Earthen Lodges

Our personal space is important to us. In other cultures, and in times past, space was meant to be more family and community oriented. Extended family were often under the same roof. This has advantages and disadvantages of course! Here is a poem about some Native Americans/First Nations people of the past, sharing their space and their lives.

Earthen Lodges

The fires are still burning for some,

at least in their hearts.

I can see fires for cooking, and warmth in the winter,

the smell of venison, and wood burning.

I hear dogs barking, babies crying, and grandfather and grandmother,

telling stories, teaching the ways. The language.

The people always together, and learning.

 

Beams and frame then grass and earth,

hearts and lives of the people coming together,

and smoke from the pipe. The Creator watching.

Buffalo robes and bear skins — food and protection.

Talking until late in winter, bringing in the horses.

A special place, a place of being whole.

It makes good sense to make a lodge.

 

Warmth, being together.

Keep the fires burning.

 

 

© Copyright 2014, nicodemasplusthree

 

 

 

 

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Beyond the Red River

As writers and artists we need to have a vision of what we are creating. We need to see it, hear it, and feel it. When we do, we can truly share the vision with our audience. It comes through loud and clear. In a sense they can experience our vision.

The problem is that sometimes our vision is distant, in either space or time, or even in culture. I love writing about our Native American/First Nations brothers and sisters. Yet there is a fog at times. I write about the past and the way it used to be. My vision comes out blurred or obscure in some way. The vision is still there though, and I try anyway, even if it is a struggle. Here’s a poem about it.

Beyond the Red River

I can see the water flowing over the rocks of the Red River,

and can hear the wind whispering through the trees.

There are people around the fire, talking about hunting.

I hear the language – Ojibwa — full of life.

Beyond the river, looking west I see the Cree, and the Assiniboine,

further southwest the Blackfeet, and towards the mountains where the Salish live,

villages of life. Smoke from the fires. Deer meat.

I can see further south, some growing corn,

but only as far as the Platte, near the Osage, and the Omaha.

I paint with words what I can see. There is a fog sometimes though.

Smudges. I can make a mistake by only painting shadows with bright colors.

Focusing on the past, the picture seems flat. Forgive me.

The people are still here today living with brown and grey, reaching

for yellow.

But I have the vision and I want to write and to paint,

so others can see the beauty of life, beyond the Red River.

 

 

 

© Copyright 2014, nicodemasplusthree

In The Footprints of a Draft Horse

I long for a simpler life, a more natural one. Clean food and less noise. Somehow when we meditate on this type of life our mind goes back in time. We want to connect with nature and with our past, or at least with the good parts of past human experience. Here’s a poem about it.

In the Footprints of a Draft Horse

I remember the first time

I saw one of those huge footprints.

They sank deep into the earth.

It was in a park near Washington,

a police officer was riding a Percheron-Crossbred

a giant in the woods.

I remember the farm museum too—

in the barns, and in the field

demonstrating harness, and plow.

At the County Fair,

gentle – yet willing to work hard, and pull with sweat,

only needing some food and shelter.

I know that most think they have no use,

that they are from the past,

stuck in our time.

But I believe they are somehow close

to what we really need.

Created for their function, to be part of us.

Close to our beginnings.

Quiet, hard working, gentle.

We were meant to be walking in their footprints.

 

 

 

© Copyright 2014, nicodemasplusthree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movie Reviews – My All Time Favorites

My All Time Favorite Movies

You can tell a lot from a person from the kinds of movies they watch. Some like action films or science fiction. Others like romance or comedies. I have thought a lot about the movies that I like and wanted to share with you a list of my all-time favorites. Eventually I would like to review each one in more detail.

When you look at this list you will learn a lot about me. Many are deeply spiritual. I love films with character, and that deal with serious issues in tangible ways. Characters need to be real and have depth. Films also need to have a good ending. Yet I also like films with humor, and romance. Sleepless in Seattle would be a good example. I also really like cross-cultural themes in films. The films on this list have great endings (for the most part).

Unconditional is my all-time favorite for a lot of reasons. The beginning is sad but it is real, and goes beyond the raw emotions of grief. It shows the main character, Samantha grappling with the concepts of the meaning of life, and overcoming hopelessness. Been there! She does overcome, through forgiveness, and with the help of a childhood friend she meets again, who helps children in the inner city. She finds meaning in helping others. She is changed. Oh by the way, before tragedy struck her life, she was a children’s book author. When she regains hope she can create again! You have got to see this film! It deals with racism, forgiveness, ministry, death, overcoming, hope, and much more. It is filled with love! The ending is fantastic!

