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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Best this month

 

For full reviews, visit the Brussats' Web site, Spiritual Rx.

B O O K S

Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life
by Philip Simmons contains12 inspiring essays by a college professor who has ALS, the degenerative neuromuscular condition known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The author resolutely refuses to dwell on his illness, choosing instead to emphasize "the blessings shaken out of an imperfect life like fruit from a blighted tree."

Simmons is a masterful storyteller with a knack for delivering Aha! moments. For instance, in one chapter he reflects on the preponderance of unfinished houses in his neighborhood. People try to finish them, but something always seems to distract them. Simmons points out that the same thing often happens with our lives. Nothing ever turns out to be exactly what we expected. The challenge is to stay with the unfinished and flawed.

In another essay, the author salutes Jesus for plunging into his suffering instead of trying to evade it. Whereas our culture views falling as failure and defeat, Simmons reframes it as a spiritual art, a deepening into life that opens us to the grace that is always nearby (Bantam).

M O V I E S

A Rumor of Angels
revolves around 12-year-old James (Trevor Morgan), who has still not come to terms with his mother's death in a car accident. The boy's father is always away on business, and he wants nothing to do with his stepmother. James' life is turned around when he meets Manny (Vanessa Redgrave), an eccentric who lives in a big house outside their small New England town. In a very touching moment, she shares with him the story of how she still communicates with her son, who died in the war. Sensing that James hasn't been able to confront the guilt he feels over his mother's death, Manny takes him to the site of the accident and listens as he shares his anguished feelings.

Peter O'Fallon directs this soul-stirring, afterlife drama that provides a treasure trove of insights into the dynamics of grief, the value of cross-generational friendships and the meaning of life. Anyone who has experienced a moment of communion with deceased loved ones will connect with this deeply spiritual film (CineTelFilms, PG-13--intense accident scene).

V I D E O S

The Color of Friendship
won an Emmy Award in 2000 as "Outstanding Children's Program" and a Humanitas Award for its writer, Paul Qualles. The story is set in 1977. Mahree Bok, the daughter of a white South African policeman, arrives in Washington, D.C., as an exchange student. She's shocked to discover that her hosts are African Americans. In her country, apartheid keeps the races separate. American teenager Piper, a congressman's daughter, at first isn't sure how to react to the situation. But eventually the girls bond. The Color of Friendship shows how tolerance and working together with others to create a world without prejudice and racial hatred must start in the home (Disney--G).

 


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November issue

NOVEMBER issue:

The ELCA's aging clergy wave

More...