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Drama is Not Cute

I am an unabashed fan of mimes, skits, plays, and human videos being done within the Church. Drama is one of my passions, and all these things being done within the walls of the Church is something I genuinely get excited about. Excited to watch it, excited to participate, excited to direct it, and excited to critique it.

I went to a talent competition this weekend, and the whole day was about drama. I took notes during the performances and tried to pick my own winners. I compare my picks with the actual winners. It helps me be a better drama coach, and it will help me prepare the kids that I will eventually work with.

I heard something yesterday that was meant to be a positive remark, but as a drama person, I took it the wrong way. I was watching the younger kids perform, and the person announcing the different people coming to the stage also tried to engage the audience. During a lull while waiting for the judges to complete their comments and calculate their scores, the announcer told us, “any pastors in the audience, this is a great way to start off the service.” I honestly can’t remember exactly what he said after that, but the gist of it was “this is cute, and you should definitely incorporate in this in your service every now and then.”

picard

Yes, a seven-year-old in a tutu jumping across the stage is cute. There’s no denying it. But the reason there is dance or drama on any given Sunday is NOT because it’s cute. Drama people don’t perform because it’s cute. We perform because there is a message. Because of an anointing or a call on our lives. We are there to worship. Our focus is not on the crowd, it should be on Jesus.

As one who has spent most of my life working on something relating to a church drama, the fact that people still think of it as just “cute” instead of an actual ministry or something that has significance upsets me.

A singer or minister doesn’t want you to walk away from what they have done remembering what kind of outfit they wore. They want to know if what they did resonated within you. If it ministered. If it did, they succeeded.

Yes, the seven-year-old will be cute. But why is the child on stage? Do they want to show off? Or do they want to do something for Jesus? If it’s the latter, encourage that servanthood mentality and foster it in any way you see fit. Give them an opportunity to perform and to grow within their church family. But don’t let it remain “cute” to the congregation. Remind them it is another avenue of ministry. Trust me, your own drama person will thank you for the distinction.

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God’s Not Dead Review

I’ve previously addressed the sad state of Christian movies. Those people who are attempting to bring a film to the general public either try to cram the entire Gospel message into an hour and a half, or just try to do too much. I was considering my feelings regarding God’s Not Dead recently, and decided to write about it.

Gods Not Dead

The Good

First off, the movie did a beautiful job showing the grace of God. As you follow the bitter reporter who gets difficult news, she starts searching for the Truth. The interview that was supposed to be an expose on “the real Christians” turned into a time of prayer for her. That was a good moment, it was real, and it definitely belonged within the plot.

The major point of the movie was the student was defending his faith (and the existence of God) before his classroom. The apologetic arguments were absolutely fantastic and are undoubtedly a great resource for any young adult who wants to defend their beliefs. There was good information, good facts, and great quotes from atheists.

There is another point of this movie that was really good, but I’ll address that in another section.

The concert to end the movie was pretty cool – with a great rendition of the movie’s title – also a popular song. There were other parts of the ending that I had issues with, but the concert was great.

The movie also did a splendid job showing that a pastor’s work is never done. Pastors can often feel discouraged and as if they are having no impact upon anyone. The film did an excellent job of showing that pastors are human, too. They have issues just like the rest of us, and they can benefit from having friends with whom they can be real with.

I will list this under the good as well, since Christian films generally pretend the rest of the world’s morals don’t exist unless they’re portraying a villain. One of the main characters was living with a man who was not her husband. This was an attempt to show the real world, and showing that they need Jesus, too. It was a brave move, and I applaud the effort. I had issues with the relationship portrayed, but I will acknowledge that the movie makers were trying to make a valid point and make this character “real.” They did a good job with that aspect, and I respect their artistic decision.

The Disjointed

I believe this falls into its own category, so I created a different section to describe it. The entire movie was pretty disjointed. I spent half an hour watching about seven different characters, waiting for them all to be connected. They were, mind you, but it was a pretty long wait to find out how the reporter and the corporate jerk were related to the woman living with the professor, and what any of that had to do with a pastor.

