Christians, we need to stop social shaming our children. 

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Friday Features to bring you a piece I wrote for iBelieve this week, in which I explain why I think the trend of sharing our children’s more embarrassing or annoyance-inducing moments online is a dangerous one, and share some helpful tips for how we can build a legacy of trust with our children through how we talk about them on social media. 

There’s a theme I’ve noticed recently as I’ve scrolled through Facebook (other than the election, I mean). Maybe it’s the fact that it’s the near end of summertime and parents are exhausted from seemingly eternal days with their children surrounding them. Maybe it’s the omnipresent nature of social media, beckoning us to write, respond, engage, and share. Maybe it’s a quest for community. Whatever it is, though, it’s concerning, and little discussed, though the ramifications are potentially damaging to some of the relationships in our lives that matter the very most.

What I’m seeing, what I’m wondering about, is this: why are parents sharing their children’s moments of shame on the Internet?

I can hear the backlash now, so I’m going to address it. I know that some of you are thinking, “Are you kidding me? All I see on my feed are pictures of perfectly dressed children sweetly smiling while playing with one toy for a sustained period of time until their sibling asks for it and they gladly hand it over.” I get it. I see them too, those pictures of the children of Pleasantville.

Continued reading at iBelieve

the friday features: august 5, 2016.

The Friday Features exist to fuel you with you sparks of joy and propel you toward the things that matter as you head into your weekend. If you’d like to submit an article to be included in the features, you can send me the link here.

For When You’re Feeling A Little too Fabulous and/or A Little Snarky: Woman Returns From Conference Deeply Convicted Of How Awesome She Is by The Babylon Bee

For the Pastors, the Curious, and Those Who Like Right Answers: An Unschooled (and Uncreative) Church by Barnabas Piper for The Blazing Center

For When You See the Words “White Privilege” on Facebook: 3 Reasons Why Christians Should Talk about Race on Social Media by Me for iBelieve

For the Politically Engaged or Exhausted: The Campaign for Character by Sharon Hodde Miller

For When You’re Longing for Eternity: The Lord’s Supper Is a Rehearsal Dinner by Derek Rishmawy for The Local Church (Christianity Today)

For The Sinners & the Singers: Let’s Sing the Beauty of Confession by Sandra McCracken for The Gospel Coalition

For When You’re Seeking Community (and/or Loving Literary Fiction): A Common Quest: Searching for Belonging in Emma Cline’s The Girls by Me for Christ and Pop Culture

Here’s to a restful weekend!

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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A Common Quest

***This article contains major spoilers for Emma Cline’s The Girls. ***

“I looked up because of the laughter, and kept looking because of the girls.”

So begins Emma Cline’s recently released debut novel. As eerie as it is personal, as unsettling as it is relatable, The Girls tells the story of a woman, Evie, a 60-something who is temporarily staying in the home of an acquaintance. In the middle of the night, intruders, who turn out to be the son and son’s girlfriend of the homeowner, interrupt Evie’s sleep. Through their questions, Evie recalls the dark memories knocking at the door of her mind. The memories are harrowing, prompting questions that she does not want to answer: who she is, what she wants, and finally, if she ever found what she was looking for.

During a summer in the late 1960s, Evie is fourteen, clinging to her friendships, pining over boys. Her best friend, Connie, provides a seemingly safe place amidst the turmoil of Evie’s parents’ divorce and the jarring evolution of her mother from a domestic homebody to a serial dater, hardly aware of her daughter’s whereabouts, much less her feelings. Evie is stammering and searching; she is looking for love, any kind at all. Then, one day, she sees the girls, the ones who prompted her with their laughter and kept her gaze with their mystery.

Keep reading at Christ and Pop Culture

3 Reasons Why Christians Should Talk about Race on Social Media

Opinions on the best way to use social media run far and wide. Some prefer it for sharing pictures of their children, pithy quotes, and inspirational content. Others seem to find every conspiracy theory ever invented and share it as though it should have been front-page news. Still others use it for marketing purposes, and others to spark political debates that practically engulf their profile in flames. Above and beyond each of these juxtapositions, however, there seems to be a new division that is creeping up, one that I’m both fascinated by and, honestly, hope to help mend.

On one side of the divide are those who think that the current racial tension in America should be addressed on social media, and on the other side are those who don’t.

If you’ve ever read my work or are connected to me on social media, you know that I have my feet firmly planted in the “let’s talk about racial tension on social media” camp. I’ve posted articles and opinions that have sparked days-long debates. I’ve openly disagreed with others in public spaces like Facebook, and I use phrases like “systemic racism,” “white privilege,” and “peacemaking rather than peacekeeping.” I know that this probably makes some of you uncomfortable. Some of you may be about ready to click away, and I want you to know that I understand that tension. Some days, I just have to click away from the tough stuff and head to Netflix. I get it. If your soul can’t take it today, then this is my blessing, even my encouragement, to head somewhere else. If it can, though, if you’re wondering what the possible merit of talking about all of this chaos while online could be, then I hope you’ll stick with me.

Keep reading at iBelieve

the friday features: july 29, 2016.

The Friday Features exist to fuel you with you sparks of joy and propel you toward the things that matter as you head into your weekend. If you’d like to submit an article to be included in the features, you can send me the link here.

For When You Just Can’t with the RNC/DNC Anymore: Which Came First: Bad Politicians or TV Shows About Bad Politicians? by Kaitlyn Schiess for Christ and Pop Culture

For the Sad Girls: Why Do These White Women Look So Sad? by Laura Barcella for Pacific Standard

For When You’re Saying Peace Out to the Mommy Wars: The 5 Truths Stay-at-Home and Working Moms Can Agree On by Katelyn Beaty for Her.Meneutics at Christianity Today

For the Burb Dwellers: Suburbanites, I Need You! by Ashley Hales

For When Your Kid Asks Where Babies Come From: 5 Lessons My Parents Taught Me About Sexuality by Jaquelle Crowe for The Gospel Coalition

For the People with Open Arms, and Those Who Need Arms Opened to Them: When Honesty Is Our Invitation by Alia Joy Hagenbach for Grace Table

For When You’re Feeling Like an “Intimidating” Woman or are Intimidated by a Woman (and/or When You Need a Laugh): 9 Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women by Sarah Cooper for The Cooper Review

Here’s to a restful weekend!

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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Twitter, Temptation, and The Golden Rule.

I wonder how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I wonder how many times you have. As I think back on childhood Sunday School lessons, friendship advice, and teenage devotionals, it seems that the answer must be in the thousands. Whether you grew up with those words echoing through your home, church, and community, or you only stumbled upon them through the occasional pop culture reference, it’s likely that you consider them to be familiar, part of the common ethos.

“The Golden Rule” is what we call those words. Many think of the “rule” as the ultimate guide for how humans should treat one another, for how we should filter our words and actions before allowing them to spill out and impact relationships. The Golden Rule is found in The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7, verse 12. Jesus said these words as part of the Sermon on the Mount, stating that they are “the Law and the Prophets.” In other words, they are a general summary of God’s call to us and hope for us, of what He sends His Spirit to equip us to do.

These words call us not only to act a certain way, but to view humanity and its value in a certain way. Christians are not simply to operate according to our own desires, nor are we permitted to act or speak in such a way that merely serves ourselves. We are to consider how we treat people, even how we think of them, through the lens of how we would like for people to think about and treat us.

This is a huge task, one we are ill-equipped to undertake without the power of the Holy Spirit. I have not a bone in my body that desires to think of others as fondly as I think of myself. Only by the power of regeneration do I care much at all for the treatment (or mistreatment) of others. (This, by the way, is not meant to be a post about whether or not those who are not Christians can or can’t have positive intentions toward others. A topic for another day!)

In my day-to-day life, I try to remain conscious of The Golden Rule, whether by remembering its words specifically, or by meditating on the general way of life and pattern of thought the Christian is called to adopt. When I want to do all I can to get ahead, when I want to say the thing that will be funny but will also potentially hurt someone, when I want to parent according to selfish desires rather than loving sacrifice, I remind myself that, because of the blood of Jesus and the power of the Spirit, I don’t have to give into those desires.

Sometimes, though, when I log onto Twitter, this whole thing gets a lot harder.

Here’s the thing about Twitter, the thing that’s the reason why I’m writing about it specifically rather than including other social media sites (which I plan to address in the future, but you’ll have to wait for that!). The thing about Twitter, I suppose, is really three things:

  1. It moves so fast.
  2. Each tweet is limited to 140 characters.
  3. Sometimes it feels like the wittiness Olympics.

Last week, during the Republican National Convention, I typed and subsequently deleted (before publishing) a load of tweets. Some because of over the top snark, some because they took me too long to compose and I felt that the moment had passed, some because I couldn’t decide if they were as funny as I wanted to believe they were.

And some I kept from sharing, by God’s grace, because they didn’t pass the test of The Golden Rule.

Hidden behind our avatars, the illusion of safety and shallowness can sometimes keep us from thinking that what we say online actually matters. This is discouraging, at times, to those who are attempting to write something meaningful, but (far more tragically) it seems to all too often loosen the bonds of civility and reduce people to their most snarky, sarcastic, arrogant selves.

I want to be clear that I follow a lot of people who share a lot of humorous, snarky, pointed content, and I love it. I think they do it well. I think that sarcasm and even snark have their appropriate places. I think that many people are skilled at using their words to make a person laugh just enough and also to think about something that’s meaningful. But I don’t always trust myself to be that person, and I’ve had to set up a little filter for myself that helps me keep my presence on Twitter roughly halfway sanctified.

In case this is something you struggle with as well, here’s a little system I use:

  1. Are these words intended to build others up or to puff up my own image?
  2. Am I continually tweeting about myself, my content, and my ideas, or am I going out of my way to share the words and thoughts of others, building them up by promoting their hard work?
  3. Am I using my words to try to get noticed or to bless those who read?

I want to be clear that this filter of mine does not keep me from tweeting about hard things, or from sharing many a news story or opinion that is likely to make people uncomfortable. But the way I present such things, even the way I present the most lighthearted of things, are pushed (at times begrudgingly) through the above filter, which in a way could summarized as “serving others.” Sometimes my hope is to serve through silliness, sometimes through prompting deep thought, sometimes through charitably asking a question about a seeming point of disagreement, and sometimes through sharing the work or words of another.

It all becomes very simple, very Kindergarten level, in a sense. In all dimensions of my life, including Twitter, I want others to teach me. I want others to read my words and respond to them charitably. I want others to see the words I string together and find enough meaning in them to share them with others. I want others to converse with me when they agree with me and when they don’t. I want others to encourage me.

And so, I seek to do unto others as I desire them to do unto me, even in a space like Twitter. And whether or not I’m treated the same way in return (and I so often am), it’s worth it, and it helps me believe that even the Twittersphere can be a space for redemption, that nothing is beyond His dominion.

And I, for one, can use that reminder as often as possible.

the friday features: july 22, 2016.

The Friday Features exist to fuel you with you sparks of joy and propel you toward the things that matter as you head into your weekend. If you’d like to submit an article to be included in the features, you can send me the link here.

For When You’re Thinking about the 16-Year-Olds in Your Life: A space for struggle, an answer of hope: The kind of culture churches really need by Alan Noble for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

For The Parents Staring at Athletic Sign-Up Forms: The Youth Sports Myth: You Owe It to Your Child by Margot Starbuck for Today’s Christian Woman

For When You’re Writing: God Will Give You the Words, So Don’t Steal These by Lore Ferguson Wilbert for Her.Meneutics at Christianity Today

For the Curious: What’s It Like to See Ideas as Shapes? by Alissa Greenberg for The Atlantic

For When You’re Struggling to Act: Just Hang the Darn Curtains by Bronwyn Lea

For the Souls Tempted to Shrink Back: Don’t Hide Behind “The Gospel” by Barnabas Piper for The Blazing Center

For When You’re Thinking about Gender Roles: Katelyn Beaty: Despite the Cost, I’m Proud to Be an ‘Intimidating’ Woman for The Calling at Christianity Today (this one is a brief article + an excellent podcast)

For the Stalling and/or Anxious: For the One Who Procrastinates by Heather Caliri

Here’s to a restful weekend!

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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one way that I see Him when the world turns grey.

A few weeks ago, I taught a class for The Influence Network called “When Suffering Abounds.” In it, we talked about how one of the first questions the Christian often asks during difficult times is, “how can I relate to God right now?”

This leads quickly to other questions:

  • Who even IS God in this season?
  • Is God real? If so, is He in this chaos? Do I want Him to be? If He was real, wouldn’t He DO something?
  • If I’m going to believe that God is real even in this, how do I find Him?

These are all questions I’ve asked myself, some muttered under my breath more recently than I’d care to admit. These are questions I ask in my own moments of darkness, and questions I ask as the world around us seems to be crumbling. These are questions I ask as Alton Sterling and Philando Castile breathe their last at the hands of violence, as police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge fall to the hands of murderers, as Turkey and Nice and cities the world over, some far from this American land and some with roots burrowed inextricable into its soil, cry out for an intertwine of justice and mercy, gasping their need for comfort.

How long, Oh Lord?

There are moments in my life, moments that have occurred both when pain has been inflicted directly upon me and when it orbits around me, threatening my rose-tainted images of the world, that I have questioned the power of Scripture and prayer. Essentially, I suppose, this means that I have questioned the power of God Himself.

I do not mean that my perspective of God’s power should be limited to reading the Bible and praying. It really shouldn’t. What I mean is that I have often been skeptical of the power He proclaims and reveals in those pages, the power that calms wind and wave, the power that creates, beckons, and cares for souls. I have wondered where that power is.

In my more bitter moments of inquiry, moments marked by questions that do not actually desire answers, I am obstinate toward the Word, stubborn against prayer. I hate that this is true. I love, though, that there is a passage that near-always calls me back, a passage that seems to soften a place in me, makes the invitation of the Spirit seemingly irresistible. That passage is Psalm 40.

More succinctly, I suppose, that passage is Psalm 40:1. Fourteen words of David embedded in a book of prayer, lament, praise, thanksgiving, and heartbreak. Fourteen words that beckon me back when I am unsure of Who God is, of Who He says He is.

“I waited patiently for the Lord,” the Psalmist writes. “He inclined to me and heard my cry.”

I’ve read this verse many times, sometimes comforted by it, sometimes experiencing it in that rote way, that way carved out by years of growing up in the church, of having to remind myself that the Word is alive and active (because it doesn’t feel that way), the strange blessing and burden of having been born into a life with Scripture all around me, always. But one day, for some reason, a four word phrase within Psalm 40:1 leapt out at me, taking root in my mind and sprouting new thought, like the theme word in the midst of a brainstorm cloud.

“He inclined to me.”

And suddenly, Psalm 40 became prophetic.

I had always thought of God the Father as the inclining One, His ear bent toward me in prayer. And while I still think this is true and good, while I have no intention of relinquishing that image in exchange for another, the picture has become more robust, new layers added.

Now, when I read, “He inclined to me,” I think of Jesus as the inclining One, bowing to the Father’s will, condescending from His rightful, perfect place.

The image is crystalizing and cementing, I think of it so often now. Yes, God inclines toward me in prayer, in the everyday movements of my life. But He also inclined by sending His Son made flesh to dwell among us. He inclined to me in a way that was ultimate, a submission leading to death on my behalf.

The inclining Jesus came alive to me in Psalm 40 one day, and I cannot unsee Him. I think of Him condescending to earth, I imagine Him touching the sick. I think of Him bending down, stooping low from heaven to earth, I imagine Him knees to the dirt, stooping low to embrace a child.

Thousands of times I have walked into one of my babies’ rooms, during the days when they could not yet pull up on the side of the crib. They lie on their backs, or they sit, waiting for me to pick them up out of their cribs. Waiting for me to respond to their cries. Waiting for me to incline toward them.

This idea of the inclining deity, the inclining God made flesh, brings life, brings a new light. This week, I’m thinking of what Christ’s inclination says about His character, about His goodness, His humility, His love, His desire for us. I’m thinking of how I do not need to lose myself in worry over whether or not I am enough or too much, because His inclination draws my eyes upward. I’m thinking about what it looks like to wait patiently for Him, certain that He has inclined, is inclining, will incline.

And I’m giving thanks for Jesus, the ultimate inclining One, condescending toward me when I held no power to ascend toward Him. I’m thinking of my babies in their cribs and how their dependence is only a degree or so different from mine, though I fancy myself self-sufficient. I’m thinking of how my life depends entirely on the inclining One, and how that must mean His power and goodness are greater than I’ve known.

I’m thinking of how He inclined, He inclines, and He will incline.

a guest post: on whether or not consuming art is an endorsement of it.

A few months ago, I wrote a post on consuming books and entertainment, and then another on how I think through desensitization. I’ve been compiling a stack of responses from dozens of you who offered to share your Myers-Briggs personality type and entertainment preferences with me, and I’ll be working through those for a while. In the meantime, though, I want to continue offering the occasional post on Christian interaction with books, television, and movies. 

Today, my friend Sarah Elizabeth Finch is offering her perspective on consuming art. I’ve known Sarah Elizabeth since we were little girls, and I can honestly say that her wisdom and depth of thought have been a part of her soul and speech from the beginning. One of the things I enjoy the most about Sarah Elizabeth is that she loves to have fun in meaningful ways. I think that will become clear to you as you read her thoughts on interacting with art as followers of Jesus.

On Whether or Not Consuming Art is an Endorsement of It:
Finding the Sacred in the Secular 

I have fond memories growing up of spending Friday nights with my Dad and my brother. We had a tradition where as soon as “Daddy” got home we would pile in the car and drive to Cici’s Pizza, eat our fill of the mediocre buffet, then spend up to an hour perusing the aisles of Blockbuster. Once we had made our selection, we would head home to pop popcorn, drink milkshakes, and revel in a few hours of cheap entertainment.

A couple things to note here:

  • My mom never joined us, instead choosing to soak in a bubble bath and turn in early for the evening. Now that I’m a mother, I know exactly how she feels and would gladly forgo an evening of entertainment for that privilege.
  • Blockbuster? It’s been ages since I’ve visited this establishment (does it even exist anymore?) but thinking on this memory made me realize how streamlined and accessible entertainment is now. Today’s version of this would be Netflix.

Looking back, not only did these evenings foster in me a love of quality time with my family, but they also cultivated in me a love of movies, and not just because they were entertaining. I remember a conversation with my mom one day, discussing an interracial couple at church. She mentioned challenges that they had overcome and I asked her what she meant. She said, “Have you seen Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? No? Well you need to rent that one next.”

Movies, as an art form, teach us. There were many titles that we “had to see” thanks to my parents’ desire to expose us to history and culture. I remember walking the “Classics” aisle after several years of this weekly ritual unable to find a new film; I had seen them all. Some might call that overkill, but just like literature, movies are an avenue for an artist to broadcast a message and a space for the viewer to see, think, and be inspired to change.

As Christians, we are called to be sojourners with a celestial citizenship – in the world, but not of the world. Movies are both in the world and of the world, portraying secular themes, romanticizing reality, and often celebrating sin. Is consuming this entertainment, then, an endorsement of the content?

“Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” (All About Eve, 1950)

The learner’s definition of art in Merriam-Webster is, “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.” When I think about art I typically include at least these two components: content and delivery. Was the content good? Did I connect with the message? Was the delivery meaningful? Did it make me stop in my tracks?

These are questions that we consciously or subconsciously ask when consuming art, whether it be the latest novel, an oil-painting at the museum, a comic-strip in the NY Times, or a movie. The answers to these questions matter, becoming a filter for future art consumption. We learn more about ourselves in the process as we peruse the “Blockbuster aisles” of art and make our selections week-to-week.

As believers, are there movies (or books, paintings, songs, etc.) that we should pass on by and never pick up? Is there such a thing as art without any redeemable content or delivery?

“Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.” (Back to the Future, 1985)

 Whenever I’m asked a question about the behavior of believers in general, I cringe. Not because these aren’t important questions, but because they are so important, and so delicate.

