faith

I get by with a little help from my friends

Imagine for a moment that you appear in a film adaptation of one of your favorite books.  Imagine this book was deeply transformative in how you view life, and how you relate to God.  Now, imagine watching that move in a theater which was absolutely packed with your friends and family.  In one room were the people who raised you, and the people who grew up with you.  Those people are sitting next to your friends from church, and next to them are your coworkers and even your boss.  It sounds like a dream, doesn't it?

Transient

It happened to me last night.  I can't possibly explain the experience or the emotion.  If you've never seen yourself projected at 4K on a movie screen, you simply can't be prepared for how surreal an experience that is.  You also can't imagine what it's like to see a film about the intersection of Christ and culture surrounded by people from every part of your social sphere.

Or what is is like to hold your wife's hand as you watch a film that redeemed you.  It was this movie that drew me back to God after I had decided He was not real.  To share in that narrative after so many nights of tears and struggle and an attempt to find common ground between Faith and Doubt was profound to me.  Moving.

Magical.

Of course, she looked cute on that big screen too.

I can't imagine what my friends of faith thought about some of the content in Blue Like Jazz.  I run with a pretty theologically conservative crowd, but they aren't a stereotype.  The people of the Immanuel Church in Tallahassee are absolutely obsessed with living out the Love of Jesus for All.  You've never met a group more open to people.  There may be a debate about gay marriage, but I can tell you exactly how Immanuel people relate to gay people: with a hug.

Still, I am sure Blue Like Jazz took paths many of my friends have never considered.  Here is a movie about faith and it is very real.  The language is profane.  The themes are sexual.  It is Mature with a capital "M."

And what of my friends who are spiritual, but not formally so?  What did they get from this film?  Did they see that there are many of us Christians who want to learn how to live out or faith in a way that doesn't make us a people who stand against things, but instead a people who stand for things?  Do they see that we want to stand for love, acceptance, equality, human rights and the reduction of suffering?  Do they see what Jesus means to us?

And all of my friends, do they see why I wanted them to be there?  So that I could show them, all at once, that I am sorry for every time I have failed to represent my God faithfully?  Every time my temper is too short, or my dogma to long?  Every time I have let the opportunity to speak a Word of Peace or Love to pass?  Do they see that the reason I love Blue Like Jazz so much is it makes a statement: we Christians are not God, and sometimes we act too much like we are.

Do they all see that I love them?  Every one of them?  That I wouldn't trade one of them for anything, or that they are always on my mind?  That God fills my heart with a profound concern for their well-being, happiness, and joy?

If they don't know it I need to watch this film again and again until I live out my love for them every moment of every day.  That, after all, is what Jesus does for me.

Blue Like Jazz

Blue Like Jazz The Movie Promo Banner

Did I ever tell you about the time I was in a movie?

Well, that movie is coming to Tallahassee and I want you to go see it with me.  I believe this film can change your life, and if you'll read this rather long blog post I will tell you why.  You can get all the information about this single showing and buy tickets on this page: http://www.tugg.com/events/841

Many years ago I read a book at the recommendation of a friend/mentor.  That book was Blue Like Jazz, and it is a series of essays that tell a story about Donald Miller's journey in faith.  Donald had a lot of trouble squaring up what the Bible says about Christ with the way he was raised in a conventional church tradition.  It was the right book for the right time for me.

If you know me, then you also know I'm a nerd.  I value data, and empirical evidence for claims.  I tend to favor reason over emotion.  That's not to say I'm not a deeply emotional person, but rather I tend to view even my own feelings through the lens of my analytic mind.  I deconstruct everything, including my need to deconstruct everything.  This constant deconstruction when combined with intense personal Bible study left me floundering and confused about God.  I had questions common to our era.  Questions about the age of our universe, the origin of human life, and a lot of the events chronicled in the Old Testament.  Blue Like Jazz helped me be more comfortable with my questions.  I learned to accept God without completely understanding him.

It was good.

Then I learned that they were trying to make a film out of this book.  I also learned they didn't have the backing of a studio to make it happen.  A couple fans of the book organized a campaign on Kickstarter to save the film, and a record number of people donated money to make Blue Like Jazz The Movie happen.  I was one of them.  Everyone who donated became a credited Associate Producer, and a few of us had the change to appear in the film.

So, Jenny and I flew to Nashville.  We spent a very long, very fun day shooting a scene as extras.  For the first time, I saw why movies are so hard to make.  We shot for hours and hours for something that is a few short minutes on screen.

That was it.  Now we had to wait for the film to be released.  When it was released, it didn't come to Tallahassee.

By some Divine Appointment, I did get to see the film on a trip to LA, and once again the timing was fortunate.  I was so afraid the film would be trite or shallow, or that the narrative would be too hard to follow.  If you've read Blue Like Jazz, it's not exactly a story that lends itself to a linear, visual telling.  As it turns out the film is good.  Really Good.

And that was important because this film, like it's book was instrumental in my faith.  Very, very few people know this but even as I was on the set of Blue Like Jazz I was struggling.  By the time I flew to California I was a closet atheist.  My faith in God was completely gone.  I wasn't angry at God.  I just didn't believe in Him.

That was a tough thing because I'm sort of active in church.  I teach Sunday School.  I play in the worship band.  I'm a deacon.  My wife and children are Christians.  So are many of my friends.

So I pretended.  I played the part of a believer, because it seemed to me that for many people Belief is this really powerful thing that keeps them going day-to-day.  I privately grieved the loss of God in my life, and tried to figure out how to keep being a blessing to other people, believers and unbelievers alike.

Two good friends of mine went with me to see Blue Like Jazz in California.  It was a middle-of-the day showing and we were the only three people in the theater.  The movie was funny all the way until I saw Jenny and I on screen.  That was surreal.  And then God smacked me in the face through the screen.  I don't want to spoil the film, but I began to see my journey with God play out.  I weeped openly for the rest of the movie as a spark of faith was renewed in my life.  And that film was the start of a couple of weeks where God came back into my life.  He did so in a way that was more profound than anything I'd ever known.  This sounds very strange, but I feel the Spirit of God with me all the time now.

Why do I tell you all this?  Well, I know so many people who are secure in their Faith–people who God is using in amazing ways to redeem our world.  But I also have to wonder how many people out there are struggling as I struggled.  If you are in a confusing or painful place with God today I want to tell you that you are not alone.  You are not weird.  You are not evil.

You are growing.  For some reason, many of us have to doubt to get closer to God.  I believe perhaps God has to destroy our preconceptions of Him in order to be truly real to us.  I had to trust God enough to tell him why I didn't believe before I could come back to Him.  That's not easy.

I still don't have answers to the Big Questions.  What I do have is a peace that never leaves me, and that is enough for now.

So for all of you misfits, you rebels, you hurting and confused: I invite you to see Blue Like Jazz with me.  If you ever need an ear to listen that will not judge, call me.

Shalom.