Why I’m starting mPower Entertainment

My blog! I have not forgotten about you.

As always, things seem to be going in a whirlwind, but I have always been a writer and I’m convinced that I will always be, so despite all the YouTubing and film school, reading and writing are my first loves. Yes! I’ve even gotten back into reading. For leisure. Regularly.

But let’s backtrack. YouTube? I’m very very far away from having any kind of traction, but slowly, it’s growing thanks to my perhaps obnoxious and constant self-promotion on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

 

I’ll be honest, it’s only been 4 days (at the time of writing this) and all this promoting is exhausting. Added on top of that is the rush and scramble of going back to class and getting back on schedule after a 5-week faculty strike.

Unlike the rest of my recent social media activity however, the main purpose of this post isn’t to self-promote.

If I’m serious about being a YouTuber (and I am, I’ve been putting it off and finding excuses for far too long), it isn’t easy, and it takes commitment to persistent quality content from the very beginning. It’s a business after all, and you need to get the word out beyond friends and family.

That being said, just because you know it’ll be hard, doesn’t make it any easier. I know all this self-promotion is necessary, but I wasn’t a very heavy social media user to begin with (barely use Twitter, only been on IG for a year, and what’s Snapchat? Kidding, not that behind. But I don’t have it).

The repetition and scriptedness of it all, again, is necessary, but also makes me uncomfortable. Like, follow, share, subscribe. Watch, click, please, thanks. Post, promote, check analytics, modify, strategize. Wash, rinse, repeat. I’m not used to drawing so much attention to myself. But I guess I’d better.

In the spare 5-weeks of time that I’d been granted, I got a new notebook. If you’re like me, you have about 10 of them, each with a different purpose and you get a new one for a new thing before you’re even half-way through any of the others.

On that notebook, it reads, “The Best is Yet to Come.” A platitude that happens to hold a lot of meaning for me. A promise to get me through long, dry, seasons of waiting.

In my tweens when all I could think about was the day I died, the Best is yet to come. In my teens when I had no idea what career path would open up for me, the Best is yet to come. In my twenties when job security isn’t really a thing in my field, the Best is yet to come. When I’m waiting out this season of singleness, the Best is yet to come.

Except, that’s the thing. I shouldn’t be waiting out the season of singleness. It’s a gift, and an opportunity. When (or if) that season comes to an end, and I meet that guy, and enter a whole new world and level of learning and growth and sanctification and struggle — don’t I want to be able to say that I didn’t waste my single years? That I didn’t waste all the amazing free time, the freedom to go do things with or without another human.

In a Matt Chandler video where he calls out singles on idleness, he points out that while ladies pine after their man, imaginary or not, sitting there, waiting, day after day after day — there’s work to be done. There’s a harvest for the reaping. Young junior and senior high teenage girls think the older ones are so cool (even when we’re really not). And we know it’s true because we were teens a few years ago too.

Leverage that. Leverage that? Yes. And that’s why I started the YouTube channel, and why I didn’t go for it until now.

Until now, my attempts at YouTube channels really had been for self-promotion: put up my work, get attention online — and even though I want that, like I said earlier, too much attention is uncomfortable. Reaching out socially is draining at the thought of it. The motivation to continue and sustain such an endeavour just wasn’t there.

But as people keep telling me, it doesn’t sound like it, but it’s much easier long-term to do things for others than to do for yourself. Kind of like shopping — choosing a gift for a loved one is much more fun than sorting through the chaotic, mismatched sale rack at the back of Winners for a decent new top for work.

I have a junior high sister, and she’s my biggest fan. If my videos do nothing for anyone, but can make her smile and bring her a bit of encouragement when I’m away for so long; if they can make her eyes light up with that childlike wonder long after she starts growing out of it; if she can feel empowered as a bright young woman stepping into the strange realm of adolescence, the channel will have fulfilled its purpose. And if God can use my videos to do that for others her age, or anyone, really, all the glory is His.

It’s a well-known, perhaps overused theme/mission verse, but it’s nonetheless an important one to keep me grounded in my reasons for doing this, but it’s also an encouragement for others.

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Tim 4:12)

The younger generation has its flaws and drive their parents insane. For different reasons and in different contexts, we are sometimes seen as oversensitive, dependent and incapable. Whether those things are true or not, all the time or not, “I feel you, bro. I’ve been there.” And I know in those times when I needed to be told that the Best is yet to come, that I’ll want to stick around for what’s coming around the corner, a little bit of empowerment went a long way. Just a little bit of adventure every day to get me to the next.

