3 Movies Worth Watching

Click to watch trailer

Click to watch trailer

Spotlight  (narrative, lingering in some theaters/VOD) 

I cried, shook, and cheered when watching this film in the theater. As members of the Church, this is an important film to watch as a reminder of what we are when we are at our worst. The establishment became more concerned with preservation of the status quo than it did with seeking truth and justice. The true Church in the film are the journalists who sought to end the violence and sexual abuse against minors. Amen for their efforts to bring an end to suffering. They sought to bring the things that happened in the dark into the light. This is an important movie, and I am glad it won the Academy Award for Best Picture. 

Click to watch trailer

Click to watch trailer

The Barkley Marathons  (documentary, streaming on Netflix) 

When was the last time you did something difficult? When was the last time you set out to do something that is impossible? "The Barkley Marathons" has runners trying to complete 5 marathons back-to-back-to-back while running through trails, thorn bushes, over mountains, all without a clear path or map of where they are going. The film is very well edited and paced, and has you nervous right to the very end. It is a beautiful film about dancing to the beat of your own drum and challenging yourself. I loved it. 

Click to watch trailer

Click to watch trailer

The Act of Killing  (documentary, streaming on Netflix) 

I know I am a bit late on this film, as a couple of years ago it won every documentary film award possible, but holy cow. This is an important film about the psychology of our actions, and how we can convince ourselves that what we are doing is normal or right. The documentary follows former mass murderers as the reenact their killings while making a movie about what they did. There are multiple moments captured on film that are just out of this world. The Act of Killing is terrifying and convicting at the same time, as the film asks questions about guilt how we record history. 


Worth Mentioning:

  • Finding Vivian Maier
  • Big Hero 6
  • Sophie is watching the show Parenthood – and it is pretty great. 

What are you watching? 


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I am the Mass Shooter

Thich Naht Hanh's calligraphy.

Thich Naht Hanh's calligraphy.

My Voices of Nonviolence class continues to be poignant and relevant, mainly for the sad reality that violence continues to happen. Today as we discussed Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh, we also learned of another mass shooting, the second one today. In my anger and hurt at today’s news, at a time when I feel like I can’t take any more bad news in the world, I began thinking of how to understand the suffering of both sides, and wrote my own version of his famous poem.

Hearing Both Sides

I am the child who went to school today. I am the adult with autism who went to a job skills class. I am the office manager who went to work for the day. I am the victim, the dead, the person who won’t come home tonight.

And I am the mass shooter. I am shunned and ignored, belittled and shamed, until my rage emerges. I am unstable and misguided, thinking my actions are necessary, and I don’t yet know the fullness of love.

I am the teacher who is learning emergency drills for how to shelter my students when the tragedy strikes my school. And I am the social worker, who chose a sacrificial career to help adults with disabilities find a better life, never expecting those lives would be threatened in my center of safety and care.

I am the police officer, the SWAT team, who has been trained carefully to manage my weapon, who regretfully must use it to eliminate the threat to my community.

I am the reporter, who can’t find new words to tell a story that’s already been told over 300 times this year. And I am the politician, who voted down gun control laws, trying to accurately represent my district and be faithful to my constituents, many of whom own gun related businesses.

I am the activist, who decries the accessibility of weapons and the power of lobbyists to keep it that way. And I am the NRA, who represents millions of Americans and is trying to defend a way of life protected in the U.S. Constitution.

I am the gun-owner, who is continuing a family legacy of hunting and feels threatened by these political conversations. I am the woman who lives alone, keeping a handgun in the bedside drawer because there have been multiple break-ins, burglaries, and assaults on my street and I can’t sleep at night feeling unprotected. I am the man who utilizes open carry laws, so I can be ready to stop an attack when it happens near me.

I am the citizen, who watches each unfolding story and wonders when it will happen in my community. I am the friend, who waits eagerly for an update and prays she doesn’t recognize the names of the dead. I am the pastor, who must bring a word of peace again, and again, and again, and again.

I am the Muslim man, who gets labeled a terrorist. I am the Black man, who gets labeled a thug. I am the White man, who gets labeled a lone wolf.

