Sunday, August 21, 2016

Fellowship with Jesus: Fellowship Over Fear

I opened our service at Westchester Chapel this morning with another report on how the Lord worked in the lives of the students at the performing arts conservatory last weekDr. Linda Warren led prayer over Joyce and I, who will be ministering at a retreat in Ohio next weekendPastor Randy Solomon preached on Matthew 10:26-33 and how a relationship with Jesus Christ eradicates fear. Rachel Taylor prayed for the sermon, shared announcements and led prayer over Rebekah W. who leaves for college.




This service is available for download free on iTunes, where you can also subscribe to our podcast. Search for "Westchester Chapel" on the iTunes Store.

If you want to more about starting a relationship with Jesus Christ visit www.WestchesterChapel.org/Salvation.

Photo courtesy of NicolettiPhoto.com.


See the rest of Olympic champion Eric Liddell's Chariots of Fire story by booking Beyond the Chariots.

Friday, August 19, 2016

My connection to Ben-Hur


In 2001-2002 I played five roles in the musical Judah Ben-Hur in Singapore. So I went into an advance screening of Ben-Hur with a lot of hope.

I saw the film with a friend, and I held back from whispering, "I played that guy," five times during the film, so I'll share my delight here, where it won't interrupt your viewing pleasure...

I'll start with the smallest role I had: There was a character who walked onto stage after blowing a trumpet. The actor couldn't play trumpet, so I played it for him and then handed it to him before he walked on.

That's me and my pipa far right.
I played a galley slave in the shadows behind Judah, and I was a musician in the tent of Sheik Ilderim (played in the current film by Morgan Freeman). I played a pipa like it was a guitar in a grand dance scene.

I played Pontius Pilate, who had a much smaller role in the musical than he does in the current film. I basically sat on a couch eating grapes as I presided over the chariot race from about 15' up in the air.

I'm front row center as Simonides
with our wonderful cast from at
least four continents.
My main role in the musical was Simonides, the slave of Judah Ben-Hur's family and the father of Esther, Judah's love interest. In the film Simonides' only speaking roles are mumbled in passing, but the musical made much more of him, and it was a joy to be some of the comical relief in an otherwise very serious story. Lew Wallace's novel, Ben-Hur, is the basis of the 1959 film starring Charlton Heston, the musical, and the film opening in theaters nationwide this weekend. Simonides dies early in this film, but Wallace puts him at the crucifixion of Jesus, saying "Let us henceforth speak of him as the Christ," and Wallace says that Simonides "lived to be a very old man. The current film uses his early death in a strategic way, and I think it pays off.

One of my favorite elements of the musical was that it opened with a solo by Balthazar, one of the three wise men, singing about traveling to and worshiping Jesus as an infant. Balthazar's presence at the crucifixion is poignant. Joyce captured this 33-year perspective in her one-woman one-act play "The Shepherd's Daughter." You can see her perform it in The Shepherds Cave in Bethlehem at www.RichDrama.com/ShepherdsDaughter. I was sorry Balthazar was left out of this film, but the different opening of the film has a huge payoff, which I'll allude to more in a moment.

This image and the poster courtesy
of www.ShareBenHur.com.
As with the 1959 version, no resurrection is shown in the current film. There are indications that the story ends before Easter, and there are miracles when Jesus says, "It is finished." The 1959 film ends on the empty crosses. The novel makes no mention of the resurrection either, but it makes it clear that Judah and his family are Christians, believing that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead without having been first-hand witnesses, as 2.2 billion people believe today. Wallace also shows Judah supporting the brand new Christian movement by giving toward an underground church (literally) meeting in the catacombs. Wallace says "Out of that vast tomb Christianity issued to supersede the Caesars."

I actually feel this current film has the greatest nod to the resurrection of the three versions of the tale I mention here. Judah's time bowing at the foot of the cross inspires an action neither the 1959 version, nor the novel dare to show. A GodTube article reported:
(Timur) Bekmambetov only took the job (of director) after he was certain he could implement his vision for spotlighting a different theme from the 1880 novel than the famous Charlton Heston version of the film did. “The 1959 movie was about revenge, not about forgiveness,” Bekmambetov told the entertainment web site COLLIDER. “For me that was the main problem; I think that the novel is mainly about forgiveness, about the fact that a human being learned how to forgive.”
This film takes forgiveness even further than the novel, which was written by a man who had been a general during our Civil War. He may have felt his readers weren't ready to read what you'll see on the big screen. Though we're a deeply divided nation, we're not as far apart as we were in the mid-1800s, and I was delighted by the resurrected relationship this film shows.

Christians should know:
*Four possible misuses of God's name. It's possible they're genuine prayers, but it's unclear.
*The PG-13 rating is for violence related to war, chariot racing, and crucifixion. If you're a parent of children and teens I urge you to read the article "Trained to Kill."
*Premarital and marital smooching.
*A woman's bare back is shown when her garment is ripped.
*A married couple in bed with bare shoulders only talking.

