Catching Fire (2013)



Catching Fire, directed by Francis Lawrence

The next installment of the popular teen-dystopian series, based on the novels by Suzanne Collins is out, in case you’ve been living under a rock, or you just don’t care. If you fall under the second category, I don’t blame you. But if you are considering watching this movie, then here’s what to expect.

Katniss Everdeen has beat the odds and won the Hunger Games, ticking off those jerks at the Capitol in the process. A love triangle persists, and the drum beat of revolution can be felt in poverty-stricken District 12. 

If I give this movie no other props (which wasn’t the case), I will definitely concede that it was not predictable. Plot twists, masterfully executed like only Hollywood can do, left the audience satisfied. There were definitely weak points, though. I found the snide banter and teen-love goop (though it was used sparingly enough)a little annoying, personally. But where it lacked in writing it  made up for in action, symbolism, raw emotion and brilliant costume and set design. The film rang with a word, though it wasn’t used, duty- towards family, people, and loved ones in the face of hardship. Self-sacrifice always warms the heart, and the film makers capitalized on it.

Jennifer Lawrence gave a generally solid performance, though at times I didn’t really buy her outbursts of crying, even though they were justified in the circumstances. While the two lover boys (played by Hemsworth and Hutcherson) were very charming, my favorites had to be the minor characters. Donald Sutherland as President Snow was a wonderful villain, and Jena Malone (Johanna) was fun to watch.


Rating According to Underground Voices:

Acting: 8/10

Direction: 10/10

Writing: 7/10

Plot: 9/10

For a total of: 8.5/10

How contrary was this movie to the most liberal of the basic Christian/family values on a scale of 1-10, you ask?








What Is Expected of Disciples of Christ (The World of Faith/Works/The Law Visited)

From reading the New Testament, we get the impression that we cannot be saved by doing good things. Which is true, of course. No one wants to just follow a bunch of rules anyway. And yet, a little guidance never hurt. 

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

-Matthew 5:20

I’ll bet you never memorized that verse in Sunday School. But there’s got to be something to it, otherwise why would Jesus have said it? Does it have some kind of non-literal meaning? Maybe. Was it a little rude of me to just rip it out of context? Probably. I’ll help you out a little with the context thing, here’s the verse that comes before it: 
Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

I think that probably helped a little bit. 

I’ve heard it preached before, probably more than once, that true love for Christ will result in obedience. Therefore, we must obey. But what does that mean? Do we need to have more good deeds and less bad deeds tallied up than the Pharisees?

I think it’s important to address that the Pharisees were bound by different laws than modern Christians, because much of our doctrine is based on the teachings of Jesus, the same one who got mad at Pharisees frequently. 

The important question lingers… are we required to do good? I can’t really answer yes. You know what happens when I say yes- I sound like some kind of pre-destination whacko type who harasses teens for dancing. And you know what happens when I say no- I sound like the anything-goes-as-long-as-your-heart-is-in-the-right-place-spiritually type. And if I say yes and no, then I have portrayed Christianity as an impossible paradox.

So I will omit an answer. I don’t need to answer this question, God already has. Paul has written pages and pages on this topic. I think that implies that it’s hard to answer the question in a couple sentences. But here is what I will say.

You can be saved through the love, mercy, and sacrifice of Christ. It’s not because you saved a toddler from a burning building (although if you really did that, I must admit that’s pretty awesome).

But if God didn’t care what we did with our lives, why did he give us guidelines through his son Jesus? To name a few:

Resisting greed (1Timothy 6:8)

Loving enemies (Matthew 5:43-44)

Turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39-40)

Helping the poor and needy (Matthew 9:35)

Fleeing from sexual immorality (Hebrews 13:4)

Not complaining (Philippians 2:14)

Not getting drunk (Ephesians 5:18)

Not swearing (Colossians 3:8)

Not getting angry at people (Matthew 5:22)

Is this hard? Uh… yeah. That’s why we have to ask for God’s help. Christ fulfilled the law, making it a bit more comprehensive, but also giving us the forgiveness, love,  and aid that we need that we need to do His will. Now all nations will know about God. No more burnt offering and wars- but now our task is to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20). 

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20


If Every Day Was Thanksgiving


This was the first year that my family didn’t have an actual turkey, which kind of threw us off, but you know, what does it really matter, we had other good food. And I still gained a bit of weight. I suppose I didn’t spend a whole lot of time being thankful today. I found myself sulking at one point in the day, which was kind of ironic. But then I thought… Why is that a bad thing just today? Shouldn’t every day be like Thanksgiving? Even without the gravy, the extended family, the parade, the shopping? Shouldn’t every day be spent giving thank to God for life, health (if applicable), family, friends, resources, work (again, if applicable). And yet, our society tells us that we should make thankfulness a temporary thing, and the rest of the time should be spent climbing up ladders and gawking over things that we don’t have. As if that’s any way to live.

photo credit

He Who Exalts Himself….

Matthew 23:12

New King James Version (NKJV)

And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

I feel that all my life, I never found a healthy balance when it comes to the way I view myself. It seems that I’m always either tearing myself down to the point where I’m so worthless I might as well be dead, or building myself up to the point where I become some kind of genius who is going to change the world. I suppose I’m just too creative and insane for any kind of moderation in my life.

