Monthly Archives: June 2012

Epic Rap Battles of History

I had forgotten about this Youtube channel, but Gott sei Dank I stumbled across it again while I was having my coffee this morning.  These two guys match up famous people from the past, fiction, and from the present, and then pit them against each other in an epic rap battle.  Some are pretty freakin’ hilarious.  Here are some of my favorites.  (And if you’re easily offended, don’t like cussing, or can’t take jokes about death or dead people, then maybe you shouldn’t watch them.)

My all-time favorite:  A rap battle between the two most evil people to ever have existed (or to never have existed):  Darth Vader vs. Adolf Hitler:

This one is just freakin’ awesome:  Albert Einstein vs. Stephen Hawking.  “I’ll give you a brief history of pain with the back of my hand.”   :D

Steve Jobs is so amazingly cocky in this one.  I love it.  Bill Gates vs. Steve Jobs.  But who really wins in the end?

I mean, is this one really even a contest?  Justin Bieber vs. Ludwig von Beethoven.

This one’s pretty fun!  Dr. Suess vs. Shakespeare.  Even though Shakespeare breaks it down super fast there for a while, I think Dr. Suess gets the best of him in the end.

And, while this one’s not the best written, I couldn’t leave it out.  I mean, it’s two of my favorite characters of all time:  Gandalf vs. Dumbledore.

Check out their Youtube channel for more:  here.

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Categories: Entertainment, History | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Most Romantic Songs Ever

Following are some songs that, when I hear the lyrics, I know have to be among the most romantic songs ever written…or at least among the most heart wrenching or moving songs ever.  Not all of the songs on my list are romantic in the “I love you so much” sense,  but they all have something to do with love, whether it’s a lost love, or simply expressing a bond.

The list is in no particular order (except #1 and 2, because I think they are the most romantic songs ever), and before each video, I’ve included some of the lyrics that I think make that song particularly special.   After you browse through them, feel free to leave a comment with any song that you find incredibly romantic!

1)

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel

I think this song could be for a lover, or even the closest and truest of friends.  Either way, it’s passionate. 

“When you’re weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all

I’m on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down…

…I’ll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around…

I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water

2)

“From Here to the Moon & Back” by Dolly Parton (& Kris Kirstofferson)

The mixture of Dolly & Kris’ voice in this one is fantastic.  In the movie, they’re dancing and looking into each other’s eyes in such a way that you know that their love for each other definitely goes beyond the moon…and back. 

How much and how far would I go to prove
The depth and the breadth of my love for you?

From here to the moon and back
Who else in this world will love you like that?
Love everlasting, I promise you that
From here to the moon and back…

I would blow you a kiss from the star where I sat
I would call out your name to echo through the vast
Thank heaven for you and to God, tip my hat
From here to the moon and back
And I’ll spend forever just proving that fact
From here to the moon and back

3)

“A Little’s Enough” by Angels & Airwaves

Maybe this isn’t your typical love song, but the words are very sweet.  

I can do anything, If you want me here
And I can fix anything, If you’ll let me near
What are those secrets now
That you’re too scared to tell
I’ll whisper them all aloud
So you can hear yourself

 

4)

“Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers

I don’t really find the lyrics to this one to be the most original or the particularly sweetest in the world, but the honest way he sings is why this one’s on the list! 

Oh my love, my darling
I’ve hungered,
Hungered for your touch
A long lonely time,
And time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much,
Are you still mine?
I need your love, I…
I need your love
God speed your love to me

5)

“Shelter” by Ray Lamontagne 

This guy’s voice will rip your heart out.  You can’t sing like this unless you have really felt those emotions.  His whole album “Trouble” is amazing and heart-wrenching.  This particular video features a live version of both “Shelter” and “Trouble.”  Both are worth watching! 

I guess you don’t need it
I guess you don’t want me to repeat it
But everything I have to give, I’ll give to you
It’s not like we planned it
You tried to stay, but you could not stand it
To see me shut down slow
as though it was an easy thing to do
Listen when
All of this around us’ll fall over
I tell you what we’re gonna do
You will shelter me, my love
And I will shelter you

6)

“Secret Crowds” by Angels & Airwaves 

Yes, another from Angels & Airwaves.  Again, it may not sound like a love song, but listen to some of the lyrics.  Angels & Airwaves are all about Love.

If I had my own world
I’d build you an empire
From here to the far lands
To spread love like violence…

Let me feel you, carry you higher
Watch our words spread hope like fire

7)

“I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton

I know that Whitney Houston’s version of Dolly’s song is great, too.  But, Dolly’s voice is so pure and true, and I’ll take that over Houston’s power any day.  I love you too, Dolly! 

And I hope life will treat you kind
And I hope that you have all
That you ever dreamed of
Oh, I do wish you joy
And I wish you happiness
But above all this
I wish you love
I love you, I will always love you.

8)

“It’s Your Love” by Tim McGraw & Faith Hill

This one’s made even better knowing that it’s sung by man and wife. 

Better than I was
More than I am
All of that happened
By taking your hand
Who I am now
Is who I’ve wanted to be
Now that we’re together
Stronger than ever, happy and free
Oh, it’s a beautiful thing
Don’t think I can keep it all in
And if you ask me why I’ll change
All I gotta do is say your sweet name

It’s your love.

9)

“Something About the Way You Look Tonight” by Sir Elton John 

It was hard for me to pick which Elton John love song was my favorite.  It was either this one, or “Your Song.”  Ultimately, I think I chose “Something About the Way You Look Tonight” because the music is just awesome, too. 

I need to tell you
How you light up every second of the day
But in the moonlight
You just shine like a beacon on the bay

And I can’t explain
But it’s something about the way you look tonight
Takes my breath away
It’s that feeling I get about you, deep inside
And I can’t describe
But it’s something about the way you look tonight

Takes my breath away
The way you look tonight

With your smile
You pull the deepest secrets from my heart
In all honesty
I’m speechless and I don’t know where to start

10)

“Stand by Me” by Tracy Chapman

I know that a lot of people have sung this song, but Tracy Chapman’s version is the best.  Hands down. 

If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
And the mountains should crumble to the sea
I won’t cry, I won’t cry, no I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

11)

“He Stopped Loving Her Today” – by George Jones

A sad song about a love that lasted until the end.  This one breaks my heart. 

Kept some letters by his bed dated nineteen sixty-two
He had underlined in red every single “I love you”

I went to see him just today
Oh but I didn’t see no tears
All dressed up to go away
First time I’d seen him smile in years

He stopped loving her today
They placed a wreath upon his door
And soon they’ll carry him away
He stopped loving her today

12)

“Honey Bee” by Blake Shelton

This one’s a nice change of  mood from number 11 – more upbeat and positive.  I’m not normally a fan of new country music, but I like Blake Shelton, and I definitely love this love song!

You’ll be my soft and sweet
I’ll be your strong and steady
You’ll be my glass of wine
I’ll be your shot of whiskey
You’ll be my sunny day
I’ll be your shade tree
You’ll be my honeysuckle
I’ll be your honey bee…

I coulda said “I love you”
Coulda wrote you a line or two
Baby, all I know to do is speak right from the heart…

If you’ll be my Louisiana
I’ll be your Mississippi
You’ll be my Little Loretta
I’ll be your Conway Twitty
You’ll be my sugar, baby
I’ll be your sweet iced tea
You’ll be my honeysuckle
I’ll be your honey bee

13)

“True Love” by Angels & Airwaves

And a last one from my favorite band.  

You won’t be alone, I am beside you…

The stars in the sky illuminate below,
The light is the sign that love will guide you home.

True Love.

Okay, so tell me what your favorite romantic/love songs are! 

Categories: Entertainment | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

A Preaching Genius Faces His Toughest Convert

 

By John Blake, CNN

December 14, 2011 — (link to original article here.)

Blue Ridge, Georgia (CNN) — Fred Craddock was a young preacher trying to find his voice when he received a call from his mother one day.

“You need to go see your father,” she said. “He may not live longer.”

Craddock found his father in a VA hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Fred Craddock Sr. had whittled down to 73 pounds. Radiation treatments had burned him to pieces. He couldn’t eat or speak.

When he saw his son, he picked up a Kleenex box and scribbled on it a line from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”: “In this harsh world, draw your breath in pain to tell my story.”

“What is your story, Daddy?”

His father’s eyes welled with tears. He wrote:

“I was wrong.”

‘A preacher like no other’

Craddock never became a televangelist, built a megachurch or preached to an adoring crowd in a packed stadium. He is a diminutive, bespectacled man whose voice is so soft that he once compared it to “wind whistling through a splinter on the post.”

Yet he is a pulpit giant, a man who, one preaching scholar says, tilted the preaching world “on its axis” after creating a revolutionary method that led to him being selected as one of the 12 best preachers in the English-speaking world.

“He is a preacher like no other” is how the Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor, who also made the top 12 list, describes him.

Craddock preached his last official sermon in October. He is 83 and struggling with Parkinson’s disease. When he greets a visitor, he moves gingerly to his seat. He is 5-foot-5 with a plump belly and an impish smile.

He lives in Blue Ridge, Georgia, a small town in the Appalachian Mountains that looks like a rustic postcard, with its small white-steeple churches and autumn forests bristling with burgundy and gold.

Friends worry about Craddock’s health, but he seems to treat his illness as an annoyance.

“I should have something by 83,” he says with a quick smile when the conversation turns to Parkinson’s.

His arms shake when he talks at length, but everything else is there: his phenomenal recall of names, details, places.

Though he has gathered all manner of awards during 50 years of preaching, he never received praise for his calling from the one man he wanted to hear it from most: his father.

“I struggled with his silence,” Craddock says. “I wanted him to say he was proud of me.”

A father like no other

Fred Craddock Sr. had plenty to say about other subjects. He stood 5-foot-7, weighed 150 pounds and even in his 50s could do one-arm chin-ups. He liked to dance, race his horse at county fairs.

Most of all, he loved to tell stories.

His son and namesake, Fred Jr., was one of his most devoted fans. Father and son developed a storytelling ritual. At the end of the day, the elder Craddock would return to his home in the small town of Humboldt, Tennessee, roll a Bull Durham cigarette by the fireplace and say to no one in particular, “Boy, I never hope to see what I saw today.”

Craddock, his three brothers and his sister flocked around their father.

“What’d you see today?”

“Oh, you kids still up? No, you go to bed. You don’t want to have nightmares.”

His children protested. Back and forth they’d go before Craddock Sr. finally said, “Well, sit down, but don’t blame me if you have nightmares.”

Craddock Sr. thrilled his children with adventure stories about Chief Loud Thunder, Civil War battles and, on occasion, stories from the Bible. The elder Craddock taught his son some of his first lessons in theology.

Each student in Craddock’s first-grade class was required to answer morning roll call with a Bible verse. Craddock didn’t know any, until his father taught him one. One morning, he stood up “like a bantam rooster” and repeated his father’s scripture:

“Samson took the jawbone of an ass and killed 10,000 Filipinos.”

The teacher sent Craddock home with a stern note to his parents for his use of profanity. Ethel Craddock chided her husband, but he chuckled, saying, “I bet the class enjoyed it.”

The elder Craddock developed a following. Storytellers were admired in rural Tennessee during the first half of the 20th century. Television was nonexistent. Books were expensive. People spent their day around pot-bellied stoves, whittling wood and spitting tobacco while swapping stories.

When Craddock Sr. stopped on a corner to roll a cigarette, crowds gathered, because they knew a tall tale was coming. They rarely guessed how it would end. Craddock Sr. would uncork a story, lead his audience up to the edge, then suddenly announce that he had to go to work and walk away.

Says his son: “I’m convinced now that he didn’t know where his stories were going when he started.”

‘Another name, another pledge’

Stories, however, don’t feed hungry children.

Craddock’s father had enough education to devour Shakespeare in his spare time. But he discovered, after inheriting 10 acres, that he couldn’t farm. He wasn’t good with his hands, either. Doors, fixtures and steps hung off-kilter in his house.

The elder Craddock had a bigger problem. He was an alcoholic.

When the Great Depression tore into rural Tennessee, Craddock Sr. drank to cushion the pain. His drinking, though, only magnified his self-loathing. His mood darkened. He yelled at his family, but Craddock says he never saw his father hit his mom. When visitors came by, though, everyone was embarrassed.

Sometimes, Craddock saw his father break down in tears.

“He wanted to do better by his family. He didn’t know how.”

At times, Craddock Sr. would sober up. He vowed never to drink again. He found an odd job. Once, he even arranged for a dentist to pull a gold crown from one of his molars so he could buy Christmas toys for his children.

“Sometimes, when something nice happened,” Craddock says, “he would just go into the kitchen, take my mom away from the stove, and they would dance around the house.”

His father’s pluck, though, couldn’t prevent the family’s slide into poverty. They lost the farm and moved into a shack with a dirt floor and no electricity. A spigot in the yard was the only running water.

Craddock’s family even struggled to clothe him. He still remembers walking to grade school on a cold day, hiding his donated sweater under a bridge and walking to school shivering in his shirtsleeves. He didn’t want to risk any classmate recognizing that he was wearing a sweater that had once belonged to them.

“There’s something worse than being poor,” Craddock said. “It’s being ashamed.”

Ethel Craddock held the family together. By day, she worked in a factory, sticking labels on Buster Brown shoes. At night, she gathered her children around the fireplace to play word games: “If you can say it, you can spell it: omnivorous.”

And faith held Ethel Craddock together. She took her children to church, sang hymns at home to the accompaniment of her harmonica and welcomed down-on-their luck strangers who needed a hot meal or a place to stay.

At first, Craddock’s father shared the pews with his family. He was even named after a preacher. But he stopped attending as his drinking grew worse.

“He felt guilty,” Craddock says. “He’d say, ‘Every time I go to church, they preach against the drunks like they can’t go to heaven.’ ”

Craddock Sr.’s hostility toward the church deepened when they decided to come to him. The church dispatched preachers to his home, hoping to draw him back to the pews. He belittled them so much that Craddock’s mother worried a fight would erupt.

“I know what the church wants,” he’d say. “Another name; another pledge. Right?”

Craddock, though, found acceptance in the church. It was the only place where he didn’t feel different — any less or any more than anybody else. Pastors told him he would be a good preacher one day; church ladies doted on him with new shoes and a picture book filled with stories about Jesus.

“We loved our dad, but we loved the church,” Craddock says.

Home was a place filled with fantastic stories. But Ethel Craddock kept one story from him. It centered on the horrible night when she decided her son had been set apart by God.

Saved by a miracle?

A winter night in 1928, Humboldt, Tennessee.

Ethel Craddock is sprawled in a barn on a bale of hay, crying and praying to God. Her 8-month-old son, Fred, is dying.

He has diphtheria, a highly infectious disease that forms blockages over the lungs, gradually suffocating a child.

The boy can barely draw breath. His father has run a mile to summon a doctor. But the doctor can’t do much, and Craddock’s breathing has grown more labored.

His mother couldn’t watch him suffer any more. She has fled to the barn, where she prays:

“Dear God, if you will let him live, I will pray every day that he will serve you as a minister.”

She falls asleep on the hay. When she awakens at daybreak, she runs to the house, where the doctor says her son is going to be fine. He leaves without asking for payment.

Ethel Craddock didn’t reveal this story to her son until he came to her after turning 17 to tell her that he was thinking about becoming a minister.

She began to cry after hearing the news, quickly regained her composure and told Craddock the story.

He was bewildered. Why hadn’t she told him before?

She didn’t want him to feel pushed into becoming a minister, she said. She believed that a deed couldn’t be good if the motive was wrong.

When Craddock told his father of his decision to join the ministry, he listened intently before finally saying it was a big decision. Then he simply said: “Good, son.”

Craddock was deflated. No tears. No sober, fatherly advice. The only reaction his father would give to his calling in the days ahead would be to crack jokes. “Don’t be like John the Baptist and lose your head.”

“He might have been embarrassed that I became a preacher,” Craddock says. “It was kind of the opposite of him. Maybe that created some discomfort.

“I wanted more.”

His father seemed to rub away some of the luster from his calling again when Craddock went off to college.

Wanting to make sure his call to the ministry was genuine, Craddock sought out a counselor. Over several sessions, the young student ended up talking about his childhood. The counselor’s verdict was devastating:

“I think I’m clear why you’re in the ministry: to redeem your father.”

The counselor didn’t elaborate, and Craddock was too stunned to ask questions. He thought about what his mother had taught him — and knew what he had to do.

“I thought I was disqualified,” he says. “My mother had always told me nothing can be right if the reason is wrong.”

He quit the ministry and started picking up odd jobs.

“It crushed me,” he says of the conversation with the counselor. “I didn’t have a Plan B in my life. I was kicking the can down the road every night, trying to figure it out.”

The answer came while reading one of his favorite books in the Bible.

The book of Philippians, written by the Apostle Paul, is regarded by some as one of the most uplifting in the New Testament. Yet the backdrop for Paul’s composition is grim. He is imprisoned, and the church is splintering into factions. Paul thinks he’s about to be executed; his enemies are spreading division and preaching Christ out of selfish motives.

But Paul says that none of that matters. Whether he lives or dies, or whether his enemies preach Christ out of selfish gain, what ultimately matters is that Christ is proclaimed.

Something shifted inside of Craddock. What did it matter if he preached Christ to save his father or save souls? Christ is preached.

“They’re preaching for the wrong reason, yet Paul said thanks God for that,” he says.

The message was clear; living it would prove more difficult:

“I had to get to a point where I disagreed with my mother. That was tough.”

Craddock returned to school and started preaching at rural churches. He had ignored his father and defied his mother’s teaching to pursue the ministry.

Now he was about to revolutionize preaching.

Changing the rules of preaching

Craddock had three books in his childhood home: his mother’s King James Bible, his father’s complete works of Shakespeare and “The Life and Times of Billy Sunday.”

Sunday was a Major League Baseball player who became one of America’s most famous preachers during the early 20th century by transforming preaching into an athletic event.

He’d smash chairs, throw parts of his clothing into the audience and run across the preaching platform as if he were sliding into home plate while proclaiming, “Safe at home — by the blood of Jesus!”

Sunday was the type of pastor Craddock grew up admiring. They strode the pulpit like human firecrackers: booming voices, explosive movements, big men who radiated power.

Craddock had a problem. He couldn’t bring the thunder. He was short, and his voice was weak. His high school counselor tried to talk him out of becoming a preacher because of his size. And his first church sermon landed with a thud. While preaching about three wise men visiting baby Jesus, an elderly man stood up in the back and blurted: “How do you know there were three?”

A flustered Craddock had no reply. But he eventually found a way to be heard and owed part of that breakthrough to his father.

When he started preaching in rural Tennessee during the 1950s, Craddock employed the traditional “deductive” preaching style. The sermon is structured like a term paper: thesis, three supporting points, restatement of thesis.

“Something in me said that’s not the way to do it,” he says.

Maybe it was the stories he heard growing up, but Craddock gradually stumbled onto his preaching style.

While serving as a young pastor at a church in Columbia, Tennessee, he noticed that people responded more to his informal talks outside church service than to his sermons.

He started experimenting. What if you didn’t structure the sermon like a legal argument but more like an extended conversation? The listener — not the preacher — would be challenged to give the sermon its meaning.

Craddock never took to preachers who tried to bulldoze people into converting. He had seen plenty of preachers try to goad his father back to church. And his mother, by withholding the story of his near-death experience, had taught him that people’s faith decisions must be genuine, not coerced.

So Craddock became a preacher who didn’t preach. He once said that a “yes” is no good unless a “no” is possible.

“No one wants to listen to pulpit bullies, behaving as though they had walked all round God and taken pictures,” he wrote in the introduction to his book “Craddock on the Craft of Preaching.”

Over the years, people have tried to describe Craddock’s style. Some use the term “inductive,” a word he resists because it sounds like a legal term. One of his prize students, the Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor, offers one of the best descriptions of Craddock’s preaching style.

In an introduction to “The Collected Sermons of Fred B. Craddock,” Taylor wrote:

“He assumes from the start that we are capable of attending to the text, handling some scholarship, dealing with open-ended stories, and drawing our own conclusions. He does not tell us what he is going to tell us, and then tell us what he told us. He sits down before we are ready. He lets us chew our own food.”

Craddock’s sermons, though, don’t go down like broccoli. They are playful, inventive, filled with hyperbole. They sound like probing short stories or front-porch yarns.

In one sermon, Craddock recounts a conversation with an overweight sparrow that doesn’t know it can fly. In another, he imagines bored teenagers who “sat out on the hoods of their camels” listening to a shaggy John the Baptist preach in the desert, and in another he pretends to emcee a debate at a dreary church committee meeting between early Christian leaders arguing over whether Gentiles should be included in the church.

Craddock didn’t have to break chairs to get people’s attention. His stories did the job. His reputation spread. He began writing influential preaching textbooks. When he became a preaching professor at Emory University in Atlanta, he spawned a new generation of preachers who took his style out into the pews. People started describing him as a pulpit genius.

In 1996, Craddock received one of his most celebrated honors. Baylor University in Texas polled 341 seminary professors and editors of religious periodicals and asked them to name the most effective preachers in the English-speaking world. Newsweek magazine published the top 12.

Craddock was selected for the list. So were two pastors he heavily influenced: Taylor and the Rev. Thomas Long.

Long says Craddock tilted the homiletic world “on its axis” with his 1971 book on preaching, “As One without Authority.” He calls it one of the most pivotal books on preaching to appear in the past century.

“There’s a homespun nostalgic quality to his sermons,” says Long, who now teaches at Emory. “He rarely preaches about the engineer with the complex ethical decision. It’s more about the pot of beans served at the back door.”

Taylor still remembers the first time she heard Craddock speak at Yale Divinity School in 1978. She was working as a secretary at a local church on the weekends, but listening to Craddock stirred her desire to preach.

