American Sniper has been nominated for Best Picture. Bradley Cooper has been nominated for Best Actor. Chances are in this political climate Selma will win Best Picture. Kudos to Bradley Cooper and Clint Eastwood, the director of this powerful film who was not nominated. This role is way out of the ordinary for Cooper, and I commend him for taking on the depiction of such a larger-than-life man and SEAL hero. Big shoes to fill.
The subtitle to American Sniper is The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice believed in the value of, and assisted in writing, Navy SEAL Chris Kyle's story. The most prolific sniper of "bad guys", Chris Kyle and friend Chad Littlefield were mysteriously and allegedly murdered by a Marine in Reserve status at a gun range.
This is the honest story of the warrior Chris Kyle, who, if you believe you are marked for specific callings at creation, was destined to be a true soldier with the gumption, courage, determination, and skills to become the SEAL who attained the most recorded kills as a sniper in U.S. military history.
American Sniper tells the story of Chris Kyle's inevitable military career, how he pursued the option of becoming a SEAL and how in his mind the order of life was God, country, family. His wife Taya's thoughts and emotional responses to this order, her struggles with anger and resentment as their two children were born, are recorded intermittently throughout the book. Her comments help bring to the forefront the difficulties of being a military wife, particularly the wife or family member of an elite soldier who can't tell his loved ones anything about his location or specific duties and seems to value being with the Team more than being at home.
I'm going to give those of you who intend to read this amazing story a few quotations from Chris. These telltale words say more than anything I could say.
"And then we had a third group of Iraqi soldiers that we used in villages outside the city. . . .
"As fighters went, they sucked. The brightest Iraqis, it seemed, were usually the insurgents, fighting against us. . . .
"Let's just say they were incompetent, if not outright dangerous. . . .
"Besides being particularly inept, a lot of jundis were just lazy. You'd tell them to do something and they'd reply, 'Inshallaah.'
"Some people translate that as 'God willing.' What it really means is 'ain't gonna happen.'
"Most of the jundis wanted in the army to get a steady paycheck, but they didn't want to fight, let alone die, for their country.
"I realize that a lot of the problem has to do with the screwed-up culture in Iraq. These people had been under a dictatorship for all their lives. Iraq as a country meant nothing to them, or at least nothing good. Most were happy to be rid of Saddam Hussein, very happy to be free people, but they didn't understand what that really meant - the other things that come with being free.
"The government wasn't going to be running their lives anymore, but it also wasn't going to be giving them food or anything else. It was a shock. And they were so backward in terms of education and technology that for Americans it often felt like being in the Stone Age.
"You can feel sorry for them, but at the same time you don't want these guys trying to run your war for you.
"And giving them the tools to progress is not what my job is all about. My job was killing, not teaching." Chris Kyle (excerpted from pages 251;252;253)
And this about taking Ramadi:
"You know how Ramadi was won?
"We went in and killed all the bad people we could find.
"When we started, the decent (or potentially decent) Iraqis didn't fear the United States; they did fear the terrorists. The U.S. told them, 'We'll make it better for you.'
"The terrorists told them, 'We'll cut your head off.'
"Who would you fear? Who would you listen to?
"When we went into Ramadi, we told the terrorists, 'We'll cut your head off. We will do whatever we have to and eliminate you.'
"Not only did we get the terrorists' attention - we got everyone's attention. We showed we were the force to be reckoned with.
"That's where the so-called Great Awakening came. It wasn't from kissin' up to the Iraqis. It was from kicking butt.
"The tribal leaders saw that we were the bad-asses, and they'd better get their act together, work together, and stop accommodating the insurgents. Force moved that battle. We killed the bad guys and brought the leaders to the peace table.
"That is how the world works." Chris Kyle (excerpt from page 319)
Chris Kyle makes the battles come alive, the pain of losing Team members searing, the resentment of having to leave the SEALs even when he knew it was best for him, and the learning to regroup and love his family as he should, hit hard. He was born to be a warrior, he was a mighty man.
Chris Kyle was a Christian who by his own account was a little rough around the edges. But one thing for sure about this man of war: he had no trouble distinguishing good from evil. None. He killed bad guys in large numbers because they were intent on doing harm to his guys and all things good. He had no guilt or qualms about protecting his own. He recognized evil and acted to put it down. He paid no attention to the awards and medals he earned. Instead he hurt and mourned over the losses of his Brothers. His sorrows came over the ones he couldn't save. That was the heart of Chris Kyle, a true Navy SEAL.
I recommend reading American Sniper for all who respect the military and admire those who dedicate their lives to protecting the United States of America, one nation under God. As Chris Kyle's brother Jeff gave his heartbreaking response, "America has truly lost one of its finest sons." If you want to read cold, hard facts about war from someone who lived it and isn't afraid to speak about it, if you don't mind some hardcore language at times, and if you're a patriot, Chris Kyle's American Sniper is the book for you.
Father, you have defined evil for the world to know. Chris knew what was evil. Only you could plant that in his heart. You forgive us our own evil when we ask to be covered by the Blood of Jesus. We know we're sinners. Without you we would be evil too. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Most of us associate the term "diva" with singers and actors who demand ridiculous perks for their lodgings and outrageous requirements for their performance needs. Usually linked to female performers, the term has stretched to include all those who make superfluous demands.
I will say I've observed the expanded diva-persona in authors and athletes, scholars, and individuals with no claims to fame.
Because it is an attitude of superiority and entitlement, the diva-persona can appear in anyone who perceives themselves more highly than they ought - to borrow a biblical principle.
Real humility is a far more desirable characteristic. A willingness to admit there will always be someone who will accomplish more someday is not a concession to not working toward being the best at what you do. However, the realization that in some fields, i.e. the arts, opinions of "the best" will vary as much as the visible stars in the sky which is why any puffed-up attitude about one's ability in the multiple creative outlets rings hollow and should be relegated to a truer reality of the emotional content contributing to the arts.
There is no plausible reason for the diva-persona, no justifiable cause to elevate oneself to the place where the pronounced actions indicate whatever one wants should be provided by someone else. No amount of entertainment skills, knowledge, or intelligence warrants placing oneself in a position of power over others who are treated like personal servants. Although more common than we might want to admit, diva behavior lies dormant in most of us. And should remain there.
Father, we are desperate for you. You are the provider of all things good and perfect. Help us to remain faithful and devoted to your intentions for us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Many people use the new year to begin something new. Maybe it's a new version of something old, but it's supposed to be a fresh start. In reality it never matters what time of the year or month or day we find ourselves in the position to restart our lives in some way.
Whether it's renewing past commitments or making new ones, starting something over usually is the result of watching personal failures reach an ugly climax. As "they" say, there's only one way to go from there and that's up or forward or anywhere else but the present. Improvements are needed, wanted, and must bring change from the stagnant, unattractive mess we can find ourselves in without intending to have brought ourselves there.
It all may be ill-defined, or madly designed, but starting over or creating another beginning is what's left, and either we decide it's critical to find a way to change, improve, or create a better place to be in our hearts or our heads or both, we know if we don't, ultimate failure will be pending. And it won't be pretty. And we'll have no one to blame but ourselves.
As Christians, we open ourselves up to the fresh cleaning and renovation by the Holy Spirit - not that we didn't think we had kept that open to Him. It's just that the penalties of life have weakened our abilities to heed what He's telling us or reminding us or even instructing us to do to not only make our lives better internally and externally, but, in fact, to make our inner being better, more content, at peace with His sovereignty in order to let go of the anger, disappointment, cries for justice, and everything that impedes our progress as a believer, as an individual created for His glory, as a person living out the number of days given to us on planet earth.
Here's to starting over - whatever that means.
Father, I'm all yours, such as I am. Always desperate for you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'
"'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'"
The writing is supposed to entice you, draw you into the experience which will take place through the pages of that novel you're reading. It's an invitation to share in the goings on, the troubles, the emotions, the resolutions.
So what happens when you're not drawn into the pages of the book? Do you quit? Do you persevere waiting for it to improve? What is it you're hoping to find in those words?
One thing I've decided over the years of reading and writing is that one person's junk is another person's favorite tome. It never ceases to amaze me what different people like.
For me, give me enticing characters and some well-put-together words to lead me on their journeys, and I'm hooked. I like a variety of styles. From Vince Flynn to Brandilyn Collins to Robert Liparulo to Steven James to so many more - they rarely disappoint, but they're all different.
What draws you in?
Father, help us writers to draw in our audience, to do our best, and to bring you our gifts of words and stories. Thank you, Lord, for it all. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The late, fabulous, Vince Flynn explains the origin of his famous one-of-a-kind character Mitch Rapp.
The expected date for the release of The Survivor is October 6th, 2015, as Kyle Mills will continue Mitch's story. Mr. Mills is contracted for three books in this amazing series created by Vince Flynn.
Father, please continue to bless the efforts of Kyle Mills as he attempts to do justice to this important series. You're the only one who can provide the right inspiration. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
It's a popular phrase, reignited by multiple references to living in the moment by those who are trying to stay tuned to this time right now which requires all of the focus and attention to the here and now.
You'll hear it from professional football players this time of year as those who are in the playoffs do their best to concentrate on the present opponent, nothing beyond that.
Living in the moment is not an easy thing to do. It's an acquired taste and requires training oneself to stay in today. We've discussed goals, plans, and a bit of spontaneity, but in professions of many kinds, workers are asked to present long-term goals, visions, lists, and plans - even dreams for the future.
However, much hard work and determination can produce the realization of some dreams, and when they do, it's time to "live in the moment". But not only then. During the pursuit of those dreams, it is also the optimum hope to remain in the moment. If an individual can do that, come what may - and we all know there are plenty of those times - staying in the moment will produce direct solutions.
Spontaneity can be a fun thing. It can also be a serious thing. Sometimes an immediate response to an unexpected plight or an enjoyable occurrence can bring lasting practical and emotional satisfaction. It's about being prepared but also being aware that life is definitely unpredictable and tests and trials await us all.
In the moment is just that. Regardless of that current challenge, the "handle it" attitude prevails.
Much can be said for the positive aspects of good planning, training, and superior organization, but if that's what drives a person or asserts a rigid schedule into their lives, they lose an element of living in the moment and with it the beauty and fun of spontaneity.
Father, you know what's best for each of us. Rigidity stifles me, but your order is freeing. Help me to be the one you designed me to be. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Like a good portion of the male gender, my man likes a plan. At some point in the morning of work days and off days, he formulates a plan. It's his nature. It's what he does. When plans are foiled, he adapts, usually devising an alternate plan that will go with the flow, so to speak.
When people go to events, on vacation, to interview for a job, or anything else that requires some organization, they usually formulate plans to achieve the best possible results. It's wise to do so. Leaving room for spontaneity satisfies those with a less restrictive mindset and accomplishes just the right amount of order.
I have experienced many different kinds of results from planning in all aspects of my life. Since some of those experiences and results have produced fully desired or less than beneficial options from that planning, I tend to keep it loose regarding the structure of plans.
I've read about the packed agendas of different authors for the new year, and I wonder if all we plan is worth the work. In the sense of not standing by and ignoring the consequences of laziness or poor planning, of course the efforts made can be worth a great deal. But if we're not careful, "the best laid plans" falter and fail because they're based on human aims without the important - actually critical - inspiration and organization from the Holy Spirit.
As you form your goals and establish your plans, make sure the One who can truly make them happen is at the base of everything you attempt. With God all things are possible. If He makes the plan, it's attainable.
Father, please don't let me go my own way in my attempts at planning. Give me the inspiration and stamina to do as you wish. It's really all that matters. Period. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parens saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."
"Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.