So yes, it’s hard doing this, it’s hard getting started, it’s exhausting, it’s a battlefield, and if my audience gets bigger, all of it will only be amplified. But this was never supposed to be the easy path. This was never supposed to be born of selfish ambition. This was never supposed to be about self-promotion, and pretending people care about what I do every now and then. This is a mission, to show people how to see life as though we enjoyed it more often, because if we did, maybe we would.

Speaking of which, sorry-not-sorry plug time. If this “mission or cause” is something that interests you,¬†Kindly like, follow, share, subscribe ūüôā Audience building starts with YOU!

Facebook: @MPowerentertainmentTO

Instagram: @mpower_ent

Twitter: @mpowerTO

So to keep this up and help push myself through the hard parts, I’ve set up a few “Ground Rules” for myself at the front of my notebook, and I’d like to be kept accountable to them. Elisa, Esther, Dorothy, Mary, Angel — ūüôā love yous.

  1. So whether you eat or drink, or WHATEVER you do, do ALL for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Phil 2:13). Remember for whom and why you do this.
  2. And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today… The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent (Exodus 14:13-14). The Lord has already done the work. Work from rest, not for it.
  3. …Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (James 5:14-15). Don’t move without Him. He doesn’t need you, He’s inviting you into His work. Get over yourself.
  4. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Give thanks no matter what, have fun no matter what.

I don’t know what the future holds, I don’t know where this road or my filmmaking career will take me, but whatever it is, I look forward to it, because the Best is yet to come.

M

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The Best is yet come

It’s that time of year again — kids are groaning, keeners are cheering, parents are counting down the days left of chauffering kids to summer camps, pool parties and back to school shopping.

Yep. Back to school. Again. For almost the second decade.

For the past 4 years I haven’t had to make new friends so I’m a bit rusty and apprehensive about doing that again — and if you’re like me, “not rusty” is not anything to boast about either.

There are so many kinds of people out there with rich and complex backstories that have brought them to cross paths with you in the coming year, and for me, interacting with that is daunting and overwhelming and exhausting.

Social life? No thanks.

I exaggerate — to an extent.

It’s interesting why I find making new friends and new connections so dislikeable though, given that I know I enjoy people’s company (mostly) and that my prospective career depends on finding like minded people to collaborate with.

Not only that, but my making new friends in the past has been incredibly fruitful and the big picture that God has painted through my friendships — that He’s still painting — is truly wonderful and I haven’t been able to appreciate it until 10 years after this story had begun.

Authentic friendship and a longing for deep connection and understanding has marked my youth and childhood. In fact, it plays a large part in my testimony.

Growing up as an only child I was always in search for that best friend, that partner in crime who would be with me forever and never leave me alone.

God in His grace introduced Himself to me. Then in His abundance brought 5 wonderful girls to play with at school. A sisterhood and veritable tween clique.

When I lost my place of acquaintance with the many, I gained the mutual best friendship of one.

When I was desperate for a sister, God gave me one younger and one older.

After many years, when the one drifted away, I grieved.

But little did I know that God was placing me on new paths with people that had always been before me. People that I never thought to connect with because I had my one.

I thought I only had room for one — best means second to none after all… Right?

But as I searched and watched and waited to see who I’d cross paths with next… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… Soon there were so many whose friendships were precious to me.

And so everything that I sought after and lost was returned to me ten fold — true to His promise.

For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:32-33

In Him are all things found. It’s not “if I want blank, I’ll do what God says and He’ll give it to me.”

When we yearn and search for Him, we are already quenched and THEN in addition to that, everything else tends to follow and fall perfectly into place.

Instead it’s “I am enough to satisfy your need.” He is enough. He is more than enough.

In those moments of pain and grief and soul shattering loneliness — I was never alone. Not only was He true to His Word that He would never leave nor forsake me, he showed it by placing me with my closest friends when I needed a community most, when I didn’t know they would become my closest friends — when at first they were little more than strangers and kind acquaintances.

It took me years to see and realize it. I thought I had that “did we just become best friends??” moment with each of them but looking back… It was a long time coming.

So making new friends at a new place, away from the last new friends at the last new place? Bring it on.

When you think your heart is full, or can only hold enough for one best, or only a few, God knows how to open new spaces and fill even those to an overflowing brim.

Best doesn’t always mean one. Best simply means of exceptional quality and you can never have enough of that.

Indeed, the best is yet come.

#feelingthankful #feelingblessed

MM EL EM AZ DL EL — we’ll all be spread across the province and the country soon, but distance has never stopped us before ‚ô•

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I Have This Hope – Cover

This song.

This hope. How quickly we forget it and take it for granted. He is with us, and we have hope, He is the one who takes our sins away and gives us grace. That should blow our minds every single day.

I had it on repeat all day today so I decided to practice some rough harmonies and slap ’em together.

GET TENTH AVENUE NORTH’S NEW ALBUM ‘FOLLOWERS’ – pre-orders now available.

 

Paris 01: Lets get down to business

Cue the intro to “Be a man” !

The day has come. Training is over and we fly for the city of light tomorrow!?

We have a tight team and already God has shown us how good He is and how much He knows us and loves us. We haven’t even left and there are already a few cool stories, a number of examples of “coincidental”, “that was lucky”, “guess that worked itself out” moments. AKA God-ordained, super cool, crisis averted moments.

From “happening” to have extra essential things to cover exactly what was forgotten, to “happening” to be all musically talented with hearts for worship, to “happening” to be perfectly compatible housemates… I’m amazed.

What training has challenged me most in is making a habit of checking where my heart is at with regard to pride, my attitude towards others, especially my team mates. To not hide behind a surface version of me, but to not be afraid to be vulnerable. Amidst all the fun and the teasing, I have to be careful with my words and use them to edify and encourage also. Not only that, but to be caught in His grace if I fail and something weird and unnecessary comes out of the mouth. Also, being ready to generously offer grace to others, especially in ou varying degrees in French fluency.

What I find encouraging is that we’re all learning and for many of us, but I’ll speak only for me, there is less fear in asking what words mean or how to translate a saying. And there is no shame when gently corrected.

Our very wise directors gave us some potential points of culture shock and the most worrying is the cultural sport of invigorating discussion. Debating with rationality and rhetoric. Did I mention that most Parisians would identify themselves as atheist? Ouf, debating… not my cup of tea. Nor my glass of wine, or slice of brie, or bite of croissant. (Can you tell I’m looking forward to the food?)

And yet by God’s grace and the wise training we just went through, I’m going on this mission trip without any significant feelings of fear. I have no expectations because what God has planned is far more magnificent than anything I can imagine.

The other day I was reading Isaiah 55, and it is my prayer for Paris, that they would see the compassion of the Lord.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. …Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way,and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. ¬Ä¬úFor as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. ¬†For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace…”

Jesus is enough to satisfy, and the Gospel is enough for an answer. God in His sovereignty and the power of the Holy Spirit is stronger than our human hearts, He is mighty to save. His word is enough to water this hardened soil, and I trust that the next 5 weeks will yield fruit, even if we never see it.

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Daily bread, not weekly buffet.

My heart is so full. I don’t think I can comprehend or express how blessed I am to have the community that I have around me. Surely, this is how we were designed to be– a family of families, caring for one another, genuinely being thankful for someone’s existence, loving one another, blessing and being blessed by one another. Essentially loving one another under the unity of Christ.

I didn’t get much writing done, so the “muse” is coming out in a blog. And why shouldn’t it if that’s where my heart is overflowing right now.

It’s only Monday night (technically Tuesday morning) and I’ve already learned 3 interesting things:

  1. The folly of God is still wiser than the wisdom of men
  2. The weakness of God is still stronger than the strength of men
  3. The riddles of God are still more satisfying than the solutions of men

Perhaps the past tense “learned” is a bit premature… three things I was taught and am still learning.

I do not have all the answers, I don’t have a comeback for every argument or debate, I don’t know what is to come, or how or when, or why.

And I don’t need to.

Well how’s that for an unsatisfying answer? Right up there with “well, it depends.”

It’s taken me this long to realize it, and will continue to be a wrestling point I’m sure, but not having to know the answers, not having to be strong in my reasoning… is so freeing.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again because it’s so true… “Hallelujah we are free to struggle, we’re not struggling to be free.” (Mike Donehey).

We can fail, we can walk away from an excitable discussion unscathed by the tongues of men because we’re told that to them it’s folly. We are free to be confident in the truth. As Matt Chandler put it (roughly), if it’s true, it’s of God… we’ve got the market cornered on Truth.

And so our only task is to preach Christ, as Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians.

Bonus thing I learned this week: The Lord is my portion.

What does that even mean? Who talks like that anyway, what does that look like? I’m still unpacking it to be honest, but He is our daily bread.

He is enough for today, He is everything I need for today. He is the strength that helps me peel off the warm covers to get me out of bed, He is the joy and energy that sustains me throughout a long day, He is my companion who walks me to wherever I’m going, He is the provider who chases away worry and fear, He is the one who makes room in my busy schedule for rest and community, He is the creator who is glorified when the wisps of sparkling snow race alongside me when I look out the bus window.

Who am I that you are mindful of me? How wonderful are your works O Lord. You are my prize and my portion, my God and my deliverer, my refuge and strength, my Rock and my Redeemer. Praise be to God in the highest.

