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An Experienced Life

January 30, 2014 — Leave a comment

One of my favorite and most inspirational movies of the past twenty years is Good Will Hunting (1997). It has many memorable and important scenes is between Robin Williams’ character as teacher and Matt Damon’s character Will Hunting. Damon’s character had just insulted William’s character so they sat down to have a talk. Watch the movie clip but you can also read part of it that I provided.

“So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone who could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you.”

This is the conversation that guides the story toward action and resolution for Damon’s character. This scene gives me chills every time I watch it. Damon’s character, although clearly brilliant, had not truly lived life in all of its pain and glory. He had been stuck in his neighborhood thinking he knew all there was to know about life. There was a bigger life to experience if he would open himself up. It is hard to  miss that I am like Damon’s character and fear the risk of going out into the world to really experience life.

Recently I visited one of the most infamous city settings in the world: Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. On November 22nd, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated here. Dealey Plaza rests on the southwest side of downtown Dallas. I’ve read multiple books and watched countless documentaries and movies about the JFK Assassination. But none of his compared to actually being at the site of this tragic event. As Robin Williams mentioned above, there is nothing like visiting it to smell the air, feel the history, and to stand where history changed us forever. It was eerie and it brought a bit of  sadness to me that I didn’t expect to feel. Reading and watching stories about JFK always brought intrigue but rarely did it ever bring emotion like this. Silently, I walked all around the area with my brother-in-law and my wife and toured the JFK 6th Floor Museum. It is an experience I will not forget.

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View from the 7th Floor of the infamous Texas School Book Depository overlooking Dealey Plaza. One floor directly down from me was assassin Lee Harvey Oswald’s sniper nest.

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Standing next to the street where Kennedy was shot. Two “X’s” mark mark on the street where he was shot. To my left is the infamous grassy knoll where conspiracy theories point toward a second gunman.

Walking and visiting the places of history reminds us that we are part of a big story. It is full of beauty, adventure, victory, loss, and tragedy. It should provoke the feelings to make us want to make a lasting impact on this world because we are called to a great story. This trip reminded me that I can live life comfortably at home but if I don’t take a step out to truly explore what God is nudging me to do, I will miss the real life.

“To know there is a better story for your life and to choose something other is to choose to die.” - Donald Miller

Have you ever visited a place of history that gave you the chills?

Does it make you think about how your lasting impact will be on the world?

 

 

When I entered the work world thirteen years ago, the world seemed to be full of traditional occupations: Bankers, teachers, lawyers, stock brokers, doctors, and sales people. I was told in college that most likely the jobs we would have in the future weren’t even created yet. It turns out that the professors were true and with the rise of the internet and so many new types of entrepreneurial businesspeople, the value of new positions has changed drastically. Many specialist positions were created to focus on one single thing in a company or organization.

Specialists are wonderful and thank God for them, especially doctors who focus most of their waking hours on one single treatment or disease.

But, I’m also discovering that with the rise of so many specialists, especially in business, it is difficult to find people with a well-rounded knowledge about business in general.

These people are most commonly referred to as ‘renaissance men’, who are proficient in a variety of subjects. The people of history described as this come from the Renaissance era and have evolved since. People like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, Benjamin Franklin, Richard Branson, or despite the humor, someone like James Franco who tackles acting, writing, directing, and other random things while going to graduate school to learn more.

In baseball, this person is called a “utility player.” These players are a manager’s dream because they can play pretty much every position except pitcher and catcher. Whenever a player gets hurt or is not playing up to their game, the utility player can slide in to make a difference. In the major leagues, these people are well-known players like Michael Young, Ben Zobrist, and Hanley Ramirez. To the extreme, there was an amusing game in the 1980s when St. Louis Cardinals player Jose Oquendo played each position through the nine innings.

In the movie Dead Poet’s Society, Robin Williams’ character, Professor Keating encouraged his students to broaden themselves by using poetry as the medium. “

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

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So where have the Renaissance people gone? 

