I love how creatively he seizes every unsupervised moment. He manages to do unbelievably dangerous things I never would have thought to warn him not to do, such as standing on top of the window sill.
I love how he treasures his sister and wants to show her everything. If he's being fussy I'll just make a suggestion such as "Tell Piper about how plants grow" and he will turn to her and sweetly explain to her in his own language.
I love how he knows when I'm sad and he will give me snuggles and kisses. Sometimes he will even say a prayer for me. He consoles Piper when she's crying, too.
I love how he understands discipline. He usually acknowledges that he knew what was right but chose to disobey, and when I ask "Then what must I do?" he will tell me the correct answer, though he dreads it. And sometimes he tries to skip right to the part where we just pray and hug, the conniving little cutie!
I love how he has an eye for what needs to be pressure washed. When he sees anything dirty---be it a garbage dump in a book or his own messy face---oftentimes he will say "Daddy kshhhhhhhh" and wave his arms like a pressure washing wand.
I love how he knows I'm afraid of snakes, and he is quick to comfort me when we read about them or see a toy serpent. Sometimes he even pretends a snake is coming so he can hold me tight and protect me.
I love how he has an answer for me every time he wakes up and I ask him what he dreamed about. He apparently has dreams about Disney, dogs, balls, cars, trains, Daddy...typical boy stuff.
I love seeing the fruits of discipline. For awhile he really liked to hit me when he was angry, but after weeks of working through that I would see his hand begin to raise toward me in anger, but then he would suddenly control his emotions and gently stroke my hair instead. We are working on cheerfulness right now and sometimes he will catch himself and---through tantrummy tears---force himself to say "Yay!" then distract himself with something else until he's happy again.
I love how he loves to read. We will sit for an hour at a time and just read and read and read. Bill Peet is our favorite author.
I love how he loves to help. They say that if your child is fussy all the time there's a good chance he doesn't have enough chores, and I've found that to be true. He gladly cleans his tray, waters the plants, fills up our cups of water at meals, etc. Chores occupy him better than toys do!
I love how he interacts with other kids. His favor is pretty hit-or-miss. One time we were on a bus and Stephen just started holding hands with a random nearby girl. He held her hands the whole way. Kids do community so much better than we do.
I love how playful he is. One time during hide-and-seek, he put a pacifier in his mouth and curled up into Piper's bassinet. When I found him and started laughing, he cracked up too and you could tell he was quite proud of his disguise.
Of course there are plenty of really hard moments (by the way, he still doesn't sleep through the night.) I'm learning to treasure Stephen's emotional---passionate is probably a better word---personality. Some days I have to call Peter, hand over the phone, and let him to talk to his son and remind him that I'm the authority. Some days I just have to put him in his crib for five minutes so he can cry out some anger---and so that I can cry and pray too. But more often than not, I find myself beholding this beautiful little boy in awe, bewildered that I get to call him mine.
Click here for what I loved about him during his first year!
I saw two movies recently that really put me in awe of Jesus. Stories speak to the soul, and my soul was thrilled at the sight of sacrifice and redemption.
No, Son of God wasn't one of the films (and I don't plan on seeing it.)
I was instead captivated by the Christ figures in the popular children's movie Frozen and in the dystopian action film Elysium.
As I was watching, I thought "It's almost like the directors were TRYING to point us to Jesus..." In Frozen as I saw (spoiler) magic transforming the whole icy Arendelle into a beautiful, blooming land, I thought "Why do I see this in every Disney movie?"
And during Elysium when I watched (spoiler) Max, coming from among the lowly, so willingly giving up his life so that the world could find healing, many films with a strikingly similar climax/resolution from this genre came to mind. I'm sure that if I read more books, both paradigms would apply as well.
