Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My Rants of the Cry-baby-in: At Word's End

Hello, everyone and welcome to my thoughts about Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End. First off, I loved it. I loved the acting, I loved the complex plot, I loved the double-triple-quadruple crossing, I loved the wit, I loved the FX, I loved the cameo by Keith Richards!

Consider it fair warning: the movie is long, stuffed with characters, overly extended ocean battles, surreal interludes, mythological references, quasi-political messages and a few plot holes. If you can't look past all that and enjoy the movie, don't watch it.

I spent a bit of time this morning reading some of the reviews and most of the critics appear to agree that though it is cinematically spectacular and the special effects are great and actually advance the plot, that the movie itself is a disappointment. I respectfully disagree.

The movie was surprisingly cohesive for me. They wrapped up almost all of the storylines, resolved most things and teasingly left off the story much like it began in the first movie: With Jack sans ship (I'm in the market, as it were) and scheming on how to achieve immortality (Ah, but you *have* heard of me). Let's count down the major characters: Will and Elizabeth have a cursed, but happily ever after... Bootstrap makes peace with his son... Davey Jones is reunited (forcefully) with Calypso... The EITC gets its comeuppance... Norrington comes to a noble end... Barbossa gets the Pearl ... Governor Swann dies at peace ... the crew of the Black Pearl get to sail away ... No loose ends, right?

Do you think they plan it out or just make it up as they go along?

So why did people think it was so hard to follow? Well, admittedly, they shot it simultaneously with Pirates 2 and they started shooting without a complete script, so I'm actually impressed that it was as coherent as it was. I prefer to think of this movie as deep and worthy of watching a 2nd or 3rd time. Enjoy it the first time just for the whimsy. Watch it again to get the subleties.

I'd write more now, but I'm out of time. I'll try to get back to this laters. Drink up, me 'earties, yo-ho!


For commenters: If you've seen the movie, please include your favorite line.

One of mine was: [Jack deftly uses a counterweight to fly himself from aboard the Dutchman to the Pearl as his crew watches, amazed. Speaking from high above them on a yardarm: ] And that was without a single drop of rum!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

I'm feeling...

The past week has been pretty emotional for me. I consider myself to be a pretty level guy, emotionally. However, this past week has been a rollercoaster ride. I don't want to get into much self-disclosure here, rather I want to share with you some of my introspections for your edificaiton and consideration.

Self-worth: One of my emotional rides this week concerns my relationship with my father. Basically, I've been pretty angry with him for the past year or so and I've struggled with that anger. Scripture tells me that a spirit-led person will not dwell in anger. Anger, bitterness, malice... these are all things that are ways for Satan to have a foothold in my life (Ephesians 4). I have spent the past year carefully considering the words I speak to my father, measuring the outcome of my talks with him. I have tried to be open to his hurt and considerate of the anger, hurt, and bitterness that has driven him. But I haven't seen him as a person. He's my father. He's the one who knows what to do. He is my example... but I feel so disappointed in him for failing in all these roles for me. I yelled at him this week, which is not typical of me. I felt bad about it later, but not much. It wasn't until I read the following that my heart broke and convicted me. This passage was actually directed at wives toward their husbands, but I read it in my situation: (from Capture His Heart by Lysa TerKeurst)

God loves you deeply and understands the pain in your heart. God loves your [father]. He loves him for who he is, regardless of mistakes or sins. Our God is the loving father who everyday scans the horizon searching for the prodigal son to appear so He can rush to him and embrace him and carry him home.

While it may sound a bit judgemental to compare my dad to a prodigal son, I really believe that he is living in rebellion to God right now, so I believe it fits. Regardless, my problem in remaining angry with him is that it is simply not my job. I want to hold him accountable, I want him to understand the hurt I feel. I want him not to just say words to me, but back it up with different behavior. In short, I want him to be the way I want him to be.... and that just isn't going to happen. I need to learn to let go of Dad and give him to God. I believe God will answer my prayer to either change Dad or change me, or a bit of both. But I can't change Dad.

What does all that have to do with self-worth? Basically, I was feeling a bit like a failure. A failure as a son, a failure as a Christian brother... even a failure as a Christian because it was all about me. I put myself in the role of having to bring about change that I am utterly incapable of affecting, both in my Dad and in myself. I await to see what happens when I let God change my own heart and hopefully let him work on Dad, too. (It is beyond my control)

Appreciation: Connected to my turmoil over my relationship with my Dad is my sense of appreciate for how God has blessed, is blessing and continues to bless me and my family. Dad wrote to me the day after I yelled at him:

I know life hasn’t been easy for you. I know about the frustrations you’ve experienced over lost jobs. I know Ethan’s diabetes is a challenge for all of you. I also know that all is not always rosey at the Heard household. I won’t even guess at the feelings that float around the house with two families living together. And believe me when I tell you I know married life isn’t always peaches and cream . . . I see that you always want to do good and you strive to make it easy for people to be happy. I know you sacrifice yourself in many ways to help others. . .

