Featured Articles Observations

Dads Rocking in Cradles

Dad and Son

I need to act more on my inspiration. It’s a failing to keep holding back and let the flame reach the end of the match before I reach out to light the candle. The last two days I’ve been thinking of a story concept for a movie script. The idea is strongly built around the lifelong relationship between a Father and a Son. Today I decided to step a little closer to the candle and write some notes for this movie. I know fear will hold me back and pride could trip me up but I want to get a little more daring and start this journey. I’m not too old and definitely not too young so the day seems to be about right.

Featured Articles Observations

Loving with Our Senses

Dad and Son

I’m sitting outside in the cool summer breeze of a Kiwi evening thinking of all the love I’ve experienced today from my family. What occurs to me is that I’ve had to be awake to loving with our senses. If I hadn’t paid attention I would have missed the power of love and it’s intoxicating inspiration.

You may be wondering what I’ve been drinking with these philosophical comments but the only motivation was life and the only drink on the table is water. I’m caught up in this moment hearing my daughter sing like a diva in the background and remembering moments through the day when I saw, tasted, touched and heard love. It was easy to absorb, gentle to miss and powerful to behold.

Let love present its reckless offers and let my senses be ever open, always receiving from their passionate assault.

Let me tell you how I woke up. It wasn’t early, it wasn’t like waking to the chirps of a trained choir of canaries and yet it was clearly more memorable. My twelve year-old son came in with a tray of a steaming hot cooked breakfast and coffee. And thoughtfulness went the extra mile when a bottle of HP sauce was on the tray with knife, fork and a serviette. My wife later filled in the back-story of how he had eyed up some bacon in the fridge and asked if he could cook it. She gently pushed him that there was enough bacon for him to cook his Dad some breakfast and still have enough left for his teenage appetite and so he took up the challenge.

Accepting a gift is the first rule of love. Knowing how to thank the giver is the second. Loving with our senses can involve the taste of a morning breakfast or the touch of a huggable friend. My son loves hugs and the time they take to be near each other. It’s a great response to his generosity to wrap my arms around him and thank him. Now my son’s morning cooking was wonderful and perfect but love can eat a burnt breakfast or salty muffin and still receive the best part of the gift. If you didn’t know your heart has taste buds, bite in again.

Once everyone had shaken the night from their eyes the family went out to enjoy the heat of a cloud free summer’s day. We had family visiting so we took them on a tour of some of the volcanic mountain viewing platforms that surround Auckland. As part of the trip my oldest son brought his newly acquired longboard so we could check with the shop if it was working properly. After going to the shop I complemented him on how well he had handled the visit and the preceding phone calls. He had dealt as a customer with a complaint and yet handled the issue with firmness and humility. I was impressed and didn’t miss the opportunity to tell him he had done well.

A short time later, as we drove to our first destination, he said three softly spoken words; “Love You Dad”. Most fathers will know the power that comes when an 18yo utters those words. It belies a deeper heart, a relationship of love and strength. I buckled a little like a warrior in space hit by an unseen force that buffeted him backwards through the vacuum. My hearing isn’t what it used to be but somehow I am always tuned in to hear these words whenever they are uttered. It doesn’t matter whether they are given in the most quiet delivery or amongst the mish-mash of a loud and crowded room. Listening had made me vulnerable to love, to hearing words that can change a relationship, build a bridge and more importantly melt the walls of a heart. Loving with our senses needs to be intentional, to absorb the love that is happening and emanating around us.

I don’t want to miss the whispers of love, the glimpses of generosity or the feather like touches of care and concern.

Later that day I experienced the joy of love by simply watching. Our eldest son had not always enjoyed the outdoors or sports but his new longboard had given him a zest to get out and ride. The skills were building and he’d been inspired by YouTube videos of experienced speed riders. Today I was inspired as he rode his board around a city park and then near the wharf. His joy was obvious and the pleasure was simple and infectious. Who wouldn’t want to balance their way on a board that put more breeze in your travel and speed under foot.

