I wrote new children’s book. This one is about and for my grandson, Jude. Hope you enjoy my reading of the book.
You can order a copy on Amazon here: Hey JudePosted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
Had the pleasure of being interviewed by Tracie Arboneaux-Gorham from the FB Group “Therefore, I create!”
We talked about my career as an actor and the recent books I have authored. It was a fun conversation.Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
I almost walked out. This was not what I expected, not what I signed up for, and I was perturbed.
It was the annual conference of Christians in Theater Arts, a networking conference for, as the name suggests, Christians involved in the theater arts. Most of the people in attendance were involved to some degree with theater in churches, schools, and universities or were performers in theater ranging from local church ministries all the way to Broadway. The one key distinctive we all took for granted was that we would see LIVE theater presented at our annual conferences.
So as I took my seat in the auditorium for the first evening of performances, I was taken aback to hear that we would be watching a film instead of a live performance. A film!?! We are inundated with film in our culture. I wanted live theater! This was a theater conference, for crying out loud! Then the subject… the film was about an opera singer. An OPERA SINGER—are you kidding me? Okay, I understand that opera is theater…but come on! This is not exactly an opera audience. I mean, really?
But there was no tactful way for me to get up and leave. People in the audience knew who I was, and my departure would be noticed. So I sat, arms crossed, and prepared to endure what I was certain would be the most boring and irrelevant evening of theater I had ever experienced.
I. Was. Wrong.
The film was fascinating. It was about a woman who had poured her life into becoming one of the best opera singers in her field—world class. It portrayed her struggle to make it in the very challenging and competitive world of opera. And it showed her rejection and disappointment at the end of a long, hard journey. I dare say that every person in the audience, myself included, could relate to that. Her story was common to all theater artists and, really, all people who have wanted something with all their soul only to see their dream evaporate in disappointment.
The film ended—very unsatisfactorily. There was no happy ending.
Then the most remarkable thing occurred. The filmmaker took the stage, shared about the making of the film and then introduced the subject of the film—Marcia Whitehead. What followed was profound and amazing. Marcia sang. The kind of singing that gives you goose bumps and makes your hair stand on end. The audience could not contain themselves, and a standing ovation followed every song she sang. And the story? The story in the film needed an ending, and Marcia gave it to us. It was a story that showed how God can take our disappointment and rejection and redeem it for His purpose. It was a great story and was truly an evening of wonderful LIVE theater!
On the night that I attended this performance, I didn’t know Marcia Whitehead. After returning home to Salem, I was sharing about the performance with my pastor. He was intrigued to know more about her, and asked me to locate her in hopes of perhaps inviting her to Salem. So I did. I found out she lived in—are you ready for this—Salem, Oregon. Not only that, she had been attending our church! (hey it’s a big church!)
And that, friends, is the backstory on how Marcia Whitehead became a part of Master’s Image Productions.
It is a real joy to be able to follow Marcia’s ministry and hear the incredible stories that come out of her sharing her story. But I will also admit that booking Marcia has not been as easy as I had hoped. You see, many of the pastors and leaders of the churches we contact are too much like me. They have the same attitude I had when I walked into the auditorium that night. They hear the world “opera” and they cover their ears and slam the door. If they would only take a moment to listen, they would see that Marcia’s story just might be their story. And I am willing to wager they, like myself, would not be able to stop the goose bumps.Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 1 comments
It’s Flag Day. It’s not a day I usually think too much about. It sort of gets lost between Memorial Day, our Wedding Anniversary (just hit the 40 year mark!) and Father’s Day. It isn’t officially a holiday. It’s one of those days that just sort of sits there on my calendar and sometimes I happen to notice it when I check my daily agenda.
Such was the case today, as I sat at my desk and opened up my computer. I did a quick glance at Facebook and there I saw this guy looking back at me, my friend and fellow theater artist, Curt Cloninger. I’d seen Curt’s video about the flag a few times over the years. I scrolled past it, then paused… scrolled back and decided to watch it again.
It made me pause and reflect, as his character does, about the flag. But it also made me pause and reflect about a lot of other things. I thought about the important things in my life; faith, family, country and traditions. I thought about my friend Curt, a masterful storyteller, who suffered a tragic loss recently. I marveled at his skill as I watched the video and then marveled again knowing his personal story and how that story is touching so many other lives. I marveled that watching a video about our flag could trigger so many thoughts and memories.
That’s what a good story does. It makes you think, reflect and sometimes it even inspires!
Excuse me, but I need to step away for a moment. I’m putting up the flag.Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
Ah, the pursuit of happiness…what does that mean to you? I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit lately. It’s one of those things I think all of us are prone to ponder, especially as we get older.
The recent historic events of this November have brought this question again to the forefront of my thinking. I mean, the Cubs win the World Series and then this election…what an emotional rollercoaster! Some people are happy on rollercoasters…me, not so much.
I tend to be one of those people who works with a mindset of, “when this job/event/goal is accomplished then I’ll truly be happy.” And to some degree that is certainly true. But often the feeling I am pursuing seems to elude me. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an unhappy person, but I have been trying to honestly answer the question of what makes me happy.
I spend a lot of time isolated… something common for a lot of artists. I perform alone, work out of an office in my home alone, and travel most of the time alone. Ah, travel, something many people hold claim to as something that makes them happy, and I do like travel, but traveling alone is not as much fun as traveling with a companion.
I know the “spiritually correct” answer to this question is to “delight ourselves in the Lord.” And I do; like I said, I am not an unhappy person. But while I “delight” in the Lord and all He as done for me, there is still this desire, that need to pursue happiness. Happiness is not, at least for me, a 24/7 thing.
