Most of you are probably aware that on the surface, The Chronicles of Narnia are a beautiful, fanciful story. And most of you know that CS Lewis did have a MUCH deeper meaning in it. So, I am always surprised at how many are completely shocked at the fact that Aslan represents Jesus. I love watching the light bulbs go on as the whole film moves from a fanciful story to a story of the Passion with that one small revelation. I even know one person who had heard the correlation, but refused to believe that Lewis had such a motive saying it was too good a story for that! But, we know Lewis took a lot of heat for writing such a “Christian” tale, so much so that J.R.R. Tolkien specifically tried to avoid it in his Hobbit and Lord of the Rings novels although he said something to the effect that each iteration became more and more Christian. But, for the Easter Season, this barely disguised Christian tale seems a perfect one to look at through the lens of movie ministry. The movie opens with scenes of war and the children are sent away to escape the bombings. In their new home, during an innocent game of “hide and seek” little Lucy hides in a wardrobe and as she moves to the back of it, she doesn’t find a back, but a whole new world, Narnia. The children end up in a battle of good versus evil. So, what questions and correlations can we make as we go deeper into Narnia? Two worlds at war: First, we see the physical war – the war of the world. The daily fight in the most extreme terms. The children feel pulled back to the world they came from…its comforts, and the safety they’ve found there. Then we see the war in Narnia, the spiritual war. The battle for eternal life. Narnia is even on a different time continuum than the world from which they came. Ten to fifteen years in Narnia is only a minute or two in the world the children call home. Narnia has been in the winter for many years, as evil seems to have taken over. The inhabitants all live in fear of the White Witch. Narnians are instructed that any “son or daughter of Eve” found wandering in the woods must be turned in to the White Witch under punishment of death. Wandering in the woods: How often do we find ourselves lost, trying to figure out where to go? We’re searching for God and what he wants for us. We are wandering in the woods. There are those along the path who take us in the right direction… and those who lead us the wrong way. Part of the journey is learning to see which ones are which. We also have an obligation to help any wanderers and keep them out of the clutches of the White Witch. Some things are beyond logic: I know, duh! But, that’s still the hard part, isn’t it? There are always some things that are easier to accept than others. Think about some aspects of our faith… the trinity – 3 parts of God in three different forms… Think about changing water to wine – or yet, the changing of the wine and host to the Eucharist. How about the assumption of Mary, the transfiguration of Jesus – or just wandering the desert for 40 years… So much of our faith requires faith. We have to leave logic behind and take it on faith. Reconciliation: When Edmund returns to his siblings, he must face Aslan. He and Aslan appear to be in a staring contest, or at least a deep conversation, but you can tell that Aslan is not angry, and Edmund is repentant. When they finally come down to the others, Aslan says “No need to speak to Edmund about what has passed.” Then when the White Witch demands the blood of the traitor, Aslan tells her that his offense was not against her, but leaves it at that! He never gives any detail, no shaming… just forgiveness. Why do the see Aslan as a Jesus figure: When we first meet Aslan, he emerges from the most beautiful tent of the campground. Everyone kneels before he comes out. Sort of like a tabernacle and the reverence we show for His presence in it. He tells us he was there when the Deep Magic was written. There’s also the forgiveness Aslan gives Edmund as well as his sacrifice – trading himself for the traitor. Demons crowd around him, but all are powerless against his mighty roar… yet he allows himself to be taken. Much like the jeers of the soldiers in Jesus’s passion. They shame him by cutting off his mane (equated with stripping Jesus of his clothes), after they tie him down and drag him up to the stone table (equated with carrying the cross). And he is killed. However, if you know the Easter story, you know what happens next. Aslan’s explanation of “sacrifice” sums up the rest, so pay close attention if you haven’t before. We all have gifts! Each of the children is given a gift to help them in the battle and instructed that they are “tools, not toys.” I found this to be an interesting parallel with the gifts of the Spirit. No one says we can’t have a little fun with them, but they are tools. Tools for growth – and not just our growth, but tools we should use to help others. And practice is required! We’re just scratching the surface. What details did you pick up on? The Chronicles of Narnia is rated PG. So there’s no language issues, nudity or anything like that. It’s unlikely that a little one would find it all that interesting. Also, the battle scenes and some of the witch’s henchmen could be a little intense for some children. But for older children, teens and adults, The Chronicles of Narnia can be a great movie, and a great way to talk about Christ’s Passion. One might also find someone it a good icebreaker in talking with someone who may not be open to religious discussions, provided they don’t think the story is too good to be “Christian.”
Duncan Mee: I like the animals. I love the humans.
Benjamin Mee: You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.
