I cannot tell you enough how much I love the story of Beauty and the Beast. It was my favorite movie growing up. I loved it so much that I would dress up like Belle in a yellow gown, sing along to the film, and watch it again and again and again on VHS . I felt a kinship to Belle in her love for reading and her heart to see the good in others, even if their good qualities were veiled by a beastly character. When I found out that Disney would be remaking my favorite classic Disney princess film into a live-action movie, my emotional joy matched that of Belle's joy when the Beast shows her the library of her dreams.
I'm sure you've heard that there have been a number of controversial posts and discussions in Christian circles in regards to this new live-action film, namely due to "an exclusively gay moment." I'm sure it will deter discerning parents from allowing their children to watch it, but after viewing it on the night of its theatrical premiere, let me make a hearty recommendation to you: go see it!
After watching the new Beauty and the Beast, I was reminded once again of how this story and tale as old as time depicts the gospel (the ultimate tale as old as time) in the sacrificial love that redeems and transforms the characters, literally transforming them and making them human again... cue the Human Again song. Not only that, but there are glimpses of the coming restoration through Jesus in the way that the characters and the castle are restored and brought back to life after an act of love.
If you've never seen Beauty and the Beast before, the premise of the story is that a vain prince is turned into a beast by an enchantress and can only be changed back by true love. A beautiful woman named Belle ends up at his castle in search of her father, and she might be his last chance to be restored. The only way the Prince can become human again is if he falls in love and is loved in return.
I could share specifics about what makes this new live-action film worth seeing from a filmmaking perspective, but what amazes me are the glimpses of the gospel story that are present throughout the original animated film and this new live-action retelling. I'm a firm believer that all well told stories offer a glimpse of the greatest story, that of God sending Jesus Christ to save and redeem sinners through his sacrificial love. Here are two ways that B&B depicts the gospel story:
Restoration and Making All Things NEw
As the film draws to its climax, the final rose petal falls. The beloved servants turn into antiques, losing their humanity. The beast dies, without a hope of being restored. Belle weeps with the thought of losing the one that she loves. We weep and we mourn. It's a sad moment, and it looks like there is no hope.
But as Belle weeps over the Beast, she tells him that she loves him. With her proclamation of love, light suddenly surrounds him, turning the beast back into a man, and restoring him to life. Belle's love saves him. As the Beast is restored to a man, the people of the castle are restored as well. They are all transformed into humans again, and the castle returns to its former glory. It is a beautiful moment, watching the transformation and the restoration, but it is a glimpse of a restoration that will be even more magnificent and beautiful, when Jesus will make all things new. John, one of Jesus' disciples, writes about this in the book of Revelations:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
The restoration that we see in Beauty and the Beast is a picture of what the restoration will be like when sinners are restored to the Lord through the love and sacrifice of Jesus. But that's not all! It's also a glimpse of what it will be like when the earth is restored and made new. We love this aspect of Beauty and the Beast because it is a picture of what is to come for those that receive the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and love him in return. Our hearts enjoy watching restorations in films, because our souls are longing for when everything will be made new and right again.
Saved and changed By Love
Have you ever noticed that what doesn't save the Beast is that he loves Belle, but rather what saves him is that Belle loves him. It wasn't until watching the new retelling that this fact from the film struck a chord in my heart.
I'm just like the Beast. I am not saved simply by my own love for Jesus, I am saved by Jesus' love for me, that He loved me so much that he went to the cross willingly to die for sinners like me, to restore us to God (John 3:16). While I do love Jesus, what will restore me and others to (eternal) life and will transform us into glory in a more spectacular way than in Beauty and the Beast is Jesus' sacrificial love for sinners. Jesus' love is what transforms beasts (sinners) into humans and makes us new.
These are just two gospel themes that I've been thinking about after viewing the new retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I'm sure there are more themes that I could pick out (I guess I'll just have to go watch it again), but it's beautiful to see glimpses of the ultimate tale as old as time in a well-known classic. It's a reminder that every story is a reflection of the greatest story, the gospel. The difference is that the gospel is a true story that will end with a real restoration and real transformations.
So when you watch Beauty and the Beast (or re-watch it again and again like me), I hope that it points you to the ultimate tale as old as time, and that you watch as the restoration and transformation unfolds on screen, knowing that it is a glimpse of a greater story that is unfolding.
If you want to listen to music from the new film, check out the new album: Beauty and the Beast (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
The Amazon link to the movies and music mentioned above is an affiliate link. If you click on the link and purchase this book, this blog is supported at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting She Laughs Without Fear!
One of the things that I love about blogging is getting to connect with other writers and bloggers. One of my sweet friends, Chenea, just started a blog called Made New By Grace, focused on how God's grace makes us new and transforms our hearts. It has been a joy to watch her blog launch and to read her posts as well as the Scripture study through Esther that she is hosting.
Chenea asked if I would write a testimony of the Lord's work in my life for her blog, and was this request timed so perfectly! The Lord has been doing a lot in my heart over these past few months, and one of the things He has been teaching me is that His approval is greater than trying to seek the fleeting approval of man. You can read the post that I wrote for Chenea's blog: Officially Unfriended.
While you're at it, take a look at the study she's leading through Esther.
Little known fact, this blogging journey began three years ago this month in my college dorm at Penn State, while I wrestled through life as a new follower of Christ and as a hopeful filmmaker wanting to make art to impact the world. (I detail the tensions between being a follower of Christ and a creative person in my first thirty one day series called Confessions of a Creative Christian.)
Three years later, I'm amazed that I'm still writing on here and consistently too. What started out as Engaging Culture became She Laughs Without Fear (Mainly because I couldn't purchase the domain for Engaging Culture and She Laughs Without Fear suited me better). These past three years though have taught me so much about writing, blogging, and loving others through the process.
In celebration of three years of blogging, I thought I would share five things well learned lessons from blogging as well as some of the pieces that were either impactful to others or have made me a better writer today. Praise God that He allows me to write and use my talents in this way.
Smacznego (Polish for "Enjoy")
5 Things I've LEarned
1. It's Okay If Your Blog is Small
Friend, so many of us dream that our endeavors or in this case, blogs, would grow big fast. We hope that others will read what we have to say, that a simple post will garner praise and followers and an instant following and community. That is not the case with this blog. She Laughs Without Fear is small. I don't write everyday or post viral content or go out of my way to try to blow it up with views, and that's okay. It's actually nice that this blog is small, because it helps me feel like I'm writing mainly to friends, whether I know them in real life or not. Which brings me to lesson number two.
2. Write Like You're Writing To A Friend
I often struggle when it comes to sitting down to write. The Lord puts ideas or thoughts into my heart and prods me to share it with others so that they might be encouraged or know that they are not alone. It has served my writing well to remember that I'm writing to friends, hoping to encourage them and help them along in the journey. This mindset not only helps me to actually put fingers to keys, but it also helps guard against self-promotion and pride in my heart and that fear of sharing what I write. If I'm writing for a friend, I'm more apt to share.
3. There Is Room At The Table
I shared about this in a previous post (Making Room At The Table), but there is no need for comparison when it comes to blogging or to feel like you have nothing to offer. God is doing something different in every person and gives others something different to share. Blogging is like eating at a table. It's lonely when you're by yourself, but it makes a world of difference when there are others there that you can converse with and learn from.
4. Just Try Things
I have loved getting to visit other blogs and see the things that other writers are doing in terms of delivering content. I've loved as bloggers have created monthly round ups or link ups or even thirty one day blogging challenges. Taking part in these things and just trying different types of writing and blogging as grown me creatively and as a blogger as well. It's been a joy to just try different things.
5. You Don't Have To Do Everything All At Once
As I've watched a number of my friends begin blogs and listened to bloggers encourage others, I've noticed that many try to do everything at once: blog daily, post regularly on all social media avenues, try to build a following by following a lot of other bloggers or creatives. It can feel overwhelming, but you don't have to do everything at once. I still don't post regularly on social media, and there are certain social media avenues that just aren't as exciting to me (ahem Twitter). I mainly post on the avenues that I enjoy engaging in (Facebook, Instagram, and other bloggers link ups). You don't have to do everything right away or at all.
These are just a few of the things that I've learned over these past three years of blogging. If you're starting a new blog or if you have a blog that feels like it's not really going anywhere, I hope that this encourages you.
Top 10 Favorite POsts
America's Largest Home to God's House in Heaven
When Humility Brings Peace
What Can Happen In a Year
Lay It All On Christ
Learning to Value Times of Solitude
He Restores My Soul
Anecdotes From a Faithful Wuss
Answered Prayer For a Prayer Chair
There are some things we just can't avoid in this life: suffering, hardship, adversity, and death. No matter what we do, we will all face these things at one point or another in this life. February was a month of reminders of the inevitability of these things. Maybe it's just because I'm more aware of it currently, but I keep finding that so many people are suffering. Suffering through illnesses, suffering through the death of loved ones, suffering through depression, you name it. And people are dying. My neighbor from home, a friend's friend, a friend's grandparent, and a church member. So much death.
I spent most of February walking through my own suffering and anxiety and fears, and I'm not through the valley quite yet. The Lord is still teaching me a lot through it, but one thing He has been pressing into my heart is that we're all longing for home, for eternity with the Lord.
Home. It creates a lot of mental images in our minds. Some good and some bad. When I think of home, I think of a place of comfort, rest, and peace. A place where I am free to be myself, and where the troubles of life are forgotten. But while we might experience glimpses of this feeling in this life, there is a hope of a better home, where the troubles of life will truly be forgotten. In light of suffering and fears, heaven has grown in the forefront of my mind and it's truly the home that our souls are all longing for, but it comes only from a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I'll never forget the first time I learned that what makes heaven "heaven" is being reunited and reconciled with God and getting to be with him in His Kingdom for the rest of eternity. It was while watching The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader when Aslan, who represents Jesus, tells Reepicheep that he will get to be in Aslan's country for all of eternity. I watched Reepicheep sail across the sea into Aslan's country, knowing in my heart that that's where I wanted to be. I wanted to be in God's country and kingdom, and the way is through a relationship with Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
The Lord gives us a lot of glimpses of heaven, of home. A worship song, encouraging fellowship, a beautiful day, sweet friendships, a wedding feast, and times of intimate prayer. Our hearts were made for that world, to be in perfect relationship with our Maker, but splashes of hell often cloud our vision. We experience pain, suffering, and broken relationships. We don't walk with God or follow Jesus. We give in to sin. But there is hope, and Paul says it so eloquently when he writes to the church in Corinth:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Paul says it better than I could ever say it. Home. Are you longing for it? If we are in Jesus Christ, we will one day be at home with the Lord and the pain and struggles of this life will be a forgotten memory. So be of good courage as you long to be at home with the Lord.
I remember the first time I experienced a "quiet time". In Christian circles, a "quiet time" is time alone with God. Most people take this time in the morning, but others use their lunch time or the wee hours of night.
The first time I ever had a quiet time was at a conference for the campus ministry that I now work for. I wasn't a Christian yet, but I remember waking up, having breakfast with my friends from the Christian fellowship, and then everyone scattering to different parts of the conference center to sit by themselves and read the Scripture included in our packets. I remember taking a seat on an old green rocker on the conference center's expansive porch, opening the packet, and not knowing what to do. I read the Scripture passage several times, and was asked a few questions about how this applied to my life and my walk with God. I tried to get it done as quickly as possible, sat there and just stared out at the woods for a few minutes, and then went to find others.
I laugh thinking back at this time, because it's such an evidence of God's work in my heart. My quiet times with the Lord look a lot different now, but I still struggle with the temptation to rush through getting my time in the Word done versus taking time to think about the Lord, talk to Him, and chew on His Word.
I have found devotionals and Bible reading plans to be especially helpful in terms of setting aside this time with God, and making it a priority each morning to be still and listen to what God has to say to my heart and my mind. I'm currently using the She Reads Truth Bible reading plan, and find it encouraging because it comes to my phone every morning. But over the years, I've read a number of great devotionals. I'll share a few with you below, but I wanted to share with you about one in particular. It's a new one called A Spectacle of Glory: God's Light Shining through Me Every Day by Joni Eareckson Tada.
If you're looking for a devotional to remind you of the glory of God, to think about His character, goodness, glory, and beautiful light, this devotional is for you. Joni shares that the purpose of this book is to help people embrace our eternal purpose. As a woman that has been a quadriplegic for fifty years and endured cancer and chronic pain, Joni has a lot to share in terms of choosing to glorify God even in hard life circumstances and suffering.
As I sit down to read this devotional, I am reminded of the glory of God and his purposes as I see others suffer around me and walk through my own suffering, sorrows, and pain. With each day, Jodi gives a Scripture to focus on, a reflection from the passage or verse, and then a prayer to offer up to the Lord. If you're looking for a devotional that helps us to see our purpose in the midst of hard circumstances, this devotional is for you.
Looking for some additional devotional resources? Look no further:
The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms by Tim Keller
New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp
She Reads Truth
Solid Joys Devotional by John Piper
The Amazon link to the books mentioned above is an affiliate link. If you click on the link and purchase this book, this blog is supported at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting She Laughs Without Fear!
