Category: Review

One Night…

What Does It Take?

One of my favorite things about writing a blog is that people introduce me to all kind of cool products. They do so in hopes that I’ll share them with you. Mind you, I am very picky about things I’ll actually share here.

I get way more  review requests, than hours have available to review. So, right out of the starting gate, I’m quite selective about offers I’m even willing to try. If I say I’m going to honestly review something, I’m going to commit the time to really exploring that product. My first consideration is deciding if it is something I feel meets my needs and could bless my readers.

If you are taking time to read what I write, you are placing a certain level of trust in the validity of my opinion. I value your trust! I don’t take your loyalty for granted. I never wish to compromise or minimize the confidence you place in my words.  Please know that I have your interests at heart, am treating you as a personal friend, when I tell you about something that makes me own life happier.

I ask myself if I feel a product world be worth spending my money on, in order to have it in my life or not? Encouraging you to get something that I’ve talked about here, will typically involve expense on your part, and I don’t take that idea lightly. (So, yes, I’m telling you about a product that has been supplied to me for free, in exchange for my honest reaction.)

This kind of careful evaluation takes time, so something has to really interest me to begin with, in order for me to be willing to invest that time.

What Do I Want To Share With You Today?

I signed up to review the ONE NIGHT advent story calendar for two reasons:

1. I love  entire season surrounding the celebration of Jesus coming to earth. #Christmas

2. I’m trying to cut way back on sweets. Is it even possible to replace the cheep cardboard countdowns I buy each year, with something that offers anything better than candy behind each door, while still keeping my kids excited?

(For the record, my young-adult son thinks ONE NIGHT is far superior to any advent calendar we have ever used, but suggests that I also buy giant chocolate bars and hand out individual squares to each person to enjoy while we are exploring that night’s continuation of the month-long story.)

Why?

We had passed the first test. I liked the premise of the product enough to want an in-person look.

Then a HUGE flat box showed up at my door. I wish I had thought to take a picture. Instead, I was too curious about the contents of this box to think to grab my camera. We excitedly opened our mystery parcel and were blown away by what we saw. No tiny, cheep cardboard with plastic windows here! 

Did I mention this thing is really big? Here it is pictured next to a pair of my shoes and a big Bible study dictionary. Oh, and that guy holding it in the first picture is about to turn 13. He’s on the rather larger side of the growth chart, for a boy his age range.

Better than candy, these flaps hold the greatest Story ever told. The Story progresses over 24 days, facts told through the fictionalized perspective of two shepherds who were watching sheep the night angels interrupted their evening to announce the birth of the King. Beautiful black and white, hand-drawn images lead the imagination through a detailed journey of wonder that holds true to time and culture.

I’m Impressed.

Solidly designed to last, this new part of our family’s Christmas tradition reminds me of a picture book. Here, let me give you a close-up of the book-like binding construction:

The Book of Luke (2:8-20) says that on the night of the first Christmas angels visited shepherds tending their flocks and told them to visit their newborn savior.  ONE NIGHT reimagines the story through the eyes of one of the shepherds.  

Set against the turbulent backdrop of ancient Judea under Roman rule, ONE NIGHT follows the shepherd as he risks his flock to journey through the countryside in search of the baby Messiah — and the elusive promises of worldly and spiritual redemption.

There is a long and diverse artistic tradition of imagining the story of the shepherds.  In our telling, we have tried to capture what it would have really been like to be there the night Jesus was born, and how a regular person might have tried to make sense of that extraordinary event.  The story is intense, exciting — and even a little spooky.  

It’s a feeling that’s echoed in the stunning visual art.  Rendered in the style of a classical draftsman, ONE NIGHT feels like an ancient document, full of timeless drama and mystery.

Whether you know the Bible inside out, or you haven’t read it since you were a kid, we hope ONE NIGHT will surprise and move you with its riveting portrayal of its characters’ search for goodness and a better world.

How YOU Can Help:

This exciting tool is NOT available to the general population for purchase YET. The author and artist want to produce them for distribution soon. YOU can help bring that mission into reality. Check out this video from their Kickstarter campaign.

Any pledge, even just $1, will help fund production! A gift of $30 or more will also earn YOU your own beautiful keepsake story calendar ($40 retail value) in time for use THIS December, 2018. (As  long as they get all the funding they need over the next month, as I suspect they likely will since they are well on their way and this is a worthy investment.)

