The Breath In My Lungs

blonde girl breath in cold

I have thoroughly enjoyed the amount of rain we’ve seen here in southern California this year… but unfortunately, so have the plants that are now blooming their little hearts out.  The personal downside to a very wet winter is that the local flora soaks it all up and grows like gangbusters come springtime.  The winds picked up pretty heavily this week, and the hills are alive with the sound of pollen flying everywhere… and on top of that, yesterday I pulled an extra shift just to help out with a building-move at work, and there was plenty of dust flying as I swept out an old warehouse area.

So, bad time to be my respiratory system.

This afternoon as I left church, I started feeling the tightness in my chest that is part of the shortness of breath and overall discomfort that can spring up during these bad allergy times.  As Sydney and I headed to lunch, my frame hunched over to relax my muscles as much as possible and my lips occasionally gasping for a satisfactory gulp of air, I was entirely amused and humbled by the song that came to mind.  One of my favorite modern Christian songs is “Great Are You Lord,” and what fluttered through my thoughts today as I struggled to properly inhale and exhale was a refrain from the chorus:

It’s Your breath in our lungs,
So we pour out our praise, we pour out our praise.

I couldn’t muster more than a chuckle, as I try to maintain a minimal amount of dialogue and laughter when it’s this tough to breathe, but I smiled hard (inside and out) and praised God in the midst of the struggle.  My breathing difficulties are really minor in light of the troubles that some face, but what little air I DID manage to pump through my body is a sign of life, and on top of that gift I have so much other fortune (salvation, the wonderful woman I know as my girlfriend, safe food and water, etc.) that I can do nothing but be thankful.

And so I am… for the breath in my lungs, even when it may not seem like enough 🙂 .

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Out Of The Box – 330

Out of the Box stick man web comic 330 Net Netrali-boring

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Out Of The Box – 329

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Out Of The Box – 328

Out of the Box weekly stick man webcomic 328 Not a Smudge of Sense

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I Was Baptized Today

cute baby baptism

Well, might not’ve expected THAT title, eh?  I grew up in a Christian home and profess my faith here on the regular… isn’t baptism something that should’ve happened a long time ago?  Isn’t that was Christians have to do?

While commonly portrayed as a Catholic endeavor (ala the famous baptism scene in The Godfather), there are many others who believe baptism is part of salvation.  There are number of variances in what exactly this means, but to many it is seen as a requirement for saving one’s soul.  I was raised in a family who does not believe this way.  The churches I’ve attended since youth are on the other side of this argument, in which baptism is valuable and an important public expression, but that’s where it ends; it is not necessary for salvation.

I will leave the theological conversation to others, as a basic online search will lead you to many, many articles on the subject — some for, some against.  While I differ with my folks on certain points of belief, in this regard we are of like mind… and this is how I came to be a 34-year-old Christian man who had never been baptized.

Until today.

Before I started dating Sydney, I attended her church with her.  Since then, it has been an unbelievable blessing.  Unlike churches I’d attended in the past, our current church has a baptismal and the pastor offers the option for anyone to come and be baptized at the end of every service.  I have begun volunteering with the children in Sunday school, we attend the young adults mid-week meeting, and I make an earnest effort to be in church every week.  I have grown a lot as a person while in this relationship with Sydney, and I have done an even more valuable level of growing as a Christian since attending this church.  For a couple of months, now, I had been considering taking our pastor up on his congregational invitation each week, but it never came about for various reasons: after-church plans, illness, etc..  Earlier this week, though, Sydney mentioned that today was the 4-year anniversary of the day that SHE was baptized (same church, but by the youth group leader in the ocean).  I took the hint and decided that this was my time.

I’ve been a Christian since I was young.  I firmly believe that the only requirement of salvation is faith — we are all imperfect sinners, saved by nothing but the grace of God.  No ceremonial act of mine is necessary, and thus I have gone throughout my life as an unbaptized Christian.  This always sat heavy on my heart, though, because what I DO believe baptism to be is a public profession of the faith I carry internally.  By the time I was of an age to properly make this decision on my own, I was no longer in a church I could call home.  I had nobody to profess my faith TO.  As I have grown closer to the members of this church, though, I have now found a family to whom I thought it very meaningful to have this moment with.

As to the actual ceremony, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.  I have witnessed many baptisms at this church, and so I was familiar with the white robes and how the ceremony plays out, but there were some simple logistics I wasn’t sure of.  Namely, was I going to wear my clothes under that robe?  I slyly sneaked an extra pair of pants and socks into my car’s trunk this morning, as Sydney had stayed the night in our guest room and I was going to surprise her with my plan for the afternoon.  At the close of today’s service, I kissed her on the cheek and said, “I’ll be back.”  As I headed to the front of the sanctuary, she later told me that she assumed I was simply grabbing a tissue from the front row.  Then I shook hands with one of the elders who was standing up front with our pastor, and she knew something was up.  I was nervous… a little shaky, not because I was afraid or because I felt unsure, but because I was excited.  After so many years, I was in a place to finally perform this act and it was very special to me.  To have this pastor perform it, when God has spoken to me a great deal through him.  To have it be at this church, when I’d spent so many years winding and turning in my Christian life to finally land here.  To have it be on the same day, 4 years later, as the woman I love, who not only brought me to this church but has made my life exponentially better each day that she’s in it.

And then that was it.  Pastor Mike is a fairly dry guy, nice and inviting but also pretty calm.  It was no secret how over-joyed he was to be able to perform this ceremony yet again as we spoke in the hall before walking out to the tub of water.  He’s done this over 1,000 times at this church, now, and yet I get the sense that he is just as excited every time.  I had no sense of where Sydney was when we went out there, but my very smart gal had made her way over to the side to get a clean shot to record it for me.  I am very glad she did, because I can now share that here, as well!

Baptism, again, is not something I consider a requirement of the Christian faith, but I am filled with joy to have finally done this — in front of my new church family, the woman I love, and most importantly, God.  I’m not sure if it comes through in the video, but I was smiling as I stood there… a simple moment with my Father, enjoying that He had led me to a place  (physically and emotionally) where I was finally able to profess my faith in this way…

P.S. – For those wondering, they provide freshly washed underwear to wear under the robe.  And now we know 🙂 .

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Kong: Skull Island


Kong Skull Island angry

Kong: Skull Island
Time/place: 7:00 showing Thursday at Cinepolis Vista with Sydney

Have you read my review of 2014’s Godzilla movie?  Well, if not, go ahead and skip back in time by way of that prior link, and give it a perusal; I’ll wait.  My affection for Godzilla as a movie is sincere, but I am under no illusion that it isn’t very much drenched in nostalgic joy.  That movie hit every chord the little kid inside of me want it to, while still appealing to my adult sensibilities.  Now, three years later, I am feeling pretty much same way yet again with another beast of my childhood past — King Kong!  While Godzilla is the more serious, indifferent, destructive monster, Kong is the big-hearted ape of tragedy.  These movies were a massive inspiration to young Mark, from the stop-motion and puppetry, to the adventure told through story, and while Godzilla was very fun and exciting, even as a little kid I knew that King Kong was ultimately a sad tale.  In the 1933 original, when Kong stands alone atop the Empire State Building, I felt my sadness grow with every painful bullet hit he takes from the surrounding planes.  It wasn’t simply akin to my losing a fun beast, such as how watching Jabba the Hutt die in Return of the Jedi was always kind of sad for me to watch, but it’s genuine tragedy because Kong is ultimately a good guy… just pushed the wrong way.  As the trailers and marketing for Kong: Skull Island came trickling out, my excitement was palpable — but so was my interest in whether or not Kong would still be the misunderstood hero.

I re-read my Godzilla review for a refresher, and was reminded of just how much I genuinely liked it — even aside from the boyish excitement.  Kong: Skull Island is not quite at the same level, I think… but it is also a very different movie.  Godzilla was very much the “first” movie in a series; it had an old friend to reintroduce to the movie world and so it took its sweet time building the anticipation and teasing its final payoff.  It was also establishing the ground rules and the existence of this new monster-movie-world.  Kong is able to sidestep this process, then, and dive right into the action, because it’s a sequel.  And oh, does it dive in.  Godzilla is a story about him coming into our world, but in Kong: Skull Island, it’s a tale about us going into his.  That is, in fact, a theme that works throughout the movie (both subtly, obviously, and spoken out loud)… one doesn’t go into another’s home and start dropping bombs unless one is looking for a fight.  The thematic depth of this movie is fairly shallow, though, but it is on par for what it should be.  As with the prior movie in this new series, if Kong took itself too seriously, it wouldn’t work — instead of being a fun monster mash, it would be a very heavy picture, laden with multiple human deaths the audience is left to emotionally grapple with.  While the human deaths cause by Godzilla were more peripheral, Kong and his island of monsters squish and tear apart many a poor human right in front of us.  But that’s what one expects to see here.  The fantastic irony of Kong being the monster with the most heart is that he is also the more intimate killer.  Godzilla knocks over a building; Kong eats someone.

Kong: Skull Island is an adventure movie.  If you remember the black-and-white original, a huge chunk of time is spent on Kong’s island with dinosaurs and big bugs before the big ape is captured and brought to New York.  This time, the story IS the island.  The trailers haven’t hidden much; this really is the monster island spectacle the advertisements have portrayed.  It’s not all action, though.  A decent amount of heart comes out through a couple of characters, and while it isn’t very deep, the humanity is certainly there.

