Greater

randomlychad  —  August 26, 2016 — Leave a comment

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Greater, the story of Brandon Burlsworth, is now out in theaters. It stars Neal McDonough (lately of TV’s Arrow). Brandon had one dream: play for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Problem was he was overweight, slow, and had never played at that level.

How did he become the greatest walk-on play in history?

That’s the story of Greater, of how Brandon’s grit and determination in the face of derision and overwhelming odds would not be denied. He worked harder, practiced longer, and still gave all the glory to God.

See below for an essay from actor Chris Severio on what it meant to him to get the privilege to play Brandon in Greater:

GREATER Offers Great Life Lessons
By Chris Severio

Actors wait their entire lives to play a role as meaty and meaningful as Brandon Burlsworth. I was blessed to get that opportunity in my first movie, bringing Brandon to the big screen in GREATER, in theaters everywhere Aug. 26.

Brandon was a true champion and role model for so many, and I hope this movie entertains and inspires you and your family. For all the young athletes, new athletes, struggling athletes and dreamers out there (and their parents), these three lessons from Brandon’s life hold the key to building character and finding your destiny.

         Dont let anyone tell you that you cant: Brandon was not the most physically gifted athlete. He struggled with being overweight, wasn’t naturally graceful, was a pretty unlikely candidate to be a college football All-American and then drafted into the NFL. He was able to do it all because he refused to listen to those who doubted him or his abilities. He always believed in himself, knew that through hard work and dedication, he could be anything he wanted to be. The only thing standing between you and your dreams is how passionately you’re willing to produce them.

         Dedicate yourself to something greater: Its no coincidence the film of Brandon’s life is called GREATER. As a Christian, he believed he was called to be a man of integrity and honor off the field as well as on he dedicated himself, first and foremost, to God. Your faith can strengthen you, and like Brandon you can choose to be a role model on and off the field.

         Help others: Brandon Burlsworth was a giver. He didn’t just play football, or live his life, focused exclusively on his wants. He made others needs a top priority–family, team mates, friends and fans. As he dug in deep to reach his potential as an athlete and a man, he encouraged and supported those who were taking that same journey alongside him. Brandon didn’t just make himself better; he made others better, too, because he was intentional about finding ways to help them.

Below, I’m privileged to share a clip from the movie that shows how dedication, persistence and helping others can contribute to your character and destiny.

https://youtu.be/vyYFGBUESIkGreater clip

I hope you enjoy GREATER and are as inspired by Brandon’s story as much as I and so many others who knew him and know of him have been. He was a remarkable young man, and having the privilege of bringing his life to the big screen was a remarkable experience.

The following post was actually written a few years ago, but I couldn’t think of anyone other than my wife’s grandma–her nona–who has lived a life more personally inspiring to me. I’m posting this again because, while nonni doesn’t suffer from any afflictions other than extreme old age (she’s now 102!), there’s a show on the A&E Network, Born This Way, which chronicles the lives of folks with Down Syndrome. They face life one day at a time like the rest of us, yet often with more joy de vivre than those of us the world terms “normal.” Why is that? How are they able to overcome when starting with the deck seemingly stacked against them? Watch Born This Way every Tuesday night on A&E to find hope, encouragement, and inspiration.

 

I can think of no living woman stronger than my wife’s grandmother. We call her “Nonni.”

Nonni was born in a poor Sicilian village in the early part of the last century. She was part of a large family, and learned early the value of hard work. Being one of the younger children, she also learned early the sadness of loss: an older sibling was killed in South America (where he had emigrated), and her own father apparently died when she was about ten. Nevertheless, she pressed on, helped her mother provide for the family.

As hard as things were in America during the Great Depression, imagine living, and marrying, in what were arguably third-world conditions during that time. Yet that’s what Nonni did. She met and married her husband, kept animals, and I believe farmed on another’s land, in the middle 1930s.

Somewhere in the midst of that, they started their family. And sometime during that period, Nonni left Catholicism for the Italian Pentecostal church. One did not do that at that time. Though I don’t know with certainty, she may have been labelled apostate–everyone knew there was only one true church (not a slam against our dear Catholic brothers and sisters–it was just the culture of the day). Even her own husband kicked her out of their house.

But she, with love and grace, eventually won him over.

They had another child. And sometime not long after, her husband was conscripted into Il Duce’s army. She did what she had to to provide for their children–including being a wet-nurse for others’ babies. She grew food, made pasta, made clothing, and made do with whatever she was able to make (combined with whatever meager soldier’s salary her husband was able to send home–if any at all).

She went long periods of not knowing whether her husband was still living, or not, but all the while praying for his safety. (While I can conceptualize, I can’t really quite imagine the privations she, and millions of other Europeans, endured during World War II).

Eventually, the war ended, Il Duce was deposed, and Nonni’s husband returned to her. They had another child. They had twins who didn’t survive long after birth.

At nearly forty, she had her first hospital birth–via c-section–of their last child.

When she was forty-one, Nonni and her family sold all their earthly possessions, and headed to America. Initially, she was told that not all of them would be allowed to go. She didn’t accept this answer, instead prayed to God that He would make a way. And He did.

But can you imagine leaving behind all you knew–your culture, your friends–for a strange land where you didn’t even speak the language? Can you imagine reinventing yourself in your forties?

Nonni did it. And through hard work, sacrifice, and faith, did it, and prospered.

In the fullness of time, she saw her children apply that same grit, and faith, and make their way in the United States. Grandchildren, and eventually great-grandchildren, were born.

