TV Review – “Agent Carter” (Episodes 1-4)

During the break between the first and second parts of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2, we have been gifted with yet another incredible story from the people at MARVEL. It is called “Agent Carter”. The story revolves around the life and adventures of Peggy Carter, Captain America’s lady love, after he was presumed dead. And while many people were unsure of how the show was going to turn out, critics are raving. As we are now at the halfway point of the eight-episode season, I thought I would give my thoughts on the show so far.

For starters, I will say that the premise is perfect! After the war, women gave up the jobs that they had held, and went back to being homemakers, seamstresses, telephone operators, etc. But Peggy was kept on with the SSR because of relationship to Captain America, which leads to two problems. One: No one cares about her extraordinary skill set, and thus she is never sent on missions. And two: Most people think that the only reason she is there is because of her relationship. I want to slap half of her coworkers for the way that they treat her. They refuse to acknowledge her skills. But it also leads to some humor. They might think that they are catching the bad guys, but Peggy is the one doing all the catching.

Which leads me to Peggy herself. I must say that she is the best MARVEL female of all. Hey, Jane, Pepper, Darcy, Sif, May, etc., they’re all great, but none of them can match Peggy. Because while she is tough and won’t back down from a fight, she does it all with a feminine grace and a hint of female sass. And I admire her resolve. Despite the way she is treated by the men of the SSR, Peggy continues to do what she believes is right. And when it means going behind the backs of her coworkers and risking being accused of treason, she does it anyway. And all to help her friend, Howard Stark. Oh, did I mention him? Because the premise of the show is that some really bad guys have gotten hold of Stark’s most powerful inventions, and while he had nothing to do with it, the government is accusing him of selling out. So he goes into hiding, but not before asking Peggy to help him out. And he even offers her a friend to help as well. And his name is Edwin Jarvis. Yup you read that right. JARVIS. Now we know where Tony was inspired to name his computer. And Jarvis is a great character. He brings comic relief, as well as some serious and intelligent points. And when Peggy discovers that Stark’s request was not all that it seemed, Jarvis still wants to help her, despite her anger.

In the way of other characters, I will only mention one, and that is Agent Daniel Sousa. (I think that is his name). He came back from the war with a missing leg, and now has to walk with a brace. But he doesn’t let that stop him, as we saw last night from his epic fighting moves. Daniel is compassionate, and does his best to help a homeless veteran, and unlike the other men at the SSR, he seems to hold a respect for Peggy. I am one of many who believes that he is the man whom Peggy eventually marries. Of all the SSR men, he is the only one who treats Peggy like an equal. There is a young woman who is a close friend of Peggy’s, but she is so forgettable that I don’t even remember her name.

In terms of content, my thoughts are generally favorable. Cussing is generally minimal, all things considered, though the “B” words have popped up a couple of times, as well as the “D” and “H” words. There is also some sexual content, including some innuendos, particularly in episode 4. Peggy wore a very low cut gown in the first episode, and Howard Stark is something of a womanizer, and when he stays with Peggy, he spends some time in the rooms of the other women in the boarding house. The show can be violent, though most of it is punch-kick stylized action, with the worst stuff being visible gunshot wounds.

Overall, I have been thoroughly impressed with “Agent Carter”, and I am so glad that there is something to keep me going until AoS returns. In fact, there has been talk that there might be a season 2, due to the high ratings and reviews. I give “Agent Carter” 4 1/2 stars out of five, with the half taken off for the content. I recommend this show to 15 and up!

Book Review – “Secret of Pembrooke Park” by Julie Klassen

  Abigail Foster is the practical daughter. She fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry, and the one man she thought might marry her seems to have fallen for her younger, prettier sister.
  Facing financial ruin, Abigail and her father search for more affordable lodgings, until a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll’s house left mid-play…
  The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem acquainted with the manor’s past, the only information they offer is a stern warning: Beware trespassers drawn by rumors that Pembrooke Park contains a secret room filled with treasure.
  This catches Abigail’s attention. Hoping to restore her family’s finances–and her dowry–Abigail looks for this supposed treasure. But eerie sounds at night and footprints in the dust reveal she isn’t the only one secretly searching the house.
  Then Abigail begins receiving anonymous letters, containing clues about the hidden room and startling discoveries about the past.
  As old friends and new foes come calling at Pembrooke Park, secrets come to light. Will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks…or very real danger?

