In the wake of the Academy Awards those of us who used to be film buffs - and I say used to be because we used to regularly go to the movies - realize those filmmakers, those actors, and those who are involved in the film industry don't really want to be in touch with real Americans. Real Americans who display the flag, love the 4th of July, celebrate Christmas, and know the true meaning of Easter - these are not the film industry's people. Nope. Oh yes, about twice a year, maybe, one of the mega-studios will come out with a non-animated movie that shows a family who actually loves each other, or a group of people who bond in spite of their differences to do something noble, or estranged loved ones who make peace. And what do you know: the movie takes off, makes far more than it took to make it, and leaves the hearts of many feeling good for a change.
Sunday night the Oscar ceremony displayed the narcissism, the social-justice ideologies, the half naked bodies, the plastic smiles or practiced sneers, and those who embraced it all clapped for each other's causes as if what was being said deserved glorification and all the pomp and circumstance it was afforded. A tiny representation of America performed their hypocrisy with political nuances and agendas at full throttle with little subtlety and tremendous pride.
Somewhere in the night's activities, lost on each one of them except for a very few, those who had selected the nominees and the ultimate winners of the gold statue ignored the nobility of a film that honored an American hero. Chris Kyle, deceased, murdered, former Navy SEAL, did more for their freedom and safety and provision for them to spout their progressive drivel than any of them will ever do for anyone else. Ever. Yet those who cheered for all the actors, directors, screenwriters, producers, and ultimately the Best Picture few had heard of or seen, and those who nominated all of them and selected the winners couldn't manage to acknowledge the profound performance by Bradley Cooper who gave his best to capture the essence of Chris Kyle, didn't even nominate Clint Eastwood for his direction of American Sniper, and failed to find any way to bring any kind of recognition for a meaningful and important film about a true hero aside from "Sound Editing/Direction".
Why was he a hero some mutter? Because he had the fortitude to separate good from evil. Chris Kyle was born to be a warrior. Those who know the bible would equate him with David's fighting men, those who relentlessly fought to protect the kingdom of Israel from brutal, hateful enemies. Just as Chris Kyle did for America. He was gifted with a skill. He loved his country. He fought against a wicked foe and killed those who would murder his men who fought for freedom where they were and ultimately for the USA.
A pathetic, shallow, self-indulgent display of nothing that really matters in the world outside of their spectrum, this has been the state of the Academy Awards for many years. Their tunnel vision and small, small ideas of what's important were given the usual grandiose presentation of wasted talent used to push ideas of little value in the bigger scope of life. Shame on them who fail to gaze beyond their jaded mindsets.
Father, you're the only One who can change hearts and minds. The only One. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The thing about writing is . . . anyone can do it, but only some can do it well. Or at least not badly.
I've been told that the ultra popular novels such as The Twilight Series and the controversial 50 Shades of Grey series were not written well. At all. This was not the opinion of a few - it seemed to be the consensus. Oddly enough, no one who liked either series seemed to care. Intrigued for different reasons by the storylines, both novel series accrued large followings who supported the movies rising from the tomes.
For those who slave over their craft, to see the astounding successes of these some would say "poorly written" books led to real disappointment. Other novelists shrugged it off, attributing the success to unique stories appealing to a large diverse audience. The Twilight Series cashed in on the growing fad of renewing the various vampire fetishes, and 50 Shades of Grey exposed the hidden, macabre, and perverse fantasies of apparently a significant number of the female population.
What these two novel series - and others no doubt - say about the reading population presents a conundrum of opinions. Is the "average" reader looking for unusual storylines? Do the average readers not care about the quality of the storytelling? Do average readers not notice how well or poorly stories are written?
The thing about writing is . . . some do it very well with little success. Others write technically well with little style and find success. And still others, to the dismay of those who do wonders with words, catch the attention of a large group of readers who care very little about how a story is told as long as it interests them for whatever reasons.
Father, I only ask that my writing be done as you direct. Period. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
It's a rare time when a series ends perfectly, but The Mentalist achieved this distinction. Starting with a broken man who's lived a life of feigning psychic powers from a circus background becoming the victim of a brutal unsolved crime, Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) sought out the CBI (California Bureau of Investigation) to gain information about the serial killer with the Red John moniker who murdered his wife and daughter. Patrick's profound intuitive skills lead him to assist the CBI under a skeptical Detective Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney). An unsteady relationship persists at first until Patrick proves to be an invaluable asset to the department.
