I was so excited when this book first came out. I had been a huge fan of Jon’s work with his YouTube channel (formerly the Anima Series, now under his name Jon Jorgenson). In the end, I was not disappointed. I love Jon’s relatable writing style that draws you in and inspires you to think beyond yourself. This book was one of my greatest motivation for getting going on this blog (since I read the book less than a month after I created it) as well as refocusing my YouTube channel to doing spoken word (which of much of his work on his YouTube channel). It’s true that a lot has changed in both my life and Jon’s life since this book came out. But I will never forget the best advice that this book (and Jon personally) gave me when it comes to creative pursuits is this: just start. Even if you don’t have all the answers. Even if you don’t have ideal resources. Don’t make excuses. Just get started with what you have right now and see where God takes it. I know without that advice, I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing online today. It’s currently one of my favorite resources on creativity. I even have one of few physical copies of the book he sold privately. If you are looking for creative inspiration or guidance, I cannot recommend this book enough ~ Bethel
Creativity. It’s a word that at times is hard to grasp its full meaning. Many of us struggle to find inspiration and motivation to pursue the ideas we have that are unique. We worry that we don’t have the right resources, enough time, enough courage, and the list could go on. We allow that to keep us from sharing what’s on our hearts. In an age when we have more opportunities than ever before to share our creativity, too many of us are scared or ashamed to do so. This makes us question our ability to do something that is at the core of who God created us to be and makes it more difficult for us to live out our intended purpose. It makes us ask the question: how are we supposed to pursue creativity in our world today?
In Jon Jorgenson’s e-book, Created to Create, he walks through a collection of blog posts written over the course of 2014 that are meant to help creatives walks through what it means to be creative in our world today. Over the course of that year he made a commitment to his fans that he would blog three days a week, and he kept faithful to that commitment, all while being an actor on Broadway. Being an artist and creative mind, he explores the thoughts about the call to create, the craft of creativity, the audience of our creative projects, and the One that gives us our creative abilities. It not divided into traditional chapters since it was derived from his blog posts, but it is still a powerful tool for those that want inspiration, guidance, or courage in pursuing the creative process. Jon speaks with a wisdom beyond his years as he gives a fresh perspective on a topic that is sometimes difficult to address. He speaks from his heart, and his passion for this subject is evident in every part of this book. There is so much to take in and challenge you in your creative pursuits. As a follower of Jon's work online, I think this book brings many of his messages together in a more cohesive way. I have been very inspired by what I have read and I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to pursue creativity. It’s available on Kindle on Amazon for only $0.99! Get your copy today!
When I was asked by the library ministry at my church to recommend and review some books, this was always at the top of my list. I found this book to be applicable to my life in so many ways. Like Jon, I too had powerful experiences that shaped my spiritual life and the course of my future at my home church camp. I spent two years as a counselor for a week of junior cabin camp, and one summer as an employee of the same camp. I am also currently working a few small jobs in which I work with preschoolers. I have discovered that I personally know a few of the kids Jon worked with at his camp. Finally, I also met Jon in person a few months back, and even heard him retell a few of these stories live. I enjoyed this book all the more when I realized all the connections I have to the stories in it. This book is an easy read and would be a great resource for anyone, if you take the time to read it ~ Bethel
“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” – Matthew 19:14
The concept of becoming like a child for the kingdom of heaven is one that has confused Christians for centuries. I think this is because there is a tension between the immaturity of childhood and the maturity needed to be the complete person we are called to be in Christ. Many people fall into one of these two extremes, either assuming the mentality of an immature child (“I don’t want to grow up!”) or the overly mature adult (“I’m too grown up for that!”). All the while, they are missing the call of Christ to live somewhere in between, retaining the genuine qualities of a child-like faith, joy, and authenticity while still pursuing the maturity needed to attain completion in Him. One of the best ways to learn how to do this is to observe firsthand what it looks like when kids are able to live out these qualities, especially when it’s done with the intention of learning from them. That’s what happened to Jon Jorgenson over the course of eight summers he served as a camp counselor at a Christian theater camp, and it changed the way he saw everything.
In his book, Authentic Love, Jorgenson tells the stories of how several of the kids he worked with impacted his understanding of faith and authenticity. You will enjoy stories of food in the cafeteria, mail time games, intense dodgeball, and a camp talent show. You will learn how he eventually managed to memorize every camper name each week every summer, or how he survived being the camp director on the last full day of camp after pulling an all-nighter (which was quite an impressive feat). You will hear the stories of some of the fun kids that he worked with, and reveals that they taught him more than he could have taught them. Although this was his first book, published when he was only 22, his entertaining stories reveal powerful truth in an applicable way. His passion and love for these kids, as well as the lessons they taught him, is evident on every page. Although Jon went on to be in a Broadway play, found a popular YouTube channel, and become a travelling speaker, he will tell you that he owns much of who he has become today to these kids and lessons they taught him. I would recommend this book to anyone, but especially to teens, young adults, and anyone that works with kids. The stories in this book will probably have something to teach you as well. This book is now available from more book distributors than before, so get your copy today!
For more of Jon’s writings, both on his blog posts and his other books, check out his blog: www.jonjorgensonblog.com
You can also check out Jon’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheAnimaSeries
(Note: He recently changed the name of the channel. It used to be The Anima Series, but it’s now just Jon Jorgenson)
To read the story of how I met Jon, click here
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]
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)
Lion's Eyes Reviews is a blog dedicated to reviews of Christian books, most of which are non-fiction, but may also occasionally review movies and musicals. It will also feature the work Bethel does to help launch and promote the works of Christian authors.
The name is derived from one of Bethel's favorite books, Through the Eyes of a Lion by Levi Lusko. Through these reviews, Bethel hope to give Christians the tools they need to look at the world "through the eyes of a lion" so they can find the courage to "run toward the roar".
To find the detailed archives of these reviews, you can check them out here:
Books In Review
Movies in Review
Broadway In Review
To understand the rating used in these reviews, click here
Bethel Grove is a Christian young woman who loves to read and write, eat Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Blizzards, and disciple teen girls as a youth leader. What started as a hobby of writing book reviews and doing deep biblical studies eventually led her down the path of self-publishing and helping other Christian authors launch their books. She hopes to someday be a vocational youth minister and well-known author.
Author Bethel Grove
Simple Youth Ministry
Teen Girl Youth Ministry
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