Monday, December 12, 2016

Christmas Decorations 2016

Hello friends and bloggers! Please enjoy this mini-tour of my Christmas selection this year. Christmas is definitely my favourite time of year to decorate, (which says a lot because I am in the habit of decorating for most holidays/seasons!) When I first started my Christmas collection I was torn between using more golds, and soft browns verses bright vibrant reds. The deciding factor was the fact that my winter wedding decor lent itself well to doubling as Christmas decorations. So, as you can see, I have settled on more earthy and natural tones, with the exception of a little red near our tree. To me it is the perfect balance. You need at least SOME red, right?! I love classic and clean decorations. You don't need a TON, just the right ones; a collection you absolutely love, not items you just put out simply because you have them or were gifted them. That way you're surrounded by items that spark joy and don't just clutter. How is YOUR decorating coming along, everyone?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Social Media, Selfies & Jesus



The other day I was sitting down at my electric piano attempting to write worship music. I had started to play maybe only a few notes when all of a sudden I had this epic idea: I was going to take a photo of how 'beautiful' I've made my creative space. I mean, check it out... all the different coloured lights (sorry, colOr if you spell it the American way ;) Look at my cute little dandelions that I picked up from Ikea... and a painting I painted a few months ago... and my bright pink journal. Hashtag #HappyPlace. And you know what? My mind shifted from a place of creative focus to a less productive and more narcissistic way of thinking. What could have been a personal, intimate song-writing session with the Lord turned into a scheme of how I could get others to look into my life and one by one give me their stamp of approval. I mean, I didn't actually THINK all these things intentionally, I wasn't consciously looking for validation from anyone but if we are honest, a lot of the times, that's exactly what's going on. The reason I stopped in my tracks and decided not to post the photo was this thought: "Amy, why does anyone need to see a photo of your creative space? How will it enrich their lives? Is this about adding beauty to the world? Or is this a meaningless, 'I'm bored or need some attention from others' kind of post." I mean, there could be a million unsaid reasons why we post. The point of this blog post however is not to bash social media, but rather to start asking myself the more important questions that have to do with heart posture. Do I live my life in such a way where everything I do needs to be seen through the lens of Instagram? Am I living in a way where I'm addicted to capturing all the perfect moments (or at least on the surface they appear perfect) and broadcasting them to the world as if to say, "Hey world!! I'm alive!! I am awesome! My life is awesome!!" 

How many times have we been in mid-conversation and someone says to us, "Hahaha!! That was so funny! You should make that your status" Or, "I'm gonna tweet that". I've done this too. Now please understand me, there is NOTHING WRONG with tweeting or status updates. I get that we are all looking for human connection. However, we can abuse the system and actually be falling into the trap of self-absorption when we filter every momentevery conversation through a "is this tweet worthy?" filter. The subconscious way we live, always keeping an eye open for our next instagram-worthy photo or that clever facebook status, says many things, but one thing strongly in particular: we are always thinking about ourselves. Now maybe you're reading this and you're thinking, "I don't care what people think of me. I don't compare myself to others or seek their approval". Well then try this experiment: post a photo, or a status and then don't check it for at least a day. We say we don't care but we're constantly checking to see who gave us the thumbs up. It's a disease we have. The average person checks their phone about 50 times a day. For some, I'm sure the number is twice that.

The word Selfie became an official word in 2013. We've become so addicted to taking photos of ourselves that this very action got it's own name/definition in the dictionary! 

sel·fie
ˈselfē/
noun
informal
  1. a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media.
    "occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself everyday isn't necessary"


How Interesting, that within the definition itself it  says, "typically shared via social media". So not only do we take a photo of ourselves, but we need to share it with the 878 friends we have on Facebook. The question is why? What does showing our face to the world whether all dulled up or #natural say about us? Whether or not we agree, or even realize, the truth is we are communicating. Unfortunately we're probably not communicating the things we really hope to. Perhaps we've been lead to believe that posting a photo of ourselves every day says, "I'm confident in who I am". But actually, and I love this quote, "Confidence is silent, insecurity is loud... And true beauty isn't a try-hard, it just is". Insecurity is always screaming out for attention. Insecurity is always needing to prove itself. Let me take a moment and speak to the ladies: how hard is it for us girls when we go out somewhere, whether on a date, or go out with friends (and we look good!!!) ... how hard is it to resist taking a photo of ourselves? We think, "Dang... I look good. It would almost be a crime NOT to take a photo!". Haha!! And I'm laughing because I'm a woman! I know how it goes!! It is so hard for us to just be. It is so hard for us to embrace the moment, let it come, and let it go. We constantly need the proof. We're not beautiful until we have the proof.

Okay, so please know, selfies are not the devil. In fact, when you have friends and family living on the other side of the country or globe, seeing their faces can be a treat. What is more, you can still be completely self-absorbed and not take any selfies. You can be that person who posts scripture verses all the time for the purpose of trying to get people to believe you are the most spiritual person around. You can post pictures of your food 24/7, or your workout sessions so people know how well you cook or how fit you are. Even those stay-at-home moms who post a dozen photos of their adorable children and every happy moment with their husbands and family to show how picture perfect their life is. Really, we can turn ANY POST into a selfish endeavor. It all comes back to our heart posture and the WHY.

