Movie Review: Big Hero 6

I’ve been working on some changes over on my other site – The Reviews. Now it’s got a much easier search interface. You can now search for movies by title, by year released, director, actor, even how I rated it. So if you are into movies – please go check it out.

Here’s an excerpt of my latest review – Big Hero 6.

At some point, the odds have to catch up with Disney/Pixar, right? How many high quality, good family films can they make without having a dud? Big Hero 6 is not just a Disney/Pixar collaboration but it’s also a Marvel Comic partnership – and yes, if you look closely you will find your Stan Lee sighting as well.

Typical Pixar – fun movie for kids with plenty of humor and moments for the adults as well. This film particularly embodies this flavor now that Disney owns Marvel and this film marks the first animated film partnership between the three – Pixar, Disney, and Marvel. It doesn’t disappoint.

Big Hero 6 won the Academy Award for Best Animated Film this year and looking at other nominees – it deserved it. That’s not to say it is in the same stratosphere as The Incredibles or Toy Story. But it holds its own providing plenty of moments to watch over and over again.

You can read the rest of the review here.

Day 1 NCAA Thoughts

What a day of games…

*Iowa State – I drank the kool-aid. Had them in the Final Four. What a complete rip-your-heart-out-of-your-chest-while-it-is-still-beating-job.

*Baylor – I had them losing in the next round, didn’t think they had the ‘juice’ to go far but never saw them losing to a 14 seed.

*Texas – totally picked Butler. Don’t know how Barnes keeps his job at Texas.

*Harvard – what are you doing jackin’ up threes with time left on clock for 3 straight possessions when you only needed a 2 and not call a timeout one of those 3 trips down?? For such a brilliant school, that last minute was some stupid basketball.

*Cincy – They lose their number 1 thug and still win.

*Arkansas and UNC – look vulnerable. Both should be thankful they get another game.

Today – what to look for…

*Kansas – who knows what team will show up but the entire world wants to see Wichita State/Kansas in the next round. This must happen.

* AT&T commercials – love having all those legends and looking forward to where they take the commercials.

*Same for Capital One commercials with Samuel L., Spike, and Charles.

*Michigan St/Georgia – think this will be an awesome game.

Add your two cents…

My Mascot Bracket

The Mascot Bracket

I may have been the only person on the planet that picked UAB to beat Iowa State.

At least in one of my brackets – the Mascot Bracket.

Some general rules of thumb for picking Mascot battles.

1. Colors never win. If your school is so uncreative as to have a color as your mascot, you deserve all the grief you get. Cardinal, Crimson – I’m looking at you.

2. Human mascots tend to win over animals given the human has a weapon. If the human doesn’t have a weapon – it’s a toss-up. See Fighting Irish, Crusaders.

3. Wildcats typically beat dogs of any kind. Tigers I give the nod over Wildcats.

4. Two teams with same mascot – give the higher seed the win.

5. Natural elements – like hurricanes, storms, tornadoes, cyclones – typically are not going to fare well unless the opposing mascot is something ridiculous. Like a color.

Armed with these basic rules and principles, I set out to do battle.

2015 Mascot Madness

Midwest Region
Had to go to the search engine early in picking. Boilermakers. What the heck is that? A big muscular guy with a hammer. It can do some damage and my initial thought is – this is definitely a team that could go far in the tourney.

The Shockers vs. Hoosiers is pretty much a waste of a matchup. Then I see the Jayhawks and figure what the heck is going on here. The Aggies of New Mexico State – are they dogs or a farmer or what?? Went with Jayhawks.

Midwest Winner: Mountaineers of West Virginia over a Longhorns of Texas.

West Region
Lots of interesting matchups here – Rams versus Razorbacks versus Badgers. It’s a crazy first round but after a lot of bloodshed – it’s the Rebels versus the Sooners for the Final Four birth.

West Region Winner: Sooners of Oklahoma in a bitterly close battle over the Rebels of Ole Miss.

East Region
Highlight would have to be the Anteaters. I’ve never gotten into a battle with an anteater and can only suppose the damage one of those animals can bring to the ring. We’ve got lots of Cowboys in this region and a Flyer which is basically a human wearing a leather helmet and goggles. Ultimately it comes down to the Wolfpack and the Spartans.

East Region Winner: The Spartans of Michigan State in a slaughter of the wolves.