Over time and the closing of many cases thanks largely to Patrick, the pursuit of Red John remains a constant whether in the forefront or the background of Patrick's life. Determined to exact vengeance upon the evil killer, many episodes through the years deal with his pursuit.
Figuring out an appropriate ending to the Red John saga caused Patrick to flee, get found, and wind up at the Austin, Texas, FBI where he insisted he be joined by none other than Teresa Lisbon. The series took a chance with relocating and changing the dynamic of the procedural with some new cast members, but given the time to morph into its final state, it ultimately worked.
Through thick and thin, the friendship between Jane and Lisbon grew deeper but with a refusal to recognize their attachment to one another, the relationship strained. When an angry and frustrated Lisbon opted to take second best, she inadvertently forced Patrick's hand. His action brought the concluding season which gave that much needed recognition to their friendship-turned to-love.
The two hour finale aired on Wednesday (the 18th of February, 2015) and covered all the bases. Opting for a happy, fulfilling ending to a very good series, The Mentalist ended with a smile and a hint of a tear.
Father, I always thank you for the talent you give and I always ask that those who possess your wonderful gifts find you, the One who gives them so generously. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
In an earlier post I complained about the recent TV series Castle. Although I still believe that actors Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic who play writer Richard Castle and Detective Kate Beckett respectively have little pop in their romantic chemistry, they've settled into a workable marriage that demonstrates their love for one another. In my former post I wondered if the series had lost its appeal, the episodes less than satisfying. The exception to that, and the indication that the series still has it, are the past two-part episodes concluded Monday evening.
A wicked serial killer, thought possibly dead from being shot during an attack on Castle and Beckett, surfaces under a fake name with an equally evil plastic surgeon for his girlfriend who was suspected of being involved in crimes but without concrete proof. Their objective rests in getting to both Castle and Beckett and causing them incalculable pain.
The two-part story gave credence to the type of serial killers presented in The Patrick Bower Files. Intelligent, obsessive, organized, and compelled to do evil without feeling a hint of remorse, the two pair up to commit their evil deeds.
With proper escalating tension the writers take the viewers on a tedious search for these two killers with Castle's and Beckett's lives in the balance. These episodes remind me the show still has something left to give. Using the police procedural method of solving the crime with those outside-the-box Castle ideas to help work the frustrating circumstances, finally success is achieved with the ultimate relief and satisfaction.
So. The series still has some life left to it with two of their best episodes ever airing this last two weeks. Well done.
Father, may those who've used your gifts well acknowledge you as the source. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
It's very difficult for many people to realize the human race is born into sin. Condemned to a hellish destination when they reach the God-determined age of accountability. No: man is not born good in his heart nor is he innately good with personal growth. As some parents will tell you, all you have to do to understand this is to watch their precious baby become a two year old or their pre-teen graduate to a teenager. The sin nature glares at them from those once submissive eyes now defiant and bent on doing what's not in their best interests and often harmful to them or others.
So. Do you agree with the premise presented in the Patrick Bowers Files that there is a thin thread separating us from the most evil among us? Those who delight in experiencing the torturous death of others in all kinds of macabre ways? Are we just one action away from becoming like "them"?
Patrick Bowers is not a Christian in this series. In the early books he's the typical mad-at-God for taking the life of his first wife who'd become a believer. Able to decipher the most complex puzzles left by demonic killers, Patrick couldn't - and wouldn't - understand the bigger picture of a spiritual life committed to the One True God his wife had embraced. In the first few books of the series, he resents God and holds the bitterness of losing a loved one, blaming God for taking her away from him before they even had time to get started. Not only is she gone, but her daughter from a previous relationship is now his step-daughter (Tessa), and he has no idea how to be a father to her, now once again married to his work for relief. As the series continues, his spiritual outlook changes slightly as Tessa begins to investigate the faith of her mother.
From the standpoint of an unbeliever like Patrick it's easy to understand how the veil between the serial killers he investigates and hopes to put away and mankind in general is viewed as tenuous, thin, an easily crossed line without intense attention to things such as lawful integrity, job protocol, and being the master of one's soul. Without Jesus no one is the master of his soul and that's where this thought of fighting the demons of the soul produces Patrick's thinking. In a way he's correct about humanity. Very little separates the degrees of sin and where it can take a person. It's a spiritual battle whether or not it is viewed as such. Some people feel terrible guilt for having lied to a friend while others take pleasure in picturing the brutal death of someone who's betrayed them or hurt them. They see it as okay as long as it takes place in their minds and manages to stay there.