I may get into trouble for writing this blog and perhaps it will rub some people the wrong way, but let me stress, this post is not to cast judgement. Remember, I'm talking to myself. I'm navigating through the world of social media alongside all of you. God stopped me in my tracks a few days ago and I've been impacted ever since. I need to stop allowing social media to be a source of validation. If I never post another photo ever again, will I still believe I am having fun? What if we just stopped thinking about ourselves all together, would we have more space in our brain to see the people around us as people we could serve and heal, instead of people we are in competition with? Depression and anxiety are running rampant in this day and age. I believe a lot of it has to do with the sin of comparison. Constantly evaluating our lives, our worth, by comparing ourselves to those we see every single day through the screens of our smart phones. 

Life is beautiful. I understand we want to capture some of these beautiful moments. In fact, I love Instagram for that reason. It's a collection of memories that are special to me. But everything must be done in moderation and with intentionality. Just because it was a good time doesn't mean I need to share it publicly. Lets discern with the Holy Spirit how to function with this new modern technology. Lets let our lives and our Instagram feeds scream, "Jesus first, others second, me last..." And how about this, how about instead of posting every time we have the urge, why not posting every other time we have the urge? Why don't we be really picky about what we post so that we're not just throwing up all over social media absolutely everything we think/feel/do. 

God's heart for you, for me, is not that we remain insecure. Girl, you ARE beautiful already. When Satan told Eve "You will be able to be like God if you eat of the tree" it was the greatest deception in the history of our world, and she fell for it. Because guess what? She was ALREADY like God. She was made in His image! What a sad, sad story. Eve failed to see who she ALREADY WAS. The enemy gives us empty promises, tries to get us to sell ourselves only to obtain something we already have and already are. We are beautiful. We are loved. Our lives are beautiful. This same principle can of course be applied to men. You are ALREADY enough. Lets stop all of our striving. 

True beauty isn't a try-hard... it just is. And YOU ARE.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Gossip

Gossip.

It's not a sin that gets a lot of attention in the church. Many people don't notice it- whether they're delivering gossip, or being told gossip. Unfortunately, many Christians justify gossip with thoughts like, "I just want to know how to properly pray for so-and-so... can you tell me everything he said to her?" Or, on the receiving end, "I probably already know what you're going to tell me so you might as well go ahead and say it..."

I don't know what sort of mental gymnastics we go through to justify gossip, I'm sure it's different for each of us, but lets be honest: many times we say things to our friends or neighbors that we would never say to the person we're talking about. Social media certainly opens the doors for gossip and judgment as we brows through photos on instagram and facebook, judging people's weight, clothing, decisions, friends etc. We somehow get life out of the fact that we are more 'holy' or more 'mature' or 'humble' than the person who constantly talks or posts about themselves. Sure, we all see people online that do things we would never do, or perhaps just shouldn't do (since none of us are perfect), but do we really need to verbalize to other people our thoughts? What if Jesus was in the room with you and your friends, would you still say things about Rachel's terrible makeup and laugh amongst yourselves? Would you still judge Jennifer for the 101 daily selfies, or would you talk about something a little more meaningful?

What about strangers in the street? If you were taking a stroll in the park with Jesus, would you crack jokes about the "ugly", awkward body-shaped people you saw? Or the mother who can't seem to control her child having a temper tantrum? Would you verbalize your disgust for the overweight alcoholic sitting on the park bench and go on about how lazy or pathetic they are? Or what about that woman who you know has had plastic surgery on her face and boobs, prancing around in a skin-tight dress and high heels too high for any human being- would you whisper to Jesus about how outrageous she is? Now all y'all are sitting here thinking, "of course not", and yet we all have inner dialogues with ourselves when we're out in public, and some of us unfortunately verbalize it, and way too often at that.

I want to challenge us (yes, absolutely including myself here), to remember that Jesus is always present. He hears every word we say. If you could physically see Jesus, I'm sure it would be an effective tool to help us all tame our tongues. God sees value and beauty in everyone and so should we. I'm not saying that we need to praise everyone's decisions or call decisions that are clearing damaging, "good", but we all need to remember- if someone is not a Christ follower, we cannot expect them to act like one. Why would we judge the people that don't know God? We are called to LOVE those people. Judgement or "accountability" in the Christian sense, is reserved for people you have intimate, close relationships with. If you see your brother or sister stumbling, you have the responsibility to care for them and bring to light sin or harmful decisions they are making so that they can be restored. And even then, before you do so, you need to examine your own heart. If you do not have a close, intimate relationship with a person, unless you know Holy Spirit has called you to do it, you have no right judging others or pointing out their faults. Without a real friendship, these people won't even hear you. They won't consider what you have to say.

