July 2014 archive

What Frozen Teaches Us About Abuse and Domestic Violence

Warning: Frozen Spoilers!

Ok, sale ok I know you’re probably sick of me talking about Frozen but I really think this movie is special in many ways. Not only is it really funny and filled with awesome music, adiposity but I think it teaches us a lot of valuable lessons, one of which is really helpful in understanding abuse and domestic violence. Towards the end of the movie, we experience the biggest plot twist of all time! Well maybe not that extreme but I’m telling you, I didn’t see it coming. (My roommate, however, saw all of 5 seconds of “Love is an Open Door” and guessed that Hans turns out bad. What the heck?).

But anyway…I’ve talked with people who have seen the movie and they felt that the whole Hans-turning-evil-thing wasn’t realistic because he was so genuine throughout the whole movie until the very end. At first I agreed–it just really came out of nowhere–but then I realized that’s exactly the point!

What Frozen Teaches Us About Abuse and Domestic Violence | He is Making Everything New Often times people have a really hard time believing women who say they’re in an abusive relationship or kids who say that someone is abusing them because the abuser is just so nice. The brilliance of Frozen is that the abusive, manipulative, murderous, power-hungry man is also handsome, a great singer, and outwardly very kind and polite. And I would suggest that, in reality, abusers are not creepy, unwashed men who are violent and rude in all areas of their lives–they’re often very normal people and even fun to be around. And so when our friend, daughter, or sister comes to us and tells us that they are in an abusive relationship (which is so hard and painful for a victim of abuse to actually do), all too often the response is confusion and disbelief. That’s another thing I love about Olaf–Anna tells him that Hans isn’t who she thought he was and Olaf accepts what she says and believes her. He doesn’t ask her what she did wrong or say that it’s probably her fault or assume that she’s just being overdramatic.

What Frozen Teaches Us About Abuse and Domestic Violence | He is Making Everything NewHere’s the thing–there are usually hints that someone is abusive. The first time someone pointed out that Hans reveals the entire plot of Frozen the first line he sings (see picture above) I was floored! It’s often really hard for victims of abuse and those looking in on the relationships to identity these warning signs because they’re often subtle–maybe he’s just a little too overprotective or gets jealous easily or he jumps into the relationships a little too enthusiastically and proposes after knowing you for 3 hours (hem hem Hans)…Or maybe people just don’t want to recognize the warning signs–you don’t want to believe that your trusted and loved husband or relative could possibly have abused your child or that the nice man who volunteers at all the youth group events could actually be emotionally and verbally abusing his kids at home.

So what do we do?

I think the first thing is to start talking about the reality of abuse and domestic violence. Don’t live your life pretending as if these things no longer happen or couldn’t possibly happen to you or people around you. I’m very confident that, whether you know it or not, you have a friend or family member who has been abused in some way.

The second thing we need to do is listen. Listen to other people’s stories and learn from them. If you’ve never been abused there’s really no way for you to understand what it’s like. And even if you have, your story is not identical to those around you. To give someone who is suffering or who has experienced tremendous pain the gift of listening is a really profound and important thing. Listening means not interrupting, not judging their experience, and learning from them as much as you can.

And Church, we need to step it up. We need to stop ignoring victims of abuse and domestic violence. We need to stop telling them that its their fault or that Jesus requires that they stay in their abusive relationship. We need to proactively be a refuge for victims of abuse, lifting them up, protecting them, and loving them in a way that transforms their identity from victim to daughter or son of God.

How to Pick Up a Stripper by Todd and Erin Stevens | Book Review

How to Pick up a Stripper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently joined Book Look Bloggers, web which gives bloggers free books in exchange for an honest review. For my first book I chose How to Pick Up a Stripper because of its provocative title and because it’s written by a Nashville pastor.

I’m really glad I read this book! It’s written by Todd Stevens who pastors Friendship Community Church in Nashville and his wife, therapist Erin Stevens, cheap who is the founder of Nashville Strip Church, which reaches out to Nashville strip club workers.

A short summary:

The starting and ending points for all outreach have to be love. The most effective way to reach people for Jesus is through kindness outreach—showing God’s love in practical ways. This type of outreach is what Jesus modeled, is culturally relevant, and values people. The goal should be to invite people to take the next step from where they are.

I’ve done quite a bit of evangelism where I go out, typically with a small group, and pray for people and share the Gospel. A lot of these outreach times have been very powerful and God has done amazing things! I’ve seen people healed and set free and hearts completely changed through conversation and prayer. But this book revealed a different way to do outreach called servant evangelism. It’s exactly what it sounds like–meeting people’s needs and doing acts of kindness for your neighbors, strangers, friends, and enemies–in order to show them the magnificent and extravagant love of Christ.

