The Last Show

(Inspired by Ms. Michaela Love’s testimony.)

The darkness before the dawn is

Penetrated

By the nose-tingling haze that hangs in the theatre.

I breathe it in.

Will the haze smell different on a different stage?

Clop, clop, clop.

My shoes hit that squeaky spot

In the floor

For the last time.

The last time.

Years of ignoring it,

Deploring it,

Exploring it,

The passage of time has had enough.

“Time to move on.”

I stand in the wing,

Awaiting my entrance.

For the last time.

“There will be other shows.”

Not like these were.

“Greater things await.”

And this one is leaving me.

Can I do this?

Can I move on?

I so strongly want to stay.

I want to leave.

I want to enter.

I want to take my last bow.

All this conflict…why now?

I wait in the wing,

The haze still tingling my nostrils.

It’s so…

Infuriating.

I can’t do this. 

It needs to end.

I can’t do this.

All things move on.

I CAN’T 

YOU CAN DO THIS.

 

 

“Breathe.

“Take a breath.

“Breathe the breath of life I’ve given.

“Prepare

“To sing with the voice I’ve given.

“To act with the vigor

“I placed within the sinews of the body

“I gave you.

“You can do this.

“Breathe, and I will give you your voice.

“Breathe as you move on.

“Breathe as you venture forward.

“Breathe as you drown in sorrow.

“Breathe as you celebrate the

“Miracle of miracles

“That this life is.

“As you travel

“Far from this home you love,

“Breathe.”

The God of the universe reaches out His hands,

Cradles my face

And tells me

To breathe.

 

I breathe,

Taste the haze,

See the darkness,

And step into the light,

For my

Last show.

 

(Photo by Rob Laughter on Unsplash)

Advertisements

Abandoned.

(Photo by Yuriy Rzhemovskiy on Unsplash.)

Abandoned.

A funny word, abandoned.

Alone, forgotten, left to die.

But also,

Surrendered,

Broken,

Ready,

Open.

Abandoned. Am I abandoned? Am I broken? Lost? Ready? Ready for what? What does “ready” even mean?

We like to say “be open, be honest, be present.” But who really knows what that means?

We’ve abandoned ourselves to jargon and platitudes. They sound nice in songs, spice up speeches, scour our pearly tombs, supplement a facade.

But show me someone who’s abandoned, and I’ll show you fear, nerves, tears, late nights awake, swearing, breakdowns, closed-off hearts.

Since when has being “abandoned” become an easy thing???

Don’t throw around that word unless you’re ready to admit what it really means. It carries pain, suffering, tears, fear, and times of shock and darkness. It’s not a fun word.

I’m scared. Terrified.

But I’m tired. If being abandoned means pain and fear, at least it means you’re feeling something.

I can’t escape the feeling of a cliff dive into a misty void. Cliff dives are easy when you can see the bottom.

But will I jump to a place hidden by the wiles of the world? Will I step onto a world of willowy waves and ethereal mist just for the possibility of a miracle?

Will I abandon myself to possible oblivion for the hope of something greater?

 

How to Not Let 2018 Be Terrible

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Unsplash

“This year was awful.”

“Worst year ever.”

“Here’s hoping we don’t screw up 2018.”

Whatever happened to “Happy New Year?”

Peppering my news feed the past few days have been posts, videos, and song parodies about how 2017 was the worst year on record, and how people are just ready for it to be over, but are worried we’re just going to screw up next year just as badly.

I mean…yeah, some terrible things happened in 2017. The California wildfires. Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Jose. Harvey Weinstien, et al.

But so many good things happened too. The “Me Too” movement helped victims of sexual abuse feel safe to finally bring to light their plight. Poverty rates are down. And, less world-changing perhaps, “Star Wars” got its next installment.

Look, I get it. I recognize that I’ve got a pretty privileged life. But all this focus on gloom and doom feels…forced. A bit like whining.

We sound like…dare I say it…the MASS MEDIA.

If you’re looking for bad things, you’re going to find it in spades. EVERY year has a ton of terrible things. That’s the unfortunate nature of the world we live in.