In his letter, Dad projected that my hurt was related to all the other stressors in my life. He listed some of those that he knew about, and I'm sure he is partially right. Life isn't easy, even for those people that make it look easy. I had a former youth group member chat with me the other day and I told her that I wasn't very happy with some things and she commented, "Really? I thought your life was pretty good." Coming from her, I can certianly understand what she meant. She's had abundant challenges in her own short life and she looks at me and thinks I've got it all together. How often do we do this to others? Conversely, we have what my Dad did: look at all the challenges other people face and assume that those things make life really tough for that person. I'm sure that the truth lies somewhere in between those extremes. I'll be the first to admit that this is a difficult, transitional time in my life. I'm not living in my ideal circumstances, but by and large, I am abundantly blessed. I can agree with the Psalmist, "God is my guide, I lack for nothing in my life." (Psalms 23)

Anyhow, I've spent a while composing this post and while this is not everything that I want to convey right now, I'm out of time for typing. I hope I can get back to it. Meanwhile, I wish God's greatest blessings on you as you seek to honor Him.


Sunday, May 6, 2007

Camera Disaster

I'd planned a special treat yesterday for the kids (and for Amelia). I got the kids dressed up and took them on a photo shoot - to get some nice pictures to make a frame for Mother's day. Well, the kids were doing well... we drove downtown to take some pictures. I was pretty excited because I just got my new telephoto lens for my camera. After taking a few shots at the paramoutn, we went to the Minter Memorial to take some shots. I decided that I didn't have enough room to maneuver for the telephoto lens, so I put the regular 14-45mm on the camera and we walked a block or so to the waterfall. That is when disaster struck >sob<

The area is enclosed by buildings, bushes and design, so I wasn't worried about the kids running off, so I focues on just Eleanor for a few minutes. She kindly sat still while I took this picture:

I liked the shot, so I calle MH and Ethan over to arrange a posed shot. Ethan wasn't all that happy about sitting still when there were rocks, leaves and trash to throw into the fountain nearby, but I set the camera down on the bench and picked him up and put him where I wanted him. Then I stood up and... stepped back... and...

The neck strap for the camera was caught on my leg and the action of standing up pulled the camera off of the bench and sent it crashing into the pavement!!! I screamed. I literally screamed. I think I startled some passers-by and the kids asked me, "What's wrong, Daddy?" Daddy just busted his expensive camera! Shaking, I picked up the camera and tried to snap a photo. Nothing. I turned it off and back on. The power-on screen came up.... that was a good sign... I looked into the view finder... it showed the f-stop and light meter reading... that was a good sign. I inspected the camera body and lens... a few dings... I breahed a sigh of relief. My anxiety lessed a bit and I tried to take the picture of the kids I'd just framed. However, much to my consternation, the Auto-focus didn't work. Nuts. I tried to manually twist the focus ring and it didn't even change the focus one bit. Experimenting, I took this picture:

While it doesn't look too bad at that resolution, here it is close up...

So... drama aside, I damaged the focusing capability of my primary lens. Grrrr...
Thankfully, I have the telephoto lens in the mean time. I'll just have to back up 5 feet to take any picture I want to get. If anyone wants to part with their 14-45mm Zukio Digital SLR lens for an Olympus EVolt E500 for a decent price... let me know. *sigh*

- sadly yours, jeff

Friday, May 4, 2007

Parental Humor

I love the comic strip Baby Blues. What makes it so funny is how real it is. The author puts a slightly funny twist, but by and large, this stuff really happens to parents. It is funny because it is real.

Recently, someone sent me a "Job Description" for parents that I posted on my googlepage. Anyhow, it got me thinking about parents and I thought I'd share some of those moments that I found from the early days of Baby Blues (1997). The following images are all copyright to Baby Blues Partnership, distributed by King Features Syndicate. Follow the links to view their home on the web.
Real life: One night, Ethan comes into our room and informs us that Eleanor is crying in her crib. Muttering to myself as I swung my feet out of bed to go and check on her, I said, "Why is she even awake?" Ethan helpfully replied, "I was poking her."

I am truly blessed to enjoy coming home each day and having three banshees running at me, crying out, "Daddy!" as if it is the most wonderful thing to happen. I have also gotten some withering looks from under appreciated caregivers as I bask in my unearned glory.

There is no such thing as "baby-proofing" a house. The above cartoon is not an exaggeration. Toddlers can climb, rappell, tunnel, bore, infest and even teleport to places that would you imagained inaccessible. It's true.

