They announced the winner of American Idol last night and when they did, the winner did not jump up and down or fall down on his knees. He did not make number one signs with his hands or scream into the camera. He was almost nearly silent. Still. They gave him a guitar and asked him to sing. And he did, but he didn’t make it far. Because when the sparks started shooting out of the screen behind him and the confetti started to drop around him, it seemed nearly too much to take…
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Do you struggle with depression from time to time? I do. Almost everyone does. At the end of his brief epistle (letter) to the church he established in Philippi, the mighty Apostle Paul gives them some practical advice on how to address the problem of depression:
“4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 4:5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 4:7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4–7; NKJV)
Paul tells them to rejoice in the Lord – Always! Not just in the good times, but always, regardless of circumstances. Their circumstances were that they were living in a world that had become extremely hostile to Christians. There was much danger and persecution. Believers were being killed, sometimes brutally.
When we are struggling with depression, or struggling with our circumstances, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us concentrate on what the Lord has done for us rather than concentrating on what the world has done to us. We need to concentrate on our future in Christ rather than our past in this world.
If the cares of this world are getting us down, we mustn’t live there. If we do, our anxieties will throw us into an emotional hole filled with the quicksand of joylessness. Instead, we must pray! We must pray, and pray some more, until the peace of God flows over us like a gentle breeze.
Paul goes on to tell us how to stay out of those emotional holes in the future:
“4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 4:9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8–9; NKJV)
Paul reminds us of the importance of dwelling on Him and not our problems, of dwelling on what He’s already done for us instead of all of the negative things that come into every life as the result of living in a fallen world. We need to dwell on these things … these things that are true, noble things that will lift our hearts, just things, pure things, lovely things, virtuous things, praiseworthy things.
We need to park our minds there, on those things. God will come alongside us in that process. He will be with us there because He never leaves us or forsakes us. Actually, we forsake ourselves. Think about it.
By Gary Swanson
One of the surprising news that caught much attention at this year’s Academy Awards had nothing to do with The Artist, Hugo, The Descendants or War Horse. It was “Angelina Jolie’s Right Leg”. On the red carpet, her right leg slid out from behind her black, high-slit dress every time photographers wanted to capture her. Her sexy right leg (and yes, just the right) had a show of its own at the event. It became a newsworthy highlight. Angelina’s right leg’s achievement to stardom (versus my right leg) is an indicator of what our society cares about – beauty. The beauty that captures the attention of others is not something we just want to see but also pursue, which is why so much of commercial industry is driven by our desire for beauty, whether it is the beauty we find in cosmetics, homes, gardens, apparels, art or a sunset. There’s something powerfully delightfully and profoundly enriching about having beauty in our lives. But what is it about beauty that is so compelling?
Beauty is an ideal that conveys to us the excellent, whole, worthy and perfect. And for that, we are willing to sacrifice at great lengths to achieve beauty because in some sense, whether superficial or substantial, it affords us a sense of significance. We tend to relate beauty to surface aspects that seem to be merely decorative. But often when we discuss whether something is beautiful we realize that “real” beauty, as some would call it, has more to do with qualities that are unseen, like character virtues, personal values or life principles. We see beauty in the charity of a sacrificial person, sincere love of a faithful husband, enduring faith of a single mother, or pure innocence of a child. The portrayal of genuine beauty gives us hope. It reminds us of the good that’s worth fighting for in an often ugly world with troubled lives. It reminds us of the redeemable in our humanity. It tells us, we don’t have to stay this way and we can be better than we are. Perhaps what people want to see on screen, in stories, in magazines and in art is this unseen beauty that gives us hope. But what exactly is beauty? How can we see something unless we know what to look for?
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is a common aesthetic perception which simply says beauty is whatever you make it to be. While beauty is intimately tied to our subjective experiences of pleasure, delight and attraction, its definition can be independent of our subjective experiences, meaning we can subjectively experience something that is objectively defined. One of the many defining elements of beauty, I believe, is truth. This notion that anything beautiful must contain truth extends from the thoughts of the classical Greek philosophers, like Socrates and Plato, to the Christian fathers, like Augustine and Acquinas. This age-old idea has been embraced by recent Christian thinkers like Schaeffer, Tolstoy and Rookmaaker. Truth, not merely the surface aspects, is an essential element of beauty, without which beauty could not exist. Plato argued that anything containing the opposite of truth that is a lie is considered to be ugly. We’re talking about the truth of anything – truth about what’s real, who we are, our problems, our solutions, and most importantly as Plato would agree, God.
Practically, a pursuit for beauty becomes a pursuit for truth. Pursuing this objective beauty ignites a passion in us for life that’s larger than life, because we seek not the sentimental comforts of nice feelings but the grander reality of truth that exists apart from our perceptions and desires. Objective beauty is not molded by our preferences but discovered as we mature in our mind and beliefs. Embracing beauty defined by truth frees us from the distractions of the small appetites of consumerism, the petty pressures of conformity and the confines of self-indulging feelings. When beauty is not merely defined in the eye of the beholder, then we may be free to pursue something greater and beyond ourselves. Our world will always be drawn to and even hunger for beauty. The question is what form of beauty will we settle for, pursue or be satisfied with.
