Reflections on the Movie “Father Stu”

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2022 Blog #39

October 3, 2022

Reflections on the Movie “Father Stu”

I saw “Father Stu” on Netflix recently. I am happy that I watched this movie. It was well worth my time even though I found the beginning to be a bit draggy. It has a number of important themes that were raised and that are worth exploring.

The movie follows a man named Stu who is a bit of a rough character. His home life was no prize with the family mourning a long deceased little brother and a father who lives away from the family but still is an alcoholic with abusive tendencies. Stu is a boxer who must stop boxing as this sport has damaged his body.

He goes to Hollywood to become an actor and to attempt to reconnect with his distant father. A vehicular accident leaves him close to death but he has a vision of Jesus’ Mom, Mary, who tells him that he will live and that he must discover how to have a meaningful life for himself and one that honors God. He decides to become a priest.

Some folks are reluctant to let him into seminary because of his background which includes drunk driving offences. He reminds the seminary officials that many devout Christians had less than sterling backgrounds.

He doesn’t fit in well at seminary. He is a bit less well-mannered than his student colleagues. Yet, he is the one that excels at prison ministry. He can talk to inmates in ways that the more cerebral and polished students cannot.  The prisoners can relate to him and listen to him.

Finally he develops a muscular degenerative disease that will someday take his life. Contracting this disease may or may not be related to his boxing injuries or from his near fatal accident. His next quest is how to use this illness and the pain and immobility that it brings him to honor God, instead of falling into depression or self-pity. He rises to the challenge and continues to be faithful to God despite his circumstances.

Finally, through his steadfast faith and witness, his parents begin to explore faith and are ultimately baptized. His father even begins to attend 12 step meetings and seeks sobriety. The witness of Father Stu effects many people.

This is a story of a man growing up in disfunction but overcoming it.

This is a story of a man who survived by a miracle.

This is a story about wanting to give his life to God because of this miracle.

This is a story of a church that looks at purity more than redemption and almost loses a great asset.

This is a story of one person who was redeemed and whose life helped change, for the good, many people around him.

What challenges do you face in life? Has someone told you that you were not pure enough or good enough to be close to God? I recommend that you watch this movie and become inspired to imitate Father Stu. I pray that we all learn the lessons that it seeks to teach us. I pray, that you, like Father Stu, rise to honor God despite your circumstances.

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                 #PastorMarkAuthor            

#BergenCounty                                                        #BergenfieldNJ

#Redemption                                                            #FatherStu

#Purity                                                                        #Vocation

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Celebrating a Paper Bag Resurrection

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2022 Blog #38

September 26, 2022

Celebrating a Paper Bag Resurrection

Not always, but frequently, I eat Wanton soup for lunch on Thursdays. I don’t know how I got into this habit. It just seemed to evolve. It is a soup that I enjoy weekly, especially in cold weather. Until recently my soup was served in a plastic container in a plastic bag. Now, plastic bags are no longer available and my soup container was served in a paper shopping bag. I really like carrying a paper bag again. They are nostalgic for me.

I was a young man when plastic bags first began replacing paper bags in most stores. I remember many older women complain that plastic bags did not keep their shape like the paper bags did. When these bags first came into use, most people I know (myself included) requested a paper bag inside the plastic one. This helped the plastic bags keep their shapes. The use of the paper bags allowed us to use fewer bags and to store our groceries in fewer bags.

Gradually, stores phased out paper bags and went exclusively to plastic bags. The claim was that these plastic bags would save trees by using less paper. I didn’t hear anyone explaining what would happen to all of this plastic that was put in landfills. Most people I knew were angry when paper bags were discontinued. It was a commonly held belief that the stores were using plastic because they were cheaper and not to protect trees.

Now, forty years later, as most communities have mandatory recycling of bottles and cans, the thin plastic bags were not eligible for recycling at households. Instead, stores had bins to collect these. Over these decades I saw very few bags going into these bins and I always wondered if these bags were simply taking up space in landfills.

Now we are back to paper bags as the disposal of plastic has become a real issue. These bags are polluting our earth as they don’t seem to lend themselves to recycling. In short, instead of making paper bags from recycled paper, we shifted to plastic and greatly increased the poisons that we dump into the earth. We didn’t think about the future implications of our impulsive shift from paper to plastic.

