Friday, April 28, 2017

A Room With a View, by E.M. Forster [a discussion of love, passion, and light]

When I was a girl, I listened to things on a tape walkman.

Some of you might not know what that is. But one of my favorite things to listen to was the gloriously romantic BBC radio dramatization of A Room With a View. I listened to it again and again and again--the liberal author Miss Lavish, the fussy old maid Miss Charlote, and the conflicted and eligible match Lucy Honeychurch at war between convention and passion, were fascinating.

I didn't think about themes. I just liked a grand, sweeping, passionate love story. But now I'm older, and I think about themes, reading the book for the first time was a great exercise in think-fest and sheer romantic joy.

Actually, I picked up the book because I'm trying to write a love story, and I was admittedly struggling. Coupled with a friend's excellent advice to make the couple fall in love over doing things for each other, I also remembered how engaging I found the love story in A Room With a View and decided to use that for further inspiration.

But it raises questions. Is it subtly anti-Christian? Who was E.M. Forster, and how does his private life affect his books? We'll be exploring all that and more today.

What I Loved 
First of all, I have to admit that I love A Room With a View simply for the story. It's sweet, engaging, passionate without being inappropriate--even the central kiss in the story, though it has a deep affect on Lucy's actions and the actions of people around her, has a clean, soaring passion to it that is neither cheap nor sordid. This is a good pattern for romance, I think, and I would like to pull some good elements from it and imitate it.

The second thing I love about it is watching the transformation of Lucy's character. She's a little bit religious, a little bit educated, but all-in-all a fairly simple girl--until she finds depth of knowledge and love in Italy. Then she starts becoming an adult--especially as she interacts with the Emersons, who eschew propriety, but have gentle, kind hearts, and simply tell the truth wherever they go.

you gotta love a book with chapter titles like "the fourth chapter" "the twelfth chapter". 

It's a story that warns against deceit. Lucy never tells the truth, either to herself, or to those around her. Lucy sees Charlotte lying because she doesn't want to break rules of propriety, and slowly, she starts to imitate her. The more lies she tells herself, the stronger the lies grow, and the more she starts lying to people around her. It is only when she is faced with a person who will not let her lie to herself, that she is forced to confront the truth of her actual wants and feelings--and her journey back to truth is harder than it would have been if she had stood by truth from the beginning.

There is a difference between kindness and fear, between praise and flattery, between lovingly looking to the interests of others and shallow propriety. Underneath the epic love story is a depth of things to think over.

What I Thought About 
Here's where I would maybe have some question marks about Forster. He was a man who, while he remained a bachelor, was a homosexual. Therefore, that raises some questions. While he may not have been inserting that into this heterosexual love story, I'm not sure that he approached either passion or love from a biblical perspective.

Foster is urging his readers to tell the truth: foreshadowing the deep joy of doing so, and the terrible consequences of living a life-long lie. But I think he would also draw the conclusion that if you feel you are homosexual, you need to tell the truth and remain true to that passion to experience ultimate joy.

He's got a split of lie and truth here. First of all, telling the truth is good: we do ourselves only a disservice when we tell lies to ourselves and others about what we are really feeling, loving, and struggling with. 1 John commands us to walk in the light--especially to the point of confession. A person struggling with homosexuality needs to walk in the light and tell the truth and be transparent. The same as a person struggling with anything: depression, jealousy, confusion. Any sin needs to be brought to the light. That is true. The heart of that message in his book is vital. Lies lead to darkness, just like E.M. Forster said--and as he states in his book, when Lucy lies, she enters "the darkness".

Now here's where Christians should differ with Forster. While we need to be honest about what we feel, that does not mean that our passions should govern us. An excellent example is the main couple in The Prisoner of Zenda. No matter how much Rudolf and Flavia loved each other--and admitted it--they had the integrity and self-control to realize that they had a bigger goal than themselves to think about.

All passions should be confessed honestly. Passions that are not in obedience to the will of God should be confessed and forgiven. 1 Peter 2:11 says to, "abstain from the passions of the flesh which wage war against your soul." Ungodly passions must be struggled against, abstained from, and put to death. In contrast, the God-given love between an equally yoked man and a woman, or passion for God and his ways, lived out in obedience to the Scriptures, is a passion that can be whole-heartedly pursued.

