Seeking Beauty

“We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty…

“We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

A Saturday night in the middle of summer, and I was at home working upstairs. My little girl was with her dad, so it was just me and my two Labs. My desk showed evidence of an impending article deadline: pages of research, paper clips, several uncapped pens, and a glass of water that needed refilling.

My office windows faced the street, and from my desk chair, I had a great view of the sky. As I paused to come up with just the right word, I looked out the window. And I saw the beginnings of a masterpiece.

Grabbing my sandals, I ran down the stairs, rousing the dogs from their pre-bedtime nap, and flew out the front door. Cutting across the yard, I kept my eyes trained on the sky as the pinks and oranges gradually grew more vivid. Excited, I looked around to see if any of my neighbors were outside too, but I was the only one watching the wonder unfold. It was a gift for me.

Glancing down at my arms, I was surprised by what I saw: the light from the beauty above had covered me in pink. It was like being in a waterfall with no water, only color.

And in that moment, I worshipped—not the sky or the sunset but the one who created them. God’s presence with me under his handiwork brought me great comfort, and the beauty filled me with both joy and a longing for more.

Awake, My Soul

That sunset is one of the highlights of a difficult time in my life.  My marriage had ended, and I was now a single mom of a preschooler. During those dark days, God used many things to bring me light, starting with himself and scripture. In addition, my daughter filled my days with life, laughter, and fun. Family and friends stepped in and loved me with words and actions. My dogs adored us and protected us by barking at every visitor with great enthusiasm.

During that time, I read a book entitled Awake My Soul by Timothy Jones. I realized that in the years before the divorce, I’d been lulled into drifting through life, especially as a new mom, moving from one thing to the next and just looking forward to a whole night’s sleep.

It took the shock of my life turning upside down to be reawakened, to be reminded of what I already knew as a follower of Jesus: that there is more to this life than what we see. Life is filled with meaning and purpose, and our longing for these and other things like beauty, goodness, and truth, find their fulfillment in him.

So I asked an artist friend to climb a ladder up to the ceiling in my room and paint the words “Awake, my soul” over my bed. Every morning when I opened my eyes, I’d see that spiritual reminder to help me guard against being lulled to sleep again.


As I woke again to God’s goodness and presence in my life and began to heal, the sun came out. I began to see and respond to the beauty around me, starting with my neighbor’s crabapple tree and the bright yellow jessamine vine climbing on my mailbox.

I sought out beauty in art museums, the symphony, and the theater. Books like C. S. Lewis’ Surprised by Joy and The Weight of Glory and Ken Gire’s Windows of the Soul affirmed and spurred me on.

A few years later, I met a man who also appreciated beauty, art, theater, the symphony, and C. S. Lewis. Most important, he loved Jesus, and he loved my daughter and me. We married a year later.

I’ve been writing about beauty now for years, most recently on my blog at, where I share glimpses of the beauty around us in nature, the arts, and the unexpected. When I tell people about my blog, most of them look puzzled. Why beauty?

And I think about that summer night when a sunset covered me in beauty … and I begin to tell them.


Freelance writer, speaker, and blogger LeAnne Martin looks for the beauty around us and encourages others to do the same. Through her words and pictures, she shares glimpses of beauty in nature, the arts, and the unexpected on her blog, Glimsen. Sign up to receive her weekly posts, and you’ll get a free gift of beauty in your inbox. You can also connect with LeAnne on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. LeAnne lives with her husband in a wooded neighborhood outside Atlanta and looks forward to her next FaceTime with her daughter in college.


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Toy Story 4: Of Toys and Telos

This last weekend Pixar released their newest film, Toy Story 4 which is being released 9 years after the last Toy Story film. Pixar has another huge hit on their…

This last weekend Pixar released their newest film, Toy Story 4 which is being released 9 years after the last Toy Story film. Pixar has another huge hit on their hands as by all accounts the film opened with over $100 million in the domestic box office. Toy Story 4 is also a critical darling so far sitting at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. This is somewhat surprising because many, myself included among this number, were skeptical of a fourth Toy Story movie when Toy Story 3 so beautifully concluded the story of Andy and his toys.

I was very worried that Toy Story 4 would ruin the near perfectness of the original films. Before the fourth was announced I ranked the Toy Story trilogy as one of the best trilogy of films of all time and in my opinion ending on the highest note. I grew up with the Toy Story franchise. The actor voicing Andy was born the same year I was. I felt as the first three films followed my life stages in fairly close parallels in real time. I think this is true for many Millennials, and part of the reason why for many of us Toy Story is such an emotionally impactful franchise.

