Project Runway and Clothing as Story

Clothes have always told stories. They indicate social class, signify accomplishment, and mark points in history. People can be defined by the clothes they wear: goth, hippie, punk, hipster. What we wear tells a little bit about who we are, whether we’re creative, edgy, girly, simple, or minimalist. Clothes have also been key in the narratives of Scripture—think of Joseph and his colorful coat.

Fashion designers are also trying to tell a story through their clothes—either a story of innovation, a breaking off of tradition, or of trying to communicate who they are through their designs. This is especially true on Lifetime’s Project Runway, which unveils its 16th season on Thursday. Hosted by supermodel Heidi Klum and fashion consultant Tim Gunn, the show brings in fashion designers to compete for a chance to show a collection at New York Fashion Week. But the designers must make it through a series of intense design challenges first.

Designers are often pulled outside of their comfort zone by making clothes from unconventional items, such as creating an avant-garde look that can withstand the rain or reworking fabric from a tacky men’s suit. They’ve had to draw inspiration from different motifs for these challenges: butterflies, bowties, and even an American Girl doll. On top of this, all of the challenges need to be completed under a time constraint. No matter the challenge, the model should walk down the runway still expressing the designer’s unique vision. The judges should be able to look at the clothes and know which designer they belong to.

This reminds me of the way Scripture uses clothes to tell stories…

Read the rest at Think Christian >>

Theories of Life, Death, and Afterlife in The Discovery

Where do we go when we die?” has been a question haunting humanity since our earliest days. This unknown was explored in ancient myths, folklore, and drawings on walls. Life and death was even dictated by specific beliefs about the afterlife. Ancient Egyptians, for example, preserved their bodies and organs when they died. They buried themselves with material objects, pets, and loved ones, in faith it would all come along with them when they passed through death. Some religions believe in reincarnation: after death, people are reborn into another state (human or not), and the quality of their previous life determines the quality of their next one.

What most religions have in common is the belief that this life determines the next; the afterlife is the result of choices made in this life. But not so in the Netflix original film The Discovery. The idea of afterlife presented here is a second chance at this life. It’s a way to fix your deepest regrets and undo all the wrong and the tragedy you’ve endured. The Discovery begins with Thomas, a leading scientist who has proven the existence of an afterlife. He can’t say what it is exactly, but the proof gives a bent sort of hope to the world. It is fodder enough for millions of suicides by those who are looking for a way of escape from this life. No longer is death viewed as meaningless—now it’s life that has some explaining to do. Why bother to face the problems of this world when there is another one? As one videoman says to Thomas before he shoots himself in the head, “Thank you, Doctor, for my fresh start.”

Read the rest at Christ and Pop Culture >>

Lorde’s Melodrama and Living Life as a Supercut

No longer the outsider peering down on the glitz and glamor of pop music—as she was on her hit single “Royals”—Lorde now critiques from the inside with her latest, Melodrama. The music itself reflects this change. Gone are the days of her raw, hip hop-inspired beats and simple melodies. She’s now finely tuned and produced, while her lyrics have taken on typical pop-music themes of love lost and partying. Overall the album feels complex, robust, and eclectic.

Though she’s converted to a stronger pop vibe, Lorde has retained some of her edge. “Hard Feelings/Loveless” opens with her soft, throaty voice leading to harder electronic screeches. Then there is an almost silent interlude before the song breaks down into a dance beat, as her voice turns brighter and lighter. The new album features people looking for lasting pleasure or happiness in romantic love, one-night stands, partying, and substance abuse. The transitory nature of life is referenced in certain phrases: “summer afternoon,” “overnight rush,” and “the games of the weekend.” Melodrama shows us we tend to look for lasting things in transitory moments. On “Sober,” Lorde tries to see this pop world for what it really is: “It’s time we danced with the truth … we’re sleeping through all the days … I know you’re feeling it too, can we keep up with the ruse? … What will we do when we’re sober?”

King Solomon, the likely author of Ecclesiastes, would have appreciated the restlessness of Melodrama. Like Lorde, he was on the inside of a luxurious life that offered much pleasure, yet he found it “meaningless.” Or, to borrow Lorde’s term, “melodrama.”

Read the rest at Think Christian >>

“What Do You Do?” The Greater Purpose of Our Work

I love getting things done. I feel accomplished checking off boxes on my to-do list. I’m satisfied with finishing even small tasks, like washing a few dishes in the sink. There’s something gratifying about laying my head on my pillow, knowing it was a productive day.

