I honestly don’t know why there is a Mecha Moses on this Ain’t It Cool News poster from 2008, but I like it:
What other Old Testament figures would you like to see mechanized? Steam Punk Abraham? Cyber Joseph?
I honestly don’t know why there is a Mecha Moses on this Ain’t It Cool News poster from 2008, but I like it:
What other Old Testament figures would you like to see mechanized? Steam Punk Abraham? Cyber Joseph?
Rainn Wilson, best known as Dwight Schrute on The Office, launched a website called SoulPancake in March 2009. The site’s motto is “Chew on Life’s Big Questions” and its intention is to engage young people in spiritual and philosophical discussions.
Wilson is a member of the Bahá’í Faith. Similar to Islam, Bahá’í sees the religious leaders who have come before (such as Abraham and Jesus) as prophets. Except, instead of Muhammad, the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh are the most recent prophets. Founded in the nineteenth century, the 166-year-old faith is a young religion compared to Christianity (2,000 years old), Judaism (much, much older), and even Islam (1,600 years old). Bahá’í is younger than the United States!
I’m unable to tell from the website the extent of Wilson’s involvement. He may do nothing more than lend the weight of his celebrity to attract visitors. The website asks questions like, “If you were homeless, what would you write on your sign?” and “Are traditional churches obsolete?”
Many people read through the Bible. One writer blogged through the Bible. Now Jim LePage, a creative graphic designer, is designing through the Bible:
Check out the rest of the beautiful designs on LePage’s website. Have you ever read through the Bible in a year? Besides blogging and designing through the Bible, what other through-the-Bible-’s can you think of?
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series, Significant Films of the 2000s, of articles about the cultural significance of films that were released between 2000 and 2009. Also check out Popsickle’s list of the twenty greatest films of the 2000s.
The Harry Potter series follows the story of one young boy who was orphaned at a young age by what he is told was a car accident. He lives with his Aunt, Uncle, and cousin Dudley, though he is relegated to live in the cupboard so that Dudley can have the second bedroom he so desperately needs to store his large collection of toys. This pretty well gives you an idea of what Harry’s place in the family is. The real story begins, however, when Harry gets a mysterious letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This launches the story of his life into a fantasy adventure of epic proportions.
For every person who feels slighted by the people around him—like he got the short end of the stick—this story makes vindication seem possible. For Harry stuck in a boring, claustrophobic existence where even school seems like an escape, his acceptance letter to Hogwarts seems too good to be true. While at every turn his family tells him that he is ordinary and destined for mediocrity, in his new reality, he ventures into a world where he was a celebrity since birth. He discovers that he is really quite special and that his life has incredible purpose. This theme of the story really captures its audience, because every human heart longs for this kind of purpose.
The center of the films’ themes is friendship—especially the core group of Harry, Hermione, and Ron. The friendship of these three has its ups and downs, but never does any one character give up hope in their companions. They show great loyalty and courage even in difficult times.
Power, or more specifically the lust for power, is another major element in the films. It is implied through the life of the villain that the desire for power can easily become an all-consuming and soul-destroying quest. The characters on the side of good are ever vigilant to guard themselves from this kind of attitude even though it makes many advances on their spirits. One of the ways this plot point is explored is through the subject of death. The villain assumes that immortality is the greatest form of power while Harry and his friends risk losing their mortal lives on multiple occasions for each other and for the good of the world at large.
Given the success of the books before the production of the films, it is not surprising that the production is everything that you would expect from blockbusters financed by a major studio. The films quite live up to the fantastic realm described in the novels, from the magical elements to the grandiose settings—especially Hogwarts. The casting is also faithful to the characters created by the author. The central trio of friends has real chemistry, and there are standout performances by Alan Rickman as Professor Snape, constant foil to the heroes, and Helena Bonham Carter as both crazy and evil Bellatrix LeStrange.