I received Joni's book free for review from Booklookbloggers.com and am happy to share it with you.
March marks three years of writing regularly on this blog, sharing thoughts, fears, hopes, dreams, and what I'm learning about Jesus. I would be remiss if I did not admit that I wanted to see this blog grow far more than it has. As the blogs of friends around me have grown or as others start new blogs and instantly have a substantial audience, it is easy to fall into the temptation to covet the talents that God has given them and to forget the talent the Lord has entrusted to me. I have fallen into this temptation many times, but repentance has allowed the Lord to show me that there is room at the table.
When I think about a table, I think about meals spent discussing ideas, fellowshipping, and learning from each other. I think of times spent laughing, crying, empathizing, and dreaming together. In many ways this is how I also view a blogging community. It's coming to the table, sharing ideas, learning from each other, and enjoying the fact that we are not alone.
Starting this blog was a mustard seed that was planted in faith, but my hope for it is that it would encourage others, that it would be a place for community and discussion. A way for me to love and care for others through my writing, to write for others, not merely for myself. This is my seat at the table, but my prayer is that there will be more that come to the table, to be a part of the family. (Blogging really is a community thing).
So for the friends around me beginning new blogs and planting mustard seeds of faith, my hope is that you would view your blog as a seat at the table, engage with other bloggers, and share the things that the Lord has given you to offer to the conversation. Don't worry about getting it perfect, saying precisely the right thing, growing a large crowd, making your blog look as attractive as possible, or trying to self-market. You have a welcomed seat at the table. Come, enjoy, and share (and please bring hummus).
If you've ever considered starting a blog or have one already or just enjoy reading about blogging, here are some reads that you might enjoy:
Is Blogging Dead from Lore Ferguson Wilbert at Sayable.net
The HopeWriter's Podcast from a number of bloggers on how to write and blog without losing your soul.
What I Hate About Blogging from Tim Challies. I agree with a lot of what he says in this article. There definitely challenges to blogging.
Twenty seventeen started off differently than I expected: working through anxiety, stress, fears, several deaths between family and friends and some personal health struggles. Definitely not my idea of welcoming twenty seventeen warmly. This year started with a deep groaning and the Lord working through some thorns and bramble in my heart, namely pride.
If there's one thing that God has been teaching me over the past few months it's that I am not God. I am limited. I am weak. I am dependent, and I need Jesus more than anything. But I am a stubborn sheep that likes to run away, and the way my Shepherd saves me from myself is by breaking my legs and carrying me.
I think we all experience these moments in life, when we just don't understand why we go through suffering and trials until we see it's greater purpose. It leads to a deep sense of humility and an admission: I am not God and that is okay. I'm learning to allow suffering, fatherly discipline from my Shepherd, anxiety, and fears point me humbly towards the One that understands and knows everything.
I started reading a well recommended book yesterday, Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul by Hannah Anderson. The introduction alone was like a balm from the Lord to my soul. Something she wrote struck a chord that's been reverberating in my heart over these past few months. I'd love to share it with you:
You're not God. I'm not God. None of us are God.
How freeing it is to recognize that there is a God and we are not Him. As I've walked through fears, anxiety, trials, and sorrow in the beginning of twenty seventeen, this is the way that the Lord has comforted my heart, and it's how He can comfort yours if you're walking through similar things.
We can have peace in the midst of different situations, because we are not in control. We can have peace when we're fearful, because we have a good Shepherd that leads us beside still waters and through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23). We can have peace when we're sorrowful and mourn, because we have a God that comforts the weak and those that mourn (Matthew 5).
My prayer for us today is that we would humbly recognize in the good and hard circumstances of life that we are not God and that this truth would bring us peace and grow our faith.
If the Lord's doing this work in your heart too, these links might be helpful on the journey:
Dying to Self in the Age of Self-Love from Theology for Women
The Best King of Self-Care is Care for Others from Hare Translators
Four Reasons to Slow Down from Desiring God
The Amazon link to the book mentioned above is an affiliate link. If you click on the link and purchase this book, this blog is supported at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting She Laughs Without Fear!
I am not a parent, (I hope that that is apparent by my lack of posts or photos that include cute children) but I've learned that it is wise to learn from wise people in preparation for future seasons. Before getting married or even dating, I had ample opportunities to learn from family, friends, and books about marriage and dating. Their wisdom and insights prepared me to honor the Lord and navigate unknown waters. Brandon and I would love to be parents one day, so it made sense to start reading parenting books now in preparation of future unknown waters, and then Crossway offered a free copy of Parenting by Paul David Tripp in exchange for an honest review.