South Region
At first glance this looks like a runaway region for the trident-bearing Blue Devils of Duke. The region is full of dog mascots and Native American mascots which make easy pickings for the Devils of Duke. However, they find their match against an opponent that brings fear to a whole other level and it isn’t even close.

South Region Winner: The Blazers (Fire Breathing Dragon) of UAB

Final Four Matchups:
The Mountaineers will take the Sooners in a close battle. The sure-shot aim of the Mountaineers will be too much for the Sooners to overcome.

But it’s the other matchup that the real champion will emerge – Spartans versus Blazers. A Greek killing machine versus a fire-breathing dragon.

This is the battle we all want to see. It’s what legends are made of. Imagine the cast of 300 versus Smaug. It would be a bloody, awesome mess.

In a battle of epic proportion and closeness, it’s the Blazers who exit the arena victorious.

National Champion: The Blazers of UAB.
The Blazers make quick work of the Mountaineers, treating them as little more than an after dinner mint.

Finding That Fountain

© Geotrac | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Geotrac | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The coffee wasn’t good. Quite honestly, it was bad. Somebody had burned the beans. I could taste soot. Maybe they used soot instead of coffee ground? Whatever they did, this was a bad cup of coffee. I tried to keep a straight face as a I sipped it across from a friend that I have known for years.

Under normal circumstances, it would have been an occasion for me to wax eloquently about the coffee. Or for him to make fun of me for being such a coffee snob. How many times had I heard him say ‘Grant, just shut up and either drink the coffee or not. Don’t push your coffee elitism on me.’ I’m not sure ‘elitism’ and ‘coffee’ should ever be used in the same sentence but the point is well-taken. Normally.

But not today. I sat silently. I resonated deeply with what he was sharing today. Between family issues, job issues, and relationship issues – he felt like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. He felt like there were way to many people in his life sucking the life out of him. He loved them all but truth be told, he was exhausted and tired of being the ‘go-to guy’ in all these people’s lives.

The pause at the table wasn’t awkward at all. We both needed the space.

“How do you feed your soul?”

The question came out of my mouth but was directed at us both.

“Come again?”

“How do you feed your soul?”

He took a deep breath. “This is where you give me the ‘pastor talk’, right? Read your Bible, pray, Love, Live, Serve, Multiply.”

It is both a blessing and curse having a close friend like this.

“Well…sort of. Not really. Just answer the question like I wasn’t a pastor and instead was a friend you were having coffee with.”

“That’s sort of the problem, bro. I know what I’m supposed to do…I just don’t feel like doing it. I don’t have the energy. My prayers are jokes. I end up repeating the same [stuff*], over and over again.”

He didn’t say ‘stuff’ and it made the sentence all that much clearer and deeper. I give up on the coffee at this point. It’s not good and the conversation is.

“What was your go-to move in basketball?”

He now gives me the ‘what the heck’ look. I explain a bit further. “You know that move you go-to when you are playing against someone who is either better than you or at least forces you to play differently than normal. For me, I had this little baby-hook for guys who were smaller and quicker than me. For guys that were bigger than me, I had a little jab-step, crossover move. What was yours?”

He nodded. He knew this wasn’t really about basketball. “I don’t have one. I mean – I’ve got a couple in basketball but that’s not what we are talking about here.”

Spiritually, we have to find a way to tap into the limitless fountain of resources that are available to us in Christ. Prayer, bible study, reading, worship, service, discipling – all the spiritual disciplines are SUPPOSED to be ways to tap into this fountain.

The problem is that too many times they become things we do, notches on our spiritual to-do list. We see them as tasks, as activities we NEED to be doing instead of strategies that keep us connected to our God.

So all is needed is a perspective change? Not hardly. There are times when nothing works. It feels like nothing works. The outflow of resources exceeds the inflow of refreshment from Christ.

That’s where he was at. Been there. Done that. It’s a constant battle. Two steps forward, one step back. It’s where we are all headed if we don’t have the connection to the source.

How do we keep connected to the source even when we don’t feel like it?

Have a go-to resource. Every time I read My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers, it takes me to a deep place. Every time. If I’m stuck or dry, I go here. It helps me re-see the Scriptures. It helps my ears get retuned to the whisperings of Jesus. If you are stuck – find your ‘go-to’ resource. I think it will be helpful.

Get in a gospel.. For me, rereading the gospel of John continues to inspire me. I see something different every time I read it. Sometimes it’s a miracle or a word, a scene – something grabs my heart again and reconnects me. I think it is because the gospels connect us directly to the story of God. We don’t have to figure out setting or time frame. It’s straight story and it connects.

Pray out loud. I’ll admit it. I get lazy in my prayer life at times. I’ll pray in my mind, turn off the radio, get quiet. But then I’ll do it in my head. That’s fine but there is something deeper about giving voice to our prayers. There is something mystical about hearing our prayers out loud. Writing them down also has this same effect.

Pray the Psalms. There are times when you can’t form the words. It just takes too much. Pick a psalm and start praying that psalm…out loud.

Get raw, not polished. I was talking with a friend and I asked them if they were ready to pray. He said – no, you do it. I said – I think it’s going to be better if you do it. He said – I’m so mad right now, I’m not sure God would even hear my prayer. I pushed – “tell you what, just pray right now whatever you are feeling directly to God. No filter. Just let it fly”

What followed was one of the most intense, profanity-laced, angry prayers I have ever heard. Then it changed. It radically changed. It was like listening to a modern-day lament. He started out angry and through the process of being raw with God, He changed his heart. To this day, this person sees this as a marker-moment of his life in Christ.

The larger point – find the fountain. Find the source. Keep looking for that.

And he will meet you there.

Aside

KU’s New…Swimsuits?

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Watching parts of the second half of the KU-TCU Big 12 Tourney game today and noticed Kansas’ shorts. Are these new? I don’t remember seeing these all year?

If you haven’t seen them – they’ve got this ridiculous high blue waistband on white shorts with a huge Jayhawk on the leg. Normally, I’m a fan of KU and all their different attempts at their uniforms. I even like the throwback script ones.

But these…ugg. They looked like bad surfing shorts or swimsuits from the ’80s.

Aside

Another New Look For The G Sides

So I get bored every now and then and decide to try out a new theme. I liked the old one and I may go back to it but I saw this one and had to try it on.

Anybody have an opinion on it? I’m guessing most folks read this via email or reader and very rarely visit the site anyway.

Either way – hope you enjoy the new digs. We will see how long this lasts.

Movie Review: Houdini

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Magician. Escape artist. Con Artist Exposer. Arguably the greatest entertainer ever.

He deserved a better film.

I’m not a huge fan of any film that starts with the ending and then flashes back. Nor am I a huge fan of the use of a ‘narrator’ that explains the story to me. I can tolerate them by themselves but combine these two things and it doesn’t just annoy the heck out of me but it’s an incredibly lazy way to tell a story. In this case, it’s also an incredibly clumsy way to tell the story.

Houdini is now streaming Netflix and comes in two 90-minute parts. Made originally for the History Channel, the source material for the mini-series was a book titled Houdini: A Mind in Chains: A Psychoanalytic Portrait written by Bernard C. Meyer, M.D. And if that just sounds like a train wreck waiting to happen – you’d be right.

Read the rest of the review here on my other website – The Reviews.

Remembering My Friend, Bob Fox

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My good friend Bob Fox lost his battle with cancer this past week on Wednesday. The news jolted the whole church, took us all by surprise. And as we all grieve with the Fox family, I can’t help but smile at a lot of my memories about Bob Fox. He’d tear off the opening bass line of Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” during worship practice which if you think about it is a pretty good starting point if you are talking about the theology of worship. Every now and then he would slip into “radio voice” recalling his years as a DJ – “WELLLLLLLLLLLCOME to K-R-U-D radio! We play the krud that nobody else plays.” He’d always have a joke. 50% of the time it would be funny. He loved Longhorn Steakhouse, model airplanes (just don’t touch them). World War 2 movies. John Wayne.

But there was another side to Bob as well. In fact, it was this other side that I first experienced when I first met him in the early fall of 2008. He was part of the Pastor Search Team at Western Hills. I was speaking at a conference in Kansas and Danny Payne pushed me to meet with the team.

It was your typical, get-to-know-you, semi-awkward gathering. Having known Danny Payne and Merle Mees very well, I knew much of the history of Western Hills and I was very non-committal to the team making it clear I loved where I was. Bob sat in the circle off to my left with his arms folded in front of him, legs outstretched, looking over the top of his glasses. He was next to impossible to read but I figured I was to young, to inexperienced, to hip, to whatever for him and the team. I was looking for a gentle way to end the interview, say thank you and head back home to Colorado. Everybody would be nice. We’d all enjoy the evening.

But Bob would change all of that with a single question. What made Bob a great lawyer also made him a great friend. Not an easy friend, but a great friend. If he saw something, he’d couldn’t just let it be. He had to poke at it and get to the bottom of it. I would be his victim this day.

