Wednesday, April 24, 2013

God flipped my script.

(As seen on Fuller Seminary's Website)

In high school and college, my life was all about acting! But when I started following Christ, I wasn’t sure I could be a Christian and a performing artist. How could they co-exist? I assumed theatre wasn’t the best place to be a Christian, “those thespians” were bad influences, and Shakespeare was a little too racy for Jesus.

I was encouraged my skills would be best used for church skits and youth group. So, I spent my time dancing in a Technicolor dream coat, choreographing hand motions to Steven Curtis Chapman, and casting out demons, in mime. 

And, truthfully I enjoyed it. (I was even convinced seeing any movie that wasn’t PG-13, or under, was sinful).
After college I entered full time ministry. And the story flipped.

God reignited my artistic passions and stretched them beyond what I thought was Biblically “legal.” Someone in my church hooked me up with a talent agent, which I was sure was grounds for burning at the stake.

Then, I stumbled upon Fuller and found myself in classes like, “Theology and Film,” and “Evangelism and Pop Culture.” Somebody pinch me. You’re telling me in order to get my Master’s degree, my classes require me to watch rated R movies and go to the Sundance Film Festival? What will the church ladies say?
God’s kingdom was a lot bigger than I had thought.

I realized my early days were preparation for my ministry calling. Now, I’m a pastor, AND an actor and filmmaker.

I serve in Peninsula Covenant Church to equip our congregation. I get to create media, (and my characters aren’t always required to sport sandals, a tunic or a beard), and offer opportunities for people to engage meaningfully with truth through discussions and experiences on our campus and in the community. We set up film screenings to dialog with filmmakers (and the Church ladies bake cookies). 

We’re launching arts programs in schools and we’re discovering God’s kingdom everywhere, not just in our building on Sundays. And I’m encouraging our church to hang out with those “crazy artist people,” AND also to become one. For we have a lot to learn from both the artists and the art they create.

Fuller’s emphasis on Theology and the Arts energized my creativity and affirmed my life’s purpose. It was perfect timing and amazing training. And Fuller also connected me to the
BayArea Windrider Film Forum: “Cinema in Conversation.” 

This is a mini Sundance Film Fest, right here in Menlo Park!  This year it will be on  June 27th, 28th, and 29th
We’ll be watching films and exploring life issues with the people who create the stories that move us. And we’ll be challenged to think deeply and take action at Menlo Atherton Performing Arts Center (MAPAC).
 Invite your friends, especially the ones who’d never go to a Sunday service. Because they just might encounter God in a movie theater. I do all the time.  
 Join the conversation.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Do I get to take my bones to Heaven?

When I put my kids to bed, I have a ritual. It can take up to an hour. We do the normal things  like stories, prayer, singing, snuggling, etc. But I've also created a "ticket system" for fun stuff like hanging on my pull-up bar, piggy back rides, or being tossed on to our bed. And, where it bites me in the butt is when I'm tired and I just want to tuck them in quickly and kiss them goodnight, (so I can crawl into my own bed or just be with my wife), they call me out.

"That's it? That's so short. What about Gapastonia Kingdom?"

And I just give in!

What's Gapastonia Kingdom you might ask? Just wait.

Basically, there's no getting out of this bed time ritual, ever..or until they're in middle school, or whenever they become too cool for my stories and snuggling.

But now, it is so worth it. I cherish these times. I lay with them, pray with them, and remind them of how loved they are. Sometimes I lay there and fast forward ten, twenty years, and I admit I shed some tears thinking about they day they'll move out and be out of my care. And I also lay there long enough to fall asleep myself. (Actually, five to ten minutes of being horizontal can do me in). 

But tonight-I just had to blog about our conversation.

It was about Heaven.

It all started when the driver of Princess Wendora's carriage was comforting her in the rain, on the day before her wedding to Prince Antonio.

Yes, I have created a whole story, a cast of characters, which takes place in Gapastonia Kingdom, and revolves around three princesses who are sisters.

Sound familiar?

Tonight, I told them some of the prequel, before the princesses were even born.

I told them about the night before the royal wedding, when our antagonist, the sinister Chantro, schemed to ruin the wedding with a horrible storm. Trees were collapsing on top of the castle (it also happened to be really windy in Redwood City), and the rain was drenching princess Wendora's pre-wedding party.

The carriage driver, who was delivering the princess' dress, showed her comfort and kindness. As she cried, he hugged her. Princess Wendora noticed he had large scars in his hands. It didn't occur to her until later who this mysterious man was.

Let me just say, my girls eat this up. Sometimes I have to choke back the tears watching their little faces take it all in. I love it.

But, to make a long story short: Prince Antonio and Princess Wendora wed the next day on a beautiful sunny morning after battling an evil rat, having a visit from a dove with an important letter, prayer from the king and queen, and finally when they chose to be brave. And the story is always: "To Be Continued."

But after I finished we were discussing "the man with the scars."
They began to ask about what Jesus looked like in Heaven.

"Is he Shiny?
Does he have wings?
Does he still look like a boy?"

I loved their questions, and funny thoughts about what life would be like after we die.

"Dad, when we go to Heaven do I get to keep my skin?
What about my bones, can I take them to Heaven?

Can we fly in Heaven? I hope so. I want to fly fast and eat my food in the air.

Is there dogs in Heaven?
What about cats? And if there are, are they nice dogs and cats or mean ones?"

I tried to let them be curious about the answers and let them explore a bit. I asked them  what they thought and simply tried to steer them toward simple truths that I know.  Because I truly don't know if there will be tigers in Heaven, I just know if there are, they won't bite us.

 But the one thing I kept saying was: 

There is nothing to fear in Heaven.
There are no mean people or mean animals in Heaven.
Everything is beautiful, perfect, and with out pain.
And Jesus still has his scars, forever, so we'll remember the great love and sacrifice he made for us. 

"So... there are nice tigers in Heaven?
Oh, then I want to ride one.

Dad, when I die, I want to die with mommy"

Ok, great.
Good night.
 I love you.