watching, reading, and writing stories

The Incredibles 2

I’ve been looking forward to this movie for a long time. I just re-watched the first movie and boy is it good. There are so many subtle references to our own culture and the little things families face everyday, and there are so many laugh-out-loud moments and amazing quotes that I still use today like Dash saying “I love our family” or Edna telling Elastigirl to “Pull yourself together!” or Frozen arguing with his wife about his Supersuit.

So boy was I excited to walk into the theater and finally watch the sequel. I love the little shorts they play before every Pixar movie and this one was good too, it made me cry and was so sweet. And then the Incredibles started, picking up right where we’d left off in the first movie with our super family fighting the Underminer. It was full of great action and comedy. I loved seeing the family having to work together and so eager to help each other.

I don’t want to give away the entire plot, but I can say that this movie was very enjoyable to watch. I especially liked seeing how the family had to adjust to Jack Jack’s new powers and Edna Mode’s reappearance. I also really appreciated the struggle the Parr family went through of trying to do what they know is right while still respecting the authorities that deemed their actions illegal. It’s been something that society and the church has had to deal with over and over. How to submit to authority but still influence culture for good? When to obey and when to stand up and say this is wrong? It’s something we’ve been discussing in my church recently and one of the things my pastor said was that Christians should be the best citizens and work with the government and help them with their God-given responsibility, so that if there’s ever a time when Christians have to go against what the government is doing, it’s seen as abnormal.

Anyway, back to the movie. One of the sweetest moments was seeing Bob Parr trying to connect with his daughter and apologize for his mistakes. It was a good reminder that no one is a perfect parent and admitting your faults can go a long way towards forgiveness and closeness in relationships.

It was a little easy to see the plot twist coming in this movie, but it was still a lot of fun to watch and I would gladly see it again.

I probably won’t get to write another blog for awhile. I’m heading to London with my church this week. I’m excited to get to share what God does when I get back but that won’t be till July. So until then, I hope y’all have a good summer and maybe get a chance to see The Incredibles 2.

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Gifted and Relationships

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Last night I rented the movie Gifted from Redbox and oh my gosh it is such a good movie! Ever since Chris Evans started playing Captain America, I’ve liked him as an actor and I was very interested to see him play a character in a father-like role. I was not disappointed. He did a great job playing a man caring for his niece and trying to help her enjoy life and learn to connect with people, not just pursue her interest in math. This movie did a great job of showing how life is more than just success, fame, and accomplishing a goal. Being smart is not everything and having a gift doesn’t mean you’re different from everyone else. We all need family, connection and relationships.

Our society puts a lot of worth in what you can do, if you’re really good at math, or sports, or some other niche we’re told to pursue that. But this movie reinforced that human interaction and relationships are just as important. The girl, Mary, learned how to defend others, have compassion, forgive, and take a break to enjoy a sunset with a loved one, not just solve math problems. Life is so much more than work, success, and getting ahead. And I loved that this movie reinforced that.

God made us to live in community, to have relationships with people and with Him. And without that, our lives are empty, even with all the success. Just as Solomon wrote “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11). Though this is not a Christian movie and this message is not clearly expressed, there is a very interesting conversation between Frank (Chris Evans) and Mary (Mckenna Grace) about the bigger questions in life, like God and faith. I may not agree with everything said, but it was all very sincere and showed the importance of something beyond success.

I also loved seeing Frank dealing with the conflict with his mother in a mature way. Many dramas tend to overdo the tension between family members in this sort of story, but while there was tension, you could still see that they were family and loved each other. Also, Frank expressed well the normal fears that all parents have, wondering if they’re doing the right thing and wanting to do what’s best for their child. In the end he realizes that he really can take care of Mary and is the best person for the job. One of my favorite scenes is when he realizes her cat Fred was taken to the pound and he races over to save it from getting put down. It was such a heartwarming conclusion and then he goes even further and takes the two other cats that were going to be put down that same day.

There are a few inappropriate scenes, hence the PG 13 rating. But I’m willing to look past them for the heart of the story, and now that it is released on DVD, those scenes are easy enough to fast forward through if you find that it’s an issue.

I don’t want to give away the whole plot, I’ve probably already given away too much, but I just loved this movie so much. It’s sweet, heartwarming, funny, and well it made me shed a few tears as well. I hope it gets nominated for an Oscar because it’s honestly one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.