Our new Godzilla is enormous in a way he’s never been before, towering roughly 300 ft. tall, but Kong ain’t no slouch in the size department, either.  He’s said to be about a third of Godzilla’s height, at 100 ft., but due to his more immediate interactions with humans and his existence in the jungle atmosphere, he looms large.  I giggled so many times while watching this movie, simply due to glee of his sheer size.

The only slight complaint I could muster is regarding the script.  Namely, the dialogue.  During the run of the movie, there are several moments in which a line is way too on-the-nose or even a little awkward in how bold it wants to be in juxtaposition to how it actually just sits in the air without as much oomph.  While the latter might also fall on the shoulders of the director, there are several themes and concepts throughout the movie that would have been served just as well without being spelled out directly.  This didn’t necessarily take away from the movie, as I was there to see my beloved Kong enter this new world of giant beasts, but this is the one element that keeps Skull Island at a slightly different level than I felt Godzilla reached.  I have yet to watch Godzilla again, though (doing so this weekend, though, inspired by last night), so my first reaction may have been slightly skewed by the nostalgic glow… but either way, this is the only flaw I really found in a movie that otherwise didn’t try to be more than it was.

What the movie lacked in verbal creativity, though, it made up for visually.  The many creatures that pop up in this flick are a far cry from the simple dinosaurs that roamed the 1933 version’s island.  The organic discovery of many of these animals creates an almost safari expedition feel… a stranded, we-gonna-die expedition, but an expedition nonetheless.  While sometimes these creatures are on the attack, of course, all but one are exceptionally animal-like, in that they aren’t vicious kill-machines.  Kong is our hero-with-a-heart, but I really appreciated a couple of the other beasts that pop up, just living their lives.  This is also a really beautiful movie, as well.  And no, I’m not talking about Tom Hiddleston’s dreamy gaze.  Okay, I’m not JUST talking about Tom Hiddleston’s dreamy gaze.  So many frames of this picture are just lovely — even with that loveliness is the eyes of an angry, burning monster staring at a puny human in front of it 🙂 .

Kong Skull Island John C Reilly Brie Larson Tom Hiddleston John Goodman walking

I’ve addressed, already, my nostalgic admiration for this movie, but sincerely, that is where the heart of this picture lies for me.  I loved this movie because I love King Kong.  I love that I spent 2 hours in the theater feeling like a big, happy kid, watching his childhood fantasies play out on the big screen.  I loved that I walked out of the theater and had to summon all of my strength to not pound my chest and pretend to be a mini-Kong, myself, in the interest of not entirely embarrassing my girlfriend.  Remove the nostalgic dosage and this is simply a fun popcorn movie with monsters and some fun/attractive human characters, with a dash or two of touching elements.  As a near-concluding song begins to play, a temporary farewell to Kong and this world, I was a little emotional.  I didn’t bawl, but my eyes definitely weren’t bone dry.  I can’t say that most, if any, of you will have the same reaction — to many it will simply be a fun way to spend a couple of hours, seeing some monsters fight.  For me, though, it meant a lot to see this character on the big screen… a fella I grew up with, who’d first inspired my love of movies, and who was treated in this iteration with a similar fondness and admiration by the movie-makers.

Of course, the movie itself DOES offer plenty of genuinely sweet moments.  A couple of the creatures are docile and sweet, and an encounter with one who reacts not aggressively but rather somberly to being attacked hit me right in the heart.  There are emotional farewells, connections made, and a couple of the human deaths actually do carry some impact.

I also want to speak to John C. Reilly’s character, and this is the right section to do it in as it is more than simply technical achievement.  Reilly isn’t generally my favorite in comedies; his shtick simply doesn’t speak to me much.  Here, though, he is perfect.  He’s understandably crazy, but then he also serves to bring us the most heart out of any other character in the movie.  Without him, this movie would have been so much less.

Kong: Skull Island is part two in what is to become an ongoing monster-movie series (which I am excruciatingly excited about), and due to its treading in already-rippled waters, it has no problem with diving right in and having fun from the get-go with monster mayhem.  Even though Sydney didn’t have the emotional connection to seeing Kong on the screen that I did, this movie doesn’t bank itself on winning audiences over simply on nostalgia alone, so she and I were able to chat a lot about the many parts that we liked.  Being that this is a monster movie, most of what we shared delight over were the creatures and their moments — and what more could one ask for in a good-times monster flick?

Love.  My personal stake in seeing this big guy on the screen is high, but even if I could distance myself from that prior affection for review purposes, why would I even want to?

Kong Skull Island somber

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Out Of The Box – 327

Out of the Box 327 A Day Without A Dot

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