Saturday, March 17, 2018
Movie Review: I Can Only Imagine
The Mercy Me song “I can only imagine” has always had a special place in my heart and very often I will use its lyrics when delivering a message at a funeral to illustrate that while we are on this earth we can not possibly imagine what Jesus has prepared for us. So, when I heard about the movie I was excited. I am happy to say I was not disappointed. While the movie has a slightly different plot than I imagined when I first heard about the movie my heart was touched as I watched the story unfold.
The plot centered upon the story of song writer Bart Millard and his family as he was growing up. His parents divorced, and he was raised by an abusive father. If anyone is sensitive to scenes of domestic violence the movie may not be an appropriate choice for you. However, it delivers a message of redemption and grace. As Bart matures into a young man and sets out on his own to pursue a musical career, he and his dad are estranged. However, his dad is diagnosed with cancer, begins to read the bible and is transformed into a loving and kind man. The two eventually reconcile and his dad’s transformation was the motivation for the song “I can only imagine”.
There are other story lines in the movie which depict Bart’s wife’s life long love of Bart, Bart’s struggle in showing his love back. The movie also depicts the struggles the band Mercy Me faced in their early days. All in all, it is a wonderful and enjoyable movie which I highly recommend. While this review shared some details, there will still be many enjoyable surprises for you as you watch this movie. Go ahead, buy some tickets, you will be glad you did.
Saturday, December 23, 2017
Will this be the last Christmas?: A wooden cross on the highway
Pastor Bob Tousey
A few weeks ago, I was a passenger in a car traveling on northbound Interstate 95 approaching the exit for Route 100 in Howard County, Maryland. As I was looking upon the grassy median, I started to wonder—why wasn't there a wooden cross situated on the side of the road with my name on it? I realize to some; this might appear to be a strange question-- mainly since I am alive, and a wooden cross often represents a scene of a fatal car accident. Being alive at that moment, for me, was indeed a mystery.
So, please, allow me to rewind time for just a moment as I explain an incident that occurred on October 8, 2017, at about 8:30 p.m. On this evening, I was driving my car on 95 North. All of the sudden, for reasons unknown, my car went out of control. The next memory is of a paramedic treating me. It all happened in a matter of seconds, I had just gotten on 95, and I was traveling at the posted speed limit, and the road was clear. Despite traveling the speed limit and having a clear roadway, my car was spinning out of control, and my last memory was a white SUV passing me. My only thought was "this is not going to end well." I do not recall impact or being extracted from my car, but I do recall that brief moment of clarity in the ambulance. This brief moment of allowed me the opportunity to identify a familiar face of the paramedic treating me. I recalled her face from my previous ministry as a Chaplain for the Howard Country Fire and Rescue. Just as quickly as I regained consciousness, I lost it again, only to wake up at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma.
As I had awakened again, I was greeted by a Maryland State Trooper. I was very disoriented, but the conversation with the trooper I recall very well. The trooper commented that he was happy to have the ability to speak with me. You see, the trooper explained that from the appearance of the accident scene he did not think I was going to be alive. From the pictures, it was evident this accident was significant, but fortunately for me, I only sustained six broken bones, and I was spared from having any permeant injuries. The best news of all is that my injuries did not require surgery. However, my injuries were severe enough that I was admitted for five weeks of medical treatment and rehabilitation.
After speaking to my pastor on the phone, I explained to him that Jesus stood between me and the tractor trailer. My pastor being the clever and quick-witted person that he is stated, "You should have let Jesus drive." If, I may, please let me share some of the history of my pastor's statement. For those that are not familiar, this accident was not the first time I had dodged death or serious injury. You see, twenty years earlier—just a few miles away from the above location on Route 100 West, I was travelling in a car on westbound route 100, and I saw a car from the eastbound side jump over the median and into westbound traffic. My initial thought was that death was on the horizon, so I closed my eyes, I held on tight and uttered to myself, "Jesus, help me." Jesus responded by diverting the collision and my life was spared. As I describe this experience, I always refer to Carrie Underwood's song, Jesus take the wheel, and fortunately for me "Jesus, took the wheel." Jesus is the only way to explain how this potential tragedy was avoided. My testimony concerning this experience is available on You Tube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AabAbkWSamI.
I must wonder--why God chose to spare me on multiple occasions, yet others are not so blessed. I may never know the exact reason why, but as we are taught in the Book of Job, only God sees the whole picture and has a complete understanding of His plan. Often, we may never understand why life unfolds the way it does, but I have to remember that God has a plan and a purpose for my life, and all of our lives. All I can do is be open to that plan and be willing to do what God calls me to do. I pray each day for the Holy Spirit to guide me towards that plan and for the ability to carry it out in a manner that honors and glorifies God.
I began this story by sharing how God has shown me grace and mercy throughout my life. I am far from a perfect person and have fallen to temptation, but each time God has extended me grace. For this, I am eternally grateful. I recognize that each day is a gift from God and that I must treasure it as such. May God bless each of you reading this, and I encourage you to improve those strained relationships in your life and to use this Christmas season as a time to repair those relationships, while you have the opportunity. Most importantly, invite loved ones over, hug them, and tell them how much you love them. One thing I realize, more so, than ever is that this life can change in a second. Don't live it with regrets, because you never took the opportunity to repair those relationships. I say this with all sincerity that you cannot take life for granted because this might be the last opportunity you have to celebrate Christmas with them. Celebrate the birth of Jesus by reconciling with others, show them love and grace. God bless each of you and have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Friday, April 7, 2017
Movie Review: The Case for Christ
I had the pleasure of viewing the movie “The Case for Christ”, which is based on Lee Strobel’s, bestselling book of the same name. The movie was very well done. The acting was excellent, the plot interesting and frankly much better than I was expecting. I read the book and found it interesting and enlightening. However, when I first heard it was being made into a movie, I frankly expected a boring documentary that was heavy on detail and low on entertainment. Happily, that is not the case.
The movie is rated PG, primarily due to the medical description of the crucifixion and incidental smoking. If your children are mature and have an interest I would not hesitate to recommend that you allow them to see it with you.
The movie is a true story which occurred in the early 1980’s. The styles depicted in the movie, Lee’s Z-28 Camaro, and his love of Schlitz beer sets the scene well.
The movie has a great plot revolving around Lee’s family and work life. There is a sub plot involving a police shooting and there are scenes of the realistic struggles in Lee’s family life. The characters depict real people who care for and love one another. While Lee gets emotional at times there are not any bitter adversarial scenes that would make a viewer uncomfortable.
Lee Strobel was an award winning investigative reporter and legal editor at the Chicago Tribune and a devote atheist.
Lee’s journey begins while he, his wife and young daughter are in a restaurant celebrating his recent promotion to legal editor. His daughter begins to choke. Fortunately, there is a nurse nearby who provides emergency assistance and saves his daughter. As Lee’s wife thanks the nurse, she responds that Jesus’ had a hand in this as she and her husband had plan to eat at another restaurant but they felt the need to eat at this one. This comment had a profound effect on Strobel’s wife and caused her to explore Christianity and eventually give her life to Jesus. Having a born again Christian wife did not sit well with Lee and he began a journey to prove that there was no reasonable basis for Christian beliefs.
Lee’s journey included him seeking out leading experts in archeology, history, theology and medicine. The experts included a fellow atheist, a Catholic Priest and Protestant scholars. Lee realized that the true question revolved around the Resurrection. If the Resurrection occurred as believed then there was a solid basis for Christianity. If it did not the whole basis for Christianity is destroyed.
While the movie is not as detailed as the book, it does provide the key facts to support the Christian belief in the Resurrection.
The title gives away the ending as Lee concludes that the argument for Christianity is strong and gives his life to Jesus. He has retired from journalism and now is a teaching Pastor, teacher and writer.
This movie is very well balanced. It provides Christians with a road map to strengthen their faith. Agnostics some points to consider and I believe atheists will enjoy the plot and how it is presented. I highly recommend this movie for everyone. I consider this the best movie of its type. God bless and have a great Easter.