The plot felt crammed together. Not only do we have a student defending his faith while adjusting to college, we also have an overworked pastor who desperately needs a vacation, a girl who only wears a Muslim headpiece around her father, and a woman in a relationship who is hurting. None of it made sense for quite a while, and I as a moviegoer got impatient waiting for it all to come together.

The Bad

How I wish I could write a review of this movie and not have to detail the parts where they failed horribly. I’m pretty lenient on the reality of some plot lines, because the writers made me believe that whatever was done was possible. That did not happen in this case, so I am compelled to point out the things where the movie could have done better.

The pastor in the movie meets a friend in the airport, who we eventually learn is a missionary overseas. He’s with the pastor for a week, and all he wants to do is to go to Disney World. Stuff happens, and their plans get delayed indefinitely. The missionary friend was a great character, and a good sounding board for the pastor. However, he was never named. You never even learned where he was ministering overseas.

The evil professor was living with his girlfriend, a girl we followed for a good ten minutes without realizing who she was or why she was important to the story. We learn that she’s frustrated with the relationship, and the evil professor treats her horribly. There’s a twenty year age difference, and you find out halfway through the movie that she was once his student, and they began dating midway through that semester. The relationship between the two of them felt forced and not real. It didn’t make any sense to have this girl living with this professor, except that it showed that the professor was evil and the girl needed love.

The professor character, I know, they tried to make real. They gave him screen time, reasons behind his attitude, and showed his home life. However, he was first and foremost in the writers’ minds as the evil professor, so that is how he was portrayed in all three areas. I don’t care what I’m doing. I’m evil and I’m glad that I don’t need God. Sorry, writers, but you failed. I actually know some atheists, and they don’t give off the “I’m evil” vibe every time you’re in their company. Atheists do live by their own set of morals, they just reject the One that Christians accept the rule book came from.

Sadly, the main part of the movie also falls into list of things that the movie makers messed up.

While the apologetics shared during the meat of the movie were incredibly awesome, the movie stumbled in getting to that crucial point.

The movie begins with the student in the evil professor’s classroom, who teaches philosophy. The evil professor tells his students to write “God is dead” on a piece of paper, sign it, and pass it to the end of the row. If they all do this, they will skip a hard part of the class that most people fail.

The student we are following refuses to sign. The professor eventually challenges him to a debate before the classroom. The class will hear both sides on the God argument, and they will vote on whether or not God is dead. If the professor wins, the student automatically fails his required class.

While a great start to the movie, and a great way to show the main struggle, the movie makers missed a key point. The student had every right to go to his advisor or higher up the chain of command and explain that his religious freedoms were being violated in the classroom. The separation of church and state works two ways, and universities do their best to steer clear of trampling on student rights (the least they can do after taking all their money). Now, if the movie makers were sold on this classroom showdown, then they needed a different scene in the movie that showed the student trying to fight what was happening in the classroom. The person he talked to could have been a friend of the professor, and the issue would be dead in the water there. The student would have to defend his faith in order to pass the class.

But the movie makers ignored the reality they tried so hard to portray and went on with their premise. This made me dislike the classroom scenes (some of the best parts of the movie) because the writers missed what would have been my first move if it had been me. College professors have no right to demand anything of you that will compromise your religious beliefs. It is, perhaps, the only benefit I’ve encountered of having a separated church and state.

The Ending

I am a fan of happy endings. I got exactly what the writers were attempting to do with the ending – spreading their core message in what apparently is a standard practice in the Newsboys concert displayed. But the ending was stupid.

First, the Newsboys have heard about the college kid who defended his faith in the classroom. The movie gave no clue how they knew of that, just that it happened. Considering the climax in the classroom occurred less than a day before, it was pretty unlikely that the band would have learned of it through their channels.

Second, the band encourages the crowd to pull out their cell phones and text everyone in their contacts “God’s Not Dead.” I get they’re trying to send a message, but it wasn’t something I as a concert-goer would have done.

Then you switch back to the evil professor, who wants to reconnect with his girlfriend who has just left him over the God issue. He is running to the concert, where he knows she’ll be. The man is hit by a car. As another set of familiar faces stop and help him, they realize he’s dying and try to win him to Jesus while they wait on the ambulance.

