Get Up and Walk

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Sometimes I write scripts and something special happens.

I originally wrote this script to introduce the “sacraments of healing”: Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick. We decided to tell the famous story of Mark 2:12 because it includes both the forgiveness of sins and a physical healing. This Gospel story beautifully shows how the two go together.

I wrote it as a period piece. The film’s producers were going to try to recreate the look of Galilee 2,000 years ago. Quite a challenge!

But then the movie, “Son of God” came out. And the fear was that the script I wrote was going to look too similar to that film. So Becky Groth took that script and modernized it to be a contemporary look at the Gospel story. I think the end result is pretty cool and more fun than a “straight” retelling of the story, especially because those versions already exist. This is something new, makes you look at the story from a different way, and I’m proud to share the story credit on it.

The Mercy of God

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Though I’ve been delinquent in updating the site, Outside Da Box and the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston are doing a great job by creating new videos every month to help teens understand a different element of the Catechism, and I’ve the honor of writing the majority of those scripts. I really loved this last one they did. It’s a “whiteboard” video about how to go to Reconciliation, and the emphasis is that it’s not just about confessing your sins—it’s about what you do before and after that is equally important. I hope you’re blessed by it!

But one of my favorite scripts ever brought to life was the “Palm Sunday” video I wrote for Outside Da Box a couple years ago. And since that’s coming up this Sunday, it seems a good time to re-post that as well.

Feel free to share these around the Interwebs! And have a blessed Easter!

The Good, the Bad, and Theology of Noah

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NoahI had the chance to see the movie Noah with my new friend Jon Blevins while I was in Manitowoc, WI, this past weekend doing a parish mission at St. Francis of Assisi Parish. My love and prayers to everyone who attended: I had a blast sharing the Gospel and getting to know you.

Jon and I decided to go see Noah, not so much because we wanted to, but because we knew teens would watch it and ask questions. After seeing it I’ve come across numerous blogs that think that it’s either wonderful, awful, faithful, or heretical. For anyone who cares, here’s my two cents on Noah.

The Good

Visually, the movie was stunning. There’s a five minute scene where Noah tells his family the story of creation and it blew me away—sure to be playing at every youth group in the world once it comes out on Blu-ray. The rock monsters were awesome. Yes, theologically wacky, but I have a special affinity for rock monsters and I personally think every movie should find a way to include a rock monster in it. Especially rom-coms. But I digress. Some great action sequences, and Russell Crowe is a stud and fun to watch in pretty much anything he does (unless he’s singing a monologue on a ledge).

The Bad

It was loooooong. At the end I was kind of hoping God would wipe everyone out so I didn’t have to keep listening to them talk. For an eco-friendly pacifist, Noah was really good at killing dudes, which stuck me as a bit odd. The rock monsters were awesome. Oh, I already said that. I thought the last half of the movie faltered in it’s pace and emotional drive. The stuff heading up to the flood was pretty riveting; once they get on the boat it I felt it floundered.

Theology

This was a big-budget, Hollywood movie, so I didn’t expect it to nail the Biblical story, and to be honest I didn’t mind the creative license the director took in adding new characters, new story lines, etc. I’ve read a few blogs that really hated against some of the theologically questionable things in the movie, like the rock monsters, which were awesome. Here are the things from a theological perspective that bothered me.

I didn’t like how the movie changed what the Bible says about one of Noah’s sons, Ham. In Scripture, Ham is cast out because he rebelled against his father. He becomes the father of Canaan, whose offspring become the enemy of the Jewish people. But the movie created story lines where you felt that Ham was actually doing the right thing most of the time and there was no sense of him being banished. Really, the movie made you blame Noah for being so thick headed as to alienate his son. I didn’t appreciate that.

There was a complete disregard for human life and an over-sensitivity for animal and plant life. In the beginning of the movie, Noah comes across some kind of armadillo/dog-thing that was wounded by hunters. The dogadillo dies and Noah kills the three guys with little effort (seriously, where did he get that kind of training?) He shows no remorse for the loss of human life but is really torn up about the animal. I know the hunters were “bad”—but how about a guy who regrets the taking of any life, even if necessary? In Scripture, the story wasn’t about saving all the animals as much as saving humanity and creating a new covenant with Noah. In one of the greatest moments of biblical irony, the first thing that Noah does is sacrifice some of the animals in thanksgiving to God. The Noah of the Bible was not a vegetarian/animal rights activist who taught his kids that people who ate meat went against God’s plan. I’m eating a hamburger as I write this, by the way.

