As some of you may have seen on my Facebook page, I have been attending the Dallas International Film Festival this week. This is the fifth year I have attended and again I am inspired by the filmmakers who have submitted films. As with most film festivals, the DIFF is for lower budget, independent films as opposed to those produced by studios. What I find inspirational is the determined spirit of the directors and producers who give years of their lives to write, fund, shoot, edit, and then travel the festival circuit hoping that their film will be picked up by a distribution company or cable channel.
I preached about this last year after attending the 2012 DIFF and I highlighted one producer, Xan Aranda, who made a film about musician Andrew Bird as he toured for almost one year. All in all she dedicated three years of her life to this film, to telling the story of Andrews’s “Fever Year.” Xan is currently going through the process again for her next film, “Mormon Movie” a film documenting her mother’s involvement films produced by the Mormon Church. In the first three days of the 2013 DIFF I have been impressed with writer/director Sushrut Jain who made “Beyond All Boundaries,” a documentary about cricket as his home country,India, was hosting and competing in the 2011 World Cup. The film presents, through the story of 3 individuals, how in a country with tremendous differences in culture, class, religion, and regions, cricket is the one thing that brings the country together.
I was also impressed by Walter Strafford, writer/director of Kilimanjaro a film about, as he described, the “quarter-life” crisis that impacts many young adults. This crisis is the time when many must make the decision about continuing to pursue the dreams of their youth or give up on them and get on with “real life.”
The film that has touched me most thus far is “Diving Normal” a film directed by Krisjtan Thor, and written by Ashlin Halfnight and Scotty Crowe, and Phillippe Karner who also produce and co-star as Fulton and Gordon who are best friends and neighbors. Both characters have their “issues” as Gordon has a slight Intellectual Disability and Fulton is an ambitious graphic novelist. Susie Abromeit also co-stars as a beautiful high school acquaintance of Fulton who is in recovery and healing from the brokenness of her past life. Through the course of the film, the characters discover what love is not, what it is, and that to embrace it one sometimes has to let go of what is conventional or considered by others to be normal.
The common thread that runs through all of the independent filmmakers is their passion to tell the story. Whether the film is a documentary that teaches about persons, places, or things, or a feature film that reflects aspects of life, all of the filmmakers are committed to telling their story. In short, they will not be denied. Whether it is rejection after rejection from studios, raising money, running out of money, then raising money again, they are determined to get the script written, the film shot, post produced, and the story told. All of this without promise or even high probability of getting the film sold, distributed, and making a profit.
In Texas folklore, these filmmakers are like oil wildcatters who take great risks, and offer their blood, sweat tears and years to tell their story. As I reflect, this spirit was shared with the earliest Methodists in England and the United States, where the Methodist Church grew with the nation across the continent. These early mothers and fathers of the Methodist movement stopped at nothing in proclaiming the Gospel and establishing communities of faith and holiness in cities, towns and on the frontier.
As disciples we share a commonality with each of these independent filmmakers. We have a story to tell. We have a story that we should be passionate about and determined in sharing. We have a story that we should not let anything keep us from proclaiming to the world. We should be fearless, not be worried about how we will be received or whether we will be heard. Too often we let fears of being rejected or labelled or inconveniences to life and schedules thwart us in our calling and commission to tell the story. We should just be worried about telling the Gospel of Jesus and the love God has for us, the grace God offers us, and the life God wants us to claim.
I have no doubt that God provides us venues to tell the story of Christ if we have eyes to see. Whether in work, school, church, and all the other places life takes us, we are called, baptized, and commissioned, to tell this story and share the Gospel.
I included church as a place where we tell the story, because, while worship is a place we gather to hear the story read from scripture and proclaimed in song and sermon, we also hear the story from one another as we see others attending to worship and sacraments, singing the songs of faith, and praying and exchanging other offerings of care for one another.
In these weeks of the Easter season, as we look forward to the celebration of Pentecost, the challenge all Christians should accept is to match the dedication and determination of independent filmmakers and stop at nothing in telling the story of Christ and God’s love for us. We should look back to our Methodist roots and be wildcatters for Christ, unflinching, undeterred, and always proclaiming.
These were poems I wrote to accompany the songs the Christ UMC Choir sang at the Good Friday Worship. Each piece ends with the name of the corresponding song.
Israel chose the calf, put their faith in gold.
Then later chose human kings, despite the warning Yahweh had foretold
The Pharisees and Leaders chose to keep their power and place.
The People chose and shouted, crucify, Crucify, CRUCIFY Grace.
Jesus also was given freedom and choice,
to see the mission through, or give into his fear and inner voice.
Jesus stayed, his fate sealed by the kiss of a spy.
Jesus chose the nails “He Chose to Die.”
If only they would listen, allow me them to love. Then they would not suffer, in peace they could live, as we above.
I feel their pain, as I wear their stain. I take their sin as my life they rend.
I hear in their shouts, the pain in their jeers. It is for them I weep, for them they see “The Son of God in Tears.
What God had created in Glory, perfect in beauty, function and form, humanity had corrupted, through sin, perfection torn.
Now as they killed the Creator, the Son, the Word, creation unleashed its grief, its fury it unfurled.
