Living In The Moment

Living in the Moment!

Living in the Moment! —Watch out for that tree!

Vacation in Hawaii! Lorie and I had planned this trip for a long time and by using our frequent flyer miles and a securing a special deal on a condo we were looking forward to a time of no stress, rest, and recreation. I had worked diligently to make sure all bills were paid and other business matters were attended to, so we could enjoy this vacation without thought of anything else for two weeks. We were going to live “in the moment” on vacation—life at home and at work was on hold.

We stayed at an airport hotel the night before departure to take advantage of the free parking. As we are about to board the shuttle to the airport Lorie said, “Oh no!”. I looked at her as she turned pale and begin to shake and then start to cry.

“I don’t have my ID” she said, as she frantically looked through her purse, her pockets and her backpack. Our vacation dream of living “in the moment” in Hawaii was suddenly in jeopardy by the thought of not being able to board a plane. Panic was the moment we were living in. THINK! What to do? No time to go home and come back.

Then a thought emerges seeming from out of nowhere. “Do you have a copy of your passport?” I ask. We had traveled enough overseas and had learned to always kept a photocopy of our passport in our luggage.

“Yes!” Sure enough there it was tucked in one of the zippered pockets of her suitcase. That along with some prescriptions in her name and a much too personal body search were enough to convince TSA to let her board the plane. Sigh of relief… back to vacation!

Then the email came. A business decision needed to be made and action taken immediately. It wasn’t something that I could postpone until I got home. The decision would have an impact on several people and their livelihood. I needed to consult with my board, make phone calls, and explore the opportunity placed in front of me. For the next several days I was either on the phone or emailing. When I wasn’t doing those things my mind was consumed with the decision I needed to make and the actions I would need to take once the decision was made. I didn’t sleep well. So much for a stress-free vacation.

As an actor, you learn the value of being “in the moment” on stage. It is the key to making each performance feel fresh and new for each audience. You may have performed the play a thousand times but the audience needs to feel like you are saying those words and living that experience as if it were the very first time. Intellectually, you know what happens next, but the character you are portraying can’t know—he has to live it in the moment.

Actors get into trouble when they stop living in the moment. It happens, and often the audience can tell. If an actor lets the outside world in while they are performing they can cease to live in the moment. A forgotten line, a camera flash, or thinking about things unrelated to the scene can take you out of the moment and ruin a scene. To live in the moment is force yourself to live as if the only thing that matters is what is happening right now in the present.

We are often forced to live in a moment not of our choosing, as happened to me on my vacation. Both our past experiences and our vision for the future can impact how we handle those situations. Here are three things that can help us to live more effectively in the moment:

 Listen – We actors often forget our lines because we are thinking ahead instead of staying present in the scene. If we would simply listen to the other actor we would often know exactly what comes next. The same is true in real life. How often are we in conversation but our mind is elsewhere? Learning to truly listen to the person we are talking to or to listen even to the sounds around us with new ears can help us live in the moment. I could have chosen to become angry at my wife, clouding my thinking in frustration. Instead listening and allowing my mind to focus on the situation allowed enough calm to remember the passport copy.

 Respond – Respond to what is in front of you. Answer the question, ask the next question. Take out the garbage, set the table. The old adage “actions speak louder that words” applies. Do things that show you are connected to the moment. Take action in response to an immediate need. Experience what is in front of you. This is often where a past experience might just inform your present situation.

What comes next? – Instead of dwelling on things that will happen tomorrow, or next week, or next month, focus on what happens next! You need to write that speech or prepare that financial report then take the next step and do it. Often I find the things I am dreading are keeping me from living in the moment. While getting caught up thinking about the future can be a distraction from the moment, a little thought about what happens next can be the best way to live in the moment. My while my business decision was a “future” thing I had to think ahead in order to make my decision now, in the moment.

Worry is one of the biggest things that can keep us from living in the moment. We worry about things we have no control over. We let a past mistake or failure keep us from moving forward and enjoying the present. Moments can change, as my story about my vacation illustrates. I had to abandon one moment to deal with another. Sometimes life is like that. I think Jesus gives us the best advice on how to live in the moment:

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:34

Living in the moment will help us all  to live a better story!

Shaping Your Story

StoryShapeIn my last blog I shared some triggers to help you get started in crafting your own library of personal stories. Our stories are a powerful way to connect and communicate with others, both from a platform as well as in every-day conversation.

We all have stories worth telling, but we have also listened to stories that we wished would end long before they did. While I believe everybody has good stories, not everyone tells their story well. Your story could be a life impacting story for the listener, but in order for that to happen it will likely need some editing and shaping.

Here are a 5 things to help you in shaping your story:

Write It: That may seem obvious to most, but many are tempted to think that because they know the story first-hand, they don’t need to write it out.  However, those who try to tell their story extemporaneously are often the ones who will put their listener to sleep. Writing it will help you distinguish between what needs to be said to move the story along and what is unnecessary or “fluff.”  In addition, writing will help you make discoveries. You will discover more applications for your story in the writing process. Of course after you have crafted it in the writing, commit it to memory. Tell your story, don’t read it!

Follow Simple Structure: A story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In improvisation, actors work on simple story structure that applies to all storytelling.

1) Establish when and where.
2) Something goes wrong (aka a crisis occurs).
3) Quest to solve the crisis (what did you do in response to the crisis?).
4) Resolution. Once you get to this place the story is over.

Paying attention to this structure will keep your story focused and prevent it from meandering off course.

Edit: “A friend told me” may be all we need to say vs. “My friend, Robert, who I knew since high school, who was the best man in my wedding, and is the Godfather to my children.” That may be important to you—but not to the listener. Ask yourself: “Does this serve the point or is it a rabbit trail?”

Make it Now!: Strive to tell your story in the present tense, not in the past tense.  Obviously it is a story of something that happened in the past, but try to tell the story so we feel you are experiencing it now.  In my presentation Truth Be Told…from A Guy Who Makes Stuff Up, I share a story about an embarrassing incident that happened on stage in front of a live audience. I “relive” the incident so the audience feels like they are experiencing it with me. I share my thoughts and emotions as if it were happening now. This helps to put the audience in the situation with you and helps guarantee they will identify with your story!

Don’t Sermonize: Even if your story is part of a sermon, resist sermonizing the conclusion. Don’t let your desire to give a message overpower the story. Trust the story to speak for itself. It is likely the lesson you learned from your story wasn’t evident at the time… it may have taken years for the story to have new meaning. For many of my stories that happened years ago, I have only recently discovered applications to my life today. Leave room for the audience to make their own discoveries by reflecting on their own stories.

In storytelling, “the medium is the message.” It may be hard for many pastors and teachers to learn to trust that.  But think of Jesus, the master storyteller.  In telling the parables he didn’t explain them, at least not right away.  He would often say, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” He trusted the story to the listener. He only offered explanations later, if necessary. Learn to trust your stories and you will find eager listeners.

You Have A Story—Tell It!

MystorypicIf you are a speaker, teacher or pastor, you probably have books on your shelf that are full of illustrations and anecdotes to help you in communicating your message. Using some of those stories can come in handy, no question, but you have a more valuable resource available to you, a resource that could be a much more effective tool than the oft-repeated stories in those books. That resource is YOU. Your life is made up of hundreds of short stories. These stories are better than any other stories you can tell because they are your stories: you lived them, they are part of you. Authenticity is placed at a very high level in our culture today. People are paying attention to leaders who are willing to be real, transparent, and vulnerable. The best way to do that is to share your own stories.  (I am seeing this for myself with my presentations in which I share some of my own “life stories” —Truth Be Told and Go Ask Your Mother.)

So where do you begin? The first step is to pick a story and write it out. As a teacher or pastor, you often have a message in mind and you pick a story to illustrate that message. However, good stories have the priority of story first! Rather than picking a message and trying to force a story around it, pick a story and see what message emerges—you might be surprised!

As an actor, I have learned much about story from improvisation. In improvisation actors are often given suggestions of random things, and create a story using those suggestions. It might be a place, a thing, or a relationship.  Then off they go making up a story out of a few simple suggestions. No thought is given to message—their only criterion is “what happens next?” Yet many times, without even trying, a message or moral to the story will emerge.

You have an advantage over the improv actor in that you already know these stories; you already know “what comes next.” So to get started, here are 5 ideas to help you jump-start your storytelling.

  • Emotional Stories: Make a list of emotional triggers. An embarrassing story, a sad story, a happiest moment, a time when you were angry, a love story. There will likely be several of these that come to mind.
  • Event Stories: A birth, a death in the family, your wedding day, a birthday, a vacation, a crime.
  • A Place: At home, church, school, an amusement park, a zoo, a concert, a cemetery, a shopping mall, a foreign city.
  • A Thing: You have stories already in your life about all of these: a food, a car, a pet, a book, clothing, a computer, a suitcase, a favorite childhood toy.
  • A Person: A spouse, a brother or sister, a parent, a child, a teacher, a celebrity, a pastor, a doctor, a lawyer,  a taxi cab driver, a best friend, a rival, a bully.

All of these are triggers to get you started. Don’t be surprised if there is a lot of overlap. You will find that many stories will contain something from each list.  Your most embarrassing story might involve your wedding day, at a church, and a disaster involving your spouse and the wedding cake.

Write your story using a simple story structure of a beginning, a middle and an end. I’ve talked about that more in my article “A Really Short Story.

After you have written the story you will be able to go back and find messages and morals that may complement a number of themes. The wedding story might contain a message of proving your love, or staying calm when things go wrong, or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Over time, you can create your own book of illustrations from your own life and that will be far more effective and meaningful than those stories from that book of illustrations.

Worth a Thousand Words?

A photographer  friend of mine, Mike Mallorie, recently attended one of my performances of Truth Be Told…From a Guy Who Makes Stuff Up. He put together this little photo-montage of my face during the performance.  I know that I have a “mobile face” but I have to admit I was a bit surprised at all the expressions he captured with his camera.  And it is also interesting to note that this performance is actually one where I am not “acting” in the traditional sense, but rather telling stories. I hope it can help you to realize just how much of our communication is more than mere words.  A picture IS worth a thousand words…or at least a couple of dozen!

(Check out Mike’s website for some great coffee products at www.baldmancoffee.com.)

New Show Premier, Friday, October 25th

Go Ask Your Mother…A Father’s Story is the second presentation of my “life stories.” In this presentation I tackle fatherhood, sharing lessons I learned from my father and some of the joys, humor, and trials of raising three sons of my own. You’ll hear stories of kids embarrassing their parents, stories of rebellion and reconciliation, and unfinished stories of hope rooted in a father’s love for his kids. Much is written today about kids raised in the church, only to abandon the faith when they leave home. I share my own experience with this troublesome issue. Raising kids is not for the faint of heart and you will identify with this father’s confessions of struggles, uncertainty and hope for the future.GoAskMother_txt

 

If you are reading this you are invited to the premier performance of this presentation.

Date: Friday, October 25th

Time: 7:00 PM

Place: Liberty Christian Church, 4764 Skyline Rd S. Salem, OR 97306

Tickets: FREE

There will be a “talk-back” session after the performance where you can ask questions and give feedback about the performance.

We are also accepting bookings for this production beginning in 2014. Contact us at info.mastersimage.com for details and availability!

Sometimes They Cry

I love observing people.  It’s part of the job of being an actor.  You become a student of human behavior.

MariLuz

Mari Luz and her Great Grandmother in The Dominican Republic. Mari is one of the children we sponsor through World Vision.

I enjoy working in partnership with World Vision, and have discovered the table where I display all of the children who need a sponsor is a great place to observe people.  I try to figure out ahead of time who will be the ones to sponsor a child. You learn to read the signs. Some people avoid eye contact. Some pass by with only a glance. Sometimes they linger and pick up the folders and read more. Sometimes they ask questions. And sometimes they cry.

There was a young woman at a recent event who desperately wanted to sponsor a World Vision child. She lingered, picked up a picture of a child and cried.

I asked if everything was okay.

She told me that this child’s birth date was the same as her anniversary. She wanted to sponsor, but was uncertain because she is in a job transition and not sure she could afford it. She took the folder and went off to speak to her husband. The program was about to begin so I left to go backstage.

After the program I am back at the table. I noticed the picture folder has been returned and the young woman is nowhere in sight.  I figured the husband said no.

Then a most beautiful thing happened.  A man approached me and asked if he could sponsor a child for someone else. He said there is a young woman in tears because she wants to do this but can’t afford it. I happily explained that,  yes, there is a gift sponsorship option that would allow for that. The man agreed to pay for the sponsorship until the young couple was able to take it over for themselves.

I observed the reveal as the man shared what he was doing, the look of shock on the young woman’s face, the hugs,  and yes, the tears.

Sometimes they cry… and sometimes I do too.

If you’d like to sponsor a child for yourself or as a gift sponsor for someone else I’d be happy to help you do that.  Send me an email: info@mastersimage.com

The Measure of Success

For the corporate executive it is a corner office and the big salary.

For the doctor it is the right diagnosis time after time… and the big salary.

For the actor it is the starring role and an Academy Award … and the big salary.

For the minister it is….. probably not the big salary.

SuccessI have found myself often contemplating just what is the measure of success when it comes to ministry. The measuring stick can look very different from the one used by the rest of society. There are those who seem to find a way to do it. Some count the size of the congregation, the successful building program, and fundraising. A few actually have the big salary. In my raised-in-the-church background, I was well aware of the ministers and evangelists who measured success by “notching their Bibles.” They could tell you exactly how many people were “saved” by their sermons (I thought it was God who did the saving!).

While many in ministry cringe at talking about money, we mostly live in a paradigm that depends on the generosity of others to make a living. Those donors want evidence that what they are donating to is a good investment. And who can blame them… I am the same way. I want to be sure that if I am giving my money to a ministry, it is getting results. So again we are forced to try to quantify ministry by counting something to make it look valid…to make it appear “successful.” It is easier to quantify if your ministry is feeding the hungry or distributing Bibles…not so easy when your ministry is speaking or performing… it is an intangible thing that doesn’t translate well into numbers.

I get caught in the trap… I find myself measuring my ministry week after week by how many people were in the audience, how big the offering was, or how many sponsors I was able to obtain for World Vision. It can put me on an emotional roller coaster, feeling successful one weekend and ready to throw in the towel the next. It can be especially challenging for the itinerant minister/performer. We do our thing and leave. Often the real “fruits of our labor” are not known to us.

So I was contemplating success… again… when I got this email:

“Today, I met with a man…. He really needed to talk to someone because he was grieving over his brother’s suicide… He told me he’d been struggling for days over feeling guilty, wondering what more he could have done or what he’d overlooked… But then he heard your story (Truth Be Told)… He said you helped him to see that it was wrong for him to take on the responsibility for his brother’s death. He said your words helped to put it all into perspective. It helped him to find peace and remember that God has not deserted him in this terrible time. Well done, good and faithful servant!”

At once I was reminded that THIS is why I do it. Every once in a while a guy like me needs a reminder… something tangible that helps me to see that what I am doing… or better yet, what God is doing through me, matters. Success like that? I’ll take it!

Have you struggled with trying to measure success in ministry? If so, what has helped you?  

Live vs. Video

From my inbox:

“How do you feel about doing live stage performance, that has been carefully, planned blocked, with sets, entrances costumes, lighting etc, and then have video camera crew shoot the whole thing onto three giant screens floating above your head? Do you feel as I do that this pretty much sucks the life out of the art form and the relationship between the actor and the audience – especially since the audience stops watching the stage and watches the giant screens instead?”

1Can you feel the frustration coming from the question? And did you notice that the writer sort of answered the question—assuming I would agree—before I had a chance to answer? In this case the assumption is correct.  And then there is this:

“I have no control over the camera angles, close ups or long shots. The person in the booth who never sees the rehearsals takes it upon themselves to shoot the action on the stage any way they want to and thereby interprets for the audience what they want them to see.”

No question about it, church is not what it used to be.  Technology, like it or not, is here to stay. As much as some may long for the “good ole days” they aren’t coming back when it comes to technology.  Oh, there are the hold-outs—mostly churches that are more limited by finances and know-how, rather than desire. But it is rare indeed to see a church that doesn’t have a video screen and making use of power-point, video, and even interactive question and answers via texting from the congregation.