In September my wife, Lorie celebrated one of her “milestone” birthdays (one of those that ends in a “0”). I wanted it to be extra special and I went out of my way to plan a surprise birthday weekend that she would never forget. It came off extremely well. The whole family, including our new granddaughter was with us. Lorie’s sister and brother-in-law traveled from Canada, which added to her happiness. We all shared a great weekend at the Oregon coast. She was very surprised and that made me happy.
And that made me happy.
There is the key, at least for me. I’m at my happiest when I am with other people, people I love. I am at my happiest when I can bring joy to the people that I love. I am happiest in my work—and make no mistake, setting up this surprise weekend was a lot of work—when I know that work will make others happy. I’m rediscovering, what I should have known all along—my personal happiness is found in getting the focus off myself and onto others.
Something to remember as we approach Thanksgiving.
I have included a little video that I made to reveal this birthday surprise weekend. Watching Lorie watch the video, and seeing her surprised reaction, made me very happy. I share it in hopes that it will bring a smile to your face and maybe make you happy for a moment or two.
(Disclaimer: the tune is one I borrowed from a little boy who has made a lot of people happy with his video that has gone viral. So a tip of the hat to Obadiah Gamble. Check out his original video here: Hey Teddy)Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 2 comments
Sometimes even I have to cringe when I talk about what I do for a living. I try to find different words to use. “I am a professional actor/storyteller in ministry” has a bit more credibility and helps to distance the gap from saying something like “I do skits in church.” Let’s face it, church drama has suffered a (often a well deserved) bad reputation. I understand when people roll their eyes when the topic of church drama comes up. It’s no wonder that in many churches it is relegated to the children’s department and gets no respect when adults engage in this craft.
And yet, it can be done well, and is by many—both professionals and amateurs. It was seeing it done well that inspired me to pursue acting as a career. I can’t begin to tell you how many people credit a church production as being the thing that drew them to church and, for many to faith as well. If you read the bio’s of famous performers you would be amazed at how many credit the church with giving them their start. (Although considering the paths some of them have taken, that may not be a compliment!)
We have just finished Christmas, a time when many churches engage in this creative endeavor, and we are quickly approaching the Easter season, the other time of the year when even churches who don’t allow “church drama” will often make an exception and give that much maligned group of artists in the church a chance to ply their craft.
The Easter Pageant Season is upon us.
As a warning…maybe some things are better left to our imagination. A sensitive scene gone wrong will only inflict more damage on our reputation. It might be better to leave some special effects to Hollywood. I offer these examples of what not to do:
Our message matters! Make a memorable show, but to quote an old TV show “be careful out there!”
If you want some good quality drama, consider inviting me or one of our artists to your church. We promise not to drop, fly or burn Jesus!Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
My first big lead in a play was in my high school production of Dracula, and to be honest, it was great fun… plus I got to kiss a girl on stage (that was fun too… but awkward).
Back then I didn’t know much about acting, but some things that were true then still hold today. Acting gave me the opportunity to pretend to be somebody else and I loved pretending to be a different person. The pretending I did at home, acting out scenes from movies, was my playground and became the foundation of what would become my career.
In my childhood the bad guys were just that… BAD. I would play the part thinking I was a bad guy and thus it was acceptable that the bad guy did bad things, but would ultimately die at the hands of the hero. But that was okay, because it was fun to act out death scenes too.
As I learned more about acting I began to understand that a bad guy… a real bad guy… doesn’t usually think of themselves as bad. To play a real bad guy I needed to understand why they did the bad things they did. It is then that you begin to see them as real people, not necessarily bad people. Often they’re just people who make a wrong choice or even do a bad thing for what might be considered a very good reason. They kill for revenge, they steal to feed their family, they cheat on their spouse because they feel a need for more excitement in their life. It’s called justification and if we are honest, we all do it. It is the knee-jerk reaction we all default to when we do a bad thing.
I play the Bible character Judas in a scene from my one-man show Encounters (see video at the bottom of this post). The scene is in the moments before he takes his own life after betraying Jesus. In writing and playing this scene, I wanted to show what might have been going on in this man’s mind—what motivated him to do the bad thing. If I do it correctly you—the audience—come away with a more sympathetic view of a person that many simply write off as a “bad guy.” And while in the biblical story he is a villain, I like to think that he wasn’t all bad. He was misguided, he did a bad thing for what he thought was a good reason.
Hollywood has done much to change the image of the bad guy in recent years. In the movies of my childhood you were not really given the option to root for the bad guy. They were bad—they will lose or die—John Wayne or Gary Cooper would see to that! End of story. Today we are given the choice and even encouraged to root for the bad guy. Hollywood has given us the anti-hero in characters like Walter White (Breaking Bad) and Dexter Morgan (Dexter) and a whole host of others. In these shows we see life from the bad guy’s point of view. It is expected we will root for the bad guy.
In some ways this has merit. It is good to see people—all people—as real people. It is easy to put ourselves in their shoes and to see how, given the right set of circumstances, we might make the same bad choices. I think it is helpful to empathize with people who do bad things.
But there is another outcome from looking at things from this perspective. Over time we can begin to no longer see things as bad. We numb ourselves to the degree that we even forget that what they are doing is bad. We can see this trend in real life. When there is a shooting, a terrorist attack, a rape, an affair, riot or a robbery—the media often takes the angle of exploring the motivation and looks for some justification for the crime.
While it is helpful to know the motivation for the crime, let’s not forget that a bad thing is still a bad thing.
It’s called sin… and we are all guilty.
And as for justification… there is only one sure path to that.
“That we may be justified by faith…”
Posted by Chuck Neighbors
Deceived from Encounters by Chuck Neighbors
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!
During 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.
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!Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 1 comments