Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Christianity”

Movie Musings: Risen

What would the Resurrection story be like from a weary Roman tribune’s point of view? From a hardened soldier whose main aspiration is to gain power in order to retire to the country to find peace, to live a day without death?

This is the premise of Risen, which came out in 2016, featuring Joeseph Fiennes and Peter Firth. Most, if not all of the Easter films I have watched, focus on events leading up to the crucifixion. Risen starts afterwards, beginning with a convincing skirmish with Roman soldiers and the released Barrabbas.


Clavius, a career Roman soldier, played by Joseph Fiennes, is the one who is sent by Pilate to speed things up, to end the “rabble” noise. Clavius does so by going to the site of the three crucifixions taking place. He orders two of the three to have their legs broken, which painfully quickens the already excruciating death on the cross. As the third victim is about to suffer the same, Clavius notices a group of women weeping, and learns it is the mother. This is where the audience sees beyond the tough exterior of this Roman soldier, setting up the film. Clavius instead orders the pilium, and the suffering ends immediately with the swift piercing.

From this point on Clavius remains involved with this man’s death. He is sent to have the tomb sealed, and when the body vanishes, he becomes a dectective trying to solve the mystery. This is a brilliant, if not unique way, to present the Resurrection story.

As Clavius, Joseph Fiennes, projects a weariness from his 25 years of soldiering, that begins to soften his judgement, yet his professional training remains intact. As Clavius searches for the missing Yeshua, he begins to find truths that he cannot reconcile with what he knows, and this truth changes him as searches for answers.

Having watched the Easter films of the past, The Robe through The Greatest Story Ever Told, and even The Passion of Christ, I was at first reluctant to watch yet another film about a story I knew so well, that whenever I watched a retelling my emotions absolutely pulverized me: joy, awe, anger, devestation, exultation. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through it all once again, even though the story is ultimately uplifting. Risen, having now twice watched it, creates a sense of wonder, a sense of satsfaction, one of peace.

Joseph Fiennes brings his polished acting skills to the role, providing subtley to his part. A sigh, a flick of an eyelid, a wary side look, a folding of arms all say so much when he says so little. This Roman, this Clavius, is a man of action, one of precise movement and logic, yet events he becomes involved in as he searches for Yeshua at Pilate’s demand, renders him watchful, cautious, and we see him slowly transform as he realizes he will never be the same.

I appreciate Sony’s dedication to producing intelligent, thought-provoking family films that take on inspirational subjects. The stories are well-written, finely directed, and showcase notable actors. Most find their way to the theatre circuit and do well, which sends the message that family entertainment with a message is valued.

He is risen, and I hope you and yours embrace this season of wonders.

NPM: #7–life is a mystery


Henrietta Cordelia Ray (1849-1917)

Life! Ay, what is it? E’en a moment spun
    From cycles of eternity. And yet,
    What wrestling ’mid the fever and the fret
Of tangled purposes and hopes undone!
What affluence of love! What vict’ries won
    In agonies of silence, ere trust met
    A manifold fulfillment, and the wet,
Beseeching eyes saw splendors past the sun!
What struggle in the web of circumstance,
    And yearning in the wingèd music! All,
        One restless strife from fetters to be free;
Till, gathered to eternity’s expanse,
    Is that brief moment at the Father’s call.
        Life! Ay, at best, ’tis but a mystery!

I usually shy away from poems exclaiming exclamation marks. Yet, I am caught up in the imagery of the lines “tangled purposes”, “splendors past the sun”, “web of circumstance”. Plus, this type of poetry fits the time period, because as a future songwriter trebled out the “times they were a changing.”

In the poet notes I saw that in 1876 Ray’s poem “Lincoln” was read at the unveiling of the Emancipation Memorial in Washington, which indicates a tribute and an honor to both Ray and Lincoln.


image: Savanne/Morguefile

Blog Spotlight: Mustardseed

An encouraging word. A bright spot. A story of motivation and encouragement. All this and more is found by following MustardSeedBudget. Pastor Mike Ashcraft provides faith memes and positive messages on his blog. He will also regale readers with his appreciation for soccer. And he especially likes to pass on to others his special love for the church he left behind in Guatemala.

