Rocky Road to Success (Diet for Dreamers)

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During his birth, in July 1946, a mishandled forceps delivery severed a nerve on the lower left side of Sylvester Stallone’s face, causing partial paralysis of his lip, tongue, and chin. As a result, Stallone grew up with slightly slurred speech and a sad, drowsy-eyed countenance. In school the other kids taunted him. At age nine his parents divorced, and for a time, Stallone was shuttled from one foster home to another. But the talented American actor, director and screenwriter didn’t let any of these circumstances hold him back in life. His disadvantaged childhood was only the first round in a grueling fight to be a success.

Early in his acting career Stallone struggled to support himself. He took bit parts in television shows and cheap films, but it was never enough. He was evicted from his apartment and ended up sleeping in a New York City Bus Terminal for three weeks. Stallone once said, “…I was at the end — the very end — of my rope.” At one particularly low point, in order to keep his electricity turned on, the actor was forced to sell his best friend, a Bullmastiff named Butkus, for $25.

Even Butkus got to be in ROCKY.

About 2 weeks later, early in 1975, Stallone saw the Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner heavyweight boxing match. That night Stallone went home and started writing the script for the movie Rocky. Three days later, and after 20 straight hours of writing, he’d completed it. Then started the next grueling round, actually several rounds: he tried repeatedly to sell his script, and repeatedly it was rejected. In fact, Stallone received hundreds of NO!s Maybe one deterrent was his stipulation that whichever studio purchased the script also had to hire him to play the title role. The actor knew his concept was a valuable property, and he also knew he was born to play Rocky Balboa. It was his best shot, his chance of a lifetime, and he refused to throw in the towel.

Finally, United Artists offered to buy the script for $125,000. But the studio wanted a big star for the lead role, perhaps Robert Redford or Burt Reynolds. Stallone was actually the LAST person UA wanted for the part. The studio didn’t think he could act and that he wouldn’t be believable in the role of a weary club fighter who suddenly gets a shot at the World Heavyweight title. So Stallone refused the offer.

But producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff really wanted Stallone’s script. They upped their offer to $350,000, but they were adamant that someone else would play Rocky. Oh yeah? Bottom line, UA got the script and Stallone got the part, a plum role for a virtually unknown actor. But the studio had grave doubts the movie would succeed without a more talented, better-known performer, so they drastically cut the film’s production budget and agreed to pay Stallone a paltry $35,000 plus a percentage of the profits — should the movie make any!

Stallone immediately used the money to buy back his dog — for a whopping $15,000 — proving that: a) some opportunistic person took advantage of the actor’s windfall; b) Stallone really loved that pooch; and c) dogs may be the world’s greatest financial investment!

Rocky was made for $1,000,000; pretty cheap even for 1976. The movie proved both a critical and popular success. It won the Oscar for Best Picture, and grossed over $200,000,000. Not bad. And Stallone, the down and out actor, the unknown quantity who kept slugging it out for what he believed in, received two Academy Award nominations that year, for Best Actor and Best Dramatic Screenplay. Stallone went the distance with his dream. The actor can say, just as his Rocky character shouts it from the ring at the movie’s end: “I did it!”

Don’t give up! And if you have deep convictions about a project, then don’t give in! “Keep standing firm in your faith. Keep on being courageous and strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13 ISV) “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 Jubilee Bible 2000)

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The Secret Origins of Thanksgiving (Angel in the Kitchen)

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Continued from yesterday.

Thanksgiving originated as a celebration commemorating the autumn harvest. The first such celebration took place in 1621, in Plymouth, when the Pilgrims honored God with a three-day feast, thanking their Lord as their protector and the provider of the bountiful blessings they’d enjoyed all year. One of these blessings was the freedom to worship God without persecution. Another blessing was the peace and unity these colonists enjoyed in the New World: according to Edward Winslow, one of the attendees at this first Thanksgiving celebration, 53 Pilgrims sat down to break bread with 90 Native Americans from the Wampanoag Tribe.

Elsewhere in America, New England colonists regularly celebrated “thanksgivings” or designated days of prayer thanking God for His continued blessings. And later, in a 1789 proclamation, George Washington asked the country to observe the celebration nationally. Several decades later, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln went one step further, by designating Thanksgiving as a federal holiday, a time of “Thanksgiving
and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
Lincoln was correct, as he was in all things presidential, that we Americans owed an incalculable debt of gratitude to God for preserving the country through the turmoil and bloodshed of the War Between the States.

Together, these various celebrations and events formed the Thanksgiving traditions we now observe each year on the last Thursday in November. But do we always remember to express our gratitude to God? America is still standing, still free, still prosperous, still a land for which we should be especially thankful, a land founded upon Judeo-Christian principles; and yet, people today tend to celebrate the feast without acknowledging the Provider of the Feast.

One of the Hebrew names for the God of the Bible is Jehovah Jireh, which essentially translates “The Lord is my Provider.” (See Genesis 22:14) It’s wholly appropriate, because God’s people understood that “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of lights [the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens]….” (James 1:17 ESV)

“And this same God who takes care of [us] will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 ESV) Will you remember to thank the Great Provider and Sustainer during your Thanksgiving Day festivities?

Now, we fully understand that most people do not view Thanksgiving as a primarily religious holiday. Nevertheless, it is traditionally recognized as a day to give thanks, and to whom do we owe the most thanks if not the Creator of the Universe? In fact, the concept of giving thanks to God is woven into the fabric of Judaism and Christianity. Throughout the Bible there are countless scriptures on giving thanks, such as this one: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you….” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NASB)

Furthermore, God would wholeheartedly approve of Thanksgiving. We should daily count our blessings and thank God for His Love and care, but setting aside a special day to do so as a nation demonstrates the magnitude of our gratefulness to God for keeping our country and our families together and prosperous. In fact, God said, “You shalt feast in all the good things which the Lord thy God hath given thee and thy house, thou … and the stranger that is with thee.” (Deuteronomy 26:11 Douay-Rheims) Hm, sounds like a party — with God as the guest of honor!

So, when you sit down with friends and family today, before you carve the turkey, before you pass the sweet potatoes, remember to thank the Provider of your feast. And instead of muttering a quick and haphazard word of “Grace,” tell God in your own words, and with sincerity, how much you appreciate His safekeeping and provisions. Later, after the meal, before you plop down in the recliner to watch the big game, take time with your loved ones, to reflect on all the blessings you’ve reaped throughout the year. Thank the Lord for each one, and praise Him for His faithfulness. He delights in our praises, and He longs to hear our words of gratitude.

“It is good to give thanks to the LORD, and to sing praise to Your name, Most High.” (Psalm 92:1 ISV)

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