Friday, September 23, 2016

The Afters - Live On Forever

Live on Forever by The Afters is a celebration of God's faithfulness, protection and promise, made more poignant due to it coming out of a season of tragedy. Health scares of a band member and a friend, and the deaths of a friend from church and of the infant daughter of the band's soundman during the two years the band spent writing and recording this album was cause for them to press even closer to God and His protection and shelter.

Josh Havens, guitarist and lead singer, when asked to pick out a song that sums up the spirit of the album, chose “Battles.” “It was the last song we wrote and the fastest we wrote,” he says. “We don’t typically write songs fast; we’ll change lyrics and melodies and craft our songs carefully. But ‘Battles’ poured out, the music and lyrics, in one day. It’s about standing up against fear and knowing God is always with us,” Havens explains. “It’s one of the takeaways we hope people get: ‘Don’t give up to fear."




I like this album. There are other songs The Afters have done in the past that I like better, but this is a good collection. To be fair, the style is more the type I will listen to now and then rather than a full set, but that is more due to my personal preference than anything else. The fact that I have listened to the CD several times, sometimes hitting replay at the end, is great. On most "pop" music albums, there is usually at least one song that has me hitting Mute. And, the more I listen to the lyrics, the more I like each song. 

My favorites on this CD are "Sunrise," "Live On Forever" and "When You Are With Me." The thing about this album that pleases me most is that it is songs TO God rather than ABOUT God. Since music is such a huge part of my praise and worship time with God, I love to sing songs to Him. It's always good when I don't have to change the lyrics to make sense when I am talking to Him.

Bottom line is that I really do like the album, and while it is not my favorite musical style, the words are inspirational and uplifting---especially encouraging if you are struggling or going through a difficult trail---or ready to praise Him for seeing you through it. 


GIVEAWAY: Propeller/Flyby is offering one CD to a reader of this blog. Simply respond no later than Sept 29, 2016. Winner will be announced September 30, 2016. Open to US and Canada residents only. 

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the
Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”



Buy-links:
iTunes: LOFAlbum-iTunes

Google Play:  LOFAlbum-GPlay
Amazon: LOFAlbum-Amazon
Spotify: open.spotify.com/album/4sVbYL5y6d2nMX2H5LggGx

Get Connected with The Afters:
Official website: theafters.com
twitter.com/theafters
facebook.com/theafters
instagram.com/theaftersofficial



Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Student Body

The Student Body is a documentary by high school journalist, Bailey Webber, who, after experiencing students having a voice that will be listened to, seeks justice for her peers after learning of the experience of another student (Maddy Karimi). Together the 2 girls use their passion to engage lawmakers and health professionals to tackle the controversial "Fat Letters" being sent to students after government mandated BMI testing. Bailey and her award-winning filmmaker dad, Michael Webber, team together in this excellent documentary that was the well-deserved winner of the 2016 Independent Spirit Award.

The issue of childhood obesity was what sparked the controversy with government sponsored bills that sounded good on paper, but were actually intrusive and upsetting to student and their families. The reaction caused a backlash that negated the proposed benefit and did nothing to solve the original issue or the problems that followed. Children as young as 5 were told that they were fat, based soley on one testing method done at school. When a student in Ohio demands to be heard by the school board, Bailey Webber is inspired to champion the cause on behalf of Maddy and the other students affected. In a determined battle, Bailey sets out to make the bureaucrats realize the effect these letters were having on children and expose the hypocrisy of their own unwillingness to undergo the same treatment. Tp view trailer, 
Click Here



I will be honest. I did not expect to like this film and was wishing I had not agreed to view it. I really had not done more than glance at the subject matter (childhood obesity), so I thought it would be a dry little documentary/lecture. However, within minutes it captured my full attention. Very well made documentary that addressed so much more than expected. Bailey Webber's tenacity in getting a well rounded story with varying viewpoints actively engaged me as a viewer. I even found myself verbally responding to several answers as though I were along with her on this journey. I seldom get this caught up in a story; it may have been because this is reality, but I have gotten bored with 2 minute real-life videos. To keep my interest for 85 minutes is impressive.

Not only was it an excellent look at a very controversial subject, especially the government intrusion into the personal lives of children and their parents over matters that should be left up to a child's parents and healthcare providers, but she also brought in healthcare providers who were both in favor of and opposed to school and government sanctioned BMI (Body Mass Index) testing. Even with the lawmakers, there was the views of those who agreed, disagreed, and some who felt compelled because of potential backlash. Altogether a fascinating look at how something intended for good may actually create more problems. I expect to see much more from this skilled young filmmaker in the future. She has learned much from her father, but it is more than obvious that she has her own talent and ability to shine on her own as she shines the spotlight of truth in her documentary. Excellent film that you need to see when it comes to a theater near you. I noticed they use GATHR, so you can actively bring The Student Body to your theater. Check out details HERE.

