Thursday, September 01, 2016

SWONEKY and the Ark Encounters

Performing Big Fish Little Worm on the lawn.
Photo by Joyce Swingle.

We were SO blessed to be a part of the ministry team at the Salvation Army's Southwest Ohio Northern Kentucky (SWONEKY) Divisional Family Camp this past weekend.

The Acts.
Photo by Amanda Metcalf.
I performed Big Fish Little Worm on the lawn and The Acts indoors. Joyce and I also got to teach enacted prayer, and we were able to do an enacted praise and prayer for Colonel Janet Munn, who needed to leave early. That was very special for our group, and after seeing our recording she wrote, "Thanks very much for this generous act of prayer on our behalf."

In The Acts one of the characters describes how a violent wind entered the room where the followers of Jesus were gathered on Pentecost. Just hours later, Commander Janet Ashcraft was building upon the theme of her husband, Commander Larry Ashcraft, and bringing home the theme of the whole retreat: Bold Action. At that moment a violent wind swept through the open sides and back of the auditorium, designed for summer events. This is the way Colonel Richard Munn described it:
...quite suddenly a violent wind disrupted the scene in Chamberlain Hall, flags crashing, music stands cascading, music sheets swirling around the room. What a visual aid, then again, just maybe, a sign - Swoneky Division: Bold faith. I love it.
The next day Joyce and I got to visit the Ark Encounter, a replica of the ship that carried Noah and his family to safety after the worldwide flood described in Genesis 6-7.  The Lord gave the specifications to Noah in cubits, which is the measurement from a man's elbow to the tip of his longest finger. There were twelve possible lengths the creators of the Ark considered, and they went with 20.1 inches per cubit. That makes it 510' long, 85' wide, and 51' tall. That took 3.3 million board feet of wood, making it the largest wooden structure in the world... today. There's a display that mentions many of the flood stories from around the world. The Ark is the only structure that actually could have survived a worldwide flood.

Another display shows photos of Mars. Scientists point to many features of the landscape that indicate Mars had a worldwide flood. They pointed out that if a worldwide flood were not mentioned in the Bible scientists would all conclude that there was one here, too. But that would wash away one of evolution's primary tenets: that the striations we see in places like the Grand Canyon were developed over millions of years. Creation scientists believe those layers were created as the floodwaters rose. It makes a lot more sense to believe striations would come from a catastrophic event rather than over great epochs of time, during which erosion would blend layers together, and in fact we have evidence of this at Mt. St. Helens, where identical striations were created in a matter of hours after its eruption in 1980.

The entire display is very well thought out, down to the number of bats on board! The Lord sent Noah two of each kind, male and female. Creators of the Ark take the word "kind" to indicate any group of animals that can produce offspring with an animal of the opposite sex within that kind. So they only account for two dogs on the Ark, since all varieties of dogs can interbreed. The Lord also sent Noah seven pairs of clean animals and flying creatures. Since there is no scientific proof that all bats can interbreed they have 75 varieties of bats on board. I guess I should add that they're not real, though there's a limited zoo on the premises we didn't have time to see.

Advances in science are making it more and more clear that there had to be a Creator. For more on this watch our friend Eric Metaxas' talk, Science and God. The Ark Encounter opened on July 7, and by the time we visited, less than two months later, there have been over 100,000 visitors discovering these facts secular media would rather ignore.

There we encountered four different friends! As soon as we stepped into the line we ran into Adra Cooper, who was in The Unexpected Bar Mitzvah with us, and Providence with me. Jonathan Ludwig worked on Polycarp with me. I went in knowing two people who had worked on the Ark, and by the time we were done we knew of six, including Adra and Jonathan.

In the living quarters (you can see Noah climbing to retrieve the dove with the olive branch behind us) we ran into Ashley, who used to attend our church, Westchester Chapel.

Then, moments after seeing a wonderful display on the great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor (part of a temporary exhibit, The Voyage of a Book: Personal Stories of Taking the Bible Around the World), we ran into the grandmother of Hudson Taylor ... Graber, the newborn son of Stacie and Joseph Graber, who directed and produced Indescribable, in which Joyce and I played the parents of nine.

Ashley and her friends let us know that we'd missed all the cellphones simultaneously going off with a FLOOD WARNING! We also missed this double rainbow, which appeared beyond the Ark shortly after we left...

You can see more of our photos from the Ark Encounter by clicking here.

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

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

Photo courtesy of

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 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
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

Photo courtesy of

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

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

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 their hit "Mighty to Save" 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 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
The screening on Friday
Joni and Friends
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
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 for more information.

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