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Though I enjoy watching new movies, I love to watch certain movies again and again, depending on the calendar.

In the fall I imagine I am sitting in Notre Dame Stadium, chanting with the crowd “Rudy, Rudy.” At Christmas I am shopping in Bedford Falls and discussing my wonderful life with George Bailey. As spring approaches, I am helping Ray Kinsella plow up his corn and build his field of dreams.

The Passion of the ChristI look forward to these films and the happy mood they put me in. However, every Lent I make a concerted effort to watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Unlike the other films, this one puts me in a somber, reflective mood that’s perfect as I prepare for Holy Week.

It helps that Mel Gibson and his production team took great measures to create a realistic portrayal of Roman-occupied Jerusalem and the dramatic events during that first Holy Week.

Artistic inspiration
When you watch Gibson’s film, it looks like you have stepped into a painting by Caravaggio, an Italian painter during the Baroque period. Like the painter, the filmmakers used multiple lighting schemes, such as the shades of blue in Gethsemane or shades of gold in the Temple, to create specific moods or “emotional realities” throughout the film. The use of slow motion techniques adds to these moods.

To stage the dramatic last scene of the crucifixion sequence, Gibson used the painting “The Pieta” by French artist William Bouguereau for inspiration. After Jesus is taken down from the cross, Mary holds the crucified Christ. The painting and the final scene show Mary, not looking at Jesus, but straight at us with a far-away look in her eyes. She is strong; she does not break down like other women, but the pain is there. “Both the painting and this scene have the same essence, the same look in Mary’s eyes, sort of a pleading grief, full of pain,” says Gibson in the DVD extras.

Languages and subtitles
The film’s dialogue was recorded in two of the languages spoken at that time: Aramaic and Latin, along with English subtitles. “Using Aramaic and Latin brings people backward in time” says Rev. William J. Fulco, a Jesuit language scholar who served as the film’s translator. “We are like flies on the wall to the Jesus event.”

The filmmakers also used the languages to artistically convey a depth to Jesus’ personality and his conviction to complete his task. When Jesus appears before Pontius Pilate for the first time, Pilate addresses him in Aramaic. As a good administrator stationed in Jerusalem for eleven years, Pilate would have known the local dialect. Pilate asks him in Aramaic “Are you the King of the Jews?” However, Jesus answers Pilate in Latin. The filmmakers wanted to show that Jesus knew what Pilate was doing and that he was trying to beat Pilate at his own game.

Storytelling
Throughout the story arc that starts in Gethsemane and ends on Calvary, there are short flashbacks to earlier times in Jesus’ life. When Pilate is washing his hands, Jesus recalls the day before when he washed his hands before the Last Supper and broke bread with his disciples. As Jesus nears the large hill of Calvary, he remembers standing on a hill, teaching the people to “love your enemies” and to pray for them.

One of the most poignant moments is when Jesus carries the cross and falls for the second time. His mother Mary runs to him, just as she did many years ago when a young Jesus tripped and fell. “I’m here,” she tells him. Jesus, like all children, confides in his mother. Taking her face in his hand, he utters a line from the Book of Revelation: “See, mother, I make all things new.”

Special effects
The filmmakers used special makeup and visual effects to realistically depict the wounds Jesus received during the scourging and the crucifixion. Makeup sessions for Jim Caviezel (who portrayed Jesus) lasted anywhere between three to eight hours. During this time, the makeup artists applied large sheets of rubber prosthetic wounds all over his body. Then in post production work, computer artists applied “digital skin” patches that covered up the wounds. As a Roman guard swung a cane or a digital whip and appeared to hit Jesus, the skin patch was digitally wiped away, revealing the artificial wounds underneath.

“One of the biggest struggles was trying to make the make the makeup as real as possible and at the same time retain a human element, something the audience could connect to,” says Christien Tinsley, one of the makeup artists.

Whenever I watch The Passion of the Christ, I feel shock, despair, embarrassment and amazement. The film helps me understand, ever so slightly, how terrible the crucifixion must have been for our Lord.

Since he endured this suffering for me, the least I can do every Lenten season is watch the film, try to understand what he went through, and then dedicate my life to be more like him. That is my reel life journey.

It can be yours, too.

CF


Originally published in the March 19, 2010 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2010 Christopher Fenoglio

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I am alone again, walking with quiet prayers at the beginning of Lent.

Trees tower over me, man-made planes glide above me and prehistoric stars shine upon me. Here on earth, amidst all manner of beings, I realize that I am just one small person. Where do I fit in? What good can I do?