Friday, March 3, 2017
Last night I had the pleasure of watching the movie premiere of "The Shack", which is based on William Paul Young's novel of the same name.
"The Shack" tells the story of a fictional father, named Mack, who is struggling with the brutal murder of his young daughter, Missy, while on a family camping trip. One touching moment in the movie was the night before her murder when Missy asks Mack to pray with her to Papa. Papa is the family's affectionate name for God the Father.
While the family is a church going Christian family and has the strong support of their church community, Mack is very angry with God and his older daughter, Kate, blames herself for the tragic death of Missy.
While the rest of the family is away Mack receives a mysterious invitation to the Shack in which his daughter was killed and it was signed Papa.
He decided to make the trip and spends a fictional weekend with the Trinity. While there was considerable artistic license taken in portraying the Trinity, the story of the weekend teaches some very important lessons.
One of the lessons is that God is a loving God who is pained by human suffering. That there are times we must go through pain in order to grow and become the person God intends for us to be. There is a scene were God the Father is encouraging Mack to forgive Missy's murderer. You can see how this is obviously painfully for Mack. This was, however, very necessary for his own healing and for him to eventually help his older daughter, Kate, free herself for the guilt she felt over Missy's death.
We also learn that we can accomplish things with Jesus walking beside us that we could never accomplish on our own and that the Holy Spirit is there to guide us. We are also shown examples of free will, reconciliation and that Heaven is a beautiful place in which there is no pain, no suffering and no words that mean goodbye.
After the fictional weekend, we see a miraculous change in Mack's life and how he is able to help Kate release herself from the blame that she carries for Missy's death. This change results in the family once again being joyful and using their joy in the face of tragedy to glorify God.
The key to enjoying this movie and getting the most out of it is to realize that it is a work of Christian fiction and not a theological work that claims biblically accuracy. Those who have read my reviews in the past know that I have been critical of other movies that stray from the truth of the Bible. The distinction is that those movies attempted to present themselves as an accurate portrayal of biblical stories. The Shack makes no such attempt. It is a fictional movie with an inspiring message.
In my view this movie was well done with wonderful acting and tells a compelling story of grief and healing. It demonstrates how healing can be used to glorify God.
Some have criticized the movie as suggesting that it ignored the wrath of God. I did not see it that way. While talk of hell and damnation were missing, I didn't take that as a suggestion that hell does not exist. Rather that it was omitted because it was not consistent with the story's message of love, forgiveness, redemption and healing. There are other platforms where the discussion of God's wrath would be appropriate, this in my opinion, was not such a platform.
What I particularly liked was that The Shack emphasizes the Trinity. While there is considerable artistic license taken with the portrayal of the Trinity, which some might take issue with, I am pleased that the Trinity was not ignored. I was also pleased that the movie acknowledged that the Trinity is three in one, an important theological concept which is easily misunderstood. In my next blog post I will discuss the Trinity for those who wish a deeper discussion of this important theological concept.
My bottom line take away from this movie is similar to the take away I got after reading the Book of Job for the first time. God's knowledge is infinite, while ours is limited. There are times that we must be brought through pain to achieve what God has planned for us and which allows us to better glorify God.
I was also encouraged that our faith can not be based on what happens in the lifetime we have on earth. The ultimate blessings that God has planned for us, His children, occur in our eternal life, not in our earthly life.
Overall, I was very pleased with this movie and feel it will provide Christians with a great way to open up discussions regarding pain and suffering. It will also force those of us in ministry to be more prepared to discuss the difficult questions regarding why God allows pain and suffering.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Fifteen years ago today the world stopped turning. Many people left their homes that morning, kissing their children and their spouse good bye, not realizing it would be their final kiss in this life time. Their family's life was about to change forever. Others suffered from 9/11 related cancer and died years later but the events of 9/11/2001 certainly changed their lives and the lives of their families forever. Today I am remembering one of those who contracted a 9/11 related cancer and was lost 13 years after that tragic day. Captain Danny Levy of the Plainview Volunteer Fire Department. Captain Levy spent weeks after 9/11 working to recover the remains of those lost. First lets recall the events of that day.