Within the next year, two movies will be released that conclude the wildly popular series. The six movies that have been released so far comprise the highest grossing film franchise of all time. As many popular brands are wont to do, Harry Potter has stirred up its share of controversy. Most of this comes from conservative Christian groups opposed to the movies’ positive portrayal of “good” witchcraft. Witchcraft is compared to the sin of rebellion in 1 Samuel 15:23. I will not dispute the view that witchcraft is sin; in fact, I am probably more on the fundamentalist side of that argument than most. However, I would encourage anyone who refuses to read the books or see the movies based on that one fact to reconsider. If the policy is to watch zero movies that contain sin or even sometimes portray sin positively, that would probably discount even It’s a Wonderful Life. Anyone remember how George’s uncontrolled, unrighteous anger toward Zuzu’s teacher is played for humor? But the point of the movie is not that we should imitate that one character quality. Sometimes it is good to evaluate movies based on what overall message they put forth as well as content. As for the content itself, there are definitely pure fantasy elements to the type of witchcraft portrayed. For example, the ability to perform magic is something characters are born into, and in order to do it properly, they must obtain a wand made of unicorn tail or phoenix feather, something you might be hard pressed to find here in the real world.
While primarily marketed to the younger demographic, I wouldn’t discount them as kids’ movies, based solely on peril and violence. One other troubling recurrence that is up for discussion is the blatant disregard for any kind of caution or adherence to rules shown by the major characters. Our heroes constantly make their way into harrowing situations that they tend to escape by a hair. This serves the fictional suspense well but is not an attitude that translates well into non-fiction for those of us who value life and limb.
It is easy to see how so many have been captivated by the rich story of Harry Potter. The series contains the basic ingredients for a classic. Only time will tell how it endures for future generations, but it certainly continues to impact the current culture in multiple facets.
May God arise and scatter his foes.
The wicked will perish as everyone knows.
Sing to the Lord who rides on a cloud.
Extol your praises, crying aloud.
A father to orphans, the widow’s defender;
He honors believers and cuts down pretenders.
We marched through the desert with You as our guide
and gained our inheritance, though we were tried.
Great was the glory of those who announced
God and His name, but those who denounced
His honor were struck down, peasant and king.
But all who have seen His power now sing.
God sends one thousand chariots out
and crushes His enemies. Now who will doubt?!
The twelve tribes have come proclaiming a song.
Egypt and Cush will submit to the throng.
Announce that He’s come across all the earth.
All who know Him know what He is worth.
Wherever we tread and wherever we trod,
He will be with us. Praise be to God!
Last week we saw an attempt to update Jesus by putting a baseball cap on him. This week we have an attempt to update the Bible by making it rhyme. Do you think we need another Bible translation/paraphrase? What version(s) of the Bible do you use?
In my lifetime, I’ve only watched five silent films. Sadly, that is probably more than most people have seen. In chronological order of release, they are:
I watched The Docks of New York (beautiful screenshot below) a few nights ago. It was directed by Josef von Sternberg, who is considered one of the first auteurs, and is considered a masterpiece.
While watching it, it occurred to me: Although I know it is considered a masterpiece by film historians, what basis do I have for determining whether it is a masterpiece or not?
We have a cinematic vocabulary with which to evaluate movies. Americans grow up watching movies. We start watching movies before we can speak. I don’t know if anyone’s ever researched how many movies the average American has watched by the age of twelve, but I’m sure it’s in the thousands.
When we watch The Lord of the Rings or Transformers then, we have a cinematic vocabulary with which to evaluate whether they are good or bad films. If an Amish boy who had never seen a movie before watched Transformers, would he have anyway of knowing whether the film was trash or a masterpiece?
I’ve watched 374 movies that were released between 2000 and 2009. But does that prepare me to evaluate silent films? Silent films seem to have a cinematic vocabulary of their own. Before I can determine for myself why The Docks of New York is a great film (in contrast to just accepting what I’m told), I need to watch a lot more silent films.
Have you watched any silent films? Which ones were your favorites?