I am Scott Carey at the end of The Incredible Shrinking Man. A successful businessman, he spends restful weekends on the lake. One day his boat goes through a cloud of radioactive pesticides. Weeks later, he realizes his dress shirts are all too big.

His wife thinks he’s silly, that no one shrinks in such a short period of time. She used to reach up to kiss him. Now they look each other in the eye.

He continues to downsize and can no longer be a success in his job. His marriage suffers greatly from his condition. He moves out of their bedroom into the two-story dollhouse down the hall.

Once he battled business executives; now he battles mice and spiders with a long spear fastened from a safety pin. He forages for leftover cheese in traps. He continues to shrink and questions his place in the changing world.

I am very small. What good can I do?

I am Pat Kramer in The Incredible Shrinking Woman. The parent of three, she lives in the Tasty Meadows subdivision where all her neighbors rave about the new products they just purchased.

“Hey Pat, you gotta try Camper Clean.” “Hi Pat, have some of this Cheese Tease.” “Pat, you’ve got to get some of this stuff for your lawn.” She knows these products well because her husband’s agency wrote most of the advertisements.

One day she is exposed to a strange combination of household chemicals, including Galaxy Glue. She begins to shrink and has to move into a dollhouse. Her husband and the product scientists can’t explain her condition. She reaches a stage where she can no longer fulfill her duties as a parent and a spouse.

I am very small. What good can I do?

I am Kevin Flynn in Tron. He once created video games that are wildly popular and profitable. Unfortunately, a co-worker stole his programs and leapt above him to the top of the corporate ladder.

One night while searching for incriminating evidence against his rival, Flynn is digitized and transferred inside the company’s computer system. He sees for himself the vast Internet and social networks that connect hundreds of millions of people to each other.

He meets other beings – software programs who fight against the oppression of the Master Control Program (MCP). Flynn joins the fight to break through the firewalls, defeat the attack forces and destroys the MCP, thereby opening the system and networks to all users. In the process, he restores his good name and career standing.

I am very small, but during my walk, I realize what good I can do.

My focus will no longer be centered on business. I will care less about new products and what the neighbors have. Instead of spending hours on social networks, I will be content with a good book in hand. No longer must I measure myself against others in this world.

I turn inward and remember that I was once baptized and sanctified with the Living Water. I focus on little acts during Lent that remind me of that sanctification, that holiness.

I fast, I pray, I confess.

I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

These little acts cleanse my soul and lift my spirits.

I am very small; a tiny acorn nestled in the warm earth near the headwaters of God’s love. I trust in the truth that this everlasting love is for me.

My soul bursts forth from the glory of this truth. My roots extend far and deep into the living water. With this endless, nourishing love, I grow tall through the seasons. My leaves stay green and provide cool shade to others. Though the earth is parched around me, my branches grow large and bear fruit for others to eat.

If a boy needs my apples to sell for money, he can have them. Should he return for my branches to build a home, he can take them. If he wants my trunk to build a boat and sail away, he can have it. If he just wants to rest his weary bones on my tired old stump, let him rest.

For I am happy. I am alive with God’s love. I no longer feel small.

CF


Christopher Fenoglio watches films and reads books like The Giving Tree at his home in Bellevue. This column was originally published in the February 19, 2010 issue of The Tennessee Register. © 2010 Christopher Fenoglio

Roger is depressed.

Limping down the high school halls, he feels invisible to his fellow students. “The only time they notice me,” Roger writes on his web page at night, “is when they make fun of the way I walk.”

He has very few friends and none he would call a best friend. He had a best friend once, in grade school, a buddy who rode bikes with him all over the neighborhood. One day while they were standing in the street, a car sped toward them. He pushed his buddy to safety but the car hit Roger in the leg. He would forever walk with a limp.

The two friends went to high school together but they drifted apart freshman year. Roger tried to make new friends at a teen group at church, but it didn’t work out. Nobody has time for him, nobody notices him.

The next day Roger carries a gun into school and stands again in the crowded hallway. He raises the gun and fires three shots into the ceiling. Now he has their attention. Resigned to his fate, he raises the gun to his jaw and takes his own life.

Amy is scared.

Fear is a rare feeling for her because she usually has everything together. A beautiful blonde cheerleader, she has tons of friends and dates the star basketball player.

She would do anything for him. If he’s going across the country to college, then she wants to go too. If he wants to go to the gang’s Friday night drinking parties, then she is right there with him. They are champions of the beer pong table.

During one wild party, they sneak upstairs and jump into bed together. Six weeks later, the positive pregnancy test changes everything. Now she’s afraid about her future and doesn’t know where to turn. She’s even afraid to talk to her mother. Resigned to her fate, she drives to the abortion clinic to take a life.

