Screen Smart
Review: Star Wars Rebels - TV Show
This week you get a special double-review! First we looked at a book review given by one of our readers, titled "Al Capone Does My Homework". Next up we're going to be taking a look at a popular Star Wars spin-off show called "Star Wars Rebels".
Book Review: Al Capone Does My Homework
From time to time, we're going to explore media in all its forms here on the ScreenSmart blog. Sometimes we'll review current movies or TV shows, we'll look at Social Media, Video Games and Books, etc. Things that are grabbing attention, things that help us make better choices for what we put in our brains, and things that help us see God is a clearer way are all fair game!
The Million Point Claim
The lunch room was buzzing with activity. My friends and I were huddled around our table trading desserts, laughing through mouths stuffed with sandwiches and generally adding to the chaos that is a middle-school cafeteria. The topic of conversation shifted from who had gotten clocked in the face with a dodge ball at recess, and who had been able to get the highest score on the latest video game. With this last topic my buddy Roger got pretty heated.   "Dude, there's nothing anyone can do to get past the boss on that level. It's simply impossible, you just have to run past him and make a dive for the exit."   "Not true! I beat him last week, you have to bounce off the wall and do a double-flip move," countered my other friend Ricky.   And then someone else trundled into the conversation, with an unwelcome claim that none of us could believe. That someone was a guy named Bob.   "Hey guys, I did it. I actually did it! Yesterday, I got over a million points on Super Mario Brothers 3!"   The table shook with Bob's excitement, but his claim was nothing new. Bob had been claiming this "million points" thing for weeks now, and we simply weren't going to believe it.   "Not possible," quipped back Scott. "There's no way to get past 999,999 points, the screen won't even reach that far!"   Scott's logic mimicked the rest of us, we knew Bob was just trying to be cool. But then he reached into his pocket and started waving around a photo of something.   "But I took a picture! This proves it!"   And sure enough, as we passed the image around there was the seemingly impossible fact staring us in the face. We saw a little Mario figure, jumping for a coin, and the number 1,125,216 in the upper right corner of the screen. But that didn't change the fact that Bob was wrong, because that's what we collectively wanted.   "Sorry Bob, that's been touched up. It's an obvious fake!" yelled Dan from down the table. A choir of voices echoed the same sentiments and Bob deflated instantly and left the table.   Why were se so harsh and unfair? Because so many times, video games aren’t about just the games. They’re about being included, being part of a group. And groups can sometimes be cruel and unfair to new people when they’re trying to fit in.   Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV), “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals” Many of the things we choose to watch, play or get involved in may in and of themselves be ok. But choosing to be a part of a crowd and doing whatever it takes to fit in will not usually lead us closer to God and many times it will lead us much farther away. Being a part of the group still requires us to be careful what we put into our heads and how we treat people who just want to fit in like the rest of us.    
The DIY Garage Door Opener
For those of you who might still be looking for the video of my garage door opener project, that is coming up shortly, but there were a few parts missing from my initial order. So I'm waiting on those, and should be able to have something more substantial for you in a little bit! In the meantime, here's something to give you a better idea of what I'll be working on. (Click the following link) Garage Door Opener - DIY Vid  
Finding the Creator Within
There's just something about sticking together a bunch of wires and blinking lights that makes me get excited. Maybe it's just because I'm kind of a cheapskate, or maybe it's just leftovers of my past as a closet nerd. But in any case if there's something that I can put together myself that saves me money AND does something cool, I'm just fascinated.
Tis the End of the Season
"Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be." ~ Sonia Ricotti
Moving from "The Force Awakens" to "Christmas"
There is, and has been, a lot of buzz going on for over a year about a particular new movie. As you've probably guessed from the title of this post, I'm speaking of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens". Rather than review the movie in a spoiler-filled way, or attempt to tell you whether you should see it or not, I'm going to focus on what the movie has jumped right smack in the middle of; namely Christmas.
Movie Review - "The War Room"
From time to time I plan on putting up reviews of some current movies that are getting attention among Christians and the world at large. To begin with I'm going to look at the new Christian movie, The War Room, put out by the same writers and producers of Fireproof and Facing the Giants. Both of those movies got a lot of attention, and many people out there are talking about this most current film as well.  
What's App?
What’s App?! The world of apps and games on mobile devices is a constantly changing one. Here at ScreenSmart I’m wanting to give you all some insider tips and reviews on some of the apps out there that are fun, helpful at keeping your brain engaged, and useful in staying true to the ideals Jesus has given to make our lives better!
Big News!
Extra! Extra! There are some big changes coming to ScreenSmart--and I have the scoop for you right here!
My Favorite New Music Artist--With Music Video!
A bunch of you have been listing your favorite musicians in the forums, so I thought I'd share my my newest favorite music artist. You might be a little surprised...
Exodus: Gods and Kings
Maybe you're headed to the movies over Christmas break, and you're wondering, "Is that new film Exodus: Gods and Kings any good?" Well, I've had a chance to check it out, and I have the scoop for you... 
A Little Something for Christmas
OK, Thanksgiving is over! Time to eat that last piece of Torfurky (if you haven't already) and let the official season to celebrate the birth of Jesus begin!  What's that? You're not in the holiday spirit yet? Well, here is a little something that will probably take care of that...
Weird Science: The Dilemma with "The Distraction Dilemma"
It seems almost every time a question about music comes up in the ScreenSmart forums, someone recommends Christian Berdahl's "The Distraction Dilemma" as the definitive answer. However, there are some serious problems with "The Distraction Dilemma." And it's time we talked about it.
Bono from the band U2 talks about praying...
U2, the band, is known as a secular group; however, if you've ever listened to the lyrics of their songs, you'll find that there are often ideas and phrases that come from or seem inspired by the Bible. There's a reason for that...
Lacrae on Late Night TV
Recently, Christian rapper Lacrae did something no other Christian rapper has ever done...he appeared on the Jimmy Fallon show on late night TV!
God likes you. But do YOU like you? Check out this song...
I've been thinking about something this week. We pay a lot of attention to what people think of us and what we think of other people. But how much attention do we give to how we think of ourselves? 
Review: God's Not Dead
Several of you requested a review for the movie God's Not Dead, and since it just came out on DVD, I picked it up to watch it and give you the scoop. 
The second installment of Just Plane Crazy (the Lego edition) is here!
For those of you who have been waiting for another installment of Just Plane Crazy (the Lego edition), it's here! The guys have been hard at work with some creative ways to make the story come to life, and here it is Just Plane Crazy, Episode II...check it out!  
A shocking thing happened at a Lindsey Stirling concert...
Several of you have mentioned that Lindsey Stirling is one of your favorite music artists. Pastor Seth Pierce and his wife, Angela, recently attended a Lindsey Stirling concert, and something happened during the concert that surprised them...
Movie: Heaven is for Real
When four-year-old Colton Burpo’s parents rushed him into the emergency room, the doctors told them he was gravely ill with a ruptured appendix that was spreading infection throughout his body, and that he needed surgery...
Just Plane Crazy: The LEGO Movie Version!
Get ready for a LEGO movie version of Just Plane Crazy!
Movie Review: Noah
If you’re curious about the movie Noah coming out this weekend, I have the deets for you right here…
Review: The LEGO Movie
awesomeA requested I review the LEGO Movie. awesomeA, your wish is granted! 
What the Band Switchfoot Says About Christian Music
Recently, I read an article that contained an interview with the band Switchfoot. They had some interesting things to say about music, and I thought I'd share so we can talk about it. 
Movie Review: Disney's FROZEN
Some of you requested a review of Disney's new animated film Frozen, and here it is! 
FREE Music Download & Merry Christmas!
A few of you know I've been in the studio recording an album. I thought it would be fun to give you a little teaser by releasing a Christmas single, so here it is - a song called You Still Reign.
New Movies Hitting the Big Screen in 2014
Hollywood must have run out of material, because it's turning to the Bible for story ideas. Three biblically-inspired, feature-length films will hit the big screen in 2014.
Heroes the Game
Looking for something fun to do? Have an iPad or iPhone (or know a kind-hearted person who does)? Then check out this great new game app I found called Heroes!
I’m Tired of Hearing This Text in ScreenSmart
I am absolutely sure that if I added up all the times a Bible verse has been quoted in the ScreenSmart forums, Philippians 4:8 would win.
But when it comes to making decisions about media—books, television, movies, music, etc.—there are some problems with applying Philippians 4:8.
Talking About TV: a Brand-new Poll!
It's that time of year again--Fall--when all the TV networks put out new episodes of brand-new and returning TV shows.
Backstage Pass
When 18-year-old Naomi Striemer walked out of Sony Records with a record deal in her hand, she knew she was on the edge of everything she'd ever wanted...
It's a's a's a...what is it?
This strange looking metallic building lives in the heart of downtown Seattle. It was built by billionaire Paul Allen in the year 2000, and it's a...
Melanie's Travels...
It's that time of year again...the time I get to travel to a few campmeetings and meet my Guide peeps! 
Movie Review: Man of Steel
Several of you requested that I review the new Superman movie Man of Steel, so this afternoon I braved the opening day crowds to see the movie...and lived to blog about it...
My favorite author...
When I was a kid, one of my favorite authors was Josephine Cunnington Edwards.
For the love of Legos...
Long, long ago, in a land far, far away...there was no television. But there were Legos. 
Horror Movies!
Three years ago, while visiting downtown Atlanta, my family and I accidentally turned onto a wrong street. Moments later, to our shock, our car was completely surrounded by zombies...
Have you seen this movie?
There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about Dr. Ben Carson, the famous Seventh-day Adventist pediatric neurosurgeon (he operates on kids' brains!) who spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast attended by President Obama...
Video Games Are . . . Good for Your Brain?
Scientists have been researching the effects of video games on the brain, and some of their findings might surprise you . . .

The Prophecies of Revelation for Teens with Book Trailer
Recently, I sat down with author Seth J. Pierce to talk about some news I thought Guide readers would be interested in, especially for those of you that have read his books…

