Thursday, March 7, 2019

Dancing, bulls and God's tattoo's


A few years ago I wrote a letter to one of my favourite authors. I told him about my writing, never expecting him to respond, but hoping he would.

He did! Now years later his words still haunt me.
"As for your writing, I hope you continue to dance with the bulls."
These words speak of something I've let go, something I need to remember.

In the last month one of my favorite things has fallen into the background, lying under a layer of dust, forgotten.

My love for writing.

Excuses are like cancer

I've let my writing drift to the back burner. I've also stopped working out. I'm frustrated until I remember, it's not hard to see why these things have slipped into the background.

I am currently in the middle of production on an independent feature film. My roles on set so far have included Producer, Casting Director and 1<sup>st Assistant Director.

My plate is pretty full.

However, what I'm realizing is this is becoming an excuse.

When was Excuses invited?

Yes, life is busy. Good busy. I love my life, but I don't want all these wonderful things I'm doing to be shaded with the color of excuses.

If I continue choosing to let the busyness of life become an excuse then I will never get a book published, I will never reach my goal weight & I will never reach any other goal I set for myself.
Why? Because Excuses will rule my life & before I know it, I'll be 50 & wonder what happened.

New goal.

STOP making excuses. There will always be one. "Oh I'm too tired." "I'm sick." "I tried, but it never worked out." "I'll do it later, or tomorrow, or next week."

Excuses are endless and they seek to devour our life, but I don't want to let it anymore.

God has tattooed our hearts

When I read Divergent by Veronica Roth I was inspired to be like the main character Tris, who gets a tattoo of a bird to remind herself of the fears she's choosing to overcome.

I'm not gonna lie, after reading the book I wanted to go out and get a tattoo.

Like now.

Something that would be there for life to remind me of God's call, the one He put deep in my soul & tells me I am created for so much more than this.

That will inspire me when I'm tempted by excuses.

I already know what it will look like. A girl dancing with bulls. Even though those big, ferocious animals scare the crummy out of me, I'm going to choose to dance with them instead of letting my fear get the better of me.

Excuses aren't allowed, only dancing with bulls is welcome.

We can try to silence the call God has placed in us & we can throw every excuse in the book at it, but it'll still be there like a persistent badger, because He's already tattooed it on our hearts.

A forever mark of how we are meant to live.

It's His call to adventure, whispering "I've got bigger plans for you." The moment we let this call to adventure free the more God can show us how limitless we are when He's leading our lives.

With God, nothing is impossible. Especially when we choose to toss Excuses out the door.

New challenge.

Kick Excuses out. Choose the limitless adventure of God's call. Let Him remind me of the dreams & stories he's got me to tell. Put pen to paper. Get my running shoes on & get out the door.

Life is full of tomorrows that will never come.

It's time to run.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Ancient Paths

Life is suffering. An up-hill battle, an adventure.

A constant struggling forward.

Lately the weight of life has gotten me down. I've spent a few nights crying myself to sleep.

Wondering what on earth I'm doing with my life.

On the outside, it looks like I have it all. I'm a filmmaker. Producing my first feature film. Working in an office of wonderful people, who I get to adventure with. I'm writing a novel and part of the worship team at church. I have great friends and a loving family. I have all the creature comforts I could want and am surrounded with good things.

On paper, I've got a pretty charmed life.

But the life of a creative is a constant struggle. And that's ok.

Because without a little conflict, life would get pretty boring. I don't want a life of all highs and no lows.

It's in the lows I remember to crawl back to my Papa and cry for his help. It's then I remember, I've got an amazing God, who is using every present struggle for the working of my good.

His plans are for our good

If there is one thing I can stress to those who are going through a difficult time. Even if it feels like that difficult time is always. On-going.

Do yourself a favour. Turn to Papa God. He's the only one who can meet you exactly where you are.
I've been listening to Bethel's new album, Have it All, and been reminded that when I focus on the struggle - I will be overwhelmed.

But if I focus on God and His phenomenal amazingness - I will overcome.

As soon as we tell God that He can, indeed, "have it all." That stress and worry. That frustration, it will lighten. I don't mean it will go away. I'm still facing a big giant, but my perspective has changed. I can't see the giant, because I'm too transfixed by the glory of my Daddy.