Let me begin my review with this: you don't have to be a parent to glean nuggets of wisdom from this book. Paul Tripp's gospel-focused content encouraged me in marriage, discipleship, friendships, and even in preparing to be a parent one day, whatever that might look like. If there is one thing that I gleaned from this book, it is this: the law cannot do what only grace can accomplish. This simple truth has impacted me deeply since reading this book.
What does grace accomplish that the law cannot? Well, grace changes hearts. The law reveals hearts, but only grace can change and grow hearts. What does this look like? As a parent, it means that being strict and making more rules will not change a rebellious teenager's behavior. Behavior flows out of the heart, and only grace can change a heart, which changes behavior. This might look like sitting down with your children and seeking to know and understand what is going on in their hearts, helping them to see what is going on behind their actions. Paul Tripp gives a lot of great examples of what this could look like.
This principle is so helpful that it's even impacted my marriage. I can't expect the "law" to do what only grace can accomplish in my husband's heart. I can't expect nagging him or getting upset with him or telling him what to do to change his heart. Only grace can change his heart, just like only grace can truly change my heart. How liberating? Because we can't change hearts, only God's grace can truly change and grow people.
This book is definitely more of a big picture principle book than a list of things to do. If you are a parent or not a parent, this book gives a great grace-filled and gospel-focused vision of parenting for God's glory. Highly recommend it. I enjoyed it so much that here are 5 great books from the book:
5 Great Quotes From Parenting
If you read your Bible carefully, you will understand that God doesn’t call able people to do important things. Abraham wasn’t able. Moses wasn’t able. Gideon wasn’t able. David wasn’t able. The disciples weren’t able, and the story goes on. The reason for this is that there are no able people out there. They just don’t exist. And they surely don’t exist as parents. God did not create human beings to be independently able; he designed us to be dependent. (35)
You can read another great review of this book on the Gospel Coalition: Parenting with a Big Gospel Picture
The Amazon link to the book mentioned above is an affiliate link. If you click on the link and purchase this book, this blog is supported at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting She Laughs Without Fear!
Brandon and I went away for a night at a little country inn courtesy of a gift from dear friends. Upon arriving, we explored the quaint property, and found our room for the night (which had a fun private staircase to enter). As we sat in our room later that night while playing a game of Ticket to Ride: United Kingdom, a thought crossed my mind: God is with us, right here and now. But God is also downstairs at the front desk. He is present at the restaurant, several hundred feet away, and everything in this dainty room is the work of His hands.
A similar thought crossed my mind the next day as we drove home and passed an overlook of Bethlehem City in Pennsylvania. This time I thought about how God is sovereign over the city, how small it is in comparison to the majesty of God, but how tiny I am when I walk down Main Street.
"O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?"
The work of God's fingers, the moon and the stars, as if poetically He painted them in the sky. I'm amazed and left in awe every time I think through God's creative ability. Things that I could only dream of creating or would take years for me to create (like a novel) would take God less than a second. With a word He spoke the earth into being, and everything is a result of His workmanship.
I am also His handiwork, made in His image and with such particular care. Who am I that God is mindful of me and cares for me? These are just some of the things that I've been thinking about over the past few days, pondering the works of God's fingers.
The Amazon link to the game mentioned above is an affiliate link. If you click on the link and purchase this book, this blog is supported at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting She Laughs Without Fear!
Ten days into 2017, and already well-considered and prayed over goals are becoming a struggle to maintain and achieve. I'm reminded lately of Psalm 127: "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain."
There are many goals and resolutions that I could focus on and many ways that I would like to grow over this year, but there is one way that I know for sure that the Lord wants me to grow. He wants me (and you) to love Him with everything and to love my neighbors as myself (Mark 12:30-31). This is my prayer for 2017, that the Lord's will would be greater than my own...
Heavenly Father, help me to love you with all of
my heart and with all of my soul and with all of my
mind and with all of my strength, and help me to love my neighbor as myself. Even though I will fail in these ways in this life, help me to focus on Jesus and remember Your grace. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
My goal is to pray this everyday over this next year. Feel free to use this prayer or to write your own for this New Year.
Shalom! I'm Madi, a laughter-loving, movie-going, spontaneous-dancing, follower of Christ. Join me as I seek glimpses of God's grace in the ordinary and everyday.
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She Laughs Without Fear