Plus Chris is friends with Mckenna in real life. Here’s a video of them answering some questions together so you can get a taste of what you’ll get if you watch the movie.

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Mission Trips

It’s summer time and many people are going on short term mission trips. Often it’s students, sometimes it’s adults, but there always seems to be some sort of mission trip going on. In the past year I’ve seen more and more articles about why people should not go on short term mission trips. When I first read them, I thought a lot of their reasoning seemed valid. It costs a lot of money to travel and if that money was sent to the local missionaries instead of paying for a plane ticket it could really help them out.

But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I feel like I disagree. Mission trips, even short ones can be very good and useful in God’s Kingdom. I agree with a lot of what is said in these articles. I can definitely see how these trips can turn into tourist vacations, and hurt rather than help a local community of Christians. But I think the articles are overlooking something important.

Why do we even go on mission trips? What is the purpose? If the purpose is only to make yourself feel good about helping others, I can definitely see their point of being able to do that in your own community and not needing to raise a lot of support money to travel. But what we do as Christians is a lot bigger than just human plans, and helping people. We’re following Jesus’s plan and building His Kingdom. I don’t know why He chooses to do things the way He does, but I don’t doubt that His is the best plan.

Before I’ve gone on any mission trip, I’ve done a lot of praying, asking Jesus if He wants me to go. Because at the end of the day, people’s opinions about your trip whether they think it’s great, or a waste of money, doesn’t matter. What matters is if you are obeying Jesus. Money is no problem for Him, it all belongs to Him anyway. If He wants to take you half way around the world, He will provide a way, and if He wants you to stay where you are and reach out to the people around you, He can help you be bold and live differently. So ultimately, it’s not about us and what we think, it’s about Jesus and what He wants. This is His kingdom after all, not ours.

But I can also see a few advantages to mission trips, that are harder to recreate if you simply stay at home. One is your level of comfort. You can definitely find ways of being uncomfortable in your own city, but leaving your country is a big step. And God does some of His best work when we have to rely on Him. It’s easy to try to handle all the little problems of life yourself, when you’re at home, but when you’re in a foreign country, can’t speak much of the language, and don’t have all of the things and people you normally rely on, it forces you to seek God more consistently and desperately.

Also, there’s something special about traveling with a group of people. Because you spend all of your time together, on planes, buses, and walking through foreign streets, you really develop close relationships which is harder to do at home. Because you’ve all committed to go together, you learn to rely on each other, open up to each other and disciple each other. You can do the same things at home, but it really helps when you’re cut off from your normal routines and forced to actually spend time with people. Traveling also tends to limit your use of certain technologies like text messages and phone calls, so that you can focus more on where you are and what you’re doing at that moment with the people around you.

And lastly, going on a mission trip opens up the opportunity for you to meet people you otherwise would have never met and develop lasting relationships and a deeper interest and care in their ministry. It’s one thing to read a newsletter from a missionary you support, it’s a whole other thing to spend the day with them; seeing what they do on a day to day basis, who they interact with, what situations they face, and how you can better support, encourage, and pray for them. I have developed several close relationships with missionaries and I care more about what they’re doing because I’ve seen them doing it. I might never have supported them and continued to care for them, if I hadn’t gone on a mission trip to where they are serving.

So, I guess what I want to say is, even if you have reservations about a mission trip, or someone else’s mission trip, remember that it’s easy to judge, it’s harder to obey, then pray and ask God what He’s doing and ask if He wants you to be a part of it.

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I’ve finally listened to the soundtrack for this new Broadway musical. Many friends and especially my sister have been bugging me about listening to it for quite awhile now. I would rather have seen it in person, but I do not live in New York, and even though it is coming to my state sometime next year, I highly doubt I’ll be able to get a hold of some tickets. But thankfully, the whole play is available to listen to online. So I’ve enjoyed a few weeks of slowly listening to the whole thing.

I can definitely see why this musical is such a hit, the songs are very catchy and also very relatable. I’ve often thought of the lyric “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now. History is happening and we just happen to be living in the greatest city in the world.” And it kind of strikes a chord with me. I know there is a lot of unrest in our country right now, and sometimes it’s easier to just ignore it, but it is happening, and we get to be a part of it. You and I are living in an important moment in history and it’s happening right around us. I really like how that lyric captures the moment. And even though it can be scary to be living in the middle of change and unrest, it’s also exciting to see how you’re a part of something bigger.

One of my other favorite parts of Hamilton deals more with the relationships. The play uses a large portion of the story to focus on Alexander and his wife Eliza. The songs where they fall in love are wonderful and definitely worth listening too. But after Eliza is hurt by Alexander’s affair and then their son is killed in a duel, one of my favorite songs comes next. “It’s Quiet Uptown” shows how Alexander and Eliza learn to forgive and help each other. They come back together after all they’ve been through and it’s so beautiful. It reminds me that no relationship is beyond God’s ability to heal. He knows the deep hurts, our pain, and the wrongs done to us, but He can help us forgive.

So overall, I really enjoyed this new Broadway show. If you’re sensitive to language and some more adult themes, you may want to be cautious with this play and especially with “Say No to This.” But otherwise it’s a great story and really great music!

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Giving Tuesday


Well today is Giving Tuesday, where lots of nonprofit organizations really push for donations. Several places have matched donations for today only, so if you give, the gift gets doubled. It’s funny to me how so many days surrounding the holiday season have come to have new titles: Black Friday, Cyber Monday and now Giving Tuesday. But of all the days, this one struck me. It might be because I’m currently working on a Lesson about Giving vs Getting for my middle school students, but I thought I’d share my thoughts.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are all about getting your Christmas shopping done early and saving money. It’s a great thing for a lot of people even though some shoppers can go a bit overboard with their enthusiasm. But Giving Tuesday focuses in on giving things that matter. That new TV would be great and whoever you’re buying it for will probably be very happy to receive it, but it isn’t a necessity. Most of the organizations promoting Giving Tuesday are seeking to give people around the world, things they really need: like food, clothes, clean water, education and the list goes on and on.

There are a million things on this planet that you could buy, for yourself or for others, but some things just keep their value longer. And I don’t just mean physical things. When we give to God, our gifts count for eternity and store up treasures in heaven. Treasures that never fade, or rust, or break, or get lost.

But for me, that is not the main reason I want to give to these non-profit organizations. It’s easy to have the mindset of what am I going to get out of this, even when we’re giving. I’ve done this plenty of times, like giving gifts to my siblings so that I could play with the game or take part in the gift myself. It was almost like I was really giving the gift to myself. So I don’t want to give because I’m thinking about a mound of treasure waiting for me in heaven. Especially when I’ve been learning that what God calls treasure or riches usually has to do with people and relationships, not more stuff.

You may have noticed the picture at the top of this post. It’s from a mission trip I took to Haiti about 4 years ago. While I was there, I got to hang out with some kids and I ended up making some little drawings for them of different animals. It wasn’t a huge gift, but they were so excited to get one. Their faces would light up and they’d laugh and dance around. And I got to see a glimpse of the joy of giving.

So, here’s the reason why I’ll be participating in Giving Tuesday:
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40

When I give to the poor, I’m giving to Jesus. And Jesus is the One who loved me when I was selfish and broken, who took my place on the cross and gave up his life for me. His love is more valuable than anything I own, and He’s given it to me freely. I want to love Him back, to give back to Him, to treat people the way He has treated me and show Him how grateful I am for his gift.

So, if you would like to join me, here’s a couple of the organizations that I’m giving to today:

Austin Disaster Relief Network

Giving Tuesday


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Making Disciples

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This summer God has been teaching me a lot about making disciples. I’ve heard the term for most of my life, and knew it was important. But it always seemed hard to define, or do. How does one make disciples? Well every summer I’m part of my church’s Great Adventure. I’ve written about it before on my blog. And this year we really tried to emphasize making disciples.

You see discipleship is a lot harder than sharing a gospel message and pressuring someone to make a decision about it, or praying a prayer for salvation with someone and then giving them a slap on the back and moving on to the next person. Discipleship takes time. It’s building a relationship with a person, whether they have never heard of Jesus, are brand new believers, or have been going to church their whole lives. Discipleship is investing in someone’s life, showing them what’s important to you, letting them ask questions, talking about what they care about, and always pointing them back to God. There isn’t a strict manual about how to do it, but it always involves relationship.

So, I have a cool story I want to share about discipleship. I returned from college 3 years ago and after plugging back into my home church, I was asked to join the Middle School Ministry Team. I enthusiastically agreed. I was so encouraged by my own youth leaders when I was a teen, that I wanted to pass that on to the next generation. As I started, a new wave of brand new 6th graders started with me. I tried to connect with every grade, but it was cool to get 3 solid years of connecting with and encouraging, and teaching these same kids.