Thankfully, I had no need for my reservations. Toy Story 4 is a wonderful addition to the franchise. It is gorgeously animated, beautifully voice acted, incredibly funny, and emotionally engaging. I was concerned that there would be nothing new to say in this film, but I was so wrong. The writers and director truly had a unique and meaningful story to tell. To paraphrase what a dear friend of my said after seeing the film, if Toy Story 3 was the ending of Andy’s story then Toy Story 4 was the ending for Toy Story. More specifically this movie is about Woody’s journey much more than the other films though Woody has always been the central protagonists.

This movie really is delightful. It is joyous and hilarious at one moment, and then poignant and contemplative in the next. There is a bittersweet note of joy and longing, that I do not know how to describe any other way than to borrow a word from C. S. Lewis. The ending of Toy Story 4 is full of sehnsucht. Sehnsucht is a German word that Lewis describes in The Weight of Glory as “inconsolable longing in the heart for we know not what.” The other Toy Story films are fully of this longing and joy, and this remains true for Toy Story 4. I cannot recommend seeing this movie enough.


The Toy Story films have always contained within their stories an important element of existential contemplation. It could be argued this is the crux and draw of each of these films. In Toy Story, Woody must come to terms with perhaps not being the favorite toy any more, and losing his top status in the toy hierarchy. Buzz Lightyear must come to terms with his own faulty view of himself and reality, which are quite different from what he first believed. Much more could be said about Toy Story 2 & 3 as well.

There are very many themes and ideas one could explore in all the Toy Story films, as well as, the latest installment. However, I think the theme of telos as it relates to purpose and meaning in life is more strongly presented in Toy Story 4 than any of the other films. For those unfamiliar with the term telos, it can be defined as ultimate end or aim. In philosophy it refers to the concept things are aimed at certain goals. That different natures have different functions to accomplish in order to bring about flourishing. For example, an acorn has the telos of becoming an oak tree. Its purpose or goal is to become a tree. In order for this to be accomplished its nature has certain functions such as collecting water and converted sunlight into energy so that it might achieve its final end of becoming a tree. Many influential Christian theologians and philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas have argued that all things created by God including humans have a telos. They receive their purpose and meaning because they have been created with a particular aim or purpose. In the same manner toys are made for certain ends or functions, so too does the Scriptures present people has being created for certain ends and functions. The Westminster Confession proposes a definition of a human’s telos when it states, “the chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” In the world of Toy Story toys flourish as they fulfill their purpose to bring joy to the children who play with them.

Telos manifest itself in several ways throughout Toy Story 4. It is most obviously seen through the introduction of the new character Forky. Forky is made by Bonnie at kindergarten and it is hinted that through her purpose of making Forky to being a toy and putting her name on him that Forky is made sentient and now has the purpose of being a toy. Forky, however, at first struggles with idea of being a toy at first. Forky believes that he is still trash and not a toy. Woody recognizes how important Forky is for the girl Bonnie, and wholeheartedly tries to convince Forky that he is a toy and not trash. What follows is a hilarious sequence where Woody constantly is having to prevent Forky from throwing himself into the trash. Forky is having an existential crisis of who and what he is? What is his purpose,? What is the meaning of his life? Woody takes it upon himself to keep Forky safe, and to teach Forky what it means to be a toy. After Forky escapes during a summer trip in an RV. It is up to Woody to bring Forky back to Bonnie.

The leads to the deeper, more subtle, and more powerful message of Toy Story 4. Through Woody we get have an exploration of where does one find meaning and purpose after they have already fulfilled a purpose in their life? Through Woody we come to a better understanding of our need for purpose and meaning in our own lives, as well as, the truth that our telos runs much deeper than we often imagine.

At the beginning of the film we find Woody no longer has the position he once had. He is no longer top toy, in fact, he is often regulated to the closet now and no longer played with. After fulfilling the toy’s greatest purpose with Andy, by providing joy and comfort to a child, Woody is now at a lost to what his purpose is. His life has lost a sense of meaning, though he hasn’t realized it fully yet. So Woody is devoted to making sure his new kid Bonnie is happy and he is also devoted to making sure other toys have their opportunity to fulfilling their purposes with children. In Woody’s world the worse thing to be is a lost toy. The irony is that Woody does not realize that now in some sense he is a lost toy. This becomes more and more clear as Woody tries to explain to Forky what a toy’s purpose is.