But focusing on it, refusing to acknowledge the good, and going into a new year with an attitude of “oh boy, hope we don’t die this year” is only going to help you with one thing: finding more crap to complain about.

We underestimate the extreme power our attitudes have on the way we experience life. Two people, under the exact same external circumstances, can have completely different experiences based solely on their internal life. It’s amazingly powerful. Choosing to focus on the bad things, (and yes, it is a choice,) uses that same power…but uses it to depress and discourage us.

I sincerely wonder if the epidemic of anxiety and depression we’ve seen in recent years is due to some odd overarching attitude of hopelessness and refusal to accept the good in life as good. I’m not offering a diagnosis, but it’s something to think about, isn’t?

I’m not saying ignore the bad things. All I’m saying is don’t let 2017 or 2018 become a year of all bad things. I’d wager there were one or two really good things that happened to you this year. Challenge yourself. Write them down. Maybe even write down every good thing that happens to you in 2018, so that when you get to New Year’s Eve next year (and you will make it,) and the inevitable “OH MY GOSH 2018 WAS THE WORST YEAR EVER” posts come (and they will come,) you can pull out your list and remember all the good.

Every year is a mixed bag. Anything else would be less than real life. But real life is rarely ever all good or all bad. So find the balance.

Of course…all these negative posts could just be coming from BuzzFeed and NowThis and all those other “sources,” which kind of negates this whole post…’cause does anyone actually take them seriously?

“The Last Jedi” Review (SPOILERS!)

(Photo credit: NME.com

I’ve never really been a Star Wars fan. I played the Lego Star Wars games as a kid, and of course, I KNEW about the series. But up until…well, really the past year, I never had much interest in the franchise.

My first introduction to the films was (prepare yourself, hardcore Star Wars fans, ’cause you’re gonna hate me,) Episode III. I know. That was the first one I watched. And get this, I really liked it.

I’ve since watched the original trilogy, as well as Rogue One and now both Episodes VII and VIII. I say all this to ask you to keep this in mind as we continue: I am by no means a Star Wars connoisseur, nor do I have a deep and intimate knowledge of the lore of the universe. I will probably make some mistakes. But this is my honest critique of Episode VIII from the perspective of a relative newcomer.

Also, in case the title didn’t tip you off, there are full-on spoilers below, so…if you haven’t watched it, watch it, then come back. Continue reading

That’s Not Your Job!

Photo by Michael Mroczek on Unsplash

You know what really irritates me? These Christians who think they can go ahead and make people feel uncomfortable.

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that our job on this earth is to make people feel good just the way they are and the way they’re living. We shouldn’t make ANYONE feel uncomfortable about who they are. They might change! And everyone’s perfect the way they are, right? No one should have to change.

Sound crazy? Well, just look at Jesus. He never made anyone feel uncomfortable. He just went along with whatever was going on. He was super chilled out 100% of the time. That’s why He was so popular. You think people would have followed someone who bucked against everything they knew? That’s crazy talk.

Jesus didn’t teach that we’re supposed to be disliked by the world. If anything, He told us that we’re supposed to love our enemies, right? And love means accept. Love means make them feel comfortable. Love means let them do what they think is right without saying anything. If anyone feels uncomfortable around you, then you’re not loving them; you’re being bigoted.

Jesus didn’t teach that people should want to change around us. Sure, SOME people may have changed around Him, but He’s JESUS. People are supposed to change around Him. Besides, it was only the really bad people who changed around Jesus.

We’re not called to do anything more than Jesus did, right? We’re supposed to just follow Him and love everybody. And remember, love doesn’t make people uncomfortable. Love embraces and comforts everybody and everything they do.

Can you imagine what would have happened if Jesus made people feel uncomfortable? Christianity as we know it might not even exist! He lived in some terrible times; can you imagine what the Romans would have done to someone who made too big a racket? Jesus might have been made fun of.

