Week 10 Prompt: Juxtapositions (A Look at “First Reformed”)

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There are a number of reasons to like this movie: for me, the first three would be Ethan Hawke, ETHAN Hawke and ETHAN HAWKE!!! And for my friend who recommended this movie, it’s Amanda Seyfried.

But if you are a huge fan of plot-driven films, this may not be your cup of tea. My friend thought this movie ran for 3 hours when it’s only less than 2 hours long.

The pacing is a little slow, even camera movements are predominantly slow. As I don’t have expertise in film, I can only say that as a viewer, I find the slowness a reflection of how Reverend Toller (Ethan Hawke) seems to be living his life — one day at a time, hardly any movement or willingness to move on.

Light and Darkness/Shadow

There are several shots of the very white and neat exterior of the First Reformed Church in broad daylight, and probably the same number of shots of the dark bedroom of Reverend Toller. Sometimes there’s only one candle lighting the whole room. To me this  reinforces idea of the duality in his personality in how he presents himself to the outside world (one who has strong faith, knows how to deal with all kinds of people) and how he really feels and thinks about himself. He leads the service on Sundays, even though on his own, he says he is incapable of praying. (To me, though, his writing in his journal is an act of prayer.)

Hope and Despair

When Reverend Toller speaks with Michael, he speaks against despair. Ironically in the end, he fails to rescue Michael from that despair which turns out to be infectious as he, himself, tries to end his own life.

Mary, on the other hand, is the epitome of hope in her own quiet way — despite grieving the loss of her husband, she looks forward to having the baby that Michael had wanted her to abort.

Interior and Exterior

Reverend Toller on the outside, exemplifies calm and composure, just like the ultra neat and white exterior of the church, but inside he is full of turmoil and uncertainty. His soul probably needs as much cleansing as his broken toilet that needs unclogging. And that metaphor becomes literal when he tries to use the drain cleaner to kill himself.

This duality is quite common. How many people do you know whose actions have surprised you as they are “out of character”? With Reverend Toller, however, there is dramatic irony— the audience are amply prepared for his decision to end his life, but the people around him are not.

Perhaps the one idea from this film that I liked best is restraint. Reverend Toller’s attraction to Mary is developed quite subtly. At first he seems to be simply a very dedicated pastor helping out a parishioner. But one scene that made me certain he is falling for her is that of the two of them cycling and, as he writes in his journal, “I had not been on a bicycle, I think, in 20 years. I was afraid I would fall.” And he went to muse on the curative power of exercise. There is a look of pure joy on his face as they bike on the trail.

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Spiritual, though not as religious as Esther, Mary brings out the spiritual in Reverend Toller. With her, he can pray with words and with his soul. Yet, he has to restrain himself in his attraction to her. This he is able to do for a while, but after Mary appears before him as he is about to drink the drain cleaner, that restraint finally gives way to full expression in an embrace and a long kiss. This last scene is my favorite part — the feeling of finally letting out what you have been holding in for a long time is more than liberating. It’s exhilarating.

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For me, this movie is simply another reason to love Ethan Hawke.

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A Prayer for Elijah and Every Child with Special Needs

Dear God,

Thank you for blessing me with this wonderful creature that is my son, Elijah, whom I named after your great prophet, in the hope that he, too, would grow to be as faithful and as eloquent in spreading your word. Though, as yet, he has not been blessed with the gift of words, Elijah, just by being who and what he is, still succeeded in converting the ones closest to him from being self-absorbed and impatient individuals to ones with an almost impossible amount of selflessness and forbearance. Thank you for making him an instrument in bringing out the good in people around him.

I pray for Elijah and children like him who are special in their own special ways, that You grant them the ability to one day, live independently, and not wholly rely on other people for their daily needs.

I pray that one day, they will be able to express themselves without being frustrated at the inability of the people around them to understand whatever it is they want to express.

I pray that one day, they will be able to share what it is they sense that makes them smile that sweetest of smiles, what makes them laugh that most infectious laughter that seems to come out of nowhere.

But should this not be part of the plan, I pray that in Your mercy, you send them people who will love them for who and what they are, long after their parents are unable to look after them.

I pray that You bless them with loving individuals who will guide them in navigating the complexities of life in this sometimes cruel world.

I pray that despite all the troubles they may encounter in this life, they will always have that joy that only they, in their specialness, can find in their own world.

And may they always have it in their unblemished hearts and minds that life is beautiful and that it is worth living.

Finally, I thank You, dear God, for the people who have helped, continue to help and will help Elijah and every special child like him, live meaningful and happy lives.

May you bless them a hundred, a thousand fold for their kindness and dedication.

May they be grateful as I am for the opportunity of having such a special human being in our lives.

And may they praise You, like I do, for Your boundless generosity and mercy.

Amen.

Week 8 Prompt: Happiness

Happiness is…

Having the ability to look at the past and be grateful for it;

Living in the moment with the knowledge that it is not going to last;

Being hopeful for the future that the ones we leave behind will have better lives than the one we had.

Happiness is having faith that everything is going to be all right.

Have a happy week!💕

Mindanao

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I have to admit I am a little scared to go home to Mindanao this time. I actually cried as I was packing this morning. Living for so many years in China where the only explosions I hear are from firecrackers or fireworks, I have become too comfortable and a little cowardly. In 2001, when the government declared an all-out war with the rebels, I dared to go to Marawi to accompany my journalist friend who was going to interview a religious leader there. On our way to Marawi, we could see and hear helicopters strafing certain areas. I was scared, but also thought of it as an adventure, something I could boast about later on.

Then I left for China. Seven years later when I went home in the summer for a visit, rebels threatened to attack my city. It was the first time I felt real FEAR. Seeing my sister deathly pale and cold, watching my mother pray the rosary as we all huddled in the bedroom, I nearly went crazy with fear.

Now, I am going home again to a conflict-ridden Mindanao. I envy my fellow Mindanaoans , who do not  allow their fear to defeat them, who continue to believe that this too shall pass. I have lost my Mindanaoan courage and optimism, but I hope to get them back when I arrive home. Soon.

Peace.

 

T.

 

Mornings and Beginnings

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View from my balcony 

We recently moved to a new apartment, and I am quite happy to have moved. This year has been one of changes and challenges, and I’ve been able to cope with all these sometimes overwhelming challenges pretty well. For this I am grateful to my husband and my sisters for everything they do and are in my life. So moving to a new place is symbolic of a new beginning for me — life without my mother, and living apart from my beautiful son (for a few months.)

Now that  I only work 3 afternoons a week, and I do not have my son to look after, I can sit for a few minutes out on my balcony and wait for sunrise as I sip on my morning coffee. Then I go out for a walk  and come back to prepare hubby’s breakfast.

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View from my balcony

Each day, I am trying to be hopeful and look forward to better days. I know they will come.

Every morning is a promise of a new beginning.

Wishing you beautiful mornings and wonderful beginnings. 🙂