Eleven-year-old Bernard Curtis Brown, II was like many boys his age. He liked playing basketball, even getting up early on Saturday mornings to practice. But unlike some boys his age, he loved to go to school. Because of his passion to learn, he was selected to attend a four-day National Geographic trip to California. Along with two other Washington, D.C. area students, he was looking forward to having an educational adventure at the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary.
As the trip drew near, Bernard told his father, a Navy chief petty officer who worked at the Pentagon, that he was scared to fly. As dads do, he tried to reassure his son that he’d be all right. Ironically, as his father would later say, they talked about death during that conversation. He told his son not to be afraid, because everyone would die someday.
When Bernard and the…
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You wouldn’t need to be a follower of the Christian music scene to have heard the hit song of the same name as this movie. This is the story behind the song that made its debut in 1999, but it took a lifetime to write it for Bart Millard, the lead singer who penned the song for his father, and then turned it into a hit with his band MercyMe.
The film version of “I Can Only Imagine” is brought to the big screen by the Erwin Brothers, Jon and Andrew, who’ve had some previous success with “Woodlawn” in 2015, “Mom’s Night Out (2014) and “October Baby” (2011). They seem to have a knack for finding backstories, as they did in “Woodlawn”, and also for putting actors with no film credits into their starring roles. Just as Caleb Castille—a football player-turned-actor—excelled in “Woodlawn”, J.Michael Finley gives an outstanding performance as Bart Millard, playing him from his teens through young adulthood. Finley’s background is musical theater, and that works for this character.
The story follows Millard’s life from about age 10 when he was growing up in Texas with a father who was frustrated and angry…and he took it out on Bart and his mother. She eventually leaves the home to get away from the abuse, but doesn’t take Bart along. Her last encounter in the film with him is quite touching, as she drops him off at a Christian camp, reminding him of her love for him. His experiences there end up being life-changing: not only does he find faith in Jesus, but he meets Shannon– the girl he’ll one day marry. The scene with young Bart and Shannon on the bridge is humorous and sweet and reminds us of simpler, more innocent days. Incidentally, the young actors who play Bart and Shannon as kids (Brody Rose and Taegan Burns) did great jobs in their respective roles.
It can’t be understated how well the performance of veteran actor Dennis Quaid (“A Dog’s Purpose”, “Soul Surfer”, “The Right Stuff”) comes off here. Quaid plays Bart’s father Arthur, who goes from being a “monster”, as even the real-life Bart described him, to being “the father I always wanted” (also Millard’s own words). From scenes of some of the aftermath of one of his bursts of anger at home, we know that he was once on his way to becoming a football star…until life, as it so often does, got in the way. As a result, he lashed out at home and tells Bart repeatedly why he must stop dreaming. Bart, a creative kid who excels in art and loves music, doesn’t know how to relate to his angry dad, and Arthur similarly doesn’t understand his son.
The two battle it out for years, but if you’re worried about there being a lot of violence and depictions of the abuse at home, I can say that this is surprisingly kept to a minimum, with maybe a couple of times where you are just caught off guard. So while it doesn’t show much of that, it’s certainly understood that Arthur has some serious anger issues.
The real beauty of this movie is in the redemptive message—a theme that is popular during the Easter season, as it should be. While Bart is off pursuing his dreams of a music career, Arthur is going through his own changes. After one really disappointing setback, Bart decides it’s time to return home to make things right with his dad once and for all. What he finds is a new Arthur, not the monster he grew up knowing. Again, both Finley and Quaid do an excellent job of conveying Arthur’s rebirth, and Bart’s need to forgive him for the past and embrace their newfound relationship. I don’t think it’s a spoiler alert to say that Bart wrote the song “I Can Only Imagine” after being inspired by something his grandmother said at his dad’s funeral. That song would not only change his life, but the lives of millions.
This review won’t be complete without mentioning the performances of a few supporting actors that stood out to me: Trace Adkins, the country music star who is really a very good actor too plays Brickell, the band manager/ mentor who is both kind and curmudgeonly; Cloris Leachman, as Bart’s quirky and faith-filled grandmother, who always says, “Mercy me!”, unknowingly giving Bart his band’s name; and Priscilla Shirer, Christian speaker and author who became known as an actor for her lead role in “War Room”—she plays Bart’s choir teacher Mrs. Fincher, who doesn’t allow Bart to keep his musical gift to himself.
“I Can Only Imagine” left me feeling uplifted and inspired because the message I took away from it was that there is no better way to honor our loved ones who are now gone than to pursue our God-given dreams.
If you’re looking for a great family outing this Easter weekend, this movie is it. If you’ve ever had a dream and were told to forget it…if you’ve ever had to forgive someone…or if you just like a good story, then it’s worth the price of admission.
It’s a long way from the dusty battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to the crystalline waters of Lake Clark in the mountains of Alaska. But every summer since 2012, hundreds of current and former members of the military and their spouses make their way there through Operation Heal Our Patriots, a ministry of Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse.
Many of these veterans arrive at Samaritan Lodge dealing with the aftermath of their service to our nation—wounded in their bodies, minds and spirits. The stress of learning to adjust to civilian life with their families and dealing with new physical limitations caused by injuries puts a strain on military couples. Many of them don’t make it. The ministry began as a way to reach out to these battle-weary soldiers and their spouses and help them refocus on building and maintaining strong marriages. Some couples, on the verge of divorce, find a new love for each other as they spend a week experiencing the natural beauty of Alaska and attending Bible-based marriage enrichment classes. Retired military chaplains are on staff to encourage and pray with attendees. Operation Heal Our Patriot marriage retreats often end with vow renewals for many of the couples, as well as baptisms for those who are either re-dedicating their lives to Jesus Christ or finding Him for the first time.
One couple who found respite during their time in Alaska is Army Staff Sergeant Juan Montealvo and his wife Tanya. A few days before Christmas in 2004, Montealvo was on a mission to deliver school supplies to Iraqi children in Mosul when a bomb planted by insurgents exploded near his vehicle. He survived that and several other explosions during his three combat tours to Iraq, and when he came home for good in 2010, Tanya noticed he wasn’t quite himself. Montealvo was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and went through physical and speech therapy. Tanya became his care-giver, and the strain of adapting to their new normal was something they never prepared themselves to handle.
When Tanya heard about Operation Heal Our Patriots, she believed it was an answer to their prayers and said, “Our souls, our spirits, our minds needed this to reset…I’m ready for a new beginning with my husband, walking along with Jesus.”
The ministry doesn’t end once these families leave Alaska, however. Ongoing outreach helps them to find a church or military chaplain in their local communities so they can develop a strong network of support. Reunions are also held at the Samaritan’s Purse headquarters in North Carolina so that participants can make new friendships and renew those they made in the Alaskan wilderness. All of this—including travel to Alaska—is free to the couples and is made possible by donations to Samaritan’s Purse/ Operation Heal Our Patriots.
This ministry is open to all current and former veterans who have served since September 11, 2001. Interested couples can go to the Samaritan’s Purse website to fill out an application. If you’d like to help send these brave American heroes to Lake Clark next summer, please consider making a donation on the website. What better way to say “thank you” to them this Veterans Day?
Thomas Paine once said, “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.” Of course, he was speaking of the American Revolution–possibly the only revolution in history to ever end well for the people that initiated it. What came of the sacrifices of so many brings us to this day, 241 years later.
This is our opportunity to thank God for this place called the United States of America. To thank Him for all He did in raising up the right people at the right points in history that allowed this nation to become the most powerful one on the face of the earth in such a relatively short period of time. To thank Him for people willing to sacrifice all they had to build this nation, and for those who have died and are continuing to die to secure freedom for future generations.
Unfortunately, many, if not most people won’t think about those generations of patriots as they celebrate what’s now only known as “The Fourth”. In between their picnics, parades and fireworks displays (all great things to be sure), it would be wise if all of us would take the time to read the Declaration of Independence—especially those who have children. Do they— do we really understand what it meant when those 56 men put their signatures to that document? As British subjects, they were committing treason. They were setting themselves—and their loved ones—up for certain hardship and possibly death. It’s important that we not forget this and that the youngest among us hear the stories of these people that they are likely being denied in the public schools of today.
Stories like one of the lesser-known of the Declaration’s signers, Francis Lewis. Not long after putting his name on the iconic document, while he was still away, the British forces were sent to destroy his home in Whiteside, New York. His beloved wife Elizabeth was living there at the time and tried to remain calm as a warship fired on their home. All of their belongings were destroyed and pillaged, and Elizabeth was taken captive. The conditions of her life in captivity were extreme–little food, no change of clothing and no bed. When General George Washington managed to make an exchange of prisoners–it took some time to do so– Elizabeth’s health had deteriorated and she died in 1779 in Philadelphia.
