Who says you need to read the book first?

The Harry Potter Series is my favorite book series. I thoroughly enjoy the movies as well. In fact, I can admit without shame that I saw a majority of the movies before finally deciding to read the books.

It seems that most movies hitting theaters today are adaptations of popular novels, stories, and fairy tales. Even Marvel and DC movies come from comic books.

Honestly, I’m not complaining. I think it makes sense to use the popular stories that so many people are captivated by for film. It’s proof that books and reading can never truly go out of style.

If a young adult novel turns into a movie, you can be sure that people will be rushing to stores to buy the book. But you will also have those uninterested in reading the book, who decide that they  just want to see the movie. And here’s why: Seeing a movie is easy and fast. If you hate it, at least you’ve only wasted two hours of your time.

Personally, I don’t like to harp on people to “Read the book first!” Yes, I will often suggest they read the book, but only if I believe that reading the book will be even more enjoyable than watching the movie—which in most circumstances is true. With the Harry Potter books, I discovered them because I loved the movies so much. Once I started the first book, I couldn’t stop. I read them all and was enthralled by the details in the books that weren’t in the movies. Soon enough, I had finished all of the books and was waiting for the newest movie to come out.

Whatever you decide to do (read the book first, see the movie, or both) just enjoy it for what it is: a story to be experienced.

Top 5 Characteristics that make Taylor Swift Stand out in the Music Industry

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It was no surprise that her newest album, 1989, won “Album of the Year” at the 2016 Grammy’s earlier this month. At only 26 years old, Taylor Swift has skyrocketed to success. With this year’s three wins, Taylor now has 10 Grammy’s.

Taylor is a truly talented artist who strives to be real with herself and her fans. The effects of stardom can be crippling, but Taylor has been able to remain a respectable individual, even in the wake of pressing celebrity standards.

How has she done this? Taylor exhibits many character qualities that are hard to find in stardom circles. Here are the top 5 reasons why I believe Taylor has been able to retain her integrity and become an incredible artist:

  1. She is real.

Taylor’s music depicts real life for the average person. She sings with genuine heart and feeling about things that everyone can relate with.

  1. She works hard.

This is no question. She has not gotten this far with out a whole lot of hard work.

  1. She is engaging.

Taylor is not afraid to talk to her fans. She is down-to-earth in the sense that she does not puff herself up to be better than everyone else.

  1. She is kind.

We rarely hear about Taylor getting into fights or arguments. She also publicly shows that she appreciates her fans at every concert.

  1. She is approachable.

Taylor has a ginormous fan base, but through her social media outlets she makes herself available to all her fans in a personal way.

These are all qualities that make someone great—whether you have 3 fans or 70 million. I often get stuck thinking that my success is determined by my career. But just think—if Taylor had none of these qualities, would be as big of a star? Don’t ever exchange a kind heart for a larger paycheck. It is often the small character qualities that start in the heart that make someone truly great.

-Megan W

Seek Joy in Literature

A few years ago, I had to choose my major between my two favorite subjects: physics and literature, and despite the clear monetary advantage in studying physics, I choose to study literature. Reading simply gave me more joy and I felt that I had a calling in the humanities. My story is fairly uncommon, but we all make that same kind of choice between utility and imagination every day.  Every time we pick up a book (or watch a new movie or show), we’re investing our time and energy in an imaginative work that could be spent somewhere else. So why do we do it?

Often our motivation is for simple entertainment, but my best advice to Christian readers is to do it for more than that and read for the joy of literature. In his essay “Different Tastes in Literature” C. S. Lewis described his own discovery of the “joy in the arts,” by writing that “[it was] as if a food one had enjoyed for the taste proved one day to enable you (like dragon’s blood) to understand the speech of birds: as if water, besides quenching your thirst, suddenly became an intoxicant.”

Christians have unique hope in regards to literature because they can recognize that they are a dim reflection of God’s redemptive plan for the world—that Jesus Christ has overcome death will come again in the final conclusion that all readers of stories ultimately long for. J. R. R. Tolkien, in his essay “On Fairy-Stories,” states that “[the joy of the happy ending] is a sudden and miraculous grace. . . it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.” We have more choices today than ever before, and choosing to read comes the cost of a hundred other uses of our time, but if we can catch a glimpse of God’s glory and experience the joy of stories, then we can gain so much more than just entertainment.

-Emily D.

Give Yourself Permission to Turn It Off

There’s always a new TV show. We get a lot of media recommendations from friends, family, coworkers, TV itself. “Try this! You’ll love it!”

So what happens when we don’t love it?

Sometimes we keep watching because our friend is super-excited about a show and wants someone to watch with. Other times we keep watching because we don’t want to be judgmental or legalistic. Maybe it’s the cool new thing.

I’m definitely guilty. I have a lot of friends who are in love with Supernatural, a TV show where two brothers hunt all kinds of supernatural monsters. It sounded interesting, so I watched the first four seasons.

And Supernatural was fun. The brothers’ love for each other is compelling. The side characters are hilarious. But I felt dirty whenever I finished an episode. There was too much darkness for me to handle. I felt like a wimp for giving up so far into, but it wasn’t healthy to keep watching.

