Confessions of a Tired Christian

It’s hard to be a Christian in today’s atmosphere.

As a young Christian, I am being yelled at from so many different sides within and without Christendom. Christ has grown nearer to me, but the Church appears to be more divisive and divided than it has been in my life.

Daily, there are opposites voicing their opinions loudly at me:

True Christians support Trump and true Christians don’t support Trump.

True Christians support refugees and true Christians don’t support refugees.

True Christians believe the accusations of rape victims and true Christians weigh the evidence.

True Christians are educated and true Christians only need the Holy Spirit.

True Christians read and write poetry and draw and paint and true Christians are working hard and don’t have time for such none-sense.

True Christians daily read their Bible and memorize Scripture and true Christians don’t have to as long they are loving God and loving their neighbor.

True Christians pray for their enemies and Christians don’t have enemies.

True Christians do _____________ and true Christians don’t _____________ .

True Christians think _____________ and true Christians don’t think  _____________ .

True Christians feel _____________ and true Christians wouldn’t feel _____________ .

And often, those blanks are the same. And I hate these kinds of statements.

There are moments when I doubt what I believe because those who are wiser, smarter, closer to God than me say the opposite while those who are wiser, smarter, closer to God than me say the same. The demonization of the opposition is a caricature that seems to seep into our subconscious and bloom into prejudice and isolationism.

I’m not complaining – but I am tired. And frustrated. And often times lost.

But it’s in this lostness where great things have been happening: my love for my wife had deepened and grown; my affection and concern for my children has deepened and grown; my hunger for peace and justice is balancing with my hunger for grace and empathy; my patience with those I disagree with has expanded and I delight in good, thorough conversations; I enjoy work more than ever before; but above all, God has grown in my heart and mind, and I love him all the more because of his love for me.

Lostness provides me with great clarity on what I think is important. So, while I strive to obey God and serve my neighbor, I shouldn’t be surprised at the contradictions in Christianity, though growing weary in them I believe is acceptable.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there are others like me who struggle to hear Gods still small voice; in Scripture, in His Spirit, in the silence.

However, I am reminded from his Word:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8: 38-39

Filmmaking Films for 2018-2019

Each year, I give my filmmaking students a list of films.

They have to choose one film, watch it a minimum of three times, which, to be honest, is not always enough to gain an appreciation of the craft. However, with all the other homework they have, and given that they have 16 weeks to complete the assignment (a 5 – 10 page paper covering a given topic provided with the film), three time is plenty.

The three view requirement has the following benefits and outcomes:

  1. first viewing is always hard to create objective (and subjective) appreciation for the film since you are taking everything in – the acting, the camera movement, the music, the atmosphere, etc;
  2. with the second viewing, the shine has worn off, the honeymoon is over, and now, you watch it with pen and paper and begin to analyze and dissect;
  3. the third, and often final viewing, you are able to even better observe your given topic in the film and how is effects the theme, message, and craft.

Just for you, here is the list of films for my class for the 2018-2019 school year with their given topic. Most are classics, masterpieces, and game changers, but some are newer films that are included to help stretch my students to teach modern film with a critical eye. The list is alphabetical. I hope you check some out.

