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Epic Theology

Finding God through the lens of an artist

Embracing the Weird

Hello everyone,

I sat in a new staff orientation yesterday, reading over the shiny, new employees’ handbook as my lead pastor and executive pastor gave a deep explanation of what it means to work at the church. We covered history, identity, mission, and expectations. While I was happy to learn more about the body that I’ve been serving for years, there was a moment during the outline of expectations that made me laugh.

“Please don’t make me have to explain you.”

Now, in context, it made sense. We all, as Christians, are representatives of Christ and His Church. As staff members, we are representatives of RockPointe. We have a responsibility to represent our God and His Church well. Especially today, in a world that doesn’t particularly like the Church. My pastor was simply asking that we conduct ourselves in a way that does not draw negative attention to the church.

Yet, in a way, I think we’re going to be explaining me for a long time.

Because you see, what I do is weird. 

I create art for the church. I help to bring beauty and wonder and passion into an institution that is not well known for these virtues anymore. I tell stories of redemption and hope. I push some envelopes, and leave others alone. I aim to bring people to a place of awe before their Creator and Redeemer.

And, quite frankly, there aren’t many who are able to devote a lot of time to this sort of thing.

But that’s not the only way I’m weird. I often feel quite stuck when it comes to politics. I lean to the left when I analyze most social policies. I believe Jesus told us to look after the poor and the downtrodden and I believe a welfare state chases after that command. Yet, I am morally conservative. I believe that there is a right and a wrong and that we can discern what they are through the Scripture. At the church, I’m the crazy liberal artist. At Community Natural Foods (my other part time work), I am the token conservative Christian. I don’t feel like I’m quite like anyone in either camp.

And then, one day at Community, a particularly wise coworker told me: “Maybe you don’t need camps.”

We like labels. They help us self-identify. They help us find a place to belong and a people to belong to. But there are times when they are going to fail you, and those are powerful times.

Whether you are a Christian artist who isn’t quite a home at church or in the art scene, or a teenager struggling with self-identity against family-identity, or a stay-at-home mom trying to find her identity when the world defines you by your job, I believe we all go through periods in our lives where we feel like we’re weird. And I argue that these periods can be incredibly fruitful in our spiritual walk.odd_one_out-690x355

Because when we are confronted by our inability to fit into the moulds that the world (even the church world) tries to get us to fit into, we come to realize how fearfully and wonderfully we are made. Though there are more that 7.5 BILLION people in the world right now and many who are probably much like me, I am the only me that God has placed right here, right now. And you are the only you that God has placed where you are. No one can do what God has called you to do.

What the world calls weird is simply the messy specificity that God used to create you. 

There are places I can go because I have ties to the arts community that a normal pastor either wouldn’t or couldn’t go. There are beautiful things I can do in the church that an outside artist doesn’t have the relationships to accomplish. I was made weird because God has a plan and we don’t always get to see that plan until after it’s all over. And you…yes, you…are also weird in your own special way and for your own special purpose.

So today, as you go about your business, try to remember that you are weird. And that being weird is a good thing. Not because of millennial snowflakism or your own inherent specialness, but because God has given you a certain set of passions and experiences that make you ideally suited to a certain mission in the world.

Go, be weird on mission.

Blessings

EpicTheology June Update

Well, my fearless readers, we’re now well into June. Life is going by at breakneck pace these days, so I thought I’d take a moment to let everyone know what’s going on. Depending on how things move continue, we might make this a monthly feature.

I’m now a month and a half into the new job, and it’s still amazing. I have so much freedom to explore where God is leading the new ministry and spend time in His presence. I’ve met with many of our leaders to brainstorm how we are going to go about telling stories. AND, most exciting, I’ve started working on a couple projects. My weeks are flying by and I look forward to going back to the office every day.

God could not have come through in a more awe-inspiring way.

Which brings me to our next point: our new mission. Acts 2:43 tells us, in regards to the newborn church, that “A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.” I feel like, for many of us, we’ve lost that sense of awe. We live in such a constant state of grace that the supernatural grace has become mundane.

So, my mission: Rescue the miraculous from the mundane!

God’s activity in our lives can be awe-inspiring at first, but can quickly become less shiny as we get used to it. However, when we hear about what God is doing in others’ lives (which is usually different from our own), we can again be brought to a place of wonder. It’s my job to harness the stories that we all carry around with us and deploy them in a way that opens doors for awe.

Sound fun? I think so!

In other news, we’re also on our way to starting a new ministry and I’ll have more info for you as soon as some things settle into place.

I hope you are all enjoying the start of your summer (or winter, if you’re south of the equator). Our family has been having a great time hiking out in the mountains as much as we can (including during a rainstorm yesterday!). Please spend some time outdoors. It’s good for the soul.

Blessings,

Faith and Film: The 100

Well, everyone, this was supposed to be our 100th post here at EpicTheology, but as the weeks turned out, Mother’s Day happened right at the 100 mark, and I figured our moms are more important than other things I was going to say. So, in honour of our 101st post, I thought we would take a look at one of my favourite Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic TV shows: The 100. (Full disclosure, this may be the only YA Post-Apoc TV show I’ve watched…)

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Essentially, The 100 is LOST for teenagers, in the future. I found the first few episodes to be hard to watch, the writing was so bad. But as the series continued, it picked up in quality and my wife and I were hooked.

The basic premise of the show is as follows: humanity has nearly destroyed itself with nuclear war. The surviving humans live on a space station where any crime is dealt with by pushing the criminal out an airlock and into space (known as floating). UNLESS that criminal is under 18, in which case they are kept in prison until they are old enough to stand trial (and then get floated).

When the space station begins to run out of air, 100 of these teenage delinquents are sent down to earth to see if the planet is hospitable again. If they live, they are pardoned for their crimes. If they die, well, they were going to die anyways, and they saved the space station from sending down everyone.

Once these teenagers are on the ground, the situation turns into a fraternity party-meets-Lord of the Flies. With no strong emotional connection to the adults who sent them to the ground, the teens rebel and begin building a new society that suits whatever their whims may be. It’s everyone for him/herself, with pleasure-chasing and power-wrestling the top concern for many of the survivors.

Sound at all familiar?

Who, as a teenager, didn’t rail against the oppression of adults in our lives? Whether our parents, or teachers, or coaches, we had adults telling us what to do and when to do it. When I got to college, it was like all the controls had been taken off and I could do whatever I wanted.

To be fair, I didn’t build a wooden fortress and become a warlord on campus, but I still flexed in my newfound freedom. I also know many who went through a similar process. No matter how well our parents raised us, curiosity or inner rebelliousness urges us to push against what we’ve been taught.

Which isn’t always a bad thing. A big part of the draw of The 100 is the exploration of the post-apocalyptic world that the teens find themselves in. They world is full of mysteries that the following seasons slowly unravel, and many of the misconceptions (or downright lies) of the space-faring adults are brought to light by the curiosity of the protagonists.

But sometimes, rebellion is just rebellion.

It’s in all of us. Since Adam and Eve listened to the snake, we’ve had a tendency to believe that those in authority over us are holding out on us. That God himself is holding out on us. That if WE were in charge, WE would be happier. But happiness does not usually follow a life of narcissism and hedonism. Only a deep relationship with Jesus and a loving community can do that.

And The 100 shows us the importance of community. When facing the terrors that still inhabit the earth, the heroes have to put aside their differences, their pasts, and their pains in order to stay alive. They have to squash their prejudices and swallow their pride in order to see another day.

Perhaps we could learn a thing or two.

So yes, the heroes can be incredibly whiny (being more concerned with your girlfriend than the survival of your tribe…really now…), but I remember being a teenager. Love and popularity and purpose were the biggest of questions for me. It’s only through the lens of an adult nearing 30 that I can see how much bigger life gets.

If you haven’t seen the show, I suggest it. Push on through the first few chapters and really dig into how The 100 depicts human selfishness and selflessness. See if you can find anything that applies to you. That’s how art changes us.

Blessings,

Happy Mother’s Day

A quick shout out to all the mothers out there. Becoming a parent has been one if the hardest, yet fulfilling thing I’ve done with my life. I have associated closest to God as Creator for a while now, but becoming a dad has really made the Fatherhood of God a much bigger theme in my life.

However, my parental duties are nothing compared to those of my wife. Motherhood, especially stay-at-home motherhood, is such a blessing in our home.

I think many people take their moms for granted. I know I did for a long time. But seeing the work and sacrifice that goes into being a mother makes it obvious why God chose to be compared to a mother hen protecting her chicks. Nothing I’ve ever done has demanded more than motherhood, and I sometimes forget that.

So, to my wife and my mother, Happy Mother’s Day. To all our readers who are moms, remember that your calling is so important. You are true artists, creating life and sculpting it over decades into a masterpiece. The masters would be proud.

I love you, Mum. I love you, Bri. 

Blessings

First Week Done

Hey folks,

Another late update. My first week as Art and Story Director was very full. So far, I’ve caught a couple online classes on filmmaking, rearranged my office, met with one of my mentors, met with the youth ministry to see how we can help them, shot a post-mission interview, spent much of Friday with the Sharpen Tech Conference’s keynote speaker, hosted/attended the conference itself on Saturday, and dressed up as the disciple John to tell some stories in our Children’s Ministry.

I spent all day Saturday learning about how Bethel Media approaches storytelling and followed them through pre-production, principal production, and post-production. God’s timing on all of this has just been amazing. The week I’m hired to look after storytelling at RockPointe, Bethel (a church in California) sends us their Executive Producer to teach on story. Such an amazing way to start. I’m very inspired to put everything I’ve learned to good use in the weeks to come.

Looking forward, I’ll be spending a lot of this week sitting in more meetings with ministry leads. As we figure out what each ministry is looking to accomplish with story, we’ll be able to create a plan and dive right into projects. That’s perhaps the thing I’m most excited about: getting into actually creating art and telling stories for the church.

I should be back on schedule next week with more of my regular articles. Thanks for tracking along with me over the past few weeks. It’s been an exciting, and exhausting, adventure.

Blessings

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