“Grant, may I ask a question of you? When exactly are you going to pray about this next chapter of your life and allow God to give you His answer, not what you want to hear?”

I think the term I’m looking for is undressed. Exposed. Filleted.

He was now leaning in with his elbows on his knees, a slight grin on his face – like he knew something I didn’t (which he did). He wasn’t offensive, he wasn’t argumentative. He wasn’t trying to sell Western Hills. He wasn’t trying to impress anybody. He saw a blind spot in me and regardless of how this journey ended, he wanted me to see it. Everybody wins when God gets the last word.

Over the years, we’d talk Bronco football, even those horrific, McDaniels train wreck years. He got me into looking at World War II airplane nose art, I introduced him to From The Earth To The Moon series. We’d talk war movies and fishing. He’d make me come out and fish his pond and tell them what the fish were biting on. We’d commiserate about raising girls. I’d groan at most of his jokes but every now and then he’d get me laughing.

The last few months, our conversations changed. Faith and doubt. The reality of the resurrection of Jesus, the security of our faith in Christ. What our resurrected bodies will be like. We’d share verses back and forth. He’d tell me how much he was looking forward to the wedding of Carissa. How proud he was of Jenni. His feelings for his mom, his love for his wife.

He knew this day was coming. He told me – ‘Don’t go and do anything really stupid when I die like make a big deal of it.’ Typically I’d reply – ‘Well then don’t go and do anything really stupid like actually die.’

To which Bob uttered the classic line – “We’re all terminal, you know?”

He always had to have the last word.

Here’s what I know today. I know there are a lot of people that love him and will miss him. I know he’d punch me in the face for having written a blog post about him. I know he loved his family. I know he wrestled with his faith and it made him stronger.

And I know he loved Jesus.

I know he loved Jesus.

And that gives me comfort. It allows me to grieve with hope. I hope this does the same for you as well.

Philippians 1:20-21
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Apologizing To The First Service

We have two services. A lot of churches do. The running joke around is the 1st service is the ‘practice service’ while the second one is the ‘real one.’

I hate that phrase. In most cases – the first one is a bit more raw, more unscripted. More spontaneous. I like this.

But every so often…something happens in the first service and we totally change it for the 2nd. Yesterday was one of those days for me.

Here’s the situation. Before church – I update one of the apps that I use when I preach. No problem, right?

As I get up to teach, I have my message all ready to go and it’s on page 1. I notice that there is this spinning circle on my iPad. I can see my page but everything is locked up on it.

No problem. I’ll just vamped for a bit. Buy me some time…still circling. No movement at all on the iPad.

At this point – it’s not a huge deal. I’ve got a couple of options. I can stop everything and ask the guys in the back to bring up the printed copy of my message that they use for the presentation/slides. I can stop everything and shut down my iPad and restart it. Allow the church to have a joke about Mac products at my expense.

But I do none of these things. Why?

I have no idea.

What do I do? I look up and see my slides and the only thing I can think of is – you are going to have to teach this from memory just looking at my slides. I’m not sure why I think this.

It’s a brain freeze. It was a complete bonehead decision.

It was like I was possessed or something. I start teaching on a point and then remember something I was going to say about the last point. It’s disjointed. I’m speaking and I can’t even follow what I’m saying but for whatever reason – I don’t stop and walk the 25 feet to the back of the auditorium to get my notes!!!!!

I keep looking at my iPad thinking – at any moment, it’s going to unfreeze and I’ll be home free. It’s going to happen. So I keep looking at slides….teaching…looking at iPad.

Just stop and walk back and get your notes!!!

OR not. Just keep teaching.

I end my message. I nail the conclusion. I get the wrap-up right. It’s the only thing I get right.

I pray. I get off the stage. My iPad reboots and starts working.

I kid you not.

After service, Rick comes up to me. “You okay? Have a hard week?”

“The message. The message was that bad you have to ask me if I had a hard week?”

Rick: “Let’s just say…it was…not your best. A bit disjointed.”

Had another friend come up to me…”Grant, you need to take your hand out of your pocket when you teach. Normally, you are so animated and in there but today – you were kinda stoic.”

I’m thinking in my head – That was the least of my problems.

Good news? 2nd service was great. What was the difference?

The framing. The big points were all there for both messages. Those didn’t change. But the framing and the transitions from those points were drastically different.

And next time, I’ll just walk back and grab my notes.