Why I Don’t Limit Myself to “Christian” Entertainment

christian vs secular music2.jpg

Surprise! A post on a Friday. I had something I really wanted to share while it was still fresh in my mind. I think I’ll continue to do this; I plan my Saturday posts ahead, but sometimes I get ideas that just can’t wait. So you may get a surprise post every now and then.

There’s Christian music and Christian books and Christian movies.

There’s also secular music and secular books and secular movies.

So what do we listen to, read, and watch, and what do we avoid? Do we only consume explicitly Christian media, or is secular entertainment fine as long as it is appropriate?

Here are my thoughts on this:

God created the world. God is truth. The created world cannot help but reflect God’s truth. Secular media may unknowingly reflect deep and profound truths about God and who we are in God.

Of course, there are many sources of entertainment that are completely inappropriate or promote messages absolutely contrary to Christianity. Those are a no-no, no questions asked, no exceptions.

But in the vaguer areas, the songs that are appropriate but don’t really have a “Christian” message, the children’s movies that aren’t inappropriate but aren’t particular Christ-centered either, the books by secular authors, look for little nuggets of truth.

They may be unintentional, but they will be there.

This train of thought, for me, was sparked by the song “Brave” by Sara Bareilles. I was listening to it on the way home from dance and started wondering whether, as a Christian, I should limit myself only to Christian music.

Then I started paying attention to the words of the song.

Here’s just a few lines that really hit me.

“Everybody’s been there,

Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy

“Fallen for the fear

“And done some disappearing…

“Don’t run, just stop holding your tongue…

“And since your history of silence

“Won’t do you any good

“Did you think it would?

“Let your words be anything but empty

“Why don’t you tell them the truth?”

That could be a Christian song, couldn’t it? As I listened to these words, I felt myself inspired to be a witness, to stand up for what I believe without fear, to stop my shy silence and speak up. Even though it doesn’t specifically mention God or Christianity, this song got me thinking about spiritual things. And anything that does that, to me, is good.

If we really listen, we can find truth all around us. And that can be so encouraging.

So use discernment. Don’t limit yourself just to Christian media. When you do consume secular entertainment, pay close attention to the worldviews and messages. When you find anti-Christian messages, avoid them, as I’m sure you’ve been told many times before.

But there is a flip-side to that, too, that rarely gets mentioned. When you find truth in secular media, rejoice! Let it encourage you.

God can speak through sources that aren’t explicitly Christian. Secular media can portray truth and beauty as well as, or better than, “Christian” entertainment. God is the creator of all art, everything that is lovely and good, and art is meant to be enjoyed.

love, grace

What do you think? Have you ever found exciting nuggets of truth in secular entertainment? Do you disagree with me, and limit yourself to strictly “Christian” media? How do you use discernment in your entertainment choices? Share in the comments below! 

Read more:

5 Ways to Stay Grounded in Truth This School Year

A Peek Inside My Music Library

Thoughts on Unrealistic Expectations and “Happily Ever After”

March 2017 Month in Review

For me, at least, March was very much a month of the daily grind. Very little excitement, very little unusual happening. Just trying to live faithfully, day in and day out. I’m not sure I did a very good job.

But the daily grind doesn’t have to mean boredom. It doesn’t have to mean gritting our teeth and just doing the same thing one. more. time. In fact, joy does not depend on excitement and adventure. Joy can be found in the everyday, by trusting that every task in front of us on any given day is one that God has given us to be completed in diligence and enjoyed with gratitude.

Bloggings of the Month

after the rain2.jpg lessons from the rain (which got such a good response! I’m so glad it helped so many people)

reblog from my old blog: how I enjoyed reading Deuteronomy (a preview of a series to come)

Image result for the broken way a review of one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read

 

Truths of the Month

from Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and Romans

*we are called not only to understand the Word intellectually, but to believe in our inmost heart and let it saturate our entire soul, constantly being reminded of it in our daily life and seeing and doing everything according to it

*we can learn from the sin of others, not watching it in a proud, judgmental way, but in fear, humility, and gratitude, realizing that we could very easily follow the same path

*God could have given us passages in the Bible about modern issues like social media and dating, but He didn’t…those issues should not be our focus. our focus should be on simply glorifying God in every circumstance

*joy can be found in our work by attributing our success not to ourselves, but to God, and being thankful for it

*the things that scare us about today’s world are not unique to modern times. God can handle it according to His perfect wisdom. there is nothing we have to do but trust

*in suffering, we do not have to force joy, but still continue to trust God and live faithfully even in sadness

Favorites of the Month

Image result for greenwitch The third book of The Dark is Rising Sequence, and my favorite of the series. The whole series is definitely worth reading, though!

