Have you ever felt PERSECUTED?

Let me start by saying…. this post is long overdue.

Six weeks ago today, I was invited to attend the Los Angeles Premiere of the faith-based film entitled PERSECUTED. I was not familiar with the movie, therefore I did a little research before accepting the invitation. After seeing the trailer (above) and reading the synopsis, I was instantly intrigued. Not only because I LOVE a good political thriller, but also because this movie appeared to cross the invisible lines drawn in Hollywood about faith-based content being taboo. So, onward I marched…

And man oh man, am I glad I did. 

Without giving away too much of the story– which I tend to do when I’m enthusiastic about a film I’ve seen– I’ll make a few key points, and you can decide for yourself if it’s worth your personal time to see it. Fair enough?

The first thing I’d like for you to know is, while I am a follower of Jesus and this is a Christian faith-based film, I would recommend it to anyone who lives in the United States, regardless of their religious affiliation. Just as I often recommend American History X to people who display racism and close-minded hatred for others. Why? Because the religious theme is not the only one present. As I watched it, I was struck by the deeper message of how easy it would be for us to be manipulated and stripped of our religious freedom at the hands of the governmental officials we’ve elected and trusted to protect them. In other words, despite the fictional nature of PERSECUTED, it hits closer to home than I’d like to believe possible. In fact, like some of my favorite tv shows–CSI, Law&Order, and Scandal, to name a few– it has a storyline seemingly plucked straight from the headlines. “Imagine House of Cards for the religious set”, says  Politco Magazine …and I couldn’t agree more!

Second, the plot is reasonably plausible. Do I think it WOULD happen? No. Do I think it COULD happen? Sure. Anything is possible, especially when the people of a nation are kept remain largely in the dark about our state of affairs. Regardless, this is not a low-budget, work of cinematic crap. It’s a well-structured, entertaining feature with a cast of respected and recognizable actors who deliver solid, believable performances. James Remar, who stars as John Luther, the nationally acclaimed evangelist standing in the way of religious reform in America proposed by Senator Donald Harrison (Bruce Davison), has a commanding presence that brought forth thoughts of Harrison Ford’s performance in The Fugitive to my mind on more than one occasion.  And the addition of real-life FOX News personality, Gretchen Carlson, as the TV anchor interviewing Remar in flash sequences throughout the film is a brilliant casting choice to further emphasize the parallel between fact and fiction. Oh..and my favorite performance of PERSECUTED was that of comedian Brad Stine, who plays Pastor Ryan Morris, the all-to-eager-to-please, right hand to John Luther’s evangelical empire, TRUTH. At first, you think he’s a nice guy, and then…BAM…he morphs into a back-stabbing, smarmy bad guy more interested in the preservation of his own fame and fortune than in doing what is morally or ethically right. What a range! I wasn’t familiar with Stine as an actor before this film, but I’ll definitely be following his career now.

Lastly, this is a film your entire family can see together, and learn from. Sure, it’s got some violence and even bloodshed, but nothing traumatizing enough to keep me from wanting my daughters to see it. Certainly nothing that scratches the surface of what we see on the news today. And honestly, the video games kids play these days are more upsetting in their content than this movie even remotely tries to be. Plus, the action sequences, car chases, and edge-of-your-seat moments will certainly keep everyone tuned in, paying attention and eating lots of popcorn. It’s a win-win, in my humble opinion.

My final advice: Open your mind, buy the DVD when it releases on October 14, or rent it on Pay Per View. If you hate it, my apologies. If you don’t, share this post and spread the word. Either way, come back here and leave a comment so we can discuss it, like grown-ups hashing out politics and religion. Deal?

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The Legend of the Dogwood

One of the beautiful things I miss about the South. Photo courtesy of Peggy Farlow

One of the gorgeous things I miss about the South.            Photo courtesy of Peggy Farlow

Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays. No…not because of the bunny!  Although I’d be lying if I said I don’t enjoy making baskets for The Beans and witnessing their delight when they see the ‘bunny tracks and jelly bean poop’ on Sunday morning. Oh… and let’s not forget the egg hunts! When I was little the Golden Egg was always a Leggs pantyhose egg, spray-painted gold and stuffed with money. Finding that thing was like winning the dang lottery, and the search for it was reminiscent of a scene from The Goonies, boobie traps and all. I am the youngest in my family by 12 years, so my earliest recollection of the annual Romine Family Easter Egg Hunt had me running around with my nieces and nephews, who were toddlers (being assisted by their parents, aka my siblings) and finally ending up in tears because I was too old to hunt with the littles and too little to hunt with the adults. What’s a girl to do?