This summer I joined a team teaching Bible Clubs composed of mostly middle school students. One in particular had just finished 8th grade. Now I’ve been through the routine of Bible Clubs since 2003. I’ve shared Gospel Presentations, played games, connected with kids and even had the opportunity to pray with someone who believed the gospel for the first time. My favorite moment from this year’s Great Adventure starts when two young girls said, “Yes, I want to follow Jesus.”

One girl wanted to go off with the high school girl in our group, but the other didn’t know who to go pray with. There was a moment of awkward silence.

Then I smiled and pointed to the student who had been in Middle School with me for the past three years. “How about you go with him?”

The girl nodded and they went off to pray.

Later I got to hear the former middle schooler’s excited celebration. He claimed it was his favorite Great Adventure and he knew it was God who had done it. He was so happy.

And I was happy too, it felt like I had passed on the torch. Like I was saying, “I’ve done this a long time, but now it’s your turn. I trust you and know you’re ready.” It was such a joy to see a person I had invested in for 3 years celebrating God’s work and getting to enjoy something I had experienced before.

So, I think that’s a little glimpse of what discipleship is like. I hope you enjoyed the story.

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2014 and Change

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As this year is coming to a close and 2015 is fast approaching, I have been thinking back over this past year and what all has happened in my life. I think we all tend to do that around this time of year. I’ve already seen YouTube videos posted on this past year’s popular songs, and news blunders, and I’m sure that there are hundreds of other videos describing what has happened this year.

It’s been a year of change for me. I don’t feel as if I have gone through a drastic change myself. I’m still the same person. But I’ve seen big changes in the lives of the people close to me, and their changes have affected me. This year I got to stand as a maid of honor by my best friend’s side as she got married, I also went to three funerals/memorials for people that passed away, visited friends in the hospital after new babies were born and also when someone had a surprising health problem, and I got to be in another wedding as my brother married my now sister-in-law. So I’ve lost and gained people and relationships and basically gone through a lot of changes.

And these changes won’t ever stop. I’m sure this next year will bring new challenges, changes, and unexpected realities. But it’s comforting for me to know that in this changing world my eternity is secure. It doesn’t change. I know where I’m going, no matter when I get there. I know who I am, and even if my current circumstances change and my position or relationships on this earth change, my eternal reality is set in stone. I am a child of the King, and into His loving arms one day I will run. And knowing Him is the best thing about my life now, and for eternity.

I don’t know what changes you’ve gone through this year, good or bad, difficult or exciting, but the one decision that has changed my life the most is entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That decision has continued to shape and change me, and it will continue to do so in 2015. So if you’ve never made that decision, I’d encourage you to think about it. As I told a friend earlier this year, “Choosing to follow Jesus isn’t something you should do on a whim. It takes commitment. He asks you to die to self and follow His will instead of your own. It isn’t easy, but it is good.”

Well I hope you have a wonderful New Year! Feel free to leave a comment if you like.

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Big Hero 6 and the Importance of Relationships

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I really really really wanted to see this movie and I got to go see it this past weekend. I usually love the animated Disney movies and this one was no exception. It had great characters, a well developed plot line, jokes and touching moments. Everything you would want in a good Disney movie. If you want to stop reading here and just go see it, that’s fine. Maybe you can read the rest once you’ve seen it, if you don’t want any spoilers.

But now on to my thoughts about some of the deeper messages in this film. One thing that stood out to me was the importance of friendships. It can be easy, especially in America to take the individualist approach and say I can handle it on my own, I don’t need help. The protagonist of the movie, Hiro, felt this way. But as the plot progresses, we see the importance of strong relationships. Not only are friends and family important in working through life’s difficulties, like grief, but they also help us stay on track and keep us from making mistakes that we’ll regret later.

In the plot of the movie, I really liked how close Hiro comes to playing a villain role, I think it shows that every person is capable of being a hero or a villain. Indeed Hiro and and the villain share similar goals; taking revenge on the person who was responsible for the death of someone they loved. But because Hiro has friends to tell him what’s right, even if he doesn’t want to hear it, he eventually becomes aware that revenge will not heal his hurt and he must let that desire go. He even tries to help the villain in this story see what he learned and stop the destruction, but it is too late for the villain and he continues down the path he has chosen.