By Brian S. Chan
Pastor of One Thing church in Hollywood, Professor at Biola University (teaching “Beauty & Spirituality”), Juror for 168 Film Project & Author of The Purple Curtain: Living Out Beauty in Faith and Culture from a Biblical Perspective
What difference would it make in our lives and theirs if we extended mercy instead of judgment?
Christianity Today: Can We–Should We–Forgive Hollywood?
By Karen Covell
I have a friend who is a movie critic for a faith-based periodical who sometimes takes me along to screenings. (Critics have a special showing weeks before the movie comes out so that they can give their reviews). One particular movie, which we were screening, had already stirred some content controversy, and he assumed that the producers wouldn’t invite him in fear of bad press. However, not only was he surprised that he was indeed invited, but more so that they made sure he would attend. On the ride over, we were intrigued as to why. Was it because there was a surprise moral consequence at the end of an otherwise ethically deprived movie? Maybe there was an attempt to reach his audience? Nope. It was just what the trailer had promised.
I was half expecting someone to come up to us later and ask if we could attempt to organize one of those “mass boycotts”. So what course of action can we as believers do when the assaulters of what we hold dear welcome our rebukes as “any press is good press”? It would be against conscience to do nothing, right?
To answer this dilemma, one must understand how Hollywood work$. (Misspell intended.) Marketers have done their homework. They already know that you, as a member of the Christian demographic, won’t go see this movie, and quite frankly, they don’t care. That is, they don’t care as long as you voice your opinion to the other demographics, which in turn sparks their curiosity. The marketers are after their money and you have just been duped into giving free and effective publicity.
Here is what has been suggested as the most effective approach. When a movie, which DOES have morals and content that you are in favor of shows up in the theaters, go see it on its opening weekend. Opening weekend box office numbers are the litmus test of movie “success”, creates buzz and gives managers an idea how long to keep it in the theaters. In turn, when a movie comes out which you do not approve of its message or content, on its opening weekend, go to the same theaters (without picket signs) and see ANOTHER MOVIE that has content / message closer to your convictions. Even if that movie has been in the theaters for a weekend or two, congruent playing movies are in high competition against each other for theater numbers. Yes, first weekend theater prices are high, but waiting until it hits the discount theaters or DVD don’t count nearly as much in the numbers game. If you want to go the extra mile, send your ticket stub to the studio (Fox, Paramount, Columbia, etc) of your cleaner movie the movie you chose to go to, with your age, race, gender, how often you go to the movies (for demographic / target audience identification), email address and an explanation as to why you are sending your ticket stub. Why you preferred the cleaner movie you chose to go to over the other and be specific. Even hand write it. Most marketers figure if someone takes the time to send a letter, there are probably a few others with the same opinion who didn’t bother. If you include your phone number and they send your number off to marketing survey (which they may very well do) take the time and answer the survey (some may take 10 minutes). Your opinion transforms to numbers, and then statistics and those statistics count.
On a side note, most marketers don’t yet see the Christian demographic as a lucrative target audience. We have had great strides in becoming so, but one of the issues is that Christians as a demographic only go to select movies and in few small numbers. We can change that. Go see a movie.
By Chuck Hayes, Actor/Writer
Exactly ten years ago, this exact hour, I was trapped in the number 3 subway underneath the Chambers Street Station as horrific events of 9/11 took place above me. I was trying to get home after organizing a prayer meeting for PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THE ARTS in a building on the Westside. By the time the subway back-tracked to 14th St., 45 minutes later, the towers were gone.
My wife had just dropped off our two youngest children at PS 234 only two blocks from the towers. It was their first day of school. As I ran back toward home, brushing against business folks covered in the white ashes, I realized that our loft may not be standing. Instead, I decided to go to my studio below Canal St, ten blocks from the towers, where my wife, thankfully, left a telephone message saying that the children had been evacuated safely, and that she would meet me at the studio. Even at that point, I had no idea what really happened. Soon after, my wife’s ghostly face told me enough: she had met Death face to face and survived.
We have been involved in Redeemer movement since 1992. Tim’s admonition to the leaders to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city” (Jeremiah 29) meant considering to raise our children in the heart of this city. We followed Jesus’ leading to do so, but we did not realize that in doing so, we will become Ground Zero residents.
As an artist, I HAVE spent the last decade searching for a visual language to capture the terrors of our days, but using the medium of art to transcend fears, to infuse hope, and to walk through the fires of life to find the sanctifying fire of God waiting for us. International Arts Movement, a non profit arts organization I founded, made a radical effort to co-create in the midst of the chaos by providing an opportunity for downtown artists to grieve. I am grateful for Redeemer Church to have supported this effort, called TriBeCa Temporary, as we were able to give voices to many artists who were outsiders to churches. Art mediates such dark journeys, and even artists who were not cognizant of God’s grace appreciated being part of a project that allowed them to hope, to create, and to re-humanize.
After 9/11, Judy and I, as parents, had to decide whether to stay or leave. We decided to stay and to commit to raising our children here. Our children learned to invest their creative energies into this broken city. As our youngest daughter heads off to college now, we are indeed grateful that all of them have grown to love this city, to gain empathy for the suffering of others, and to dare to create in the midst of the chaos. Our children are the visible reminder of Jeremiah 29’s promises being fulfilled, even through our uncertain, feeble prayers uttered on the morning of 9/11/2001.
By Makoto Fujimura