Image result for the broken way See review above. So beautiful, profound, and healing.

Image result for sense and sensibility movie Elinor Dashwood is literally me. The weird part was seeing Snape play a proper English gentleman, and a good guy at that!

Image result for the fellowship of the ring A rewatch, obviously. But just had to include it because…how could I not?

Image result for age of minority If you haven’t listened to this podcast, you must! Sososo good for Christian teens or any Christian, really. And highly entertaining as well…I frequently look like a weirdo because I laugh out loud while driving.

34ae55bcedeaf01f8c8cd055559cb7fe an article in defense of fairy tales that I LOVED with every fibre of my being!

Coming in April

  • the beginning of my Lessons from the Old Testament Law series
  • a review or two, perhaps

How was your March? What are you looking forward to in April? Let me know in the comments! 

love, grace

The Broken Way: Finding Beauty in Brokenness and Suffering

Image result for the broken way

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp

My Rating: Five Stars

Age Suggestion: 12+

The Book

What if you really want to live abundantly before it’s too late? What do you do if you really want to know abundant wholeness? This is the one begging question that’s behind every single aspect of our lives.

This one’s for the lovers and the sufferers. For those whose hopes and dreams and love grew so large it broke their willing hearts. This one’s for the busted ones who are ready to bust free, the ones ready to break molds, break chains, break measuring sticks, and break all this bad brokenness with an unlikely good brokenness.  You could be one of the Beloved who is broken — and still lets yourself be loved.

You could be one of them, one who believes freedom can be found not only beyond the fear and pain, but actually  within it.

You could discover and trust this broken way — the way to not be afraid of broken things.

(from Amazon with edits)

My Thoughts

This book is, to put it simply, one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read.

I bought it a while back when I was at Barnes and Noble, and had put it at the end of my stack of books waiting to be read. But one day when I was having a particularly bad day, I needed something to encourage me and grabbed this book off the shelf. Wow, was it exactly what I was looking for.

The Broken Way is a raw, deeply personal, beautifully reflective exploration of how to navigate suffering as a Christian, and if you are going through something right now this book will absolutely speak to your soul. I cannot recommend it enough for those of you who are undergoing suffering of your own.

Even if you aren’t going through suffering, still read it! It addresses both the big suffering and the little, everyday stresses and worries that bother us all, giving a way to get through the general imperfection of life.

Ann Voskamp is one of the most talented writers alive today, and reading her writing is a unique experience unlike anything else. There were so many moments where I had to stop and read a phrase out loud to myself, slowly, and reflect on it before reading on, because it hit me so hard.

I have a feeling this will be one of my most-read, battered, scribbled-in-the-margins books in the years to come. It’s the kind of book that will change your life if you let it, the kind of book that every Christian should read and re-read and savor and live by.

Favorite Quotes (for just a taste of the beauty) 

“Blessed are those who are sad, who mourn, who feel the loss of what they love – because they will be held by the One who loves them. There is a strange and aching happiness only the hurting know – for they shall be held.” (18)

“So then as long as thanks was possible, then joy was always possible. The holy grail of joy was not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here, in the messy, piercing ache of now.” (29)

“Your life is unwreckable. Because Christ’s love is unstoppable. What seems to be undoing you can ultimately remake you.” (146)

“Feelings are meant to be fully felt and then fully surrendered to God. The word emotion comes from the Latin for ‘movement’ – and all feelings are meant to move you toward God.” (182)

“Jesus comes to give you freely through His passion what every other god forces you to try to get through performance…How can I not ache with a grateful love for a compassion like this? And how could His compassion for me not compel me to give His compassion to the aching?” (228)

 

What do you think? Have you read The Broken Way? If so, did you love it as much as I did? If not, will you read it now? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Read More:

Check out my Facebook page for a mini-review of Beauty and the Beast.

8 Books Every Christian Teen Should Read

Book Review: Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard

Book Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

February 2017 Month in Review

february 2017 month in review2.jpg

Love. It’s what makes the world go ’round, or so they say, and in the month of February it seems like love is all everyone talks about. Candy, flowers, romantic comedies, and those adorable “relationship goals”. It’s all light, fluffy, happy, and wonderful.