"The tongue has the power of life and death" (Proverbs 18:21). Words have power. If you consider yourself a Christ follower, speaking life giving words should be a priority. There's no need for us to slander anyone. No matter who they are. Even if it's celebrity gossip. Celebrity gossip is some of the lowest talk. We don't know any of these people. Jesus wants a relationship with every person- even the ones in Hollywood. You are no more valuable to God than the actor or actress on the latest netflix phenomenon- even if they are on their 6th marriage and have a drug problem. That's none of our business.

Col. 4:6 says "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt..."

Jesus died for each and every person on this planet we call earth. Every person has unsurpassable worth in God's eyes. It should be the same in our eyes.


Friday, January 1, 2016

Two Books to Read in 2016

Dear bloggers:

As perhaps some of you know, one of my goals towards the end of last year was to become a more  dedicated blogger and that's still a goal of mine that's pushing into 2016. Not only do I want to start writing more consistently but I want to also spend more time Vlogging (talking into the camera, as un-exciting as that sounds!!) I feel like there are some cool journeys God has been taking me through and it would be great to hear from all of you and interact with you more on the Interwebbies as I like to call it, but you have to say it in the accent of Flula to get the full effect ;)


Anyways friends- let me cut to the chase here: I need to tell you about two incredible books. One is called "7" by Jen Hatmaker, the other is called "the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. My husband gave both of these to me at Christmas (he knows me so well), since I've recently been on this quest to simplify my life in order to have more time for what really matters and to bring Jesus into every decision I make so that I can be a good steward of all God's given me. As someone who is an active abolitionist (fighting human trafficking and slave labour) I've realized more and more that my purchases and lifestyle do not just affect me, but they affect a whole chain of people. From the children who work long hours to pick cotton for my clothes, to the women who have to abandon their families all day to work long hours at sewing mills to assemble countless items of beautiful, (yet inexpensive) items to feed my greed.

I have another task for you this year. Find the time and courage at some point to watch the documentary, The True Cost. I watched in on Netflix not too long ago and it is probably one of the most eye opening documentaries I've ever seen. I quote one young girl from the film, "What the people in America don't understand, is that they are wearing clothes that were made with our blood... Our tears and our blood..." The 2013 building collapse of a sewing factory in Bangladesh killing over 1 thousand people, leaving 2,500 injured is just one example of what happens when greed triumphs compassion and justice. Unfair working conditions, forced labour, slavery, these are things that in some shape and form I enable by making uninformed purchases.

What is worse, who of us can say that we regularly make clothing purchases we NEED? For what purpose are we enslaving others? As Jen Hatmaker exposes from her own wardrobe in "7", (but this could be said of any of us) before starting to"simplify" her clothing, she found over 327 different items, and a decent percentage of those clothes she hardly wore. Some even had the tags on still.

There are several ways to fight against slavery, one of course being to do your research and figure out if the items you are buying were made in the U.S. or if they are Fair Trade, but another great way to make a positive impact is just stop buying so much! Just because Forever21 has buy two get one free, or tank tops for $2.99 doesn't mean you need to get it. Just remember, the cheaper it is for you to buy, the cheaper it was to make, because the reality is,  slave labour cuts costs. Do you know who has made YOUR clothing?

For the sake of this blog I want to focus on this idea of buying LESS and refusing excess. When I moved this past November into a smaller apartment, God really broke my heart over this issue of excess. Why did I have boxes (plural) of shoes when my brothers and sisters in India or Ethiopia walk around bare foot? Why was I okay with the fact that I could hardly fit all of our possessions into our home when I've been to Brazil and other poor countries where the entire family eats off of one plate? Well obviously I am no longer okay with this. It's not enough for me to give $40.00 to Compassion International each month to sponsor a child. It's not enough for me to 'pray for the poor' when I stuff my face with 6 million different varieties of food. If you'd like to be challenged this year- if you really want to dive into Jesus words about 'loving your neighbor as yourself' or learning to live the simple way Jesus did, I highly encourage you to read this book.

This past October / November when I was on tour in Alberta, my good friend Dana Marie started talking about the book, "The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up". She exclaimed right away how this book has changed her life. She's been posting regularly about the life-giving, "keeping it simple" lifestyle changes. So how does this book fit into the topic of this blog you ask? It fits because it encourages a life style that is minimalistic, and a minimalist life is not only good for our spirit and our mind (too much mess, clutter and excess can be very stressful), but it's also good for the environment and the 29 million people that are enslaved in the 21st century.

What is more, I cannot deny, Jesus was a minimalist:
"If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven...." ~Jesus
"It is more blessed to give, than receive" ~Jesus
"Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." ~Jesus
And lets not forget the over 300 verses on the poor. God obviously thinks very highly of the poor, and we cannot turn a blind eye towards them. How does my life style affect the weak or poor? How does my lifestyle enable or disable the Holy Spirit to work powerfully in my life and to advance His Kingdom on this earth? As someone who battles anxiety, I cannot tell you how liberated I've felt these past few months as I've cleaned house and simplified what I wear, what I own and what I eat. Clutter is my worst nightmare. Mess creates stress. Too many options in the fridge wastes time.

