Soul Food

Soul Food {November 2017}

What. A. Month. What a year, actually. I’ve spent a lot of it in accidental isolation, so this next month (and the upcoming year) for me are going to be about ending that. Part of the isolation has meant the companionship of art and media to help me feel somewhat connected and awake. But I’m learning that having a plethora of information and ideas around me all the time isn’t always a good thing, so I’ve been reducing my intake a bit. Here are some of the things that felt worthwhile.

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  • “To Have You Around” by Zach Winters. Almost like a daydream. I’ve been singing it under my breath a lot.
  • “Better Than I Used to Be” by Mat Kearney ft. AFSHeeN. Mat has been one of my favorite artists for a long time, and he is still consistently good. His new single is a fun pop anthem with his own unique flair. I’m hoping to see him on his upcoming tour next year!
  • Jon McLaughlin’s “Promising Promises” album. A classic for me. I forget how absolutely in love I am with it; it makes me physically smile and tear up. So, so good. He’s just a master at what he does. My favorite songs from it might be “Promising Promises” “You Never Know” and “If Only I.” But seriously, listen to them all, please. I’ve been listening to so much of his music lately. He just released a Christmas ep, by the way, and it’s wonderful!
  • “Show Me (Like It’s My Birthday)” by Christian Collins. If you’ve been keeping up with me for a while, you know how much I adore Chris. He’s recently resolved to put out more of his music, and not only am I proud of him, but I’m also pretty happy to hear new things from him. This is a jam.
  • “Easy Love” and “Paris in The Rain” by Lauv. I love his fresh sound and his youthful yet knowing voice. You can tell he puts a lot of thought into every element of his music; both of these songs are fun to listen to, but they go deeper, too. “Easy Love” in particular has made me think a lot, about the tendency we have to sell ourselves short and deny ourselves good things because they seem too easy to be real.
  • Kevin “K.O.” Olusola’s cover of “Sign of The Times.” One of the best uses of a loop pedal I’ve witnessed; gorgeous and a jam at the same time. Plus, his voice is killer and he’s simply talented in general.
  • Jillian Edwards’ “Daydream” album. She’s a songwriting inspiration to me. Nearly everything she creates is like a warm and comforting lullaby, but with more complexity and finesse. Her voice just feels so kind. Some of my favorites from this album include “Apologies” and “Daydream.”
  • I just pulled my Christmas playlist out of storage! I try to update it on both YouTube and Spotify throughout December.

If you want all of this music (minus the Christmas stuff) in one place, I have a playlist for that, too! It’s on YouTube and on Spotify; scroll to the bottom for the newest additions.

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  • Interstellar. I went into it thinking it was just another drama set in space, but I was so wrong. This film is incredible. The actors are top notch, the twists are unexpected and emotion-stirring, and it’s such an original, interesting story. I loved it.
  • La La Land. It’s just so lovely, and easy to nestle into on a melancholy day.
  • “Breaking Thor with Chris Hemsworth” on The Tonight Show. Stupid but made me laugh when I needed to laugh.
  • Rhett and Link’s “Cockroach Cuddling Challenge.” I cried laughing.
  • The Snow Queen, a Russian animated film from 1957. I happened upon it somehow, and it is just gorgeous. I can’t get over the backgrounds and the all the details in the artwork; the character design of the Snow Queen especially is beautiful and intimidating. It’s a magical escape to take with a unique story for an hour. There’s a 1995 English re-release in which the voice actress does an incredible job bringing the Snow Queen such power and grandeur, but the original is also available with English subtitles and I much prefer its soundtrack (and the dialogue isn’t as cheesy).
  • Benny and Joon. Unexpectedly adorable. The characters are fun and interesting and I rooted for them. Its portrayal of mental illness isn’t groundbreaking, but it also isn’t romanticized or too exaggerated. [Disclaimer for those of you like me who’d want to know ahead of time: there’s one scene where you know things are getting a little spicy, but you don’t witness it happen.]
  • The Giver. I wanted to see the film version after reading the book (and after becoming a fan of Brenton Thwaites). I’d heard mostly disappointed reviews, but I personally really enjoyed it. The changes they made didn’t change the core of the story. I teared up during the montages of memories, reminded that living with both joy and pain is far better than living with neither. And, of course, I thought Brenton was a wonderful Jonas.
  • Arrival. I feel like I need to watch it a second time to better grasp it, but at the same time I love that my first reaction when the credits began rolling was to put my hands to my temples and repeatedly whisper, “What…” The twist was so unexpected. I love when sci-fi stories are eerie and use fantastical elements elegantly, instead of just screeching, “LOOK! ALIENS!” I loved these aliens! Because they were mysterious characters lurking in shadow, but they truly were characters and contributed so much. And Amy Adams did a stellar job in her role and for sure deserved an Oscar nomination for it.
  • The first trailer for Avengers: Infinity War. Tears of joy came to my eyes. I am so, so excited about this film. We’ve been enjoying movies in this universe for ten years now, and to see it culminate in something like this is mind-blowing and just makes me feel so profoundly happy.
  • Continuing to watch The Mentalist (on season five right now), The Good Doctor (it’s beginning to capture my heart), and Designated Survivor (mixed feelings but overall I’m enjoying it).

