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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Review: The Corruptible by Mark Mynheir

Gritty detectives, grisly murder scenes, femme fatales, the seedy underbelly of society...these components don't normally inhabit the novels I read. However, for my second Blogging for Books review, that's exactly what I was faced with.

Don't get me wrong; I wasn't forced to read The Corruptible [available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions] - I chose it from the titles available to me.

I'm still a new blogger for WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing so I don't yet have full-access library privileges. That said, The Corruptible [also available at Barnes & Noble in paperback and Nook versions] looked like an intriguing read.

Let me get the technicalities out of the way: The Corruptible is a well-put-together novel. The opening scene - the one that introduces a new reader to Private Detective Raymond Quinn - is hot with action and, in fact, has you wondering if our flawed hero is going to make it to chapter two. The middle of the book - from chapter two to somewhere in the neighborhood of chapter fifty - clips along at a nice pace. A couple of quick notes on the middle of The Corruptible
  1. I suppose that folks who regularly read and write detective novels, whodunit's or whatever they are called these days have a feel for how long it takes to solve a case, how many twists and turns the hero experiences, how many blind alleys are explored, and all that sort of thing. Not being a veteran PI novel reader, it still seems to me that Mr. Mynheir got the middle about right.
  2. The chapters are very short. I'm not sure how this would look in print - my review copy was an eBook - but it seemed like a majority of the chapters were a few pages long at most. Each chapter contained a scene; when the landscape or characters changed it was on to a new chapter. That fact was a little odd to come to grips with at first but after a while it ceased to bother me.
The ending was quite satisfactory. As I suspect most people do, I was well into the book and working to figure out who did the dirty deed right up to the end. What makes The Corruptible such an entertaining read is that there is a lot more going on than simply one case to solve. Just when I think I had it all figured out, Mr. Mynheir throws in another curve ball.

The plot of the story is well thought out and executed, as you might have gathered from my comments above. There is a large enough cast of characters to add depth to the story - and, of course, provide plenty of suspects. From vengeful ex-girlfriends to jealous competitors to violent bikers and many more, I believe it's very much the characters that drive The Corruptible. And Ray Quinn, the hero, leads the cast from the front. Quinn makes it all work. You're rooting for him by the end of the book - and in my eyes that means Mr. Mynheir has done his job well.
Honestly, I can't figure out if Mark Mynheir is an ex-cop or is still on the beat. I'm sure it's somewhere in the author's bio but it really doesn't matter. With over twenty years in law enforcement he brings a realism and dimension to The Corruptible that you just can't fake.

One other thing that struck me as different about The Corruptible - in a good way - is the locale. When I think about a gritty, detective-noir tale I can't help but think of Los Angeles in general and Hollywood in particular. I know stories like this have been staged all over the world but blame Chinatown, LA Confidential and others for putting it into my head that the city of the fallen angels is where this type of story should take place.

But The Corruptible takes place in, of all places, Orlando, Florida. We're thinking Mickey Mouse here but Detective Ray Quinn, a veteran of the Orlando Police Department and newly minted gumshoe, knows all about the darker side of life in this part of the Sunshine State - and it has nothing to do with any magic kingdoms.

For me, The Corruptible was an enjoyable, engaging departure into a genre where I don't spend much time. My opinion of the author grew exponentially as I realized he didn't rely on the typical shock tactics of bad language and sex to hook his readers. He did it the old fashioned way, with a good story, interesting characters and a colorful setting.

Here's looking at you, kid.


In order to comply with FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers (WMP) provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. I would personally like to state that, to my knowledge, WMP does not restrict my review submissions based on whether I submit a negative or positive opinion, and that this is as fair and unbiased a review of The Corruptible as I can present after reading the novel from front to back. As someone with limited time to read and review books, I will state that I do as much as I can in advance to determine if the novel I choose to review will be - at least - something I find interesting to read.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ben Huh?

I always think of films such as The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur as Christian movies, but are they Christian, or merely religious?

          I'm gonna have a golden calf, see...

The Ten Commandments can't really be a Christian film per se because it depicts events that happened roughly 1500 years before the birth of Christ. But Ben Hur is absolutely in the Christian genre in my opinion. It's interesting to ponder just how many films out there could be considered religious or Christian. However, not being a film historian, any list I might put forward would simply be parroting Wikipedia or some university project. There have certainly been films in recent memory that evoke Christian themes, most of them negative:
  • Constantine (2005)
  • End of Days (1999)
  • The Exorcist (1973)
  • Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Credit Mel Gibson perhaps with kicking off a renewed interest for mainstream cinema's relationship with Christianity through the evocative and very successful, The Passion of the Christ (2004).