This year I choose to simplify. Simplify everything. It is only after I learn to simplify will I actually have more time to do what is important and to do it well. I believe minimalism will become the new fad. I believe it is the way forward, because it is the Jesus way. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

God's Not Dead - Propaganda or Art?

Last night I finally watched God's Not Dead. It was on Netflix and I had surprisingly heard some decent things about it from friends, so I thought, why not give it a try. My husband entered onto the scene not long after it started. He initially walked away after a few minutes, however, overhearing the movie from his office he stepped back into the room to stay. He was intrigued. We both were. 


We were intrigued because we could not believe our eyes and ears. I've known and experienced Christian, low-budget movies before. I was already prepared for the cheese, and to be honest, I can handle cheese, even get moved by it, but it wasn't the cheese that offended me. It was the very nature of the film. The whole movie was dripping with propaganda and insensitivity. As soon as I finished watching the movie, I went online to read reviews to see if I was alone in my impressions of the film. Review after review from Christians, pastors, agnostics alike, all wrote reviews that echoed my heart cry. They were deeply offended. 

I quote one agnostic, 
“By the end of this movie I was almost in tears at how offended and upset I was… I’m not some hurt atheist, in fact, I am not really sure what I believe at this point in time but I can guarantee you this movie only made me angry at the Christians who made it. Growing up in a church I have met many intelligent and insightful Christians who I love dearly. This movie was so disgusting in it’s execution that I almost asked the theater for a refund…”
The main synopsis of the film is this:

An atheist professor makes his class declare that "God Is Dead" (which is extremely unbelievable, setting the tone for the rest of the film), and the lone Christian student in his class spends the entire film convincing him that God exists. Along the way, our lead character faces obstacles but determined to win over his class and his professor, he pushes on. Throughout the movie we are introduced to several side characters, each with their own seemingly unrelated story, who in the end all become loosely tied together in that they attend a Christian rock concert in the movie's final scenes.

The atheist Philosophy Professor Radisson taunts our freshman lead character, Josh, for his beliefs and challenges him to prove that God exists in a series of in-class presentations. Josh accepts the challenge, and woven in-between several other stories, are Josh's presentations complete with studio-quality power-point presentation productions. Perhaps Radisson had been baiting his class to see if anyone would rise to the challenge the way Josh does. Maybe Josh, by standing up to Radisson, would turn out to be just the kind of student Radisson was really looking for. Radisson clearly never could have lacked a Christian student in his class before this day, perhaps this was part of his curriculum. I started to look forward to some lively, intellectual debate. Josh's first presentation was about the Big Bang theory and how since scientists don't know how the universe came from nothing, it proves that God exists. I suppose it’s a sign of progress that a movie so popular with evangelicals is okay with the idea that the universe is billions of years old. Josh finishes his presentation, Radisson offers a ridiculous rebuttal and class is dismissed. This is where the movie comes completely off it's hinges. After Josh’s first in-class presentation, Radisson catches him in the hall, grabs him aggressively from behind, and makes various angry threats if Josh dares to go on “humiliating” him in front of the class. 

One reviewer writes, 
"I simply could not believe that a philosophy professor would expose his insecurities so nakedly to one of his students like that. I couldn't help but laugh despite the obvious attempt at creating a menacing tone. It was a shocking scene but for all the wrong reasons. Radisson's behavior sets a pattern that we start to see a myriad of random characters start to follow."
Josh has two more presentations to make and when he does, Radisson never offers any of the obvious rebuttals to some of Josh’s typical first-year arguments. This is frustrating because the movie misses out on debating Christianity against points that an actual atheist would make. Instead we are presented with several straw man fallacies that attempt to present the Christian's perspective as obvious and the supposed atheist's perspective as foolish. 

In the third and final in-class presentation, Josh suddenly exhibits a confidence that he never had before, and he decides to get Radisson riled up in a way that will force him to blow his temper in front of the class. It is in this scene that it is revealed that Radisson is in-fact not an atheist at all, but rather a former Christian who lost his faith due to his mother dying. 

One reviewer writes:
"An atheist does not carry the debate if the Christian God is alive or dead; ... To suppose that the atheist believes that there was a god, alive, dead or just really drunk is just insulting. If you're going to try to offend atheists, please be semi-accurate in representing the MAIN character as one rather than falsely labeling your own 'brother' as one. I love a good propaganda movie like any other good 'Murican but come on."
And note, here, that Josh wins the argument not through logic, but by swaying the class and its perception of their teacher, emotionally. Radisson is wrong not because he has worse arguments, but because he has messed-up motivations for his beliefs.

So here we have a film that pretends to be about philosophy, but really has no idea what philosophy is all about — and it’s being pitched to Christian audiences as some sort of grand statement about the validity of their belief. What it really is of course, is a lot of tribal chest-thumping. And it’s remarkable, in that light, to see how “the tribe” is defined within this film. This 'us vs. them' mentality is thrust upon us throughout the entire movie. It is through this agenda that we see how offensive this movie actually is. 