The same fate awaited many of the other signers and their families. Tragically, if students in today’s public schools hear anything about these people, it’s likely to be negative: “rich, white, slave-owners”. It’s possible that if enough young people hear the words of the Founding Fathers—and I’d even go as far back as the pre-founding generation (the Pilgrims)***—they might realize and be humbled at what it took to build the nation.
Younger Millenials and those after them–Generation Z, or Centennials– could be the ones to turn things around again. Maybe, like King Josiah in the Bible, after hearing the words of God’s long-lost Law for the first time, they’ll be moved to tears when they read these words from our Declaration of Independence: “…with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
They’ve had their heritage stripped from them, and many aren’t even aware of it. If or when they ever do look up from their ipads, iphones and video games to realize it, they may be pretty upset at the generations before them for keeping them in the dark. For keeping them entertained but un-enlightened.
They need to know that the United States of America is still the last best hope for freedom for people from all over the world, even in our current circumstances, which admittedly aren’t good. It would do us all good to keep in mind the words of people like Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian evangelical minister and author who spent 14 years in a Romanian prison for his faith. In 1967, he called America the hope of every enslaved man, and reminded Americans of a truth that may be even truer now: that freedom-loving people all over the world are counting on us not to let the flame of liberty burn out. Wurmbrand said: “I have seen fellow prisoners in communist prisons beaten, tortured, with 50 pounds of chains on their legs—praying for America…that the dike will not crumble; that it will remain free.”
With that said enjoy the festivities—but take time to remember. Happy Independence Day!
Every year since 1997, people in North Korea have celebrated April 15th as “The Day of the Sun”. It’s apparently the most important holiday the nation has where they celebrate the anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birthday. He was the founder of North Korea and its former president, who—were he still alive and kicking—would be 105 years old.
The citizens of North Korea go all out for The Day of the Sun with a big parade where children get candy. But don’t look for floats made of paper flowers or clowns from the Shriner’s Club trying to get some laughs out of spectators by driving around in tiny cars. This parade is highlighted by showing off its weapons of war. Lots of them. Current president Kim Jong Un was there and he’s all about the fire power.
As all this took place yesterday, Christians here and around the world prepared to celebrate a different kind of power—the resurrection power of Jesus Christ—on this day, Easter Sunday. After remembering his suffering and violent death on Good Friday, we wait through the silence of Saturday to get to the joy of Sunday morning.
What a striking contrast of two celebrations. One that remembers a man who started a communist nation and celebrates by flaunting its military might that could wipe out millions of lives in mere moments. The other, held in gratitude and remembrance for a man who was God in the flesh—Jesus, the Son of God. Believers all over the world celebrate not so much the death of Jesus, but His life. What makes it so different is the empty tomb.
The man celebrated by North Koreans this weekend died and he stayed dead. His bones are still lying in his grave. But, with the power of God His Father, Jesus the Son rose again on the third day, and the Good News is—He’s alive and His Spirit lives in anyone who puts their faith in Him to forgive their sins. Jesus, the One Who Saves, beat death once and for all…and because of Him, so can we.
Now that’s real power—and that’s something to celebrate.
In 2015, pro-life organization The Center for Medical Progress began exposing via undercover videos the shocking practices of Planned Parenthood clinics that have been involved in the harvesting and selling of tissue and organs from unborn children. Several videos—one more disturbing than the next—showed high-level PP executives admitting to CMP undercover journalists that they often alter their procedures in order to preserve vital organs of these unborn babies in order to sell them to various companies who sell them for scientific research. (Check out the original postings here and here).
Just last week, with the release of another video, two CMP journalists, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, were charged with 15 felonies by California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Becerra’s charges center on “invasion of privacy” issues, saying that recording someone without their knowledge is against California law.
It should be noted that Beccerra is a former Democrat member of Congress, and his predecessor, Kamala Harris has a long and friendly relationship with the nation’s largest abortion provider. Harris ran successfully for the U.S. Senate due in part to help from her friends at PP, that were undoubtedly paying her back for not going after them 2 years ago when the first videos were being released. Like Becerra, she too went after the whistleblowers at the Center for Medical Progress, but all those charges were eventually dropped as having no validity.
