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.

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3 Rap Songs Christians Should Listen To

I listen to rap when I work out, and I’ve noticed that some of the songs have good lyrics.

Rappers are story-tellers. Yes, they swear and their messages aren’t always Christian. But if we are aware of what to watch out for in secular rap and listen to the radio edits, we can learn a lot.

Here are three rap songs that can help you find beauty and truth in secular rap.

  1. “Not Afraid” by EminemEminem

“I’m not afraid…To take a stand. I guess I had to go to that place to get to this one. Now some of you might still be in that place.”

Eminem’s songs delve into the darkness of his experiences. But his story of struggling is universal. We all have darkness in our pasts and we need to learn how to reconcile these experiences with the futures we want to live.

If we follow Jesus, He is able to carry us out of whatever we are facing.

  1. “Starting Over” by Macklemore

rjuepjfvo3rjjc1pbw3p“I’m just a flawed man… If I can be an example of getting sober, then I can be an example of starting over.”

Falling back into past sin is hard. It is the reminder that we are going to have to fight sin our entire lives.

Macklemore tells the story of his drug relapse, and his raw emotions cut to the core for anyone who has failed to live up to their image.

As Christians, we will feel like are starting over almost every day, but God’s grace does not run out.

  1. “Strong Enough” by B.O.B. featuring Taylor Swiftdownload (4)

“I wish I was strong enough to lift not one but both of us. Someday I will be strong enough to lift not one but both of us.”

This song is a reminder of our perfect weakness. Life is too much for us, and we aren’t strong enough to carry ourselves through it, much less someone else.

But in Christ we embrace weakness. We accept the difficulty of life and learn to lean into God, who is strong enough for all of us.

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.

What The Middle Teaches Us About The Mundane

  The Hecks aren’t superheroes. They aren’t spies or wealthy 20th-century aristocrats. They’re just a regular suburban family facing the warts and worries of everyday life.

Most of their problems are normal. Help Sue make friends. Keep the laundry mountain under control. Balance that checkbook. Make sure Brick goes outside.

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Life is chaotic. Sometimes it’s stressful just getting out the door with everything you need for the day. Add a job, cooking, homework, family, friends, and everything else and life is overwhelming. It’s hard to appreciate little victories like matching socks.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed. One of the best ways to deal with it is slowing down. Make the mundane moments count.

At the end of each episode, Frankie and her family have duct taped the crisis back together. Whether it’s a second to breathe or Sue surviving her cheerleading tryouts, there’s something to be grateful for. They grow more from the everyday disasters than they do in the calm.

According to The Middle, the most joy comes in the middle of chaos. Appreciate the forced pauses of the grocery line. Thank the Starbucks barista. Match your socks (or don’t.) Text your parents.

Life is crazy. Take a cue from the Hecks and make the most of ordinary moments.

-Josie K.

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.

BROOKLYN, from left: Emory Cohen, Saoirse Ronan, 2015. ph: Kerry Brown/TM and ©Copyright Fox
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.

Who Needs Heroes?

It’s a fair question. Who really needs fictional heroes when we have people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Marie Curie?

I do. Actually, I have a pretty long list of fictional people I look up to.

  • Obi-wan Kenobi and Rey (Star Wars)
  • Mulan (Disney)
  • Jo March (Little Women)
  • Steve Rogers (Captain America)
  • Minerva McGonagall (Harry Potter)
  • Korra (Legend of Korra)

To name a few.

One of my favorite heroes is George VI from The King’s Speech. He struggles with anxiety and a terrible stammer. One feeds the other in a crippling cycle of shame and self-doubt.

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Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter. (The King’s Speech is rated R for language.)

Speaking in public terrifies me. I stumble in class or interviews because I’m too nervous, and I agonize over it for days. It’s nowhere near as bad as George VI, but seeing someone else struggle with anxiety is encouraging. Seeing him come to terms with it is inspiring.

Technically, George VI is a real person. But I identify more with him watching The King’s Speech than reading about him in a history book.

This isn’t to say that real-life heroes aren’t important. They show us what’s possible, how drive and passion can transform the world. I respect real-life heroes, but there’s an awe and distance that makes them larger than life. Even the most personal C.S. Lewis biography makes him sound superhuman.

Media—and fictional characters—can resonate with us in ways real life doesn’t. Maybe we aren’t running countries, fighting Dark Lords, or saving China, but we do face injustice. Loss. Sleepless nights. The best media not only faces what we do, it reassures us that there is meaning and beauty even if we can’t see them right now. Tim O’Brien says, “That’s what fiction is for. It’s for getting at the truth when the truth isn’t sufficient for the truth.”

So let’s be proud of our favorite movie heroes and TV protagonists. Tell a friend about that book character that changed your life.

 

-Josie K.

 

Struggles and Unity in Parenthood

Parenthood

 

Not long ago, my aunt convinced my mom to start watching NBC’s Parenthood. I rolled my eyes at first. I hadn’t seen much of it, so to me, it seemed like another typical TV drama. For some reason, though, my mom was crazy about it. This past December, Netflix released the sixth and final season while I was home over Christmas break. My mom watched it every afternoon, so naturally I joined her. Without intending to, I became hooked. Even my dad started watching and getting emotionally invested in it.

How did this happen? What is the secret ingredient that lured my family and I into its trap?

I think the main reason we all got sucked in is because of the characters and the relationships between them. They are written and portrayed in such a way that they feel incredibly real. They make mistakes and stupid choices (many, many stupid choices, I might add). Even though they don’t always learn from the past right away, we are able to see them work through their struggles and mature as time goes on. They also value and prioritize family. The four adult siblings often get together for dinner with their parents throughout the series and their children form close relationships with their grandparents. Although at times they are admittedly too involved in each other’s lives, they are ultimately there for each other. Anytime a crisis hits, they are quick to gather around and support one another.

Not every family is like the Braverman clan. Not every family has each other’s back (or happens to live in the same part of the country). But I think something that we can learn from this show is that we need each other. We need others in our lives helping, supporting, and speaking truth to us along the way. We need to be involved in community. And this is something that God desires for all of us, as well.

Psalm 133:3: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”

– Emily H.