What happened to 40 days and 40 nights? In this movie, they were on that boat for at least 8 to 9 months, as the girl got pregnant right before the flood and gave birth on the boat. Or did people magically have shorter pregnancies back then? That bothered me not just from a biblical perspective but also as a plot point, ‘cause that was a long time for the bad guy to hide and keep eating the other animals. I imagine he wiped out a number of species over those months. I was so hoping they would show him eating a unicorn.

UPDATE: Thanks to Mark Hart, the Bible Geek, for correcting this. The flood lasted 40 days. Then there was 150 days before the water subsided. So the timeline was about right, but I still think it was weird to have the bad guy not discovered for so long (which obviously wasn’t a part of the biblical story).

But the biggest problem for me was the lack of God’s mercy. God was vengeful, not loving. One could argue this was part of the Biblical story: didn’t He wipe out almost all of humanity? Well, “almost” is the key word here. In a world that had completely rebelled against God (say that again with a deep, movie trailer voice), He was willing to not give up on humanity in spite of their sin. He caused the flood and saved Noah and his family to establish a covenant of peace (symbolized by the rainbow.) That’s the key element of the story, and that was completely missing here.

I really liked many elements of Fr. Barron’s review of the movie but I was surprised when he wrote, “At the emotional climax of the movie, Noah moves to kill his own granddaughters, convinced that it is God’s will that the human race be obliterated, but he relents when it becomes clear to him that God in fact wills for humanity to be renewed” (my emphasis). That wasn’t in the movie I saw. In the movie, Noah was convinced that God wanted all humanity wiped out, including his own family, and when he couldn’t bring himself to kill his grandchildren Noah was distraught because he thought he had failed God’s plan—so much so he later isolates himself in a cave and gets drunk.

Yes, there’s a little conversation at the end with Hermione that suggested that perhaps his “failure” was actually God’s will all the time. But it was a nuance, a brief whisper amid the message the rest of the movie shouted from the beginning. The overall theme was that man was made for nature, not nature for man. This focus contradicts not just the main point of the Noah story but the entire Creation narrative. I found it disturbing that one of the only voices in the movie that suggests that nature was made for man was the bad guy (and said while biting the head of an animal).

I didn’t mind that the director made changes to the story of Noah—I am disappointed that he changed the message. When you look at the pollution of the planet, it’s clear that in many places humanity has not lived up to God’s command of being good stewards to what was given to us. We should repent of this and need to do a better job protecting the earth, not just for the earth’s sake, but because the first victims of pollution are usually the poor and the marginalized.

Creation is a gift from God to man, not man a poison to creation. God created the world so we could know Him through it. And even when we sin and turn away, He reaches out to us. He didn’t make us like the plants, trees, and animals. We are more than just another part creation—we are His children, made in His image and likeness.

There were parts of the movie that spoke to that. But more often than not, I think that message was lost and replaced with something more culturally palatable. And that’s why, even with some inspiring moments and awesome rock monsters, I walked away disappointed with Noah.

As always with my blogs, feel free to respectfully disagree in the comments. Biases against rock monsters will not be tolerated. 

Eros and Agape in Disney’s Frozen

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Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 6.19.20 PMThe Friday of Thanksgiving weekend is traditionally a “movie” day for us. This year we split the family: 12-years-old and over went to see the new Hunger Games, 11-years-old and under went to see Disney’s new animated movie, Frozen. Having seen Hunger Games already, I took the little ones to see Frozen.

I really enjoyed the movie. It had some great music and the look of it was beautiful. But what stunned me was the message that the movie conveyed.

If you haven’t seen it, there’s some SPOILERS. Sorry, no way to talk about the ending without giving the ending away. And the ending came as quite a surprise to me!

