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 >>

Refuse to Escape: Facing Reality by Looking at Christ

In the final installment of The Hunger Games series, a few of the characters are held captive and undergo traumatizing torture designed to blur the lines between fantasy and reality. When the prisoners are rescued they don’t know if their memories are real or not, so when a memory would surface they would seek validation by asking, “Real? Not Real?”

The series itself explores this blurring of lines between fantasy and reality as a way to critique our own culture. The dystopian society of The Hunger Games is a reflection of deeper truths in us all and society at large. In a world where strangers having sex is one click away on a computer screen, where social media splits up our public and private lives and Google is the informational authority, it can leave us asking, “Real? Not Real?

When a culture mixes a bit of fantasy and reality together it makes facing stark reality that much harder. It’s not just advertisers who are adept at generating fantasies. We’re all generating fantasies when we attempt to escape reality. How do we know we are trying to escape reality? When we use objects or people in a way to self-soothe or gain control. In the heart of every sinner is a user and abuser. Only corrupt sinners are adept at generating fantasies through using substances and experiences wrongly. This isn’t just about those who religiously attend Alcoholics Anonymous—it’s what’s lurking inside every sinful heart.

Read the rest at The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission >>

The Love Connection in The Lego Batman Movie

It’s not only the dark side of Gotham City’s villains that we see in The Lego Batman Movie. We also see the dark side of the dark knight.

While the constant comedy of this family movie keeps the content lighthearted, the character development of Batman himself gives the film a sense of depth. The conflict Batman/Bruce Wayne faces is lurking inside the crevices of his heart; his change involves unmasking himself so he can learn to give and receive love.

Batman lost his parents to the crime-ridden streets of Gotham, which creates in him a passion for fighting crime. The Lego Batman Movie suggests he uses this mission as a way to avoid dealing directly with his traumatic past. In one scene, his butler Alfred catches Batman lost in thought as he gazes at a wall of family photos. Alfred suggests that Batman settle down and give up the mask. But Batman puts on his mask of denial and avoids facing his greatest fear, which, Alfred claims, is having a family again. Batman has kept himself safe from experiencing pain by being a loner, acting independently, being egotistical, and by staying focused on the physical aspects of his life. All of these are mechanisms that help numb himself to feeling any strong emotions.

Read the rest at Think Christian >>

The Captivating Power of a Good Family

The more books I read to my kids, the more movies I watch with them, and the more Disney Junior shows they consume, I see one clear gospel message: “Believe in yourself.” But a close runner-up to this message would be a gospel about family, for instance in the powerful and popular new show, This Is Us. Many movies today, for every age and demographic, bring the moral of the story back to the family.

The workaholic dad finally finds his meaning in his family. The working mom that barely gets it all done realizes her life is really about her family. The rebellious teen ends up finding healing in his family. It’s a typical theme, moral, or virtue that is lifted up as one of many gods of our age. The family is often portrayed as the salvation of mankind. Family is where we find ultimate meaning.

It’s good, clean fun to believe in family, so nobody questions it. As Christians, we can agree with the value of family in movies and television, because we know the God who designed and blessed the family structure.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Chasing Happily Ever After

There is a story little girls grow up with. The one where a handsome young Prince defeats every obstacle to save the Princess in distress. This is the stuff of fairy tales and a lot of older Disney movies. Now those movies have evolved into something where the Princess is strong, not helpless, and where she is in control as opposed to things just happening to her. She even does some of the saving now. Overall, this is a good shift of the classic narrative structure, because it shows the stronger side of femininity for little girls and lets them know they shouldn’t look for ultimate fulfillment in men. We can’t place our hope in another character in the story, but it must be placed in the creator of the story itself.