I think fear of the unknown is one of the biggest issues. I’ve also discovered even in my profession in publishing, you get looks if you are trying to learn about other jobs. The look is often says, “stick to your specialty, bud”. But, in my career the people I’ve admired the most and seem have the best perspective are the ones who have either done other jobs in publishing or have taken the time to learn about them. That was one of the greatest lessons I learned from my mentor and long-time publisher, David Moberg.

Being a Renaissance person doesn’t mean you give up your specialty. It means you become a more well-rounded person to better help others.

We can reclaim the Renaissance spirit by being explorers of the mind.

Here are five helpful challenges to become today’s Renaissance person.

  • Each month, take out someone you work with who does something different from you and learn about it.
  • Learn a new sport that challenges your physical and mental abilities.
  • Read a book that is outside of your comfort zone. Browse your local bookstore or the library and pick something out.
  • Travel. Visit places you never thought you’d visit and learn the culture, the language, the people.
  • Share your experience with others as you learn.

Be a life-long student.

Be a utility player.

Be today’s renaissance person.

 

What about you?

What do you want to learn that is outside of your specialty?

The other day I was driving in my car and The Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want was playing. It is an iconic song from the Stones but it is also the memorable opening song played during the funeral procession in the movie, The Big Chill.

I remember my parents in the 1980s sharing how much that movie meant to them and how it captured their generation and its joys and struggles. My parents were born in 1944 and 1945 so they would associate themselves with the Baby Boomer Generation but as the joke in the movie Field of Dreams went, they had two fifties and movies straight into the seventies. In other words, they didn’t fully associate themselves with the hippie movement yet they experienced the complexities of the Vietnam era. Like my parents, I have always felt like I was in a lost generation being born in 1978 and am often thrown in either the younger part of Generation X or older in Generation Y.

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Harper Lee said it best in the book and movie To Kill A Mockingbird,

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Lee’s wisdom applies to how we feel about people of different generations. In my observations, it seems like the newest generation seems to be labeled as the most “selfish” when if we study history, each younger generation was judged in a similar way. For example, in life I have witnessed many people blame the Baby Boomer generation for their perceived lack of morals but as they are getting older, it has given us time to let history tell their story better. By giving them time, we are learning that they are a generation with great strengths and complexities and we can better understand their impact on the way we live today.

I believe we will be better people if we take time to learn about each other, which will minimize incomplete judgments. The past century has been defined by many things but one of them is the way movies can tell each generation’s story. I have compiled a helpful list of movies that best define each generation. The list is compiled from my personal observations, research and comparison of similar lists online and from polling friends. I don’t expect everyone to agree with this list but my hope is for this to be a way to learn more about our generations through the art of movies.

I isolate three types of movies for each generation; cultural, comedy, and war. I want to know what makes people laugh, how they live and what they fight for. I have watched all of these movies and appreciate them uniquely for what they represent. I hope you will enjoy them too.

The Greatest Generation – The “G.I. Generation” or “WWII Generation” (1925-1939))

Silent Generation / The Boomer Generation - “The Sandwich Generation” or “War Babies” Born 1939-1964

Generation X - The “Gen X’ers” or “MTV Generation” Born 1965-1979

Generation Y & Millennials The “Millennial” or “Echo Boomers” Born 1980-1991

Generation Z - The “iGeneration” Born 1991-present

Which movies do you feel best defines your generation? Why?

Have you ever seen someone who has achieved a certain success in their job and thought “how did they do it?”

If you hear that they did it alone, then you obviously don’t know all of the story.

Twenty years ago a very amusing movie released called Dave (1993) starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver. In the story, Kevin Kline plays Dave Kovic who runs a temp agency. What is amusing is that he looks very similar to the current President of the United States, President Mitchell. On the side, Dave Kovic is hired to impersonate the President and in a bizarre turn of events is called into help in more ways than just impersonating the President. I won’t ruin the movie because it is a joy to watch.

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Despite this being a movie with politics as a backdrop, it is really a movie about people helping people. In the movie once Dave Kovic eventually is acting as the President, shares with the American people,

“If you’ve ever seen the look on somebody’s face the day they finally get a job, I’ve had some experience with this, they look like they could fly. And its not about the paycheck, it’s about respect, it’s about looking in the mirror and knowing that you’ve done something valuable with your day. And if one person could start to feel this way, and then another person, and then another person, soon all these other problems may not seem so impossible. You don’t really know how much you can do until you, stand up and decide to try.”

Dave was trying to help others find jobs so they could live passionate and fruitful lives. A job doesn’t solve every problem and it doesn’t guarantee you will find your full purpose. A job can help give someone the opportunity to have passion, purpose and the ability to better themselves to make a difference.

Dave wasn’t just a job-placement owner.

What matters is that Dave Kovic was a connector.

I am only where I am because of the help of other people. Period. Did I work hard and was persistent to meet with people? Of course but doors would not have opened to me if I had not been helped by courageous people who took a chance on me. Here are a few of the many examples from my own personal journey:

  • My high school friend Kara recommended me for a position that ended up being my first job in marketing and sales in the film industry. I wouldn’t even have gotten the chance to interview if it weren’t for her. This also helped fuel my love for movies and great storytelling.
  • When I moved to Nashville, my sister’s childhood friend’s brother, whom I hadn’t seen in twenty years, introduced me to a publisher and led me in the door to my first job in publishing.
  • I am at my current position because of working hard but if I weren’t recommended by mutual friends, it would have been difficult to get to the next stage.

None of the people who helped me got anything in return except being able to see me thrive in those positions. They simply enjoyed seeing me be in a place to thrive.

I have learned from many others along the way.

One of my friends who inspires me greatly is John Bergquist. You need to know John because he lives for helping others do amazing things.

What I have realized is that as a connector, my success will be measured by the successes of others.

Marketing thought leader Seth Godin wrote in his book Linchpin

“Not only must you be an artist, must you be generous, and must you be able to see where you can help but you must also be aware. Aware of where your skills are welcomed.”

The Bible also has a lot to say about helping others. In Philippians 2:4, Paul encourages the early Christ-followers;

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

To summarize, here are three ways to be an effective connector:

  1. Be aware of those around you who may need help and make yourself available to them. You may be igniting a fire in a true change-maker. 
  2. Invest time each week meeting with and helping people. 
  3. Don’t expect anything in return except the joy of seeing someone else thrive in their sweet spot making a difference.

Let’s be like Dave Kovic. The world will be better because of it.

The bar/confrontation scene from Good Will Hunting (1998) is one of my favorite movie scenes because it reveals something uncomfortable about us; we are all posers. In the scene, Will Hunting played by Matt Damon and his friends, who are from a poor part of South Boston decide one night to visit a Harvard bar. After Will’s friend played by Ben Affleck attempts to pick up some girls, he is confronted by an arrogant MIchael Bolton look-a-like Harvard graduate student. The graduate student begins to taunt Affleck’s character in front of the ladies by showing off his supposed knowledge of early American History. The scene is full of class-tension but underneath there is something deeper; a man’s authenticity is being challenged.

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Watch the scene to understand.

“But at least I won’t be unoriginal”

Our education system creates unoriginal posers who are incentivized to memorize facts and other people’s ideas. This happens to people of all ages, not just in school. I work in an office that tempts to suck the creative spirit out of me. There are days when I feel the desire to go to graduate school but then I realize that another degree or a graduate degree will only serve as an entry point to feeding my pride. As I evaluate my heart, I catch myself yearning just to see extra initials after my name on a business card or a resume. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing inherently wrong with a degree or a graduate degree.

My point is this.

You are only as good as what you do with your education. 

We are all posers unless we use our education for the better and for each person that will be something personal and hopefully unique. The viewer learns later in the film that Will Hunting was a poser for not using the gift that God had given him. We are left at the end of the movie not knowing what he does with his education but that is probably the beauty of the story to embrace.

I apply this scene to my life because God has given me many dreams that I can sit on or pursue. I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ words,

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

God gives us experience and the passions to act. By faith, he calls us to trust him in this journey. This is life’s great education. God gives us choice on what to do with this education and I am learning that I need to take seriously what he has given to me. I am awaken.

I am learning that it is not my degree or credentials that matter. He loves me no matter what and it is what I do with my education that matters. That is what makes the world stand up and clap.

I need to write.

I need to take the risks.

I need to engage fearlessly with my wife and my kids.

I need to leave the excuses behind and go forward with this education.

I may not have multiple PhDs. But my hope in life is that at least I won’t be unoriginal.

What are you learning about your education? What do you want to do with it?

Office life is filled with the mundane. Yet, tt can also be a place of learning—and many of its lessons, hilarious! As a businessperson and a movie fan, I have compiled my favorite movie scenes that capture the sometime absurdity of business on film.

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Here are my top ten office movie scenes in no particular order.

Office Space (1999): “Lumbergh’s TPS Reports” Scene

Office Space celebrates the mundane quality of working life. It doesn’t matter what a TPS Report is except that it represents meaningless everyday work.

American Psycho (2000): “Business Card Competition” Scene

There was a day when business cards were ubiquitous and in the 80s they all looked the same. This captures that era so well.

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) “Coffee’s for Closers” Scene

I don’t believe there is a salesperson in this world who doesn’t know this line. To me this scene made Alec Baldwin a comedic legend. Here Baldwin gives us a new meaning to learning our ABCs: Always Be Closing.

Moneyball (2011) “Identifying the Problem with the Baseball Scouts” Scene

There will never be enough money in business to solve all of our problems. What is needed is the dedication necessary to identify real problems and the creativity required to solve them.

Tommy Boy (1995) “Killing the Sale” Scene

Every salesperson can recall a time when they failed to close a sale. This scene is one of those times, even as Tommy Boy is describing to his friend how he “sucks as a salesman.” Nevertheless, his friend comes to see what works naturally for Tommy instead of trying to be something he is not. This scene always provides a great laugh to spice up a sales team meeting.

Apollo 13 (1995) “Failure is Not An Option” Scene

Under difficult circumstances, we need a leader to push us to a place where we are driven to find the best solutions. Someone that drives us to new levels of creativity that we may never have experienced before.

Dr. Strangelove (1964) “No Fighting in the War Room” Scene

Even the top leaders have their worse moments under pressure.

The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) “You know, For Kids” Hula Hoop Scene

I wish every CEO would demonstrate their new products like Tim Robbins does with a hula hoop.

The Big Kahuna (1999) “Character and Honesty” Scene

In business, there are always temptations to cut ethical corners. This scene cuts to the core of that struggle. I think it is one of Danny DeVito’s finest performances.

Up in the Air (2009) “How Much Did They Pay You To Give Up On Your Dreams” Scene

Life is short. This scene shows how important it is–whether your calling is in business or elsewhere–to always go after your dreams.

Worst Sales Pitches Ever: This is a fun mashup of the worst sales pitches ever from Garden State to Tommy Boy. Enjoy!

Honorable Mention: Gordon Gekko’s “Greed is Good” line from Wall Street, Jerry Maguire’s last day at work, “The Facebook” being launched in The Social Network and Ben Affleck’s Boiler Room talk.

What are you favorite business movie scenes. What made you laugh? What did you learn?

Today, July 2nd, we United States citizens celebrate our independence.

Wait you say, “Isn’t July 4th our independence day, not July 2nd?”

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We celebrate on July 4th because of a little thing called the Declaration of Independence. The document was passed by the Second Continental Congress on July 4th. In fact, what we know of the signing, it was done by individuals over the next month with little drama. The real drama happened on July 2nd when it was voted upon by the delegates.

On July 2nd, 1776 the Second Continental Congress debated independence at the State House in Philadelphia. Twelve of the thirteen delegates voted for independence with one abstaining. The scene was tense with debate and their lives were on the line. We are here today because of the courage of those few. Each man knew that by voting and putting their name on this document would seal their fate if captured by the British.

This voting scene is best captured by the HBO Miniseries John Adams (2008).

In the Pulitzer Prize winning book John Adams, David McCullough noted the momentous occasion.

“So, it was done, the break was made, in words at least: on July 2, 1776, in Philadelphia, the American colonies declared independence. If not all thirteen clocks had struck as one, twelve had, and with the other silent, the effect was the same.

It was John Adams, more than anyone, who had made it happen. Further, he seems to have understood more clearly than any what a momentous day it was and in the privacy of two long letters to Abigail, he poured out his feelings as did no one else:

The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”

So whether we celebrate our independence on July 2nd or July 4th, we should all thankful that we are celebrating in the way our founding father John Adams envisioned.

Happy Independence Day!

One of the wittiest and most quotable movies of all time is Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). It is a personal favorite and the most graphic scene in the movie is a sword fight between King Arthur and a stubborn black knight guarding a wee bridge. As the black knight loses a limb, Kind Arthur demands that he surrender. The black knight claims that losing an arm is “just a flesh wound” and continues the fight while King Arthur stands there bewildered. Watch the clip below for full amusement.

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Like the black knight, we are in a world full of walking wounded and in pain. The pain is a reminder that sin has plagued us and quite frankly I’m tired of the pain.

Thankfully there is hope in many places.

Psalm 23 provides great comfort in what lies ahead in heaven where there will be no more tears and no more pain or strife. But we are not there yet so why does pain exist beyond be a reminder of the fall? What does God teach us in pain? In the movie Invictus, there is a great exchange when Nelson Mandela asks Francois Pienaar, the South African Rugby Captain, about if  he was feeling 100% in preparation for the next match. Francois’ responded humbly that no one is ever 100% free from pain or injury.

It is the same in all things in life.

I am currently recovering from arthoscopic knee surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus. It has been harder than I thought and my mind keeps wanting to push forward. My body still feels the pain though. Personally this past year has been wonderful and painful. Our family’s year has been full of the following:

  • My knee surgery.
  • My mother is awaiting a knee replacement.
  • My father has been battling a severe staph infection and is waiting on a hip replacement.
  • Brooke lost her grandmother.
  • We renovated our house and were fighting bumps and bruises for almost a year.
  • Our dog has ACL surgery and we have to literally pick him up to help him go to the bathroom outside.
  • My wife has had the painful duty of taking care of us all.
  • My previous job was painful and stressful and left me far outside of my comfort zone.

Too often pain tends to keep us focused on ourselves but when we stop to look around we see that we are not alone. In fact, I have many friends who are suffering much worse things like cancer, severe mental illness, greater physical injuries or have lost loved ones. We are surrounded by pain.

In the book, The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis, he points out the struggle.

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

He goes on.

“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”

Ultimately pain serves a purpose and we should be thankful for its purpose. If we had no pain, we would be home in heaven. But we’re not there yet.

Pain tells me that life is real.

Pain tells me that I need help.

Pain tells me that I need Christ.

Pain tells me that I’m not home yet and to keep pushing forward.

Summer is traditionally a time to be outdoors and enjoy time with friends and family. It can also be a time to huddle on the couch later at night to enjoy some humorous, adventurous and patriotic movies. When I think about summer, I am filled with wonderful memories. Often these memories are intertwined with movies that mirror my experiences and inspire and make me laugh today.

For the first three years of my career I marketed and sold movies to Parks and Recreation departments around the nation to show to their community. It was always fun to create summer movie schedules that would help bring people together at their local parks. Over those years there have been many movies that have stood out among the rest. This list is compiled of movies that personally have meant a lot to me and I hope you will enjoy them this summer too. I have chosen not to include animated films in this list and have arranged these by topic as well as individual movies.

1. The Great Outdoors (1988)

Nothing says summer vacation like an upper midwest lake house trip with John Candy and Dan Aykroyd.

2. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

Only the most dedicated dad like Clark Griswold wouldn’t let a dead Aunt Edna ruin their pilgrimage to Walley World. This is by far one of the funniest prayers you will ever hear.

3. Stand by Me (1986)

Some of the finest moments in life can be found around a campfire and debating what kind of animal or person Goofy is. Good story, Vern. It is also hard to imagine how Stephen Kind could have written such a poignant coming of age story from the 1950s.

4. The Goonies (1985)

If you grew up in the 80s there was no way to miss The Goonies. There are only a few who are able to  direct such great comedies with kids. Richard Donner and Steven Spielberg created a 1980s masterpiece. “Goonies never say die.”

5. Baseball movies: Sandlot (1993), The Natural (1994), Pride of the Yankees (1942) and Field of Dreams (1994)

From Sandlot, there is no better insult from back in the day than “You play ball like a girl.”

One of the finest endings to a baseball movie ever and the memorable soundtrack creates Roy Hobbs to become a legend. “Go pick me out a winner, Bobby”

You don’t have to be a Yankee fan to appreciate Lou Gehrig’s speech. “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

In the conclusion to Field of Dreams, there is no man who will not cry after watching this scene.

6. Golf: Tin Cup (1986) and Caddyshack (1980)

Roy McAvoy played by Kevin Costner is full with outlandish challenges on the golf course. “Did you ever shoot par with a 7-iron?”

If you have ever played golf, there is little chance that you didn’t hear someone mimicking Bill Murray saying ,”Cinderella story, outta nowhere about to become the Masters Champion.”

7. Beach: One Crazy Summer (1986),  Weekend at Bernie’s (1989), and Jaws (1975)

If you ever want revenge on rich islanders, send in Godzilla.

I’ve always loved Weekend at Bernie’s because for years we have vacationed in Bald Head Island, where this was filmed.

Roy Scheider’s line, “You’re going to need a bigger boat.” is one of the most quoted lines in movie history. Jaws defined what a summer beach blockbuster looks like.

8. Camping: Meatballs (1979)White Water Summer (1987)

Along with John Belushi’s epic motivational speech in Animal House, Bill Murray matches it here in Meatballs.

“Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” serves as an extreme outdoor guide who brings a group of four city boys to survive the wilderness.

9. Military: Glory (1989) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989), John Adams HBO Miniseries (2008), and The Patriot (2000)

This campfire scene prior to the battle to take Fort Wagner is one of the most beautiful and emotional scenes showing the spirit of the colored 54th Massachusetts Regiment.

Although a controversial movie, it is perhaps Tom Cruise’s finest performance. “People say that if you don’t love America, then get the hell out. Well, I love America.” 

In the epic HBO miniseries based on David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, John Adams, Paul Giamatti plays our founding father and in this scene, he shares his perspective on the declaration of independence.

Essentially this movie is “Braveheart-American style” but still an enjoyable depiction of The Revolutionary War in the South.

10. Armageddon (1998) and  Independence Day (1996)

To round-out the summer films the 1990s brought a slew of space-apocalyptic films. There is nothing better than this astronaut evaluation scene in Armageddon.

Despite this being a science fiction film, this is by far one of the finest American President speeches. Even historian Bill Bennett refers to this in his book The American Patriot’s Almanac.

Honorable mention: Dirty Dancing, Forrest Gump, What about Bob?, Beach Blanket Bingo, Endless Summer, Splash, Step Into Liquid, Summer Rental, and Roman Holiday.

What are your favorite summer movies? 

In the iconic animated movie The Lion King (1994), the main character, a lion cub named Simba, is forced to flee for his life after his uncle treacherously seizes the throne. Forced to grow up on his own in the jungle, Simba eventually has to come to terms with who he is, the rightful heir to the throne. Even though Mufasa, his father, is only present in spirit, he calls to his son. His father’s ghost-voice challenges Simba to remember who he is and to reclaim his destiny. Powerful yet tender, Simba says to his son,

“Remember who you are. Remember…remember…remember.”

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Still photo from The Lion King (1994), courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

God gives us a memory so that we may learn wisdom from life’s lessons. There are times when our lives move so fast, we need to stop and go back to that physical or mental place where God spoke most clearly to us. When I visited the mountain in Sewanee Tennessee where my wife and I got married, it was a sweet reminder of the day God put us together as friends and then lovers. Hearing Woodie Guthrie/Wilco’s Remember the Mountain Bed song also brings me back to that time.

God uses such moments to help us remember something special to him.

Each June God reminds me about a beautiful week in 1994 at Young Life’s camp called Castaway Club. It was there I recognized I could not live my life without God; it was the culmination of a great spiritual journey. I am not completely sure if I knew what I was getting into, but each June I think back to that glorious week and thank God for extending his loving hand to a lost and confused fifteen year old.

God used many people to reveal himself to me in the time leading up to that week. God often works toward insights like mine years in advance. Here are the impactful events and scenes that led up to that beautiful week in Castaway.

  • My father grew up and went to Webster Groves High School. In his graduating class of 1963, he had a classmate named Nancy Fares (later became O’Donnell).
  • Although as a family we lived in Kansas City for many years, my father had a job opportunity in the St. Louis area. My family moved back my father’s hometown, Webster Groves in 1993. There, my parents reconnected with Nancy and her husband Mike O’Donnell. The move made me miserable. I was in counseling because I didn’t know how to share how I felt. It seemed l like I had no friends and no real purpose, and I was most likely in an undiagnosed depression. The O’Donnells then told my parents about a group called Young Life.
  • Not long after this, I got a call from a sophomore girl in my school—which I thought was strange. Her name was Molly O’Donnell. She was the daughter of Nancy and Mike O’Donnell, and she asked me to go to this thing called Young Life. I had no idea what Young Life was, but I was desperate for attention and said yes.
  • A day or two later, Molly and a car full of upper-class girls picked me up, and we drove to Young Life. I was a freshman in heaven.
  • Molly introduced me right away to an older man. He was known as “Herm,” though his first name was Dave. After Herm heard my name, he said, “Hey, my name is Dave too.” Herm was the Young Life Area Director. He took me under his wing. In addition, Herm’s wife Terri essentially became a second mother in the process and in fact to most of us at Young Life.
  • After that first night of “club,” as people in Young Life calls it, I was introduced to another David. His name was David Pendergrass. David, along with other older students drove me to club every week. They were the ones who walked alongside me, listened to me, and shared the great story of Jesus Christ with me—I’ll never forget it.  The boys of Young Life became the brothers I never had. Many of them are great friends to this day even though most of us have moved.
  • It all culminated at camp Minnesota at Castaway. There I had, as Young Life says, The Greatest Week of my Life. That’s no lie.
The boys from Wester Groves High School (Mid-County St. Louis) prepping for our volleyball tournament at Castaway.

The boys from Wester Groves High School (Mid-County St. Louis) prepping for our volleyball tournament at Castaway. This is where the nickname “Cheech” all began. Can you find me?

Each June, God calls me to remember and be thankful to him for saving me. In addition, I think about those who had the courage to approach me, be a friend, and share the great news of Christ. God calls me to be thankful for that time in Minnesota, and to pray also for everyone in Young Life going to camp this summer.

Tell me about how you came to accept Christ. It is a story we all should stand up and hear.