I am the parent who received a tragic call today, who has given all my energy toward protecting my child from harm and couldn’t extend that power far enough. And I am the parent, who realized with the news today that the child I tried to raise with love has acted with violence and hatred to take the lives of others.


Thich Nhat Hanh challenges each of us to listen to both sides, to understand the suffering of all people. Written in 1986, this quote still carries so much power:

“The situation of the world is still like this. People completely identify with one side, one ideology. To understand the suffering and the fear of a citizen of the Soviet Union, we have to become one with him or her. To do so is dangerous - we will be suspected by both sides. But if we don't do it, if we align ourselves with one side or the other, we will lose our chance to work for peace. Reconciliation is to understand both sides, to go to one side and describe the suffering being endured by the other side, and then to go to the other side and describe the suffering being endured by the first side. Doing only that will be a great help for peace.”

We spent the last moments of class meditating on his poem “Please Call Me By My True Names.” (read it here ) and a similar one written by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat after September 11.

This practice, personally, was fruitful and challenging...particularly as I realized I still wanted to put my own spin on “the other side” and their perspective. I still want to think I am right. I still want to condemn gun violence and advocate for more gun control. Still, to work toward reconciliation, I must listen, I must pay attention to every side. I can condemn the violence and still be listening. 

Giving Thanks for Transforming Moments

printable from One Artsy Mama

printable from One Artsy Mama

[Every Thanksgiving, my family marks the day with a tradition we call the “Gratitude Tree.” Each person in our extended family brings an ornament to represent what they are grateful for. Whether you are are 4 or 80, you get to hang it on a Christmas tree and share your reflection. This year I’m celebrating Thanksgiving in Atlanta, so as my family hangs my ornament for me, I will share my reflections here.]

Since last Thanksgiving, I have been increasingly grateful for my academic and faith community at Candler School of Theology. My mom gave us a theme this year, and asked us all to reflect on one moment we can’t forget from the last year.

I remember prayers, laments, and praises. I remember actions, vigils, and protests. I remember discussions, lectures, and chapels.

I remember holding hands in prayer after the Ferguson non-indictment. I remember my classmate hugging her nine year old and crying because she was afraid for him to grow up as a black man in this culture. I remember lying on the ground outside our chapel for a “die-in” as students from across Emory’s campus proclaimed Black Lives Matter, lamenting the violence against black and brown bodies.

I remember tears of joy when a snowstorm, and then cloudy drugs, postponed the execution of Kelly Gissendaner. I remember vigils at the Georgia Capitol and calls to the governor to ask for mercy and true justice. I remember tears of grief as our community mourned the state’s decision to kill Kelly, despite her beautiful example of redemption and despite the damage the death penalty causes to all of us. 

I remember students, staff, and faculty signing their name to urge grocery chains to treat the farmworkers who pick our tomatoes with dignity. I remember so much joy and celebration when we learned all of our friends could marry the person they loved. I remember professors giving us space in class to lament and process recent terror attacks and discuss a Christian response of love. I remember each time the news portrayed attitudes of fear, hatred, xenophobia, and hostility, my Facebook page was filled with the voices of my community, calling for peace, non-violence, love, and hospitality in the name of Christ.

This community has been a safe place to learn and process. This community has lifted up diverse voices. This community has challenged my comfort. This community has encouraged me to speak up.

I don’t always know how to speak when our public discourse is so filled with division. The media favors the extremes and we too often feed into that polarizing rhetoric. Too often I remain silent to avoid this.

Yet my silence is a sign of my privilege, because no matter if I speak or not my life stays safe and comfortable. While I am quiet, others are suffering. And I realize I am being transformed by God through this community and this unique academic experience. I’m being shaped to go into the world and proclaim the gospel. So I must speak up to share what I'm learning.

I’m learning from my classmates - different denominations, races, and identities. I’m learning from my church - mostly white folks who are loving their refugee neighbors. I’m learning from my professors - people committed to the church and its ongoing vitality.

So I’m grateful for all the moments that have transformed me this year - the moments that have challenged me, inspired me, and encouraged me and are shaping me to go into the world and proclaim the gospel.

I’m grateful to be surrounded by a community that reveals God to me.

