Film Review: Miracles from heaven

Production companies: Affirm Films, Roth Films and Franklin Entertainment

Distributed by Columbia Pictures

Release Date: February 21, 2016 (Dallas) and March 16, 2016 (United States)

Running time: 109 minutes

Reviewer: Chidimma Nnagbo

 

There are a lot of questions that defy answers. One of such questions is why we don’t receive everything we ask of God at the time we ask for it. Is it the result of our inadequacies or God’s mysterious ways? Most Christians consider these kinds of questions abominable and faithless, either because they have never been in situations that stretch their faith past its elastic limit or they have attained a certain level of faith no amount of earthly difficulty and emotional stress can waver.

Miracles from Heaven is a 2016 American Christian movie directed by Patricia Riggen, written by Randy Brown and produced by DeVon Franklin, T. D. Jakes and Joe Roth. It is based on a book by Christy Beam which tells the true  story of a heart-wrenching situation when God seem far away and non-existent. The film was released on March 16, 2016. T

The movie starts with a picture of a happy Christian middle class family. Jennifer Graner who seems to have no troubles switching from core action movies to love movies to now Christian movies played the role of Christy Beam, the mother to 10 year old Anna Beam (Kylie Rogers) who had a rare, incurable disorder that leaves her unable to digest food.

Christy Beam on recommendation tracked down a doctor who specialized in rare conditions like Anna’s but couldn’t get an appointment to see him since there was a waiting list of patients. Dejected and sympathetic of her daughter who was in severe pain, they left the hospital to a restaurant where they met the delightful, energetic and kind-hearted Angela (Queen Latifah). Angela brings a little humour and comic relief to the story as she does in most of her other movies. She befriends Anna and her mother and offers to take them on a tour round Boston and to see the Aquarium which she had missed visiting back home because of her sickness. In one funny scene, Angela had to Jack her dilapidated car door open using one leg and two hands in a frantic fight.

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Angela with Christy and Anna Beam

Finally, Anna got an appointment to see Dr. Nurko (Martin Henderson) and after series of trials nothing could be done to help Anna. Anna had a roommate in the hospital, Hailey, who had cancer. She told Hailey about Jesus and spoke about the fact that he’s always present with her. Hailey believed; but Hailey’s father warned Christy to stop her daughter from giving his daughter false hope.

Things were quite bad at this point. The pain was so excruciating Anna wanted to die. Her mother had lost faith in God. They didn’t even have the finances to continue with the treatments. Dr. Nurko advised her to take her daughter home.

Back home, some people in church told Christy Beam her daughter’s condition may be as a result of her or her husband’s sinfulness or even Anna’s. This infuriated her and she stopped going to church. A dark shadow was cast over the family of 5. She had prayed, cried and begged God, yet nothing changed and her poor innocent daughter was still suffering with an enlarged abdomen and severe pains.

The turning point of the story was when Anna fell into a tree while playing with her sisters. A rescue unit  got her out after several hours. Miraculously, she was cured of her sickness after the fall. Her abdomen returned to its normal size, and she could eat without tubes. Later on, she told her parents that while she was in the tree, she left her body and that she saw Jesus and that Jesus had told her that she would be okay.

The part I consider most interesting in the movie was Christy coming back to church. The media came to cover the service as Anna’s story had gone viral. Christy stood at the pulpit and made a very honest speech. She said when Anna got sick she couldn’t understand why such a devoted God-loving little Anna was going through what she went through. She felt alone and angry that their prayers weren’t being answered. She quoted Albert Einstein ‘“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” There was a flashback of how extraordinarily they got an appointment to see Dr. Nurko, they met Angela,  who brought a little laughter to their faces in the midst of their hopelessness, her husband got a free flight ticket to Boston for himself and Anna’s sister when they had no money. She said she was blind to those little miracles.

She asked one crucial question: “why was Anna healed when today around the world, there are so many children suffering?” She admitted she didn’t have an answer. But as far as she was concerned, those who suffer are not alone in their hurting state. God remains with them through their travails.

The movie stands out because of this: while God’s power was clearly and gloriously shown, questions in the mind of Christians were not sidelined and covered with empty speeches and acts. The acknowledgement that everything isn’t always perfect was captured, yet the presence of an omnipotent God was also evidently displayed.

©Chidimma Nnagbo, 2019

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Movie Review: Paul, Apostle of Christ

 

Production Companies: Affirm Films and ODB Films

Distributor: Sony Pictures

Release Date: March 23, 2018

Running Time: 106 minutes

Reviewer: Chidimma Nnagbo

pau apostle movie poster

Paul, Apostle of Christ is woven around Paul (James Faulkner), Luke (Jim Caviezel) who played the role of Jesus in “Passion of Christ”, Mauritius Gallas (Olivier Martinez) Prefect of Mamertine Prison and the Christians under the care of Priscilla (Joanne Whalley) and Aquila (John Lynch). It is a 2018 American biblical drama film written and directed by Andrew Hyatt and Produced by David Zelon and T.J. Berden.

Rome suffers a devastating fire outbreak and Emperor Nero pins the blame on Christians and unleashes judgment on them by torture, setting them on fire on the streets of Rome and slaughtering them on sight. As a result, all Christians go into hiding under the care of Aquila and Priscilla. Luke enters the city just when they need counsel on what next to do. They ask Luke to seek Paul’s wisdom during his visit to him in prison.

The movie is faith provoking and sad but at the same time lacks the ability to hold a viewer spellbound. Of all the accounts of Paul in the Bible, the makers of this movie chose to showcase the end of Paul’s life when he is old, weak and almost ineffective, which by the way the bible has little record of. He even whines about his bones racked with pains and his eyesight bad. The Paul in the bible was bold, influential and the most eloquent of all the apostles so portraying him the way he is portrayed seem almost dissatisfying. Luke is seen persuading Paul to pass wisdom and letters to the Christians in Rome and beyond. In reality, Paul was not someone that needed persuasion to preach the gospel. His character, even in his last days was poorly sketched.

The cinematography, lighting, and costumes are perfect but the set is flawed. An idea that Paul is in the darkest and most hideous part of Rome’s cells is given but Paul is seen in a relatively well lit and somewhat spacious cell. The movie is not as explicit as expected of a movie staged centuries ago. The only act of violence shown is a hung man being set on fire. Asides that, every other act is told, not seen. Compared to ‘Passion of Christ’, this film is modest. This limits the communication of the supposed hardship Christians in Rome are going through to a viewer. The flashbacks of Paul’s active days which should have been the highlights of the rather dull movie is so poorly staged.

Does the movie achieve its purpose? If it’s purpose is to remind Christians what Christianity is really all about in a time where everybody is ‘woke’ and fighting for one right or the other, then yes. The message of love is strongly advocated. Cassius (Alessandro Sperduti) is seen dividing the Christian refugee camp and calling for justice against Rome. After what they subjected Christians to and what they are still subjecting them to, one might think waging war against Rome and fighting for their lives would be absolutely right; but Priscilla and Aquila chose a different way. They tell him he and any other person that carries arms against the Romans would be banned because they are Christians and live a lifestyle of peace. When Luke reports to Paul the situation of things at the camp, he says ‘Let peace be with you because we live in the world but we do not wage war as the world does. Peace begins with you. Love is the only way’. Cassius breaks into the prison to release him, he still doesn’t go. Instead, he asks him of whose authority he acts because it certainly isn’t of God’s.

Paul’s discussion with Mauritius Gallas after Luke healed his daughter shows effortless preaching of the gospel and conversion to Christianity should be. After Paul preaches to him, he asks what if he doesn’t believe after everything that has happened. Paul tells him it takes just a moment and it isn’t him but Christ himself that looks down upon a person and shatters his defenses. At that moment one would realize how much God knows and loves him.  He says he will pray that moment comes for him.

The scene of the afterlife shown where Paul meets all those he persecuted in an open field with dry grasses with warmth on their faces is a picture of heaven as I hope it will look. Then, a man I suppose is Jesus is seen from afar walking towards him. Perhaps this particular scene was not given much thought. Maybe it would have been better to end the movie with Paul’s execution.

Here is the official trailer:

 

INTIMACY OF TRUTH

He asks why I shrink
My mind conjures letters into words
Envelopes but unable to post it
The inefficiency of the post office may misplace it
Misplace it with reactions from cross-purposes
For avoidable protocol of tracing words to letters I shrink

He says I should try him
But I know the end from the beginning
I am expected to be saintly
With perhaps a pardonable trace of sinfulness
Because he supposedly understands I’m human
I can’t determine which of my sinfulness he considers pardonable
So I don’t try him

I quiver at my imaginations
My mind is a roller coaster of horror
The gate of Hades
For his safety, there is no access
No actual intimacy
Let it be closed to family and friends
Entertaining guests will be at the veranda

The explosion of bodies in hot passion is still not intimacy without truth
He could recognize the members of my body in the dark;
Be familiar with the turns, corners
Nooks, crannies, depths and heights of my body
We could surf through a tsunami with goose pimples as evidence
And still not achieve intimacy

My hunger for intimacy deepens
I search and find the one able
To hear my filthy and wretched truth
The one who sees past my truth
And introduced his truth which is grace
Alas, I give up my keys and let him in
I let out fires I shamefully quenched
The intimacy of truth cannot be afforded by humans
But the one already paid