I presented an after-school Bible club program at a local church. The presentation included a three minute video. The pastor said he could spare 60 seconds for me to speak in addition to the video. He explained he would love to dedicate an entire service to the ministry, but he did not have time. He had another missionary sharing, and the service was already rushed. I had 60 seconds to effectively present the program.
How do you reach a busy world with the Gospel? Talk faster? Alter the message? To reach an energy drink-driven, drive-thru world, you must offer them an alternative to the non-stop pace of everyday life. Church is not another activity tacked onto an already busy week. It is a place that welcomes you to rest—God’s rest.
Energy drinks sport flashy designs to catch your attention as you browse the grocery store. Many churches employ slick graphics to advertise new activities. Creative graphics can be used as tools to minister, but the message needs to be more than a quick energy drink boost; it needs to be spiritual milk helping the church grow. The teaching must have more substance than a fast food burger; it needs to be life-sustaining bread. By looking at Hebrews 4, we can discover several ways to minister by offering rest from the world’s breakneck pace.
Unfortunately the church often makes us busier. A Bible study this morning, a program this evening, a retreat this weekend. Hebrews 4 begins, “since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.” If we are too busy, we might miss out on God’s rest!
“For those who enter God’s rest also rest from their own work, just as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:10). A church could periodically dedicate an entire service as a prayer service. The pastor could lead the congregation in prayer for things going on in the community and church and then dismiss. Even if a church did this only once a year, think of how much that one day would contrast with the rest of the congregation’s busy week. The church I grew up in had several family days each year where instead of having an evening service, they encouraged families to stay home and spend time with each other. Even a nursery or mother’s day out program can prove to be more of an invaluable ministry than you might think.
It is important to make God’s rest available at church. Hebrews 4:11 encourages us to “make every effort to enter that rest.” How do we know what God’s rest looks like? God’s definition of rest flies in the face of the traditional definition of staying in bed past noon and eating corn chips while watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There is a difference between resting and being lazy. God’s rest is an active rest.
Entertainment (or rather the overabundance of) is making us lazy. I’m a huge fan of entertainment, but I get so tied up in keeping up with my favorite TV series, checking out the newest comics, reading my RSS feeds, and downloading audio dramas to my iPod that I go weeks without producing anything creative myself. Actively resting means getting up and doing something. Maybe actively resting for you is writing a blog entry. Maybe it is getting a group of friends together to write a script for a sketch. Maybe it is riding your bike.
Also, actively resting means studying God’s Word. The writer of Hebrews compares God’s Word to a “double-edged sword” (4:12). Being equipped to live our daily lives requires an active study of Scripture. The reason verse 11 encouraged us to strive for God’s rest was “so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” You cannot incorporate Biblical principles into sketches you write unless you know Biblical principles.
It is especially important for leaders to take time to rest. If you lead a small group in your home, whenever you do get time to study the Bible, you probably spend it preparing for your next small group meeting. Leadership expert Tim Elmore states, “Because leaders spend themselves more than the average person, they need to refuel more often than most people do” (Habitudes #1: The Art of Self-Leadership, 33.) You can’t show others how to rest unless you know how to rest yourself.
The way the King James phrases Exodus 24:12 contains a poignant insight for those striving for God’s rest: “And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.’” God says to Moses, “Hey, come here…and just be here.” To me that sounds redundant. God already asked Moses to come there. Why did he also need to tell Moses to be there?
Have you ever heard somebody say “I’m here in body but not in spirit”? Maybe you’ve been sitting in class on a Monday: You stayed up late during the weekend, and although you are sitting in your desk, you aren’t all there. God wanted Moses to be there.
When we meet someone for the first time, one of our first questions is usually “What do you do for a living?” We are so concerned with doing, but God is concerned with being. We don’t feel like we’re serving God unless we’re doing something for God. God cares more about who we are on the inside. In our culture, busyness has become a virtue. How was your week? Well, you know, busy. I have so much to do. Sometime in the midst of your busy schedule, “make every effort to enter” God’s rest.