Website: TheStudentBodyfilm.com


Disclaimer: I received a link to view this film from producer Elliot Wallach of Edify Media, but was not required to give a review. My thoughts and opinions are wholly my own.


About Bailey Webber Bailey Webber is a student investigative journalist, writer and co­director of The Student Body. Her story of courage and activism has been featured in numerous newspaper and online articles. She has been honored by the National Association of University Women for her advocacy work, is an ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association as well as Proud to Be Me in which she has written several articles, blogs, and has participated in panel discussions. Bailey is also an up-and-coming public speaker and has appeared as a guest on several television and radio shows. Bailey is the daughter of Michael Webber, a motion picture producer and renowned documentary filmmaker. As such, she has grown up around movie making and has storytelling in her blood. The Student Body is her directorial debut.

About Michael Webber:  Michael Webber is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and producer/co­director of The Student Body. Webber has produced numerous theatrical films for studios such as 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate. Eventually applying his storytelling skills to non­fiction filmmaking, Webber would go on to produced/directed his “passion project” ­ the hit documentary The Elephant in the Living Room. The film was praised by critics as one of the best films of the year, winning 5 Best Documentary awards and opening as the #1 independent film in the US.  Michael has been guest on countless radio and television talk shows around the country, including appearances on The Today Show, ABC World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News and Nightline. He was
also the subject of an ABC 20/20 special by Emmy Award Winning journalist Jay Schradler.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Voiceless

Jesse Dean (Rusty Joiner: Last Ounce of Courage, Dodgeball, Days of Our Lives), a recently discharged soldier and his wife, wife Julia (Jocelyn Cruz: Strike One, This Is Our Time) move to Philadelphia when he takes a job as the outreach leader in the church Julia attended before their marriage. Jesse was not a Christian before meeting Julia, but has fully embraced his new faith and eager to share it with others.

Jesse gets a great start with connecting with his new community, but the presence of an abortion clinic across the street, and encounters with 2 different women who talk to him regarding decisions of whether or not to have an abortion have a tremendous impact on him. The pastor, church members, families of the pregnant women, the police, and even his wife, advise him to back off before he lands in jail.

Despite opposition, Jesse feel compelled to take action on his conviction to be a voice for the Voiceless and talk to those considering entering the abortion clinic. Being supportive of the women whose decision to let their child live is another important step he considers vital after an initial reluctance ends in tragedy. Help comes from a reluctant source--- a neighbor (Susan Moses) becomes a staunch supporter, even as his wife battles her own insecurities and painful memories.

The winner of multiple awards, Voiceless has been honored as Northeast Film Festival’s Best Feature and People’s Choice for Best Feature Film and Best Feature Film from the California Independent Film Festival. 
Comedian Paul Rodriguez also stars as Virgil with James Russo as Pastor Gil. Written and directed by Pat Necerato, the film is rated PG-13 for thematic material and some violence. Voiceless will be coming to theaters on October 7, 2016. For more information and to see which theaters will have screenings, visit their website: Voicelessthemovie.com





Many thanks to Icon Media Group for allowing me to see Voiceless in advance of the theater release for review purposes. They only required an honest review. I am sharing my thoughts below:

Voiceless is a very well made film that not only touches on the controversial subject of abortion, but also on taking a stand and remaining firm on your convictions. Of course the story is told from a pro-life point of view, but it clearly shows that even Christians have mixed views on the subject and whether or not they should personally be involved. Elements that I loved were that the entire focus was not only on the unborn child. Many of the people who are in favor of abortion throw out a criticism that pro-lifers are only concerned with the "fetus." (While I don't find that true among the people I know, I do concede that there are people who are unsupportive of the women who choose to give birth, and even the children themselves as they age.) Jesse's total involvement and commitment to help the women who chose Life and his encouragement to others to get involved---to be the "Hands and Feet of Jesus" is an aspect of the film that touched me deeply, and I hope encourages other viewers to walk farther with the women who have more decisions to make after the one to not abort. A helping hand is more than just a hand out. 'Miss Elsie' (Susan Moses) was one of my favorite characters in the film. Jesse and Julia cranky neighbor secretly had a heart of gold and more courage than many as she also makes a decision whether to remain an outsider or get involved with others. 

Honestly, I loved all of the characters in the film (and the actors who portrayed them), since even the ones whose views differed from mine added layers to the film. We get so angry at those who disagree with us or who chose to remain uninvolved that we often fail to see from their perspective. While I remain as adamantly pro-life as ever, I did see how a pro-choice person could reach a different conclusion than me. That small common point can be the talking point (as opposed to the screaming point) that opens a conversation. 

The downside for me was that the film leaned more toward the typical "Christian movie" ending. Not as bad as many, but that may just be me. I do see that it would serve the purpose more...which is to encourage more Christians to get up, get out, get involved, and make a difference. I can't really complain about that. 

The film is going to be in a limited run, but you can check with the website to see if you could bring it to your area; More theaters are being added. If you can, I recommend you go see it. When it comes out on DVD, Buy Voiceless. Whether you are pro, anti, or indifferent about abortion, the movie will show that there is more to the story and that sitting back and ignoring the issue is not the answer. 




Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Resting and Trusting in God

'This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "Only in returning to Me and resting in Me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.'  ~ Isaiah 30:15

This verse popped up tonight as I was researching something that had nothing to do with anything from Scripture. Actually, I was doing a quick Math calculation, and was puzzled to see Scripture popping up. But, curiosity got the best of it, so I looked it up.

Immediately, I was struck by how it tied in with something that was been in my thoughts lately. Actually, several things have been on my mind due to issues that our facing our nation, and our world, and many are being brought to the forefront with a political twist added. I have struggled with frustration, rage, and even feelings of hopelessness as I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the hatred that has become social media. Even the ever-present kitten pictures and videos bring opinions and comments from joy to vile utterances.

A certain Bible verse has also been in my news feed a lot lately--- 'Be still and know that I am God.' ~ Psalm 46:10. I said, somewhat jokingly, to someone that God must really be trying to get me to pay attention. Of course, I have only paid attention superficially. Just now, I looked up the verse (I always forget the "address" of verses), and was struck even more by the portion of the verse that is rarely included: 
"Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world." So, the full Scripture is even closer to what has troubled me so much.

The current political season, filled with more animosity than ever, is dividing us radically...and with a hypocrisy that truly baffles me. I don't have a candidate I fully trust and support, but I will choose the one who seems more likely to choose wise advisors and is not as vocal in support of practices that I find evil. 
I cannot make others turn (or return) to God, but I can continue to pray and show kindness and love...and sometimes, merely shake the dirt off my feet (Matthew 10:14; Luke 9:5) and move on. Yes, I do believe that we are told to speak when a brother or sister in Christ strays, but not to rebuke those who are not believers. Does this mean to be silent about my opinion? No! That makes no sense. But, I can avoid name-calling, foul language, and hatred, or, more to the point, not allow others doing so to change me and my attitude.

The important thing to remember is---I do have a God I fully trust. I can rest in Him and have the confidence that He has all in control. No matter who wins or what happens as a result of this election, God will be triumphant!

The Biggest Story DVD and CD by Kevin DeYoung

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung is the overall message of the Bible written for children with pivotal stories and characters highlighted. Starting with the disobedience and promise that demonstrate the promise of Jesus on to his birth, death, resurrection, and the availability of the Holy Spirit for all believers. In Genesis, God promises that there ill be a "Snake Crusher" who will eventually restore God's people to the same relationship He had with Adam and Eve in the Garden. This review, however, is about the DVD and Audio Book available.

The Animated Short Film: Using Don Clark's colorful illustrations from the hardcover of The Biggest Story, the animated short film is visually colorful enough to attract the attention of children as DeYoung uses a variety of highlights to connect Scripture’s message about God’s plan to redeem his rebellious people.





The Audio Book: Written and narrated by author Kevin DeYoung, this tells the story of Eve being tempted by the snake, and of Adam also eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and then continues on the journey through the Bible, showing the many times God has connecting the dots from the garden of Eden to Christ's death on the cross to the new heaven and new earth.

I have mixed views on this one. I did love the bright colors, but sometimes it felt a little visually overwhelming. I did not always concentrate on the words. There were a few words that seemed a bit difficult for younger children to understand (for instance, "famine" is used several times and that is a concept all kids may not understand), but I am in favor of building a stronger vocabulary. You just may want to make sure the child watching (or listening to audio) understand what is being said. And, it may be useful to help a child understand that God still loved His people, despite being angry at actions. Of course the stories have to be simplified for children and there is a time constraint. While I do have a few issues, I do like both the DVD and CD and see them as good teaching tools for children, and this is definitely a conversation-opener to give your child a clearer explanation of God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, and how God has used others to perform His works and share the good news of Jesus and restore us to Him. Also, both CD and DVD include a brightly colored poster, suitable for framing. They are two-sided so that gives additional options.