In other words, while I think Forster is saying that natural passions should be admitted and pursued, the truth is that Christians should admit and find forgiveness, or admit and pursue, only under the obedience of Jesus Christ and his Word. All other passions other than those which God ordains and sanctions, are opportunities to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus. The flesh must be crucified.

Also, while I love to think that the Emersons were simply against much of the Anglican denomination, I'm not entirely sure they were for the Christian religion. And that puts a little fly in the ointment. While we see Lucy growing into a truthful woman, fiction can easily skew the portrait of reality. A woman can only grow into full truth when she knows Christ, who is the Truth. A woman can only find love when she finds the love of a Savior who came to earth to die for her. And ideally, like Lucy, a woman will find educated, mature, Christian companions, who, in a biblical version of the Emersons, will help her pursue passion, love, and truth in every area of her life.

There's much to enjoy, and much to think over in A Room With a View. While it's tempting to use it as a relaxing novel, the last half of the book is good to read with discernment and evaluation, to sift through the true gold and the fool's gold. It is, to be honest, a truly engaging love story--and as such, I might be returning to it again, even with its imperfections.

What is your favorite love story? Where have you seen good passion or bad passion discussed in literature? Let's chat! 

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley

from goodreads
This year I'm revisiting some of my favorite childhood books to see how they stand up to inspection--or really, just to have an excuse to enjoy them again.

One book I read over and over and over again was The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley. While I enjoyed several of the books in the series (the latter ones started taking dark and bizarre turns) The Black Stallion was the one I returned to the most. So I'm really happy to talk about it on the blog today and introduce you to Walter Farley's work, if you haven't read it yet.

Our copy is so beat up that the pages are falling out, the cover is crumbling, and you have to read it in sections. It's a book from my mother's childhood that has carried on into ours, and even though my sister had a perfectly good hardback copy, I wouldn't read it. First of all, the blue cover with the black horse is my favorite, and second, the wording is different in her copy. (Even slight wording changes revolt my soul when I'm reading a favorite book.) So I took the crumbly hardback and very lovingly, very carefully, tiptoed through the pages a few at a time.

I knew it almost like the back of my hand, though time had blurred a few of the details. The interesting thing is, it's a children's story, but still with tough things. (Maybe children's stories are these days; I'm out of touch.) Alec, when he's shipwrecked on an island, has to choose between potentially starving and eating the Black. His parents think they've lost their only son for weeks.

But entwined through it all is the heart of what makes it a classic, and in my mind, emotionally gripping tale. It has all the classic elements: shipwreck, wonder horse, national famous horse race, while still applying some very good principles. Another reader described The Black Stallion as a book with a "do hard things" mentality, and that got me thinking. Alec has to be an adult to pursue his dream. He (guess what?) gets up early and works. He works a job to pay for his horse. He takes responsibility and he's required to get good grades at the same time as he's training this masterpiece. Once he has the horse, he doesn't get any easy breaks to either keep it or race it. He has to work from the ground up. He's not a self-centered kid pursuing a self-entitled life. He's a boy that's suddenly on the verge of manhood, and yes, his dream is unconventional, but he's willing to do the conventional work to achieve it.

This slams against a lot of the "dream your dream" mindset today. Alec didn't have to be a highschool dropout, or have uber-rich parents, or become some child of the prophecy. He's normal, and he gets it done by allowing himself to do the responsible things he's supposed to be doing. Even when his big moment comes, his dad requires that he take exams before he's allowed to see if his dream will come true.

Now, all that philosophical thought being said, I've never actually thought about those themes while I read the book. I've been much more interested in the story itself. Alec's wild ride with the Black through the water after the ship sank. His first ride bareback, his rescue, the hurts and starvation he overcame, and his deep affinity with this wild horse. (It goes back to that friendship theme. A friendship between boy and outcast, that runs deeper than anyone else can understand or experience.) Also, the nighttime rides at Belmont, while I don't think I could ever have the conscience to do them myself, were pretty fun.

