Thoughts. Thoughts. Thoughts. Thoughts. Thoughts. I have way more thoughts than I could ever put into writing, especially by the time my next thought displaces the previous one, or the next task demands attention. So, most of the time I simply resign to the fact that everything that’s moving around in my head will simply have to stay there, and disappear into oblivion over time. Take right now for instance. When I started writing this post, I had about five things in my head I wanted to communicate. But right now I can’t think of a single one of them. But at the same time, I’m thinking about my current situation in many areas, family, finances, ministry, etc. I’m also thinking about the future in those same areas. But I’m also trying to see beyond those things to the overall picture of the future to the end goal—the Messianic Kingdom. And now I’m asking myself, “How do I ever expect to communicate these ideas to anyone?” How can I paint a picture of our present situation and then do the same for the Messianic Kingdom, and then build a bridge between the two? Especially, when my time and my attentions are divided into so many directions. Maybe one day I’ll be able to sit, think, and write with a clear train of thought without distraction. Until then, here is a little snapshot of my brain.
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“Full of Grace: The Story of Mary the Mother of Jesus” is a film released in 2015 by Cinedigm Home Entertainment LLC. It is a story about Mary that supposedly takes place ten years after the resurrection of Jesus. Although fictional in nature, it may have some apocryphal origins that I may not be familiar with. It takes place at the end of Mary’s life and draws from church legend about the apostles being gathered to her before her passing. Although the movie does not describe how, and does not even emphasize the point of all of the disciples being there, it seems like the viewer is lead to assume this based on the number of men attending her near her death. The actual script only introduces the viewer to a few of the disciples, primarily Peter and Andrew. The entire film revolves around the refusal of Peter to take leadership of the newly emerging sect of Christians. It touches on the problems with Jews and Gentiles coming together and the ever-developing “heresies” that would begin to plague Christianity going forward.
Peter was cast as an indecisive and almost incompetent disciple who has nearly lost his faith in the years following the resurrection. Rather than receiving his empowerment to continue the faith with boldness from Jesus, Peter is on the brink of giving up. He is spiritually strengthened and renewed, however, by the final words of Mary as she departs this life.
From my perspective there were both positive and negative aspects to the film. There were a few things in particular that I appreciated about this film. One of these is that it was a very family-friendly film in regard to objectionable content. There was nothing in the film that I would not feel comfortable showing my four-year-old daughter. The other main thing, which I was actually pretty excited about, was that there was a scene in which Peter was giving thanks over bread and wine and he prayed the prayers handed down to us in the Didache—the prayers my family and I recite over bread and wine each Friday night. This was actually a touchpoint for us as a family. Last, the cinematography and scoring of the film were commendable and even beautiful at times. While the acting wasn’t too bad, Mary’s character was definitely the strongest.
Unfortunately, for me the negative aspects of this film outweighed the positives. First, the film moved extremely slow. It could not hold my children’s attention, and it could barely hold mine. It is a dialogue-driven movie and there is little to no action and really no plot. Second, there was little to no effort put into making sure this film was historically accurate. There is no understanding of Jewish culture or religious perspectives of the first century, and it comes out strongly in both the scenes and especially the dialogue. Third, it did not strive to place the disciples back into their Jewish context. It’s only been ten years after the resurrection and they are already talking like Protestants and Catholics. This leads me to my next issue. There were numerous issues, mainly in dialogue, that were anachronistic in nature. So much so, that I was too distracted by these to be able to enjoy the film.
Last, the theological tones of this film were overwhelmingly Catholic. With the title being, “Full of Grace” (although Scriptural in origin, it is an obvious allusion to the Hail Mary prayer) I had my suspicions from the beginning. After I watched it, I began doing research on the company that produced it. It was apparently made by an organization called Outside da Box who specializes in creating videos targeting Catholic teens. My suspicions were confirmed. While this is not necessarily a bad thing—let’s face it, all denominations create things to promote their own idealogical perspectives—it should probably be mentioned from the onset that this film is infused with Catholic theology.
Overall, I would give “Full of Grace” a 2.5 out of 5 star rating. If this is the type of film you think you might enjoy, you can purchase it at Fishflix.com, along with hundreds of other faith-based films.
My wife and I were in Wal-Mart late this evening with my oldest son getting a few things for his upcoming trip to summer camp. While we were waiting to check out we noticed a few guys in their early to mid twenties were standing nearby. One of them had one of his arms entirely covered in tattoos. I couldn’t see the other one well, because there was a display between us. However, my son noticed that he had a single tattoo on his right arm and it was in Hebrew. He told me it said אמונה, emunah, the Hebrew word for “faith.”
So, I approached the young man and struck up a conversation. I asked him, “So, how’s your emunah?” He looked at me confused for a split second, so I pointed to his arm. “Oh!” he said with his face lighting up, “Oh, it’s pretty good. I’m not into religion, but I still have faith.” So, I asked him what caused him to get that particular tattoo. Continuing to smile, he responded by telling me that he was raised in a “strict Christian home,” and used to be religious. He had a friend who knew a little Hebrew and he had him help him find the Hebrew word for faith. He said, “I used to be religious, but I’m not so much anymore. I accept people’s religious perspectives and don’t pass judgment, but I’m not into that anymore.”
We exchanged a few more words, I told him a story about another Hebrew tattoo gone bad, and then I offered him my contact info in case he would ever like to dialogue about religion and his personal journey. He happily put my phone number in his phone and said he might like that. I asked him his name, and he said it was Dillon. We shook hands, I told him I would keep him in my prayers, and we parted ways.
As I reflect back on this experience it makes me think of the multitude of “Dillon’s” there are in the world: young adults who were inspired in their childhood or teenage years and then disillusioned as an adult. Young adults who are searching for something ancient and something real. He went out of his way to find out the Hebrew word for “faith” so that he could permanently imprint it onto his body. The irony of it all is that Dillon says he still has faith. But faith in what? He may have a positive outlook, but does he really have faith? Who and what does he believe in? Emunah requires both faith IN something and faithfulness TO something. I think Dillon holds onto his tatt as an anchor to a time in his life when he did have faith, a time when life was much simpler and the more difficult questions of life weren’t beating on his front door. Maybe it reflects a hope that one day he might regain some type of faith, a hope that there really is a good and loving God that personally cares for him. Whatever the case, Dillon is still holding out hope.
How can we reach the Dillon’s of our generation? I think the most effective means is by living authentic, holy lives. Anything less than authentic, a Dillon can see right through it. That’s what has produced the Dillons of our generation. Anything less than holy, a Dillon knows is disingenuous also. Many in the church claim to be living an authentic life. But living an authentic life devoid of holiness is simply being a Dillon. Holy and authentic lives are what Dillons are looking for. Are you producing Dillons or inspiring them to a closer walk with the God of the universe?
Hello everyone. It’s been a very long time since I wrote an actual blog post. Things have been happening so quickly in my life over the last year or two that I’ve hardly had time to come up for air. I’ve got a stack of “to do’s” a mile long and had little time to actually whittle away at that list. I thought I would try to touch base with everyone, and try to get back into writing a blog post every once in a while. So many things have changed in my life in these last few years.
One of the biggest is that my family and I have left our life-long home in Arkansas and moved to Macon, Georgia. At the beginning of April I came on staff at Nachamu Ami Messianic Synagogue as the rabbi’s assistant. It’s been an exciting journey—not without challenges—but one I and my family have been very fulfilled in making. We know this is Hashem’s will for our lives and have dove head-first into our responsibilities and building relationships here in Middle Georgia. While our hearts still ache to be with all those we love back in Arkansas, we are so thankful for the path our Father has put us on to help fulfill His Kingdom mission for this area.
I hope to write more at a later time, but I wanted to at least get a brief word in to update everyone on one of our most important life decisions. If you’re ever in Middle Georgia, take some time to come to Macon and visit us and our incredible congregation. We would love to have you!