For Those In Need of A “Breakthrough”

Breakthrough Poster

Does your prayer life need new life? Does your faith need a fix? Does your belief in the miraculous need some motivation? Then the film “Breakthrough” is for you. It’s especially for you. I believe in miracles, and this film just wrecked me. “Breakthrough” gave me reason to hope all over again. It’s a hard hitting, warm and fuzzy, cerebral yet practical primer on why we all should believe in God.

“Breakthrough” is the ultlimate upset win. It’s a classic comeback, and a total turnaround. John Smith, a 14 -year old star basketball player, is a typical teen. He doesn’t listen to his mom, he doesn’t do his homework, and he doesn’t think he’s living on thin ice. But he is. And yet God gives him a new lease on life with a second chance to make a difference.

In “Breaktkhorugh” it took the faith of a mother and the prayers of the saints to bring John back from the dead. It has intertwined layers of ethos and multiple levels of pathos, all mixed in to a solid, yet sordid story about life and love and how to live a victorious Christian life. Take it from me and do yourself a favor; read this blog and then go out and watch this film. It’s that good. It will do wonders for your soul.

Here’s the New York Times film review by Bilge Ebiri:

“In January 2015, 14-year-old John Smith fell through the frozen surface of a lake in St. Charles, Mo., and remained submerged for 15 minutes. He had no pulse when emergency workers pulled him from the freezing water, or for nearly 45 minutes after; it was reportedly only after audible prayers by his mother, Joyce, that his heart finally started up again. And over the next several days, as his community vigorously prayed for him, the young man made a full, seemingly impossible recovery.

Roxann Dawson’s faith-based film, “Breakthrough,” tells the story of John’s miraculous ordeal with an unassuming simplicity, focusing on the harrowing details of the case without an overreliance on proselytization. Though faith is ever-present — particularly through the devotion of Joyce (Chrissy Metz) and the town’s struggling young pastor (Topher Grace), who remain with John (Marcel Ruiz) every step of the way — the film also wisely dedicates plenty of screen time to the emergency workers and doctors struggling to bring the boy back to life. Here, religion is not in contention with medicine, but seems to work in tandem with it.

The filmmaking may at times be direct and inelegant, but “Breakthrough” isn’t without nuance. Dawson (a TV veteran directing her first feature film) doesn’t sidestep the thorny issue of selective miracles — after returning to school, John wrestles with the fact that he was spared from death while many others aren’t. “Breakthrough” is more suggestive than evangelical, and its willingness to let the mystery of the young man’s survival linger enhances the film’s power. You don’t have to believe in divine intervention to be moved by this story.”

Wins And Losses: A Tribute To My Mom

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Mom’s Victory Song

Sports teach children (and should teach adults) how to win humbly and how to lose graciously. Like sports, my mom did just that. Her life was a wonderful, humble win. And her death, though gracious, is a lingering loss.

My mom’s life was joyous and joyful, full of joy bells and a joy to behold. She was highly regarded in life and more than admirable in sickness and death. My mom’s life was warm and wonderful and womanly and winsome. She was faithful and cordial and genial and jovial.

Conversely, her sickness and death were cold and cruel and callous and contemplatable.  But in both she showed how, and we learned how. My mom, the great teacher that she was, was always teaching. She taught me how to live AND how to die. It may sound strange, but it’s true. Mom taught me that we don’t have to fear death because she didn’t; she defied it.

We need to learn how to win and how to lose. And that’s the tragedy of modern man. Everyone wants their own way, without thought or notion or compunction for others. My mom was all about giving and caring and sharing and bearing the infirmities of the weak. She was a little lady that could carry ten times her weight. And she did that when she was well and when she was sick. She bore grief and carried sorrow. She endured hardness like a good soldier.

Most admirably and astonishingly, like a great athlete, my mom willed herself to win. And she won herself to victory. Along the way, each victory helped her, some other to win. Even down the stretch, with the end in sight, she would not give in or give up. Her life was an open triumph, and even in death, I believe she was triumphant. Both her life and her death were bookends and bookmarks for her children and grandchildren and any and all others who wish to live and win and lose and die with distinction.

Her life was like a ballad she sung; at once soaring to dizzying heights then suddenly swooping down to the innermost, deepest depth. Her life and her songs defied the odds. How could such a little woman be such a large lady? She defied the doctors, the disease, and even death itself. She was told that her illness and her sickness were incurable. But she didn’t believe it. Not for a minute. Her life was a song of victory that that sang right up until she heard the angels singing. 

My mom refused to die, because she was determined to live. She lived with a sinister sickness for almost three years – two years longer than she was supposed to.  She was determined to disappoint the devices of the devil and the diagnosis and the declaration of her doctor.

My mom died with dignity, and that’s a quote from her hospice nurse. She was classy without being too sassy; she was elegant and exclusive, stylish and sophisticated. Beauty was within and without. And it is only fitting that she was born and that she died in early spring, when birds can be heard sweetly singing o’er the plains.

And Mom sings on.

The Pain Of Loss


I just lost my mom. “Loss” is the conventional, politically correct term you use when a loved one or friend passes away. My mom was sick and she died on March 8th, right in the middle of March Madness. So this March, the madness of March was more maddening for me for so many days in so many ways and on so many levels. So that’s why I haven’t been writing or posting for a while.

A loss hurts. A loss burns and bruises and even barks and bites. A loss can break and bend and twist and curve and swerve and nerve your emotions and affections like nothing else can.

For Christians, when someone we know dies, our loved one is not “lost” per se; it’s just that their presence is lost; they’re physically dead and gone to us. And there’s nothing we can do to bring them back. But they’re not lost as if we can’t find them, because we know where they are. However, it’s still a loss of their face and their embrace and their voice and their visits and their laugh and their love.  

While it does not compare — not hardly – the University of Maryland Basketball Team lost. Actually, my team won and lost. They won 27 games, but they lost 9. They began the season 15-1 and finished 14-8, but in March they were 5-3 and they finished the season a woeful 5-6, dating back to that mind bending, nerve numbing, unexplainable, inexplicable loss at lowly Minnesota on February 18th and the home loss to Wisconsin on February 13th.

According to Joshua Needleman of the Diamondback, the University of Maryland’s student run newspaper, “The sentiment for much of the season was when — not if — the Terps started clicking, they’d be unstoppable. They stormed to a 15-1 start even while working through some kinks.”

“Yet in an odd twist, the Terps didn’t get better or wiser over time — like my mom — or like that bottle of Chardonnay residing untouched in the cellar for years. They slowly fell apart, each loss sapping more and more of the fan base’s confidence. There always seemed to be something going awry, a new question that needed an answer.”

In another excellent article written by Alex Kirshner of the TestudoTimes, Kirshner writes “Maryland’s basketball team existed in a weird space this year. The Terps entered the season as a popular national title pick, and they remained so well into February. Even this March, plenty of people thought they had it in them. In the days leading up to the Terps’ season-ending loss to Kansas in the Sweet 16, I’d come around to expecting Maryland to beat the NCAA Tournament’s top overall seed. The Terps had a tantalizing glow about them, even when they weren’t their best.

The Terps wound up winning three times as many games as they lost, finishing 27-9. That’s really good for most programs, and it’s really good for Maryland. The Terps made their first Sweet 16 since 2003, which is quite an achievement. But in the end, why did the season seem so unsuccessful?”

 That’s a question that begs an answer. As with all of the other teams that lost in the NCAA Tournament, we have the hope of next season, and the high expectations of seeing Maryland players go on to the NBA and doing well (but if the underclassmen just came back for one more run!)

With all loses, we must look back, reminisce and recall to mind the mercies of the Lord. We must savor the good and sift through and sift out the bad. My mom was sick — I mean really sick — for the last six months of her life. I watched as she withered away, and the loss of her health and her strength was as hurtful as the loss of her presence.

But the grandkids and my sisters and I have the legacy of her love, many, many, meaningful memories and the wonderful well wishes and the sweet scented sentiments of our family and friends that will carry us till we see her again one day.

Sports Moms Are The Best

sports mom

All moms are great but sports moms are the best. The moms that spend and spent their weekends taking us to soccer games and traveling to tennis matches and trecking to track meets “ROCK and RULE!” Moms that braved the winter cold and sweltered in the summer sun to watch us play are the best moms money can’t afford. Moms that spend their waking hours on Saturdays, Sundays and most any day on the side lines shouting and on the front lines cheering and at the finish line tearing for their tots are at the top of their class.

Moms that cut up oranges for the team and dice up apples for the gang and put up with the mixed nuts in the minivan to carpool them to the game are the finest you can find. Moms that are there at the beginning and stay until the bitter end are the belles of the ball and the divas of the dance. Moms that signed us up for gymnastics and golf and baseball and basketball and hockey and horseback riding are the real MVPs. Moms that sew up torn jerseys and patch up worn sweatshirts and gather up stray gym bags are indeed the cream of the crop and very best moms around town.

Moms that go to cross-country courses and inner city heats and out-of-town swim meets are the pick of the litter. Moms that kiss the scraped knees and extract the sting of bumble bees are the very brightest bulbs in the box. Moms that pay for our fees and cover our costs and front us money and forgive our debts are “da bomb.” Moms that fix our muddles and clean up our mess are better than the best. Moms that untangle and untie and unravel our knots and our kinks and our quirks and do it with love and laughter and all kinds of affection but without any objection are queens indeed.

My wife and my sister and my co-workers and my friends, and of course, my mom too, drove hither and yon and picked us up and dropped us off at games and practices and tryouts and final rounds at all times of the day and in every sort of way – through the storm and through the rain and in sickness and in pain — because they’re a sports mom. These sports moms bought us uniforms and team jackets and windbreakers and new spikes and God knows whatever else we told them we needed to play the game right. These sports moms nursed sports injuries and celebrated singular victories like no other.

So here’s to all of the moms out there everywhere, and for the sports moms who even now and at this very moment are completing their calling and doing their duty all for the sake of their darling daughters and favorite sons so that they can play the games they love.

Thanks Mom. And Happy Mother’s Day!