Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.

The Magnificent Seven

September 30th, 2016

The Magnificent Seven 2016 is about as brazen as the cowboys it portrays. It’s loud, visceral and action packed and an instant classic in the Western genre. I left the theater realizing that I just saw a motion picture that might bring back the great Western.

The Magnificent Seven has all the elements working in harmony: a talented director with a top notch cast (Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, etc…), an easy to follow plot, action sequences and enough humor thrown in to make it a fun 2 hour spent in the movie theater.

The first half of this film is all about getting to know the “7” as they get together. This deliberate pacing allows the viewer to understand each of the “7s” personality quirks and pays off in the action scenes. I found myself rooting for these guys and waited for each one to pull out their peculiar skill to help advance the scene…while peeking between my fingers.

The performances of the “7” is made the movie great. Start with the always dependable Denzel Washington as the leader of the “7”, Sam Chisolm. He, mysteriously, takes on the task of defending this town from an army of bad guys and brings steely-eyed determination to his work. He brings an “everything is going to be all right” confidence and attitude to his performance and I just sat back and enjoyed every minute of it.

He is assisted by relative newcomers Byung-hun Lee as Billy Rocks who is charming and devastating as the man with the knives, Manual Garcia-Rulfo as Mexican Outlaw Vasquez, tough on the outside, soft on the inside, and Martin Sensmeier as no nonsense “loner” Indian sharp shooter (with the bow  arrow) Red Harvest. All these performances/characters are strong, but they take a back seat to even more impressive performances by film veterans:

Ethan Hawk shined bright in his best performance to date (at least for me) as legendary killer Goodnight Robicheaux. Great character for him! Then the always-interesting Vincent D’Onofrio shows quirkiness, humor and charm to slightly crazy mountain man/tracker Jack Horne, and good-ol’ dependable Chris Pratt reprising his “charming rogue” persona as gambler Josh Faraday, with a layer of darkness. He was terrific.

The director introduced the “7” and ratchets up the action in such a way that works very well. He did a very good job at laying out where everyone is, what their job is and why it is important, so that when the bullets start flying and the bodies start dropping you know what is going on and it is not just a bunch of people shooting for no reason at all.

The Magnificent Seven isn’t a perfect film, but it is a top-notch action packed Western that will, most certainly, inspire other Westerns and remakes. Maybe The Dirty Dozen?



Devotions from Baba’s Front Porch: The Kitchen Table

September 28th, 2016

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. Matthew 9:10

Baba’s 1950s yellow formica kitchen table was always open for anybody who happened by. That’s probably why sharing a meal with others has always been a special experience for me. Chances are, if a person is sick, has had a baby, or is new to the neighborhood, someone will show up with a food offering. Many lasting friendships have been formed while sharing a casserole or some pound cake around a kitchen table.

Early believers understood this concept of community. They knew that life wasn’t meant to be lived in isolation, but rather in interacting with and loving others well. They had witnessed the extraordinary way Christ loved, and it often involved dining with people around a table. He feasted at Matthew’s house, Martha’s house, the seashore, and the Upper Room. He dined with His friends, His disciples, Pharisees, tax collectors, and lepers.

Jesus didn’t withdraw from people or their pain. He was never too busy to be bothered by other’s burdens. In fact, He invited them to step away from the busyness of life and share a meal with Him. As a result, the outcast felt as welcome at His dinner table as we did at our grandmother’s.

People are no different today than when Jesus walked the earth. We want to be seen and heard, to know we matter to someone.

We’re surrounded by hurting and lonely people who long for an invitation to break bread with us. They desire to be welcomed. When the coffee flows freey, people feel free to be themselves. If there happens to be a pound case involved, well, that’s just icing on the cake.

May we never be too busy to let someone know that he or she matters by inviting them to dinner. May your kitchen table be a place here people are truly seen and heard.

Bridget Jones’ Baby

September 23rd, 2016

Remember Bridget Jones? She’s back! This time Bridget’s focus on single life and her career is interrupted when she finds herself pregnant, but with one hitch … she can only be 50% sure of the identity of her baby’s father.

When I heard that there was going to be another Bridget Jones movie I thought, wow, that is going to be the worst film of the year. The previous two Bridget Jones movies combined comedic and romantic highpoints and low points. Yet, it’s a surprisingly funny, smart, adorable romantic comedy.

In spite of a few misgivings, I went to the theater, and “Bridget Jones’ Baby” rapidly eliminated all my resistance. I laughed out loud in air conditioned comfort. The emphasis in Bridget Jones’ Baby is much more on comedy than it is on romance. Everything is played for laughs. The jokes are broad, low-brow, and slapstick. Don’t expect sophisticated wit.

Renee Zellweger has aged, as have we all. She is great as Bridget, and steals our hearts. Emma Thompson is her gynecologist. Go see this movie for Thompson’s performance alone. If you don’t laugh at her character … well, you will. You won’t be able to help yourself. Colin Firth may be the last living actor who can convincingly play a gentleman with such perfection.

It’s not brilliantly made, but it’s charming, inoffensive and good fun for Bridget chick-flick fans.




Devotions from Baba’s Front Porch: Rocking Chair

September 21st, 2016

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Growing up there was nothing like sitting on Baba’s front porch. Mom reminded me of this last week and inspired me to write a series based on those memories. Baba’s porch represents the warmth of home, a much simpler way of life watching the fire flies with space to welcome visitors. With the sway of her rocking chair we could take a deep breath, unwind from the day and spend a few quiet moments with God. (Before the next chore)

Over the next several weeks I invite you to retreat from your busy schedule and spend a few moments beside me on Baba’s porch to soothe and refresh you souls and remind you that He is with you each and every day.

Christ knew that life would be stressful. We don’t need to do another load of laundry, or work longer or harder, or stay up later, or even get up earlier. We need to rest, and Christ, in His wisdom gives us permission to do just that. He not only offers rest, but He invites us to give our worries and burdens to Him.

We have permission to laugh out loud. To simply take time to breath. We have permission to take a break from whatever is weighing us down. You and I have permission to rest, and there’s no better place to rest than a front porch rocking chair in the company of our Father.

Sunday in Minnesota

September 18th, 2016

Mankato, Minnesota has the unfortunate distinction of being the site of the largest mass execution in US history. On Dec. 26, 1862, at the end of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, 38 Dakota Sioux Indians were publicly hanged by the US Army for their attack on white settlers in New Ulm, MN. Originally, 303 men were sentenced to hang by President Lincoln himself, although he later pardoned a great majority considering this a compromise.  While this is indeed a dark chapter in Minnesota and America’s history, Mankato has not forgotten about it or swept it under the rug.

Reconciliation Park was dedicated along Riverfront Drive in 1997. In 2012, on the 150th year anniversary of the execution, Mankato hosted a Memorial and Dedication, with around 500 Native American and Caucasians both calling for healing and forgiveness. During this ceremony, a large buckskin-looking script was erected with the names of the “Dakota 38”. The opposite site is a poem by Kathrine Hughes: Remember the innocent dead, both Dakota and white. Victims of events they could not control. Remember the guilty dead, both white and Dakota whom reason abandoned. Regret the times and attitudes that brought dishonor to both cultures. Respect the deeds and kindnesses that brought honor to both cultures. Hope for a future when memories remain balance by forgiveness.

reconciliation-park-3 reconciliation-park-5


After reflection I participated in the 44th Annual Mankato Wacipi honoring the 38 Dakota. Pow Wows are the Native American way of meeting together, to join in dancing, singing, visiting, renewing old friendships, and making new ones.  This is a time method to renew Native American culture and preserve the rich heritage of American Indians. http://www.unitednativeamerica.com/hanging.html

Healing in this land happened in a whirl of colors, sights and sounds as the Land of Memories Park was transformed into a Wacipi arena, complete with a Master of Ceremonies and two invited drum groups.

There were Dakota dancers of all ages in full regalia performing with live Wacipi music in two separate performances. I’m always moved by the Grand Entry and enjoy learning various tribal dance styles and had the opportunity twice this year to join the dancers and participate in the Intertribals and Round Dance.

mankato-wacipi-4 mankato-wacipi-5 mankato-wacipi-7 mankato-wacipi-8 mankato-wacipi-10 mankato-wacipi-13 mankato-wacipi-14 mankato-wacipi-17 mankato-wacipi-18 mankato-wacipi-19 mankato-wacipi-20 mankato-wacipi-21 mankato-wacipi-22 mankato-wacipi-24 mankato-wacipi-25 mankato-wacipi-26 mankato-wacipi-27 mankato-wacipi-28 mankato-wacipi-29 mankato-wacipi-30 mankato-wacipi-1

We have so much to learn about healing and forgiveness.

Friday Funnies

September 16th, 2016

Labor Day marked the unofficial start of fall and the long awaited return of pumpkin spice lattes. I shiver thinking about the rollout of all things pumpkin. The spicy essence signals fall has arrived. And with it, pumpkin jokes:

Did you know if you say “Pumpkin Spice Latte” into a mirror three times, a white girl in yoga pants will appear and tell you all her favorite things about fall. (Don’t be afraid, it’s just me. LOL)

Q: Why was the jack-o-lantern afraid to cross the road? A: It had no guts!

Q: What do you use to mend a jack-o-lantern? A: A pumpkin patch.

Q: What did a Jack-o-lantern say to the pumpkin? A: Cut it out!

Q: What is a pumpkin’s favorite sport? A: Squash

One day two pumpkins, who were best friends, were walking together down the street. They stepped off the curb and a speeding car came around the corner and ran one of them over.

The uninjured pumpkin called 911 and helped his injured friend as best he was able. The injured pumpkin was taken to emergency at the hospital and rushed into surgery.

After a long and agonizing wait, the doctor finally appeared. He told the uninjured pumpkin, “I have good news, and I have bad news. The good news is that your friend is going to pull through.”

“The bad news is that he’s going to be a vegetable for the rest of his life”.


Yes, you can!

September 14th, 2016

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

“I can’t.” I hear that from patients several times a week—and sometimes for good reason. Children say “I can’t” because they lack knowledge or skill. Honestly they can’t! And sometimes adults say “I can’t” for the same reason. “I can’t be an astronaut.” “I can’t be a professional athlete.” In most cases, those are accurate statements. But there’s a problem when we don’t think we can because we don’t think God can.

There are numerous instances in Scripture that describe God’s abilities. And there are no examples of God not being able to do something because of any limitations on His power. One of the most encompassing statements that connects God’s ability to our ability is 2 Corinthians 9:8. Because God is able, we are able. When we say, “I can’t do it. I can’t give, love, forgive, reconcile, repent, be kind, be compassionate, be content . . .” what we’re really saying is, “God isn’t able to make that grace abound to me.” And that’s just not true.

Don’t limit yourself by limiting God. Let His grace abound to you. And give me another 15 repetitions … I know you can!


Sunday in Minnesota

September 12th, 2016

The healing properties of water bring out my inner dreamer. While this weekend spent at The Courage Kenny Rehab Institute taking an aquatic course, and was a more academic atmosphere than adventurous, and I loved every moment because I spent part of it in a pool. There are few places I’d rather be in this world than a warm pool.

The Courage Kenny Institute was formed in 2013 through a merger of Courage Center and the Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. Both organizations have a strong history of service to people with disabilities. This started in 1911, when Miss Kenny encountered her first case of polio in Australia.  Unaware of conventional means of polio treatment, Sister Kenny used moist hot packs to relieve pain and loosen muscles. Her theory was to re-educate the muscles so they could function again.

In 1940 Sister Kenny relocated to Minnesota and established the Sister Kenny Institute in 1942 where her pioneering rehabilitation methods became the foundation of physical therapy in the country. Today the Courage Kenny Institute is known for its progressive and innovative treatments. http://www.allinahealth.org/Courage-Kenny-Rehabilitation-Institute/Programs-and-services/Aquatic-therapy-programs/

Which is the reason behind the Courage Kenny partnering with Aquatic Therapy University to host an intense 2-day seminar, led by Kiki Dickinson, on treatments for orthopedic and neuro patients in a pool setting.  http://www.aquatic-therapy-university.com/About-Us-4.html

For two days my brain was stuffed with information. I was saturated and wrinkled! We were exposed to 10 popular aquatic techniques currently being used in clinics around the globe. It was so exciting! When we left we felt ready to get in the water with musculoskeletal and neuro patients with fresh skills and perspective. And I felt great doing it! I can’t wait for the opportunity to put this course to practical use in a pool.


Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching.


Friday Funnies

September 9th, 2016

“Lexophile” is a word used to describe those that have a love for words, such as “you can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish”, or “to write with a broken pencil is pointless.” A competition to see who can come up with the best lexophiles is held every year in an undisclosed location. This year’s winning submission is posted at the very end.

.. When fish are in schools, they sometimes take debate.

.. A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

.. When the smog lifts in Los Angeles U.C.L.A.

.. The batteries were given out free of charge.

.. A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.

.. A will is a dead giveaway.

.. With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

.. A boiled egg is hard to beat.

.. When you’ve seen one shopping center you’ve seen a mall.

.. Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

.. Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off? He’s all right now.

.. A bicycle can’t stand alone; it’s just two tired.

.. When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

.. The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine is now fully recovered.

.. He had a photographic memory which was never developed.

.. When she saw her first strands of grey hair she thought she’d dye.

.. Acupuncture is a jab well done. That’s the point of it.

And the cream of the crop: Those who get too big for their pants will be totally exposed in the end!!


Hymns With a Message: Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand

September 7th, 2016

One of my personal favorites from time spent at St. John’s Missionary Church is the hymn Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand. I can still recall the sense of being there and with emotion filled church.

The text was written by Mary Jane (Jennie) Bain Wilson, who was born on a farm at Cleveland, IN, near South Whitley, on November 13, 1856. Her father died in her infancy. When she was about four years old, an attack of spinal trouble resulted in her being rendered an invalid, confined to a wheel-chair and bed. Not being able to attend school, she studied at home, read much, and received some musical instruction. A natural love for music and poetry early in life led her to verse writing. Her earliest poems appeared in a local paper Her first hymn was entitled “All the Way,” and, not knowing of its publication, she was pleasantly surprised when it was found in new songbooks purchased by a Sunday School in her neighborhood. In 1881, she was baptized by being carried on a chair into a beautiful, tree shaded stream, and, in her words, “it gave me much joy to thus confess my dear Savior.”

Later, through the influence of a minister named Jacob D. Coverstone, Miss Wilson sent hymns to a publication in Dayton, OH. These attracted the attention of composers such as William J. Kirkpatrick and Edmund S. Lorenz, by whom she was invited to write hymns to be set to music. A prolific poet, she produced about 2,200 poems and hymn texts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Yet, over the course of her life she never interjected sadness from her condition in her works.

Her mother died in 1902. The mother’s grave is marked by a monument bearing the following verse “After her long life journey Cometh death’s dreamless sleep; Over her rest may angels Ever a fond watch keep.” She enjoyed attending Bible conferences at nearby Winona Lake, IN, and other locations. Sometime in 1904, which is probably the year that she penned it, Miss Wilson sent “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand” to Franklin Lycurgus Eiland.

