This is my first post on the fresh face of my blog! I do like the new look. It's also feels more streamlined to have it incorporated into my main website.
Some things, like this one, change by our own choosing. We end chapters in favor of a brighter prospect, and put in the effort necessary to make the transition. Other changes come by the will of another, some for good and some for ill, and we then "recalculate" our route to best get back on track toward our ultimate goal, though perhaps by a different road. Still more change is brought simply by passage of time--this steady ticking of chronological progression that brings us to forks and bridges in our life paths. By one impetus or another, and sometimes combinations of these, change does come.
Change is exhilarating. Change is frustrating. Change is beautifully inevitable. I myself often experience a convoluted reaction, leaving me dancing between a swirl of leaves, their cherished colors fading, and the bare branches of unseen promise.
I learn I must die to live.
Like a hermit crab searching for a new shell because the old no longer fits, or a snake shedding its skin to reveal the new, so I must embrace the vulnerability of leaving behind the past to live Today in the place God has me. I find myself grieving sometimes over a loss, forgetting that "it came to pass", and what is yet in store has its own wonderfulness. It is not wrong to remember, but when the remembering bleeds into a habit of discontent, it is evidence of my focus having turned horribly inward. If the past was hurtful, remember God's grace to move on. If the chapter closing was beautiful, smile because it happened, and trust for more beauty among life's ashes. Because it is there. Oh, it is there!
Do not scorn the unfolding of the fresh rose in favor of fragrant dried petals. Should I not choose to relish the daily discovery of the new gifts God has given? Rejoice in the sure promise of those to come? I want to live in thankfulness for simply being a part of His story.
He is the master of great story, and the end is already foretold. If a chapter ends in suspense or leaves characters (even me!) in a position of difficulty, surely it will be resolved!
We can rest in the knowledge that this next page will draw us ever nearer to the glorious finish line. Will the last chapter leave us hanging? I don't know; but I've heard it on good authority that there is a sequel....
So times change. Circumstances change. We change. And always the old gives way to new, and everything seems different now. Good different? That's partly up to us. Every day there are new choices, and the paths we take lead to the next choices. Don't let what is past keep you from the right choice for Today!
Yes, I am an actress. Yet this is real life. Are these not the roles we "live" for? Complex, heartbreakingly real characters. People who encounter both obstacles and opportunities, sorrow and joy, pain and healing. These show us that there is something, Someone, greater than ourselves or our own personal drama.
I am grateful to be a sketching of His grace.
We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us....We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed....Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4)
Nope, I didn't take this. It's, uh, random, I guess. But I think it's pretty!
Late nights are the perfect timing for lame puns. Enter the current post title.... But then, I've been handling a lot of late nights lately. Not abnormally late, mind you. But when even somewhat late becomes normal, is that truly the new normal? In which case I don't suppose it would count as "late" after all. (See what I mean?)
On a more serious note, let me explain my most recent, if brief, abandonment of the dear blog, and a potential outcome that may result of, how shall I say this—a regular occurrence of late nights. Read: more and steady film work this year. In fact, I'm already working on my second feature of 2013, and have two more in the works!
To not drop off the face of blog-world altogether, in the absence of saner rhyme and reason, you may expect to see randomness from me about the intricacies of my trade/s...from random locations...at random intervals.
But, at least you'll know I'm still alive.
Painful, Confusing, and Inconvenient
The first snow of the year has fallen, and, so far, has stayed. The brilliant whiteness adds to seasonal cheer and travel hazards. Love it or hate it, winter is here!
Cold, yet cozy. Beautiful, yet dangerous. Fun...and annoying. The beauty may even prickle to the touch.
Metaphor for life?
Most of us have picked a favorite season out of the year, if only to have an answer when asked. Each have their pros and cons, and our selfish psyche picks which ones to remember and wishes away the rest. But as there is a "reason for the season" of Christmas (which approaches with astonishing pace!), there is likewise a purpose for each season we encounter in our lives.