One of the biggest differences for me between religious films and Christian films is that one is fictional and the other is based on Biblical precedent. Gibson's Passion is based on the New Testament Gospel accounts of the arrest, death and resurrection of Jesus. Whereas films like those in my list above and even more recent offerings like Angels and Demons (2009) are fully fictional tales weaving together elements of religious text, dogma, hearsay and supposition into the plot.

The latest teen sensation film The Hunger Games, opened with a whopping $214 million at the global box office this past weekend. Flying in under that huge radar - but no less noteworthy for its top ten showing - was October Baby, a film with a very strong anti-abortion message. There has been an overwhelmingly positive response in the Christian community to October Baby, as you might imagine. It is not a Christian movie in the sense that it depicts Biblical events on the big screen. No, it's a Christian movie because it depicts a strong Christian worldview message on the big screen.

Much as the films Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof and Courageous have done, October Baby takes a real-life situation and presents compelling characters that live through it while communicating a God-honoring message. These films are not in the vein of the Left Behind series, that seek to illustrate what we read in the Bible as a modern cautionary message. They go one step further, taking life lessons that are clearly taught in Scripture and unapologetically bring them to the big screen.

Driving in to work this morning, I listened while NPR's David Greene interviewed the film's co-director Jon Erwin. Greene asked why the director believes Christian films are resonating now.

"No. 1," Erwin says, "I think that the values that we hold dear as Christians are immensely appealing — things like sacrifice and virtue and honor and destiny and things like that. ... I think when they're presented correctly, they're appealing to everybody."

Erwin said another reason is that Christians are again engaging with the arts as a faith community.

"If you think about art and faith, there was a time that Michelangelo worked for the church," Erwin says. "And there's been this bond and this link between art and faith, and somehow, I believe that in the past few decades, we've lost that."

NPR's segment noted that Erwin sees re-engaging with the arts as a way Christians can reach people and — because he believes the values being presented are good — as an effort that can only benefit people's lives.

One of the most interesting things that came out of the interviews NPR conducted was noted by Paul Bond of the Hollywood Reporter. Fox and Sony have both set up separate divisions to produce Christian films. Obviously, when a film like Passion is made for about $45 million and grosses $600 million, that's enough to make any studio sit up and take notice. But, Bond notes, when good Christian films can be made for around $2 million and bring in $20 million, that's a good investment.

Just as Christians are excited about having more - and better - film choices with movies that fit in with our worldview and don't rely on vulgarity, violence or puerile innuendo to get their message across, will the major studios ruin all that for the sake of a dollar?

And really, what should our stance be in that regard? Will it be a victory of sorts in the Christian community for mainstream studios to recognize the mass appeal of films with a Christian message? Or will it be a Judas moment when these same studios roll out films that are marketed as Christian but end up being merely religious, or worse?

Does this whole issue communicate that Christians just want to be treated fairly and have films they can go watch like everyone else, without having to ignore bad language and more? Do we believe that through an increase in Christian-themed films that we will have more success in sharing the message of Jesus Christ with others?

Or is this a slippery slope that we were warned about in Romans 12:2?

Don't get me wrong, I've seen most of the Sherwood Pictures films listed above, and they are awesome. But I wonder at what point in the future we will confuse the medium with the message...

What do you think?


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Psst, I've got what you need...

I had an epiphany this week, you know, one of those moments when a life truth becomes clear. It's as if someone turns on a light bulb in a dark room allows you to see everything clearly, without shadow. I think I was close to knowing the full impact of this truth but it really solidified for me while watching a commercial.

The nature of addiction, while in no small part a personality trait, is also being fed from Madison Avenue. I'm not talking about you being a crackhead...just bear with me. Before you call me crazy and ask the smiling young men in their crisp, white coats to come and escort me from the premises, take a look at this:

I stopped drinking several years ago, but before that decision Captain Morgan was at the top of my list. Let me tell you, if you like drinking rum and coke (Cuba Libre for the drinkeratti), that stuff tastes good. Alcohol that tastes good is a problem. Why? Because so many of us have addictive personalities...that's why. The makers of Captain Morgan rum KNOW it tastes good - so what do they advertise? The concept that you can be a free-wheeling, stylish, trend-setting privateer (okay, pirate), and party like a rock star...IF you drink Captain Morgan rum.