At one point in the day he shared his board with a three year-old relative and the passion and laughter in sharing was also present. After a walk around the crater’s edge of Mt. Eden he kicked back and lay in deep dry waving grass at the summit. His pleasure is my pleasure. We wanted to take photos of him laying amongst the dry wheat like blades of grass but in doing so he asked for a camera to shoot what he saw. From his position he could see the majesty of sunbeams glancing through tree branches and he took a few photos to remember his moment in the grass. Today I enjoyed loving my son by simply watching him enjoy life, family and the simple thrill of a skateboard.

Over the last few days our visiting relatives have been caught out on at least three occasions thinking the sound coming from one room was either the radio or another music source. On each occasion it was our 14yo daughter delivering an incredible vocal performance of either a cover song she was practicing for a busking adventure or working on one of her own creations. She has a powerful beautiful voice and it can fill a room when she belts out a song.

I may find my senses become dulled to the crystal clear sound of a life filled with wonder.

A problem for love is taking talent or good behaviour for granted. It could be a wife who daily cooks with care and thoughtfulness, a husband who keeps to time and tells you what he’s doing or a child who does a chore without being asked. Monotony of excellence should never be an excuse for the spectacular to become the blasé. As I enjoyed several moments this afternoon I realized how blessed I am as a Father and a listener to be hearing my daughter perform her singing in our home. Loving with our senses meant I had to be aware that at any moment I could receive a royal command performance intentionally or otherwise meant just for me. Listening to her sing in one room while practising, then at the dinner table as we jokingly sang, drummed and beat boxed together allowed me to hear love, feel love and be loved.

Today I resolve to be awake to love. I don’t want to miss the whispers of love, the glimpses of generosity or the feather like touches of care and concern. If I am so engrossed in my own world that I am cocooned from love I may find my senses become dulled to the crystal clear sound of a life filled with wonder. I don’t want to be safe where my misguided perception is that a closed quiet room is better than leaving my bed to enjoy the warm embrace of a friend. Let love present its reckless offers and let my senses be ever open, always receiving from their passionate assault.

Originally written January 5th 2013


Spending Dad’s Cash

A Trooper in the air

;Creative Commons License ;Photo Credit: Kristina Alexanderson via Compfight

I still remember looking at my Dad's collection of LPs (old speak for MP3 embedded on black plastic dinner plates) and thinking I wonder if I can have these when he dies. It’s a strange feeling thinking your parents are really old and wondering if they will 'leave' you anything in their will. My Dad has now sold all those LPs. A few upgrades that included golf clubs and now a growing CD collection have meant that incredible collection of Elvis records along with a few Charlies like Charlie Rich and Charlie Pride will never be mine.

That little confessional story from my childhood also shows the short-sighted nature of selfishness. Even at a young age I was looking at 'whats in it for me'. As we grow we face new choices just like the Prodigal Son that Jesus spoke about in Luke 15. The bottom line was he wanted to spend his Dad's cash before he'd even earned his own. There always seems to be a pinch of laziness that seasons a life of greed.

The youngest son wanted to live it up and felt the Dad owed him. It took quite a journey for him to learn the lessons he needed to face life with a different perspective. Become a kid again for 4min and watch this video. Don't be so focussed on the son that you don't catch some great lessons from the Father and the older brother. In fact the older brother's biggest challenge was his focus on being… wait a minute I'm telling the story when I should let Crossroads tell the tale.

I really couldn't resist this video on the "Prodigal Son" from the Crossroads Kid's Club. Their range of videos available via their Vimeo account is brilliant as a resource for Sunday School teachers and Religious Education teachers. If you enjoy the video why not leave a comment on their Vimeo page by clicking through or heading to their website at Crossroads.

Media Observations

Pushed Around but Not Over

Self Harm

Photo Credit: John O'Nolan via Compfight

I can still remember the day five ‘hoods’ ganged up on me as I was walking home. At around 8000 people, Te Awamutu wasn’t a big town but like any place on the face of the planet it had its ‘bad element’. It still astounds me because I had walked those streets at all times of the day and night and really hadn’t felt unsafe or in danger. Sadly on that day, a Saturday afternoon around 2pm, I became a target. No one likes to be bullied and a bully is a coward but what happens when there's more than one? At first it started off as a few taunts from guys on bikes, then came the circling vulture tactic and finally I was cornered against a wall just away from shops on SH3 leading into town.

