If you’re adding film titles to your 2013 must-see list, here’s one to consider: Longford, an HBO drama telling the true story of British Lord Longford, played by Jim Broadbent. I’ve recommended it many times since I first saw it in 2009 and did so again a week or so ago. Few films still have me thinking about them years afterward.
A devout Christian, Longford visits prisoners as part of his spiritual practice. In the beginning, the film shows him in an interview saying that the greatest achievement in his life is visiting and helping prisoners. Then the story begins.
A notorious criminal asks him to visit her, a woman convicted of a heinous crime involving the most vulnerable and precious members of society. They begin meeting regularly, and he helps her over many years in her legal battle. His long-term relationship with her becomes the greatest achievement of his life’s greatest achievement.
Yet his efforts collapse in complete and utter failure. If I told you why it would be a spoiler, yet your guess probably comes close. Lord Longford is devastated and broken, an object of public scorn.
Time passes and he eventually writes a book on another topic. In an interview about this book, the subject of his visits with this prisoner comes up. The interviewer asks him if he regrets helping her. Longford pauses and says no. (Disclaimer: I don’t have a transcript of the film and so this is my memory + paraphrasing kicking in.) He says he is grateful to her. He says that deepening his faith is what his spiritual journey is about and that his experience with her helped him at that. The film doesn’t end there and I won’t say anymore about the plot lest you plan to watch it and think I’ve spoiled it enough already.
I like the word "intention" better than "resolution." It implies something to work toward, move toward, rather than something at which you either succeed or fail.
Here's what I'm intending for the new year:
Experiment more. Create more; consume less. Trust more; worry less. Read more; write more; watch less. Write more of what lasts longer. Waste less time. Spend more time in "creative idleness". Spend less; save more. Pray more. Use more paper, lots of paper. Use a pen more, a keyboard less. Find an agent; find a publisher; deliver a manuscript worth publishing, worth reading. Love more. Talk less but say more. Figure out how patience and urgency co-exist. Hope always. Cook more; eat less. Start sewing again. Play the piano more. Pursue truth, beauty, and goodness at every opportunity; realize every moment is an opportunity. Stand up straighter. Speak more often in the strength of my own voice. Find the way to do what needs to be done; sit quietly and wait for the Lord. Accept paradox. Pray more, pray without ceasing. See the signs, ask for signs; be more willing to step into the unknown. Use less; have less; give more away. Shorten my to-do lists. More intentionally be a conduit for the flow of God's grace to the world. Be silent more often. Pray more fervently for safety coast to coast but live less fearfully. Remind myself as often as needed where true hope lies. Start fewer projects but finish more of those I start. Be encouraged. Be excited. Be more attuned to the burdens of the people I pass on the street as well as those with whom I share a table or a home. Love God with ever more of my heart, soul, strength, and mind. Thank more. Eat less sugar but more dark chocolate.
I heard a sermon a couple years ago that I still think about from time to time, as I did this morning when my notes from that morning popped up. In that sermon, the minister described a pseudo-baptism scene from the movie "Nacho Libre," starring Jack Black as a Mexican priest, named Ignatio, turned wrestler, named Nacho. Nacho wants his wrestling partner baptized before their match with “Satan's Cavemen” to better increase their chance for a win and so shoves his head in a bowl of water and declares a blessing. Disclaimer: I've never seen the movie, but this link goes to a clip of the scene.
The minister said this scene should tell us there is a better way for telling others about Christ than to push them into it. He gave the example of Philip in the story from Acts and went from there to cover much good and earnest theology about being a witness for Christ and about the movement of the Spirit.
But I couldn't stop thinking about the priest shoving the guy’s head into the bowl of water. Skipping past the false theology, past the adolescent sacrilege, what does it say about the hunger for a concrete splashing of grace, the reality of the place of baptism in the human narrative? It’s like finding a hieroglyphic or prehistoric drawing showing the offering of life for life.
Today was the funeral for the grandmother of my son's lovely girlfriend, Katherine. The funeral was across the country and so we didn't go, but I've been thinking about the family all day. Her grandmother died after a short illness and leaves a large legacy. Last week her daughters, the "Satellite Sister," posted a tribute to their mother.
Mrs. Dolan was a do-er, and this tribute is as motivational as anything a highly-paid conference speaker or self-help author could hope to achieve. I've done a few things myself this week that I had put off doing, with her in mind. Read it and see if you don't agree.
I'm grateful for examples of "ordinary" men and women who have lived good lives.