Here's a more thorough example of how I saw Jesus in Frozen:
Elsa was living by what felt right to her---"No right, no wrong, no rules for me!"---possessing a false sense of freedom and oblivious to the destruction she was causing. Anna (the Christ figure) acknowledged that it didn't have to be this way...nor did it have to be the "conceal, don't feel" dynamic that her parents demanded, either. So she trekked the perilous wintry forest and sought after her sister...all to be rejected and hurt. Yet Anna was relentless, and eventually she willingly gave her own life to save Elsa. For that suspenseful frozen-statue moment our hearts were heavy with admiration mixed with sadness. Yet this love that was as strong as death proved to be stronger, and Anna was alive! Then restoration was brought to the whole land.
Christ exposes how it's a false dichotomy to believe your only options are reckless hedonism or joyless religion. He sought us when we didn't ask for Him, He gave His own life in exchange for ours, then He overcame death in order to make all things new and to show us that He offers life and freedom that is actually completely beneficial for ourselves and others.
No, the world's leading storytellers are not obsessed with the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. And neither are their audiences.
At least not as far as they realize.
This is nothing new. In my 9th grade English class my teacher showed us the very specific characteristics of the archetypal hero, examples of stories throughout history that had numerous character and plot elements in common...and you didn't need to be a seminary student to see how Jesus fulfills them all so perfectly. It's almost creepy how much archetypal heroes have in common, and Jesus stands at the top...possessing all power, giving the most selfless sacrifice by enduring the hardest suffering, and accomplishing more than any other hero even tries to do. Sure, Batman might save Gotham from Bane and Superman might save the world from a meteor, but obviously none of these heroes are even in the running for accomplishing eternal life for people from every tribe and tongue and from all time.
You might be thinking that it makes no sense to see Jesus in people and characters who never intended to symbolize Jesus. But Jesus Himself saw stories in this way. Jonah, by being swallowed by a big fish and being spat back out after three days, probably did not think he was foreshadowing the burial and resurrection of the Messiah, but in Matthew 12:39,40 Jesus made that exact comparison.
In Romans 5, Paul even refers to Adam---primary sinner Adam!---as a type of Christ; Adam's choice affected all mankind and so did Christ's (in completely opposite ways.) It's thrilling as I read the Old Testament as I can look for hints of Jesus all along the way...
I see Him in the bronze serpent on the pole that healed all who looked to him (Numbers 21:4-9.)
I see Him in the scarlet cord in the window that protected all in that room (Joshua 2:18,19.)
I see Him in the left-handed judge who stabbed a king (to have his hand swallowed up in the fat, eww) and left him in a shameful pile over his own excretion, fitting for the shameful enemy of God he was (Judges 3:12-25, a favorite for middle school boys.)
Of course the Old Testament was written by God to interpret all things as pointing to Christ (Luke 24:27), and today's storytellers hardly have the same intent. But let us redeem our entertainment by thinking and talking with others about how the heroes and themes expose the human heart's gaping desire for a savior.
Here are some movies, organized by child-appropriateness, that have a wonderfully clear Christ figure or strong biblical theme. I haven't read all the books and some of these movies at the bottom of the list do contain objectionable material (though most of them are devoid of any sexual content or excessive misuse of God's name), so before you decide to watch---depending on your convictions---look them up on Plugged In first or buy a ClearPlay DVD player. Please comment and contribute to this list and I will add your stories here!
These short descriptions are pretty much free of spoilers.
Chronicles of Narnia - Aslan, duh.
Lion King - Mufasa...that was devastatingly heartbreaking for me as a kid.
Frozen - as mentioned previously
For A Little Older
Harry Potter - Obvious. Apparently J.K. Rowling even intended it.
Lord of the Rings - There's even a prophet/priest/king dynamic with Frodo/Gandalf/Aragorn. Three very different characteristics portray three excellent offices of Christ.
I Am Legend - The power of the blood!
The Hunger Games - Katniss came from the lowest and was willing to give her life to accomplish much for her people.
A Tale of Two Cities - Sydney Carton's ability to save because of his matching resemblance to the guilty...Christ becoming like us to save us...it's wonderful!
More Mature Audiences
Road to Perdition - Never have I seen a movie portray our desire for justice and atonement more than I did in this movie. I wept and wept at the end as I was reminded how Christ has fully endured the punishment I deserved for my sin. (The language was really bad in this movie though.)
The Island - Ewan McGregor's character is an excellent Christ figure for letting captives taste freedom and real life. (There's a scene we always skip in this movie.)
The Matrix - My favorite moment in this movie was when one of the characters, like Simeon in Luke 2, said something to Neo along the lines of "If you're the one...then these are exciting times." They realized that the oracled one they had been waiting for very well might have come...and the implications of such freedom are thrilling. O, how much greater that the prophesied Christ has come! Some bad language.
Oblivion - The enemy must be defeated directly, and sacrifice is the only way...yet there can still be a happy ending. (I closed my eyes for one part and there was some bad language.)
Elysium - as mentioned previously; (Contains deluges of the f word, but refreshingly God's name was rarely abused.
What are some well-made movies/books/radio dramas you've seen/read/listened to that have Christ figures or heavily biblical themes?
When I was still at home and my parents would take me to Disney World all the time, I remember vowing that I would never go to Disney on purpose. How in the world could there be value in escaping reality for a couple days to fill my senses with artificial pleasures? Thankfully, through marriage God has been chiseling away my legalism and asceticism, and He’s helping me worship Him through all things. John Calvin has said, “There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.” Worshipping God for everything---even the things I had dichotomously considered “secular”---has been something I’ve been trying to train myself to do lately, and taking our little family to Walt Disney World Resort every once in a while has given me some great opportunities.
By the way, right now Florida Residents weekday passes for all 4 parks for the whole year are going for $233 (it was cheaper when we bought them :/) and last I checked AAA’s website they were only $201 per person.
1. Teaches Me How to Celebrate
I’ll never forget a particular moment in Animal Kingdom’s Africa when we came across a group of performers who were playing really catchy tribal music. All the musicians on stage were relishing the groove, and a couple costumed dancers were on the ground trying to get everyone else involved. We wiggled and clapped and waved our arms and sang and laughed. I looked around and everyone was smiling and happy. I almost wept then and there as I thought of heaven and how we will all be celebrating and enjoying God together, in community. It also made me excited about worshiping with my church on Sunday, because even though we don’t form a Conga line we truly do enjoy worshiping God collectively.
2. Stirs My Heart for the Nations
EPCOT is my favorite park, by far. I’ve never been to any of the actual countries that are represented in the World Showcase, but seeing the extraordinary cultural diversity makes my heart burn for all peoples to know Christ. I just want to hop around the countries and say to the Italian, “God loves Italians!” and to the Norwegian, “Christ has ransomed His beloved from Norway!”, etc. etc. Probably the only other time on earth when the nations will be surpassed in beautiful representation is in Heaven. Plus, just walking around and riding on the buses helps us talk to fellow guests from all over the world. (Read Psalm 87 to have a richer understanding of this ethnic diversity.)
3. Educates Me About My Awesome Creator
Disney is very educational about creation, be it the Safari or Rafiki’s Planet Watch or Living with the Land or the Living Seas. Disney doesn't attribute credit to God for His incredible design, of course, but to the Christian it’s impossible to miss. Disney is a really great place to go to view and appreciate creation.
4. Spurs Me to Imagine
God is creative. Disney’s Imagineers brilliantly display that mankind is made in God’s image because they do a really good job at creating. I’m having trouble thinking of specific examples because almost everything at Disney is magnificently larger than life and beautiful.
5. Displays the Reward of Skillfulness
A lot of times I tend to be so wrapped up in “what matters is the heart” that I forget how much God values skill in the Bible. In Exodus 35 it says of Bezalel, “and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft.” God even commanded that the yarns are “skillfully woven” (Exodus 28:8.) The psalmists repeatedly speak of playing with skill as well (Psalm 33:3). When I watch Off Kilter and their unparalleled celtic rock, or when I see the Jeweled Dragons of China doing incredible acrobatics, I am reminded to be skillful at what I do because God values skill.