400 Blows, The; 1959; Not Rated; 99 min; French w/English Subtitles; Black and White; DVD There are multiple track shots used in this film: discuss how the use of this particular shot get us into the character’s psyche?
Babette’s Feast; 1987; G; 104 min; Danish, French, Swedish w/English Subtitles; Color; DVD Discuss how the is food framed and what this tells the viewer about its importance/unimportance.
Beauty & the Beast; 1946; Not Rated; 93 min; French w/English subtitles; Black & White; BluRay Discuss the three most beautiful moments in the film: how they are framed, edited, music, set, acting, etc.
Black, Stallion, The; 1979; G; 118 min; English; Color; DVD Discuss why the silence in the film works better to create tension, rather than loud sounds effects.
Casablanca; 1942; PG; 102 min; English; Color; DVD Discuss the character arc of Rick Blaine, and how it is framed.
Chimes at Midnight; 1966; Not Rated; 116 min; English; Black and White; DVD Discuss how the use of hand held camera shots helps add a sense of realism to the viewer’s experience.
Citizen Kane; 1941; Approved; 119 min; English; Black and White; DVD Discuss the transitions to flashbacks in this film: how and why do they work?
City Lights; 1931; Passed; 86 min; English title cards; Black and White; BluRay/DVD Discus how the physical comedy is framed: does it make it funnier?
Cool Hand Luke; 1976; GP; 126 min.; English; Color; DVD Luke is presented as a Messiah figure – how are his “miracles” presented? Include his “death.”
Duelist, The; 1977; PG; 100 min; English; Color; BluRay Discuss the use of ‘zoom’ lens movement in the film: what does it do/doesn’t do?
Fantastic Mr. Fox; 2009; PG; 87 min.; English; Color; BluRay/DVD The film is presented as a storybook: how does this presentation affect the theme?
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; 2004; PB; 142 min; English; Color; DVD Discuss how the theme of time presented (framed/sound/etc)
High and Low; 1963; Not Rated; 143 min; Japanese w/English Subtitles; Black/White and Color; DVD Discuss the use of high and low angles in the film: when they are used and what do they accomplish
Ikiru; 1952; Not Rated; 143 min; Japanese w/English Subtitles; Black and White; DVD Discuss the director’s lack of camera movement and how his editing creates ‘movement’ when the camera is still
In the Mood for Love; 2000; PG; 98 min; Cantonese w/English Subtitles; Color; BluRay Discuss how the use of color assists the narrative of the film.
Ivan’s Childhood; 1962; Not Rated; 95 min; Russian w/English Subtitles; Black and White; DVD Discuss when the camera is handheld: why these scenes and not others?
Leopard, The; 1963; PG; 185 min.; Italian w/English Subtitles; Color; DVD Choose a character: how does their costuming reveal their character arc throughout out the film?
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World; 2003; PG-13; 138 min; English; Color; DVD The majority of the film takes place on the ocean. Discuss some possible challenges and solutions to filming the aquatic scenes.
Millennium Actress; 2002; PG; 87 min; English; Color; DVD Some of the editing in this animated feature would be impossible for a live action film. Discuss how this is true.
Passion of Joan of Arc, The; 1928; Not Rated; 114 min; Silent with English title cards; Black & White; DVD Explain how the use of close ups in the film helps the audience feel what the characters feel.
Playtime; 1967; Not Rated; 115 min; French and English; Color; DVD What is the theme of  this film?
Rashomon; 1950; Not Rated; 88 min; Japanese w/English Subtitles; Black and White; DVD The film is told from several perspectives. Discuss how are the different perspectives framed.
Samourai, Le; 1967; PG; 105 min; French w/English Subtitles; Color; DVD Discuss how violence is framed and edited in this film.
Rebecca; 1940; Not Rated; 130 min; English; Black & White; DVD Discuss the use of the elements present in the film and what they represent.
Secret of Kells, The; 2009; Not Rated; 75 min; English; Color; DVD Discuss how symmetry serves to create beauty and discomfort in the viewer’s experience.
Seventh Seal, The; 1957; Not Rated; 97 min; Swedish w/English Subtitles; Black and White; BluRay Discuss the presentation of Death in this film.
Sorcerer; 1977; PG; 121 min; English; Color; BluRay Discuss how the sound design and sound editing creates the tense and chaotic atmosphere that pervades through the film.
Spirit of the Beehive, The; 1973; Unrated; Spanish w/English Subtitles; Color; DVD Discuss how the child’s imagination is presented.
Stagecoach; 1939; Not Rated; English; Black and White; DVD Discuss how the landscape emphasizes the theme of the film.
Summer Wars; 2009; PG; 114 min; English; Color; DVD Discuss  and compare the camera movement and framing in the “real world” vs “Oz.’
Third Man, The; 1949; Not Rated; 104 min; English; Black and White; DVD Discuss the use of the dutch angel and its effectiveness.
Tree of Life, The; 2011; PG-13; 139 min; English; Color; BluRay/DVD Discuss how cross cutting affects the story telling in the film.
Tokyo Story; 1953; Not Rated; 136 min; Japanese w/English Subtitles; Black and White; BluRay/DVD Discuss the presence of the 180 degree rule in this film/ Does the breaking of the rule become distracting or engaging. Explain.
Vampyr; 1932; Not Rated; 73 min; Silent; Black and White; DVD Chose three practical effects and how they add to the unsettling atmosphere of the film.

Which films have you seen/want to see?


The Importance of Asking Questions

It’s unfortunate that the art of conversation is being lost during this age of digital anonymity. Of this art, one brush stroke stands out to me above the rest as being more sorely missed. When talking to any one, it is astounding the power of a good question.

In my apologetics class, there is a day where the student can only ask questions, and never provide answers. For every statement they make, they loose a point. It is possible to fail this day. I can ask questions and answer, but my students can only ask questions.

It is a hard and difficult day for two reasons: 1) They cannot ask one word questions, i.e. What? Why? And?, and 2) they’re not entirely sure how to ask good questions.

I think this is a recurring problem in our society for several reasons.

  1. Asking questions comes across as being ignorant on a subject, and in this informational age, if you don’t know something, you are seen as out of touch, and worse, uninformed.
  2. Questions provide a person the opportunity to be humble, an admittance that one does not know a thing. This humility is countercultural for us, though not as Christians, and is seen as weakness.
  3. Being teachable and having a desire to learn is uncommon. More often then not, more people want to know what is right and what to do that is right. Asking “Why” is not as acceptable as it once was (was it, though?) because it is seen as questioning authority or being judgmental.
  4. Asking questions reveals what you consider to be important. You ask what you want to know about, what you care about, what matters to you. Asking a question is revealing. It’s a little scary. The phrase, “there’s no such thing as a bad question,” is a lie. Yes there are. There are plenty of bad questions. But sometimes, we only know how to ask bad questions because we’re not thinking of how to ask good ones.

There are other reasons, but I think this is sufficient.

What would constitute as a good question then?

“How was your day” is a great opener. However, after the person responds with “good,” “fine,” “ok,” this is where you have an opportunity for a good question: “what made your day good/fine/ok?” Now, you are asking for a reason to an answer, you are taking the first plunge into the dark waters of conversation – an act that is so foreign to some that they may very well sigh and think for a moment, a moment of honest reflection! And as you listen, you may very well have an opportunity to respond, to provide them with a chance to ask you a question.

This is the art of conversation: a dance of words where you must pay attention to what is said and not said, of tone, body language, emotion, fluctuation, and other things that ultimately boils down to one idea: love your neighbor as yourself.

Do you listen to ask good questions? If not, you’re not fully loving your neighbor.

Good questions reveal who you love. Jesus asked good questions – and his love is the greatest the word has ever known. Let us reflect that same compassion by paying attention to those around us and asking questions that reveal our love for God and our neighbor.

Who knows? A persons conversion could all be attributed to you asking “How are you today?”

The Graying of the Light (Reflection of Berlin & the Reformation)

This was an article written for IPHC’s magazine, Encourage. It was then published on Bishop Doug Beacham’s Blog as a guest article.

It was an odd thing to watch the graying of the light as we descended between the ever-darkening layers of clouds. What was once a bright and clear flight had now become ash and soot-colored as we touched down in the paradoxical city of Berlin–a city that boldly tries to outlive the hauntingly grievous recent past by splattering modern fonts and slogans over aged buildings. And yet, it was the further past that brought us presently to this place–a celebration of protesting, of reforming, of such paradigm altering hermeneutics that the waves of that seismic shift are still experienced in every corner of Christendom. However, there was one melancholy thought, planted by a minister, that rested on my mind throughout the days. For many, this would not have bothered them. Unfortunately, I was unable to shrug this conflicting phrase from my conscience as we drove through this water colored city: Hitler quoted Luther.

Now, it is essential to recognize that Luther would neither condone nor accept Hitler’s genocidal philosophies and actions toward and against the Jewish people. Luther desired the Jews find salvation in Christ, whom Luther believed, they did not kill (a vehement counterculture belief in his time). In contrast, Hitler desired the Jewish people be exterminated. In Luther’s vigor, his works did not call for the eradication of the Jews; Hitler’s actions were founded in eradication. Never has Germany possessed such starkly dissimilar figures.

It seemed unfathomable that both Luther, whose bust would mantle upon the pantheon of Christendom’s most invaluable theologians and thinkers, and Hitler, whose venomously infectious ideology of dominance and supremacy which still lingers today, would share a common mental thread: that the Jewish people are not really people. It was here the minister’s words reverberated through the corridors of my heavy heart: Hitler quoted Luther.

The following days were a blur of history, theology, community, and story after story of God’s great presence in the variously represented denominations in attendance at the Wittenberg Congress. IPHC leaders and my own conference’s executive council was there (in its entirety) and we mingled with Nazarenes, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and others in our branch of Christianity. We gathered to celebrate the defiance of one man, and how he, through a new doctrine, brought Christ to the masses in an accessible and personal manner. We are the children of the Reformation–and we came to rightly honor our father and mother. In this collage of denominational men and women, in spite of color, tongue, or creed, we chorally and authentically affirmed the defiantly Protestant doctrine that man is saved from his sins and their consequences by faith alone.

I pray not for the harvest; I tarry for laborers. – Dr. Timothy Hill

What does the church look like when it stops building walls? – Dr. Glenn Burris

You sow yourself into others. – Dr. Alex Mitala

Our call is not to filthiness, but to holiness. – Dr. Samson Ayokunle

Forgive us our sins, Oh God. Forgive us, we pray. – Dr. Jo Anne Lyon

We are preaching answers to questions no one is asking. – Dr. Leon Fontaine

Tribalism is the perversion of the biblical function and purpose of tribes. – Dr. Gustavo Crocker

The reading aloud of Scripture is the soundtrack to life. – Dr. Leonard Sweet

If you want to plant something that lasts for a season, plant flowers; a lifetime, trees; forever, churches!– Dr. Suliasi Kurulo

What Muslims call an abomination, Christians call our greatest joy. – Lazarus Yeghnazar

After you read a book 100 times you can immediately understand it. – Dr. Byoungho Zoh

I melted. I cried. I said that if this is God’s will, I will go. – Dr. David Sobrepena

I have not enough sole to tread through the heart of Berlin. A few days were far from enough time to drink in the culture, the tastes, the atmosphere of this odd city. The monolithic concrete remnants of the Wall grasped at pedestrians’ feet, as if blades of grass seeking nourishment under the steely branches of industry and national progress. The minimalism of the BauHaus movement, a movement that revolutionized the architectural, appliance, and art spheres of modern ascetics, continues to drive forward at an unrelenting pace. The monument to the Holocaust, a city square block of hundreds of concrete coffins systematically arranged to imitate a claustrophobic cemetery, brought me to tears as I stood in the literal and figurative shadows of one of humanity’s greatest stains. And then to Wittenberg.

The rain drowned trees, parted by a medianed asphalt path, led us to the womb of our great heritage of protestation. The Germanic countryside regularly reminded me of a casual blend of Ozarkian groves and Carolinian shrub. Moss and leaves bled across the never bare forested terrain, as we snaked amid the flat Great Woods. This was the landscape of Luther’s thoughts and words – how I wished to wander with him between the canopied heaven and soiled earth, longing to hear him speak.

Scattered lamps and headlights littered the sable silence as we meandered through shadowlands bathed in the thickening fog. The service had followed a similar evangelical pattern, with some minor revisions: an opening song (in Latin by an Asian choir), the welcome and greeting, the sermon (of which there were three), another song (A Mighty Fortress is Our God), announcements, thank yous, and then dismally through the door.

The Door. That Door. Luther’s Door.

A once wooden door replaced centuries past on firmer hinges, which now hung and swung, etched in his native tongue, Luther’s 95 Theses. The experience was humbling – I cried as I touched the foreign words. History was, at this moment, tangible under my trembling fingers. I dare not ruin the moment by trying to describe its significance to me – but I know that God heard my thankful prayer under the great shadow cast by this portal.