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  • The Giver by Lois Lowry. I was drawn to it because of the super interesting premise, and while it wasn’t fast-paced like I expected, I still enjoyed it and its cozy yet apprehensive tone; I like it more and more the longer I linger on it. Making seemingly common discoveries along with Jonas brought a renewed sense of wonder and appreciation.
  • Gathering Blue, also by Lois Lowry. I love the way Lowry writes unspoken questions into her stories. While this book doesn’t have direct connection to its companion The Giver (that I know of so far, at least; I’ve just started the third book), there’s still the presence of a society that is accepted by those living in it but is also unsettling and highly controlled. The questions a story of societies like this bring up are huge and important. Yet I also like that Lowry doesn’t necessarily provide answers in her stories. Instead, she provides moments of waking up to the presence of the questions, and optimism for the future. And she uses loveable, humble characters to be the vessels of that optimism as we follow them in their journeys of waking up and becoming determined to make things better.
  • “Secrets of The Marvel Universe” with Vanity Fair. I’m just such a fan of Marvel and the films they’ve been putting out the past ten years (as you well know by now), so getting to hear from the people behind it and see the new photoshoot was fun and interesting.
  • I’m on Goodreads if you want to see full book reviews from me and follow along as I read.

What fed you this month?

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On Discerning, Suffering, & Trusting Myself to Know

outside breakfast 1Hi.

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

This has been a strange, raw year for me, almost as if I’ve been in open heart surgery this whole time. It’s honestly still that way nearly every day. I know that someday I’ll probably tell you every little detail, but not today; the surgery still isn’t over. And recovery takes time, too. I’m beginning to accept that healing is a process, instead of attempting to push it to go faster. Hurt doesn’t usually go away by any force except for the force that time is. But it does go away. I’m beginning to learn that, too.

There is something I’d like to talk about right now, though. I haven’t written (to you, at least) in months, so I hope we’ve still got our cozy atmosphere for conversation and that I’ll still be able to articulate my insides decently on the outside. I want to share it now because it is what’s getting me through this tumultuous year, and, if no one else, I need to have it written down so I can go back to it and tell myself the truth.

Where should I start? Well…

This summer, I was facing a difficult decision. Actually, it wasn’t that difficult; I knew I wanted to say no, and I knew that the path He’d pointed me down years ago wasn’t down the route a “yes” would take me.

But… I struggled to trust myself to know those things for sure anymore.

Because a few months prior, the enemy broke into the lovely home Jesus and I had been building, and he tried to take it from me by attempting to imitate Jesus, treating me in ways I deeply hoped Jesus wouldn’t treat me and saying things I just couldn’t imagine Jesus saying.

Jesus had been shattering the false images I had of Him and replacing them with truth, so I wanted to be open to Him, because in this process I had been learning He was more loving and more kind and more passionate and more absolutely irresistibly good than I ever knew He could be. I didn’t know I could be this in love (with anyone, let alone Him), or that He would be this deeply in love with me. It was the richest I’d ever felt.

So when the enemy tried to deceive me, it nearly worked. Because I was so (beautifully) vulnerable and trusting, that even when I knew in my core this couldn’t be right, I didn’t want to hold the one I loved to a false image I might have of Him if He was trying to shatter it.

It took the persistent presence and affirmations of the people close to me to keep me grounded, to shake me out of the paralysis, and to get me to understand that the haunting, deeply unsettling image couldn’t be Jesus. But damage to my sense of trust had already been done. Because it had taken me so long to rest on the truth of who it was that had spoken… and because my (courageously) open heart had been so open that I almost let the enemy trick me into believing a terrible lie, about Jesus and about myself.

Ever since then, I have struggled to be open to trust anyone, even myself, to tell me the truth. I trust Jesus, with all that I am. But most of the time, I don’t trust myself to discern what He’s saying to me. And I can’t explain how terrifying that is. I’ve tried, so many times; I attempted seeing a counselor about it for a while, and I still haven’t found the words to express how helpless and rotten this has made me feel. No words feel sufficient.

So over the summer, when I faced a decision I thought deserved a no but was afraid should be a yes, I didn’t know what to do. I’d still been speaking to Him, even when I didn’t understand His end of the conversation, so I told Him about it. About how scared I was. About how I’d do anything He wanted me to do, and how I so hoped He didn’t want me to do this. About how confused I was and how lost I felt.

A few days later, I read the story of when He faced the enemy’s lying, imitating voice Himself.

Before Jesus began traveling with the disciples, He spent forty days alone in the wilderness– isolated, exposed, and without resources. He faced consistent temptation every one of those days, and He had no food during them. By day forty, He was weary and starving. The enemy saw that vulnerability, and said to Jesus:

“If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

Jesus could have done it. Jesus probably wanted to do it. And most interesting of all: the act itself, of turning a stone to bread so He could nourish His starving body? It wasn’t an inherently bad, sinful thing to do. It even made sense.

But Jesus didn’t do it.

Why?

Because He knew who was telling Him to do it.

The voice telling Him to do it was telling Him to prove Himself– “If you are the Son of God,” it had said. And Jesus knew He had to do no such thing. He knew who He was already. And He knew His Father wouldn’t make Him question that or ask Him to prove it. Jesus knew that in His Father He had security and safety. So when the voice speaking to Him didn’t display those truths, He knew to reject it.

The enemy presented many more temptations to Jesus during that time, but the last one was unique. He brought Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple, and told Him:

“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”

The “if” statement was there again, but there was something more complicated in play, too: the enemy had quoted scripture.

It is wildly unsettling to know that the enemy can use scripture, but I’ve witnessed it so many times, in my culture and my church experience and my own mind. I struggle so much to trust anyone’s interpretation of scripture, my own included, because deception isn’t exempt even there. But Jesus experienced this, too. And He knew how to face it head on. The enemy used scripture, yes–

But he didn’t use love.

Because he doesn’t have any. That is his dead giveaway:

God is Love.

Love is the defining context of all of scripture, because love is God’s character. If it isn’t love, God doesn’t do it and He doesn’t ask us to do it. When the enemy told Jesus to jump off a building as a sign of faith, Jesus knew that His Father who loved Him would not do that to Him or ask that of Him.

He also knew scripture; that while it did host the words the enemy said, it hosted other words, too. He knew scripture required context to be properly understood. And He knew the words Love had for Him were not the ones that had been spoken; instead, the correct words were: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” So He spoke those words back to the voice, the enemy’s voice. Eventually, the enemy saw his efforts weren’t working, and he left.

Jesus knew His Father. He knew He was well-loved by His Father. And that was the pillar of truth for Him, who is Truth. That was what kept Him firm.

It is still so hard for me to trust that I’m walking in the truth. But I stick by Him. I study scripture intently, to see what love looks like manifested through Him. And though I admit I approach the Bible and His presence with a measure of fear every day, what I find there is not crushing– it is life-breathing. It is Him. It is love. I see that love is patient and kind, doesn’t insist on its own way. And that greatest love does not push us down– it lays down everything for us. Like He has always done.

I’d had it wrong. I knew that love leads us to suffer for the other person, but I didn’t understand what that meant. I wasn’t even aware that I thought this… but I thought that Jesus wanted me to love Him by suffering. I thought He was telling me to suffer and that it would prove I loved Him.

He was not. He would not.

Jesus knew it when He refused to jump from the temple roof, and I am finally learning it for myself.

Love does lead us to suffer for the other person. Love does not lead us to tell the other person to suffer.

That is not love, that is manipulation and cruelty and fear. When anyone else acts that way, it’s usually obvious to us that they aren’t being loving. Why do we automatically assume God, who is Love, might be the cruel and controlling exception?

Why do we continue to think that God, who is Love, would be less loving than we are?

Jesus laid Himself down to suffer for those He loved. He told us to follow Him in doing the same for others. He did not tell us that in order to love Him, we must suffer. Instead, He told us that when we love Him, suffering will come and He will be with us in it. He is not the source of the suffering; He is not behind it, He does not bring it on, and He does not want it for us. He faces the inevitable suffering with us, even after He suffered for us. That’s what love does.

Love doesn’t hurt others– it hurts for and with others.

Love lays itself down– it doesn’t push others down.

That’s what I hold to. That’s the heart I seek behind every voice. And if that heart isn’t there, I reject the voice and I wait for His. For the truth. I sit with Him, let Him wrap me up wordlessly, nestle in close.

Because, while I still struggle to be sure of His voice… I can always be sure of His presence. His overwhelmingly soft and kind presence.

He keeps my feet on solid ground, even as He lifts me up off my toes.

He’s love.

Soul Food

Soul Food {October 2017}

I am always channeling Anne Shirley, but it’s especially apparent when I obsess over the natural beauty of October all month long. Inwardly, this month has been weird, but also good; I’m ready to enter into a new one with a fresh mindset. Here’s a peek at some of the art and media that kept me company as I grew.

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  • “The Sky is a Neighborhood” by Foo Fighters. This is going to be a classic someday. What a solid, meaningful rock ballad.
  • “Diving” by Bridgit Mendler ft. RKCB. Everything about it feels so dreamy and unreal, yet it’s vulnerable, too. I’m obsessed. The music video is also cool and ethereal.
  • Nick Voelker’s “Ghost Friendly” album. I so enjoy his unique acoustic-driven style and charming voice, and he pairs it with some sincere and poetic songwriting. I think every song on the album is worthwhile and good; my favorites might be “Distance” (so beautiful) “The Afterglow” “Momentum” and “Temporary.”
  • Emily Hearn’s “Paris, or Wherever We Are” ep. I celebrate female artists who have rich voices, poetic lyrics, and cozy melodies. Representation is important; when we see people like us doing things we wish we could do, we start to believe we can do them. Emily is one of those inspirations for me. This is ep is lovely and tells a story between the lines.
  • “Do You..” by CASS. Her passionate and modern style pairs well with her non-cliché faith-based songwriting, which isn’t something I feel a lot of CCM artists have pulled off lately; I really enjoy what I’ve heard from her.
  • Will Champlin’s cover of “Angel Dream.” Gentle, emotional, and lovely laced with his wonderfully raspy voice.
  • “Hericane” by LANY. I feel like I mention a song from this album every month, but I’m okay with that. “I love you still, I always will, but you’re the one in the wrong…”

If you want all of this music in one place, I have a playlist! It’s on YouTube and on Spotify; scroll to the bottom for the newest additions.