In the very first scene of the film, we have a flashback of the night that Bo Peep is lost. Bo offers Woody a chance to leave with her, and Woody almost goes, but then he hears Andy’s voice. Woody’s fear of being lost, and his devotion to fulfilling his purpose to Andy prevents him from going with Bo. Later in the film, Woody is reunited with Bo Peep who has now been living quite successfully as a kidless toy for some years. Slowly through their reconnection over the course of the film, we find awakened in Woody a longing for a renewed sense of purpose in life. The film makes this poignantly through the dazzling lights of the old chandeliers in the antique shop. In this moment with Bo Beep, Woody is shown to long for something he can’t quite explain. In this moment the seed is planted that there is more to his life and purpose than he had imagined. Woody is left with the question, what does one do when one has fulfilled their seeming purpose in life? Is there more to life than he had once imagined?

This theme of meaning and purpose of life is further drawn out through the antagonist of the film, Gabby Gabby. Gabby Gabby is a very different villain from just about any other film I have seen in a very long time. Gabby Gabby is aggressive in her tactics but she is driven by a real sense of finding meaning in her life, and fulfilling the purpose for which toys exist. Gabby Gabby was defective from the box. She had a broken voice box, and desires Woody’s voice box so that she might finally know the love of a child, and fulfill her purpose as a toy. In a climactic moment when one is expecting the most villianious turn of Gabby Gabby, instead, she gives a passionate and rational plea to Woody to allow her to fulfill her purpose. Woody, then, agrees to give her his voice box. Later, Gabby Gabby is rejected by the granddaughter of the antique shop, Woody helps Gabby Gabby find meaning and purpose with another child.
Much more could be said to trace the themes of purpose and meaning in Toy Story 4, but hopefully this is will encourage its explore this theme in the film themselves, and to see all the different ways it plays out. I truly once again am amazed by Pixar’s ability to tell such powerful and meaningful stories that tap into fundamental questions of what does it mean to be human (and they do this all through toys!). Toy Story 4 taps into a fundamental questions of humankind: why are we here? What is our purpose? Where does our life get meaning from? More surprisingly still, Toy Story 4 presents answers to these questions that strongly align with a Christian world view. In the universe of Toy Story toys are created with an expressed purpose. The Christian faith also teaches that humans are created by God with expressed purposes.

Forky learns his meaning and purpose comes from being made by Bonnie who makes him to be a toy. By being made into a toy, and becoming alive Forky gains a telos. This strangely enough parallels mankind. In the garden we are created and named by God. We are given life. Humans are created in the image of God and this gives us a telos. We are called to be like God. In the New Testament this moves to us becoming like Christ. As the apostle Paul writes, we are to “be conformed to the image of Christ.” In Christ we find our telos to be like him. It is only as we turn our lives over to Christ and we are transformed into the image of Christ that we find true flourishing. In this we find our greatest meaning and purposed.

In Gabby Gabby we see another parallel to the Gospel story. Gabby Gabby recognizes that she was made for a particular telos, as well, but she is defective. By the end of the film through the sacrifice of Woody, she is able to experience her purpose and find meaning as the loved toy of a child. We too are made with a particular telos but due to our sin nature we are also defective. We cannot achieve our telos fully because of our fallen nature. But by the sacrifice of Christ, and by the salvation we receive through him we are made a new creation, we are being restored, and now able to achieve our full telos. I do not think the film makers had this parallel in mind when they made this film, but this speaks to the universal longing we have as people to have meaning, to have purpose, to have a telos for our lives. Our world is saturated with a desire for meaning whether we recognize it or not.

At the end of the film we find a Forky who has come to find the meaning and purpose of his life as a toy of Bonnie, Gabby Gabby who finds fulfillment in the arms of a little girl. A Woody who decides to not return with the other toys with Bonnie, but to go explore the world with Bo Peep. Some might be tempted to think that this decision is solely based off of his romantic love for Bo Peep, but I think this reading does injustice to the narrative structure of the movies. The movie has set up that Woody has had a fulfilling life to this point. Woody did all that a toy is meant to do for Andy. He also has secured that Bonnie is going experience a joyful life and has entrusted her to his dear friends. As Buzz Lightyear says, “Bonnie will be fine.”

Furthermore, through the course of the film, Woody has helped other Toys such as Gabby Gabby find fulfillment. In the credits sequence we see Woody and Bo continuing to help other toys find kids to be with. At the end of the film Woody recognizes a deeper sense of calling, meaning, and fulfillment in his life. He has grown and adapted. His meaning is not only found in his connection to his kid, but in his relationship to others. Toy Story 4 suggest that at the end of the film Woody is receiving his reward for his many years of faithful service to fulfilling his life’s purposes. In the end Woody also finds a renewed sense of meaning and purpose to his life. He is a lost toy no more. Toy Story 4 is the story of Woody, but it is also the story of us. We like Woody were lost seeking meaning and purpose, but find our telos, our joy, and meaning in the God who made us for himself.