So I turned it off.

We talk a lot about not discounting media choices out of reflex. We’ve also had a few posts on being careful about what we chose to watch (here and here.)

Sometimes that moment doesn’t come until a few episodes or seasons in. It’s easy to think, “I’ve already invested sixteen hours into this show. I can’t turn it off now.” But you are the one who has to live with what you watch or listen to, and some of it can be hard to forget. If you ask me which Supernatural episode bothered me the most, I can recount the whole thing in excruciating detail.

Knowing and accepting our own tolerance makes seeing beauty in media easier. It’s easier to see hope and love if I’m not completely distracted and disgusted by other content.

So try that new show or movie. Enjoy media, but don’t feel obligated to keep watching even if you’re in season eight. Give yourself permission to turn it off.

-Josie K.

How Can We Worship God through Secular Music?

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Have you ever found yourself singing along to a song on the radio while you’re in your car, and suddenly, you realize that what you’re singing could very well be used to worship God, even though it may not be a “Christian” song? This may not happen all that often, but there have certainly been times in my life when God has spoken to me through secular music. So what exactly can we, as Christians, do with this when it comes to worship? Is there a way we can truly worship God while listening to or singing along with secular music? I believe there is. Here are three M’s to help give you something to think about and remember:

  1. Mindfulness

I think first of all, we need to remember that most popular music is written through the lens of what society values, which often does not run parallel with the Bible. With this in mind, we can get a better understanding of where the song is coming from and if the lyrics behind it are actually revealing any of God’s truths or not.

  1. Meaning

Similar to mindfulness, it is important that we look at the overall meaning behind the song. We should also think about what it means for us in our own walk with Christ. Is this song encouraging us in our faith? Is it revealing genuine emotions and struggles? Many songs are relatable because they deal with difficult circumstances and feelings, but does the song also offer any kind of hope?

  1. Motivation

Overall, what is our motivation for worship, anyway? This is something that we should take a step back and think about. Is it centered around us or are we focused on God? Often times, we think of worship as a feeling and something we need to be in the mood for, when really, it is an action in response to God’s goodness and mercy.

Hopefully, this will inspire you to go out and find some secular music that reveals God’s truths. Let us know what you find!

-Emily H.

#PrayforKesha

It takes courage to speak, especially when speaking means evoking chaos. I don’t know Kesha personally, of course, but I respect her decision to speak out on the tragedy of being a sexually assaulted victim.

According to an article by The New York Times, Kesha recently filed a lawsuit against Dr. Luke, her music producer. Although Dr. Luke has rejected all claims against him and responded to Kesha’s actions as a means to make money, there are plenty of stars and fans joining ranks with this beloved pop-star.

Fellow female artists like Arianna Grande, Demi Lovato, Kelly Clarkson, and Lady Gaga have been voicing, via social media, their concerns, support, and encouragement. Taylor Swift even donated a large sum of money to help Kesha in her legal battle. The hashtag “Free Kesha” has also been trending.

Demi Lovato stated in a tweet supporting Kesha that “Women empowerment is speaking up for other women even when it’s something uncomfortable to speak up about.” Demi continued saying, “Women empowerment is taking action now, not when it’s convenient.”

What strikes a nerve for so many women is not merely that it is Kesha, a celebrity, but that it is a female—a human being—who is has been taken advantage of in more ways than one. While none of us can know the full story behind what’s happening, I believe that it is important for us to lift up Kesha in prayer and ask for God to provide the justice that is deserved, wherever that may be.

Most of us can’t imagine what it would be like to have our personal, private struggles and shames announced to an entire nation. So instead of using harsh words, passing judgement, or jumping to any conclusions about the situation, let’s remember that Kesha is first and foremost a person as well as a child of God.

-Ruthie F.

Reading to Beat the Winter Blues

black-and-white-woman-girl-sitting-largeGuess what? It’s almost the end of February. I think that no matter where you live, this can be such a difficult time of year. Whether it’s feeling caught in your mundane routine, dealing with large amounts of homework, dreary weather, or all three, feeling down and depressed can sometimes be nearly inevitable. So where are some places you can turn when you need to take a break and refuel? Most of the time, Netflix and social media can become our escape. Both are fine in moderation, but do those things really help refuel us?

One thing that I have found helps me get through the winter blues is doing more reading, even if it is something light and easy. Unlike Facebook or watching TV, it engages your mind and imagination. It requires focus and attention. A recent article from Metro discusses some books that may be worth reading during this time of year, especially ones with themes of hope and inspiration in showing how others overcome their obstacles. Stepping into the mind of another character can even give us a new perspective on issues we are dealing with in our own lives. It can be so tempting to spend all of our free time binge watching TV shows, especially those of us who do a lot of reading for school, but what if we read for fun more often? Would it help us to get in the minds of others so we can better understand them? Would our reading comprehension improve? Would we feel more productive than if we had spent our time browsing Pinterest or Instagram? Why not give it a try?