Archives For Faith

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.

Much ink has been spilled about the injustices, the inequities, seen all around us everyday. Kids go to bed hungry while parents shoot up dope. Or worse, kids wind up dead. There isn’t day goes by without a report of road rage; somebody cut someone else off, and then someone gets beat, shot, or run over. We regulate, legislate, send folks to anger management classes, hold sensitivity training at work, and try to watch our words. We’re simultaneously anxious, uptight, fried, yet we somehow don’t want to offend…

We sublimate, self-medicate, and stuff our feelings. Is it any wonder, with the the amounts of both intrinsic, and extrinsic, repression that there are slips in the space/time continuum? That there are blow ups? We are selfish by nature, out to get our own, looking out for number one (as the saying goes). We’re indignant when someone tramples upon our (perceived) rights, yet have no trouble trampling another’s rights, boundaries, space, to get what’s ours.

It’s reductio ad absursum. Yet we are blind to it. And no matter how enlightened, how modern, we become there are no programs, classes, sweat lodges, pilgrimages, substances, or really anything which can effect a change in what we call human nature. The heart simply cannot be changed by anything existing within the same broken, reprobate system in which it itself dwells. This calls for outside intervention.

No cleanses, juice fasts, or high colonics will ever rid us of the foolishness bound up in our hearts. A wise teacher once said it is not that which enters a man which defiles him, but rather that which comes out of him.

Out of his heart.

Many, many there are who seek enlightenment upon their own terms. But few there are who find new life.

The kids are not all right.

That’s why God sent His Son, Jesus. He may not be the immediate answer to every ill in this vale of tears, but He certainly is the ultimate one.

Seek Him while He may be found.

So, How’s Your Faith?

randomlychad  —  October 27, 2015 — 3 Comments

I have to admit that lately my faith is like shifting sand, changed by the wind. I’m treading water just to keep from sinking. You’ll have noticed that I’ve not been around here much. Work has been extremely taxing, and I’m really fighting with my sleep apnea of late. The long and short of it is that, yes, fatigue colors one’s outlook. What was once a bright and rosy world, full of vivid colors and subtle shades of pastels is now much more drab, grainy, washed out. It’s like going from HD to the kinescope of the 50s. It’s a low res world for me at the moment, and I find myself easily distracted. Carried away by the flotsam and jetsom which crosses my path. You’ll have likely seen the following somewhere online; it describes my world now:  

Unable to quite focus the work I want to do, I need to do, I’ve been tinkering with wireless routers, breaking (and fixing) my Kindle, and watching entirely too much TV. I don’t quite know how to get off of this crazy train, but would appreciate your prayers. 

Thanks!

Just Come

randomlychad  —  October 6, 2015 — Leave a comment

My wife and I participate in a small group study. Lately, we’ve been looking at how to share the Gospel. As a part of that process, I’ve been tasked with answering a couple of common objections:

The exclusivity of the message of Jesus, and the plethora of world religions. I may have bitten off more than I can chew here, but intend to give it the old college try.

The world as we see and experience certainly establishes a prima facie case against the existence of God. There is much suffering, atrocities, and evil. Why would a good God allow such things to transpire? On the other hand, there is much about this world which is beautiful, lovely, and sublime in way which surpasses our poor power to express it. There is an order to the universe, and a precision in the way in which it operates that certainly at the least implies design. Atheists will say that’s all it is, implied design. But according to Occam’s Razor, the simplest solution is often the correct one, e.g., the universe appears designed because it is designed. In other words, and in the words of C.S. Lewis, “if the universe were without meaning we should never have discovered that it was without meaning.”

Is it possible that both are true? That all we see around is designed, yet all is not as it should be? Pain, suffering, disease, and death certainly provide a strong argument for this. If this is so, is God to blame? Is He a cosmic sadist delighting in our struggles? Why would He go to such great lengths to create all of this only to seemingly remain hidden from His creation? Why does He allow us to flounder in the mire? Surely a loving Father would [fill in the blank]?

And there’s the rub: we’ve just gone over the line into idolatry, making a god in our image, instead of falling at the feet of the One Who is. Because the One Who is, while promising an ultimate end to evil, in the meantime chooses the much harder path of walking with His suffering creation in love. Rather than delivering us from every trial, He suffers along with us. Instead of answering our questions, our every objection, He gives Himself. This is not an answer that many are willing to hear.

So yes, the world is broken. We are broken, and our brokenness try to fill that void with whatever we think will sooth our savage breast: science, atheism, sex, drugs, alcohol, relationships, education, what have you. We move from one thing to the next, never really assuaging the emptiness. And into this mess comes the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It seems an offer too good to be true; for how can it be free? This answer to our broken selves, this broken world? Because our experience is here, in the material plane, we know that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, that we get what we pay for… Thus it is that the word squeezes us into its mold. Because there’s always strings, right? And we don’t want to be anyone’s puppet. That is ultimately what it boils down to, really; every objection to the existence of God, while purporting to be philosophical, scientific, logical, is really about this: we don’t want to give up control. All else–the prima facie case the world presents–is but a smokescreen to an underlying condition of the heart the Bible terms “sin.”

Because God made us free, we are free to either accept, or reject, this fact. In essence, in shaking our fists at the sky we are saying, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, God, my mind is already made up.” And then we will come up with our reasons, our justifications, of why this is so. Why we are right, and Christians are wrong. Why we’re okay. This is nothing but confirmation bias. We’re right because we’re right. I’m okay, you’re okay. Now go away.

Meanwhile Jesus is saying, “Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.”

And that is what the Gospel is all about: rest from our striving, our brokenness, our sin.

Come to Me, He says.

Come and lay your objections down, and take up the life you were made for. For His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Just come.

  Folks, I’m excited today to feature an interview with newly published author, Chad Jones. According to Chad, he’s been writing stories since grade school. Most, however, he’s completed in the grey matter residing between his ears, leaving them there for his amusement. Sometimes, to his utter astonishment, these stories make their way out into the wider world. Casita 106 at the Red Pines is one such. Without further ado, here’s Chad:

(Following is a transcript of a telephone interview).

“Chad, thanks for taking the time to talk to me today.”

“Sure. Flying monkeys couldn’t drag me away. Or maybe they could. Anyway. You wanted to talk about my new ebook, right?”

“Yes, that’s correct. First of all, you’re a Christian, right?”

“Yes, I am. Have been since nineteen eighty-eight. This has come up before, and I think I know where you’re going with this. See, here’s the thing just because I’m a Christian it doesn’t always follow that I’m going write quote-unquote Christian stories. Sometimes an idea grabs me, and I’ve got to follow it. The way I see, often the most Christian thing I can do is make the best art I can, and not just throw in explicit references to Jesus at every turn. Make sense?”

“I see where you’re coming from. So if I understand you correctly, what you’re saying is that a story starts with an idea, which comes to life in the characters, and grows organically from there?”

“I couldn’t have said it any better myself. Without living breathing characters there isn’t much to go on. Even a killer idea isn’t enough to save a story with characters that you, the writer, don’t care about. Really what I’m about is that I want the reader to feel something. So I have to feel it first. Even if it’s revulsion.”

“Speaking of, Chad, there are some revolting things that happen in your new story, Casita 106 at the Red Pines. I have to ask: where do you get your ideas?”

“Everyone asks this. Here’s the deal: we writers don’t know. Some things come from snippets of conversations I have with my wife. For instance, one time we were talking about the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes. It got me to thinking what would it be like if zombie Ed McMahon came to your door with a check? That idle conversation sparked an idea that’s grown into a work in progress. Other times, it’s events. Casita came out of a trip my family and I took to Sedona, which is this really rich, beautiful, weird place. Part of a microwave really did fall on my wife, and I actually did have a dream about the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Those things combined in my head in this sort of frisson and Casita was the result.”

“That’s interesting. Thanks for the insight, Chad. But, c’mon, horror? I mean why do you write horror? Is that a very Christian thing to do?”

“I’m going to paraphrase the late C.S. Lewis here. He said that if one is a lawyer, or bricklayer, or whatever, one shouldn’t necessarily seek to leave one’s profession because one has converted to Christianity. God, he said, wants more Christian lawyers, et cetera. So it is with me. Horror is a genre I grew up loving, and found that that love didn’t dissipate just because I’d become a Christian. To quote director Scott Derrickson, “horror is the genre of non-denial.” We’re forced to confront our fears, and yet we’re able to do so in a safe, vicarious manner. Moreover, in my mind the genre is perfectly suited to explore the big questions of life, the universe, and everything. We are presented with ordinary people in extraordinary situations, and see how they respond. We get to ask ourselves: how would we respond? We learn something about ourselves while enjoying a rollicking good yarn. Or a good fright.”

“So you’re saying that horror puts the reader in a crucible along  with the characters in a story, allowing them to share the experience? And decide what they might, or might not, do in a similar situation?”

“Something like that, yes. Have you watched the Walking Dead? That show is rife with questions of morality, faith, trying to hold onto our essential humanity while simultaneously trying to survive. Horror allows us to focus a high lens, or microscope, on these issues. They’re closer to the surface.”

“I see what you’re saying. How does that apply to your story, Casita?”

“Well, of the top of my head, we’ve got the ordinary people in a seemingly ordinary situation. They’re seemingly innocents. And then you as the reader find out, as the story progresses, that neither they, nor the situation is as they first appeared. Then we’ve got other characters who, in the name of survival, are complicit in something… I can’t say anymore here. Don’t want to spoil things for anyone who hasn’t read the story yet. I will say this: I wanted to take some of the normal horror tropes, and either run with them, or appear to run with them, and thereby subvert the reader’s expectations.”

“Sounds like you’ve put a lot of thought into this, Chad. Before we go, can I ask what’s ahead for you?”

“Sure, it’s your blog, man. You can ask whatever you want. To answer your question: I’ve a zombie story in the pipeline. When done, it will likely be the longest thing I’ve ever written. Beyond that, there’s a short story about an exotic dinner that isn’t what it seems. There are plans for a novel, but that’s a little ways down the road.”

“Those sound interesting. I look forward to reading them.”

“Thanks. Me, too.”

“Chad, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to check in with us. Is there anything else you would like readers to know?”

“No problem. Always willing to open up my schedule for you. Uh, yeah; folks can find Casita 106 at the Red Pines on Amazon. It’s hopefully a fun, quick ride for them with just enough tension (and a little humor) to keep them reading to the last page.”  

  
“Thanks, Chad. Good talking to you. Looking forward to the next time we get to check in. By the way, do you have an Internet presence? I know you writer types often seclude yourselves.”

“Sure. I can be found at RandomlyChad.com, and on Facebook at RandomlyChad. Check ’em out, folks.”

“Thanks, Chad.”

“Anytime. Goodbye.”