Jonny is lonely.

He usually spends his lunch hour sitting by himself, doodling in his notebook. He is so shy that it’s hard to start a conversation, especially with someone he doesn’t know. Besides, no one will understand him. People will just see the knife wounds on his wrist and think he’s psycho. Will life get any better?

His first attempt at suicide failed when his mother got home early from work. But ever since Roger did it, he’s thinking about it again.

One day at school, the cops show up and accuse him of phoning in a bomb threat. They look at his long hair and dark clothes. They freak when they see his doodles – airplanes dropping bombs on buildings and people. As they take him away in the squad car, Jonny slips deeper and deeper into despair. Resigned to his fate, he opens a bottle of pills and prepares to take his own life.

Jake is confused.

He used to think his life was perfect. The star of his basketball team, he has a scholarship to play for his favorite college team. He dates the prettiest cheerleader and is the king of the Friday night parties. Life couldn’t get any better.

That all changed when Roger killed himself. Why did they stop being friends? Could he have stopped Roger if they still hung out together? He has a ton of unanswered questions. Will someone listen?

Things get worse when he finds out his girlfriend is pregnant and his parents are considering a divorce. What do I do now? Will someone help me?

Jake, however, is not resigned to his fate.

He reaches out to the youth group minister at church, who seems pretty cool. Jake starts to recognize the emptiness in his life. Partying with friends, laughing at other people, caring only about himself – these are just shallow, self-indulgent acts. They may feel good at the moment, but they eventually separate and isolate him from others in school, from the surrounding community, from the Body of Christ.

As he grows more confident in his convictions, Jake reaches out to others. He visits Roger’s mother and they talk about fond memories. He meets new friends at school and invites them to sit together at lunch. He befriends Jonny and offers him a connection to other friends. He rushes to the clinic and convinces Amy that adoption is a better solution to abortion.

Sure, he has to postpone his college plans for a year, but it doesn’t ruin his life. In fact, it makes him stronger and more appreciative of his choices and the life he has made for himself.

The new film “To Save a Life” opens in theaters this weekend with great interest among teens and high school teachers across the country.

“One of the many things I love about the movie is how it portrays in a very real, non-cheesy way the different pressures teenagers face. It opens doors for students to talk with trusted leaders on where they see themselves in the story,” says Doug Fields, founder of Simply Youth Ministry and author of Purpose Driven Youth Ministry.

See this film with a friend and recommend it to your classmates. Reach out, connect and share God’s love with others. You just may save a life.

CF
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First published in the January 22, 2010 issue of The Tennessee Register. © 2010 Christopher Fenoglio

Read more, find tickets, rock the music, get the gear, express yourself and do more at www.tosavealifemovie.com.

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

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” –Matthew 25:40

Seven years ago in Memphis, Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy were driving to their large home in a gated community when they saw a student walking alongside of the road.

Michael Oher, who grew up in the poverty-stricken area of the city called Hurt Village, had recently become a classmate of the Tuohy’s daughter Collins at Briarcrest Christian School.

At first glance, he was an intimidating figure, measuring more than six feet tall and weighing close to 250 pounds. But when the Tuohys looked closer, they saw a teenage boy shivering in the cold, rainy night, wearing only shorts and a t-shirt.

They stopped the car, opened their door and gave Michael a place to stay for the night. It turns out their gift was a brand new life.

Now in theaters, the film The Blind Side depicts the real-life events surrounding the Tuohys’ decision to welcome Michael into their lives on that cold, winter night.

The Tuohys gave Michael a warm bed, comfortable clothes and a stable, loving family environment in which he could thrive. With their support and the help of a tutor, Michael raised his grade point average at Briarcrest to a level that qualified him to play football.

Michael was assigned the important position of left tackle, a position that must protect the quarterback from defensive players on the left – the quarterback’s “blind side.”

He excelled on the gridiron and was courted by many of the coaches in the Southeastern Conference. He enrolled at Ole Miss, was named First Team Freshman All-American and made the Dean’s List his sophomore year. As a senior, he again made the Dean’s List and earned a degree in criminal justice. He was named First Team All-American and was a first-round pick in the NFL draft. He currently starts at tackle for the Baltimore Ravens.

Michael’s life was drastically changed when he got in the Tuohy’s car, but the Tuohys look at that night differently. “I think Michael had a much greater impact on our lives than we did on his,” Leigh Anne said in film press materials. “You take so much in life for granted, but when Michael moved in with us, he made us realize how blessed we are. We viewed life differently after he joined our family.”

