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.

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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.

Kindness: Les Misérables and the Royal Hospital in Edinburgh

Kindness connects people, kindness connects cultures and eras, and kindness connects us to God.

Les Misérables was written by Victor Hugo in 1862, and it is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century.

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Hugh Jackman played the role of Jean Valjean in the 2012 film of Les Misérables.

Les Misérables follows the life of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who is given a chance to live an honest life by a kind bishop. Valjean becomes mayor of a town, employer of many, savior of a prostitute, father to an orphan, and restorer of persons. Although Valjean must spend his life running from authorities who want to punish him for breaking parole, he shows that redemption is possible and mercy overcomes.

Kindness and a life lived for others are some of the main themes of the book, and this emphasis on living for social good continues today.

A few days ago, Mairi Holden and her son Oscar had to stay in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh for his asthma-related breathing issues. Holden was not expecting to stay overnight, so she parked on a single yellow line outside the hospital. In the morning, she found two parking tickets on her windshield.

However, along with the tickets, she also found the money to pay for both and a note that said, “Pay it then forget it happened.”

Holden was so touched by the kindness of a stranger that she created an online charity to raise money for the hospital that treated her son. She started the charity with a £50 donation of her own, which is double the amount she was given to pay her tickets.

Kindness is a quality that transcends all cultures and every era. Also, it gives us a glimpse into something much bigger than ourselves.

“To love another person is to see the face of God.”—Victor Hugo, Les Misérables.

– Megan R.

What Can Christians Learn from ‘Friends’?

Friends can be a controversial television show for Christians. The show contains many sexual references and inappropriate situations.

Still, the show is a 90s classic and many can admit to it being their guilty pleasure. The characters are funny and endearing, and the story lines are ridiculous and entertaining.

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Should we be ashamed of liking this show?

There are things we need to be careful of when we watch Friends. Talking casually about sex is not okay, and we shouldn’t become too comfortable with what the show and culture tells us is normal. We need to be on guard that these things do not influence our lives and hearts.

However, Friends carries some timeless lessons that Christians can appreciate.

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The premise of the show is six friends trying to manage life and adulthood. Nothing ever seems to go as planned, and the characters are set face to face with reality in every episode. But in the midst of reality, they stay loyal to their friends no matter what.

The characters in Friends are fictional, but they show us friendships that the Christian community can learn from.

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They all just chose each other. They don’t all have a lot in common, and they don’t even like each other in every episode, but they never abandon each other. They don’t glorify their friendships, but they go through the mundaneness and the craziness of life together, always there to lean on if someone needs it.

Imagine if we could model Christian friendships this way. What would it look like for Christians to choose each other and stick around through every season of life we face?

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– Megan R.

A Christian’s Response to Social Media

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We had spent hours hiking up the mountain. We climbed over boulders, around streams, and through towering pines. When we finally reached the top, our senses were overwhelmed with the pure beauty of a mountaintop lake. I had never seen anything so magnificently beautiful my entire life. Truly.

So, what did I do? I whipped out my phone to capture this expanse of wonder on a 4” screen to share with friends.

This is nothing new. It’s nearly a necessity to be involved in social media today. We live in an age where creating the so-called “perfect post” dictates our lives. In my case, this “perfect-post” mentality limited my ability to simply sit and absorb the beautiful creation around me. Everyone else needed to know that I had climbed and conquered.

A recent article I read dives into how a Christian should interact with social media (check it out here). This article asks Christians four questions concerning social media involvement:

  1. Am I walking by the Spirit?

As Christians, we are called to glorify God in our actions, including those on social media.

  1. Am I bragging?

Even if it is a God-honoring post, does my motivation reflect a prideful heart?

  1. Am I battling envy and discontent?

Social media can be a breeding ground for discontentment as we scroll past friends who are getting accepted to grad school, getting married, having children, or traveling.

  1. Is this the best use of my time?

We can easily spend an average of 3 hours a day on social media…. Is this the most productive use of the time God has given us?

Social media isn’t bad. In fact, it is an amazing place where “we can point people to Jesus with the light of our lives, with eternal truth, and with grace-filled interactions.”

For the next week, I challenge you to ask yourself these four questions before you post. Who knows, you may find that you encounter more beautiful mountaintops than you imagined – you just couldn’t see them behind the 4” screen in front of you.

 

-Megan W

Watch Commercials like a Christian

You may not think of commercials as media. They are on TV and we watch them, but we don’t consider them traditional entertainment.

But they are entertaining!

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Doritos showed a baby in an ultrasound reaching for a Doritos chip.

When we celebrated the Super Bowl a few days ago, we watched primarily for the football game, but secondarily for the excellent commercials that were produced especially for the occasion. The advertising was able to draw us in just as much as the game did.

The commercials were trying to sell us something, but they were also giving us something. Usually, they offer us an emotional fulfillment of some kind, which they do by appealing to one of our desires.

Humans have a lot of desires—some good, some bad. Some of our desires were given to us as image bearers of God, like the desires for love, community, and beauty. But these God-given desires are skewed by the fall. Our desire for love becomes a desire for inappropriate sexual satisfaction. Our desire for community becomes a desire for prestige and popularity. Our desire for beauty becomes a desire for exciting spectacle through all means.

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Comedian Kevin Hart lends his Hyundai Genesis with Blue Link Car Finder to his daughter’s date and tracks the couple’s whereabouts throughout the date.

Advertisers take different approaches as to which desires they will appeal to make us emotionally hooked. Our job as Christians is to discern whether they are appealing to our good desires or sinful desires.

Think about your favorite Super Bowl commercial. What did you like about it? Was it funny? Sweet? Weird? Crude?  Try to understand your emotional response to the presentation and content.

-Megan R.

Let us know in the comments what your favorite Super Bowl commercial was and why!

Brooklyn is Everything a Romantic Movie Should Be

It’s hard to find good romantic movies. Often we are caught between unrealistic sappiness and crude comedy. But Brooklyn rises above those sub-genres. It is cute, romantic, clever, and thoughtful. It shows love through struggling and suffering, but it still warms our hearts, making us hope we can achieve something this beautiful.

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Copyright Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

­­­­Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) is an Irish immigrant who leaves her sister and widowed mother to move to Brooklyn, New York, and make a life for herself. Eilis gets a job in a department store and goes to school to learn bookkeeping.

Eilis begins her journey with reserved anticipation, hopeful for the exciting life she may find in the New York. But she soon finds herself out of place in America, and homesickness settles in.

Then Eilis meets Tony Fiorella (Emory Cohen), a young Italian plumber with just the right amount of confidence and awkwardness. Eilis and Tony fall in love, and he helps her to become comfortable in her new home of Brooklyn.

Saoirse Ronan as "Eilis" in BROOKLYN. Photo by Kerry Brown. © 2
Copyright Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

However, unfortunate circumstances lead Eilis back to Ireland. She must decide where her home truly lies. Is it in the past she holds so dearly or her future in Brooklyn?

Brooklyn is a love story that reflects real love. None of the characters are perfect, and Eilis makes some big mistakes. The couple goes through these awkward moments and authentic challenges, and it tests whether their love can endure.

The love story in Brooklyn isn’t about magical moments. It is about finding someone who loves who you really are and pushes to be your best and choosing to love them even when it’s difficult.

Brooklyn shows us that love requires work and commitment, but true love gives us a home where we are always safe.

“And one day, the sun will come out you might not even notice straight away—it’ll be that faint. And then you’ll catch yourself thinking about something or someone who has no connection with the past. Someone who’s only yours. And you’ll realize that this is where your life is.”

-Megan R.