Ever Watched Something Come Back To Life?

I was remembering the Blue Like Jazz movie resurrection story the other day, I’m still blown away that we pulled it all off.

  • Donald Miller writes a great book called Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality.  It gets pretty popular among 20/30-somethings for how honest and personable Miller’s writing style is.  I would highly recommend you read it if you haven’t already!
  • Steve Taylor approaches Miller to make a movie out of Blue Like Jazz.  They plan, plot, and find investors for it to happen.
  • The day before pre-production, an investor backs out.  Miller announces on his blog that the movie is seemingly dead for now.
  • A band of fans got together and decided that this wasn’t going to stop this movie from happening.  We’d heard about it, read about it, and now we were going to save it.  The Blue Like Jazz Kickstarter was born, can you spot me in the video?
  • Ten days later the Kickstarter campaign passes its $125k minimum to fund the movie.  We did it.  Blue Like Jazz was to be the first major release American movie to be crowd sourced, and I, along with quite a few others, was now an executive producer with my name in the credits!  The campaign continued to raise money the next 20 days which helped afford better production.  Taylor and Miller were stunned at how quickly this happened and got back to work on it immediately.
  • The movie was finally released in April 2012 and it was awesome.

It was an amazing experience watching something we cared about come back to life after it had been declared dead.  I couple things I learned from this adventure:

  1. If you care about something enough, try to make it happen!  A few of us got over 3,000 people to join in and raise $125k.
  2. Institutions, precepts, and ‘The Man’ don’t have to be accepted blindly.  If people want to see something change, they should(and can) step up and change it themselves.
  3. Christianity continues to be ever relevant to our culture.

Two More of My Favorite Christmas Songs

Since I had two posts about Christmas music, I felt I needed to close it out with a third and final one.  I have two songs this time!  This first song finishes the loose narrative my last two posts kinda-sorta-connected together on: 1) Israel(and us) craves for Emmanuel to come, 2) Emmanuel did come, and 3) because of this, everything has changed.

In Like A Lion(Always Winter) is also by Relient K and is about Narnia’s ill weather.  I think that it was supposed to be on the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe movie soundtrack.  If it wasn’t then I really think it should have been…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksDBJIpqV1k&w=420&h=315]

Personally, I love winter.  I love the colder weather.  I enjoy the rain(for the most part) or snow when visiting the mountains.  I enjoy Pumpkin Spice Lattes.  I really enjoy bundling up and reading a book by the fire or window during the rain.  But, like most things, usually near the end of it am ready for winter to end and spring to show through.  Narnia(prior to Lucy Pevensie stumbling through the wardrobe) has been suffering a one hundred year long winter but never Christmas.  Some of the animals living in Narnia did not know what spring or a Christmas was.  It was a foreign concept to them.  Something wasn’t right.  Note that winter is not bad or evil.  Winter is just one part of the cycle that comes then goes and is just as important as summer, but something had abused winter’s purpose.

And then Aslan returns and sets the world right.  The green grass returns, the leaves begin to grow, Narnia is returning to as it should be.  As it was intended to be.

That is what Jesus’ mission was, to facilitate the restoration of His creation.  Throughout His life we were shown what this meant.  What truly living as God’s creation looks like.  Christmas is such an important event because of what happened afterwards.  If nothing happened after Christmas, if nothing changed, or if Aslan returned but the witch and her winter continued, there is no reason to celebrate.  With Jesus’ death we were allowed passage back to connect with God, this was the answer to Israel’s cries of O Come O Come Emmanuel.