At first I wasn’t afraid, just annoyed at the wombats that were trying their macho stuff on me. I think I was about 16 and they seemed slightly older. For a small town I didn’t recognise any of them. They thought they knew me though and the tirade of abuse started. Then the threats. At that stage I felt scared. They wanted my wallet and my clothes. Great, what a feeling this was. I looked up and down the street for help. Nothing. Then I tried to convince them my father was on his way to pick me up. That seemed to get traction. OK, lets build on that. I told them it might be that car, or that one but they better let me go. Ultimately they stopped enjoying their sadistic scare tactics and rode off. I walked and then ran home.

2 Corinthians 4 v 8 says;

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair

Today you may feel like the vultures are circling but be strong. Tell them your Dad is coming to get you!

This latest release from Manafest called “Pushover” caught my eye today. I pray it gives you courage.


Movie Review: Wrath of the Titans

Wrath of the Titans - Movie Review

The sequel to the 2010 Clash of the Titans was always going to have a tough job winning the movie goers again. The first movie had failed to win a serious audience. There had been questions over the silliness of previous Titan epics in years gone by and whether the ensemble cast could make it work. Add in an abundance of CGi to bring alive a Greek mythological world and the recipe has to be cooked just right. The first director Louis Leterrier didn’t seem to make it click so I went to the follow up; Wrath of the Titans with an element of foreboding. New director at the helm, Jonathan Liebesman, has a short repertoire so it was difficult to gauge what we could expect however I had seen Battle Los Angeles and was impressed how his directing could overcome a stale storyline.

Summarising the experience, Wrath of the Titans is an epic in your face battlefront. The imagery particularly when viewed in its IMAX 3D format is confronting. From the early days of Perseus ‘retiring’ on the beach through to the volcano that comes to life and splatters the warriors with lava it keeps a heady pace. That was one of the aspects that surprised me as the credits rolled that what felt like an intense journey over two hours was only a 99min movie.

The story takes us on a journey as one son betrays his father while another father is inspired by his son to live and conquer. Wrath is a quest to save the world from the apathy and infighting of the gods. It seems to highlight that humans have a deeper potential to succeed because of their need to accept their mortality and the desire to overcome despite this weakness. In one scene Hades says “Maybe I’ll be stronger now that I don’t have the power”.

In this saga Sam Worthington returns to the role of Perseus and brings in some great newcomers to the story in Andromeda played by Rosamund Pike and the superbly played Agenor, Toby Kebbell. Old time gods Zeus, Hades and Poseidon are played respectively by Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Danny Huston. Worthington does a good job and now sports a rough and tumble hair-do that is a change from the previous Avatar cut. What is interesting in this epic is that he doesn’t hide the Perth accent and you’ll believe that Australians were the real ancestors of Greek mythology.

But the most likeable character you’ll wish had more than his 10min of fame is Hephaestus played by Bill Nighy. This minor god had the ‘luck’ of getting the hand of Aphrodite to stop the other gods fighting over her and he was considered the god of smithing and technology. This last element brings him into our story as the creator of Zeus’ thunderbolt, Poseidon’s trident and Hades fork. It’s through Hephaestus’ knowledge of the labyrinth he had built to protect the hidden underworld prison of Tartarus that we journey with Perseus and crew.

Greek myths were always meant to rattle your bones. Although Greek, I can’t see Aesop’s fables being made into a summer blockbuster movie. To that end the Wrath of the Titans delivers a journey in spectacular fashion both above ground and into the depths of the underworld. If the IMAX experience is in your area then I highly recommend the immersive experience.

4.5 out of 5 popcorns


Movie Review: We Bought a Zoo

Movie Review - We Bought a Zoo

I’m ecstatic, gutted and elated from this movie that played me like a banjo, plucking heart strings at will. In the last month I have been challenged as a Dad by two movies that might slip under your radar as you keep a hand on the wheel of life steering through Christmas. First there was “Courageous” from the Kendrick brothers and now the real life adaption of Benjamin Mee’s life in “We Bought a Zoo”.