Every day is an adventure and every soul encountered has a moving and epic story worthy of the big screen, and He is moving in all of it, and He is God through all of it.

Tomorrow, next week, next month, next semester, next year, the next five, ten, twenty, fifty years… starts with today.

Not weekly buffet. Daily bread for the daily grind.

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Only We Would Leave the King of the Universe Hanging

What happens when runaway thoughts spin themselves into a hurricane inside your heart, but all you want at that moment is to go to bed?

“Spirit, can you hold these thoughts, bookmark them or something ’til morning?”

The storm only presses upon me like a firm and gentle push on the swings, adding momentum. Very well. Here I am.

In the past two weeks, I’ve experienced the same conversation several times, which I found rather curious. It went something along the lines of, “Well you have your Christianity thing, but I prefer the buddhist philosophy if I had to choose.”

I’ve heard many people express their admiration for the buddhist worldview, my own grandmother being a devout practitioner.

I’d always wondered what made it so attractive until I saw a booth on campus a few semesters ago, that encouraged¬†students to develop spirituality or oneness with the universe… but where God was optional.

One part of me said, yeah um, good luck with that. God is inviting you into true spirituality, that is, a relationship with His¬†Holy Spirit (and the Son and the Father), how can you possibly do that without Him? You can’t fist bump without a fist to bump! There have been many times when a friend would hold out their fist and I’d miss it, so to add some dramatic flair to the situation and reduce the embarrassment, they’d make a big deal about leaving them hanging. I do it by accident of course, though Freud might disagree. However,¬†we do do this on purpose to God all the time, on a daily maybe even hourly basis. He’s set up the relationship so that He contacts us, we just have to be there and be willing. Instead, we don’t just leave Him hanging, we left Him, the King of all things, high and dry!

But back to the booth. The other part of me empathized. We were made to worship, and worship we do. We are constantly searching for it. Some will worship things like money or success or approval, not in the golden calf sort of way, but in putting their identity in relationships (self is only in relation to so and so), image (I live to appear like this to the world), reputation (I am who people tell me or expect me to be) or a career (I am no one without my career and/or my salary), and so many other things. Others will worship virtue, being and doing and living according to some moral standard, a constant process of atonement. In fact, since the Fall, these are the defaults in you, in me, and in everyone else who ever lived.

In seeking just spirituality, people are looking for the “way of life” part of worship, which is why I can understand the thought process behind “why can’t people just believe what they want to believe, do what works for them?” Another phrase I’ve heard often, but¬†oddly¬†more frequently in the past bit.

Worship, the kind that we were designed for, includes another component: loving and generous volition. In other words, a relationship. Without that, nothing will work or satisfy your soul. At least not forever. When we say that Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the way, the truth and the life, we’re not trying to take away people’s free will! If a treasure hunter finds the room with the jackpot, a sea of treasure, won’t they say, “hey guys, come here, I found it!” It’s a jackpot, you really can’t¬†miss it, which is why it doesn’t make sense for the other treasure hunters to ask, “are you sure you found it? There’s a smaller room here with some cool trinkets, that might be it.”

As followers of Christ, we are not just servants to the King of the universe, but heirs. Heirs! The one who holds the name above all names is not just our Lord or our Master… He is our friend and Father who knows us deeply. He cares much less about us and His rules than us and Himself. Matt Chandler puts it this way, “God is more interested in progress than perfection.” Progress of course, requires an interaction with the one assessing you.

I’m not sure what kind of spirituality people have found without a deep and personal relationship with God, but I can imagine the peace it brings is more about keeping your hands busy than finding rest and purpose… A peace that comes at the price of never ending toil, with the resulting fruit leaving something to be desired.

Here’s another one I hear often enough: “So many other religions and worldviews are similar, what makes Christianity right or better than them? It’s not even the first one.”

Many people go to this point of the argument to discredit Christianity, but to me I see it as a proof of its legitimacy. Communicating what I see is of course the issue, but I will try. The most basic common ground for all the religions of world history is the human condition. It’s all about advancing or improving the human condition in some way. That is the common thread — a sinful heart that needs fixing.

This common thread extends far beyond religion, and into¬†everything we do, since everything we do is a direct result of our sinful heart. But written on that same heart is God’s law — our conscience, our own moral standards. I’m most interested in storytelling, and so I see echoes of the soul yearning for the gospel all the time there.

The villains must always get their just deserts, because we¬†know¬†that sin and evil must be punished. The hero always starts out flawed or unprepared for the task, because we know that we aren’t perfect and need something or someone to make us whole, to prepare us for our destiny.¬†The hero must always go through a great ordeal before succeeding, because we¬†know that justice comes at a sacrificial cost.¬†The hero always achieves the goal and overcomes the ordeal, rewarded with honour or revelation.