I'm not going to show all the videos that depend on the incredibly large blind spot that most men have: that little voice (mostly wrong) that whispers in your inner ear how female women of the opposite gender dig you; even if you look like Shrek. But no matter how much we learn to quiet our inner Depp, Hardee's, Victoria's Secret, Fiat, and on and on and on - so many companies you couldn't count them - want you to believe that if you buy their car, their food, their booze, their clothes, etc. that you can have a relationship of some sort with the dad-gum hawtest woman on the planet.

Doh! Yeah right, Homer. Can I get a bite of that Hardee's Jalapeno Burger?

This isn't a new concept: that advertising seeks to manipulate us into buy things we don't need. But it all revolves around the core products that most of us think we do need. I mean, we all need a car to get to work, we all want to go out and enjoy a meal, we all want to save money; and that last one is my pet peeve. It's like the 10 for $10 ploy at the grocery store. For goodness' sake people - if you only need one of something, and you can get them for a dollar apiece, where is the sense in buying ten of them at one time in order to not save money?

"But this price will never come around again."

[Insert mental image of me squinting, grinding my teeth and making an anguished, groaning sound]

Really? Do you believe that a discount on tomato paste will NEVER be that low, ever again?

If price is determined by the buyer's concept of value, then value is determined by the amount of need that can be created in a potential customer.

I guess you really need to go get you some Ragu spaghetti sauce right now.

I'll wait. I wouldn't want you to have to tie cooked pasta into your hair in order to get your wolf cubs to eat dinner.

I work in technology. I've lived through dialing up to those old bulletin board sites at 300 baud, loafed along the Information Superhighway at 45 Megabits per second, and everything in between. Naturally, I love to cruise at DS3 speed, but why? I'll tell you why, because instead of ASCII-based bulletin board sites, I'm now hitting web sites that I couldn't even view without decent download speeds. You're able to click on these YouTube videos and watch them just like they were playing on your television because you have high speed Internet service.

Back in 1999, we lived in Dubai, and had dial-up Internet access at home (work too, for that matter). We waited about two hours for the thirty second (0:30) trailer for Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace to download so I could introduce our children to that epic series.

Today? Click on the link above and you can watch the one minute and thirty second (1:30) trailer for the 3-D version. I did, and it streamed instantly, seamlessly, over my cable Internet connection. What a difference thirteen years makes.

But the point is, I believe the marketplace is driving our need for speed. In 1977 when the original Star Wars film was released, I couldn't even watch a trailer for the film unless I was in a theater watching some other film. Today, online trailers are almost a given as we decide what films we're going to blow $8-10 bucks apiece on.

It's a barrage of information. Why is that?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports these interesting statistics concerning the prevalence of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) among kids:
  • The percentage of children with a parent-reported ADHD diagnosis increased by 22% between 2003 and 2007
  • Rates of ADHD diagnosis increased an average of 3% per year from 1997 to 2006 and an average of 5.5% per year from 2003 to 2007
What does that have to do with anything?
Why do we believe multi-tasking is a good idea? Who told us that being able to have a bunch of stuff and do a bunch of things at one time is a good idea? I'll give you one guess...

NPR aired a segment this week that debunks the popular notion that multi-tasking is a desirable state of being to strive for. In their report it notes that the Roman sage Publilius Syrus wisely stated some 2,000 years ago that, "To do two things at once is to do neither."
And that brings me to my final point today:

Why do you know this man?

You know him because he's the face of a drug that advertises itself as a, ahem, performance enhancer.

Why do you need a performance enhancer? Because Madison Avenue says you do.

Back in the day, when men aged, things slowed down; aches and pains crept in; and we all pretty much accepted the situation as a part of life. 

But not any more.

Why? An ABC News report from 2005 (ancient history in statistical terms) noted that the herbal supplement market - of which these performance enhancers are a large part - amounted to more than $26 billion (yes, that's billion with a 'B') per year.

ABC highlighted a particular company that was spending $1 million per month advertising their products; products for which there was no scientific evidence for any benefit. Crazy, right? Except for the fact that this company had revenues of $75 million.
So you tell me. What do you need?


