Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Ultimate Gift for the Whole Family

Do you need a little wake up call about the meaning of life? Are you looking for a movie that pulls you in and makes you stop and think yet entertains you with laughter and tears at the same time? If the answer is yes, then pick up this pleasant surprise of a movie. The premise of The Ultimate Gift (based on Jim Stovall's book by the same title) is a snotty rich kids expects to inherit millions from his Grandfather to continue with his limitless cashflow of a life he's lived thus far. Boy is he in for a surprise. The film begins with a billionaire's death. His more than superficous, obnoxious relatives all come in for the reading of the will. Of course, no one is pleased with the reading. The main character, grandson, Jason Stevens, is no exception. The billionaire, aptly played by James Garner, has left Jason a peculiar gift. A series of gifts actually, via video tape and delivered through his longtime lawyer and friend Ted Hamilton, played by Bill Cobbs. Jason Stevens must successfully complete all requirements of each "test" to get each gift, without knowing what he gets each time he is successful and always with the threat that if he blows it, everything is lost. Jason's world is literally turned upside down with each new gift as everything is literally taken away from him--his money, his friends, his car, his home, his dignity and even his freedom. Not since The Christmas Carol, has a story successfully engaged its viewers in such a journey. Screenwriting newcomer Cheryl McKay does a beautiful job adapting Jim Stovall's brilliant tale. An enhancement to the already great book was McKay's expansion of the "one true friend" little girl character Emily, played by Abigail Breslin. In the film version of Ultimate Gift, Emily is a major storyline which worked well for the big screen. Certainly director Michael Sajbel deserves credit and mention for the well done adaptation as well. I thoroughly enjoyed the casting as well, especially James Garner, Bill Cobbs and Lee Meriwether. If you've ever been spoiled, taken your life for granted, felt broke, been disenchanted about your life, been unappreciative, or just had one of those days, grab a tissue and watch The Ultimate Gift. You'll get your life back into perspective.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Brad Pitt, God and Ego

Brad Pitt discussed his view of religion and God last week in Parade magazine. He basically said he thinks religion is fine for a crutch to comfort you for any little crisis you may face but he “didn't understand this idea of a God who says, 'You have to acknowledge me. You have to say that I'm the best, and then I'll give you eternal happiness. If you won't, then you don't get it!' It seemed to be about ego. I can't see God operating from ego, so it made no sense to me.”

Here's my rebuttal, as I'll address both sides of Brad Pitt's view of God and religion. First, about religion being a crutch, to some people that would be a correct analysis. There are many elements of religion that can be considered a crutch--sympton relief as I would call it. And symptom relief is an epidemic today. Symptom relief is sought in religion, caffeine, alcohol, drugs, relationships, anti-depresants, affairs, careers, fame, movies, money, distractions, busy-ness, really ANYTHING that distracts you from thinking about your problems, sadness or emptiness at any given time is symptom relief or "a crutch." So many people are so empty inside that they are pursuing anything and everything to fill this huge void they feel inside and nothing satisfies--not money, not fame, not anything, except a relationship with Jesus.

I get the whole disappointment with religion view. But there is a difference between religion and a relationship with Jesus. A personal relationship with Jesus is far from a crutch. He is real and does indeed give you true meaning. To know that you were actually created deliberately and for a purpose is quite awe inspiring. Just read Psalm 139 (right in the middle of the Bible if you were to drop it).. Every single day of our life was known by God before we lived one of them. God loves us, regardless of the love of our parents. Read the book of John (4th little book in the New Testament about ¾ the way through the Bible. There’s man-made religion and then there’s God, who created the world and sent Jesus to save us from the mess we’ve made of our lives. That’s not a crutch, that’s a solution.

Okay, now for Brad Pitt's other view about God and ego when he said “I didn't understand this idea of a God who says, 'You have to acknowledge me. You have to say that I'm the best, and then I'll give you eternal happiness. If you won't, then you don't get it!' It seemed to be about ego. I can't see God operating from ego, so it made no sense to me.”

First, I find this humorous coming from a celebrity, when Pitt himself admitted he pursued acting for fame. You pursue fame for ego. I’m not judging that as bad. I’m just making a point.

When I (Victorya) was a little girl I had a vivid imagination, especially when playing with my Barbie dolls. I remember one time I was trying to understand God when I actually pondered this very topic that Brad Pitt talked about and I came to a complete different conclusion. I was thinking about how much fun I was having creating this whole little world for my Barbie, Ken and Skipper dolls (I mean I had the camper, the house, the pool and the whole bit) and I started thinking—“Hey I’m doing this all so they can have a really great time and be really comfortable, and live happily ever after.” Then I thought, “What if they started making fun of me and giving credit to someone else for what I did for them and not appreciating anything I did for them. In fact instead, they complained all the time that they wanted more and they hated me and pretended I didn’t exist….hmmm, I would just stop playing with them. In fact, I’d get rid of my dolls and have nothing more to do with them, so there.”

This was the thought of me as an 8 year old girl, but I still remember it. And I wasn’t thinking that was because my ego was bruised. I was thinking about God and how we treat him. I was thinking “Wow, if God really created us and we all keep treated Him the way we do and talking bad about Him and not appreciating Him and we keep giving any and everyone ELSE the credit, it is amazing that God just hasn’t blown us all up yet, because we deserve it. That is amazing love that He gives us with all these 2nd chances when we don’t deserve it. And to think He sent Jesus, His only son to DIE for us when we were making fun of Him. That is crazy love. But the Bible says God did exactly that. That is far from ego. That’s giving undeserved love, also known as grace, and something I am honored to receive. Anyone who asks Jesus to come in and live in them will be welcomed home just like me. That well known verse John 3:16 and the one that follows it John 3:17 tells it all—For God loved us so much that he sent his son to die for us and if he believe in him, we’ll be His. Then He clarified that He didn’t send Jesus from some ego or to destroy or condemn us but to save us from ourselves.

Forget religion, crutches or other symptom relief. If you have an emptiness inside, get to know Jesus. He promises to save you.