 

I’m sorry if you’re tired of Relient K(not sorry), but they wrote a really good Christmas album.  This last song is entitled Merry Christmas, Here’s To Many More.  I’m not going to write too much about this one, I think the lyrics and pretty straight forward.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IE0s2cGVF10&w=420&h=315]

This last year hasn’t been the easiest for me.  A lot of changes, some ups, more downs, even more plateaus, and a whole lot of lets-just-get-through-this-Kevin.  When I sing I made it through the year and I did not even collapse, gotta say ‘Thank God for that’, I really mean it.  So here I am at Christmas, I made it!  Every year I think we all look back and think if we handled that we can handle anything, but it really sticks with you after a rough one.  I know I could not have gotten through this year without God shining through such great friends or family in my life(if you’re reading this then you probably fall under one of these).  He has provided me safe thoughts when I was alone, brilliant friends to hangout with, and a family to take care of me.  And He has promised me that He won’t leave.

So, from me to you, Merry Christmas and here’s to many more.

My Favorite Not-so-classic Christmas Song

I’m not 100% sure on the difference between Classic and NonClassic Christmas songs, but I know that O Come O Come Emmanuel is a Classic and I Celebrate The Day is not.  Nevertheless, it is one of my favorite Christmas songs.

Not much to stay about this song upfront, it is by Relient K and it is essentially a stream of thoughts concerning the first Christmas.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsPFNY4Z5t0&w=420&h=315]

The song isn’t very deep, but I think it gets two things across;

  1. Many of the things that happened that first Christmas are a giant mystery.  I also wonder sometimes when Jesus knew of the gravity of what his birth meant.  Was it something He found out as He grew up?  Was something intrinsically within Him?  Or did He have a fully developed mine capable of understanding it all the moment His eyes opened?  I don’t know, these are things that seem like they can’t make any sense when something is fully God and man.  But what really matters is that Jesus was born.  And that is big news.  So big it changed this world forever.
  2. This is the reason we celebrate Christmas.  We celebrate the day that Jesus was born because it was the start of something.  It was the start of what Israel was begging for back in Assyria.

Emmanuel had come.  He had finally come!  And with Him here, since He had come as it was promised, we know what comes next.  Jesus’ birth was the beginning of our salvation.  Easter is where it all goes down, but Christmas is where it all started.  So I celebrate that day.

My Favorite Classic Christmas Song

It is that time of year again, Christmas music time!  I’m quite particular about listening to Christmas music throughout the year.  Every now and then I’ll listen to a Christmas song if it comes up on iTunes, but the closer it gets to December the more likely I am to skip it because it isn’t time yet.  As we all know, the correct time it is acceptable for Christmas music to start playing is anytime after Thanksgiving, and I always hold out until then.  I usually listen throughout December, past Christmas, and on till about the 7th of January.  There isn’t really another season with its own theme music(the recent attempt at a thanksgiving song doesn’t count), and all of the songs just make this time of year that little bit more special.

My favorite classic Christmas song is one by the name of O Come O Come Emmanuel.  A brief history: the song is translated from an older Ecclesiastical Latin text called Veni, veni, Emmanuel, written sometime between the 8th and 12th century, which was based upon the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14.

14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel(meaning God with us).

At this time, the nation of Israel was currently held captive by Assyria(I think) wondering how they could have come to this.  God’s chosen people had been beaten and overtaken.  This is not how it was supposed to be.  How will Israel escape its current setting and how can it possible get better?  It really is a depressing time, which I think sets the mood for the song.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Docmt1_MZVo?rel=0]

Its fairly short, the lyrics follow a very simple and similar structure, its a bit repetitive at times, but it is a song full of longing.

Israel knows of the existence of what they yearn for, but He is nowhere to be found.  They, and we, are in an agony that currently nothing on earth can satisfy.  Every verse is literally the begging for something greater to come and end their suffering; free us from being enslaved, lead us to the age to come, come back to us Lord.  The song never arrives to the time when Emmanuel does come.  Israel doesn’t get saved before the music ends.  Instead the verses all end with the hope that God will be with us someday and we are to rejoice in that.

Perhaps that is why I like it, because at its core it isn’t necessarily a Christmas song.  It is a song about us in the present day, still struggling in the same places as Israel way back in the Old Testament.

Today we are awaiting the very same Jesus to come and redeem us.

How Should We Deal With Loud and Hurtful People?