Many serial killers are methodical, obsessive, intelligent, and determined, planning contingencies for every action in order to accomplish their evil goals. The demons prodding their ruptured minds push and prod them into sociopathic or psychopathic actions, bringing mild satisfaction at accomplishing their wicked deeds with no feeling about the harm or pain they've caused. Some social climbers or business moguls fit that basic description but plan no physical harm to those they walk over to get where they're going.
So. What do you think about us being just that uneasy step away from those who cross all the lines of acceptable human conduct? Is Patrick Bowers right - or partially right? Are we able to keep the demons at bay in order not to be like "them"?
Father, you're the only One who keeps us clean. We sin, you deliver. So much depends on our allegiance to your Love, Grace, Beauty, and Mercy. We must repent. We must turn to Jesus, your only way out of our human mess. Thank you, Lord and Savior. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
If you've ever had the pleasure of meeting Steven James, it would be difficult for you to imagine him writing the stories in the Patrick Bowers Series/Files. Certainly not because of the complex plots, after all he's a Master Storyteller, and his intelligence does not go unnoticed in conversations with him. He's tall with a slender build, athletic, good looking, wears hip glasses, and is friendly while assessing the situation. But let's face it, the serial killers in this series are as psychopathic as any characters can get. Demonic. Wicked. Intelligent. And look "normal" to the unsuspecting.
Checkmate presents another complex, interwoven masterpiece of past killers conspiring with each other only to realize extreme betrayal while Patrick tries to figure out who he's dealing with after a fatal bombing at a disguised FBI facility and a particularly brutal murder of an FBI employee at his residence. The meticulous but confounding clues left at the scene take time to decipher and also indicate the awareness of Patrick Bowers being involved in the investigation.
Philosophically throughout this series Patrick Bowers is forced to contemplate his personal demons, maintaining that keeping them at bay is the only thing separating him - and all of us - from the evil psyches of serial killers. Choosing not to indulge our basest desires when we are tempted by revenge or ridding the world of someone evil, is the one thing that keeps us from becoming like "them". In the search for both the killer and his personal objective in this story Patrick is acutely aware of his own preferences for the demise of the criminal he seeks. When he learns of the collaboration gone wrong between two of the most dreaded serial killers he has known, he must make a deal with the devil to hopefully thwart the intent of one of them and of course we all know what the devil does with "deals".
Patrick's best friend FBI Special Agent Ralph Hawkins helps Patrick investigate and pursue whoever is responsible for the deaths at the bombing and the sadistic murder of another agent, but it's understood he must leave when his wife Brineesha goes into labor. As the "story" unfolds and Patrick discovers the depths (literally) this killer will go to, Patrick must warn Ralph about the danger his family faces.
With a particularly satisfying ending to this chess game series, Patrick can choose to realize he can find closure without sacrificing his integrity. Evil must be eliminated whenever possible and sometimes it can come against itself and not survive.
Intermittent subplots with Patrick's daughter Tessa are always entertaining and the pointed but brief conversations with Lien-hua prove to produce a difficult mental discussion inside Patrick's head. The spiritual aspects are faint but there.
Checkmate is a fitting and fulfilling conclusion to this series, and I certainly hope Patrick Bowers isn't done solving heinous crimes. Couldn't give a higher recommendation for these thrillers. Read them in order and be prepared for an explosive ending (no pun intended).
Father, you know Steven. I pray your continued blessing upon his life and work and may He do as you've instructed him to do. Keep him safe from all harm and watch over his family. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The Mentalistwill air its final episode next Wednesday. The series has been through radical change in its last few seasons and survived. As with all good series, there comes a time when there's no new direction it can go, and actors, writers, directors, and producers finally arrive at the place to conclude the series.
I've enjoyed the series although the first linking up with the FBI proved rocky and unsettled, but the writers soon reached their groove and were able to salvage the episodes post "Red John". No easy task, but they managed to create new interesting characters at the Austin, Texas, office while increasing the depth of Patrick Jane and Teresa Lisbon. Maintaining the character of Kimball Cho brought stability and familiarity with the "old" cast and kept the mystique of Patrick Jane's amazing mental prowess in the forefront of solving crimes.
I'll miss the show but I can say the series has gone everywhere it could go, and it deserves a good send-off. Simon Baker and Robin Tunney were perfect for their roles, sustaining their created personas throughout while adding nuances and background to their characters.