We know that seasons change, but we do not always have the time or the inclination to prepare for them. Sometimes the change seems to come without warning....and not all the seasons are welcome. While there may be the occasional Indian summer of unexpected happy adventures, more often it seems that the interruption is of a sinister nature: accidents, sickness, unemployment, heartbreak, or the death of a loved one. What do you do with that?
Perhaps the most troubling question is: WHY? Why did this happen? (or not happen...) Why did this happen to me? Why did this happen now? Why shouldn't I give up now? Why doesn't it just go away? While those questions may have answers, maybe that's the wrong sort of question for us to be asking at first. Maybe the essence of Why is a distraction, to keep us sitting at the base of the hurdle in our way, analyzing the structure and philosophizing about the placement on the track instead of jumping or climbing over to continue the race.
We mean well, of course. If we know Why, then we know what to do about it, right? We would know how to prevent it from happening again, and eventually have a problem-free life. Right?
Wrong: "...in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
I have several friends who were/are involved in debate clubs growing up. Something they have learned is that if you let your opponent frame the questions for you, or fall into a default mode, you lose the argument. All right, fine. So what questions could we be asking instead? Well, here are some that I use for target practice when I'm "trouble shooting." :-)
What is the trouble/s? It is said that identifying the problem is the first step to dealing with it. While not imperative for initial action, understanding the issue is certainly necessary to achieve a long-term resolution of it. And have you noticed that troubles like to travel in company? When I'm feeling overwhelmed, it really helps me to write down a list of all the variables trying to stress me out, so that the nebulous mass doesn't keep churning in the back (or front) or my mind. Then I talk the list over with God.
Whom does this affect? Something I have found is that it helps to shift the focus from myself to others. Obviously this is affecting me personally, but while I might feel alone, I'm usually not. Even seemingly isolated troubles often have ripples into other people's lives. What can I do to ease their pain and better understand their burden?
Who am I fighting against? Regardless of who or what I think caused the problem, I need to recognize who the enemy really is: Satan. The devil will use whatever he can to distract me and trick me into putting my energy into warring against anything else. But although the symptoms vary with each case, it's hard to go wrong with targeting him as the ultimate perpetrator.
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. ~ Ephesians 6:11-12
How has God shown himself strong in the past? I remind myself that God is greater than my trouble/enemy. I read the Bible and find story upon true story of how God has shown his power and grace in strong, effective ways. I search out modern-day testimonies from friends or even strangers that relate to my situation. I review the specific faithfulness and goodness of God in my personal history. When I can't remember certain events well, I try to find someone else who was there that can help me recall it better. It also helps to write down answered prayers in a journal to look back at.
How do I fight? Instead of reacting in fear, doubt, hate, worry, griping, or other such destructive manner, I strive to respond with the opposite. These are some tactics in my arsenal:
How can I glorify God through this? There comes a point when how we respond to hardship contributes to answering the Why. When we submit our lives to the Lord Jesus, God works in our lives to bring good out of even the things that Satan meant to destroy us (Romans 8:28). We can partner in this process by keeping our eyes open for opportunities to give glory to God along the way.
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." ~ John 9:3
As you may have guessed, this is majorly a distillation of what I am learning from my recent life struggles: nursing my sister when she was suffering from a recurring high fever, dealing with a nasty rash on my own skin, resisting depression after the high of a long film shoot, ongoing car trouble, paying unexpected bills, and being there for friends in a hard place. It's been a hard fall.
But God has brought us through as victors, not victims! God has healed us and we experienced a recovery much faster than normal. I've been receiving unexpected gifts and funds that have covered all the expenses, and now have a wonderfully functional vehicle. And despite my many imperfections and inexperience, he has somehow used me to help others through some rough spots at the same time. I am in awe of what he has done—and is still doing!
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
....All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, 15-18
Yes, life can be very painful, and often confusing. No, there doesn't seem to be a shortage of inconvenient circumstances cropping up from the infamous land of Nowhere with the unnerving speed of Suddenly.
