Grab Bag: As You Wish

For this month’s grab bag, let’s talk about a behind-the-scenes account of one of the most beloved movies of the 20th century: The Princess Bride.


What it’s about: Actor Cary Elwes, who stars in this romantic adventure comedy as the daring Westley, and Joe Layden pull back the curtain for an entertaining read. Readers ride along for the pre-production through the movie release and more. What was it like working with Andre the Giant (Fezzik)? How much of the famed sword fight was real? Did Elwes and Robin Wright (Buttercup) get along?

What I liked: Elwes digs deep into memory and research to bring us this heartwarming memoir of the movie and its impact on fans. He provides enough story-behind-the-story detail that will spur yet another watching with fresh eyes.

And this isn’t a tawdry tell-all that will spoil a fan’s affection for this classic. Elwes writes with obvious care and love.

I’m not crazy about: Having said that, one does wonder if the book hands us a glossed-over account. Almost no mention of any negative element makes its way onto the page. Is it possible that this entire production was that amicable behind the scenes? Again, no real complaints here, but I did wonder.

The bottom line: As You Wish doesn’t disappoint. I breathed a sigh of relief when I finished knowing that one of my favorite movies is even more special to the cast and crew than I realized. The anecdotes prove interesting, and Westley (Elwes) once again saves the day.

What about you? Which movie would you choose if you could read an actor’s account?




Life with God: Wait for It…

We just wanted to relax. You know what I mean?

No high-speed shoot-’em-ups that would spike our blood pressure. Sure, those proved fun most other times, served with a side of popcorn and adrenaline.

by Armando Maynez

by Armando Maynez

But not that night. It had been an achingly long week, and we craved a laid-back movie. Not Mission: Jurassic Avengers, Part 9. No tear-jerkers–no, thank you. Another time, Buster.

And we knew just the movie. The previews promised a low-key, enjoyable story. We settled into the cushy theater seats, and I exhaled.

It started out nice enough. But then the characters grew more intense, more serious.

And then the cliff-hanger of a climax exploded, when all seemed lost for a little boy, no less! Tears threatened to spill down my cheeks. My throat squeezed tight. What happened to our nice Friday night? The storyline seemed hopeless and depressing.

…But then, wait for it…

Hope happened. A sliver here, a ray there. Soon, the nightmare of a storyline faded and the little boy was okay.

I exhaled again.

If only life resolved itself in a jiffy, like the movies. But life is hard, life can feel dark.

Paul, too, reminds us in Ephesians–more than once–of the truth: that life is dark. And hopeless.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins…and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. Eph. 2:1a, 3b HCSB.

But wait for it…

But God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!

And this is real, not some flickering images on a big screen. This is truth and hope for our dark world! And there’s more:

…You were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. Eph. 2:12 HCSB

Wait for it…

But now in Christ Jesus, you were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. Eph. 2:13 HCSB

Who do you know who needs this hope? Who is stuck in the cliffhanger, seemingly hopeless, who you can say: Wait for it! …Wait for Him, who saves us by grace and makes us alive again?

Or maybe it’s you. You need that reminder today.

You need to remember that He’s brought you near through His blood. That he loves and cherishes you.

And that you can exhale, and relax in His arms.


Review: Guys and Dolls

What are your favorite musicals? …The ones you go back to time after time–movie versions, revivals, whatever form?

To date, my list sits short and sweet: Singin’ in the Rain, Holiday Inn, Les Miserables, and Guys and Dolls.


So when a local production company rolled out their version of Guys and Dolls, the classic comedy musical flush with the shenanigans of high rollers in New York, I was all over it.

True, this version’s heritage runs long and laud-worthy. The 1950s movie starring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando reigns as my favorite. And the soundtrack for the 1992 Broadway revival stands the test of time.

That’s a high bar.

I can say gleefully that the cast of the Brownwood Lyric Theatre’s Guys and Dolls more than held their own. From the sets and costumes to the actors and their vocal performances, this version impressed. Bigger-city theatres would be proud to produce a musical of this quality.