We Bought A Zoo is a great family flick. Benjamin Mee, played by Matt Damon is a recent widower trying to raise his two kids on his own. He decides a change is in order due to a series of events: His son Dylan, whether due to his mom’s death or just teenage melancholy, has a very dark style and has exceeded the three strike policy at his school; Add that to feeling like a piece of meat thanks to all the single moms at his kids’ school; Then throw in quitting his job because he’s been given the impression that the only reason he still has it is due to sympathy for his wife’s death. So, after a horrible day house hunting, they find the perfect house, however, they find it’s part of a defunct zoo. How hard can it really be???
So with all its heartwarming charm, cast of crazy characters and a few temperamental animals, what lessons can we glean from We Bought A Zoo.
Don’t use people’s sympathies against them: Dylan is going through a rough time. No one would doubt that for a minute. However, he uses it, and plays on it. He wallows in it, expects everyone else to navigate the minefield he has thrown down. He even says that no one would expel a kid who just lost their mom. Now, I’m not saying that Dylan doesn’t have good cause to grieve. And everyone handles grief differently, but the expectation that everyone will cut him slack indefinitely is a little hard to defend. And, as Dylan finds out, over time, patience wanes and he won’t always have his grief as a “get out of jail free card.” So what do you do?
You just need twenty seconds of insane courage: This is one of the main lines you hear in the trailer, as well as a few times through the movie. But, its true, isn’t it? Twenty seconds are actually a long time – especially when the blood is pumping and that “fight or flight” response kicks in. In the case of the Mees, they are referring to matters of the heart. But, that twenty seconds can also be used to speak up in the face of injustice, leap into action in an emergency, volunteer your gifts, etc. Now, that twenty seconds doesn’t include the thinking time, so don’t use it as an excuse to do something you really shouldn’t. But when push comes to shove, it only takes twenty seconds to say “yes,” to act in whatever way you’re being called to. Then, if you take twenty seconds, it might give someone else twenty seconds and so on. Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone, is the small push that others need, too.
Think about this too in the case of evangelization and missionary work. I was recently talking to one of my former students who has signed up to be a college missionary. In their training, they were dropped on a beach and told to go spread the Gospel. Going to talk to complete strangers is hard enough and then you throw in trying to talk to them about God and His good news! Admit it – would you do it?
I like the animals. I love the humans: When I think about this one, the old bumper sticker “The more people I meet, the more I like my dog” springs to mind…and you expect the zoo staff to have that same philosophy. The Zoo is full of lots of exotics – both animals and people. They all make for some pretty interesting events. But, with the exception of the aged lion, the animals are really just a backdrop. It’s the interaction between the human species that really makes things work. The support they give each other in spite of their vast differences and idiosyncrasies is really amazing, and they are all pushed by a common goal. They have a camaraderie that makes them more like a family. They genuinely love each other. They spend off time together, the whole bit. A couple of times we see the question posed, “If you had to choose animals or people, which would you choose?” And, despite the love and care shown to the animals, the people win. So, what do you think you’d choose?
Next, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a lot of people who show more care and concern for animals than they do for humans. Ironically, most animal rights people I know are avidly pro-choice. So, an animal gets better treatment than a human? How does that work? Now, don’t get me wrong… I’m pro-life and love animals. I’ve always had at least one dog, several horses, and have even been around quite a few cows, pigs and chickens and definitely don’t like to see them scared, or in pain. Loosing our “first-born” chocolate lab mix a few months ago has been really hard, but my love for a being that’s not even the same species helps me know that the power of love is much stronger than we give it credit for. But, the horrors of what happens during an abortion takes precedent. There are so many people paying huge amounts of money for babies – and yet so many women feel like they have no other option. Sadly, I think more than anything, those women are afraid that if they carry a baby to term, they’ll develop that love and they are trying to spare themselves the potential hurt of giving up someone they love or upsetting their current way of life.
When you do something for the right reasons, nothing can stop you: So, more than once Benjamin is accused of being out of his mind for buying and thinking he could handle running the zoo. But, its out of love for his children that he is driven to make it work. He wants them to have the adventure. He probably (although it’s not stated) is hoping to give them something else to focus on than their grief. And since they have moved to an area that is relatively distant from the conveniences of town, it might even be something for the kids to do. But ultimately it’s love – the pure, unconditional love of a father for his children.
Tree in the road: (Spoiler alert!!) So, at the end, they are all ready to open, the rain has lifted, but no one is coming… their worst fear. But its Dylan’s faith that says that there’s something wrong. A tree has fallen blocking the drive to the park, so no one can get to the entrance. So, you’ve got the right reasons, you’ve accomplished the impossible, but what trees are still in your road? Do you accept them as a roadblock, or to you charge out to get over?
So, We Bought A Zoo is rated PG, features the talents of Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, and Thomas Hayden Church among many others and with the exception is of the zoo inspector being called or referred to as d— and a little bit of kissing is very clean and a lot of fun. Benjamin’s assertion that “he had the real thing” when his brother tries to encourage him to get permiscuous is encouraging and is a good example of what love really is. It might be a little deep for really young viewers, but for those old enough, it is one full of lessons that I’d like my kids to know.
