An Introduction

You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep. Shouldn’t the same be true in regard to movies?

Let’s try an experiment…

If tied to a chair and forced to make a statement, I would probably confess to Anglophile tendencies (the early suspense comedies of Alfred Hitchcock, the dreamy fantasies of Michael Powell, the pessimistic tone poems of Carol Reed), with a soft spot for what Carlos Clarens calls the “classic era” of horror and science fiction (1895-1967). I find few things more bracing than the existential puzzles of Alain Resnais (Last Year at Marienbad, Muriel), few things more heartbreaking than the spiritual inquiries of Robert Bresson (A Man Escaped, Pickpocket), but I also like to unwind to the soothing rhythms of an old fashioned Disney adventure (Treasure Island, In Search of the Castaways) or a Charlie Brown holiday special. I prefer Buster Keaton slightly to Charlie Chaplin (although there’s room in my heart for both), French crime, Italian neorealism, and anything with Orson Welles’s name attached to it (yes, even the wine commercials). I also sometimes think that happiness is watching Laurel and Hardy perform a soft shoe dance.
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Tags | Film

Compassionless Christians

On the user-generated posts, "surferguy" posted an article about the Westboro Baptist Church. This is the church that continues to protest at the grave site of Matthew Shepard on the anniversary of his death with "God Hates Faggots" signs. The church claims that the War (and therefore theses casualties) are God's judgment upon the U.S. for being tolerant of homosexuality. So, they protest at funerals of soldiers -- these aren't necessarily the funerals of gay soldiers, just any soldiers, straight or gay. According to the article posted by surferguy, the church has been stung with an $11 million judgment for protesting at a funeral of a soldier killed in Iraq at which they caused emotional suffering to the parents of the deceased soldier.

How is it possible that Christians, or any thinking person, could engage in such dispicable behavior. Even if homosexuality is a sin, is not the cruel taunting by the Westboro pharisees during a family's grief equally repulsive to God? Can they not see that their conduct is the opposite of everything Christ stands for?

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The Good of Letting Go

It has been about a year since my daughter, Lindsey, was married to Eric. (He is a great guy, but he hasn’t been in the family long enough to merit mention in this blog. So, forget I said anything about him.) I only have one wedding bill left to pay. It is a big one (the photographer’s bill), so I’ve been putting it off -- preferring instead to buy food and keep gas in the car.

The whole “giving your daughter away” thing wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I was expecting an emotional watershed, but it wasn’t. In fact, I’m really fine with it. No sadness. No depression. Not even at the wedding during the ceremony when I recited my only line: “Her mother and I do.” Why is that? It certainly isn’t a lack of love for Lindz; I’m pretty excessive in that regard.

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Welcome to ConversantLife.com

What an exciting time it is. The launch of ConversantLife.com solidifies a journey over 9 years with 4 guys who have had a passion to engage the culture in a unique way. Two focused on content and two focused on technology. ConversantLife.com is what we came up with.

So, what is this site all about? The best way to describe ConversantLife.com is to break it down into 3 managable parts: conversant-generated content, user submitted content and unDiscovered.

Conversant generated content is created in the form of blogs, Podcasts and video by writers, professors, scholars, musicians, film makers, artists, missionaries, pastors and more who are considered experts (or up-and-coming experts) in their particular field. As you navigate through various topics of interest on the site, you will find content created by our authorized bloggers in these areas. You can also visit our blog roll, which has a listing of all the authorize content creators for ConversantLife.com. By clicking on a blog, you will be taken to that blogger's micro site where you can find everything he or she has created for the site.

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Co-author Stan Jantz talks about Christianity 101

What's the Christianity 101 book series all about? Listen to what co-author Stan Jantz has to say.


Where Has All the Water Gone?

Now that the fires in California are all but extinguished, there's a new weather topic to talk about: drought. We've actually been living with drought in the West for a couple of years now, but our situation is manageable when compared with the South. In Georgia, the lack of rain is so severe that the state is expected to run out of water by January. I didn't know a state could run out of water.

Of course, if I knew my history better, I would know that running out of water is not only possible, but actually happened in the fabled Dust Bowl in the 1930s. A prolonged drought in the Southern Plains forced 2.5 million people to abandon their homes and livelihood and seek greener pastures in the West. It was the largest migration in U.S. history and one of the reasons my home town of Fresno in the Central Valley of California has so many families with roots in places like Oklahoma and Texas (it also explains their Southwestern accents).

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Tags | Global

Somewhere Between Blind and Absolute

Not long ago i was talking with a women about her faith. In the interest of full disclosure, I wasn't "witnessing" to this woman. I know her husband, who is someone I consider to be maturing in his faith. That's why I was surprised when his wife told me that for her, faith wasn't something you could know, but had to accept in your heart. "You mean like blind faith?" I asked her. "Exactly," she answered.

Actually, the idea that faith is blind, or a leap in the dark, isn't new. It's been around for centuries, and these days it's quite pervasive in our so-called Christian culture. In all fairness to the woman I was talking with, I don't think she has decided to deliberately remove any objectivity from her faith journey. In my opinion, she just doesn't know any better. Call it a case of "biblical illiteracy." She certainly has never read what the apostle John wrote at the end of his biography of Jesus: "This is the disciple who saw these events and recorded them here. And we all know that his account of these things is accurate" (John 21:24). And she probably isn't aware that in one of his brief letters to Christians in the first century, John also wrote: "I write this to you who believe in the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13).

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Crazy sports fans

I watched a Green Bay Packers football game last night with a bunch of very enthusiastic Packers fans. These faithful followers were from several different families, all with roots in Green Bay. Even though we were in a home, thousands of miles from the "frozen tundra" of Lambeau Field, every one of these faithful fans was wearing Packers jerseys (even the little kids), and they were yelling and screaming as if they were right there in the stands. It was a sea of green and gold, only with lots of noise.

I loved it, because there's nothing like getting into the spirit of a great football game, especially when the fans are good friends. And in the case of the Packers, there's always lots of drama. As I've come to learn, Packers fans are die hards. Through thick and thin. They've had their share of thick, but thin has also been part of the history. I've known these families for a while, so over the years I've noticed that even though they love their Packers with a passion, they get frustrated with their team from time to time. When a bad play is called, or someone on the team does something dumb and causes a penalty, they moan and yell at the players and/or coaches. They'll even hedge their bets sometimes, especially if the game isn't going their way. ("Well, this just isn't their year" is a good hedge.)

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Back into Praise Music

When it comes to praise music, I'm old school. I grew up on Maranatha! praise music (you can tell I know my stuff because I put an exclamation mark after Maranatha!--there, I did it again), but then lost interest during the whole Integrity/HillSong era, which featured some decent songs, but got a little soft for me. I like my praise music with a little more umph. Besides, my wife and I joined a Presbyterian church, and the only praise music they knew was the old stuff, mainly Maranatha! and Integrity songs.

That's the way it was until we got a new music director in our church, and he began introducing some of the newer praise music, in particular the songs of Chris Tomlin. I started perking up my ears on such songs as "Indescribable" and "How Great Is Our God." Then I found out that Tomlin was part of the Passion Conferences, and that impressed me. So I decided to purchase both of his worship CDs on iTunes, and that's all I've been listening to lately. The music is great, and the lyrics are very God-centered.

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Tags | Music

When Tragedy Strikes Home

Just as the fires in California were being extinguished, a horrible tragedy took place in North Carolina. Seven college students were killed when a fire raced through the beach house they were staying in over the weekend. The loss of life is about equal to the number of people killed in California as a direct result of the fires that burned more than half a million acres, but the North Carolina devastation is much more personal. There are faces to this freak accident. These were young friends in the prime of their lives.

As I read about the North Carolina fire, I thought about the families and the unspeakable grief they must be experiencing. Then I glanced at some of the comments posted next to the article, a feature in today's social media world. Most were warmly supportive, offering prayers and condolences. But there was one that stood out, and I couldn't help but read it. I wish I had not.

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Tags | Belief
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