CHRISTIAN ARTS FESTIVAL: THE ATHANATOS EXPERIENCE

Yesterday we wrapped up the first (I hope) annual Athanatos Christian Arts Festival. Or, as I prefer to call it, Dragonfest. Here are some highlights.

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ACM Authors Michael Pape, Joe Courtmanche, Anthony Horvath, and Greenbean holding the Mic

Incredible Content

The strength of the Festival was the high quality content offered. There was far more going on that I could personally attend, but I sat in on writing seminars, music seminars, art seminars, historical analysis, and theology. Needless to say, I had a blast. Joe Courtmanche’s seminar on global threats was sobering and riveting, Rob Cely’s theology of Zombies thrilled, Paul Benett’s first person narrative in costume, no less, of a civil war Johnny Reb was riveting, Hillary Ferrer’s seminar on art not only introduced my daughter to Potato Jesus but also encouraged me in my artistic endeavors, and John Ferrer’s tour de force presentation on the historical paradigms of holocaust lead to a challenging contemporary application. The nerdiest one, which might have been my favorite, was the science fiction seminar lead by Dylan Thompson, which could have been titled Jesus and Philip Dick.

And the music! We heard so much quality live music from Celtic to rock, but what I particularly liked was from classical guitarist Alyssa Caitlin and bass ukulele pop musician Alma, who reminded me a little of Erin Ivey.

This is just the stuff I was able to attend. So much more was going on. I hope some of it was recorded for the interwebs.

My Presentations

I wasn’t only a consumer at the festival, I was also able to share. The opening day I gave a talk on the nature of stories, and then I used the eight 2016 Oscar nominated films as a template to discuss the application of story. Then I pivoted to the Bible, and showed the Bible’s use of these classic story motifs. I finished the with three different takes on the Jesus story in church life today.

In the evening I gave a longer talk, but it was mostly about writers wants and needs–particularly the idea of needing to stretch ourselves in our craft and the importance of taking the reader into consideration. Friday I participated in two panel discussions, as well as a talk on my research about child sex trafficking for The Little Girl Waits.

Finally, I was privileged on Sunday to speak during our worship experience as we walked through the Stations Of The Cross.

Wisconsin

The festival was in a field in Greenwood, Wisconsin. I have never been to Wisconsin before, so this was a genuine treat. We drove in on Wednesday from Eastern Minnesota and took the back roads. What a lovely place! It felt like we were driving through The Shire. This thought was reinforced with every Amish horse drawn buggy we encountered.

I ate cheese curds for the first time. They tasted like soggy mozzarella sticks.

There were lots of Green Bay Packer references.

The people were nice–not gregarious like home–not naturally talkative like back home, but they were polite, respectful, and helpful. They kept saying I sounded funny, but I told them I left my translator back home.

The Biggest Payoff

The biggest blessing, though, was spending time with other Athanatos authors–the other horses in the stable–so to speak. Hanging out with Tony Horvath wonderful. He is the mastermind behind the curtain pulling all the levers, the brains behind Athanatos publishing, and getting to spend quality time with him was worth it all.

Looking forward to next year.

CHRISTIAN WRITING

Yesterday Matt Ventura came by the Pastor Greenbean office and recorded on video for my upcoming presentation about literary apologetics for the Christian Writing Conference.  The webinar is free this year, but you have to sign up (click here to register).  The conference is put on by my publisher Athanatos Christian Ministries.  This is the third one I’ve participated in and it is always a learning experience for me.  I’ve cut-n-pasted a small portion of my opening.

. . . Let me start by taking you back in time.  Yes, let’s start our story with a little time travel.  Let’s go way back in time—not days, weeks or months but years.  Go back in time, let’s say, a decade ago.  Can you remember?

It is a decade ago and I am at a camp, a children’s Bible camp and some of the children and I are helping the missions teacher clean up after a lesson.  One of the children asks me, “Pastor Jamie, have you read Harry Potter?”

“No,” I said.  “I’ve never heard of Harry Potter.”

Yeah, that is how far back in time we are, pre-Harry Potter saturation.  It feels like forever ago, but, yes, once upon a time no one had ever heard of a muggle.

Another woman, who was also helping clean up shouts across the room, “Harry Potter is evil and is a book of Satan!”

I asked the woman, “Why is that?  What is it about?”

She told me that it was about witches, and any book about witches is evil and against God.   Her pastor had said so.

That was when it got really interesting.  I said to her, “Well, we need to remember that perhaps one of the best children’s Christian books ever is titled, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

“I’ve never heard of that book,” she said.  “Who wrote it?”

Befuddled, I replied, “C.S. Lewis—the great apologetists and scholar of the Christian faith.  ScrewtapeMere ChristianityA Grief ObservedThe Problem of PainThe Weight of Glory?”

Nothing.  She had never heard of any of these.  I was making no progress.

Finally, she said, “Well, I’ve have to look into this Lewis guy, but I seriously doubt anyone who is a true Christian could ever write about witches and magic.”

She stayed away from me for the rest of the camp.

If we do literary apologetics correctly it is likely that people within our own faith community, people who would agree with our worldview and our love of Christ will misunderstand us and think we might be the enemy . . .

There will be many other presenters at the seminar, and remember, it is free.

APOLOGETICS MARRIAGE CONFERENCE

Recently I was invited by my super-cool publisher, Anthony Horvath to participate in his second internet apologetics conference.  I was a part of the line-up last year and had a great time talking about literary apologetics.  This year the theme is marriage.  While it is tempting to just show scenes from The Princess Bride as the material for my talk, I decided instead to actually try to say something.  Now, since I am a pastor who likes to give his opinion, and they invited me to talk, I assume they have a taste for pastoral opinions.  Therefore, this year I’m just letting it rip.  Below I have posted a brief section of material for your preview.

I see stress on families that goes deeper than are people staying married or getting married.  One of these is economic stress. 

Economic stress exists in several strains.  One is the stress of underemployed people having to cobble together multiple jobs, none of which are very fulfilling, in order to make ends meet.  This type of economic stress has destroyed many couples notions of time together, weekends away, or family vacations.  It is a shock to me how many families in our church never take a family vacation.  It is not so much that they can’t afford it, it is that they work in so many disparate places which are not professional in nature and there is no vacation allotment. 

A second aspect of economic stress is the pressure put on young people who want to get married by their Baby boomer parents to wait until they are ‘financially stable’ to do so.  I hate to break the news, but young couples who just get married are never financially stable.  It’s okay to be poor. 

Kim and I were so poor when we got married that a Methodist charity paid for the ICU bill of our first daughter while I was attending a Baptist seminary and all we ate for a year was waffles because someone gave us a waffle iron and the mix was cheap.  It’s okay to be poor and work your way through.  It creates gratitude and hard work.  But I will never eat a waffle again, but I am thankful for those waffles.

There is a third type of economic stress . . .

. . . a secondary stressor which is time.  I’ve already talked about multiple jobs, but now factor in such things as gymnastics, school plays, little league, church, and don’t forget soccer.  If I were king of the world, I would outlaw children’s soccer leagues.  I’ve seen more families fall away from the faith because they enroll their children in soccer leagues which practice three nights a week and then play games every Saturday and Sunday morning.  Curiously, many of these same families often end up in marital trouble or even divorce. 

There is a correlation.

One more time stressor, and I suppose this is the pastor inside of me speaking, but digital social networks are killing marriages.  I love Facebook and all my Facebook friends and I am trying to get used to Twitterfication and they can be powerful tools for connecting and ministry.  In fact, I often do a lot of pastoring on Facebook with the people in my church and with people I’m connected to in other ways.  But if a husband or a wife spends more time per day on Facebook than he or she does with his or her spouse, trouble is brewing.  It’s the age-old problem of emotional adultery . . .  

And that brings me to the last stress on marriage that I wish to share.  This is the sex and romance stressor.  Somewhere . . .

WANT TO SEE MORE?  You can by registering for the online conference right now, just click here