Amelia has done a wonderful job of recording details of our lives for later recall in beautiful scrapbooks. We try to record everything accurately. Really.

This one is for Amelia. Our children will use proper grammar if it kills us.

This one made me laugh because I currently have (as of May 5th, 2007) in my bedside table the Christmas 2006 greeting cards, addressed and ready to mail. If you are lucky, you'll get them before Mary Hannah graduates.

More in a bit...

Rolled for $30?

Here are the facts: I had just returned from getting a bite to eat while on duty as a chaplain at the hospital. I'd parked my car and was walking toward the main entrance when I heard the plaintive cry, "Sir, sir!" I stopped and turned around to see a lady emerging from between two cars. "Yes? Can I help you?" (ironic words) I asked. "Sir, I need some help. My car was broken into and my purse was stolen. I need to get to Dallas tonight and I only have half a tank of gas. Could you help me?"

Now, I don't know if you have ever been randomly hit up for money. I've worked at several churches which operated some sort of benevolence program and I have much experience with people asking for help. Sometimes, it is genuine. Many times, it is someone who is not genuinely in need. The difficulty is trying to sort out which is which.

"Ma'am, have you reported this to security? They have cameras all over the parking lot and they'll probably need you to file a report." She replied, "Oh, it didn't just happen. It happened this afternoon. I'm here at the hospital visiting my aunt." I paused, my mind weighing my options and the circumstance. She didn't look like the typical panhandler who approaches you. She *did* have a car with a broken driver's side window. She was moderately well dressed and wearing jewelry. I decided that however much her story sounded hokey, she was legit.

My experiences with people coming to the church for benevolence had jaded me, though. I fell back on a hard and fast rule that I'd decided upon a long time ago... I will help a person who asks, but I don't give out cash.

"Ma'am, there is a gas station nearby, if you'll carry me there, I'll top off your tank for you." "Oh, thank you!" she replied. I walked back to her car with her and got in the passenger seat. I eyed the bulging purse in the front seat. She followed my gaze and said, "My aunt was kind enough to let me have her purse to carry some things in and a few dollars. I went to the car wash and vacuumed up as much of the glass as I could." I probed, "What is your aunt in the hospital for?" "Oh, they don't know yet. She just came in this afternoon," she told me. "What takes you to Dalls?" "Oh, my daughter is having a baby in the next few days. My fourth grandchild."

We got to the gas station on the corner down the street from the hospital and I got out and used my debit card to access the pump and pumped about $20 into her half-full gas tank (curse those gas prices!). As we waited for the gas tank to fill, I was a bit conflicted. On the one hand, I had a gut feeling that I was getting rolled for a tank of gas. On the other hand, there was no way to know for sure.

My preacher in Enid, Tom Washburn, had a philosophy about giving to the needy. He believed that the biblical principle was to give, give freely, give without judgement as to how your gift will be used and give without expecting ANYTHING (even gratitude) in return. I agree with him in principle, but in practice, my heart is pretty calloused. Why is it that I don't mind helping someone who is grateful, but I am fast to shut down all giving when I think I'm being lied to, used or otherwise duped. Tom believed that what a person does with what they receive is between them and God. While that is true, I tried to mitigate that thought by assuring myself that if I were to give an alcholic a fiver while standing outside the liquor store, I was "enabling" him and not really helping him at all.

Humbled by my recollection of Tom's teaching, as this lady was getting back in her car, I opened my wallet and pulled out a $10 bill and handed it to her. "You will probably need a drink or a snack between here and your daughter's house." "Oh, thank you very much. Do you have a card or something so I can return this to you?" I replied, "No, ma'am, that won't be necessary." She said, "Well, then, I'll just put it in the collection plate on Sunday." She drove off and I walked back to the hospital to finish my shift.

I was more bothered by the fact that I'd decided to help her than I was about my gut feeling. My problem was that in weighing my options: to help her or not to help her, I quickly gauged the externals. Could I verify some of her story? (broken-out driver side window) Was she dressed in a way that I'd found typical of people who are trying to work the system? (No, she was well dressed) Was she defensive and explanatory of every little thing to try to get me to believe her? (well, yes, but logically, she was *trying* to convince me...) My question for myself was, "Would I have done this little thing for someone who didn't fall within my "acceptable" limits of assistance? What if she hadn't been well dressed? What if her story hadn't been as convincing? What if she'd been cussing at her lousy luck and her personality had been off-putting? Who am I to judge a person I can't possibly have enough verifiable information to make a judgement call?

I can only pray that God can judge my actions as well as my heart and maybe next time he blesses me with the opportunity to help someone in this way, I won't be so critical.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11

7 If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. 8 Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: "The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near," so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.

-blessings, jeff