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  • Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. I didn’t have expectations for it, since this is the fifth film in the franchise and we didn’t honestly need the fourth, but I ended up really enjoying it! The new characters are loveable and that ending was so satisfying. Also, I’m not unconvinced that Brenton Thwaites wasn’t created in a lab to play Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley’s offspring. Speaking of which…
  • I’ve watched quite a few Brenton Thwaites interviews. Because after seeing him in Pirates I thought this young man had a bright future in film and I wanted to see what he was doing next. It turns out he’s not a child, he’s 28 and has a child. And he’s been acting for years and has already done a bunch of big projects both in the US and Australia; I’ve just been oblivious. Anyway, I really enjoyed this interview with him. He seems intelligent and free-spirited and fun.
  • Designated Survivor. I’m not as invested this season as I was last season, but there’s enough to keep me watching for now.
  • The Good Doctor. Although I stopped following his career when he landed Bates Motel (much too creepy for me), I’ve always thought Freddie Highmore was a fantastic actor. I like seeing him take on this new role of a young surgeon with autism; so far he’s nailing it! Not every episode is great writing-wise, though. And sometimes the surgery footage is too much for me.
  • The Mentalist. Just started season five, and it’s getting real.
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming. Because it came out on dvd and I own it and I’m so happy about it.
  • Kati Morton’s video on handling flashbacks. Kati is a licensed therapist and her videos on mental health/self care are such a helpful resource.
  • This Andrew Garfield interview. I get proud little sisters feelings for him often, even when he’s a goof.
  • War for The Planet of The Apes. A stunning end to a stunning trilogy. My family unanimously loved it. Caesar is such a cool character and his story holds so much.
  • The Sixth Sense. My brother introduced me to it this Halloween. Compelling, entertaining, and surprising. I’m not at all a fan of scary movies but this was more eerie than scary; I really enjoyed it.

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  • The Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness. I went into it not knowing if I’d like them– and I fell in love with them. They begin with a boy named Todd who lives in a town of all men, where everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in endless streams of Noise. He’s been told their history, about a virus that killed all the women and gave all the men their Noise, but when he finds a pocket of silence (and the source of it) out in the woods, he starts learning maybe he wasn’t told the truth, and seeing how dangerous the truth might be. These are so gripping, thematically valuable, and special. I wrote in-depth reviews on my Goodreads for each book– The Knife of Never Letting GoThe Ask and The Answer, and Monsters of Men— if you’re interested. I so recommend these books. There are also three short stories that go with the series and are meant to be “half-books,” and they’re interesting, too, though not necessary to understanding the trilogy.
  • “Rumors of the Real” by Sarah Bessey. “Someday we may stand before Jesus like I stood before Van Gogh’s paintings in that gallery. We will be overwhelmed with beautiful reality, tears falling down our face, all arguments and timelines and histories and opinions and theologies cast down to roll away to the corners because their insufficiency to fully see and understand and touch the clarity of God.”
  • “The Reverse Side of Hospitality” by Addie Zierman. Vulnerable and lovely insight about being on the receiving end when you’re used to being the giver. “I can invite others into the spaciousness of my own heart. I can receive the gift of a place to stay.”
  • “There’s Blessing in the Longing” by Glenna Marshall. A friendly, knowing voice to sit with you in the ache for a few minutes.
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Engaging, witty, sweet, heartbreaking, and important.
  • I also gave up on two books this month, because I finally realized I am not obligated to keep reading something I’m not enjoying or learning from.

What fed you this month?

Soul Food

Soul Food {September 2017}

Autumn is my favorite season. But, if I’m honest, I’m having a hard time welcoming it this year. Maybe because letting things die away scares me. My reminder to myself, and to you if you need it: spring comes, too. We are never left with simply a pile of dead things. Life is always just under the surface.

Here is some of the art and media I took with me this month.