I look forward to his frequent postings and I appreciate how he takes time to visit my blog. I can’t really say how I found his blog, but I’m ever so glad I did. I must be in good company because he has over 4,500 followers. I must not be the only one who knows that something as small as a mustard seed has a way into growing into something big.

Thanks, Pastor Mike for your words of faith.

The People Factor

Relationships. They seem to make or break our happiness. Van Moody, a pastor serving the Worship Center in Birmingham, Alabama, understands the importance of relationships and provides a compact guide with his The People Factor.

The People Factor addresses the vertical (our relationship with God) and the horizontal (our relationship with others) aspects of relational skills. As a pastor he found a lack in ready resources when he counseled people. “There was nothing to put in the hands of people who left my office after sharing their deep pain over a relationship that would teach them beyond-the-basics lessons that could help them in highly practical ways.”

In each chapter, Pastor Moody weaves sound advice around his provided relatable examples, ending with “Relationship Reminders” and “Raising Your Relational IQ” which serve as personal checkpoints or could be used as discussion points in a group study.

The book is filled with points of reflection:

“We must realize that discrepancies between words and actions are serious warning signs.” (p.7)

“In relationships, commitment to integrity must take precedence over mutual comfort or shared enjoyment because integrity is the foundation of a person’s life.” (p. 47)

“You cannot erase your past. It will alwys be part of your personal history, but it does not have to define you.” (p.75)

Divided into three sections, the book explores the dynamics of relationship.

Part One: The Critical Laws of Relationships delves into the essentials of relationship such as agreement, understanding how the past influences relationships of today, and the importance of loyalty.

Part Two: How to Make the Most Difficult Choices, investigates unhealthy relationships–how to cope with them and how to let go of them.

Part Three: Essentials of Great Relationships promotes the understanding of the process of how healthy relationships work.

Finding happiness can come by losing weight, redecorating the house, or changing up the wardrobe, and there are plenty of books that help a person towards that measure of happiness. Yet, finding joy in relationships, that supercedes any temporal happiness.

The People Factor provides sound advice to promote sound relationships.

The Painted Table

The Painted Table, Suzanne Field

Debut author, Suzanne Field, explores the painful process of watching a loved one drift into insanity through omniscient narration, an unusual point-of-view for this type of story, yet one that effectively provides an appropriate disjointed aspect.

Joann hides from her childhood fears under the family’s heirloom Norwegian table. Her older brothers and sisters tease her for her  need to seek solace under its protective aprons. As she grows into adulthood, her fears follow her and manifest into odd quirks that later develop into full-on madness. Her daughter Saffee suffers terribly, watching her mother slip away from her. Saffee craves having a relationship where she feels safe and worthwhile and cannot find this fulfillment through her dysfunctional family structure. As Saffee grows from child into teenager and finally into a young woman she realizes that God is always there for her and she begins to find solace in His presence; however she continues to have doubts about herself and wonders if she will inherit her mother’s condition.

I’m not sure why the author chose to present the story in an omniscient point-of-view. In some ways it allows for an impassive participation by lending a distance, as if we are watching a family unravel in almost a clinical mode of observation. On the other hand, without a definite point-of-view,  it is difficult to connect to the characters. This form of narrative involves more telling than showing, which leaves one  wanting more detail. Overall, the novel presents a fascinating topic: nature or nurture? Does Joann inherit her mother’s nervous condition and pass it on to her daughter Saffee or does Saffee learn her quirks watching her mother?

“Saffee’s heart thumps. Hysteria? Acute mania? Hospital for the insane? The words glare like neon lights. Her mother and her grandmother? Insane? What was the term she learned in psychology? Evolutionary lineage? For an instant, only an instant, her chest tightens.” (244)

Saffee finds fulfillment through the support of her husband Jack, who reassures her that she doesn’t have to become her mother. And she wants to believe God has promised her life will be different. The idea of breaking patterns through love’s redemption is the backbone of this debut novel and is one that provides a satisfying ending.

Disclaimer: BookSneeze provided this book in exchange for a fair review.

A Balm for Katniss

The Hunger Games (film)

The Hunger Games (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As much I relish the Hunger Games series being brought to the big screen, there is one aspect of the story that continues to hamper my true enjoyment the progression of the series: the bleak monotony of despair.
Throughout the books, and in the film, all the main characters live in the clutches of fear. Fear of starvation, punishment, pain, and death all permeate the plot and are the motivators for the characters.
Something is needed to relieve the continual roller-coaster of despair and it isn’t going to come sailing down in a little tinkling parachute.
Prim hits on what’s needed at one point in the plot when she answers Katniss’s inquiry of what’s different now (Catching Fire) than before (Hunger Games): “Hope.”
And this is true–without hope there is despair.
Suzanne Collins creates an atmosphere of despair by utilizing Roman rule elements when she created the setting of the Hunger Games. It’s the plebeians versus the patricians complete with coliseum games as an opiate for the masses. One aspect which is not included in the Hunger Games is that many of the coliseum participants were Christians imprisoned by Roman rule. The emperors were threatened by this new religion because a new King threatened their rule: Jesus of Nazareth. He gave the people hope, something Roman rulers could not.

Jesus of Nazareth (miniseries)

Jesus of Nazareth (miniseries) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While hope is offered in the latest installment of the Hunger Games trilogy, there is a missing component which is so vital to completing hope’s salve to the wounds of despair: faith.
There is no religion, no deity, no promise of afterlife in the series, which is why despair and oppression permeate the mood of the story.
If possible, I would send Katniss a balm of hope in order to instill the need of faith that there is a better Way. Psalm 27 seems to be one parachute I could send.

Anyone out there have their own balm of hope they might send?

A Slice of Pi

Too often I realize I am a book snob. Certain subjects, authors, or just because it is crazy popular will place me in snub mode. My shame, especially since I am a professed Book Booster. Isn’t confession supposed to be part of the cure?
This is why I am even more embarrassed I have put off reading Life of Pi for so long.

image from

When it first came out I did my huffy verisimilitude snort and bypassed it. “Oh, please, really? A boy and a tiger on the ocean in a boat and he lives to tell about?” I had no problem with C.S. Lewis creating a horse and a boy as pals, let alone a lion mentoring three British children? I really must get my veracity meter checked one of these days.

With Pi I broke THE rule and saw the movie first–home version, sans Blu-Ray or 3D glasses. My review? Magical.
And that’s it. You don’t need yet another review among the surfeit of Pi commentaries. The movie motivated me to read the book.. Fortunately, our school librarian, in the midst of checking in end-of- the year materials, hasn’t had time to shelve new books and she allowed me to take it home over the weekend. There’s nothing like a long weekend and a mesmerizing novel.
I will say this–I appreciate the novel so much more having experienced the film (possible even in plain everyday vanilla DVD fashion). Frankly, parts of the plot were a bit hard to visualize, such as the raft and the meerkat island, without the aid of movie inserts. It’s not that my imagination station is broke it’s just that Ang Lee created such a wondrous palette of preprogrammed living color the plot danced more as the movie played in my head. Then there is Richard Parker; I couldn’t have imagined him as well as his CGI counterpart. He is such a handsome tiger. Of course,  meerkats by the thousands is visually is much more impressive via the wide-screen than by my mental viewing station.

The novel contains much more detail (I, uh, flipped past some of the more colorful aspects of oceanic survival); however, aspects of the movie were better, such as the family dynamics.

The most important takeaway of both stories is this quote:

“And so it is with God.”

This quote absolutely resonates with me. The ambiguity of the story’s ending reminds me so much of Inception, allowing us the intelligence of denouement possibilities.

I wonder if there is a correlation between my initially snubbing Life of Pi because I did not grow up with pie–seriously, I don’t remember my mom serving up chocolate cake, apple pie, or cookies (I have compensated and I taught myself the art of pie making and make a mean apple custard pie complimented by “my goodness!” flaky crust). Pie didn’t interest me until I reached adulthood.

And so it is with this Pi, of which I will ask for another slice.

Cover of "Life of Pi"

Cover of Life of Pi

Verily, Verily, Verisimilitude

The Matrix Online

The Matrix Online (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What is real?”

Isn’t that the big question asked in The Matrix?

We live in the real, yet we crave for an escape, hence literature and film and video games.  Yet, as much as we push the boundaries of “What is real” and explore space, time periods, new worlds, ways to expand our minds, change our bodies, there still needs to be verisimilitude.


noun \-sə-ˈmi-lə-ˌtüd, -ˌtyüd\


: the quality or state of being verisimilar
: something verisimilar
veri·si·mil·i·tu·di·nous \-ˌmi-lə-ˈtüd-nəs, -ˈtyüd-; -ˈtü-də-nəs, -ˈtyü-\adjective


<the novel’s degree of verisimilitude is compromised by 18th-century characters who speak in very 21st-century English>

And there it is–like Neo, there is the invincibility that comes from stretching the dream world, and the knowledge of being tethered into reality.

For instance, I can believe a girl from Kansas can get whirled up into tornado and be dropped in a magical land of talking scarecrows, populated by little people, witches (both good and bad), flying monkeys, and horses of a different color. Nevertheless, I’d be hard pressed to believe she goes back to Kansas in a rocket ship or sprouts wings to fly there herself.  There must be real enough with our unreal.

Recently I completed a triology, where the story is set after the modern world has ended due to a pandemic virus. The world that is rebuilt is based on medieval times, complete with castles, warriors, limited technical knowledge. There is also the aspect of the people discovering the religion of their ancestors, which lends a blending of past, present, and future. I hung with the entire series, barely so at times because of one annoying problem: verisimiliutde slippage.

There we would be, the hero and heroine recointering after a tremoundous battle and after some appropriate,  credible medivialistic setting, into the dialogue would pop out, “Wow, those guys were tough.” Poof, verily, verily, the magic bubble popped. I couldn’t wrap my mind the modern vernacular.  I’m not looking for “forsooths and thous”, only credibility.

Anyone else have a book or even a film that tweaked their need for verisimilitude?

The Epicness of Poetry part three

Cover of "Paradise Lost (Penguin Classics...

Cover of Paradise Lost (Penguin Classics)

Paradise.  Lots of connotations. For some it is the place of perfection (Hawaii, for many), and for others it is the Garden of Eden, which is how Milton deemed the meaning in his epic poem Paradise Lost.

What makes this an epic poem?

For one thing it is like the other poems: BIG.  Milton transcribed a twelve book poem to his amanuensis, (he was blind at the time he “wrote” it), which came to over 10,000 lines.  He takes on the big topic of God’s way of doing things.  And there are the other  big characters of Adam, Eve, and Satan,. The theme of good and evil is a pretty big concept as well.

To understand the poem, let’s look at the poet.

File:Temple of British Worthies John Milton.jpg


During the 1600s in England, the government was undergoing change, which is definitely an understatement. John Milton got himself in trouble, and eventually into prison, due to his political beliefs.  As a writer, he considered himself among the upper echelon, but thought he could improve his game and be considered one of the truly big league guys (like Homer and Virgil) if he, too, wrote an epic poem.  Although he’d been planning to write Paradise Lost for some time, it’s thought his disenchantment with England’s government might have also been a catalyst for writing about a paradise (his country’s government) being lost.

The Poem
(thanks, Shmoop, you always say it so much better)

The other thing about epic poetry that you should know is that it always begins in medias res, or in the middle of things. This means that the poem begins, and then usually gives you a back-story before returning you to where you began, and then moving forward. For example,Paradise Lost begins with Satan already in Hell, but all the events leading up to it are narrated in Books 5 and 6. Similarly, the creation of the world, of Adam, and of Eve takes place sometime between Satan’s fall and the solidification of his plans for revenge (Books 1-2), but the creation is described in Books 7 and 8. In other words, the poem begins somewhere in the middle of the story, but then goes back and fills in the details. In medias res, baby.

