'Wonder Woman' Might Be the Most Accurate On-Screen Depiction of Biblical Womanhood, And Here's Why

'Wonder Woman' Might Be the Most Accurate On-Screen Depiction of Biblical Womanhood, And Here's Why

I recently watched Wonder Woman (starring Gal Gadot from the Fast and the Furious franchise), and it has haunted me ever since. Based on all the hype surrounding the film, I expected to feel empowered and inspired as a woman. That, I did.

I never expected, however, to be glued to my seat for over two hours, seeing one biblical truth after another being portrayed flawlessly on screen.

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How God Silenced My Inner Critic and Reminded Me That I Am Enough

How God Silenced My Inner Critic and Reminded Me That I Am Enough

It wasn’t just impossible; it was laughable. Jesus and his disciples had the task of feeding a crowd close to 20,000 people (5,000 men plus women and children). Jesus asked Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” Of course, Jesus is God, and he didn’t really need the answer. But He asked Philip anyway. And Philip had the audacity to talk back (most likely sarcastically) to the Creator, “reminding” Jesus that it would take more than half a year’s wages to fund such an endeavor. From there, Jesus didn’t even attempt to explain himself to Philip. He just showed him what He had up His sleeve.

During this season of transitioning from three to four kids I’ve felt like Philip: annoyed, maybe even angry at God that He would expect me to do something so impossible.  

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Advent and the 'French Horn Song'

Advent and the 'French Horn Song'

“Papa,” my four-year-old Jeremiah interrupts as he hops into his bed, “we can’t go to bed yet, we haven’t done Advent and listened to the ‘French Horn song’.”  Exhausted from a day's work, I was hoping to get by tonight without doing our typical family routine during the few weeks leading up to Christmas. However, Jeremiah has already associated this time of year with the hymn “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”, otherwise known as the French Horn song in my household.

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3 Things I Learned from My Fourth Pregnancy

3 Things I Learned from My Fourth Pregnancy

It’s currently two days before my due date for Baby #4. This pregnancy has definitely been more of a whirlwind than all my past pregnancies, what, with three preschoolers (ages four, two and thirteen months) and with a new hat I put on this fall: homeschooling mom. 

I probably should have written a blog post about this earlier but writing has seemed a little less doable with new homeschooling tasks and simply staying afloat with household tasks with three very active and mobile kiddos. But I guess it’s for my own emotional and spiritual health that I sort all these thoughts out. And I just hope and pray that my scattered thoughts can somehow help you, my readers (especially my pregnant mom friends) out there who might be feeling something similar. 

Here are three important lessons that I learned during the course of my fourth pregnancy.

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Chronic Illness and Porn Addiction. But God.

Chronic Illness and Porn Addiction. But God.

I’ve dealt with two diseases for most of my life: multiple hereditary exostoses (MHE) and a porn addiction. To save you a Google search, here’s a quick explanation of MHE: I basically walk around with tumors all over my body, ready to throw at me the worst pain ever whenever they feel like they're having a bad day. And trust me, they have A LOT of bad days.

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[PODCAST] Film Analysis of 'Risen': A Conversation about Doubt as a Faith-Builder

[PODCAST] Film Analysis of 'Risen': A Conversation about Doubt as a Faith-Builder

I recently chatted with my friend Alyssa, who is a passionate storyteller. Seeing God move in a powerful way in the church is one of her greatest desires. Alyssa hopes to one day use her passion for screenwriting, producing and editing to help rejuvenate the Christian Film industry.

In this film analysis, Alyssa and I discuss doubt building faith in Risenstarring Joseph Fiennes and Tom Felton. This conversation has spoilers, but hopefully you've already seen the movie. If not, it comes out on DVD May 24th. Pre-order here.

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A Non-Cheesy Christian Film Does Exist: Risen, Starring Joseph Fiennes and Tom Felton

A Non-Cheesy Christian Film Does Exist: Risen, Starring Joseph Fiennes and Tom Felton

For those of you who know me, you know I have an extremely low tolerance--allergy if you will—towards music and film stamped with the “Christian” title. Most Christian art is at best, bland, and at worst, insensitive in the way it glosses over the depth of human emotion.

With that said, I am about to unabashedly give due praise to the new film, Risen, starring Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in LoveLuther) and Tom Felton (Harry Potterfilms). Produced by Affirm Films, a division of Sony Pictures, it is a whodunit detective story in which a first-century Roman soldier Clavius (Fiennes) is assigned by Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) to locate the missing body of the recently crucified Jesus Christ, or Yeshua, as he is referred to in the film (Cliff Curtis of AMC's Fear the Walking Dead). Sitting in the theater, I was waiting for the shoe to drop for a single cheesy / unrealistic moment. It never came.

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An Interview with Dancer Mari Madrid | MariletteSanchez.com

An Interview with Dancer Mari Madrid | MariletteSanchez.com

Keone and Mari Madrid are a married dance duo who have reached millions around the world through their YouTube videos. Most recently, they released a dance video for Justin Bieber's "Love Yourself" as part of his "Purpose: The Movement" short film (released on Bieber's own VEVO channel). The video has been viewed 35,000,000+ times. You might have also seen them teaching workshops, So You Think You Can Dance, X-Factor, Dancing with the Stars, the Ellen Show, Good Morning America, and much more. I was honored to interview Mari, who is a strong woman of God with a beautiful heart. She has a passionate desire to use her craft to create beauty and draw others to God.

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Russell Wilson and Ciara are Waiting for Marriage to Have Sex: God Asked Me to ‘Lead’ Her, He Says

Russell Wilson and Ciara are Waiting for Marriage to Have Sex: God Asked Me to ‘Lead’ Her, He Says

In a recent interview at The Rock church in San Diego, California, Wilson, NFL player for the Seattle Seahawks, opened up about his relationship with R&B singer Ciara. 

“She was on tour; she was traveling, and I was looking at her in the mirror, I was sitting in the dressing room, she was getting ready to go…and she was sitting there, and God spoke to me and said, ‘I need you to lead her,’” Wilson recalled. “And I was like, ‘Really, right now?’…And he goes, ‘No, I want you and need you to lead her.’ So I told her right then and there, ‘What would you do if we took all of that extra stuff off the table and just did it Jesus’ way?’…And she was relieved.”

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An Interview with Actors / Models Clayton and Keeley - Part 3

An Interview with Actors / Models Clayton and Keeley - Part 3

Clayton and Keeley are my good friends and a married couple whom I admire greatly. Both are working models and actors based in New York City, who also happen to be Christians. It is an incredible privilege to know such strong followers of Christ who take seriously their mission to be God’s salt and light in the entertainment industry. If you missed Part 1 and Part 2 of their interview, be sure to read that here and here. This is Part 3, where they share with me how being married has expanded their influence, why they thrive in New York City and how we can be praying for them and the entertainment industry.

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An Interview with Actors / Models Clayton and Keeley - Part 2

An Interview with Actors / Models Clayton and Keeley - Part 2

Clayton and Keeley are my good friends and a married couple whom I admire greatly. Both are working models and actors based in New York City, who also happen to be Christians. It is an incredible privilege to know such strong followers of Christ who take seriously their mission to be God’s salt and light in the entertainment industry. If you missed Part 1 of their interview, be sure to read that here. This is Part 2, where they share with me how they practically minister to their cast and crew on set, how God is moving in Hollywood, and their advice to aspiring Christian actors.

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An Interview with Actors / Models Clayton and Keeley - Part 1

An Interview with Actors / Models Clayton and Keeley - Part 1

Clayton and Keeley are my good friends and a married couple whom I admire greatly. Both are working models and actors based in New York City, who happen to be Christians. It is an incredible privilege to know such strong followers of Christ who take seriously their mission to be God’s salt and light in the entertainment industry. In Part 1 of their interview, they share with me how they met, how they choose roles, and how they deal with critics, especially in the Christian community. 

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Dear Friend Struggling with Homosexuality

Dear Friend Struggling with Homosexuality

Dear Friend,

I’m told you are a homosexual. Is it gay? Is it practicing homosexuality? Is it you’ve switched sides? I don’t even know how to say it.

First, I need to apologize. We, your brothers and sisters in Christ, have presented you with a religion with standards that we can’t possibly live up to. Instead of trying to fix you from the outside in, we should have been introducing you to a Person. 

To quote one of my favorite theological books, The Jesus Storybook Bible, “Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.”

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Maple Seeds, The Word of God and Christmas

Maple Seeds, The Word of God and Christmas

I love maple seeds. When God designed them, I think He was just having fun. They come with their own little helicopter wing and when you scoop up a bunch and throw them up in the air, they spin and float all over the place with a big wink from God. But what do they have to do with the Word of God and Christmas?