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Aladdin: A Diamond in the Rough

Just little over a week ago Disney’s latest live action remake, Aladdin, made its way to the big screen. In my estimation Disney’s many live action movies have been a…

Just little over a week ago Disney’s latest live action remake, Aladdin, made its way to the big screen. In my estimation Disney’s many live action movies have been a mixed bag with some (Cinderella and Jungle Book) being quite strong by providing a new take on the original story, others (Beauty and the Beast, and Dumbo) lacking any compelling new take to justify their existence, and others (Malificent and Alice in Wonderland) being just outright strange. So it was with some trepidation I went to go watch Disney’s live action remake of one of my favorite 2 Disney animated films; The Lion King being my other favorite (This summer is a real test for me).

The new remake mostly follows the original movie, however, I found myself actually enjoying the film on its own terms. When I did not compare it to the original film, I found it to be a solid movie. It is by no means a homerun, but it still makes for enjoyable family fare. They music is still great. Will Smith is the highlight of the film. Smith had large shoes to fill, replacing the late Robin Williams as the Genie. Smith does an excellent job of making this version of the Genie his own, while playing subtle homage to the original performance of Robin Williams. I think Williams would have approved of Will Smith’s take on the character. Naomi Scott, as Princess Jasmine, was another standout to me. This girl is a star on the rise, and she is a strong singer.

Not every aspect of the film worked equally well for me. I found this version of Jafar to be less than compelling or intimidating. Jasmine’s new song, which is an attempt to bolster her as a stronger feminine character, fell flat and deflated much of the momentum at the end of the film. I have seen even strong feminist claim the song felt to on the nose. These problems aside, there are some other fantastic set pieces. “Friend Like Me,” “Prince Ali,” and “A Whole New World” being standouts. I would recommend this as an enjoyable summer family movie.


I considered not writing a review of Aladdin since the story is largely similar to the original animated film, but it has over performed at the Box Office, taking the number 1 spot last weekend. Therefore, I decided to take the opportunity to reflect on the story of Aladdin. In preparing to write this review, I have been reflecting on one primary question, “What makes Aladdin a hero?” The movie provides us with a ready answer: Aladdin is a diamond in the rough. But what exactly is it about Aladdin that makes him worthy of entering the Cave of Wonders? What does it mean to be a diamond in the rough?

One interesting feature of the new film, is that they try to establish Aladdin and Jafar as similar characters. Jafar is in some ways a mirror image of Aladdin. I wish the film had explored this idea at greater length. It is suggested that Jafar was also was a street rat. However, Jafar was not content with his station in life, so he craved power so that he could be above all others. Aladdin also is not satisfied as a street-urchin. He knows his life can be more than this. The inner thought life of Aladdin is revealed in the song “One Jump Ahead (Reprise)” which goes as follows:

“Riffraff,” “Street rat”
I don’ buy that
If only they’d look closer
Would they see a poor boy?
No sirree
They’d find out
There’s so much more to me…

In this refrain Aladdin realizes his value and worth is not found in fame, fortune, or power. Aladdin comes from a poor upbringing and yes he is a thief, but he has a kind and caring heart. He is a true friend. The story of Aladdin reveals an important truth of Christian belief. What makes a man or woman good is not their external trappings, but their inner character. Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount counter-culturally taught that “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The Gospel story teaches that power, riches, and status cannot save a man’s soul. They cannot satisfy the deepest longest of one’s heart.

In the film the temptation of Aladdin is to believe that the clothes really do make the man. With the trappings of a prince, Aladdin begins to believe that his worth, his specialness is in the clothes, the riches, and the power. This why Aladdin does not want to tell Jasmine the truth. He is afraid that it really is the case that riches, power, and status give a person worth. If he admits he is a street rat, he is admitting he does not have worth. This is a temptation we all face. Every culture, every generation struggles with putting their trust and hope in earthly power, wealth, and status. We often believe the lie that our worth is found in these earthly treasures.

However, by the end of the film Aladdin learns that what is important is not fame, fortune, or power, but in being a virtuous person. This is powerfully demonstrated in Aladdin choosing to free the Genie with his third wish instead of wishing to be made a prince again. He realizes it is better to be a faithful and honest friend rather than rich or powerful. He is willing further to give up on his own chance at happiness, rather than to become a bad friend. Aladdin teaches us power, wealth, and status do not give us worth. Aladdin is a diamond in the rough because his surroundings do not dictate is worth or character. Even though by the world’s standards Aladdin is worth nothing, he is a diamond because he is virtuous.

The Bible teaches that humans have worth because they are made in the image of God. Furthermore, we learn that God loves us not because of fame, fortune, or power, but out of his own graciousness towards us. Humanity’s worth is fully demonstrated in Jesus willingness to die on the cross. He valued people so much that he was willing to endure the suffering of the cross so that many might become adopted sons and daughters of God. In the Gospel our hope is found in the person and work of Christ. Will we follow the lessons of Aladdin and reject the lies of the world that our worth is found in stuff, power, fame, or fortune? Will we believe the Gospel story that our worth is found in Jesus Christ?

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Avengers: Endgame: Finding Rest in the End

As of the time of writing this, Avengers: Endgame is the second highest grossing film of all time with a box office total of over 2.5 billion dollars. It is…

As of the time of writing this, Avengers: Endgame is the second highest grossing film of all time with a box office total of over 2.5 billion dollars. It is poised to topple the current reigning champ, Avatar. In case you have missed it, Avengers: Endgame is the culmination of an 11 year, 22 movie series produced by Marvel. Truly, the world has never seen anything like this before. Never has there been this type of interconnected long form storytelling done with movies. It is a remarkable achievement, and Kevin Feige ( guiding force of the MCU) deserves all the praise for his vision in producing such a feat. I believe Endgame will be the Star Wars of this generation. It is a cultural event, which has and will continue to change the landscape of American cinema.

I am a lifelong comic book reader and superhero fan. I grew up reading the stories of Captain American, Iron Man, Spider-man, and the rest. Currently sitting on my desk are Omnibus Volumes 1 &2 of the Jonathan Hickman Avengers run. I waited with great anticipation for the conclusion of this first volume of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I was eager to see if directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and producer, Kevin Feige, could deliver on everything they had promised. So the big question then: Does Avengers: Endgame successfully conclude an 11 year 22 film story arc; does it satisfy the hopes and dreams of Marvel fans? I can answer with a huge resounding, Yes!

I loved this film. It has no right to succeed as well as it does. This movie pays off beautifully many things set up in the previous 21 films. This film is fan service in the best sense of the term. It rewards longtime fans of both the comics and the movies who have seen everything previous film. It gives the fans so much of what they have longed to see on the big screen, and even things fans didn’t know they wanted, without sacrificing the story. They accomplish all of this in a manner that feels natural to the story and the world they have created.

Avengers: Endgame features a tight, surprisingly thoughtful, reflective, emotional, and funny script. The acting is fantastic in this film. Every actor brought their A game, with Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans giving what is probably their best performances in the MCU films. I would really like to see Downey get an Oscar nod for this performance. Scarlett Johannson and Karen Gillan are two other standouts for me. Also, the film score for Endgame is fantastic. Alan Silvestri has composed the best score of the MCU thus far, and I think is deserving of Oscar nominations. Avengers: Endgame is not without flaws, but it is a worthwhile and satisfying conclusion to this 11 year arc of storytelling. I highly recommend going to see the film on the biggest screen you can.


Seriously Spoilers Ahead

Please do not read until you have seen Avengers: Endgame

I have now seen Avengers: Endgame three times I did not want to rush to write something for this film. I wanted to let the film sit with me for a while. There is so much that could be said about the themes and characters of Endgame and the greater MCU. Honestly, each of the original 6 Avengers (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye) are deserving of their own character studies through the course of this 22 film series (now named the Infinity Saga by Kevin Feige). Some other excellent sites have already begun to do so. However, one theme I found particularly powerful in the film is the theme of finding rest through self-sacrifice. I think we can trace this theme of rest in all of the 6 original Avengers, but it is most fully realized in the stories of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers.

Avengers: Endgame opens to domestic bliss on the farm of Clint Barton aka Hawkeye. This idyllic scene quickly turns into one of horror as the daughter, sons, and wife of Clint are dusted by the snap of Thanos from Infinity War. This powerfully sets the stakes of the film. This scene establishes that there is something profoundly wrong with the world now. Clint’s family and home are gone; Shalom has been lost.

The Hebrew word Shalom contains the idea of peace, rest, “universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight.” The loss of Shalom is further developed throughout the first act of the film. The Avengers hatch a plan to catch Thanos, seize the stones, and reverse everything. However, the story takes a surprising turn with Thanos being decapitated, but the stones already having been destroyed. It seems as if this unmaking of the world, this destruction and calamity of the universe cannot be undone. This captures something we fundamental know to be true in reality, that there is something severely wrong with this world. We long for rest, we long from shalom, we long for a return to Eden. As Tolkien writes, “We all long for Eden, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most human, is still soaked with the sense of exile.”

What follows from here are sequences of the Avengers trying to cope with the loss they have experienced. Steve Rogers is running a counseling session, where he encourages people to move on, though later he admits to Natasha aka Black Widow, he and the other Avengers cannot move on. This refusal to move on by Captain America is not the denial of the great tragedy, but it is a recognition that there is something deeply wrong with the world, and that it needs to be healed. The universe needs to be saved, and renewed; there needs to be a return of Shalom. Steve Rogers has lived an entire life of self-sacrifice. This is established all the way back in Captain America: The First Avenger when pre-super serum Steve jumps on what believes is a live grenade to save the lives of those around him, and then at the end of the film he sacrifices himself and his happy ending with Peggy Carter, to save millions of people by crashing a plane into the icy sea. However, this time the heroic Captain America failed and was not able to save billions of lives. He is restless, longing to return the universe to shalom.

Tony Stark is on a very different journey. He is a man conflicted; a man who wants to be a hero, but must fight his narcissistic tendencies. Over the course of the MCU Tony has been shown to be constantly restless. In Avengers: Age of Ultron he is afraid of a coming disaster, and wants to build a shell around the world. In Iron Man 3 Stark suffers from PTSD and insomnia. In Endgame Tony Stark seems to have found a sense of rest/peace in his life, though his marriage to Pepper and the birth of Morgan, his daughter. However, when presented with an opportunity to potentially set right everything that has gone wrong with the world, Tony understandable balks at first. But then Tony remembers that he lost people too, like Peter Parker aka Spider-man. Tony solves time travel, but then is presented with a choice: does he take the risk of losing everything he has gained in order to save the universe, or does he “put a pin in it… sink it to the bottom of the sea,” and forgot about it? This is the question he asked Pepper. He offers to stop it all then and there, so that they can go back to their lives. Pepper sagely ask, “But would you be able to rest?” The answer is clearly no as is fantastically conveyed in the performance of Downey.

Along the way to the climactic battle at the end of the film, Stark is able to find closure with his father through the time traveling element. Stark learns through this experience that he is much like his dad, he even struggles with the same character flaw of selfishness. Howard Stark says his own selfishness gets in the way of him doing what is right for the greater good. This reflects the struggle Tony Stark has had through his entire character arc. He struggles between being the selfless hero Iron Man and the selfish Tony Stark he was at the beginning of the first Iron Man film.

In the climax of the film, Tony Stark fully embraces Iron Man and sacrifices his life to save the world and defeat Thanos. In an incredibly emotional death scene Pepper Pots tells Tony to look at her. She tells him that “They will be okay,” and then brings the thematic arc of Stark full circle by telling him, “You can rest now.” With these final words, Tony Stark, Iron Man, dies having completed his mission. Through the final act of true full sacrificing of himself for others Tony Stark and the world receive their rest.

Captain America’s arc is very different. He is a man defined by his selflessness. This self-sacrifice cost him a chance at personal love and happiness. He is haunted throughout the film by the life that might have been. This is seen through the many instance of Peggy Carter’s picture popping up on scene, as well as, Steve Rogers seeing her in the past on the same time traveling mission Stark sees his father. In every film Steve Rogers’s heroism is seen in his refusal to give up, his moral resolve to always do what is right, and by his self-sacrifice to do the right thing no matter the personal cost. Captain America also receives rest in Endgaem, though in a different manner. Rest is for Steve Rogers is a reward for his many years of self-sacrifice. He finally gets to have that dance.
In both the stories of Steve Rogers and Tony Stark we learn that true rest comes through self-sacrifice. In Captain America we find the person we all ought to be like; the one we admire and desire to be like. In Iron Man we see the person we are; the person who struggles but desires to overcome their own selfish desires. I was genuinely moved to tears by Tony Stark accomplishing his mission and finding rest, even though it cost him his life. I was moved to tears again when Steve Rogers finally gets to dance which is a representation of his reward for a sacrificial life.

This truth of rest through self-sacrifice runs counter-culture to the world we find ourselves in. We are more like Thanos, who seeks rest through the sacrificing of others. Thanos solution to bringing the universe rest is to sacrifice anything and everything except himself. When he achieves his twisted mission of bringing peace and rest to the universe, we find him resting in a “garden,” a perverse version of Eden. We like Thanos realize there is something gone wrong in this world, and we desire rest. However, we too like Thanos would rather sacrifice others to achieve a false rest, than to sacrifice ourselves for true rest.

Through Iron Man and Captain America we see that true rest only comes through self-sacrifice. Even in the fantasy world of the MCU, however, we realize that this is an incomplete rest. There is still suffering, there is still much wrong in the universe. However, in the Christian message we find the promise of a final rest for humanity and the universe. This personal and universal peace comes through the self-sacrifice of the God-man Jesus Christ. The Gospel we find that shalom, rest, comes through Christ sacrificing himself on the cross for humanity. Shalom is found and entered through self-sacrificial love. Furthermore, Jesus tells us that to follow him we must “Take up our cross and follow him.” In order to receive the rest of Jesus Christ we must count our lives as lost, and sacrifice our lives to Jesus Christ. We are no longer our own, but our lives belong to Christ. If we give up our lives to Christ, he promises that we will find rest. Christians place their hope in the day Jesus will return, right every wrong, wipe every tear, and bring Shalom to a broken world.

It is remarkable that in one of the highest grossing films of all time we would find a theme so central to the Gospel message. It reveals that we long for rest from a broken world. In the world of comics we find a temporary promise of rest through self-sacrifice of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, but in the Gospel we find one who is greater, Jesus Christ who through his laying down of his life on the Christ secured rest for a fallen world, and rest for those who put their faith in him. In Jesus we find the truth myth. We find through the loving self-sacrifice of Jesus, we can find rest, we can find shalom, we return to Eden.

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The Dangers and Triumphs of Vulnerable Love: A Review of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

In a strange confluence of events, I find myself reviewing for the second time in a row a romantic comedy featuring an Asian-American Actress in the lead role. That’s right,…

In a strange confluence of events, I find myself reviewing for the second time in a row a romantic comedy featuring an Asian-American Actress in the lead role. That’s right, this week I am reviewing the Netflix’s Original Film, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before follows the story of Lara Jean (Lana Condor), a junior in high school, who writes but never sends love letters to here crushes. Accidently, her letters are sent to her former crushes including until recently the former boyfriend of her older sister, and the popular Peter (Noah Centineo). Through a series of events Peter and Lana hatch a scheme to fake a relationship in order for Peter to win back the girl who just dumped him, and for Lana to dissuade her sister’s ex-boyfriend from believing she still has feelings for him. From this point a budding friendship and romance develops for Lara and Peter.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a charming teenage coming of age story and romantic comedy. The central characters are well rounded and complex; not your stereotypical teenagers. As with all Rom-Coms much of the success or failure depends on the likeability and on screen chemistry of its leads. Lana Condor and Noah Centineo both shine in their roles. They bring a charm to their roles and display surprising depth in their performances. These are future stars in the making. The film has excellent pacing and dialogue. I found myself laughing throughout the film. It also brings a sensitiveness to the teenage experience that is lacking in many movies. I believe this film will be relatable to both adults long past their high school days, and for current teenagers alike. I recommend To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before to anyone looking for an enjoyable heart-warming film.

Spoilers Ahead:

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the third film in a few weeks to feature an Asian-American Actor in lead role. Also, this film features a mixed-race family, and treats it as normal; not even commenting on it. This is good. This is portraying the America we live in, and it is a beautiful thing.

Another striking feature of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the value and meaningfulness of physical acts. Lara Jean includes in rules for their fake relationship that there will be no kissing. She defends this by stating her first kiss is important it matters. She wants it to mean something. This film implicitly values the sacredness of physical actions within relationships. It recognizes the power and intimacy of this personal physical actions. Towards the end when Lara Jean and Peter finally kiss, a weight is given to this act. It reveals the trust and love that has developed between them. Afterwards, when a video of them leaks, and everyone in school believes that they had had sex. Lara Jean is distraught in part not only because her name is being sullied for something she did not do, but also because she places such a value on the importance of physical acts, and does not want to commit them prematurely.

This leads to the biggest theme of the film. Lara Jean and Peter both come from broken homes in different ways. Lara Jean’s mother had passed away years earlier, and Peter’s father had abandoned his family a few years before. This has created great hurt in both of their lives but also a real connection. The loss of her mother has had a profound effect on Lara Jean. She is afraid to open herself up to others because she is afraid of being hurt and left again. This is brought up throughout the film. Peter even calls Lara Jean out on this at one point. Lara Jean in voiceover comments on how it was easy it was to be in a “relationship” with Peter, because it wasn’t real and there was no risk of being hurt. This is the crux of the conflict of the film. Lara Jean is afraid to accept her feelings for Peter, or to believe that he loves her back, because she is terrified of what it means if it were true. She is afraid of losing it and being hurt again. She is afraid to take the leap of faith; take the risk to love.

I was reminded of The Four Loves by C. S Lewis where he writes,

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.

To love is inherently a dangerous proposition. This is something that To All the Boys I Loved Before recognizes. It requires real vulnerability to love. It means opening yourself up to another. It requires trust and intimacy. In a sense you are putting your life in the hands of other, and they can hurt you, break you, and misuse you. To love is a dangerous thing, but both To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved and C. S. Lewis display it is worth the risk.

In our relationships with others it requires humility, sacrifice, and trust to love truly and this is dangerous. They might not love us back, they might hurt us. Furthermore, loving God truly means humbling ourselves before him, giving up of ourselves fully to him, entrusting our lives completely to God, believing that he will never leave nor forsake us. In Jesus we see that we do not need to fear to love God. He has proven his love to us through the sacrifice of his Son for our sins. “No greater love is this, than a man lay his life down for his friends.”

Lastly, I think this teaches us something about God’s love for us. In one sense God accepted the danger of loving us. He took a risk in sending his Son Jesus to die for us. In no way am I denying that God has a plan, or that he is sovereignly in control, but I simply pointing out that by loving us God has made himself vulnerable to us. God has allowed our choices to have real consequence. We enter into the union of an intimate relationship with God and enjoy an eternity with him, or else we remain forever in broken relationship apart God. God has allowed us to receive or reject his love. He has allowed us the possibility of grieving him, and yet God loved us, and sent Jesus to die for us so that we might become sons and daughters of God. Praise God for such a love, that he loves us despite ourselves, despite how we treat him. In To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before we see the triumph of vulnerable love.

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The Use of Imagination – Christopher Robin Review

6/10 After a young boy develops a strong relationship with a few of his imaginary friends, he leaves them behind in pursuit of adulthood. Later in life, when his family…


After a young boy develops a strong relationship with a few of his imaginary friends, he leaves them behind in pursuit of adulthood. Later in life, when his family is on a vacation of sorts, Christopher Robin stumbles across his old friend, Winnie the Pooh, and races to get Pooh back to Hundred Acre Wood before a very important business meeting. Christopher Robin had much better graphics than expected; the animals almost looked real. The colors and atmosphere had a grayish tint, which I think added a real vintage quality to the film.

Though the story is extremely cheesy, it doesn’t feel cheap; I really bought into Pooh’s silliness, and even got emotional at some points, even though I wasn’t an avid reader of the books. The overall narrative, however, felt very clunky, and I leaving the movie I thought that the last third of the film was the only time I actually felt genuine tension and character development; the first two thirds beat the drum of Mr. Robin’s adulthood a bit too often, and the plot during that time felt very lacking. Whatever was there in the third act would have made a much better full-length picture than the one we have now. All things considered, however, the film brings out something concerning the use of imagination from which believer may glean.

Reason or Imagination?: A False Dichotomy

Throughout the film, Winnie the Pooh serves to help the reluctant adult Christopher Robin return back to his childhood roots. Mr. Robin is obviously averse to this, and so the majority of the film is spent developing theme of the mundanity of adulthood. This theme develops very well by the end of the film, maybe enjoying its stay a bit too long. But it is obvious nonetheless, and there is much here for Christians to think on. Dr. Kevin Vanhoozer, a very brilliant professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, makes a wonderful and winsome case for the use of imagination in the Christian life to keep him or her awake in the fight of the faith, and he uses C.S. Lewis as a guide (1). It is indeed very compelling to consider Lewis’ words in regards to this idea, and one wonders what has led the Christian church to such a false dichotomy between reason and emotion (2).

C.S. Lewis is known in the Christian community as the grandfather of imagination, and rightly so. His uses of applicable stories to the life of the church are timeless and continue to serve the church even today in helping us see things we may reason systematically in a compelling way through the use of fiction. Perhaps there is some truth in the negative outlook on adult Christopher Robin attempting to bury his childhood, and we may take note from Lewis in attempt to bridge the gap between reason and imagination with Mr. Robin. Lewis writes in a famous entry in one of his best works, “I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be your affectionate Godfather, C. S. Lewis.”(3) Jesus, the truest human, is the King of both reason and imagination, and Lewis is his brother, following faithfully in his footsteps. Let aspire to use our imagination like these two, so that a willy, nilly, silly old bear doesn’t have to drag us back to our roots (4).


1. Vanhoozer, desiringGod. “In Bright Shadow: C.S. Lewis on the Imagination for Theology and
Discipleship.” YouTube, Desiring God YouTube, 21 Oct. 2013,
2. Vanhoozer touches on this dichotomy in his lecture, suggesting we bring the two together.
3. Lewis, C.S., and Pauline Baynes. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. New York, NY: HarperTrophy,
1994. Print.
4. Consider Jesus use of stories in his parables. I may write on this in another article

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