– ChyD
© 2019

The Most beautiful Girl- Part 2

Years pass and she remains a sister to me
A perfect relationship divorce can’t sever
There is no ‘more‘ to want
Her love is complete and I am satisfied
Until the 99th night she passed at my house
She wakes at midnight to find my fingers on her breast
With a push from her I land on the floor
On getting up I see the hurt and unbelief in her eyes as tears roll down her cheeks
There is no explanation to her or myself of my actions
No words are exchanged
The wait for dawn is like waiting for Jesus’ second coming
I curl on the floor while she clutches herself tightly on the bed with occasional sniffs
I die a thousand death in a thousand ways, all by suicide
She leaves as morning comes
Apologies are meant for explainable crimes, not inconceivable ones
This crime should not be apologized for nor forgiven
A lot of water pass under the bridge and today I cry;
I cry because she visits last week and wraps me in a hug
We go for walks and she leans on me like old times
Like I didn’t abuse her
She has a golden heart but the most I expect are patches;
A hand sewn cloth thread with caution
She disappoints me with total abandonment and oblivion of the past
I cry for I don’t deserve her yet I have her
Her name is Grace

ChyD
© 2019

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL GIRL – Part 1

The most beautiful girl my experience taught smiled at me today
It has been a long class and I thought I was following till that smile
I have myriads of questions but I fear my mates might have a comic relief
So I try moving my shivering lips apart in an attempt to smile back
My grades are average so why the warmth in her smile?
My grades are average so I must be missing something a brighter student can point out
Soon after class, a tap on my shoulder, and I turn to see a pair of joy-flooded eyes
I can’t hold her gaze, my legs are trembling and I have a sudden urge to pee
I sit down, clamp my legs together with my hands between them
She seem to notice my discomfort so she pulls out my hand and holds
“What have I got myself into”, I think
Without mincing words she tells me she likes me and would want a friend in me
On the 3rd attempt at trying to talk and not recognizing my voice
I clear my throat and all I can mutter is ‘okay’
I could change classes and routes and never see her again but she has other ideas
She walks me home, my palm in hers
With each laughter and chatter, I feel at home
She tells tales too beautiful to be true about herself;
Describes her thoughts of me in ways my exposure has not afforded my imagination
I unpack boxes I leave packed because I was always on the move
Now I am home

ChyD
© 2019

A fool

Let me be a fool;
Lend to a friend that never refunds
With him going not a sorrowing
Break my fast at night
Sharing with a pot-bellied drunk
Without puncturing his food-filled belly

Let me be a fool;
Forgive the most heinous crimes
with no reference to ‘forgive but don’t forget’;
Unlearn the act of saying ‘No’;
Yes to my inconvenience and sufferance
If it’s in giving a helping hand

Let me be a fool;
Grow a heart so big it’s a foster home
For all religion, colour, status and age
Curl over grenades of lies, abuse and hurt
In a bid to save my home

Let me be a fool;
Be silent for the sake of peace
And Eloquent for love
End the search for purpose
And embrace love as my sole purpose

Let me be a fool;
Travel miles on foot for love
With no clue what to expect at my destination;
Still travel with a prior prophecy of doom of my trip
Let me be a fool for love
Let me live and die for love

ChyD
© 2019

Well done

You pray in formation
Beyoncé has to feature you in her next formation
Praises first, worship second
Forgive me Lord for I have sinned
Well done, ma

You give up on yourself
Because you keep running from Pillar to Post
Pillar of fornication
Post of prayer for forgiveness of sins
Your legs are weak
You imagine the lord must be tired of you
Tigers woods!
Well done, Sir!

You are told Jesus has forgiven you once and for all
But you argue you have to work out your salvation with fear and trembling
How is the walk going?
Are you trembling yet?
Wakajugbe!
Well done, ma!

You complicate simple English
And say there is more to believing than believing
That believing is not enough for eternal life if not backed up with works
Backup memory card!
Listen to yourself
Are you making any sense at all?
Well done, Sir!

You say Grace keeps one from sinning
Aunty stop sinning already
But you cannot
Is God’s grace not sufficient for you?
Now you say you have to strive to enter
You go wound oh
Well done, ma!

You call me heretic
That I preach a message from the pit of hell
A message that allows believers to lounge
Can we talk about this
Without you getting worked up and defensive?
Because I would like to see you without a York
Jackie!
Well done, Sir!

ChyD
© 2019

One Down

Blindness from birth is a blessing compared to sudden loss of sight
The knowledge of colours and shades lost
Just become memories gradually fading away
Leaving a vacuum of nothingness yearning to be filled
But never to be filled

Love lost is beautiful
Though love found is more beautiful
Love never felt is nothingness
Love lost can be brooded over, cried over and reminisced over
Love lost can be found when searched
But love never felt has neither silver nor rainbow lining

Certain unnatural emotions are prayed for
Emotions involving hours of baring oneself in tears and strange languages
Of longings unexplainable, yet knowledge immeasurable
Of completeness and confidence in found identity
Such emotions defy conventional theories
It blooms from walk by faith not love at sight
People unfortunate to not have felt such emotions drool when they hear of colours and shades and rainbow linings
Of longings yet completeness

But they’d have to hear
People that felt but lost become shadows of themselves
Because they prayed
They prayed not to go a day without Jesus
They prayed not to take a breath without him
The moment they started getting cold
Their breathing became impaired
Their days became empty and gloomy
They knew they needed warmth
They knew a prayer has been answered
One down
Many more to go

ChyD

(c) 2018