Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Last week during the holiday week, me and my two brothers went to see “True Grit.” I am a big fan of both the 1968 novel of the same name by Charles Portis and of course the 1969 version featuring the great John Wayne, and Glen Campbell and Kim Darby.

Almost everyone in the free world is at least somewhat familiar with the storyline. A 14 year old girl leaves home to track down her father’s killer, a former hired man named Tom Chaney, who has since joined up with a gang of thieves lead by Lucky Ned Pepper. To aid her, she hires a US deputy marshal, Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn. A Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf, becomes the third of their party. The story covers the elements of this adventure.

First of all, let's get this out of the way right now: Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld own this film, every inch of it. The entire cast is fantastic, but there's not a moment that goes by in the film when you're not itching to see Bridges' Marshal Reuben J. Cogburn and Steinfeld's Mattie Ross share the screen. Every scene they share is one we’re going to want to watch again for years to come.

While thoroughly entertaining, “True Grit” also plumbs deeper spiritually. It opens with a quotation from the King James translation of the Book of Proverbs: “The wicked flee when no man pursueth,” the first of several biblical and religious references scattered through the script. And the music in the background was old Christian hymns: “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand,” “Gloryland Way,” “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

But, clearly the theme song and a major idea of the movie is, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” The film begins, as a now adult Mattie does her voiceover setting the story, with a piano playing this beautiful old gospel hymn. And once again, the movie plays an instrumental version of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” at varying tempos throughout the film is a subtle reminder that not only is Hattie relying on God’s providence to help her bring about justice and avenge her father’s death legally, but that we all are, whether we realize it or not, leaning on those same everlasting arms. There is a powerful scene in the climax where this comes into full view under a starlit sky—a scene that won’t leave my memory anytime soon.

At one point in the film the narrator says: “You pay for everything in this world. There is nothing free, except the grace of God.”

This is also a central theme to the film as characterized by Hattie’s measuring out the cost of every transaction in life with such meticulous detail. But there is no hiding the grace of God. Even a criminal about to be hanged repents aloud to the crowd and asks for mercy and grace to be extended to his family after his death.

Mattie later writes her mother not to worry when she's on her quest to avenge her father's death: "The author of all things watches over me." When a mortician asks her whether she'd like to kiss her father's dead face, she says, "Thank you, his spirit is flown." In town without money, she's forced to sleep in a coffin at the mortuary, telling someone later that she "felt like Ezekiel in the valley of the dry bones." A dying criminal makes Rooster promise to tell his brother, a Methodist pastor, of his fate, adding, "I will meet him later, walking the streets of glory."

Now, keep in mind that the storyline cannot be separated from either its period in U.S. History or its reliance upon Christian virtue as the order of the day in that society.

But these allusions draw attention to the film’s serious reflections on the violent undertow of frontier life. Witnessed from Mattie’s sensitive perspective, the shootouts and other death-dealing confrontations that take place here are never glossed over, but are shown instead to be unnatural and difficult to absorb.

True Grit is rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of western violence including a few disturbing violent images and some mildly salty language. Gunfights and a scary sequence involving some snakes make for some intense, although not horribly graphic PG-13 moments. This is not a film for children, by any means. Mature teens or adults are the only ones I could recommend seeing the film.

In conclusion, I did enjoy the many Biblical themes and ideas raised in this Coen brother’s movie. This movie unlike say their movie, O Brother Where Art Thou? where the underlying faith message was far more tongue in cheek than something worth regarding seriously. But the deeper spiritual truths in True Grit are ultimately the basis for what's an engaging tale of a man who learns the meaning of sacrifice from a much younger woman who wasn't afraid to stand up for what's right—even if it meant endangering her own life in the process.

So if you can’t tell from my review, I thoroughly enjoyed True Grit. It has an old-fashioned fighting spirit in this classic quest for wrongs being made right. And truth be told, it takes some "true grit" to remake a beloved classic movie where John Wayne won his first Oscar and do it as well as they did.