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  • “Tenerife Sea” by Ed Sheeran. I had a dream with an Ed Sheeran song in it, then woke up and came across a video of him performing this song live, so it felt like a sign. The song ended up being just the thing I needed.
  • “Malibu” by Miley Cyrus. Just a beautiful song, carrying beautiful thoughts about being surprised by love.
  • “How Did You Find Me?” by Good Old War. They released a new ep this month and it is lovely; this is my favorite new song from it (my over-all favorite is “Part of Me,” the single they released earlier in the summer). Their style is comforting, somehow balancing whimsy and melancholy.
  • “Grow” by Conan Gray. His voice is cozy and sweet, and this song is filled with nostalgic vibes and sentiments. A gem.
  • “Old Clothes” by Ethan C. Davis. An uplifting jam. I can’t get enough of it.
  • “Mockingbird” by Chase Coy. In high school, I would listen to this at the end of summer every year; I’ve ended up carrying on that tradition. I like having songs that help walk me into seasonal transitions.
  • “Billion Years” by Trip Lee ft. Taylor Hill. Makes dance and weep, genuinely. “Don’t dwell on the past unless it’s Golgotha…”
  • Pen Pals’ “I Disappear” ep. I’ve been looking forward to new music from this incredible duo for a while, and I am thrilled that this is finally out in the world and in my ears. Their songwriting instincts are so right on, and their style is folksy and dreamy. My favorite from it is “Before I Was Yours,” but it’s all worthwhile.
  • “Poor Aurora/Sleeping Beauty” from the Sleeping Beauty soundtrack. It became a lullaby for me during this often anxiety-ridden month; helps me re-center.
  • “Super Far” by LANY. Infectious.
  • “Midnight Flight” by Canyon City. Comforting, joyous vibes; bittersweet lyrics. I love it.
  • “Broke” by Lecrae. Simply a jam. I’m still getting acquainted with the rest of his new album, but maybe next month I’ll have an update on how I feel about it.
  • “Flowers” by James Spaite. Poetry with a homey, warm sound.

If you want all of this music in one place, I have a playlist! It’s on YouTube and on Spotify. The newest additions will be at the bottom.

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  • Lately I’ve been obsessed with watching videos of actors (and sometimes directors and writers) talking together about their craft and the industry. So many intelligent, interesting conversations are available for us to sit in on and soak up. I really enjoyed episodes from Variety‘s “Actors on Actors” series and The Hollywood Reporter‘s “Roundtable” series featuring some of my current favorites.
  • Brad & Hailey Devine. I know I’ve mentioned them before, but I’m simply in love with their travel videos. They take such gorgeous footage, and they also insert little moments and quips that crack me up. I so enjoy watching them, they seem like such a lovely family. They also run a blog that’s like a travel diary and features their photography.
  • Pride and Prejudice (the 2005 version). Just a lovely, sweeping film to get lost in on a dreary afternoon.
  • Sleeping Beauty. Watching this gorgeous film and swooning over the artwork and music is a routine hobby of mine.
  • Cheyenne Barton‘s bullet journal videos. I’ve mentioned her before, too, but nearly every month she puts out another plan-with-me and it’s a lovely self care break for me. Her journal spreads are gorgeous and her chats are cozy.
  • The Tourist. It’s hard for me to pin down what genre this film is. Action? Romance? Comedy? Spy movie? Whatever it is, it’s a fun and relatively light-hearted story I enjoyed on a movie night with friends.
  • Mary Poppins. A magical classic. I adore Burt.
  • The Princess Diaries and The Princess Diaries 2. I love these so much. “Please don’t crush my soy nuts.”
  • Wonder Woman. The soundtrack gave me major Spy Kids vibes but other than that I think she’s super cool and the story was interesting.
  • Lots of episodes of The Mentalist. I don’t know why it’s the one show I watch, but it is. Currently on season four.

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  • “Done With God? The (Brutally) Honest Psalms Series: #1” by Ann Voskamp. Helped me let out a long-held breath.
  • This interview with Tom Holland. I just adore him.
  • Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke. I liked this series.The setting and the idea are both just so interesting that I’m willing to stick around for all 700-ish pages per book to spend some time with them. It has the cozy feel of fantasy stories, but it is definitely original. That being said, I wish I liked the characters more and I wish the plot wasn’t so complicated that it hinges on happenstances we’re simply asked to accept. More thoughts on my Goodreads.
  • “Faithfulness, Fame, and The Gift of Obscurity” on Emily P. Freeman’s The Next Right Thing podcast. I don’t have section for podcasts since I hardly ever listen to any, but this one was soul-speaking. I have to share it. You can also read the transcript if that’s your preference! I am wildly fearful when I have to make any decision, and her advice is so helpful.

What fed you this month?

Soul Food

Soul Food {August 2017}

I’ve been able to go on a few adventures this month, both with my feet and my spirit. Here are some of the things in the art and media world I found a long the way.

