Our student ministry has been posting short devos called “Insta Devos” to our Instagram and Facebook pages. It’s been a fun way to see students interact with scripture and share their insights with one another. This week, our youngest – Zach – who is moving up into the youth group in a few weeks, did one as well! I’m super proud of him … it’s my favorite Insta Devo!
Star Wars Movies Definitively Ranked
This is it people, the authoritative ranking of Star Wars movies. If you disagree, you’re wrong. This list is based on a lifetime of study and repeat viewings. Decades of intense research culminating in this list.
- The Empire Strikes Back (Episode 5). The boldest of all the movies. The bad guys win. The introduction of vital new characters. An incredible deepening of the mythology. It’s not even a contest.
- A New Hope (Episode 4). The original. The reason why this list even exists. It shattered movie expectations, invented the repeat audience, and launched a fan base who would spend the rest of their lives trolling each other with ridiculous lists.
- Return of the Jedi (Episode 6). Yes, I like the Ewoks. I think they’re cool. Even as a kid, however, I was uncomfortable with Leia’s claim that she always knew Luke was her brother. Probably should have left that unsaid.
- Rogue One. This movie was so much better than I expected! I loved the backstory to the originals, loved how the director was able to incorporate unused cockpit footage from the original Star Wars. And yes, I teared up at Leia’s appearance at the end. The first time I saw the movie was the day Carrie Fisher died; I had no idea she had done voice work for Rogue One.
- The Force Awakens (Episode 7). Yes, it played to nostalgia, and I ate it up. Loved the story, loved the action, loved seeing Han Solo back in action. His death? Brutal. But so good.
- Solo. I’m convinced this movie disappointed in theaters because Disney didn’t advertise it and they bumped up its release to only a couple months after The Last Jedi was still in theaters. The story was great and set up a new section of the Star Wars universe that hopefully still gets explored.
- The Last Jedi (Episode 8). Yes, it ticked off a lot of people. But I like that the director took risks with the story. It’s good that Luke wasn’t just another version of Yoda. It opened the door to new stories. I didn’t really buy into the slow motion space chase, though. That was obnoxious. And throwing away Snoke after building him up so much? What the heck.
- The Rise of Skywalker (Episode 9). Hey, lets try to jam multiple movies worth of story into one film. And pack in too much fan service. Make Rey a Palpatine (that was cool) but then call her a Skywalker (what?!?). Bring back the Emperor with little to no explanation. And a massive secret army. And using the force to have Star Trek transporters. Oh yeah, and Rey and Kylo should kiss, because that would be gross and awkward. And yeah, Kylo should be good after all even though it would have been cool to not have the same story as Return of the Jedi. I have more, but this comment is already too long.
- Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure. I was so hype for this movie when I was a kid! It wasn’t great … but it definitely great to have more story from the Star Wars universe. Plus, I love Ewoks. They’re just so cool.
- Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. More Ewoks! I’m super frustrated with Disney+ that these two movies are not on it yet. Get on it, Disney!
- The Star Wars Holiday Special. Oh my word. Search for it on YouTube. So bad it’s … well, it’s still bad, but you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment for getting through it. Also, it has the first appearance of Boba Fett. So there’s that. George Lucas has been trying to bury it for decades; I can only hope that after his eventual passing, Disney restores it and releases it in all its ridiculous glory.
- Attack of the Clones (Episode 2). Yoda as a Tasmanian Devil. Painful love story between Anakin and Padme. The convenient arrival of a massive clone army. Jar Jar Binks only has a few seconds on screen and dooms the entire universe? That was cold.
- Revenge of the Sith (Episode 3). Obi-Wan Kenobi makes the prequels bearable. And there are some awesome space battles in this one. Unfortunately, it also has a lot of Anakin. And younglings.
- The Phantom Menace (Episode 1). The preview trailers were amazing. I was so excited. But then it was all pod racing and Jar Jar Binks. The best part of the prequels? Darth Maul … and he only got a few seconds of screen time before being killed. Bummer.
Look within, you’ll know I’m right.
Star Trek: Picard
“Be the captain they remember.”
Zhaban’s words to Picard gave me chills. So much of this first episode caught me off guard in the best possible way. My non-spoiler thoughts? Best premiere episode of a Star Trek series. My wife and I loved it, my four Star Trek antagonistic sons who I forced to watch it are also hooked. It’s good.
Now my spoiler filled thoughts …
The show opened with Blue Skies. I immediately had chills. What a perfect way to launch it … with the closing notes of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s final film!
And then an opening shot of the Enterprise D, followed by Picard and Data playing poker? Amazing. More chills.
Yes, I had a lot of chills. I should probably have a blanket for future episodes.
Picard and his dog at his vineyard; I thought it would be cheesy. I was wrong. And his Romulan helpers were fascinating.
Early on in the episode Picard goes into an interview with a reporter, by the end of which I was so irritated with the reporter … but it also provided such a riveting way of laying out the 18 years of story history between Picard’s last movie and this new series. The universe has changed but Picard’s morals haven’t – hence his leaving Starfleet in protest.