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Why a Good Leader Knows When To Let Go

By Kevin Young

This is a guest post by Kevin Young. I’ve known Kevin since I was a freshman in college, when I volunteered at Cru High School and he was my Director. Since then, he has not only become a trusted spiritual mentor, he is a true father figure to my husband Moses and me. He’s also a very talented writer. You can read his blog here and follow him on Twitter

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I had invited him, along with a small team of others to a school called Thomas Jefferson, in East New York, known for violence and poor graduation rates. The week before I had helped a dazed and bloodied student off the floor after she had been beat up, her blouse ripped, eyes glazed over. This was no place for the faint at heart, and so when I asked him to do classroom talks, I was curious to see how he would be received by some of the toughest kids in New York City. What I saw changed everything. While I sat in that broken school desk, I heard a voice inside. 

“Do you see their eyes, how they identify with him? They know he understands them, they know they have found someone to follow.”

And I knew I had found my Jeremiah.

His name is Moses Sanchez, and he lives with his wife Marilette, and their two children in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The best part of the story is how God led us together, but the most important part is how an older man needed to step aside, and let a Jeremiah take his place.

Moses’ story begins in the Bronx, and a flat out sprint trying to ditch the cops. He had just witnessed his mother’s arrest, and she had screamed to him, “run!” Next stop foster care, but if you know anything about Jeremiahs, they don’t stand still. He would disappear on long subway rides across the city, running, always running—at seven years old. A couple years later he made a soft landing into a Christian home, into the arms of a mom who took him in and adopted him as her own. Moses could have become a statistic, part of a number on a print out—one in four foster kids in NYC end up homeless. But God had other plans. Over the next several years He led him to families who loved him, cared for him, and shaped him. At his wedding, he had four sets of what he calls his ‘mom & dad,’ all for different reasons, and all brought into his life in the nick of time. That ceremony was a baptism of tears, a celebration of God’s amazing grace. I’ll never forget his words to his real mom. “I love you, because you loved me enough to send me away.”

These sovereign foundations give Jeremiahs an early, mature and determined faith to speak to God and man without fear. As Moses tells it, he needed $10,000 for each of the two years remaining at The King’s College. He wouldn’t continue there without it. He prayed. Literally in the same week, not knowing anything about his need or his cry to God, I met with a ministry partner, a long time friend of Cru, who said he “had an idea.” “I’d like to give $10,000 a year to the King’s College to scholarship an intern to work with your ministry.” I immediately thought of Moses. “But should I split the investment,” I thought, “involve more than one?”

The following week Moses and I were standing outside a school in lower Manhattan, and had just met a junior gang member named Manny. He was short, mean looking, and scowled the way kids like that do, in order to keep a healthy distance, command respect. After my attempt at reaching out, I asked Moses to tell his story. I needed to know if he had the stuff to deliver in evangelism. I remember Manny moved his sight from me and stared him down. Moments later, after listening to Moses, he was wiping tears from his eyes. “Your story man, it’s, it’s mine, too,” he said haltingly. This time the little voice was louder. 

“Here is the future of ministry to New York City’s 1.2 million students. And by the way, give him the whole amount.”

All through his internship, Moses told me he was going into teaching when he graduated. I prayed God would show him otherwise. But his vision seemed stronger than my invitation to join our team, and so off he went. It broke my heart, honestly tore a hole in it. I didn’t know if it was selfish, or maternal. We had spent so much time together. While my insides were aching, the voice whispered. “Wait, I have more to teach him.” When I got an unexpected call from him several months later, I thought it was just to catch up. We sat in our favorite spot at LuLu Bean Café in Brooklyn, and he told me through tears he was out of God’s will. He needed to re-engage with us.

For some unknown reason, in that moment I saw several years stretched out all at once, and Moses stepping up to a place of leadership—into my post! I felt threatened, relieved, but mostly awe. Fear gripped me, a wonder in the wisdom and persistence of God upon a young man’s life, and the patience in an old man. When the voice spoke this time, “He is the man,” there was nothing to say.

I didn’t tell anyone what I had heard. It was a lonely burden I kept for many months. A great mission needs a great young soul to drive it, nurture it, call others around it, and ultimately to believe God for it. Today’s Jeremiahs need the older guard to step aside and let them lead. And so, the time came all too quickly, when God demanded that hard step of me. 

“You are asking me to leave the city I love." 

"Yes,” God responded, “but unless you leave, this young man will never fail enough, nor suffer enough to be great enough to carry my will.”

