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Archive for the ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Category

Amid the millions of twinkling lights decorating our Christmas trees and homes, only one light matters: the bright, clear light of the Star of Bethlehem.

Among the colorfully and carefully wrapped boxes and bags, only one gift matters: the gift of love embodied in the tiny baby born that holy night in Bethlehem.

When we give gifts to our family and friends, in some small way we duplicate the same love God gave us through the gift of his son.

But in these tough economic times, we can’t always buy the gifts we want to give. That’s okay. The gift of time, talent and our selves often mean a great deal more to others than a wrapped gift.

So join me on an imaginary journey to the world of Christmas movies where we can help some of our film friends. (How many films do you recognize? The answers are at the end).

(1) The first place I need to go is the post office to help Joe and the guys. Every year they get bags and bags of letters addressed to Santa Claus. Usually they just wait a couple of months and then burn them, but this year Joe got a call from his brother the lawyer. He wants all the letters delivered to General Sessions Court this afternoon.

(2) I also need to deliver dinner to our next-door neighbors. They really are a nice family, though when the old man is down in the basement cussing at the furnace, we can hear him in our living room. His wife is sweet and does a great job raising her two boys, even if she goes a little overboard with their winter clothes. Anyway, since our darling hounds got loose on Christmas morning, found their way into their kitchen and demolished their turkey, the least we can do is take them a meatloaf and a cherry pie.

(3) We should take some cookies down to George at the Savings & Loan. Earlier this year when my restaurant and bar wasn’t doing too good, he let me just pay the interest on my loan. We had worked so hard to move out of that old rental and into our own home, we were afraid George would foreclose. But he understood and saw us through the tough times until business picked back up. That’s certainly worth a plate of Momma’s best biscottis.

(4) I also need to talk to my business partner about how we treat our employees. When it was just the two of us, working long hours and scrimping on operating expenses (utilities, office supplies, etc.) made a lot of sense. But ever since we hired Bob, I’m reconsidering our “profits at all costs” business practices. As partners, we have more than enough money and a responsibility to help the less fortunate. We should give Bob a raise so he can buy a nice Christmas goose for his family. I will talk to Ebby this afternoon, after I see the doctor about this pain in my jaw.

(5) Despite the inconvenience of travelling on Christmas Eve, I think we need to drive up to Vermont for the reunion. Bob can be very persuasive when he puts his mind to it; I guess that’s what made him a good captain. I hear the roads should be clear since there’s not much snow. It will be great to see everyone from the battalion, especially the Old Man. Looks like we’re still following him, wherever he wants to go.

(6) As for our other neighbors, there are lots of things I can do: Luther needs help putting Frosty on his roof, even though it’s almost Christmas. (7) Clark needs help trimming that huge tree he cut down in the forest yesterday. I hope he checks it for squirrels. (8) I’m sure Buddy needs to borrow a couple of long extension cords so he can plug in all those lights. Does he really think his house will be seen from space?

(9) I wonder how my friend Walter is doing these days. Ever since he became the general manager of that publishing company, I haven’t seen him around the neighborhood much. I know his son Michael would like to spend more time with his dad. Perhaps I could edit that new children’s book so he can get home earlier and eat dinner with his family. Spending time with children, especially during Christmas, keeps you young. It puts back some of the Christmas joy you felt when you were a kid. More grown-ups should really enjoy the holidays – like that happy fellow downtown in the green jacket and yellow tights waving at everyone.

So as we continue to celebrate the Octave of Christmas, let’s keep the spirit of Christmas alive in all we do for our family, friends and those less fortunate.

Merry Christmas everyone!

CF
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First published in the December 25, 2009 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2009 Christopher Fenoglio

Christopher Fenoglio writes and dreams of a white Christmas from his home in beautiful Bellevue, TN

ANSWERS
(1) Miracle on 34th Street (2) A Christmas Story (3) It’s a Wonderful Life (4) A Christmas Carol (5) White Christmas (6) Christmas with the Kranks (7) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (8) Deck the Halls (9) Elf

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In each Reel Life Journeys column, I try to illustrate a moral theme or Christian teaching with examples from films and family life.

I often use examples from science fiction and fantasy films, as I really enjoy the complexity and symbolism found in The Lord of the Rings, Superman, Back to the Future, etc.

Lately, however, I have enjoyed a genre of film that some may label as pure fantasy—romantic comedies. Granted, some of the plot devices are rather far-fetched. Would you really fly from Baltimore to Seattle to meet an insomniac with a nice radio voice? But these are very entertaining films that touch on fundamental human needs—to love and to be loved.

The next time you watch these films, think about the love lessons contained within.

Romantic comediesAfter another sleepless night in Seattle, Sam recounts the magical moment when he took his wife’s hand as she was getting out of a cab. It’s probably the same feeling he feels when he takes Annie’s hand as they leave the Observation Desk of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day.

The spark of romance, a magical moment happens all the time when couples get together. Keeping the romance alive, however, takes kindness, communication and an active decision to love one another.

Asleep under shooting stars, I dream of a love unseen, a prayer yet unanswered.

When Harry met Sally, there was no magic or mutual attraction. They didn’t even think it was possible for a man and a woman to be true friends without a sexual relationship present. But friends they become, true friends who look after and support each other. Later, when their own love blossoms, it is based upon a solid foundation of friendship and support.

Over the hills comes the dawn, a soft and warm glow that pushes the night away and wakes my world.

Mary Hatch always had a hard time deciding what ice cream to order at Mr. Gower’s Drugstore. She was content to just listen to the boy behind the counter talk about exploring foreign lands, building tall skyscrapers and making lots of money to enjoy the finer things of life.