A Walk in the Clouds, is a beautiful film. This film is rich with honor, love, dreams dying and coming back to life, and with the main character finding who he is by finding love. He finds healing. He finds his place in life with a Mexican-American family. This family finds healing too. Oh, and there is wine, and love. This film is awesome. I will save the rest for the review!

Even though I am a Christian I generally do not like overtly Christian films, with the exception of, Facing the Giants. I don’t like films that are preachy. This is a football movie but much more than that, it is a film about overcoming. Against all odds a football coach turns his life around and then has a positive impact on his team, which changes the lives of the players. This film is a winner!

We Bought a Zoo, may seem like a light weight by looking at the cover, but it not only has depth, it is a very sensitive film about a family that has suffered the loss of the wife and mother. The husband (starring Matt Damon) is determined to save his family (and himself) out of the depths of despair and grief. He is willing to go to great lengths to do so. A new start is the answer, and yes they do buy a zoo! It has a great ending, and life is reborn. Watch how the family is transformed due to dealing with their grief and allowing love to come in. Wow.

Namesake is an incredible film about an Indian couple coming to the U. S. and beginning a new life. It is also about their children, the changing culture both in this country and in their family. It is filled with the search for meaning, love, family, and what is success? It is complex and very cross-cultural, but the film is done so well, and has so much love in it, as we watch the characters deal with different issues they face, including a failed marriage. Why did the marriage fail? They married for the wrong reasons. In the end the mother returns to her love of singing.

I round out this list with October Baby. At first this seems like a typical teenager movie, with young people going to the beach and hanging out with friends. It changes though as the main character finds out why she has health problems and that she was adopted. The middle of the film deals with the issue of abortion and not only the horror of it, but the long term damaging effects. It is not overtly Christian but without question this is a pro-life movie with a lot to say. The ending is all about redemption and healing! Thank God for healing!

Warning: Many of these films are rated PG-13 and are not suitable for children due to their mature themes. Please, please, be careful. If you’re a parent or an older teen though – enjoy!

My Top Fifteen Favorite Movies

1. Unconditional

2. A Walk in the Clouds

3. The Ultimate Gift

4. Facing the Giants

5. The Kingdom of Heaven (with Gregory Peck)

6. It’s a Wonderful Life

7. My Big Fat Greek Wedding

8. We Bought a Zoo

9. The Perfect Game

10. Fill the Void

11. Young Victoria

12. Miracle on 34th Street (original)

13. Namesake

14. Sleepless in Seattle

15. October Baby

 

 

 

© Copyright 2014, nicodemasplusthree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Woman at the Railroad Museum

I love to write and some of my poetry is more like a story, in a poetry format. This may be breaking literary rules but I think it works! I love combining poetry and story writing. Let me know what you think!

This one is about an experience my family and I had in a small town.

The Woman at the Railroad Museum

It was cold when we drove into the small town, we found a space in front of the building.

As we entered the wind blew us in, four big bundles with knit hats, and winter parkas.

At the time we walked in, I think we were the only ones in the place.

Wooden doors. The woman behind the counter helped us, her name tag said “Elsie”.

She was an older woman and kind, but she seemed unsure of herself.

I’m not sure if she knew what triple A was, but we paid, and said nice things to her.

Maybe she thought we were from the city, or just passing through.

I put her to ease with some kind words, and I took off my hat. She began to relax.

As we walked through the museum I looked for prejudice but didn’t find it.

There was history, uniquely American, and railroads, and activities for children.

The Victorian age was strong there, and a kitchen with a wood burning stove.

On the top level a train garden, with a display about African Americans and the railroad.

Elsie was still there when we completed our tour. We purchased a few small items.

As we left we briefly spoke. She was concerned about not having keys for the door. Security.

She thanked us for coming and we thanked her— the two worlds had come together.

And fear from both of us had evaporated.

 

 

© Copyright 2014, nicodemasplusthree

 

 

Movie Review – Fill the Void

Fill the Void is an unusual, and wonderful Israeli film about the Haredi Jewish culture, the grief of a family, and love vs. duty.

The film begins around the time of year known as Purim. This a joyous time for religious Jewish families, and celebrates God’s protection of the Jewish people. The origins of the feast go back to the Bible and the Book of Esther, where the wicked Haman is destroyed and God’s people are saved from certain destruction. The heroes from the Book of Esther are Esther (Hadassah) and her godly uncle Mordecai.