For a more detailed description of what's involved read PluggedIn's review. If you do prayerfully decide to take a young teen the film will offer opportunities to talk about choices the characters make before and after the influence of Jesus Christ on their lives.





See the rest of Olympic champion Eric Liddell's Chariots of Fire story by booking Beyond the Chariots.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

High School and College Track

I thought I might have posted this photo of me running steeplechase in college. I hadn't, but while searching I discovered a site that has posted my times in high school cross country and college track. At some point I'll have to pull out my track journal to update the high school track and college cross country times.



See the rest of Olympic champion Eric Liddell's Chariots of Fire story by booking Beyond the Chariots.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

What could Eric Liddell have done on a rubberized track?

Eric Liddell's world record in the 400m was 47.6 on a cinder track with hand-dug starting blocks. The current world record is 43.03.

Liddell's time in the 100 yards of 9.7 seconds in 1923 stood as a British record for 35 years. That race is only 91.44m. A 100m preliminary during the 1924 Paris Olympics fell on a Sunday, so Liddell decided to pull out of the race. So we'll never know if he could have held that pace another 8.56m. If he could have that would have given him a time of 10.6 seconds. That was the Olympic record that year, set by his nemesis, Harold Abraham. The current record in the 100m is 9.58 seconds.

When I was in high school we had a cinder track, but there were many rubberized tracks around. We were always thrilled when we got to run on the newer tracks because we always had faster times. It would be interesting to know what Liddell could have done on a rubberized track with solid blocks and the kind of training athletes get today.

See the rest of Olympic champion Eric Liddell's Chariots of Fire story by booking Beyond the Chariots.

Fellowship with Jesus: At Risk and Maligned

This morning at Westchester Chapel I reported on the performing arts conservatory where I facilitated all weekJoyce teaches on Matthew 10:16-25. Rachel Taylor opens with Psalm 126, prayer and announcements.



This service is available for download free on iTunes, where you can also subscribe to our podcast. Search for "Westchester Chapel" on the iTunes Store.

If you want to more about starting a relationship with Jesus Christ visit www.WestchesterChapel.org/Salvation.

Photo courtesy of NicolettiPhoto.com.


I play a lead in Providence, which you can bring to your area.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

TAMC Chapter 16


We had a great time facilitating at the Salvation Army's Territorial Arts Ministry Conservatory. Typically I teach and direct, but this time my friend and fellow Christians in Theatre Arts board member, Joe Frost, led us in devised theatre.

We arrived Saturday night with nothing but a parable. I partnered with dancer/choreographer Sarah George. We were assigned Matthew 13:44-46, which actually has two parables paired: The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price.

After some warm-ups designed to get us thinking and creating together we split into two groups and gave the students a 10-minute time limit to dramatize their respective parables. Monday night we shared our ideas with the entire conservatory. Tuesday morning we took feedback we'd received, along with new ideas on what the Kingdom of God is and re-envisioned the entire piece. We kept adding and fine-tuning, and were adding final touches right up until just a few hours before the finale.

You can see the results by clicking here. Our group begins at 24:35.

On Sunday night the Creative Arts Service Team (CAST) performed Moses. I saw an eight minute version last summer in London at the Millennium Dome, and now they've fleshed it out to 28 minutes. So many of them have been my students and colleagues here at TAMC, and they all threw themselves into it! I was quite proud. You can see their performance at Hershey Park by clicking here.

I play a lead in Providence, which you can bring to your area.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fellowship with Jesus: Celebration!

I was challenged by Daniel Knudsen (who directed me in Creed of Gold, Rather to Be Chosen and Lifestone Velocity) to pray seven nights for our nation on Facebook. I've been praying the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) over America, one piece a night. This morning during our service at Westchester Chapel I prayed on the Shield of Faith.


In the service which followed, Pastor Linda Warren preached on Matthew 9:14-17. I showed a video of  children passionately worshipping Jesus in Indonesia, the nation with the highest Muslim population. Joyce gave the announcements and mentioned the lightning video we posted on July 17.



Before the service, in our Bible study, our series on the garments of the high priest, as described in Exodus, concluded with the putting on of the garments! They're a beautiful picture of the Lord's plan for Salvation in Jesus Christ becoming our High Priest.




This service is available for download free on iTunes, where you can also subscribe to our podcast. Search for "Westchester Chapel" on the iTunes Store.

If you want to more about starting a relationship with Jesus Christ visit www.WestchesterChapel.org/Salvation.


I play a lead in Providence, which you can bring to your area.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Fellowship with Jesus: Friend of Sinners

I opened our service at Westchester Chapel this morning with Psalm 34:1-3 and prayer. I also introduced Kara M., who spoke on her ministry in India.

Pastor Jim Warren preaches on Matthew 8:1-9:13. Andrew and Natasha K. shared about their ministry opportunities in the three years since they moved away to Tulsa. Pastor Linda Warren prays over the sermon and brings the announcements.



Kara M. shares about the work the Joyful Children's Home is doing to bring
the daughters of temple prostitutes out of shame and into fellowship
with the Lord and his people.
This service is available for download free on iTunes, where you can also subscribe to our podcast. Search for "Westchester Chapel" on the iTunes Store.

If you want to more about starting a relationship with Jesus Christ visit www.WestchesterChapel.org/Salvation.



I play a lead in Providence, which you can bring to your area.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Hillsong: Let Hope Rise

Joyce and I just got to see an advance screening of Hillsong - Let Hope Rise, a film about the Australian band Hillsong United, that is as much worship service as it is documentary.

It follows the four months before the band's grandest engagement to date, at the Los Angeles Forum. Members push themselves to write a whole new album (Empires), and some of the songs are being finished within an hour of the concert. There's one moment where Joel Houston, son of the lead pastors of Hillsong Church in Sydney, says there's a spark from the Lord, but then He expects us to do some work to finish the assignment. That really resonated with me as a performing artist, currently working on a project. Another point of connection is that the band members rely on their pastors to greenlight their lyrics, making certain that everything is in alignment with the Word of God. I've always submitted my plays to that process as well.

I attended this church service in the Manila stadium featured
in Let Hope Rise
The band was formed when members were still in the Hillsong youth group. They've now toured all over the world. One of the venues was a stadium in Manila, where I was a part of a church service on the heels of the Beijing Olympics. At one point they show clips of people worshiping to one of their songs from all over the planet in various languages, including sign language. They estimate 50 million people worship the Lord to their songs on a weekly basis.

Another moment that struck me was when one of the artists said something about band members wanting to do their best so that people could focus on them just long enough to be directed to the Lord. Beautiful! That's certainly been my heart for the work the Lord's given me for 21 years.

The movie does a great job of showing how life in the Lord allows the pastor and band members to make sense of the rain that falls on the just and the unjust: a baby born with two holes in his heart, a sister committing suicide, a father abusing a friend. These heartbreaking stories are paired with lyrics like:

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Though Hillsong United performs for tens of thousands at each concert, members point out that they're all on ministry salaries and are purposeful about staying connected to the needs of those who come to their concerts.

As a Compassion artist I was overjoyed to see that the band and church have helped 40,000 children find sponsors! Some of their visits with children were reminiscent of trips Joyce and I have taken to see the great work Compassion is doing around the world.

My favorite part of the Hillsong -- Let Hope Rise experience is that the producers included the lyrics to the songs the band is singing, inviting the movie audience into worship.

I was moved on many levels.

The movie experience opens in theatres nationwide September 16. Take advantage of this amazing opportunity to invite someone who needs Hope to a theatre.



I play a lead in Providence, which you can bring to your area.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Felicia's Pledge

This year at the Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp we produced a short film, "Felicia's Pledge," which follows another character from the novel In His Steps. I got to reprise my role of John Gray and Ken Lawrence, the director of Film Camp, reprised his role as Pastor Henry Maxwell from the film In His Steps. The rest of the roles were played by our students.

Sign up at www.RichDrama.com/Updates to get the release notice.

I play a lead in Providence, which you can bring to your area.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

George Fox Journal

I've been mentioned again in the George Fox Journal, the alumni magazine for my alma mater. This one, on page 27, mentions my role in Providence.

The last mention was an article on my career: "A Class Act."

I play a lead in Providence, which you can bring to your area.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Friday's Screenings on The Dove

I just did an interview on The Dove, a Christian TV/Radio/Internet station serving Southern Oregon and the world.

Here are links to some things I mentioned:
Over 20 films
A Matter of Perspective
Providence
The screening on Friday
Joni and Friends
ChristianCinema.com
PureFlix.com
Other ways to see Christian Films
Sharon and Fred Wilharm
AMC Independent Release
Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp
In His Steps
One Day
Karen Abercrombie
Beyond the Chariots
Shanghai
The Hill Family's Video Production Company



The screening was also mentioned in the Medford Mail Tribune 6/24/16:
Film Screening: Rich Swingle, who graduated from Phoenix High School in 1987, will be in Southern Oregon to screen "Providence," in which he plays one of the leads. The film will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 24, at Medford Friends Church, 525 DeBarr Ave., Medford. Swingle plays the adult version of the male lead in "Providence." He has performed on five continents in 28 nations since 1995, mostly with his own one-man plays. See www.medfordfriendschurch.org for more information.

I play a lead in Providence, which you can bring to your area.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Father's Day!

Here's a short film by Brett Varvel and his brother Drew Varvel. It won second prize at the Christian Worldview Film Festival for the Fatherhood Award.



The winner was created by the Hill family. They're the ones producing A Matter of Perspective, in which I play the lead. Except for the baby, all the boys are Hills. It's great to see this now that we know each of them!



I play a lead in Providence, which you can bring to your community.
 

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Faith Flix Interview

I perform in two films featured this Saturday at the GloryReelz Christian Film FestivalSharon Campbell Wilharm interviewed me about the roles:


When did you first discover a love for acting?
I typically tell people in the fourth grade when I played Mr. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but I was just having lunch with someone today and told a story from when I was much younger, five or six. I was in a restaurant, and I performed for the table, showing... [read the full interview here]

I play a lead in Providence, which you can bring to your area.