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  • Kina Grannis’ cover of “The Middle.” I took it with me in my heart, without meaning to, on my first plane trip. It was a hug all day long.
  • “I Think I’m in Love?” and “Times Goes By” by Phangs. I’ve loved Phangs since I first discovered him at the beginning of the year, and I’m so happy his first album is now out! These two songs are my favorites from it; meaningful and fun to listen to.
  • “Fineshrine” by Purity Ring. An especially brilliant gem from Colony House’s Summer Jams playlist. Psychedelic and modern and emotional, like it came from a fairy land.
  • “Good Girls” by LANY. Kind of a guilty pleasure song for me. “Nothing is better than what we felt together at home…”
  • Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed’s “Magic & Bird” album. The basketball references go over my head but I don’t even care; they manage to pack a lot of good ideas in with the fun. Every track is honestly a jam. My favorites (apart from the singles) might be “Say Less” “Break Bread (ft. Beam)” and “Team (ft. Beam).” I got to hear some of it live when I saw Andy in concert this month!
  • “I Like Me Better” by Lauv. An adorable, infectious summer anthem, one to put on repeat and dance to.
  • Civil Twilight’s acoustic version of “Dancing With Myself.” Just lovely. I want to lie on the floor in my bedroom after sunset and listen to it over and over.
  • “Everything Has Its Place” by Young Mister. Beautiful and introspective.
  • “Open Your Eyes” by Alter Bridge. Okay: I have no clue how I found this. Did someone tweet it? Did I hear it in the background of something? Did Jesus omnipotently put it in my “watch later” list? Who knows. But I’m sold regardless; this is the soul-moving kind of rock I grew up loving.
  • “I Disappear” by Pen Pals. Their music has meant so much to me, and I am thrilled that they’re releasing new things. This first single is already a home.
  • “We Find Love” by Daniel Caesar. A lovely slow-jam with a classic, polished feel.
  • “I’ll Find You” by Lecrae ft. Tori Kelly. An encouraging anthem I needed.
  • St. Woods’ cover of “The One That I Want.” Talk about transforming a song and making it your own! I didn’t even recognize it. So, so good.
  • “Darkness” by Josh Schott. Moody, unique, infectious.
  • Andrew Belle’s “Dive Deep” album. I’ve been looking forward to this for so long, it’s been four years since Andrew released an album, and I can now say– this was so worth the wait. I am completely enchanted with it, and it’s masterful, emotional substance. It captures a piece of the fear and glory that come with learning to be vulnerable. I genuinely love every song; I tried to pick favorites and I just can’t. I urge you to give it a listen.
  • “Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)” from The Hamilton Mixtape. Makes so many good points.

If you want all of this music in one place, I have a playlist! You can find it on YouTube and on Spotify. Simply scroll to the bottom for the newest additions.

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  • The Money Pit. I love Tom Hanks and this oldie of his is super funny and cute.
  • Star Trek Beyond. Not normally a Star Trek fan, but this was a cool film.
  • Timeline. My aunt recommended it; I watched it at her house during my visit. A fun adventure with a little sci-fi, a little history, and a good amount Gerard Butler.
  • This video from “I’m With the Banned,” a campaign by Spotify. Inviting musicians from the countries on the travel ban and musicians from the US to collaborate in Canada was a great idea, and displays the humanity in a situation that should not be this complicated. We are all the same. We belong to one another.
  • Rise of The Planet of The Apes and Dawn of The Planet of The Apes. I did not expect to like these as much as I did. Compelling, well-written, and thought-provoking. Andy Serkis is a powerhouse. Can’t wait to see the third film!
  • This wonderful episode of Tell My Story. This series can either be fun or frustrating (I guess anything focused on assumptions and connection can be), but these two are hands down my favorite pairing we’ve seen. They’re respectful of one another, they’re honest, they’re fun, and their chemistry is so visible. I was embarrassingly giddy.
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming. Yes, I did go see it again. And yes, I still love it so much, in so many ways. Shout out to Rachel for inviting me!
  • Riz Ahmed on The Tonight Show. Because he’s intelligent and hilarious and I could listen to him tell stories all day.
  • Speaking of Riz Ahmed, I also listened to this speech he gave about the difference between diversity and representation, and our need for both; so interesting and informative, not to mention well-spoken. [It was a speech given to British politicians so a bit of it may not apply to everyone, but still a worthwhile listen.]
  • Stuart Little. I forgot how badly I want Geena Davis and Hugh Laurie to adopt me into their adorable New York City household.
  • “Don’t Be a Sucker,” a short educational film produced by the US military department in the 1940s about detecting fascism. The title is a little silly, but the content is so right on and uncomfortably relevant. I encourage you to watch at least the first five minutes. “You see, they knew that they were not strong enough to conquer a unified country, so they split Germany into small groups. They used prejudice as a practical weapon to cripple the nation.”
  • “Jimmy Fallon Addresses the Events in Charlottesville.” Important, straightforward, and well put.
  • Sleepless in Seattle. Another Tom Hanks one. Crazy but cute.
  • Inception. I never get tired of it; the symbolism stuns me more every time.

Books/Blogs/ArticlesInkspell

What fed you this month?

Responses

A Letter to Pastors: On Adversity, Silence, & Us

Dear pastor,

Please: will you tell the church what happened?

I’m not asking that you share an entire sermon about it. And I’m not asking you to get up on stage and declare any political or polarizing opinions. That isn’t what this is about; it isn’t what so much of this has been about.

church ceilingI have struggled to find a home in the church for a while now. There have been a lot of reasons for that, and most of them I discover along the way as I keep seeking. That’s another story, one I’ll tell another day.