Perhaps the sheer, glorious adventure coupled with the very mature reality of this story comes because Walter Farley wrote it while he was in highschool. He was in the trenches of exams, just like Alec was, but he let himself dream at the same time--and it comes across in a delightful blend of reality and imagination throughout the story. I would totally hand a kid a book like this. There are a couple of drawbacks. Sometimes Alec keeps secrets from his parents. I was never too keen on that. The use of the word "devil" to describe the horse is sprinkled through fairly frequently, more so than I like. But the overall joy and benefits of the themes of responsibility throughout make it worth the read.

Perhaps it wasn't perfect timing to read right between the molten gold of Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows. The writing style of The Black Stallion is much less poetic. It has a bread-and-butter syntax to it that does the job but doesn't put on frills while it's going about its business. But an awesome kid, with awesome parents, an awesome friend, and an awesome, fearless black horse. What more could you ask for? Highly recommended.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Death Be Not Proud [or the best Jazz Age mystery in the history of ever]


This little beauty came in the mail last week, and after a happy Easter Sunday of worshipping and eating a tasty lunch with family, I cracked it open and polished it off. This is the third time I've polished off the story itself (the first couple of times by beta reading), and it's like a really good chocolate cake--better each successive time you eat it.

In fact, this is my favorite Rowntree fairy tale retelling thus far.

The Book
Moonshine liquor, jazz-fuelled dancing, and the risk of a police raid - these are all in a night's work for cabaret singer Ruby Black. But when a rugby star mistakes her for a dead girl, Ruby's life threatens to become briefer and more exciting than she bargained for. Two years ago, schoolgirl Wu Xue Bai was brutally murdered. Now, Ruby herself is in danger. Who killed Xue Bai? What lies behind Max Moran's obsession with the dead girl? And will Ruby learn the truth before secrets from her own past catch up with her? A fairytale retelling set in Jazz Age New Zealand, inspired by the thrillers of Mary Stewart and Alfred Hitchcock.

My Thoughts 
This is the kind of story that I most love. It's suspenseful and dramatic--the tension leading up to the climax makes you shiver, and the climax itself is a swooning, to-die-for masterpiece. From beginning to end, the pages just crackle with wit and suspense. Max and Ruby have the kind of couple chemistry that jumps off the page as you read it, and I adored them from the get-go. (Rugby player mourning dead girlfriend who keeps adorably rescuing a mysterious jazz singer? Yes, please.) With side supporting characters Kat and Bunny (aren't those fun names?) and the swell boss Bill Fisher, Ruby has everything she needs to help her figure out who murdered the mysterious dead girl and why it has to matter to her.

More things I liked? Stunning New Zealand scenery and vivid Jazz Age setting. This book does have alcohol and cigarettes in it to carry on the time period. While the story does not have an explicit Christian thread that's easy to find, its interplay of love and justice, accepting or abdicating responsibility, and hinted character arcs of maturity, offer plenty of food for thought.

But the best effect of this book is simply the sheer joy of it. It's a book that invites you to laugh, to hold your breath, to fear, to imagine, to strive for the solution. In short, it invites you into a myriad of intense emotions that any reader--every reader--wants to experience. It's a living jewel of a story, and perhaps the sheer aliveness of its characters is what I love about it so much.

Excited yet? You can order yourself a swanky new red paperback, and have it in all its delicious suspense to keep your bookshelves company. (Like that option? Click here or here.)

OR you can find it in a plummy collection of goodness with the rest of Suzannah's fairytale retellings in a new ebook collection here. (Also highly recommended, if you have not read them all yet.)

Extract the credit cards. If you order it now, you can probably relax with it by the weekend.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Practical Suggestions for Commemorating Good Friday


Jesus probably didn't sleep at all the night before Good Friday.

He went anguished and betrayed and whipped and mocked and exhausted into the most momentous day of human history. The day that only a God-Man could have accomplished. The day where the hands of the God-Father pressed the weight of history's sin--my sin--onto the shoulders of the God-Son.

If I were going into a day like that, I would have been like the disciples, sleeping all I could to get ready for it. I would have been so wrong.

Jesus prayed before his anguish. Praying in distress of soul, that he would be ready for the will of God.