Recap:

ONE NIGHT tells a story in 24 parts.  Each part of the story is hidden behind a numbered door (1 through 24) that you open to reveal an illustration and text.  You can open one door each day, from December 1 through December 24, counting down to Christmas.  Or you can binge-watch, by reading all 24 parts in one sitting, like an illustrated book.  

Printed on heavy-weight paper wrapped around millboard, ONE NIGHT is a sturdy, free-standing triptych that you can place on a mantle, table or windowsill as an amazing Christmas decoration.  You can also close the triptych and keep ONE NIGHT on your bookshelf or coffee table.   

 

Giveaway Link and Movie Review – Paul: Apostle Of Christ

I  wanted to see Paul: Apostle Of Christ, the movie, in theaters, when it released in May. I’m glad I waited to view the DVD.

Why am I glad I waited? I’m an ugly crier. I made it almost to the end, before I was a blubbering mess. Then I had to go back and watch the closing two scenes I had been crying too hard to fully appreciate the first time. You can’t do that in the theater.

 

Paul: Apostle of Christ is presented in my very favorite genera. It is based on known solid facts and accounts of real people, and researched cultural realities of time and place, woven together with “could-have-been” fictional people and plot lines. This film’s retelling of the final years of Paul’s life, and Dr, Luke’s endeavor to write an account on the Acts of the apostles, seems faithful to the historical and Biblical realities that marked this significant period of early church history.

Paul (Faulkner), who goes from the most infamous persecutor of Christians to Christ’s most influential apostle, is spending his last days in a dark and bleak prison cell awaiting execution by Emperor Nero. Luke(Caviezel), his friend and physician, risks his life when he ventures into Rome to visit him. Paul is under the watchful eye of Mauritius (Martinez), the prison’s prefect, who seeks to understand how this broken old man can pose such a threat. But before Paul’s death sentence can be enacted, Luke resolves to write another book, one that details the beginnings of “The Way” and the birth of what will come to be known as the church. Their faith challenged an empire. But their words changed the world.

Kudos to the entire team responsible for lifting this story from the black and white pages of Scripture, and challenging our minds to move beyond the cobweb corners of dusty history books, in order to better grasp the lives of the first generation that was called to live for Christ without ever having see Him in flesh. While this movie is fantastic for any adult interested in history and/or the Bible, I believe it could especially benefit (older) middle school, high school, and college students, who are seeking an emotional understanding of this period of history. Please be aware that the PG13 rating is well merited. While the majority of the goriest depictions, such as Christians fed to wild beasts in Nero’s circus, or the beheading of Paul, are only alluded to, while visual portrayal is left to the imagination, there are some rather gruesome scenes.

The movie opens  (and similar scenes continue throughout the movie), by portraying the horror of “Roman candles,” human beings doused in oil and mounted to stakes to be burned alive, as light for the streets. Another potentially stomach-lurching sight, illustrates injuries Paul obtains via flogging. There are several instances of verbal abuse and physical violence played out. The directors did an admirable job of balancing enough details to let viewers begin to understand, without showing more than needed to convey the idea, but this is absolutely not a movie suitable for young children!

The story-lines are intricate and detailed. Especially with many scene set in dark environments like a dungeon, and less-than-optimal hearing capability on my part, I had to watch the film twice to start grasping some of the nuances. Being well-versed in the Scriptural side of the story, and relatively familial with the historical context, many cultural and fictional elements of the script took three plays before I felt I had a good grasp on story line. I do not see this as a fault of the movie-maker, rather I mention to let you know that this isn’t a light movie to be played in the background while your focus is divided. It is a real thinker’s movie. I expect to discover missed details and glean deeper understanding every time I watch it again.

Movie stats:

WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY:Andrew Hyatt

PRODUCED BY:T.J. Berden and David Zelon

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS:Eric Groth, Rick Jackson, Harrison Powell and Jim Caviezel

STARRING:Jim Caviezel, James Faulkner, Olivier Martinez, Joanne Whalley and John Lynch

Follow along at:

facebook.com/paulmovie and

instagrman.com/paulmovie.

 

I did receive my DVD copy for free, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Enjoy a free digital download with DVD or Blue Ray purchase.

Fill out this form to be entered for a chance to win a copy of the #PaulMovie of your own. (Odds of winning depend on number of entries competing for the five copies being given away.)