The story of the Prince saving the Princess and living happily ever after is reflective of a longing inside of us. We want this to be our story. We want the happily ever after. So we search for it in a man, in a relationship, and in a marriage. But when we bank on finding ultimate happiness in a boyfriend, fiancee, or husband we place them on a pedestal and put burdens on them they were never meant to bear. I didn’t realize I had put my husband on a pedestal until five years of marriage when he came crashing down. I was deeply hurt and he became a broken statue on the floor. I found out the depth of his sin, as well as my own, and reality could not measure up to the fairy tale. I felt like I had lost my happily ever after. I wrongly assumed my husband would fill that longing for my happily ever after, and I also wrongly viewed him, and his role, as more akin to Christ himself. My husband is called to be like Christ, but he is not Christ. I didn’t have this straight when I married him.

Read the rest at Young Wives Club >>

Finding Home In Exile

By Katie Tumino


Cacophony and Euphony. Sounds like a pairing of a bad cough and an insult on someone’s legitimacy. If you are unfamiliar with these words, may I give you a brief English lesson? I promise it will be brief:

Cacophony = harsh and unharmonious sounds; the word “cacophony” itself is very harsh sounding. In writing, it is used to describe any harsh, sharp, hissing, negatively associated words or phrases – ex) puss

Euphony = pleasant and harmonious sounds; euphony comes from the same root as “euphoria.” In writing, it is used to describe fluid, melodic, soothing, positively-associated words or phrases – ex) delectable

Now that wasn’t too painful, was it? I was sitting in my eleventh grade English class on a gloomy fall day when I remember learning those words. My family had just moved across country for the first time for my dad’s job. These circumstances paired with the raging hormones of a sixteen year old resulted in a mindset that believed my world was falling apart. No friends. No understanding. Nothing familiar. Anger. Feelings of exile. In my class notes, I wrote “exile” as my example for cacophony and “home” as my example for euphony.

The word “home” quickly became an idol for me. Its allure was all-consuming. Now by “home,” I don’t just mean the four walled structure of my childhood upbringing. I mean the connotations associated with it – comfort, acceptance, love, and belonging. The comfort my family brought me was not enough. I needed more – more acceptance from friends, more attention from boys, more belonging for the skills I had to offer. Thankfully, the Lord intervened, washing out these “homes” built on sand (Matt. 7:24-27) to reveal the true foundation on which to build my “home.” Such verses as the following became an instant comfort to me:

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” – 2 Corinthians 5:1

“Now go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” – Genesis 12:1

“And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more.” – 2 Samuel 7:10

I found application and relatability in Scripture in a whole new way when I realized how much of a theme exile/home was throughout – literally for the people of Israel, figuratively for God’s people brought “home” to God through salvation in Jesus Christ. Both resonated deeply within me. And I have found comfort in that theme and the promise of “home” time and time again when I have continued to feel “exiled.” Beyond the physical exile of moving (or even feeling stuck in your hometown), there is emotional exile as well. Maybe you feel exiled by your relationship status – single, dating, married – separating you from those around you in different seasons. Maybe you feel exiled by your own body not functioning the way it should. Maybe you feel exiled being home all day with the kids, or maybe the dream career you have desired for so long is going nowhere. Whether it’s physical, relational, emotional, occupational, or everything combined, we all have felt exiled in some way, and we all long to feel at “home.” But what if exile is not the cacophonous word we believe it is? What if I told you exile can be a blessing?

I recently began re-reading my Bible from the very beginning in Genesis, and God’s words after the fall struck me in a new way.

“Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—”  therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the Garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” – Genesis 3:22-25 (emphasis my own)

Did you catch that? God showed mercy and protection to Adam and Eve by exiling them from the garden. In some ways their exile was a consequence, but in other ways it was a sparing. We all know how eating of one tree to be more like God was a detrimental mistake, so to prevent a second damning mistake, he turned Adam and Eve out of the garden, out of temptation’s way. Because of exile, we are not condemned to an eternal home in this fallen world. Praise God! Exile from the perfect place on earth was, in the end, a blessing. This paved the way for the rest of history to unfold where God held the ultimate homecoming by sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross so that our sins would be forgiven and we might truly find the perfect place to make our eternal home: his presence in heaven.