Unfortunately, he never gets the opportunities to travel, to design and create, or make a lot of money. Yet Mary always believes in him and supports him throughout their wonderful life together. “George Bailey,” she whispers into his bad ear, “I’ll love you ‘till the day I die.”

High into the morning sky climbs the light, creating new life and fulfilling my dreams.

It was difficult for Cathy and Caleb to live in the same house without angry arguments breaking the stone-cold silence. Both are successful in their stressful jobs—Cathy receives high praise for her hospital PR work while Caleb is a leader at the fire hall. But neither does a very good job at fireproofing their marriage. Their competing egos are two sparks that threaten to consume their union in flames.

Fortunately, they don’t give up. Caleb takes the Love Dare and finds new ways to relate to his wife. More importantly, he rediscovers his own faith. Once he knows the love of Jesus the Christ in his heart, Caleb is able to share it with his wife. Together they base their relationship on this everlasting love, an unquenchable fire that powers their marriage. (Fireproof is not a comedy, but a dramatic film every married couple should watch together.)

In the heat of mid-day shadows disappear, roots grow deep, and faces turn up to bathe in the love.

Noah doesn’t give up either. He fell in love the first time he saw Allie at the county fair. He stays in love with her even when she leaves town to marry a rich, well-connected lawyer. Noah remains at home and rebuilds his house.

When Allie returns, they consecrate their love in marriage and build a family. Even as they grow older and Allie stops remembering who he is, Noah still loves and cares for her. He sits in her room each day and reads the stories of their youth from his notebook. He waits for the magical moment when she will recognize him again and they can reconnect the love in their two hearts.

The light of this love is reflected from our faces onto our family and friends.

My wife and I recently celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, a milestone reached undoubtedly with the help of the love lessons from these films. At our wedding, I sang “Ave Maria” as Linda placed a rose on Mary’s altar. We both asked Our Blessed Mother for her guidance, strength and love. We share this faith and love with each other, an eternal bond between us like the circular rings we wear.

Thank you, Linda, for the magic, the friendship, the support, the hard work and faithful love after all these years. Always remember… I love you.

There are still ages to live and miles to go until the long day closes. Hand in hand we’ll walk our real life journey, together in the Light.

CF
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First published in the May 15, 2009 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2009 Christopher Fenoglio

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Keep in the middle of the road. – Negro spiritual
According to news reports, last Monday (Jan. 23) was the gloomiest day of 2006.

With dreary weather, letdowns from the joyous holidays, the realization that you’ve already broken your New Year’s resolution and the mail delivery of December credit card bills, many folks would feel overwhelmed and depressed.

In these times of despair, it’s very easy to think how things could be different if only some good fortune came your way. A new job, more money, a new . . . something to make your life better than the way it is now.

Yet, there’s always a catch – the grass only seems greener on the other side of the fence. What you imagine to be a better situation usually turns out to have its own set of problems.

It’s like switching lanes, in traffic or at the store. Ever notice how the first lane you were in moves quicker after you leave it? You’re better off staying put and seeing your temporary setbacks through to the end.

Reporter Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) never wanted to stay put in the film Bruce Almighty. Despite a television reporting career that often made viewers laugh and smile, Bruce wanted more. He wanted an important job that would give him more prestige, money and power.

BruceAfter he is bypassed for the news anchor position, Bruce challenges God (Morgan Freeman) and proclaims that he could do a better job. God decides to let him prove it by giving Bruce all His powers and makes him responsible for everyone’s prayers.

For a while, Bruce is flying high with his new powers and gets everything he wants. He creates favorable traffic patterns, he sabotages his co-worker to get the anchor job, and he even successfully trains his dog.

But this new high doesn’t last forever. He gets overwhelmed with answering prayers and his quick solution to give everyone what they want just causes more problems.

Bruce only finds happiness when he understands how his work brings joy to other people and when he truly listens to the needs of his girlfriend Grace (Jennifer Anniston). Bruce journeys from the highs of almighty powers back to a happy middle of the road.

Conversely, George Bailey experiences a similar journey in It’s a Wonderful Life, but one that hits bottom first before returning to a happy middle ground.

Wonderful LifeAfter George (Jimmy Stewart) accepts responsibility for Uncle Billy’s misplacement of the $8,000, he decides that everyone would be better off if they could collect $15,000 from his life insurance policy. After Clarence (Angel 2nd Class) visits and tries to steer him away from suicide, George ultimately decides that it would have been best if he had never been born.

But as he soon finds out, the world is a lot worse without the influence of George Bailey. Without him, Mr. Gower poisons a boy and spends twenty years in jail. Harry Bailey dies from drowning in an icy pond and dozens of soldiers die from an air raid of a military transport. The charming town of Bedford Falls becomes a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah called Pottersville. Even the loving heart of Mary Hatch (Donna Reed) withers from inactivity – no husband, no home, no children to nourish, cherish and enjoy.

George finally realizes that his life is worth living, even if he has to go to jail. He’d rather live his middle-class life with his loving family, friends and all his troubles than live without them. As his brother Harry toasts the final scene, George is “the richest man in town” because of all of his friends and the good that he does in his life.

No matter what your life situation is, everyone experiences emotional highs and lows. How well we respond to both ends of the emotional roller coaster says a lot about our character and our faith. Of course there’s always room for improvement, for we are only human. We can always work to be more Christ-like.

But life in the middle is good, for it keeps us connected to our family, friends and a merciful God who loves us for who we are today.

There’s a song in the middle of the film White Christmas that Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) sings to Betty Haynes (Rosemary Clooney) when she has trouble sleeping. “When my bankroll is getting small, I think of when I had none at all, and I fall asleep, counting my blessings.”

Here’s to a happy 2006. May you always find happiness in the blessings God has given you.

CF
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First published in the January 27, 2006 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2006 Christopher Fenoglio.

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