Want to see more about We Bought A Zoo? Check out http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1389137/
Henry J. Waternoose: Our city is counting on you to collect those screams. Without scream, we have no power. Yes, it’s dangerous work, and that’s why I need you to be at your best. I need scarers who are confident, tenacious, tough, intimidating. I need scarers like… like… James P. Sullivan.
Since it’s being re-released in 3-D, this seemed like a good time to talk about this great Pixar flick. It may be animated, but there’s really a lot you can get out of it.
Remember when you were a kid and you were afraid of the monsters in the closet (or under the bed). What if those monsters weren’t really mean… but they needed the energy from your screams to power their world. Well, that’s the story with two of our main characters, Mike (voice talents of Billy Crystal) and Sully (voice talents of John Goodman). The funny thing, is that these monsters are as afraid of us as we are of them!!! So when a little girl they lovingly call “Boo” gets into the monster world, it is not only unusual, but something that can get Mike and Sully in BIG trouble and bring all of Monstropolis to its knees.
So, what dare we learn from this monstrous hit…
We scare because we care: This catchphrase for Monsters, Inc. actually is referring to the fact that they need to scare kids for energy. However, isn’t this also something that seems to be required to help people understand safety rules?. We tell them to be careful crossing the street because they might be hit by a car. We know if we touch fire we can get burned. In some cases we need to be scared to understand the importance of some safety rules. Sadly, if people don’t feel threatened, they don’t pay attention.
Laughter works better than scream: Now, this is going to sound like I’m doing a 180 degree turn from what I said in the previous paragraph, but, when we’re not talking about safety, being happy really does work better than beating people down. They say that we “catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” And that’s probably true (I’ve never really tried it to prove or disprove it)… but too often we seem to feel like “nice guys finish last” and use that to justify our actions. But it’s true, admit it, laughter works better than scream. We see that the “new” thing in companies like Pixar and Google is to create fun workplaces where you can bring your dog, hang out in comfy clothes and have toys around all day. They find it increases productivity and makes it a place employees want to work. What I find funny is how this seems to be a new thing. Granted, this does mean that people do have to be motivated, need to set goals and actually get work done… But why does it seem like it has to be in such a high pressure environment when companies are proving that a more “fun” atmosphere works well?Now, let’s take this outside the work world. Can we employ this method in our families? Remember Mary Poppins? She encouraged that “in every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.” Granted, she was making things fly around the room and such, but does it have to be that way? I know in my extended family we’d all gather at Grandma’s where, after dinner, there were usually so many dishes and the house was so hot, that we went ahead and hand washed dishes rather than use the dishwasher. It was usually “girl time” and we got to talk about things we didn’t care to share with the WHOLE dinner table. It almost wasn’t something anyone minded because we enjoyed that time together. It wasn’t unusual to break into song or something goofy like that. We teased each other, laughed and learned. We can apply this to learning and how we interact with those around us, try to be nice – and laugh when you can (it can be contagious!).
Loss of innocence: One thing that is mentioned a couple of times during the movie is that children are losing their innocence at younger and younger ages. Sadly, this one hits so close to home it’s not funny. I know so many little ones who are watching R rated films that they don’t have to imagine much anymore. I’ve known of several who felt like it was justified because they didn’t think their kids understood what they were seeing – until something happened one day to make them realize that their kids were understanding things more than they’d thought. It seems that we’ve gotten to a point now that it will be hard to dial it back. I just hope it’s not too late. I’ll admit, we have to let them in on certain things to help keep them safe, but do they really need to see sex scenes, actual violence, vulgar language and various other improprieties for a young audience. Any ideas on how to help get that innocence back?
Sometimes you’ve gotta growl: Sometimes, you’ve done everything you can do not to, but sometimes, you’ve just got to growl. And, it may scare those around us, but it is usually because we love them and we have to get something very important across to them. Do try to make sure it’s not your first method of getting your point across though. Be prepared – like I said, it may scare or upset, but when you consider what you’re trying to get across, sometimes it’s got to happen.
Don’t forget to file your paperwork: Sorry, couldn’t resist! So… paperwork… whether its taxes or children’s artwork, it’s still one we ought to keep in mind, both literally and metaphorically. What other things might we need to file away – to keep properly stored for a later date? To you, this could be anything… finally putting together that scrapbook from your last family vacation, writing down your list of “to do’s” or making new memories with your kids… This is the sort of thing that may seem silly or mundane, but needs to be done.
So, I hope you’ve gotten a few helpful points out of Monsters, Inc. This is one of my (and my hubby’s fav’s). I keep thinking if I have kids, a Monsters, Inc. theme would be awesome – and gender neutral. 😉 Maybe one day. I promise this little flick has fun in it for kids and adults alike – Pixar really does some wonderful animation work!
