The Heart Behind the “Listen & Live” Spoken Word Short Film
Moses is about ready to die. Our mediator, the man of God, will never step foot in the Promised Land. His sin disqualifies him.
Yet here I stand at the Plains of Moab, awaiting his final words and the fulfillment of a centuries-old promise made to father Abraham. The Promised Land is before us. We’re ready for milk and honey! Or are we?
These past forty years have been a school of faith for us. God thrust us out of the house of slavery. He drowned our enemies. He led us in fire and smoke. The Lord fed us with miraculous manna from the sky. He gave us his law—a reflection of his holiness, a declaration of how to love him back. He renewed his covenant with us after we rebelled.
But if our repeated rebellion has taught me anything, it’s that the blessing ahead might not meet our deepest issue: the seed of sin in our hearts. I’m afraid the prosperity of the Promised Land might prove more perilous than the thirst and tents of our wilderness weaknesses.
My name is Adinah, and I’m an Israelite woman of thirty years. I was born in the wilderness.
My mother—Ima, as I call her—crossed the Red Sea when she was just a girl. This, of course, was my favorite bedtime story growing up. Each night, Ima would recount how she and my grandmother crossed through the sea on dry land. She would always recall how her mother gripped her hand so tightly, she couldn’t feel it.
Then my Ima would sing the same sweet chorus over me every night—that song Miriam sang with the women as they danced on the beach: “Sing to the LORD for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea,” (Ex. 15:21).
We were ready for milk and honey right then and there! Instead, forty years of wilderness wandering awaited us.
My people have been incredibly rebellious these past forty years. But God has been unbelievably faithful, discipline and all. He has proven the land before us is good, flowing with milk and honey. Indeed, he is abundantly good.
But will we keep our end of this precious covenant? Will we obey his voice? Will we listen and live?
The Purpose of the Short Film
This is the question on the mind of Adinah, our short film’s protagonist.
In January, Mary Willson, TGC’s director of women’s initiatives, asked me to creatively and clearly summarize the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers for the women who would attend The Gospel Coalition Women’s 2018 conference. The video would introduce the conference theme out of Deuteronomy: “Listen and Live: Promised Grace for Rebel Hearts.”
We wanted viewers to enter into Israel’s narrative. We wanted them to feel the urgency of the moment: will we listen to God’s law and live?
The request was for a five-minute video, but I ended up writing a script that took twenty minutes to perform. After lots of painful editing, we settled on an eleven-minute script.
Act 1 of the script covers everything from the garden of Eden to slavery in Egypt. Act 2 takes us from Egypt to Mount Sinai. Act 3 brings us from Mount Sinai to the Plains of Moab.
As I wrote the script, I imagined the corresponding music and sound effects. I reached out to Alex Hitchens, a Grammy award-winning music producer.
We’ve worked together before, and I’m always blown away at how he’s able to take my non-technical explanations of my musical vision and turn them into sonic masterpieces.
I told Alex I wanted the music to sound like “The Prince of Egypt” meets “Inception” meets “Black Panther” meets “The Dark Knight.” He did all that and more.
From here, our video team took over and absolutely amazed me with their ideas and execution.
Our good friends, Juan and Haylee Garcia, are passionate believers in Christ who own a video company called Light Foster. They decided on our shooting locations (Death Valley and Red Rock Canyon).
My husband, Jon Aragon (aka Jon Doulos), oversaw creative direction and developed the storyboard. Juan directed the shoot as he and Jon shot the film using two cameras.
Haylee was our Director of Photography and she managed the wardrobe and makeup. She was a calm voice of humor and grace to me as we endured 100+ degree weather in the desert for three straight days of shooting. Karen Ellis joined us for the first day of shooting at Red Rock Canyon. Her professionalism and easy-going personality made it so easy to work with her. Not to mention, she delivered her lines beautifully.
A thirty-year-old Israelite woman named Adinah finds herself at the Plains of Moab awaiting Moses’ final discourses before she enters the Promised Land.
The opening scene of Adinah (me) and her mom Ima (K.A. Ellis) is a flashback of a common occurrence between the mother and daughter.
Ima recalls God’s redemption of Israel out of Egypt through the Red Sea. Adinah asks her to sing the chorus that Miriam and the women sang on the beach. Ima lovingly obliges.
We then find Adinah waking up in a dreamy landscape recalling the creation story. Adinah recounts the history of her people all the way up to her current status just outside the Promised Land.
Suddenly, she is awakened by her husband who informs her that Moses is about to speak. This is when it becomes clear that Adinah’s whole poem was actually a dream.
Enjoy! May God stir your heart to live for him!