I was thrilled to receive this book for review, as I have always enjoyed Julie Klassen’s books. The premise sounded exciting and unique, unlike anything she has written before, so I wasn’t surprised that I enjoyed the mystery and suspense elements of this story.

The one thing about this book that I genuinely did not like was the pacing. I felt like everything moved REALLY slowly, to the point where it took me a few weeks to read a book that I would normally read in a couple of days because I struggled to enjoy the pacing. There seemed to be a good many scenes that weren’t really necessary to the plotline. But the premise and execution were excellent.

I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery of the book, particularly because this one had me stumped at some points, while giving me some good clues at others. I guessed some of the major reveals before they happened, but they were done in such a way that the sense of shock was still there. I enjoyed the romance as well, though I felt like some of the scenes between Abigail and William were a bit out of place considering the time period. Especially the scene at the spring. A young woman of proper standing and a young, single minister would likely not spend the amount of time alone that these two did. But the romance was relatively chaste, and nothing inappropriate took place, so I can’t really complain.

I enjoyed the characters, though I had to keep a running list of who was who in a notebook so I didn’t lose track. Particularly when it came to the various Pembrookes. There were a lot of names thrown at me at any given point, so it was sometimes difficult to keep up. And some of the characters seemed pretty useless, as if they were there for the sake of adding more unneeded padding. One character in particular I thought was an odd choice for a major reveal, as she hardly made any appearances in the book until the reveal happened. I did like Abigail. She was intelligent and kind, and refused to allow her circumstances to get the better of her. William was a good choice for a main male character, and I liked the parts of the book where he preached his sermons, as they were deep and well thought out.

Overall, this is a good book, though it’s not something that a casual reader wants to pick up on a whim. This one requires some serious dedication to get through. And the end is a little bit off putting. It doesn’t really resolve the story well, and leaves me feeling like the author forgot to add another paragraph to the story. But despite this, I give “Secret of Pembrooke Park” 4 1/2 out of 5 stars, and recommend it to 15 and up!

“The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies” – My Thoughts

The New Line Cinemas logo flashed across the screen. Haunting music played in the background. The end had finally come. The end of the long and exciting and emotional journey through Middle Earth. Hence the hashtag #ONELASTTIME. One last time in Middle Earth. I was the lone person in the group who had not yet seen the movie, but that did little to diminish my excitement, or my sadness. Having read the book, I knew what was coming. So… was it worth the wait? The time, the money? Well, in short, YES! DEFINITELY!!!!! I will tell what I liked and did not like, but one list is considerably shorter than the other. (Be warned: SPOILERS AHEAD. I’ve given some space for you to turn back.)

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What I DID NOT like:

  • The way Fili died. I felt like his death was almost glossed over. Like, “He’s dead, lets move on to Kili and Thorin epic pre-death battle scenes.” I wish we had gotten a bit more of him.
  • How little we got of Beorn and Radagast. Beorn had about 5 seconds of screen time, and Radagast about 15 seconds. I was really hoping that we would see more of them in action, especially because Beorn’s short scene looked like The Hulk.
  • Something about Dain didn’t sit right with me. He looked very… Animated. While the Orcs looked incredible despite the heavy CGI, Dain looked jerky and weird. It’s like they animated over everything the actor did. I loved the character, just not how he looked.
  • The battle was a bit long, though it was worth it in the end. And it was violent, though I heard it was worse before PJ trimmed it down so he could get the film a PG-13. And there was some cussing. One use of “B—-d” and some British slang. But nothing over the top.

What I DID like:

  • The relationships of Thranduil, Legolas, and Tauriel. I loved the tension between these characters. And I was so excited at the progression from bratty elf prince to the Legolas we know and love from LotR. And the way Legolas defended Tauriel was so sweet!!!! 🙂 Thranduil was brilliant. His battle scenes were glorious, and his speaking moments gave me chills. And by the end of the film, I couldn’t hate him as much.
  • The dynamic of Tauriel and Kili. I know everyone hates it, but I LOVED it. I thought that it was done perfectly. Not overly heavy, and not too light. And the scene where she wept over him made me cry as well.
  • Richard Armitage as Thorin. I mean, I knew he was amazing, but he showed a whole new side to his talent as an actor. He was masterful as both sides of Thorin. The crazy Dwarf king, and the brave, true Thorin Oakenshield.
  • All of the dwarves. I mean, Dwalin cried! And Ori used a sword! And Kili stood up to Thorin! So much happened in this film, and I thought it was amazing! The scene where the surviving dwarves say goodbye to Bilbo was so heartwrenching.
  • BILBO!!!! Martin Freeman has officially won me over. I laughed at every nose-twitchy thing, and cried with him as he wept over Thorin. Bilbo’s journey was incredible, and I could never imagine anyone else in the role.
  • Bard was perfectly done. A reluctant leader, brave warrior, loving father who would sacrifice anything for his children. I sympathized with his plight. And the interactions with his children fit right in to a movie where young people rarely have speaking parts.
  • Alfrid. Now, I didn’t like this because I loved the character. I liked it because I despised him so much. I never thought I would see a character who would be more of a snake than Grima Wormtongue, but I was wrong. Alfrid makes Grima seem lovable. And it was hilarious. And maddening. I wanted to kill him and the Master myself.
  • Smaug’s attack on Laketown. It was amazing, and they packed so much into such a short sequence! I loved his dialogue with Bard just before he died. Benedryl Cabbagepatch, *cough* ‘scuse me… Benedict Cumberbatch was great as this dragon… Though I still do not like him.
  • Galadriel. That is all. Now we know why it Middle Earth would be in BIG trouble if she had accepted Frodo’s offer in Fellowship of the Ring. And might I add the Elrond and Sauruman were pretty epic? Though when Saruman said to leave Sauron to him, I went: “NO! DON’T”
  • Pretty much everything about the movie. With a few exceptions, I could find practically no fault with this film!
  • One last mention… The ending. I was already emotional. But the ending, so beautifully linking the film to Lord of the Rings, made me start sobbing. I am definitely going to need some Skype therapy sessions with my dear friend who happens to be in New Zealand as I write this.

“The Last Goodbye” began to play, as credits very similar to the ones on Return of the King began to play. I was sobbing. Why? I still don’t know. Some incredible characters died, so I was crying from sadness of course. But I think what made me cry more was the impact of the film. “Battle of the Five Armies” is likely the last Middle Earth film we will ever see (unless some buffoon decides to remake any of them), or unless Christopher Tolkien changes his firm stance against Peter Jackson. This is the end of a journey that has led us to a land where good is always triumphant over the darkness. A place where ordinary people aren’t afraid to stand up and do the right thing. A place where love and joy and happiness live in even the darkest times.

So Peter Jackson, I salute you. Thank you for taking us there and back again. And as the song says: “I bid you all a very fond farewell…”

(Here is “The Last Goodbye” for your listening pleasure”.)

Book Review – “A Love Undone” by Cindy Woodsmall

At nineteen years old, Old Order Amish Jolene Keim was on the brink of happily-ever-after when everything changed, stealing the future she expected and burdening her with an unbearable decision. For the next ten years, Jolene throws herself into family life—and then she meets Andy Fisher. The horse trainer and father to a sweet nine year-old challenges her and holds up a mirror to issues Jolene has been unwilling to face.
 
Andy is cautious about his deepening friendship with Jolene, but he believes she knows the truth about him – that he is a grass widower. As a man whose wife has abandoned him six years past, he is unable to divorce or remarry according to the Amish ways. Andy has wrestled with God concerning his reality, and he had found peace with the solitary future facing him…until he met Jolene.
 
As Andy and Jolene find themselves confronted by difficult choices, will they trust in God’s guidance—or will the allure of their deepening friendship only lead to further temptation?

In the past, I have thoroughly enjoyed the work of Mrs. Woodsmall, particularly her Sisters of the Quilt series. I have always found it to be deep, well written, and interesting to read. But unfortunately that was not the case with this book, at least from my perspective.

I had a really hard time getting into this book. The first few chapters, while a nice introduction, just didn’t draw me in. But since I had gotten this book for the purpose of reviewing, I decided to give it one more chance and read several more chapters. But sadly, I still couldn’t enjoy this story. I rarely do not finish a book, especially one by such a great author, but I could not get halfway through this story.

Despite the slow plotline, I did like some of the characters. I particularly liked Hope and Ray. Jolene was also a good main character, and I felt for her struggles in taking care of her family. I actually didn’t like Andy much at all. Something about him just turned me off. He seemed a bit selfish and rude, and I didn’t like the way he treated Jolene.

I honestly can’t say what it was about this book that I didn’t like. And perhaps in the future I shall give it another try. And as life has been busy lately, perhaps I just need a faster paced book to provide an easier read, and my “to review” pile is stacking up. But for now, i unfortunately give “A Love Undone” two stars out of five.

(Note: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)

Fifty Shades of Sin – The Dangers of “50 Shades of Grey”

I logged onto Facebook this morning, ready to see what my friends had been up to, and hoping that there might have been a scene from “The Hobbit” released, but what greeted me was very depressing. Post after post from people gushing over the new trailer for the film “50 Shades of Grey”. People sharing the trailer. Sharing their excitement for this apparently amazing film. Adults, teens even, freaking out about it. Why was this disturbing?

For the uninformed, “50 Shades of Grey” is a best-selling novel that has been labelled by some as “soft-porn” or “mommy-porn”. The book gives detailed descriptions of sex outside of marriage, and not only that, it also portrays what can be called an abusive relationship that is glorified. Some people hide behind the excuse that some couples enjoy the kind of… *ahem* activities described in the book, but many have pointed out that what happens in the story is not even “consensual” by usual standards.

And you might think that a story promoting sex outside of marriage, abuse (don’t let the softened term “BDSM” throw you off), and general sleaziness would generally be avoided by Christians. Right? Right? Well guess again, because the vast majority of my friends on Facebook are strong Christians, and I have read reviews from Christians who gush over the story. This trend is disturbing for multiple reasons, and it shocks me that  so many Christians have no issue with what this story is about.

It glorifies sin. I mean, it should be kind of obvious. The two main characters aren’t married, and yet engage in activities that the Bible says are to be reserved for marriage. And this book is read and touted by the very same Christians who say that “Sex should be saved for marriage!” and “Pornography is bad!” I totally agree with them on those two points, but… Double standard much?

It twists and distorts the beauty of physical intimacy. Now, I am not married, and I don’t plan on being so for at least a few more years, but I do understand God’s intentions in this area. When physical intimacy takes place in marriage, it is supposed to be a sacred act, one that brings two people closer together due to mutual trust. But in “50 Shades of Grey”, not only does this intimacy take place outside of marriage, it is done through abuse, pain, and general violence.

It places images in people’s minds. Sure, they may be just words, but if you are anything like me, you like to picture what you are reading like a movie in your head. And when it comes to stories like this, that means dangerous waters. The book is called porn by most, even it’s promoters. And yet many Christians read it and claim that “it doesn’t affect them”. As much as I would love to believe them, I honestly don’t think that they are being entirely truthful. Sure, it might not seem like it is affecting you, but little by little, you are going to see what kind of things you start thinking about when you are reading books like “50 Shades of Grey”.

Of course, there are a multitude of other reasons, but what it boils down to is this: Trash in, trash out. “50 Shades of Grey” is trash, plain an simple. It’s pornographic, it promotes abuse, and you’ll likely find more depth and morality in a paperback romance on the store shelf. And when you put that sort of stuff into your mind and heart, it will eventually affect what comes out of your mouth and the way you act. Too many Christians start out on a dangerous path by reading books like this, and soon they find themselves in a pit that there seems to be no way out of. So if you have been considering this as a possible read, you will want to find something different to immerse yourself in.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode Review – “What They Become”

This episode being the Winter finale, I knew that I should expect lots of craziness and a lot of sadness. And I was right. Though I do wish the episode had been two hours instead of one, it still delivered plenty of insanity, death, and a BIG reveal as to the true identity of Skye.

The much awaited reunion between father and daughter finally happened. I just have to say that the guy who plays her father, who we now know is named Cal, is a masterful actor. He switches between loving father and madman with such ease. And it actually made me feel bad for him and Skye. He may be somewhat evil, but deep down, he truly loves Skye. You could see it in the way he reacted when he saw her for the first time. And I started crying when he told Skye about her mother. And not only that, we learned Skye’s true name: Daisy. (Cue the freakouts from hardcore MARVEL fans) But it doesn’t take long for him to decide that now is the time to kill Whitehall (an act of revenge for his dead wife). When he finally gets the chance, however, Coulson shoots Whitehall down. This angers Cal, to the point of crazed madness, and he almost kills Coulson before Skye stops him. Oh, did I mention Ward? He tries to help Skye, and he obviously still loves her a lot, but Skye is smart enough to know that she can’t trust him, and shoots him several times. (but something stops the bullets)

FitzSimmons were back full time this week, and here you could see that Fitz has made leaps and bounds in terms of his improvement. He even went off on his own to give him, Jemma, and Trip a better chance of completing their mission. And what was their mission? To set bombs all around the city, so that they would blow up before Whitehall could do anything with the Obelisk. They complete their mission, but as soon as they are back above ground, they hear from May that Coulson and Skye have both entered the city. Skye is following Raina, who possesses the Obelisk, and Coulson is following Skye. Trip goes back down into the city to disable the bombs, leaving a terrified FitzSimmons behind.