“He simply spoke of the gospel so compellingly that I wanted know more — about the way of life he was describing, about why his words struck me with such force and about how I could learn to use language that way, too.”

Some preachers transform their eloquence into business ventures. They build megachurches, TV empires. Some even get entourages. Craddock wasn’t driven to build a personal brand. He has no e-mail address, doesn’t drive and refused to turn on a personal computer his son and daughter bought him several years ago.

“If Fred Craddock ever tweets, I’ll know the world has come to an end,” Taylor says.

Craddock used some of his renown to reach out to the region that nurtured him. He gave preaching workshops to itinerant pastors in the Appalachian Mountains and established the Craddock Center, a nonprofit group that offers free meals and storytelling to needy kids in three Southern states.

He built a family as he built a career. He married his high school sweetheart, Nettie, and they raised their two children, John and Laura, as he taught at various seminaries and accepted preaching invitations across the country.

“Sometimes we felt like we were in competition with the church and God,” says Laura, his daughter, who named her son after her father.

His son, John, never felt pressured to become a minister. He is the CEO of America’s First Choice Warranty company in Atlanta. His father, he says, is the most remarkable person he has ever known.

“I don’t care if it’s a guy on the street asking for a dollar or the president of the United States, he makes you feel as if you’re the most important person in the world when he’s talking to you.

“I won the lottery as far as great fathers go.”

Telling his father’s story

Craddock yearned to hear such praise from his father.

Yet his father never even came to hear him preach. Craddock says he sometimes overheard his father accept praise for his son’s decision to enter the ministry, but he can’t recall ever hearing his father admit to anyone that he was proud of his son’s choice.

“He never said it. I looked for little signals. I finally decided that I was reading into things that were not there.”

His father may not have acknowledged him, but Craddock affirmed his father. In the dedication in his book “As One without Authority,” he wrote:

“To my mother, and in memory of my father: She taught me the Word. He taught me the words.”

One Sunday, he did get a sign that maybe his father would have enjoyed hearing him preach. At his childhood church in Humboldt, Tennessee, a man approached after hearing him preach. The man was about his father’s age.

“You sound like your daddy,” he said.

The comment stirred strong emotions in Craddock. He had to compose himself before he shook the man’s hand and thanked him. He says it was the grandest compliment he’s ever had about a sermon.

“He was a good storyteller and a good man,” Craddock says of his father. “For him to relate me to my father … I spent a lot of time working through my relationship with my father.”

Perhaps he still is.

When asked in one interview whether he became a minister to save his father, he says, “I’ll never know.”

Yet in his memoirs, “Reflections on My Call to Preach,” he wrote:

“I was confident that my being a Christian minister would have a life-changing effect on my father. With a son, his own namesake, going into the ministry, would not Daddy toss the bottle forever and return to the pew beside my mother? Surely. But I was naïve, knowing nothing about the power of addiction.”

Craddock’s last visit with his father revealed to him the results of addiction. His father never stopped drinking or smoking and was hospitalized with throat cancer. He was 63.

That’s when Craddock received the phone call from his mom: You need to go see your father.

When he entered his father’s hospital room, he noticed that it was filled with flowers and a stack of get-well cards 20 inches deep besides his bed. Every card and every blossom came from Craddock’s childhood church in Humboldt, the church his father scorned.

His father confessed that he was wrong about the church and the people in the pews. They didn’t just want a name and a pledge. They wanted him.

His father’s admission didn’t provide relief. It deepened his grief.

“It was so late. It was at the end. With his personality and his education — he was generous to a fault; give you the shirt off of his back. He could have been such a good person, helping people, talking to people, playing with children — he could do all these things.”

Would it have been better if his father had said he was also wrong about his son and his decision to become a minister?

Would it have been better if he had finally said, “I’m proud of you, son”?

Craddock doesn’t dwell on those questions.

“In my tendency to choose between yes and no, I choose yes. I really think he would be proud of me because he loved a storyteller. He would have taken credit for it, though. He would have said, ‘I taught you real good, son.’ ”

What Craddock remembers of their last moments together is not just his father’s confession but something his father did.

After he asked his son to “tell my story,” Craddock reached out and clutched his gaunt hand.

“I just held his hand. … He couldn’t move. I couldn’t move.”

Craddock squeezed his father’s hand, and both men cried.

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New Movies to See

Besides catching up on older movies, I also have a long list of movies that I want to see when they come out in the theaters.