When we act impulsively or with short-sighted goals, we often cause negative consequences for future generations. For the sake of people who will be following us in life, we need to think through the implications of our actions. Our actions will have impact upon the future. Let us be careful in what we do so that our actions will have good consequences.

So, will I be using paper bags from stores? Not very often. For years I’ve been using re-usable cloth bags. I believe that these are the best choice.

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                 #PastorMarkAuthor            

#BergenCounty                                                        #BergenfieldNJ

#UnintendedConsequences                                  #RenewableResources

#ShoppingBags                                                        #PaperBags 

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order copy of his book:https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

An Undeserved Gift at Citi Field

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2022 Blog #37

September 19, 2022

An Undeserved Gift at Citi Field

I drove over the George Washington bridge and made my standard snarky remarks about “being in New York City.” I am a Jersey snob after all and spend as little time in New York City as I can. This trip was different, however. I was looking forward to the trip for, although in New York, Citi Field is still a great place to be.

I parked in the VIP section of the lot and walked toward the entrance for “special guests.” After passing through security we were directed toward the “Clover Lounge.” It was there that I began to realize just what a wonderful gift I had been the recipient of. There was an abundance of free food that would rival the food of a wedding reception buffet.

For almost an hour we feasted on beef, shrimp, salad, rice chicken kabobs and that doesn’t include the hotdogs, pretzels, and four different desserts. I lost count of the number of cannoli’s that I ate. I felt more than full when I ate, but not before I brought a few sodas and bags of potato chips with me to our seats.

The seats for the game were the best I had ever sat in. We were on the third base side, four rows from the field. I was fifteen feet from the Pittsburgh ball boy and ten feet away from the field camera and photography booth. The game was even better as Taijuan Walker  pitched well enough to win the games as the Mets beat the Pirates.

Did I deserve any of this? No. I didn’t pay for the tickets. Pam received four such tickets as a free gift from Peter B of “The Pulse” who has done some podcasts for “My Sanctuary Healing” and Hudson River Care and Counseling Center. He gave these to us as a free gift. I, Pam, a church deacon and his son, were the recipients of this gift.

This is similar to God’s grace. For those of us who will receive the gift of heaven from God, we must never feel entitled to it or that we have earned or deserved it. It is a gift. How do we respond to gifts? With gratitude. If the Holy Spirit tells us that heaven will be given to us, we are obligated to live lives that honor and show gratitude to God.

It was a great gift that I received on Friday night. I owe a lot of gratitude to Peter B. for his wonderful gift to us.

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                 #PastorMarkAuthor            

#BergenCounty                                                       

#BergenfieldNJ

# NY Mets                                                                 #HudsonRiverCareandCounseling          

#MySanctuaryHealing                                             #ThePulsewithPeterB

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

What was the best part of your vacation?

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2022 Blog #36

September 12, 2022

What was the best part of your vacation?

I’m back from my vacation for a week now. My leisurely activities at my cabin have ended until next August. Several people have asked me what I did on vacation. It is a long list. I finished my second book, canoed, toured the studio of the sculptor who designed the Lincoln Memorial, cooked at an engagement party, and played with my grandsons. It was a wonderful vacation. One other set of events stand out for me. I was able to sit at worship. I could find the peace and joy of worship.

As a congregational pastor, it is difficult to sit and feel the peace and joy of worship. Leading worship is a difficult juggling act. One must keep a sermon within your head. One must be ready to trouble-shoot any last minute difficulties. A few congregants always wish to ask the pastor something about “business” just before church. Such problems could always wait until Monday or a least to fellowship hour following worship but inevitably some people want these conversations a few minutes before worship begins.

It is hard to feel Christ’s peace as your mind is swirling and you worry about details of worship. It is hard to “be still” before God when you are active in many directions leading worship. Leading worship by nature is “doing” but to feel Christ’s presence it is often necessary to be still and hear the Holy Spirit.

On vacation it is different. No one is asking you to lead worship. On vacation I can sit in church and not worry about how things are going. During vacation I can sit silently and listen to prayers and sermons. These are wonderful blessings.

This past August I sat in church and worshipped. Some weeks I sat with children and grandchildren. I celebrated being able to worship with my grandsons on my knees demonstrating to them how one sits worshipfully in church. I could sit peacefully and let God speak to me.