I think the Tuohys looked at life differently before Michael got into the car. They looked beyond their comfortable point of view and saw a boy from a different area of town who needed their help. They didn’t want or need the approval of their socialite friends to help the young man. They weren’t bound by unspoken rules that segregated the rich from the poor, the black from the white. They didn’t have a blind side.

What about us? When we show compassion to others or help someone less fortunate than ourselves, how far out of our comfort zone do we go? Do we look at the world around us in 360 degrees or just through that narrow line of vision that is easy and comfortable?

Jesus reminded us in last week’s gospel that his kingdom is not of this world. To follow in his footsteps and truly live by his example, we must be free of worldly restraints.

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24)

In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, also in theaters now, Ebeneezer Scrooge is startled by the ponderous, heavy chain wrapped around the ghost of Jacob Marley, his late partner. Marley forged the chain himself through a life of disreputable business affairs and by ignoring the needs of those less fortunate. Scrooge learns that his own chain was the same length and weight seven years ago, and had grown considerably since then.

Later on, Scrooge receives a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Present – the jolly figure of Father Christmas who represents the fullness of life. Clinging to the underside of his opulent coat are two frail and helpless figures: a girl named Want and a boy named Ignorance. According to Father Christmas, “upon them lies the seal of Doom for mankind” unless their future is changed.

Ebeneezer learns a valuable lesson during his dreams: apathy can be as powerful a societal evil as criminal behavior. Fortunately for him, Tiny Tim and others in their fair village, Ebeneezer did not remain a passive bystander to mankind’s plight. Instead of condemning the less fortunate to a miserable life in the prisons and workhouses, he uses his time, talents and treasure to help others build a better life for themselves.

It’s a lesson Leigh Anne Touhy already knew. Fortunately for Michael Oher (and now us), she put the lesson into action on that cold, rainy night seven years ago in Memphis.

CF
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First published in the November 27, 2009 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2009 Christopher Fenoglio

Dear Dad,

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written. I hope you are doing well.

Halloween is this weekend so there are lots of scary movies on TV and in the theaters. They remind me of Saturday nights when we lived in Rockford, Ill.

Remember how the whole family would sit on the family room sofa in front of the TV? We’d turn out the lights so the room would be pitch black when we watched “Creature Features.” It was fun and scary at the same time.

One night we were watching The Mummy and during a commercial you left to use the bathroom. When you walked menacingly back into the room, we saw that you had wrapped toilet paper around your head and arms, just like the mummy.

You startled us, but then we laughed. We weren’t afraid any more. Thanks, Dad.

Of course some horror films are so predictable, you can’t help but laugh. “Don’t go in there,” we’d yell, but it was too late. Whatever was waiting inside that dark room would soon make its presence known.

The films that scared me the most were those based upon a realistic premise, especially pseudo-religious films like The Omen and The Exorcist.

When I was finally old enough to watch these films on my own VCR, I got so wrapped up in the films’ pageantry of ancient rituals that I had to repeat “It’s only a movie, it’s only a movie.”

The ExorcistThe Exorcist begins in Northern Iraq where Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) is leading an archeological dig for religious relics. He finds a modern-day St. Joseph medal near a small statue of the demon Pazuzu, an ancient Sumerian demigod.

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in Washington, DC, Father Karras (Jason Miller) is battling a crisis of faith in the wake of his mother’s death.

Nearby in the quiet suburb of Georgetown, Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) acts in a film during the day and returns to her rented condo and daughter Regan (Linda Blair) at night. When Regan becomes ill and then psychologically disturbed, Chris contacts Father Karras for help.

After a number of interviews and extraordinary events, Father Karras believes the girl is possessed and petitions the bishop for permission to perform an exorcism. The bishop sends in the experienced Father Merrin, along with Father Karras, to heal the young girl.

According to our cathechism, exorcism, in its simple form, “is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called ‘a major exorcism,’ can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church.” (Ch. 4, Art. 1, #1673 – Cathechism of the Catholic Church, USCCB)

Decades later, the film continues to thrill and frighten viewers. In its archive of film reviews, the film, the Office for Film and Broadcasting of the USCCB states: “Directed by William Friedkin, the movie is on shaky ground theologically and its special effects are horrific but the result is an exciting horror fantasy for those with strong stomachs. Its graphic violence, obscene references and foul language make it strictly adult fare. (A-IV)

Dad, when I was a seminarian at Mundelein, I heard stories about The Exorcist. Author William Peter Blatty visited campus many times, using the vast library resources to research his novel. According to the tales, while he was reading about the rites of exorcism, books fell off shelves when no one was around; gusts of wind blew past him when no windows were open. Could those tales be true?

My favorite scary movies are the ones about the afterlife – movies like Ghost, The Frighteners, The Sixth Sense. Is it possible that our human senses cannot perceive the dimension in which spirits walk among us on earth? We can’t see radio waves or cellular phone signals, but they real, crisscrossing the air all around us.

What if I could see those radio waves? Would I be able to see you Dad? It’s been four years since you left us and I still dream about you. Once I woke up hearing your voice, asking me to take care of Mom.

Were you next to me when you spoke? Is that state halfway between sleep and full consciousness a doorway to where you are?

You could be here in the same room with me right now, checking in before you go back to sit with Mom. Somehow it’s comforting and I’m not afraid any more.

Dad, do you want to watch a movie?

CF
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First published in the October 30, 2009 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2009 Christopher Fenoglio

Christopher Fenoglio lives at the end of a dark, dead-end street in the sleepy community of Bellevue near Nashville. Comment on this or other posts now – if you dare.

Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’ – into the future. – Steve Miller Band

For Henry DeTamble, the traveler in the book/film The Time Traveler’s Wife, time can slip into the past.

Henry (Eric Bana) suffers from a fanciful genetic disorder called chrono impairment, which means his body sometimes jumps to another time. He can’t control the time jumps and they usually happen at the most inopportune times – at work in the library, at home in the kitchen as he washes dishes, even on his wedding day.

To make matters much worse, it’s only his body that jumps, leaving the clothes he was wearing in a heap on the floor. When he appears in the new time, he must scrounge around for clothes and food to survive until he jumps back to his regular time.

Extraordinary things happen to him, yet he is unable to control time or prevent tragic events.

I am eight-years-old, standing next to my father at his desk and staring at the glowing green dial of his shortwave radio. Dad grew up in the radio generation when ballgames, presidential speeches and world-changing news could first be heard over the analog airwaves.

“Listen to this,” he says with a smile. “We can set our watches by the most accurate clock on the planet.” He slowly turns the dial through the different frequencies until he hears a series of metronome-like tones. “Beep…beep…beep…bong. The time is now fourteen minutes after the hour, Greenwich Mean Time.”

“That’s the radio signal from Greenwich, England,” he tells me. “Greenwich Mean Time is the standard used around the world.”

Half way around the world and in our Illinois home, time marches on, unabated.

Time Travelers WifeHenry’s wife during his time-jumping adventures is Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams), the person Henry sees when he first time jumps. But when he meets her, he can’t talk about his chrono impairment because Clare is only nine-years-old. Unlike Henry, Clare’s life moves forward in a straight time line. As she matures, she meets many different versions of Henry, some old, some younger.

Intrigued and amused, Clare grows to support the time traveler by leaving old clothes and shoes on a nearby rock for the next time he appears. Despite the changing differences in their years, Clare soon falls in love with Henry.

Later in life, she asks him why he jumps so often to times and places around her. He explains that important people in your life just pull you in, like gravity.

I suspect it’s the same with special family moments we hold dearly in our memories.

I am 35-years-old, standing in the foggy bathroom with a big towel in hand, waiting to dry my boys after their evening bath. However, they are having a big time sliding down the back of the tub.

“Dad, put more water in,” says Connor as Tommy screams “weeeeee” and slides down the slippery slope, crashing into Connor. They fall over each other with big laughs and wide, bright eyes.

I surrender my needs and let their joyous laughter wash over me. It lifts my spirits immediately. I am young again.

In the film Footloose, Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) reads from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes to convince everyone that the high school students should be allowed to hold a dance.

“There is an appointed time for everything and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to be born and a time to die…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

This passage is more than just a list of everyday events; it’s a statement that nothing can prevent these events from happening. Our lives flow on in our own straight time line. We can stop time from advancing about as well as stopping the waves from rolling onto the beach.

A more important verse in Ecclesiastes follows the list, describing how God “has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into (our) hearts, without man ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done.”

With all our digital watches, cell phones and Internet links to synchronize to Coordinated Universal Time, we may think we know the correct time. But we are timeless; we cannot predict when things will happen in God’s time.

We can, however, begin to understand God’s time through prayer. In our quiet prayers, the weeping, dancing, mourning and laughter of this world fades away. Our prayers transcend our time and look beyond. We slowly turn the dial, looking for the constant signal of God’s love.

Once we find the right frequency, we can switch off our internal chronometers and experience the sweet surrender to God’s time.

I want to fly like an eagle, to the sea. Fly like an eagle, let my spirit carry me.

CF

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Christopher Fenoglio listens to classic rock and watches movies at his home in Bellevue. First published in the October 2, 2009 issue of The Tennessee Register. © 2009 Christopher Fenoglio.