Let me recap the story: it’s a tale of two sisters, Elsa and Anna. Elsa has the power of ice and snow (hence the film’s title, Frozen.) When they were young, Elsa accidentally hurt Anna with her power, so she kept it (and herself) hidden from her sister so she wouldn’t hurt anyone else. Anna, who doesn’t remember the event, wonders why her sister becomes so distant, especially after their parents pass away (being parents in a Disney movie is like wearing a redshirt in Star Trek.)

They become teenagers. Elsa is to be crowned queen and the castle is opened for the first time in years. Anna, young and eager, meets a handsome young prince and immediately falls in love. She wants to marry him! At this point I was rolling my eyes, thinking, “yeah, that’s a healthy relationship.” Thankfully, Elsa agreed and wouldn’t give her blessing. Emotions get high, Elsa’s power goes out of control, everyone realizes she has this power (some think her a witch) and off she runs into the frozen wilderness. Her sister goes to find her.

In the adventures that follow, Anna’s heart get’s frozen and can only be healed with an “act of true love,” which Anna thinks must be getting a kiss from the prince she wants to marry. And if that’s what happened, it would be standard Disney fare.

Because Disney movies are generally about eros. That’s a Greek word for romantic love, the love between husband and wife. Snow White is cured by a kiss from the prince; Sleeping Beauty is the same. Most Disney movies end with a marriage and the romance between the male and female protagonist plays a central role. Actually, the majority of stories told today focus on eros. Our society seems to think it’s the highest form of love.

But Jesus told us otherwise. When He spoke of love, He used the word agape, not eros. When He said, “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34,) He used the word agapeAgape is the highest form of love. It’s not about emotion—it’s about self-sacrifice. As Christ Himself said, “No one can have greater love (agape) than to lay his life down for his friends” (John 15:13.) That kind of love isn’t often shown.

Which is why I almost fell out of my seat at the dramatic conclusion of Frozen.

Anna was about to die. Her “true love” was running toward her to give her the saving kiss she thought she needed. But her sister was in danger. Instead of waiting for the kiss, she ran to her sister’s aide and sacrificed her life to save her. And that’s the act that heals her heart. It wasn’t eros that was “true love,” it was agape!

I looked at my six year old daughter. “Wasn’t that amazing?” I said.

“Yes,” she answered. “I loved the snowman! He’s funny!”

Okay, so maybe six-year-olds don’t get the difference between eros and agape. But someone at Disney did. And I’m so glad they decided to make a movie that shows that true love is more than just a feeling—it’s the laying down of your life for another.

And the snowman was funny, too.

BTW, the new CD is available (and so are some old ones!)

BobRice-TheGospelAccordiontoI’m pretty stunned I haven’t made a bigger deal of this. My new CD, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice,” came out a week before Thanksgiving, but with NCYC, Thanksgiving, the last week of school, and now I’m at parish mission in Hiawatha! Iowa, it’s just occurred to me that I never really did much to let you all know that the CD is now available! I can’t express my gratitude enough to the 113 people who made it happen by supporting the project on Kickstarter.

You can purchase a physical copy or download the MP3s by going HERE. And for the rest of this month, you can download the MP3s for just 5 bucks! (You can also pay twice as much at the iTunes store by going HERE.)

But wait… there’s more!

The past few months I’ve gotten a number of emails and Facebook messages asking where people could get copies of my earlier two CDs. I was happily surprised that for people who supported me on Kickstarter enough to get a second CD, the most popular requests were for “Behold the Lamb” and “No Other,” my first and second CDs.

CD-BTLNOSo they are finally available as downloadable MP3s! And I combined them into one album so you can get both CDs for the price of one. Get them both for just $9.99 by clicking HERE. Sorry, they’re not available as physical CDs, just downloads.

You can get also the double CD on iTunes HERE, but I’m a little ticked at iTunes right now, because they’re selling the CD for $19.99!?! Apparently when I said it was a double CD they automatically charged it twice as much as a single CD, but that was the whole point of me putting it down as one CD in the first place! And there’s no way to change it. Very frustrating.

Ah well, at least they’re available for those who had a copy back in the good ol days and it got melted in the sun, left in a college dorm room, or stuck in the car CD player (those are all actual stories I’ve heard in the past few weeks.) So take better care of them this time, all right?