But these are just the standard givens of story structure, of the monomyth or infamous hero’s journey! Yes, but¬†why? Why are they taken for granted, why is this what we want to see, why is it that if a story defies these laws, we are left cheated or unsatisfied?

After all, a story where the hero dies and the antagonist wins and the whole journey was for naught, is often considered a bad story, not a creative twist. We feel like we’ve wasted our time. What’s worse is that sometimes life is like that, intrinsically wrong and a waste. It’s that deep pit of dissatisfaction and despair.

I propose that at the root, we know in our core that there is a certain way things are supposed to be, and every human knows it. The gospel tells the story that is the balm to our souls. It doesn’t just give us hope and peace and love and fuzzy, flimsy emotions… it is a solid anchor to cling on to.

The hero’s journey example I just used is only one of many places I’ve seen the yearning for the gospel. There are more specific examples. Take the superhero boom. Of course many factors played into this, but at the root, I would say its appeal comes from our deep intrinsic need for a saviour with greater power or skills than ourselves. One, or a small group, must represent and save all of humanity from evil and tyranny. Or how about a show like Once Upon A Time? At the time of writing this, a saviour is being tempted in the wilderness to turn to darkness so that the laws of storytelling might be reversed — villains will get their happy endings, evil will reign,¬†heroes are forever fated to fail and their¬†redemption becomes a futility. Will she succumb and leave everyone without¬†any chance of hope, or will she prevail and let redemption win? Or how about a movie like Jupiter Ascending that I just watched a couple hours ago? SPOILERS: it ends with the protagonist inheriting the Earth… Sound familiar?

I see elements of the human condition echoing the biblical narrative in stories, on TV, on the news, in movies, in people, in other worldviews… it’s everywhere! And I’m not surprised. In awe, definitely, but not surprised. The bible itself was written across centuries by different people in different contexts for different purposes through different mediums. Letters, instructions, songs, poems, historical documents, prophets, fishermen, tax collectors, priests. All this… and¬†yet the common thread tying all these things together is the narrative of the cross. Everything pre-cross in the old testament points to it, and everything post-cross points to it. Prophecies of a Messiah, of a coming kingdom, meant as an encouragement to God’s people in the old testament, and a proclamation of what was done on the cross meant as an encouragement to the early church in the new testament.

My point is that, if the gospel is a common thread throughout the incredible diversity within the Bible, why should it be any different today? The existence of common threads among religions and worldviews isn’t discrediting the gospel, but rather reaffirms it in that we can all agree that we’re broken and need help — admitting this is the very foundation of our faith.

For some, this still doesn’t answer your questions or satisfy your stirrings, and this is to be expected. I couldn’t possibly explain everything because there is still a lot that I don’t fully understand. Even the apostle Paul said “I am perplexed, but not crushed” in 2 Corinthians 4. The guy who wrote most of the new¬†testament still didn’t get stuff, so there’s no way I will.

However, I’ll touch a bit on why Christianity not being the “first” is not really an issue. Firstly, God understands what it is to exist outside of space and time, so linear thinking can’t really be applied here. I know that answer isn’t good enough for some of you, so I will go further.

Christianity didn’t “start” when we entered the story. The beginning wasn’t when humans¬†finally understood what Jesus meant all those times after he died and rose again. It wasn’t when God showed us a virgin birth. It wasn’t when the prophets of Israel told God’s people that God was coming to humankind through a Messiah. It wasn’t when God himself told Adam and Eve that their seed would crush that of the serpent’s. No.

Everyone knows how it goes. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In the beginning, God. He is the beginning, He is where it all starts (and ends, but I won’t get into that here).

God planned everything from before creation, whenever that was. He wasn’t surprised at man’s rebellion, He wasn’t scrambling to come up with a plan to save humanity after the rebellion… He knew all along. He planned all of history before time existed. The cross and Christianity pre-dates time itself.

Your acceptance of this answer inevitably depends on your own worldview of course, but there is no talking about faith without faith.

I guess if there’s a take away point at all from all of this, it’s that God wants a meaningful relationship with you and has programmed that desire in you. That programming has come out in, among other things, the value we place over spirituality, our eternal search for steadfast peace everlasting, and our intrinsic sense of justice and redemption.

CS Lewis describes this unique God-us relationship like this:

You asked for a loving God: you have one… not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible of the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.

If you’re searching for steadfast peace everlasting that does not waver in even the worst of circumstances and that transcends a mere code or creed, I can only tell you that I have found it here in Christ and have not yet heard of someone who found the exact same thing elsewhere.¬†Will you cave¬†to the backwards instinct to fight and run away from the very thing you’re looking for, or will you be called a friend of a King?

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The Artist’s Collapse

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is a gift from God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10

This is no obscure verse. There are cards and mugs and T-shirts and bumper stickers that probably have this verse on it. It’s great for encouraging one another, especially in those times (cough cough teen angst) when we question our worth, our existence, and our future.

I remember seeing it and reading it and coming back to it time and time again but as always, the Word of God always has something to say to the soul no matter how many times you’ve heard it. The ramifications of this verse are stunning; literally and figuratively. It’s huge! It’s almost unbelievable. It’s a compliment as big as God’s heart, and it’s so hard to take in. I have a hard time dealing with mortal compliments, that is,¬†my response to them. How am I supposed to handle these words breathed from the God of all creation to¬†me?

“Who am I that you are mindful of me?” asks the psalmist.

Here’s the usual breakdown of what this verse is actually saying:

1) If you are a human, we are told that each of us are masterpieces worth dying for.

2) We are chosen, and chosen well. We have purpose. We have a destiny. No one who has ever lived or will ever live, is an accident. No one is useless. Not only that, this purpose was carefully chosen long before you arrived.

3) Our salvation is a gift. This is the Bible turning backwards thinking right side up again. To us of course, the backwards part seems forward, and God’s forward seems backwards.

You do something to earn the reward, right? Not with God.

He gives first,¬†now go do good work. We didn’t earn God’s gift, we can’t boast in our efforts toward it. But in truly receiving the gift of grace, our works and effort become a natural response of joy and gratitude. Natural. As if it were supposed to be that way all along. Right side up, right way forward.

Ours¬†is a culture¬†where¬†chosen ones and heroes¬†and destiny resonate so deeply with us. Most, if not every child has at least dreamed or pictured themselves as their favourite hero character. Maybe I’m an alien with powers that will develop in the near future. Maybe this body mark means I’m destined for greatness. Maybe my crazy old uncle has a double or triple life and will find me worthy enough to invite me into it. Maybe my family has a secret they will take to the grave and I’m about to join their ranks.

Maybe someday a mysterious stranger or mysterious circumstance will come knock at my door, tell me I’m chosen, present me with a purpose and turn my life upside down, but also make it so much more interesting.

I’ll be honest, with that last one I was initially thinking of Harry Potter or something like that, but reading it again… in many ways, isn’t it what we’ve been exploring in Ephesians 2:10 just now?

Sure, but that’s fiction, people have told me. Well how about an analogy, penned no less by CS Lewis in his book,¬†The Problem of Pain, in which he answers the anxiety-inducing question, “if God is so good and loving, if God loves us, if God finds us precious and worthwhile, why does He allow pain and suffering into our lives?”

Not to belittle any painful experiences, but… well I guess I should just let him explain:

We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called the ‘intolerable compliment.’

Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life — the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child — he will take endless trouble — and would, doubtless thereby¬†give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and recommenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumbnail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.

He goes on to show this love in a man’s despotic love for a beast or a pet, a father’s provident and venerable love for a child, and the inexorable love between husband and wife.

For the artist’s love for his work, it is persistent, according to Lewis. God’s love is persistent. It’s taken me a while to really believe the truth in Ephesian 2:10, and even now I haven’t plundered all its truth yet. But God is faithfully persistent in revealing it.

When all the other voices tell me¬†what’s wrong with my body, my fitness, my intellect, my personality, my social image, my beliefs, my behaviour, whatever it might be… The cross tells me who I am.

Not that my identity is in religion, necessarily. Far from it. I am labelled under “Christian,” but its implications are far more interesting. The cross, and my faith in what was done on it, tells me that while I still deserved His wrath over my sin, God in all His glory and power died in my place because He loves me and thinks I am worth that cost.

Let me note that my revealing these voices is not to garner pity or validation…¬†it’s not a secret cry for compliments. I rarely know what to do with compliments, it’s not my love language, if you will.

But the cross, the act committed upon it. That is love at its truest.

I love Lewis’ illustration of a sentient work of art. If we were to take the analogy a bit further, Christ’s incarnation would be like the artist being collapsed into his own creation, only to be¬†scorned by it.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional painter is collapsed into a few two dimensional strokes of colour, and then blotted out.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional author is collapsed into a few lines of fiction, and then scribbled and scratched out beyond recognition.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional dancer is collapsed into pattern of movement, then practiced poorly, abandoned and forgotten.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional musician is collapsed into a simple melodious pressure wave, lost in a cacophonous symphony.

But the story isn’t over…

The painter, the author, the dancer, the musician, the creator… is so much more than their creation. Immeasurably more, as our friends at Rend Collective sing. What is a blot of paint to the painter, a¬†scribble¬†to the writer, poor repetition to a dancer, noise to a musician? A¬†nuisance sure, but certainly not enough to wipe them from existence.

What is death to the creator of life?

But the story still isn’t over…

What if the art maker, like Gepetto, desired so much more, not of but for the artwork? For a wooden toy to become a son? For the creation to be like the creator?

[See] that you put off the old self with its practices and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.

Colossians 3:9-11

What if the artist could lift the world on the canvas and bring it to life? What if the writer could lift a character from the page and hang out? What if a dancer could meet their dance personified in all its richness and complexity and beauty? What if a musician could duet with their opus?

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Christ’s invitation to draw near to Him, to enter a covenant relationship with Him, is not¬†for¬†misery in righteousness, not an ideological cage or a prison. It’s an invitation to a life outside the confines of this reality.

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From Useless Pirate to Surrendered Captain

The end of the semester came out of nowhere. Has it really been 12 weeks since I started? This winter term, if I’m to follow the schedule I’ve set out for myself, is the climax of my time here. Or at least, in terms of fun courses. So much fun in fact, that after the first week, I was dreading the last.

This mentality of course did not last very long, because I got swept up in the work that I thoroughly enjoyed. And now the end has come and gone. Perhaps it’s a mercy that I didn’t brace myself for the end, or else it would have been a bitter end.

Fortunately, I plan much too far in advance and those future plans, when they become present and urgent plans, are always modified. So this is most likely¬†not the climax. It’s¬†not all downhill from here, as many people try to tell me.

They’re right, of course, but they’re wrong too. There’s always something better and worse around the corner, I find.

Anyway, the sudden evaporation of my daily routine left me with a work vacuum. For the first few days, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Do I relax? Watch hours of YouTube and Netflix? Check emails? Do chores? Work on personal projects? I could do all of these and should do all of these, but with a schedule wiped clean, my brain went, OKAY YOU HAVE TIME TO DO THIS AND THIS AND THIS AND THIS, ISN’T THAT EXCITING? LET’S DO ALL OF THEM AT ONCE.¬†And… cut to white noise.

There were no boundaries, no structures, no coherence to organize or prioritize. And so I got nothing done.

I didn’t want to do anything, I didn’t want to think about anything… for lack of a better way to put it, I was in a lethargic waking coma.

It was a dry season spiritually too… I couldn’t decide if I wanted to sleep or get up, one part of me wanted to dig into a new Bible study while another part wanted to binge watch Orphan Black, going outside or having any human interaction was suddenly a lot of effort… the list goes on. My internal soundtrack may as well have been, “we are the pirates who don’t do anything, we just stay home, and lie around!”

But there’s good news. The reason I felt compelled to write this post is because I am OUT of that space now. Mostly because I’ve actually got to study for exams now… but also because once I got back into prayer, scripture and community, everything came back into focus.

I’m moving ahead with a new project now, and I’m researching and just moving forward with purpose again. This research incidentally requires Biblical investigation. History, culture, extra-biblical sources, looking for experts… some very fun stuff I might add.

After a few days of spiritual drought, the sudden thirst for the Word is just exploding in me, which doesn’t happen nearly as often as I’d like. I was about to go to bed when I decided to skim through Hebrews and 13:20-21 caught my eye. Of course, my writing impulses forbid me to leave this blogpost til morning.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21

Especially right after Easter, this verse is such an encouragement and a reminder. We’ve celebrated, now it’s time to get to work. Work? I thought the cross was all about¬†not having to work. This is true, for our salvation. That work is being done in us, but not by us. That’s Christ’s work. His work then motivates us to fulfill the purpose he designed us for.

If we are motors designed to fulfill a purpose, He is the beautiful, dangerous, essential, electrical power source without which the motor is useless.

As I’m working on this new writing project, it was a great reminder to me that my writing is worthless without His power in me. My words would be meaningless, my stories ephemeral, my voice unintelligible. He has equipped me with everything I need to do his will, and he is working in me the map to doing it. He is creating in me something new… Lord willing, a person of the Jeremiah 31 people, and a Proverbs 31 woman.

The project is Esther’s story, one of providence and presence. God provides, and God is present. In a time when God’s presence appeared much more tangibly than it does now, whether it be booming voices, blinding visions, miracles, burning bushes, oncoming storms… the book of Esther shows His presence in a much more invisible kind of visibility.

This post is full of paradoxes, isn’t it? God’s name is never mentioned in the book, and nothing strictly supernatural happens either. Events just sort of… fall into place. One after another.