At 8:46 a.m. EST the world changed forever when a plane struck Tower 1 of the World Trade Center in New York City. At 9:03 a.m. the second tower is hit. At 9:37 a.m. another jet crashes into the Pentagon. At 10:03 a.m., a plane headed towards the White House or the United States Capitol Building, crashed into a field near Pittsburgh.
Deaths that day approached 3,000 with over 6,000 injured. Included in those numbers were 343 firefighters responding to the World Trade Center. This was the largest number of casualties for F.D.N.Y. in any one day. Even today, fifteen years later, the causalities mount as brave men and women are still dying from 9/11 related cancer.
This hits home because as a young man I was a member of the Plainview Volunteer Fire Department. My brother is a past Chief of that Department and responded to the World Trade Center on a mutual aid. We were fortunate my brother survived and is fine today. Another member of our Department eventually succumb to 9/11 related cancer his name is Captain Danny Levy.
Danny Levy has a unique story. He was a veteran of the Israeli military and joined the Plainview Volunteer Fire Department in 1999. He loved the United States and its people. He wanted to make a difference. Danny was a man who put others before self. He made many trips to ground zero to work recovering victims. He told family and friends that if before 9/11, he would have known he would have developed a 9/11 related cancer that would take his life, he would have still made those trips.
Captain Levy was a dedicated man, a hero, one of many. I choose to write about Captain Levy this year as he is a man I got to know after 9/11. When I would visit the Plainview Volunteer Fire Department on my trips home and Captain Levy was always welcoming. In spite of his suffering he always had a smile on his face and a good word for all. Captain Levy was a fine human being, a true inspiration and a wonderful leader.
Right up until the end Captain Levy was a firefighter, a teach and a caring human being. It is fitting that his final Facebook post just hours before his death was a picture used in firefighter training his comment "If you can read the smoke, than you know that this room is about to ignite any second now, so, jump or die burning." Ironically, his final message was one designed to save the lives of his brother firefighters.
In the years to come I will try to put a human face on the tragedy of 9/11 and hope that we truly never forget. God bless, Captain Levy and God bless all the heroes of 9/11.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Fathers as Leaders
This article is dedicated to my Dad
Fred L. Tousey
Gone way too soon but remains an inspiration.
Two years ago I wrote a popular article entitled “Fatherhood: The Sad Reality of the Absentee Father.” That article discussed the adverse effects of a fatherless home. Today’s article will consider why fathers are so important and how fathers can be more effective leaders in their families.
In the Sad Reality of the Absentee Father we noted that former Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich’s often recalls his many visits to the state’s juvenile and adult correctional facilities and how the majority of the inmates were males from fatherless homes. This observation finds support in a 2007 article by thenMaryland Delegate, now State Senator Joanne C. Benson in which she noted that 85% of youth in prison are from fatherless homes. Other startling statistics noted by Senator Benson include that 63% of young people who commit suicide, 71% of high school drop outs and 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers are from fatherless homes. Senator Benson observed that young men are in desperate need of positive role models and the presence of strong focused men in their lives. She also noted this is not to say females or mothers should not be part of the equation. Had it not been for the strong presence and influence of the female, more children would have fallen through the cracks. In fact, I experienced this in my own life. My dad died shortly before my ninth birthday so I missed out on his mentoring, guidance and counsel through those critical teen years and as I began a family. I certainly missed out on key benefits I would have had if he had lived. I was however one of the lucky ones who had a strong mother who was able to fill some of the gaps. While I had some key failures, I also benefited from the strength my mother demonstrated. However, there was no way she was able to serve as a role model on how a man treats a woman. I could not seek her advice on key relationship issues which are male specific. There was no way she could have those conversations only a dad can have.
Now that we have established the critical role a father plays in life of his children we can consider how a man can be a better and more effective leader and role model.
