Saturday, September 26, 2015

I'm a TV Junkie...and Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

Yes, with my imagination and love for well-developed characters, I easily become addicted to television series. Films are nice, but watching characters develop week after week for up to 24 episodes per season provides so much more insight into their loves and hates, their quirks and humor, than a mere two hour movie.

I remain heartbroken over the cancellation of my favorite television series of last year: Forever starred Ioan Gruffudd of Titanic, Fantastic Four, and Horatio Hornblower fame as Dr. Henry Morgan who, through a miraculous turn of fate, is immortal and has been alive for about two hundred years. Working in New York City as a Medical Examiner, he is teamed with Detective Jo Martinez (Alana De La Garza) as they solve crime. Only Henry's adopted son, played by Judd Hirsch, knows his secret. I adore the mysteries each week as well as the growing romance between Henry and Jo; the quirkiness of the characters also delighted me. The flashbacks into Henry's past were fascinating, especially those of his wife, Abigail, who had known his secret and had helped him in rescuing Abraham as an infant from Auschwitz. It was a truly riveting hour of television each week, and I practically went into mourning when I heard the cancellation news.

So crime shows and mysteries are my thing. My other favorite shows, CastleRizzoli & Isles, NCIS (all three), CSI, Hawaii 5-0, Criminal Minds, Elementary, Sherlock, Bones, the also-cancelled Body of Proof with Dana Delaney--all have that mixture of crime solving combined with thoughtful and detailed character study. My other top favorite show, Sleepy Hollow, combines mystery with some crime solving as Ichabod Crane and Lieutenant Abigail Mills not only solve crimes but also fight true evil as they attempt to halt the coming Armageddon. The only one of my favorite shows that doesn't have the crime/mystery component is Downton Abbey which combines character study with an amazing time in Great Britain's history, so I'm good with it, and So You Think You Can Dance is in its own category, of course.

So when browsing Netflix, I stumbled across the Australian show Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (Series 3 is now playing Saturday nights on PBS), and I was hooked. Set in the late 1920's in Melbourne, Miss Phryne (pronounced "FRY-knee") Fisher (Essie Davis) is a wealthy "modern woman" who sets up as a lady detective, at first to the annoyance of Detective Inspector Jack Robinson (Nathan Page). Later Phryne and Jack end up working together, with the assistance of Miss Fisher's companion Dot (Ashleigh Cummings) and Jack's right-hand man, Constable Hugh Collins (Hugo Johnstone-Burt).

Miss Fisher seems to pick up strays wherever she goes, from some rough-and-tumble cab drivers and her butler with WWI spy experience, aptly named Mr. Butler, to a teen runaway named Jane. Wielding a pearl-handled golden handgun with panache and accuracy, Phryne Fisher becomes deeply embroiled in various mysterious and dangerous cases with Jack while feelings slowly begin to build between them. Series 3, which is only 8 episodes (the other series are 12 or 13 episodes each), marks the end of the series...the final episode of which I watched last night on Netflix. I was sorry to see the series end, but it was an extremely satisfying ride with everything tied up quite neatly and romantically.

The costumes are simply amazing--and the characters are quirky and always doing the unexpected. The attention to detail in the sets and the lovely outdoor scenes in Australia are beyond gorgeous. I've added quite a few of Phryne's best costumes and images of the other characters to my Pinterest Board "I'm a TV Junkie" if you're interested.

Unfortunately, as I peruse the new shows for this fall, I don't see anything that particular grabs me. I'll probably just rely on my old favorites, including the final CSI two-hour special playing Sunday night (9/27) with the return of Grissom, Catherine, and the rest of the gang. Plus, the final season of Downton Abbey will be starting here in the US on January 3, 2016; I'll especially hate to bid the Crawley family, both upstairs and down, a final farewell.

And I've been promising myself to start watching Doctor Who. I've seen a few and quite like it, but no one else in the family does, so I'll be watching by myself, I guess. Sci-fi isn't really my thing, but I've heard so much about this series....

What are some of your favorite TV shows, past and present?  

Getting out the popcorn,

Sunday, September 13, 2015

How to Make a Difference in the World...Right Now

As Christians living and working in the world today, simply hundreds of online devotionals are available at a mere click. It is all too easy to allow these devotionals to clutter our inbox each day.

I have narrowed my online devotionals to only two: The Daily Reflection from The High Calling, and Saint of the Day from American Catholic.

And today's Daily Reflection was thought-provoking enough that I want to share it here. I've copied it in its entirety from The High Calling site.

Wishing you a blessed Sunday,


Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone-an image made by human design and skill.
Acts 17:22-31
In the beginning, God created. Every morning he makes something new, and every evening he sees that it is good. When he creates people in his own image, God looks at the whole of creation and declares all of it to be "very good."

When I was a kid, I thought of God as a large old man with a long white beard. (I'm pretty sure I got this from reading The Far Side comics.) Whatever we might imagine about God's appearance, being made in God's image does not mean we look like God looks. It means that we do what God does.

God our maker has created us to be makers as well, and he has given us the will to choose what we will create. So we may make things that honor God, or we might reject God for things that honor ourselves.

Paul explains exactly this point to the Athenians on Mars Hill. Just as Aaron in Exodus made the golden calf while Moses was on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 32:1-4), the Athenians were making idols, creating gods small enough to understand and even carry around.

Icons, Not Idols
It feels like an overstatement to say my smartphone is an idol. Certainly, I could treat it like one if I'm not being mindful, but worshipping an accidental idol with my distracted mind is no less dangerous than deliberately rejecting God.

Why? An idol holds our imagination captive. In contrast, an icon directs our imagination toward God. An idol limits our understanding of God, but an icon is open to the mystery of God. In fact, in the New Testament Greek, eikon is the word used to describe our own moral and spiritual likeness to God. God didn't create us to be idols that look like him, but icons that reflect his essence.

In the same way, we are called to make, not idols, but icons. Jesus himself modeled this professionally. Not only was he love incarnate, he honored the spirit of God by creating useful things. He was a tekton.

Traditionally, this word is translated as carpenter, though Homer and other Greek authors known to first century readers use the word to refer to a wide variety of other professions too--from blacksmiths and stone masons to house-builders and ship-builders. All of these skilled professions created something useful for the world around them, relying on their specialized skills, their techne, with wood, metal, stone, or whatever materials they used.

Not Consumers Only
Techne is one of the roots of our word "technology," but the first century understanding of technology differs significantly from our own. Too often, we think of tech from the perspective of consumers rather than creators. Today's technophile wants to buy the latest smartphone and the newest gaming system. The grassroots maker movement is probably closer to the creative techne that Paul and the Athenians would have understood.

As people made in the image of God, let us dedicate ourselves to the specialized skills that allow us to create wonderful new technologies that serve people like Don and kids like Dario. Let us learn code. Let us study science. Let us explore robotics and medicine and media. Let us use our smartphones and computers to engage the world rather than hide from it.

And when we look back on what we will have made, let us see that our technological creations honor God.

FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What is your relationship with technology? Do you consider yourself an early adopter, a luddite, or something in between? Do you feel like technology helps you or controls you? Consider the stories of Don and Dario. How can you use technology in ways that honor God and love your neighbor?

PRAYER: Dear God, I confess that I chase technology more like a consumer than a creator. Help me see every new tool as a possible way to bring you more glory and love my neighbor more fully. Amen.

So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: "Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: 'To an Unknown God.' This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I'm telling you about.

"He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn't live in man-made temples, and human hands can't serve his needs--for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.

"His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him--though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' And since this is true, we shouldn't think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone.

"God overlooked people's ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead."

Acts 17:22-31
Deidra Riggs is a writer and speaker who claims an undying devotion to disco music, the Motor City, and long bike rides under a big, blue sky.


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