Raina and Skye enter the temple, but not before they each encounter “zombiefied” Mac. His eyes black, his face expressionless, it broke my heart to see Skye’s reaction to seeing him this way. While Mac doesn’t hurt them, Coulson is not so lucky. He is perceived as a threat, so is prevented from following Skye and Raina into the temple. Trip, however, is able to enter just before the doors of the temple close behind him. And this is where things get crazy. The obelisk begins to open, and strange, glowing crystals are revealed. Raina is pleased, going on about the “evolution” and the fact that she and Skye will finally see what they are. But then, a strange explosion happens, hitting Skye, Raina, and Trip. Trip watches in horror as Skye turns to stone, along with Raina. He tries to destroy the crystals, but is thrown back. And just as Skye begins to lose her stonelike shell, Trip himself turns to stone. I was sobbing at this point. And then, with a bang, Skye seems to explode from her stone shell, and causes and earthquake. We see Trip’s remains crumble into dust, and the horrified expression on Skye’s face. As the earth shakes, Mac seems to revert back to his former self, and Coulson attempts to help him. Fitz and Simmons, still above ground, hold each other in fear.

And then, for one last tease before the episode ends, we see… another obelisk? Glowing brightly. And a man on a phone, talking to someone about there being “another one”. When he turns around, we see that where his eyes should be, there is only skin. (cue screaming from hardcore MARVEL fans).

And with that, we are left to speculate until March. What will Skye’s special powers be, besides earthquakes? Will Coulson and Mac get out alive? What did Raina become? We did catch a glimpse of catlike eyes and claws on her hands before it cut to Skye. Is Trip gone for good? What will happen between FitzSimmons. Where did Cal go? Is Whitehall truly dead? What will be next for Ward, with Agent 33 by his side? (grips head) Too many questions…. It really is sad that so many people didn’t stick with the show thru the first season, and are now missing out on an amazing second round. What many people complained about was that the show was “too slow” or that there weren’t any superheroes. Well, I’ve got a flash for those people: That’s what makes this show so great. We got to know the characters. We got to love them and understand them without the constant running around. And the lack of superheroes? This show isn’t about superheroes. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is about ordinary heroes. Your average humans who use their abilities to save the world and help other people, even though they don’t have superpowers to help them. One of my favorite quotes of the show so far was back in the last episode of season 1, when Coulson talked about something that Nick Fury always said: “A man can do great things when he realizes that he is a part of something bigger”. And that sums up the heart of this show. The characters understand that they are a part of something bigger than themselves, and that drives them to do the right thing, even when it’s hard. Even when it’s dangerous. Even when it means they will die. They aren’t afraid because they understand that even though they might not have super speed, strength, or an Iron Suit, they can still change the world. And that is why I love this show so much. That is why I hope people will give it another chance.

Stay nerdy!

Once Upon a Time Episode Review – “Shattered Sight”

The final episode before the season finale aired on Sunday night, and while it wasn’t quite as explosive as I had expected, it was most definitely an appropriate build up for next week, and a fitting ending for our villain (or not so villainous?). There are major spoilers, as I want to mention what made this villain so unique.

The episode shows us the missing memories of Emma’s, of her time with Ingrid, which actually… wasn’t that bad? These tidbits of history show that Ingrid really did love Emma very much. But unfortunately, her drive to see Emma come into her own pushed Emma away. We also saw the conversation that Sydney took pictures of, apparently back in season one. This was where Ingrid removed Emma’s memories. The fact that Emma really did love Ingrid too was enough to make you see the current situation in a different light.

My favorite thing about this episode was seeing everyone under the curse. Well, almost everyone. Emma, Elsa, Anna, and Rumple escaped, as we all know, but so did a certain pirate. According to Rumple, it was because his heart was in “protective custody”, rather ironic considering that Rumple is going to kill Hook anyway. But anyway. Regina went full evil queen, even magically replacing her pantsuit with her evil queen dress (complete with gratuitous cleavage). Watching Lana Parilla get back into the evil role was great, and I have missed seeing that side of her somewhat. And Snow and Charming being under the curse made for some hilarious dialogue, my personal favorite being when Kristoff and Anna were with them.