Has Christianity effectively been ruined for others by Christians not following many of Christ’s teachings them(our)selves but brutally attacking others for doing the same?  I understand that there are many Christians who don’t do this, and that’s great.  But I think the problem is that the Christians that do purposely seek attention while doing it(in their mind they think it is a good thing…I guess).  Should we be seeking attention and disown these actions in response?

I feel like our actions/speech should be much harsher for Christians doing that rather than for someone breaking Christ’s example.

Love is for Others

A while ago someone married to a paraplegic for 16 years was doing an AskMeAnything and got asked the question “How’s the sex life?”  No doubt the person who asked was trying to be humorous, but the man gave an answer anyway.

Somehow I knew this was going to be the first question…I’m not gonna lie. Sex is one of the big issues. I wish I was a better man, and could simply ignore that side of myself, but I’m not. I get as frustrated as anyone else, and working through that is difficult.

What followed was one of the best interactions I have seen concerning the difference of what real love is and what much of our society thinks it is, someone else followed up and pressed the issue further;

Have you ever considered or had a discussion with your wife about making the physical aspect of your relationship open? You both have needs, and I respect your patience and efforts to be a good husband. However, I feel that on a level of need you may benefit from having an agreement with your wife about a sexually open relationship while maintaining an otherwise monogamous one.

This suggestion hurts my soul every time I read it.  I do not know if this person genuinely believed this idea was a good one or he was just wondering out loud what the man thought about it.  What it really says, is “love should be about you getting everything you want and if you are missing anything then you should go get it.”  Sure, redefine the way a monogamous relationship works to fulfill your needs.  You deserve it.  You’re entitled to it.

The married man answered;

I’ve had others ask this question before, but lets be serious here.

My wife already deals with feelings of inadequacy because of the things she can’t provide for me physically. She knows I love her anyway, but she can’t help feeling like she’s somehow less than a “real” wife.

Were I to go elsewhere for sex, romping around with some able-bodied lady, even if it was done with her knowledge and nominal permission, any sense of security that she has in me, in us, would be gone. That kind of damage is irreparable.

An “open relationship” would signify only that my physical needs are more important than her emotional ones. And that just isn’t true.

Beautiful.  This man gets it.

Yes I know, sex is not love.  I think that love is greater than sex, but they are connected and I think that is another way of looking at what is being misrepresented here.  When this man opens himself to questions about his marriage and someone asks him about sex, he doesn’t try to disconnect the two like the second questioner does because the married man knows they are very much related.  He knows asking him “How’s the sex life?” is part of asking him “How’s the marriage life?”.  Look back, his answer would probably be very similar if the question was changed.  The man understands that to go outside of his marriage for sex, or for anything, would render his marriage pointless.  Whatever benefits he would receive from outside his marriage are worth nothing to him if his marriage or wife suffers.

I believe that our biggest need is love, but love is a funny thing because in order to do it correctly one must put another’s needs before their own.  And that is so hard to do sometimes.  Being a selfish 22 year old, my innate desire is not to put another’s wants or needs before my own.  My brain says that the most efficient way to enjoy the benefits of life is to have all my needs met without doing any work.  But because I love her, I make any of her needs more important than all of mine.  Well, I try to.  I fail a lot, but that is another story.  The point is we cannot fulfill our own need for love, we must love something beyond ourselves if we want it to be real.

One last person made a snide comment;

So it’s essentially a one-way deal, where she gets here psychological needs met, and you don’t. Got it. But then, I guess you made that decision when you got married. Oh well.

The man responded;

Not really, no. It is called love. It is letting the needs of someone else supersced your own. I’m rather sorry you feel the way you do. You’re missing out in the long run.

 

Blue Like Jazz; A Review

I’ll post my thoughts on being a small part of the process it took for Blue Like Jazz to become a movie later.  For now here is just a little of what I thought about the movie.