Check out the trailer below which really captures the spiritual overtones of the movie:

Now, speaking of the Duke, check out the following YouTube link:


This video shows John Wayne winning the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in “True Grit” in 1970. Of course we know this really wasn’t just for “True Grit.” It was for a lifetime’s worth of great films. His speech was thoughtful, heartfelt and humble, paying homage to everyone before himself, obviously a deeply moving moment for him. (You can tell I'm a BIG fan hopefully).

It makes me wonder just a bit where have men like John Wayne and the values and “true grit” he represented have gone today…..Lord knows we sure need them today……the Duke had class you just don’t see today!

His Congressional Medal says it all: John Wayne – American.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Only 5 days until the big day -- Christmas! Are you ready? May your Christmas be blessed in every way, with love, joy, peace, and many happy memories.

The following video below I thought was pretty clever and made me laugh! How social media, web and mobile tell the story of the Nativity.While it is true that we do not know exactly when Jesus was born, December 25 is the date that our culture long ago began to honor our Lord and Savior for His birth. For that reason, this is the time of year that the vast majority of Americans give thought to Him.

As Christians, we are to remember the Lord every first day of the week as we participate in the Lord's Supper. (cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:17-32) There we commemorate His death for our sins, we proclaim our faith in Him as we wait for His return, and we examine our hearts in relationship to His body, the church.

Yet, long before there was a cross, there was a manger. Though we are not commanded to formally celebrate His birth, that does not mean that we should forget it, even at Christmas time. The cross would not have taken place apart from the so-called "first Christmas."

So, if indeed you remember Christ this Christmas, remember that He was not born to remain a child wrapped in swaddling clothes laying in a manger. He was born to become our Savior by dying on a cross and to be the Lord of our lives (Luke 2:11).

The message of the manger must always point people to the cross – the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The important thing is that He was born and that He died for our sins. We’re not worshiping a helpless infant lying in a manger. We’re worshiping a risen and exalted Christ who has all power in heaven and in earth.


Monday, December 13, 2010

The Pursuit of Excellence with Integrity

Below is an excellent article written by Bob Frantz, a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The San Francisco Examiner.

Folks, there is nothing wrong with giving someone the benefit of the doubt, but only when that person has shown good moral conduct prior to an allegation of wrong doing. Newton’s history suggests otherwise.

Saturday night in New York City Cameron Newton came up to the podium and accepted the greatest award in sports knowing he has shown a lack of integrity in the past. And for that night he was the greatest player in college football, but it is fair to say he was not be the best example of someone who exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.

"Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (2 Timothy 2:22)

"Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity." (1 Timothy 4:12)

Newton winning Heisman sends the wrong message by Bob Frantz

The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”

Take note of the final word in that sentence. You may never see it again.

At least not in the same sentence as the words “college sports.”

The sentence above is the very first line of the Heisman Trust’s mission statement, and it was once recognized as an important criterion when evaluating potential recipients of the trophy. Not anymore.

When Heisman voters across the country placed that trophy in Cam Newton’s outstretched hand on Saturday — a position in which his hand is apparently very comfortable — they stated quite clearly that integrity, morality and ethics have no place in the high-stakes, professional world of amateur sports.

Integrity is something that has plagued not only the NCAA, but the Heisman Trust as recently as this past year with the Reggie Bush scandal.
Newton’s well-told, yet simultaneously ignored story belongs in an FBI case file as much as it does any college football record book.

This isn’t the first issue with Newton. In fact, Newton first ran into trouble under Urban Meyer at Florida twice when he was a sophomore.

While at Florida, Newton was arrested for felony charges of burglary, larceny and obstruction of justice when it was found the he stole a student’s laptop from a dormitory and threw it out the window when police came to question him.

Also in Gainesville, Fla., Newton was reportedly caught cheating on three separate occasions as a freshman and sophomore, including a case in which he purchased a paper online and turned it in as his own. Only his transfer to Blinn College in Texas saved him from expulsion from Florida.