...The God of love, peace, mercy, and justice. The God who calls us to love our neighbor and our enemy. The God who made each of us in God’s divine image. The God who is always on the side of the hurting and the vulnerable. The God who desires flourishing and abundant life for all people.

...The God who dwelt among us as in the person Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. Jesus, who taught us not the way of vengeance or violence, but of turning the other cheek and giving up your life for others. Jesus, who ate meals with the marginalized and had no place to lay his head. Jesus, who was born during a genocide, fled as a refugee, and was executed as a criminal by the government. Jesus, who rose again to give hope and new life.

...The God who remains present among us in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, who dwells in all of us, who prays for us when we lack works, who comforts in suffering, and who is making all things new.

Mother and Father God, Savior Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit. Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer...I pray that You will continue to transform me every day, so I might serve you and live according to your will.

- Sophie Callahan

Not a Morning Reflection

How come it seems all the wisest people wake up super early? Blarg. I don't particularly mind being awake in the morning. Last week I was driving before the sun was up. It was pleasant, almost cathartic, to watch the sun rise as I drove south. I like the times I am awake in the morning, but couldn't pin down why I dislike mornings in general, until it hit me: getting out of bed is the worst.

Getting out of bed is the worst because it directly mimics the trauma of being born. Consider this, in the morning, you suddenly move from unconsciousness to consciousness. You've been lying in the fetal position in a warm and inviting, safe, environment. Then all of a sudden, at the beckoning of a loud noise, you are ripped from that comfortable cocoon and thrust into the cold, harsh, noisy real world. I dislike getting out of bed so freaking much. 

I've decided I need a good reflection device for nighttime, as mornings aren't going to do it for me. Last night I found it. I found it during my nightly Netflix scroll. I sat on my couch and pictured this scenario, "If I had to live this exact same day over again, what would I discover that I had missed?" This is not a Groundhog's day scenario where I can do anything else I want. What if I had to live this very same day and same actions again, and again. Or, what if this was my last day to live as a free person, and upon waking up I found myself in solitary confinement forever. This was my last free day on earth to reflect on, forever. 

I dove into my imagination and observed the day through my memories. 

What did I miss? What could I have said? I should have squared my shoulders to talk with the neighbor when she interrupted my mowing. I could have stopped on my run to engage the street worker who looked like he wanted to talk. What did the cut grass smell like? What was the temperature? What were the birds and the squirrels doing? Who did I reply to with short answers that needed longer ones? What did I read? What did I watch? What did I listen to? How can I squeeze any more memory or meaning out of those experiences recently passed? Where was there meaning that I missed the first time? 

So tonight, as you prepare to crumble into bed, I invite you to give it a try. What extra ounce of marrow can you harvest out of this day, this very special and once in a lifetime day? Share, if you dare, what you found that would have been lost in your mind if you had not made this effort to retrieve it. 

More than a day off: A Prayer on Labor Day

For many of us, Labor Day merely signals the start of a new school year or offers a chance for one last BBQ as summer winds down. It's like a bonus Saturday. 

Today, take a moment to reflect on the purpose of this holiday. Labor Day acknowledges the lasting impact of the Labor Movement and the contributions of workers to our country's well-being. 

Workers today are struggling to survive in our economic system. They are underpaid and over worked. There are severe injustices in the treatment of low-wage workers. Keeping in mind God's concern for the poor and desire that all God's children be treated as such, lift up this prayer today. May we be emboldened to pursue a transformative change for workers. 

Living God, we confess that we have not fully accepted the challenge of seeking Your justice in the world. We define justice in ways that preserve our own self-interest, forgetting that Your justice may call us to great sacrifice.

We pray for workers whose wages are so low that they face terrible choices between paying the rent and feeding their families.

God of compassion, hear our prayer.

We pray that the courageous cries of workers for justice will be heard by their employers, by the community, and by our government.

God of compassion, hear our prayer.

We pray for employers in our city, that they will accept their responsibility to pay their workers enough to live.

God of compassion, hear our prayer.

We pray for companies that abuse the dignity of their workers and refuse to see their employees as brothers and sisters.

God of compassion, hear our prayer.

We pray for all the citizens of our community, that we will hold our government and businesses in our community accountable for the ways they treat their workers.

