Lessons Learned

We have lived aboard for more than a decade.  Even so this sailing adventure will stretch us in ways we cannot fully anticipate, so each of us will be contributing to this page as we get underway. Following our Calling as disciples of Jesus necessarily involves sacrifice and obedience and grace and love.  Now we don’t claim to know more or better than you, but we do know that all these will be tested.  And the only way we can fail is not to remember, not to reflect, not to Listen, not to change – that is all that is written hereafter. . .

We’re just trying to grow and thought you might be interested.


2/6/18 from John:

We don’t watch a lot of TV, but on Sunday we don’t watch any.  So what subject, naturally, has inspired me on this Sunday?  Movies.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Add the soundtrack to La La Land serenading me and there’s no doubt whatsoever.  Now you might well ask “What do movies have to do with Mexico? or spiritual journeys, for that matter?”  Nothing – and everything, I suppose.  In our experience, little in the dingy marinas of dusty Mexico inspires thoughts of Hollywood and the silver screen; however, movies often transcend most boundaries and draw together people both near and far with incredible sights, emotional roller-coasters, mysterious tales, and unforgettable fun.

If you’ve spoken with us Gilberts for any length of time, you’ve likely heard a movie quote …or a movie reference …or a movie suggestion.  In fact, a handful of people have suggested that we start reviewing movies.  (Others, I surmise, would secretly like to suggest that we stop watching them altogether!)   Nonetheless, we will never make our millions in this manner.  And lest you think us arrogant folk in sole possession of the world’s best opinions, we just love good movies and want to share with you this lesser love (movies) as seen through the lens of our greatest love (Christ).  Now while this list is for anyone, it will be most helpful to newer parents or parents-to-be.

At the same time, there are about as many standards for what makes a movie “acceptable” as there are people, so maybe I should just set down some guiding principles to help you make good movie choices for yourself…

This is a Christian’s list of good movies, not a good list of Christian movies (the latter being, in a sarcastic nutshell, “mediocre movies made for non-Christians that only Christians watch”).

➔When in doubt (and you should doubt most movies) watch the movie without your kids first.  If you aren’t too sleep or spouse deprived, you can preview the occasional movie after the kids go to bed (even over many nights, if necessary).

➔Unless you know all about a movie, maybe just don’t see movies in the theater.  Aside from some pretty shocking previews, you just can’t know what you’re walking into.  Actually, you pretty much can.  Chances are you will have to sit through at least some unhealthy material at the theater.  By renting it you can avoid shocking your kids, save thirty bucks, and still get your popcorn fix from Safeway.

➔Some websites will give you actual counts and details about all potentially questionable material.  Spoiler alert: these sites tend to be uber-thorough, but they are a very valuable first line of defense…

www.Dove.org       www.PluggedIn.com         https://world.wng.org/categories/movies

Know what your stumbling blocks are (as well as your kids’): sex, violence, language, fear, worldy philosophies, etc.  Edit or avoid movies which include, or dwell on, these things – respecting that different family members may have different struggles than you.  Of course it’s hard!  Avoiding temptation always is.  

Talk about the experience (which is even easier to do if, again, you’ve previewed the movie).  I cannot emphasize this point enough.  Really this is parenting 101.  Whether it’s a movie or book or the news or an argument or a sermon, etc. take every moment you can to talk things over with your kids.  In the case of movies, just pause as needed and ask them what’s wrong with a particular attitude or action and why.  When the movie is over, ask what they learned, and whether that’s good or not.  You’ll gain insights into each other’s hearts and minds that will forever shape not just what they think, but how.

Watch your kids, too.  Movies can be very powerful tools – more so for little ones who sometimes mistake them for reality.  If they’re upset or look like they don’t want to watch, that is your cue to stop (even though they might say otherwise!).  Put in a reliable movie, read, or play a board game instead.  

Of course your children will survive a difficult movie scene, but that does not mean they will be the better for it.  We have to stop throwing our children into the deep end of the pool of popular culture without first giving them sound swimming lessons.  Scary, sexual, or violent scenes don’t help children grow up, just more confused about what is normal, acceptable, and entertaining and what is not.

You should control the movie, not the other way around.  It is amazing what turning on lights, turning down volume with subtitles, pausing for discussion, taking a break, or watching during the day can do.  Neither the movie, nor your children should be in charge.

