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Epic Theology

Finding God through the lens of an artist

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Christmas

A Little Christmas Cheer for You

I’ve spoken a bit about my work in Drama Ministry at my church. Today, I want to share with you just a piece of what we do. In the video below, we took an internet sensation, “Kid History,” (or “Kid Snippets”) and re-purposed the idea with the nativity story.

The results are pretty funny.

Check it out here:

When you’ve had a little chuckle, you can check out the other two videos in our series:

For those who are curious, the process for making these videos is a lot of fun.

  1. We begin by asking the parents of the children to read through the story. They work the kids until they can work their way through the story. At the same time, I’m coming up with questions that will prompt the kids to give us something along the lines of what we’re looking for.
  2. My filmmaker Jeremy and I then take a couple hours with each set of kids (two sets in the first two videos, three in the Christmas one) to record them telling the story, making jokes, playing around, and generally being kids. We ask our questions, get them to act out scenes, and sometimes just let them go.  In the last video, we ended up with about an hour of footage for each set of kids.
  3. After that is compiled, we note our favourite parts. Jeremy then spends a good number of hours cutting away everything we can’t use, such as adults speaking or airplanes ruining our sound, or whatnot.
  4. After all the fat is cut away, we start compiling all of the lines that we need to tell the story, and the golden bits that we just NEED to have in the video. For Christmas, this left us with about 13 minutes of footage.
  5. Then comes the heartbreaking process of cutting out a number of those NEEDS in order to get the video down to a proper time, in the most recent case, about 8 minutes.
  6. Jeremy then hands off the 8 minute video of the kids to me, and I create a script for our actors. This involves a lot of listening to a few seconds, typing it out, then listening again to make sure I’ve got it down properly. Some times, when I can’t actually figure out what the kids are saying, we have to figure it out as we film. This is where we decide which character gets to say what lines.
  7. The final script is sent out to our actors along with the audio of the kids for them to begin practicing. They will listen and read through the script a few times to make sure they know what’s expected of them.
  8. I then get to create a beautiful storyboard for the film. Sometimes, Jeremy and I will work together to make sure we have the same vision for how each scene will play out. It looks something like this.

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    Brilliant Storyboarding Skills
  9. Then we shoot! Costumes and props are collected, green screen, lights, and film equipment is set up, and food is laid out. Our adult actors show up, and we spend between 7 and 10 hours filming over the course of a Sunday afternoon-evening. Jeremy and I co-direct, and we work through our storyboard, crossing out shots as we go. For the first time, our Christmas video required a second day of shooting, but it was just one of my scenes (seriously, like 10 seconds of footage), so we didn’t need to bring everyone back in.

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    Jeremy directing our lovely shepherds Lynley and Briana
  10. Then begins the time-consuming process of editing our adult shoot into the wonderful video you see before you. Jeremy carries the heavy load here, with my input helping to guide a few times over the week. Backgrounds are chosen, colours are corrected, effects are added, and magic happens.
  11. Finally, we preview the video for staff and cast and make any final edits we deem necessary before:
  12. We show the video in church!

And that’s the process. The Christmas video took well over a month from first recording the kids to final presentation, but it was worth it.

I hope you find the videos uplifting. In the end, I think that we’ve created something entertaining that also gets the story of Jesus out there. But what do you think?

Blessings

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Advent: All You Need Is Love

This final “week” of Advent, we look to the theme of love. I thought about writing something new, but after listening to the voiceover I wrote for our Advent bumper video at church this weekend, I decided it perfectly summed up what I wanted to say about Love this Christmas.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

God loves you. Do you know that? I mean, beyond just saying so because you’re in church. Do you really know that the Good Lord, the one who created everything in the entire universe loves you so passionately that He would let His only Son die on a cross for you?

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Seems everyone these days is talking about love. But how many of them really know what the word means? If we really think about it, it’s far more than just nice feelings or affection, or being all giddy inside. It’s a deep, burning desire for someone else’s good. It’s so deep that it can cost you everything you’ve got, even your life.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13

So, when I say that God loves you enough to send down the little baby Jesus, He knew what it was going to cost. When the High Prince of Heaven came down to earth, it was because He felt a love so deep for you that He couldn’t stay on His throne.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:13

We might see hate everywhere we look today, but as we light this candle, we remember that Jesus is the ultimate symbol of the Father’s love. This light shines in the darkness, holding back the one who would try to smother us in his hate. As we celebrate Christmas this year, we stand up against the enemy of our souls and take the side of Love.

Blessings

Advent: Joy to the World

The theme for week three of Advent is Joy!

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Does joy fill your life?

I don’t mean happiness. Happiness comes and goes. We are told by our culture that we should be happy. If we have the right job, the right relationships, the right possessions, we will be happy. And for some, this may be true…for a while.

I’m talking about a deep-seated contentedness. A sense of wonder at the majesty and beauty of life, even in the hard times. When we are filled with joy, it changes everything. We may have times of unhappiness, but they never seem so dark. The end is always in sight, and we know that our endurance will only make us stronger.

Joy is deep. It’s a way of living. It’s getting up in the morning and going to work not only to make money, but to make a difference. It’s pouring into your family and friends because you know that in the long run, they are worth more than any of your possessions.

So, how do we get this joy?

That’s the question.