Walking the ancient paths

Jeremiah chapter 6, verse 16 says, "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls."

Oh that we would turn our hearts back to God and take those ancient paths.

Think about an ancient path for a moment. What does it look like? Where would it be found?

I imagine those roads are not easy to navigate. They're probably overgrown. Full of wild things. In hard to reach locations. Where only the brave and courageous can find them.

And even then, I bet they are hidden to the naked eye.

Ah. But don't you know? It is the glory of God to conceal things, and the glory of man to seek them out!

To search something out is not going to be easy. But, He's told us not to fear, because He's redeemed us. Called us by name, and said we are His.

If that isn't enough. He's also given us a promise.

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you." Isaiah chapter 43, verse 2

"I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord." Isaiah chapter 45, verse 3

I don't know about you, but I want to find those ancient paths. I want to seek out the things God has hidden. To walk forward - through the struggles - and know there will come a day when the struggle will have it's work in me.

And I'll come out the other end a stronger person.

Both in faith and relationship to the One who walked me through it.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

New Year's Revelations


"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." -- Bilbo Baggins to his nephew Frodo Baggins, from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
Normally, the first month of a new year is spent creating New Year's Resolutions and working toward being healthier, more productive, spending more time with our families, being more creative, being more positive, etc etc. The goal we seem to aim for is to ultimately: be a better person.

But this year, I'm not buying into the mentality.

Instead, I'm choosing to put my focus back where it should be. On God.

I'm a missionary, so this shouldn't be hard, right? But, I'm also a filmmaker and writer and an aspiring actress. Finding room for God can sometimes be difficult. Especially, when I come home at the end of a long day and just want to curl up on the couch and watch a movie or read a good book. Or sleep!

Unrealistic Expectations

One of the reasons I'm passing on making a list of resolutions is because I often create an unrealistic goal for myself: learn ten new languages, take lessons in modern dance, ballet, jazz and hiphop, go to acting classes and take voice lessons, read 100 books in a year, write six novels, make twelve movies. Produce seven plays.

These are all good things, but in my hype and determination I shoot for the moon and don't even end up in the stars.

I'm not saying you shouldn't go for your dreams. Write the resolutions if it inspires you, but remember what's most important.

God.

All my life, I've been told the Big Story God had for me would be impossible without him. It made me feel important to God that he wanted to keep me so close and give me such a huge story.
I was going to star in an epic!

Then life happened. The journey started. The road got bumpy and I wished I'd listened a bit more to Bilbo Baggins who warned Frodo to keep his feet, because there really is no knowing where you might be swept off to.

What I realized is, when my focus was on the New Year's Resolutions I thought making the list was half-way to living that life and not only the start. I wanted it now as so many of us in the microwave generation do. So when it was harder and took longer, or even when I failed I let guilt take over.

My focus was on the impossible goal.

Not where it should be.

On God.

That's why this year, I'm taking a different approach. I'm not making the list of resolutions because I know if I fix my focus on God and getting to know him more I'll actually reach better goals and become a, truly, healthier person.

It'll happen by osmosis. Not because I don't still try to go for my goals, but because I will see all my goals through a filter of love and truth. I can still shoot for the moon and instead of only landing among the stars, I'll pass this galaxy and go to the next.

Do you understand what I mean? I'm not saying I'll get my goal or even reach it. I'm saying I'll discover the better thing. The richer life.

Unexpected Realities

When God told me I was to pursue acting and filmmaking, I thought that meant going to Hollywood. I thought he'd help me get my own star on the Walk of Fame.

I could see myself kneeling on the pavement and pressing my hands into the soft cement, with a crowd of fans and paparazzi taking my picture. And like most kids, I'd stand in front of my mirror, hold a Barbi or my hairbrush and thank the Academy again for my fourth consecutive Oscar for Best Actress.

And then God told me to move to Australia. I thought maybe it was just a detour on the way to Tinseltown. A blip, so to speak.

But, that "detour" has lasted almost ten years.

It wasn't until a few years ago I realized this wasn't the blip. This was the Big Story God had for me and I needed to stop seeing it as temporary.

It was then I looked back on the journey so far and saw how much richer my life was. No, I didn't have my own star on the Walk of Fame, but I had a family of filmmakers who I could trust and do life with. I was living as a filmmaker and actress and writer.

