Sunday, August 02, 2015

Movie Review: Old Fashioned

I had seen the romantic movie "Old Fashioned" promoted on my Facebook feed a few months back when it was in theaters, but I don't get to the movie theater much, so I needed to wait for the DVD to come out. It was not what I expected at all, but I was pleasantly surprised. Clay Walsh is a former wild frat boy who has abandoned that life in favor of a quiet role as the owner of an antique shop who has very strict rules when it comes to dating. He refuses to be alone anywhere with a woman and wants to reserve even kissing for marriage. Amber Hewson is a free spirit who rents the apartment above his shop. The characters struggle to develop a relationship and learn valuable lessons about themselves in the process.

It is rated PG-13 and rightly so - there are several conversations about sexuality and both the characters have less than ideal pasts. This movie is a real conversation starter when viewed with teens. One can discuss various ideas and ideals about dating and courtship. While Clay takes an extreme view, this is one area where it is certainly better to err on the side of caution than take the opposite path. It also has important messages about mercy, forgiveness, and being able to start over even when one has made some very poor choices.

While certainly not the best movie ever made, it is a good story with some laugh out loud funny parts and a quality message. Definitely worth seeing and discussing with teens and young adults. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Eucharistic Miracles of the World

I was doing research for another project and came across this site featuring a Vatican traveling exhibition on Eucharistic Miracles of the World.

There is a book available on the miracles as well as links to the .pdf files that make up the posters of the exhibition. These miracles are truly amazing and will help enhance your faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Laudato Si - Now available in paperback

Laudato Si, The Pope's Encyclical Letter "On Care for our Common Home" is now available in paperback. I just received my copy this week and it is truly worth reading. Don't just get the soundbites from the media - actually read and reflect on what the Pope is trying to tell us. Whether you believe that the earth is warming or not or that human activity has contributed to it or not, taking care of the earth and each other is what we are called to do as Christians. I guarantee that you will find something in this letter worth thinking about, and maybe even be moved to make some lifestyle changes as a result.

If you are looking for a guide to your reading, is currently running a series of reflections (I'm working on writing the reflection for Chapter 6 right now).

On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Book Review: When Mockingbirds Sing

When Mockingbirds Sing

by Billy Coffey
Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013

Can God speak through a child? What about a child who has never been taught anything about Him? Leah Norcross is a young girl with a stutter. She and her parents have just moved to the small town of Mattingly from Away and are considered outsiders by almost everyone.

Barney, who in his own way is also an outsider even though he has lived in the town forever, makes Leah a birthday present of an easel. After this gift,. she is able to paint pictures with such beauty and intensity, they make everyone take notice. She says that she is just painting what the "Rainbow Man" tells her. When what she paints starts to come true, the town starts taking sides, especially when she paints images they don't want to see and tells them things they don't want to hear. Is Leah a visionary of God or is she evil? Meanwhile, her relationship with her parents, especially her atheist father, and her one friend is put to the test

"When Mockingbirds Sing" is a well-crafted thought-provoking novel that will keep you turning pages. What will happen to Leah and the people of Mattingly? Where does a child's imagination end and reality begin? What will a parent do for a child?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Book Review: Five Years in Heaven

Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship that Answered Life's Greatest Questions

by John Schlimm
New York: Image Books, 2015

I am a huge fan of "The Christmas Tree" by Julie Salamon and the movie by the same name which starred Andrew McCarthy and Julie Harris. McCarthy is a landscape architect who works for Rockefeller Center and Harris plays Sr. Anthony who owns the tree that McCarthy wants to use for the famous Christmas tree that becomes a symbol of New York each year. The two form an unlikely friendship, each teaching the other some valuable lessons. The parallels between that story and "Five Years in Heaven" by John Schlimm are many.

Schlimm was 31 years old, had worked in public relations for Tipper Gore when she was Second Lady as well as for Nashville star Naomi Judd. He had gone back to school graduating from Harvard in order to become an English teacher, but had found himself unemployed, living back in his hometown, and working as a sub at his high school alma mater. Rather disappointed at his place in life, his friend brought him to meet Sr. Augustine, the nearly 90 year old sister who worked at the local Benedictine convent's ceramic shop.

Sr. Augustine and Schlimm would develop a close friendship over the next five years. Sr. Augustine would teach Schlimm much about life. Schlimm in turn would help promote her ceramic work, finding new customers and even having her interviewed by the local media.

This book is worth reading because of the lessons Sr. Augustine, who has since gone on to her eternal reward,  has to offer, which Schlimm has lovingly shared with the world. This story also inspired #thankanun day which was held on May 5th to coincide with the book's publication date.

Here is one of my favorite quotes by Sr. Augustine: "What happens in that kiln is out of control once I shut the lid. Just like the things that happen in life. We have no control over the joys and sorrows that come to us. . . .Yet each joy and sorrow is a gift. . . . We can choose whether to let that sorrow destroy us or make us stronger, better people."

You can see examples of Sr. Augustine's work here: 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Book Review: Love Finds You in Sugarcreek, Ohio

Love Finds You in Sugarcreek, Ohio

by Serena Miller
Minneapolis: Summerside Press, 2010

This book is a few years old, and was even made into a movie so I am coming late to the party, but "Love Finds You in Sugarcreek, Ohio" by Serena Miller was an enjoyable Amish mystery/romance based on the passage from Hebrews: "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."

Policewoman Rachel Troyer has just about convinced her elderly Amish aunts to close up the inn that they have run for years. She fears it is too much for them and she has the money to support them. They reluctantly agree, but tell her that if they feel God has sent someone, they will not turn him or her away. Rachel reluctantly agrees, but doesn't expect them to take in a down-on-his-luck man from out of town with no ID who has a young son and is clearly on the run. All of her police training goes into high alert. Convinced that he is up to no good, she is determined to find out who he is and what threat he poses to her family.

This story has some surprising twists and turns which will keep you turning pages. It also has a middle-aged woman with Down Syndrome playing a supporting, but important role. Overall, it was a very enjoyable story which fans of Amish fiction will relish.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book Review: The Second Sister

The Second Sister

by Marie Bostwick
New York: Kensington Books

I recently read and reviewed the Cobbled Court Quilts Series by Marie Bostwick and was thrilled to discover that she recently published a new book, "The Second Sister." Lucy Toomey is a workaholic political campaigner whose hard work has just paid off - her boss is about to enter the White House, which means that Lucy has a job waiting for her on Pennsylvania Avenue. But when her disabled sister Alice dies unexpectedly, she is forced to return home to small-town Wisconsin in order to settle the estate and meet the eccentric terms of Alice's will. There she will be forced to face some of her old demons as well as learn about a sister she only thought she knew. She'll learn some important things about herself as well.

This book invites readers to think about their priorities and the role of siblings in our lives. Fans of quilting novels will be happy to know that quilting plays a prominent part in this story as well. 

Bostwick wrote this as a stand-alone, but admits she might be open to starting a new series focusing on the individuals in this book. If she does, I'll be happy to read it.