It’s really exciting for me to make available the new as well as the old. I’m just grateful that people still care to hear the music I make. You are all a great blessing to me.

Enjoy the music!

The Little Ukulele Boy

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 4.02.37 PMDid you know in Hawaii that the story of “The Little Drummer Boy” is re-told as “The Little Ukelele Boy?” Probably not, because I just made that up.

But if there was a story about “The Little Ukulele Boy,” it would star Kyle Heimann.

Kyle is the answer to the question, “Who did that amazing artwork on your latest CD?” He’s also half of the dynamic duo of POPPLE, a wonderful Catholic evangelistic ministry that travels around the country sharing their gifts and talents to bring others closer to God. Simply put: this is a guy worth supporting.

Kyle is doing a Kickstarter project to raise some money for a CD that would feature his ukulele playing—and he’s very good at it. If that sounds interesting to you, and you’re able to support a really amazing guy, then you can check out his page by going HERE.

A Great Advent Book for Kids

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Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 3.40.47 PMI don’t normally do this, but sometimes you come across something too good not to share. And when it’s made by people you know, that makes it even more special.

Theresa and Charles Pobee-Mensah just wrote a book together called, “Bible Characters for Advent.” Some of you will remember Charles because he played bass for many years at the Steubenville Conferences with me. I bumped into him a few weeks ago and in the normal chit-chat about what’s been going on lately he mentioned this book which was just coming out and that he’d give me a copy for me and my kids. I didn’t know what to expect… I mean, I knew he was a great bass player, but a children’s book author?

All I can say is, wow. This is a fantastic book!

The book is called, “Bible Characters for Advent” and it looks at 25 people from the Bible that played a major part of salvation history. Simply illustrated and insightfully written, “Bible Characters for Advent” is written like an Advent calendar, focusing on one person per day. That makes it a great read for people (like me) with smaller kids. I can slip it into their evening bed-time stories and still have time for Dr. Seuss. Each person is described very simply, with only a few sentences and a big picture, so it’s easy for little kids to grasp.

But’s its genius lies in how the authors tie each Old Testament person to Christ. For example, when it talks about Joseph being sold into slavery, it states, “When Jesus was on earth many people treated him unkindly to0, but Jesus always forgave them.” Or when the book talks about Elijah it mentions, “Like Elijah, Jesus performed many miracles and reminded people to turn their lives back to God.”

St. Augustine wrote that, “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old is unveiled in the New.” “Bible Characters for Advent” does a great job of showing, in a fun and simple way for children, how everything in the Old Testament was fulfilled in Christ—and isn’t that what Advent is all about? I think if St. Augustine wrote a book for kids, he would have written something like this. And that’s the highest praise I can give any book :)

It was just released over a week ago and you can get it at Amazon HERE, where you’ll also see it’s gotten a bunch of 5 star reviews, so I’m not the only one who likes it!

I’m fasting from myself

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20130607-201541.jpgWhen people ask me about my music, my usual joke is, “I’m a big fan of me. I have all my CDs.” The truth is that I rarely hear my own music unless 1) my kids ask for it, or 2) it comes up on my iTunes shuffle. But there is a third category: unless I’ve just recorded it and I’m in the process of mixing it. Then I listen to it all the time.

Well, I’m happy to say this week I approved the final mix and today it’s off to the manufacturer. My 15 year old son is happy about that too, because when I announced it at dinner he commented he was getting sick of it. Kids say the darndest things, don’t they? Hope he wasn’t expecting to get a car for his 16th.

Seriously, though—I don’t blame him. The last week was focused on adjusting small things that make a big difference to me but probably not a huge difference to others. Were this purely a commercial venture I would have said, “it’s fine” at the first mix, with the attitude, “nobody will notice.” But for me, it’s art. It’s prayer. And it’s worth all the effort I can give it.

But a time comes when “the perfect becomes the enemy of the good.” I realize I’m listening way too closely and I’m just looking for things to tweak. I play it to some friends I trust who say it sounds great. So I hit the “send” button.  And then I fast from listening to it.

Because all I want to do is listen to it. After all, some of these songs have been in my head for many years! It’s amazing that in these few short weeks they’ve come to life and sound as good as they do. But in about three weeks, numerous boxes from Disc Makers will arrive at my doorstep. I’ll open the box, and there will be the project I’ve put so much time, energy, money, and prayer into. And I don’t want to be sick of it by then. I want to have a similar level of enthusiasm as someone who supported the CD through Kickstarter or picked it up at an event that I played at, who rip off the cellophane and put it in their CD player or listen through their phone. To put it simply, I want to share in that experience with everybody. Because previously I’ve been listening to how prominent the bass levels are or if I should add or remove a harmony to a song. But then, I’ll just listen to the music.

I don’t have a specific date yet but we’re on track for the first or second (more likely the second) week of November. I have a gig in El Paso on November 15th, and that will be the first place the disc will be available. Hopefully it will be up on iTunes by that time, but Apple doesn’t give specific dates to independent artists like myself.

It’s coming. It sounds awesome. I looks amazing. And I am filled with gratitude for all those who supported this project. 

Crazy. Busy. Good. (With cool video at the end!)

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Life. Is. Crazy. But in many ways, crazy good. Bobby just got out of surgery yesterday for his leg. Those who have followed by blog might remember that in February he broke his femur because of a weakened bone. So they put a rod in his leg to augment it. Not fun, but we’re grateful that the surgery went well, and thanks for all your prayers.

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I’ve also gotten back on the road. I had the chance to speak to the youth ministers in Arlington and Richmond. I shared the Gospel with the folks at St. John the Apostle in Virginia Beach, VA and at Holy Spirit Parish in Kennewick, WA. And I spoke at a men’s conference in Greensburg, PA. Hello to everyone I’ve seen over the past three weeks! It was a blessing to be with you!

School is back in session, and I LOVE teaching at Franciscan. But that keeps me busy, as you can imagine.

“The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice” is getting nearly done and it sounds AMAZING. I can’t wait for you all to hear it! Thanks to the over-the-top generosity of my Kickstarter backers, I was able to fly Katie Rose from California to help with the vocals. What a difference she made! And it’s always fun hanging out with her.

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Aidan is over two months old and is COMPLETELY adorable. If you doubt me, take a look:

And, in all my spare time, I’m still writing video scripts.

 
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This is the latest video in the VCat series, “Forgiveness of Sins.”

I wrote it as a spoken word piece and originally I was going to be the one doing it. But then someone knew of Fr. Anthony, a priest from New York who also does hip-hop. When you see how well he does it, you’ll laugh thinking of me doing it! He owned the material so well, my first impression was that he must have ad-libbed some of it to fit his style and personality. But then, as I pulled up the script I wrote, I realized that it was almost verbatim to what I had written.

I was pretty humbled by that, as I’m sure this guy could improv stuff better than I could write it (and you can hear some of that at the end of the video.) As always, I’m just grateful to be working with the amazing people at Outside Da Box who make such great films.

So life is crazy busy, but also crazy good. Hope you enjoy the video.

I Got By With A Lot Of Help From My Friends

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IMG_2935Regular readers of my blog (as well as Facebook friends and Twitter followers) know that for the past two months I’ve been fundraising for my newest CD, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice.” It ended at 11:59 PM last night and the final total is $12,275—over three thousand more than I had originally asked!

The word “grateful” doesn’t seem like it conveys enough emotion for how I feel right now, but it’s the best I can come up with. Other words: jubilant, humbled, thrilled, excited…

By hitting the $12K mark, everything I could have hoped for the CD is coming true. Better musicians. Extra songs. Upgraded packaging that will include a lyric booklet. This went from the “CD I can’t afford,” to “the best CD I could ever make!”

And it’s all because of your support. People gave big and small, posted links to the project on their Facebook and Twitter pages, told friends about it, and prayed for it’s success. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I should probably add, “overwhelmed” to my word list.

I feel like the steward at the Wedding of Cana. My wine had run out. And so Christ showed up and gave something even better than I could have done on my own.

I’m so excited to get into the studio and begin to share this music with you. But I know that for most of you, you weren’t supporting a project. You were supporting me and my family. And that’s what makes this “success” so special.

So again, from me and my family, thanks.