Not aspiring anymore, but doing it. Living it.

And when I looked closer, I realized time and time again, all the films I'd worked on, all the stories I'd gotten to write had one thing in common. They came about when I stopped striving to be a better person and when I focused in on loving God and getting to know this amazing and mysterious being who liked to create as much, and even more, than I did.

He brought them into my life.

When we put our focus in the right place -- on God -- there's more freedom for him to create the BIG Story in our lives, the epic adventures.

It actually makes me see Bilbo's comment in another light, like he was excited to tell Frodo to watch where his feet took him. Because with God, there really is no knowing where you might be swept off to. It's all part of the Big Story God wants to tell with our lives and it can only happen if our focus is fixed on him.

It was a new revelation and I want to dive in head first.

Are you up for the adventure?

Originally published on Christian Today.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Producing Powerful Motion Pictures


I must be crazy. Or insane. Probably a bit of both. Which is why I volunteered for something crazy and insane.

I'd like to say I feel a little like Katniss Everdeen, taking on the big bad Capitol, but I don't feel nearly as brave. Instead, I feel like a clown, trying to learn to juggle chain saws, while riding a unicycle on a tight-rope fifty feet in the air. In the middle of a raging storm.

Which would be totally awesome to witness, but pretty difficult to achieve.

Volunteering as tribute

So what did I do that's so crazy and insane? I volunteered, nay, asked to be the producer of our next feature film. Which means I'm now responsible to see everything come together for 90 minutes of film.

Oh, but it gets better.

It's an independent film. Which means there's no big company backing us, not a lot of resources and zero finances.

The struggle's real

I really am crazy and insane. And I love it.

Let me compare the journey to Star Wars for a moment. Everyone loved the original saga and I'm convinced it's because everything was done on a tight budget with limited resources. Half the programs filmmakers today take for granted didn't exist then.

In fact they were created because people like George Lucas had to think outside the box to get the job done.

Or another example, Peter Jackson and Weta Workshop. They had to think outside the confines of celluloid to fully create the world of Middle Earth and in the process they too created a new term for the film world. "Bigatures." Small enough to house an entire city within a warehouse and big enough to actually be used in a shot.

One of my favourite directors, J.J. Abrams did a Tedtalk titled The Mystery Box. He shared a story about working with Tom Cruise on Mission Impossible 3 and how he had to think outside the normal filmmaking traditions, to capture a ten second shot. I won't give you all the juicy details, because you should watch it.

But the lesson is the same.

The harder the struggle, the more powerful the film.

Well, this film is going to be quite the struggle to make. Which is why I'm loving how crazy and insane I am. Because it's going to be good.

Actually it's going to be a great adventure.

It's a hero's journey kinda thing

This next year is going to be insane and crazy. Did you catch that yet? But mostly it's going to be an incredible journey.

Anyone who studies story will know about Joseph Campell's Monomyth and how every protagonist experiences a call to adventure. Well as a filmmaker, my call to adventure was the idea of becoming a producer.

The next part in my journey is whether or not I accept the call and cross the threshold. I know there will be great days, bad days and days in-between where I won't know what to do, but that's part of what makes this a journey. An adventure.

Or rather, a life worth living.

J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, said this, "The most useless are those who never change through the years."

I don't want to be useless. So I'm accepting the call and crossing the threshold. I really am like Katniss taking on the Capitol -- really what this means is I get to challenge myself, to see what I have to offer.

If I'm successful, then by the end of this year, I'll be sitting in an air-conditioned room, with the lights dimmed and my name splashing across the screen under the title "Producer". And when I see my name flash across the screen, it will be followed by a powerful film.

I've applied this idea to my world of filmmaking because I don't want to be useless in my field, but the truth is, it can be applied to all of life.

Every single one of us go on a journey.

Several in fact, and the more we choose the new world (new concept or idea) and step out of the familiar, the more we will grow as people.

So, how about it... you ready to produce something powerful?

Originally published on Christian Today.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Finishing Strong


My body is fatigued and my mind wanders. All I want to do is sleep. Is there some way I can turn myself into Sleeping Beauty and rest for a century?

But I'm not done and I want to finish strong.

That's a lot easier said than done.

I imagine I'm not alone in desiring to finish strong. So what is it that sets apart those who actually finish strong and those who only hold to the words and not the actions of it?

