Friday night is the highlight of our family’s week because Friday is “Family Movie Night.” In the last three years, we’ve missed our weekly filmfest only a handful of times, though sometimes we’ve rescheduled it. We’re in those “golden” years when our kids (mostly) still want to hang out with us and aren’t old enough to date. For now, we wouldn’t trade this time together for the world.
On Friday nights we’ve laughed together (The Princess Bride), cried together (A Little Princess), and learned more about our world (March of the Penguins). We’ve learned that everyone has value (Radio), that spelling bees can be cliffhangers (Akeelah and the Bee), and that Iowa can look like heaven (Field of Dreams). We’ve learned about Jesus’ sacrificial love (Jesus of Nazareth and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) and how better to love others (Because of Winn Dixie). We’ve learned that sometimes newspaper editors use really bad language (All the President’s Men) and that we wish certain mythological creatures were real (The Water Horse).
We’ve also learned how to compromise. Because our ages vary, it can be a challenge to find a film we’ll all enjoy, but we’ve often been pleasantly surprised by a choice we weren’t unanimously enthusiastic about. And as the youngest one gets older, we’re looking forward to watching more “serious” films together.
For help in identifying age-appropriateness, we’ve found the parent advisories at imdb.com to be objective and free from hysteria, if not offered from a Christian perspective. Even more helpful is seeking advice from friends whose judgment we trust.
Occasionally we hold Family Movie Night at our favorite theater if there’s a new release we’ve been waiting for or a film we want to see on the big screen (Disney’s Earth). But when we watch in our own living room, we’re free to pause the film and ask questions, rewind to point out something important, or take bathroom breaks without missing a key plot twist. Plus the homemade pizza and huge hand-scooped ice cream cones are fantastic and cheap.
Having a designated movie night makes watching a DVD a family event rather than just a pastime. In a world drowning in inane ways to pass the time, that’s a gift.
by Roger Benimoff with Eve Conant
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema
After two deployments to Iraq, army chaplain Roger Benimoff found that “war zones have a way of traveling home with you.” Back in the U.S., he counseled soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder until he was diagnosed with the same condition. While struggling to retain his faith in God, Benimoff became depressed as he recalled “the terrible machinery of death” that is war. Based on journals that he and his wife kept, Faith Under Fire eloquently relates how God’s grace sustained their traumatized lives. (Crown)
by John Van Sloten
reviewed by Robert Keeley
In The Day Metallica Came to Church, John Van Sloten shares the story of what he has learned by paying attention to God’s Word and to the culture around us. Over the past few years as pastor of New Hope Church in Calgary, Alberta, Van Sloten has preached sermons inspired by rock music, films, and even topics like architecture and the Stanley Cup finals. He took John Calvin seriously when Calvin wrote that wherever we cast our gaze we can see signs of God’s glory. So Van Sloten started paying attention, seeing in the lyrics of the heavy metal band Metallica, for example, an anger at injustice that matches that of the prophet Jeremiah. He sees that films like The Dark Knight allow us to catch a glimpse of God’s grace even in dark circumstances. This book is interesting and engaging, inviting us to see God’s hand in the world around us, not just in nature, but also in places we may never think of looking. (Square Inch—an imprint of Faith Alive)
by Basia Bulat
reviewed by Elizabeth Gonzalez
With sweeping songs reflective of the Northwest, Bulat’s Yukon-inspired album, Heart of My Own, leaves behind the artist’s earlier, tamer territory. Teeming with passion in songs like “Gold Rush,” the album is inspired by the music of travelers and the deserts of Nevada. The title track is raw, toughened, and road-weary. Accompanied by common instruments, the fiddle and autoharp are elevated, for “the wind has changed [her] voice.” Bulat sings of wandering through terrain that is equally unforgiving and majestic. Restless but hopeful, she crafts a solid second album. (Rough Trade)
by Karen Cushman
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema
Young Meggy Swann is raised to believe that her crooked legs are a result of God’s judgment on her. Rejected by her mother and sent to live with her alchemist father, Meggy discovers that he attempts to change and purify matter. She wishes that he could use his skill to both “transform himself into a better father” and heal her legs. Though alchemy cannot transform Meggy, the love of new friends does. In this moving juvenile novel, Karen Cushman brings Elizabethan England to life. Ages 10-14. (Clarion)
reviewed by Ron VandenBurg
Started by NFL coaches Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith as a way to share their faith, this website presents testimonies of athletes from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR, and the Olympics. Read the stories of many “ultimate athletes,” including quarterback Kurt Warner, Olympic speed skater Cindy Klassen, NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip, and basketball player Amar’e Stoudemire. Ministry links include Motor Racing Outreach and Athletes in Action. In addition, viewers are encouraged to read Beyond the Ultimate’s essays to learn about God, Jesus, and our world. Pages are available in multiple languages covering many sports. (beyondtheultimate.org)
Wonder-ful: Michael W. Smith changes direction from his recent string of worship albums to deliver a new pop collection, Wonder, due in stores at the end of the month. (Reunion)
Reel Stories: Never Let Me Go, the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day), makes its big-screen debut this month. Three young people face their futures after boarding-school childhoods that have been preparing them for a more sinister purpose. (Fox Searchlight)
This Is the Life: Looking for some understanding and a good laugh, Mom and Dad? Go to YouTube and check out the videos “Dad Life” and “Mommy Rhapsody,” both put out by Church on the Move, a Tulsa, Okla., megachurch that clearly celebrates parents with flair.