Tag Archives: loss

Dustin’s Three to See: December

In an effort to stay slightly more topical than, say, reviewing 33-year-old episodes of Saturday Night Live, I wanted to share the top movies I saw last month — to help out those of you who don’t see 90% of the films that are released like I do. And actually full credit goes to my longtime friend Phil (if you live in Columbus or the surrounding areas, go see his awesome cover band!) who was like “You see a lot of movies…you should put together a top three list every month so people who don’t go to the movies very often know which ones they should see.” And so here we are.

December is a huge month for movies, so coming up with a list of good movies to see this month wasn’t the hard part…the hard part was keeping it to three. However if you were on death row and your last request was to see three movies (instead of something more practical like, say, a hacksaw baked into a cake), these are the three to see. They are in no particular order.


Movie 1) — The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The only unexpected thing about Peter Jackson’s Middle-Earth prequel is that they broke the shortest book (J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit) into the most movies (three so far, not counting an animated spinoff I’m pitching about dysentery called “Gollum’s Revenge”). But just because you know what’s coming doesn’t make it any less of an enjoyable ride. Jackson’s visuals have only sharpened since 2003 and brought an even more vibrant Middle Earth to life (just as those poor Kiwis were starting to be known for something other than the LOTR movies). In fact, if you’re re-watching the Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition on BluRay like I am (cue a chorus of “ohhhh THAT’S why he’s single”), you’ll really notice how much the CGI and other effects have improved in Middle Earth over the last ten years since Return of the King came out. This movie feels every bit like it’s only the first third of the story, versus the original trilogy where each installment had its own sense of closure. But to its credit, The Hobbit doesn’t drag, despite the 170-minute run time (every bit of three hours if you include previews). A good movie, with the clichéd “something for everyone” vibe that does, in fact, have something for everyone.


Movie 2) — Django: Unchained
Quentin Tarantino bears the blessing and curse of being mentioned equally alongside each of his movies — versus other directors who enjoy a slightly more anonymous presence and are able to let their movies speak for themselves. That said, QT’s latest work still has a lot to say, and if you can get past the decidedly R-rated Tarantino-style gore and more gratuitous use of the N-word than a Li’l Wayne + Mark Fuhrman mixtape, you’ll find a complex and compelling story, woven full of complex and compelling characters. With the spot-on performances you’d expect from Leonardo DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx, and tons of support from scene-stealers Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz (the latter just today nominated for Best Supporting Actor…hard to not think of him as a lead, though), this film would be a master class in acting and directing, even without its very solid story and script. But the difference between a very good movie and a great one is what you come away with once the credits have finished rolling, and when you leave Django you won’t be thinking about the exploding limbs or the racial slurs, you’ll be thinking about what the world would look like with a little less hate in it. And that’s a great thing to take away from any experience.


Movie 3) — Les Misérables
I know I said earlier that I wasn’t ranking these films in any particular order, but if you see one movie this month (or this year for that matter), it absolutely has to be Tom Hooper’s soon-to-be legendary movie based on Claude-Michel Schönberg’s legendary musical based on Victor Hugo’s legendary novel (as epic as it is lengthy). Hyperbole aside, what makes this story so compelling is that it calls into attention the eternal (and arguably only) struggle of humankind — how to forgive the unforgivable and how to hope in the face of hopelessness. To do what’s right even when it will bring no recognition or personal profit. Why else would a story written over 150 years ago and a musical that’s been running for over three decades still carry such weight in our modern lives? The acting is spectacular, the score and arrangements are deeply engrossing…overall this is an incredibly faithful and powerful adaptation of a property that isn’t easy to convert to the silver screen. The most nitpicky will wonder if the director’s ever heard of any shot besides a closeup, and will decry Russell Crowe’s vocals as subpar, but neither of these things diminish the overall experience or “must-see” status of the film. And if you’re adapting a famous stage musical, why not showcase the one element that you never see when you’re seeing the stage version in person? The closeups of the brilliant acting taking place. And as for Crowe’s vocals, the simple fact of the matter is that they’re not actually that bad…he’s just the least-talented singer in a cast of VERY talented singers. It’s not like watching American Idol auditions, and even Randy wouldn’t be so bold as to call him pitchy (he has a nasally timbre to his voice, to be sure, but he sings in tune). And if it still bothers you that much, just do what Paula did to tolerate bad singing — get hammered drunk until you don’t care. And really, isn’t that what the holidays are all about anyway?

Kidding aside, none of us are so perfect that our lives don’t need some dissection more often than not, and if it takes a major motion picture like Les Misérables to be the caveat that pushes you to choose hope and life and right in the face of this world’s constant negativity and darkness, then so be it.

“To love another person is to see the face of God.” —Victor Hugo


So there’s your three to see for December, and don’t fret, I’ll be sure to sort through January’s best for you in time for the start of next month!