But as I’ve been going through this process, I’ve noticed something about the church and the different ways it handles the things happening around (and within) it.

I grew up attending one particular church. I haven’t been a regular member there since the beginning of this year. But when the first refugee ban was put into place back in January, I asked a friend still attending that church if anything had been brought up concerning it that morning. And he responded:

“About the what? Are you talking about that thing they mentioned on TV?”

I thought I would be angry or sad, but I ended up almost feeling numb. I didn’t expect the answer to be yes. But I also didn’t expect him to know nothing about what was happening. That was what stuck with me the most.

Some time later, I visited a different church. I had never been to the service of any tradition but my home church’s before, so much of it was new to me. But a time for corporate prayer came, and the clergy began with: “First, let us pray for the people recovering from the shooting.”

I knew that was right. I knew that was what the church of Jesus would do.

I attended a few services at that church, and a simple call to prayer for what was taking place around the world happened in every single one of them.

It wasn’t political, wasn’t polarizing, wasn’t angry, nor was it despairing– it was basic compassion.

It was looking at events taking place in the lives of others and recognizing: “I have a share in that.”

To the people in that church, because something affected humanity, it affected them, too. They were kingdom-minded.

I have no memory of the churches I grew up attending ever mentioning or praying for things like this.

But it isn’t a denominational thing to do– it is a biblical thing to do.

Again, pastor, I’m not asking you to preach a fiery sermon about anything, or to give your church a political label, or even to share your stance on how to fix things.

What I am asking is that you remind the church that people who care about other people are the true Jesus people.

The church has a messy reputation, and not for no reason, but I know there are so many lovely, Christ-like people within those walls. Let’s believe that the people in your congregation are wonderful people who do care about others. The thing is?

How many good, kind people are in churches right now, with hearts and hands ready to help– and they don’t know people need it?

The man I spoke to about the refugee crisis didn’t know what it was until I explained it to him that night. He’d heard a headline on the news while channel surfing (related: most people don’t watch the news), but he didn’t know it mattered. He didn’t know who he could pray for, let alone what he could do to help. No one told him. He had been in church that morning, but no one there said anything, pastor or otherwise.

That isn’t the only example. This weekend, a violent Nazi demonstration happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. One of the most compassionate people I’ve ever known didn’t hear about it until I mentioned it, assuming she already knew. Shock and tears filled her eyes immediately. She had gone to church that morning, too. But no one there said anything.

Is it the church’s job to make sure individual people are staying aware? I don’t know; I think we all should be actively seeking opportunities to pray for and contribute to the lives of the hurting.

But it is the church’s job to make disciples. And that means teaching people what Jesus meant when He told us to pick up our crosses and follow Him.

There are so many good, caring people in the church. But when those people don’t know about the problems, how can they fix them? When the only people who know about the problems are the ones contributing to them or the ones who do nothing, what can that help?

How is that keeping the peace, when there isn’t truly peace to begin with?

We aren’t called to be peacekeepers, but peace makers.

As someone that many people are looking up to as a leader, you, pastor, have the ability to directly affect how the people in your community will respond.

You are in a position to remind the church that humanity is a family, with fates all tied together, and you have the ability to inspire more prayer and more compassion and more action in people whose hearts Jesus has already built for it. You don’t have to tell people how to care; just teach them why they need to. He will do the rest.

Not only that: you get to tell the hurting that they are seen. That they matter. That you won’t turn away but instead will stand with and for them.

That Jesus loves them, and that’s why you are going to love them, too, with a generous, sacrificial love.

A simple announcement. A simple call to prayer. They don’t do everything, especially when there’s such a volume of work to be done. But they do so much more than you’d think. They’re a spark.

Please, pastor: will you tell them?

Will you tell the church when things happen to our family? Will you lead the church to pray and to seek?

Will you show the world the real church of Jesus?

 

“To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it.”  -Martin Luther King, Jr.


[If you are not a pastor, I still so strongly encourage you to hear this. Bring awareness to the people around you; pray with people; seek a way to help. You are just as capable of sparking change as the people in power, because you give yourself to Jesus, and He multiplies what you bring Him. Love will always make a way to come in.]

Soul Food

Soul Food {July 2017}

We’re two-thirds into summer now, and I’ve consistently run into beautiful, fun, soul-feeding things that I would absolutely love to share with you. I’ve been taking a break from my regular writing (last month it was unintentional, this month it was on purpose because self care is real), so thank you for sticking around and enjoying some good art with me in the meantime.