Now back to the film, it begins with an amazing look into Haredi culture. The main character, Shira is a young lady on the way to see her potential, future husband. She does not actually meet him, but she and her mother go to the grocery store to see what he looks like! We know that there is a matchmaker involved because they cannot find the particular man, and they call the matchmaker to see where the young man, Pinchas Miller, is. Shira’s mother calls the matchmaker and is told he is in the dairy section. When Shira does see him, her mother wants to know what she thinks, and Shira believes he is the one.

The matchmaker plays an important role in marriages in this film, as do the parents. No one forces young people to marry certain other young people, but the movie does seem to indicate that there are pressures that young people face. It seems that maybe the film makers are examining the practice. For some young people it is the pressure just to be married, in a culture that lifts married life and family to a very high level. An example of this would be the character Frieda, who is older and not married yet. For others it is marrying a partner they have never met, because they look like a good prospect.

Now for us we may not like this idea, and it seems at the very least archaic. What it does say about the young people in this culture though, is that they are submitted to their parents, their community (by trusting the matchmaker and fellow Haredi Jews), and ultimately to God. They are trusting, and they want to do the right thing.

Tragedy strikes Shira’s family when on the night of Purim, her pregnant sister dies. By the way, her sister’s name is Esther. I’m not sure of all of the symbolism here, but I know there is some, because the baby is saved, and when they name him, he is given the name Mordecai (spelled slightly different).

One of the most moving scenes in the film is when Esther’s widower, Yochay takes his son to the synagogue for the circumcision ceremony. Inside the synagogue he holds his son and sings, cries, and praises God all at the same time. The praises to God are beautiful, and the audience feels his intense grief.

The grief of Shira’s family runs deep. It is especially difficult for her mother. As the months go by Yochay considers marriage again, in part to take care of the baby. When his potential wife lives in Belgium he contemplates going to live there. This becomes unbearable for Shira’s mother, and she comes up with a plan for Shira to marry Yochay.

The majority of the film is spent examining what Shira goes through in the way of grief over losing her sister, and at the same time feeling the pressure of everyone wanting her to marry her dead sister’s husband. At first she does not think of it as even a possibility, because he is Esther’s husband!

Gradually she says yes but not out of love. She emotionally shuts down, and does not allow herself to feel any emotion, and even tells the rabbi she is willing to marry Yochay because it is the right thing to do. She wants to do the right thing. She holds in her grief and apprehension. The meeting with the rabbi is very touching. If you see the movie take note of how he handles an old lady that wants to see the rabbi, and interrupts the meeting with Shira, her father, and Yochay. When the rabbi sits down again, we don’t see all that he says to Shira, but the family comes back with their heads hanging low. The marriage is not approved.

There is a beautiful scene when Shira cries out to God for help. She is lying on her bed alone, and asking God to give her the strength to get up. She tells God she cannot face this alone and she needs His help.

Shira and Yochay do develop a dialogue with one another in spite of everything, in fact, because of everything they have been through together. We see them opening up to one another and starting to be honest, which develops their relationship. Shira insists she is not afraid but when Yochay pushes her to confront her feelings, she admits that she is afraid of dying. This becomes a turning point for her.

The film invites God in, because of the people and their deep faith. Throughout the film we see people thanking God, acknowledging Him, and seeking Him through prayer. This is wonderful.

I will not share the ending with you, but faith, internal freedom, and the relationship between Shira and Yochay are a blessing to see. I do wish it was slightly different at the very end, with more joy.

This is a very good film. By the way there is no violence or profanity at all. There is some smoking and drinking, but Haredi (and this Hassidic branch of Haredi) Jews like to celebrate. The film is in Hebrew and/or Yiddish, and has English subtitles.

It is a film about faith, family, and wanting to do the right thing. I highly recommend it.

 

 

© Copyright 2014, nicodemasplusthree

Consider Nicodemus

Consider Nicodemus. We can learn a lot from this man who is mentioned three different times in the New Testament. I’m sure you remember the account of Nicodemus going to Jesus at night and talking with Him:

“Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” John 3:1,2

Let’s stop right there for a moment. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, which meant he was well educated, a teacher, and a man of some renown. He was a “ruler of the Jews”. I do not believe that he was a political ruler, but a spiritual one.

Now I don’t know about you, but I was brought up in the faith hearing that he came to Jesus at night because he was afraid of the other leaders of the Jewish people, and he did not want to be seen with Him. The Bible doesn’t tell us why he came by night, but only that he did. I think we are reading too much into this when we say he was afraid, and that there are other possible reasons he could have gone to Jesus when he did.

For instance, think about Jesus and what He did during the day. There were huge crowds all around Him, pressing in to get a look at Him, crying out to Him for mercy and healing, and then there were all the times He spent hours teaching the people. Not to mention, He prayed a lot. Sometimes Jesus sought solitude. So there were not a lot of opportunities to speak with Jesus one on one.

Remember Nicodemus was a spiritual leader. I believe that Nicodemus was a man that wanted time with Jesus! He wanted to talk to Him. Why? Look at the rest of this section. He actually acknowledges that Jesus has come from God. Nicodemus is a man of God himself, and he is trying to understand who Jesus is. He doesn’t have the revelation yet that Jesus is the Messiah, but he knows there is something special about this man that has done so many miracles. He knows that Jesus is from God.

This is a big step for a Pharisee. Then Jesus teaches him about what it means to be born again. At first he doesn’t catch the meaning, but who among us would, if we were in his position? This is new. This is radically different than anything Nicodemus has been taught before. Sometimes we look at people in the Bible as if they are dense or just plain stupid, because they don’t understand a deep spiritual truth, yet we do the same thing! How many times have you gone, duh now I get it!? Nicodemus asks a very valid question:

“Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?’” John 3:4

Then Jesus teaches him some more about what it means to be “born of water and of Spirit”. This is exactly what Nicodemus needed to hear. He came to Jesus in order to talk to him one on one, so he could learn and understand. The Scriptures don’t tell us if he caught on right then, but he sure had a lot to think about and pray about. I believe he eventually did understand. We see indications of that in the other sections of Scripture that mention him.

This includes when the plot is being made by the leadership to falsely accuse and arrest Jesus.

Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to Him earlier, said to them, ‘Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?’” John 7:50, 51

In other words, is this being fair? Nicodemus tries to use reason, but he finds his fellow rulers are not being reasonable. This was a big risk on his part but no doubt he felt the need to say something! He knew it was not right. He also attempts to use what he knows, which is, “our law”. He is appealing to their religious duty to consider what the law says about this, and yet again, he is not only shot down, he is ridiculed and half accused himself.

Now it is true that he may have been afraid here, but who among us would not be? Could he have done more to help our Savior? Yes. But he knew he was out voted, out gunned, and that even if he did more, it would most likely cost him his life, but it would still not stop this tide of hatred and the death of Jesus.

He was not there yet. Perhaps he was still praying about who Jesus was, or trying to figure out how Jesus fit into the plan of Israel. And then it happened – Jesus was dead. The man of God Nicodemus, cared about the Man of God Jesus. We see this after Jesus is taken down from the cross.

Joseph of Arimathea asks for the body of Jesus. We are also told:

“Nicodemus, the one who had first come to Him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds”. John 19:39

One hundred pounds of any spice is a heck of a lot of spice. Did he have that much spice just lying around? Maybe but that’s a stretch. He was a leader of the Jewish people so maybe there was a stockpile for funerals. More than likely though, he went and bought the spice. Everyone and his brother probably figured out who it was for. Everyone knew I’m sure that Jesus had been killed. And here was Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jewish people, going to help bury Him.

This one act shows that Nicodemus not only respected Jesus, but he loved Him. In his own way I think he was making a bold statement here. He was saying this is wrong. You condemned an innocent man and I was not part of this. Jesus was a man of God, and there was a tremendous amount of good in Him. In spite of the risk (and Nicodemus was still at risk) he was saying “I love Jesus”.

To Summarize

Did Nicodemus have a full revelation of who Jesus was? We don’t know, but here is what we do know:

  • Nicodemus was a man searching for truth. He wanted time with Jesus to meet with Him and to understand more about Him. As a result he was given a deeply profound teaching of what it means to be born from above.
  • Nicodemus was a man of principle. He wanted to follow God’s law and thought others should as well. He believed that what happened to Jesus was not right. This shows he was a man of good character.
  • Nicodemus was a man of faith. He may not have understood everything, but he took the risk of publically declaring that he loved Jesus. He wanted to be of service to our Savior.

 

© Copyright 2014, nicodemasplusthree