Blue Like Jazz finds a way to talk about spirituality in a relevant way to our culture.  This is big.  It isn’t preachy, cheesy, and it doesn’t judge.  It is witty, intellectual, and offers, what I think is, a sincere look at faith and what it looks like.  It follows a college freshmen’s existential struggle through life as he explores what Christianity is, what it means to others, and what it means to him.  While some movies try to explain life’s hardships, Jazz stands out because it offers the idea that maybe life is messy because life is messy and we can’t simply pray or follow 4 easy steps to make the conflict of life go away.  With a great deal of influence from his new found friends, consisting of a lesbian, civil disobeyer, and the college pope, Don begins to piece together what life is all about and where his faith belongs(if at all).  Something as miraculous as life and the human experience deserves to be struggled with and tried first hand.  There is no easy right or terribly wrong answer and Jazz doesn’t try to give you one since that is something you need to find for yourself.  Very few movies are brave enough to bring up spiritual struggles like this in a well balanced discussion that believers and nonbelievers can both enjoy.

The difference between Blue Like Jazz and other Christian-genre films is Jazz never turns you away for not believing or acting a certain way, but instead apologizes if you were ever turned away in the first place and offers to take you out for a drink.

It isn’t the best film of the decade, or even the year.  But it gets across what so many other movies have failed to in an entertaining and worthwhile way–Christianity can be(and is!) relevant in our culture.

Go see it!  If you don’t like it at all I will pay you back.

Kevin Wilkinson : Associate Producer

Easter 2012

For this year’s Easter post I’ll leave you with a quotation from a recent book I read.

The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.

― N.T. WrightSurprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

My previous Easter posts if you’re interested.

Don’t Try to Appear Right

A couple of years ago I was playing the game Cranium with some friends.  It was my turn to get my teammate to guess my humdinger(click here if you don’t know what that means).  I picked up the card, it was a song I knew I should know and I was very embarrassed that I couldn’t remember how it went.  So I did the next best thing and hummed a different song by the same artist and explained what my teammate should be guessing was a very related popular song.  In the end he did guess it and I was relieved that I didn’t lose us a turn for my brain’s incompetence, but the rest of our group found it funny that I couldn’t remember or hum the Star Wars main title theme.  I got more embarrassed so I decided to do something.  I started to make up explain the fact that it was actually much harder to remember the opening theme because it isn’t used anywhere else in the movie, because the Imperial March is much more memorable, because people usually talk through the opening sequence anyways, etc.  I tried to explain that people should think its difficult to remember one of the most iconic movie openings in the history of film.  It was a huge lie and I was stupid for thinking I made myself seem smarter because of it.  I had a choice to laugh it off, shrug my shoulders and remember how to properly hum the song in the future but instead I desperately tried to show that I was ‘right’.  I made the wrong choice.

Why trying to appear right all the time is lame:

  1. Its fake and you know it.  What good is it to appear right when you know you were wrong?
  2. Its fake and they know it.  If others can blatantly see you trying to appear right all the time they will lose respect for you.
  3. You will seem arrogant to others.

You can never be right all the time.  Don’t let this get you down and don’t try to fight it!  Instead, embrace the fact that you can’t be right 100% of the time, and you don’t need to be!  Start to recognize when you are wrong and use it as an opportunity to learn for next time.

Why learning is cool:

  1. You learn something new that you didn’t before.
  2. It is an important skill to have; if you can’t learn anything then you aren’t going to go very far in life.
  3. People will respect you more when you learn something from them, or when they learn something from you.

If you are ever faced with this choice I encourage you to learn instead of trying to appear right.  I’ve been trying this and its amazing how much more you learn when you aren’t wasting energy trying to prove how much you already know.

Love Wins: Other Thoughts

What I think of what other people think of Love Wins

Honestly, I can’t see any good reason to get too upset about this book.  A pastor wrote a book on what he thinks about spirituality, salvation, heaven, and hell.  I’m sure Bell believes that he is right(why else would he believe it), but I don’t think Bell believes that his opinions are 100% correct.  But remember, this is just a collection of a man’s thoughts.  A man.  A human being affected by our depraved nature.  Something in there is screwed up somewhere.  So don’t get bent out of shape if you absolutely disagree with something in Love Wins, its normal to have different opinions on grey areas.

