Today shaped up to be quite a good one, and here’s why. I went to Wednesday Devotional at the Institute. Never have I ever. First of all, made friends and sat with the biggest cutie named Krista. We had a delightful conversation during which I found myself telling her that I feel like braids are the sweatpants of hair. We leveled up that fast. It was friendship all around, people.
The devotional speaker was T.C. Christensen, freelance film-maker and cinematographer extraordinaire. If you ever saw an LDS seminary or church video that didn’t make you cringe, you can nearly guarantee this guy is behind it. His work includes, but is for sure not limited to, Emma Smith, The Testaments, Forever Strong, and most recently, 17 Miracles. I know, I know. 17 Miracles. Grab a tissue, cause the recall of that cinematic experience is probably making you break down at this very moment.
Not only is T.C. Christensen amazingly talented, he is hilarious and he is spiritual. For his bio, he wrote about being runner-up of the Mr. Valentine Pageant in junior high, as well as being region champ in shotput… against all girls. No mention of the magical art he has created. Quality. I loved the way he talked. These were not courtesy laughs. It was the real deal, and straight-up delightful. Also, great facial hair. Which, for me, equals INSTANT RESPECT.
He talked about so many things that inspired me. He related the research, the artistic processes, the different experiences in filming and casting, all back to the gospel.
But what really I loved was when he talked about miracles.
He talked about the movie first. About how some people walk away and say to him, I could only find five miracles, while other people watch the same film and tell him they found at least thirty. It’s all about our perspective.
Something I love about the gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that we believe that miracles aren’t just a thing of the Bible or wonders of the past. Miracles are daily occurrences. They happen everywhere for everyone, and still, they are so special every time. They are highly individualized, and they are tailored to our needs, because we have a loving Father in Heaven who knows each of us. He knows us exactly where we are, what we feel, the situations in which we find ourselves. He is so aware of us. God, the greatest of all beings. He cares about YOU. That blows my mind, all the time. He is above all, and yet no one is insignificant to Him.
|(Hainan, China. Incidentally, a place FULL of miracles.)|
Daily, our lives move forward through absolute miracles – some of them large and glaring, and some of them day-to-day, like our paths crossing with someone at the right time, or even at the wrong time, if we need. Sometimes we get exactly what we want, and sometimes we get the exact opposite. But regardless of what exactly is happening, miracles are transpiring, and as they do, opportunities for growth open up.
In the movie 17 Miracles, various stories are told in which miracles occur. (Like.. Thus the title. GALL.)
Elizabeth Panting was married to a drunkard and wife-beater, who promised to kill her if she ever left him. In the movie, she takes her children and boards a train, hoping to escape to be with the Saints. As she is waiting for the train to leave the station, she spots her husband, and sees that he has a gun in his jacket. He boards the train, angrily looking for her. The first thing she does is pray. The next thing she does is reach out. She tells the woman across from her the situation, and asks quickly if they can trade hats.
At this point, T.C. Christensen basically said, let’s be real. How effective do you think that was, really? Like if my wife walks in here in a different shirt, am I going to be like, helloooo, stranger? Probably not. But, he explained, she tried. And I believe that she was God’s daughter in need of help. She was entitled to a miracle. She had faith to ask, and had faith to act, even if what she could do wasn’t enough or even significant. And the Lord took her efforts and her communication as the acts of love and trust they were, and He protected her. Elizabeth Panting’s husband looked her square in the face, and for some reason, could not recognize her. He moved on down the train and she never saw him again.
There are also several instances in the movie where people making the journey feel they can’t go on. They are too weak, too exhausted, too comfortable at a standstill, too famished. But every time they pray, the Lord blesses them with a miracle. With renewed strength, with greater endurance, mighty courage, with an event to get them going in the right direction, and sometimes, with literal and otherwise inexplicable food in the middle of nowhere.
It made me think about how life can be like that. We feel spiritually weak, or maybe, life just seems to hand us more than we can quite bear. We find ourselves in places of familiarity and comfort, and perhaps we’re not even willing to make the journey, to put in the effort it will require. Maybe we are famished spiritually. Every single time that we reach out and talk to God, He will bless us with the miracle we need. He will place people and places and triumphs and even disappointments in our lives, that will, without fail, prove to have been miraculous. They are perfect for us individually, because miracles are given to us by Him who knows us best.
T.C. Christensen made the poignant point that God did not give them experiences that TOOK AWAY the hardship. He didn’t just transport them to Salt Lake City and say, okay, you’re done. Rather, they were given sustaining miracles. He gave them food, shelter. He comforted them through the nights that they didn’t know they could get through, the days that seemed too long and the pains that nearly stopped their progress altogether. And life is like that. It’s full of sustaining miracles. You get what you need to get you to the next place in your life.
Many people set good goals and live good lives, but if you don’t exercise faith and take the journeys set before you, or make the hard choice when necessary – if you don’t struggle through the difficult consequences that follow, you don’t always experience the same opportunities to see miracles, to have your soul altered in conviction of your choice. You don’t get to know the Lord the same way. We come to know the Lord in our extremity. He can’t bless you with miracles if you think you don’t need them. He can’t carry you if you never embrace the uphill path and power through. He can’t show you His hand if you won’t see it. We can’t recognize miracles if we don’t move forward with true convictions and difficult, but inspired decisions that let us practice.
Like always, Holland said it better:
“God expects you to have enough faith and determination and enough trust in Him to keep moving, keep living, keep rejoicing. In fact, He expects you not simply to face the future (that sounds pretty grim and stoic); He expects you to embrace and shape the future–to love it and rejoice in it and delight in your opportunities.
God is anxiously waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, just as He always has. But He can’t if you don’t pray, and He can’t if you don’t dream. In short, He can’t if you don’t believe.”
Happy Tuesday, friends. I really love you. 🙂