The festivities were great and all, but my fondest memory of Easter was a story Mama used to tell me. I don’t know the origin of it, or if it’s even true, although I’d really like to go on blind faith and believe it so. And I refuse to Google it. Something tells me it may be a Southern thing, since I’ve actually never seen a dogwood tree growing anywhere except down South. Truth is, I’d all but forgotten it, when I was reminded of it via a post shared by a family friend on Facebook. Of course when I saw the post, I smiled from ear to ear, knowing I would be able to retell it to y’all.

Here it is, as told by my mama, and I suspect many other Southern mamas as well: 

There is a legend that says, at the time of Crucifixion the dogwood had been the size of the oak and other forest trees. So firm and strong was the tree that it was chosen as the timber for the cross. To be used thus, for such a cruel purpose, greatly distressed the tree, and Jesus nailed upon it, sensed this.  In His gentle pity for all sorrow and suffering Jesus said to the tree:

” Because of your regret and pity for My suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a cross. Henceforth it shall be slender, bent and twisted and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross– with two long and two short petals. In the middle of the outer edge of each petal, there will be nail prints, brown with rust and stained with red. In the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns, and all who see it will remember.”

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Beautiful in its appearance and message.                               Photo credit: llerrah.com

To this very day, I can’t see a dogwood tree or blossom without thinking of Jesus and His sacrifice for my sins.

May we all be reminded of His Grace and Glory this Easter as well as the rest of our days.

 

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I love dolphins. Really…I do!!!

Anytime the thought “Mama would have loved this” crosses my mind,  I know whatever it’s in reference to is a keeper. So when that was the first thing I said after seeing the trailer for “Dolphin Tale 2” I knew I needed to share it with y’all. In fact, I’m not so sure there wasn’t some sort of motherly, ‘divine’ intervention behind me being asked by GraceHill Media to sneak peek the trailer and give my thoughts. After all, the film IS due out on September 19, 2014, and that happens to be Mama’s birthday! If she were alive, I could take her to see it in celebration of her 82 years on Earth. Unfortunately, that’s not possible…so I’ll just take The Beans in her honor, and remind them how much she would have loved it 🙂 Although I haven’t had the privilege of  seeing the entire film yet, The Beans and I saw the original Dolphin Tale when it was in theaters back in 2011. All four of us were laughing, crying and cheering simultaneously. It’s just that kind of movie. So to say I am excited for the sequel is an understatement! And with the original cast (Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson, Nathan Gamble, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, and Winter the Dolphin) teaming up again to help save a new member of the Dolphin Tale family, –Baby Hope–this film promises to be just as wonderful as the first one! Don’t take my word for it though; watch the trailer for yourself below…. and check back here as September draws closer, because I might just be participating in a Dolphin Tale 2 giveaway of some kind!!

Dolphin Tale 2 OFFICIAL POSTER

 

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Is God Real or Pretend?

I know what I believe: a very emphatic, loud, resounding YES MA’AM!  I mean, if you read this post , you’ll understand that it’s by His very Grace that I’m alive. In addition, I believe He is a loving God, who through the Christian principles and teachings I’ve chosen to follow from The Bible, compels us to be compassionate, tolerant, non-judgmental and forgiving. And also that, as Glennon Doyle Melton, of Momastery  puts it…“God is forever tries.” In other words, no matter how many times we sin, or how bad the sins are…if you ask Him to come into your life and forgive you….He does. No questions asked.

At the same time, I respect what you believe. Even though your answer to this question may be vastly different from mine. That’s perfectly fine with me, because differences are what make our world a unique place to live. I’ve never been one to force my beliefs on anyone, and I don’t plan on starting now, on the 42nd anniversary of my birth (yes, today is my birthday). The various religions of the world and their individual teachings and guidelines have always fascinated me. I’ve even sought classes on the History of Religions, only to enroll and find out it was not going to supply me with the knowledge I was seeking, so I dropped out. Oh well. I suppose as an eternal student of life, I’ll just have to keep looking. But anyway, enough about that.

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The reason for my post today is simple. I was asked by TLC Book Tours to review a book entitled “Is God Real or Pretend”, by Jennifer Horsman.

Is God Real or Pretend? is the story of young Franklin’s engaging and enlightening journey to answer this age-old question. Franklin’s grandmother, Dr. Wendy Knowles, a professor of astronomy, first provides Franklin with the basic scientific means of determining what is real and what is not and how science distinguishes questions it can answer and those it cannot. Franklin’s mission of discovery continues as he meets a kindly professor of Greek mythology who offers a historical-cultural prospective on the question. Here Franklin meets the Greek Gods and their timeless myths.

Once armed with these new ideas, Franklin meets with representatives of the world’s five major religions: Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Muslim. These knowledgeable teachers from the great religions charm and delight as they shine positive lights on their religion. Franklin asks probing questions, while learning to appreciate and admire the diversity and beauty of these religious beliefs and traditions. Ultimately, Franklin’s dynamic school report on the immensity and magnificence of the universe becomes the backdrop for thinking critically about religion and questions about God.

This book is designed for anyone and everyone, young and old, religious or not, who wants to know more about these five great religions. It’s the most unforgettable and exciting journey, one every thoughtful child (and the curious adults in their life) will enjoy.

REVIEW

Being the mother of The Beans –Sugar, Butter, and Sweet Pea– and having just concluded a glorious holiday season during which they were all three baptized in a beautiful ceremony, our family lit the last candle of Advent–the Christ Candle — at our church’s Christmas Eve service, and then witnessing them open the gifts Santa brought them on Christmas Day…..my biggest issue with this book is that on page 2 it clearly states “SANTA CLAUS IS NOT REAL.”  WTF? Seriously. For a book that is geared towards a young audience, that’s just…well…wrong in my honest opinion. And to think, I almost read it to my youngest two children, who still whole-heartedly believe in the magic of Santa. Talk about dodging a bullet inevitably designed to break a tiny heart! Now, I realize not everyone allows their children to believe this myth based on the assumption that it’s ‘lying’ to them. And hey…to each his own. But I, for one, plan to allow mine to enjoy the magic for as long as they choose to. They grow up fast enough. Besides, I’ve witnessed Christmas miracles in my life that could only be explained by belief in both God and Santa Claus. So there.

All that being said, the book does an effective job of explaining the 5 major religions of the world: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It talks about each one separately, outlines the major rules or principles its followers abide by and explains the differences between the faiths. At the same time, the author manages to highlight how the various religions are similar in their teachings on an elemental level, which I very much enjoyed. In addition, the book addresses the existence of God from a scientific perspective, discusses the history of Greek Gods, or polytheistic belief, and talks about Agnostics, or those who are unsure whether God exists at all. The language is easy to understand, and it flows well, which is definitely a plus for a book about religion. All in all, an interesting read full of useful information.

In the end, Franklin, the curious child at the center of this story, says  “I learned that religions all have different ideas of God, but that God still remains mysterious,” and, “All religions try to help people be better.”  Both valuable points, I believe. However, ultimately he decides he likes “the scientific way of knowing best.” For me, this is not the conclusion I would prefer my children to settle upon, but that’s likely because I feel the presence of God in my life, have a strong faith and want my daughters to grow up with the same. Because often, at the end of a particularly challenging period in one’s life….hope, belief and faith may just be all you have to cling to.

Think I’ll tuck this book away from the eyes of The Beans until they begin asking questions. For now, they love Jesus with all their hearts, and believe God is very real….which is fine by me!

The Beans just after their Baptisms.

The Beans just after their Baptisms.

Jennifer Horsman is the author of many popular books for both young readers and adults. In addition to a B.A. from UC Irvine in Social Ecology (don’t ask; no one knows what it means), she has spent a lifetime reading about religion, philosophy, history and science.

You can find her books at www.JenniferHorsman.com, or by clicking on her picture below.

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