Why, God?

Lucy_prayerI just finished talking with my son. He is grappling with some really tough questions. The sort of questions that even the best, most scholarly of theologians are unable able to satisfy. Why does God heal some people but not others? Why does an innocent child suffer? Why us? Why me? The sort of questions that can shake your faith.

My heart aches for him and his family.

It’s a mixed bag of the good news and bad news all at the same time. On July 25th I became a grandfather to Lucy Paige Neighbors. She was born 6 weeks early, weighed in at 4 lbs. and is the cutest baby in the world (no bias here!). Wonderful news!

The doctors knew before the birth of a potential heart defect and their suspicions proved correct. Lucy would require open heart surgery. It would be a very risky surgery, especially considering her size as a premature baby.

Say what you want about the evils of social media, but within a matter of hours literally hundreds of people were made aware of Lucy’s condition and prayers and words of encouragement poured in from around the world. Church prayer chains were activated, prayer chains that were from people we barely knew. People were praying for a miracle, that Lucy’s heart would be healed.

Surely with so many people praying, God would work a miracle, right?

Well, the miracle we were seeking didn’t happen before the surgery. Lucy had surgery and it went as well as could be expected. As I write this, she is stable. Her Mom and Dad are by her side, and really have not left her side since her birth.

Where is God in all this? That is the heart of the questions my son is asking. There are no easy answers. But I believe He is there and has been there all along. While this story is heart breaking, we choose to believe God has been with them through it all… even when we can’t answer the “why?”

Lucy is in one of the best hospitals with some of the best doctors in the world. She has responded better than expected in the recovery and we have reason to hope! And while this is a crisis of faith for her parents, it seems that their faith has been strengthened.  Maybe, just maybe God is at work here in ways we will never understand.

That may be a lame answer for some… but we do live in a fallen world and even the most exalted heroes of the faith have stories of trials and suffering.

Is that an answer that satisfies? Probably not in the midst of the suffering. But it may be the best we can do this side of heaven.

One of the other blessings has been that good friends have set up a GoFundMe account to help the family during this time. If you would like to join #teamlucy we would be delighted. Here is the link: Support #teamlucy

Who Are You?

Who Are You?For a number of years I toured with a professional theater ministry. One popular sketch we performed was called “Who Are You?” A man on the street would be repeatedly asked that question. First responses were followed with obvious answers like the man’s name but the questioner persisted with the simple question causing the victim to struggle for a better answer. He would give labels: father, son, husband. Then he would struggle for more answers: his job, his race, his religion, his citizenship, his political party.  Still not satisfied the questioner repeated, “Who are you?” Finally the man answers in frustration; “I don’t know who I am.” The questioner then says: “Now we can begin!”

As an actor, discovering “who you are” is also where you begin and is a big part of the job. The script may give you a brief description, but usually not enough information to really create a character. “A successful salesman” might be all the script tells you, but as you work through the script you may discover a salesman who is struggling to keep pace with a new, younger generation of employees, a man whose marriage is failing and who spends a hour at a local bar before returning home from work. Now we are beginning to get a glimpse of this guy, but really just a tiny glimpse. There is more to the guy than those tidbits and the actor’s job is to flesh it out… to make it real, to get inside the guy’s head and figure out why he is threatened by the new employees, what is wrong with his marriage, what his favorite drink is at the bar and how many of those he has before going home. Sometimes as an actor, you may feel you know more about a character you are playing than you do about yourself. It can be safer to ask those really tough questions about a fictional character than to answer those same questions about yourself.

I have been contemplating my own life lately and asking that “who are you?” question again. Life changes tend to do that to you. Sometimes I coast on those surface labels: husband, father, Christian, actor… those tell you a little about me but it doesn’t tell you everything. And some of those labels are evolving. New labels, like empty-nester, soon to be grandfather, guy who gets the senior citizens coffee at McDonalds, are becoming more prominent.

There is a famous adage that has been going around a lot the last few years: “You are who you are when no one is watching.”

That can be a jarring reality, and one that I am not always comfortable with. If I am being totally honest, I don’t always like that guy. Sometimes the “me” that others see is more who I want to be than who I really am. I want to be that guy on my Facebook page where only what I want you to see is posted. The me that I am when no one is watching can be lazy, envious and sometimes thinks thoughts that are too much like the bad guys I play on stage.

Who am I, really?

Truth be told… the truth that I cling to when I have those moments of doubt and confusion about my identity is found in the way that God sees me. Only through the filter of his mercy and grace does my life really make sense at all.

What do you think?

Who are you?

All I Did Was Tell My Story

Guest blog by Marcia Whitehead. Marcia is one of our artists that is making a huge impact on her audiences with her presentation “You Raise Me Up.” Be sure to watch the video preview at the end of this post!

Marcia_Promo_stillDuring the past three years as I have moved farther into what I describe as testimonial ministry, I’ve had wonderful experiences travelling and sharing my faith-journey all the way from British Columbia to Florida. But secretly, I’ve always wondered why God would close the door on my professional career in music and call me into something that seemed way outside my scope of experience and to something for which I didn’t feel remotely equipped? I’ve also wondered what possible difference it could make in anyone else’s life whether or not they heard my story.

Recently, I was sharing with a friend about my ministry presentations and the type of comments I frequently hear afterward. As I became aware of the recurring theme in congregation members’ comments, it really surprised me.

During a presentation last month, a particular lady in the congregation just couldn’t stop weeping. I don’t usually do this, but I was so moved by her pain that I remember coming completely off script and told her from the platform that I believe God was intimately aware of her situation, held every detail of her life in the palm of His hand, that God would help her get through whatever she was coping with and I promised her that she wouldn’t always be in as much pain as she was experiencing that morning. She told me after the service that her husband had died unexpectedly that week, but she wasn’t able to cry until she heard me sing Give Me Jesus and share with the congregation that I had finally experienced a light at the end of the tunnel of my own pain. To say I was humbled would be an understatement.

At another church, the pastor noted in his announcements at the top of the service that their church had experienced a rough week that culminated in a funeral on Saturday. After the service, a young woman came to me with thanks for my presentation and shared that my message had given her a great deal of hope. She told me that the funeral was for her daughter. She told me that she had given birth earlier that week, but the doctors told her there was no hope that the child would live. That mother told me she felt privileged to hold her newborn as she awaited the baby’s death 90 minutes later. She thanked me again and again for the hope I had offered her by being vulnerable and honestly sharing my own journey through disbelief and sorrow. I was so shaken that God would use me in such a powerful and profound way, that after I left the church parking lot, I had to pull the car over and cry for 20 minutes.

We all have a story to tell. Every single one of us. Our stories are powerful. And we never know how our stories are going to impact those around us. I believe that a willingness to take down the walls behind which we hide our own pain, the willingness to become vulnerable in the eyes of others and the willingness to allow others to hear and see the truth of our lives, will draw us to each other and offer assurance to each other that we are not alone. Those two ladies I mentioned above were willing to share their pain with me after I had shared mine with them during the presentation. That seemed to create a deep sense of communion with each other. And though it is now weeks later, I still carry those ladies and their stories with me.

The truth is that as much as I deeply loved my life in classical music and all the potential that life might have offered, no one was ever going to wait for me backstage and tell me that their life had been changed because I had done a good job entertaining them. God has shown me, repeatedly, that His plan to use my voice and to tell my story has offered me a life of deep meaning and purpose for which I am becoming more and more grateful.

Here is a preview of Marcia’s presentation:

To have Marcia come and share at your church or event contact us at info@mastersimage.com or call 503-399-0415. Visit Marcia’s website at: www.marciawhiteheadusa.com

I Really Like Your Whatchamacallit

Silhouette of actors in the spotlight“I really enjoyed your… uh… sho–uh… your… uh”

I’m thinking, “Please don’t say it. Don’t say that other word that starts with an ’s’.”

“I mean, I liked your skit?… is that what you call it?”

Ah, she said it. There it is–the dreaded 4 letter “S” word that is like foul language to us theater types. Yet I understand. I mean, this is church and I think the word “skit” was invented at church youth camp. It is hardly the right word to use for those of us in the world of professional theater, but it’s okay. The church, for the most part, doesn’t quite know what to do with performers the likes of myself.

The next person I encounter struggles for a better whatchamacallit…

“That was a great… uh perfor… uh… presentation.  Is that what you call it?”

Ah, yes! “Presentation” that’s the safe word. I don’t like it, but it is better than “skit,” although I think presentation works better in the corporate training world. However, I find that even I use it when describing what I do. “Presentation” is one word that can mean many different things; it’s generic. A sermon, a concert, a testimony, a drama… all can fall under the banner of “presentation” and be suitable to use in the context of a church service.

The truth is, what I have just done is a performance, usually a drama or storytelling. The common descriptor in the culture would be a one-man-show. Ah… but that creates a problem in the world of the church. The church is not the place for “shows.” And for many this is especially true when it comes to the worship service–the place I do most of my performing. The problem is not with what I do. Once experienced, most agree it is totally appropriate for worship. I describe it to many as a “creative sermon.” The problem is what to call it. The church, especially today has placed a premium on authenticity and anything too polished or too professional that feels like a “performance” is suspect.

I get it. It’s sort of a backlash against the idea that worship is just a “show” a–“performance”–and not authentic on the part of those on the platform. But worship is also a place for those with gifts in the arts to use them, and use them effectively. For us it is our offering. 

So I will continue to struggle to find the right word. I’ll grin and bear it when you refer to my performance as a skit.

And then there are the other related issues:

“That was so moving… I wanted to applaud… but I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate!”

And this favorite from a friend:

“That was one of the funniest things I have ever seen. It was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud.”

Performing in the church: a conundrum.

 

A Visit to the Dominican Republic

As you may have read in my earlier post, Meeting Cristal, I had the privilege of traveling to the Dominican Republic with Food for the Hungry. It was an amazing trip. I came away very impressed with the work they are doing. I also got to meet a precious child that my wife and I are sponsoring. This video give a little overview of the trip.

If you would like to sponsor a child like Cristal, you can easily do that by clicking here: Sponsor a Child!

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