Sunday, May 01, 2016

Oriented Up (Fellowship and Abraham, Part 3)

This morning our church, Westchester Chapel, closed out a three part series-within-a-series on Abraham, so I posted a sketch on the Abraham story I helped developed through sociodrama by at the Grace Brethren Church of Winona Lake, Indiana, in 2014:



Here's today's service...
Pastor Rachel Taylor preaches her last sermon (on Genesis 22) before her ordination Saturday. Pastor Linda Warren opens with a report on how much the Lord has been fulfilling His promises He gave when we went through our last sermon series, Moving into the Holy Spirit's Gifts. Pastor Jim Warren leads worship and reads Psalm 141:1-2. Announcement and prayer over Pastor Rachel's upcoming ordination by Pastor Randy Solomon.



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 could be heading to a city near you. Sign up at www.RichDrama.com/Updates to get the announcement.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Called a Friend of God (Fellowship & Abraham, Part 2)

Due to an unfortunate recording error I got to summarize the end of a sermon on my favorite passage in the Old Testament, Genesis 15, a passage on which I have a short 1-man play, "The Covenant Keeper." Pastor Jim Warren preaches most of the sermon with supporting illustrations from Isaiah 6:1-7, Hebrews 11:5-8, and James 2:23. He gave me permission to summarize the end of the sermon. Pastor Linda Warren prays and shares 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.

As promised, we do have information on our upcoming District Assembly and Pastor Rachel Taylor's ordination on our site. You can find it on www.WestchesterChapel.org/DistrictAssembly.

Here's an official music video of Your Great Name, one of the songs we sang this morning:



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

I play a lead in Providence, which could be heading to a city near you. Sign up at www.RichDrama.com/Updates to get the announcement.

Registration is now open for the 2016 Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Screenwriters at Patrick Henry College

I had a great time at the screening of The Screenwriters at the alma mater of our director, Peter Forbes, and screenwriter, Elizabeth Stinnette. I was honored to join them and producer David Cook in a Q/A after the show, and we all had a blast at the afterparty. I had to leave early though. The screening just "happened" to have been scheduled the night before I performed and taught in a nearby school.

I play a lead in Providence, which could be heading to a city near you. Sign up at www.RichDrama.com/Updates to get the announcement.

Registration is now open for the 2016 Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Good Good Father (Fellowship and Abraham, Part 1)

I closed this morning's service with a story from my recent trip to Seattle. Here's my post about the Divine appointments between Beijing and Phoenix, Oregon: What Are the Chances?

Pastor Rachel Taylor preaches on Genesis 12:1-9, with an illustration from Hebrews 11:8. The service opened with Angie Atoth sharing about Pastor Randy Solomon's trip to Columbia during which they built a home for three orphans. Pastor Linda Warren prayed over the sermon and shared the 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.

I play a lead in Providence, which could be heading to a city near you. Sign up at www.RichDrama.com/Updates to get the announcement.

Registration is now open for the 2016 Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

One Day

I've been cast in One Day, a short film written and directed by Gwendelynn Martindale, who will be a student at the Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp, where I'll be teaching and coaching this summer. I'll also be the acting coach on "One Day."

I'm looking forward to working with Gwendelynn in both capacities, and I have a lot of friends I'll get to work with again: Juli Tapken, who plays my character's love interest in Providence has been cast. It will be my sixth collaboration with both Tim Kaiser (www.RichDrama.com/TimKaiser) and Stacey Bradshaw (www.RichDrama.com/StaceyBradshaw).

Ashley and Ethan Ledden will be doing the visual effects, which is particularly exciting since they worked on Beyond the Mask, which had the most visual effects of any Christian film. I first worked with them on Alone Yet Not Alone, and then again on Indescribable. They'll be supported by Jonick Petry, who I worked with in London for The Dragon and the Raven.

Rick Holets is doing the score. We share two credits (Princess Cut and Firefly), but he's worked on several films made by friends.

The fact that Nathan Ashton is doing the sound on this project is actually an answer to our prayer that we'll be in another film screened at the Christian Worldview Film Festival. We haven't missed a year!

It's impolite to ask a woman her age, but I don't think Gwendelynn is in her twenties yet. For her to pull together this heavy-hitting team is just miraculous! Then again, we're serving the Miracle Maker!

I play a lead in Providence, which could be heading to a city near you. Sign up at www.RichDrama.com/Updates to get the announcement.

Registration is now open for the 2016 Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp.

Friday, April 15, 2016

All in a day's work



Had a fabulous time performing a monologue from Hamlet, my 1-man piece based on Les Misérables, and sociodramas based on parallels the students observed. We talked a terrorist into dismantling his bomb, empowered someone to talk his friends through a rough situation, and helped someone avoid drugs. Not bad for a day's work, eh?
Find out more about sociodrama at www.RichDrama.com/Workshops.

I play a lead in Providence, which could be heading to a city near you. Sign up at www.RichDrama.com/Updates to get the announcement.

Registration is now open for the 2016 Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Rather to Be Chosen, NYC

We had a great time at the advance screening of Rather to Be Chosen. Cast and crew came to NYC from Detroit, Providence, Long Island, and the after party went longer than the film!

Here's the report I sent out to New Yorkers on our list. If you you're in the NYC area and the report isn't in your inbox, you can sign up for future updates at www.RichDrama.com/UpdatesNYC. I hope you will because we're planning an advance screening of The Screenwriters, in which I play Hollywood Director Forrest "Woodsy" Woods.

I play a lead in Providence, which could be heading to a city near you. Sign up at www.RichDrama.com/Updates to get the announcement.

Registration is now open for the 2016 Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Smile

I wrote the following article for Graceworks' April 2016 Big Bold News:

Don't we often struggle to find just the right words to say when we're trying to communicate with someone? But, real communication goes so far beyond saying the "right words."

In 2008, I was performing in Beijing during the Olympics. While I was there, I got to hear Madeline Manning Mims speak. Madeline, who broke the world record in the 800 meters in 1968, told the following powerful story.

During the 1968 Games, Madeline was racing against a woman from an Eastern Bloc nation. When Madeline broke the ribbon, she looked around to see where the woman placed in the race. She was nowhere to be found. Madeline discovered the woman had been warned that she and her family would face great penalties if she didn't return with a gold medal, so the woman had peeled off the track before reaching the finish line and ran to the highest point of the stadium. She was going to throw herself off the stadium wall. Thankfully, someone found her and brought her back down.

The next day as Madeline was heading to the U.S. team bus, she passed by the woman. She felt a strong desire to connect with her, so she told her teammates she'd catch the next bus. As Madeline returned to the woman, it dawned on her that she didn't know a single word in the woman's language, and it was very unlikely that the woman knew any English. So, Madeline just walked up to the woman and smiled.

Later, Madeline read that the woman had been institutionalized, not speaking a word for years. After she was released, Madeline was able to visit her. The woman ran up to Madeline and gave her a big hug. The woman told Madeline that her road to recovery had begun when she broke her silence and said, "Madeline came back."

So, the next time you find yourself searching for that perfect word, remember the power of the non-verbal. Lives can be changed with a smile.

You can read the full Big Bold News here.

Since 2001 I've been a Freedom Finder for Graceworks, helping people become more comfortable as presenters through workshops and project specific coaching.

Find out more about our work at www.GraceworksInc.com.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Fellowship and Noah, Part 1

This morning at Westchester Chapel Pastor Jim Warren preached on Genesis 6 and 7. Unfortunately there was a recording error. Thankfully Joyce took detailed notes and below you can hear her authorized summary of the sermon using some of her own illustrations. Pastor Linda Warren opens the service, inviting people to offer their thanks to the Lord, and that opens the recording. Rich Swingle thanks the congregation for praying for him while he presented at the Christian Worldview Film Festival and Guild. He shares reflections on an article by Richard Munn and closes with a review of God's Not Dead 2 and an invitation to an advance screening of Rather to Be Chosen in NYC.



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.



The Beginners Bible video of Noah is now available on DVD in which I give Noah's son Shem and a nay saying villager.

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

I play a lead in Providence, which could be heading to a city near you. Sign up at www.RichDrama.com/Updates to get the announcement.

Registration is now open for the 2016 Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Introduction to Beyond the Chariots at The Christian Worldview Film Festival

I was thrilled to present the awards for Best Animated film at The Christian Worldview Film Festival, with another animated friend, John Fornof, who introduced my performance of Beyond the Chariots the night before:

John directed me in The Dragon and the Raven and taught with me at The Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp.

You can see photos of my performance of Beyond the Chariots by clicking here.

Photo by Evergreen Media Productions 
Video by Stacey Bradshaw.

I play a lead in Providence, which could be heading to a city near you. Sign up at www.RichDrama.com/Updates to get the announcement.

Registration is now open for the 2016 Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter in Emmaus

Rich and Joyce Swingle on the
Sea of Galilee in 2011.
Joyce wrote the drama, "Easter in Emmaus," which we performed together this morning at Westchester Chapel.  Dr. Linda Warren opened the service and led in prayer and worship. Testimonies are by Jerry and Jan C, Eva P., Linda Warren, and Tom M.



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 could be heading to a city near you. Sign up at www.RichDrama.com/Updates to get the announcement.

Registration is now open for the 2016 Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Fiddler on the Roof

I LOVED the Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof

The only way it was "modernized" (usually done by adding expletives, etc.) was a brilliant envelope: They had action at the beginning and end which compels us to consider sharing the burden of those under oppression. For the Jewish people of Anatevka, where the musical takes place, it is the pogrom that sends them away. For Christians in ISIS occupied territories today it is the nun.

Fiddler was first produced on Broadway in 1964, and the first person cast in the production was Austin Pendleton, who I interviewed in grad school. It held the record for the longest running Broadway show by the time the first production closed ten years later. This is the sixth Broadway production, and it's been performed all over the world, with an astonishing 1,300 performances in Japan. I know I sang "Sunrise, Sunset" in elementary school, though I can't recall the context. 

I think it's a perennial favorite for the same reason Downton Abbey was so popular that it's been shown in every television market on earth. Both portray the tension between tradition and modernity. Proponents for keeping tradition are overjoyed because it shows the need for traditions. As Tevye says, "Remove tradition and we're as shaky as a fiddler on a roof!" Those that want to see traditions changed for a better world love it because they see how progressive ideas take hold.

Fiddler even has a solution for how to determine which traditions to keep and which to leave behind. At Tzeitle and Motel's wedding Perchik asks if any of the young women would like to dance with him. This is unheard of in their culture and his request is called sin. Perchik asks the rabbi if it is sin. Is it forbidden in the Good Book? The rabbi can't think of anything that forbids dancing, and so they dance. Had the rabbi been given a moment to think and pray it might have come to him that throughout The Song of Solomon the phrase recurs: "Don’t excite love, don’t stir it up, until the time is ripe—and you’re ready." (The Message) Not that I'm condemning all dancing. There was a saying among Christians when I was growing up: No premarital sex because it could lead to dancing. My point is that young people should be encouraged to keep their heads clear so they can hear the Lord's call to marriage and not rush where their hormones are leading the way. 

After my performance of Beyond the Chariots in St. Louis I answered questions, and one was from a mother with a couple of teenaged daughters wanting to go into the arts professionally. She asked what is one thing I would recommend for them. I recommended getting plugged into a Christ-centered, Bible believing congregation. Without a foundation whatever faith structure has been built in their lives will be in grave danger of falling. I added another: Read the Bible cover to cover every year. Without a solid foundation in the Good Book everything will sound good enough. 

I was a sociology/social work major at George Fox University, and my mentor, Mike Allen, taught a concept that has been a guiding light for me along the way: Cultural relativity is fine, so long as it lines up with biblical absolutes. 

One of my favorite moments in the production was when they celebrated Sabbath. As they lit their candles the walls of their home flew up revealing all the other families of Anatevka and all over the world lighting their candles and welcoming the Lord's presence into their day of rest. It highlighted the power of community in using traditions to keep us close to the Lord.

Christians should know:
*Some honest conversations with God, like "With Your help, we're starving to death!"
*A couple of sexual innuendos
*Some smooching to celebrate an engagement
*Hope expressed that the Messiah will come at some point in the future



I play a lead in Providence, a modern silent film which you can now bring to your community.

Registration is now open for the 2016 Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Reflections on the Christian Worldview Film Festival and Guild

I was so blessed by the Christian Worldview Film Festival and Guild this year!!!

You can click through to my notes on Facebook for lectures by Phillip Telfer, Brett VarvelChad BurnsBobby Downes, Stephen Kendrick (Making God's DecisionsGuild closebrunch), Rich Christiano, and a directors panel with Rich Christiano, Brett Varvel, Ken Carpenter, Stephen Kendrick, George Escobar and Chad Burns. You can hear some of these sessions and many of the breakout sessions here.

I got to work with a number of talented students through four workshops, including one at Living Water Fellowship for their drama team before the Guild began, and I got to co-teach a workshop with Mimi Sagadin (Return to the Hiding Place, Princess Cut).

With Stacey Bradshaw who
was the costume designer.
They let me keep the pants.
The Screenwriters, in which I play Forrest "Woodsy" Woods, took runner up for Audience Choice and Best Score, but the real encouragement was that Mike Hill and his family won several awards. They've cast me as the lead in a short film they're doing in Southern Oregon in June: A Matter of Perspective. I asked Mike's son, Ethan, which awards they won and he wrote, "...by God's grace we won the Sanctity of Life award, The Fatherhood award and runner up for young filmmaker and finalist in best animation. (Joni and Friends promo - which you were in also placed as finalist:)" I'm even more excited about working with them this summer!

I got to speak with the creative team after Rather to Be Chosen twice, and lamentably I missed The Messenger's Box, in which I play Jesus. I got to see one of the Joni and Friends videos, but not the other. Just too much going on!

This is the second year in a row I got to perform in a live project during the Guild. This time it was for a TV pilot (TBA) with friends Anita Cordell (Providence) and John Hotea in his film debut. He asked us later how he could have improved and I told him about my first film and how I was expecting more feedback. I asked the director if I could do anything better, and he said, "I would have told you if I thought of something."

During past Festivals I've performed short pieces (Jonah in 2013 and Gideon last year), but this year I got to do almost all of Beyond the Chariots. Afterward a young man came up to me and told me that when I performed that play at his church two years ago he rededicated his life to the Lord after the play. He said this year it confirmed his commitment to live for the Lord.

I've tagged these wonderful people
here.
Another highlight for me was when Nathan Jacobson (who's been in four films with me) and I planned dinner, and I ran into Rachel Marley (former student and teammate on our performing arts team in Sochi during the Olympics). I asked Nathan if he was OK with her joining us. Before we knew it we'd blossomed into this group of former students and castmates! After introductions I had the professionals share a tip with my former students.

It's impossible to capture all that happened throughout the week for myself, and then multiply that by the hundreds of lives that were affected, and it's mind-boggling. The spiritual impact the Guild and Festival had on me personally was immense. I made some significant life choices after hearing Stephen Kendrick speak, and the week gave me much hope that future films will point more clearly to Jesus Christ as the Way the Truth and the Life. Someone suggested we set up a red carpet, and one of the organizers, Rhett Simpkins, said, "We're not about the red carpet but the Narrow Way."

What follows are the observations of Vickie Lynn Smith. She was one of my students, and through leads I sent has been involved in professional productions, including Rather to Be Chosen, The Messenger's Box and Lifestone Velocity...

I coached Jonathan DeRoos
on his role for Lifestone Velocity
while at the
Rocky Mountain Christian
Filmmakers Camp
for a scene in which
Vickie (left) played Alice Jones.
Rebekah Stought stood in
for her character for
rehearsal there.
Day one, Monday, was good. Mostly because of my excitement to be there and see friends old and new. Not bad, right?... That in-between feeling was enough for me to beg God that night to turn that around the next day. Every day I kept asking God to make the next day better and boy did he deliver!

He first showed up by convicting me left and right. Real fun stuff.
-Brett Varvel spoke powerfully about the impact of our lives and testimonies. Then he blurts it out. "Will God say 'Well done my good and faithful servant!'... or will God say '...come on in' " Ouch. I've been saved for over 15 years and have a nice pile of ashes to show for it. Point taken.
-Stephen Kendrick talks about Alex and him being a team. Never tearing down but always building each other up. I feel that principle is usually emphasized within marriage- not brotherhood. I've failed in possibly every single relationship to build up instead of tearing down. As a friend, girlfriend, daughter, and sister. ugh.
-In another main session, Stephen's gaze lands on me and says "The Holy Spirit can pump joy and life and peace into you." I guess that's what it means to hear God and not the speaker. Wowzers. I nodded and promptly wrote that line down!

Now for some light. Saturday! One of the best days of my life. I wind up casually walking up to Travis Palmer and ask him what his story is. Well, he spent the next four or so hours pouring into me- his story, testimony, lessons learned, and God's faithfulness. It hits me about 30 minutes in that I am speaking to one of the coolest, most God-used people. He asks me then about me, where I'm from, etc. I tell him I'm from Detroit and we talked about its dire need for salt and light. To sum it up, God used Travis to assure me I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be (geographically that is). I felt positively ordained, hearing that I'm supposed to be loving on and influencing the Detroit film community. I felt so filled with joy. He prayed. I cried. It was great.
Little did I know that wasn't all. I wind up sitting next to Greg Tull at dinner. He asks me what my passion is. I tell him what I do and why I like it. He's no dummy. He repeats the question. I said to myself, this is maybe the 100th time I've had this conversation... maybe it's time I'm honest. I tell him while I enjoy being on set- crew or cast- the real fire is music. That ultimate dream is my music being in movies. Scoring films. He spent the next 15 minutes ministering to me and encouraging me and making it crystal clear that I have no business burying that God-given passion!

He prayed. I cried. It was great.

Oh yeah, that morning I had the honor of recording a little guitar diddle with Tim Casey for a short that was filmed at the festival. God is good. He knew all along:)

Before the award ceremony we worship "..let it be a sweet sweet sound in your ear!"
Yup. That's my prayer. It is now!

I've felt like I'm going to burst since Saturday. While reading texts and posts that are underlined with sadness about the week being over, all I can think is it's okay. This week was amazing, but only because of God! And God is with me always- not just when I'm with hundreds of other Christians! I'm ready to make this year count. I'm ready for the old Vickie to die and the new Vickie to raise triumphantly with Christ. I'm ready to toss the junk to the side and focus on my wonderful heavenly Father. I'm ready to make my abba proud! I can't thank you all enough for doing what you do and allowing God to use you. I'm forever grateful.

with love,
the new Vickie :)


I play a lead in Providence, which could be heading to a city near you. Sign up at www.RichDrama.com/Updates to get the announcement.

Registration is now open for the 2016 Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp.