T-4

This grainy, night-vision shot, was originally a tack sharp daytime shot of one of our actors. Maybe tomorrow I’ll include a before and after…

Every morning, I wake up a little overwhelmed by all the things that still need to happen to be ready for our departure Saturday.

It’s hard to keep up with it all. Today, in addition to madly scrambling for props, hunting costumes, learning about all the unexpected challenges we’re going to be facing next week, and creating fake surveillance photos, we added a major house plumbing overhaul to the mix.

Each day, I’m reminded in livid detail that I can’t do this. I’m insufficient to the task. Fear of failure dogs my heels a lot. Afterall, this isn’t just some tiny project that no one will ever see. I’ve been blogging, tweeting, and basically leveraging all of my relationships and communications networks to tell everyone and anyone who will listen about this thing.

I’m often tempted to work really hard. To view myself as the solution to every problem, ignoring the giftings of my teammates and taking on a bit of a savior complex. The result is that I quickly feel overwhelmed, and I start to come apart. I find myself becoming more and more paralyzed by my own inadequacy and by the overwhelming number of tasks that must be accomplished.

But there’s a solution to my problem. It’s deceptively simple, and somehow incredibly hard. See, all I have to do is trust God. Accept that I’m not the solution and lean on the only one who is. There’s peace and rest there. He is utterly trustworthy.

In 43 years of life, he’s shown me over and over again that he cares for me, and is working out all of the details of my life for my good and his glory. I just have to trust.

Today, I did. And I got so much more done. And it felt so much better. Now I just have to do it again tomorrow…

Poe Dameron is a Christian

Photo by QuaraxCC-BY-SA

Yesterday one of my friends asked me if I had time to meet with him. My answer basically reflects one of the core struggles of my life at this moment. I had a similar discussion with my daughter this morning. She seems to be following in the footsteps that I’m modeling.

There is an overwhelming number of things constantly calling for my attention. And it’s really easy for me to believe that I’m the only one that can handle them. That if I don’t react immediately, and correctly, everything will fall apart.

I often feel a bit like a protagonist in one of Greg Berlanti’s Arrowverse shows. Bad things are happening, the city — even the world — is falling apart and <the hero> is the only person who can possibly save the day. And they will do whatever it takes, sacrificing relationships, and working themselves to the bone to accomplish their mission.

If you haven’t seen the Last Jedi, I’m about to give away some significant elements of the plot. Consider yourself warned.

In the film, Poe Dameron is in a similar position. He sees himself as the only person capable of — or perhaps the only person willing to — rescue the rebel alliance from peril. But there’s a problem with his belief system. His commanding officer, Vice Admiral Holdo, tells him to stand down. She has a plan. She will take care of things. He just needs to trust her.

The trouble is, he can’t see that she’s doing anything…

This is my problem as well. I’m not trying to save the world, I’m just trying to make a movie, but I believe it’s important. God keeps telling me to trust him. He has a plan. He will take care of things. But…

If you’ve seen the movie, you know that Poe doesn’t listen. He decides that he’s the only one that can save everyone, and hatches an ill-fated plan to throw his friends into danger and eventually a lot of the people he’s trying to save are killed. It’s not clear that Holdo’s plan would necessarily have worked better. But the implication is strong.

That’s what I told my friend yesterday. I didn’t feel like I had time, but I needed to remind myself that I’m not the savior, Jesus already did that. Making time for friends and relationships is important. Talking with my daughter this morning, and sharing that her struggles are real and that I’m experiencing them as well, that’s important. Sitting down to write this blog today… also important.

I can’t make this movie single-handedly. In fact, I probably can’t make it at all. But my God, the creator of the universe, can do whatever he wants. He told me to do this. So I’m giving it my all. But I have to remember that it doesn’t depend on me. I’m not the only one who can make this work.

My title may be misleading. Poe Dameron is almost certainly not a Christian. But his struggle is a fundamental one for many believers, I think. How do we trust God when things aren’t all going well? When we feel overwhelmed? And it looks like trusting him is a recipe for failure?

I believe that God is trustworthy. Now I just have to live that belief.

Which one will I drop?

Today was one of those days. I took major steps on three major, life-altering projects that crisscross my work and personal lives but are all completely separate.

I won’t lie: I’m overwhelmed. My world is spinning out of control. A lot of it is good. Or at least has the potential to be good. But it’s also horribly scary.

The repercussions of failure in any of these projects would be really crushing.

I feel a bit like a juggler, who has just thrown one too many balls in the air and knows he can’t catch them all, but is determined to maintain the show as long as he can.

Thats how I feel, but it isn’t the reality.

I was reading a post written by a friend earlier today, and she was talking about how she can tell when her family is doing something really important because everything in their lives flies apart in this wild chaotic mess. Because there is a real enemy that wants us to fail. Not if we’re living a trivial life, focused on ourselves. But if we’re stepping out faithfully to do God’s will, we should expect profound opposition. And it will manifest in all corners.

So I feel overwhelmed. I feel like I can’t even take the next step. But the feeling is a lie. Here’s the truth:

I’m not taking the next step alone. God is with me. That isn’t a platitude. I’m not delusional. The most powerful being in the entire universe is in my corner.

All I have to do is take that next step and trust that he’s taking it with me, working all the angles, clearing the path, and making it work. He’s done it before. In fact, he’s done it every other time.

Stepping into the chaos is going to hurt. It won’t be easy. And at each step forward, I’m probably going to face all these same doubts. But I’m not alone. I’m not in charge. I’m not the one who will make it all work. I’m just going on the journey.

Whatever you’re facing, don’t face it alone. Let Jesus walk it with you.

Am I making a difference?

What if I’m that person?

For years I’ve been working in media production with the goal of having a transforming impact on the lives of people. It’s a difficult profession, especially in my obscure little corner of the internet. I don’t have analysts who tell me how effective my work is, nor do I get a lot of feedback from individuals. Over the years, I’ve heard and evaluated a lot of philosophies.

If you were having an impact, your videos would be going viral…

It all depends on what impact means. God has certainly blessed some people with massive platforms. But I don’t think that means that everyone else isn’t called. It just means we’re called to different things.

If you were having an impact, you’d hear from people all the time about how you’ve impacted their lives…

Every now and again, I do hear from someone who’s been helped by something I worked on. That’s a great feeling. But I think it’s the wrong reason to be in the business. Matthew 6 speaks about hypocrisy but also about the work that we do to be seen…

I always come back to the simple philosophy that if God told me to make it, it’s my job to make it. I don’t have to know why. I don’t need to see the impact. I just need to trust that it was for a purpose. And if God uses it in the life of just one person… then it was all worth the effort.

A number of years ago, I made this short film on my phone:

Spoilers ahead. So give it a watch (it’s only 4 min) if that will bother you.

It tells the story of Hosea and Gomer in a modern setting. At the time, I thought it had a specific market, but that never materialized. I made it on my phone specifically for a course I was scheduled to teach on mobile phone film production (I’d never done a film on mobile before). But I didn’t really feel like it had impacted my students the way I hoped.

Three years later, it still hasn’t achieved my most conservative expectation for view count. But I’m certain God told me to make it.

For a number of years now, I’ve been wrestling deeply with my relationship with God. I know he wanted to speak to me more. I know he’s trying to communicate and I’m not listening nearly as often as I should. Year after year, I struggle to overcome all of the roadblocks I throw into the relationship, and each one he destroys just gets replaced with a new one. It’s disheartening.

Why is a relationship with God so difficult?

That sounds like a deep and profound question, but the answer reveals the lie. It’s difficult because I make it so. I don’t have to struggle to hear from God. He’s here. Present. Engaged. I’m the one getting in the way. I struggle with seeing our relationship as a job. Some days I dread connecting with him… not because it’s unpleasant. It’s incredible! I dread it because to get there I have to come face to face with me.

At the end of the film, Jade confesses her belief that she will never be faithful to Sal. No matter how hard she tries to change, she’s always going to fall back into her old life as a prostitute. He tells her, “I don’t love you because you live up to my expectations, I just love you.”

She replies, “I don’t think I can accept that.”

He says, “Then I’ll love you anyway.”