➔What’s more, it’s okay to just stop a bad movie.  On occasion (though not often enough) Kristin or I have just had enough of the crudity or language or darkness or dogmatism, and we’ll veto it right then and there.  While we’ve never regretted stopping a movie; we have all too often regretted watching just a “little bit more.”

Books are better.  Books are better.  Books are better.  This is not opinion!  Either you already know it or you just haven’t been fortunate enough to learn it yet.  Read aloud to your kids – bedtime (a.k.a. “movie time”) is best.  I guarantee that you will enjoy your time together more.  You will enjoy the the same story more.  You will increase your kid’s vocabulary.   You will foster their love of reading (which directly translates to better grades).  You will enable them to sit still and listen better.  You will even increase their enjoyment of movies.  Books are better – they’re more work, but they are more than worth it.  Did I mention that books are better?  Of course you’ve got to watch for garbage books, too.  Hmm. Maybe we’ll throw together a book list sometime in the future.

And now, for the list.  We could suggest many more movies that may be acceptable, but just aren’t as interesting or fun.  I’ve put very cursory ratings by each of them (in decreasing order of magnitude) merely as a heads up.   Please do your own due diligence.  Animated movies are so designated – most of which are in the comedy genre.  (But just because they’re drawings doesn’t necessarily mean they are suitable for young children.)   Most movies have some kind of violence (“V”) in them, so this isn’t much help.  Even if the movie is animated you should screen it for fights, battles, or scary sequences.  “S” represents anything from a couple in bed to sexual themes to nudity.  An “L” (language) rating potentially includes the worst of words, as well as blasphemies.  Decide for yourselves what is and isn’t a deal-breaker.  Worldviews would be another category except that it applies to all movies.  Every filmmaker, without exception, communicates a message that is often more subtle yet persuasive than all the rest of the objectionable material.  Just remember that each of these subjects is ripe for discussion and reiteration if handled with wisdom.


DRAMA / ROMANCE                      V = violence  /  S = sex  /  L = language

Adjustment Bureau                             V L S

Babette’s Feast                                      —–

Braveheart                                              V

Breaking Away                                     L S

The Case for Christ                             —–

Chariots of Fire                                    —–

Cinderella Man                                    V L

Dead Poets’ Society                           L V S

Hacksaw Ridge                                    V L

The Help                                                L V

Hundred Foot Journey                     L

Invincible                                              V L

It’s a Wonderful Life                        L

Julie & Julia                                          L S

Karate Kid                                            V L

La La Land                                           L

The Little Princess                         —–

The Man from Snowy River       L

The Natural                                       L S

Pride & Prejudice                            —– 

          (w/Keira Knightley)

Radio                                                   L V

Rear Window                                   L V S

Remember the Titans                  L V S

Risen                                                    V

Rudy                                                     V L

Sandlot                                               L S

Saving Mr. Banks                           L

Seabiscuit                                          L V S

Secretariat                                         L

Sense and Sensibility                   —–

        (w/Emma Thompson)

Slumdog Millionaire                     V L S

Soul Surfer                                         V

Spanglish                                           L S

The Truman Show                         L



Much Ado about Nothing            S

        (w/Emma Thompson)

Return to Me                                     L S

Stranger than Fiction                    L S



Babe                                                       —–

The Big Year                                       L

Box Trolls (animated)                    V

Bug’s Life (animated)                    V

Cars (animated)                               —–

Charlotte’s Web (animated)       —–

Chicken Run (animated)               V

The Croods (animated)                 V

Finding Nemo (animated)           V

Finding Dory (animated)             —–

Galaxy Quest                                      L V S

Groundhog Day                                L V S

Hoodwinked (animated)             V

How to Train Your Dragon (animated)          V

Ice Age (animated)                         V

The Incredibles (animated)        V

Iron Giant (animated)                  V

Joe versus the Volcano                  L

The Jungle Book (animated)      V

The Jungle Book                               V

           (w/Neel Sethi)

Kubo and the Two Strings (animated)               V

Kung Fu Panda (animated)          V

Kung Fu Panda 2 (animated)      V

Mary Poppins                                    —–

Monsters Inc. (animated)            V

Ratatouille (animated)                  V

Shrek (animated)                             V L

Tin Tin (animated)                          V

Toy Story (animated)                     V

Toy Story 2 (animated)                 V

Toy Story 3 (animated)                 V

Wall-e (animated)                          V

What About Bob?                             L V



The Abyss                                          L V

Back to the Future                        L V S

Black Stallion                                  V

The Count of Monte Cristo       V L S

          (w/Jim Caviezel)