It's not easy to see a well-liked series come to an end especially when it seems too soon. In the case of The Mentalist, it seems just right.
Father, once again I thank you for the amazing talents you give to people. My prayer is always that they would realize from whom their creativity comes. In the Name of Jesus, Amen
We've been told by Solomon, "There's nothing new under the sun." He was right those thousands of years ago, and his wise words still stand today. Now this fact makes it difficult to ponder telling a story which can be labeled "unique", "unusual", or even "imaginative". But it doesn't stop storytellers from trying. And the truth is most readers (and writers) have little corners of their mental worlds where others haven't gone - in some cases don't want to traverse.
The common passages in the journey, such as those innumerable novels that deal with romance through the ages, produce little in the new idea department. So why do they continue to outsell every other genre you ask. I would answer because so many women in particular, not exclusively, love to read about love. Some want the typical happily ever after, some want the star-crossed stories, some want the forbidden love, and others just want the "normal" pursuit, trials, and the final arrival at true love. It speaks of a heart's desire, innate, at much different levels in each individual, but a natural leaning of the heart.
It doesn't matter that there's nothing new under the sun. In a way that's freeing because attempting to come up with something "new" isn't likely, no matter how far out you dare to travel. However, what will be different, at least some of the time, is how you tell the story. Your voice, your words, your hopes, your penetrating insights into the characters you create - all of this can present the nuances of "new". Because although your humanity is linked to the billions before and after you, God has made you wonderfully "different." Somehow.
Tell the story. Give it your most personal touch. It will be different, ever so slightly or spectacularly, even if it's not new.
Father, thank you for giving us our individual differences. May your insights and revelation knowledge surface in our writing to make it all worthwhile. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
A book, you say? A novel? Okay then. You wish to enter the world of fiction where the words on the page speak of truth but portray it in unique ways. Here are a few things you might prepare to experience:
Novelists write in all kinds of ways. Some of them will tell you what's best for you starting out. It won't be. Well, it could be. There are no universal truths or rules in creating.
You will be inundated with skill books to help you learn to really write. If you read them all, you'll probably decide you're incapable of writing a novel after all. Don't. Don't think it. Throughout your writing life, just as in all of life, there will be value and dross. Use the valuable instruction and dump the dross. If an author listened and obeyed every teaching, novels would be robotic, standard-issue, boring, and unenlightening. There are enough of those novels already published.
Honest evaluation. Do you know proper English? Do you understand plot and crisis and melancholy and climax and solution? Drama and comedy? Science fiction versus fantasy? Do you recognize literary, thriller, cozy mystery, romance, historical? "Proper" English is rarely used in today's contemporary fiction. But to know it means you can manipulate the language effectively, choosing to ignore the more formal forms of the language. It's important to know the right way in order to master the not-so-right way. Dialogue must be authentic. Descriptions accurate. Can you create with words?
If you're disciplined in pursuit of the things you choose to do, you're ahead of this writing game. It's a taskmaster and not easy to apply. Discipline simply means sticking to it. You will form your own schedule, but you need to heed it in order to finish your work. Don't make an impossible schedule. You know yourself. What will really work for you amidst all the other demands of life? You may be limited to once a week. Just keep at it.
Still want to write that Great American Novel? How about just make a niche for yourself in the realm of fiction? How about just finishing one idea for a story that's been nagging you for a long time? Go ahead. Do it. Try it. Can't hurt.
Father, for all those you've called to tell stories, give us what we need to write them. From your heart to ours. Please. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
When the sky is dark, it reflects humanity. Stained with darkness. Until we see the Light. If we see the right light.
So many times in life, we do wrong things, think wrong things, want wrong things, and get wrong things. Who's to say what's "wrong", so many ask. And for the bulk of humanity, it's a logical question. When you make your own rules, create your own gods or idols, design your own lifestyles, and use only yourself to determine them, then it's you who says what's right and wrong - but it's just for you.
While it may not be hard for people to imagine a general sense of right and wrong, few want to abide by true definitions of each if it interferes with their preconceived notions or their desires. In the state of darkness, sin decides actions. If the heart is tender, regret ensues - but with no place to go. It's forced away with rationalization because the only known standard is made up and must survive.
For most people living in darkness, hardness becomes a necessity. The mental aspects of committing to wrong thinking, acting, and doing produce no sense of real hope, cause vacillation, and sometimes demand reconstruction of rules for life. The psyche confuses the issues causing the unsettled reactions. Not only right and wrong are blurred, but all kinds of things lose succinct definition.
The dark skies inevitably give way to light. Recede and are overcome by the light of day. In humanity the only way to allow darkness to recede or recant is by pursuing the Light for the human soul. God sent the Light in Jesus, the redemption for the darkness dwelling in the souls of man.
Live in the perpetual darkness or seek the Light. God leaves the decision in your hands. And whether we like it or not, He is the only One who defines right and wrong. He's the only One who brings the light when the skies are dark.
Father, thank you for defining our world as it stands today, swathed in darkness, some oblivious and happy to be so. Let those who are sick from the darkness find Jesus to soothe their weary souls. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
I'm not a big fan of change. However, when change is necessary for a worthwhile reason, I'm there.
In writing we don't always change, but we adapt, evolve, restart, refine, experiment, and sometimes take chances with our work. We try to develop a keener view of our efforts, working on improvement. Sometimes it works for us.
There is value in the expression, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Tinkering with and mulling over things just because we hope to reach some kind of perfection display a need to better a product, but it also can indicate an insatiable ego. No human being, no matter how skilled and talented, will achieve perfection in this fallen world. Where some performances are graded with "perfect" scores, the truth is fault can always be found.
Authors know for all the 5-star reviews, it will be the singular 1-star review which crushes them and reminds them of past, present, and potential future failures.
Change happens, and many times we have zero control over how, when, and why. The best we can do is cope, seek direction, and find the best part of it. If we initiate the change, we must celebrate and indulge it because most of the time it isn't going away. And there's always more to come.
Father, in all things big and small we need you. Your love, grace, hope, life, and wisdom. Your direction, leading, instruction, and security. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
I'm lousy at waiting. Terrible. Miserable. Frustrated. Sad. Mad. Not likin' it. Which is precisely why I'm forced to experience it at all levels by the One who desires to make me a better person. What a challenge for a mighty God.
So. I'm waiting for the creative fervor to return, but common sense tells me to get active at that level to usher it back to where it needs to be. Having said that, I'm also waiting for the desire to return to get active at that level, and it's been slow going. You could say I've got reasons, but reasons rarely give bearing to excuses, and all I've got right now are excuses.
I know succinctly that apart from the Lord, I can do nothing. Nothing is a huge word. So while I wait, I seek His direction, His inspiration, His blessing, His healing.
And I wait.
Father, help me. Lead me. Let me hear your voice and instruction. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Yes, football season is over. For Seahawks fans it ends in defeat after a controversial call at the one yard line. Some people rejoice at the end of the season because they have zero interest in this game, don't understand the hype or devotion attached to it, believe all the negatives about the sport and players, and they've decided it's much ado about nothing.
Not my family. The shock of how Sunday's Super Bowl ended resonates like a gong. The loss caused major distress at the moment, anger, frustration, sadness, and a multitude of other emotions. As I've said before, football provides a release from the ugliness of this world. Yes, it has its own drama throughout the on and off season with current players, past players, and future players in the NFL. It's a community that gets a magnifying glass put upon it - sometimes rightfully and often wrongly.
Right now the NFL is suffering from poor politically correct leadership, over punishing some players and letting others slide. Whatever is the hot issue with its fringe observers, who have no interest in this sport but perceive themselves as the measuring sticks for morality, becomes the focus of this Commissioner and his crew. Their policies have undergone new revisions, many of them ruining players' lives for the short term and made based on hysteria from the fringe mob rather than the actual characters of the individuals involved.
Some of the players have brought their own punishments into play using terrible judgment in their actions. Others have defied decency and set their own demises into action. Still others have been caught in the crossfire of a politically correct rendition of what should be right, not what is right.
When we select our favorite characters, we "adopt" them into our family. We wear their jerseys, we pray for them, we defend them, we celebrate their accomplishments. They become one of us. They're important to us.
We're not ashamed of our love for the game or for some of the players. It's a treasure to be able to watch them play and hopefully see them excel.
There's an east coast bias that runs through this world. In the media, in sports, in politics. To say it's disappointing is an understatement. We are west coast through and through, even though Seattle is regrettably politically correct and progressive. But while watching the players on the field, we can ignore the politics for 60 minutes or thereabouts and watch men doing what God has gifted them to do for a season of their lives. That's why to some of us: it's more than a game.
Father, please bring your healing to many of the players who left it all on the field of play. Help them look to you for the decisions they must make and realize that you alone have given them their skills. Bless their lives as they look to you for what they need. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.