Monthly Archives: February 2012

October Baby

Last week Velora and I attended the Hope Now for Youth dinner. We sat with two couples who are involved in teaching in our local school district. One teacher shared with us that a 14 year old student came to her with exciting news: “I’m pregnant!!!” “Why is this good news for you?” the teacher asked. “Because I want to become a mother before I die.” The student seemed to believe she would not live past her teen years.

The other teacher shared with us how on her first day of school, as the students came into her room for the first time, that she could identify who the gang leaders were and who were their followers. These students believe that kids who live in a certain part of town have it better than they do and are smarter. The teacher shared that you are as smart as anyone, but you have to put effort into your education. I’m glad we have Christian teachers to be a light in the dark world of our schools.

This brings me to encourage our church for an opportunity now in March to get the word out about a movie that is coming into theaters. It is a Christian film called October Baby (rated PG-13). The film tells the story of a survivor of a botched abortion. We seldom hear this side presented anywhere. The survivor does not know that she is adopted until she is a teenager and then goes on a journey to discover herself and her past. It is a powerful story of the survivor, her adoptive parents, her birth mother, an abortion nurse, and her close friends.

We all have neighbors, classmates, and fellow workers who are affected by the decisions young people are making today about abortion, adoption, and the results of those decisions.

The first showing is scheduled for Friday, March 23rd. For more information or to watch the trailer you can visit the movie’s website.

Velora and I have seen this film and we can tell you that you will laugh through about a third of the film and shed tears through the rest of the movie. We will show a clip in church and maybe your Sunday School class will want to attend as a group or you can grab some neighbors to go with you. The more people that see it on the opening weekend, the more they will continue to show it.

Pastor Ed Willems



Recently in preparation for a sermon, I re-watched the Dove Evolutions ad. It hit me while viewing the section where the face of the model is stretched and shaped by Photoshop (a computer software program), that a case could be made for a connection between current beauty “icons” and the prayer inspired icons in Greek Orthodoxy.

A few years ago I attended the Greek Festival at the Orthodox Church here in Fresno. It is a weekend celebration with food, games, activities and cultural events for the Greek community. It’s sort of like the MCC sale for Mennonites.

One of the optional events was a guided tour of the church hosted by the priest. I had never been in a Greek Orthodox church before so I took the tour. I was amazed at the sheer volume of original artwork that covered every available space in the sanctuary. These paintings of Jesus and the Saints were similar to those I had seen in churches all over the world, and yet at the same time they were completely different.

As I listened, the priest shared the meaning behind the icons. He explained how in an icon, the features are specifically adjusted by the artist to emphasize certain characteristics in order to foster prayer. For iconographers, there is a very specific set of parameters to follow. For example, the eyes are larger than normal to point to closeness and concentrated attention; the lips are closed because true contemplation requires silence; the forehead is high expressing the power of the Spirit and wisdom. All these adjustments are there to point the person looking at the icon to a different reality, a transcendent One. In essence, for the Orthodox believer, the icon becomes a gateway pointing to an ideal disciple of Jesus.

Here’s the connection with the Photoshop work on the Dove Evolutions video. As I watched the expert Photoshop technician at work I realized that he (or she) is like an iconographer. The model’s face was being adjusted right before my eyes to emphasize characteristics that our culture values as “beauty”- large eyes, long thin neck, high cheekbones, etc. Like the iconographer, the Photoshop technician points us to a transcendent reality on the nature of beauty that is frankly, unattainable. The goal for the

“Photoshopographer” isn’t to create better disciples, but to set up an image of beauty which is false in order to create sales for a product.

For both artists, a larger mission is at stake. For the iconographer, it is to create a picture that helps people connect with God. For the Photoshop technician, it is to increase sales and promote an image of beauty that is impossible to attain without surgery (or Photoshop).

Like so many, I’ve had my eyes deceived by the Photoshopographer. At times I buy into the lie that for example, I need flat abs in order to be a success. However, I’m learning to fix my eyes on a different image. Hebrews 12:2 tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus.” The reason? 2 Corinthians 3:18 states, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Rather than the picture Photoshopographer is selling me, this is the image I want to frame my life around.

Pastor Rick Bartlett

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