Psalm 31:7 says, "you have known the distress of my soul". (ESV) I wonder what it was like, for the Father to know the distress of the Son who had done no wrong, and yet was to become an object of cursing and scorn in just a few hours. It's staggering, the distress that the Trinity must have been in that day. The three-fold relationship, in existence an eternity before the world began, was broken.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 

There is no earthly betrayal, no lost friend, no estranged parent or wayward child, that can equal the anguish of that separation. The awe of it weighs upon us. It is so terribly beyond our comprehension, unbearable to contemplate for long--but God, who is without limits, would have comprehended all of it.

It's easy to lose sight of Good Friday. This is the Friday that changed the whole scope of mankind, and yet it's so easy to forget it in anxiety and anger, that leftover fight, those school assignments clamoring to be done, the late shift at work tonight, the baby who won't stop crying.

I'm writing a chapter I've been wrestling with. And oh, yes, I could easily lose sight of Good Friday for the sake of wrestling that chapter into submission to meet my own deadline.

Sometimes I start a day like this with the best of intentions, only to lose sight of remembering as the day goes on. Then I remember a day like this doesn't need--especially doesn't need my works to complete it. It is just as complete without anything that any man can add to it. But Christ does call us to remember. I don't think this is the kind of sacrifice that it's OK to pass lightly over year after year after year.

Commemorating Good Friday is what we need. The unforgivable and unforgiving, the scared, the lost, the indifferent and the joyful--they all find their center at the cross. The Jew and the Gentile, the man and the woman, the parent and child, husband and wife, friend and friend, pastor and congregation, God and man--they all find their center, their reconciliation--at the cross.

We gain perspective of the sins we are not repentant of, and the sins we fear God cannot forgive, when we realize the enormity of what those sins did to God's Son, and the enormity of mercy that flowed down that day.

God so loved the world

that he gave

his

SON.

Maybe, like me, you have things that can't be laid aside today. Maybe you have a job you can't just call off, or a child to take care of, or another obligation. That's OK. I'm going to try to commemorate this way, and I hope it will encourage you to do so as well.

1. Read Scripture
Pick a couple of times throughout the day--the mid-morning break, the lunch break, the dinner break--the first bit of time after you get home from work, the last bit of time before you go to sleep--and read a passage of Scripture. Read it slowly. Slower. Slower than that. Linger and savor over the words. Read phrases over again. Think about how they mean something--what Jesus experienced, and how his sacrifice has changed your life right now.

Here are some passages to consider reading:
John 19:16-30
Isaiah 53
Psalm 22
Luke 23:26-46
Mark 15:20-39
Matthew 27:31-54

2. Listen to Songs of Remembrance 
Songs are even easier--on the work commute, while exercising, while making supper or cleaning the house--to turn our thoughts to Jesus and contemplate his sacrifice for us. Here are some I'm going to be using:

In Christ Alone
How Deep the Father's Love for Us
And Can it Be?
What Wondrous Love is This
O Love that Wilt Not Let Me Go
Jesus, Thank You (Sovereign Grace Music)
He Will Hold Me Fast

I hope these are inspiring or possibly helpful as we remember the wondrous, world-altering sacrifice of Jesus Christ. If you have songs and Scripture passages to add in the comments, I would love to hear them.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Enjoy, by Trillia Newbell

The subject of enjoyment is one that drew me in right away. My favorite memories are days that I have enjoyed with all my five senses--especially taste and sight.

But enjoyment doesn't always come easily. Work seems more holy than enjoyment. Pointing out problems better than basking in the gifts of God.

So when I saw Trillia Newbell's book encouraging Christians to enjoy, I knew I wanted to read it right away. The cover itself is gorgeous--black, contrasting with a beautiful raspberry in a vivid, simple invitation to come and enjoy.

The Book [from Goodreads]

Is It Okay to Enjoy This Life?

Watching a gorgeous sunset. Sharing a laugh with a friend. Tasting a sun-ripened strawberry. Each day is full of opportunities for you to savor the countless gifts the Creator has given.

But do you feel free to delight in God’s abundant gifts, or is your joy sometimes distorted by guilt, fear of idolatry, or simply an overwhelming awareness of sin’s effects on this world?