Epilogue: This spring I handed Moses a baseball, symbolic of the way a manager takes the mound and relieves one pitcher and installs the next. It’s his turn now, and I have a hunch he’s going to pitch a better game than me. I’m so glad. He’s already doing things I only dreamed of. This Jeremiah happens to be called Moses, but his story is only part of a larger one unfolding today. We who are older, wiser and more invested must ask God to open our eyes to see how we can give the Jeremiahs around us a place to lead, then get out of the way. They may be untested, but they are undaunted.

QUESTION: In what way is God calling you to let go in order to let Him to have His way with a ‘Jeremiah’ in your own life? Let me know in the comments below.

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Shia LaBeouf: Why Prayers Work

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Most likely, you’ve heard by now that Shia LaBeouf revealed that a woman raped him during his #IAMSORRY performance art exhibit in L.A earlier this year.

Now, we’re not about to sit here and say for sure that it definitely happened or that it definitely didn’t happen. Some people are backing up his claims. Somepeople are insisting that it’s all a publicity stunt.

It doesn’t matter whether Shia’s culpable or not, it’s God’s job to deal with the sin. Ours is to protect our little brother (because he’s younger in the faith). How? Refuse to gossip and choose to pray.

Now, I (Marilette) have been a brokenrecord with this “pray for celebrities” topic. But the truth remains, most of us Christians are more likely to point out Shia’s “lack of fruit” in his Christian walk than pray for him. With fists raised, we demand to know: Is he even a Christian?

I love how Hillsong NYC’s Carl Lentz put it, referring to his well-documented relationship with Justin Bieber. “I tell people grace and acceptance does not mean approval. I can accept you as a human being and not approve of your actions. That’s how we’ve been loved. We love because we were first loved.“

My heart breaks again every time Shia talks about his relationship with his Vietnam-vet, former drug-addict, verbally-abusive dad. Can God remove brain and heart damage caused by abuse in minutes? Yes. Does he always heal instantly? No. He often prefers to cycle through healing because it’s better for our faith in the long run. But if Shia doesn’t have protection from us believers (via prayers on his behalf), there’s no way his pain will ever be removed.

I (Alyssa) have to admit that sometimes I cringe when people say, “The only thing we can do is pray,” because what we really mean is: “Oh yeah, it’s absolutely hopeless, but let’s schluff off a prayer so we feel we’ve done everything we can.

A few weeks ago, I was at a morning prayer meeting at my church. Our leader said God wanted us to pray for a young black girl in a pink coat–the leader could see her face clearly. So we did. A few days later, this story about a Philadelphia kidnapping popped up on the news. Our leader watched the news story about how a young black woman was rescued. He saw her face, and realized it was the same woman he’d seen two days before. The kidnapper had killed other victims in previous crimes, but this woman was rescued within days and had no major injuries.

God’s payment plan for intercessors is answered prayer. When you see an incredible response in the world to something you were praying for, you are motivated to keep praying.

I thought that after I wrote the first article about Shia’s conversion, I would stop heavy lifting in my spirit for Shia. But I keep praying and praying hard. I’m praying because God is demanding that I do.

I have known and loved God for over 20 years. I have a strong faith. I have spiritual gifts to use. So like Romans 15:1 says, that gives me responsibility. And if I don’t take that burden, it’s bad news. “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals.’” (Ezekiel 34:1-10).

Weak. Sick. Injured. Stray. Lost. Scattered. Sounds like Shia to me.

Well doesn’t he know better? Probably not.

In prayer, I asked God what is plaguing Shia. God revealed to me that Shia is haunted by a spirit of iniquity, literally lawlessness. What happens when you spend your lifetime longing for approval from an abusive dad; when the movie industry is demanding your best work, only to sprawl you out in the public eye; when truth is preached as a flimsy ideal? You want freedom.

But Satan has a good counterfeit for freedom: “anything goes.”

Shia doesn’t really understand moral lines (which, by the way, also explains the chronic plagiarism). It’s the cry of his generation that doesn’t have any anchor to truth.

In this new article, Shia says he looks up to Joaquin Phoenix. My favorite movie of Phoenix’s is Walk the Line, which shows Johnny Cash’s raging, messy journey out of darkness. I’m still praying for Shia because I believe God is going to use him in a parallel journey.

It’s crucial for Christians to speak life, not death, because our words become reality.

Let’s not abandon our posts of covering our weakest members in prayer. Let’s not let Shia slip through the cracks.