Now, Milton’s poem doesn’t deal with war or the foundation of one of history’s greatest empires, and in this respect his epic poem is different from most of his major generic forebears (Homer, Virgil, and Spenser chief among them). While we do have a huge battle sequence in Book 6, something about it just seems funny. For example, it’s hard to take the battle seriously because we already know the outcome (Satan loses, which we learn in the very first book of the poem); if we’ve somehow forgotten the outcome, however, we always get the sense that God is going to win. The weirdness of Book 6 is explained at the beginning of Book 9, where Milton says flat out that he’s not interested in the type of martial heroism typical of epic poetry. He’s more interested in a type of internal, spiritual, Christian heroism, what he calls the “better fortitude/ Of patience and heroic martyrdom/ Unsung [i.e., not sung about in previous epics]” (9.31-33).

And he sticks to his guns: one could very well characterize Paradise Lost as an epic poem about “patience,” if only because it is Adam and Eve’s impatience that is the cause of their downfall. Now you might be asking yourself, what’s epic about patience, Adam, Eve, etc.? Well, for the Christian world, Adam and Eve’s story is of comparable significance as the founding of Rome or the Trojan War. According to the Judeo-Christian tradition, by eating the Forbidden Fruit, Adam and Eve introduced sin and death into the world, two very serious consequences. Seriously, who likes death?


Paradise Lost is not light reading. Furthermore, it can be overwhelming to read, plus it addresses (for some) an uncomfortable topic. Nonetheless, Milton tackles the subject of choice (free will) in an eloquent manner, and his epic poem set a standard for tone and diction for English poets (probably all poets).  I have to admire a writer who dedicated so much time to one particular work. The results prove that tenacity and perseverance are part of a writer’s toolbox.

Flag Day

140th US Flag Day poster. 1777-1917. The birth...

140th US Flag Day poster. 1777-1917. The birthday of the stars and stripes, June 14th, 1917. ‘Tis the Star Spangled Banner, oh, long may it wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!” Library of Congress description: “Poster showing a man raising the American flag, with a minuteman cheering and an eagle flying above.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

June 14th is Flag Day.  Actually everyday is Flag Day for me, because I love being an American.  When our principal’s voice comes over the speaker to “please rise, take your hats off, put your hand over your heart and repeat after me,” I do so–not because it’s what I have done since kindergarten; I do so because the pledge really, really means something to me. Red Skelton captured it best:


The Duke adds his own touch:

What is Flag Day? This day commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which all began June 14, 1775.  Yet, it took a schoolteacher, Bernard J. Cigrand to mount up the needed patriotism that would eventually place the date on our calendars.

Not many government offices will be closed.  Don’t worry–the bank and library will still be open.  And don’t be disappointed  if Wal-Mart won’t be running a blockbuster sale.  You might see an isolate parade here and there.  There should be more flags than usual outside of storefronts and houses.  It’s a quiet day, one that speaks volumes of meaning, if a person takes the time to listen.

Flag Day quietly reminds us we were once a fledgling nation, a band of colonies, who fought for freedom of religion and craved independence.  We came from one nation, and eventually became a nation composed of many from other nations.

To be an American means different things to different people.  To me it means to  feel humble, yet proud, for I acknowledge we have our problems as a people and as individuals, yet how many other countries have the opportunities America does? For being so young, we have accomplished so very much.  I respect the flag and how it represents the freedom I have as an American. I also respect the lives that have fought to ensure I have that freedom.

I am saddened and even vexed when my students do not stand and recite the pledge.  Instead of showing my annoyance and handing out a lecture like I often used to do, I have begun a different course. I will pump my fist in the air and proclaim: “I love being an American!” Yes, my students think I’m odd; on the other hand, I really, really do love being an American and if I am to be their role model nine months out of the year, why not show them everyday how I truly feel?  Oh, yes I do love being an American.


Flag of the United States of America

Flag of the United States of America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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