Trillia Newbell explains how we often miss opportunities to participate in God’s divine delight because we’re discouraged, fixated on selfish fulfillment, or paralyzed by guilt. Enjoy serves as an encouraging reminder of God’s gracious gifts and also challenges women to view all of these gifts—from relationships and careers to food and sex—as reasons to rejoice in the Lord and grow in our understanding and appreciation of who He is.

This thought-provoking book invites you to explore the truth of God’s Word and discover how to nurture daily a spirit of gratitude and deep satisfaction.

My Thoughts 
I was conflicted a couple of chapters into this book. Trillia Newbell's book is a masterpiece of theology. Her book does a great job explaining the sin that prevents us from enjoying things, and how the gospel helps change the filter of how we can enjoy things. One by one, she takes us through how sin has affected creation, food, our enjoyment of money and possessions, and  our enjoyment of our creator. Then she transforms each topic into how Christians should be thinking about it, and how we are free to delight in these things. (I did skip the chapter on intimacy for this stage in my life.) 

While it was theologically spot-on, I did struggle with feeling personally affected by the message. I don't know if my heart was cold or closed, but I felt that it was so theological, and spent so much of each chapter focussing on the fall, when I wanted it to spend more time focussing on the enjoyment. Perhaps it was because I knew much of the biblical information and wanted most of the book to spend more time discussing how to enjoy these things. Perhaps, too, it was merely a different preference of writing style, which is always subjective. When I think in terms of enjoyment, I am impacted with a more lyrical writing style with more five-senses description. Each chapter had a tone of instruction to me instead of delight. Don't get me wrong--I strongly believe we need solid theology. But something struck me as off balance in the amount of sin vs. enjoyment in the chapters. 

However, I did start to enjoy the last couple of chapters more. I do think this book talks very biblically about these topics and I highly respect it for that. I would recommend it as a theological foundation to springboard into the topic. The enjoyment of believers is a topic worth discussing, and a conversation so important to have in the church. It may be a book I need to give a second chance, while reading it along with the enjoy project at the end of each chapter, which is how the book is designed to be read. Due to time constraints I couldn't this time, but that could have an impact on the way I view the book. I would love to hear more thoughts from others who have read it. 

I recieved a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Great Kindle Assessment


It's time.

Small has been a trooper for almost a year now (even though I neglected him for a few dusty months under my bed) and he's seen me through several books, each of which I have heartily enjoyed.

In fact, Small has helped us with a lot.

For those of you who haven't made his acquaintance, Small is a Kindle Fire that I bought last year on Prime Day. He was a good price ($30, maybe? I can't remember anymore) and had the capability of getting on the internet to download apps, which I like a lot.

And after many months of use, in which he has uncomplainingly and staunchly offered bibliophile support, it's time for the Great Kindle Assessment.

Are e-readers as good as print books? Or are they not? Do I still love print books better, or have I been converted to the trends of the 21st century?

Read on, Lizzy.

Kindle Features I Use 
  • Spotify is my favorite music program. A legitimate software that lets you listen to almost anything under the sun you could possibly want. When we were cleaning a house for someone last year, I brought Small and put on music for all of us to listen to. Also, the great thing about Kindle Spotify is that it's not shuffle play like the phone app. 
  • Social media--I use Small to check Facebook, Twitter, and email when I want to, though I still primarily use my computer and definitely wouldn't want to type a whole email on Kindle. 
  • And then, of course, what everyone uses a Kindle for--ebooks. I have a large collection of books, and I've read several on it. 

Kindle Features I Like 
  • The battery life is fantastic. Hours of use when you want to read a book--it's remarkably long, like a good phone life. 
  • I can purchase books very economically, often on sale for 99c up to $2.99, so if I want to try a new author, this is a low-risk way to do it. 
  • I love how Kindle estimates your reading speed and tells you how much time you have left before you finish the book. It's helpful and encouraging in an odd way at the same time. It makes me want to keep shaving down time and motivates me to read just a few more pages. 
  • The highlighting and bookmarking: I absolutely love these features. Highlighting means I don't have to mark up a paper book (though I am starting to do that more than I used to) and I can go back and find things that stood out to me when it's time to review. 
  • The most addicting feature, by far, is being able to turn to the next page with just a swipe of the thumb. Because Kindle pages are smaller than book pages, you keep on swiping page after page without getting bogged down in the length of the book or the size of the chapter. I find I read books very quickly on the Kindle--mostly because I'm glued to the screen and can't put it down--so on a Saturday morning when the world is my oyster, that would be a great time to use it. I also like to use it occasionally during breakfast (bad, bad idea young bibliophiles. it will make you so late starting your day). Altogether, I find I read books much more quickly than I would otherwise, and since my Kindle syncs page locations with my laptop Kindle app, it's easy to switch from Kindle to computer and back again, depending on what I need. 