This is the world’s brand of love. Have you bought into it? Is it really all that it seems to be from the outside? Or is the inside of the world’s love rather shallow and empty?

There is another kind of love: a love that truly makes the world continue to spin. Without this love, we would all have no hope. This love never ends, never fails, no matter what we do. It is infinite.

This is God’s brand of love. And when you believe in it, it changes you, and when you strive to emulate it, it changes the lives of others. When the love we talk about is a deep, everlasting love, there is nothing empty about it. It is the most full thing in the world.

Bloggings of the Month

the-relationship-series4 developing  your convictions on dating; hope for those who have already done things they regret

the-relationship-series5 an action plan for contentment in singleness

Image result for sherlocka review of my new favorite TV show

Truths of the Month

I’ve been reading in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers this month, as well as some in the New Testament. Inspired by this post, I’m dropping the daily plan and simply reading a few chapters every morning, with the goal of getting through the Bible at least once this year, if not more than once.

A few truths from my reading:

*Just as the sacrifices of the Israelites were to be “without blemish”, so Christ was the only one who could possibly die for us, the only one who could meet God’s standard of perfection.

*Even though the Old Testament law is no longer fully in effect, we are still called to remain clean and holy, just in different ways, staying away from sin and darkness.

*Jesus didn’t spend the night before His death doing anything world-changing, but something very common, having dinner with his disciples. Yet God worked in that just as much as something bigger.

*Cleansing after touching something impure was a lengthy, involved process, symbolizing how hard it is for us to purify ourselves outside of Christ.

(A few of these are a bit of a preview for a series I’m going to do soon about what we can learn from the Old Testament Law. I’ve been learning so much as I’ve read it alongside the gospels, seeing so much parallelism and cool things like that. More to come!)

Favorites of the Month

Image result for the reason for god Reread The Reason for God by Timothy Keller and was just blown away by it all over again. If you are having doubts, you don’t know how to defend Christianity, or you just want to strengthen your faith even more, you must read this book! 

Image result for newsies live So, um, this happened…and I got to see it in the theater!! Oh my goodness, it was amazing. If this version ever comes out on DVD or Netflix or anything, I highly recommend!

 It’s a Wonderful Time to Be Christian: Five Reasons for Optimism in America is the last article you would expect someone to write right now, but despite what you might assume it’s not sarcasm. From Desiring God, this article is so encouraging and brings a unique perspective to the political and cultural atmosphere right now.

 Kill Sin or Sin Will Kill You, also from Desiring God, is a jarring reminder of the seriousness of sin and what it will take to kill it in our lives.

 On Faith and Fashion was a wonderful article about what fashion can mean for the Christian girl. As someone who loves clothes and makeup and is just generally very girly, I loved this way of looking at it!

Coming in March

  • Struggles with perfectionism; excellence vs. perfection; finding balance
  • Lessons from the rain
  • A book review of something to be determined

 

How was your March? What did God teach you? Did you read or watch anything amazing this month? Also, do you like this new format for these posts or do you prefer the old one? I’m experimenting a bit. Tell me in the comments below! 

love, grace

 

 

 

January 2017 Month in Review

january-2017-month-in-review-2

We’re already at the end of the first month of the new year. How are you doing with your goals? Are you living bolder, better, brighter for God in the new year? Accomplishing everything you could have dreamed?

Or are you, like me, realizing that God’s plans for you mostly involve seemingly small, mundane, ordinary things?

I’m learning that progress doesn’t happen overnight and that sometimes the hardest part of the Christian life is trusting that God is working in you even when it doesn’t feel like it. Trusting that He is in control of every small task that comes into your life and every small worry that crosses your mind.

Big goals are great, but don’t be discouraged if you aren’t accomplishing the lofty things you had hoped. Simply move forward into the next month, one step at a time, seeking to live for God in all things, small and big, and look for the little victories that are evidence of a greater work in your life.

This Month’s Devotions

I’m following the yearly reading plan laid out in the back of my Bible. I started late, but just doubled up a couple of days to catch up and now I’m on track. I just finished reading through the Bible, but I’ve never actually read the whole thing in a year, as the first time it took me a little longer. We’ll see what happens.