In this newest video, Dr. DeShawn Taylor, Medical Director Emerita of Planned Parenthood Arizona, is captured on tape making some pretty callous comments about her work, and how she profits off the destruction of the unborn. At one point, she talks about the strength that it takes in her upper arms to perform abortions where “disarticulation”—a fancy word for dismemberment—is done with the forceps. Remembering her glory days as a young Fellow training to kill innocent children, Dr. Taylor recalls having to “hit the gym for this. [laughs]. I need to hit the gym.”
As if that weren’t enough, this medical professional, when asked about how signs of life are determined during an abortion, Dr. Taylor admits, “the key is you need to pay attention to who’s in the room, right? And like, you know, because the thing is the law states that you’re not supposed to do any maneuvers after the fact to try to cause [fetal] demise. So it’s really tricky. It’s really tricky so, most of the time we do dig [digoxin], and it usually works. And then we don’t have to worry about that because Arizona state law says if any, if there’s signs of life, then we’re supposed to transport them. To the hospital.” Dr. Taylor also expresses her distaste for the word choice of those who do the paperwork once her job is done: “We have the people who do our paperwork for the fetal death certificates; they email us calling them ‘babies’. Baby this, baby that, baby so-and-so, and I’m like, that’s creepy!”
In Dr. Taylor’s world, calling an unborn human being a “baby” is creepy. No, what’s creepy, doctor, is that you go on to actually find some compassion—for your staff, who according to you, get creeped out when a baby actually comes out looking like—a baby: ““It’s not a matter of how I feel about it coming out intact, but I gotta worry about my staff and people’s feelings about it coming out looking like a baby.” If you can take watching the entire video, you can watch it here.
CMP journalists Daleiden and Merritt were only doing what journalists used to do as a matter of practice. Going undercover to break a story goes back a long way in our history as part of our Constitutional Freedom of the Press. It seems the attorney general’s office in California only cares about the state’s privacy laws when the journalists doing the exposing are those who agree with a particular worldview. As a California Democrat, it would be hard to imagine that Becerra himself hadn’t benefited from Planned Parenthood as he pursued public life. It’s also very strange that other undercover journalists using the same tactics as CMP had not been charged with breaking privacy laws there in the past few years. For example, in 2014 and 2015, a California animal rights group, Mercy for Animals, released some videos that showed cruelty against animals at a chicken farm. The organization was never charged with violating privacy laws, but the government did investigate the farm. This was also the case for incidents with other animal rights groups who exposed similar incidents of cruelty.
If California is going to limit freedom of the press there, they should do so across the board instead of making examples of David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Then they can free themselves from their already sketchy attachment to the U.S. Constitution. Better yet, maybe that whole succession movement in the Land of Fruits and Nuts will actually take hold.
It was one of those headlines that you know is fake news, or at least extremely-manufactured news. But, like a train wreck—it’s sometimes hard to look away. A recent Yahoo News (of course) headline screamed, “Disney Princesses Show the Terrifying Reality Facing Women in Trump’s America”. It was linked to an article in Glamour magazine’s news and politics section. Who knew the magazine that feeds women (and men) unrealistic images of how women should look and act had a political section, much less can be taken seriously on a topic they say is a “War on Women”?
Nevertheless, the article sounded the alarm to the women of America that women’s healthcare in the Trump administration may all but disappear. Healthcare, by the standards of women like this, is usually defined by two things: abortion and birth control. So this article claims that any dismantling of Obamacare will be especially devastating to women. The author pointed to a couple of women who wanted to use their writing and illustration skills to help combat the supposed “GOP war against women.”
Illustrator Maritza Lugo and writer Danielle Sepulveres joined forces and imagined life for several female Disney characters if the Affordable Care Act is repealed and replaced. They depict Beauty and the Beast’s Belle (below) as no longer being able to get her birth control; Disney’s first Latina princess, Elena of Avalor, getting turned away from Planned Parenthood (by Cinderella’s evil step-sisters, no less); Pocahontas being denied overage due to a pre-existing condition, and Aladdin and Jasmine are forced to hold a funeral for their miscarried child.
First of all, what kind of a twisted mind do you have that you re-imagine these fictional, innocent ladies as going to a Planned Parenthood clinic or buying birth control? Who even goes there?
Second, what world are they living in if they believe that women didn’t have access to Planned Parenthood and birth control until the Affordable Care Act became law? Women who wanted these services had wide-open access to them long before Obamacare, and nothing is likely to change that. That last scenario with Aladdin and Jasmine is just bizarre—has Trump made some proclamation that parents who experience the pain of miscarriage must hold funerals for them? Where do these women get this stuff?