All of the "thems", (the people who are non-Christians), all have something in common. And what is that? Lets take a look at some our atheist characters.

Professor Raddison: a tyrant in the classroom and in his personal life; he mocks and threatens his students and publicly humiliates his girlfriend. 

The Journalist: a career-driven and rude woman; ambushes her Christian interview subjects (Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson and his wife Korie in one encounter, and the band Newsboys, in another) to ask them offensive questions. For example, she asks, “Why aren’t you barefoot and pregnant?” in the first interview.

The Businessman: portrayed as the most self-centered and callous person imaginable. He does not visit his mother because she is suffering from dementia, and he breaks up with his girlfriend when she reveals she is suffering from a fatal cancer.

The Abusive muslim father (Need I say more), but I will later.

Father of Chinese student:  shows no interest in his son’s life, and when his son starts talking about God, he gets angry and shuts him down.

What has the audience gathered about all "non-Christians" at this point? All atheists are mean, self-centered, angry or abusive. Creation.com, says this: 
"The Character portrayals of atheists and other religions will generally be found to be unbelievable by viewers, whether Christian or not. And worse still, for a professing Christian movie to portray them so unreasonably is very uncharitable. Weaker brethren may even find these portrayals believable and if so, it will do nothing to engender Christian love to those who are outside of Christ. We (Christians) do not like to be caricatured in this way, and certainly believers should apply the admonition to “do unto others”.
God's Not Dead acts like a huge warning for Christians; a "look out!", or "beware!" of these types of people that will get in your way or come against you.

In one completely out-of-place scene, we see reality TV star Willie Robertson from Duck Dynasty walk into church with his wife. They are both ambushed by a the atheist journalist who wants to interview the TV star and ridicule him for his beliefs and support of guns. Willie Robertson defend's himself against this liberal by sporting his American flag bandana and quoting scripture.

Variety.com says this,
“God’s Not Dead” wants us to know that Christianity is under attack in the old U.S. of A. — attack from the liberal, “Duck Dynasty”-hating media ...."
When Josh's girlfriend dumps him after 6 years (they were dating since they were 12), the movie is suggesting, "Beware of that non-supportive Christian". 

Through the character of Raddison who verbally abuses his students and his Christian live-in girlfriend, we see "Beware of the world of academia, with its self-important evolutionary scientists and atheistic philosophies."

And perhaps the most offensive "beware" in this film, is the "Beware of non-Christian faiths"

The portrayal of the one and only muslim family was by far the most offensive aspect of this film, at least to me anyways.

Ayisha, an attractive girl who while waiting to be picked up from school, puts on not just a head-covering, but a face-covering right before her ride home arrives to satisfy her father. Here we have the conservative Muslim father who is oppressing his daughter who just wants to be a Christian and wear "normal" clothes. It isn't long before her Muslim father finds out that she has been listening to Franklin Graham's sermons and begins to beat her, all while a Christian radio pop song plays in the background as the soundtrack. Perhaps it is ironically fitting that we are treated to an anti-Muslim, abuse scene revolving around the discovery of a sermon by Franklin Graham since he is sadly known for creating fear-mongering against Muslims. Further credibility this movie had as a movie, or a theological thought piece is lost.


I quote one reviewer, 

"This will probably cause any Muslim watching the movie to immediately step out in disgust. Sure, this may happen a lot in other countries and maybe even sometimes in the U.S., but they shouldn't have shown the only Muslim family in the entire movie as being abusive and dysfunctional. That alienates any Muslim in the audience as being dysfunctional."

Eventually, all the movie’s various threads - and there are a lot of them, several of which the film doesn’t even try to tie together until maybe an hour into the story - come together at the aforementioned Newsboys concert. And this, it seems, is how the film understands evangelical community: a bunch of people going by themselves to a rock concert, basking collectively in the glow of pop-culture celebrities. If Willie Robertson from the hit reality TV show Duck Dynasty didn't seem like product placement, the Christian radio pop band the "Newsboys" playing themselves will. While we enjoy them performing a couple of their songs, we see Radisson at home reading a letter from his late mother where she spells out her hopes and dreams for him. After he reads this letter he phones his ex-girlfriend (who is currently enjoying the concert). When she doesn't pick up, he notices a newspaper on his desk with the headline detailing that the Newsboys are playing in town. Upon this revelation, he rushes out and starts walking downtown to find her.

Radisson crosses the street only to get hit by a car. A pastor we'd been introduced to early in the film, and his African American missionary friend see him get hit, and without ever knowing or meeting this character, instead of screaming for help, getting paramedics, calling 911, (anything at all!), they begin talking to him about his faith in Jesus. The Reverend says it's a miracle that the professor wasn't killed instantly! Of course, the professor dies anyway so really he ends up dying painfully and slowly, while also being forced to profess faith in Jesus before his death. Maybe it was just poor acting, but there was no compassion, no genuine concern about this man. It was like no one cared about him. The pastor and his friend seemingly laugh light heartedly about how the professor is in heaven right now anyway, like their mission was accomplished. 