That’s the worst thing, isn’t it? Being made fun of. How dare people think they can make fun of us for being who we are. But then again, they’ll probably only make fun of you if you make them feel uncomfortable. People don’t like people who make them uncomfortable or who make them feel like maybe what they’re doing is wrong. If they’re making fun of you, you probably deserve it. Maybe YOU’RE the one who needs to change, ever think about that?

And lastly, Jesus NEVER told anyone to change what they were doing. Who are we to think we can just tell people what to do? We’re no better than they are. Jesus said “judge not,” so who are we to say what’s right and wrong? Remember the woman caught in adultery? Jesus told her that He didn’t condemn her, so why should we say anything against anyone, even if we think what they’re doing is wrong? Maybe it’s wrong for us, but right and wrong are different for everyone. As long as they say they think it’s right, then you’ll just have to be okay with that.

Jesus didn’t make people change. He didn’t go against the world. He just was whatever people needed Him to be. Like Paul said, “I become all things to all people.” We should just be what people want us to be. We can live out our faith in our own lives, but we can’t expect other people to change or engage us on it. We have our lives; they have theirs. That’s all there is to it.

Honestly, where do these “Christians” get off thinking they’re the greatest thing to happen to Christianity since Martin Luther? It’s not our job to change people. It’s our job to love and accept. As long as people feel comfortable, we’re doing our job.

Jesus never made anyone feel uncomfortable with who they were. Imagine what they would have done to Him. Nobody ever did anything bad to Jesus. Ever.

Day By Day

About a week and a half ago, I jumped feet first onto the crazy raceway that is my senior year of college. Part of that craziness, actually, the main source of that craziness, is our studio musical, Godspell.

Odds are you’ve heard of it. First conceived in the ’70’s, Godspell is a…loose retelling of the Gospel of Matthew. In it, Jesus and His followers tell many of the parables we’re familiar with, the parable of the sower, the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, the unfaithful servant, et cetera, et cetera. These parables are retold in imaginative and downright hilarious ways, and it’s caused me to take a better look at some of these stories on which I grew up.

Chugging right along with these high-energy parables is a score by renowned composer Stephen Schwartz, known for other shows like Pippin and, you may not have heard of this one, Wicked.

Even if you don’t know the show, you may know one song in particular that has taken on a life of its own: Day By Day. This song has been covered by many musical artists and groups, including, believe it or not, DC Talk.

The song’s lyrics are very simple. In fact, throughout the entire song, it only repeats one verse:

Day by day, day by day,

Oh, dear Lord, three things I pray,

To see thee more clearly,

Love thee more dearly,

Follow thee more nearly,

Day by day.

Simple, that is, in concept only.

When I first listened to the show, I thought of Day By Day as just another pretty song in a great show. And it is that. But it’s so much more.

This semester, for the first time in my life, I have come to grips with how much of my own stress, panic, and anxiety is myself allowing myself to panic. When I allow myself to get caught up with future events that may or may not go the way I want/fear, then panic begins to set in and the walls start closing in.

That’s where the simple truth of this song shines through, day by day. We’re never called to seek God for help for two weeks from now, or three days from now, or even tomorrow. We are called to, every day, take up our cross and follow Him. Jesus didn’t tell us to ask Him for a stockpile of strength for the next week. He told us to seek Him every day. 

“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” –Luke 9:23

There will never come a day where we do not need God. We cannot rely on a good devotional session or church service the day before to carry us.

That’s been my mantra this semester. Don’t seek God for next week. Don’t seek Him for tomorrow. Seek Him for today, and trust that when you wake up the next morning, He will be there once again, ready to help you get through the next day.

It’s downright amazing how much less stressed and panicked I am this semester. I’ve taken ownership of each day through the power of God within me. I just don’t let myself worry about tomorrow, knowing that, with God’s grace, tomorrow will take care of itself.

That gives this beautiful song a whole new meaning, and brings new life into a 40-year-old musical about the life of Christ, who turned this whole world and everything we believe about it and other people on its head.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” –Jesus

Day by day, day by day,

Oh, dear Lord, three things I pray,

To see thee more clearly,

Love thee more dearly,

Follow thee more nearly,

Day by day.