Some truths from this month:

*God will always provide what we need, and even more than we need (from Exodus 4-6)

*God is terrifying in anger, but that anger will never be used against us- only for us (from Exodus 15)

*God knows what He’s doing when He prompts us to do certain things in our lives…why would we question Him? He is the all-powerful God of the universe and knows so much better than us

*Equal treatment for all people is a very important part of God’s law system (Exodus 23:1-9), yet equality for ourselves should not be our focus; instead we should focus on serving others (Matthew 20:25-28)

Bloggings

This month I started a series on dating in the teen years (more specifically, why I’ve chosen not to). There were three installments:

why I'm not dating in high school 1.jpgGod’s Purpose for Romance

why I'm not dating in high school 2.jpgGod’s Purpose for Singleness

why I'm not dating in high school 3-corrected.jpgAvoiding Drama and Temptation

from other blogs…

From Mirriam Neal: become (super inspiring) and a super helpful hack for fixing flat characters

Observer > Critic (this sounds like a very hard but also very worthwhile mindset shift)

Even though getting old isn’t even on my radar yet, I loved this post: Your “Age” is Defined by Your Attitude, Not a Number

7 Tips for Victorian Happiness (this post is why I followed this blog)

If you were wondering about my political thoughts, other Grace says it perfectly

How to Find Time to Read More. Not sure if this was helpful or not…but definitely entertaining!

Readings

Image result for till we have facesImage result for the rose and the balloon by kirsten fichterImage result for interrupted by rachel cokerImage result for little womenImage result for little men bantamImage result for little men bantam

  • Till We Have Faces: 4 stars. Obviously very good, since it’s C.S. Lewis, but I felt like I didn’t quite get the point of it or something. Probably need to read it again.
  • The Rose and the Balloon: 3 stars. Imperfect, since it’s a self-published book by a young author, but a cute story and a light, quick read.
  • Interrupted: 4.5 stars. I loved this book so much! Probably my favorite of the month. It was such a sweet romance with a deeper message, completely clean, and a Christian perspective.
  • Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys: 4-5 stars. Rereads all, and all just as good as the first time 😉

A few articles I enjoyed:

A final note: if you haven’t discovered The Babylon Bee yet, you’re missing out. It’s Christian News Satire from Christians and as long as you don’t take any of it too seriously, it’s really funny.

Watchings

Image result for sherlock season 4Image result for becoming janeImage result for les miserables movie

  • Sherlock, season 4: 5 stars. Oh my goodness. This season tossed my heart around and made me laugh and cry and scream and if you haven’t yet watched this show I think it is literally the best TV show I’ve ever seen and you need to watch it.
  • Becoming Jane: 4 stars. This was a really good movie! (Although sad…so don’t expect a happy chick-flick ending.) Would probably recommend to ages 14 and up because of a bit of content.
  • Les Miserables: 5 stars. So, so, so good!! I can’t believe it took me this long to watch it. Again, some content, but the scenes are easily fast-forwardable. The music is incredible and the cast is amazing and there is lots of food for thought as well.

Listenings

Image result for ruelle up in flamesImage result for hamilton logoImage result for the music of jane austenImage result for evynne hollens covers vol 1Image result for age of minority podcast

  • Up in Flames: I recently discovered Ruelle, an alternative singer with some really great songs. You might especially like her if you’re a fan of Twenty One Pilots or similar bands.
  • Hamilton: Introduced my sister to Hamilton this month! (She loves it.) If you haven’t listened to it yet, please do! It’s amazing.
  • The Music of Jane Austen: Loving this as something to listen to while I do homework or write.
  • Covers Vol. 1: This has been my go-to album lately when I don’t know what to listen to. Evynne Hollens is amazing and every song on here is so good.
  • Age of Minority: This is a podcast started by Jaquelle Crowe, editor of The Rebelution, and her dad. They talk about different topics related to being a Christian teen in today’s world, as well as lots of fun topics as well. So fun to listen to and highly, highly recommended! Find it here.

Upcoming in February

  • A continuation of my series on dating, discussing how to develop your convictions, what to do if someone asks you out, being content to be single, and more.
  • A review of Sherlock seasons 1-4. (And yes, I know I keep promising this and it doesn’t happen…I will get it done at some point!)

 

How was your January? Did you read, watch, or listen to anything amazing? What are you excited for in February? Tell me in the comments!

love, grace

 

 

December 2016 Month in Review

december-2016-month-in-review-2

Christmas trees, Christmas music, Christmas cookies, Christmas presents…annnd just like that, December is over. In rolls January, bringing goals and fresh starts, snow (?) (please?), and a return to the normal routine.