But who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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 8:35-39
I'm (Still) Waiting . . . .
People sometimes tell me how strong I am. But I don't feel strong. Whatever strength is there, it surely isn't mine. I guess that would be scriptural:
For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:25-27
I have been called. Called to live my life in love and joy and peace and patience and faith and kindness and obedience. Called to devote my energies and thoughts and words and actions as a living sacrifice of adoration to the one true God. Called to a steadfast surrender to the astounding Grace that makes it at all possible.
Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. ~ Psalm 119:35
All well and good to be willing to obey, but what if we are unsure of the path to take? What constitutes obedience in a particular instance? It is said that the devil is in the details. Perhaps, but my God is Lord over both the details and the bigger picture, so I'm in the best of hands.
This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts; he made water flow for them from the rock; he split the rock and water gushed out. ~ Isaiah 48:17, 21
He will teach me, direct me, lead me in the way I should go. But so often I'm like a little kid: "Are we there yet?" and five minutes later "How much LONGer?!!"
In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.
~ Psalm 5:3
As I was growing up my family would sometimes take an entire summer and visit friends and family all across the States. I grew used to lengthy drives and learned to use the time spent in the van productively. Those who were able might decide to nap some in order to arrive with more energy. Reading, studying, talking with parents and siblings, singing songs, playing travel games, folding origami, tatting, crocheting, solving puzzles—there were countless activities available to occupy us (besides the ever-tempting snack-box). Have I so quickly forgotten how to be content as a passenger?
Humph. But at least on THOSE trips I knew what to expect! Oh, really? What about traffic delays, adverse weather conditions, construction detours—and my still developing sense of time passage itself? Is this really so different? Many of us are still children with respect to interacting with heaven's timetable.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. ~ Psalm 130:5-6
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
~ Lamentations 3:22-26
A dear friend reminded me yesterday that I am not the only one having to employ patience here. God is being patient, too. Not just patient with me (which he is, and I am SO thankful!), but everything else going on that makes things take longer than they might otherwise. God is excited for me to glimpse the next adventure, thrilled to take me there and share my delight in what he has so graciously prepared.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. ~ Ephesians 2:10
He is infinitely more eager than I, and infinitely more patient. Anticipation is helpful. Impatience and anger over unmet expectations are not. Do we joyfully trust our Father that the good things he has prepared for us will also come in his beautiful time?
I confess that after publishing my last post all about waiting, part of me indulged in the thought that the package I was waiting for (speaking figuratively) would now "magically" appear. Another part of me suspected that there was still much to learn about this fascinating facet of life called "waiting." The former part hoped that the latter part was being unnecessarily pessimistic. I chuckle inside now at my psychological game. Who was I kidding? It is when our own strength runs out that we discover the true strength that comes from depending on God alone.
God enjoys spending time with me—me spending time with him. Yes, he will be with me, holding my hand as I walk through the door when that time comes. I even think I know which door that is, though not fully what lies behind it. It hasn't opened yet, though I have knocked several times. Well, that doesn't mean I can't praise God in the hallway!
Let's break out the car songs . . . . ;-)
Which of these answers would be the hardest for you to hear? If you're like me, you would say the third. The why of a yes or no isn't as tough to deal with as the "how long?!" of a wait. But so often that's exactly where I find myself: waiting. And it's easy to get discouraged if I keep staring into the dense fog obscuring what's ahead.
I like how Corrie Ten Boom expressed the futility of it. She said: "Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear....Never fear to trust an unknown future to a known God."
We are exhorted in scripture to live by faith (2 Cor. 5:7) in light of a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). This is not an empty suggestion, but a vital expression of a life surrendered to Christ. In a culture drowning in the "easier and faster is better" philosophy it can be a constant struggle to maintain joy and peace in the waiting seasons. Yet I am convinced that being patient is not sitting around moping, wishing, sighing for something I'm not sure of.
Patience is faith that endures.
