Month: January 2014

Elsa and the Other Snow Queen

When watching Frozen, did it seem…familiar? Did you happen to think about the fact that we have seen this before: a pale, isolated snow queen living in a beautiful castle after creating an eternal winter?

Her name is the White Witch. (Or Jadis, if you want to get technical.)

When I first realized this, I immediately decided that the two stories are vastly different. And they are. But…why?

Why does this picture make sense…

The White Witch and Elsa of Frozen

But this one doesn’t quite?

Elsa

Here are three reasons why I think the White Witch is a villain and Elsa is a hero. (more…)

Why Baking Cookies Is a Legitimate Spiritual Gift

Tell people that one of your spiritual gifts is making delicious baked goods and they will give you strange looks.

cookies

For a while, I dodged this doctrinal bullet by saying that I had the gift of “early-stage hospitality.” It couldn’t be real hospitality because I didn’t have a fully-stocked kitchen or a house with a guest room. (I’m pretty sure it says somewhere in 1 Corinthians that hospitality requires, at the very least, a Crockpot and a pullout couch.)

When I did an inventory of my spiritual gifts a few years ago with a small group, I classified baking and party planning as sort-of hospitality. Asking difficult questions counted as discernment or wisdom. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with my professor’s declaration that I have “the spiritual gift of manipulation,” but maybe it was really leadership. Or something.

But what about my sister, who can memorize the names of large masses of children nearly instantly? What about the guy who runs the sound board? What about basically any kind of musician or artist?

I mean, we have to find a way to stretch these abilities into one of the categories found in the Official List from the New Testament, right? Because otherwise, they’re just talents, the inferior, “natural” cousins of abilities given by the Holy Spirit to be used for the glory of God.

Except the Official List view doesn’t seem to be consistent with the rest of Christian theology. (more…)

St. John of the Cross Evaluates One Year Bible Plans

It’s January 23. I feel like that’s enough space to be able to say with confidence that, like me, you’ve probably given up on some of your New Year’s Resolutions.

(What did I give up on? “Be organized.” Looking back, “Be more organized” might have been more attainable, since a generic resolve to be the complete opposite of my natural personality is a bit of a stretch.)

According to my extremely thorough and scientific analysis of the evidence—meaning that I’m going on my intuition while trying to look scholarly—one of the most common goals for spiritual improvement is, “I will read my Bible every single day.”

Yes, it is trademarked. Dividing the Bible into 365 days is totally intellectual property.

Yes, it is trademarked. Dividing the Bible into 365 days is totally intellectual property.

This is a great goal. But I think that many of us modify the goal a bit. “I will read my Bible every single day and will always come away with deep spiritual truths that I can share in small group.” “I will read my Bible every single day and each passage will apply directly to my current struggles.” “I will read my Bible every single day and consistently feel closer to God.”

Sometimes those things happen. But not always. And St. John of the Cross and I are here to say that it’s okay. (more…)

Why I No Longer Hate Short-Term Mission Trips

If I had written this post two years ago, the title probably would have been, “Why Short-Term Mission Trips Are Of the Devil and You Should Never Ever Go On Them.” Catchy, right?

And also a little inaccurate, I think.

Me in Mexico. Interesting that there are lots of photos of me painting, cleaning, speaking, and performing dramas on mission trips, but none with me actually interacting with people.

Let me explain: I’ve been on short-term mission trips, four to an inner-city kids’ ministry every Spring Break during high school, one to Mexico to run a VBS and do work projects, and one to Indianapolis my sophomore year of college to help with another kids’ ministry.

That last one was where I broke a little. Here are these kids, who have lived a life of people leaving them, and you want us to go in, spend seven days getting to know them and telling them they’re special, and then leave?

No, thank you. I’ll be over here scrubbing mold out of the freezer, cleaning the toilets, and organizing the library. (That’s completely what I did pretty much the whole trip. No joke.)

I came back thinking that short-term mission trips did more harm than good. Jesus told us to love our neighbors, not to go somewhere else and love other Christians’ neighbors for a few days before leaving again. (This was very similar to my “TOMS shoes are evil and a terrible model for a charity” phase.)

Mission trip

On the back it says, “…and then I will leave you again and go back to the U.S.” (Just kidding. That would be the worst mission trip T-shirt ever.)

There are lots of reasons why I changed my mind, but the most important was that I realized who my neighbor was. (more…)

Is God On Our Side?

You know I’ve pretty much reached the height of nerdiness when I write a blog post on theology based on a deleted scene from a science fiction TV show.

Firefly Theology 1

Background for those of you who aren’t as nerdy as I am: Firefly is a Joss Whedon-created and tragically short-lived space Western. (Yes, that’s right. If you think that concept sounds cool, then it’s even more amazing than it sounds. If you think it sounds lame…well, you’re just wrong.)

Interestingly, the line that’s stuck with me more than any other is from a deleted scene in the pilot episode.

“God? Whose color is he flying?”

Have you ever asked that question?

I have, many times, when thinking about senseless tragedy, both personal and on a worldwide scale. But, recently, I’ve been wondering…

What if God isn’t flying any of our colors? (more…)

Can Evil Be Beautiful?

I officially declare this blog post a safe place to talk about depressing things that are difficult to understand and highly unpopular. Because who wants to think about the problem of evil, anyway?

Besides, you know, me.

Last Monday, I talked about how we often use Ecclesiastes 3:17, “He has made everything beautiful in its time,” to only mean that God makes beautiful things beautiful.

Ecclesiastes-311

You can go back and read the whole thing, but here’s a summary: some things that are tedious and hard and unwanted can also be beautiful because they’re what God has for us at the time.

I ended with this side-note: “Please notice what I didn’t do here. I didn’t screenshot a picture of some tragedy and then say that God makes everything beautiful in its time. I do believe that God can work in spite of evil, but I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea and think I’m saying that evil is less evil because God can use it to bring about good.”

And I realized I had brought up a serious theological can of worms that needed to be dealt with on its own. So here we go.

(more…)

C. S. Lewis (Sort Of) Approves of My Little Pony

First, let me say that I’m almost positive that Mr. Clive Staples Lewis would share my complete and utter disdain for the pony known as Pinkie Pie.

Pinkie Pie

See? Not exactly the picture of quiet British dignity. This character from the kids’ TV show, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, is a different level of obnoxious, the kind that makes me wonder if I’d punch a cute, hyperactive pink pony. (I probably would.)

But I digress.

(By the way, if you are really confused right now about why it’s acceptable for someone my age to be talking about My Little Pony, read about the MLP phenomenon here.)

To be honest, I have no idea what C. S. Lewis would think of the tone and sense of humor of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I tend to think he would have found it amusing, but it’s possible I’m wrong and he would smirk at it in an understated disapproval.

CSLewis4

(more…)