What was the best part of my vacation? Sitting with my Grandsons and worshipping God with my friends at First Reformed Church of Wynantskill. That was a wonderful blessing. If you are reading this and not active in church worship I suggest that you find a church to worship in. It might just help you find Christ’s peace.

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                 #PastorMarkAuthor            

#BergenCounty                                                       

#BergenfieldNJ

#BeingStillBeforeGod                                              #FirstReformedChurchWynantskill

#PastorBethanyPopkes                                         

#HolySpirit    

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

“Having something worth living for”

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2022 Blog #35

September 5, 2022

Summer Cinema Scenes in 10 parts

Part 10 Harry Potter

“Having something worth living for”

JK Rowling’s book series Harry Potter took our nation by storm in the 1990’s. From 2001-2011 there were eight movies made from these seven books. My daughters enjoyed reading these books as well as watching the movies. I don’t think that they, or anyone else, enjoyed them more than I did.

If you don’t know the story, Harry Potter as an infant, survived an attack by the evil wizard, Voldemort. Throughout the books, Voldemort and his followers continue to pursue Harry while other people seek to protect him. Even as a young boy and a student at the Hogwarts school of Wizardry, he seems to have an amazing ability to escape death. Voldemort is very powerful and it would seem obvious that he could prevail against young Harry. Yet, Harry survives dozens of dangerous situations.

During one confrontation between the two, Voldemort in frustration, rages at Harry, “Why do you live?” Harry is quick to reply, “Because I have something worth living for.”

Do you know a “Harry Potter?” I do. Over the course of my years I have met many people who have had great calamities and yet they simply seem to shake them off and move forward. These calamities might be accidents or illnesses. Friends and neighbors assumed that the illnesses would be fatal but they were not. How is it that some people appear to survive anything and others can succumb to what appeared to be a minor difficulty. I don’t believe that having a reason to live is the only factor in longevity, but I am sure that it is one important factor. I am told also that a reason to live is a factor in happiness as well. People without reason to live very often suffer from depression.

How many reasons do we have to live? What are these reasons? Do we live for family, for work, to travel? Do we live for God? I have read many articles that claim that people affiliated with church live longer than those who are not so affiliated. Perhaps when we are active church participants we learn to live for God, the church community, the higher causes of justice and righteousness and, if we are lucky enough to have family members in church with us, we live for family as well.

I encourage everyone to become active in a faith community. You will find many things that “are worth living for.”

I have something worth living for https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBRfVbP1cyo

“All Things Change”

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2022 Blog #34

August 29, 2022

Summer Cinema Scenes in 10 parts

Part 9 “Star Trek Six, The Undiscovered Country”

“All Things Change”

I love the original Star Trek movies but have never been able to fully appreciate the newer ones with a newer cast. I appreciate the original characters far too much to transfer by loyalty to newer actors. My favorite of these original movies is Star Trek Six: The Undiscovered Country.

This movie, produced in 1991, describes the breakup of the Klingon Empire. It seems to be a reflection of the real life breakup of the Soviet Union between 1989-1991. There were many comparisons between the Soviet Union and this movie when it came to theaters. Two themes dominate this movie; all things change and some people live in fear of the future and wish to keep change from happening.

Several warriors from the United Federation of Planets as well as the Klingon Empire do not trust former opponents. The treaties , however flawed, had keep a state of relative peace. There wasn’t friendship between the two sides but there was peace. The political structure gave security to each side but small factions could not imagine the future without these structures, however imperfect they were.

A plot organized by high ranking members of the Federation as well as the Klingons is organized to keep the new promise of peace from ever happening. High placed officials were willing to thwart an unfolding future that they feared.

Captain Spock has been a major player in beginning peace talks between these factions. He is confronted by Lieutenant Valeris who fears the future changes. She asks Captain Spock about artwork in his quarters. He explains that it is a painting of the expulsion of humans from the Garden of Eden. Spock explains that it is a reminder that “all things end.”

Like many of the characters in this movie I don’t like change either. I enjoy stability and yet, change is always inevitable. Spock’s words, “all things end” reverberate for me. Things begin and things end. When new things begin will these things be good or bad? Perhaps they will be both good and bad. Perhaps it is up to us to manage the changes in our  lives to ensure that we can find positive outcomes in every change.

All things change. Whether the changes are positive or negative is largely up to us.