Even Henry was affected, though his was more of a “rebellious teenager” than it was evilness. When Hook goes to fetch Henry so that Rumple can take him and Belle away from the town, Henry goes “Home Alone” on Hook, leaving marbles on the floor, causing Hook to fall on his backside.

Emma and Elsa are told by Anna that there is only one solution: To kill Ingrid. Though Elsa doesn’t believe that killing is the answer, Emma is determined that she will save her family. After a few minor setbacks that involved breaking some of the stuff in Rumple’s shop and lying to Regina to make her throw a fireball at them, Emma and Elsa reach Ingrid’s cave, where she waits with what she says are their missing memories. She claims that they won’t kill her because they know that they loved her at some point.

In the end, it is Anna who saves them from more killing, when she arrives at the cave with a note. A note that their mother wrote before their ship went down. A note that speaks of her love for Ingrid, and her grief over the mistakes that she made. It was here that I started crying, which I didn’t expect. Ingrid, after trying to kill Anna, reads the note, and says something that no villain thus far has said: “What have I done?” She too knows that there is only one way to stop the spell, and despite Emma and Elsa’s protests, decides to destroy  herself. I was sobbing at this point. And when she is destroyed by the mirror, we see one last glimpse of her, as a child, running with Helga and Gerda through a field. Yeah, that didn’t make the crying stop.

The spell lifts, and everyone begins to stop fighting. The best bit by far was seeing Regina, Snow, and Charming. Snow and Regina were in the middle of trying to kill each other, and when the spell lifts, Regina promptly looks down at her dress and says: “What am I wearing?” They then fall into a fit of hysterical laughter as they realize how stupid they were being. The ending is another conversation between Rumple and Hook, where Hook makes a final plea to Rumple, asking him to leave Storybrooke alone. Rumple agrees, but insinuates that the rest of the world might not be so lucky before he walks out of his shop with a smirk on his face.

The thing I found really incredible about Ingrid’s ending, is that she is the one villain who died truly redeeming herself. She destroyed herself to save everyone else, blamed no one for her problems, even saying that she made herself a monster through her actions. And I think there is a lesson to be learned. As a Christian, I know that even the worst sort of person can be redeemed by God’s grace, and despite the fact that OUAT is not a Christian show at all, Ingrid provides a picture of that. I have spoken to someone recently who was able to use the theme of redemption in OUAT as a springboard to talk about the redeeming blood of Christ with a non-Christian friend.

And while the story did move a little too quickly, I thought that the episode was incredible. Moving and exciting to say the least. And next week, the winter finale. Will Hook die? That seems to be the biggest question on the minds of fans. And where do the three new villains come from? Yes, three. We get Maleficent, Ursula, and Cruella De Vil. So it looks like the winter finale will be explosive, and will leave fans gasping for air until March! Stay Nerdy!

Sports in the South – My honest thoughts

I have grown up my entire life surrounded by, yet separated from, the sports culture that runs rampant in the South. The small town about 10 minutes away from my house is obsessed with baseball especially. The town about 20 minutes from me is where I spend the most time however, and that town is in Georgia Southern country. People around here either bleed Blue and Gold or Red and Black, sometimes all of those. And if you don’t care about football, you are automatically bombarded with all sorts of things like: “You are so weird, football is so cool and I can’t believe you don’t like it” “You are so uncultured”. And no matter how many times I explain my position on why I just don’t get into sports, people still seem to regard me strangely.

But it isn’t the sport itself that bothers me. It is what the sports around us have become. At the church I used to attend, sports often came before church, especially in the case of the youth. If several of the youth had a sports event going on Wednesday night, they would cancel youth group, leaving the several who didn’t have sports to fend for themselves. And on Sunday mornings, some youth wouldn’t be there due to a “big” game that they had to attend. Sports talk would take up more than half of our allotted hour for Sunday school. I frankly got sick of it. I came to church to fellowship, yes. But I also come to church to learn about Christ, worship him, and become spiritually enriched. Talking about the latest football game IS NOT spiritually enriching, no matter how great of a game it was.

My current church is somewhat better, though I have noticed even more obsession with Georgia Southern since going to this church. A good example of this: Every year, the youth group takes a group to MOVE Conference, an annual leadership conference for Christians. For the last several years, it was held in the town of Macon. Unfortunately, the venue in Macon has become too small for the huge crowds that attend the conference, and thus the conference has been moved to Athens for next year. Now, Athens is Bulldog country, and since we are all from Georgia here, you would think that everyone would be excited. Right? RIGHT?

WRONG. One person even said that they would not go this year because of the fact that it is in UGA country! An adult leader has made several comments about being near that “other college” but not having to “set foot on the campus”. Seriously? Not to disrespect, but we aren’t even there because of the college!

When did sports become so important to us? When did we start putting people tossing a ball around over praising the Lord with our fellow believers? When did seeing the latest game on television become more important than fellowshiping at a youth event? When did a particular team become a deciding factor in whether people attend a church conference or not? When did whether or not a person likes sports become a symbol of being “cool”? Have we truly become so shallow minded that guys tackling each other over a ball is of more merit than God himself?

The Bible speaks multiple times about idols, idolatry, and God’s hatred of it. Anything can be an idol, money, clothes, beauty, and yes, sports. You might not be bowing down and singing praises to the game of football, but if you are putting above God, your family, your friends, and your schoolwork, it is still an idol. This is for both playing sports and being a fan.

Now, that’s not to say that sports are bad, because they aren’t. But like I like to say: Everything in moderation. It’s sort of like this: Sugar isn’t bad on its own (despite what all the health people say about it being evil), but when we eat too much of it, it can make us unhealthy. It can cause us to become overweight, sluggish (from a “sugar crash), have cavities, and less able to focus. Sports, like sugar, are fine on their own. They can be fun to play and watch, but too much of them can be bad. When your priorities become mixed up and sports are put before God and family, when you play a sport so much that your body begins to wear down, and when you can hardly think about anything else, that is a sign that something is wrong. I have to moderate myself when it comes to TV, and it really isn’t that hard.

I just think that we as Christians need to take a closer look at how we treat sports. It’s all fun and games around here until someone gets shunned for disliking sports in general or liking a certain team. And we’re perfectly willing to commit to something at church every week until it actually comes time to do it, when we realize that practice is more important to us. Yes, if sports is your passion then work hard at it! And if you enjoy watching the game, feel free. But think carefully about how these activities are affecting your walk with God, your family life, your friendships, and your personal activities like chores, homework, etc. The Bible says that we should have “NO other God before ME” (as in, God), but he wasn’t just talking about a golden calf or Buddha. Idols can take on many forms, and for many people I know, that idol is sports. I have struggles of my own, as there was a time when TV became my idol. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t overcome it. Sometimes, this means taking a “fast” of sorts from watching games, or stepping up and telling your coach that you can’t be there on Wednesdays because of church.

All I know is, I am tired of being laughed at because I don’t like sports. I am tired of the petty rivalries, and the way we allow sports to affect our time at church and youth trips. And when we think about it, maybe God isn’t too happy with us either?

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode Review – “Ye Who Enter Here”

After last weeks episode, which was a bit slower than what we’re used to from this season, I was looking forward to the fast paced craziness of the last two episodes before the winter break. And I was not disappointed in the least.

Coulson, Fitz, Simmons, Mack, and Bobbi head off to the mysterious city so that they can reach the temple before HYDRA. Skye, May, Lance, and a couple of the Koenig (pronounced Kaynig) brothers head off to rescue Rayna from being captured by Daniel Whitehall. They run into Agent 33, who still has May’s face and voice. But after they have Rayna, Skye realizes that Coulson and the others are in grave danger, and the episode left us with an insane cliffhanger.

I really loved this one, possibly one of my favorite episodes so far! It brought everything: The creepy, the intense, mixed in a bit of romantic tension here and there, and even brought some great comedy with the hilarious Koenigs. And it brought some insane revelations to light, and… *sigh* the death of a character whom I have come to love. 😦 And I loved seeing a different side of Rayna. This episode made something clear to us: She isn’t actually all that bad of a person. She’s a good person who was convinced to do some bad things because she thought it would help her and others. And Rayna made it clear that she, like Skye, is special.

Along those lines, she also revealed the name of the blue aliens: The Kree. I worked very hard not to scream when I heard that, because that means that AoS is setting up for “Inhumans”, a MARVEL film projected to come out in the next several years. So this means that Skye is obviously more special than she realizes.

When it comes to Coulson and Co., an awkward, and heartbreaking situation came up. Bobbi questions Simmons early on about Fitz, and Jemma deftly dodges the questions. She says that she and Fitz are nothing more than best friends, but we can all see the truth obviously. Later, Fitz tells Jemma that he will no longer be working with her in the lab, telling her that he isn’t getting any better. That whole scene about broke me, as I have shipped FitzSimmons from the start.

When they try to enter the city, they first send down a character to check things out. But when this character touches the strange carvings in the floor, something happens. When they are pulled back up, they have gone mad, and begin attacking the others. Both Simmons and Bobbi almost die before this character falls to their doom, breaking everyone’s hearts. (And no, I’m not telling who it is).

And guess what?! Our old friend Ward makes an appearance, and takes Rayna from the team, and well as Skye. It’s a tricky situation, especially because Whitehall wanted the team dead, and Ward (surprisingly) let them live. And there, the episode leaves us, with nothing more than an intense promo for next week’s episode to carry us into next week.

Overall, this episode was great! Some cussing, as per usual, but nothing else. It was incredibly intense, and next week, Skye is going to meet her biological father. Now why do I make that important distinction? Because it is obvious who she sees as the father in her life right now (*cough* Coulson *cough*), and I don’t think her monster of a father could change that. So now, we nervously await next week. Stay nerdy!

Once Upon a Time Episode Review – “Fall”

With this being one of the last three episodes in this half of the season, I knew that the stakes were going to be pushed higher and higher throughout this episode. At the end of the previous episode, we saw the Snow Queen (aka. Ingrid) finally cast the Curse of Shattered Sight, a curse that will turn all of the townspeople against each other until they tear each other apart. Emma and Elsa are the only ones immune to the curse, due to the ribbons that the Snow Queen magically place on their arms. And that is where this episode begins.

When Rumple went to the Snow Queen and bargained for the lives of Henry and Belle, I wanted to cheer, but something niggled at the back of my mind. It’s really sweet and all, but why Henry? As it turns out, Rumple just wants to save his own skin. In fact, he tells Hook “If it comes down to me and everyone else, me wins, every time”. And just like that, all progress made by Rumple went out the window, and all my hopes for him went pfft! I am super upset that he has returned to his selfish, cowardly ways, even more upset that he forcing Hook to do his dirty work.

Emma and company try to find a way out of town so that people can escape the curse, but they discover that it is impossible. So they split up, Regina goes to warn Robin with Henry in tow, Hook heads to the docks to search for other means of escape, and Emma and Elsa head to the pawnshop to talk to Belle. They discover that there might be a way to protect the townspeople from the curse, if they can only find Anna, who was hit with the curse once before. So Emma uses a locator spell on Anna’s necklace, and the hunt begins.

Back in Arendale, Anna and Kristoff are unfrozen after 30 years in ice, but quickly discover that Hans and his evil brothers have been unfrozen as well. They make a run for it and decide to seek out a pirate by the name of… Blackbeard. According to her mother’s diary, he possesses a powerful thing called a wishing star, that they might be able to use to rescue Elsa.

I won’t say too much more, except that this is the first episode in a long time to make me cry so hard as I did. From the horrible act that Hook is forced to commit, to the goodbyes between characters as they separate from their loved ones, this episode packed some serious emotional oomf. I do want to discuss Hook and Emma though, because there were some things that happened that will be important in the future. First off, Hook was forced by Rumple (who has his heart), to suck the fairies into the hat. It is a heartbreaking scene as Blue looks into his eyes and we see the grief on his face. He even apologizes to her. And when Emma comes in moments later and Hook stays out of sight, he is crying. If I were Emma and I ever got hold of Rumple, I would be sorely tempted to beat him up. And when Hook and Emma said goodbye, and shared a sweet and heartwrenching kiss, something happened. Emma touches her lips as he walks away, a look of confusion on her face… Almost as if she realizes his heart wasn’t in it?

And I must say, Adam and Eddie have become masters of the cliffhanger ending. The way the episode ends is just enough to leave you begging for more, but also a perfect ending. There was some cussing as usual, but nothing over the top. In fact, my biggest problem this week was with how emotional it was. One of my favorite lines was when Regina told Robin that  she was going to seal herself into her vault, and he asks: “To keep everyone out?” and she replies with tears: “To keep me in.” And she tells him to be very afraid of her. 😦 I can hardly wait for next week, and then the season finale! 😀 Stay nerdy everyone!

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