Here are the ones that I need to hurry up and see while they’re still playing (click on the picture for a trailer of the movie):

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
(Maggie Smith AND Judi Dench?!, Yes please!)

Think Like a Man
Not normally my type of movie, but it actually looks funny.

Battleship

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Avengers
I can’t believe I haven’t seen this yet.

Dark Shadows
Finally Michelle Pfeiffer is back.

Snow White & the Huntsman
Charlize Theron as an evil witch queen! Hell yeah!

And, we have these to look forward to!

The Dark Knight Rises (7/20)Can’t get here soon enough!

The Hobbit (December 2012)
I. Can’t. Wait!

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (October 2012)
Before he freed the slaves, he was busy ridding the US of another evil!

Prometheus (June 8)
REALLY can’t wait to see this one!

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (June 22)
I love me some Steve Carell

Hope Springs (August 10)
I’m not sure I’d see this movie except for the fact that it has Meryl Streep AND Tommy Lee Jones in it. Can’t go wrong with those two.

Ice Age 4: Continental Drift (July 13)
Normally I hate sequels for cartoons, but I just can’t get enough of Manny, Sid, and the gang.

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (June 8)
Another bunch of cartoon animals that I love.

Red Lights (July 13)
Cillian Murphy is just awesome, and this movie looks awesome.

 

007: Skyfall (Nov. 9)

 

The Bourne Legacy (Aug. 3)
A Bourne movie without Matt Damon? A Bourne movie without Jason Bourne? Yeah, I know, but it’ll still be awesome. It’s got Edward Norton and Jeremy Renner in it, so it’s bound to be badass.

 

The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3)
If it weren’t for Emma Stone and Sally Fields, I don’t think I’d spend money and time watching another Spiderman remake. But, I’ll go see it for them.

 

Safety Not Guaranteed (June 8)
Looks cute.

 

The Great Gatsby (Christmas 2012)
Wasn’t my favorite book in school, but the trailer actually looks really good. Plus, Leo’s in it, so yeah, I’ll see it.

 

This is 40 (Christmas 2012)
Could be a disappointment, but it looks hilarious.

 

The Magic of Belle Isle (July 6)
I just wanna be friends with Morgan Freeman. This movie looks fantastic!

 

Magic Mike (June 29)
I’m sure it’ll be cheesy, but at least the scenery will be nice.

 

Ruby Sparks (July 25)
Staring Paul Dano and from the makers of Little Miss Sunshine! Can’t wait!

 

Gangster Squad (Sept. 7)
Sean Penn + Ryan Gosling + Emma Stone + 1940s gangsters = epic.

 

The End of Watch (Sept. 28)
It’s been a while since I’ve watched a good cop movie. I hope this one doesn’t let me down.

 

Rise of the Guardians (Nov. 21)
I may be 25 years old, but I still love these kinds of stories!

 

And while I was looking around for good movies, I came across these 5 that I somehow missed:

 

American Gangster
Somehow I’ve gone the past 5 years without seeing this film. Gonna fix that this summer.

 

Nesting
Doesn’t look Oscar-worthy by any means, but it’s got some potential, I think.

 

Bernie
The South, Jack Black, and Shirley Maclaine. Can’t go wrong.

 

Bully
Could be an interesting documentary

 

Jesus Henry Christ
I love me some Toni Collette :)

 

Again, if you have any suggestions for good movies to watch this summer, let me know!

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My Movie List

I’m getting back to Buffalo in a week, and then the “sit and do nothing” part of my summer break begins.    In between reading for fun until my heart’s content, I’ll be catching up on plenty of movies that I’ve missed lately.  

So, here are the movies that I want to watch.  These in the first bunch have already left the theaters (and some on the list left several years ago!).  In no particular order (click on the picture for a trailer of the film):  

Too Big to Fail

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The Ides of March

Wall Street

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Good Will Hunting

Margin Call

A Few Good Men

Seven Pounds

Immortals

Disturbia

the Debt

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

We Need to Talk about Kevin

We Bought a Zoo

the Sitter

Midnight in Paris

The Taking of Pelham 123

Iron Sky: Nazis on the Moon

500 Days of Summer

Larry Crowne

Lions for Lambs

Eat, Pray, Love

Captain America: The First Avenger

Indiana Jones: the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Iron Man

Iron Man 2

Grown Ups

And then three movies I want to watch again: 

The Wizard of Oz

Summer Storm (orginal in German: Sommersturm)

And my favorite movie of all time:  

Little Miss Sunshine

A list of movies that I want to see in theaters this summer will follow in the next day or two. 