The failure of the stewards, their covenant again not keeping, today, with this ultimate betrayal, “Even the Heavens Are Weeping.”
He had gathered a following from his years in the field. Sinners, taxmen, those of the night, the ones in whom his power wields.
But now to the City he had come to spread calm, riding a donkey to the wave of a palm.
Some still foolish in their praise they did raise, though the ministers and masters he failed to amaze.
They did conspire with the hated from Rome. They sold it, his death, to preserve their home.
They worked their magic, and with their power they swayed, the people conceded, and on cue they obeyed.
And the Love, the Glory, the Grace was undone, as they tortured and crucified “The Carpenter’s Son.”
They only way to convey such love, and get his redeeming peace across,
was send the perfect loving Son, to die “Upon A Sinner’s Cross.”
“Tree of Sorrow”
His hands were used to the feel of the wood,
hands now splintered, nailed to the cross that stood.
He from the tree rendered his livelihood at home.
Now he hangs on the tree, as fear and jealousy partnered with Rome.
Though he felt the nails through his feet and his hands, and it was his life drained with the blood to the sand.
We are the ones who had no hope for tomorrow, were it not for our righteous Savior, who suffered on the “Tree of Sorrow.”
It is over, as the nails are driven, yet over that noise we hear we are forgiven.
Forsaken, forgotten, it is finished, yet His love, His grace is still undiminished.
Hear the nails that push through flesh to the wood, for our sake and eternity, on this Friday Good.
We whine, we complain, even after his pain. We are forgiven though we fail, hear the nails, feel the nails.
We are forgiven though we fail, “Hear the Nails, Hear the Nails.
From the “PULPit Fiction Series of Sermons:” Redemption
Acts of Jesus that outside of faith and relationship with God are fictional stories from pulpits.
177 years ago today the final siege against the Alamo began. Before the sun rose the following day, the fort had fallen, the defenders were dead, and the revolution for Texas independence had a battle cry that would carry it to victory. While truth has mixed with legend in the memory and memorialization of the events of the 13 days in March 1836, what is certain is the Alamo is the sacred touchstone for all who claim the name Texan and for those who appoint greatness to this heritage and State.
The battle cry, “Remember the Alamo” not only helped Texians win independence from Mexico and establish the Republic of Texas, it also spoke to another nation, 105 years later, as it sought to recover from a bitter loss and stop tyranny, “Let’s Remember Pearl Harbor, like we did The Alamo.”
The first thing I saw today when I plugged into the world via Facebook was the reminder from several friends to “Remember the Alamo!” As a Native Texan, I certainly join in the remembrance and ask that people remember more than the cry and truly remember the Alamo.
From the Texas point to view, the Story of the Alamo is one of heroic bravery and sacrifice as 187 men chose to stay and fight against overwhelming odds, 1800 Mexican soldiers, rather than give the garrison to the Mexican army led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. “Remember the Alamo” then is the story of 187 men who chose to stand, fight, and die so that others could live in freedom and not under imperial rule.
The question that faces Texans and Texas today is not whether we should remember the Alamo, but how should we remember the Alamo. Do we remember and celebrate the slogan, the movie, the mythology, or do we remember and honor the dedication and sacrificial spirit of the men willing to die so that others might live in freedom?
Currently the State of Texas ranks 49th in support of persons, and families, living with disabilities. Currently there are 60,000 people on Medicaid funded wait lists for state support services such as Home and Community based Services (HCS). These services allow persons with disabilities to receive appropriate therapies, live at home with their families or in group homes where they can have fulfilling and functional lives. Currently this HCS wait is over 12 years but the list is frozen and has been frozen for 3 years. Currently there are no plans to reopen the list for at least the next two years. Currently thousands of disabled individuals are imprisoned, living under the repression of disabilities and a society that chooses not to do all it can to support them in living lives that are as meaningful as they could be. Currently tens of thousands of more family members of persons with disabilities are imprisoned by the needs and limitations presented by their loved one’s requirements which extend beyond their abilities to meet.
Yes, support of persons with disabilities is expensive. Yes, adequate support that allows for persons with disabilities to live meaningful lives that contribute society requires sacrifice from others in that society. Is this sacrificial giving so that others can escape the imprisonment that is life with disabilities the same spirit that was in the 187 men who died in the Alamo? Yes. Can we truly remember and honor the Alamo and not share this same spirit and willingness to make sacrifices so that others may have more freedom? No!
If individuals, or collectively the State of Texas, do not wish to make the financial sacrifices necessary to appropriately care for those most vulnerable to suffering and living lives imprisoned by their disabilities, they certainly have the right to decline. But, if that is the choice, please do not insult the memory of those 187, who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that others whom they did not know would have the possibility of freedom, by celebrating and claiming to remember their heroism and selfless spirit.
As a parent of a child with significant special needs, and speaking for all those impacted by intellectual disabilities, on this the 177th anniversary of the sacrifice of those in the mission, during this the 83rd Legislature of the State of Texas, I invite the Governor, Legislators and Citizens of the State of Texas to heed our call to increasing support to those with disabilites by remembering the clarion call from The Alamo’s Commander, William B. Travis in his Freedom Letter written during the siege and sent from the Alamo: