June 2007

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Tomorrow the film Evan Almighty hits theatres across the nation.  And similarly to Bruce Almighty from a couple of years ago, this takes a biblical idea and puts it in action in today’s world (in an exaggerated sort of way – maybe).  My kids and I had the opportunity to screen this a few weeks ago and loved it. 

I loved the obedience that Evan shows in this film.  God places him in the role of Noah, having to build an ark in modern-day suburbia.  Reluctantly he obeys, even when his wife, kids and co-workers bail on him.  He sees the task before him and stays the course.  I’ve wanted to write something about this film for the past few weeks, but didn’t want to simply overview the same film that every Christian outlet is doing, or will do over the next month. 

But today I was reading a blog post by Scott Thomas, the Director of Acts29 Network,  (http://www.acts29network.org/acts-29-blog/the-value-of-a-pastoral-family-above-reproach/) and came to the conclusion of why Evan Almighty is important to me.  Scott’s post looks at Mark Driscoll’s home life and how like Evan, has chosen to stay the course in the task God first gave him – raising his family as God would have him.  It doesn’t paint Mark to be some type of saint, because he screws up like every one of us does.  But it reminded me that Evan’s call to build his ark is very much like my call to build my family.  I have the choice of whose direction to take, God’s or my own.  I hope that when I look back on these days – or when others look at my family – it will be an example of how to listen to God and follow his direction.

If you’re a movie fan, Evan Almighty is one that you can make a family outing of.  There are plenty of laughs and some great principles spread throughout. 

 I’ve been listening to a sermon series by a guy up in Seattle (Mark Driscoll)  that I am continually challenged by.   And this particular series is hanging onto one of my favorite stories in the Bible; Nehemiah.   I don’t want to jump too far into the story because I have a feeling that as I traverse this series with them I will spend more time telling the story because it has had such an impact on my life already. 

But to start the story off, I want to set the stage…  The Israelites have been scattered across the land by the Babylonians and they are being prevented from returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the city / temple / kingdom that God had established.  They are there for a while – a long while by today’s standards…  Nehemiah’s working for the king as a cup bearer – he tests his drink to ensure the king is not poisoned.  So things are clicking along and Nehemiah is told about how the city of Jerusalem has been destroyed – the walls torn down, the gates burned and the temple eliminated.  Upon hearing the news, Nehemiah fell down and wept for days. 

Now I can understand feeling grief upon hearing your home has been completely destroyed.  But scholars don’t think this is the first time Nehemiah’s heard of this and beyond that, it’s news that is 140 years old.  Today, this would be like me telling you that Abraham Lincoln had been shot and you fell down and wept for days.  It seems to be a bit much and way too late… 

This is where I had my socks knocked off.  If this news isn’t new to Nehemiah then why is he so affected?  Driscoll points toward a change in his vision.  He doesn’t weep for Jerusalem’s status because he’s seeing it through his eyes, but through Christ’s.  Just like Jesus weeps for Jerusalem in Luke 19:41, Nehemiah weeps.  And then he does something that smacked me right between the eyes…  He did something!  He didn’t blog about it.  He didn’t complain about it.  He didn’t gather together his friends and go into seclusion because of it.  He prayed and prayed and prayed.  And then when he had the opportunity to make a change he stepped out and put his neck on the line. 

Guilty as charged!  But praise God, he’s extremely patient and giving me another chance to make a difference in a community and even within his church!

What a whirlwind the past 90 days have been.  Those of you that know me know that I don’t take time off from work very often.  I feel like I’m being employed to be available not to earn time for vacations of sorts.  But back in March I received an email from a film company (Nooma) offering the opportunity to be an extra in a new short they were shooting here in Jacksonville.  The downside was that their shoot schedule would consist of 4 days during the week and I was only available for one of them.  They still offered the spot on that one-day. 

At the same time in March, we were within a few months of our apartment’s lease end and had loosely begun looking for a new house to buy.  With costs on new construction going through the roof, we had resigned ourselves to looking for a “used” house and were truly ok with that decision.  We had looked at a couple of houses, one that was quaint during the day and just this side of ghetto after dark; and a second that was priced right but had a history that I didn’t want to come behind.  But nothing else seemed to be out there.  I kept watching a few different new communities in hopes of something and on March 12th I ran across a little community on the northside’s website that was advertising the end of their first phase’s build out with some reduced prices on the last few homes.  Interesting… probably worth a look, even though the community as a whole was beyond our price range.

March 13th rolled around, the morning of the Nooma shoot, and I had to be at the beach on the northside of Jacksonville at 5:15am.  And even though my body was revolting against such an early wakeup, I was excited to be part of the film.  Our shoot was simple, stand on the beach looking towards the sunrise and watch it happen.  We filmed for a couple of hours being annoyed by different bugs of sorts, but got to watch a beautiful sunrise.  My day was effectively done by 9:00am.   But since I was in the area, I decided to drive over and look at these reduced houses. 

When I got to the community, it was as expected, looked too expensive, but I was still hopeful.  I talked to the agent and found out that overnight those same reduced houses had been reduced even further and the builder really wanted to complete phase 1.  We drove around the community and took a look at the house that we were interested in.  It had all of the details that we were important to us and was ready to move in ASAP.  The agent was working with two other families that had been waiting for the price drop and were going to walk through the place that afternoon.  He was confident that they would sell that day and based on the new price, I was confident they wouldn’t last very long.  My dilemmas came in that Jan could not come up and look at the house for about 48 hours because of work and the kid’s schedules.  So I called her and we started talking about the house.  To my surprise, she had walked through this model at a different community with some friends of ours that were in the end stages of their build.  She was on board and gave me the green light to put down a binder without seeing the house at all (yeah, my wife is awesome that way!). 

Now, since I really hadn’t gotten serious about buying a house, I hadn’t qualified for any financing yet and that had to be done before I could put a binder on the house.  So, I contacted the builder’s finance company and their agent cancelled his afternoon meeting and worked through lunch to get me squared away.  At 2pm everything was in place and I was able to put down a binder with a 30-day close but had to drive back up to the northside (from the absolute southside) of Jacksonville to deliver by check.  While I was taking pictures of the house for Jan and the kids, one of those other families made it there only to find that the house was now sold.  Part of me felt sad for them, as we had experienced a similar occurrence in a different community when we sold our previous house.  But those feelings were overshadowed at how our second house fell into our laps just like the first one did. 

So, from March 13th to April 12th, we packed and prepared to close on our new house.  We closed on April 13th and drug our feet a few weeks waiting to move in on April 28th.  The boxes were still stacked and we were awaiting the delivery of some new furniture when I had to switch my priorities from the new house to the Jacksonville Film Festival (where I’ve been the webmaster for the past 3 years).

We were within 3 weeks of the festival and what had been a couple of hours every couple of days was becoming a few hours every day.  We were gearing up and my roll as a staff member was growing.  There had been a few changes since last year’s festival, namely a new Director and party chair – pretty key elements for a festival.  And going into this year’s festival, I was apprehensive as to how this year’s event would be run.  Would we feel the loss of those that had moved on, or would we continue to get better as previous years had suggested?

The festival kicked off Thursday, May 17th and moved on throughout the weekend.  This year’s film lineup is my favorite yet.  I’ve loved a few films from the past couple of years, but the lineup as a whole has never been better (in my opinion).  With films like Once (that can be seen in select theatres now), Chops and Blood Car, there were great quality films in all genres.  And the parties this year stepped up into another league.  The venues lent themselves to provide an unprecedented party atmosphere.  After 4 full days of films & parties and a cumulative 10 hours of sleep, I was ready for the event to close out and get some rest before the planning for next year begins.  But before that happened, I was awarded with the Volunteer of the Year award and given a nice token of their appreciation. 

And now that both of these big events have wrapped, I’ve had a chance to re-engage the Mosaic family and complete the on-going list of things to be done to the new house.    Now you may be asking yourself, “How does this imply anything other than a brief 90-day history of this guy’s life?”  Here’s the punch line…as I see it.

In early March, God aligned for me to take off work in the middle of the week, by enticing me with a role in a film, on the exact day that my new house would be at a price that I would be willing to pay.  He placed that house in the neighborhood that I wanted to live in, but didn’t think I could afford.  He crunched down days worth of applications and financial verifications into a few hours, weeks worth of approvals into days and months worth of agony into a few weeks.  We had found, closed and moved into a house like we had hoped for in the time that most people would take in finding the right house.  Jan was able to transfer jobs to one that is litterly 3 miles from our house.  And we now live within a few miles of many of our Mosaic family that we are doing life with.  All of this and the film festival play roles in my own mission of reintroducing God’s love to a world that doesn’t trust or doesn’t want to hear another condemning statement from some church or church-going hypocrite.  I believe God has opened a door for us to better fulfill that mission.  The question at my feet now, how is that going to happen?