The harsh edge of the blade flashed in the light that came in through the window. Tori squeezed her eyes shut and clenched her teeth as she brought the razor down onto the open skin of her arm. She felt numb and dirty. Both old and new scars covered her body from her thighs to her arms and even on the hidden area of her stomach. Blood beaded on the thin lines made by the blade, and Tori pushed the knife away, disgusted with herself. She’d messed up—again.
Every time that Tori promised herself she wouldn’t cut anymore, something would happen that made her give in. Someone would make a mean comment about her at school, she would get in a fight with her parents, or she would simply look in the mirror and think, I can’t stand myself. I deserve this. And then she would be in that same dark place she so often was. It was like she could not stop, no matter how badly she wanted to end this habit.
It was like an addiction.
Tori had been a Christian for several years—ever since she responded to the altar call at summer camp when she was eleven. At first her passion for God grew, but then life started to get hard. Her parents got a divorce. She lost a couple of friends right before she entered high school. Now Tori felt like God was far away. She felt like when she prayed, her pleas were static and distant. She wondered if God could even hear her. She stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She felt ugly and unloved. Maybe I’ve messed it all up, she thought bitterly. I can’t love myself. Maybe God can’t love me either.
For most of my middle school years, I struggled constantly with self injury. I was depressed, I felt disconnected from God, and I expressed my hidden pain through the blade of a knife. Self injury may be something that you or someone you know struggles with, and if that is the case, then I hope this article can help you find encouragement.
One of the biggest problems with self injury, namely cutting, is that it is a compulsive behavior. According to Dr. Drew Pinsky, cutting is an addictive syndrome. When you cut yourself, you activate thrill mechanisms and cause a surge of endorphins to rush to your brain. This gives you a false sense of relief and even a high of sorts. Each time something happens that makes you feel sad or upset, you feel the need to turn back to self injury to give you that same release you felt before. Cutting can easily become an unending cycle. You want the temporary relief, so you cut… And then you feel guilty for allowing yourself to cut, and the guilt causes you to cut again… And around and around you go.
Even if you have only been cutting for a few months, it can be extremely difficult to stop. In fact, it may seem impossible. Please know that it is possible to end this addiction. I haven’t cut for nearly three years. It takes courage, strength, and faith in God, but it is possible. If you are struggling with self injury or depression, please keep reading. The points below can help you discover a light at the end of the tunnel—a way out of the unending cycle.
No matter how you feel, you are loved. When you feel depressed and alone, it is easy to feel unloved. The truth is there are people who do love you, people who want to be there for you when you feel this way. You have family members and friends who love you. If no one else, then I love you even though I don’t know you personally. I honestly do love you, and I hurt for you. Above all else, Jesus Christ loves you. He loves you so much that he suffered and died for you. He loves you no matter what you’ve ever done. Deuteronomy 14:1, 2 says, “Do not cut yourselves…for you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.” Even though this verse was written for the people of Israel, it still applies to you as a Christian. You are God’s chosen possession. He doesn’t want you to hurt. He wants you to have peace and joy.
Even when you feel like God is far away, he has never left your side. Guilt is often a huge issue for Christians who cut. Aren’t Christians supposed to be those on fire believers who worship Jesus with every fabric of their beings? They aren’t supposed to be messed up people who have dark secrets that nobody knows about, right? The perfect Christian is a complete myth. Every Christian has problems even if it doesn’t seem like it from their outside appearance. Everyone experiences trials throughout their lives. You can still be a Christian and struggle with self injury. It is an addiction that is hard to overcome. Ask God to help you through this difficult time. He is there for you. He longs to hold you in his arms and take the pain away. When you feel disconnected from God, continue to pray, read your Bible, and go to church. When you continue to worship God though he seems far away, you are expressing to him that you still have faith in what he can do. Hebrews 13:5 says, “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” Keep your faith in Jesus and know that he will never lose faith in you.
Talk to somebody about what you’re going through. Proverbs 27:17 says that like iron sharpens iron, one person sharpens another. Find someone who cares about you and can give you accountability and encourage you to work through your emotions constructively instead of through self injury. Ask your friend for guidance, prayer, and understanding. You may even need to find professional help. If you are a minor, talk to your youth group leader or a teacher at your school. Approach your parents about what you’ve been going through. An experienced adult can help you learn to sort through your problems and find hope.
Search for a new way to cope. You may cut to help you release your pent-up emotions, it may be a way to punish yourself for the bad things you have done, or it may be a way to control something in your life when everything else seems to be crumbling all around you. No matter why you cut, you are handling your problems the wrong way. Take up music lessons, start a journal, go to the gym an hour a day… Find something that can start to replace this habit, something that you can turn to when you feel like you need to vent your anger and hurt.
Learn to love yourself again. When you feel hatred and disgust for yourself, it is difficult to honestly want to stop hurting your body. Take out a sheet of paper and write a list of at least ten reasons why you deserve better than cutting. It could be “I’m a loyal friend” or “I’m a beautiful creation of God.” When you feel the urge to cut, remind yourself over and over that you are loved and that Jesus has planned so much more for your life.
Learn to forgive yourself. You may relapse. You may go months without cutting and then mess up again. When you fall, it is easy to feel angry at yourself and want to give up. Instead of punishing yourself for messing up, take it into perspective. Make a calendar of how long you’ve gone without messing up and congratulate yourself for making it that far. Cutting is a hard addiction to overcome. The closer you come to healing shows how strong you are becoming. Jesus forgives you for every sin and mistake, so learn to forgive yourself as well.
If you have a friend who is struggling with self injury, don’t give up on her. She needs your encouragement and support. Don’t constantly talk about her problem but occasionally let her know that you’re there for her and are ready to listen when she needs to vent. Ask your friend if you can go talk to an adult together but don’t try to force the issue unless you believe that her life is in danger or else the stress could cause her to cut again. Spend more time with your friend. Let her know that you love her and want to be around her. Leave her encouraging notes. Compliment her. Whatever you do, don’t criticize your friend about her self injury. Judgemental remarks are likely to cause her to cut even more. Instead let her know that you’re concerned about her safety and want her to stop because you care about her.
If you have suspicions that your friend is suicidal, that is another issue entirely. If your friend is suicidal, then please tell an adult and get your friend help. Making a friend angry—maybe even angry enough to not forgive you—is worth it if it means saving her life.
You may be struggling with self injury right now. If you are, then don’t give up. You are not alone in your addiction. According to CNN.com, one in five teenagers claims to have participated in self injury. Self injury is a difficult thing to overcome, but it is possible. You are loved and cherished by God. Put yourself into his hands. Hope can be found through the Lord. He has so much more in store for you than you can possibly imagine.
Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
There are still some things you can do with paper that you can’t do on a screen. Yes, there’s a Flash version of “The Awesome Ghost of Bailey Jones,” but it is vastly inferior to the double-sided PDF you can download and print. (I found this comic on cartoonist Scott McCloud’s blog.)
Since it is double-sided, hold the printed comic up to the light, and a previously unseen element of the story is revealed. I want to print a comic on those overhead transparencies for inkjet printers (since they don’t have any other purpose any more now that everyone uses PowerPoint). You could stack two or three, and each one would reveal a new level of the story. I just haven’t thought of a story that would benefit from being told this way yet.
While the presentation of “The (Awesome) Ghost of Bailey Jones” is creative, the content is somewhat muddled. The title seems to infer that the comic is about ghosts, but both characters have wings making them look more like angels. Making it even more confusing, when the title character becomes a ghost/angel, he has horns. Is he a ghostly angelic demon? On top of that, the comic seems to make light of suicide.
Some art is all style on no substance. A see-through comic is pretty cool, but there’s not much substance here. Does a comic have to have a strong story or is it sometimes okay just to look really cool? What other cool ways of presenting a comic can you think of?