QUESTION: Why is it so easy for us Christians to underestimate and even dismiss the power of prayer? Let me know in the comments below.

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Why We Must Drop the Stigma of Mental Illness

By Stephanie Jonasson

This is a guest post from Stephanie, my dear friend from college. Stephanie got her start in the field of mental health working as a Mental Health ParaProfessional in a Residential Treatment Program for teens. She has since transitioned into donor development (for the same non-profit health organization) where she spends her time helping the local community better understand what it means to struggle with mental illness.

I’m so excited that Marilette invited me to share my two cents on the recent loss of one of my favorite comedians, and some of the misconceptions that surround suicide and mental illness. The news has been inundated this week with the gory details of Robin Williams’ suicide. I’ve watched as conversations sprang up around me on social media, in the hours after the news broke as people tried to come to grips with what had happened. The opinions I encountered ran the gamut of emotion from anger, which accuses him of being “selfish” for leaving his family behind, to pity, which absolves Mr. Williams of all responsibility for his actions. 

My experience with mental illness is both professional and familial. I have provided direct care for teens in treatment for mental health issues; and I’ve seen the devastation that depression (and illnesses like it) has caused in my family. In all that time, I’ve learned one important thing: people who suffer from chronic mental illness are fighting forces that have literally re-wired their brain chemistry.

They didn’t ask for it, and they can’t just “fix it” – at least not at this point in medical technology. In a lot of cases it can be treated quite well, but I’ve also seen some horror stories where it has taken a lot of trial and error just to get someone stabilized.

Suicide takes a sad mental health story and turns it into a nightmare. Any time someone dies, his or her family and friends bear the grief of that loss. They have to struggle with everything not said and the important moments their loved one will miss. It’s so much worse, however, having to look back and know that this person, for whom you cared so deeply, despaired enough to take his or her own life.  I would do just about anything for the ones that I love, and I can’t imagine the guilt and grief that comes from knowing they were hurting and I didn’t stop it. It’s easy from that perspective to call the one who has died “selfish”. But in most cases, people stay alive longer because they care about the family and friends they would leave behind. They don’t want to hurt the people they love; they just want to stop hurting

Don’t get me wrong: suicide is NEVER the right solution for depression. Suicide doesn’t just “happen” to people, it has to be chosen and carried out. The destruction of self is so against the image of God that we were created to be, that it should be repugnant to all of us. But we can never forget – even in our grief – that it’s a choice some people make because they feel like they have no better alternative.

Living with mental illness is such a frightening experience. Humans are great at intervening in a physical crisis (floods for example) but issues like depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia send people running for the hills. Often when people do notice that something is wrong they respond with criticism for symptoms. This kind of reaction makes experiencing depression like trying to swim laps with concrete blocks on your ankles while the lifeguard yells at you for falling behind. The person battling mental illness needs help and mercy, not judgment. For example: someone might be censured for erratic sleep patterns, profanity, and excessive drinking but it takes someone with experience to recognize the self-treatment of an underlying anxiety disorder. 

As Christians, we should be at the forefront of helping our brothers and sisters who are struggling with mental illness. We know we live in a fallen world where God’s creation doesn’t function as He originally intended. Why are we then surprised when our minds (a physical and biological entity apart from our spirits) are also marred from the effects of the Fall? I’ve heard well-meaning Christians advise people with depression to “pray more” for healing or “joy”. Yet those same people would never suggest a cancer victim solely rely on prayer – to the exclusion of medical and community support – for healing. We have to start recognizing depression and other mental illness as a legitimate health issue, and abandon the stigma that keeps us from talking about it openly.

Community is so desperately important for people who struggle with depression.  An astonishing 50-70% of people will tell someone before they attempt suicide. They don’t have to reach a point where they consider suicide. There is hope. Someone who is centered in his faith, actively seeking help from his community, and receiving medical attention is significantly less likely to commit suicide. (Not saying it couldn’t happen in an extreme case, but the odds are significantly reduced.) But they need to know that they can talk about their struggle without being judged for struggling. 

I grieve for Robin Williams and the family he left behind.  In him, we lost a kind man who inspired us with desktop monologues and infused our lives with humor. I can only hope that his death will continue to foster discussion about depression and suicide, for the sake of everyone out there who is still struggling.

QUESTION: Why do we Christians tend to lump mental health with spiritual and not physical ailments, thereby making it something we can only “pray away”? Let me know in the comments below.

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