For me, the only real source of joy is the Spirit of God, because He is the only thing that will not fade. My family, my job, my hobbies all help and bring me much happiness, but ultimately, they do not fully satisfy. God alone will outlast my day job, my friends, and even my sense of self. So, I rest in the joy of the One, True, Good God.

With God as the foundation of my joy, I can let Him seep into the rest of my life, filling even the smallest things with meaning and potential joy increase.

Knowing that part of my call as a Christian is to love those around me allows me to open up and enjoy the company of those I work with. While the daily activities of my job do not excite me, the opportunity to see and talk with my co-workers is always a bring point.

Knowing that being a father and husband is part of my holy mission in life, I connect with my wife and kids every day and find joy in their activities, antics, and foibles. We aren’t perfect, but I love them for exactly who they all are.

Writing can be exhausting, but knowing that God uses this blog to reach others allows me to enjoy the process of writing, posting, and managing EpicTheology. You, my readers, bring me joy.

In the end, I think joy is more costly than happiness. It requires us to be open to each other and the world. We have to allow everything in our lives to affect us and have meaning. We can’t just brush off the bad and focus on the happy circumstances. Happiness can be chased with cash and free time. But, like a rainbow, it will go away and ultimately disappoint. It is only when we allow the joy of God to seep deeply into our lives and live for Him that we find something better than happiness.

Purpose.

May we all spread a little joy this week.

Blessings

Advent: Peace Be With You

Peace.

Just let that sink in for a minute.

No, really. Go, make a cup of tea and come back.

Now take a deep breath. And another one.

Close you eyes for a minute (but open them again so you can keep reading).

Peace.

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Photo Credit: Zigomar

Doesn’t that feel nice?

Or are you like millions of us in the West scrambling to balance work, family, the gym, Christmas shopping, Christmas decorating, Christmas partying…

I spent years growing up in church shaking hands with those around me and wishing them, “Peace be with you.” As a child, I had no idea what that really meant. It was more of a stylized way of saying “hello, nice to see you,” than actually wishing them to find a deep-seated peace. Yet, as I’ve grown, I’ve come to truly wish this kind of peace for people.

The second week of Advent is the week of Peace. Jesus Christ, before He was even born, was called the Prince of Peace. He came to give us peace in our daily lives, and will eventually bring peace to His entire Creation.

But what does that mean for us today? With tight schedules, traffic jams, rising debts and falling economies, peace seems almost like a myth sometimes, like we’re more likely to find a unicorn than real peace.

But that’s not what God promised.

This week, let’s take a few moments to really think about peace. Not just for ourselves, but for those around us. Can we offer peace to those we have been fighting with? Can we ease the troubles of our coworkers, friends, or family, and perhaps bring them a little peace? Can we just say “no” to one thing this week and instead spend time with the Author of peace?

I know I am a work-in-progress with this. Especially in the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve, when I’m scrambling to make sure rehearsals are booked, costumes are found, props are made, and all the little details are set in stone, I find peace to be a slippery fish to hold onto. But I’m trying. My wife and I try to spend some time each night slowing down and reconnecting. It’s not that we’re never busy, we just try to reconnect with He who offered us peace when we were far from Him.

This week, maybe you can try the same. Or, just start with a cup of tea. That usually helps.

Peace be with all of you.

Blessings

Advent: A New Hope

I was rehearsing a Christmas play last week. The play walks through the weekly themes of advent (hope, peace, joy, and love), while pointing the characters toward the real source of all of these Christmas fuzzies: Jesus Christ. I was sorely tempted to make a joke about our main character’s “new hope,” especially since the actor is a rather large Star Wars fan. I even thought about adding it into the script (being the playwright and director gives you that kind of power…mwahahaha), but my better judgement got in the way. But it has got me thinking about Hope and its place in our modern storytelling.

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Most stories, whether on film or in books, begin with the mundane. We have to establish what life is normally like before we throw our protagonists into chaos. We show the audience what life looks like before everything falls apart so that we know what our heroes are willing to give up to do the right thing. Then, everything falls apart.

I find this is kind of like our everyday life. Generally, things go fairly smoothly. We have our ups and downs, our trials, successes, failures, and close calls. But over all, life does not throw us more than we can handle.

Until it does.

Cancer, divorce, war. Terrorist attacks, millions of refugees, climate change. Prostitution, gangs, child trafficking.

Turn on the news. Or, look to your news feed. Chances are, if you took the time to emotionally invest in what’s going on in the world, you would quickly be overcome with how dark things are getting every day.

Even close to home, people are getting sick, or are dying. Or getting caught in a chain of events and choices that have suddenly sucked them under and they don’t know how they’ll ever surface again.

In short, life sometimes hands us circumstances that we are forced to confront or risk despair.

That is why we need stories with happy endings (like Star Wars). To remember that even in our darkest moments, dawn will break. We need to remember that God sent His Son so that our nightmares will end.

And they will.

During the Christmas season, we remember that Jesus came as a little baby; God’s perfect gift for all humanity. But we also prepare for His Second Coming, when everything that is bad and painful and overwhelming about this life will be washed away. There will be no more addictions, no more disappointments, no more fears. There will only be goodness and love.

So, next time you watch a cheesy action, adventure, or romance film where the hero saves the day at the last minute and everything turns out all right, just remember that you are part of a story like that. It may not feel that way sometimes, but let me give you a little spoiler:

In the end…good wins.

One candle down. Three to go. Spend some time thinking about hope this week, and how you can share it with someone who needs it desperately this time of year.

Blessings

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