I get very excited over making goals for the year. Last year I changed all my goals like three times during the year and then ditched them altogether, but let’s see if I can do better this year. I have a new planner, which always makes me optimistic about what I can do with my life. (I’m a planner nerd.)

And I really, really hope it snows soon! It never snows in December where I live but we usually get quite a bit of snow in January and February. Snow days are amazing.

This Month’s Devotions

This month, I read through Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift, an Advent devotional with Bible passages, readings to go with them, and questions for reflection. It was the second time I used this book during the Advent season and I absolutely loved it.

Ann Voskamp’s writing is superbly beautiful and the perfect way to stay focused on Christ during Advent. If you missed it, my Advent Reflections series was based on some of my favorite quotes from the book. All of those posts will be linked in the next section.

I’m currently studying The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. I started to have some questions about faith and the proof for God that I wanted to seek out answers to. I had read this book before, but not thoroughly, and didn’t remember any of it. This time I’m taking notes!

Bloggings

Image result for noel josh groban I shared some of my favorite Christmas music, both old favorites and new discoveries

childhood-christmas-favorites2 I also shared nostalgic Christmas favorites that I still enjoy

advent reflections part 1.jpgadvent-reflections-part-2advent reflections part 3.jpgadvent-reflections-part-4 the Advent series: part 1part 2part 3part 4

 a fun Christmasy tag

book and movie of the year 2016 2.jpg this year’s best book and movie

from other blogs…

A beautiful post about the wonder of God.

Also from The Rebelution, an interview with Tony Reinke about teens and technology. Totally worth listening to the whole thing!

Amanda’s post about facing the future really encouraged me as I start to think about what might be in my future…

Grace had a really great post about why she’s not ashamed she homeschools. I may not be homeschooled anymore, but I am still one of its biggest advocates, and this post hit the nail on the head.

Katie Gregoire is not a beauty guru. Also subscribe to her channel. She’s great.

A Studio C sketch in which the holidays are personified. One of my favorites of theirs recently!

If you haven’t seen Moana, you should. If you need more convincing: listen to this song.

And finally, if you still need more Christmas music in your life, here’s a gorgeous acapella Silent Night.

Readings

Image result for fourth dawnImage result for the greatest gift ann voskampImage result for letters from father christmasImage result for library of souls

  • Fourth Dawn: 3.5 stars. A very interesting look at Mary and Joseph and the history surrounding Christ’s birth. Read my Goodreads review for more.
  • The Greatest Gift: 5 stars of course. I think I’ve talked about this book enough on here already.
  • Letters from Father Christmas: 5 stars. I got this book as a gift; it was a Tolkien book that I didn’t even know existed! And the cover is gorgeous and glossy with that red and gold design; so pretty. Obviously I loved it, it’s Tolkien 😉
  • Library of Souls: 4 stars. My least favorite of the series, but still good. And the ending! It was actually happy. I was not sure how it would end happily, but it did!

Watchings

Image result for a charlie brown christmasImage result for moanaImage result for elfImage result for america's got talent christmas spectacularImage result for the nutcracker abt baryshnikovImage result for alice in wonderland royal ballet dvdImage result for sherlock

Yes, it was Christmas break. How can you tell?

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas: 4 stars. It was high time I actually watched this, and it was cute! A nice way to start my break.
  • Moana: 4 stars. Such a good movie! I would recommend seeing it in the theater if it’s still in theaters to get the quality sound and everything. The music is 5 stars (obviously, since it’s by Lin Manuel Miranda). And he even sings in one of the songs!
  • Elf: 5 stars. I’ve watched bits and pieces of this over the years but never actually seen the whole thing until this month. I loved it! So cute, and definitely something I will watch for Christmases to come.
  • AGT Holiday Spectacular: This is definitely a guilty-pleasure show, but this holiday version was fun! It was fun to see contestants come back and perform without the judging part.
  • The Nutcracker: Well, of course I had to watch this. I featured it in my childhood favorites post, and I can’t let a Christmas go by without seeing it!
  • Alice in Wonderland: 4 stars. I got this for Christmas and watched it immediately. It’s a relatively new, very creative ballet, that even people who are new to ballet would like because of all the different aspects (puppetry, tap dancing, etc.).
  • Sherlock: I just finished Season 3 last night. Still one of my favorite shows. CANNOT WAIT FOR SEASON 4 (which, if you hadn’t heard, is finnnnnnaly airing on Sunday!)