Friday, March 16, 2012

The partition

I would hazard a guess that most all working folks have a pretty good bead on what they do. I started a job in the last year that still has me in the unenviable place of being uncertain about my day-to-day tasks. By that I mean because I'm still learning the ropes at work. There are still a significant number of to-do items that come into my email or develop as action items out of meetings or phone calls that I do not intuitively know how to resolve. I have to THINK about them; I have to ponder all the questions: Who do I need to work with to complete this task? Who can help me move this project along? What department even covers that?

There are over 1,700 folks working here - so there is a lot to take in. Those people are spread out over three large buildings on our campus, as well as all over the country and even internationally.

                              The four stages of learning

Folks that have college degrees, technical qualifications, vocational training, the advantage of longevity in their position or any other path to competence, likely do not fret overly much about how to do their jobs. They might fret over a specific deadline, a conflict with a co-worker, a new HR policy; but they are comfortable in their job - they are competent - either consciously or unconsciously.

My last job was certainly like that. I was what people refer to as a SME - a subject matter expert. Folks came to me for answers. And if I didn't know the answer, I knew where to find it. Most of the time, I didn't have to think about how to arrive at a solution, I just knew the steps I needed to take or I knew the answer off the top of my head. I was unconsciously competent.

I suppose that's the place where most of us strive to be in our working lives. I know that for some people, work does not drive their identity. And that's a good thing. But especially in this economy, having work is important and being merely adequate doesn't make the grade. My hypothesis is that in a poor economic climate, working harder, smarter, faster, longer - nights, weekends, etc. - is almost a given. If you want to remain employed.

Unions hate that...but that's a discussion for another day.

I often pray on the way to work in the morning. It's dark, there's not much traffic. I can let my unconscious driving competence [see image above] take over while one side of my mind contemplates the things we have to be thankful for, things that we need to put before God and things for which we need to seek His forgiveness.

Yes, I keep my eyes open while I'm praying and driving

This morning a question struck me: Why do we partition off a huge part of our lives and make it separate from God? We seek God in emotional places and we seek God in spiritual places. We may even seek God in sports, in finance, in love, and in general every day living.

But how often do we seek Him at work?

There are 168 hours in a week. I usually spend about 60 of those at work. If I'm lucky, another 45 or so I spend sleeping. I definitely give my spirit over to God before I go to sleep. And I do try to seek His guidance during the remaining 63 hours of my week when I'm not sleeping or working. So why wouldn't I want to be in relationship with God at the office?

The large majority of self-proclaimed Christians I know can probably quote Philippians 4:13, which reminds believers that we can do all things through Christ.

So, if we can pray to God that our NCAA tournament bracket doesn't get busted on the first day, or that our team wins the Super Bowl, or that the person we like won't shoot us down when we ask them out, or that our kids will make good choices at school today, or that our car will make it one more day without breaking down...why don't we seek His wisdom, perseverance, strength, kindness, and other key qualities when we are at work?

Sure, we might pray that we get that promotion or we might pray that the person in the next cubicle will discover the joys of personal hygiene. But do we really seek God's will and purpose at the office?

Do we strive each day to do our jobs the way He would have us do them - or do we shut Him in the car with St. Christopher and hit the lock button on the key fob, secure in the knowledge that I got this?

What do you think?


Sunday, March 11, 2012

That's it - you're off!

It's Sunday. No one wants to think about Hell.

Sunday is about Heaven. I'm not going to cast aspersions on anyone's interpretation of Scripture but in my opinion, there are far too many who believe that by going to church on Sunday, they can make up for a multitude of sins committed between Monday and Saturday.

Church becomes the limbo bar that we duck under to avoid paying the penalty for our sin(s). Hell is the inexorable stone door that modern culture has taught us we can avoid with some effort and a little luck.

Indy loses his whip, but we all know what happens...

Not hardly. I can go to church every Sunday of my life and it won't make a bit of difference as to my eternal place in this universe. From conversations I've been a part of the big stumbling block for most people is: Why would a loving God consign His children to a bottomless pit of fire and misery forever?