And why are there grey areas about theology?  Why shouldn’t we think that what we believe is 100% correct?  Because, if we know everything about God then we have God figured out.  If we have all the answers, what do we need God for?  One of the questions I get asked a lot by atheists or agnostics is “How can you hold onto your faith when you have so many questions about salvation, theology, and God himself?”  I do have many questions that I can’t answer.  There will always be questions and grey areas and, quite frankly, I think its worse to claim/believe/lie to yourself that you have them all figured out.  Some things we can know for sure(what is 1+1?), some other things we cannot know(If God is 100% loving then why is my friend dying from cancer?), or know if we ever will know.  So why pretend?  Why say “HEY I HAVE THE ANSWER AND YOU ARE WRONG IF YOU THINK DIFFERENTLY!”  Lets be real about it.  We can discuss what we think about it and get good conversations going.  We might even learn something new!

But there will always be questions.  Sometimes we can answer them, sometimes we can’t answer them yet, and sometimes we never will be able to answer them.  God is bigger than us.  He operates at a higher dimension and we cannot comprehend how He works.  Personally, this is one of my favorite attributes of God; Him being beyond me.  There is always ways to fall in love with Him again.  And you can’t love something, or someone, after you’ve figured it out; the appeal is gone.

One of the most beautiful things I have heard regarding this idea was from a thread on reddit.

I do not claim to hold the truth. I claim that the Truth has gotten ahold of me, and I am merely doing my best not to lose sight of it.

Anther thing, I covered this above but I want to stress this again just like Bell did, “nothing in this book hasn’t been taught, suggested, or celebrated by many before me  I haven’t come up with a radical new teaching that’s any kind of departure from what’s been said an untold number of times”(XXX).  This is true.  Everything in this book has been said, taught, and believed before.  Inclusivism?  CS Lewis.  Multiple chances for Salvation?  Origen Adamantius.  Heaven isn’t the end destination?  NT Wright.  God loves everyone?  The Bible.

That’s more or less my attitude towards what the majority of what other people think.

What most people who have a problem with Bell or Love Wins will say is, “Bell says that people don’t need to know Jesus to be saved”  Well…what Bell actually says is, “sometimes people who have never heard about Christ and then who hear about Christ say “That’s who we’ve been looking for. Or that’s who we’ve been worshiping. You gave us his name.” Missionaries experience these stories.  How common is this?  It’s probably pretty rare, but I believe the missionaries are right and that those people were and are experiencing the true Christ.  How can they know the true Christ before ever hearing about Him?  “What [Jesus] doesn’t say is how, or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through him. He doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him. He simply claims that whatever God is doing in the world to know and redeem and love and and restore the world is happening through him” (154).  Many, many, many people have a problem with this.  I don’t really.  As I explained it in part one, I am an inclusivist.

The Big Question

The big question Bell asks, “Does God get what God wants in the end?”  Its kind of a loaded question really.  Does God get his entire creation redeemed from our corruption and back in harmony with Him?  If not, can you still consider Him God if he can’t get what he wants?  If God is all powerful why aren’t we all saved if that is His desire?  The better question, in my opinion, “Can God get what God wants in the end?”  Can it happen at all?  If God is all powerful it should be able to be possible, right?  Well…here inlies the title of the book I think, Love Wins.  In the end, we get what we want.  No we aren’t more powerful than God, but He did give us a little thing called free will.  He gave us an ability called love, which is a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than the forces of nature(I had to sneak in a Harry Potter quote in here somewhere).  Our ability to love or not to love God is our choice to choose or reject him.  And that is what ultimately wins, our choice.  Our love.

 

If you want to read some other thoughts on Love Wins then check out my friend’s take on it http://jobandthestorm.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/love-wins/

 

Check out my other thoughts on Love Wins