Our ideas of a productive day might be different, but it’s undeniable that we, as a culture, love seeing results for our work. We like the politician who promises us they’ll get things done for us; projects and goals are only deemed successful if we achieve the end result; and we go to college so we can get a good paying job that will help us climb the corporate ladder. Nothing is wrong with these scenarios, but they’re all forms of our culture’s tendency to place a greater importance on “doing.”

“So, what do you do?”

When you meet someone for the first time, you might ask them, “So, what do you do?” We tend to identify someone by the things they do. We classify and place value on different occupations, salaries and outward talents and skills. Even our college education system has become more concerned with career goals than about the idea of what an educated person is.

Much of this mentality has to do with the American-grown philosophy of pragmatism. There is a large breadth to this philosophy, but I’m using it in the sense of practicality. To be pragmatic means that the practicality of ideas, policies and proposals is the only criteria of merit and is what makes a principle usable. I’m a practical person, and I know there’s nothing wrong with that, but pragmatism can’t be the only measurement of worth and value that we use.

Read the rest at ERLC >>

God Parents Us Through Trials

God is a good parent. He’s a perfect parent actually. When I go through times of suffering, I remind myself of this truth. When I’ve asked, “Why God? Why did this have to be your will for me?” I think about how he uses trials to parent me, and how he uses even evil things to make me bear good fruit (Genesis 50:20).

Sometimes God seems like a bad parent to us, because he says no to things that feel natural to us and appear to be harmless. I once had a young man ask me, “Why would a God of love not allow a homosexual couple, in love, to be together?” Well, because God is a perfect parent.

Learning to Live as Children

We have all been parented in some regard by an earthly parent (whether for good or evil) and, at one time or another, questioned their love for us, or questioned if they really knew what was best for us. Once we become parents ourselves, we begin to see things differently. We see how love can take on different forms.

Love says “Yes” as much as possible, but sometimes love must say “No” for the greater good of the child. Good earthly parents also have a higher and more mature perspective than their children (though not completely comprehensive). Because of this, we see things our children don’t see yet or might never see until they become parents themselves.

Parenting is complicated. The decisions we make for our children that might seem harsh to them (in their immaturity) are meant to be protective acts of love. We are always seeking to save our children from themselves, no matter what age. Isn’t this how God views his children? No matter what stage in our spiritual development, he seeks to save us from ourselves and make us into something better.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

The Art of Social Commentary

Why Charles Dickens should be our social commentary muse.

“Where Dickens wielded a pen, today we wield a smartphone.”


“Please, sir, I want some more.” These are the famous words of the hungry orphan, Oliver Twist. The novel, so named after the main character, is one of Dickens most popular, and if you don’t know anything about the novel, you have probably still heard those words.

But beyond simply writing and creating a great story around Oliver Twist, Dickens created him for a purpose beyond the page of a book. Twist became a form of social commentary.

Read the rest at Fathom Mag >>

 

If Love is God, Love Will Fail

I was never any good at romantic love. I feared falling in love — being vulnerable with my emotions. I knew whoever I married would need to be a worthy man according to Scripture, but also someone I could fall in love with, and that second part scared me. As I dated my husband, two big questions hovered over our relationship:

Was he godly? Yes.
Do I love him? Yes, I do.

But it did not end there, like I had thought it would. Because I had overcome my fear of falling in love and “took the plunge,” I thought I had arrived. I thought we had arrived. Instead, I realized that, though I had fallen in love, I did not know a thing about true love. In fact, God walked me and all my fears about love through the door of romantic love on my wedding day in order to teach me about his true and lasting love in new and deeper ways.

Two Loves

There is a clear distinction between biblical love and romantic love. Biblical love is unnatural to us, so it is always worked in us by the Holy Spirit. No one loves like God without God’s help. Romantic love comes more naturally to us, and therefore happens easily.

Romantic love is a good gift of God’s common grace meant for our enjoyment, and it is good for this type of love to develop into marriage. Biblical love is a different category altogether. At its core, biblical love is selfless, committed to truth, and driven by a divine work inside of us. It never happens unless we draw near to God in Christ. Biblical love can also be expressed and experienced in any relationship, while romantic love is exclusive — designed to be expressed and experienced (at least ultimately) with one person in marriage.

Romantic feelings only scratch the surface of God’s design for us. They give us a glimmer of the ecstatic feelings God has for us, the kind of feelings that lead him to sing over us (Zephaniah 3:17). Biblical love takes us even deeper into that wondrous love. Our love for one another models his covenant love for us — a love so zealous to uphold his covenant with us that he will die for us, even when he had every reason to leave us.

Death is at the center of God’s love for us, and death is at the heart of all biblical love. The covenant vows we make on our wedding day are a death sentence of love. We vow to die to self, in every season of marriage, for the other — to keep the covenant at all costs, doing whatever it takes to serve our spouse’s joy in Jesus.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Measuring Disunity and Modesty by the Standard of the Gospel

This is part of a series in 1 Timothy. My piece is taken from 1 Timothy 2:8-10


I grew up in a church that handed out a modesty checklist to young girls. Some of the rules were:

  • You can’t wear shirts with spaghetti straps unless you wear something under it or over it.
  • You cannot wear any prints or fabrics that drew attention to your chest.
  • Your tank top straps should measure four fingers wide or else pitch it.
  • You must always wear board shorts over the bottoms of any bathing suit (even a traditional one piece).

We tried to follow and enforce these rules. And it all bred severe criticism, judgment, legalism, and self-righteousness. We began to assess ourselves and other girls through the narrow lens of externals, believing it to be the standard of a godly woman. From this list, it seemed as if this was the norm of a godly woman. The list above was not a biblical standard, but a man-made one. If only godly womanhood and gospel living were as easy as checking off a list that some church ladies made up. But it’s not. Godly womanhood and gospel living stem from the heart, and only God can change hearts. We can only change our outfits.

Putting on certain outfits or behaviors does not make someone godly. Only when the gospel changes our hearts can there be practical, visible change. The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 1, when God awakens our hearts to the power of the gospel, our outward behavior changes.

You can read the rest at Servants of Grace >>

Aging With Grace: How Death Will Restore Youth

Peter Pan is one of my favorite stories. Neverland is a place throbbing with human longing—a magical paradise where a boy with eternal youth lives at its center. Though we know the story isn’t real, that doesn’t stop our hearts from yearning for the eternal youth and beauty it represents. We strive to attain it.

Our cultural obsession with youth and beauty presents itself through the anti-aging industry. We hate to see beauty fade away. We color the silver hairs that slowly overtake our youthful roots. We lather on anti-aging creams that promise to make wrinkles fade. We surgically modify our bodies to make them seem young again.

Science is also on this anti-aging quest.

According to The Guardian’s science correspondent, Hannah Devlin, a new form of gene therapy may reverse the aging process. Devlin says that this adds to the mounting evidence already in existence, which says that wear and tear is not what leads to physical decay, but an internal genetic clock that causes our bodies to enter a state of decline.

“The scientists are not claiming that ageing can be eliminated, but say that in the foreseeable future treatments designed to slow the ticking of this internal clock could increase life expectancy,” says Devlin.

According to this research, Peter Pan might be a real story someday. At least, in some sense.

Read the rest at Gospel Taboo >>

Feeling the Midnight Moonlight Music of Ravyn Lenae

The agony of love lost, the hurt of betrayal, the hopelessness of depression, the despair of loneliness, and the torture of anxiety are transformative emotional experiences. Whenever we come in contact with these emotions, we grow up a little. We are imparted a fuller dimension of the human experience in a broken world. Through God’s grace, such difficult emotions can also become a catalyst for growth. Though we can feel like we’re trapped in a suffocating cocoon, in the hands of our redeemer, such emotional experiences can transform us into free-flying butterflies.

With her latest release, Midnight Moonlight, 18-year-old Ravyn Lenae grows up a little too. In an interview with Rolling Stone, where she was named as one of March’s 10 artists to watch, Lenae used colors to explain the difference between her first EP and this one. “Moon Shoes is very pink and yellow, and maybe orange, very bright, whereas Midnight Moonlight is purple and blue and, I don’t know, gray,” she said. “Not to say those colors are sad, because a lot of times people like to equate those colors with sadness, or [being] blue. But those colors are more emotion-felt, and deep, and sultry.”

Read the rest at Think Christian >>

Made for community: The church, marriage and dying to self

I recently took my son to see “The LEGO Batman Movie,” and I was struck by its depth. Batman teams up with LEGO to show, not just the dark side of Gotham City’s villains, but the dark side of the dark knight. The LEGO cartoons always seem to depict Batman in a unique way from the other superheroes: as the loner. He likes to work alone and is portrayed as emotionally distant, egotistical and self-preserving. He’s afraid of being close or needing anybody in his life, especially emotionally. But by the end of the film, relationship and community trump individualism. Batman takes a long look inside himself and changes.

Individualism in America

Batman is one example of individualism. According to Britannica, individualism became a core part of American ideology by the 19th century. As James Bryce, British ambassador to the United States, wrote in The American Commonwealth in 1888: “Individualism, the love of enterprise, and the pride in personal freedom have been deemed by Americans not only their choicest, but [their] peculiar and exclusive possession.”

In her article for The Federalist, Heather Judd, traces back the history of individualism to the Enlightenment, where truth derived from reason and the self was exalted. Then, the Industrial Revolution centralized work in factories, which relied more on the individual for work instead of the family unit. Judd then brings the history to our present reality:

By the mid-nineteenth century, transcendentalists such as Emerson and Thoreau turned from rationalism but continued to extol the self-sufficiency of the individual. The twentieth and twenty-first centuries have dutifully followed the path they blazed, separating the individual from society, then family, and now even the self, as we question whether we have any inherent identity apart from our transitory desires and feelings.

Judd goes on to say that these historical shifts have brought our culture to a place where we navigate life from the perspective of the individual. These roots go down deep. Our country was established with the desire for independence and self-government, for good reason. And more than that, our first father and mother sought independence from their Creator. But that’s not the calling our heavenly Father has for us spiritually.

Read the rest at The ERLC >>

Man-Made Coverings

I see them walk down the street engulfed in a black baggy fabric. I see their veiled faces at the library’s story time. At the grocery store or at the park they might wear a bright scarf draped over their heads and gathered around their necks with faces exposed. These are the Muslim women dressed in different forms of hijab (covering) in my community. These differing forms of covering are a sign of modesty and religious faith. Though we don’t follow these specific dress codes in the Christian faith perhaps we spiritually put on our own personal coverings.

It’s not that the external has no importance in the Christian faith, but it should be the internal reality of the Spirit’s work in our hearts that flows out into the externals of our faith. Not the other way around. We know band-aids don’t heal cancer, just like when we put on something externally that does not solve the internal issues of the human heart. It’s a shallow fix when we put on external morality and behavior in place of a changed heart.  Could the Christian hijab be a performance-based mentality that we impose on ourselves and others?

Read the rest at For The Church >>

The Calling of The Unknown Brother

When I was eighteen I had the opportunity to visit a missionary couple in Peru. I traveled with them up and down the coast watching and engaging in ministry work with them. A few of our days were spent in Trujillo, where I stayed with Jim Elliot’s older brother, Bert, and his wife, Colleen. Jim and Elisabeth Elliot were my all time heroes. So, I was shrieking inside like a fan girl at the Elliot’s home. At that point, Bert and Colleen, had spent fifty plus years of ministry in Peru. They left for the jungles right after their wedding, and then eventually settled in the city of Trujillo. I had always idolized Jim, his life, work, and death, and aspired to be like him. But I had never even heard about the life of his brother and his work. Bert lasted much longer on this earth than Jim, and yet his story is not famous. He is the unknown brother.

Read the rest at Morning by Morning >>

The Wounds of Christ: An Instrument of Healing in The Redeemer’s Hands

Time heals all wounds. But does it really? As time edges on will it completely erase our pain? Will we truly forget the trauma? I would propose that it really depends on how we use that time. If we are using time to our advantage, we’ll be seeking help, counsel, encouragement, care, and gracious accountability. If we are real with ourselves and admit we need time to heal, we’ll have to work at it. We’ll need to be vulnerable, process biblically, and seek out the grace of God; the One who heals the brokenhearted and is near the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). Doing these things won’t hide our wounds, but we will no longer find our identity in them, and our wounds will also no longer have the power to dominate our lives and thoughts. Time will not heal our wounds if we waste our time through denial or stay stuck in deep bitterness. This is actually enslaving and the complete opposite of healing for ourselves. Time can be a healing agent for us if we steward and manage our time well as we seek to heal. (What I’m specifically referring to here with the word “wounds” are the ways we have been hurt, subjected to trauma from others, and our experiences of suffering.)

Read the rest at Servants of Grace >>

Always Good, Never Safe

If anyone should have known the fear of God, it was the Israelites.

They had front row seats as he plagued Egypt with all kinds of insects, amphibians, and diseases. He turned the Nile River to blood, covered Egypt in darkness, and even took away all the Egyptian’s firstborn sons. The God of Israel led his people out of Egypt with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He parted the Red Sea, letting his people pass through unharmed. And as Pharaoh’s armies pursued, he joined the seas back together so the waters swallowed them.

But Israel didn’t learn their lesson.

Seven weeks after this great deliverance, these newly freed slaves were preparing to be in God’s presence at the foot of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:9–11). God instructed Moses to set limits around the mountain so that the people would not go up on it lest they die (Exodus 19:12–13). He showed himself to his people, descending upon the mountain in fire and enveloping it in smoke (Exodus 19:18). There was also a thick cloud on the mountain with shots of lightning, peals of thunder, and a loud trumpet blast (Exodus 19:16).

The people initially trembled. But their fear did not last.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>