Listenings

I did a whole post on Christmas music so that basically covers it.

Upcoming in January

  • An official review of the first three seasons of Sherlock
  • Why I Don’t Date in High School: the beginnings of a two-month series on relationships in the teen years

 

I hope you had a wonderful December! What did you enjoy reading and watching this month? Are you excited for January? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace

Book and Movie of the Year 2016

book and movie of the year 2016 2.jpg

It’s already time for another book and movie of the year post! I had so much fun doing this last year and so I’m excited to do it again.

The choice, especially for books, was slightly agonizing, but I’m happy with the titles I’ve picked. In the end I just had to go with a gut feeling about which books most deserved this title.

Disclaimer: I am not getting paid to promote C.S. Lewis. Futhermore, this blog is not sponsored by C.S. Lewis, who happens to be no longer living anyway so how he would sponsor my blog, I don’t know. 

All jokes aside, I was a little concerned about choosing another C.S. Lewis book for my Book of the Year (last year’s was That Hideous Strength), but what can I say? C.S. Lewis is truly one of the greatest authors ever, and out of all the books I read this year, this one was the best. I do not take this choice lightly, and I didn’t want to choose a lesser book simply so that I wouldn’t have the same author two years in a row.

(It’s my award. I make the rules. And I say that the book can be by the same author two years in a row.)

So with that out of the way, I present to you…the 2016 Book and Movie of the Year! 

Book of the Year: The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

Image result for the last battle

Runner-up: The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart 

The Last Battle is the final book of the Narnia series, the culmination of every plot in the other books. I had definitely read it before, but I was so young I didn’t remember, and this year was the first time that I sat down and read the whole Narnia series, from start to finish within a few weeks, on my own. The Last Battle blew me away.

The endings of the other books are all so bittersweet, with the children returning to the real world, unsure if they will return. But not this one. This one displayed the great climax of human history and the great resolution of final peace and joy. The ending is made even sweeter because of the previous books, all of the characters reunited in eternal happiness. This book somehow captures what the feeling may be like when Christ returns, and it is a picture of heaven that I will never forget.

The runner-up is a whole series, because taking one book out of the series robs it of its magic. The four books together make The Mysterious Benedict Society series what it is: a wonderful story of friendship and good defeating evil. While a children’s book, it has such important messages for all ages, and is a story that everyone can enjoy. It is a happy story that is deep and meaningful at the same time, a rare find in this age of dark and depressing or light and fluffy books.

Movie of the Year: Big Fish (2003)

Image result for big fish

Runner-up: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005) 

I don’t think Big Fish is a movie that can really be explained. I can’t explain what it’s about, or why it had such a huge emotional effect on me, but I’ll try anyway.

The movie is the story of a father and son, shown in the present and in flashbacks through the father’s life. All during the son’s childhood, the father told wild stories about his own life, passing them off as truth. As an adult, the son greatly distrusts his father and resents those stories.

The movie explores their relationship, especially when the father becomes very sick. It explores the power of stories and the lasting effect they have on our lives. The ending had me crying my eyes out, and the whole movie is fun, humorous, entertaining, deep, beautiful, and sad all at the same time.

And yes, more Narnia as the runner-up. This year I watched a Narnia movie for the first time, and was really pleased with how well it was adapted! The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is visually gorgeous, well-cast, and stays very true to the book. I’m hesitant to watch the rest of the movies from things I’ve heard, but this one at least did a very good job and left me happy and satisfied.

 

What do you think? Do you like my choices? What are some of the best things you read and watched in 2016? Tell me in the comments! 

 

 

 

 

 

Advent Reflections, part 3: Perspective, Hope

advent reflections part 3.jpg

Part 1 Part 2

Christmas comes closer, and the world waits, still and silent, for the Advent of its Savior.

As we go about the final preparations, everything takes on a sort of sacredness, as we prepare to celebrate the birthday of Christ.

This is the most important thing: that Christ was born God and man in one to live a perfect life and die a perfect death. That in His life and death we are saved. That is what we celebrate on December twenty-fifth.

Day 13: Perspective

“Joy is a function of gratitude, and gratitude is a function of perspective. You only begin to change your life when you begin to change the way you see…

“From Hollywood to Pinterest, the media of this world aggressively schools your soul to see the exact opposite of the way God sees…

“…if it’s mostly the surfaces that absorb us, then we’re mostly superficial. When my priorities aren’t the things seen- when my priorities are rather all things unseen- it’s only then that my life begins to have substance and weight.” (pp 125-127)

Our life can be transformed if we look beyond everything the world sees. If we look past the shallowness of life and into the depth of the life God has given us.

If we don’t have time to read our Bibles, if we don’t have time to do something kind for someone else, if we don’t have time to seek out God’s will for our lives, our priorities are in the wrong place.

Rather, say that you don’t have time to check Pinterest, to watch YouTube, to go to the movies, because you are too busy reading your Bible, being kind to people, seeking God’s will.

Sometimes you may have time for both, but always give priority to the unseen. Never let worldly shallowness outweigh the things of God.

Day 14: Hope

“Christmas can only be found.

“Christmas cannot be bought. Christmas cannot be created. Christmas cannot be made by hand, lit up, set out, dreamed up. Christmas can only be found…

“That is the message of Christmas. The message of Christmas is not that we can make peace. Or that we can make love, make light, make gifts, or make this world save itself.

“The message of Christmas is that this world’s a mess and we can never save ourselves from ourselves and we need a Messiah.

“For unto us a Child is born…

“And once the light of Christ shatters your dark, shadows forever flee your shadowlands. There’s no going back and living in the dark; you live in the impenetrable, safe Light of light, and Christmas never ends for you. A Christian never stops living Christmas…

“When you really believe in Christmas, you believe there is really hope for everyone. When you get Christmas, people get hope from you- they don’t lose it.

“Unless you keep passing on the miracle of hope, you live like Christmas is a myth.

“So light the Advent candles. Light them, light them.

“And you can see it, with every lit candle, sparks of the dawning.

“Hope catching on everything.” (pp 138-140)

The world has made Christmas into a feel-good, do-good time of year, all about peace and love and joy. It looks good on the outside, but the Christian cannot fall for that message. It gets everything wrong, stemming from a belief that humans are good and that we have the capability for perfection all on our own.

No, the real message of Christmas is that sin is dark, humans are wicked, and we cannot save ourselves. The real message of Christmas is that of glorious light breaking through an awful darkness. A miracle.

And if we believe that the light does not come from us, but from God, that gives us so much more hope than the good-feelings spirit of secular Christmas. Because God can do anything, and so there really is hope for anyone. 

Literally anyone. God can break into any life, heal any soul, and restore any spirit. He can bring light into the darkest of dark places, not just hypothetically, but for real.

The true meaning of Christmas is hope and healing for anyone, not through themselves, but through the all-powerful God who can pierce blackness with glorious light.

 

Which of these readings encouraged you the most today? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace

Advent Reflections, Part 2: Peace, Grace, Light

advent-reflections-part-2

If you missed it: Part 1 (Wonder, Rest, Laughter)

The season marches on. More and more gifts appear under the tree, goodies appear in the kitchen, lights twinkle on the bushes. Anticipation grows. But are we anticipating the right thing?

Here are three more selections from The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp to help you stay saturated in truth this season:

Day 7: Peace

“You don’t need to climb mountains named I Will Perform.

“You don’t need to climb mountains named I Will Produce.

“Every mountain that every Christian ever faces, the Lord levels with sufficient grace: The Lord Will Provide…

“Worry is belief gone wrong. Because you don’t believe that God will get it right.

“Peace is belief that exhales.

“Because you believe that God’s provision is everywhere- like air.” (pp 59-60)

For a perfectionist worrier like me, trying to remember that God cares and provides can be like trying to walk against the wind. It’s an uphill battle every single day. But it is so important.

As soon as we reduce the Christian life to performance, we miss the whole point of the baby in the manger. He came and lived a perfect life, so we wouldn’t have to. And it is only when we fully embrace God’s provision in our lives that we will fully have His peace.

Day 11: Grace

“Nobody and no situation- no sin, no mess, no decision- meets the diagnosis of despair. Because there’s God’s cure of amazing grace.” (p103)

The glory of Christmas is that no matter how far gone we are, it is never too far for God.

Through His grace, He sent Christ. And Christ’s work can rescue the most broken, the most messed-up, the most imperfect people in the world, and make them beautiful.

There is never such a thing as too far gone.  The voice that tries to whisper in your head that there is no way God could love you now? That is not the voice of truth. That is the voice of Satan. Reject it.