God of compassion, hear our prayer.

Hear now, O God the prayers that we lift to you.

[Rev. Rebekah Jordan, Mid-South Interfaith Network for Economic Justice]

Taking Trophies from Kids

In case you missed it, last week the defensive star for the Pittsburgh Steelers became the most recent flurry of internet heat. James Harrison was quoted as saying that he takes away the participation trophies that are given to his young kids, and I love it. In a time where showing up gets you praise, James is rebelling against the system. That system produced us current floundering twentysomethings, and not with bad intentions. Our parents, by-in-large, had tough, uncompromising parents. Their parents survived things. They fought in wars. They worked in factories, reared kids, and made a way for themselves. Our parents caught the firmness of the back of a belt, and sometimes the verbal, emotional, and physical abuse that came with having to be tough to survive. (This is not an excuse for abusive behavior, just illustrating a general shift in tone for what it meant to be a parent). For previous generations, a life of comfort and following your every pleasure whim were not nearly as socially acceptable as today.

Our parents swung the pendulum too far in the other direction. We were the best, at everything, always. We put drawings on the fridge even if they were not good. We kept “special boxes” of memories that included lots of random T shirts from childhood (actually, the mothers of a couple of my friends gathered all their old special shirts and sewed them into a quilt to they could see all their memories on a special blanket). I actually do think this is kind of cool, and I do wish I had kept my shirts from elementary school, sports, and youth group trips to turn them into a sweet quilt. But that is the problem! (or at least part of it). We swoon, literally, in our childhood accomplishments and we think that showing up warrants a trophy.

In real life, showing up doesn’t get you praised, and in response many of us stopped showing up. Not caring became cool.  Someone famous said that quote about 90% of success is just showing up. Great, but I think where you show up to is the key factor there. I think what you do matters a lot. I like that James Harrison, a man who obviously has a work ethic, is setting the standard higher for his son than just being on the team. Does being on a team take work? Dedication? Conviction? Yes, but those things should be normal things in you, not the things you celebrate. Those attributes should lead you to things worth celebrating, to the formational experiences, and the lasting memories.  

So, can we give trophies? Sure, but how about valuing people for who they really are. At a youth event a couple years ago, we went to a thrift store and bought a ton of trophies from the 80s and 90s. Old bowling trophies. Used BMX bike trophies. Medals given for random field days. When our students won the competitions at the weekend event, we awarded them with the upcycled trophies. Then, the biggest awards of the night went to the people who were “caught being good.” The people who did Christ-like acts of humility, servanthood, and unselfishness got called up and surprised with gift certificates and a huge affirmation.


Action Steps: Maybe the best we can do is call out the ways we see God at work in each other. Often times, I bet others can see God working in and through you before you can see it yourself. This week be quick to notice God at work and tell someone “Amen for your life.” Instead of failing to show up or awarding mere participation, let’s reward the goodness and godliness we see in others.


Top 3: Summer Fiction Reads

I made it my goal to read a smattering of novels before diving back into the theological tomes now resting on my bookshelf (thanks, Amazon...). Here are three of my favorites. 

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. A timely read, considering the recent attention to race relations in the United States, and a beautiful one. Following the story of a Nigerian women who emigrates to the U.S. and learns what it means to be "black" once she arrives, the cultural insights are powerful. Her observations are on point, and challenge my conceptions about my own white privilege and how I relate to others. 

One More Thing by BJ Novak. I would not have expected Ryan from the TV show "The Office" to write such a creative and engaging collection of short stories. But thinking about the smart dialogue of the show, I should not have been surprised. I loved that stories ranged from one paragraph to twenty some pages. Each story had a least one line that hit the nail on some corner of reality or made me think, "I've never noticed that but it is so true." 

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria SempleThis had been recommended by trusted friends as an easy but smart read. When I decided to fit in one more book before school started, I picked this up...and then didn't set it down for three days. Semple's writing is full of wit and satire, as one reads through the correspondence of varying characters to determine what happened when the main character disappears right before a family trip to Antarctica. (Bonus: Semple was a writer for Arrested Development. So if that doesn't sell you...)

Up next for me... The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.

What were your favorite recent reads? What is next on your list?