Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My fortune is found in the famous One

I'm currently in LA, sitting in a Cafe off of Hollywood Blvd. I'm spending my last few hours of submersion into filmmaking, movie watching, and the entertainment industry. It's truly been an inspiring time where I can actually say I've "grown." I've changed a bit. I saw about twelve films last week, cried, laughed, discussed and argued over storytelling, good acting, thematic elements on about five-six hours sleep a night. Which is less than I usually get at home with three kids, five and under, yet, of course, it was filled with so many encouraging conversations that leave me overwhelmingly inspired creatively. I'm ready to see some things happen!

Here are some thoughts arranged in no particular order:

1-First, I missed my family. I have to give my wife a HUGE shout out (as well as the village of the extended family and friends), who made this week possible for me to be away. It's been a little over one week, one hundred and sixty eight hours, since I've left. Even though I got less sleep then when we had an infant, I am more energized and refreshed than I have been since my summer sabbatical. Probably because I could be "tired" and not have to change diapers, feed anyone but myself, and not have to speak if I didn't want to. This was an option my wife didn't have this week, so I am so thankful for her partnership. I thought of her every day in gratitude. She deserves her week away, now, or least many nights off from putting the kids to bed! (Which I fully intend to give her when I return). And I can't wait to hug my kids!

2-A strange and sometimes uncomfortable thing that I often took advantage of this week was: FREE STUFF! It seemed everywhere I went there was free food, free lattes (yes, I had two a day), and free make-up (of which my wife will benefit). This is called SWAG. Free stuff ,usually for people who can afford to pay for it, anyway. Weird, but yes, I enjoyed it. Funny enough--the one day I was enjoying a free Morning Star Vege Burger, (of which I ate daily at Sundance),  I was also reading a book that had a section entitled, "No Free Food." I had to disagree with his thoughts at that moment as I enjoyed my pro-bono lunch. (See it to the right in the picture here).
 (The menu at the counter).
I was haunted by this sobering thought. Why is it that we give hundreds, thousands of dollars away to the richest people on the planet? I wrestled with this a lot this week. It is so easy to get sucked into the glitter of Hollywood, and I really wanted to temper my experience with being mindful to remember, I always am living in God's kingdom, and I want to be living his values. Which I was so grateful to have opportunities daily to pray with people, listen to their hurts and stories, and point people to the way, the truth, and the life. Which is the invitation/call for all of us in life, no matter what kind of passion/job we spend our time doing. We can live compassionately and generously, without greed.

3-They say, whoever "they" are,  that so much of the entertainment industry is "who you know." And there is a LOT of truth in that. I got invited to a table read of a screenplay entitled, "The Scoundrels Club." What a fun experience. Jeff York, was the winner of a contest that flew him out to Park City, UT, to have his script read by professional actors (which I fooled them into thinking I was).  The only reason I was sitting at that table was because I knew someone. I thank my buddy, Christian Anderson, who let me ride his coattails. It pays to make good friendships in this industry. 

 I also got to be a part of the 19th Annual SAG Awards in LA. I was basically a do-anything production gopher who did things like prepare paint sharpies for Celebs and shuttle the actual actor trophies across the auditorium and red carpet. It was quite fun and surreal seeing all the people I normally see on the big and small screens. Yes, like Hugh Jackman, and the casts of the Office, Downtown Abbey, and Glee. All because of a family connection. The only reason I was eating Wolfgang Puck gourmet food, schmoozing with actors, and wearing a suit was because I knew someone. And want to know how I was reminded of the values of the kingdom? In the bathroom, this guy, Oscar from the office, smiled and handed me a paper towel. Which caused me to pay it forward. I got a lot more stories like that!

4-"Celebrities are real people just like us." I know some grocery story magazine (People, maybe?) has a page highlighting famous people pumping gas, getting tickets, and eating bran muffins to show the world that even though they are filthy rich, they still have to pick up dog poop (most of the times). But see #2 and don't feel too sorry for them because they still have a lot of perks. The red carpet glitz and glam of Hollywood life can be a bit ridiculous. All the hype and money spent  on such events can be downright shameful when across the seas there are people starving and dying of preventable diseases. Wow, this was always on my mind. I really had to ground myself in this reality as I participated in these fancy events.  One of the things I took away, (nothing new), is that fame is fleeting. No matter who you are: the high school valedictorian,  the college football quarterback, Miss America,  the top selling software guy, the new mom, the award winning actor--every season comes to and end. Those feelings, the spotlight, the "whatever," will end. The reality is, that death is inevitable for all, but most of us like like it isn't. And someday we'll all be taking our last breath and reflecting for a split second if we truly lived a worthwhile life, which I'm determined to do. Although I love this entertainment and filmmaking industry, they must always be a means to something bigger: like enjoying healthy relationships, creating meaningful stories to impact our hearts,  and discussing real issues with others that propel us to be good humans who make a difference.

