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The following post comes courtesy of Grace Hill Media in sunny Southern California. As the genre, and responsible parenting/consumption of media are near to my heart, it was a no-brainer to feature their byline here.

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Lessons For Christians From Horror Movies

The popularity of horror films continue to grow, especially among teens and young adults, who flock to movie theaters on opening weekend.  This Friday, August 11, for example, the movie “Annabelle: Creation,” about a possessed doll hits theaters nationwide.  It seems difficult to believe that any movie created to frighten and give us nightmares might have a meaningful spiritual lesson for Christians.  And yet, anyone who has been brave enough to watch “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” written by Scott Derrickson, a Christian filmmaker, knows full well that horror movies can serve us with cautionary messages and, might just inspire the audience to head to their nearest church pew.
To be clear, not all horror films are the same. The genre has different versions.  
There’s no takeaway from “slasher” or disturbing “torture” movies meant to provide nothing but shock.  However, there are horror movies that depict spiritual warfare (which we know to be real) and the battle between good and evil. These supernatural films, oftentimes written and produced by Christians and based on real-life events, are filled with lessons about something we as people of faith have stopped discussing in an increasingly distracted secular world – that evil is real.

Here are a few other lessons from supernatural horror films:
1) Exorcisms are also real.  Although incredibly rare, people can get possessed by evil.  “The Exorcist” is based on a real-life possession of a young boy, and “Annabelle: Creation” is about a possessed girl.  

2) God will always defeat evil. No matter how powerful the enemy may be, God will always come out on top.  In the Bible, one of the most powerful miracles that Jesus performed was The Miracle of the Gadarene Swine in which Jesus cast unclean spirits out of a man.  In real-life and in all supernatural films that have a faith message including “The Conjuring” and “The Rite,” evil will always be vanquished.

3) Ouija Boards are a big no.  Perhaps one of the strongest and most valuable lessons to come from supernatural horror movies (which just as true in real life) is that those who become plagued or possessed by evil may have inadvertently invited those spirits or demon to come into their lives.  This is done through certain “gateways” that many priests and Christian leaders warn us about.  Christians, especially Christian parents must teach kids and teens to stay away from Ouija boards, tarot cards, fortune telling, or any sort divination.  These are all means in which evil can take hold of our lives.  In the second “Conjuring” movie the character becomes possessed after playing with a Ouija board.  This was based on a true person and event.
 
4) Prayer is the most powerful thing in the world.  Prayers protect and deliver us from evil.  In horror movies, those who are plagued by evil must often turn to a person of great faith or priest to help them.  That Christian leader is always portrayed as someone who believes prayer to be of utmost importance and is shown onscreen praying to God throughout the film.

5) Faith is the most important thing in the world.  Believing in God and being baptized in the Christian community protects and strengthens us.  It is a natural defense again evil.  In times of weakness, we must lean on our faith and turn to God.  The upcoming movie, “Annabelle: Creation,” is a cautionary tale that depicts what happens when one turns away from God and succumbs to temptation during a period of grief and weakness as opposed to leaning on God for grace and healing.  

All movies, including horror movies tell stories.  In the last century, before we had television and films, parents told stories and tales that were meant to alarm and even frighten children and youth from a certain place or course of action.

Now these stories, meant to be lessons, are brought to life onscreen, complete with sound effects and make-up.  They are terrifying and they should be – evil is something to stay away from.  But for Christians, there is a stronger message, one that should always comfort and strengthen us – that we have a savior and that he will always come to protect and fight for those of us in need.
 

The following comes from Grace Hill Media, a company whose mission is to connect Hollywood and the faith community by marketing movies that uplift, inspire, and transform. Of those, this week I have partnered with Grace Hill to highlight The Conjuring 2. At first blush, scary movies and Christianity may not seem to go together, but I don’t think that’s true. Let’s peel back the skin, shall we?