Ah, yes... perhaps that's the key - action.

Lights, Camera, ACTION

Take for example a film set. We all watch the behind the scenes of what it looks like to be on some of our favourite film sets. For me it was watching the entire behind the scenes of The Lord of the Rings.

Hours and hours of people in action. Passionately doing what they love.

It became my dream. Sitting on my comfy couch and watching them in bustle around on the screen. I wanted to join them.

But it's different to actually be a part of the action.

I'm in the final weeks of principle photography for The Out of the Woods Project, the second feature film from The Initiative Production Company.

We're a small, independent company, which means we've got to be all hands on deck when it comes to creating.

As the weeks have drawn on and on. Filled with early mornings and late nights, it's hard to keep motivated and to finish strong.

But this is what sets apart those who live to finish strong and those who just say the words.

We have to keep active.

As soon as we start delegating more than what we should, we become lazy. The ironic part is when we live our lives this way, we'll find we start getting bored a lot faster.

I believe the reason for this is because we aren't doing anything.

Designed for action

Did you know our bodies were designed for action?

One of my good friends told me once there's a muscle in our buttocks that is only activated when we run.

Think about it.

That means we're designed to run.

I remember sitting in a lecture about worship. The speaker told us that when we raise our arms in worship it actually activates chemicals in our body making us feel more peaceful.

Again it's an active thing. We have to raise our arms in order for our body to activate these chemicals.
I'm reminded of the movie Legally Blond and how Elle Woods knows her client is innocent. She says, "I just don't think that Brooke could've done this. Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands, they just don't."

It's like going for a hike and deciding to turn back when you're almost at the top of the mountain.
While my examples speak mostly about the benefits of working out, I think the principles apply to everything we do in life.

The more we are an active participant - especially when it gets tough or close to the finish line - the more we will be able to finish strong.

Because finishing strong also takes practice.

The more we follow through on the small things, the more we will follow through on the big ones.
When we don't finish something it creates a habit that makes us think we can get away with not finishing something else.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to create that kind of habit.

Here's to sticking to what I started. To being known for my follow-through.

For finishing strong.

Originally published on Christian Today.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Contentment might require more than we think


"Then something Tookish woke up inside him, & he wished to go & see the great mountains, & hear the pine-trees & the waterfalls, & explore the caves, & wear a sword instead of a walking-stick." The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
I find myself googling exotic new places and wondering how long I'd have to save up in order to buy a ticket and go.

I thought something Tookish had woken up inside me, but it doesn't feel right. Doesn't feel quite Tookish.

It's because it's not the desire to adventure, but the desire to escape.

It's the loss of contentment.

Discontentment

I'd blame it on growing up as a missionary kid. We lived all over the place and even when we did
settle in Hawaii for ten years, we still moved around a lot. Changing apartments and houses every couple of years. But it's not the same, I was never running from something.

And now. I find myself living in a place I've lived for more than ten years, in the same job and I don't see it changing anytime soon.

There's a big part of me that misses the adventure of new places and new friends and an even bigger part of me that's terrified of a future settled in one place.

I can't help but shake my head at myself. I'm a filmmaker. Life is never the same. I never know where we're going to be shooting next, or what story we'll tell.

So why the discontented feels?

Vulnerability

I got my first clue a couple years ago, I sat down for an interview for another episode in our Making The Out of the Woods Project. Friend and fellow writer, Brenden Bell, asked me, "What's the hardest part about planting yourself somewhere?"

I had to laugh when he asked because it's something I feel like I'm still learning and as I stumbled through an answer it finally came to me.

The hardest part is how vulnerable I have to be.

Being vulnerable with the people in our lives is very, well, vulnerable. It's scary. It means they'll see me at my best but they'll also see me at my worst.

And what if they don't like me after seeing my worst?

But after more than ten years of friendship with some of these people I've realised something else very important.

They still love me.

Still call me friend after all the crazy years.

It's not been an easy road, the things I've struggled with, the losses I've experienced and my general drama queen status have not made it easy for them to be around me all the time, but they've still chosen to make an effort.

I remember one time when I was really struggling with self doubt. The director of our company came up to my desk and asked if I was ready for our meeting. We had no meeting scheduled, but I got up and followed him out of the room.