The life of a believer should look like Christ. Christ is perfect and He is multi-faceted. We are imperfect and reflect only a few facets of His character, the other facets being represented by the rest of the body of believers around us. Each of our paths to and pursuits of Christ will look different. Different doesn’t necessarily mean wrong, though, as what is beneficial for one may be harmful to another, excluding the definite avoidance of sin.

It’s in this grey area that division arises and conflict erupts. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (ESV). So what is good and perfect? That which glorifies God? I would say, yes.

In 1 Corinthians 8 we get a seemingly hazy picture of that which glorifies God. Food sacrificed to idols is a non-issue due to the intrinsic worthless nature of idols. And yet consuming this food is an issue if fellow believers who are weaker in their faith might stumble, mistaking your consumption as paying homage to these inanimate and powerless deities. You know that your consumption is justified because the deities are meaningless, but your neighbor who struggles with faith in one God may misunderstand your confidence.

The freedom we express is evidence that the heart behind our actions is what matters. But care must be taken when we live in the freedom for which He has set us free lest our freedom appear reckless to naive onlookers.

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” (Jaws, 1975) 

So what does this mean as it pertains to consuming art and entertainment? I would argue that just like the believers who bought and ate food sacrificed to idols, it means you’re paying for a commodity, not necessarily endorsing the entity behind it.

I say necessarily because of course there are exceptions. “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16, ESV). If something is advertised as directly supporting abortion or white supremacy, just don’t. But support and depiction are two different things.

Just like care must be taken when we live out freedom in our decisions, care must be taken when we look at our hearts. If the sin is so vile and the art so abominable that our hearts struggle to see the grace and truth hidden alongside, then perhaps we should pass in favor of a more gracious representation of the world. Let us not excuse debauchery in our efforts to learn the culture we live in.

Art is made to express ideas and feelings, and is often a creative interpretation of the culture we live in. If the art we consume is depicting sin, shame and hopelessness, is it wrong for us to lean in and learn from this perspective? How will we know what our neighbors are struggling with if we don’t allow ourselves first to be confronted with the issues portrayed in various forms of secular media? And can we learn anything from flawed content with excellent delivery?

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” (The Usual Suspects, 1995)

I know that there are many non-Christians who would stand in front of “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci, and marvel at the masterpiece in front of them. The content and the message may hold no higher meaning for them, but the delivery – the brushstrokes, the emotions captured, the composition – is breathtaking. Does this not hold true for us, too?

We value marriage to be sacred, and yet literature beautifully and tragically depicts extra-marital affairs as glamorous, heart-breaking and common. We hold life to be of utmost value, and yet films tell the other side of the story, with hopeless hearts taking life into their own hands. We believe that unnecessary violence is appalling, and yet the action-flicks we watch boast of violence for sport.

Many in our society think and feel the very emotions these art forms are revealing, and we are getting a front-row seat. Will we appreciate the lyrical window into the mind and heart of humanity? Or will we discard the poetry because we disagree with certain themes in the message?

“I’ll have what she’s having.” (When Harry Met Sally, 1989)

 James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Just because we have an eye for art doesn’t mean we get a free pass. The question that we should always ask ourselves when making any decision is this: “Does this glorify God?”

I believe that art has the potential to exemplify many redemptive qualities, but this redemption may not occur with all consumers. And that’s okay.

Some art may not be redeemable as believers under any circumstance due to the explicit nature of the content. And that’s okay, too.

Our freedom enables us to reject and accept many things under the sun. We may enjoy the things we accept and share those acceptable things with others around us, engaging believers and non-believers alike in conversation about our culture and our God who is not bound to a certain genre. We can also appreciate the things we must reject, knowing that our hearts and eyes have been shielded from atrocities that do not honor our God.

This is the grey area that requires grace and community. Grace to preface our words toward one another, and community to help us make wise decisions when it comes to what is “good” and glorifying to God. And should we come to a conclusion that some form of art is unacceptable, I believe that we should reject it with grace, knowing that there may be believers around us that have wider boundaries of freedom to enjoy it.