At it’s heart, Christianity is a religion of blood sacrifice: Jesus was brutally tortured, and suffered a hideous death at the hands of sinful men. And that’s a horror story if there ever was one. In fact, the Bible pulls no punches in its depiction of evil. Billy Graham once said that one of things which makes it God’s Word is that shows us (humanity) as we are. So all of human depravity is on display. Likewise, I think we do the world a disservice when we go soft on the depiction of evil in our media. I think there’s a distinction, and a vast difference, between movies like the Friday the 13th series, for instance, and films like The Conjuring. In the one, the audience is all but made to root for the killer, Jason Voorhees; in the other, evil is shown for what it is. Moreover, that evil cannot overcome good, that is to say God. In one, evil is reveled in, celebrated; in the other, it is exposed. Is that not what we as believers are called to do? Bring light into dark places?

Beyond that, in the words of director Scott Derrickson, “horror is the genre of non-denial,” e.g., it brings us face-to-face with that which we fear the most: the unknown, death, etc. The monsters are metaphor for our fears, and movies (books, too) give a safe space to vicariously face our fears. Usually, it is in horror that the veil is rent asunder–there is no denying the supernatural. Evil is a force that is real, but we can resist. Good can, and does, triumph.

I understand that others may come to a different conclusion; I respect that. But please don’t slag on my enjoyment of things that go bump in the night. With that I’ll leave you, and turn you over to Grace Hill’s parent’s guide:

 

With THE CONJURING 2 in theaters this Friday, it’s only natural to think about scary movies. For some of us, the thoughts are about avoiding them at all costs, but for others there’s excitement at thinking about getting a good scare from our theater seats.

 

But what about our kids? Especially at younger ages, they can be truly disturbed if they happen to see something onscreen that frightens them. It may not even be a well-made supernatural horror film like THE CONJURING 2 – certainly not for pre-teens – but could be something they see in one of their favorite cartoons that raises fears.

 

What can you do as a parent when this happens to your son or daughter? Here are a few tips from the experts at Focus on the Family:

 

  • The first thing you need to do is sit down with your child and give them the chance to discuss the film openly. Ask them what they saw, what they thought about it, and how it made them feel. Whatever you do, don’t make light of their fears or dismiss their feelings as silly or immature.

 

  • Once their emotions have been aired, assure your son or daughter that this was only a story, just like the imaginary tales they may have seen in picture story books. Bad things weren’t happening to real people – they were actors playing a pretend game, like they and their friends do.

 

  • Reassure your child that you, as their parent, are dedicated to protecting them. Let them know that it is one of your most important jobs – ensuring they feel safe and are safe. Reinforce that message with plenty of hugs.

 

  • If you are a Christian family, you can explain that God has promised to be with them at all times, even in the midst of danger. Open up the Bible and show them the passages where God promises never to leave us or forsake us (Genesis 28:15; Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 13:5). Pray with them about the scary movie and their fears, and encourage them to pray on their own when they become frightened at night. If it seems appropriate, you can also practice some coping techniques with them, like deep breathing relaxation exercises or visualizing a happy place.

 

  • One last thought: it is definitely not a good idea for you to sleep in your child’s room or to let them sleep in your bed. That will only reinforce the behavior you’re trying to eliminate, encouraging them to act helpless and dependent. So whatever happens, make it clear that you will not be sleeping with them. Instead, find some other way to make them feel secure, like turning on a nightlight for a while or letting them take a special stuffed animal to bed.

 

Come to think of it, if you go see THE CONJURING 2 and you’re still a little scared even after the credits roll, feel free to take your favorite stuffed animal to bed with you, too.

20121205-062754.jpgI have made many mistakes as a parent, but perhaps none so grievous as quashing my son’s belief in Santa at a very young age. What can I say? I was living out of a very conservative, a very legalisitic, place in my faith.

I was afraid.

I was afraid, at that time, that allowing him to continue to believe in Santa would, and his subsequent eventual discovery of the truth, damage my credibility vis-a-vis Jesus. I did not want him to feel lied to.

I could not have been more wrong.

Oh, sure my intentions were good, but the net effect–and this is something that took me years to understand–was rather than protecting him, I was harming him. Moreover, in quashing his childlike faith, I was creating a hyper-rationalist–someone who was skeptical of everything.

Hewing to a conservative theology is one thing. Having convictions, and keeping them, can be a very wonderful thing in our world. It is indeed important to stand for something. Thing is, and my wife–being much more intuitive about these things–tried to warn me: I was doing far more harm than good.

Because, you see, having a belief in Santa at a young age is something Jesus can work with. Rather than hindering an eventual trust in Jesus, this childlike faith actually fosters faith in him. For that sweet sincerity of childhood makes a transfer of trust all the easier. Because, though they do not know it, what they are truly seeking is him, is Jesus. (I think of Shasta, in C.S. Lewis last Narnian tale, The Last Battle, who–though he did not know it, truly sought Aslan all along).

So take it from one who has been there: the consequences of quashing childlike faith (which, sadly, eventually happens all on its own) early are far-reaching. Yes, there is such a thing as a healthy skepticism, but fostering it too early takes just about all the wonder out of the world.

Which is why my wife and I are doing things differently with our daughter: we are allowing her to believe in the the Tooth Fairy, Santa, et cetera for as long as she needs to. We will cross the bridge when we need to, and not sooner.

Childlike wonder is a wonderful thing to behold. Let live as long as you can.

What do think? Speak on it:

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Barbie Princesses

God has a sense of humor. How do I know? First: He made you and me. Second: He made children. He also gave us the process whereby children are made. Ahem. I wonder if the angels look down upon us so engaged, and laugh? “This they call ‘love?'”

My wife and I have two of those miraculous entities known as “offspring.” And we also know a little (a very little) of the derision large families often receive: “You have how many?” Only for us the question is “They’re how far apart? What were you thinking?” We weren’t (did you not see the previous paragraph?).

Only that’s not quite true. Certainly passion played a part, but the truth is we were told we wouldn’t be having any children. And then eight years into our marriage, we had a son. A precious boy.

And then the Lord shutteth up my wife’s womb tighter than a water-proof drum.

We had our son, our miracle child, and thought we were done.

Eight years later, after years of questioning looks (“When are you having another one?”), unplanned, unexpected, unlooked (but not unhoped) for, the unthinkable:

In the sixteenth year of our marriage, my wife was pregnant again! “Didn’t plan that very well, did you?” people would ask. “We didn’t plan it at all,” we would invariably answer.

Folks didn’t quite know what to do with that, but it was marvelous in our eyes. We–my wife and I–were often rendered quite speechless at what the Lord had done…

Which brings me to right now, tonight, six years after our daughter entered our lives. As I was putting her to bed, she asked me to read her the story of Princess Aurora’s (Sleeping Beauty) wedding preparations. She has a pillow book deatailing the account of how the princess came to find just the right wedding gown.

My daughter is in every sense a little girl, and my princess. In fact, today is her birthday. Happy birthday, Bella! image

Her brother is no longer little, but is nevertheless very much all boy, and wants to be the hero. So it was, after reading Sleeping Beauty with my daughter, I found myself slaying orcs with my son. (And in the midst of this–two kids wanting my time and attention–my wife was down with a migraine. She hasn’t had one in years. Please pray for Lisa).

And I would like to think that God looks down with pleasure on my little family.

Both children were unlooked for, but both are entirely blessings. Having them in such different phases of life can be exhausting.

But neither my wife, nor I, would trade them in for anything.

When’s the last time the Lord brought something unexpected into your life? How did you respond?

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After twenty one years of marriage, my wife still amazes me. There are things that she clues into that I’m oblivious to. Such as when, recently, our daughter was ill, and I said:

“There’s no way her temperature is that high. There’s something wrong with this thermometer.”

Yes, I know, I’m brilliant like that. 😉
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