It was one of those movies I had always heard about when growing up; “Ah, that movie’s so good,” someone would ineffable praise, or “Ugh, that movie’s so long” someone else would particularly complain. Even Seinfeld had an episode in which Jerry and his flavor-of-the-week girlfriend were caught “making out” by the villainous Newman during a screening – an action with which Newman reached out to Jerry’s parents who later chastised their son for such shameful behavior.

Then over the past year, as I’ve frequently met with a group of great friends for a weekly Bible study / encouragement session, I’ve been prompted by two others in the group – one a filmmaking aficionado and the other, well, just a lover of Christian stories in general (even if the stories don’t necessarily mention “Christ”) – to watch the movie. Upon hearing of its three-hour-and-fifteen-minute screen time, I initially shied away. But as I’m discovering more and more recently, shyness is a crutch, and sometimes, ya just gotta go for it.

That being said, I’ve finally watched Schindler’s List, and the first thing that comes to my mind is Steven Spielberg’s penchant for bringing real-life heroes like Nazi businessman Oskar Schindler to the public eye on such a grand scale that he did. Had not it been for this film, I wouldn’t have even known about Mr. Schindler’s crafty ways of saving almost 1,200 Jews from being slaughtered in the Holocaust. Like he does with Tom Hanks’s character James Donovan in the more recently released Bridge of Spies, Spielberg has a knack for properly displaying the diamonds of this rough world. He gives us, in visceral detail, examples to follow – an extraordinary gift that any storyteller wants.

Was Oskar Schindler, as depicted in the film, a perfect man? No. He drank, he womanized, and he initially only wanted the Jews to work in his factory because they were cheap labor. Was Oskar Schindler, as depicted in the film, a Christ-figure? No. He didn’t let himself be captured and kill so that the Jews under his care go free and never to be caught or punished again. Oskar Schindler, in the end, was just a man; however, he was a man who did what great things he could with what few resources he had (or had swindled from other wealthy entities).

That is the take-away not just for Christians but for anyone: to take what you have and use it to save the lives of your fellow human beings even if they are of a different ilk (religion, race, etc.). Life is life, and to stand idly by when anyone is arbitrarily taking life from other people is just as bad as committing the initial atrocity. Oskar must have resonated with that sentiment, or else he wouldn’t have gone to such lengths to save those lives.

SCHINDLERS LIST Liam Neeson Ben Kingsley

Furthermore, we can glean from Schindler’s List an example of how what we do in the present affects what happens in the future. Our actions in the here and now can and will change for either better or worse the then and thereafter. Because of Schindler’s saving of those 1,200 Jews of his present, thousands more still live and thrive today from the original Schindlerjuden. Spielberg shows this beautifully as, at the end of the film, he shows the real Holocaust survivors walk to Schindler’s own grave and place a commemorative stone on the marker.

The scene that got me the hardest, though, happens after it has been announced that the Allied Powers have just liberated the Jewish people and that the Nazi Party will (in a sense) stand in a tribunal before those Powers. Schindler and his Jewish confidante Itzhak Stern are escorting the Jewish factory workers to the front gates of his plant’s campus, and Schindler breaks down in tears with the guilt that he couldn’t save more lives than what he did. He points a car that he could have sold for scrap and bought ten more Jews, then he snatches his swastika lapel pin and – as if realizing that it was made of gold for the first time – grieves the idea that he could have sold that pin and bought two more Jews. He keeps looking around him – at all the faces of the people he’s just delivered from death – and he still feels inadequate. Stern rushes to his friend’s side as Schindler’s legs buckle from beneath him, and soon after that, others surround Stern and his broken friend in a love and support that will stir anyone looking on it.

It’s easy to feel like we haven’t done enough for God. To be frank, He killed His own Son on our behalf just so we could once again be called “righteous” in His sight – a mandate not even Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish faith, could obey. What’s worse, though, is when we let that feeling of “not being equal” with God stop us from even trying to obey Him in the first place. Again, to know of others’ afflictions and not do anything about them – even if it’s just because we don’t know how to start – is just as horrendous as causing their affliction. (I only keep typing it out so that maybe I can begin to let it affect me like it should.)

There’s a lot to learn from just this one viewing, and I’m sure I’ll pick up on the deeper-deeper things as I proceed to rewatch it a few more times. Meanwhile, if you’re one of the few people still living under the proverbial rock and still haven’t seen Schindler’s List, now’s a good time to remedy that. Heck, given how certain faith groups and nationalities are being persecuted even in our own time, one can’t help but wonder if Schindler’s example can be somehow revived as a means of present grace in a presently ungraceful political landscape. The List, after all, is life – and life is life, no matter what.

