"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

"Getting younger may be worse than getting older" could be the subtitle to this movie. Benjamin (Brad Pitt) was born with all the physical signs of old age in an infant-sized body. He grows, but analogous to the reverse-running clock that serves as the movie’s metaphor, he physically gets younger each day. Benjamin forms a lifelong bond with Daisy (Cate Blanchett) which becomes both beautiful and tragic.

Not everyone will want to watch a slow-paced, nearly three-hour movie with a somewhat predictable plot, but the individual performances and the script kept me engaged. Having only seen Pitt in movies such as “Ocean’s 11, 12, and 13” and “Mr. and Mr. Smith,” I was pleased to see how much range he has. I was previously impressed with Cate Blanchett in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, as well as in the latest “Indiana Jones” movie, and I found myself liking her even more in this film.

While this narrated epic tale has elicited comparisons to “Forrest Gump,” the similarity I found most obvious was in the mothers of the title characters. These two women were always proud of their sons and believed in them when others did not. And the episodic relationship of Benjamin and Daisy can’t help but make one think of Forrest and Jenny.

“Curious Case” helps us gain a new perspective on our culture’s craving to be and look younger. Benjamin's unstoppable march toward his youth becomes a curse rather than a blessing. It also magnifies Daisy's self-consciousness about aging. Given the plethora of age-defying products on the market, I'm sure many women can identify with Daisy's predicament. And so will many of us men.

The film’s portrayal of faith is worth commenting on. The sleazy faith-healer who commanded the young, but old-bodied Benjamin to rise up and walk (“like Lazarus from the grave”) clearly operated on the power of suggestion rather than the supernatural. The only act of God in this scene, as defined by Benjamin the narrator, was the faith-healer’s sudden death. In a world where life is not fair, this is seen as evidence of divine justice.

"Curious Case" deserves its PG-13 rating. There’s a scene of Benjamin visiting a brothel and more than one incident of adultery and unmarried sex, though not graphically portrayed. It shows the backside of a nude, senile, senior citizen raising the U.S. flag, and I remember one F-bomb.

While I enjoyed the movie, I asked myself if I’d like to watch it again soon. Probably not. I can’t imagine it becoming as popular as “Forrest Gump.” But it’s worth seeing at least once. Maybe twice.


Lord, I am listening

I would like to share with you as a gift this Christmas the lyrics to a song I wrote last year. It is written as a prayer. You may find it helpful to use it in your prayer time. Some of you heard it at our banquet in November 2007. -st


Lord, I am listening;
Holy Spirit, stir in me.
Lord, I am listening;
hushed, I wait for you to speak.

Verse 1:
Let me sense your whisper,
nudging, rustling in my soul.
Tune me to your prompting;
sift out any lesser goal.

Lord, I am listening;
Holy Spirit, stir in me.
Lord, I am listening;
hushed, I wait for you to speak.

Verse 2:
Plant your thoughts in my thoughts;
your will is my first desire.
Pour in me your passion
till your Word becomes a fire,
bursting from my heart.

Humbly, patiently,
Boldly, constantly,
Lord, I am listening to you.

Waiting hopefully,
Bravely, restlessly.
Lord, I need to hear from you.

Verse 3:
Silence my distractions;
show me an eternal view.
No more empty doing:
busy but not hearing you.

Final chorus:

Lord, I am listening.

Lord, I am listening.

Lord, I am listening.

Lord, I am listening.


A saint of a guy

In the 4th century when Christ-followers first began to celebrate Advent, the whole idea of gift-giving wasn’t a part of it, except in giving to those in need.

One young man during this period was a leader of the church in his area. He was raised by godly parents, but when he was young his parents died in an epidemic. His parents had been wealthy business people, and they left him a large inheritance. He used his entire fortune to help others: the needy and the sick and the suffering.

When I celebrate Advent and Christmas, I want to take some steps to be more like that guy. And if someday I’m needy or sick or suffering, I’ll be thankful there are Christ-followers like him still around.

This particular man lived in a town on the southern coast of Turkey. His parents gave him the name Nikolaus. And though the Catholic Church never officially canonized him as a saint, he was regarded as a saint in the hearts of people. It’s no surprise that his name is still associated with Christmas today.

And contrary to the commercials you see on TV, he’s not in his workshop putting the finishing touches on a 2009 Mercedes-Benz to park in some lucky person’s driveway. That’s not how Nikolaus used his wealth.