Monday, April 28, 2014

God's Not Dead is Not A Dud

Last weekend the Hubs and I went to see God's Not Dead. I couldn't stop myself from watching it with a bit of a critical eye, partly with the intention of writing this post. This article does contain mild spoilers, so if you haven't seen the movie yet, read at your own risk.

GNDiPhone5Retina1_640x1136The Acting is Good

So many times evangelical Christian movies get a rep for bad acting. It's not completely undeserved, although the ones I've seen have gotten better over the past few years. The acting in God's Not Dead is good, though. The most stilted moment is the Newsboys cameo, but even that isn't distracting.

This isn't surprising when you consider you have a cast that has considerable on screen experience. It looks and feels like a "real" movie. You might walk out complaining about the movie, but I don't think the acting will be the reason.

The Story is Believable

Don't let anyone tell you this doesn't happen. It uses the storytelling tactic of exaggeration to get to the heart of the story faster, but faith being challenged in a college classroom is very, very real. If you can't find someone with a personal story to tell you, just check out the list of court cases the movie was based on. It's the longest part of the credits and will blow your mind.

As for all the subplots? Yep, they're all realistic, too. I've heard similar stories on a regular basis.

They handled the theology well.

Unless God's already working in your life, the movie won't compel you to declare Jesus your Lord and Savior. While the Gospel message is presented, what I think the movie does really well is raise the right questions. I think there's a lot of people who would come away from this movie with more questions than answers, but I think that's a good thing. If we don't have questions, we can't seek answers.

My favorite part of the theological sections was that Josh didn't rely on people's testimonies to defend his faith. Yes, personal testimonies are crucial to an understanding of God and His grace, but Christianity is not a mindless faith. Josh uses science and logic as well as personal connection. He also doesn't claim to know everything, but searches to find the answers.

It isn't perfect, but it's still good. 

For me, the biggest drawback of the movie was that it started a bit slow. It's a story with a lot of threads that weave together, and the creation of those threads takes a while.

Overall, though, I was impressed with the movie. I enjoyed it and feel confident it's going to be impacting lives for a long time. I know I will be keeping an eye on Pure Flix to see what they put out next.

You can find out more about the movie on the official website.


Have you seen the movie? What did you think?

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Self-Obsessed Easter Bunny and Other Twitter Perspectives

It's been a fun and thought-provoking week on Twitter. Some of my faves of the week:

A new perspective on the Easter Bunny...

@TimHawkinsComic: I think the Easter Bunny is full of himself, what with giving everyone chocolate graven images of himself and all.

And a fun perspective on life...

@theBradMontague: So much of adulthood is just pretending you know what you're doing. @PhilCooke: Apparently I've arrived. I just discovered a @FakePhilCooke Twitter account... :-) #LegendInMyOwnMind@JonAcuff: We are all Tom Hanks staring at a volleyball for community, only instead we are holding phones" What @JennyAcuff just said to me. #Dang

@PhilCooke: I waste way too much time trying to get organized...

And we can't leave out the need of keeping the world of writing in perspective...

@JamesScottBell: Found a good, cheap poof reader@NovelDoctor: If I followed the "write what you know" axiom, all my stories would be about authors who stare blankly at their laptops.

And never forget to challenge your spiritual perspective...

@SuperPreacher: Growing up a geek Pastor's Kid, my favorite hymns were "Power in the Blood" and "I'll Fly Away." #TrueStory@PhilCooke: "Christians have given atheists less and less in which to disbelieve" - Alasdair MacIntyre

@matt_Papa: If You're all about grace but never talk about wrath, sin, or God's holiness, then you do not make much of grace but too little.

How's your perspective on life this week?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Try a Board Game Bonanza at Your Next Party

If you have regular gatherings with a large group of people, you are probably on constant look out for a new, interesting activity. Preferably one that doesn't cost much.

This past weekend was International Table Top Day, where people all over the world gathered together to play board games. Recently we did an event with the students at my church where we played a lot of board games, with a bit of a twist.

Now I have to admit the idea is not originally mine. We heard the idea from one of our student's moms who had done it at another group's event. But all we had to go on was the idea, so the logistics were our own. It went well, but we learned a few things. I'm going to share those lessons with you in case you are wanting to hold your own Bonanza.

The Idea

The concept is simple, though the execution can get hilariously complex. A large group is divided into smaller groups of four in order to play board games. Every ten minutes they switch games, picking up someone else's hand at the next table.

Sound like fun? It is. Everyone had a great time.

What You Need

- A large room. Part of the fun of the evening was having everyone yell at each other across the room when they picked up a terrible hand.

- Tables and chairs.

- Games. Lots of them.

- A timer

- Seat Markers (you make these)

- Turn Markers (you make these, too)

- Rule sheets (yep... you make these as well)

Setting Up

1. Figure out about how many people you expect at your gathering. Divide that number by four.

NOTE: If you don't know how many people are going to be in attendance, arrange for three people who will be okay with playing or not playing as the numbers are needed. You need every subgroup to have four people. 

2. You will want about three games for each subgroup you expect. Have one of these be a more involved game such as Monopoly, Scrabble, Life, etc. Then have two smaller simpler games. Don't be afraid to throw in childhood classics such as Chutes and Ladders, Go Fish, and Candyland. If it can be played by four individuals, it's an option.

NOTE: Games we used that worked well: Monopoly, Sorry, Trouble, Blokus, Phase 10, Clue (believe it or not this was great fun!). We also tried a childhood favorite of mine, Pay Day, but it was too unfamiliar and complicated. Originally we were also playing Memory but the "board" got messed up. If you use a game that people are not familiar with (such as Blokus) make sure the concept is simple and easily grasped, even if the best strategies aren't. 

3. For each game you need the following:

- Simplified rules sheet. Even if it's a game like Monopoly that everyone is a little familiar with, have a rules sheet. Common games frequently get played with "house rules" and you don't want people fighting over the right way to play.  Note: Keep this to one sheet with large, easy to glance at font. If it takes more than that the game might be too complicated for this event. 

- Seat markers. The incoming group will need to know who is sitting where. Mark each seat with an A, B, C, or D and it's color/game piece.

- Turn markers. When a group leaves the table, they place the marker at the seat of whose turn it is. That way the next group knows where to start.

- Anything that is needed to keep track of the game. Do you need a score card? A way to track progress? For example at the Phase 10 table, we simplified it and didn't keep score, but we did give each seat a list of phases that were marked out as play progressed so each person would know which phase they were on.

4. Set up your tables. Place a more involved game at every third table and fill in with the simpler games. Have groups start the evening at the complicated tables. As games are won, those table will start getting skipped, so have enough buffer to keep the teams from running into each other. In our experience a group every three games would have worked well. Lay out the tables and go ahead and deal out money or anything else needed for game play to start.

Playing The Games

Divide your group into subgroups of four. Assign an A, B, C, and D player in each group. Send them to the more complicated games and start the timer.

When the timer goes off, play stops. If someone has rolled but hasn't actually started the process of their turn, they abandon it, placing the Turn Marker in front of their seat. If the turn is in progress, they may finish it (such as paying rent in Monopoly or drawing a card in Go Fish or totaling a score in Scrabble.) Then the turn marker goes to the next person.

All groups rotate one table (skip the table if the game has been completed). Set the timer and go again.

For a bit of additional fun, have a large scoreboard on the wall and keep track of which letter wins each game. This helps keep the group connected even as they play at separate tables. it also provides some incentive to actually try to win.

Thoughts and Suggestions

When selecting games, look for ones that are simple yet will cause a bit of chaos due to the changing of hands.

Games I am pretty positive would work well: Monopoly, Scrabble, Life, Uno, Clue, Yahtzee, Sorry, CandyLand, Chutes and Ladders, Go Fish, Trouble, Phase 10, Trivial Pursuit, Blokus, Memory - particularly if you can make the board massive with multiple sets of cards (as long as they have similar backs), possibly even Old Maid and Operation.

If you have a group of frequent gamers, games such as Settlers could be considered. You will have to decide if the complexities would intrigue or frustrate your group.

Stay away from games with too many simultaneous threads (such as Pay Day) where there are too many things to keep track of. Also avoid games such as Jenga where there is more of a single loser instead of a single winner.


Do you think this would work for your group? Have you done something similar? What board games would you add to the list?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Tweets of the Week: Life Lessons Edition

Twitter is often about celebrity stalking or trying to one-up your friends in witty conversation. But every now and then something pretty cool happens. You see a tweet about something random and suddenly realize you are not alone in your peculiarities.

This seemed to be the week for that on my Twitter feed. Along with a few life lessons. Below are the best of the bunch.

Life Observations:

@JohnAveryBOoks: Adolescence is a period of rapid changes. Between the ages of 12 and 17, for example, a parent ages as much as 20 years - author unkown@alaindebotton: Equation to fame: to be quite liked by 2 people requires you to mildly irritate 100 and be actively hated by 20@Capricecrane: The saddest April Fools joke is thinking there's only one day a year we devote to lying to each other@AdamStadtmiller: We can easily become infatuated with knowing the bible of God more than the God of the bible



I knew I wasn't the only one:@JonAcuff: Bradford Pear trees are jerks. Horrible smell, full of pollen, liable to break in half if breathed upon by a baby bird #worsttree

@KeenerTaylor Still learning to let myself feel feelings & acknowledge what triggered them without blaming someone else for how I choose to feel & react@CapriceCrane My version of cleaning is less about cleaning and more about hiding a bunch of stuff

Some things are just funny:

@NathanFillion: What was one thing you with you could have done when doing Firefly? Season 7@realjohngreen: Sarah, just now, about our dinner: "That salad didn't fill me up so much as it made me tired of chewing."