adopting an Ethiopian baby.

Mrs Beattie married at the age of 40. She and her husband were both in the grip of delayed dreams they wanted to fulfill while life still gave them enough time to do it. They heard their life-clocks, ticking away the time they had to do these things.

For her husband, the delayed dream was a career change from journalism to counseling. Since his new wife had a well-paying job, they couple decided he should pursue this dream. He was accepted into a good school and received a scholarship to pursue his studies.

At the same time, the couple began trying to fulfill Mrs Beattie’s delayed dream of having a baby. After infertility treatment and two miscarriages, she accepted that she would not be able to have a baby herself, and immediately turned to international adoption.

The couple ran head-on into the spider’s web of government regulations and expense which has grown up around these adoptions, but moved ahead with the process, anyway. Then Mrs Beattie lost her job, and the financial wherewithal to adopt along with it.

Ultimately, they were faced with a decision as a couple as to whose dream they would go for: The husband’s dream of changing careers, or Mrs Beattie’s dream of international adoption. They chose to go for the career change.

I won’t spoil the book by telling you what happens next. What I will do is say that the needs of children are being lost in these adoption regulations.

While we debate what are essentially red herring issues such as whether or not homosexual couples should be allowed to adopt, we ignore the overwhelming adoption issue, which is the red tape and expense we have hung on this process. This spider’s web of regulations often make it impossible to place children in loving homes.

The truth is, children languish in situations which are destructive to them as human beings while their potential parents grieve because they can’t adopt.

Private adoptions have become fraught with the peril of emotional devastation for adoptive parents. So much so, that many people simply won’t try it anymore. I personally know a couple who arranged a private adoption, only to have the birth mother change her mind later and take the baby away from them.

This is hell for the adoptive parents, and hell for the baby.

I do not want to see young women coerced into giving their babies up for adoption. But neither the birth mother nor the birth father should be able to change their mind after the baby goes to the adoptive home. I also think that we need firm limits on how long parents who have had their children taken from them for drug addiction or mistreatment of the children will have to demonstrate changes in their lives. If the parents do not care to change, these children should be placed for permanent adoption so they can have a chance at life. 

This is a difficult issue for the simple reason that social workers are sometimes ham-handed in removing children from homes. I know of instances where this was done for trivial or even bogus reasons. Other times, they leave children in abusive situations so long that the children end up getting killed.

There is one thread running through all of this: The needs of the children come last in our system.

We have developed a “rights based” system of government in which children are not given the power of “rights” of their own to defend themselves.

Mrs Beattie’s book is a small window on this world of adoption. That is not the book’s primary focus. The main storyline of the book is Karen Beattie’s attempt to grapple with the disappointments of her life through her Christian faith.

Don’t be bitter. She admonishes herself at one point, which is good advice for all of us. She struggles to understand how God can love her and still deny her the gift of children.

All in all, the book is an interesting read. The narrative moves well and keeps you interested as you wait to see if this good woman will be able to realize her dream of adopting a child.


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