Speaking of which, definitely a connection to the world we live in. Starfleet’s original goal of helping Romulan refugees shuttered over a terrorist attack that triggers them locking down the borders and shifting to an inward focus? It will be fascinating to see where they go with this.
I absolutely reacted to Dahj and the daughter connection to Data. I’m hoping it’s Lal, resurrected after all this time (Data created a daughter in the series, but in the same episode she died; he was able to transfer his memories to himself, however), but I wonder if that would be too obscure a reference for a show hoping to capture new viewers?
All that to say, I’m sold. I can’t wait to see where they go with this series. I’m so curious about these new characters. And based on my sons’ reactions, you can absolutely jump in without having seen any previous episodes of Star Trek.
Traveling to Galaxy’s Edge
Over Christmas we traveled to a galaxy far, far away.
It was unreal.
We spent the day exploring Disney World’s new Star Wars land, Galaxy’s Edge. Here is my lifelong fan opinion …
Smugglers’s Run. The Millennium Falcon ride. Wow. So cool. Was it worth waiting in line for hours? Yes. That’s why we did it again. The attention to detail was wild; the halls, the rooms – it was like we were on the Falcon. So cool.
Rise of the Resistance. Wow. I mean, seriously wow. Disney has done some amazing rides … and this is lightyears beyond them. I don’t even know how to describe it. The scale of it was just unreal. Seriously, the best ride I’ve ever been on.
Oga’s Cantina. Oh my word, I thought I was on Tatooine. The drinks and snacks were so alien, the atmosphere was perfect.
Star Tours. It never gets old. They keep updating it with new stories, and they are always fun. So good we did it twice.
Galaxy’s Edge. It is not surprising that the Star Wars land, Galaxy’s Edge, cost over a billion dollars to make; it feels like you’re in a galaxy far, far away. It is separated from the rest of the park in such an immersive and incredible way. It’s unreal. The staff are all in costume, there are storm troopers, Kylo Ren, and Rey, all in character roaming throughout Galaxy’s Edge. So much fun. Heather tried to use the force on the storm troopers – they roasted her. It was fantastic!
Chewbacca. I was surprised but just how much I lost my mind at the sight of Chewbacca roaming through Galaxy’s Edge; checking on an x-wing, evading the storm troopers, gassing up the Falcon … I flipped every time I saw him. Seriously. I mean, how could I not? I’ve been a fan for four decades …
Matthew’s Star Trek Nerd Stuff episode 01
This is it people. The web show you didn’t know you were dying to see. The best two minutes of your day. Episode one of “Matthew’s Star Trek Nerd Stuff.”
Geek blog post alert. You’ve been warned.
YouTube Red, the paid YouTube service launched the Cobra Kai tv series; ten episodes of pure awesomeness set 34 years after the original Karate Kid movie. Ralph Macchio (Daniel) and William Zabka (Johnny) are back and it is glorious.
I accidentally marathoned the whole thing over the space of a few days. Wasn’t the plan, couldn’t stop myself. It’s that good. I thought it would be cheesy, but they actually did a phenomenal job of hitting just the right tone. They brought a whole new level of depth and complication to both characters; they’re both right, they’re both wrong. It’s so good. And apparently the numbers are through the roof; it’s only been out a couple weeks and they’ve green-lit season two already. I’m just bummed I’ll have to wait a year.
If you have any affection for the original Karate Kid movie, this is worth checking out. The first two episodes are available for free; if you want to see the rest, you need a YouTube Red account – which has a free trial period. It’s good. I’ll be honest, I’m planning on watching them again …
I’m such a nerd.
There is an incredible, counter-intuitive moment in Joshua 7. Basically, the Israelites were invading the land; God had promised them success as long as they obeyed Him, and things to this point had been going well. Then the day came that they attacked Ai; the Israelites were sent packing. Joshua, and the other leaders, were stunned, and immediately fell on their faces praying to God for help.
Which is what we’re supposed to do in times of crisis, right?
But God’s response was shocking; “Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this?” (Joshua 7:10, NLT) God essentially rebukes them for praying! His point? They know the covenant, they know their defeat means there is sin in the camp. The answer was not to simply lay on the ground praying … the answer was to do what they already knew to do: deal with the sin infecting and corrupting their community.
Every time we have another mass shooting and the cycle of “thoughts and prayers,” Facebook debates, media sensationalism, and reassurances that we cannot rush into any emotional decisions but will deal with it when an appropriate amount of time passes … which never seems achievable because there’s always another mass shooting right around the corner, I find myself going back to this passage over and over.
It’s time to get up.
The Bible is full of verses detailing God’s heart for the innocent, those who cannot defend themselves, and the responsibility of those who have the ability to do something. It is also full of instructions to those who claim to follow God regarding our responsibility to put the needs of others ahead of ourselves. In God’s economy, sometimes it is far better to give up something I feel I deserve for the sake of others. I relinquish my preferences out of love for those around me.
We know what is causing death in our community. We know what needs to change; prayers are good and important, but they cannot be an excuse to avoid taking action. Just like Joshua needed to get off his knees and do what he knew needed to be done, we need to move as well.
Time for Something New
Yeah, this picture has nothing to do with anything other than to remind the world that my brother and I were a couple of rad go-kart experts in the 80’s.