Equally impressive stands the Lyric theater itself. A star of Brownwood, Texas from 1914, last year it celebrated its 100th anniversary and unveiled a massive renovation. The theater is gorgeous, and central Texas can count itself lucky to enjoy such a beautiful theater boasting standout perfomances. Read more here: Lyric’s reopening

How about you? Do you like musicals? Which ones?


Grab Bag Monday: Smelly Again

This month I’m switching things up! Today is Grab Bag Monday, and I’m reposting one of my personal favorites from earlier this year. Next Monday you’ll find the monthly review. This week I’ll get to see one of my favorite musicals, and it’ll inspire that review. Have a good week, dear readers.

Which scents do you love?

I’ve been burning a candle this winter called “Alpine Frost.” It’s green and it smells deliciously like pine-covered mountains (big surprise!). The only downside: I want to drop everything and head for the hills each time I fire it up. It draws me in, and not only because I’m a closet pyro.

photo by Nicolas A. Tonelli

photo by Nicolas A. Tonelli

Not only can we enjoy certain aromas around us, but if you’re a Christian (meaning you’ve given your life to Jesus), you are a fragrance. Do you remember this passage, written by Paul in 2 Corinthians 2 (NLT)?

14 But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. 15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.

This unique picture encourages three reminders about carrying the aroma of Christ.

1. It’s powerful. We’ve all noticed good smells. Friends and family laugh when I insist that one of my favorite memories from traveling to England was the heavenly smell of the potatoes there. I’m not kidding. They’re amazing. The aroma of potatoes baking filled one entire little town that we visited before lunch. And all from a small handful of pubs and tea houses.

Scents can be powerful, and so is the Jesus who fills our hearts. Simply by having Christ in us, His powerful presence magnifies His message like an earthquake ricocheting from its epicenter…far and wide. We may feel small, but each step of our feet lands with the might of heaven. The message of Jesus travels farther than we ever imagine, farther than our days take us. His aroma flows through us and beyond.

2. It sticks with a person.  Have you noticed that you still smell like places you’ve been after you’ve left? Sometimes that’s welcome, sometimes it’s not. There’s a chain of convenience stores that fills each town in the region where I live. Spend twenty seconds in one of them, and–no lie–you’ll smell like it the rest of your day. It’s a major commitment to buy a Coke there. That aroma has staying power.

We can affect people the same (but hopefully more pleasant) way. We can share the fragrance of Christ during the briefest of interactions. A kind word, a smile, a door held open…it has staying power. Given more time, people can’t help but take notice that something is different about us. We can point them to Christ more easily than we realize. And it’ll stick with them.

3. Not everyone likes it. Did you notice the u-turn that verse 16a takes? We meander the previous verses like a kid skipping through a lovely flower garden, then…bam! We smell like the grim reaper. “To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom.” What a downer.

But what reality. Not everyone will choose Jesus. Many reject Him. We know this all too well. After someone turns away from the Good News, do you think they want reminders of Him? We Christians come around, and it’s not a pleasant smell to them. We’re like a tuna sandwich left abandoned in a car during a Texas summer day.

But it doesn’t have to send there. We can continue to humbly pester them by showing God’s love, praying that they’ll have a change of heart.

And, as verse 15 shows us, we always smell good to God. And that’s good enough for me.

What do you think? Is it hard or easy to remember that we always “smell like” Jesus wherever we go? Have you ever met someone who didn’t tell you that they were a Christian, but you could sense it in their demeanor?





Time Travel: Independence Day, Fred Astaire Style

It’s the tail end of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, so let’s talk Christmas movies!


Just kidding…a tiny bit, at least.

This last weekend does remind me of one of my favorite Christmas movies, Holiday Inn, which I talked about in this post.

But Holiday Inn covers all holidays, not just Christmas. For Independence Day, Fred Astaire delivers one of his most entertaining performances.

I’ll let you see for yourself in the clip from TCM’s site. Think real firecrackers and jumping feet. My inner pyro gets excited each time I see it.

Keep in mind as you watch that the number took three full days and 80+ takes to get perfect. That helps explain his reaction at the end.

Happy Independence Day!

Watch Fred Astaire’s Firecracker Dance