I remember when we were shooting the film, one of the girls working on set exclaimed, “Who loves like this?” It’s so extravagant. It feels impossible.

Over and over again this year, God has echoed those words to me as I’ve wrestled with my own struggles. “I’ll love you anyway.”

It’s funny because when I was writing the script, I felt like her position was almost unimaginable. Who would ever turn that kind of love away? The answer is that I would and do, almost daily. Though I couldn’t see that at the time.

What if that film really was made for just one person? And what if I’m that person?

Do you ever struggle to accept God’s love? Do you ever wonder if you’re making a difference? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

 

The Symbol Hidden in Christmas

People have very different ideas about Christmas trees. I’m a traditionalist. I don’t need my tree to be fancy, but I want it to be full of memories.

The ornament in the photo isn’t on my tree because it’s snoopy. If I’m honest, as an adult, Snoopy isn’t my favorite. He seems self-obsessed and completely ignores Charlie Brown’s pain. I think the best thing about dogs is their unconditional love and devotion. So a dog that lacks both of those things seems like a total failure to me.

But I haven’t always felt that way. When I got this ornament, I’d never read a Peanuts cartoon or seen a Charlie Brown movie. Snoopy was a cute, cartoon dog. Dogs were great. Cartoons were great. My older brother had a Snoopy doll with a red cape and SS emblazoned on his chest. Snoopy was a superhero. And how could I — the son of an Air Force officer — not admire Snoopy’s helmet, goggles, and fluttering scarf as he flew his Sopwith Camel? Snoopy was amazing.

That isn’t what this ornament represents, though. This ornament is on the tree because of the inscription:

My mom’s handwriting, “Cub Den 6, 1978.” I wasn’t old enough to be a Cub Scout in 1978, but my brothers were, and my mom was the den mother. One of my earliest memories is doing a craft with her at one of the meetings. This ornament is a reminder to me of that memory, of the other ornaments she picked out and carefully inscribed in the years that followed, even of the regular letters she wrote me in college. This tiny, little, painted piece of wood is a symbol of my mother’s love.

To me, that gets at the heart of Christmas. It’s easy to get distracted. We could talk about all the pagan traditions rolled into our celebration, Santa, rampant materialism… but we give gifts as a reminder, a symbol of the love of God.

John 1 opens the Christmas narrative symbolically:

In the beginning was the Word

He calls us all the way back to the creation of everything — the very beginning. The Word is an especially important symbol because of the way creation occurs. Genesis 1 tells us again and again that God created through the spoken word. The phrase “and God said” occurs 9 times, and in each case, God is speaking some aspect of our world into being… and that’s not even the only form. There are several other phrases used to describe God’s creation power manifest in words.

and the Word was with God

From the first, the Word was a part of creation. Together with God.

and the Word was God

But not only together, but a part of God and the Word are one.

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Lest there be any confusion here, John is explicitly clear about the importance of the Word. Nothing was made without the Word.

Continuing to mimic the creation account, the passage goes on to talk about the Word as light in the darkness. There’s so much going on here. He prophesies the rejection of Christ and the power of rebirth offered to all who accept him.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John makes his metaphor explicitly clear. The Word — the power that created the vastness of the universe, the infinite complexity of the human being with DNA the most technologically advanced storage mechanism ever imagined in every single cell — became flesh and dwelt among us. Can you imagine that?

Let’s pretend for a moment. Gal Gadot or Chris Hemsworth shows up for Christmas dinner tonight. Realistic? Why not? It’s fairly unimaginable because they’re big stars, so far outside our orbit that them taking an interest in us, being a part of our lives is almost unfathomable.

In that context look back at what John says. The power behind the creation of the entire universe became human to live with us. You and me. Tonight. Right now. There’s more to the story as we head toward Easter, but… just dwell here with me for a moment. It’s incredible. That’s what all of these gifts symbolize. The greatest gift that ever was.

It’s easy to miss in all the noise, just like you’d almost never notice that one tiny ornament on our tree. But it’s the whole point. Don’t miss it. Dig in. Embrace the unbelievable gift. Because it isn’t over. He still wants to know you. To live with you. Right now.

Merry Christmas!