After Radisson closes his eyes, the movie cuts back to the Newsboys concert where one of the Duck Dynasty guys appears on a screen at the concert and tells everyone in the audience to take out their cell phones and spam everyone they know with text messages declaring “God’s not dead.” This, he says, is how “we’re going to tell Jesus we love him.” (And then the film’s closing credits tell people in the theater to go and do likewise.) We are treated to a scene where all the angry atheists (who are still alive) pull out their cell phone and read the text and then go on with their lives. They are impacted about as much as anyone would be after watching this movie.

And that is really where this movie's failures come to a head. Even though the movie has a dozen random plot-lines revolving around Josh's collage debates over the existence of God, they don't really make anyone change their minds in any believable way. Josh's arguments, the movie's central focus, have nothing to do with Jesus. He may as well have been arguing for the existence of Allah. The way both Josh and the film as a whole assume that any proof for the existence of God must necessarily constitute proof for the existence of Jesus and the rest of the Christian belief system is laughable. The fact that there are so many religions — the fact that so many people believe in God without subscribing to Christian beliefs about a certain historical person named Jesus — should tip us off to the fact that there is an entirely separate discussion to be had there, beyond abstract arguments for and against the existence of a Creator.

Instead we are left with Josh winning over his entire class. Each student, one by one, comically stands up and proclaims "God's not dead" in a robotic fashion. Was there a Muslim in the class? Maybe Josh was making a case for Allah. Maybe that is why some of them stood up. Who knows, because otherwise their conversion via three twenty minute presentations certainly couldn't have accomplished that.

Backed by conservative news programs, this movie portrays Atheists as evil beings who "hate god" and are determined to convert Christians. I quote a reviewer, 
"In actually,  atheists do not "hate" god; god is simply something they don't believe exists. As to forcing their way of thinking on anyone, the movie has it backwards. It's Christian zealots who demand that everyone think like them. Most atheists - those that I know anyway - are happy to let others believe as they wish as long as they don't force their "values" on the rest of us."
I'm not trying to bash the writers or producers of this film or sound cynical. I think us Christ-followers can have meaningful discussions, raise valid questions and should think critically. That's my goal with this post, not to bash, but to ask thought provoking questions.  We need to provoke each other to good works (Heb. 10), and I am concerned that some Christians are unable to see how divisive films like this can be, even if the intentions were good, or to be a "witness". If Christians are going to continue to make movies about their faith, they need to reflect the love of Jesus Christ. A non-Christian should be able to watch it and feel attracted to something holy and unexplainable. If Christians make movies that are self-serving, negative, xenophobic, and demeaning to non-Christians then they are doing much more harm than good.

I think this last critic (who stated online that he was a pastor), says something quite challenging and profound so I'll leave you with his words:
Although [this film] may offer Christians some apologetic material, it will fail to engage the larger culture in any meaningful way. The reason for this is simple. Most Christians seem wholly unable to grasp the difference between propaganda and art. Art is a powerful but subtle tool that draws people in and causes them to question their assumptions without even realizing it . Propaganda is a blunt force instrument for communicating dogma in story form. Without any shadow of a doubt this film is more propaganda than art, and thoughtful atheists will see it for what it is even if Christians can’t. Perhaps we need fewer Christians doing art and more artists serving Christ..."

Monday, August 17, 2015

Outdoor Concert & Worship Event

Amy Savin Concert September 11th

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Grace For the Church

As I sit here in my studio office this cozy, rainy Thursday morning (although... as cozy as the rain is, I would not mind some sunshine!!! Been raining like every day here in Michigan!!!), I feel compelled to write an honest reflection about the church.

There are other things I should be doing, but perhaps this is where God wants me this morning. Those of you who know me well, know I've been going to church my whole life... typical pastor's kid life: Dad was/is a well respected pastor, mother was the submissive tender hearted, supportive pastor's wife, and all of us kids lived life somewhat under a microscope. You know, the glass house scenario: there was always this pressure to be the 'perfect role model'. Needless to say, I have some really great memories of Church, and some not so good.

I've always been a TRUTH seeker. I've always questioned everything, especially if it did not make sense to me. As a pastors kid, I spent countless hours at my dad's feet learning about the Bible and the meaning behind certain scriptures. I also questioned certain practices the church had. Some I could fully understand, others I could not. I come from a rare breed of Christians called the "Anabaptists". They are a simple and peaceable people- they do not believe in violence of any kind, including going to war. They take very seriously to heart Jesus' words about loving your enemy. To this day, I still really appreciate and stand in agreement with this view point. But there were other things in the church I grew up in that I could never commit to- view points, practices, traditions that for me, don't line up with where I feel God wants me.