This for me is the family movie of the year and you will not regret seeing it. I had the privilege of seeing the preview screening for this review and we weren’t too far into the movie when my wife said, “We have to bring the kids”. And then a little later, “We have to get this on DVD for home”.

While the movie’s key actors and accents give you a sense you’re in country America, the real story eminated from Plymouth, England where the tale of Benjamin Mee’s family buying and renovating the Dartmoor Zoo became a Guardian newspaper story in 2007. You can read the real background story here. The onscreen version of ‘Rosemoor Zoo’ reads differently to the script but with its own drama helps you understand where the motivation for the movie first began. I think Benjamin Mee’s own book will be on a few shopping lists for the New Year.

Now let’s step into the movie and Benjamin Mee’s (Matt Damon) shoes as Writer and Director, Cameron Crowe introduces you to the single dad raising the precocious 7yo Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) and 14yo Dylan (Colin Ford), a simmering young man asking ‘Why?’ He has good reason. The Mother they adored has died six months earlier. Their adventurer and writer Dad has hit the writers block equivalent of stalling the engine on life and there is a month’s worth of lasagne in the fridge from the do-gooders who simply don’t get it.

Matt Damon’s character shows a good man who wants to get a fresh start away from the coffee shops of the village life that remind him of his wife. He wants to remember and forget and thats about the size of it. After looking for a new home he stumbles across a complicated purchase that sees him taking on responisbility for a 33 acre zoo with eight staff and numerous species of animals. To make a profit he has to open in time for the holiday season. But that isn’t going to happen until he learns to jump through some new hoops to meet the animal welfare inspector’s electric rule.

Scarlett Johansson steps on the scene as Kelly Foster the Zoo Keeper. Untrained but passionate she leads the remnant of staff to rally behind Mee in his bid to make deadlines, overcome escaped animals and pick up by holding the hand of a man needing direction. Its a great script that give enough of a romance edge to keep the story flowing while paying respect to a beautiful marriage and a family missing a key part of the jigsaw puzzle they once saw as a picture complete.

Being a Dad is the most rewarding role on the planet but lets not pretend being a father is easy. Its hard work with sometimes unseen results. Many times I don’t get it right and lets be honest the landscape for fatherhood has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. When I grew up there was one or two TV channels to review and filter and now we want to teach our kids about life before its delivered wrapped in a browser and called ‘online’. Some things we teach our kids through values but there are some lessons that come through experience. Losng a loved one and living a marriage are two of those examples. While Benjamin Mee has to find his own way one of the most engaging, heart wrenching scenes is when Father and Son come to grips with hurt and honesty and let it out. The clean slate is a platform for rebuilding and the story has a sense of rebirth from this point.

One of the memorable quotes comes from Damon’s character as he tells on screen son Dylan how to ‘get the girl’. Its a quote that Mee got from his brother when he was young and he passes it on saying;

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

Cameron Crowe has brought us some of the great passion and intensity that I adored in Jerry Maguire. The script is superbly paced and keeps this family drama in sync with reality while threading some great sub-plots and comedy to the story.

Hollywood has faced some challenges in the last ten years. For some reason we’ve run out of stories for the next script in the sausage machine and the only way we extend a budget is by asking for 48 seconds of extra CGi time. It becomes a sad reflection that our movies are filled with reboots and prequels followed by tech wizardry with a dash of CGi befuddlement.

The real way forward is to invest in great writers. Let’s tell the stories of life and write words that define the arena of dreams. I can’t speak highly enough of ‘We Bought a Zoo’. Its the life of Benjamin Mee, Father and Zoo Owner told by master story teller, Cameron Crowe. Great writing inspires great lives. When I walked out of the theatre I quickly fired off a tweet;

@cameroncrowe thanks for an awesome movie experience. Life is full of joy and pain. 20 seconds of insane courage is required. #WeBoughtaZoo

Some movies inspire a moment I hope ‘We Bought a Zoo’ will inspire a life.

4 out of 5 popcorns