God Bless you all!
Edith: When we got adopted by a bald guy, I thought this’d be more like Annie.
Gru: [reading the book he wrote] One big unicorn, strong and free, thought he was happy as he could be. Then three little kittens came around and turned his whole life upside down. They made him laugh, they made him cry. He never should have said goodbye. And now he knows he can never part from those three little kittens that changed his heart.
For more info, check out http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1323594/
So Gru is the bad guy that we find ourselves identifying with many times… I think that’s why we love him. Gru is the sort of guy who moves cars when the parking spot he wants isn’t available. He gets tired of waiting in line for coffee, so he freezes all those in between, grabs the coffee from the barista and goes on about his day. Admit it, some part of you says “Yeah, there’s days I wish I could do that!” Okay… but Gru does go farther. He’s a thief – and not petty crime… major landmarks (well, sort of!). So, in his bid for title of ultimate evil villain, he sets his sights on stealing THE MOON! And, what does a vilian who needs a little bank roll to get him started on a plot to steal the moon, he goes to the Bank of Evil. Make sure you pay attention to all the banking scandal references here, and the caryatids! And, it is here that Gru meets his new nemesis – Vector. But, he needs Vector, but you don’t just ask your nemesis for the tool he has that you need. Nope, a good vilian- and one who has to prove himself – has to find a way to steal it. That’s where three little orphan girls come in. Gru sees the girls selling cookies door to door and notices how easily they are granted access to people’s homes as they sell & deliver the cookies… what a great distraction! So Gru lies to the woman running the orphanage (who isn’t very nice to the girls either) and goes home with three sweet, energetic and slightly precocious little girls; Margo, Edith & Agnes. In essence the girls save Gru and he finds his true calling.
This is a very cute, funny and absolutely precious movie. So, if you haven’t seen it yet, check it out. I believe it’s on Netflix and it runs on TV intermittently. It seems to appeal to both men and women as well as boys and girls.
So, what does Despicable Me teach us? There’s a few things here…
1. Crime doesn’t pay. Despite what you’d be led to believe at the Bank of Evil, crime doesn’t pay for either of our villains. Don’t get me wrong, they have nice houses and have profited from their past endeavors, but neither villain profits from the current escapade. In fact, monetarily, both lose out.
2. New isn’t always better, just different. Vector is the new guy. He thinks he’s better and smarter than Gru, but there are times that Gru’s ways just work better. Let’s just say, experience. Gru’s methods are a little slower and maybe even a little more clumsy, but he gets results. Vector relies so much on technology that even though he thinks he’s ready for everything, he misses a few things.
3. Teamwork! Gru is a team player. He relies on Dr. Nefario, for inventions, his minions for base operations support as well as using their various talents on his missions, and he relies on the girls. Vector uses technology as his “team,” but since they’re all his inventions, they share his short-sightedness. Gru discusses and works out plans with his team. All the players are working toward a goal, and also watch out for each other.
4. The right decisions aren’t always easy. Gru is faced with a very tough decision. Be with the girls, whom he has grown to love, or continue with his master plan of stealing the Moon. Dr. Nefario helps with this decision by having the girls sent back without Gru’s permission… So Gru trudges on. However, he has second thoughts and tries to right his wrong.
5. You can overcome your childhood. Gru’s mom was not one to give love easily. In fact, she’s pretty mean. Not the sort of “slap you around” type mean, but probably the worse one, psychological. She’s always taking cheap shots at Gru, undermining his dreams and intelligence, and may even be the reason he decided to become a villan in the first place. I mean, if you are raised thinking you can’t do any good, why not jut plan on being bad? Now, PLEASE don’t take this to mean that a traumatic childhood can’t affect you. But sometimes, those struggles, as awful as they may be, can lead us to help others in a way we might not have thought of otherwise. Like I’ve said before, sometimes – just doing the opposite of the example we’re given can be a huge service to others!
6. Love triumphs. So, like I said, Gru tries to right his wrong and get the girls back. As much as he tried not to, those girls melted his iron maiden heart and he began doing things for them, not just making deals with them to get what he wants. And, on top of that, he finally gets kinds words from his mother.
7. It’s okay for our only talent, to be loving others. So, Gru isn’t the smoothest villan. He hasn’t had the best luck in being a vilian…but we see that once he opens his heart to love, that his is wonderful at it. Have you ever noticed that a loving individual lights up a room, gets other people to feel safe and all in all is just a joy to be around. Those dear angels give us a glimpse of God’s unfathomable love. I just hope we follow that example and bring that love to others!
So, you know in the beginning when I said we all have this part of us that identifies with Gru? Well, I hope that you find that to be true – but in his love!