And rest in God’s amazing grace.

Day 12: Light

“…because, for all its supposed sophistication, cynicism is simplistic. In a fallen world, how profound is it to see the cracks? The radicals…they are the ones on the road, in the fields, on the wall, pointing to the dawn of the new Kingdom coming, pointing to the light that breaks through all things broken, pointing to redemption always rising and the Advent coming again. Brilliant people don’t deny the dark; they are the ones who never stop looking for His light in everything.” (pp 113-114)

People think it’s somehow intellectual and profound to talk about how dark the world is. As if that wasn’t obvious for everyone to see. The world is dark, and to see that is not deep. That is surface-level. Anyone can see it.

What is deep and profound and wise is to seek out the light, to look for God’s light even within the brokenness. To have a spirit of joy, not cynicism, that sees the complexity of everything that happens in this world and goes beyond the dark to the light breaking through.

Because there is light breaking through, always, if we look closely enough.

 

Did any of these excerpts particularly encourage you? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace

Advent Reflections, Part 1: Wonder, Rest, Laughter

advent reflections part 1.jpg

As Christmas approaches, it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement, the hustle and bustle of preparation, without really thinking about what we are preparing for. We get excited about the season without getting excited about Christ, and that sucks any real meaning out of it.

To combat this, I’ve been reading The Greatest Gift, an advent devotional by Ann Voskamp, and I love it so much! The book captures what the spirit of Christmas should be and presents it in such a beautiful way.

Over this week, I want to share some of my favorite passages with you (not all of them, because I want you to be able to enjoy the book for yourself!) Each post will feature 2-3 quotes and a little elaboration on why I love them. I hope this inspires you and helps you to keep focused on Christ in this season.

And I highly, highly recommend this devotional! These quotes are even more powerful when read in the context of the entire reading, and there is so much more that I won’t be mentioning on here.

Day 2: Wonder

“Ravished with wonder.

“That the earth outside your window is tilted right now at just twenty-three degrees…so the planet’s bulk of six sextillion tons…spins perfectly balanced on an invisible axis…

“So go to the window. Go to the hills, the desert, the corner, the back door, and be ravished and taken and awed, and you who were made by Love, made for love- be still and know and watch love come down.

“The answer to deep anxiety is the deep adoration of God.” (13-14)

If we love God and appreciate His incredible creation, there will be no room for anxiety in our lives.

The truth is that this world is pretty amazing. Things in our everyday life are gorgeous: fall leaves, spring flowers, the snow, the ocean. Every time I start thinking about space, my mind gets blown. I just don’t understand how anyone can look at something like supernovas, or even just the size of the galaxy, and not believe in a God. His hand is everywhere.

And through Jesus, we are given access to this God, the God who created everything far beyond what we could even fathom. This powerful God loves us and cares for us every day. He is on our side, and if He is on our side, what do we have to lose? 

Day 4: Rest

“While other creeds endeavor to get us out of the world and into heaven, in Christianity, heaven comes down and Christ comes into this world to get us.”  (31)

The big difference between Christianity and Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism…we do not have to do anything. 

Christ’s sacrifice paid everything. There is nothing more we could possibly do to get ourselves into heaven, and nothing more that is necessary. Christ poured out his blood for us, suffering impossible agony. Why would we diminish that by thinking we must add to it?

Christ came to us. We do not have to climb to Him. And so we simply rest. 

Day 6: Laughter

“The gigantic secret gift that He gives and we unwrap…we who were barren now graced with the Child who lets us laugh with relief for all eternity. There is nothing left to want. There is nothing left to fear…So loosen up, because the chains have been loosed, and laugh the laughter of the freed. Laughter- it’s all oxygenated grace.

“In the press of a dark world, laughter comes…as the reliever and then the reminder- that ache is not the last word for those who believe God. Jesus is. Jesus is the last word, and we rejoice and rejoice again and re-joy again because grace is our oxygen now.” (50-51)

From the gospel, from the Christmas story, comes infinite joy. God is real. He cares for us. We are saved. He loves us with an everlasting love that will never end.

When you feel sad, when you feel insecure, always remember that your sufferings do not have to be the end and that Jesus came to give you infinitely more. Through Him, we may not live perfect lives, but in the midst of the problems and the suffering, we can find joy anyway. That which most defines our lives, the gospel, can never change. 

 

How do you stay focused on Christ during Advent? Which of these excerpts is your favorite? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace