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Epic Theology

Finding God through the lens of an artist

What Disney Teaches Us About Adulting: Getting a Job

This blog series is adapted from my panel at the 2018 Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. For those who were unable to make it, here’s what you missed!

Last week, we talked about 7 Markers of Adulthood that society uses to let us know when we’ve achieved the status of “Grown Up.” Today, we’re going to look at the first, Getting a Job!

Part of being a responsible, self-sufficient adult is the ability to provide for your own needs financially. We need food, clothing, and shelter, all of which require money to attain. No longer relying on someone else’s provision, the adult gets a job and works hard for the money they bring in.

There is biblical precedent for this. The first man to be filled with the Spirit, Bezalel (Ex. 31), was so filled so that he could get to work building the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle. Even though God was caring for His people’s physical needs with rock-water and sky-bread, God thought this work was so important that His Spirit dwelt within a man so it could be done.

The Book of Proverbs has more direct urgings to get a job: “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider his ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares he bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” (Prov. 6:6-8).

What about the New Testament, I hear you crying out. Well, Paul is even more harsh: “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (2 Thess. 3:10). Sounds like getting a job and looking after ourselves is pretty important.

Now, early Disney characters rarely bothered with the boring routine of getting jobs. When you’re a princess or prince, you don’t really need one.  However, more recent films have dealt with people finding, keeping, and growing in their jobs. Let’s see what they say:

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Pinocchio

 Here we find the one early Disney protagonist who get’s a job. Which job? Show business!

In Pinocchio we learn that jobs are dangerous. If your boss is anything like Stromboli, he or she will likely try to screw you over, and its best to avoid getting a job altogether.

Now, Pinocchio is a child of sorts and we have laws against child labour for a reason. We don’t want the Strombolis of the world caging our kids and exploiting them for financial gain.

However, we can also pick up on the truth that when it comes to our job, the interpersonal aspects of the job may be just as important as the actual work itself. It may be more important to have a job we don’t particularly like, if our co-workers and supervisors make life more fulfilling.

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Zootopia:

Judy Hopps has one dream: to become a police officer. However, the odds are stacked against her by the accident of her birth as a bunny.

But Judy believes nothing else will make her happy, so she gives it her all to make it through the police academy despite her natural limitations. It’s a wonderful reminder that perseverance in the face of opposition can lead us to grow and overcome the obstacles that are in our way.

And so, Judy Hopps becomes the first bunny police officer – and is quickly bounced down to metre maid. This wasn’t what she was expecting. But does Judy whine or quit? No, she buckles down and becomes the BEST meter maid in Zootopia, outperforming everyone’s expectations. From there, she earns enough of her boss’ trust to climb the police ladder and eventually become a hero.

Sometimes we have dreamy, romantic visions of what our jobs should be that don’t match our realities right away. That’s okay. Sometimes, we just need to put in the work. Paul instructs us in 1 Thess. 4:11-12 “to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” If we can follow in Judy’s footsteps, we can learn to work hard wherever we are, no matter our opposition and be the best we can be.

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The Princess and the Frog:

Finally, we have young Tiana who has the aspiration of opening the restaurant that she and her father dreamed of owning one day. In order to do so, she works two jobs and saves every penny she can.

Sounds like the American Dream to me. Work hard, dream big. Wish on stars and put in the elbow grease.

But in The Princess and the Frog, we learn that this kind of work ethic creates people who don’t dance and who aren’t fun. We learn that work and fun are mutually exclusive. This isn’t necessarily true, and it’s not the best message for a youth just about to enter the workforce. We don’t need to give up on having fun just because we have a job. Actually, the financial freedom that a job brings can allow us to have even more fun than if we rely on the generosity of others.

But, eventually, Tiana works long and hard enough to make her dream come true.

There’s only one problem.

The free market strikes when someone outbids Tiana on the property she needs for the restaurant. We aren’t even told who ruins the dream, just that he or she has a lot more money than Tiana. So, we learn that sometimes working hard doesn’t get you what you want. Sometimes the lack of privilege bites you in the backside. A nugget of truth that we need to keep in mind when we set out into the workforce.

In all of this, we need to remember that God is sovereign. He may have a job in mind for you, or He may have a season of utter dependence on Him in mind. Remember, “the heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Prov. 16:9)

So, work hard, but allow God to lead you. Even if it’s outside your plan.

Blessings

What Disney Teaches Us About Adulting: An Introduction

This blog series is adapted from my panel at the 2018 Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. For those who were unable to make it, here’s what you missed!

Our government tells us that we are an adult at the age of 18.

Quick question, who is over the age of 18?

Of those who are of legal age, who actually feels like an adult?

Better yet, who feels like an adult all of the time?

I’d wager that number is not nearly as many as our laws would suggest.

Why is that? That’s a big question that expands FAR beyond the scope of this blog, but I want to explore a bit of the conversation here.

To start out, let’s talk about what it means to be an adult. In my research, I’ve found a few different definitions, because no one seems to really know for sure.  Some definitions I’ve found include:

  • A person who is fully grown or developed.
  • The stage of the life cycle after reproductive capacity has been attained.
  • Having attained full size and strength; grown up; mature.
  • Having the ability to make your own decisions and dealing with the consequences.
  • A person who has attained the age of majority and is therefore regarded as independent, self-sufficient, and responsible.

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To add to our confusion, western society, in the aftermath of World War II, created a social structure called the adolescent. Before this, people generally moved from childhood to adulthood directly around the onset of puberty, often with an accompanying rite of passage. However, we have lengthened this transition and created an “in-between” stage where we are no longer children, but not quite adults yet. Over the decades, this adolescent stage has grown longer and longer. Many no longer really believe 18 year olds to be adults, but how about 22 year olds? Or 25 year olds? Or 30 year olds? When asked when someone becomes an adult, the answer is often, “It depends.”

Now that we’ve separated biological adulthood (being able to reproduce) from social adulthood (being seen as an adult), we must have something else that lets us know we’ve arrived at being an adult. Instead of relying on puberty, we rely on social “markers” that let us know that whoever has accomplished these markers is an adult.

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In the spirit of goodwill, I want to be very clear that I don’t mean to demean or belittle anyone who has not accomplished one of these markers. There are plenty of reasons why someone hasn’t yet, or perhaps will never go through these events, either by choice or by the nature of who you are. Just take what you can from this series and don’t take any of it too seriously. If you seriously disagree with me, please let me know. I would love to have a conversation

Now, I’ve narrowed down potential markers to these seven:

  1. Getting a Job
  2. Moving out/buying a house
  3. Looking After oneself
  4. Saving for the Future
  5. Finding an Identity
  6. Getting Married
  7. Having Kids

That said, for many of us, Disney films may have been the biggest media influence on our childhoods. Whether we wanted to be a princess or a street rat or a singing candelabra, we grew up within the stories that Disney has been telling.

We’re going to look at each of these markers in turn to see where Disney movies have given us wisdom and where they have led us astray. We will also compare the lessons from the films with wisdom from the Scriptures. Hopefully, by the end, we’ll have a little more information on what it means to be an adult and how we can start adulting a little better.

Until next time,

Blessings

Spring Update

Ah, the joys of spring! As a Canadian, there is something magical about seeing everyone emerge from the hibernation of winter (all 8 months of it) and get outside. There are kids running around the common spaces of our townhouse complex. People are barbecuing and lying in the sun. Runners and joggers and walkers are out and looking alive.

As Martin Luther beautifully said, “Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.”

It truly is remarkable, and I couldn’t be happier.

It has been a few weeks since my last post, and I wanted to let you all know what’s been going on and where we’ll be headed over the summer.

First, our Comic Expo adventure was a resounding success. We had over 100 people show up to the screening of Star of Wonder, which filled the room and ended up with people being turned away at the door. Since I was expecting about 20 of my friends to show up and few others, this was stunning. God really wanted people to see our little film! We had another full panel later that evening (despite competing with the cast of Back to the Future during the time slot) where I got to speak on Disney films and being an adult (more on this below). I got to make a few great connections and saw God’s heart for artists of all stripes. Quite an exciting weekend!

From there, we’ve moved into a busy season of training (the Sharpen Music and Tech Conference) and now promotional video creation. This time last year, I was just starting my new job and felt like I was spinning my wheels trying to get a project off the ground. I now have over a dozen projects due in the next two months! The culture at our church is moving to really take advantage of the power of film and testimony. Again, God’s grace and guidance is the only thing I can attribute this to, which is encouraging. Knowing we are following where God is leading really bolsters my faith and keeps me moving when life gets busy.

After the promo season dies down, I’m hoping to film another short (much shorter than Star of Wonder…I learned my lesson) over the summer to screen in the fall. We’re still in the planning stages, so I’ll hopefully be able to let you all in on the secrets and the creative process as they start happening.

Finally, we have our chaplaincy up and running full steam ahead. For those who live in Calgary and haven’t heard the invite, we are hosting a gathering of the Kingdom Artist Network tonight at 7:00PM at RockPointe Church’s Bowridge site. There will be snacks, coffee, and some time with special guest Karla Adolphe. I hope some of you can make it out to connect with likeminded artists.

The Network is growing all the time and we are very excited to see what God has in store for this band of faithful artists.

As for EpicTheology, I am taking the lessons I put together for the Expo panel on Disney films and translating them here. We will spend the next 7 or so weeks exploring what it means to be an adult and what Disney and the Bible teach us about the subject. So, please, stay tuned!

Thank you all for making EpicTheology such a wonderful place to write and discuss art and God. You, my readers, are the reason I put down so many of my thoughts onto digital paper. I look forward to connecting with more of you over the summer.

Blessings

Worship Language: Intellectual

Well, everyone, we are at the end of our journey through the Worship Languages. Here are the other eight we’ve been through already:

Naturalist
Sensate
Traditionalist
Ascetic
Activist
Caregiver
Enthusiast
Contemplative

And today, we are going to explore the brainy bunch: The Intellectuals!

Intellectuals worship God with their minds. They love to learn new things about God and are closest to Him during study or while digging into apologetics or theology.

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In church, our Intellectuals are going to be very engaged during a good, thinky sermon. Biblical exegesis, complex theology, or church history may be exactly what they need to connect with God and feel closer to Him. Hymns or worship songs with great theology or scriptural references can also draw the Intellectual in. Hearing a solid philosophical debate can also help the Intellectual to cement their beliefs and feel even closer to God.

Outside of church, a good Bible college can really help the Intellectual. I spent four years at Ambrose University and loved it dearly. Getting concentrated time to sift through Greek texts and the writings of the church fathers and mothers fed my soul in ways that I have not felt since. (Intellectual is one of my top 3 languages, in case you missed that). I still enjoy reading old text and new ideas and hope to go back for my next degree soon.

Intellectual artists (capital I) should allow their study to influence their work. Perhaps a Bible reading can inspire the painter to play with Scriptural themes in their work. A choreographer can try to capture as much of the Trinity that they can in their next piece. A writer can make allusions to older works or church history in their stories. Whatever inspires and draws you closer to God, study it!

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Intellectuals need to be aware, however, that there is a difference between knowing ABOUT God and knowing God. We are called into community with our Creator and we need to spend time in prayer with Him to truly get to know Him. Just as it is not enough for me to study my wife’s likes, dislikes, history, and dreams; I also have to spend time with her, journeying together though life. It is the same with God.

Bottom line for Intellectuals: spend time often in study, but also spend time often in prayer.

If you are an Intellectual, how do you best connect to God?

Worship Language: Contemplative

Hello everyone,

We’re nearing the end of our journey through the Worship Languages. We have two left. It’s been a great experience for me to dig into each of these with you and really think about how we can support our artists who connect to God in different ways, and how artists themselves can better connect with their Creator.

Today, we’re going to be talking about the quiet worshippers: the Contemplatives.

The Contemplative worships God through adoration, meditation, and prayer. They spend their time thinking deeply on the persons of God and speaking to Him at length. They get up early in the morning or stay up late for their devotional time. Contemplatives can sit for a long time just basking in the glow of the face of his or her Father.

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The musical worship of a church service can be helpful for the Contemplative if it allows the worshipper to pour out his or her heart authentically before God. Dedicated prayer time, perhaps with leading questions or statements will also serve our Contemplatives. The sermon can feed a Contemplative if it gives the worshipper more reasons to pour out love and adoration to the Creator. Contemplatives can serve on a prayer team, standing before God on behalf of individuals or the congregation at large, praising Him and asking for His help.

The Contemplative artist should spend much time in prayer before, during, and after the creation of his or her art. Seeking God’s face and His will for your work will allow each brush stroke, each dance step, each shutter click to become an outpouring of one’s adoration. Speak to God as you create, out loud if need be, and listen for His voice in your work.

If you can, get away from life for a time. Like the Ascetic, the Contemplative may find regular life distracting and a retreat can offer an extended time to speak with God and to listen as He responds. Unlike the Ascetic, the Contemplative may enjoy retreating with others and can feed off the words of love and adoration of others. Use this and allow it to push you deeper into God’s love.

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The Contemplative must remember, however, that we live in a world populated with people who need God’s love. If the Contemplative spends all of his or her day gazing into the face of God, he or she runs the risk of forgetting about the mission He has entrusted to His Church. We must love God AND love people.

Bottom line for Contemplatives: create space to spend time with your loving Father, and pour out your love to others as an offering to Him.

If you are a Contemplative, how do you best connect with God?

Blessings

We’re at the Calgary Expo Again!

Hey all,

Bonus post this week. For those who haven’t heard, I’ll be at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo again this year. I’m teaching another panel, which is awesome, but we’ve also been accepted into their short film screening for our film Star of Wonder!

Last year, I taught a panel session on post-apocalyptic media and what it can teach us about surviving today (you know, before the zombies rise or we run out of gas or the nukes go off). It was well attended, with between 80 and 100 people showing up. I had a blast with both the teaching portion and the Q&A that followed. I got a lot of feedback for an article that I want to write sometime in the near future.

This year, I’m going to be teaching on Disney films and what they teach us about being an adult. I’ll be going through some recent and classic films and explore both the helpful messages (friends are important), and the less so (getting married at 16 is always a good idea). We will look at some modern markers of adulthood and see how Disney reinforces or subverts those markers.

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On a related note, I’m excited that the voice actors of Belle, Ariel, and Pocahontas will be at the Expo this year, so there will be plenty of Disney love to go around.

This panel will be in the Palomino Room D at 7:00PM on Friday, April 27th. If you are going to be at the Expo on Friday evening, come check out some great Disney discussion! If you aren’t, then buy a ticket anyways and come hang out!

I’m also very excited to screen Star of Wonder in front of a public audience. We got great feedback from the church when it was screened there just before Christmas, but this will be the first time the film is being shown to the general public. I think the Steampunk-Christmas adventure will go over well, but having never been to one of the Expo screenings, I don’t have any idea what to expect.

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Star of Wonder will be screened in the Quarter Horse room (right next to the Palomino rooms) at 1:00PM on Friday, April 27th. Again, if you’d like to see the film on a bigger screen than your computer, come join us for a fun adventure!

If you can’t make it to the screening, the film can also be seen here.

I’m quite excited for the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo this year. I have some people I want to connect with, some art to buy, and some geekiness to celebrate. If you’re going to attend, please let me know. I would love to share an overpriced Coke with you and chat about whatever nerdiness is your cup of tea (mine is often tea itself, but that’s for another post).

I hope you are all surviving this extended winter (if your local weather is anything like mine) and having a great week.

*Edit – the date and time of the Screening has been changed from the original post*

Blessings

Worship Language: Enthusiast

Happy Easter everyone!

Depending on how your Easter services went (if you attend church, that is), today seems like a very appropriate day to talk about our next Worship Language: the Enthusiast!

(For those just tuning in, here are the other languages we’ve covered so far: the Naturalist, the Sensate, the Traditionalist, the Ascetic, the Activist, and the Caregiver).

The Enthusiast worships God through mystery and celebration. They are looking for an experience with God that going beyond what we can explain or what makes sense. Like the name suggests, enthusiasts love God dramatically and emotionally. They might spend a lot of time with their eyes closed and hands raised while listening to worship music. They may be highly interested in the manifestations of God’s gifts, like tongues or healings or prophecy. Whatever they are doing, they are doing it with enthusiasm!

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The standard weekend service at many evangelical services starts with half an hour or so of worship music, followed by a sermon. It’s during the first half that an Enthusiast will feel closest to God. Surrounded by the bride of Christ, pouring out his or her heart to God in song, the Enthusiast seeks the face of their loving Father. While the structure of a larger church service may hinder the Enthusiast, the combination of light and sound and the collection of the body can usher this worshipper into the presence of God.

For the Enthusiast artist, allow your art into the mystery and celebration. Put on some worship music and spend time seeking God’s face before you pick up pen or brush. Create dance pieces that are uninhibited, full-body acts of praise to the King. Pick up a flag and wave it with all you’ve got. Allow God’s presence to seep into your art, and then allow your art to ooze God back into the lives of others. Perhaps you can create as part of a worship service, or have your art as part of a gallery focused on faith and worship.

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However, the Enthusiast, like the other languages, has dangers to watch out for. In seeking an experience of God, it can become easy to chase the experience and the emotion rather than the God who should be at the heart of such events. Also, while our God is mysterious in that we can never fully know Him, we must keep our eyes open while delving into the mystical. Christian mysticism has been a thing since the earliest days of the faith, but there are those who claim to be Christian mystics who really just sell a Christian-focused New Ageism.

Bottom line for Enthusiasts: give yourself fully to the wonder and mystery of our God while being careful when straying too far from what the rest of the body is doing.

If you are an Enthusiast, how do you best connect with God?

Blessings

Worship Language: Caregiver

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all having a thoughtful and inspired Holy Week. It’s Maundy Thursday (the day we remember the Last Supper) as I write this, which I find appropriate considering today’s Worship Language: The Caregiver.mother-teresa-was-she-a-saint-or-sadistic-religious-fanatic.jpg

If you read last week’s post about the Activist and thought, “That’s all well and good, but what about the people who are suffering through all of this?” then you are likely a Caregiver. Caregivers worship God by serving others. While the Activists worship by opposing the evil that oppresses the orphan and the widow, the Caregiver prefers to sit down and meet the needs of the oppressed.

Weekend services can offer the Caregiver many opportunities to interact with others for the glory of God. Volunteering as an usher or greeter or coffee pourer can be an act of worship for the Caregiver. Our church has prayer stations where congregants can ask for prayer from our group of dedicated intercessors. Hurting people come to church every week; Caregivers only need to keep an eye out.

Churches also often offer plenty of service activities outside of Sunday morning. Visiting shut-ins and offering the sacraments (if your church does that sort of thing), singing carols to the elderly, delivering baskets of food or supplies, or participating in a neighbourhood cleanup can all help the Caregiver see Jesus in the faces of those in need.

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For the Caregiver artist, I suggest you allow your art to flow out of your encounters with others. Tell the story of a working single mother. Write poetry for your grandmother to brighten her day. Take photos of a dying cancer patient that shows both their struggle and their dignity. Allow others to inspire your art, and allow your art to bless others.

Caregivers must remember, however, that ultimately, our service is to God. We can get so caught up with the people we are serving (and there are many, many people who need help), that we can forget the One who has called us to service. The pain of the world can be so great that, if we let it, it can overwhelm the hope that comes from above.

The bottom line for Caregivers: find someone to serve and look for Jesus in their eyes. 

If you are a Caregiver, how do you connect with God?

Blessings

Worship Language: Activist

Hello everyone,

Welcome to the next entry in our exploration of the Worship Languages. You better be ready to get up off your butts, because today we’re talking about The Activist!

The crusading knights of our age, Activists worship God through confronting evil and injustice.

If you find yourself railing against the fallenness of humanity and speaking up for those who are oppressed, you’re probably an Activist. If you connect deeply to God’s justice and want to see evil stopped in its tracks, you’re probably an Activist. If you just can’t sit and watch while children are trafficked and women are abused, you’re probably an Activist.

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Traditional church services are often not the place Activists feel closest to God. They need to be out on the street or in the courts fighting against the darkness. However, testimonies from parachurch organizations or updates about a church’s street-level ministries may speak deeply to the Activist. When he or she is able to see their body at work as the hands and feet of Christ, they will be inspired and fed.

Activists should be able to fight against injustice each day. If this is your Worship Language, perhaps signing up with Voice of the Martyrs or another similar organization’s newsletter can keep you informed of what’s going on in the world. From there, you can sign petitions, write letters, or perform vigilante justice at night while dressed as a bat. Your choice.

For the Activist artist, allow your passion for justice to fuel your art and allow your art to serve your fight against evil. Create documentaries that dig deeply into the painful realities of those you feel drawn to. Use photography or poetry or dance to reflect the brokenness of the world and call others into action alongside you. We don’t always have the resources to fight societal evils and structured oppression, but we can inspire those who have the resources.

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Activists need to remember, however, that our God is a God of grace as well as justice. The drive to oppose evil can cause the Activist to forget that behind each act of evil is a lost and broken person in need of Christ’s redemption. Though we can hate the evil in the world, we are never called to hate other people.

Bottom line for Activists: Fight the good fight, but remember that no person is beyond God’s redemptive plan for Creation.

If you are an Activist, how do you connect with God?

Blessings

 

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