Now I'll say this: there is NO perfect church. If you've found one, you probably don't belong there because you and I are not perfect. No church has perfect theology, perfectly blameless and Godly staff, perfect services/sermons that meet our every needs- It just doesn't exist. Having said that, as I've grown older, and experienced other churches, I feel like I can see a theme in my life: Satan has always tried to attack this idea of "church" in my life. He's always been trying to keep me out of this place- I know this because of wounds I've carried (deep wounds) from "Christians"...from people in the church. In fact, people who have hurt me the most, the deepest, have all been Christians. I know it's completely unfair and illogical to expect that Christians will never hurt you, since after all, we're all just a bunch of sinners saved by Grace, but one would think- if God has done a miracle in someone's heart, that person would be a person of Grace and compassion like our Maker. The truth is- EVERYONE is at a different stage in their relationship with God. Every Christ-follower is on a journey. Some are just baby Christians, others have journeyed with God many many years and have great wisdom and divine understanding. Mind you, there are those people who have been walking with God for years but have never done any major heart work and so they are in fact still BABY Christians. And there are those who get baptized, and within a few months they're casting out demons and prophesying! ;-) Your spirituality can only grow as quickly or as often as you feed it!! Time is often irrelevant in the Christian journey. Anyways, I sort of digress, my point is, claiming the title "Christian" or labeling someone else "Christian" doesn't necessarily mean much. America claims to be a "Christian Nation"... and well, I need not say much more. Christians are still very capable of hurting people. The Church is very capable of hurting you and me. In fact, if you have not been hurt by the church, you probably haven't been going long enough.

I am in NO WAY giving excuses to Christians or the Church to be hurtful. God forbid. It is my prayer that the church ALWAYS be a safe place for others. It is my prayer that us Christ followers really live up to our calling; that we bombard this world with God's radical, unconditional love- and yet, I want to also remind myself and other fellow Christians, we must also have GRACE for ourselves, our brothers and sisters in the Lord who are still on a journey. We are being perfected daily. I suppose what I mean to say through this blog is I've always had a huge heart of compassion for people who do not know the Lord. My grace, as far as I can imagine, is endless for them. And yet, when it comes to fellow brothers and sisters, when it comes to the Church, it's like my brain shuts off. I know they/we who follow Christ are called to a higher standard--- but WHY OH WHY do we struggle (and I know I'm not alone) with forgiving or not judging Christ followers more than any other 'kind' of person? Isn't that crazy?

I've felt so convicted this past while to be woman of God who creates UNITY within the body. As a musician, an artist who has sung in many different Churches, I am reminded all the time of how God wants all of us to be ONE!! I'm pretty sure God doesn't like all the little Church clubs we make. Google tells me there are about 33,000 Christian denominations. That is crazy. Absolutely crazy, haha!!! However, while the term "denomination" can seem synonymous for "devision", it doesn't have to be. I think it's beautiful to see Churches celebrating God in different ways. The problem comes when we look at or treat other Christians or churches like they're NOT a part of us.

God is convicting me to love His people. To LOVE his Church. My journey is not quite over either ;-) Despite my history of wounds from Churches, guess what I do each Sunday? Lead worship at Church, WITH the Church. If you knew me well, you'd say, "I can't believe you still go to Church". But I do. Because I LOVE the body of Christ. No, they/we are not perfect, but I am so thankful for a people that DESIRES to know God. Even if we don't get it right, the DESIRE is there. God's grace extends not only to the "sinner" ...but to the believers too. Brothers and sisters, what are we saying about others? What words do we speak about Church? Did you know it hurts our heavenly Father when we speak negatively about his people and His body? What is this world going to think about us when even God's people don't get a long? It's so easy to focus on the negative. Lets not forget all the works God has done in OUR heart. If you've been hurt before, remember the time(s) that YOU have hurt others. Lets be a people of Grace. Let's esteem others HIGHER than ourselves. John 13:35, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another..."

When I read this prayer below, it makes me weep. It makes me weep because I think of the ways that I've failed to bring unity. I want to be a part of Jesus' kingdom. I want the UNITY that our Saviour has always wanted.

Jesus Prays for All Believers

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Life of an Indie Artist


Dear readers, 

I've been telling myself I need to start blogging more. I'm so out of practice and I think I could benefit from this discipline.

As some of you know, for the past couple years I sort of 'dropped off' the public music scene for a little while. Not entirely, but I pulled back. I got married, moved out of Canada, started worship leading, advocating for A21, but more importantly, I needed time to figure out what my next musical step was. What direction musically was I going to head in? I wrote dozens and dozens of songs, spent countless hours scratching my head trying to figure out what I should say in album number two. The answers came slow and painfully, but (and I can't believe I'm saying this) the hard part is finally over. "Unveiled" the new album, has been birthed. 