God was definitely in control of what was going on. He set his plan for the Jews’ deliverance into motion before they even faced destruction. He wasn’t¬†there, but boy he was definitely there. At work. In people. Esther was equipped naturally with everything she needed to face the king and win his favour: faith, obedience, wisdom and modesty. Mordecai was equipped to be at the right place at the right time to discover the plot against the king’s life.

After watching a documentary about the incredible trials¬†that come with the incredible… eventual… precious… rare rewards of writing in the TV industry, it’s so good to know that God is present through it all, and that he provides the “inside,” like the personality and the skills, as well as the “outside,” as in the circumstances and doors.

What does this mean? I’m realizing as I write that this post has become an “unriddling,” a place for me to digest my inward thoughts. If I’m preaching, this is not my intention. I simply cannot let myself forget these truths, lest I fall for the lie that my life is in my hands, that I am the captain of my destiny.

If I am to pursue this career, I will have to bring the right idea, to the right person, in the right place at the right time, and do it consistently and constantly. A daunting, impossible task for me, but all too easy for God. I must keep reminding myself of this, that everything that happens to my scripts and stories are under control. If they succeed, God did that. If they fail, God let that happen for a reason. I want to fight my pride to the sweet sweet end. These stories aren’t for me, or my living. I need to keep my eyes on that which they cannot see; write toward a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, for¬†a King who is never changing.

Clearly, this is in my “head knowledge.” But what of the heart?

My “big break” hasn’t come yet, but neither have I faced any kind of searing rejection… yet. This is¬†all the more reason to remember that while I am equipped with the quill, I am not the writer. My darkest and finest¬†hours¬†of my early career are coming, so let my heart (as well as my head)¬†ever remember:

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5-6

And with that, friend, may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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There but for the Grace of God Go I

After a whole bunch of posts for my media class digital portfolio, it feels good to do a normal check-in on my “real” blog.

This past week and this coming week are the two busiest weeks of the semester, maybe even of all the time I’ve been in Guelph. The work to be done, the meetings to go to, the people to speak with, the time to be spent… going into this period, I was anxious and worried. I was worried about being worried.

My to-do list is too long. I’m not going to have time to do everything, or at least everything well. When am I going to do this task? How am I going to do that task? How am I going to time manage all this??

But God is faithful. Here I am, half way through and more than hopeful.

In fact, last Sunday’s sermon was about God’s faithfulness. He comes through on his promises. He comes through on His word toward those who aren’t his people like Ishmael, and He will certainly come through for those who are His. And how amazing is it to be called His if we are in Christ.

What’s cool is that from the get go of this busy time of year, God worked to encourage me and take away my fear and my anxiety. He is faithful to provide. And He’s been looking out for this for a while — forever to be precise, really — because He had to orchestrate the sermon schedule, among other things.

My point here is not that the world revolves around us and that God is here to make our problems go away. Just the opposite. I don’t think I could have been as productive as I was and I don’t think I would have made it through this storm as unscathed as I did without the grace He’s shown, without the strength He’s given, without the community He’s blessed me with. This is about Him, and praise and honour and glory be to the one who restores us to Himself.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

These are such go-to verses, almost cliche to the point where it seems they’ve lost their lustre. They’ve been said so many times online, on mugs, on T-shirts, on posters… But this week has reaffirmed their truth for me in way I haven’t experienced before. God gives us what we need to get through stuff, and at just the right time.

I received peace and rest through a sermon before I could even get very anxious. Before that, I learned those verses before I knew what it was to be this busy. Way before that, God breathed and the authors of those words penned them to encourage the thousands of generations to come.

I even got VCB’s new album that Sunday and I’ve been listening to¬†If I Have You throughout the week. Such a timely encouragement and a blessing:

I don’t need the riches of this world / I can’t even take them where I’m going. / I don’t need a thousand empty words / I just need the ones that You have spoken.

If I have You and nothing else, I have everything.

I don’t need to see tomorrow’s plans / I just need to trust that You are working. / I don’t even need to understand / I just need to keep You as the first thing.

You are more, You are more than enough.

I forget which sermon I heard it in, but God knows every cause and effect event down to an atomic level and smaller. He knows how many moles of oxygen are in your lungs, and he knows which molecules bump into what when we exhale. He knows what the chain reaction of consequences will be for every action taken. He planned the cross before He made man. He knows what He’s doing, He’s in control, He is sovereign over our circumstances. Now, these two weeks seem as small and insignificant as they are, and not because I’m woman enough to handle it.

He is my strength, He is my everything. With one week down, one to go, there but for the grace of God go I.

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