Yet right now, I know that I real need to humble myself, and do it fast, before God has to do it for me in a painful way. I would rather have it done in a less painful way, thank you very much. No earth-shatttering traumatic events please.

You see, pretty soon, God willing, I will be submitting my play to a competition at the university. Four plays will be selected to be produced. And now I’m going to just have to keep reminding myself that there’s very little chance that I’ll win. Why should I win? I’m not the only person with a modicum of writing talent. Sheesaloo, there’s probably dozens of creative-dorky types just like me submitting to this competition. And do I even want to win? What if my play gets turned into some kind of God-bashing, all-Christians-are-idiots deal? It wouldn’t be hard for them to go that direction. After all, I did write a play about hypocrisy and deceit, sprinkled with a very subtle pinch of good ole fashioned redemption. So it isn’t very preachy, but it could become the opposite of preachy with a little help.

Why should my play get produced? And why would they want to glorify God?

Why should my novels get published? They’re not even that good. Who am I, that I need to be published?

And so, for now at least, Underground Voices remains, in the underground. 


A Blue Christmas


I am beginning to understand why the approach of the holidays (Christmas, in my book, because it least it has the word Christ in it) often makes people depressed. I remember being a kid, and loving Christmas, for materialistic reasons, mostly, but being excited about it just the same. Was I going to get the newest gaming system thing, or, worst case scenario, just some new dolls? I wish I hadn’t been so greedy, but I miss those simpler sorts of dilemmas.

But this Christmas is not going to be so hot. With no friends, no extended family coming over, no material things to receive, and nothing that I even want that can be bought with money… what’s there to look forward to? No wonder suicide rates are so high this time of year, a lot of people have much less to look forward to than I do.

“It’s just another birthday (my birthday is a few days before Christmas), just another Christmas, just another New Year, which will be the same as last year or even worse, and at the end of it, I’ll be the same as the year before, or even worse. Where are the best years of my life?”

I can spend a lot of time thinking like this, thinking about how pathetic my life is and how I can’t wait to go to heaven and sing with the angels and my Christian friends who never liked me on earth. But then I remember… why am I wasting my time being sad and holding back tears? What does it matter if some parts of my life aren’t perfect? Who said that life was going to be easy and predictable and rosy all the time? Am I the first person who has experienced hurt? No. Will I be the last? No. Does anyone want to hear me complain, does anyone think my pain is justified, and does anyone really care? No.

I have everything that I need. And at least I can look forward to spending time with my immediate family, writing, perhaps some cookie baking and tree-decorating. What more can a person want out of life?

In economics, we learn about how self-interest makes the world go round. We learn how “smart for one, smart for all” puts food on the table. Yet I don’t want to live that way. I don’t want to always be thinking about how to improve my life and worrying about what people think of me. I want to do my job and keep my soul, living a life that responds to Christ’s great sacrifice. I’m so tired of being tired… it’s time to wake up and suck it up.


The Two Edged Sword That is The Truth

“Tell the truth, honest is the best policy,” they say. “The truth will set you free,” they say. Well, who am I to contradict that? But the truth is just not fun. Think about it, why would the truth be pleasant? The things we do aren’t usually good and the things we think aren’t all that noble, so why would anyone want to disclose more embarrassing facts than absoulutely necessary for practicality and sanity? Isn’t one of the basic aims of humanity to make every effort to escape from the crueler realities of life, whether through the bottle, the screen, the crack pipe, or, in some cases, the book?

Don’t deny it. Denying it won’t get you anywhere.

One of the Ten Commandments is you shall not lie. “Fair enough” we think. “Surely no good can come out of lying. But why do I need to tell my neighbor about every skeleton in my closet, every secret fear and agony that haunts my soul?” So most of us don’t attempt to disclose that stuff. Because it’s only true- who really wants to hear all that? No one.

So then we try to be very judicious about what we reveal. Just yesterday I was covering up, oh, a pretty important trespass against someone. I thought it was okay, since I wasn’t really lying, at least a vast majority of the time, just withholding important information, that’s all. But I started to feel really bad about it yesterday. I would deliberate and deliberate in my head, endlessly. I’d come to the decision to keep up the charade, but I never felt good about the decision, so the process just repeated itself. The Golden Rule, that was my justification, the golden rule. It’s amazing how good the enemy is at helping you justify your wrong actions, even when you start to get that “sinking feeling,” which I believe is really God tapping you on the shoulder. So I tried putting myself in the shoes of the trespassee. I thought, “If I were them, would I really want to know?” Wouldn’t it be better if I just fixed it, saving them the heartache? Yet I came to realize the impossibility of rectifying the situation without them knowing about it. I suppose I sort of knew  it from the beginning, I just choose not to acknowledge it, since I was just so focused on trying to save myself. But anyway, back to the narration. So I asked for a sign, and I thought was going to wait a couple more agaonizing, guilt-ridden days. But then I got my sign, much sooner than I thought, which convinced me once and for all that the deception absolutely needed to end. And that was the moment that I came clean.

What can be learned from this story? Not necessarily that you need to tell people everything. Even if you were insane enough to want to do this, come on, you wouldn’t be able to. I suppose the lesson is that you have instincts, as a believer, and as a person. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll regret not listening to instincts (God’s whisperings)  more often than not, impeded my pride, laziness, or a myriad of selfish concerns. And then, you have to just stop beating yourself up.