Christian Rap
I’ve been watching the forum post about Christian rap develop for a few months now. It’s gotten pretty crazy in there with all of your comments, so I’m going to weigh in.
What the Sound of Your Music Looks Like
You're about to see what sound looks like...this is awesome...
If God had an iPod
Even though I don't respond to everything you post, I do read every single one of your forum posts on ScreenSmart! I've noticed a common theme I wanted to ask you about...
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Bilbo Baggins enjoys his life just the way it is, thank you very much--until the wizard Gandalf shows up with a motley crew of dwarves and invites him to come along on an adventure to take back the dwarves' homeland from a fire-breathing dragon.
Joyful Noise
The movie Joyful Noise is out on DVD, and a few of you requested a review, so I picked it up at the nearest Redbox and snuggled into the couch, hoping for an evening of wholesome entertainment. Unfortunately, that's not what I got...
David Crowder and the Christian Musicians Summit
Last weekend, I went to Christian Musicians Summit in Seattle. I look forward to it every year, not only because I get to hang out with my musician friends from all over the Northwest, but also because...
Here Comes the Boom
Scott Voss is a 42-year-old burned-out biology teacher who is late to his own class most of the time. Uninspired himself, he can't muster the energy to inspire his students...until one day...
A short film about a different kind of circus...
Pop some popcorn and settle in...this week, I decided to share a special short film with you...'s a secret...
Ever had a really, really big secret? Peter Parker did, and it all started with a teeny, weeny spider bite. As Christians, is it OK to have secrets? What does God say about secrets?
What Science Says About Pop Music...
This week, I thought I'd take a short recess from our movie discussions, and let you in on a new scientific discovery about pop music... 
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days
Recently, I watched the movie Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. In the movie, accident- and mistake-prone Greg Heffley is back, along with his friends and family, to give us an idea of what summer vacation is NOT supposed to look like! 
For Greg, if it can go wrong, it will...
The Top 10 Things I Learned From Ice Age 4: Continental Drift
Scrat the squirrel is at it again—frantically trying to collect nuts and hide them. Only this time, his nutty ways actually have global consequences, and the entire land mass splits into continents, separating family and friends in an adventure that includes ice ships, sea pirates, teenage temper tantrums, new friends…and new continents…
Will the real Prince Charming please stand up? A message for guys (and girls, too)...
There's a not-so-subtle message I've been seeing in the media over and over, and just recently, I noticed it again in the movie Brave... 
The Dark Knight Rises, Part 2
As I mentioned in the last blog, I invited Pastor Seth Pierce, author of What We Believe for Teens and Daniel for Teens, to share his perspective on the newest Batman movie in two parts.
The Dark Knight Rises, Part 1
This has been a difficult week as we remember the tragic shooting that took place at the Aurora, Colorado midnight showing of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises. 
Going to need my passport for this one...
Hey, guys! I'm getting on an airplane again to come visit some of you, and this time I'm going to need my passport! So if you live in...
Musical Myths...
There are a LOT of opinions out there when it comes to music! I’ve noticed that some of the most ignorant opinions about music are also the loudest opinions—which is why it’s important to...
The Incredible Hulk and the Wrath of God
Recently, I watched the movie The Avengers. Normally, I’d give you a running list of all the good and bad aspects of the movie, but this time, I want to draw your attention to something else...
Oh, boy bands...
Boy bands are nothing new.  When I was a teenager, I used to hang out with my friend Nicole who was OBSESSED with the Backstreet Boys. She had posters of them in her room, and we’d flop down on her bed and stare at A.J., Howie, Brian, Nick and Kevin… who all smiled down at us from their poster pictures while Nicole dreamily debated over which of them she would consider marrying.  (Yeah, I know…we were silly…) 
I'm leavin' on a jet plane... and coming to your area?
Next week, I get to hop on a plane and fly to my first camp meeting stop of the summer! I'll be there doing a book signing for only one afternoon, Friday, May 25th from 2:30 to 5:30 PM at the Adventist Book Center in...
Sneak peek at a brand-new book...
Hey guys! A brand-new book is about to be released to your local ABC store, and I've got the scoop for you... 
Guess who?
There are some SERIOUS perks to being your Guide media columnist...and one of those perks is occasionally I get to meet with celebrities. For example, last week...
The Hunger Games
This weekend, the long-awaited movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games book came alive on the big screen, and moviegoers--kids and adults alike--responded by spending more than $155 million on tickets to see it. So what's all the fuss about? Since every kid I know is talking about it (one of them even stood in line for 12 hours to be the first to see it at a midnight showing), and there have been some forum posts about it, I decided to check it out. Last week, I read The Hunger Games book and then watched the movie, and here's what I discovered... 
My favorite apps!
Whether you want to find out the name of a star you see in the sky, discover the artist of a song you hear on the radio, or check the barcode on an item at the store to see if you can find it cheaper elsewhere, there seems to be an app for that...and for everything else! I've come across a couple of game apps that I'm having fun with, and I thought you might like to check them out if you or your parents have a smart phone or a tablet. These games are fun, easy to play and appropriate for all ages...
The Rock and Worship Roadshow
The Rock and Worship Road Show... Last Saturday night, my son and I met some friends at the Key Arena in Seattle for the Rock and Worship Road Show (I know, it's an unusual name for a Christian concert), and I thought I’d give you an update, since it’s making a few more stops before the tour ends later this month. Moriah Peters and FREE music download... While we missed the first performer, a college student named Moriah Peters (hey, we were stuck downtown looking for parking!), my friends were so impressed with her that I checked out her website.
And the award goes to...
The Academy Awards were on TV last night. Every year for the past 84 years, a governing board has come together to nominate and vote for actors, writers, directors, etc. in the entertainment industry who deserve "merit for distinctive achievement."  Now, I didn't watch the Academy Awards last night, but I noticed this morning that news of the event is splashed everywhere...although, not so much about which people received awards for their hard work. The news was focused on who was the best dressed, who was the worst dressed ("What was she thinking?"), who had a wardrobe malfunction, who was able to slip bad words past the censors, and who was arrested for fighting at an after party.  I wonder if the people who organized the very first award ceremony to give "merit for distinctive achivement" would be impressed. Probably not.  Reminds me of something King Solomon said a few thousand years ago: "As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor" (Ecclesiastes 10:1). In the world of architecture, a "folly" is a really fancy, over-the-top extravagant building...that serves no purpose. It's not a house or a barn or a store or even a shed. It's just there for looks...just there to serve as a conversation piece. Kind of reminds me of some of the people I read about in the news this morning. What about you? Are you a "folly"? Or are you choosing to be the kind of person whose actions and decisions make you worthy of "merit for distinctive achivement"? 
Beyonce, Nikki Minaj and more...your questions answered!

A couple of weeks ago, princessdramax posted a question about music, and I thought I'd respond in a blog so everyone could chime in!  Here's the question:  So I love RnB,hip hop and rap music and I listen to It a lot. My favorite artists are Beyonce and Usher and my favorite rapper is Nicki Minaj. I know all about the illuminati thing and lots of the music I listen to is pretty bad and has lots of cuss words. I'm just so addicted to it! On Sabbath I am always humming and singing secular music . Its just so addicting!!! My friend tells me I shouldn't be listening to it but honestly, I only find it bad when you start worshipping the devil and stuff. I know the music I listen to is satanic but I would never stop loving God because of it Princessdramax, you asked me a question (a good question!), but something tells me you already know the answer to your own question. Why? Because you said:  1.  You “know all about the illuminati thing” 2.  “lots of the music I listen to is pretty bad” 3.  it “has lots of cuss words” 4.  you’re “always humming and singing secular music” on Sabbath 5.  you’re “addicted to it” Those descriptions tell me that YOU find something wrong with your music choices. Here is what I think: 1.  Not all secular music is bad. Not all secular music is good, either. 2.  Secular music doesn’t automatically lead to devil worship. However, if you listen to lyrics over and over about things that are not of God (i.e., sex outside of marriage, drugs, partying, dancing, fighting, loving money or things) then as time goes on, it will begin to affect your value system. Gradually, those things won’t seem as “wrong” as they are. If you listen to music with cuss words in it, then those words are more likely to become part of your own vocabulary. 3.  Secular music doesn’t make you stop loving God. In fact, I’ve found that some secular music can actually make me feel closer to God. However, you’ve got to be picky…for example, I’ve never heard a song with Nikki Minaj in it that made me feel closer to God, only farther away from God. Here is my suggestion: Fast! There are lots of different types of “fasting.” You can “fast” from food, “fast” from certain types of beverages…or even “fast” from music or entertainment. Why don’t you try “fasting” from the music you’ve described for a month? Instead, listen to songs that are in harmony with your value system – Christian music that uplifts you, or even secular music that is still in harmony with what you believe and know about God. At the end of one month without that kind of music, re-evaluate your relationship with God and how you feel about your music choices. I’ll bet you’ll have some valuable new insight on how your music affects you. If any of you decide to “fast,” will you let me know how it turns out?

Movie Review: We Bought a Zoo
We Bought a Zoo is a movie based on the true story of Benjamin Mee, a widower with two children who is trying to blindly feel his way through the grief his little family is experiencing after losing a wife and mother. After losing his job, Benjamin must find another way to support his family and try to rebuild a life with some happiness in it. After his daughter falls in love with a country house that happens to be in the middle of a zoo, Benjamin takes his family on an adventure that will challenge them, break them apart, and ultimately bring them back together.  The good stuff:  This movie wasn't what I expected. After reading a few reviews in which critics made fun of it, branded it as predictable and a yawner, I wasn't exactly expecting to fall in love with it. But what I saw surprised a good way. It was well-written (I understand the real Benjamin Mee assisted with the script), it was well-acted, and while it was predictable, it was predictable in all the ways that feel right.  The valuable parts of this movie include a strong sense of family, of unselfishness, of friendship, of forgiveness, of perserverance, of humane treatment of animals and hard work. I laughed at the oddball characters, I was drawn in by the beautiful camera shots of the animals, and I was pleasantly surprised by the way I believed everything the characters said.  While none of the characters are overtly religious, the values depicted in the film are mostly Christian values.  The not-so-good stuff:  Most of the adults in the movie drink socially. One of the characters drinks so he can behave himself socially.  There are some sexual innuendos.  There is also some language during bursts of emotion that surprised me given the PG rating.  When the lttle girl is starting to have trouble remembering what her mom looked like, there is a mention of "catching the spirit" of their deceased mother and holding it in their hearts, which could be taken a variety of ways that aren't negative, and there's a mention that their mother knows what they are doing even though she is gone.  Overall: Overall, I sincerely appreciated the message of this movie and was surprised that I actually liked it. Then again, in order to enjoy the movie, there were a few minor elements I had to ignore. If you are very sensitive to social drinking or mild language, this might not be a good movie for you. If you are able to ignore those elements, I think you'll agree that the movie's overall message is a positive one. 
Batman: Arkham City review...

As promised, here is my review of Batman: Arkham City. I chose this game to review first because it is a huge mainstream game that is getting a lot of attention. It’s a best seller, and every place game consoles are sold, there is a huge banner advertising it. If I’m not a gamer and it’s getting my attention, I figured it must be getting a lot of attention in the gaming world. So here it is… Synopsis: Bruce Wayne wakes up in Arkham City—which is a failed experiment by psychiatrist Dr. Hugo Strange that allows prisoners to run a city within Gotham. Arkham City is a precarious disaster, with a gang war taking place between Joker’s men and Penguin’s men, and a secret, sinister plan by Dr. Strange in effect. Police have been called in, but they’re rapidly losing ground. Batman must help restore order. Design: From a design point of view, the game is well done. The graphics are exceptional, the detail is good, and the voice acting is believable. There are numerous side quests and minor characters that expand the game beyond the basic mission, so there’s a lot of game for the money. The back-story and depth of the main characters is impressive. Negative elements: The bad people in this game kill, and while it’s always violent, some of the violence creeps into the realm of horrific. I was surprised, actually, that’s it only rated T for Teen because of the dark, raw characters, the heavy criminology, and the types of violence that are implied. Many of the “bad guys” kill cops, commit serial killings, and do twisted things. The callousness and coldness of it all is disturbing. During game play, while fighting against evil, you’re exposed to some very twisted thinking. There is some pretty heavy-duty occult activity, which includes a disgusting ritualistic practice that is reminiscent of Old Testament idolatry. I’ll spare you the details on that one. Although Batman is trying obliterate it, not become part of it, it’s still there. There is moderate profanity throughout the game, as well as signs advertising places of ill repute. Because there are so many areas to explore within this game, it is possible to get sucked into it and lose hours upon hours within the dark city limits of Arkham. What you see and experience there could affect you outside your time spent gaming and blur the lines of reality. Positive elements: Many of the games out there today glorify killing and give you as the gamer the opportunity to kill others. As Batman, you knock out the bad guys, subdue them and work with law enforcement to have them arrested, but you don’t kill them. That is apparently one of Batman’s rules, and you don’t sink to the level of the villains on that. Police officers and law enforcement are portrayed as the courageous good guys who are risking their lives, and you work alongside, not above the law but in cooperation with the law to end chaos and restore order. Even in his quest to restore order, Batman has compassion and empathy for the villains, and there is redemptive quality. For example, (SPOILER ALERT!) at the end of the game, Joker tries to kill Batman by poisoning him and himself. Batman is able to survive, but Joker fights him to the end and ends up breaking the vial with the antidote in it. As Joker dies, Batman tells him, “I would have saved you.” The last scene is Batman carrying Joker’s lifeless body out of the city. Joker died by his own diabolical plan, but right up to the end, it seems that Batman is holding out hope for him to change. I wonder if that will be God’s sentiment someday when he finally destroys sin. Summary: Overall, I thought the game was dark, violent and laced with occult references. While there are some positive, redemptive elements of the game, they are pretty much eclipsed by the evil, negative ones. Sure, as Batman, you’re fighting against darkness and chaos to restore order, but in the process, you’re exposed to a lot of evil. It’s not something I’d recommend.
Thanks for all your game review suggestions! I’ll check them out and drop some more reviews into future blogs! 
Attention, video gamers!

Several of you have asked me to do some video game reviews... I’m not personally a gamer, but I have found an adult gamer who is willing to let me watch him play through some of the most popular games so I can observe the content and give you an “official” report. I’d like to hear from you – let me know what video games you are actually interested in reading about, so I can let you in on the info you need to make good gaming decisions. I’ll be putting video game reviews into the ScreenSmart mix talk to me!  In the mean time, stay tuned for a review of the video game that has gotten a lot of attention since it arrived on the scene a couple of months ago. Coming soon…my opinion of Batman: Arkham City

Drama, Drama, Drama!

Have you ever wondered what your life would look like as a reality TV show? I have. And I don't think I'd make it through the first season without getting canceled! There's really nothing TV-worthy about what I do during the day... I mean, come on, who wants to watch me take my dog to get her toenails clipped, or check my e-mail, or sweep the leaves off my porch, or sit for hours writing another book chapter? Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty much content with my life, but it's not exactly a glamorous, prime-time existence. What makes reality TV interesting? If glimpses of what I've seen lately are any indication, reality TV is popular if people are fighting, getting drunk, having relationship issues, getting pregnant as teenagers, going on lavish vacations, getting arrested, marrying multiple spouses, getting divorced, arguing with your parents about who you should date...and the list goes on. Granted, there are some reality TV shows that show people making positive life changes and overcoming challenges. But for the most part, reality TV doesn't get ratings without crazy drama. MTV is probably the biggest culprit for sleazy reality shows. A couple of the shows I've seen, like Made or I Used to be Fat, while not always ideal, have some positive aspects. But shows like Next, Jersey Shore, Sixteen and Pregnant, Parental Control and others are just seriously disgusting. And they tell lies about life. Here's the truth: 1. People are not things. It matters how you treat them. It matters how they treat you. 2. If you choose not to have sex, drink alcohol or do drugs, there's nothing wrong with you. In fact, there's something right with you. 3. A happy life is not about what you can grab for yourself; it's finding out you love God and others in a way that makes you want to give of yourself. 4. Waking up next to someone you don't know or throwing up all night because you've "partied" too hard is not "fun." "Fun" is living a healthy life, making choices that leave you guilt-free, and having real, lasting friendships with people you trust. Ok, I'll get down off the platform! But the next time you watch a show that's supposed to be reality TV, do a reality check... ...and make sure watching other people living their lives isn't keeping you from living your own! :)  
A look at the movie Courageous...
First of all, WOW!!! Thank you SO much for all the awesome Christmas music selections! You guys have good taste - I've been having a blast checking out the ones I could locate on iTunes. Looks like my Christmas music repertoire is going to grow some more... and 4 mo' ANGELS, I would LOVE to hear your music!  And now...the movie Courageous. From the creators of Facing the Giants and Fireproof, Courageous is the next Christian movie installment to hit the box office. The movie follows the stories of four police officers that are used to dealing with the pressure of life-or-death situations in their jobs. Their toughest challenge, however, is being good men, good husbands, and good fathers. When they're each confronted by their worst fears, each man must make a decision to back down to circumstances, or follow the commission God has placed on them stand up for what they love.  So here's what I thought.  Content: First there was nothing in the movie I found seriously objectionable. There are some intense situations, including a car-jacking, a standoff between police and gang members, and some gunfire, but it is all part of the story and isn't gratuitous. The only thing I noticed is that one of the characters looks up to heaven and asks God to give a message to a loved one who has passed away - a message that we know from the Bible will not happen until the resurrection. Quality: The initial scenes in the movie feel a little awkward, as though the writers and the actors are still trying to get into character. I cringed a few times at the obvious "nobody really talks like that" lines the characters say, and during a few moments when it seems like they are trying a little too hard to make sure the audience understands the moral of the story (at least I wasn't cringing over language or inappropriate situations like I have in other movies). Having said that, as the movie progresses, the characters become more believable, the story becomes more engaging, and by the climax of the movie, I was fully engrossed. Ultimately, I felt the movie was a success in what it set out to communicate. I thought the message was powerful, and I actually felt emotional a few times during the more poignant moments.  If you have seen the movie, or if you plan to see the movie, I will say two words to you: Snake Kings. Hahahahahaha! During that scene in the movie, I laughed so hard I think one of my lungs made it halfway up my esophagus. Fortunately, it found its way back into my rib cage is now functioning normally. So that's what I thought of Courageous. I'd love to know what your opinion is... 

'Tis the season (almost) ...and I need your suggestions!
Ok, I know it's a little early, but it's better to be prepared than unprepared, right?  Here's my request: I want to get some new Christmas music in time for the holiday season, and I want your suggestions! What's your favorite Christmas album, and who is the artist? I love interesting arrangements of traditional Christmas songs, so hit me up with something cool!  Right now, my favorite Christmas album is "The Christmas Sessions" by MercyMe. Here's what it looks like:  My favorite tracks on the album are "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "Little Drummer Boy." Can't wait to hear from you... I'll check out your suggestions and let you know what I think! 
Comics, anyone?
When I was a kid, my younger brother and I used to love it when the newspaper arrived. We'd peel off all the "boring" pages until we got to the one that had all of the comics on it. Then we'd lay on the floor and take turns reading the strips. There was something cool about capturing action and dialogue in a series of boxes, and my brother and I were hooked.  Today, a lot of kids enjoy action hero comics, or Japanese manga. The problem with some of these kinds of comics is they can be violent, or sexually suggestive, or even spiritualistic...which is a shame, because good comics can be a lot of fun.  Zondervan Graphic Novels are superhero and manga-style comic books, but they're biblically-based stories. The publisher calls them "a God-honoring alternative," and has several series, including the Manga Bible, Kingdoms (about the people of Judah during the time of the judges), Son of Samson, Hand of the Morningstar, and more.  If you're interested, you can watch a short video clip and download sample chapters here.  I read a couple of the sample chapters, but if you decide to check them out, I'd love to know what YOU think.  Here is a picture of the different series of graphic novels: 

Dolphin Tale!
You asked for it, you got it...the scoop on Dolphin Tale!  I actually just finished watching the movie, and I'm so glad I did. It was fantastic.  Based on true events, Dolphin Tale is the story of a young dolphin that got tangled up in a crab trap. Though she was rescued and taken to the Clearwater Marine Hospital, her injuries were so severe that her tail had to be amputated. The hospital staff named her Winter and began trying to care for her. Dolphin Tale is an amazing film that not only shares the events surrounding the courageous young dolphin, but also the persistent team of devoted individuals, including a prosthetics doctor, a marine biologist and some kids, that wouldn’t give up on her. I thought this movie was incredible. I’m sure the story was doctored a bit for film purposes, but knowing that Winter the dolphin (who actually stars as herself in the movie!) is real and not only survived, but lives in Florida with the team of people who actually saved her, is so inspiring. I definitely recommend this movie. And, if you’d like to check and see what Winter the dolphin is up to, you can see her RIGHT NOW on live streaming video here at
Here’s a really cool quote I found today – hope it inspires you as much as it inspired me: “Don’t say you don’t have time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day as Helen Keller, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.” H. Jackson Brown
What's grosser than gross?
What's grosser than gross? I'll tell you what it is for me... everything on TV during the month of October!  I haven't watched very much TV lately, but the other night I recorded The X Factor and The Sing-Off (can you tell I love music?), and when I sat down to watch the recordings, I was SOOO glad I could fast-forward through the commercials!  I'm careful about what I watch on TV, anyway, but this happens every year: Just before Halloween, every TV show seems to have a darker theme involving something supernatural and a lot of commercial time is eaten up by trailers for brand-new horror movies. To make matters worse, I saw an advertisement for a TV show about a teenage witch. Before I could even change the channel, I saw a disgusting image of  a woman who was supposed to be demon-possessed writhing on the floor. Grosser than gross.  Now, I believe as a Christian, I don't have to be afraid of that stuff. I'm under the powerful jurisdiction of the Holy Spirit, and the devil has no authority over me. Seeing a few seconds of those gross images doesn't snatch me away from God's presence or protection; however, I'm not going to willingly submit myself to demonic influence...and you're NOT going to catch me watching shows like that on purpose! we are. It's October, the world of television is celebrating the occult even more than usual, and I don't want to be bombarded with that stuff. So...I've decided to do two things:  1. Reduce my TV time to almost nothing...and dive into the pile of cool books I have on my nighstand.  2. If I watch TV at all, it will be a recorded channel and I'll have my thumb over the fast-forward button so I can skip ALL the commercials and only watch what I've chosen to see...and not what's grosser than gross. What's YOUR strategy? 
Yes, I'm blogging about Justin Bieber AGAIN...but check out why!
A brand-new book is hitting the shelves on September 27th, and it's about Justin Bieber...and God. The book, Belieber: Faith, Fame and the Heart of Justin Bieber, by author Cathleen Falsani, is about the "intersection between spirituality and pop culture, taking the pulse of a generation by looking at the faith of one of its idols." Justin Bieber is known for talking a lot about his faith in God, believes everything he has - including his talent -is a gift from God, and he also makes sure he communicates God's love to his fans.  The book is intended for fans, of course, but also anyone who is interested in what faith looks like when it's magnified by fame. The author hopes that youth leaders and parents will also read the book, since "music and film are the language of this new generation."  So...what do you think? Are you going to read the book? If you DO read it, I'd love for you to post your review in the comments section! 
Could you play a video game for 55 straight hours?

Could you play a video game for 55 straight hours? Nineteen-year-old David Sherer from Clarksville, Tennessee played Grand Theft Auto IV for 55 hours last year, and currently holds the record for the longest time playing a video game. David, however, says he doesn’t even like video games, and he didn’t like the game choice. An honor student who spends a lot of time volunteering, David played for a purpose: to raise money for a non-profit swimming team he coaches – a team that needs its own pool to practice in. According to him, he “doesn’t even encourage marathon gaming” and the only reason he did it was for the kids. (Source: World Records Academy) I’ve never played Grand Theft Auto IV, but I know that some of you have because I’ve seen it mentioned in the forums; so, when I read about David’s achievement - and heard him say it wasn't a game he would have chosen - I decided to do a little research and check it out. Oh, boy. The storyline for Grand Theft Auto IV is about a guy from Eastern Europe who comes to the United States in pursuit of the “American Dream.” When he arrives in Liberty City (apparently patterned after New York City), instead of finding a job or pursuing his education, he gets mixed up in crime.  After watching short video snippets of it , and discovering it's rated M - in other words, not appropriate for kids under 17 - because of blood, intense violence, nudity, strong language, strong sexual content and use of drugs and alcohol, I can’t imagine a Christian of any age playing this game without feeling sick about it. This seems like a game that is specifically designed to help you break all Ten Commandments in one sitting! I’m usually pretty open-minded about stuff, and I’m always looking for the positive if I can find it… but the truth is, I can’t think of one single positive thing about this game. I applaud Coach Sherer for trying to find a way to raise money for his young swim team to have a pool to practice in. But I wonder if he ever regrets spending 55 hours filling his head with that kind of yuck. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says if we look at Jesus, we'll become like him...hmmm, what do we become like if we spend our time looking at Grand Theft Auto IV?  What do you think?

The Hollywood Prayer Network
When you think of a "mission field," you might think of a remote village somewhere in the world where people have never heard of Jesus. But have you ever thought of Hollywood as a mission field? Well, the people who started the Hollywood Prayer Network believe that the Hollywood Entertainment Industry is just as much of a mission field as anywhere else. They’ve committed to praying for celebrities, like Justin Bieber, for example, and have set up a website where people can read prayer requests and post prayers. The HPN website says they want to reach three groups of people: Christians who will pray that God moves in Hollywood Christian celebrities and media professionals who need prayer support Celebrities and other media professionals who don’t know God yet I think it’s a cool idea. The next time you’re tempted to criticize celebrities or judge their lifestyles, why don’t you pray for them instead? James 5:16 (NIRV) says, “The prayer of a godly person is powerful. It makes things happen.” Let’s make things happen! Who are you praying for?
The book that has some critics enraged: Maggie Goes on a Diet
Ever heard the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” Well, a lot of people are judging this book by its cover. The book Maggie Goes on a Diet won’t hit shelves until October, but already, critics are having a feeding frenzy over it. The description from the publisher calls the book an “inspiring story about a 14 year old who goes on a diet and is transformed from being overweight and insecure to a normal sized teen who becomes the school soccer star. Through time, exercise and hard work, Maggie becomes more and more confident and develops a positive self image.” That’s a good thing, right? Apparently not, according to the book’s critics, who believe that it will cause kids to be overly concerned with their body image. OK, I get that. As Christians imitating God, we’re going to pay more attention to what someone looks like on the inside than on the outside. And we’re going to treat people with respect whether they are overweight or not, because that's what Jesus would do. Loving people, however, doesn’t mean pretending that morbid obesity is normal and OK. It’s not. Obesity causes all kinds of stress on the body. As Christians, especially as Adventists, we should always be a resource for people who want to live healthier lives.  When society says, “It doesn’t matter if you’re overweight,” and parents tell their kids, “There’s nothing you can do about being overweight,” it’s a lie. And obese kids need to know that they don’t have to be trapped under excess weight. They can make good eating choices. They can exercise and be active. They can become healthier. I haven't read Maggie Goes on a Diet, and I'm not recommending it. But I do think it brings up an interesting topic. What do you think about the idea of a book like Maggie Goes on a Diet?

Hello, My Name Is Melanie
Hi everyone! I'm Melanie Bockmann, your official media tour guide. When it comes to TV, movies and games, it's pretty crazy out there! For Adventist Christian kids (and even adults!), decisions about what's cool and not cool for a Christian are not always easy.That's why I'm here—to forge ahead into the wild unknown, give you the information you need, and empower you and your parents to make informed media decisions.
This isn't an easy task. Most people have strong opinions about things like movies, games, and TV. That's why I'm not going to tell you what to watch or play. Instead, I'm going to talk to you about God's principles, report what I see and hear through media reviews, and let you and your parents make the decisions about what's best for your family. 
I look forward to reading your comments along the way. So pop a bowl of popcorn, and let's go!
An "Eary" Experience
When I was a kid, for the most part, our family didn't have a television. Doomed to do brain-enhancing stuff like read books and play outside, my little brother and I felt totally deprived when our friends talked about TV shows we had never seen. That is, until one day when a truly amazing event made our dreams come true. Well, sort of. Somewhere in the unexplainable world of antennas and broadcast towers, some wires must have crossed, because we were able to tune into a television station . . . on our radio! We still couldn't watch TV, but for a little while each afternoon, we could listen to TV! We'd lie on the living room floor listening to the television station and using our imaginations to fill in the missing visuals. 
I don't remember how long our connection lasted, but when I think about my brother and me "tuning in" every day to something we couldn't even see, it reminds me how powerful entertainment really is.
Have you ever felt addicted to entertainment?
Speaking Up, Speaking Out
Hey everyone! Just want to let you know that I've been reading all of your comments, and I'm impressed! Whether you agree or disagree with my opinions, I think it's great that so many of you are taking the time to think about what you believe and express your thoughts. Keep those thoughtful comments coming!
Prom Night
Thanks for the suggestions on which movies you'd like me to review. I'll do my best to check out the ones you're interested in. Sometimes, though, I can tell just by watching a movie advertisement whether it's something I'll take a chance on watching . . . or not! Someone suggested that I review the movie Prom Night. Here's what I know about that movie: Prom Night is a horror film about a teenage girl who is stalked by an obsessive killer somehow connected with a tragedy in the girl's past. Sounds like a recipe for nightmares to me! In fact, each time the trailer for this movie appears on my TV screen, I change the channel to avoid watching it. I don't need those images swirling in my head!

I hope the description of the movie is enough, because I don't think I could be motivated to sit through that particular movie!
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
Whether you attend public school or private school, chances are you've been challenged about your belief in God as Creator. Some of my school teachers, college professors, and friends have told me I am ignorant for believing in a Creator instead of Darwin's theories of evolution and natural selection. (For more information about those topics, click on Guide website's Creation/Evolution link!) Yesterday I saw the Ben Stein documentary called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. This movie talked about scientists who are frustrated because they are not allowed to professionally explore the idea of intelligent design (the idea that life is the result of purposeful design) rather than Darwin's theories. Some have even lost their jobs because of it! This documentary is targeted for adults, so I'm not sure it would keep your interest, but your parents might like to check it out. I wish the points had been presented in a more credible way, but it did make me think. It was intriguing to listen to the interviews with people on both sides of the argument and look at the historical significance of Darwinism. It could open the door for good discussion.
Here's your challenge, if you choose to accept it--when someone makes fun of you for believing in creation, don't forget to treat that person the way your Creator would. I think that's some of the best evidence we were intelligently designed, and didn't just come from a long ancestry of lower life forms!

But Wait, There's More . . .
Some of you have wondered why I only talk about what's biblically right and wrong with the movies I review. After all, there's a lot more to a movie, right? Like plots, characters, quality of production—that sort of thing. Well, it's true that there are a lot of components that make a movie interesting. While I was in college, I studied movies from an artsy, "critical thinking" perspective. I wrote about things like mis-en-scene (the visual elements of a movie), cinematography (camera work), character development, elements of plot,  the use of music and sound, actors, producers, and lots of other cool things that make a movie a work of art (or not!).
While I could talk about those things in the reviews I write for you, I have decided instead to focus on the stuff that will help you as an Adventist Christian kid discern which movies are good brain food and which ones are not. I figure there are lots of websites you can visit to find information on other aspects of movies and moviemaking. Here on this website, you'll find what you and your parents need to make informed media decisions. I'll point out the good stuff and the not-so-good stuff, and the rest is up to you!
Music from the Movies!
After Sabbath last Saturday night, I went with a couple of my friends to the Seattle Symphony. The orchestra tuned up, the lights dimmed, and Benaroya Hall was filled with . . . music from the movies! (Yes, I'm taking my role as media columnist very seriously!) Those incredibly talented musicians played selections from movies like Gone With the Wind and Casablanca—and even pieces from Jaws and Rocky! We had so much fun! A piece of music written for a movie is called a "film score." Have you ever watched a movie and tried to imagine what it would be like without the music? Most movies would be pretty lame without the score. Music tells the audience a lot about what is happening with the characters. 
I've wondered sometimes, if someone famous like Hans Zimmer or John Williams were to write a score for my life, what would the music sound like? What do you think yours would sound like? I imagine there would be happy parts, sad parts, and scary parts, but it's all right with me as long as it all ends with the sound of trumpets blasting and angels singing! 
I Object!
A few months ago, while I was watching TV, a commercial came on for a company whose clothes I really like. Unfortunately, the commercial was really offensive to me. It showed two grown men picking on a teenage boy who was trying to do his chores. I couldn't find any positive message in it, and I couldn't figure out what in the world it had to do with the company's clothes!
Usually if something on TV offends me, I just turn it off. But this time I went online to the company's website, found their "contact us" page, and wrote them a letter telling them how I felt. I tried to be fair, and told them I liked their clothing, but I didn't like their commercial—and I explained why. I also told them their offensive advertising made me want to NOT buy their clothes. Apparently, I was not the only customer offended, because right after that the commercial went off the air, and I have never seen it since. 
You have a voice, too. In fact, companies are especially interested in what you (as a young person) have to say, because they want you to buy their stuff! Don't be afraid to speak your mind. On the flip side, don't hesitate to write letters and let companies know when they're doing a good job, too. I once wrote a letter to an airline telling them about a nice thing one of their employees had done for me, and they were so appreciative that they wrote back!
You have the power to influence. Use it!  
Smoke Screen
I like to watch movies all the way through to the end of the credits so I can see who designed the costumes, who composed the film score, where different scenes were filmed, and stuff like that. When I watched The Incredible Hulk, I noticed an interesting statement at the very end of the credits that caught my attention. It said that the smoking depicted in the film was for "artistic purposes" and was in no way intended to endorse smoking. Hmmm. 
That got me thinking, so I did a little research. According to studies, even watching people smoke in movies leads to a more positive attitude toward smoking. I guess when you watch your favorite characters smoke in movies, after a while smoking doesn't seem as bad as it actually is. Did you know that two thirds of all movies have at least one character who smokes on screen? In fact, movie hero characters are three or four times more likely to smoke than the average person! So it may seem from watching the movies that it's normal and most people smoke; but the truth is, most people don't smoke. (For more on this, you can download this PDF.) 
Filmmakers are legally allowed to show smoking in their movies—it's called "freedom of speech." But last year, the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) announced that smoking depicted on screen will affect the rating they give movies. Maybe filmmakers will become more inspired to be socially responsible and stop having their characters smoke on screen—whether it's for "artistic purposes" or not!
In my opinion, phlegm gurgling in a person's lungs from cigarette smoke has never been that glamorous anyway—especially not for a body that was created to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Is Screen Smart a Bad Influence?
While most of the responses from Screen Smart readers have been positive, some anonymous commenters have questioned the value of media reviews and wondered about my spiritual safety since I have to watch movies to review them. Those are valid questions! I thought I would take a few minutes to respond. If you don't ever watch movies, and none of your friends ever watch movies, Screen Smart probably isn't for you. Screen Smart is a tool specifically designed to help kids who do watch movies make good decisions about what they choose to watch, and/or empower kids with information so they can talk with their friends about the positive or negative aspects of certain movies. The goal of Screen Smart is to help kids learn to discern. That's why we point out the good, the bad, and the ugly, and provide thinking questions at the end of each review. If you do not find Screen Smart to be helpful or uplifting, that's OK! Just be careful not to underestimate God's ability to use media--or anything else!--to bring other people closer to Him. After all, one time He turned the curses of a disobedient prophet into blessings for His people (Numbers 22 & 23), and another time He made His Spirit fall on an evil king who then took off his coat and started prophesying (1 Samuel 19:11-24)! With God, all things are possible.    
I also appreciate your concern about my spiritual safety. Just so you know, when I watch a movie, I'm not in a passive entertainment mode. I don't simply absorb what I watch. I observe carefully and am very consciously aware of what I see. I often pray while I'm in the theater or while I'm writing a review because I want to make sure that my eyes are opened and I'm sensitive and able to respond to the Holy Spirit. There are also several people who pray for my spiritual protection on a regular basis, and I would sincerely appreciate the prayers of all my Guide friends, especially if you have concerns about the spiritual value of this media ministry. I take my relationship with God very seriously, and I am very aware of the responsibility I have in influencing Guide readers. I don't just answer to parents or church members for what I write, I answer to God!
Thanks for all your great comments. :) 
Death by Cartoons (Almost)
I never realized that cartoons could be life-threatening until I was about 12. I was at my aunt and uncle's house on the couch watching cartoons with my 2-year-old cousin, Andrew. We laughed together while the cartoon characters fell off cliffs, got mashed by falling objects, or conked each other over the head with frying pans. I wasn't sure what was funnier--watching the screen or watching my cousin laugh.  
"Bop!" my little cousin said, giggling and pointing his finger at the screen.
"Yes, bop," I laughed.
I went back to watching the cartoons while my cousin crawled off the couch. A few minutes later he returned. The next thing I knew, there was a deafening thud on the back of my head, and fireworks shot out of my eyes. At least, that's what it felt like. Andrew had whacked me square in the head with a metal flashlight.
"Bop!" he giggled, pointing at my throbbing skull.
"Yes, bop," I said weakly, trying to decide whether to pass out or throw up.
I don't think I ever watched cartoons with him again. If I had, I would have worn a helmet.
Researchers have spent tons of money trying to figure out if violence on television impacts young viewers. They've concluded that kids who watch TV violence tend to be more aggressive and commit more violent acts. ( No kidding. I could have told them that when I was 12.   
Heard but not seen?
When it came time to choose a singing act for the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, the Chinese government wanted everything to be perfect. So much so, they chose two little girls to perform a patriotic song: one had the singing voice they were looking for, and one had a pretty face. During opening ceremonies, the pretty girl stood on stage and lip-synched while the not-so-pretty girl sang with a microphone, hidden backstage away from the viewers. Apparently, each of the girls was satisfied with the arrangement, felt honored, and didn't mind so much that neither fit the perfect image by herself.
Hearing this story got me thinking. We sure pay a lot of attention to what people look like, don't we? I read some research not too long ago which showed that, on average, good-looking people get better grades, are hired more quickly, and make more money than people who don't have "the looks." Maybe it also has something to do with the confidence level of the people who were studied, but I think it also proves outer appearances are pretty important to most people.
God actually mentioned that to Samuel a few thousand years ago. Samuel assumed he would be anointing David's good-looking older brother as king, but God had a different plan. He said, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).
I have often wondered what would happen if people were only as good-looking on the outside as they are on the inside. Would some really stunning girls turn ugly? Would some really nerdy-looking guys suddenly become buff and bronzed? Would it be cool if you could look at a person and know what they were truly like based on their looks? Would people make a bigger effort to be good-looking on the inside if it was reflected on the outside? Makes me wonder what I would look like. What would you look like?   
Anyway, I hope someone tells those two little girls in China that while the Chinese government might not think they are perfect enough, God created each of them to be a complete package just as they are. And that's what matters.
Turn On, Tune In!
Last week I watched a lot of TV. In fact, I couldn't keep my eyes off of it! Every time I walked into the room, I turned it on again so I could watch, and part of the time I left it on when I wasn't even watching so I could listen to it. Before I get too many letters from people protesting my television watching habits, let me explain. I was visiting the Gulf Coast of Florida, and Tropical Storm Fay was headed our way. Every hour she traveled a few miles closer, dumping huge amounts of rain and causing flooding problems. The wind whipped, trees bent and swayed, and dark, threatening clouds swept across the sky above my hotel. I noticed several people boarding up their windows in preparation for the storm.  
So I watched The Weather Channel . . . a lot! Every time I turned on the TV, I noticed that the swirl of red, yellow, and green had moved a little closer to the dot on the map where I was, and a red warning banner flashed across the bottom of the screen. I wanted to be ready. Fortunately, Tropical Storm Fay fizzled into a tropical depression and passed north of where I was. We got a little bit of rain and wind, but that was it.
There's another event coming soon. Unlike Tropical Storm Fay, it's something we can look forward to and be excited for. I don't know about you, but as that event gets closer, I can't keep my eyes off of it. It's bigger than anything I can dream about, and it's exciting to tune in to the Bible so I can track it as it gets closer. There are people I miss a lot that I can't see until God resurrects them. There are sad things happening down here that need to stop. And I really, really want to see Jesus' face.
Jesus is coming. Tune in with me. Let's watch for it together.       
Christian Version of Netflix!
  Do you hate it when you go to the movie store to find a good movie, and in the process you accidentally see a gross image on another DVD that gets stuck in your head? Or have you ever noticed that some of the new Christian DVDs just aren't available at your local video store or through Netflix? Well, I have found the solution! I recently signed up to be a member of, where I can rent Christian DVDs through the mail for a low monthly fee. It's pretty cool. I select the movies I want online and put them in my queue, and a few days later a yellow envelope arrives with my movie inside. When I'm all done watching it, I just slip it back in the envelope and drop it in the mail with no shipping fees. And, just as with Netflix, there are no late fees, either.
If you and your parents are interested in renting Christian DVDs (and non-Christian DVDs with low MPAA ratings) through the mail, you might want to check out
Have fun!
TV Heebie-Jeebies
I will be so glad when Halloween is OVER! I can't even go to the grocery store without seeing gross stuff like skeletons, spider webs, vampires, gravestones . . . ugh! The same thing happens when I turn on the TV. Shows I might normally think are OK to watch suddenly contain themes that could give a person the heebie-jeebies. (I don't know what those are, but they don't sound fun.)
Halloween isn't the only time of the year when occult stuff creeps into entertainment, though. And lots of times it doesn't show up looking inherently evil or scary. Take The Wizards of Waverly Place, for example. It's a Disney show about kids who are competing for magic powers and end up casting spells on each other that can be pretty funny. Sabrina, the Teenage Witch is another funny sitcom about a teenager dealing with special powers in addition to the normal craziness of teenagerhood. (FYI, I am not recommending any of these programs—just using them as examples.) When you see wizards, witches, and sorcerers in shows like these, it might be kind of hard to understand why God would have a problem with magic.

Hollywood would like us to believe that there are such things as "good" magic, "good" witches, and "good" psychic powers. The truth is, there aren't. Those practices are all powered by Satan—even if they are hilarious or, um, charming.

Why does God hate those practices so much? I think the reason is probably because they're dangerous, Satanic substitutes for God's powers. God also gives people supernatural abilities and talents, but they're powered by the Holy Spirit, and you can read about them in 1 Corinthians 12.

Ask God what talents or abilities He's given you, and use them according to His plan. Don't be fooled by comedies that show kids having fun with all kinds of Satanic powers. When you understand the source of that stuff, there's really nothing funny about it.

Just Plane Creative!
A few days ago on a plane trip from Seattle to Houston, I sat next to a nice guy named Jim, who I found out is not only an actor and singer, but also a set designer for musical theater productions! I was pretty excited to talk with him, especially since I knew High School Musical 3 was next on my list to review. He told me all about the planning required to build different scenes and how to create special effects and illusions so it seems like actors are floating or flying and appearing or disappearing out of thin air. He even opened up his computer to show me pictures from several musicals he had been involved with, websites where he finds his scene props, and a sketch of a set he is currently creating. I was pretty impressed!
I could tell by the way Jim's face lit up while he talked about his designs that it was a lot of fun for him to be creative. What makes your face light up? Do you like to build, draw, or write? The ability and natural desire to create is a cool thing we inherited from God, whether we're swinging a hammer or wielding a pencil. It's one of the ways God made us to be in His image.
If you'd like to try your hand at 3-D drawing or building, but don't have enough allowance money to buy expensive software, check out a Web site that Jim told me about. You can download free software that will let you create model theater sets—and lots of other things!—in 3-D. You can also import all kinds of objects to use in your models.
Ask your parents for permission, then visit . . . and let the creative process begin!  
OK, so some of you were wondering about my use of the word "handsy" in the High School Musical 3 review, so I thought I should probably clear that up. When I said "handsy," I meant that some of the characters touched each other in ways that were too familiar—or put their hands on each other in places that (whether it was intentional or not) should be off-limits. It wasn't a chronic theme throughout the movie, but I did notice it a few times.
Hope that helps! :) 
She just left her mom and stepdad's house to move in with her dad in the rainiest town in the country. She's new to the high school and doesn't feel like she fits in with all the other kids; if only she could find someone who understands her. He's a 90-year-old "vegetarian" vampire in a handsome 17-year-old body who doesn't want to be bad; he just wants to find true love . . . and have enough self-discipline to not sink his teeth into her neck. And there you have the basic premise of the wildly popular Twilight books and the recently released Twilight movie. Some of you might be wondering, "What's the big deal?" And that's a good question.
The Twilight series has captured the imaginations of a lot of teens. Last week I went into a local bookstore and asked the guy at the counter to show me the five best-selling books for teenagers. We walked through the aisles as he pulled the books off the shelves and stacked them in my arms. When I sat down to see what they were, I realized that three of the five most popular books he showed me were supernatural thrillers.
Honestly, I'm not surprised. It's fascinating stuff. Drama, young love, humor, danger, power, mystery--a supernatural thriller has all the story ingredients to lure you away from your regular life of homework, zits, and little brothers, and take you to a place where adventure increases with every turn of the page. But, for most of you, that world of adventure has been banned by your parents.
I'm sure you already know this, but not everything that is fascinating is good for us. I remember a certain tree with a talking snake wrapped around its branches that had some pretty irresistible fruit on it. The argument was the same, remember? I'll paraphrase: "Oh, brother. It's just fruit. There's nothing wrong with it. The snake ate it and he didn't die. I don't know why God doesn't want us to have any fun." Well, we all know how that story ends.
I should probably put in a word for your parents. Try to cut them some slack, even when the only answer they can come up with is, "Because I said so." I can pretty much assure you that parenting is way more scary than slaying vampires. While it may seem like their primary focus is to keep you from having fun, your parents would rather die than see you get hurt.
I'll also let you in on a little secret: when Satan has carefully designed something so that it seems irresistible, it's usually because he's trying to distract us from something even cooler, and even more powerful. My suggestion? Leave that fruit on the tree . . . and ask God to open your eyes to the real unfolding mystery. You just might be surprised.   
Marley & Me
A few days ago, I watched the movie Marley & Me--a movie starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson (and a cute Labrador puppy with enough raw energy to power ten major U.S. cities). I thought it would make a great comedy to review for Guide readers because of the funny trailer and the PG rating. I was surprised to find, though, that the movie is actually geared more for adults, so I opted not to do a full review.

While there are enough funny and heartwarming moments to classify it as a comedy, the main story follows the couple and their dog through some serious life issues such as career decisions, marriage, parenting, and loss. I probably spent as much time crying as I did laughing. I was also surprised at the amount of suggestive content that managed to slip under the radar for a PG rating. Overall, it just didn't seem to be the kind of movie that teens would really like.

I'm not sure if any of you have any interest in Marley & Me, but I thought I would give you a heads-up that it might not be what you are expecting.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Movie
Some of you may have heard that Disney has said "thanks, but no thanks" to doing the third movie installment of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. If you've enjoyed the first two movies, you may be happy to know that Fox has picked up where Disney left off, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is scheduled for release in summer of 2010. It will star the same actors who played Edmund and Lucy in the first two films, and while it will have a new screenwriter, the movie will follow the premise of the book, taking Edmund, Lucy, and Prince Caspian on a sea adventure aboard a royal ship named The Dawn Treader.

I know, 2010 is a long way off, but since many of you enjoy the Narnia movies, I thought I would let you know! 

IMAX, Anyone?
Want to travel hundreds of feet below the ocean's surface to check out amazing sea creatures--without getting your feet wet? Or look into the speckled eyes of a hungry alligator without wondering if you're on the menu? You might want to check out what's showing on a nearby IMAX theater. IMAX is short for Image Maximum--large-format film technology that puts video on huge screens with high resolution for great picture quality.

IMAX theaters sometimes show regular movies, but they almost always have a selection of breathtaking films that unfold the mysteries of history to show you King Tut's tomb, for example; or take you into the eye of a deadly storm, such as the feature I watched recently while I was in New Orleans called Hurricane on the Bayou; or let you see God's creations in nature up close and personal. Some are even in 3D, such as Under the Sea 3D. (If it's OK with your parents, you can check out the film trailer at

These types of movies are fun to watch; they don't contain the kind of objectionable material that other movies have; and you can actually learn stuff while being entertained by stunning video. IMAX theaters aren't available in all areas, so if you are interested, you can check for your closest location at  
Dear John Doe . . .
[To see the comments Melanie is responding to, visit the Guide Discussion Board.] Dear John Doe,

Thank you for posting your thoughts. In case you're wondering, I don't think any less of you because you don't agree with me or because of the questions you've asked. In fact, I'm glad you're asking those questions. Those are questions adults have trouble with (even though most of them probably wouldn't admit it).

You might be surprised to know that:

1. I agree with you. I don't think playing Grand Theft Auto is going to make you steal a car. I don't think watching a movie about aliens is going to make you believe in extraterrestrials and UFOs. I don't think that listening to a song with drug references in it is going to automatically make you do drugs. Those kinds of influences probably won't change you a lot (unless you are extremely impressionable, which some people are). But they will change you a little bit, more and more as time goes on. We're all born with tendencies toward doing what's wrong. God wants to gradually change us (with our permission) so that we start actually enjoying doing what's right. It's called "character development." What "character muscles" are you exercising when you're playing Grand Theft Auto? Does it exercise your ability to be a person who is strong enough to stand up for what's right and kind enough to help someone who isn't very lovable? Or does it help you to feel more rebellious and careless toward people and property? Remember, it's not about the rules as much as it is about who God is helping you to be. You are not going to "get into heaven" by not playing certain video games. You're going to get into heaven because you have a relationship with God and you've let Him get you ready to be there.

2. I think you should stop worrying about what "the church" wants you to do. People in church don't always agree, and there will always be conflicting opinions about what you should eat, what you should wear, what you should watch, what you should listen to, or what version of the Bible you should be using. You'll end up with so many different rules you won't be able to keep them straight. Instead, get a real relationship with God and apply His principles to the kinds of questions you're asking. Believe it or not, you can actually talk to God about your desire to play Grand Theft Auto. He can handle it, and He already knows all your thoughts anyway, so you might as well be open with Him. But be honest enough to let Him lead you away from GTA (or anything else!) if it's coming between you and Him. When you have this mindset, there really is no "line" between your relationship with God and your entertainment.

I hope that helps. Take care, John Doe! :)

Some of you have been waiting with bated breath for the new movie Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Since it's rated PG-13, I'm not giving it a full review; however, I will give you an overview.

Bottom line: I was disappointed and disgusted. Revenge of the Fallen contains more sexuality and more bad language than the first movie. It also contains some racial stereotyping, a drug use situation, and a lot of distasteful jokes that just plain weren't funny. In addition, the writers failed to develop the characters, which left them flat and boring, and the plot seemed more like a flimsy excuse to use CG (computer-generated graphics) than an engaging story. I think the writers thought if they blew enough stuff up, they could get away with not including other elements that normally make moviewatching enjoyable. The CG was well done, but the "battle" scenes were so long they actually became boring after a while. I seriously dozed off at one point . . . during one of the battle scenes!

The first Transformers movie, in my opinion, contained some good stuff and some junk; Revenge of the Fallen is mostly just junk.

On another note, did you know that God wants YOU to be a Transformer? Check it out in Romans 12:2: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will." 
Approved for "Appropriate" Audiences?
Don't you hate it when you get blindsided by a film trailer for a gross movie you'd never actually want to watch? Whether I have the TV on and I can't get to the remote fast enough to change the channel, or I'm trying to stream a video clip online that has sneaky commercials attached, there are times when I accidentally see movie trailers that burn images into my brain that I can't erase. Hate that.  

In fact, it just happened to me recently, which is why I saw a trailer for the movie Legion. Legion is a movie about a fallen angel (demon) who is trying to protect humans from God's wrath. How backwards and messed up is THAT? 

Satan is on a mission to make people think that God is the bad guy. When he tempted Eve to disobey God, he implied that God lied, God was selfish, and God didn't have her best interests in mind (Genesis 3). While watching the preview for Legion, I saw that his strategy hasn't changed much in six thousand years. At one point in the preview, a character named Bob says, "I don't even believe in God." The fallen angel replies, "Bob, he doesn't believe in you, either."  How sad. 

There's a lot of stuff in the media that misrepresents who God really is. Here's the truth about God: 
1. God is love (1 John 4:7, 8). 
2. God would rather die than live without you (John 3:16). 
3. God is completely, totally, one hundred percent devoted to you (Isaiah 49:16; Zephaniah 3:17). 

There will always be movies like Legion that try to mess with our heads. But as long as we know the truth, the truth will set us free (John 8:32).
Karate Christians?
With the new Karate Kid movie holding its own against the competition at the box office this summer, kids across the country have been inspired to find their local martial arts dojo and learn some moves of their own. (Yeah, apparently there’s more to kung fu than “take off jacket, put on jacket” . . . who knew? ) Seems like an appropriate time to ask the “hard-hitting” question . . . should Christians avoid martial arts? It’s a complicated question with complicated answers. I’m not going to tell you what’s right or wrong for you—that’s between you and your parents and God. However, I’m a big fan of information, because I think information helps people make good decisions, so I did a little research for you. Here’s what I found out: Martial arts have been influenced by Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Taoism, which teach ideas that are not in harmony with what we believe as Christians. Some martial artists incorporate these ideas into their teaching—things such as having students meditate to achieve a “transcended” state of mind . . . or harnessing the eternal energy of “chi” in order to be able to perform superhuman acts of strength. However, depending on the form of martial arts a person participates in and who the instructor is (for example, if your instructor is a Christian), it is possible to learn martial arts without the Eastern religion spirituality attached. With this form of teaching the focus is on exercise and discipline rather than on any kind of spiritual practice. Another aspect of martial arts is that the basic purpose of the discipline is learning how to defend yourself, and in the process you learn how to injure or even kill someone else. That can be confusing, since many Christians don’t agree on the subject of self-defense. Some Christians believe we are to trust God to protect us, and therefore we should not use any kind of violence to protect ourselves. Other Christians believe that while God hates violence, He expects us to defend ourselves when necessary. I encourage you to read what the Bible says and decide what you believe on the subject. If you are considering learning a form of martial arts, here are some things to ask yourself: 1.     Do I believe that self-defense is appropriate for a Christian? 2.     Can I learn self-defense from an instructor who does not use Eastern religion in his/her teaching methods? Would I recognize teachings that conflict with my Christian beliefs? 3.     Will I be able to use my training in a way that honors God, or will it draw me away from my relationship with God? 4.     Why do I want to learn martial arts?  Whether you choose to explore martial arts or not, the MOST important thing is your relationship with God. Keep that connection open, and He’ll give you the wisdom you need to make good decisions.  
The Friction Over Fiction
Some of you (or your parents) have left comments on the ScreenSmart movie reviews saying that we shouldn’t be watching movies that are fictional, because Philippians 4:8 says we should focus on what’s true. Is it wrong to watch a fictional movie or read a fictional story? It’s a valid question, for sure . . . so let’s talk about it! I have a request: Please, please, PLEASE read this whole blog entry and not just parts of it, OK? J Here we go: I want to remind you of a story Jesus told in Luke 16 that went something like this: There was a rich guy who lived in a mansion in Beverly Hills. His house was so cool it was even featured on an episode of the TV show Cribs. He had twelve expensive cars, a heated swimming pool with waterslides, a panic room, and a staff of twelve that planned all of his extravagant parties. There was also a poor guy named Lazarus. He was homeless, didn’t qualify for food stamps, and didn’t have any family to take him in. To top it off, he was really, really sick and couldn’t have worked even if there had been a job available. The only food he had to eat was what he found in the dumpster down the street from the rich guy’s house. Both the rich guy and Lazarus died. The rich man went to hell, where he burned continually in agony. Lazarus went up to heaven where Abraham was. The rich guy noticed Lazarus and Abraham, and he said, “Abraham, could you please have Lazarus dip his finger in some water and put it on my tongue? I’m so thirsty from burning in agony.” Abraham said, “Sorry, but we can’t get there from here, and you can’t get here from there. While you were alive, you lived your life in luxury while Lazarus was miserable, and now it’s the other way around.” The rich guy said, “Well, can you at least warn my five brothers who are still alive, so that they don’t make the same mistakes I did?” Abraham told him that if his brothers didn’t believe in what the Scriptures said, they weren’t going to believe it if Lazarus showed up and tried to convince them, either. What can we conclude from this story? a)    That when people die, they either go to heaven and live in comfort, or they go to hell and exist in a state of torment forever . . . b)   That heaven and hell are either located in the same zip code, or Lazarus had really, really, really long arms . . . OR c)    That the story Jesus told was fiction. Paul says in Philippians 4:8 that we should think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. Does that mean that reading or watching a fictional story is wrong? If so, why would Jesus use a fictional story to make a point? When I was in college, I took a class on how to write fiction. I was taught, “The purpose of fiction is to embody certain truths of human life in a series of imagined facts” (from a book published in 1918 called A Manual of the Art of Fiction, by Clayton Meeker Hamilton). I believe that’s exactly what Jesus was doing when He told the story of the rich man and Lazarus—to tell a fictional story that communicated a deeper truth. Now, unlike Jesus and His fictional story, most fiction writers today are not trying to help us uncover truth that will move us closer to God, and you will also find plenty of lies. A lot of fiction is just plain junk that can fill your head with useless fluff. So don’t tell your parents I said you should go to Barnes & Noble and load up on all the latest young adult novels!  However, dismissing ALL fiction just because the story didn’t actually happen could mean you’re missing out on some deeper truths. If we are searching for truth, as Jesus demonstrated in His story, it is possible to find it . . . you guessed it . . . in fiction.
<i>Gulliver's Travels</i> Unravels
Gulliver is an average guy who is headed through life without direction. He’s lazy, he doesn’t really have any goals, and in his spare time he likes hanging out with (and talking to) his action figurines. He has one dream—to summon the courage to talk to Darcy, the beautiful girl upstairs who doesn’t seem to know he exists. When he does finally talk to her, however, he tangles himself in a web of plagiarism and lies, and before he knows it, he is on a boat headed to the Bermuda Triangle on a writing assignment! When a storm overtakes his boat, he wakes up to find he is on an island surrounded by tiny people. This tiny kingdom is under attack, and Gulliver realizes that they are doomed unless he is courageous enough to stand up for them.
Sounds like a pretty cool premise for a movie, right? I thought so, too, until I spent one hour and 25 minutes watching it! Even though the movie had a lot of potential to be funny and thought-provoking, instead it was a nonstop eye-roll potty humor parade and a weak excuse for a storyline. There was a lot of unnecessary inappropriate stuff, including homosexual jokes, exposed body parts, and bleep-able language. Even the final song, performed by all the main characters, uses God’s name blatantly over and over. And over and over. I finally walked away at the end while the song was still playing because I just didn’t want to hear it anymore.
I left with one word in my brain: “Huh?”
For me, Gulliver’s Travels was a disappointment—a waste of time and money and the brain power God gave me. Cool idea, bad delivery. In my opinion, it didn’t even deserve a real review, but since some of you asked about it, I thought it was fair to give you a blog-sized bite.
I did learn one thing from Gulliver’s Travels: if the Guide editors ask me to do a travel writing assignment from the Bermuda Triangle, I should probably turn it down. :) var fctb_tool=null; function FCTB_Init_de4d9187ee052740b7e23a66e1dbb727(t) { fctb_tool=t; start(fctb_tool); }  
Rebecca Black Goes Viral
Imagine being famous for having the WORST song and music video of all time. That’s what happened to 13-year-old Rebecca Black from Anaheim Hills, California, after she posted her song “Friday” to YouTube a few weeks ago. Rebecca wanted to be a singer, so she was excited when her mother paid for her to record a song and video at ARK Music Factory (a Los Angeles music studio that specializes in recruiting young singers and helping them get started—at a hefty price tag, of course). The producers sent her some songs, but Rebecca didn’t think the messages were appropriate for someone her age. When she heard the song “Friday,” she felt it was a fun song about things kids like to do, so she chose it as her single. What happened next was a complete surprise. Her song and video got a lot of attention (it’s been viewed more than 101 MILLION times on YouTube as of today—now that’s a lot of eyeballs!), but it didn’t get the kind of attention she was hoping for. People immediately began making fun of her voice, the silly lyrics of the song, and the video itself. Rebecca admits she cried when she read some of the mean things people posted about her, but she doesn’t read the posts anymore, and now she can actually laugh at some of the videos people have made spoofing her and her song. The song might not be the product of musical genius, but Rebecca’s attitude is pretty cool. She is working on an upcoming album she says will be “clean and appropriate” for people her age, and she has donated all the proceeds from the song “Friday” to the victims of Japan’s earthquake and her school. Thumbs up for that, Rebecca!
TV . . . Gone to the Dogs?
Dogs get bored and lonely just like people do. In fact, a lot of pet experts say if your dog suffers from separation anxiety while you’re away, it’s a good idea to leave the TV or radio on. In recent studies, 4 out of 5 dogs said they like watching TV or listening to the radio (OK, so the dogs didn’t actually say that, but researchers believe the noise is soothing). If you have a naughty dog who chews things up, goes potty on the floor, barks constantly, or makes messes while you’re gone, his behavior might improve with some TV time. All things in moderation, however . . . check out the funny dog in this video who is actually so addicted to TV, she won’t let anyone else watch it!  Time for this old dog to learn some new tricks. I hope if you watch TV, you have more self-control—and better manners—than this compulsive canine!
Survey Says . . .
As a kid in today’s world, you have a LOT of choices when it comes to media and entertainment. So I’m curious – when you have some extra time on your hands, what kinds of media do you use to entertain yourself?  What types of media do you use on a regular basis? (Pick all that you use.)online survey   Did you know that the media you entertain yourself with could be a pretty good indicator of how you’re feeling? Researchers called 106 kids as many as 60 times in an eight-week period and asked them what they were doing—specifically, whether they were watching television or movies, listening to music, playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading print media such as magazines, newspapers, and books. Here’s what they found out: - Kids who suffer from major depression listen to a lot of music.
- Kids who don’t suffer from depression spend more time reading books. Do kids become depressed from listening to certain types of music, or do they prefer music because they’re depressed? Do kids feel happier because they read, or do they read because their minds are free to actively engage the material? The answers are not clear from the study, but the connection between moods and activities is interesting, don’t you think? How do you spend your time? Does your mood affect what activities you do? var fctb_tool=null; function FCTB_Init_c4b7378858108e4cb2283b0fd4165153(t) { fctb_tool=t; start(fctb_tool); } FCTB_Init_c4b7378858108e4cb2283b0fd4165153(document['FCTB_Init_41d3ff8e3993aa4386a86683a6e38c6e']); delete document['FCTB_Init_41d3ff8e3993aa4386a86683a6e38c6e'] var fctb_tool=null; function FCTB_Init_e224c8dbc76b5649a8c1633033a54bae(t) { fctb_tool=t; start(fctb_tool); } FCTB_Init_e224c8dbc76b5649a8c1633033a54bae(document['FCTB_Init_dff5a51177c7eb44821a5e06ef065323']); delete document['FCTB_Init_dff5a51177c7eb44821a5e06ef065323'] var fctb_tool=null; function FCTB_Init_d2cae5eec0076245bf299f81abf16232(t) { fctb_tool=t; start(fctb_tool); } FCTB_Init_d2cae5eec0076245bf299f81abf16232(document['FCTB_Init_a1c44be6a05bd941a622fc86e29b71a2']); delete document['FCTB_Init_a1c44be6a05bd941a622fc86e29b71a2'] var fctb_tool=null; function FCTB_Init_9edbaf99d4e4a144b71164b1aeba2eb6(t) { fctb_tool=t; start(fctb_tool); } FCTB_Init_9edbaf99d4e4a144b71164b1aeba2eb6(document['FCTB_Init_5c2e644ec14e384e8b0cf26046142306']); delete document['FCTB_Init_5c2e644ec14e384e8b0cf26046142306'] var fctb_tool=null; function FCTB_Init_32b77554664cc54b96a00fc3365b6151(t) { fctb_tool=t; start(fctb_tool); } FCTB_Init_32b77554664cc54b96a00fc3365b6151(document['FCTB_Init_e1fb918155960a40bade3d0dfdbe1375']); delete document['FCTB_Init_e1fb918155960a40bade3d0dfdbe1375'] var fctb_tool=null; function FCTB_Init_d8f17385a73d9845bb90a0c366978f6c(t) { fctb_tool=t; start(fctb_tool); } FCTB_Init_d8f17385a73d9845bb90a0c366978f6c(document['FCTB_Init_614f0a2e4ad46f4cbc2233d2d92f1258']); delete document['FCTB_Init_614f0a2e4ad46f4cbc2233d2d92f1258']
Johnny the Not-So-Gentle Giant
Johnny the Not-So-Gentle Giant
When I was 10 years old, I was smaller than everyone else. Well, everyone except for some of the toddlers in the church Cradle Roll class. I ate my vegetables like I was supposed to (even spinach!) but for some reason, I still grew at the rate of a Japanese Bonsai tree…which is not very fast, let me tell you. I really wanted to be like Jesus, and I had a soft heart, so when I met a giant misfit kid named Johnny that none of the other kids liked, I tried to be his friend. Unfortunately, Johnny’s friend skills were about as advanced as my height – kind of dwarfed. On several occasions, Johnny would wait until no on was looking and do mean things to me. He would intimidate me, and threaten to hurt me, and sometimes he would actually squeeze my neck really tight or pull on my clothes or push me around and call me dirty names.  Even though I was afraid of him, I didn’t want to tell on him, because I knew he would get into trouble, and I didn’t want to be a tattletale. I also thought being a good Christian meant I needed to “turn the other cheek” when someone was mean to me. Let me make one thing clear: I was stupid. When Jesus said we should turn the other cheek, he was not talking about being a punching bag for a bully. Nobody should be abused by another person, whether that abuse is physical or emotional (such as name calling or spreading rumors).  If you are the victim of a bully, tell someone. If you see someone else being bullied, get help. Fortunately, one day, an adult saw Johnny pushing me around and stepped in to stop him. After that, he wasn’t allowed to hang around me anymore. I don’t know what else he might have done to me if the abuse had continued. More and more people, including celebrities, are taking a stand against bullying, and you can, too. Don’t be a bully victim, and don’t stand by doing nothing if someone else is a bully victim. Be a hero instead. Watch how this kid takes a stand against bullying – without ever saying a word:   
Soul Surfer
Ok, I’m about to do something I almost NEVER do… wait for it, wait for it…I’m going to actually recommend a movie! I finally had a chance to see the movie Soul Surfer this week, and in my opinion, it was a really, truly amazing film. Soul Surfer is the true story of Bethany Hamilton, surfer girl from Hawaii who was well on her way to becoming a professional surfer when a shark attacked her and bit off her arm.  What happens after the shark attack is altogether moving and inspiring. Bethany and her family are Christians, and their values and faith in God are evident throughout the entire movie. I appreciate that they didn’t try to turn the movie into an excuse for contriving a sermon – they just lived through their experience and that relationship with God was a natural part of the experienced they shared. For people who are deeply sensitive, I will mention that everybody wears bikini bathing suits in this movie. Of course, it’s a movie about surfers, and surfers pretty much live in bathing suits, so that shouldn’t come as a surprise (although Bethany’s friend does describe one suit as being “hot” while they are shopping). Also, there is some blood after the attack, but it all happens very fast and the portrayal isn’t gory or gross – it’s very well done.  The overall message of the movie, in my opinion, completely dwarfs anything that could even remotely be considered morally problematic, and if you and your family like to watch movies, this is a really good one. My only serious problem with this movie is it made me want move to Hawaii, like right now! But I think my husband and kids and dog might miss me if I do that. 
Note to God
  Inspiring Story and Free Song Download! Imagine being three years old and finding out your mom has ovarian cancer. That’s what happened to a girl named Rhema Marvanne. Sadly, Rhema’s mom passed away in 2008. But that’s not the end of the story. Rhema’s mom was a singer/songwriter, and she taught Rhema to love music and singing. Even though her mom is now gone, 8-year-old Rhema still cherishes that musical gift from her mother. People call Rhema a prodigy, because God gave her amazing vocal talent that is far beyond her years.  She has recorded two albums and has millions of hits on her YouTube videos. Rhema says, “I want to sing songs of hope, inspiration, so that I can bring people to my [YouTube] channel to hear God's words.” What an inspiring kid! Watch more of Rhema’s story and download the FREE MP3 of a song she recorded at the age of seven called, “Note to God,” right here.  
Need your book suggestions! Plus, check out this cool free app...
  The Bookworm and the Library...  I was one of those kids who loved the library. I’d wander up and down the aisles reading book titles and opening pages for a sneak peek, only to be immediately transported to a cold, dark prison cell, listening to the scratching sound of rats scurrying around John Bunyan’s feet as he wrote Pilgrim’s Progress; or to the smell of a dusty leather saddle and horse sweat and the crack of gunshots with Buffalo Bill in the Wild West; or into a carved wooden canoe gliding the mysterious, winding path of the Columbia River with Sacajawea and Louis and Clark.  My mom would interrupt my adventure and tell me I had five more minutes, and I’d weave toward the checkout counter like a circus performer, balancing a stack of books that teetered and swayed dangerously above my head. My mom would look at the stack of books and say, “You’re going to read ALL of those?” Sure enough, a couple of days later, I was done reading my selections and ready to go back to the library. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t take me to the there as often as I wanted to go.  And the local government agencies didn’t seem to want to grant a ten-year-old a driver’s license – go figure – so I was completely at my parents’ mercy.  Now I don’t even have to go to the library to read library books anymore! I just instantly download them to my phone or computer for free using a cool app I found, and read whenever I want. You can, too. If your parents say it’s OK, you can download the Overdrive app here, input your library and library card info, download, and start reading! And now, the challenge… If you were going to recommend ONE book I should DEFINITELY read, what would it be? Tell me what book I should read and why I should read it. I’ll choose one of the suggestions, and then blog about what I think after I’ve read it! The deadline for your suggestions is May 31.  
And the book suggestion winner is...drum roll, please...
Wow! This was a TOUGH decision. You guys made great suggestions. Some of the books you mentioned I’ve already read and really liked, and others look intriguing and I will definitely check them out at some point. But since I could only choose ONE to get started, and since several of you recommended the same author (Nathan, Bri-Bri, sharon, hebrewscholar12, Faithforever and californiagirl!) I went to the bookstore and chose… Joseph: A Story by Terri L. Fivash! Of course, that’s only the beginning. I’ve made an awesome reading list based on ALL of your suggestions, so I will be reading some of the other books you recommended in the future. When I finish reading Joseph: A Story, I will let you know what I think! And now, a fun surprise... Coming up soon, I will get to interview Seth J. Pierce, author of The Day the School Blew Up, Camporee of Doom and What We Believe for Teens, and I need YOUR help! What questions would you like me to ask him? Submit your question, and I might use it in the interview. I will also post the interview in the ScreenSmart blog for you to check out.  I’ve got to go now…I need to get started reading my new book! Thanks, everybody!  
New poll - check it out! Do you exercise hard or hardly exercise?
I don’t know why, but I’m fascinated with TV shows about people who are trying to lose weight. Maybe you’ve seen some of them – Biggest Loser, Too Fat for 15, I Used to be Fat, and others. There seem to be more and more of those programs popping up everywhere, probably because of our society’s obesity epidemic. (Is it weird that I always crave a bowl of popcorn while I watch a show about someone trying to lose weight? Hmmmm.) What type of exercise do you get regularly?Market Research I think it's so cool when people decide to make positive changes in their lives and work really hard to achieve their goals to become healthy and fit. Although, when show producers take several months’ worth of footage and condense it to a half-hour or hour-long show, the viewer probably doesn’t get the full picture of just how much work it takes to reverse years of bad choices. Did you know that in general, members of our church are the healthiest, longest-living people on the planet? Check out this article and this article if you’d like to read what other people in the media are saying about us!  Our choice to follow God’s plan for a healthy, balanced lifestyle with good food, exercise, and a weekly Sabbath rest has made scientists want to study us!  How cool is that? What are some things you do to stay healthy?     Oh, and… By the way, my interview with Seth Pierce is NEXT WEEK! So if you have more questions for him, let me know right away! Still reading my new book, Joseph by Terri L. Fivash. I’ll have a report for you soon!        
Your questions answered! Here it is: the interview with author Seth J. Pierce...
As promised, this week I got to sit down with Pastor Seth J. Pierce, author of What We Believe for Teens, Camporee of Doom, The Day the School Blew Up, Pride & Seek, and loads of other magazine articles and blogs, as well as contributing author for the teen devotional Fusion. You guys gave me some good interview question suggestions, and I think you’ll enjoy his answers. Here’s how it went… Melanie: Seth, I do need to tell you that this interview will be recorded for quality assurance purposes. Seth: Sigh. If that’s the way it has to be. Melanie: And, the interview recording may or may not be sold on the Internet to the highest bidder. (laugh) Seth: Well, as long as I get some cut of the profit, then that’s fine. Melanie: Ok, we’re ready to roll then.  Well, thank you for meeting me here at Plazzo Bubble Yogurt Coffee Palace or whatever this place is called... Seth: Yeah, I’m not sure what that is. I don’t have enough guts to try that drink. (chuckle) Melanie: Me neither! Ok, so I asked the GUIDE kids if they’d help me interview you and come up with questions. Seth: Ok.

Melanie: So without further ado… Sophie :) and triple3 want to know where you got your ideas for your books. Seth: It’s kind of a mixture of my own childhood and growing up in church school and other friends who were in church school and as I talked to people who would share memories, I’d start getting ideas for characters and stories and start weaving them into a book. So it’s real life church school experiences. Melanie: So these books are not necessarily fiction. Seth: Not necessarily. They’re fictionalized. (Chuckle) But there’s a lot of truth in what happened. Even in Camporee of Doom – the airplane being taken – that didn’t happen, but there were cases of people at Camporees breaking into airplane hangars and messing around, so I just kind of took it to the next level. Melanie: z girl asks, what inspired you to write these books? Dandy also wants to know what led you to be an author.   Seth: I saw, as I went through the Adventist Book Centers, that there weren’t a lot of books for guys. There were a lot girl horse stories, which are fine, but I wouldn’t read one (laugh), and the Adventist Girl series, which I’m sure they are wonderful, but for guys who are 8 to 12, there really wasn’t a whole lot. So I wanted to write something that wasn’t necessarily just for guys, but that had a male character – a male lead - something that would appeal to guys and make them want to read as well. Melanie: Awesome. So Zeeman and Tobymacfreak want to know when the next Peter Paul Pappenfuss book is going to come out.  Hopefully soon, he says. Seth: The sad news is they have decided to discontinue those books. I would like to write more, and I’m certain if there were a campaign of letters that went there [to the publisher], there would be more. And it’s not because they didn’t sell, but I think it’s because some people, because the male lead character doesn’t fit the typical Adventist mold  - he’s not perfect, he makes mistakes – and because there are kids who get a little sassy in the book, I think there are some people who feel that that’s not spiritual, you know, enough. And the sad part is, the books they do feel are spiritual enough, nobody’s reading. And so, it’s a fine line to walk. I haven’t completely given up hope, but there would have to be a massive online letter campaign with several signatures with children and parents saying, “Hey, what’s going on?” Melanie: Insert address, e-mail and phone number here, right? (laugh) Seth: Yeah, yeah, And I would certainly be willing to provide that if someone started a “We want a third book” campaign. I would give them the Pacific Press e-mail and it could start there. Melanie: Ok. So…Grace wanted you know that she loved Camporee of Doom and is dying to read The Day the School Blew Up. She also wanted to know more about the forthcoming misadventures of Peter Paul. Seth: Nice. Melanie: Kgirl98 says, “Could you please ask Mr. Pierce if he had fun writing for the teen devotional Fusion? I would just like to say that it is an awesome devotional.” Seth: Yeah, I think Greg and Melissa Howell deserve most of the credit for Fusion. It was originally a project that I was thinking about, not necessarily Fusion, but a devotional book, and where I was with my writing projects at the time, I couldn’t do it. So to Greg and Melissa, who are very talent communicators and pastors, I said, “Is this something you’d be interested in doing? I’ll help you.” So they really took it and developed it and I contributed maybe ten percent of the work - maybe thirty plus devotionals - and they really did the bulk of the work and worked very, very hard. So I’ll pass that word along to them. I know they really appreciate the feedback, and they really deserve the credit. Melanie: C.F. Johnson would like to know about your writing technique. What’s your writing technique, and what authors do you read? Seth: It varies. You know, a lot of times, one of the best ways to become a good writer is do a lot of reading. And you have, I think, writers that you drift towards. Someone I tend to like, in terms of style - I don’t read a lot of him anymore – but I like Mark Twain. I also like Dave Barry, who is humorous, and I’ve read a lot of their stuff, so that has impacted my humor writing quite a bit. But also writers like Philip Yancey and Max Lucado and different people, and even Ellen White. The more you read of a certain author, you don’t copy their style, but you’re definitely impacted. Even things like Calvin and Hobbes and the Far Side comics, you know, definitely have an impact. So that’s one thing. You have to do a lot of reading. And, I think it depends on the style of book I’m writing. For the Peter Paul series, I did a story arc. My own little crazy method. I’ll draw an arc - a curvy line on the board and in the beginning I’ll put a line on the left end, and I’ll say, “Here’s where the character is at the beginning of the book,” and then I’ll go towards the end and make another and say, “Here’s where I want the character to be at the end of the book.” That’s probably the most important thing is figuring out where you want you want to end and how the character is going to grow.  Right smack in the middle of the arc, I write “the big conflict” - what is the big problem, the big obstacle that the character has to overcome? And then between those lines I start writing more conflicts and problems and issues, and by the time it’s over, I might have 30 little lines drawn on the arc, and those end up being my chapters. You know, that’s how I would do a more novel approach. Melanie: A story arc. That's cool. Seth: My new book is going to be Prophecy for Teens. Hopefully I’ll have the Daniel part done by the end of July, and then I’ll focus on the Revelation portion. I’m trying to go in order so it’s as simple and accessible as possible. Because prophecy has so much history and texts and timelines, I’m really trying to simplify everything. But for that one, I’m just following the Bible’s outline, so I start in Daniel 2, and then go to Daniel 5 and 7 and 9, so the outline is basically already there. But another style of mine if I’m going to do something more bibilical, like What We Believe for Teens or Prophecy for Teens, I like to start with stories or some kind of illlustration, because I think it you just start with the facts and the texts, it’s pretty dry. So there need to be some narrative and illustrations woven in, so… Melanie: And I’m also guessing that even though the What We Believe for Teens and Prophecy for Teens books are a different direction from the Peter Paul books, there’s still the Seth J. Pierce “stamp” on it as far as personality and style. Seth: Yeah the personality. My writer’s style is style of the books. I mean, for example, even though Dave Barry is a humorous writer, he’s also written a children’s series on Peter Pan. He worked with another author and they wrote the prequel to Peter Pan. And you can tell his creativity and silliness is in there. Though it’s definitely a different book, his style still comes through the narrative. And so there’s still humor and there’s still silliness in What We Believe for Teens and Prophecy for Teens while you’re learning the biblical truths. What We Believe for Teens has been the best selling of anything I’ve ever written, because it has the fundamental beliefs that everyone wants to learn, but it’s done in a way that’s accessible and entertaining. So we’re hoping we can pull that off with the Prophecy for Teens. Melanie: GodsFaithful1 wants to know… Do you have something in mind for your next book, like after you finish Prophecy for Teens? Seth: Yeah, I have a couple of ideas. One of the ideas is under wraps while I do some reading and think about it, but the other idea is to complete the “for Teens” series by doing Adventist history, depending on how Prophecy for Teens does. I know Adventist History. I think most people’s experience is they get beat over the head with an Ellen White quote, but they don’t really understand who she was or all the experiences she had, and there were some wild and fantastic stories in Adventist history. These were real people and I think that gets lost sometimes and we don’t understand where we came from as a denomination and stuff, and there’s so much natural humor in the stories. You wouldn’t even have to add much to it because they’re just so outrageous in some of the things they had to put up with and deal with. So, should Prophecy for Teens do well, that’s probably the natural end to that series - going that route. I’ve also thought about doing a series of Bible studies, evangelistic series for teens. I’ve also thought about doing a basic apologetics, which is defending the faith. You know, when people argue against God, how do you defend it. So I’ve thought about doing things in that area, but for right now, I just want to get prophecy done. I would still love to do a third Peter Paul book, but it would take a massive campaign. The publisher would have to get an e-mail with a few hundred signatures saying, “We’re really mad that you cancelled this series.” And then they might reconsider. Melanie: Ok, well I happen to own Camporee of Doom and The Day the School Blew up, and both of these books made me laugh insanely. In fact there were times when I was reading and laughing out loud, and my kids were like, “What are you reading that is so funny?” I think they are hilarious. I think the names of the characters are so funny. Mrs. Grossbaum, Mrs. Cracklestaff – they all have really interesting names. How do you come up with the names for your characters? Seth: One of the tricks I use is I’ll open the phone book and start reading through, and you’ll find some really bizarre, real-life last names. And so I just circle it, or highlight it, and say, “I’ll come back to that one.” That’s probably the biggest source. Sometimes I don’t even have a method. They’ll just float through my head, and I’ll think that would be really good as a last name. I think the phone book is probably a really good – Pappenfuss, that’s where I got his last name. Otherwise you just start running through words, and sometimes they connect and you make up a last name that seems to work. Melanie: And a character is born. Seth: And a character is born, yeah, just off the name. Melanie: Now with Camporee of Doom, I specifically ordered an autographed copy. Do you remember what you wrote in my autographed copy? Seth: Arghhh, I don’t. I sign so many thousands of books, you know, that I… Melanie: Right. (laugh) Ok, I’d like to read it to you. “To Melanie, I am gratified to know that your taste in literature far exceeds your taste in football teams.” Seth: Oh, yes. Melanie: Which leads me to my next question. Your current favorite football team is what? Seth: The Minnesota Vikings.

Melanie: The Minnesota Vikings, yes. And if you were to happen to move to the Pacific Northwest, say the state of Washington, perhaps in August, for example, would you at any point be willing and or able to transfer that allegiance to the more popular team, namely the Seattle Seahawks? (note: I have "inside" information that Pastor Pierce is moving to Washington state in August.) Seth: You know, the only allegiance I could really give is if they were playing a team that wasn’t the Vikings. If they got into a match with the Vikings, I’m a born and raised Minnesotan, so if I was to disown the Vikings, my family would disown me. Melanie: That would be bad. Seth: Yes, that would be bad. But I could come here and conceivably cheer for the Seahawks if they were playing the Packers, or some other team that doesn’t deserve to play football. Melanie: Ok, well, I do feel very encouraged you’re at least willing to cheer for the blue and green sometimes.  Thank you so much! This has been fun. Seth: You’re welcome. Melanie: I know there are some other areas of expertise you have besides writing, so I’d love to have you back to ScreenSmart again sometime. Seth: I’d love to come back! You can check out Seth J. Pierce’s books online or at your local Adventist Book Center. Don’t forget – Prophecy for Teens is coming soon. Did you like this interview? Would you like to see more interviews like this one? 
What I thought of the book Joseph, plus a note for you from its author, Terri L. Fivash!
  I finished reading Joseph by Terri L. Fivash. What a fantastic book from start to finish! Thanks for the recommendation! My favorite time to read is at night before I go to bed, and more than once, this exciting book kept me awake long past the time my light should have been out! If you haven’t read the book, here is why it’s so cool – the author, Terri, has a master’s degree in history and knows a LOT about ancient Egypt. She knows how they dressed, how they talked, what the laws and customs were, how they shopped for groceries, which gods they believed in – all sorts of stuff. Those are the kinds interesting details she put into her book. When you add all of that to the true adventure story of Joseph found in the Bible, you have a very fascinating read! Another cool thing is I contacted Terri to let her know I enjoyed her book and that you had recommended it to me, and she gave me a special message for you! She says, If you let God take over your lives as Joseph did, you need to remember that His plans for you are much bigger than anything you can dream of, and that God doesn’t think like we do, so He will not work in the way we expect. But if you continue to trust, you will find that what God does for you is better than anything you can imagine. I know it works that way, because it happened to me, and is still happening. I know several of you have enjoyed her Dahveed series and are looking forward to the next book. If you would like more information about that, you can check out Terri’s website. Terri also has a new blog! You can read her posts, send her comments, and even help her think of a name for her blog by checking it out here. Again, thank you so much for the suggestions! Looks like it’s time for me to go back to my list and decide what to read next!
"Tweeting" for Jesus?
Most people use social networking and technology for fun.  But sometimes it can be used to help someone else. Check out this story: Last month, Alice Pyne, a 15-year-old girl from the UK who is dying of cancer, created a “bucket list” – a list of things she would like to do before she dies.  Here is her list:                                    To swim with sharks            To make everyone sign up to be a bone marrow donor            To go to Kenya            To enter Mabel in a Labrador show            To have a photoshoot with Milly, Clarissa, Sammie & Megs            To have a private cinema party for me and my BFFs            To design a Emma Bridgewater Mug to sell for charity            To stay in a caravan            To have a purple Apple ipad            To be a dolphin trainer            To meet Take That            To go to Cadbury World and eat loads of chocolate            To have a nice picture taken with Mabel            To stay in the chocolate room at Alton Towers            To have my hair done            To have a back massage            To go whale watching Some people found out about Alice’s bucket list, and began using Twitter to spread the word. Soon Alice’s bucket list was “trending,” which means it was a hot topic that a lot of people are talking about on Twitter. As word spread, people began doing what they could to help fulfill Alice’s list of wishes. More than half of Alice’s wish list has been fulfilled, thanks to people with kind hearts - and social media. The Bible says when you visit someone who is sick, it’s like you are doing it for Jesus. I guess you can “tweet” for Jesus, too, when you do it to help someone who is sick. Have you ever used social media to help someone, or spread awareness about something important? If you created a bucket list for yourself, what would be on it?  
Want to see a life-size replica of Noah's Ark? Here's where you can find it...
It’s 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits tall, just like the dimensions God gave Noah in Genesis. And it’s in a Christian theme park on Ma Wan Island in Hong Kong! The giant replica rises up next to a huge suspension bridge near the airport and is on one of the world’s busiest waterways. The island concept was developed in the 1990s, along with a bridge necessary to connect the airport to the city. Government officials and developers wanted to do something really spectacular. When an 8-year-old girl drew a picture of Noah’s Ark and gave it to her dad, he showed it to the government officials, and they loved the idea. The ark actually has rare animal exhibits in it, as well as video exhibits, and 70 pairs of animal replicas that visitors can enjoy when they tour the ark. Hong Kong officials say they want it to represent a message of hope to the world.  If a trip to Hong Kong is not in your future, but you’d love to see a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark, stay tuned – a biblical theme park in Kentucky is working on one with a price tag of $24.5 million. You can check out the story of Noah’s Ark in Genesis, chapters 6 and 7.  
Breaking music news...
A new album and DVD set is about to be released, and chances are, it has many of your favorite Christian music artists on it! It’s called (Music Inspired By) THE STORY - a collection of songs written by Nichole Nordeman. It will be a first-person perspective from different people in the Bible, including Adam & Eve, Abraham & Sarah, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Ruth & Naomi, David, Daniel, Esther and Job from the Old Testament, and Mary, Jesus, the thief on the cross, Mary Magdalene, the disciples, the Apostle Paul, and more from the New Testament. The people singing the songs are artists from MercyMe, Third Day, Jars of Clay, Newsboys, Casting Crowns, as well as Michael W. Smith, Jeremy Camp, Natalie Grant, Brandon Heath, Mandisa, Chris Tomlin… and many more. So, if you love Christian music, this might be a cool release to check out. It’s coming on September 27th! 
Justin Bieber and his dad get matching"Jesus" tattoos
  Recently, 17-year-old Justin Bieber and his dad got "inked" together. What did they choose for their permanent body art? The word "Jesus" in Hebrew characters. Justin has made no secret about telling people he’s a Christian, and now it appears he has officially (and permanently) stamped his allegiance on his skin. There’s just one problem: God says not to tattoo our bodies. In Leviticus 19:28 (the only place the word “tattoo” is found in the Bible), God told the children of Israel, “Do not cut yourselves for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.” Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Yet, I have several Christian friends who have chosen to get tattoos. Some have Bible verses, some have crosses, and some have other art that is important or sentimental to them for some reason. They believe that if the words or images in their tattoos honor God, it’s OK. What do you think? Do you think God meant what He said about no tattoos? Or do you think He would make an exception if it’s a “Christian” tattoo, like Justin Bieber’s?  
Is your Sabbath School class unbiblical? Watch a free movie and share your opinion...
It's Sabbath morning, and you're ready for church. You have your hair combed, breakfast eaten, and Bible in hand when you walk through the door. And then, you and your siblings (if you have any) go to Sabbath School classes for kids, and your parents go to a Sabbath School class for adults, right?  Well, a guy named Phillip LeClerc did some historical research on why we divide church into age-related classes, and he has some radical views - including his belief that God never intended for us to set up church that way, and it's actually harming the youth of the church...that's YOU. LeClerc filmed a movie about it called Divided, and right now (until September), you can watch the movie for free below.  So grab your parents and a bowl of popcorn and check this out. Then take a look at what the Bible says, and let me know your opinion. I'm so curious to know what you think!  Here it is...the movie Divided: Official Divided the Movie (HD Version) from NCFIC on Vimeo.
Watch Adventist teens perform on a TV talent show in Chile!
Recently, I read about "Hand Life," a group of Seventh-day Adventist teenagers who performed on Talento Chileno, the Chilean version of America's Got Talent. Using gloves that glow under black lights, the talented group of kids pantomimed two stories - the story of Creation and the story of Redemption. The response was amazing, from the audience and from the judges, who said their performance was something everyone could relate to, and that it "radiated something that could not be explained."  This is an awesome example of what Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 10:31, "So whether you eat or drink [or pantomime under black lights!], do it all for the glory of God." You can read the whole story here. Want to see the perfomances? Here they are...    
Say what?! Try out this fun translator tool!
If you're fascinated by foreign languages, I have just the tool for you! Insert a phrase in any one of several languages into Google Translate, and that phrase will be translated into English. It works the other way, too - type an English phrase, select a language, and voila! Your phrase will appear in the language you selected.  Which is why I can tell you the same thing in French:  Si vous êtes fasciné par les langues étrangères, je viens de l'outil pour vous! Insérer une phrase dans un de plusieurs langues et cliquez, et cette phrase sera traduite en anglais. Il fonctionne dans l'autre sens, trop - tapez une expression anglaise dans Google Translate, sélectionnez une langue, et voilà! Votre phrase apparaîtra dans la langue sélectionnée. Or Spanish: Si usted está fascinado por las lenguas extranjeras, que acabo de la herramienta para usted! Introducir una frase en uno de varios idiomas y haga clic en, y esa frase se traduce en Inglés. Que funciona a la inversa, también - escriba una frase de Inglés en Google Translate, seleccionar un idioma, y ¡voilá! Su frase aparecerá en el idioma seleccionado. Or even Swahili: Kama wewe ni fascinated na lugha za nje, nina chombo tu kwa ajili yako! Ingiza maneno katika moja kati ya lugha kadhaa na click, na maneno ambayo kutafsiriwa katika Kiingereza. Inafanya kazi, pia - aina yamaneno ya Kiingereza ndani ya Google Translate, kuchagua lugha, na voila! Maneno yako itaonekanakatika lugha ya kuchaguliwa. Want to try it for yourself? Check it out here!