The Bare Minimum

buzzword

buzz·word \ˈbəz-ˌwərd\
  1. 1:  an important-sounding usually technical word or phrase often of little meaning used chiefly to impress laymen

  2. 2:  a voguish word or phrase —called also buzz phrase

We live in a buzz culture. All it takes for something to take over the collective culture mind is an interview with a sassy woman who ain’t got time for bronchitis and BAM: new late night talk show host guest.

The most baffling thing about our buzz culture is the way that activism and social justice have evolved in the face of buzz culture. Campaigns have always had slogans and images, but now, the words and ideas associated with a cause can become completely divorced from their source and take on a new life of their own.

The word “tolerance” gets thrown around a TON, usually imploring people to accept and love those who have different lifestyles than their own. Odds are, if you’re in a conversation about race relations, LGBTQ rights, or religious differences, you’re going to hear the word “tolerance” uttered at least once. Christians, especially, either throw this word or have this word thrown at them a very large amount.

This is a curious word to use, at least to me, because of what it implies. The word “tolerate” literally means: “allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.”

Which is fine…I guess.

But, as Christians, are we really that despondent about our humanity that THAT’S what we’re imploring people to do? Literally not try to wipe people they disagree with out of existence? That’s just…that’s just sad.

As Christians, I don’t recall Jesus telling us to tolerate our enemies. I don’t see John urging us to tolerate one another. I believe the word used is love.

Love is a dangerous word. It’s lost so much of its meaning today, mainly through the over-sexualization of the word. Love is not hormones. It’s not what millions of college students feel when they’re drunk and/or high at their first freshman party.

Love is dangerous. Radical. Love doesn’t just deny itself, it blasts past its own interests without a second thought. It refuses to consider, even for a moment, putting itself above others. It doesn’t flinch at the thought of its own destruction if it serves the interests of the party at which it is directed.

And as Christians, it’s what we’re called to do.

Love also speaks up when it sees wrong. It seeks to keep those at whom it is directed out of harm’s way. Love will not shut itself up to keep from offending people if it sees immediate danger.

But love will not be hateful. It will not call names. It will not minimize the other person or their experience. It will not discount someone’s existence or life because it disagrees. It will make itself heard, but it will, ultimately, leave the choice up to the other party.

Christians are also called to have grace. Grace “covers a multitude of sins.” Grace doesn’t hold things it thinks are wrong over the heads of others. Grace doesn’t rub anything in anyone’s face. Grace looks past differences and sees people as…people.

Love and grace go hand in hand. They’re essential attributes of God Himself. It’s my goal for this summer to focus on getting close to God. The closer I draw to Him, the more like Him I will become. And the more like Him I become, the more grace and love will become essential attributes of me. Radical love and supernatural grace will, over time, become habit, but only through God’s power. Nothing I can do in my own power will give me the power to love with that power or intensity.

I think “tolerance” is the bare minimum requirement for our existence as humans in general, let alone for those who claim to have Christ living within them. When it comes to matters of lifestyles with which we disagree, tolerance is a given. The fact that we’re being urged to simply tolerate others is sad.

If I draw closer to God, I will discover how to relate to those with whom I disagree. I will learn how to relate with this culture and this world. We will never fit in, because we have something within us that runs counter to the current of the world. But that doesn’t mean we have to just tolerate the people within it.

I can’t give you hard-and-fast rules for dealing with people with whom you disagree. I can’t give you a script for arguments like that. I can just urge you to push yourself past tolerance and seek to move into a radical love and grace that can only be found in God.

Stop posting on social media, stop posting rant videos, dare I say it, stop writing ranting blog posts. Get into your prayer closet, get on your knees, and seek God. Stop trying to do it on your own. Admit that, on our own, we won’t get very far past tolerance. As humans, we cannot love with the love that others need so desperately. Seek to be like God. Don’t try to philosophize your way out.

Rediscover love. Rediscover grace.

Then show it.