But it hasn’t all been wine and roses; no, she has seen innumerable friends and family members pass on from here to the hereafter. She has buried a husband, and two of her children. Yet her faith remains strong.

You see, it is because of her faith that I am here to write this today. Because she, at some time in the thirties, “found Jesus,” and told her family about Him, that I heard from her granddaughter. And believed. And subsequently married that granddaughter. Yes, God could have raised up someone else to tell me the “Good News,” but He didn’t–He started with a poor Sicilian woman in a place not many in the world have heard of.

Because of Him, Nonni is my spiritual ancestor. I will be forever grateful for her. I also owe her a word of thanks for the svelte figure I’m rockin’ these days–because she taught my wife how to cook! 😉

Though Nonni is now old and frail in body, she is sharp of mind and undiminished in spirit. And still tells all who will listen about Jesus, and what He has done for her.

Nonni: a stronger woman who can find?

Who has been a “Nonni” in your life?

Who inspires you?

Born This Way

randomlychad  —  July 25, 2016 — Leave a comment

Folks, Born This Way is show on A&E showing the real life joys and trials of living with Down Syndrome. Please watch the trailer for the current season:



 New York NY — After a meeting of hundreds of Evangelical leaders, who were lead in a rousing chorus of SNAP!’s huge ’90’s hit, The Power, by the mega-popular Chris Tomlin, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, jr. stopped, along with his wife, Becki, for a photo op with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
 
 Falwell indicated that in addition to endorsing Trump, and in a surprising reversal of decades of school policy, that Playboy would now be official campus magazine of Liberty University. Reporters asked, “Isn’t that pornography?” To which Falwell replied, “No, it’s much more artful than that smut rag, Hustler, put out by that despicable Flynt guy. Now that’s pornography. Besides which, Mr. Hefner is a classy guy.”
 
 Falwell went on to say that if Playboy was good enough for Trump, it was good enough for him, and the thousands of students at Liberty. “Besides which,” he said, “as is the trend among all the best megachurches, this will really appeal to guys, and should bolster our male attendance roster.”
 
 It was later announced, in a reversal of Playboy’s new, non-nude format, that Mrs. Falwell would be posing for a pictorial spread. “What can I say,” Falwell asked? “College kids love MILFs.”
 
 This special edition would first be exclusively available at the campus bookstore at Liberty, and then in adult shops churches everywhere.

Have you ever wondered why–in stories, books, films–there’s a protagonist and an antagonist? A good guy and a bad guy? Beyond the mere fact that without conflict there isn’t much story, there’s something deeper going on. The stories we love the most, of the heroes vanquishing the villains, reflect a deeper truth: that the story we’re living in (life) has an antagonist called the devil. And like characters in stories, we endure conflict either to achieve the good we seek, or because of the evil in the world. We are also in conflict with ourselves, with our own nature. But God has provided both the ultimate triumph over evil and the sin which lives within us; this happened upon the cross of Christ, when He said, “it is finished.” Although this is true, evil endures in our world until the consolation of history. If history were a play, this is the third act. But make no mistake: the King shall return to set all things right.

It is up to us to decide which way we shall go, who’s team (if you will) we’ll join. In the meantime, because we have received His help, how can we not be about God’s business, be helping others?

Following is an article from Grace Hill Media on the reality of evil:

Evil has been with us, and in our entertainment, since the dawn of time. First plays, now movies and TV shows, always have to have a bad guy – a corrupt cop, a supervillain bent on world domination, a violent criminal or murderer. In earlier, some would say simpler, times, the dark character in entertainment was clearly one audiences were meant to root against. It was easy, or at least easier, to know our heroes from our villains.

 

Today, though, it can be a little tougher. Far beyond the reluctant anti-hero, some of the characters we’re supposed to find admirable have qualities that just a generation ago would have firmly planted them in the bad-guy camp. From a sexy devil with charm and a heart (Fox’s hit series LUCIFER), to all variety of films (the TWILIGHT series) and TV shows (pretty much anything on The CW), characters who used to headline horror films – vampires, zombies, werewolves, witches – are now the stars we’re supposed to want to emulate.

 

That’s why it’s refreshing when a film like THE CONJURING 2, in theaters nationwide Friday, comes out. Like the first film, a big hit that took in $318 million at the U.S. box office alone, the sequel vividly portrays the nature of evil – as something destructive and ugly and to be defeated, not embraced. The “bad guy” in this case isn’t a guy – or gal – at all, but a demonic spirit that torments a British family and must be overcome by paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, reprising their roles from the original film).

 

The Warrens make sure the Hodgson family, the targets of the supernatural entity, understand it is a malevolent force out to destroy them. As a statement from the real Ed Warren stated at the end of the first film, the new one makes very clear that: “Diabolical forces are formidable. These forces are eternal, and they exist today. The fairy tale is true. The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges upon which one we elect to follow.”

 

A film like THE CONJURING 2, with its forthright depiction of spiritual evil, is a great opportunity to talk with friends about the true nature of the dark forces that inhabit our world. Here are a few questions to get that conversation going:

 

  • Do you believe in good and evil? In the spiritual realm? In the human realm?
  • If you do believe in evil, what do you believe is the source of it?
  • If you do believe in evil, how do you think it can be defeated?
  • What do you think about the trend in entertainment to make heroes out of characters that have traditionally been villainous?
  • Do you plan on seeing THE CONJURING 2? Why or why not?