It endures the difficulty of known obstacles, the uncertainty of fluctuating variables, the frustration of invisible progress, and the temptation to get depressed with the slow, lingering passage of Time.
And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end,
so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
~ Hebrews 6:11-12
Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord. ~ Psalm 27:14
Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. ~ Isaiah 40:31
But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. ~ Romans 8:25
When I find myself growing restless or impatient, here is how I take stock:
Let's take a brief example. If I am expecting a call that would mean a trip somewhere, I can already start packing my bag. But what if the call doesn't come, or it turns out the trip is unnecessary? Well, then I unpack the bag! That wasn't so hard, now, was it? And yes, I have "been there, done that." :)
Keeping busy by being productive while I'm waiting helps me to maintain a proper perspective even as I prepare for when the season of waiting comes to an end. And it does! When the answer is "Wait" it is not for an indefinite period of dangling in limbo. Remember, God is always faithful to his promises:
For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay. ~ Habakkuk 2:3
So for all you fellow "waiters" out there, my prayer for you is that:
...you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. ~ Colossians 1:9b-12
Savoring The Season
Last week we wrapped principal photography on a movie entitled Christmas Grace, produced by Bright Horizon Pictures and Crystal Creek Media.
Doing winter scenes in summertime highlighted for me another application of being "prepared in season and out of season." Aside from accepting the physical discomfort of warm clothing in warm weather, there is a certain mental preparation to embrace the switch-up instead of rebelling against it.
Seasonal confusion is not exclusive to the film industry. I had plenty of practice growing up in adapting to different situations, many times without much advance notice. I was also blessed with a large family going through it all with me, modeling and training flexibility, patience, and joy under stress. And recently, God is leading me to an greater appreciation of seasons, and the importance of living and trusting Today.
God is with us in the storms that roll in and whip the hair in our face until we can't see. God is with us when the fruit that we thought should be ripe is still green with the slightest streaks of color showing. God is with us when the leaves of our dreams start to grow on branches that were bare for months and years.
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens..." ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1
Here is my current version:
There is a time to travel and a time to stay home,
a time to pack and a time to unpack,
a time to junk a car and a time to buy one,
a time to stay awake driving and a time to stop and rest,
a time to cry and a time to laugh,
a time to grieve and a time to twirl around...
A time to memorize and a time to improvise,
a time to submit an audition and a time to wait for a verdict,
a time to wear make-up and a time to wash it off,
a time to be "talent" and a time to help as crew,
a time to dress a set and a time to tear it down,
a time to be outdoors and a time to stay out of the sun...
A time to sleep in and a time to get up early,
a time to plan ahead and a time to be spontaneous,
a time to embrace and a time to step back,
a time to socialize and a time to be alone,
a time to keep and a time to give away,
a time to call and a time to let the other call first...
A time to be stubborn and a time to relent,
a time to be serious and a time to be goofy,
a time to hold up bravely and a time to let down,
a time to be silent and a time to share,
a time to remember and a time to forget,
a time to forgive and a time to be forgiven.
All of these seasons I have roller-coastered through in the last month, and/or I am riding them out now. Opportunities to remember the "secret" have abounded. Every moment presents a choice to live fully, joyfully. In spite of scenes that seem out of order, in spite of emotions that threaten to homestead in the suffocating prairie of Worry, in spite of plans made and unmade, choosing to live THIS day that the Lord has made, and be glad in it!
No matter what the season, there is a purpose for it. And no matter how the seasons may change, or how slowly or quickly according to our minds:
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." ~ Hebrews 13:8
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?"
~ Romans 8:28, 31-32
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." ~ Matthew 6:33-34
"Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning." ~ Daniel 2:20-21
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." ~ 1 Peter 5:6-10
If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:13-21
Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
~ Ephesians 6:19-20
I grew up the daughter of Christ ambassadors. I grew up learning how to be an ambassador myself, yearning to give my life in service of the One who calls.
Call me he did! Out of "my country and my father's household" to a place that he "would show me" (Genesis 12). Now I live the life of a nomad, settling here for a season, moving there for another, and yet another brief sojourn somewhere else, as God leads. Just last week I was affectionately referred to as a vagabond (a wanderer without a permanent home, who moves from place to place).
At times I wonder if there is a "promised land" season for me in this life, one of "permanent residency," or if it will be a perpetual cycle of arriving, serving, and forging deep friendships—only to have to move on again. This keen awareness of pilgrim status can be as unnerving as it is exciting, if I let it.
How to rejoice in the Lord's beckoning when friends' tears burden the heart? How to comfort when I am grieving alongside them? I am at a loss. So I rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15); and I am weak, yet He is strong. I know this. I have leaned and cried on His shoulder many times before, and He wipes away my tears, helps me smile again, both inside and outside.
Ultimately, I am not even a citizen of earth, but of heaven. This world is NOT my home! Why then do I long for a space to call my own? The promise remains: He has "gone to prepare a place for" me (John 14:3)! That I may be where he is, and see him face to face.
That's the hard part about not being with someone—the lack of face to face time. Technology lessens the pain of separation with live-time contact through phone, Skype, chat, instant messaging, and so on. But these interactions, blessings though they can be, are but seeing "through a glass, darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12).
I guess that's why there's the idea of being ambassadors in the first place. Jesus was the "exact representation" of God (Hebrews 1:3). He helped us know what God was really like. He came to earth to have some face time. Now we are his witnesses:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.~ 1 John 1:1-4
Being an ambassador is more than living in a foreign location. Representation goes much deeper than geographical presence. It entails an awareness of delegated reputation and responsibility, along with a mindset and lifestyle of submission to the commissioning authority. In this case, that authority is God.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ~ Galatians 2:20
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. ~ Romans 6:4-7, 10-13
In the words of William R. Wallace: "Every man dies—not every man really lives."
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. ~ Romans 8:5-6
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. ....For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I...have become a servant.
~ Colossians 1:9-14, 19-23
Unrelenting focus. Real purpose. True fulfillment. Now that's a life worth living!
It began as a typical playground squabble. "Yes." "No!" "Yes!" "No!" "Yes!" "NO!" "Yes, yes, yes!" "No, no, NO!" "YES infinity! So there."
Boy crosses obstinate arms, chin down, narrowed eyes boring laser-holes. Girl perches sassy fingers on hips, pursed lips smirking superiority.
Enter Babysitter. That would be Me.
"Hey, guys, do you know what infinity means?"
Stubborn stares. Girl's face says it all. 'Course I know what infinity means. It means I won. Duh! Boy's voice droops in unjust defeat. "It's more than anybody can count. All at once." Leave it to a child to sum up deep truth in profoundly simple terms.
"That's absolutely right! You can't measure it. Do you know what I realized the other day about infinity? If you add five thousand to infinity, it's still infinity. And if you take AWAY ten million? It's still infinity!"
There is bonding in the mesmerizing struggle between cynicism and wonder. Is this for real? Forgotten is the petty disagreement. Earthly things pass away in gazing at transcending realities.
"God's like that. He's Forever."
Giggles erase anger, and we move inside. "When was God born?"
"God has always been there, and always will be. That's called 'eternal.' But—he was born. Do you remember what the angel told Mary to name him?"
Understanding dawns. "Jesus?"
"Yes. Jesus was born when God, who is eternal, like infinity-forever, chose to come into our world as a man."
Glances. "You mean a baby...."
"Were you a baby once?"
Boy-eyes and Girl-eyes dart to baby photos framed on the wall and echo the smiles of their former selves.
"Just like you didn't stay a baby, Jesus didn't stay a baby. He grew up."
Girl-face counts floorboards. "But he died. So he wasn't forever."
"He did die; he died for us. But he didn't stay dead any more than he stayed a baby! Remember about infinity? How even if we take a lot away—even if we try to subtract ten million YEARS—it's still infinity? Jesus was God, and he had so much Forever-Life inside that he couldn't stay dead. He is still forever alive right now, and always will be." Leave it to words spilling before conscious thought to frame forever-truth in finite syllables. I'm preaching to myself as much as to these child-size eternal souls before me.
Hush hovers. Eternity is a large bite for growing minds to chew on. And my mind grows too.
Energy quivers, and toys call from the next room, and the kids answer the call. Their voices filter back to me all sing-songy as I follow. "In-FIN-ity! In-FIN-ity! In-FIN-ity!..." And the Seed just planted nestles deep in heart-soil to their tune. And the Seed will be watered. And it will grow roots. And it will reach for Son-light and bear its fruit. Because infinity-Seed doesn't stay dead.
The film is wrapped, and so are the Christmas gifts.
And there are other gifts. Gifts that sometimes I forget to see, appreciate, delight in. Smelling blossoms in October snow, watching the sun rise out my car window on a dawn well-cracked, and hearing faint strains of teasing laughter float from the kitchen. Small gifts that point to the Great Gift—breathing bundle of Love swaddled and worshiped and sacrificed—the gracious, glorious God-Gift sung about across millennia proclaiming I AM among us.
Christmas: celebrating Christ Jesus, our Messiah. We celebrate Christ come to man, Power-Word wrapped in earth-skin. (John 1) We celebrate Christ the chosen Lamb, all most good and pure and innocent atoning for sin-cost beyond our repair. (John 1:29) We celebrate Christ in us, rapturous, holy mystery, the very hope of glory. (Col. 1:27) And it is right that we rejoice!
And there are other days. Days that sometimes I forget to stop and wonder, revel in, celebrate.
To fully celebrate HIM.
There are blessings every day for the counting, gifts of wonder to unwrap, give thanks for. Cold hands prickling, thawing by air of firelight, leftovers warming twice with memories, and sore muscles promising strength on the morrow. And again I say: Rejoice! ...For indeed, the Lord is near. (Phil. 4:4-5) Behold, NOW is the day of salvation. (2 Cor. 6:2) And day after day, while it is yet Today (Heb. 3:12-13), I need the encouragement, the warning, to leave my heart soft to the touch of heaven's grace, my eyes wide open to God-glory now, my fingertips feeling the edges of planet-paper to fold—yes, even rip it back to reveal the depth of his goodness!
I long to see with G-D vision. To look through God's glasses and reel from the absence of mortal myopia. To behold his Glory, his Grace, and his Goodness face to face, and live deeply in the reality of those dimensions. How I see will change how I live. And I see dimly now, know dimly now, but as I look for and gaze on his reflections around me, I am transformed from the inside out. (1 Cor. 13:12; 2 Cor. 3:18) I want to eye with heaven's measure, and prove grace to myself and others. (Rom. 12:2) Because clear sight is the difference between a light-filled life and a midnight existence. (Luke 11:34-35)
Unwrapping these other-day, every-day, holy-day gifts is a treasure hunt. My resolution? Find real Treasure, and give my heart to it. (Matt. 6:21) Even if--especially if—I find it in swaddling clothes, bound in common-place wrapping. God with us. God with me. God in me and around me and wrapping me in his arms of heaven-born, down-to-earth love.
What will I dare to unwrap today?
Many Are Called . . . .
When I arrived back in VA after my six-week jaunt in TX, I plunged directly into work on a new feature film: WRITERS' BLOCK (working title).
It is the inaugural film of Advent's new Associates Film Program, and my brother is the producer. (Yay, go David! :D) It's a unique project, combining a $20,000 budget, 10-day shooting schedule, 1940s story setting, and professional talent. That last part is where I come in. I am the Casting Director.
This is not my first time serving in this area, having worked as a full time casting assistant for six months last year on the production of ALONE YET NOT ALONE. The entire experience was intensely educational for me. Not only was I learning the creative aspects of identifying who could fit in what role, and how to evaluate auditions, but also the business skills for the negotiations, paperwork, and the proper way to interact with the different sides of the situation...be it the actors, the director and producers, the wardrobe department, etc.
I learned that casting a film is an exercise in patience and persistence. Which is a good thing, because these qualities are like muscle tone: if you don't use 'em, you lose 'em. They work as a team. Patience is like the extension, and persistence the contraction of the muscle. And when you "stretch" often with prayer and thankfulness, it helps keep peace of mind and not get "sore" (stressed out).
I was asked to share on this subject at Advent's 3-Day Film Workshop this year. No, not exercise! Casting. After much deliberation and distilling of material, I presented an overview of the casting endeavor, parsing it into six phases of action: Prepare, Promote, Parade, Process, Pick, and Paperwork.
Here's the basic breakdown:
Preparation entails first identifying your casting goals, then inventorying your means to accomplish them, and thirdly creating the infrastructure to support the workflow effectively. How many roles do you have to fill, and how flexible or not are the character profiles? What level of talent will the budget allow? How much time to you have to complete casting? Will you be able to pull in actors from across the country, or do you need to stick to local talent pools? Are live open calls a practical method, or would it be more streamlined to ask for online audition submissions? What is the plan for callbacks? The answers to these questions will have a direct impact on how you proceed.
Promotion means getting the word out that you want actors to submit for the movie. Casting notices can go on actors database websites, forums, social networks, get sent to acting teachers or talent agencies, local theatre groups, church drama teams, etc (all depending on the reach of the production). Personal contact may be made with certain actors whom you have in mind already as a good option for a role. From there, word of mouth is a powerful force. The key is to be clear on your desires and expectations for each role, accurate in your description of the project, and provide a ready course of action for talent submissions.
Now comes the Parade! Just like it sounds: a train of talent streaming through, be it live or via online video, or maybe even both. If you are conducting live auditions, be sure to do "screen-tests" by recording the audition on camera. Stream the feed directly into a monitor, and watch the screen, not the actor. I repeat: watch the screen, not the actor. Label the video clips and file them for review. There will likely be requests to submit after casting has "closed." It's up to you, but if they want to spend the time putting together an audition, with the understanding that chances are slim, it can't hurt to have it on file for future projects.
Processing is closely linked to the previous phase, because the notes you take (on paper and/or mentally) of each performance inform the "score" that actor receives and determines whether they make it to the next round of auditions. I use color codes, as it makes it easy to see at a glance how the game is going. Red, orange, yellow, green, and blue, with greens and blues getting a callback. During callbacks is when we can spend more time working with the actor on the scene/s and evaluate their understanding of the character, how easy they are to collaborate with, and whether they can take direction well.
Picking is the part that most people think of when they hear the word "casting." It isn't as simple as pointing to a headshot and proclaiming: "I want them!" Once a casting decision is "made," the casting director must contact the desired talent through their agent or manager (if applicable) and present the offer. If schedule conflicts can be taken care of, travel and lodging accommodations agreed to, compensation negotiated satisfactorily, and other various concerns addressed, then the deal can go on to the next step. If an agreement cannot be reached, the decision-makers must return to the list of runners-up and select an alternate choice. All the above times the number of roles in play, and usually simultaneously in sequence, as the casting deadline steadily approaches!
Though the last phase is not as glamorous, it is necessary.
Paperwork, rarely someone's favorite word, is in the casting context like an arrow pointing to the parking lot after an arduous road trip. But you still have to "park": deal memos must be negotiated, drafted, sent, and signed to seal the transaction (sigh of relief!). Sizes are then requested (if not before) to give the wardrobe department the time needed to procure or construct the costumes, and travel and housing arrangements are made in accordance with the agreed-upon terms. Volunteer actors are not exempt from this phase. They must still complete a legal release form for the production to use their likeness in the film.
That's a summary of what has been keeping me busy for the last month. Yes, many are called.... but that is only the beginning. Stay tuned! Next week I hope to be able to announce some of our finalized WRITERS' BLOCK cast. :-)