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Efram, Greg, and Shane on set

Friday Lights: A Theologian Goes to Hollywood

Each Friday we post content sent to us by our readers that is inspiring, funny, lighthearted or just generally fun. If you’d like more information on submitting content for this feature you can get more information here. However, today’s Friday Light comes from Greg. (The photo above alone seemed like it was worth it.) Greg played a small role in an upcoming independent feature film about a young guy who becomes increasingly convinced a cosmic bully messes with some people more than others. The talented cast from popular movies and T.V. shows includes: Matt Lanter, Hallee Hirsh, William Russ, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Cindy Pickett, and more! This post tells a little about how Greg came to be involved.  


Several years ago, I was sitting in my office at Woodland Hills Church when Cynthia Gus, author and producer of Chasing the Rain, stopped by to chat. Fifteen years prior, Cindy was a student in one of the theology classes I taught at Bethel University (St. Paul), and we had kept in touch. Generally our chats included me answering whatever theological questions she had (they were always probing), and Cindy would invariably get me laughing to the point of tears.

This occasion was no different. But at some point, the laughter subsided a bit and Cindy began telling me about a screenplay she had written. She shared that some folks in Hollywood wanted to turn it into a movie. Of course I was impressed, but I wasn’t really surprised. Hang around this unpredictable lady for any length of time and you get so used to surprises they become the norm.

As our conversation came to a close, Cindy asked me for a favor. I don’t recall what the favor was, but I do recall jokingly telling her that I’d do it, but only if she gave me a role in her movie. We both laughed. But several weeks later, she called to ask me to play a homeless man in her movie! I thought she was joking, but no, she was serious. She said she felt it would be kind of funky to have the four people who most influenced her thinking play bit roles. I was on that list along with N.T. Wright, Shane Claiborne, and Efrem Smith.

Among other things, the roles required us to spend an entire night outside… in Kalamazoo, Michigan… in JANUARY! But that wasn’t the hardest part. The hardest part was the solemn oath Cindy made me take to not cut my hair or shave for six months leading up to this shooting. My wife and my congregation graciously embraced my increasingly scruffy look, and we can all be grateful Cindy didn’t require me to stop bathing.

Truthfully, from beginning to end, this experience was amazing. Watching Cindy do her thing on the set was a trip, as was hanging out with the many talented and creative people that comprised her team. But most of all, I am honored to have played a tiny role in a story that is as gusty, compelling, and insightful as Chasing the Rain. The film doesn’t offer easy answers to questions like “Is there a purpose to life, or is our life and everything else just a random pointless event?” I’ll be writing more on this extraordinary film later.

Well done, Cindy, and thanks for calling my bluff.

P.S. Don’t leave this post until you subscribe to the film’s newsletter, check out the website, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo credit: Efrem, Greg, and Shane on the set. From the photo gallery of chasingtherainmovie.com

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