All things end https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4Op4vc3GBs

“I will remain Galadriel”

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2022 Blog #33

August 22, 2022

Summer Cinema Scenes in 10 parts

Part 8 “The Lord of the Rings”

“I will remain Galadriel”

I first fell in love with JRR Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” when I was told about it in college. These stories were only in book form back then. The more recent movies were not thought of when I first discovered this three part story. I loved them then and I still love them.

The synopsis of the story is that there is an evil sorcerer who wants to dominate the world. The evil wizard, Sauron, lacks one thing to make this dream come true, the ultimate ring of power. This ring of power, by a long string of events, comes into the possession of Frodo, a meek and humble hobbit. A wise coalition of good wizards, humans, elves, dwarves and hobbits set about to destroy this one ring of power in order to keep it from the evil wizard.

Members of this coalition, as well as other characters, are tempted to seize this ring of power and use it in an attempt to topple the evil wizard. With good intentions, many characters face this temptation not knowing that possessing such power will change them into evil characters. One cannot have such power without it changing your character for the worse.

One such character is Galadriel, an Elf queen. She has been working to oppose the evil wizard and struggling to maintain all that is good in the world. She is a wise healer. Frodo, in order to end the evil of the world, with all good intentions, offers to give her the ring of power. He believes that she would use it with goodness and integrity to defeat the wizard Sauron. She declines this temptation for she fears what she shall become if she possessed unlimited power. She knows that her essence would change if she possessed this ring. Instead of being fair and just she would become an evil queen. The power would corrupt her.

Many of us desire more power to set things right in the world. There are times when we are tempted to adopt the philosophy “the end justifies the means.” When we adopt this way of thinking we begin a walk to the dark side.

Galadriel resists the temptation. She turns down the chance to have the ring. She would rather diminish than to become a powerful but evil queen. She knows the temptations of power. May we be so wise. When we battle evil forces in the world may we never use the same tactics of those doing evil or we might become like them and become evil ourselves.

The Lord of the Rings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeQDTj1UllA

“Don’t be afraid of who you are”

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2022 Blog #32

August 15, 2022

Summer Cinema Scenes in 10 parts

Part 7 “The Rise of Skywalker”

“Don’t be afraid of who you are”

A few years ago, that latest Star Wars movie, “The Rise of Skywalker” debuted in theaters. It got only mixed reviews. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and found it quite inspirational and has a valuable lesson for all of us.

This movie answers the question, “who is Rey?” Fans have been speculating about who Rey was since Star Wars first returned to the screen in 2015. Rey, much like Luke Skywalker before her, is a person gifted in the ways of the force but knows nothing of what the force even is. For two movies, we watched Rey get strong in the force and doing great things to protect the innocent from evil forces.

In this movie, Rey faces a crisis and puts herself into a self-imposed exile on a planet where in a prior movie Luke Skywalker had also exiled himself. Rey went into hiding because she feared who she was. The young woman had learned that she was the grand-daughter of the evil empire Palpatine. Rey fears that because of her lineage, she too will become an evil presence who uses her power for dark things. She fears who she is.

Master Luke Skywalker in force-ghost form meets her and assures her that he and Princess Leah both knew of Rey’s bloodline. Yet, they trained her in the Jedi arts despite her relation to the evil emperor. Master Luke assures her that Luke and Leah had seen Rey’s heart and spirit and that “some things are thicker than blood.”

Rey goes on to conquer the evil emperor and his empire. She proves that Master Luke is correct; if your relatives are evil it does not mean that you must be evil. One can make a new destiny apart from family lineage.

Do genetics matter? Of course. Family genetics can influence our personalities and how prone we are to certain illnesses and medical conditions. Yet, whether we live lives for evil or good is our decision to make. The lesson of this movie is simple: we need not be afraid of our family lineage, we make our own decisions on whether we will lead lives that bless or curse.

“Don’t be afraid of who you are.”

The Rise of Skywalker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eB_RfZJG78

“We’ll See”

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2022 Blog #31

August 8, 2022

Summer Cinema Scenes in 10 parts

Part 6 “Charlie Wilson’s War”

“We’ll See”

One of my all-time favorite movies is “Charlie Wilson’s War” which stars Tom Hanks and Julie Roberts. This chronicles the true story of Charlie Wilson, a congressional representative from Texas who engineered America’s covert involvement in forcing the Russian army out of Afghanistan in 1989. Charlie, a very little known member of congress, used favors and great political savvy to increase the funding and weapons to arm citizens of Afghanistan to fight a guerrilla war against the Russian invaders.