And this “ethical” young man accomplished all this even before the pay-for-play scandal engineered by his father that landed him at Auburn.

Newton was the most dominant player in America, which is undoubtedly what saved him from the NCAA’s eligibility guillotine. Too many dollars and television viewers were at risk for the NCAA to sideline its top attraction and risk an Auburn loss in the SEC championship game. A Tigers’ defeat would have put TCU in the BCS title game, and the NCAA hypocrites would rather have canceled the game than accept such a travesty.

How else can they explain away Cecil Newton’s admission to soliciting his son’s services to the highest bidder? Cecil acted as a de facto agent for Cam, but because he happens to share his client’s bloodline, the player’s amateur status is secure?

The NCAA’s, and Newton’s, excuse is that Cam allegedly didn’t know what his father was up to.

If you believe that, I’ve got a slightly damaged laptop to sell you. It’s not stolen. I swear.

As Sports Illustrated reported last month, Cam wanted to go to Mississippi State, but agreed to let his father make the decision for him. “A few days before Christmas, while sitting at the dinner table in his brother’s house in Jacksonville, Cecil Sr. uttered two words. ‘It’s Auburn.’”

What star athlete would allow his father to completely ignore his own wishes to play at a certain school without demanding to know the father’s reasons?

Even in defending himself, as he tried to do in an ESPN interview Thursday, Newton couldn’t declare himself innocent.

“Everything I’ve done at this university, I did it the right way,” he said.

The disclaimer “at this university,” speaks volumes, as it obviously neglects the solicitation scheme that Pops put into action “before” he arrived at Auburn.

Maybe nothing can be done to the powers-that-be that run the NCAA and its investigation committee, but the Heisman voters had a real chance to do the right thing. They had a chance to restore the word “integrity” to the mission statement, a necessity in the wake of the Reggie Bush forfeiture of the once-sacred

They failed.

Bob Frantz is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The San Francisco Examiner

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Don’t Be Caught Off-Guard

Today marks the 69th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. We should always remember the day that would “live in infamy” – and learn from it.

What happened on December 7, 1941? Simply put, we were caught off guard. In the decades since the attack, there has been a great deal of investigation, speculation and debate over how this could have happened and who is to blame for “dropping the ball”. What seems fairly certain is that there were some warning signs and data available that, if taken through the proper channels, might have changed the complexion of this attack or thwarted it altogether. Well, I’m not writing this to debate such things, but to make a simple point: It’s not good to be caught off-guard. And even though the attack on Pearl Harbor would have a positive outcome, many lives were lost and many more would perish in the ensuing war in the Pacific.

As Christians, we have a dangerous enemy – an empire of evil, plotting surprise attacks against us. Satan’s greatest advantage is the element of surprise. Many times we just don’t see it coming. The good news is that our Lord has given us “classified” information about our enemy to alert us and keep us from being taken by surprise (2 Cor 2:11)! Consider the apostle Peter’s inspired words: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you, but rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)

We shouldn’t be surprised when, because of our devotion to Christ, we feel pressure and opposition from those of the world. Notice that Peter didn’t say “if” this would occur, but “when”. Paul declares that persecution would happen to everyone who lives a godly life in Christ (2 Tim 3:12). Jesus also forewarned us of trouble and “tribulation” in the world (John 15:18-21; 16:1-4 & 33) By knowing these things beforehand, we can be prepared and not “freak out”, “melt down” or give in to temptation.

Later in his letter, Peter advises: “Be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Peter 5:8-9) We shouldn’t be surprised when we feel the pull of temptation, rather we should be prepared! We are all subject to the devil’s attacks and need to be on high alert at all times -- never letting down our guard (Eph 6:10-18).

In summary, whether there was sufficient data and resources to thwart the attack on Pearl Harbor 69 years ago we may never know for sure. But this we know for sure: Our “Commander” has given us sufficient data and resources to thwart the devil’s attacks. We need never be caught off-guard!