The words of this song compare the transitory nature of this life to the eternal nature of God and heaven that we strive for in this life. https://youtu.be/navP_n3mtH0


Sunday in Minnesota

September 4th, 2016

Please remove your shoes. Walking barefoot on a living sacred site is a humbling experience. That’s my advice to anyone visiting Jeffers Petroglyphs that wants a deeper experience at this sacred land.

Petroglyphs are images carved on a rock face. The word comes from the Greek “petra,” meaning stone and “glyphe,” meaning carving. Petroglyphs are found world-wide and are among the most enduring forms of human expression.

Jeffers Petroglyphs 6

The pink rock face covers an area 50 yards wide and 300 yards long. It is part of a 23-mile is Sioux quartzite ridge. The quartzite at Jeffers is one of the oldest bedrock formations in Minnesota, deposited as sand more than 1.6 billion years ago. To American Indians, rock formations emerging from the earth provide a link between the physical and spiritual worlds. Such places are chosen to record visions, events, stories or maps. 

Jeffers Petroglyphs 25 Jeffers Petroglyphs 26 Jeffers Petroglyphs 38

Jeffers Petroglyphs is a special place for visitors and American Indians. To the contemporary American Indians who reside in and around the state, it is a spiritual place where Grandmother Earth speaks of the past, present and future. Modern day descendants of those who left these markings continue to believe that this is a place of worship, a prayer place no different than that of church, synagogue or mosque.

Jeffers Petroglyphs 5

The earliest carvings at Jeffers Petroglyphs were created as much as 7,000 years ago. The most recent were made about 250 years ago. This long time span makes Jeffers one of the oldest continuously used sacred sites in the world. http://sites.mnhs.org/historic-sites/jeffers-petroglyphs/history

The site preserves more than 4,000 American Indian images. Among the earliest carvings found here are images of buffalo and atlatls, or throwing sticks. Atlatls and darts were used to hunt buffaloes before the bow and arrow were developed 1,200 years ago. These symbols, along with thunderbirds and turtles, remain important in American Indian culture today. It’s interesting to note that there aren’t any carved bows and arrows. Also “missing” are glyphs representing horses, indicating that the site was no longer used by the late 1700s. 

Jeffers Petroglyphs 7 Jeffers Petroglyphs 10 Jeffers Petroglyphs 15 Jeffers Petroglyphs 19 Jeffers Petroglyphs 20 Jeffers Petroglyphs 21 Jeffers Petroglyphs 23 Jeffers Petroglyphs 31 Jeffers Petroglyphs 32 Jeffers Petroglyphs 33 Jeffers Petroglyphs 34 Jeffers Petroglyphs 36

The fact that these petroglyphs still exist is amazing to me. They must have been carved deeply into the rock originally, meant to last while exposed to the elements. A lot can be learned when you remove your shoes and look down.



Friday Funnies

September 2nd, 2016

The Minnesota State Fair certainly was THE place to be for people watching this week. You know exactly what I mean, don’t pretend you don’t sit silently and watch everyone go by stifling giggles now and then. At the end of a long day, people watching is a hobby for everyone. I think it’s a bonafide sport.

The great thing about people watching is that you can do it most anywhere there’s people! I’ll go to a park, a coffee shop, the State Fair or anywhere there are people just milling around. Find a nice comfy place to sit, maybe purchase a hot beverage, and situate yourself in an area where you can possibly overhear people talking. It really never ceases to blow my mind, the kind of stuff you can overhear or witness just in a half hour span of sitting, plus it’s nice to get away from the electronics.

The Minnesota State Fair was the best I’ve seen for a long time. Seriously, if you start feeling like you have the goofiest family in the world, all you have to do is go to a state fair. Five minutes at the fair, you’ll be going, “You know what? We’re all right. We’re dang near royalty!”

People are just too unusual in their own worlds. Get a free piece of the fun! The possibilities are endless, and you can’t beat free!


Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.