Honorable Mentions (from November and December): Wreck-It Ralph, Skyfall, Lincoln, Amour, Promised Land

Play on,

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Of Loss and Restoration

Topic the Third: Losing’s Only Half the Battle

I struggled mightily with how to close this three part “series” on action, emotion and redemption, but I find that no closing seems to be suitable — no ending appropriately poignant enough. So in the wake of nothingness, I will just leave you with openness — with the honesty of what I’ve seen and felt — and pray that you are able to make something more of it than words on a screen.

April 30th, 2012 would’ve been a boy named Deacon’s fourth birthday. I won’t profane Deacon’s memory or the depth of suffering his family has been through by trying to pretend that I can possibly understand, legitimately explain, or fully empathize with the horror of losing a child. I won’t blaspheme the sovereign love that God has for all of us by saying that it’s for “the best” or part of “his plan” to take the life of an almost-three-year-old — especially one who brought joy to so many. What I will say is that we, as a people, have been dealing with loss incorrectly for a long time, maybe forever. For years, loss — the loss of a job, or of a relationship, or of a dream, or of a loved one — has stirred up a reaction among people to try and marginalize the loss, or parade around an endless series of trite sayings and clichéd advice with the hopes of logic-ing away the hurt that the loss caused. This could not be further from helpful. Even of the truisms that are actually applicable to a situation, the last thing that anyone needs to hear in the midst of a new loss is how effective time will be for healing their wounds, or how many good things are going to be brought about from their circumstances. What people actually need in a time of loss, is just for you to be there with them, to suffer with them, to let them use and release misery for what it is — rather than try to coax them into behaving as if everything was all right.

A few of my friends (including one of my best guy friends) have gone through some difficult breakups recently, and the thing consistently astounds me is how unwilling some of their other friends were to let them have their moment of misery. Most of them jumped right into some awful variant of the “more fish in the sea” line, when what they needed wasn’t advice — everyone knows, empirically, that breaking up with someone very rarely means that you will never date or love again — they needed someone to buy them a beer or a coffee and just let them work through how awful it is to lose someone you care about. Later, in a different season, there is a time for encouragement toward joy and the reminder that there is a difference between acknowledging grief and wallowing in it, but in the heat of the recent wound, all that person needs from you as a friend is just a place where they can feel safe and vulnerable to react how they need to react.

What gave me strength as Deacon’s father, mother, and sister worked through the sort of loss that no words can adequately describe, was that they remained real. They were honest, they were raw, they were hurt. They didn’t try to cover up pain with something false. They didn’t shy away from their need for people and support. Deacon’s father (one of the pastors at the church-plant where I serve) let himself be vulnerable to our community, and shared openly about how his relationship to and with the church was a pillar of support for him and his family. There were good days, bad days, unbearable days…but through it all, their aim was never to overcome or ignore the massive hurt and loss, but to battle through and lean on others even as they were leaned on by others. To use Christ as the compass, people as the oars, and press onward through the sea of troubles so accurately titled by Shakespeare centuries ago.

A year later, I know Deacon’s family still struggles with the immeasurable hardship of losing a son — I know this because I still struggle with it. The anniversary of his passing, the birthday that won’t be — can’t be — celebrated in the same way it would’ve, these are wounds that even the supposed cure-all of time can’t heal. But what I can proudly say is that Deacon’s family has been restored. Restored to joy, restored to life, restored through Christ. This isn’t to say that the scars of loss won’t always be there — it would be inhumanely callous to imply otherwise — but rather that their family’s perseverance toward gladness has produced an honest, open dialogue around the topic of deep loss in a way that was previously unavailable to many. And through that, there is joy. Not the joy that replaces an awful loss, but a joy that celebrates the memory of someone so wonderful that he spreads his energetic demeanor to others even after his departure. This is a restoration not born from man’s sheer will or blind/unfounded faith, but from the grace of our Maker mixed with the embracement of truth — even when that truth is pain. The restoration that comes when you use your gifts, right along with your pain, to help and heal others in the same way you let others help and heal you.

My wish for — and request of — you is that when you experience loss (and if you haven’t yet, you will…such is the nature of our broken world) that you will let yourself first be vulnerable enough and strong enough to grieve. Don’t let anyone take that or talk that away from you. Jesus wept (John 11:35). He understood grief and pain and loss, and he understood the value of embracing them for a time. And the second part of my request is that you let yourself be restored. Not in the sense that you ignore the loss or the hurts of your life, but that you use such things to make yourself more fully attuned to your Purpose, and to the people you’re meant to effect.

Be the energetic servant the world needs. Conquer loss, share restoration.

In absolute loving memory of Deacon Kade (4/30/2008 – 3/21/2011),

Postscript: It’s my unbridled pleasure to mention by way of epilogue that Deacon’s parents are expecting once again, and will add a third child to their family by the end of the year. Rejoice.

Photo credit to Jared Heveron

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