I'm not in any way intending to make light of a very serious subject, but in effect, anyone who does not accept Christ as their Savior (read John 14:6 to get started on the need for Jesus), gets shown the eternal red card.
In sports and in life, there's always a ref

From the rule book of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association):

A player, substitute or substituted player is sent off and shown the red card if he commits any of the following seven offences:
  1. Is guilty of serious foul play
  2. Is guilty of violent conduct
  3. Spits at an opponent or any other person
  4. Denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within his own penalty area)
  5. Denies an obvious goal scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick
  6. Uses offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures
  7. Receives a second caution in the same match
In football (the real kind), a caution is also known as a yellow card. So above, you have the immediate sending off offenses and below are the ones you can commit once and get away with it, but do it twice and you're off!
A player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he commits any of the following seven offences:
  1. Is guilty of unsporting behavior
  2. Shows dissent by word or action
  3. Persistently infringes the Laws of the Game
  4. Delays the restart of play
  5. Fails to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick, free kick or throw-in
  6. Enters or re-enters the field of play without the referee’s permission
  7. Deliberately leaves the field of play without the referee’s permission
Go back and read those again (please)...

Now, think of God as the referee and all of us as the players.

In the caution department, I can't count the number of times I've been guilty of unsporting behavior in life. I have shown dissent, persistently infringed the laws of the game (Ten Commandments) and done many things without the referee's permission. So from that alone, I have earned more than one caution and deserve to be sent off. 
In football, getting a straight red is not helpful to the team. It leaves your mates a man down and at a distinct disadvantage for the remainder of the game. In the realm of bookable offenses, I like to think that I've not been that bad. But in my younger days I was guilty of foul play, violent conduct and abusive language and gestures. I would have had no leg to stand on if God had decided that He'd had enough and showed me the red.
"That's not fair!" you shout. "We have no way of knowing for sure if God is who you say he is. And besides that if I haven't even played the game I don't deserve to be punished!"

All great points. I'm not here to judge anyone. I'm just sharing what I think about this whole Heaven and Hell thing. My understanding is that Hell was not created for us to begin with. Although Revelation 20:15 indicates that anyone who's name is not found in the Book of Life is cast into the Lake of Fire, I don't think that counts as an eternity of torment for those who did not accept Christ in this life. I'm just guessing, but the Lake of Fire sounds like an eternal red card: you're out of the game.
There also seems to be a lot of chatter about how unfair it is that people who don't even know about Jesus can end up getting shown the red through no fault of their own. For that particular point, I typically refer to Matthew 24:14 which indicates that everyone will get the chance to hear and make a decision.

I believe that God is a God of love. He is like our earthly parents. Our parents punish us when we mess up but always give us another chance. We get things that we don't deserve and we don't get things that we do (deserve). Getting things we don't deserve can be called Grace. and not getting things that we do deserve can be called Mercy

I'm not a bad guy. I work hard, I do the best I can to support my family and be a good husband and father; I'm like billions of other people on this planet. Nothing about me is special except for one thing:

I have accepted that Jesus was/is the earthly Son of God and that he died on the cross for my sins and then defeated death so that I, too, might defeat death at the end of my days here. In other words, I may be guilty of multiple red card offenses but through Jesus, I've escaped a lifetime ban.

You can believe that I'm crazy or whatever you prefer to think. God can't be defined in a blog. All I can do is share what I think and hope that spurs a dialog about what others believe.

So, what do you think?


Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Colonel would die...

...if he knew how much his chicken cost today...and he wasn't already dead.

              The Colonel

I'm not a heavy fried chicken eater - really, I'm not. But it was late, I was finally on the way home from work, navigating through a heavy downpour and I knew that cooking wasn't high on the list of priorities tonight. So I pulled into KFC; what we used to call Kentucky Fried Chicken back in the day.

It must have been meant to be. I mean, there was a parking place right in front of the door. Not a handicapped space that I would feel guilty about taking up because it was really raining hard, but a normal parking place. Feeling pretty good about that I parked and dashed in, barely getting wet. The nice, young lady at the register asked me all the usual questions:

   "Dine in, or carry out?"

   "Regular or extra crispy?"

Somewhere in there she sneaked in, "Would you like to try our eight piece family dinner?"

Scanning a menu that I'm sure is scrambled daily to confuse the customers, I finally found the eight piece family dinner...for $17.99.

That's $18 plus tax for eight pieces of chicken, two large sides and four biscuits. I'm guessing that's what passes for a deal at KFC.


I take my blogging seriously, but no matter how hard I looked, I couldn't find a recent price comparison on fast-food chicken. I know the economy is bad and I know prices have gone up, but really? $18 plus tax for eight pieces of chicken?

In a completely unscientific ranking, here are the most expensive fried chicken restaurants - at least the ones I've been to in the last year or two:

1. Most expensive: KFC
2. Popeye's
3. Chick-fil-A
4. Church's

Chick-fil-A should have an asterisk - although they serve fried chicken, it's not really a fried chicken place. They have chicken nuggets, chicken strips and chicken sandwiches: not fried chicken (i.e. legs, thighs, breasts, wings, etc.)

Popeye's is by far the best in my opinion but it is also expensive to feed a number of people. My wife likes Church's the most but I haven't found one of those in Huntsville, AL yet.

I know you're just dying to know. What did I do?

It was late, and it was pouring down rain; I wasn't going anywhere else. But I wasn't going to let them get me, no sir! I ordered the eight piece chicken-only option and added four biscuits. No large sides for me to inflate the price!

I handed over my $17.88 (that includes tax), took my chicken and biscuits and drove home in the rain. We made our own mashed potatoes and while they were cooking, I went on the KFC website and let them know what I thought about their prices.

Then I ate that chicken.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Revenge is...

Life is like a box of chocolates. Ogres have layers. May the force be with you.

Why do films have such a profound affect on our thought processes, popular sayings, etc.?

We just watched the Coen Brothers' remake of True Grit on Sunday night. I've been thinking about it in the back of my mind ever since. It's not a new film; I remember the original with John Wayne. But those are some big boots to fill and I was certainly interested in how well Jeff Bridges would fill them.

                  She wanted Tom Chaney dead...

Played amazingly well by Hailee Steinfeld, the character of Mattie Ross wanted revenge for the death of her father at the hands of outlaw Tom Chaney. I'm not sure what strikes me as the oddest when considering the young Ms. Ross: the fact that a 14 year-old girl would be so dead-set on revenge for her father's death or that she would be portrayed as so single-minded, yet nonchalant about it.

I never really considered the source of True Grit but have found that it is a very well thought of novel by Charles Portis, first published in 1968.

     I'm going to have to read this...

From what I've read, neither the original 1969 John Wayne vehicle nor the version we watched the other night truly captures the entire novel experience. Although, to be fair, what film has ever been successful in capturing - to the satisfaction of readers - any novel?

But really, all this is secondary to my thought line. In True Grit, Mattie Ross is portrayed as a deeply religious person who nonetheless wants some serious Old Testament eye-for-an-eye revenge. And I can't say for sure until I read the book and have some more time to digest such deeper issues as character motivation, etc. but on the surface her quest for revenge colored the remainder of Ms. Ross' life. In the story she remained unmarried and seemingly anti-social.

That's not to say that a woman need marry. Or be social, for that matter. What I'm trying to say - poorly, no doubt - is that at the age of fourteen, this character put aside Christian teaching, sought - and gained - revenge for her father's murder.

Revenge as a theme seems so popular these days that we even have a television show so-named. Although I haven't (and likely won't) watch ABC's Revenge, it is reported to be inspired on some level by Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo.

But I digress.

True Grit is a story of a Christian girl who puts the teachings of the Bible aside - unless they only had the Old Testament in the 1800's - to exact revenge on the useless piece of junk named Tom Chaney who killed her Pa.

What can we learn from that today?

I can tell you that in the King James translation, the term vengeance appears some forty-five times with only seven of those appearing in the New Testament. Conversely, the term forgive appears in the KJV fifty-six times - twenty-one of them in the New Testament. So while there is a lot of OT vengeance going on; there is also quite a lot of forgiving.

I think the proof text for forgiveness in the Bible comes in the book of Matthew. Peter comes to Jesus and asks Him, " Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?"

And Jesus replies, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven..." after which Jesus proceeds to share the parable of the king who settles accounts with his servants.

When teaching us to pray in the beatitudes (Matthew 6:12), Jesus says, "...and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."

The message is clear: if we want forgiveness, then we need to be about forgiving others. A message that Mattie Ross seemed to forget in True Grit. But that is human nature isn't it? Those of us who profess a faith in God and a willingness to follow His will tend to put what we might refer to as inconvenient truths aside when they conflict with our emotional needs - whatever they may be. 

So what is revenge? Is it our due? Is it a failure on our part - to forgive, to be true to our faith, to be a good person, to be better than the next person? Is it an urge so natural, so ingrained in our humanity as to be impossible to overcome?

What do you think?