I’m guessing it comes from people like those who planned and spoke at the rabid rally of women held right after Trump’s inauguration. When you get women like Ashley Judd and Madonna pouring out venomous rants in front of largely left-wing women who take the time to march for rights they already have, you’re bound to inspire other mad women to take something good and pure and turn it into something absurd.
If only they would open their eyes from their fantasy War on Women and fight against some real-world problems that are going on while they whine. Things like the women who leave Planned Parenthood every single day, no longer pregnant, but wounded emotionally and –very often—physically. Or why don’t they cry out for all of the Black and Hispanic babies who make up the vast majority of the innocent victims of Choice inside the walls of Planned Parenthood? How about shedding some real tears for the real women, girls and boys that are lost inside the dark underworld of human trafficking and slavery? Will they be planning any marches on their behalf?
No, but they are planning to continue their “fight” sometime soon (see update below). The planners of the Inauguration weekend women’s march are said to be planning more forms of resistance, like a strike to be held sometime in the near future. No one really knows what they’re striking against or when it will be. It could possibly be held on May 1st. That’s the day that many labor groups like the SEIU will be holding a strike to “resist fascism and autocratic leadership.” Or maybe tomorrow, International Women’s Day, will inspire them to go on strike against whatever it is they’re angered over–which seems to be just about anything.
Incidentally, these women really should be thanking the GOP this week. It seems that Paul Ryan’s new replacement for Obamacare keeps all the things that make it so horrible, and ignores the free market altogether. According to the Washington Examiner, “…the GOP bill preserves much of the regulatory structure of Obamacare; leaves the bias in favor of employer healthcare largely intact, replaces Obamacare’s subsidies with a different subsidy scheme, and still supports higher spending for Medicaid relative to what was the case before Obamacare.”
Nice going, GOP. Now you can own the healthcare mess. What was that some nice lady once said about putting lipstick on a pig?
UPDATE 3/8/17 5:14 CST: They did it! Today, International Women’s Day was “A Day Without Women” where women were supposed to forgo working in an effort to protest “inequality”. Nothing like protesting the supposed pay gap and glass ceiling by not showing up to the job you have—makes sense only to progressives.
The annual gathering of pro-life advocates took place today in Washington, where just one week ago, Donald Trump was sworn in as our 45th president. As so often happens, those who march come from all over the country, braving the typical January gloom and cold weather in order to take their stand for the most innocent of human lives with this year’s theme being “The Power of One”.
Since the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade in January 1973, more than 58 million innocent lives have been snuffed out—many for a profit—as was exposed by the horrific videos from an investigation done by the Center for Medical Progress in 2015. Hundreds of thousands showed up to hear speakers ranging from Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) and Baltimore Ravens team member Benjamin Watson. Watson issued a challenge to men to be leaders in the pro-life movement, telling the cheering crowd, “It is past time that we be the leaders, caretakers and providers that we were meant to be… even if it wasn’t demonstrated for you by a father, you can be different, you can change the course of [a] generation.”
Vice President Pence brought renewed energy that the new administration will be more open to the pro-life cause than the preceding one was. He is the first vice president (or president) to address the March for Life crowd in person. Before the march this morning, Pence encouraged participants by telling them, “Life is winning in America because of you…let this movement be known for love, not anger. For compassion. Not confrontation.”
That may have been a thinly-veiled jab at the lunacy, bitterness, and filth that came from the likes of Madonna and Ashley Judd, who led profanity-laced rantings at the Women’s March held last weekend after Trump’s inauguration. Of course, pro-life women were excluded from that one.
The March for Life comes just after a newly-released undercover video from the organization Live Action exposing the continual lie of Planned Parenthood that they are all about prenatal healthcare for women. Watch the video and you’ll see that they called and visited PP offices across the country—and found only 5 that actually offered it.
More good news for the unborn came earlier in the week when Congress voted for a permanent ban on taxpayer-funded abortions. The law also bans the federal government from subsidizing elective abortions. For his part, President Trump re-instated a ban that had begun with President Reagan against U.S. government funding and promotion of overseas abortions.
This isn’t a bad start for the new president, especially where life issues are concerned…unless you’re Madonna, Ashley Judd or one of the thousands of women who marched last weekend. They seem to be obsessed with their own bodies (and body parts), and their message does nothing but set women back decades, making us all look bad. (More on this next time)