I received a copy of these products from Propeller/FlyBy Promotions in exchange for a fair and honest review. "Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”



Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Wedding Shop by Rachel Hauck

Two women separated by decades. Both set out to help others find their dreams when their own have crumbled.

It's the early 1930s, but Cora Scott is walking in stride as a career woman ​after having inherited her great aunt's wedding shop in Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, where brides come from as far away as Birmingham to experience her famed bridal treatment. Meanwhile, Cora is counting down the days until her own true love returns from the river to make her his bride. But days turn into months and months to years. All the while, Birch Good continues to woo Cora and try to show her that while he is solid and dependable, he can sweep her off her feet.

​More than eighty years later, former ​Air Force Captain Haley Morgan has returned home to Heart's Bend after finishing her commitment to military service. After the devastating death of her best friend, Tammy, and discovering the truth about the man she loved, Haley is searching for her place in life.

When Haley decides to reopen the romantic but abandoned wedding shop where she and Tammy played and dreamed as children, she begins a journey of courage, mystery, and love.

As Cora’s and ​Haley's stories intertwine through time in the shadow of the beloved wedding shop, they both discover the power of their own dreams and the magic of everyday love. (publisher)

My Review: The story is told from the viewpoint of several main characters and across several generations. Yet the stories weave together to create a fascinating connection between all and how some basic emotions remain the same. Haley discovers that she and Cora experienced many of the same things and the knowledge that Cora recovered and moved on helps Haley in her own healing process. I loved the various avenues of life experiences explored, and that you get a sense that Haley and Cora, despite distractions, both found happiness in finding themselves in God's plans for their lives. Admittedly, since it is the only worldview I know, I always prefer books with a Christian worldview. Watching the faith walk of these characters was a great part of the story.

There was a little confusion for me as I tried to remember all of the characters and where they belonged, but not enough to lessen my enjoyment...and I did get them sorted out. And, sometimes the pace was a bit uneven, but that probably had much more to do with my interest level than the author, simply because some characters interested me more than others. But, all-in-all, the book was very well-written and a fascinating read. It was difficult to put down, and I did stay up later than planned a couple of night to read 'just one more chapter'---or 2 (or 3)! I look forward to reading more books by Rachel Hauck.


 I received a copy of this Zondervan book from BookLook Bloggers at no cost to myself for a fair and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Searching the Scriptures by Charles R. Swindoll

In Searching the Scriptures, Chuck Swindoll uses the imagery of preparing a meal to learn methods of preparing a spiritual feast to nourish our souls. A respected Bible teacher, Swindoll uses the tried and true methods he has learned at school and further honed in years of practicing to help everyone understand God’s Word, apply it, and communicate it clearly to others. With this guide and shared wisdom, you will be better prepared to nourish yourself and others with the meat, rather than spiritual milk only, as you dig into your Bible and study it diligently. Searching the Scriptures: Find the Nourishment Your Soul Needs is a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to take the time and effort to study for themselves rather than simply learning what others have to say. Scripture can be wildly misinterpreted by some, so it is always good to study for yourself. I was reminded of 2 Timothy 2:15, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn't need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth." How better to do that than by studying for yourself? Using similar methods to preparing a meal, Swindoll divides his book into 3 parts:
  • Stage 1 - Finding the Food
  • Stage 2 - Preparing the Meal
  • Stage 3 - Serving the Feast
Swindoll gives you a list of tools needed to help you begin the diligent study of God's Word, including some personal favorites he uses. Since the vast array that is available can be overwhelming, I loved getting his recommendations. Just as a novice cook can be bewildered at where to begin and what to have stocked, so can a new student of the Bible.

Throughout the book, he gives personal examples and instructions, along with homework at the end of each chapter to help you practice. On a personal note, I am not a good cook, but I am told that it is because I don't put time and effort into it. I can see the same principle working here. Instead of a diet of snack food...like memes or or random Facebook posts of Scripture, his goal is to help the reader learn to have the proper tools and ingredients, to study the effect of what does work or not work together (buttermilk, lard, and flour may not be good to eat alone, but mix them together and you can bake amazing biscuits) to create something filling and nourishing for your soul.

Finally, once you have learned how to study Scripture for yourself, you are then better equipped to share it with others...and to teach others how to do this for themselves. Does this look easy? No, I am actually a little intimidated by some of it (even more so than I am a cookbook!), but the reward of knowing I can study Scripture and gain greater understanding is well worth the effort. There are some amazing preachers and teachers to hear, but nothing beats doing it yourself. After all, we are instructed, "
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." - 1 Peter 3:15. It is always easier to explain something you have learned for yourself.

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. I was only required to give an honest review.