When we continue to feel exiled on this earth by relationships, locations, careers, and school, take heart that exile can in fact be a blessing, a mercy, and a protection from building your home on sand. Exile keeps us restless to find home.


Katie Tumino is a recent college graduate with a B.A. in English from Gardner-Webb University. She now resides in Akron, OH with her husband Chad.  You can follow her writing at thenextthreefeet.wordpress.com

How Do We Make America Great?

If we want to make America great again, we have to define greatness. America’s foundation was based on some noble principles and founded by moral, yet also sinful, men. But America has also expanded, in some ways, due to injustice. Our nations history (and even the present) is littered with brutality, intolerance of other people groups and cultures, and racism. We can’t ignore that some of our “greatness” was built on exploiting others who did not count among the white privileged. If this is greatness, then Christ’s church must have no part. Instead we must proclaim what true greatness is to our nation.

True greatness starts with the individual, and it begins in the heart. A nation can’t be truly great unless its people are truly great. And those who are truly great follow in the pattern of greatness that Jesus left for us and instructs us in (Philippians 2:3-8). Jesus did not come as a political liberator, but came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). He didn’t come to lord it over everyone or to achieve honor, riches, and power. He didn’t have to, because he already had those things. Instead, he laid those things aside to become less than what he was. In Luke 22:24-27 Jesus’ disciples are arguing over who is greatest among them. Jesus tells them they must not be like “the kings of the Gentiles who exercise lordship over them“(Luke 22:25), but he instructs them to lead through service (Luke 22:26). He then gives a picture of one who reclines at table and the one who serves at the table (Luke 22:27). The disciples would have associated greatness with the one who gets to recline at the table and be served, but Jesus turns that idea upside down and says, “But I am among you as the one who serves.”

Read the rest at Morning by Morning >>

The Place of Real Arrival

Good science-fiction consists of more than just alien invasions, body-snatchers, and “Take me to your leader.” Done well, sci-fi tells us deep truths about ourselves and our world. The Oscar-nominated film Arrival most definitely falls into this type of good sci-fi because of the way it takes the viewer deeper into the emotions of human experience. As film critic Anthony Lane wrote in The New Yorker, “What lingers, days after you leave the cinema, is neither the wizardry nor the climax but the zephyr of emotional intensity that blows through the film.”

Director Denis Villeneuve is the wizard behind the wizardry of Arrival, while Amy Adams plays the main character: a respected linguist named Dr. Louise Banks. The United States Army seeks out Dr. Banks and her top-notch translation skills so she can help them decipher what a group of mysterious, newly arrived aliens want with the human race.

Arrival doesn’t begin with the aliens, however. The opening sequence of the film shows us intensely emotional scenes from the life of one person, beginning to end. In a matter of minutes, we feel boundless joy, soul-twisting loss, and the agony of sorrow. Villeneuve masterfully crafts this sequence, helping us see and feel the fleeting nature of time from a distance, and all at once. We are voyeurs on the outside of time, looking in.

This isn’t how we normally experience time, of course. We live in time. It’s something happening to us in a specific moment, like a dot on a timeline. In the first few minutes of the film, we are seeing one person’s timeline all at once, which highlights the brevity of life and causes us to feel as Solomon did, that life is a vapor and a vanity.

Read the rest at Think Christian >>

Book Review of Comfort Detox By Erin Straza

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Erin has been a mentor to me. We connected through Christ and Pop Culture (where I do some writing). She is the managing editor of the Christ and Pop Culture Magazine, which is for members only. And she has a podcast through CAPC, with Hannah Anderson, called Persuasion. This is one of my favorite podcasts, because these two women are deep thinkers, culturally savvy, and don’t spend too much time chatting and giggling (as do some podcasts for Christian women).

Now Erin has launched into the book publishing realm to release Comfort Detox: Finding Freedom From Habits That Bind You, through InterVarsity Press. She starts off with what she calls “The Shredding”, which for her was a defining moment in the red light district of India. This shredding was a humbling experience and a severe mercy that devastated her, but woke her up to the sorrowing world around her. And out of “The Shredding” came what she terms, “The Question”, which was, “What am I doing?” Erin finally faced this uncomfortable question when she came home from India; this is where her comfort detox began.

Erin does a great job explaining what she means by a comfort detox: it is rewiring our brain by rewarding it with true comfort, instead of the false comforts of this world, and thereby replacing old habits with good ones. She thoroughly analyses the culture around us and the craving for comfort, and specifically unpacks a few ways our culture attempts to satisfy this craving. Three broad categories, Erin proposes, for old, world-conforming habits are: convenience, safety, and perfection. These three areas are ways we seek comfort. But Erin points us in a new direction.

Her new direction is true comfort. And Erin unpacks the idea of God being our comforter. This where comfort is redeemed. As Erin says, “I have pursued the comfort of things, when all along comfort is a person.” She goes on to say that God designed us to crave comfort, but it was meant to find ultimate satisfaction in him. And the comfort from God does not stop here, but is joined together as we comfort others with the comfort we have received (2 Corinthians 1:4), which in turn equals more comfort for us. Instead of collapsing inward, we must turn outward. This way, as Erin says, we’ll receive a full measure of comfort. She says, “True comfort enables us to turn outward – toward God for the comfort we need and toward others who need what comes only from God.” 

Erin reminds us that comfort is a mindless habit, and that the gospel overpowers the old habits of living for convenience, safety, and perfection and replaces them with “life-giving habits we need – compassion, trust, and humility – in order to walk free from the destructive habits that bind us.” She then ends the book with three chapters dedicated to the ways true comfort is set loose in our lives. First, we experience gospel freedom, then we are engaged with the sorrowing world around us, and finally we will be captivated by God’s kingdom purposes.

This book is a true treasure full of creative insight and deep biblical thought. Erin writes as she speaks (which, if you’re a writer, is a compliment). She writes clearly, thoughtfully, and vulnerably. It’s obvious she feels and cares deeply, and she inspires us to do the same.

New Blog Project

This post is just a public service announcement to inform everyone that I’m the editor in chief of a new blog, started by myself, Ellie Benson, and Lexy Sauve. We’re called Morning by Morning. Please stop by and subscribe by email (found on the right sidebar) and follow, or like us, on any of your preferred social media platforms (you can find the icons on the top right of the page).

Here is what the blog is about:

Morning by Morning seeks to engage people in a conversation about the mercies that we encounter each new morning. We want to point our own hearts and the hearts of others to Christ through sharing articles on truth, culture, and family. Our hope is that it will be a refining read that spurs you to the gospel.

Also, here is a bit about my partners in crime:

Lexy Sauve-CONTRIBUTING EDITOR & SUBMISSIONS MANAGER

Lexy Sauvé lives in Ogden, Utah, with her family where God’s called her to be a helper to her husband Brian, a homemaker, and momma to Ari Judah and Ira Lewis. She also serves alongside her husband in ministry at Refuge Church in Ogden, Utah. She enjoys spending as much time in God’s Word as she can, journaling, cooking, reading, visiting as many coffee shops as she can, and going on adventures with her boys. She has a degree in Creative Writing and sees her pen as a way to share what God’s been teaching her with others. She is on staff with Deeply Rooted Magazine and blogs regularly at lexysauve.wordpress.com

Ellie Benson- CREATIVE DIRECTOR & FEATURED CONTRIBUTOR

Ellie is a Wife and Mother to a family of five in Augusta, GA. She is an Encaustic Artist, Novice Writer and Homeschool Mother. When not creating art and writing, she runs a large christian homeschooling community based on the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education. Ellie writes for her own blog ellieeugenia.com on Faith, Art, and Family and at charlottemasonliving.com .