Endless Summer                           —–

Hidalgo                                             V L

The Hobbit series                         V

The Hunt for Red October        L V

Jurassic Park                                  V L

A Knight’s Tale                             V L S

Knight and Day                            V L S

Lady in the Water                       L V

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe                    V

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy             V

Master and Commander          V L

Miracle                                            L V

My Side of the Mountain         —–

Mystery Men                                 L V

Now You See Me                          L S V

Pirates of the Caribbean          V L

The Princess Bride                     V

Raiders of the Lost Ark            V L

Sahara                                             V L

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty              L

             (w/Ben Stiller)

Step into Liquid                            L

Super 8                                             V L

Treasure Island                            V

          (w/Eddie Izzard)

White Squall                                 L S V



Contact                                            L S

E.T.                                                    L

The Martian                                  L V

         (w/Matt Damon)

Signs                                                V L

Star Wars: A New Hope            V

Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back             V

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi                  V

Star Wars: Rogue One               V

Star Wars: The Force Awakens              V

Star Wars: The Last Jedi           V


So there you have it.  You might think this list is way too conservative – maybe way too permissive.  That’s okay.  As long as your opinion reflects a diligent searching of God’s Word and your conscience, we’re happy.  Of course some of us could stand to skip movies for the rest of our lives (and read to our kids, did I mention?!).  But used with faithful discernment, moderation, and intention a good movie is a handy tool, opening the hearts and minds of friends and neighbors to the truly greatest Story ever told.  

Finally, Brethren whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.    Philippians 4:8

12/17/16 from John:

Afraid of the Dark?

It was a moonless, cloudless night 3 cold miles East of Point Arguello.  Orion had risen out of the SE and with it had come a whole host of wonders.  Besides the myriad stars which city lights usually keep us from seeing, shooting stars regularly skipped past our heads.  One of these so lit up the sky behind us that we craned our necks around fully expecting to see a ship’s searchlight.  And who would’ve thought the stars bright enough to illuminate the windswept sea; but they were.

That was just the night above us.  Below, bits of bioluminescence glittered in the water churned up by our bow.  Not to be outdone, a dolphin lazed along beside us slow pokes for a time – visible only be the phosphorescent streak left in the wake of its fin.  The sights we’ve seen already are unforgettable.  The sea after dark is amazing, but with each night passage I realize I am more and more enamored with the light.

It drives me nuts, really: we prepare and we plan for these long all-nighters – how can we achieve maximum safety, efficiency, and comfort (without staying in Redwood City).  Then as dusk and dark settle in, so does anxiety.  Nagging doubts whisper: Maybe we should wait for less breeze? Or more moonlight? Or warmer weather? Or the end of winter?  It’s predictable.  It’s palpable.  It’s powerful.  It’s persuasive – and I’m a night person!!

Despite the wonders of the night sky, the dark can bring debilitating cold and fatigue and fear; however, it never fails:  “there may be pain in the night, but joy comes with the morning.”  This quote was true thousands of years ago and it’s true today.  You’ve felt it before, haven’t you – on some long road trip or fishing run or graveyard shift?  Regardless of caffeine (or even a rolling boat) dawn’s first light recalled you to life.  You gained warmth and clarity of vision.  Doubts and anxieties faded like unwanted dreams.

Of course morning light won’t solve all problems, but what the dark has taught me is that we were made for light.  And I believe it’s more than a metaphor.  Something in us needs light – both its warmth and illumination.  It is no mere fancy or desire.  This innate quality is more fundamental and essential than that.  It’s like food: we certainly crave a yummy dessert, but when faced with a genuine shortage, people will eat almost anything in an attempt to meet this actual need.

Maybe the pangs of darkness aren’t as acute as hunger.  Maybe we’re resilient enough to weather it longer, but I am increasingly convinced that we were made for light.  We are blind and cold and hopeless without it.  Is this why we’re chasing the son (oops!), I don’t know; but I do know that we Gilberts have found hope and inspiration even in the dark… it is God.  Not just happy thoughts.  Not self-reliance. Not spirituality.  Our God offers hope to anyone through trust in His Son, Jesus.  And call it a coincidence but this Jesus guy has another name, too… “the Light of the World.”  Hmmm.