For the second time this month, I got to meet someone famous that I admire. This week, I got to meet one of my favorite YouTubers and authors, Jeff Bethke. He’s such a great guy with an incredible story of God’s grace at work in his life. Although he didn’t always follow Jesus with a relationship, God eventually got a hold of his heart while he was in college. A few years later, Jeff became famous when his spoken word poem, “Why I Hate Jesus But Love Jesus” went viral.
Since then, he has been able to make a career out of creating videos for his YouTube channel and has also authored two books: Jesus > Religion (inspired by his viral poem) and It’s Not What You Think (for which I am on the launch team). Those of you that follow me on social media know that I am a big fan of Jeff and have been following his work for about three years now. He has challenged me and inspired me in so many ways. In fact, he is the reason that I got interested in spoken word poetry and eventually came to become a spoken word artist in my own right. [Link to my spoken word playlist at the end of this post]
Needless to say, when I found out he was going to be at Olivet Nazarene University for both their chapel services this week (which is very close to my hometown), I was so excited! Jeff delivered a great message from Luke 15 about the prodigal son on Wednesday October 28, and then I waited in line with dozens of college students to meet him. When it was my turn and I told him my name, he remembered me from my review of his new book. He thanked me for my review and work on the book team, which was pretty awesome to hear from the author of the book himself. He signed both of my books and then I got a picture with him.
He said that it was nice to meet me, a feeling which was quite mutual. He even replied to my tweet of our picture later than day. He also delivered a great message on Thursday October 29 about bringing the kingdom in the here and now by being ministers of reconciliation in our world today. It was both encouraging and inspiring.
It’s so crazy to think that within only a few weeks’ time, I managed to meet both of my favorite YouTubers. Those of you that follow me also know that I met Jon Jorgenson of The Anima Series on October 13. I have so much admiration and respect for these two men, for their work has touched my life in so many ways, even before I ever thought I’d have the chance to meet them in person. I honestly don’t know what kind of person I would be without the challenges they left me and the inspiration they have given me over the time in which I followed their work. But as I have been thinking about how much I admire Jon and Jeff, I started to think about my perception of them verses the way that I used to view those that I admired from afar on the internet. My view has come a long way from where it used to be. Let me explain.
Where It All Started
I tend to have personality that my friends would call passionate and my enemies might call obsessive. If I like something and I see it as worthwhile, I’m going to put my whole heart into my interest and investment in it. In the case of my faith or things like social injustice, this trait is to my benefit. But throughout junior high, high school, and even through most of college, I tended to find myself devoting too much time to things that should have merely been hobbies or personal interests. This also tended to be the case with celebrities that I admired.
Through my last year of high school and my first two years of college, I was obsessed in the Jonas Brothers (*cough, cough*). I admired Joe, Nick, and Kevin so much, I got to point where I wanted to be like them and wanted to date Joe (*cough, cough*). Most people would say that I called them my role models. I spent way too much time on my computer and social media following them or watching videos of them. I would bet anything on their character and believed that they would never do anything that bad morally, especially in public.
I got to the point where I was passionately defending them for their faith, their character, and specifically their purity. I did this by making a series of YouTube videos that were supposed to give evidence of their faith, and also by arguing with anyone that disagreed with me on these videos’ comments. In fact, if you Google or YouTube search “Jonas Brothers Christians,” several of my videos are still leading that search. (I will explain more of the story of my YouTube channel in a future post) However, I now know that this was not the wisest use for my time and indicated that my heart was not in the right place about the situation. For the longest time, I was so sure that the Jonas Brothers would not disappoint me.
The Lesson Learned
Just after I came out of my JB-obsessed phrase, Joe and Nick Jonas started to slowly but surely prove me wrong. Eventually, the truth came out about why they stopped wearing their purity rings and how they struggled with their connection to the church after some issues their dad had faced in their childhood. They showed no regret or remorse for backing down on the faith they once professed, and slowed morphed into what the rest of the world was expecting them to become. I will never forget finding the article were Joe Jonas confessed that he was no longer a virgin in December 2013. Although I was no longer emotionally attached to them, I remember how sorry I felt for how lost Joe was, and how annoyed I was with myself for believing in them and defending them as avidly and incessantly as I did. But in that moment, I realized a powerful truth that has stuck with me ever since.
The definition of a role model is “a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated.” When I started to think about it, no one that we encounter in this life is ever going to be a perfect role model. There is no one living on this earth that is really worth imitating their every move and character trait. It was crazy for me to believe that any person could live up to that expectation, especially when they are under pressure to be a role model like those guys were back then. Each and every one of the people that we would ever try to emulate will disappoint us – except one. That one is Jesus Christ. He is the only example we can ever try to emulate that will never disappoint us. As one of my favorite songs puts it, “He’s the One who lived a perfect life/He’s the One that always gets it right/He’s the One and only Guiding Light/ Oh yeah.” [Don’t Look at Me by Stacie Orrico] This is so true.
My grandpa (my mom’s dad) passed away a month before I was born, but there is something he said many times to my mom that I think applies. He told her,
“Kathy, people in this world will let you down. Everyone will let you down. Even I will let down. But Jesus is the only one who will never let you down.”
Although I never met my grandpa, I clung (and continue to cling) to these words of wisdom as I realized that I needed to rethink the way that I admire those I look up to. In the end, the Jonas Brothers let me down and disappointed me with the choices they made for their lives and careers. But because of them, I now know what it means to look to Jesus as my ultimate example of how to love God and love others every day of my life. That’s more valuable than a retweet or an autograph any day.
What Changed After That
By the time Joe Jonas’ story came out, I had been following Jeff’s work for almost a year and I just started following the Anima Series a few months before. But because of my lack of success in interacting with the Jonas Brothers online, any hopes I had of getting any celebrity or famous person I admired to notice me on social media was gone. The people I liked simply did not have the time to notice me on the Internet, and especially not in person. Or that’s at least what I thought. But in the end, Jon and Jeff both proved me wrong.
Some of you that read my post about Jon [link at the end of this post] know that Jon and I came to have an online connection before it finally worked out for us to meet in person. Jon actually took time to answer my emails and give me feedback on my art, which totally blew me away (and still does). With Jeff, I only recently connected with him through being on his book launch team, but it was even more awesome to have made that connection with him since he’s even more famous than Jon. He responded to a couple of my posts on the book team’s Facebook group and even read my review of his book [link at the end of the post]. I was also blown away that Jeff would take the time to respond to our reviews and our comments.
When it finally came down to meeting these guys, it was like I already knew them because I was so familiar with their work and their life stories. They both knew who I was, and they were so sweet and appreciative of what I’ve done for them (for Jon’s tour show and Jeff’s book team). They even both told me that they enjoyed meeting me. I was humbled by their acknowledgements of what I’ve done for them, because they have both done so much for me. I simply felt like I was returning the favor.
Because of what happened with the Jonas Brothers, I have stopped using the term role model, especially about celebrities and famous people. I stopped searching to imitate a whole person and have instead chosen to look for individual traits within a person that I wanted to aspire to. It’s a smarter way to better yourself, because you can admire people for their strengths without rejecting them for the weaknesses. One of the common traits both Jon and Jeff share is that they are honest about their weaknesses and past struggles. That makes it easier to admire someone’s strengths when they are willing to admit they aren’t perfect or they don’t have all the answers.
Now that I’ve met Jon Jorgenson and Jeff Bethke in person, I admire and respect them more than I did before. I hope that everyone can find people like this in your own life to admire, all the while remembering to follow Christ as our ultimate example of how to become a mature and complete person. “He’s the one that always gets it right,” and His example will never fail us.
[To read my review of Jeff’s new book, It’s Not What You Think, click here]
[To read my story about meeting Jon Jorgenson and The Anima Series Tour, click here]
[To read my brief reviews of Jeff’s other book & Jon’s first two books on my favorite Christian books list, click here]
[If you are interested in checking out my spoken word poems on YouTube, click here]
Halloween has been a topic of controversy among Christians for centuries. There has simply never been complete agreement about whether it is acceptable for Christians to take part in this popular holiday. The argument both for and against it are many, and make it difficult for us to discern what side to take. Many that are against it continue to bring up the origins of the holiday as being blatantly evil, believing nothing good can come out of it. Those that are for it would say that it’s just harmless entertainment or thrills. How are we supposed to decide what is right?
I do not claim to be an expert or to have all the answers on this topic, but I have done my research. And although I know that there are blatantly evil aspects to this holiday, I believe there are ways for it to be redeemed for God’s glory. In order for this to happen, I do think we need to recognize the evil parts of this holiday for what they are and understand what Halloween is pointing to in its current content. Then we can discern what we can do about it.
The Icons of Halloween
There are a lot of iconic characters and symbols associated with Halloween that have developed over the years. While many of them are viewed as harmless or amusing, there is a danger in assuming them to be innocent. Most of these symbols and characters stand in contradiction to God’s truth. Don’t quite see it? Well, I’ve broken down several of them so you can see what I mean.
Zombies and Mummies
There are only a few instances in Scripture of people that has already died being raised to life again, but in all those cases, they came back fully alive, not in any undead state. Any other supernatural occurrence that would try to raise someone from the dead is outside of God’s will. It also seems to imply that God does not have the ultimate power over death if some other outside force can change it. It therefore makes the resurrection of Jesus less significant, when in truth, it’s the cornerstone of our faith and the reason for the hope we have. Therefore, anything undead should not be given any validity, even in fictional situations.
Ghosts and Spirits of the Dead
Under most circumstances I’ve observed, when people do have problems with evil spirits or exorcisms in this world, it’s at the hands of Satan himself, and is not something to be taken lightly. It’s one of Satan’s way of distorting this life and the next one when we live in fear of ghosts or evil spirits. Therefore, we must be cautious about using these characters as amusement.
Although these characters are completely fictitious, it is disturbing that our culture has been so fascinated with them, especially since they don’t have souls. I personally believe that God would never allow for such a creature to exist in the natural order, because He wants to give every single person who has lived and will ever live on this earth the choice to have that relationship with Him, and that’s a choice a vampire would never have. Therefore, I believe that it’s unwise to legitimize these characters.
I do think that if you can present monsters in non-threating ways either to reveal their perspective (like Monsters Inc.) or to illustrate a point in their monster state (like Beauty and the Beast), then that is safe for families and children. But the more common use of these creatures is for the sake of invoking fear in others, especially in children. I don’t think that is something that a Christian should participate in with a good conscience, which I will discuss a little more in a moment.
Skeletons and Bones
The use of these as a symbol of death neglects the fact that our skeletons are a part of God’s intelligent design for our bodies. He designed our bodies with incredible structure to give us the best ability to function. He designed our bones so well, they usually outlast the rest of our physical bodies after we die, and that’s pretty awesome when you think about it that way. Although it is true that “for dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19), I believe that we should not participate in mocking the way we are designed by the way we use or portray skeletons or bones.
Witches and Mediums
Some of the more recent portrays of witches have really been more like magicians as far as their magic is concerned, and this type isn’t necessarily inherently evil, but is also completely fictitious. (This is the type of magic I believe is portrayed in Wicked the Musical. If you want to read more about my perspective on this play specifically, click here.) In the end, the overall principle is that we should avoid honoring any witches/witchcraft that appears in any way to be connected with Satan or spirits of the dead, because that is what the Bible specifically condemns.
Blood and Gore
It is quite common to create situations on Halloween to scare someone or invoke fear into them for the sake of amusement or entertainment. But I don’t think this is healthy for Christians to be practicing, on Halloween or any day of the year. This is because fear separates us from God. It’s difficult for us to trust Him or to experience His love for us when there is fear present. Fear can drive us away from God completely if we let it. Therefore, fear is another of Satan’s great victories in our world, and is not something that we should be honoring in any way for this reason. We should not be participating in the game that Satan is trying to play with peoples’ souls. We have to learn how to discern when he’s playing it so we can overcome it.
I know this is a lot of information to process, but I hope that you see there’s a lot about Halloween that is not just fun and games. Not only is most of this stuff evil and used by Satan, but much of it stands in direct opposition of the way that God designed it to be.
The Positive Aspects of October 31st
Although much of what Halloween has become has shown itself to be not God-honoring, there are two aspects of October 31th that I think we should get back to in our culture, especially as Christians.
It was the day that Martin Luther nailed The Ninty-Five Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church. In the end, it led to all the protestant churches we have today. When I was in college, we used to greet each other on Halloween by saying “Happy Reformation Day!” It was kind of a joke in some ways, but not completely.
As I look at these different things that happened on October 31, I have realize that they give us the opportunity to celebrate the opposite of what everyone else is celebrating on Halloween. While they celebrate death and fear, we can celebrate life and courage. Life can be celebrated because All Saint’s Day is a reminder that those that placed their life in Jesus Christ before they passed away are now more alive than they have ever been. We can also celebrate courage as it has been exhibited throughout church history. It took a whole lot of courage for Martin Luther and those who followed him to work towards reform in the church. It also brings to mind those in the past and present that have faced persecution and even martyrdom for the sake of Christ. They were not afraid of death, because they had the hope of salvation through Jesus Christ. It’s the love that compelled Christ to sacrifice Himself that will drive out all fear, if we choose hope and courage instead of darkness and despair.
What Should We Do About Halloween?
Although we have established that much of what Halloween represents is evil and of Satan, we are still left with the question of what we are to do in response to this truth. It is my personal opinion that it is unwise to completely reject and ignore the holiday. When we refuse to participate in Halloween, we miss an opportunity to be a light in the darkness of this holiday as well as be part of community. Even in the simple acts of kindness and hospitality that can come from passing out candy could become an open door to share Jesus with the children and their parents. And since it is a holiday, it’s an opportunity to spend time with your friends and/or family.
It is my personal opinion that the act of dressing up and giving away candy is not wrong! There is nothing inherently evil about this. When we dress up, we do need to remember to ask ourselves if our costumes are appropriate (like dressing up as a character we shouldn’t be honoring) and modest enough. If after you ask yourself those questions you can wear your costume with a clear conscience, then go for it! And again, passing out candy or participating in any sort of Halloween-type event/outreach is such a great opportunity to be a light in a dark world on a dark night.
I cannot answer the question “Is it OK to celebrate Halloween?" for you. I believe that this needs to be a personal conviction. I was not allowed to celebrate Halloween for most of my older childhood and teen years, and I respected my parents’ decision. When I got into college, I dressed up for parties for fun since I didn’t do it as much when I was a kid. But in the last few years, I have realized what an incredible opportunity it is to be involved in Halloween outreaches or help a busy mom with her kids on Halloween night. Aside from the fact that I love the costumes and candy as much as the kids, I also love the opportunity it provides to serve others and build relationships. These pictures are all examples of this. I participated in some sort of outreach or helped a family out every year for the last few years while wearing all these costumes, and I loved every minutes of it. The picture of me as Rapunzel is actually from one of those events, a trunk or treat for a church I attended in college. I love dressing for the kids as much as it is with the kids. I will never forget when a preschool age girl dressed as Cinderella saw me in my Rapunzel costume, and said with big wide eyes and a huge smile, "Hi Rapunzel, I'm Cinderella." It was the cutest thing ever! (Btw, I'm sure you notice a pattern with my costumes! lol)
I remember being very scared of Halloween decorations when I was a kid. In fact, I couldn’t even enter a party ware store in the month of October or go into the Halloween aisle at Walmart because there was just too much creepy stuff hanging up. Although I still don’t like the Halloween stores, I have had to learn to remember that Jesus has the power over death so that I don’t have to be afraid, on Halloween or any other day of the year. While the rest of the world is celebrating death and fear, we can remember the hope that we have in Jesus, who conquered death and whose perfect love drives our all fear.
This is a video from The Anima Series, which is perfect for remembering everything that opposes fear on a day that celebrates it. If you agree, think about sharing this video or this post on or before Halloween.
When I auditioned to be in KVTA’s production of Mary Poppins this summer, I don’t know if I could have possibly imagined the journey I was about to be a part of. I’d only been in shows while I was in college and had never had a chance to do anything with local theater otherwise. I didn’t know too many of the people involved. All I knew is that they were doing a show of one of my favorite movies and I wanted to be a part of it. I was also all the more determined to get in because my alma mater (Ozark Christian College) just did a production of Mary Poppins this spring that I wished I could have been a part of. When I discovered I made the cast at around midnight on Saturday June 20th, I squealed with excitement. (I fortunately didn’t wake up my mom and little sister, but my dad was up and asked me what was wrong! lol) Although I was unsure of what this experience would be like, I knew I was lucky to be a part of it. As I look back on the last few months, there is so much that stands out in my heart and mind to reflect on this incredible journey.
Being in Mary Poppins Was Hard Work
In order for such an iconic show to be done right and done well, we all knew that we had our work cut out for us. We knew the hours of rehearsals would get long and hard. We knew to we would get to the point that we would have to be at rehearsal every weeknight, and even had weekend promotional events. In fact, our chimney sweeps had to start rehearsals in July when we didn’t open until October! We knew that we would get tired and our feet would get sore. We knew what we signed up for when we committed to be in this play and it wasn’t going to be easy. My part was one of the smaller roles in the show, but I still knew going into this that this was going to be a lot of hard work, especially since I hadn’t been in a show since I graduated college.
But I think I can speak for all of our cast and crew when I say that it was all worth it. It was so incredible when we finally got to opening night to see and hear a full house reacting to all we had been working on for months. We were hearing so many stories of not only how much people enjoyed the production, but also how much this show touched them on a personal level. Mary Poppins holds a special place in so many of our hearts and seeing it being brought to life was a special experience for so many of our audience members. Being a part of bringing this to life was even more special for all of us involved. So although it wasn’t easy, all the work we put into bring this show to the stage was worth it in the end.
Being in Mary Poppins Formed Such A Great Community
When I started in this show, I probably only knew 4 or 5 people that I really didn’t talk to much that were involved in the show. I confess that I was so nervous about being in this show with so many people I didn’t know. I was afraid it was going to be difficult to befriend people, especially since I was not in too many scenes or dances numbers. And at first, it was a little strange when we were working on vocals to be sitting among people that I wanted to introduce myself to but couldn’t because we were working. I hoped that would change as time when on.
We all became a family in the time we spent together (in fact, most of us ended up spending more time with each other at rehearsals than we spent with our own families by the end! lol) At the end of the last show, it was definitely bittersweet to realize we would not all be together again after that night, but it also made me super grateful for all the time I did get to be with these wonderful people. I am still so grateful for each and every one of them.
Being in Mary Poppins Taught Us Great Lessons
There are so many great lessons within the story of stage version of Mary Poppins. Some are touched on in the film version but are not explored as much as they could be. Others were developed specifically for the stage version, but blend right into the original film. I just want to touch on my favorites.
“When will you learn to look past what you see?”
Honestly, I think this question could be asked of each and every one of us at some point in our lives. We all struggle to see past the end of our noses at times. But I think one of the most powerful lessons within the story of Mary Poppins is learning to have an awareness of the world around and learning to develop a sensitivity to the needs of others. It starts with the Bird Women and eventually comes full circle to the children being aware of their father’s needs. I was a women who snubbed off the Bird Women, but according to my backstory, I didn’t want to. I just went along with a fiancé. But it was such a great reminder that even when the world around us tells us to look out for ourselves as number one, we really do need to remember to look past what we see.
“I’ll fight for the man that needs freeing”
I love this line in one of Mrs. Banks’ songs. In the play version, she really struggles with figuring out what it meets to be Mrs. Banks, since it doesn’t seem to line up with what her husband seems to think. But by the second act, Winifred realizes that one of the most important things she can do as wife is fight for her husband by support him through whatever trials he faces. I think this should be true of any wife and is something I hope to remember when I get married someday.
Prioritizing your family
One of the great lesson in Mary Poppins is that you should always make family a priority. At the beginning of the show, George Banks is convinced that they should have a nanny because everyone in their class of society did and he believed it was the nanny’s responsibility to mold the children into the person they were meant to be when they grow up. The children are also very distant from their father. But by the end of the show, they realize that they all need each other, and they are made better because of it. George Banks realizes that he and his wife are responsible for molding their children's lives. That is Mary Poppins' main mission all along: to teach families this lesson, and it's such a powerful one to be learned in this day and age.
“Anything can happen if we only get out of our own way”
Although the more common quote from the show is “anything can happen if you let it,” I personally like this version of the quote better. It’s a reminder that many of us are afraid about venturing into the unknown by daring to try what we have been scared to pursue. Sometimes, our pride can also get in the way. But we are able to face that fear (or swallow our pride) and just do it, anything is possible. I often struggle with such fear or pride in my own life, but the song Anything Can Happen is such a great reminder that we are the ones that prevent us from taking the chance. I think we would all be make better people if we learned how to do this.
Being in Mary Poppins was a dream come true, not only because I got to be in a Disney musical (there was a reason the cast voted me as “Disney’s Biggest Fan”! lol), but I also got to be in a show with a theater company that I have been watching since I was a kid. I had wanted to be in one of KVTA’s shows for years, but the timing never worked out and I probably wouldn’t have made it before I received my vocal and theatrical training in college. But in the end, I am so proud to say that of all the shows I could have done with KVTA, Mary Poppins was my first. I will cherish the memories of this show and the people involved with it for years to come. We put on a pretty amazing show and together, we accomplished something so much bigger than ourselves. To me, that’s the best part of theater, when everything just comes together to its completion for the sum of the greater whole.
If they choose to read this, I want to thank my college drama director Mary for helping me find my presence both on and off the stage. I don’t think I could have made it into this show without the lessons I learned from you. I also want to thank my current director Paula for casting me in this great show and giving the privilege to be part of this special production. It meant so much to me and I am so grateful. Thanks to the rest of the cast and crew for being so friendly, encouraging, and such pleasant people to work with. You have all blessed my life more than you will ever know. I hope that the rest of you have the chance to be involved in something like a stage show or a group project like it in your own life. And remember to look past what you see, so you can get out of your own way.
Here’s a few more pictures. Enjoy!
It’s hard to me to know exactly where to begin this post. Some people would come to write a post like this and wouldn’t be able to come up with enough to say. I, on the other hand, have more to say than I want to fit into one blog post! My heart is so full of joy as I reflect on all God did to bring this event about. I feel I need to share the whole story to explain why The Anima Series Tour was so important and special to me. God has been orchestrating this event for quite soon time, not just with calling The Anima Series to go on tour, but also with changes that have happened in my own life. My hope is that by sharing this story, you will appreciate all God did to bring it all together.
When I First Found The Anima Series
For those of you that may not know, The Anima Series started when Jon Jorgenson and two of his friends decided to make a video of a spoken word poem Jon had written called “Who You Are: A Message To All Women”. They uploaded this video to YouTube July 2013. At first, they got a couple thousand views, but in a short time, it went viral, to the point to reaching millions of views. When that happened, they decided to use The Anima Series as an opportunity to give local artists a platform for Christ through making quality art. So they started making more videos with the goal of inspiring ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
That’s about the point where I come in. It would have been October 2013. I was in my last full-time semester of college at Ozark Christian College and was still living in the dorm. One of the girls on my dorm floor shared the “Who You Are: Women” video to my floor’s Facebook group. I don’t remember exactly what day that was, but I will never forget watching that video for the first time in my dorm room. Initially, I was almost in shock of the powerful message that had just been spoken to me. I watched it at least twice more and by then, I’m pretty sure I was shedding a few tears (Good thing I had a single room at the time. lol). Here's the video:
You see, I was at such a strange place in my life, mental, emotional, and spiritually, when I saw this video for the first time. 2013 had been a hard year, in which I had gone through everything from losing my friend Brandon in a car accident, to having my summer internship postponed at the last minute to the following spring, to attempting to prepare myself to leave the safety net of my college campus when I finished classes that December. On top of all this, I had been fighting a serious spiritual battle with my self-esteem that had been ongoing for about two years. I had gotten to a point where I had bought into some of the lies of Satan about what defines beauty and attractiveness, because I was struggling with my weight and my singleness. Fortunately, I did not turn toward any paths of self-harm that are often associated with self-esteem issues, but I did come close toward heading down one of those paths. It was God’s grace that kept me from choosing to lessen the numbers on the scale in ways that were unhealthy. Just when I was starting to come out of that, a few other things happened that made my singleness stand out like a sore thumb and made me start to question why my relationship status had never changed (and even now still hasn’t at 25 years old).
After having gone through all this and seeing the “Who You Are” video, something clicked in both my heart and my mind. I began to understand the change of heart I needed to have towards myself before I would be able to make a difference in the world for Christ. I began to realize that I, and every other women on this earth, was worth dying for and Christ believed it enough that he actually died on a cross for each and every one of us. It all made sense in a way it never had before. In a short period of time, I became content with my body and with being single in way I had thought would never have been possible when I was in the depth of my struggle. And even now I would say that I have been able to remain satisfied in the love of the Lord. It all started with a video of a guy in a white t-shirt on an empty stage with a message to share and a hope it would touch someone’s life. I know there was a difference in my heart and my life after I began to live my life in light of that powerful message. I even wrote my own spoken word poem on a very similar topic a few weeks later. It was titled “A Princess Worth Dying For”, but after I wrote it, I didn’t do anything with it for about a year. I’ll come back to that poem in a little bit.
Although I did have to do a little bit of searching to find the original video (since the first link I was given was from a random Facebook page), I eventually found The Anima Series channel, watched a few of their other videos, and subscribed. I was curious about trying to find the name of the guy that was in the first video. I eventually came to find that his name was Jon Jorgenson. I remembering being so inspired specifically by some of the other videos Jon was in, and I started hoping that I would meet him someday, but not knowing if I ever would.
How I “Met” Jon Jorgenson Online
Fast forward to the next summer (2014). I had completed my music ministry internship and graduated college that May. I was so unsure of where my life was headed. But in late June, I remember that I came across a video of Jon asking fans to submit their own versions of the “Who You Are: Women” for a tribute video in celebration of Anima’s first birthday. I was so excited to make my own version! I remember being curious about if they were going to use my version, and they did! I was so excited to have been a part of it.
I remember sending my video to the Anima Series email address, but I’m pretty sure that Jon was the one that answered it. He complimented my video and signed the email as he always signs off – “Keep being awesome.” And over the next few weeks, I discovered that Jon has his own blog, a personal Facebook page, and a personal YouTube channel. I also found out that he had published a book (Authentic Love) and I ordered it. Through looking at all these, I found that he listed his email address publicly and was willing to answer emails from his fans. About the end of July, I sent him an email introducing myself, briefly thanking him for what his videos had done for me, and asking him some general life advice. He replied and gave me some good tips through some videos links. And that started an online connection that has lasted ever since.
For over a year, we have exchanged emails back and forth (not all the time of course, but fairly often). We occasionally chat on Twitter and on his Facebook page too. Since Jon is big on inspiring people and emphasizes creativity in most of his work, he has been a constant support and encouragement to me in my creative pursuits. He always takes the time to answer my emails, and has remembered my name ever since my first email. He has watched all my spoken word poems when I send him the links, and he gives me great feedback every time. He has read some of my posts here on my blog when I ask him. He is probably one of my biggest encouragers and inspirations I have had in the creative process. There are so many things I would have never thought I could do if it wasn’t for Jon, his work, and even his personal encouragement. And all the while, I kept hoping that I would someday get to meet him in person, but wondering if I ever would.
When I First Showed An Anima Video At My Church
Fast forward again to October 2014, I was teaching a Jr. High girls Bible study on the topic of modesty. We were going through The Secret Keeper by Dannah Gresh (a great book for that topic) and we were coming to the point in the study when we would be talking about inner beauty, our attitude about ourselves, and comprehending God’s love for us. I’d been trying to find different videos to supplement my lessons each week, and I realized that the “Who You Are: Women” video was absolutely perfect. I believe that when a woman knows how valued she is in God’s eyes, modesty will become not just a list of fashion rules to be obeyed, but an attitude in which a woman will worship God with her life, and that video was a great example of how to find that mindset. So I showed the “Who You Are: Women” video and the girls were touched by it too.
It was also at this time that I decided to make a video of my first spoken word poem to share with the girls, which was very much inspired by the “Who You Are: Women” video. “A Princess Worth Dying For,” although I still had a lot to learn about spoken word and making that type of video, left a powerful impression on the girls the last week of teaching. Here's the video:
But I remember I had a very ironic thought while I was showing the girls the “Who You Are: Women.” As I was praying that this message would speak to their hearts, I thought how awesome it would be if we could hear Jon do that poem live. I didn’t know if that would ever happen, but I hoped that it would, then I kind of forgot about it for quite some time.
When Anima Decided to Go on Tour
When The Show Finally Happened
When the show finally started, it was like I was like watching one of the Anima videos live. It was so cool! Jon recounted stories from his time as a camp counselor at a Christian theater summer camp (Spotlight Youth Theater) and how watching these kids informed what he understands authentic love to be. He shared some spoken word poetry within the context of this narrative of his lessons from the summer camp. Jon really is a great speaker and super funny! I already knew this from his videos, but it was awesome to get to see it live. At the end, he concluded that if anyone had been inspired by any of his work, we had those kids he worked with to thank for inspiring him. (It was also pretty awesome to discover that I had connections to a few of those kids. It truly is a small world!) Then, he concluded by reading his two most famous poems: “Who You Are: A Message To All Men” and “Who You Are: A Message To All Women.” I got a video of him doing the last one.
Getting to hear Jon recite the poem that touched me so personally was incredible. Now, I know the words so well, I was mouthing them while Jon was saying them. But as I started to think back through the time I had been a fan of The Anima Series, I couldn’t help but marvel at what God had done to bring it all together. Ever since I’d seen their first video, it had been a small desire of my heart to meet Jon in person, but I didn’t think it would really happen, especially while he was living in New York. But there he was, doing a show on the stage in my church, and I knew that God had orchestrated it. I also realized that the thought I had about the girls in my Bible study a year ago seeing him performing “Who You Are: Women” live had become a reality, since three of seven girls from the Bible study were there at the Anima show that night. At the end of the show, as Jon was giving his acknowledgements, he thanked me for all I did for bringing this event together, which kind of made me smile. When I had others thanking me for organizing the event and telling me how much they enjoyed it, I knew it was a God thing.
After the show, Jon had a meet and greet time and posed for pictures. Now we didn’t have a super big crowd, but Jon was so good about giving time and attention to everyone.
Of course I got a picture with him too, which many of you who know me have probably already seen, since I have plastered it all over my social media! lol
I also got one with Jon’s wife Erin. They’ve only been married a few months.
Erin let me keep one of the beautiful calligraphy quotes she made as merchandise, and I love it! (After talking to her some, I know why Jon calls her “Sweet Bear.” She really is a sweetheart)
Jon also gave me a thank you card that also has Erin’s calligraphy on the front. It’s so pretty.
When the show was done and they packed up their stuff, Jon gave me another big hug (It’s hard for any hug of Jon’s not to be big, since he’s so tall! haha).
While we were hugging, I said, “It was so great to finally meet you, Jon.”
He replied, “It was great to finally meet you, Bethel.”
As they drove away, I couldn’t help but praise God for giving me this small desire of my heart.
I hope this story has demonstrated what God can do to change lives for His greater plan, but also bring lives together for His glory. It amazes me how this story unfolded even as I have been writing it down for this post. Jon and The Anima Series have touched hundreds of thousands of people’s lives through their YouTube videos, but they also like to touch lives on a more personal level when they have the opportunity. That’s one of the main reasons they choose to go on tour in the first place. Jon has said before that,
“Some people are called to touch millions of lives, while others are called to touch one life a million times.”
Anima’s work may someday touch millions of lives, but I think it’s safe to say that Jon is well on his way to touching my life a million times, and I don’t know if I will ever be able to thank him enough for it. I hope all of you look for and seize the opportunities to do the same for the people in your own life. You won’t regret it.
Here’s Jon video vlog from the day of my church’s show. I do have to say that I had no idea he was not feeling well until I watched this, and it impresses me all the more that he pressed on so well, despite his discomfort. Maybe it was his crazy socks getting revenge on him! lol
(There’s a short clip of me toward the end, wearing a black and white striped t-shirt)
I am so excited to write this book review. I had the pleasure of reading this book before its release, because I am on this book’s launch team! I have been so inspired by the work of Jeff Bethke, both his written words and his videos, and I hope that the small part I will play through this book team will make a different in someone’s life. This book has powerful messages that need to be read and shared. Make sure to share this review with others who may need to hear its message!
Many Christian struggle to see their faith and understand their life purpose from a new perspective. We often get so caught up in the way our Western culture has presented Christianity to us, it’s hard to know or remember the truth of the deeper meaning in our faith and all it represents. We get stuck in our favorite New Testament passages without understanding them in light of the Bible Jesus read, the Old Testament. We struggle to understand who we are in the midst of God’s plan to redeem mankind, especially in light of our own personal struggles. It leads us to ask to question: what if we’ve been getting the greater story all wrong?
In Jeff Bethke’s new book, It’s Not What You Think, he explains that there are many aspects of our lives and our faith that we have been thinking about the wrong way. In a similar way he does with his first book Jesus > Religion, he takes much of what we know about Christianity and turns it on its head, giving us a much needed change of perspective. He takes us on a journey through the Bible that is so much different and more refreshing than any book I’ve read in a long time. We are reminded of the importance of God’s kingdom in the here and now, and not to just wait for heaven to see it fulfilled. Our view of ourselves and everyone around us changes, as we are reminded of the significance of being image bearers of God that Christ suffered, died, and rose again to redeem. We are taught how to celebrate the Sabbath in ways that are applicable and relevant in today’s culture. We even learn about the significant and sacredness of sharing a meal in fellowship with others. This is all done within the context of Jeff’s honesty and understanding of God’s saving, redeeming grace at work in his own life.
This book is a must read for Christians of all ages, but especially for teens, young adults, and those that desire to understand these topics with a new perspective. I would encourage anyone to read It's Not What You Think. This book is releasing today in book stores everywhere, so get you copy today!