I’m going to be busy, but let me know if you have any other suggestions for good movies to watch! 

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The Christian Case for Gay Marriage

I’m done fighting people on what the Bible does or doesn’t say about homosexuality and gay marriage, because I think people that use the Bible as a weapon to discriminate are simply doing so to cover up their own prejudices.  And so, it’s hard to have a decent conversation with someone who thinks their prejudices are backed up by the word of God.  But I did come across this article by a professor of law (a Christian one at that), who doesn’t just pick and choose which parts of the Bible he reads.  He says that it really doesn’t matter if Christians believe homosexuality is a sin or not; what matters is that they should spread God’s love and acceptance (“we don’t have the moral authority to deny anyone the blessings of a holy institution”), and let God sort it out later if he so feels he needs to.  Just a few Bible verses before I post the article: 

Matthew 7:1-4:  “Do not judge, lest you too be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”  

John 8:7 – “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” 

1 Corinthians 13:13:  “Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.” 

Matthew 22:36-40:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  And Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like this:  Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”    

And now for Professor Osler’s article: 

Editor’s NoteMark Osler is a Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

By Mark Osler, Special to CNN (original article here).

I am a Christian, and I am in favor of gay marriage. The reason I am for gay marriage is because of my faith.

What I see in the Bible’s accounts of Jesus and his followers is an insistence that we don’t have the moral authority to deny others the blessing of holy institutions like baptism, communion, and marriage. God, through the Holy Spirit, infuses those moments with life, and it is not ours to either give or deny to others.

A clear instruction on this comes from Simon Peter, the “rock” on whom the church is built. Peter is a captivating figure in the Christian story. Jesus plucks him out of a fishing boat to become a disciple, and time and again he represents us all in learning at the feet of Christ.

During their time together, Peter is often naïve and clueless – he is a follower, constantly learning.

After Jesus is crucified, though, a different Peter emerges, one who is forceful and bold. This is the Peter we see in the Acts of the Apostles, during a fevered debate over whether or not Gentiles should be baptized. Peter was harshly criticized for even eating a meal with those who were uncircumcised; that is, those who did not follow the commands of the Old Testament.

Peter, though, is strong in confronting those who would deny the sacrament of baptism to the Gentiles, and argues for an acceptance of believers who do not follow the circumcision rules of Leviticus (which is also where we find a condemnation of homosexuality).

His challenge is stark and stunning: Before ordering that the Gentiles be baptized Peter asks “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

None of us, Peter says, has the moral authority to deny baptism to those who seek it, even if they do not follow the ancient laws. It is the flooding love of the Holy Spirit, which fell over that entire crowd, sinners and saints alike, that directs otherwise.

It is not our place, it seems, to sort out who should be denied a bond with God and the Holy Spirit of the kind that we find through baptism, communion, and marriage. The water will flow where it will.

Intriguingly, this rule will apply whether we see homosexuality as a sin or not. The water is for all of us. We see the same thing at the Last Supper, as Jesus gives the bread and wine to all who are there—even to Peter, who Jesus said would deny him, and to Judas, who would betray him.

The question before us now is not whether homosexuality is a sin, but whether being gay should be a bar to baptism or communion or marriage.

The answer is in the Bible. Peter and Jesus offer a strikingly inclusive form of love and engagement. They hold out the symbols of Gods’ love to all. How arrogant that we think it is ours to parse out stingily!

I worship at St. Stephens, an Episcopal church in Edina, Minnesota. There is a river that flows around the back and side of that church with a delightful name: Minnehaha Creek. That is where we do baptisms.

The Rector stands in the creek in his robes, the cool water coursing by his feet, and takes an infant into his arms and baptizes her with that same cool water. The congregation sits on the grassy bank and watches, a gentle army.

At the bottom of the creek, in exactly that spot, is a floor of smooth pebbles. The water rushing by has rubbed off the rough edges, bit by bit, day by day. The pebbles have been transformed by that water into something new.

I suppose that, as Peter put it, someone could try to withhold the waters of baptism there. They could try to stop the river, to keep the water from some of the stones, like a child in the gutter building a barrier against the stream.

It won’t last, though. I would say this to those who would withhold the water of baptism, the joy of worship, or the bonds of marriage: You are less strong than the water, which will flow around you, find its path, and gently erode each wall you try to erect.

The redeeming power of that creek, and of the Holy Spirit, is relentless, making us all into something better and new.

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