During the service, a new thought took root in my mind, a thought that germinated and festered as an open wound as the speakers spoke and the congregation listened. A thought that now brings comfort to me–and as we departed from not only the church, but the city, the country, and the continent, the comfort of this new thought brought peace to my heart.

Yes, Hitler had indeed quoted Luther. But did not Satan use the words of God to the Israelites in his temptation of Christ?

Original article can be found here:

DAVID LEAN: A Study in Editing

There are two types of editing: editing that you notice and editing that you don’t.

Within the editing that you notice you have people like Edgar Wright, Wes Anderson, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino (though not so much in his later films) and Akira Kurosawa.

Within the editing that you don’t notice you have people like Rian Johnson, David FIncher, Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, and Carol Reed.

Then, there’s a director in his own category, who’s editing you simultaneously notice and don’t notice, a feat that no other director can or will achieve.

David Lean.

As I have been studying him, preparing my notes and lessons for my Film Making class (we will be studying him for the first semester), never have I stopped, rewound, and rewatched so many scenes because the editing is so effortless, so surprising while at the same instant so obvious, that I can admit that I know less about editing than before I began watching him.

Editing is when you change camera angles and how you do it.

And David Lean knew just how to do it.

The repetition of the dissolve contrasting harshly with the outlandish train whistle in the station never lost its emotional impact as two almost lover dance around their flirtatious and doomed friendship.

The constant cutting on sound as Oliver is shipped from home to attic to roof to street, violently thrusts the viewer into the boy’s perspective, while paralleling his own shock and confusion as he discovers himself in so many new and strange nooks and crannies in London.

The subtle long shots in Lawrence of Arabia that, in their grand scale and epic openness, betray the quiet, angry intimacy of a man who wrestles with himself as much as he does his environment; in not cutting, the world and the pain manifest themselves more believably.

Film is a dramatized reality and it is the director’s job to make it appear real… an audience should not be conscious of technique.

– David Lean

But how did David Lean know how to direct his film with editing in mind? How did he know what sound to use, when there should be silence, when there should be a pan or a tilt, a dolly in or out, a dissolve, a smash? How? How does an artist know when to do the “right” thing?

Well, David Lean began as an editor before he was a director.

He worked hard. Honed his craft. Matured as an artist. And, dare I say, seemingly, effortlessly, left his mark in the world of cinema.

I mean, we are studying him in my film making class, after all.

So what was his great advice for editing?

“I don’t know how to edit. I do know how to feel.”

The Importance of Youth Summer Camp

“Why do we even have summer camp?”

The kid complained to me within the first hour of Teen Camp at Tiger Mountain.

My response, “So you can know you’re not alone.” Then, I went on with my ever growing list of responsibilities.

I forget the exchange.

At the end of camp, the kid comes up to me and tells me how he loves camp and that he can’t wait to come back next year.

I ask him what was his favorite part.

“I learned that God is with me always and that other kids go through the same stuff I do. So I have God and friends with me always.”

Then, I remember the exchange.

For me, camp has three goal: 1) discipleship, 2) evangelism, 3) friendships.

The gathering together for a common affection for God and each other is what we can church, or the church. Camp is just another expression of church – or, rather, it should be.

  1. From the planned lessons of the morning tracks and evening services, to the unplanned conversations deep into the night or in passing between activities, the drawing closer to God and becoming more aware of his presence and nearness to his people, is what drives me as a camp director.
  2. From the first time a kids hears about God, or maybe a correction to a wrong presentation of who God is, God is being presented a person, not an idea of a person, who is infinite in love and power and glory and compassion, who cannot love you any more than he does now and refuses to love you any less.
  3. From the meeting of new fellow believers to the catching up with old friends, campers can be reminded that heir sins, temptations, struggles, wrestlings, victories, accomplishments, growth, and maturation is not unique to them alone; everyone matters in the Kingdom and everyone is meaningful, together.

Why do we even have summer camp? Because God loves you and so do we.