But on to something new … I’m in the process of overhauling my blog. Deleting some things, adding some other things, rethinking what my goals for it are … all sorts of good stuff.
I also switched hosting providers; I made the switch from a GoDaddy hosted WordPress blog to doing it all through WordPress. It makes things simpler, but it also means that I’m changing up the theme and appearance as well, and still waiting for some of my domain transfer stuff to finish processing.
Ultimately, my blog has served different purposes over the years. I’ve been using doing platforms to blog for close to twenty years now. Sheesh. At first it was my nerdy outlet for video game reviews, thoughts on the latest sci-fi movies and books, and documenting pranks. Later it became less about that and a lot more about my experiences with NBC’s Biggest Loser. Gradually it became a mix of family stuff, Biggest Loser thoughts, and youth ministry reflections. At this point, I find myself documenting family photos and memories more through social media and enjoying writing about ministry; what I’m learning, what I’m reading, and what I’m processing.
Anyway, just a random post to explain why my blog looks different … and might be having some glitches for a few days because of domain transfers and all that good stuff (supposedly should be finished processing in another day or two).
Eclipse Road Trip
It was a little bit spur of the moment, but Heather and I decided to take a road trip to Tennessee with the boys to see the eclipse last week. It was kind of a wild ride; we left on Sunday right after church for what should have been a nine hour drive. It ended up taking twelve hours on the way down, we spent the night in Pigeon Ford, then traveled over to the Foothills Parkway to watch the eclipse … then hit the road back home not realizing between eclipse traffic, road construction, and college traffic we were starting an 18 hour drive home.
So, in case you missed it, we spent 30 hours driving round trip in about 48 hours so we could see less than two minutes of eclipse totality. And it was totally worth it.
What an amazing thing to see. I thought I knew what it would be like, but words really don’t do it justice. It is no mystery why ancient civilizations were shaken by them. Without the knowledge we have today, how could it be interpreted any way other than the gods bringing judgement or warning of doom?
I took a ton of photos; a few turned out pretty good – certainly better than my camera should have been able to do. I essentially held my eclipse glasses against the lens and snapped away. I used a Nikon Coolpix L340.
And yes, we’re already planning our 2024 solar eclipse trip.
Boarding School Syndrome review
Dr. Joy Schaverien’s Boarding School Syndrome: The Psychological Trauma of the ‘Privileged’ Child takes an honest and powerful look at the long term psychological impact boarding schools have on children. Having spent my teen years in a boarding school, I was particularly fascinated by her observations, based on years of counseling and diagnosing adults who attended boarding schools as children. Rather than try to summarize the book (there’s just way too much), I want to share a few of my reactions as a former boarding school student. You can read a strong summary of the book’s content and a list of the many symptoms and issues that can result in boarding school experience here.
Over the last decade, I have become increasingly aware of just how widespread and prevalent sexual and physical abuse was in all of the boarding schools run by the mission my family was a part of, which has been a horrifying realization. Dr. Schaverien primarily interacts with former boarding school students from other systems and organizations, and it was shocking to realize through her research that this sexual and physical abuse seems to be a common reality in ALL boarding schools. The combination of predators being attracted to environments where children are cut off from their parents most of the year and dangerous students with inadequate supervision around younger students consistently creates environments where abuse flourishes.
Dr. Schaverien deals with the question of why children do not report abuse throughout her book, which I appreciated deeply. She points out a combination of factors; for the child who does not have the words to express what is going on, it is a confusing situation. Children think their experience is normal; they may not like it, but it must be normal because it is what they know. Adding to that is the knowledge that their parents sent them, reinforcing the idea that this is both normal and the adults in their life are okay with it (after all, to a young child’s logic, how could their parents possibly not know?). Consequently, the abuse is normalized, and even minimized – “I didn’t like what happened to me, but it’s not nearly as bad as what happened to so-and-so.” What I was particularly struck by is her observation that it is typically around forty years of age that people will begin to recognize or speak out about the abuse they received as a child; often times as they see their own children growing up and realize just how little and unprotected they themselves were at that age and finally begin to realize just how wrong the treatment was.
That jumped out at me; I’m 41. It has really been the last five years that I have wrestled with what I witnessed as a teen and what I can do about it now. As a student at a boarding school I witnessed things that made me deeply uncomfortable and upset – but did not know how to react. It wasn’t until my early twenties as I was studying to be a teacher, and then youth pastor. taking classes on creating safe environments and protecting children from abuse that I realized many of the things I witnessed were legally considered abuse.
I found her comments and observations on former boarding school students relationships with others, the tendency to be closed relationally, abandonment issues, the sexual confusion resulting from growing up in schools forbidding any kind of physical contact (even healthy, necessary contact), issues with food, and a whole host of other ramifications to be incredibly fascinating, and enlightening in what I have seen in my fellow classmates. I think her book is critical reading for anyone who has been a boarding school student, or who has had family members attend boarding school at some point in their childhood. It is written for psychologists to give insight on how to work with boarding school students, so it is not a light read, however it is incredibly beneficial and makes a great contribution to a segment of the population that is largely ignored.