As the movie continues, I found myself celebrating the political prowess of Charlie Wilson and the victories of the freedom fighters. I felt the same feelings that I had when I would watch cowboy and Indian movies. I could clearly see the difference between the “good guys” and the “bad guys” and in the end the “good guys” win.

There is a growing euphoria as little by little the funding increases and the “good guys” have more victories. One man, a CIA agent with roots in rural Pennsylvania, doesn’t get sucked into the euphoria. He wants to tell Charlie, and anyone who will listen, the story of the Zen master. It is at the end of the movie that we finally here the story and the warning that it contains.

The story is as follows:

            There is a little boy who gets a horse on his fourteenth birthday. Everyone in the village says, “how wonderful that he got a horse.” The Zen Master says, “we’ll         see.”

            Two years later the little boy falls off his horse and breaks his leg and the whole   village says, “how terrible.” The Zen Master says, “we’ll see.”

            War breaks out and all the other boys go off to war except this boy because of     his leg injury. Because he doesn’t have to go to war the villagers say, “how        wonderful” but the Zen Master says, “we’ll see.”

The CIA agent is trying warning Charlie that with the Russians gone, there is a power vacuum in Afghanistan. We were not prepared to rebuild the infrastructure and become friendly with the population. In the wake of this power vacuum the Taliban come to power and ultimately we fought a futile war against that group. All of this came from our covert war against the Russian army.

The lesson in this is that consequences from our actions are not always what we think they will be. Let us be careful what we wish for and work for. We may just get it and the outcomes may not be what we have envisioned.

Charlie Wilson’s War: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2L1-TgfKb4

“You Can’t Go Back”

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2022 Blog #30

August 1, 2022

Summer Cinema Scenes in 10 parts

Part 5 “Field of Dreams”

“You Can’t Go Back”

I’ve seen the movie “Field of Dreams” many times. I still cry when I watch it. Friends of mine who also like this movie represent a dichotomy of opinion. Half of them cry through this movie and half laugh at those of us who cry through it. It seems to touch some of us more than others.

Those of us who cry through the movie all seem to cry through different scenes of the movie. In each of us, a different scene triggers an emotional response. This movie speaks to many people in many different ways for many different reasons.

My greatest cry scene revolves around a character named Doctor Graham. The first time we see him he is an older man and small time doctor. He has served this small town for decades. He is now taking care of the children of people that he once took care of. The opinion from many town folks is that he was generous, often waving fees for those who could not afford medical care and a supporter of local missions on behalf of those who were destitute. By all accounts, he was a well-loved man who did great things for his hometown. He does hold a secret disappointment, however. He was play minor league baseball and one game in the majors. Why didn’t he continue to play?

In this movie, Archie “Moonlight” Graham faces a choice as a young man. He is playing ball as a rookie when a little girl is choking. He faces a choice. He can continue playing ball or keep the girl from choking. Of course, movie choices are always simple and straight forward. He faces a choice; play baseball or use his skills to become a doctor who cares for residents of a small town. He chooses the latter and there is no going back once this choice is made. Yet, he always harbors a bit doubt wondering if he should have stayed in baseball.

I bet we can all recall such events in our lives. There were times when we all faced crossroads in our lives. The choices that we made at those times set the course of our futures. If we are fortunate we have few regrets about the choices that we made. More importantly, I hope that the choices that we made led us to lives of doing good and not harm. We can always think about “what if” about our former past decisions but the real questions are, “are we doing well for others?” and “have we found happiness with the lives we lead?” We can’t go back and redo our lives.

So why do I love this scene? It reminds me of me as a child. I always wanted to be a professional baseball player. Unlike Moonlight Graham, I didn’t walk away from being a baseball player for any other reason than I was never a good player. I simply was not born athletic enough.  I feel Dr. Graham’s pain at not being able to be a pro-player even though I and his character did so under very different circumstances. Every time I watch a game I marvel at what the players can do because I know how difficult it was to do what they do.

We all make choices in life. Whatever choices we made I pray that we have found happiness and are doing good for other.

Field Of Dreams  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6bD23vEigE&t=97s