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” (Gone With The Wind, 1939)

The lessons I learned by watching Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner could not have been replaced by simple conversation. I saw the tension that Sidney Poitier expressed through his character as he introduced himself as a black man to his white in-laws. In 1967, this was unheard of, but the characters graciously and painstakingly trudged through the difficult conversations needed to make it work. By the end of the movie, I was in love with this interracial couple and had so much respect for the bridges they had just built and the gap that they stood in for future couples entering this hardship.

In 1967 this was controversial, but it was so important. In 2003, when I watched it, it changed my whole perspective. I’m not saying that every controversial movie will end up becoming a social norm, or that every message represents truth. What I am saying is that it could.

I don’t want to be the person loudly boycotting a progressive movie. I want to be someone who carefully consumes the art in front of me, measures it to scripture, discusses it with community, shares my revelations with my neighbors, and then engages a lost culture with the light that I found.

That light might just be a flicker right now, but what if you find it? What if you are patient enough to look for the sacred amidst the secular, and you glean a new perspective on truth that will spark a flame and turn into a wildfire? There’s a lot of time and space between 1967 and 2003, but the message has stood the test of time and is still relevant now.

“Nobody’s perfect.” (Some Like It Hot, 1959)

I’ve included some well-known movie quotes not only because I love movies and clever transitions, but also to make a point. Wisdom, pith and puns can be gleaned side-by-side in movies that are completely secular in nature. When looking at villains, we like to say, “There’s an ounce of good somewhere in him.” So why not with art?

Why not read and listen and watch with wonder and a critical eye? With wonder to see what beauty has been created by God’s image-bearers – sacred and secular alike. With criticism to see what is redemptive, to see what Truth can be gleaned. Diamonds shine brighter in the rough. Light penetrates further in the darkest of night. Christians make a greater impact when they are immersed in the culture around them, engaging the broken, seeking the lost, all the while holding onto our Savior.

The beautiful Truth to be found in all of this is that our Savior not only comes with us into these secular spaces, He leads the way.

Sarah Elizabeth is a wife to Jake, mother of two children under two, and a storyteller at heart. Outside the home she works contract as a medical Speech-Language Pathologist and volunteers with Student Ministries at her church, discipling a small group of girls from sixth grade through high school. She is passionate about uncovering beautiful stories in seemingly mundane moments. Some of her life-long goals include getting an MFA, running a marathon, writing a book, and seeing her children know Jesus. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @sebstuff.


the friday features: a special edition.

Friday Features

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Friday Features to bring you a piece I wrote for Christ and Pop Culture this week, in which I explain why I don’t think boycotting the newly-released film Me Before You is an adequate Christian response. This article is meaningful to me in a variety of ways, primarily because I am the mother of a child with a disability. I hope this piece will help each of us who desire to engage the community of the differently-abled with the love of Christ to do so through personal relationships and through speaking the hopeful truth of the gospel to the culture in which we live.

(Spoiler alert!)

Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) is thirty-one years old, handsome, witty, and mischievous. He is the classic leading male in an American chick flick. Except, that is, for one thing: Will has been a quadriplegic since two and a half years ago, when he was struck by a motorcycle while crossing the street.Me Before You challenges viewers with some of the most common, deeply felt questions of the human heart.Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke) is twenty-six years old. She is awkward in the “I-bet-she-would-be-really-pretty-if-she’d-fix-her-hair-and-learn-how-to-do-her-makeup” kind of way. She is the classic leading female in a girl-next-door movie, a pre-blossomed flower waiting for the perfect prince’s kiss to cause her to bloom.

Will and Louisa are the protagonists of the newly released Me Before You, a film based on the 2012 novel by Jojo Moyes. What begins as an uncomfortable employer/employee relationship (Louisa has been hired by Will’s mother as his nurse) soon becomes a friendship, which evolves into a romance.

But under the surface, a dark tempest brews. Louisa has recently overheard Will’s parents discussing Will’s plans to travel to Switzerland. Once there, he will check into a facility called Dignitas, where he plans to breathe his last, leaving this world by way of physician-assisted suicide.

Continue reading at Christ and Pop Culture.