Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.(Philippians 4:8 - The Message)
For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them]. (Philippians 4:8 - Amplified)
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It has been a favorite summer tradition of mine for many years to attend at least one of the presentations from Coca Cola’s annual film series at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre. Originally, the series was comprised exclusively of film classics (over the years we’ve seen The Sound of Music there, The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, to name a few). If you go to the theatre a little early, before the show they have live music performed on the giant Möller theater organ (called “Mighty Mo”), a sing-along, and they show vintage cartoons and old newsreels. The whole experience is a nostalgia lover’s dream.
In recent years, I have become less and less enchanted with the series because it seems to me that they continue to show more and more first-run flicks that are still on at the local multiplex, and less of the old greats that I want to see on the Fox’s giant screen. But 18 summers ago, when they were still only showing the oldies, Debye and I attended a night of the series to see the 1959 epic, Ben-Hur, and that night turned out to be very significant for us.
At the time, she was nearing the very end of her fist pregnancy (our first child together). We had had two sonograms, both of which read that we were going to have a baby girl, and we were fine with that. I just wanted a baby that looked like Debye, and would grow up to be musical, but the doctors were so adamant that we were having a girl that we had only picked out a girl’s name (Victoria Elizabeth). We had also had a very pink baby shower in which we received nothing but girl gifts.
But on that hot August night in 1990, as we sat at the front of the Fox watching the winner of the most Academy Awards in history (until Titanic tied with it), I began to feel something unusual every time one of the characters in the movie called the name – “Judah Ben-Hur”. After the first half of the movie (it’s a long one), I turned to Debye and said, “I know they are convinced that we’re having a girl, but I just want to say that if we do happen to have a boy, that I am totally naming him “Judah”…“Judah Benjamin”! And when I said it we both, for lack of better term, felt an anointing on it, and I immediately saw a picture in my spirit of a tall, young man with long, blond hair.
Fast forward to 2008…last night they showed Ben Hur at the Fox for the first time in all these years, and we took Judah to see it (along with Jonah, and Aaron Conyers and Cody Daniel, and my parents), and we had a wonderful time. I had not seen it since before Judah was born, and there’s nothing like seeing the chariot race on a 70mm screen. You have to judge it in its proper context…it has some of the trappings of the typical, over-the-top, melodramatic Bible epics of the 50’s, along with some laughable special effects…but, all in all, it was actually much better than I had remembered.
For one thing, it was cool to take Judah to see it and sit close to where we sat the night we first imagined him (and he totally got it, by the way). But also, the story is so much about the mercy of Jesus Christ, and the salvation He provided for ALL people, that I really saw and heard it with new eyes and ears last night. Everything that they said about Jesus in the script sounded like the Jesus that I preach and believe in. It was very moving and timely for me.
The famous last line of the movie is Judah Ben-Hur telling his family of how his encounter with Christ delivered him from his hatred and need for vengeance…“And I felt His voice take the sword out my hand”…
I want to talk about that some...
To be continued tomorrow…