6. Gives Me a Glimpse of Eternal, Joyful Rest
This life is not our rest, and that really stinks sometimes. But Disney world allows me to get a faint shadowy glimpse of what my eternal rest will be like. The peacefulness and pleasure of Fort Wilderness comes to mind. As I biked or strolled through the paved trails, my family and I were able to enjoy the beauty of creation...without ants or thorns. As I walked through the exceptional pool at the Beach Club, squishing artificial sand beneath my toes, I was able to enjoy the pleasure of water and sand without the grime or itchiness produced by the fall. I can look to Zion, Heaven, “the perfection of beauty” from which “God shines forth” (Psalm 50:2.)
7. Models Childlike Wonder
I love to see the raw expressions of amazement on the faces of children at Disney when watching a show or gazing at something spectacular truly helps me remember how to be amazed. We’ve been created to be amazed by He who upholds the universe by the word of His power. I want to look at passages that describe God (like Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4, for instance) like the seven year old girl does as she goes on Soarin’ for the first time, or as my own toddler gazes at the larger-than-life jar of Play-Dough at the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids playground.
8. Reminds Me of the Limitless One
With all my Disney-amazement I still need to remember verses like Psalm 119:96; I have seen a limit to all perfection but God’s commandment is exceedingly broad. Even the Imagineers have their limitations but God’s greatness is unfathomable. These incredibly creative minds are still created; these beauty makers still---without exception---have to sleep and eat and use the restroom.
Lent begins this week, and I definitely want to be more spiritually prepared for celebrating Christ’s resurrection than I have in years past. Thankfully, in God’s sovereign timing, I received Captivated: Beholding the Mystery of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection by Thabiti Anyabwile in perfect timing to turn my eyes crossward.
Thabiti’s goal in Captivated is to help us learn how to stare. Normally it’s rude to fix our eyes on something, but to take long looks at the cross is the most worthy opportunity to gaze. In all my attempts to be cross-focused and go to a gospel-centered church and have a gospel-displaying marriage and a Christ-centered family, I have done poorly at slowing down and really thinking about what happened in Christ’s death and resurrection. It served my soul greatly to read Captivated as Thabiti explained the scriptures to me more deeply.
I kind of expected that a book about the cross would just quote a bunch of pastors and theologians, rephrasing rephrases and simply finding new ways to tell me things I already knew. But, refreshingly, for this book Thabiti rarely dipped into man’s words and primarily used scripture to help me behold Christ. He used verses from all over the Bible---verses I had never even noticed---to give me a deeper glimpse into what happened in those three days after which sinners could become justified once and for all.
In my favorite chapter, “Why Have You Forsaken Me?”, Psalm 22 and other supporting scriptures pounded into my heart the mysterious forsakenness Jesus felt at the cross for my sin. As Thabiti says on pg 25, “The Father’s abandonment of Jesus leads to the sinner’s adoption. God abandons one perfect Son in order to adopt millions of sinful sons. It is the only abandonment with any honor and redemption.” As I continued to read of the agonizing abandonment Christ experienced on multiple levels---and ultimately abandonment by the Father Himself---not only was I gripped by His mercy but I was comforted by what He accomplished. I should never feel forsaken by God because Jesus already drank every drop of forsakenness for me.
This book was incredible. Concisely and beautifully written, Captivated truly helped me get my eyes off myself and instead gaze at the cross and the empty tomb. Though the topic of Christ’s death and resurrection can never be exhausted (hence the beauty of its mystery!), Thabiti did an excellent job of humbly expositing scripture to aid readers in better understanding---and appreciating---what was done there. The questions for reflection at the end of each chapter helped drive these truths home even more. As I believe was Thabiti’s intention, Captivated successfully brings its readers to their knees in worship and repentance. Gazing at the glorious Christ tends to have that effect on people, and I’m grateful that this resource helped me do just that.
Disclosure: I received a copy from Reformation Heritage Books through Cross-Focused Reviews for free in order to give an unbiased review.
Read Part 1: "Why Aren't There Any Girl Theologians?" here.