5-This leads me to my next thought. I spend a lot of my time preparing and planning for something that happens within a building regularly during the week. I teach, craft, brainstorm, and plan ways to help others experience truth, life, and love--(much like I said above: includes trying to encourage healthy relationships, good management of life's resources, and impacting the world for good and justice). That being said, we can learn a lot from movies and how they impact culture.  Thankful to the Windrider Film Forum for helping to shape this for many of us at Sundance last week. Maybe now, more than ever, I see this medium of story-telling through film and media as one of the greatest ways to reach people and move people's hearts to action. I have to continue to chew on this, but as I looked at how interactive the filmmaking events were,  (and so well organized) and how many great conversations were had, I can  safely say that everyone who participated in these events was moved in some way.  I hope to see some of this impacting what I do in Redwood City. (Below filmmakers from one of my week's favorite films, "Toy's House.").

6-We are created to have relationships. We are created to engage with others. Full theaters of film loving people resulted in lots of new friendships and inspired dreams.This is a simple truth of humanity. When you make time to do the things you love with others who share that love, you can't help but experience beauty, connect, grow close, share life, etc.(Below a crowd gives a standing ovation to the winning film, "Fruitvale," and a sign reflecting a space where workshops and panel discussions were held.).

7-Finally, I'm affirmed, once again, that I cannot escape my soul's purpose, what I believe God put within me. I have been created to create. Making films, collaborating on team, a film crew, telling meaningful stories, and acting brings me life and I know it brings life to others. I must give my time to this, or a part of me will die. And so I will be making more time to do so, and glad that my role within PCC is moving into that direction. I am praying for more clarity on that and a healthy transition for for all involved.

So, overall I am excited to return and share my experiences, but especially to be with my family. In closing,  It was This video below encapsulates the good, the crazy, and the downright superficial nature of this industry, this beast that I love. This beast that I am called to fight with, conquer, tame, and speak into my life and the lives of those around me. I love navigating through it and I love that I get to be a part of it because it both challenges me to grow and allows me to be used in the lives others.

So, although it's easy to forget, I will be intentional.  I will not seek fame, nor fortune, but find my fortune in the ONE who is already famous, and who's name will be lifted up among the nations.
And that's a wrap.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Happy New __________________

Usually I don't choose lots of structure. I love the flexibility of my schedule, the spontaneity of creativity, and the freedom to do new things. (Especially when it comes to worship gatherings, I'd rather pray and linger for hours than schedule minute by minute).  And don't get me wrong--I'm not advocating for anarchy here or  that we should all live in a nudist colony, just making a point about something I'm trying to understand about myself.

As much as I'd like to consider myself a "free-spirit," for some reason I simply cannot bend when it comes to the start/stop of Christmas.  I can't handle Holiday decorations and Christmas songs in January. For me it starts right after Thanksgiving (which I know is too early for some) and finishes when December ends.

I like it to end, when it's supposed to end, which in my mind should not extend past January 1st.

However, my kids don't share my convictions (and obviously the rest of my city doesn't either). My kids are still belting out, loud, proud, and off-key: "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," at all hours of the day and night (with the wrong lyrics) and probably will until July. Then I drive around town and see Christmas trees still displayed in houses and LED lights and neon statues all over the neighborhood. I feel like I'm a part of some conspiracy I can't escape.

 I can't explain it. It's as if my heart/mind are ready to move on to what's next, and what's NEW (which commercialism would have me believe it should be Valentine's day), but I keep getting pulled back into the past. (Which again, I'm a sap, I love good memories and reflecting on the good old days, but I'm just saying..take down the Elf on the Shelf, people).

Which leads me to my next pet peeve. The New Year Started about eleven days ago. So how long until we stop saying "Happy New Year?" Until February? Am I just a Grinch? I think not, I just think I'm right...

Just kidding.

I think it's something about wanting to have appropriate understanding, or boundaries, of a season. Although you could disagree and find a great argument in which to combat me, or just tell me to loosen up.

And I'm sure theologically I could write a whole other blog making a case to keep our Christmas lights shining all year through in order to center our wholes lives on Christmas story, and be true Biblical people who light the world for Jesus, but I'll pass.

Or..in just a small little way,  could this feeling, maybe, be another sign that we live in the tension of eternity? A tension that communicates things aren't always as they are supposed to be and we must find a way to exist in the midst of constant, mess, constant transition, constant reality stretching experiences.

A few weeks ago I talked about this tension of grief illustrating a bit of tension between the "kingdoms" we live in. listen here. 

So here comes my analogy.

We are continually trying to make sense of this eternal story, (God creates, God comes close, we destroy, we push God away, God redeems, God invites us close again) and these seasons we live in, whether winter,spring,summer, fall, or our life-stage and age, are just "whispers" reminding us that we were made for somewhere else. Like Adam and Eve, we were all made for the Garden. We were made for the freedom, clarity, and the closeness of the Garden, but we messed it up, he intervenes, and helps us to make sense of the world and live like we were made--for Heaven.

We were made to live in perpetual beauty, with no confusion, and no starting/stopping of celebrations, relationships, or life itself.

So, for what it's worth, I wish you simply a HAPPY NEW PERSPECTIVE or whatever it is you need to center your life on God in 2013. Happy New  _______. You fill in the blank. What do you need this year, this season? Whatever it is, I know that God is able and enough to fulfill you. And I started this year reminding myself of Ephesians 3:14-21.
For this reason I kneel before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

This is my prayer to remember God can do more than I could ever ask or imagine.

And this is my prayer, too, that whatever you do, you take down your inflatable people, blinking icicle lights, and over-sized, ginormous ornaments that are so heavy they are breaking the trees in your front yard..no later than February 1st.. Thank you.