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Imagine Heaven: Giveaway and Promo Code

For the first couple years after my near death experience, I was so anxious to get to Heaven, that I was suicidal. I felt I should “help God” to get me back There as soon as possible. Compared to that one tiny glimpse of God’s glory, my whole lifetime on this earth, past or future, seemed non-consequential.

Daily, I begged God to drain the intensity from my memories, just so I could manage living here, while better understanding what awaited me There. These infinite concepts are too wonderful for me to rationalize and process within the limiting confines of time.  As one friend’s husband put it, after she relayed the story I shared with her, “It is God’s protection, His grace, that we don’t grasp the reality of Heaven. Every Christian would be suicidal, if we really knew!”

Paul, the human author of much of the New Testament, felt Heaven to be far superior (see Philippians 1:21-23, below) too! The difference was my longing for Heaven was not just a “looking forward” emotion, but a “can’t function here” desperation.

  Quote

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

It took a lllooooooooooooooooooooonnnggg time for me to become convinced that my young family needed me, to get to the place of understanding that if God hadn’t called me Home “when He had the chance,” that it was not my right to thwart His timing by taking my life into my own hands. It took years before I arrived at a certainty of knowing I would remain here for as long as He wanted me to stay.

Just because I am here now, does not mean that thoughts about death never cross my mind anymore, though they are far much less frequent, and the focus has changed, as well as how I process them. When those thoughts come, like in the dark of night, I have learned not to welcome them, not to entertain them, not to ponder or dwell on them, but to instead take them captive, straight to Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Because I am convinced to re-engage into my family’s life, I was delighted when my 12-year-old invited me on a date to watch a movie together, over his school spring break, earlier this month. He picked the day and place, I picked the time and show. I chose the life story of Mercy Me‘s lead singer, Bart Miller, songwriter of the runaway hit, I Can Only Imagine.

Bear (what we have called our youngest, since birth) was deeply moved by Bart’s story. My pre-teen was especially mesmerized by the way Bart, at about his own age, began finding journaling to be a healing exercise, how Bart created a record of God’s amazing grace throughout his life. My son was in awe when I showed him the 16 hard-bound journals that lined the top of our bookshelf, chronicling our decade journey to parenthood. He has taken up journaling as a result.

It was fun to be able to give Bear the I Can Only Imagine refillable leather notebook, in order to begin to create his own library of prayers, thoughts, and questions and start to see the pattern of God at work in his life. His young heart needs to process much, as he continues to unpack the trauma that shattered his world six and a half years ago, and sorts through the emotional journey middle school creates.

I love that the leather binding will last Bear for decades, while the 128-page interior notebook is replaceable, so that he can chronicle paper notebook, after notebook, without using up this fantastic journal, nor creating the storage crisis my writing habit did. My son was stunned to be entrusted with such an adult treasure, handcrafted in Haiti. Each notebook is unique and helps to support sustainable and dignified employment.

This summer, Bear and I will together explore the I Can Only Imagine 4-Episode Video Series, featuring Bart sharing his personal testimony, containing select scenes from the movie we so enjoyed (and watched before this review opportunity presented itself – in fact I only took the opportunity to explore this package because the movie had been so powerful to us), each episode is approximately 12 minutes.

Along with the video, we’ll be exploring the companion  28-day study of Jesus’s life and ministry (that can serve as a video series participant’s guide for your small group, or be effective as a standalone study). Bear and I will embark on a journey through the Gospels to discover Jesus’ encounters with broken people. Each day will include scripture, reflective questions, and prayer—all working together to reveal God’s incredible heart for us. We are excited! Click on this banner to enter to win your own copy of this study journal:

Yes, I did receive free products from FrontGateMedia and CityOnAHillStudio, from the I Can Only Imagine line, in exchange for sharing my genuine opinions. Click on this link and use Promo Code: frontgate10 for 10% off the I Can Only Imagine Series and/or Journal for yourself!

As I watched the movie, I was blessed to realize, 6 1/2 years and close to 100-counseling-hours later, God has answered my prayers, softening my memories to the point that they almost feel “second hand” now, like an experience someone else told me about. It does not feel as if I am going crazy anymore. I no longer live fighting the weight of a wonder too great to process. My soul is finally peaceful concerning Heaven, because now, I can only imagine. Thank you Lord!

Once again, the giveaway link is blessedfreebies.com/indescribablestudygiveaway.html

And the the promotional code is: frontgate10 for 10% off the I Can Only Imagine Series and/or Journal from cityonahillstudio.com/shop-3/i-can-only-imagine/

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