Kindle: The Downside 
  • First of all, Kindle apps can only be purchased from the Amazon store. You can't use the Android or Apple app stores. That means no Instagram, no Revive Our Hearts, probably no Duolingo, apps I like to have. That was disappointing. But you can add Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Hoopla (an app that lets me borrow movies from the library) so that's great. 
  • Second of all, at the end of the night, it is another electronic screen. I like to stick to print books when I need to wind down for the night. 
In Conclusion
While Kindle will never replace print books (I love reading a novel by hand. There's nothing quite like the smell of old glue or new pages) I do find the Kindle handy, and I wouldn't want to give it up entirely. It helps me read review books very quickly, and it's a great format that easily persuades me to read a few more pages. I've read both fiction and nonfiction on it and found both to be enjoyable. It's small and light, but you can choose a larger font size if you wish, and the highlighting features are way faster than underlining by hand. Also, I've found good sales on e-books and love trying out a book for a low-risk investment that way.

Small was a great investment. While I didn't pay $50 for him (I think that's what they run normal price on Amazon) I would say that he's worth the $50, and I would definitely pay full price if I needed another one someday.

But we don't need to think about that. Long live Small. May his life be a happy and learned one.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Dr. Who, Beauty and the Beast, and How to Talk With Friends About It All

via Pixabay
On the first day of March, Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon released the news that they were debuting an openly gay character in the film. Conservatives were in uproar. Boycott. Sign the petitions. Or go anyway. The options were endless.

In like a lion, and out like a lion. On the last day of March, Doctor Who actress Pearl Mackie revealed that the Doctor's next companion will be gay. For those of you Whovians who hear it first on this blog and are disappointed by the news, I am super, super sorry to have to be the one to break the ice.

Up until now, I have been silent about these things on social media. For one, it was because I wanted to weigh my response. Speak in haste, and repent at leisure. For another, I rarely, rarely see the benefit of speaking about divisive issues on the internet. I've been turning over in my mind this morning just exactly how to talk about it. And to be honest, this is a challenging topic. With Beauty and the Beast and the negligible content it contained, there does seem to be an amount of Christian liberty involved as to choose to go to it or not. Doctor Who's content remains yet to be seen.

What is wise during these times? To openly denounce, to talk about Christian liberty, to admonish and warn? I feel like that circuit has been covered. Some of the articles I enjoyed. Some of the articles I honestly didn't. But I feel like there's one angle of it that's not been covered yet, that might be helpful and fruitful for honest, Christian bibliophiles struggling with what to do.

And that's how to talk about it with your friends.

I struggle talking about potentially divisive things with friends. For one, I'm afraid they'll make a decision I don't approve of and that will cause tension, or vice-versa. For another, I'm afraid to hurt them if I speak honestly about how I feel, and they disagree.

But I strongly believe that transparent relationships in the Body of Christ are founded on loving truth.

In other words, please don't feel like you have to be silent. This is a prime example to practice maturity by being willing to face the scarier, more uncomfortable conversations. I hope these few suggestions will equip you with how to do that.

Build One Another Up 

1. Start with private messaging or face-to-face conversations. 
Facebook posts and Tweets can be helpful, but after a certain amount of people have posted about the issue, they lose their effectiveness. You can never say all you want to say in the tone you want to say it in. However, when you're on the phone and a friend can hear your voice, when you're sitting across a dining room table with cookies and tea, when you're side-by-side in church pews, when you're texting one on one, then you have the ability to share your actual tone of voice and the ability to hear the heart of your friend. It is probably (notice I'm not saying exclusively) more fruitful to discuss how to follow Christ in entertainment choices with those you know and love than sharing on social media. It is easier to spiral into hate, judgment, hasty words, and misunderstanding in public circles.

2. Do not fear man. Fear God alone. 
Did you go to Beauty and the Beast? Did you stay home? Then you shouldn't change the way you talk about it based on the friends you're with. The way you most fear God is by being confident before all men in the course of action you have chosen that you think is most pleasing to him. That is all. You don't have to gush if you're with people who didn't watch it, but don't hide the fact, either. If you believe it was right, then you should stand on your belief, unless it would cause your brother to stumble. If you did not go for good reasons, then don't pretend to be excited and like it when your friends talk about it, just so you fit in. If you honestly don't know what to think yet, then it's OK to say you honestly don't know. Be kind, but honest. Assure them that you want them to be honest about how they feel as well. When a culture of honesty is created, then edification (point 4) and accountability (point 5) can be present, drawing both of you closer to Jesus Christ.

(I wish I could live up to these words as consistently as I would like.)

3. Edify one another by seeking the heart of Christ together. 
What is the heart of God on these issues? Should Christians watch Doctor Who, when the companion is a proponent of an unbiblical lifestyle? How can I train my mental appetite to love what God loves and hate what he hates? How do I use my dollars wisely in supporting causes that are worthy ones? Am I sacrificing convictions for entertainment?

While I have never watched Doctor Who, these are all questions I wrestled with in Beauty and the Beast. A friend and I talked at great length how to handle it in a Godly way. And while we were doing that, we were having an honest, iron-sharpening-iron conversation that led us both closer to God, regardless of the decisions we ultimately make. When we seek Christ on these cultural issues, in company with a friend who loves the Lord, then we can build one another up and spur one another on toward wise decisions.

4. Try to listen without anger, defensiveness, and disappointment. 
These are often our first reactions when we talk about potentially divisive issues, and understandably so. I think the first things that come to our mind are fear that our friends are compromising, fear that we are compromising, or just plain annoyance that they're making an issue over something that we think is overblown. Emotion is often a gut-level response to protect something that we love--whether it's a movie or a friendship. But letting our actions be dictated by these emotions can lead to unhealthy fear, unhealthy arguments, or unhealthy refusal to constructively disagree with one another.

The apostle James commands believers to "be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." Pray that God would guide your words and emotions in this conversation. Be comfortable with thinking silences as you talk with your friend. Let each other process. Ride the initial wave of emotion, and if you can, take time to get over anger or annoyance before you dive into a discussion of the subject. Share your thoughts with a humble and teachable spirit. Try not to talk too much so they can share their thoughts with you. Don't shame them. Don't ever shame them, even if you believe they're wrong. That will never win them to the truth. "How could anyone" "I can't believe anyone would ever" and "Why would you" are never good phrases to use. If the conversation is tense, end it with a gentle reminder that you love them, and they are more important to you than a movie. Then give it time to settle down.

5. Don't try to be the Holy Spirit. Share truth, and then leave the Holy Spirit to work in the other person's life. 

Here's where the rubber meets the road. If you have a Christian friend who decides to see something or partake of social media that you have concerns about, then the question arises, what should you do? First of all, continue to be honest about your choices. They may be struggling, and you can be an example to them. Secondly, winsomely and clearly explain to them your concerns with the movie and Christians watching it. Do this once or twice, but no more. Thirdly, if you see that they don't know the heart of God on these issues, or their media choices are not mature, then be earnest in prayer for them--that God would grow them in wisdom and discernment. And lastly, if they are a mature believer, and they are making this decision in the fear of God, and you still disagree, then after you have honestly shared your concerns with them, take your hands off. You are not the Holy Spirit. Be a faithful friend, and then entrust their heart to God and trust him to sanctify them more and more in the image of his Son.

Conclusion
It's hard to navigate these days individually, not to mention corporately as the body of Christ. While we know the behavior itself in these movies is wrong, it leaves us wondering how to navigate conversations with people who fall on opposite sides of whether or not to watch them. I hope these thoughts have offered encouragement to be full of grace, truth, and honesty in our words and actions.

These are not easy days to live in. But I am so glad that someday these choices won't be part of our lives, and all who know Jesus can rest in the perfect, finished story of how God's love and redemption prevailed against sin to bring his people Home.
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