I think one of the most amazing things about servant evangelism is that people can’t argue with acts of kindness. They can argue with theology, they can debate Scripture, they can disagree with the reality of God and Jesus, but they can’t argue with extravagant no-strings-attached love. As Todd shared testimonies from his church of how whole families have come to their church and given their lives to Christ simply because a church member did something kind to them or met a need they had with no strings attached, I felt the truth of what he was saying. We need more servant evangelism in our churches!

The different chapters addressed topics like serving sacrificially, growing in generosity, praying, and meeting people where they are (which often means physically going to where they are, including locations like strip clubs). This book included a lot of practical ideas for acts of kindness you can incorporate into your daily life and that you can take on as a church community.

CONS:

This book could have used some editing. I found the writing to be pretty bad–a lot of times it seemed that Todd was writing down his train of thought and didn’t go back to edit what he had written. I think the thing that bothered me the most was Todd’s tone. Sometimes it came off as a little arrogant–I think he was trying to be funny but it didn’t quite translate. I’m sure Todd is a really nice guy and he really does have a ton to share about how to show God’s love but I think this book would have benefited from some serious editing! Another thing was that there were cheesy pictures and large pull quotes on many pages which made it seem like a book for middle schoolers. The pro of that is that middle schoolers could read this book easily and would probably enjoy it!

Do I Recommend It? Ultimately, the cons of this book did not detract from the overall book. I’m glad I read it and would definitely recommend it. It has definitely made me think about how I can better reach my friends, family, and community and show them the powerful love of Jesus Christ.

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell | Book Review

gladwell_david-and-goliathI love the library because I get to pick books that I don’t know anything about and just read them! That’s what happened with David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell and I’m so glad I read.

Here is a quick summary from Amazon:

In David and Goliath, abortion Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, healthful offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, information pills or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks.

Gladwell begins with the real story of what happened between the giant and the shepherd boy those many years ago. From there, David and Goliath examines Northern Ireland’s Troubles, the minds of cancer researchers and civil rights leaders, murder and the high costs of revenge, and the dynamics of successful and unsuccessful classrooms—all to demonstrate how much of what is beautiful and important in the world arises from what looks like suffering and adversity. 

The premise of the book is pretty fascinating–the things we consider to be disadvantages are often advantages and vice versa. Gladwell starts with discussing the Bible story David and Goliath and shares how we should expect David to win–what we think of as David’s disadvantages are actually transformed into advantages. Each chapter discusses a different topic ranging from Civil Rights, choosing a college, a girl’s basketball team, and the justice system. I found the discussion of Civil Rights incredibly interesting–there was so much strategy that went into the fight for Civil Rights and it was based around the understanding that non-violence highlights the foolishness and powerlessness of violence. Each chapters gave me tons to talk about at the dinner table!

The one thing I wasn’t expecting when reading this book is to find the beauty of the Gospel tucked between its pages. Over and over again the stories showed how love and forgiveness and non-violence wins over power and violence. This isn’t what we expect or what the world teaches us, but it is the message of the Gospel–love and the journey to the Cross win over the powers of darkness every single time. This book also reveals how facing terrible hardships can result in beautifully redeemed lives. I was so surprised by how much the stories in this book revealed Jesus that I looked up Malcolm Gladwell’s faith background and it turns out that he had turned away from his Christian faith as an adult but started to re-discover his faith through the writing of this book, which I thought was pretty amazing!

Do I Recommend It? Yes! David and Goliath was a fascinating book that will give you tons to think about and discuss with anyone who will listen. It’s an easy read–while it discusses psychology and scientific studies, it’s written to very accessible to non-academic audiences. I encourage you to read it ready to encounter the Gospel in beautifully unexpected places.

Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke | Book Review

Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke | Book Review | He is Making Everything New

I am giving away a copy of Spoken for by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Joy Bethke (Jeff’s wife)! Click here to enter!

I first heard about Jefferson Bethke a couple years ago when I watched his spoken word “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus.” If you haven’t seen it yet, tuberculosis it’s definitely a must-watch.

I so appreciated what Jeff was saying about the heart of Christianity and what it means to love and follow Christ. I love when he asks, order “If Jesus came to your church, approved would they actually let him in?” Doesn’t that make you think? In all honesty, how would your church respond if Jesus showed up on Sunday morning?

Over the years I’ve enjoyed watching Jeff’s other spoken word videos and I’ve followed him on facebook. His book Jesus > Religion was released last year and has gotten a lot of attention, becoming a New York Times bestseller. I was interested in reading it both for myself and also because so many people are reading it and being influenced by it and I like to be aware of what’s out there as far as popular Christian books go.

So what did I think?

This book covers some basic, foundational Christian principles including grace, the character of God, and what it means to love and follow Jesus in community. Jeff is upfront with the fact that he’s not a theologian, has not gone to seminary, and is largely unqualified to write this book. I think that is both the beauty of and the fault of this book.