Whatever the case, now I just wanna relish in the fact that Oskar Schindler trained Batman.


Sketchbook #2: Grassy Christians

Two kinds of Christians: grassy and asphalty.

On a sunny day, grassy Christians bathe in the sunlight. The sun reactivates and reinvigorates their cells, and they let it warm them, change them, and grow them. While they maintain a portion of their own color, their translucence allows the influence of the true light to shimmer through.

Asphalty Christians remain black and rigid. They obstinately absorb the heat and sear any conscience that touches them. Instead of being pliable and flexible and open to new ideas, they stay like they are. Such quality of strength and integrity is admirable to a certain extent but not to the point of being so calcified that they can only be broken by a jackhammer.

Sketchbook #1: Two Different Skies (prose)

It was the kind of night you could look up and see two different skies.

The first sky – the real sky – the far away sky – was at the top. It was the deep velvet violet everyone thinks about when they think about night skies between a fading warm spring and an impending hot summer. No diamond stars, just soft and deep rumination.

The other sky – the clouds, really – the closer sky – laid at the bottom. Just as soft but more overbearing, looming than the first sky. Spectral gray palates singed with halogen orange from suburban streetlights.

The wind was warm, too; hearty branches on lurching trees leaned back and forth anxiously. Leaves’ pale undersides carry the second sky – turning over, they carry the dark of the first sky, and they can’t decide for themselves, and the wind has better things to do.

To feel angry like heat lightning flicker with no rain for relief. To be too inadequate to rest and too apathetic to try.

To know God’s presence and not believe. To know his love and not obey.

To know His love and not obey.

To smolder.

The Devil At Work (a poem)

Most people think that the devil at work
is a creature with horns, a red cape, and a fork
that sneaks up behind us and tells us to sin
whenever we’re tempted to stumble again.

That could be the case if the devil were God
and was at one time everywhere and abroad
and actually used all the power we give him
instead of the fear in which he has been livin’.

But all our mistakes and the folly we live in
result from the chances we think we’ve been given
and choices we make when we try to be level;
the devil just doesn’t have time to be “devil.”

The devil at work isn’t worth the explorin’ –
our pride and our lust will do all the work for him.

This image shows a crowd of people in a movie theater watching a movie.

I’m Tired of Bashing Christian Movies

I like bashing Christians movies. It makes me feel like I’m actually doing something good when tell others what I honestly think about them, with no grace in my heart at all. I want to “save” people from having a bad experience like I did, so I do whatever I can to win others from seeing such films.

It started back in the late winter of 2014 with the release of the cut-copied-and-pasted-from-the-History-Channel Son of God. Then the Spring of 2014 with the release of the landmark God’s Not Dead. Later in that very same Spring saw the release of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah as well as Heaven Is For Real (although some would argue that the former of those two is not a Christian film…an arguable sentiment, but valid).

After a summer of phenomenal blockbusters came the gem that is known as Believe Me (which you need to see right now if you haven’t already). The Year of the Christian Film at last closed out with Ridley Scott’s so-so interpretation of the Exodus account entitled Exodus: Gods and Kings.

2015 looked promising with the release of Old Fashioned,  but that hope quickly fizzled out with Do You Believe?Since another summer full of high-octane action and adventure has come to a close, War Room has come out, and I tried showing a little grace in withholding what I really thought about it and sharing only the positive side.

But after hearing that God’s Not Dead 2 is now in the works and is slated for release in Spring 2016, I am preparing for another opportunity to bash it and rip it to shreds. Because I know what’s going to be. It’s going to be the same old plot line of someone who believes in God coming face to face with someone who doesn’t.

It’ll be the same old storytellers telling the same old story of “perseverance in trials” and “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me” and the protagonist will come out on top after having defeated the angry atheist.

Then the epilogue will be at the same old concert, and the same old celebrity cameo will urge the audience of the concert (and, by the transitive property, the audience of the film, too) to text their friends that “God’s not dead” (except this time, they’ll have to do it twice…because it’s a sequel…eh? eh?).

Gather ’round, kids; Uncle Brenden’s gonna learn ya something about Art:

  • Art is one part Content and one part Form.
  • The Content is the Message that the Artist is trying to communicate to an Audience.
  • The Form is the Medium by which that Content is delivered to that Audience.

My discontent with Christian films, then, is not with their Content but with their Form. Because I can and most often do agree with the Message of such films – that is, I agree with the Content – but that Message is unfortunately tainted by the Medium by which it is communicated to the Audience.

That Form could be a weak character development – like a one-sided college professor – or a cliché plot narrative – like making all the main characters of a film come together in only one, too brief moment; whatever the case, I find it unsettling and a waste of my time.

But I need to face the reality that some other people actually like these films. Some other people are actually encouraged by the Message of these films no matter how diluted by the Medium they may or may not be. Some people can actually look past the Forms of this Art and see and understand the Content for what it really is.

That this outlook on films is so indicative of how I should be as a Christian astounds me. If I can’t support a film or any other piece of Art because I only focused on the outward Form as opposed to considering the inward Content, what does that say about how I deal with people? That I’m too alienated by the Form of a fellow brother or sister to even be bothered with considering their inward Content? That’s definitely not how I want God to judge me.

Next Spring, I’ll the opportunity to bash another same old Christian movie; or, next Spring, I’ll have the opportunity to exhibit a little grace in expressing my subjective opinions and withholding my condemnations, find something good in that film (even if I have to dig and stretch), and be a little more like Christ when it comes to engaging the culture.

Water Lillies by Claude Monet

Painting (a poem)

up and down
up…and down…
up…and down…
up…and down…

long and even strokes
long…and even…
long…and even…
long…she’s pretty

long and even strokes, covering the canvas…
covering…the canvas…
covering…the canvas…
covering…she’s beautiful

long and even strokes covering the canvas
adding vibrant color to a lifeless frame
mixing the colors for the perfect match
stirring the substance of soul…
the substance…of soul…
the substance…of soul…
the substance…she’s a good dancer, too
we even like the same music…common ground

long and even strokes in the same direction,
not sloppy with indifference,
but slow enough to savor and fast enough to deliver.
fast enough…to deliver…
fast enough…to deliver…
fast enough…she just said that she was single.

single…I wonder…no…should I?
I might…I’m single, too…
should I be subtle…and romantic…and coy…
should I be the jerk who always gets the girl…
should I do it now…
no…others would gossip…
but that doesn’t matter…not really…
that’s them, not me…
not now…but I will…

animating the blank, emotionless panels
and breathing life through the brush
giving them love
Giving them…love…
Giving them…love…
Giving them…she just said she wanted
to stay single for a while.

up and down…
up…and down…
up…and down…
up…and down…

long and even strokes.
long…and even…
Long…that’s fine with me…
I’d rather her be happy without me…
than her be unhappy with me…
as long as I get to spend time with her…
and even…

stirring the substance…
I don’t mind waiting…
of soul…
and down…

This photo was taken by Michael Hull and is available through

Driving in the Moonlight (a poem)

my generation drives in the moonlight
of faith filtered by fallacious fear
of hope held down by hollowed histrionics
of love lost in the limbo of legality

illumination without demonstration
memorization without externalization
catechism without asceticism
reading a heap without feeding the sheep
knowing a need without sowing the seed
faith without works – and it hurts

we cry because nothing grows in the moonlight
we have just enough sight to see the path
and just enough height to hit the gas
but we can’t commit to letting God drive

we have to check our headlights and our tail lights
our engine light between every stop light
to provide new cars for our future security
never minding how hot the radiator runs
never minding the thought that rarely ever comes
works without faith – and it isn’t safe

my generation drives in the moonlight
we think we have to go somewhere nice
and we think we have to do something good
but we don’t want to wait for the Son.

This is a photograph of a wheat field taken by Cole Patrick.

Let Them Grow Together (a poem)

A man said that weeds were showing on the plain
ingrained with the seeds and growing with the grain.
The Creator, up on high, is throwing down the rain,
and we, later, low with sigh, are hoeing in a chain
these weeds of malfunction. We’re sowing with a strain
of deeds of destruction while mowing with the pain.
“Don’t uproot them now, as you’re knowing in your brain,
but let them grow together – as if flowing – as if twain –
and when the harvest comes, burn the chaff, save the grain.”

A poetic reiteration of the Jesus’s Parable of the Weeds as found in Matthew 13:24-30.

This is a photograph by Chelsea Francis that features the lower half of a woman tying her shoes.

The Meek Shall Indulge (a poem)

She said it like I perceived what she was
talking about: “the meek shall indulge.”
She then bereaved how meek she was,
how weak she was, how unique she was.
I then conceived how chic she was,
how sleek she was, how freak she was;
I heard her – and I couldn’t believe she was
talking about another lover she’s indulged.

This is an image of a hollow tree.

More or Less (a poem)

Is anybody right anymore?
Can anybody say the right thing anymore?
Can anybody do the right thing anymore?
Can anybody stand up for the right thing anymore?

More or less.

Will anybody fight anymore?
Can anybody keep the fight up anymore?
Can anybody let the fight down anymore?
Can anybody stand up and fight back anymore?

More or less.

Is anybody light anymore?
Can anybody leave the light on anymore?
Can anybody turn the light out anymore?
Can anybody let their own light shine anymore?