These lessons of friendship and the ability in each person to be a hero or villain remind me of truth in my own life. As a Christian I know that I am a sinner, and that I am capable of horrible things and am no better than any other person, even a murderer. Just like Hiro, I have the capability of being a villain. But because Jesus has saved me, I can choose to follow Him, to do what is right and good, and be heroic. But I cannot do it alone, I need Jesus’s help and the help of a church family. It makes me sad to think that a lot of Christians think they can watch a sermon online or listen to some worship music and that’s all they need, when it really isn’t. Just like Hiro needed his brother, Baymax, and his friends from school to keep pointing him back to what was true and right, I need people in the church to remind me to follow Christ, to not give up, and encourage me when I’ve had a bad day.

So, that’s what stood out to me from this movie. I hope you’ll go see it, if you haven’t yet. I’d like to see it again, that’s for sure.

I’ll end with a preview.

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The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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Have you ever had a bad day? I know I sure have. Most people do. There are some days where everything seems to go wrong.

Well, the other night I went to go see Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Although the title seems a little over the top, this movie was actually quite good. It struck at something that most people go through in life, at least eventually: a bad day. A day when everything that could go wrong does, and you just have to deal with it. I enjoyed the fact that a lot of the things that went wrong in the plot of this movie were ordinary things, but when piled on top of each other, they turn into something that’s really hard to deal with. (Just like in my own life). I know I’ve had my days where it seemed like I was being overwhelmed with all the little things going wrong.

But this movie included a positive message, and I didn’t find it cliche. The message was not “be positive and you’ll automatically get what you want, or everything will work out,” but more like, “stick together through the tough stuff.” Bad days are hard, and your attitude may be able to help, but one of the biggest things that helps is going through it with someone else.

Oddly enough, this is also what stuck with me from my church’s sermon on Sunday. Our pastor mentioned the fact that we should have joy in suffering with Jesus, or in joining in His sufferings. I never really understood that before. How is both of us suffering a good thing? Why should I want that? Hasn’t Jesus suffered enough for the both of us? I always took it to mean that Jesus was with me when I was suffering. But then my pastor said, when you suffer together you’re relationship deepens. And it just clicked. Like of course! You have friends that will have fun with you, and stick with you on your good days. But the people who stick with you in the hard stuff, that’s who you’re really close to. And that’s how close I want to be with Jesus.

Just like in the movie, the family drew closer together through all the hard stuff. This realization brought to mind another show I had recently rewatched: Band of Brothers. This TV show follows the story of a group of men who served together in WWII and details all that they went through together. Even though it was horrible stuff, it made their relationships supper deep, to where they really felt like brothers; like family.

So, maybe this week, you’ve had a bad day, or several bad days, but maybe if you step back and look at the relationships you have, and remember what you have to be thankful for, those bad days, as Alexander said, “can help you appreciate the good ones.”

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Mr. Peabody and Sherman

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I wasn’t sure if I would like Mr. Peabody and Sherman when I first saw the commercial for it. But one of my friends really wanted to see it, and as I saw more and more previews I became more intrigued with the storyline. I discovered that the movie was based on an old cartoon that used to show with Rocky and Bullwinkle. I never saw the show, but it sounded interesting, with each week going back to a different time in history.

But what interested me the most was the thought of a dog raising a boy. And I think this is what the movie centers around as well. At first Mr. Peabody assumes that raising a child won’t be too difficult. He’s accomplished so many other things that this task seems simple enough. And it’s funny how the classic boy and dog pairing switches so that Sherman feels like he is being treated like the dog in the relationship.

In the end however, each character learns something new, not just about history, but relationships with people. Sherman learns that it’s not the label that matters but the character of a person. He sees Mr. Peabody as loyal, courageous, and smart, and decides that even if he’s labeled as a ‘dog’ too, he doesn’t want to lose that relationship. Mr. Peabody learns that raising a child is difficult and is less about attaining a goal for the child, or providing for it’s basic needs and more about the close relationship that occurs. This can be seen as his terms of affection towards Sherman change from “I have a deep affection for you as well,” to “I love you.” Penny too learns that comparing herself to others is not what really matters, and that where she falls in the social ladder is less important than the presence of real relationships.

All in all this was an enjoyable movie that I’d recommend to anyone who likes a good family film.

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