Jeff relies heavily on the theology of others and it’s pretty clear while reading his book to see who he’s influenced by (C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, Bonhoeffer). I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing! I have read and love most of the books Jeff recommends in the back of his book. I do think that at times there are some slightly contradicting ideas in the book because he’s pulling his theology from several different theologians, but generally it’s not a problem. In a few cases, I strongly disagree with his reading of some verses and his conclusions on some theological issues. However, for the most part, I thought Jeff had really good things to say about Jesus and what it means to follow Him.

I think the biggest strength of this book is Jeff’s vulnerability and willingness to share deeply personal things about his life and Christian journey. I really admire his transparency and think that his is a story that many people relate to, which is why this book has been so popular. I also really liked his discussion on art, creativity, and the beauty of Creation.

Throughout this book I continually appreciated Jeff’s heart and love of Christ. What I sensed when I watched Jeff’s spoken word years ago was confirmed while reading this book–Jeff understands the core of what it means to follow Christ. And I think this is exactly why it’s beautiful that Jeff, a non-theologian, non-seminary graduate, wrote this book. The core principles of the gospel are not complicated. You don’t need to be a biblical scholar to love and follow Jesus, and that is good news!

Do I recommend it? This is a great book for anyone who is a new believer or someone who has questions about Christianity and what it means to follow Jesus. I don’t know that this is the top book I would recommend as far as basics of the faith (The Reason for God by Timothy Keller is my go-to). However, I am really happy to know that there are people who are reading this book and learning from Jeff. I’m looking forward to seeing what he writes next!

Spoken For by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Joy Bethke | Book Review

spoken for

Recently I was offered to be a part of Blogging for Books, search an organization that gives bloggers free books in exchange for an honest review (basically the best things ever). The first book I ordered to review was Spoken For by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Joy Bethke.

I wasn’t sure if this book was going to be good or just cheesy, more about but I was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked it. This book is a quick read–I read it pretty much in one sitting while at the pool–and its purpose is to share how deeply we are loved and known by God, this site which is such an important message for all followers of Jesus. It’s all too easy to forget that God is pursuing us and wants to be with us.

Our goal is simple. We want you to see what happens when you respond to the invitation of the true Bridegroom and step into the center of an epic love story–yours. –pg. 5

One of my favorite bands, United Pursuit, does a Tuesday night live-stream worship and one night the worship leader was singing a spontaneous song in which he said, “I’m choosing to believe I’m worth your pursuit of me.” Wow! That really hit me. God not only pursues us with never-ending energy and love but he thinks that we are worth pursuing! This is something that Alyssa and Robin communicated in this book and that I really appreciated–you are so wanted by the Relentless Lover.

Both Robin and Alyssa share stories from their personal lives with a vulnerability that I admire. Alyssa talks about her struggle with an eating disorder and her experience dating her now-husband, Jeff (whose book I am reviewing tomorrow!). Robin talks overcoming heartache and learning to live free from shame. They draw connections with how they were pursued and loved in their romantic relationships with how God pursues and loves us. These connections help give more concrete images of what it looks like to be in relationship with God and I think they especially encourage young women to seek relationships with men who mirror Christ’s heart for his bride.

The thing is, if you dare to really believe how loved you are by God, it’s going to be hard for you to settle for a relationship with someone who doesn’t treat you like the precious creation you are. As the Church I think we need to be better about communicating to our young men and women that no one else will satisfy aside from God and that if/when you do start dating, not to settle for someone who isn’t able to mirror the love Christ has for you and call you into deeper relationship with Him.

For all of us, the ultimate proposal has been offered. Life eternal with the Prince of Peace, who loves us and gave himself for us. Christ has come to us with loving words that speak to us individually. And now the Bridegroom awaits your response. May you cry out to him, “Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes!” –pg. 164

Cons: There aren’t many things I disliked about this book, but I do want to mention a couple small things.

–This book is written for women and I don’t know that any man would pick it up to read (which is fine, Robin and Alyssa are writing for a specific audience). But that being said, I think one issue I found with comparing how God pursues us with how men pursue women in romantic relationships is that it doesn’t communicate that men are also the Bride of Christ. Men, you are pursued and loved by Christ. He has proposed to you, he is your Bridegroom, and you, too, are part of an epic love story.

–One point that wasn’t communicated as clearly as it could have been is that you don’t need to experience a romantic relationship or be married or have a man pursue you to experience the love of God. Even if you never get married, you are part of love story more beautiful than you could ever imagine.

Do I Recommend It? Yes! I recommend this book. It’s easy to read, very accessible, and shares truths that, while simple, have the ability to radically transform your life. I think this book would be great for women of all ages but could be especially great for middle school and high school girls. The book has discussion questions at the end of each chapter which makes it perfect for a discussion group setting or personal reflection.

To kick off my book review marathon week, I’m giving away one copy of Spoken For! Blogging for Books accidentally sent me 2 copies of this book so I am giving away the 2nd book to one lucky reader :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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