Many people misunderstand what a leader is. Some feel a leader should intimidate others and bark orders. This however is not biblical leadership and it is not the way God commands men to lead. Domestic violence and abuse is not biblical leadership.
How then does God command men to lead ? Let’s examine Ephesians 6:4 (ESV) which teaches us “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Adam Clark in his commentary relating to this verse states “…Parents are called to correct; not to punish, their children. Those who punish them do it from a principle of revenge; those who correct them do it from a principle of affectionate concern.”
In that leadership should always have love as its foundation we gain further insight on how to lead in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV):
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
What we see in these verse is that God calls men to be patient, kind, trustworthy and instructs us not to easily anger.
As leaders, fathers must be humble and willing to allow the members of their family to use and develop the gifts God has given them. This requires that men delegate some of their responsibilities to those family members who are gifted in those areas. Fathers must also be willing to admit fault when they are wrong. Fathers need to be servant leaders, leading by example rather than by command. Fathers must also be able to resolve disputes by consensus rather than by edict.
It is essential for fathers to take the spiritual lead in the family. Fathers should humble themselves by getting on their knees and praying in front of their family. Fathers need to attend worship with the family. Fathers must make every effort to live a Christian life and when they fail to do what is necessary to make things right. Most times the recovery from failure is a more important lesson than doing it right the first time.
Fathers must honor their wives. They need to show appropriate affection to their wife and children. Fathers need to publically demonstrate appreciation and respect for his wife’s role in the family. Fathers must also publically recognize the achievements of the members of his family. Fathers must remember the words of Proverbs 20:7 “The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him!” and demonstrate integrity in all that he does.
This article is not intended to be an exhaustive analysis of how God calls fathers to lead but is intended to plant a seed that hopefully will promote further study and discussion.
Dads remember we are not Supermen. We cannot do this alone. Seek out other Christian men to provide counsel and guidance. I belong to a Men’s group at church and this has been a valuable resource to me. Each men is at a different stage in his walk and come from diverse background. This diversity in experience and background provides a wonderful resource and has certainly helped me grow as a man. God bless and happy Father’s Day.
Monday, September 14, 2015
Movie Review: 90 Minutes in Heaven
After recommending the book, "90 Minutes in Heaven" for years I was very excited to hear that they were making a movie about Don Piper’s inspirational story. I was certain after watching the movie that I was going to be able to write a raving review. I am very disappointed to say I cannot in good conscious write a raving review. Despite the fact that most scenes were tastefully presented and the strong acting performances by Hayden Christensen, who played Don Piper and Kate Bosworth, who played Piper’s wife Eva, the movie fell flat and did not live up to expectations.
The movie got off to a good start and showed promise to be one of the great inspirational movies. In the opening scene we preview the accident and saw flashbacks to activities in the Piper house days earlier.
After the flashbacks we view the full accident, Don being pronounced dead, the arrival of another Pastor who felt called to pray, some blurry allusions to Don’s 90 Minutes in Heaven and his return to human life. The movie appeared to be heading in a positive direction as we witnessed a flurry of activity to remove Don from the wreckage and get him to the hospital. But once all the flurry of activity involving the accident and rescue efforts ended so did my interest.
The movie then became very drawn out and flat. Most scenes were of Don in his hospital bed. While there was reference made to people praying for Don there were no scenes of the prayer vigils which took place at his church. One part Don’s recovery which could have been expanded on more was his interaction with a young lady who was undergoing similar painful treatment to her leg. Instead they decided to waste time with a few scenes involving Don’s wife, Eva’s interactions with an incompetent personal injury attorney Dwight Yoakam (Sling Blade). It added nothing to the movie and quite frankly, Blade’s performance was some of the poorest acting I have ever seen.
Towards the end the movie regained some life and a short while was spent on some actual scenes of Don’s time in Heaven as well as some words from the real life Don Piper. It is a shame that the opportunity to share this inspirational story with a larger audience was wasted. If you enjoy going to movies and your budget is not limited by all means see it, but if your movie budget is limited I would recommend investing in tickets to “War Room” or wait until next month when “Woodlawn” comes out.