Month: October 2015

Snoopy vs. Hobbes On Selling Out

In high school, I read a book where the main character was super nonconformist, to the point where he would wear his shirts inside-out if they had a brand name on them. Mostly so he could sound all cool and anti-establishment, but also because, as he put it, “If I’m going to be advertising for someone, they’d better be paying me, not the other way around.”

I latched on to this idea, but since I didn’t want to bother with the whole inside-out deal (people would always be trying to tuck in my sticking-out tag), for the next three years, I refused to buy any clothing with a brand name or logo on it. Nothin’.

This led to some stellar choices, like a complete avoidance of all Abercrombie and Fitch and Hollister apparel. (“Oh, hey, let’s charge $60 extra for a T-shirt with our own advertising on it. People will totally fall for it.”)

But my boycott had its downsides. I distinctly remember looking longingly at some funny print T-shirts I wanted to buy…but they were emblazoned with some image of corporate evil (aka Toy Story or Oreos or Captain America). Being an idealist of the incredibly stubborn variety, I always refused.

Except for one lone pair of Snoopy pajama pants. I reasoned that this was an acceptable compromise because no one other than my family and a few friends would ever see me wearing them. Not advertising, therefore…acceptable.

If I had to make one exception, it makes sense it was for Snoopy, because Charles Schultz’s Peanuts characters are on basically any kind of merchandise you can think of, from figurines to lunchboxes to entire sections of amusement parks. More recently, in a blitz to promote the upcoming Snoopy movie, I saw what at least half my Facebook friends would be like as Peanuts characters.


Which reminded me…have you ever wondered why, if Calvin and Hobbes is, objectively, the best comic series ever introduced to mankind, there are no T-shirts depicting its main characters? (more…)

Yes, You Are Missing Out

You are, right at this moment, missing out on thousands of wonderful things.

Somewhere a kid is riding a carousel in the mall for the first time, giggling so loudly that the middle-aged woman on her phone in the food court looks over and smiles. Somewhere, an artist is at work and old friends are catching up over coffee and a mom is stroking the cheek of her sleeping child.

Right now, chances are that someone you know is doing something brave, eating a delicious meal with more calories than your weekly paycheck,  falling in love, hitting the high note in a their favorite song, or hugging an adorable little puppy in the sunshine.

This reminds me of the children's book Wonderstruck, which I've already written about.

This reminds me of the children’s book Wonderstruck, which I’ve already written about.

There are more amazing people than you will ever have a chance to meet, more great books than you will be able to read, more places than you can ever go. So we wish and make Pinterest boards and sigh and long for more time, usually as we waste the time we’ve been given. We’re jealous of what others have and who they are and what they’re experiencing that we are not.

This, friends, does not make sense. Those things I talked about…they are beautiful. The fact that they’re going on without me doesn’t make them any less lovely. When I go on Facebook, and all the names and faces and stories should make me feel small, but in a good way, the way I feel when I look up at the stars, in awe of the beauty and complexity around me.

Right. Of course. This makes sense. That’s what I should feel.

And yet…most of the time, I don’t.

Maybe it’s because my life is not always full of thousands of wonderful things, or at least, it doesn’t feel like it. When I see—especially on social media—others being happy when I am not, somehow their joy feels like a threat. Who are they to have so many friends or write something so witty or be so photogenic when I could barely get out of bed this morning?

Or maybe it’s the sense of being excluded. Fear of missing out now even has its own acronym: FOMO. It must be a thing; it has an acronym. But it makes me wonder: What are we afraid of? What are we really afraid of?

Sometimes we see ourselves as poor, pathetic penguins.

Sometimes we see ourselves as poor, pathetic penguins. Apparently.

Because it’s not missing out, I don’t think. At least, it’s not just that.

We’re afraid that there’s a limited amount of joy, and that if that person over has a lot of it, there won’t be any left for me.

We’re afraid that if no one is listening to or liking our Facebook statuses, then maybe no one is listening to our prayers either.

We’re afraid of not being invited. We’re afraid of being alone. We’re afraid that no one really knows us, and we’re afraid if we let someone get to know us, they’ll see the ugliness of who we are and run away, and we’ll be worse off than when we started.

There is a deep, 3-AM-doubt corner of us that wonders if we are even worthy of being loved, by other people and by God.

There. I have put them in words, the fears I try not to think about. That helps.

But what do I do now?

I pray over these fears, and I pray against them. I treat them like the enemies they are instead of inviting them in for coffee every few hours.

I look at my fears and I say they are lies, and then I replace them with the truth. Joy is a choice. God is listening—have I been listening lately?  I am not alone. And above all: Jesus Christ makes me worthy.

That should replace the question of whether I deserve to be loved or invited or happy, every single time. That’s the distinctive of the Christian faith: grace when I don’t deserve anything at all.

If you’ve ever heard the vague, churchy-sounding phrase, “Put your identity in Christ,” this is at least part of what it means. It means reminding yourself, over and over, louder than your newsfeed, that you are worthy because of Jesus.

Remember that, and all the other things you’re missing out on might not seem that important.

Taking Time to Rest

So, there’s this story about Mary and Martha in the Bible.

I love this illustration. Especially Martha's expression.

I love this illustration. Especially Martha’s expression.

I was reading it yesterday and thinking about various things, and God was like, “That story. Did you notice the point of that story?”

“Of course. I just read it.”

“Maybe you should put that point into practice.”

This seemed like a great idea, so I started to write a blog post about the importance of rest and spending time with God instead of doing things for him. Because obviously, that’s what God meant.

All the while, I felt like maybe I shouldn’t assume that all of my application of God’s word involves just thinking or writing about things instead of actually doing something. Or in this case, I guess, not doing something.

Then my computer randomly shut down and the blog post didn’t restore in my documents like it normally does.

Point taken.

There will be no actual post today. I’m getting a babysitter for the blog so I can do a little less talking and a little more listening. Unfortunately, she’s the kind of babysitter who just pops in a movie and does her nails the whole time. Fortunately, she has good taste in movies, or clips from my favorite series of kids’ movies: What’s in the Bible?. (It basically traces the story of redemption through every book of the Old and New Testament…with puppets! Seriously, bonus points to Phil Vischer for including both the question of why the Israelites killed all the people in the Promised Land and a discussion of Song of Solomon.)

Have fun, kids. Don’t stay up too late. Get all your homework done. And don’t tell the babysitter that your parents always let you eat three Fudgesicles and a bag of Cheetos for dinner. She won’t believe you anyway.

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

There are a few things I’m sure about when it comes to the controversial subject of Halloween.

One: Seriously, whose idea was have kids go from door to door in the dark demanding excessive amounts of sugar from total strangers? That doesn’t even make sense.

Two: I live in Minnesota, and therefore most weather-appropriate costumes should come with parkas, even if that ruins the effect a bit.

Three: Candy corn is disgusting.

Also, I love this cartoon's strategy.

Also, I love this cartoon’s strategy.

There are other things I’m less sure of, but that I’ve been thinking through recently. Please take this post in that spirit (no pun intended).

Full disclosure: I’m not a mom. I don’t know what it’s like to tell your little princess she’ll have to save the sparkly fairy dress for the dress-up chest (or a church Fall Fest). Or, alternately, trying to explain to your little pirate that, while you’re touring the neighborhood to solicit candy, you don’t actually support the undead, sorcery, or guys with chainsaws being “cool.” But hopefully I can throw some interesting thoughts into the discussion anyway.

If you’re a Christian, I think deciding whether or not to celebrate Halloween sticks you with two tricky theological questions:

Do we give Satan too much credit and imply that he’s stronger than the defeated enemy he is by sweeping over the entire celebration and calling it “evil”?

Or do we trivialize real evil, dismissing deeper spiritual realities by looking at only the cute, culturally acceptable parts of the celebration and calling it “harmless”?* (more…)