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  • “13” by LANY. I have a few friends who listen to them so I tried out their new album, and this was the song that hit me in the right spot. Their sound is fresh while also being synth-infused and nostalgic, I really like it, but most of the time I was a bit torn lyrics-wise.
  • “Lovely Child” by Ghost Friendly. I’ve loved Nick’s voice since the Two Worlds days, and it’s wonderful to see him continue to make music; he’s always been fantastic and he only gets better.
  • “Cobalt” by Jessica Frech ft. Sarin.Us. Such a lovely, happy vibe to this! I’ve listened to it over and over.
  • “Fleeting Moments” by Nick Primuth. Came on while I was listening to my comfort playlist on a night I couldn’t sleep; it was a hug.
  • “Honey and Milk” by Andrew Belle. He’s one of my favorite songwriters, both lyrically and in the feelings he manages to capture in his sound. This new song stole my breath; there is something so special about it. Seriously can’t wait for his upcoming album.
  • “Goodbye” by Echosmith. I’ve enjoyed their work in the past and their new single is definitely up to par. I love how they mix gentle acoustic guitar with fun modern pop. “When you finally find yourself, tell him I said goodbye…”
  • “Stay Happy” by Broken Social Scene. It feels like I’m at a concert every time I listen to this. Passionate and fun with a bit of a 70s vibe.
  • “Wall” by James Droll. Moody in the best sense, laced with his smooth voice and thick with a kind of resolute emotion. “And my tears won’t fall for you, like I did…”
  • “Beth” by Kina Grannis. Stunning in every possible way. I am obsessed with this lullaby-like ballad.
  • “Judo” by Magic & Bird (Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed’s new project). What. A. Jam.
  • Relient K’s “Forget and Not Slow Down” album. It is always an essential summertime album for me. The vibe is fun and energetic, but lyrically it is so bittersweet, and I love how well that contradiction works. My favorite song from it is “Over It,” but I love all of them; one of the best things about this album is the story to be found in listening to it front to back.
  • “One More Light” by Linkin Park. In memory of frontman Chester Bennington.
  • “Moonlight” by Grace VanderWaal. This girl’s voice paired with her candor in songwriting… it’s a magic spell that makes you feel what she’s feeling. I love everything she puts out.
  • “Part of Me” by Good Old War. Their music is so often a home for me. “There’s always a place for you here in my wild heart…”
  • “Looking Too Closely” by Fink. Reminds me of thoughtful summer evenings. Beautiful and sweeping and something I needed.

If you want all of this music in one place, I have a playlist! It’s on YouTube and Spotify; scroll to the bottom for the newest additions.

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  • Spider-Man: Homecoming. I told Twitter all about how deeply I love this movie. I am so, so happy with it. Spider-Man is my favorite, and this film does it right.
  • Iron Man. I hadn’t seen this film since around the time it came out, so I wanted a refresher. I really enjoyed it, and knowing what all the Marvel movies since have grown into made it extra special to see the first piece of the puzzle.
  • “Rogue One Stars Answer the Web’s Most Searched Questions.” Every single one of Riz Ahmed’s answers kills me, and Diego Luna is precious.
  • Spider-Man 2. I glean something from every viewing of every Spider-Man movie. This time, Peter’s struggle to choose between what he wanted and what the world needed from him spoke loudly, as did his words that solidified his choice: “There are bigger things happening here than me and you.”
  • “You Are Not Your Sexuality,” a talk by Sam Allberry. Not everyone is going to like this, but I promise: it is so empowering. So many things we associate with our identity (whether it be our sexuality, our addictions, our hobbies/talents/occupations, anything) have no real say in who we are. You are not defined by anything apart from His love for you. Period.
  • Johanna Clough’s art journal flip through. I love seeing inside these things! She also has a series where you can watch her process as she makes individual pages in her journal, and I so enjoy it.
  • Collateral Beauty. A few friends came over and watched it with me after I raved about it; I love this film so much. Love’s second speech sticks with me.
  • Various interviews with the Spider-Man cast, such as: this one with Tom Holland that is just super fun; this one with Tom and Zendaya hosted by an adorable child; this one with Tom and Jacob Batalon that cracks me up (and also gives me big sister feelings, haha!); this one with Tom in which he admits “I am a walking meme”; this one with Tom in which someone finally gets him to sing; this one with Jacob in a comic book store that made me want to go comic shopping…
  • The Amazing Spider-Man, both the first and the second film. I wanted to rewatch them after all the recent Spider-Man hype. While they are probably the least Spider-Man-like of the different movies we have to choose from, I can still enjoy them if I don’t think too hard about it. I still want to cry with Peter at the end; Andrew Garfield is a solid actor, despite the writing.

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  • “How Emotional Abuse From My Childhood Makes It Hard to ‘Take Up Space’ Now” by Juliette Virzi. Relatable and articulated so well.
  • A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. Enjoyable and thought-provoking, though I’m not sure how much I actually agree with the main thesis. I wrote a full review on Goodreads if you’re interested in that.
  • “That Time I Said, ‘Yes,’ When I Really Meant ‘No'” by Rebecca Reynolds. The circumstances that brought this piece about are messy, but I just love the way the author captured what confusion through our convictions is like and shared what she’s found to be true there. So aptly worded. “I didn’t wonder if there were exceptions to the rules because I wanted to defy God. I didn’t waver because I wanted to be a relativist. I wavered because I was overwhelmed watching someone I loved suffer at close range.”

What fed you this month?