As soon as we moved out of the office I looked at him questioningly, he smiled and said, "I knew you just needed to get out of the office and talk."

It was a precious moment. He took the time out of our incredibly busy schedule to connect with my vulnerability.

This is something we need more in our society.

Both being vulnerable and sticking with people in their vulnerabilities.

Instead of flinging hateful words at each other and abandoning people because they annoy us or we just don't want that in our lives, I think we should challenge ourselves to stick it out. To force ourselves to keep walking with someone.

It won't just help the person we choose to keep walking with, but I believe it will help us to be better people too.

It won't be easy and there will be times when we want to just walk away, but if we hold to the course, we may just find that we change the world for the better and our Facebook feeds will be full of smiling faces of friends verses enemies.

It's a simple idea, but what if it could work?

Originally published on Christian Today.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Being Provoked To Be Holy By A Fountain Pen



One of my favourite tools when it comes to writing is the fountain pen. There’s something about writing with such an exquisite instrument that makes you believe everything you write with it will be a work of pure genius.

So when I sat at my desk yesterday, to put pen to paper, and found that my fountain pen would not produce the ink I knew it stored (I’d literally just put in a new ink cartridge the day before). I was disheartened and annoyed.

I didn’t have time to figure out what was wrong with it in the moment, so I had to leave it there. Alone and forlorn.

Later, when I had a chance to ask my good friend Google why it had stopped working, I found myself being spiritually challenged by the answer that popped up at the top of the list.
Quickly dip the whole section into the water in your hand and remove it. Cap the pen and carry it in your pocket for an hour or so before using. If the writing is light in colour, touch a facial tissue to the nib and feeder a few times to remove excess water or watery ink. Fountain pens like to be used regularly.”
Fountain Pen Problems - Instructables www.instructables.com/id/Fountain-Pen-Problems/
Carry it in your pocket for an hour…

Think about the idea of having to carry the pen around in your pocket for an hour before using it.

In our microwave generation, this sounds like a lot of time before I can use something as silly as a pen. I mean, who wants to go into all that work, when there are so many others at our disposal?

The idea made me think of the parallel to the church being like sheep and how the shepherd (Jesus) will leave the entire flock for the one lost sheep.

I’ve heard that if a sheep was a consistent runner, the shepherd had to break their legs and carry them around while they healed. In that way, it forced the sheep to stay with the flock, but also meant an added weight to the shepherd’s shoulders.

This idea is pretty confronting. And I was tempted to water it down, but I think we, Christians, have done that too much already and we need to hear something that’s the whole truth. Otherwise, how will we really learn?

Sure, we can run to get another pen, but how much more satisfying is it to use one that will inspire us to be more creative?

Sure, we can water down the idea of a shepherd intentionally breaking the legs of a sheep, but will we really learn the lesson? Would the sheep learn to stay with the flock?

Fountain pens like to be used regularly…

What an outrageous thought! Who would think of an inanimate object liking anything?
But it’s true.

The whole reason my fountain pen stopped working, is because I hadn’t used it in about a month!

How true is this of the skills and talents we pursue? If we lay them aside for even a week, the skill and talent begins to rust and decay.

Again, I can’t help but think of the parable Jesus taught about the talents. He gave specific amounts to each person, but when he came back and found that one had buried theirs in the ground, he took it away and gave it to the first, who had increased what was given originally.

And again, this is a hard thing to hear. That Jesus is encouraging something to be taken away from someone who doesn’t use it.

When I was a little girl, people seemed to like my voice, so I sang at church and in the choir at school, but as soon as I graduated, something changed. I stopped seeking out places where I could grow in my talent and my voice began to reflect my disuse. It wasn’t until I put myself out there, stepped past my comfort zone and joined the Creative Team at my church, that my voice started to grow again.

The same principle can apply to my pen. If I use my fountain pen on a regular basis, I won’t have to google how to fix it again because it is less likely to dry up.

What about you? Are you using the talents you’ve been given? Or are you letting them rust and dry up?

It’s amazing the things we can learn from any scenario. While I hate that I let my pen sit there for a month of disuse, I am glad for the lessons it’s taught me… to stay close to Jesus, even when I’d rather run from the flock and to make sure I’m using my talents ever day so that I can increase their value.




Originally published on Christian Today.