As I step forward into raising up the funds for this next project, promoting it, bringing it to the public, I'm remembering all over again all the MANY hats that indie artists need to wear. In today's day and age, a musician does  so much more than do the very thing they feel called to do (make music). Often times they need to be their own booking agent, their own web designer, promoter, sound technician, producer, publicist, financial/business advisor... On top of that there are responsibilities they're already doing like putting together their band, writing & arranging the music, putting together show set-lists, developing their skills as musicians etc. And then there's the whole social media world, where artists recognize how important it is to their career that they interact with as many fans/listeners as possible! It's really sometimes more than a full-time job being an artist with only part-time pay. At least it can feel this way in the beginning stages. 

It's a great time to be doing music and also a bad time to be doing music. The good news is ANYONE can be a musician. The bad news, is ANYONE can be a musician. You say, "Amy, you said the same thing twice". Yes. Because anyone can be a musician, it means that you don't have to wait around for a label until you start creating and showing the public your music perhaps on YouTube or some other medium. The bad news, is the music market is SOOO saturated, people have WAY too many options these days that chances are, someone will gravitate to ONE of your songs but move on from you to the next artist because they simply want to see what else and who else is out there. We all suffer from an A.D.D. approach to music. Gripping listener's full attention is becoming harder and harder. That's why building "personal relationships" if that's even what we should call it, through social media is so important. Fans no longer will be satisfied with a song, they need the story behind the song, they need the journey, the inside scoop. Blogging, Vlogging, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.. it's where people are. Listeners go there to see your story. I've still not mastered these things, in terms of what to post, what not to post. Did I post too much, too little, too random, unrelated, too much promotion... the war goes on inside the artist's head. And can I say this-- NO artist enjoys being their own promoter. In fact, that may be the worst part.

Secretly every artist has pockets of insecurity. Artists constantly throw their hearts out there, sometimes amongst doves, other times amongst wolves. People like it, people hate it. People wish you had done more of this, less of that. And if you're thinking that artists get complimented all the time so they must feel amazing about themselves, I think most artists will agree with me, every time you share something encouraging it goes A LONG way. We get the best and worst of both worlds. It's never easy sharing the deepest parts of your heart (your songs), with others. My songs are my children, what the world thinks of them matters to me, and yet it also doesn't change how I feel about them. 

So this blog goes out to all the independent artists/bands out there. I know there are a lot of you. I'm writing to you because I feel like there have been many times I've needed this encouragement. I want you to take some time to reflect on your life. Your achievements. Your goals. I implore you to continue walking this journey with courage. The world needs artists. It needs beauty, it needs art. Some people think art doesn't matter, hence some schools have cut out the arts from their curriculum. All I can say is this-- nothing tells someone more about culture than the arts. Your voice is important. At the end of the day, I know we all make music because it's what we know to do, and we love it. We don't make music for any other reason. People that do it for fame or money either get what they want or they quit the game early because it's too much work. I know each of us constantly question whether we can continue to make music, for we don't know what the future of the industry holds. People don't even really buy music anymore. And CD's, what are those?! Hah. My answer to you artists is this: the world will always need a new song, an anthem of hope. If not the musicians, who will give it to them?


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksliving - A Human Trafficking Symposium


Like Cargo
Words and Music by Amy Savin © 

Vs .1
The door unlocks, the curtains fall 
Wide-eyed, I hear my monsters call
One by one they take their turn
Think I’m a toy, but I’m a girl
13 years old, crying for mom

Vs .2 
I’m dressed like a dirty magazine
My back’s been marked with tattoo ink 
They label all the girls this way 
We’re shipped like cargo on a train
I die a little every day

Chorus:
I need you
I need you
To save me from here
To save me from here

Can you?

Vs .3 
If I survive, I won’t forget
Their faces haunt my every step
Dehumanized in every way
Self-worth’s an angel that’s been slain
And still hope sings, if ever faint

Chorus:
I need you
I need you
To save me from here
Save me from here

Can you?

Bridge:
I want to believe that there is good in this world, and that light will overcome the darkness
Show me that love endures the greatest hurt; that it heals the ugliest of scars

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Amy Savin Opening for Sidewalk Prophets

Amy Savin | Ohio | 07/0714
Posing with new friends 
A few weeks ago I took a team out to Ohio to open for Sidewalk Prophets. I'm sure a lot of you are familiar with their tunes. One of my favourites is "Live Like That". We had a wonderful night of laughter, fellowship, and FOOD! Have you ever had crispy sugar waffles?? Oh man. So good! Apparently it's an Ohio thing ;)

I have to say the people in Ohio are absolute sweethearts. Really. I've never played there before and we got such a warm welcome. On top of that, I got to hang out with a new band About A Mile that is currently on tour with Sidewalk Prophets. Really loved getting to know those guys and hear about their journey. They are a group of brothers who love people and love the Lord.

A special thank you to Shine FM who invited me to play. I have a special place in my heart for the team at Shine :) I really appreciate their heart in supporting new, up and coming artists.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Modern Day Slavery

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There are more slaves in the world today than at any other point in human history, with an estimated 27 million in bondage across the globe. Men, women, and children are being exploited for manual and sexual labor against their will. 
~ The A21 Campaign