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Tuesday, February 15, 2005


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Click to enlargeI know other reviewers at Hollywood Jesus have done this movie and to be honest, I didn’t even know I was going to be seeing it until last night right before I walked into the theater. To be honest I have to have one of the most unique perspectives and experiences of seeing this movie of anyone on the planet.

Yesterday was the day of love for most of us in North American, Valentines Day, 2005. My present vocation as a pastor allows me some unique opportunities and yesterday was one of the most unique I have ever had.

A few months ago I was presented with the opportunity of performing the wedding of one of my friends from college who now participates on the worship team at the church I pastor. Fen and Sherry were both wonderful people who I have had the joy of getting to know over the last few months. It has been wonderful to see the both of them obtain a second chance at love and family. During their wedding, they had a couple participating as one of the groomsmen and maids of honor, Denny and Liz. I didn’t know it at the time but Denny and Liz have been in love for the last 5 years and finally decided to make things official with a wedding. Their wedding was going to be unique though, and to participate in it would be a blast.

Denny and Liz are two individuals that love the movies. One of the theater chains they frequent on a regular basis is The 13th Street Warren here in Wichita. Bill Warren is a private individual who has established and started various theaters in Wichita, all upper class theaters with all of the amenities. This particular theater has a bar and a restaurant upstairs that has love seats in the balcony along with a table to enjoy your full service menu items. Along the upstairs lobby are old movie posters featuring old horror movies such as The Wolf Man, Dracula and the like. It was here in the theater, the place that Denny and Liz love so much that I would have the honor of “officially” uniting these two in marriage, right below where the Wolf Man Poster would hang. Seeing these two share in their love helped me have a frame of focus that was quite unique as I watched the movie Hitch.

Click to enlargeHitch presents, as many have said, a typical love story formula that we have seen many times before. The concept of someone helping others with love, while at the same time having difficulty recognizing true love when it comes to their own life. Will Smith plays the part of The Love Doctor or Hitch perfectly. He has become a tremendously accomplished actor since his days on Fresh Prince. Part of what makes this movie work though is not only fine acting on the part of Smith, but also wonderful story telling and wonderful casting.

There are numerous characters in the movie but one of the most wonderful supporting roles in a long time goes to Kevin James who plays the part of Albert, one of Hitch’s clients. Will Smith and Kevin James are as close to perfect as two can get in a movie when on screen together. The character Albert is a character that most individuals can relate to, well at least I could relate to the character. He is a bumbling buffoon at times but knows what real love is when he sees it. He has what appears to be on the surface an untouchable object of love but with the help of Hitch, he soon finds out that he has possibilities. The realization of those possibilities and the journey there are among the funniest scenes on screen in quite some time.

There are other subplots and story twists within Hitch. Hitch’s own love interest played by beautiful actress Eva Mendes is also a complicated character who adds to the screen magic. As audience members, we find ourselves rooting for the union of these two. Through out the script though, both characters have a lot about themselves that they need to understand and learn, fortunately, the journey there is one that we enjoy and never get bored with.

Click to enlargeAs mentioned earlier, I had a unique perspective while seeing this movie. I had just taken part in a ceremony, at the movie theater, symbolizing the ultimate act of love, marriage. Seeing two people come together and then seeing the joy that comes about from their union. The ability to love truly is the greatest gift, and when a giver or recipient of true, meaningful love, one can’t find much more happiness. There is just something about the concept that makes you feel good, and when seeing a wonderful portrayal of love like that portrayed in Hitch, you can’t help but have a good time yourself. I found myself holding my wife’s hand, thinking of our own experiences while watching the movie. The experience of finding ourselves when opening up to each other while we were falling in love was an enjoyable memory that the movie helped bring back to memory.

The process and the journey can be quite enjoyable, there can also be bumps along the journey. Hitch shows all of that in an enjoyable way. It is a movie I would recommend taking your loved one to and make sure you enjoy the ride along the journey of memories that can come about. Think about love, and all of the things that come with it, the arguments even but then the time you made up. I believe you will enjoy the ride just as much as I did. Will the experience be the same for you? Well? Probably not, that is unless you are taking part in a wedding right before the movie in the movie theater.

On a scale of 1 – 10, Not since Serendipity and Sleepless in Seattle have I seen a better love story, so minus these two from 10 a very enjoyable 8

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About this Film
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Monday, February 14, 2005

Super Size Me

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About this Film
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Click to enlargeI have a wonderful daughter who’ll be getting married April 9, 2005. She has a passion for movies; she majored in Mass Communications with a concentration in Film, and is currently the News Editor for The Newton Kansan. I have done a good job of raising her and one of the reasons I believe this is she is passionate about children, and helping those in need. She is a big sister, through the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program and it is through this association that I became aware of one of this years Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary, titled Super Size Me.

It was while on an outing with her and her little sister, that I was dressed as Santa Claus. We were taking the little sister, Maria out to check on some Christmas Presents. Maria and Santa, on a date, imagine what that is like for a 6-year-old child? While on the date, we talked about going out to get something to eat, Santa suggests McDonalds and Marathana, Santa’s daughter when Santa is not dressed like Santa, gives Santa that “look” that comes from a point of disgust and anger.

“We don’t eat at McDonalds!” Marathana tells Santa, “Right Maria?” She asks.

“Nope, Marathana says it’s not good for me.” Maria replies, “She takes me to Subway or someplace where we have to sit down and order food.”

Later that evening after taking Maria home I ask Marathana, “What was all of that about regarding McDonalds?” She then proceeds to tell me about the movie she has recently seen called Super Size Me.
She is always talking to me about my health and the need to loose weight and watch my blood sugar, I’m diabetic after all and another reason I know my daughter is a good child is that she loves me enough to check on my health on a regular basis. My daughter tells me how I need to see this movie and that after I do I won’t see fast foods the same again. At first I don’t believe her and after a few months of teasing her, I finally decide to purchase the DVD when it becomes available for sale. I just finished watching the DVD and to say the least, not since the movie Reversal has a movie done so much to change my life.

Ben Becker one of my Hollywood Jesus co writers has a great review of the movie that was published shortly after the release of the movie so I have no intent of rehashing what he says. I will point out a few things regarding the movie that impacted me though in a personal way.

Click to enlargeSuper Size Me in brief is a documentary of the journey taken by filmmaker Morgan Spurlock. He goes on a 30 day experiment of eating only food from McDonalds. If it don’t come over the counter of McDonalds he won’t eat it. He goes through the experiment with the assistance and supervision of three doctors and along the way discovers some interesting tid-bits about the fast food industry.

The reality of it is, that one would be hard pressed to watch this movie, and the special features offered on the DVD and not be impressed with the research and the harm that consumers are currently facing regarding the availability of fast food’s through fast food establishments. On the surface, this film is an apparent attack on the approaches used by McDonald’s but in reality it is much more about the industry and the consumption habits of food consumers. The epidemic of obesity is attacked head on and with a vengeance.

We the viewer, are confronted with a variety of enlightening concepts, the marketing approach of these fast food businesses. The nutritional, or lack thereof, value of the food produced by these companies, their greed, health issues, and our own reluctance to do the things necessary to provide appropriate care not just for ourselves, but for our children. The lack of concern for the very same children who run the risk according to the filmmakers of having a 1 in 3 chance, for persons under the age of 12, of developing diabetes. There are other interesting concepts that we learn, for example the effectiveness of the marketing ploys used on children. We see for instance in one scene where 6-year-old children are unable to recognize images of popular historical figures, figures such as George Washington. We even see in this scene where not a single 6-year-old child recognizes the image of Jesus Christ, yet, every child recognizes the image of, and becomes excited about the image of Ronald McDonald.

In the special features section of the DVD we are told that Ronald McDonald is in many ways, the same prototypical character as Joe Camel, the character responsible for attracting many children to cigarettes. The exception is that Ronald McDonald, who by the way you never see eating in a McDonalds commercial, draws children to unhealthy eating habits, and with foods that have little or no nutritional value.

As a viewer and consumer, I was moved by the portrayals and commentary in Super Size Me. I did not realize for example, that the meat in a hamburger from McDonalds in reality comes from upwards of a thousand different cows, and from up to 4 different countries. Those cattle are raised in feedlots that require a great deal of antibacterial supplements and antibiotics to prevent the disease that comes about from being raised in one another’s feces. Another fascinating study, on the special features segment, shows the food from McDonalds being compared to other foods in the breakdown degeneration process. After 10 weeks we see the break down of various foods, yet the french fries from McDonalds has no visible breakdown. This is especially troubling, especially when compared to the break down of fries that comes directly from potatoes that begins to break down after 2-3 days. The issue of what is in those fries to prevent the degeneration process becomes quite disturbing when taking into consideration the amount of french fries consumed in my 45+ years of life and the effects of those fries on my digestive system.

Super Size Me is a must view video for all individuals who consume fast foods. The movie has had a dramatic impact on the chains themselves. The fast food chains for example won’t confess this, but I have to believe that the change in menus in many of those restaurants has come about as a direct result of this movie. Shortly after the release of this film, we begin to see things like salads, healthy choices on happy meals and other menu items, yogurt, and as of this week, I have even seen fruit options given at many fast food restaurants. One has to wonder though, is this because those companies are legitimately concerned over the health of its customers or because of the public pressure placed on them? We also have to be careful as the film makers point out as to the reality of the “healthy” alternatives. We learn for example that a parfait fruit yogurt from McDonalds with granola has actually more calories, carbohydrates and fat than does a Big Mac. We also learn that this is the case for some of the salads that are offered if using the dressing that comes with it.

Click to enlargeTo say the least this movie has had an impact on me. You see, through my own admission I am overweight and need to change my dietary and exercise habits. I have been actively involved in exercise recently, going to the gym from 3-5 times a week. I have taken advantage though of the convenience of fast food restaurants. This without realizing the harm done to my body, especially my liver and the breakdown and destruction that can mirror that of an alcoholic when consuming too much fast food. As a result, I will quit visiting those establishments, I will no longer consume french fries unless I can be assured they come from a real potato with no additives or preservatives. I will choose to cook more at home, knowing what goes into my food and thus being assured of appropriate, healthy foods. I will see to it that my family, wife, and son still at home also follow the same healthy life-style. Why would I do this? Quite simple, I want to live a healthy and productive life and want the same for my wife and children. As one who has a profession of belief in God, I should want to take care of the body that God has given me. Truth be told, I am confident after viewing this movie, that those in the fast food industry are more concerned about getting my hard earned dollar to make a profit the cheapest way possible, than they are about seeing to my own health and welfare.

On a scale of 1 – 10, for everything that a movie should be, an uplifting and educational 10

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The Boogeyman

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Click to enlargeIn the last few months, we have seen the resurgence of the Horror genre. One of the most recent films to hit the theaters has been the unexpected high grossing film, The Boogeyman staring Barry Watson as a troubled young man haunted with memories of the Boogeyman as a child. The movie, directed by Stephen T. Kay, while filled with shock thrills and moments, lacks on substance and plot.

Tim Jensen is a young man haunted by the memories of his father being taken into the closet and killed by the Boogeyman when he was a small child. After growing up and seeking psychological help, he has entered into a relationship with a new girlfriend and is trying to move on with his life. No one is ever able to explain the disappearance of his father, other than saying he just left, and as a result of being sent to a mental hospital when young, Jensen looses contact with his family. It is only after the death of his mother that he seeks to return to the place of his childhood to rehash many of the issues of conflict still haunting him from when he was a young boy. Along the journey, he is reminded by various episodes of the reality of the Boogeyman but along the journey has difficulty determining the difference between reality and hallucination.

Upon arrival to his old home he comes across an old fling, Kate, played by Emily Deschanel who has little impact in the plot or storyline. The plot only becomes more confused with each character and location visited during the movie. All through out, we are shocked and frightened, yet, I found myself thinking about how dumb the movie was. I can’t think of a much more appropriate way of saying it, but The Boogeyman is filled with some of the dumbest characters and most predictable plot twists to come along in a long time.

Click to enlargeOne of the things I hate is a movie where the characters seem to never learn anything. Assuming that the horror portrayed in this movie was realistic, I don’t think I would ever walk into a closet or, peek under a bed, if the things that happens to the lead character had happened to me. After awhile you begin to think that the character deserves every thing he gets, after all, how many times does he have to be almost killed after walking into a closet before he learns to stay away from closets. One of the benefits I believe of horror is the lessons that we as a viewer can learn and apply, unfortunately we don’t learn much of anything if anything at all from this movie.

Along the way, there is a child that comes into the story. The young girl seems to give some insight as to who the Boogeyman is and what it is one has to do to escape the curse of The Boogeyman. Even here though, the story is predictable, and nothing new is offered.

I have had long discussions in the past as to the value of fright features that are often involved in horror. There is actually excellent commentary as to the human need for this on the special features of the newly released DVD of The Grudge. The reality of it though is that outside of the thrill ride of being shocked, similar to someone jumping out from behind the door to scare you, there is little of value in this movie. I found myself not caring for the characters and thought that the movie tried to mirror some of the techniques currently coming out of Japan but fell far short from being successful in its efforts.

There is virtually no effort to distinguish the difference between good and evil in this movie, a trait that often times makes the horror genre enjoyable. Instead we see evil, against the individual who has little help or conscious. Many open-ended story lines are sure to open the movie itself up to a sequel. Hopefully if/and when those sequels come along there will be more of an effort to develop the characters of the story as well as incorporate a contrast to the evil presented in the film. Without some measure of hope, I personally find the horror form rather disturbing. If asking the right questions the disturbing concept behind horror can still be of value, but when scaring someone just for the sake of scaring them is the purpose, which I believe is the case in The Boogeyman, then I have little value for the form.

Just my two cents worth, by the way there is a little hepilogue at the end of the movie credits that you might want to stick around for that gives an assurance of the intent for a sequel.

On a scale of 1 – 10, a very disappointing and disturbing 2.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Movies and the Good they can do!

Racing Stripes Links

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Reversal Link


A review of Fat Albert & Racing Stripes

Recently my movie going experiences and life surrounding movies has changed, shucks for that matter, my whole life has changed. You see I have become involved in the life of a little 8-year-old boy named Tyler Graebner. Tyler and I have a couple of passions that we share; Wrestling & Movies.

I became aware of Tyler’s plight on December 3rd, 2004. Since then my life and hopefully his, hasn’t been the same. I came across Tyler’s story while visiting a forum board I moderate at a Kansas Wrestling web site. The post, made by Mike Juby simply made mention of the fact that this little 8-year-old boy named Tyler was fighting for his life. You see, Tyler has two forms of cancer, Liver and Pancreatic. The success rate for survival of these diseases world wide is only around 25%. I don’t know what it was that moved me about the post and newspaper article, especially when you look at the simplicity of them. Maybe it was just that this little 8-year-old boy while laying in his hospital bed only wanted to wrestle. I don’t know why, maybe it was because during the last year I had lost a sister in law to cancer. Maybe it was that the church I pastor at had recently had our former pastor diagnosed with cancer. Maybe it was that a friend of mine named Aaron Sweazy a former college wrestler himself was diagnosed with cancer, I don’t know, I just know that I was moved and it was as if a gentle breeze had blown through me like a mighty rushing wind.

I decided that I had to do something for Tyler, it wouldn’t be much. I simply made a few posts on a few internet message boards suggesting that people think of this young man, pray for him, and if possible assist in obtaining funds that would help meet his $800 a month medicine costs that insurance does not cover. This was a small fraction of the thousands of dollars that the family faced in uncovered medical expense. Since then however, I have found out far more about cancer and our medical systems in the United States then I would ever wanted to.

I have found out what it is like to look a father in the eye as he tells me that without the Family Medical Leave Act he may not be able to continue in his job. I have learned what it is like for a small boy to take almost weekly 4-hour trips to the hospital for chemo treatments where he ends up staying for a week or more. I have also learned about the generosity of Humanity. I have learned that the wrestling community, (the real thing, not the professional “sports entertainment” that you see on television.) is really a family that helps take care of their own. If the church only modeled half of the love that the wrestling community has shown then Christianity would have a much greater and far more positive effect on people. I have seen the benefit of places like The Ronald McDonald House that helps make it possible for a family to spend time with their children without worrying about additional costs of motels. I have seen that a little boy with cancer is still first and foremost, a little boy. I have also seen that boy and his family provide hope and inspiration to me, a tough, gruff, inner city, wrestling pastor. Outside of my faith in Christ, and my family, Tyler has provided me with more inspiration and hope than anyone I have ever met. He has truly become my living, breathing, hope and inspiration to do something more with my life. He has made me a better man, and hopefully a better father, husband and human being.

I have started spending time with Tyler, along with my son, as much as possible. I look forward to our Sunday afternoons together. It is here that we share some of our common love. On Sunday afternoon I take my family on a 45-minute trek. We all look forward to it, especially my son who loves to play PS2 games with Tyler, and we have also been going to see movies together, then, getting a bite to eat or ice cream after the show. It is a great expense for me, one who doesn’t make much money, but it is one that is well worth it. It is the most valuable financial contribution that I make.

As of late, we have seen two movies together, Fat Albert and Racing Stripes. In this experience I have also seen the power and benefit of movies and these two in particular have played a tremendous role in bringing a laugh and a smile to Tyler. That may not seem like much, but when having to get daily medication injections through a port that goes into your body, when having to go through the nausea of chemo and radiation, a laugh can be a valuable thing. I have found myself trying to give laughs as much as possible, realizing the value of that laugh. Often times, while grateful for that laugh, I find myself with tears later on realizing how I have taken little things like that for granted, especially when considering the battle that Tyler faces on an hour to hour basis. His family deserves that to, but instead they continue to face the struggles of life related to having a son with cancer. The medical costs, the time off work, the education, and then there are all of those who wants to present every new cure known to man. From the latest tea or vitamin supplement to some new gadget that reverses the effects of radiation and chemo. They hear and see all, when in reality all they want is their son to be well, and then they can be a regular family again. They have as well seen the value of movies, ps2 games, and more importantly friends and family.

Over the last couple of weeks, I took Tyler to see both Fat Albert and Racing Stripes. Both movies deal with the same type of subject matter, having hope, becoming better, and making a difference. There is also an underlying theme of “don’t be afraid to be who you are.” I have seen those messages resonate in the life of Tyler. Both movies are well done. They find places to encourage us that it is okay to be who we are. Those messages are no better understood than from a child who because of chemo treatments has lost his hair. I remember talking to Tyler about how he and I have the same haircut, but it was only after I saw him watching Fat Albert that I felt truly comfortable talking to him about this. At the time, Tyler had been wearing his stocking cap through the movie. There is a scene in the movie where Fat Albert is talking to one of the characters about her being okay with who she is, she didn’t need to be something she wasn’t. During that scene I glanced over and watched Tyler take off his stocking cap, willing to be who he is, not carrying about what people thought of his bald head. Since then I have seen him go out in public more and more, showing off the bald head. There is a wonderful scene in another movie called The Ride that displays this very thing. A scene where a number of friends have their head shaved because they want to be able to better relate to a friend who also has cancer. Tyler has experienced some of those same benefits, the benefit of someone saying, “Hey man I shaved my head too because it looks cool and I want to look like Tyler.”

There was another scene at the end of Fat Albert where we see the Fat Albert Family standing around the grave of the original Fat Albert that the character was based on. We see these characters growing old, but still desiring to be children at heart. Here we are reminded not only of death but also of the value of living and enjoying life. Tyler has demonstrated that to me more than any individual I have met in my 45+ years of life. My hopes and prayers, is that the courage he has learned through life and the difficult and challenging sport of wrestling will carry on for years to come. I hope that he teaches those lessons to me for the next 45 years as he grows old and eventually has a family of his own. I hope and pray that my grandchildren will play and wrestle with his children. Our planet has lost far too many valuable contributors to this dreaded disease and it would be a horrific shame to loose another like Tyler.

This last week, I asked Tyler if he wanted to go see a movie or have me bring over another movie, Reversal, that he had been wanting to see. He told me, “Let’s go to the movie, then get something to eat, then after we get something to eat, we can watch Reversal.” Just like a little kid, one who was able to find a solution to meet his every desire for the moment. So to say the least, he won out and we did things the way he wanted.

Tyler, my son, and a friend of my son about Tyler’s age went to see Racing Stripes. Many of the prevalent themes in Fat Albert exist here as well. A Zebra who wants to be a racing horse, but one whom never gives up on his dreams and is willing to fight overwhelming obstacles to obtain his dream. Again, Tyler is a living example of one who has to overcome overwhelming obstacles. Many individuals in life, even those a part of our Hollywood Jesus team have had to face those types of battles recently. Yet, movies like Racing Stripes go a long ways in providing a measure of hope to those having to find it. While the ultimate hope for many is not in a movie, those movies can help provide the nudge that many need. They can be reminders of the hope that one can obtain, and they can also be reminders to those of us who can be there to nudge that person towards ultimate hope.

In Racing Stripes we see something else that reminds me of my association with Tyler. We see the one having the dreams being surrounded by others who are helping them overcome the obstacles in life. We see all kinds of characters, some inspirational, and some disgusting, yet they all have the desire to help the individual overcome their challenges. Again, the story with Tyler has exhibited that for me. I can see many who has a faith in God, yet others who don’t coming out of their shells helping Tyler. I have also seen individuals using their own strengths to assist, just like in the movie Racing Stripes. For Tyler it has been to say the least, miraculous. From World Champions and Olympians, to NBA Superstars and Celebrities, the out poring of support has been tremendous. This last Sunday before going to the movies Tyler’s mom gave me a look at the letters of support from People like Cael Sanderson, a 2004 Olympic Gold Medal Winner who tells Tyler that he is moved and made a better person because of the testimony of fighting on that Tyler provides. I have seen people like Eric Akin a top ranked world wrestler who will be featured on Pax Televisions and Fox Sports in the new television series Real Pro Wrestling that starts in March be moved to bring together numerous World and National Champions to help attend and teach at clinics for Tyler. I have seen people like T.C. Dantzler a 2-time world Greco Champion and Olympian, take Tyler under his wing and bring in people like Rulon Gardner, a 2 time Olympic medalist. I could go on and on but you probably get the point.

Recently I have done numerous interviews and spoken to numerous individuals about Tyler. I am often asked, “Why are you involved in this? Why are you doing so much for this little boy?” I don’t really have a set answer for that but I just know that I tried to listen to the gentle whisper of God and feel the gentle breeze. I often share the passage out of 1 Kings 19:9b-13 about Elijah finding God in the gentle breeze, which was the same as a gentle whisper.

…While Elijah was on Mount Sinai, the Lord asked, “Elijah, why are you here?"

He answered, “Lord God All-Powerful, I’ve always done my best to obey you. But your people have broken their solemn promise to you. They have torn down your altars and killed all your prophets, except me. And now they are even trying to kill me!”

“Go out and stand on the mountain,” the Lord replied. “I want you to see me when I pass by.”

All at once, a strong wind shook the mountain and shattered the rocks. But the Lord was not in the wind. Next, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. Then there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

Finally, there was a gentle breeze, and when Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his coat. He went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

The Lord asked, “Elijah, why are you here?” (Contemporary English Version)

This has been the challenge that I have made to many, and would hope that movies in part can make for each of us. We don’t have to focus on the big, super powerful components of life to find out what it is that God has for us to do in this life. Sometimes in searching for those big things, we loose sight of the true things that are important. That is why the challenge to listen to the gentle whisper or the gentle breeze of life is so important. That has been the challenge for each person and is the challenge that Tyler has reminded me of. It might be helping an elderly person or homebound person with a meal, maybe taking a small child to the movie, maybe even something simpler like putting gas in the tank of someone’s car who don’t have much money. Those little things, those simple things, can, and sometimes do, lead to much bigger things. Truth be told, if we do those little things, just like the movie Pass It On demonstrates, we can make a tremendous difference in the life of someone else with the help of God.

That has been the challenge over the last weeks, listening to the gentle breeze and gentle whisper from God. What difference are you making? What does that breeze feel like and what is that whisper saying?

To see the post that started it all go to:;f=1;t=002566

To see the article where Tyler Graebner was named the USA Wrestler of the week go to:

To see more about Tyler and visit his web site go to:
For more information about
Tyler, or to assist in someway contact me at

Mike Furches
Luke 15 / Matthew 25: 31-46

Racing Stripes Links

Fat Albert Links