Then the evil professor that the writers have spent so much time with that hates the very idea of God decides to abandon his stance and accept God in his dying moments. Zero believability for me. The die-hard atheist accepts the reality of God with his dying breath. Really? This is the selling point of the movie? Just after this, the girlfriend texts her ex, since she’s at the concert. Those helping the professor look at his phone just as he passes. God’s not dead.

I think the writers were trying to make it look like the professor was communicating from the other side, and telling them that he knew God wasn’t dead. It would have been a halfway decent move if they’d been establishing a connection the entire movie about those who speak from the grave. But since the writers believe what I do and know that dead people don’t speak, it was stupid and made no sense. It’s like they tried to kill the bad guy just because he deserved to die, but were afraid to let him die with his soul in danger of Hell.

The Best Part

Even with the ending that I did not enjoy, there was one part of the movie that I absolutely loved. The jerk that I previously mentioned had a sick mother with Alzheimer’s. They show a nurse giving the lady her dinner of fried chicken and mashed potatoes. The lady lights up. “I love chicken and mashed potatoes! I can’t remember the last time I had it!”

The nurse smiles and turns to the daughter. “She has it every day.”

The daughter pleads with her brother, the jerk, in a different scene, urging him to visit their mother. He says he’ll come if she can prove that their mother can remember what day it is.

The jerk does come for a visit. It’s best if you watch the clip yourself.

My final conclusion is that God’s Not Dead could have been way better. It was a good attempt, but it still needed a lot of work. It is, sadly, a standard among Christian movies that needs to change. How will we win the world through our movies if they can’t stand to watch anything we create?

Please, Christians, do better.

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The Secret Grotto

Apologies for my extra long blogging break! I have returned!

Today I’m going to borrow a bit from The Little Mermaid and talk about the Church’s stance when it comes to the arts. Trust me, there is a connection.

As you watch The Little Mermaid, you discover that Ariel loves everything from humans – a world her father has forbidden for very good reasons – they eat fish! Her life is in danger if she is around humans, and he has made a blanket ban on anything relating to humans.

Ariel, though, ignores her father’s orders. She collects human artifacts that she has found within the sea. Knowing her father’s stance on the matter, she stores them all in a secret grotto. Here she can revel in her collection without fear of being scolded, judged, or punished.

grotto

King Triton finds his daughter’s secret grotto, and he does what he thinks is best to protect his daughter from the dangers of the human world – he destroys it. Unbeknownst to him, the enemy is watching the entire showdown, and uses the explosive episode to lure Ariel away from the safety of her father. It lands her into a horrible trap, and the rest of the movie follows Ariel and her family trying to reverse it.

ariel

So, why did I just give you a rundown of a Disney classic? Because it hit me one day that the Church has done the same thing with the arts.

Art, music, dance, drama – there is a place for it within the church. They are powerful tools, and the secular world has embraced them enthusiastically. The arts tend to draw a different crowd, and the majority of them do not embrace the Church. There is unfortunately an ugly side to the arts that can be used by the enemy to draw people away from the Lord. The arts are fascinating and powerful, and can be dangerous and offensive if the artist chooses. As a result of this odd little bundle that the arts represent, the Church chose the same path that King Triton did in the movie – they kicked them out. To protect everyone, it was just best not to do that. Period.

In the years since the Church rejected the arts, it has realized that was a mistake. They have reopened the doors to the arts, set guardians to protect against the ugly side of things, and hoped for the best. But the history is still there, and it is clear that in the majority of churches across America today, that the arts are still not fully trusted. They’re welcomed at certain times of the year, and then they’re bottled back up and not mentioned again.

nativity
I happen to be an individual who has lived in the grotto. It wasn’t a secret, because I was blessed to be in a church home that welcomed my gifts and abilities. But it was still different. And it’s different for anyone who wants to do something in the arts – play a different kind of music, paint for a living, perform in community theater, or be a dancer. Those are all perfectly acceptable things, but they’re not the run-of-the-mill Sunday morning fare. And because of that, it’s either pushed to the side, ignored, or rejected. It’s sad, but true.

kids shepherds

The arts are powerful means of media that can be used to draw people to Jesus. But, first, we have to get the Church to accept that we don’t have to live in the grotto in order to please them. Not everyone will patiently wait for their turn in the Church. Some will decide to leave the safety of the Church forever because the people don’t want them. They will use their gifts wherever they can be accepted – bars, clubs, Hollywood, and Broadway. Sadly, there isn’t a lot of Jesus there.

Don’t exile your secret grotto people, Church. Embrace them, love them, and use them. If you don’t, they’ll find another audience that will. Sadly, the enemy is waiting to steal someone else away. Don’t let anyone else be drawn into an elaborate trap that could be avoided.

 

 

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Acting and Being Social

I have learned over the years that while I am not an extrovert, I can at least mingle with others if I have a script to follow. “How are you? How are your kids? Did you see that cat video?”

It is at times like this that I am thankful for my theatre background. I learned a great deal during my acting classes, mainly about my limitations as an actress. But I did learn that if I had a script, I was more confident. The script gives me direction, so once I was pointed in the proper direction, I was good.

drama masks

This is the age of social media, so I am rather grateful that I can promote my book and influence possible readers from the safety of my computer. Social media, to me, means communicating with others through writing. Imagine my delight when I discovered texting. 😉

I’m still consulting my script on this whole promote yourself to find your readers thing. I’m looking at certain lines going, “Really? Do I have to?”

I was recently given an opportunity at church to promote my book just before I did a drama. I was thrown off, since I wasn’t expecting it. I quickly gave the pertinent info, but failed to tell them what the book was about or even that it was also an ebook. Fortunately, the pastor helped me out.

I’m finding myself giving the same info to curious people about the book, so I guess I’m still writing the script that I’m supposed to be studying. Perhaps that’s why I draw a blank sometimes. However, I’m going to keep working at this script I can do my part perfectly. Thank you for your patience if I happen to stumble as I walk on stage.

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An Open Door

Just over a year ago, I attended a local church with a friend in order to meet a guy. My mom knew the pastor from the internet, and had gone to sing for his church when they did a revival. When Mama went, I tagged along. The pastor friended me on Facebook, and I went on with my life.

The pastor moved from that church to our city, and I found out (also through Facebook) that he now pastored a church where an old coworker of mine attended. Huh, I might go over one day and say hello.

It turns out the coworker had a much younger brother. The pastor became good friends with the brother, and found out that he was single. At some point, the pastor told him, “I know the perfect girl for you.” Turns out it was me. And it turns out the pastor was right, since I’m engaged to the guy I came to meet that night.

I went to the church that night in order to meet the guy I’d talked to on Facebook for two weeks. Though my friend did not return, I kept coming back on Sunday nights. I became good friends with the pastor’s family.

I’m sure you’re wondering how this relates to an open door. Well, I’m from a vein of faith where people pray over you at the altar. Sometimes, God speaks through the person praying. I’ve heard words spoken over people that were completely relevant for their situation, but the person praying had no clue of that. They were just praying what God laid on their heart.

Anyway, I started attending my boyfriend’s church on Sunday nights. Those services usually ended with an invitation to pray at the altar. Me and my boyfriend went up often.

The pastor has prayed many things over me in the past fifteen months. But the most common theme has been about an open door. I kept looking for said open door within my life, but I haven’t seen anything new…until now.

I was approached last week about a Ladies Meeting at my church. The men and women meet together about once a month. I do not attend these meetings, since they tend to fall on a day or time where it just doesn’t work for me. Anyway, out of the blue, I was approached last week about the upcoming meeting. I was not invited to attend, which is what I was expecting. I was asked to speak. About my book. I was told I could speak about whatever I wanted, but they wanted me to bring my books along, if I had any.

I got my work schedule for the week confirmed on Friday, and let the lady who asked me know that I could definitely speak. I went on with my weekend, determined to spend more time this week putting thought into what I should talk about.

Yesterday morning, I noticed something different on the bulletin board in front of our sanctuary. I stopped, unprepared for the sight that greeted me. Not only is the ladies group advertising, they’ve picked my topic. I can totally do that.

2014-10-12 12.17.08

Thanks for reading my insanely long post, guys! I’ll try to be briefer next week.

I’m toying with the idea of releasing an excerpt from the sequel. Let me know if you’re interested!

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