Technology is great and I love all the things we can do with it. But just because we have the technology doesn’t mean we should use it in every conceivable situation! The drama department—if you even have one—is one area of the arts that has suffered the most… that and add the printers of hymnbooks. Both, it seems have been replaced by the video screen.
Live theater and video are two very different art forms.  A stage play is directed with the understanding that a live audience is viewing the scene. It is up to the director to control the audience’s attention through the dialog, movement on stage, and the lighting. Video is very different and attention is focused through the camera’s lens.  There is no choice for the viewer on where to look, the camera tells you. I have seen some very professional stage plays shot on video… I am rarely impressed.

I can truly identify with the struggle expressed in the email.  I am often in situations where they want to project my image on the screen while I perform. I usually discourage it. The only exception being in the truly large auditoriums that seat thousands, and it is a legitimate concern for everyone to be able to see.  But that is not the case in most churches and in the scenario expressed in this email.

My advice for those that are caught in the middle of live performance vs. video is to make a choice. Is this script better or more effective as a live play or as a video?  If it is video, then go shoot a video outside the service time where the script is set up and shot properly as a video shoot.  And if it is better live, then turn the camera off during the service!

No question, I have a bias. We are inundated with video today. There is a power in live performance. There is a relationship between audience and performer that you can not achieve with video. So I say again, just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

Do you have any other helps or advice for the writer of this email? How would you suggest the person handle this issue with those making the decisions to shoot the video? 

3 Reasons You Should Invite Artists to your Church

Many of you think of me as that “Christian Actor Guy” who goes around the country performing in churches, and while that is true, as with any job there is more to my work than meets the public eye. The traveling is mostly done on weekends. My “day job” is not all that glamorous. I sit at my desk and spend many hours each week doing the “business” of an arts ministry: paying bills, answering correspondence, and trying to convince pastors to invite me to their church!

20130408-085038.jpg

“A Device to Root Out Evil” – Dennis Oppenheim

I have a long list of the “reasons” why I am not invited (and maybe I will delve into those in another blog) but I think it is important to consider why you should invite artists to your church–and I am talking big picture here, not just me but artists in general–be they musicians, painters, dancers, poets, storytellers, comedians, or yes, even actors. Actually, the reasons are many, but I will focus here on my top 3 reasons you should be inviting artists to your church.

The Artist as a Prophet – Artists are people who see things differently. Often on the outside of a group or community, they can bring new perspectives to old things and sometimes make old things new again. Sometimes they can be disruptive, but that may be good, as things need disrupting in order for change to happen. Historically artists have played a major role in shaping culture, inspiring change, and speaking to the heart. If you need convincing, just Google “the artist as prophet” and you will get several examples. When that artist is a Christ follower, their art can speak volumes to your congregation and touch hearts and minds in a way that nothing else can.

Inspire and Affirm Other Artists – The church needs artists. In my earlier blogs I have addressed the fact that fewer and fewer churches are offering an outlet for artists to be a vital part of congregational life. In many churches, choirs are gone and musicians are few, drama is gone or replaced by a video screen, and the sanctuary, once a place of beauty, is replaced by a multi-purpose room indistinguishable from any other meeting place in town. Art in churches and schools is given a low priority yet is highly esteemed in the culture at large. I believe the church should be a birthing place for the arts. One of the most fulfilling things about my work is hearing other artists express their gratitude after seeing my art presented in their church. It gives them hope for their own artistic expression. The church needs to be affirming that! In our current culture it may well be the artists, more than the preachers, who can effectively call people to examine their lives and relationship to God.

Saying Things Differently – Let’s be honest, we can get numb in the pew. We get into a routine of hearing and seeing things the same way, week after week, and after awhile, we stop listening. Bring in an artist and suddenly we rediscover our eyes and our ears. The artist may not even be saying anything that the pastor hasn’t already said 100 times… but saying if differently can cause people to hear it, sometimes for the first time! The language of our culture, like it or not, is the language of entertainment. That’s one language artists know well. Allowing them to be heard can be transformational to both individuals and the body as a whole.

Like I said, there are many reasons you can give for not bringing an artist to your church–and many of them might be legitimate (lack of funds, scheduling conflicts, etc.). But I encourage you to seek out opportunities and encourage artists, both within and outside your church, to have a place in the life of your congregation.

What other reasons can you give for including artists in the life of your church?

Free Audio Downloads

Two of my presentations have been featured on Moody Radio numerous times over the years. Moody pulled out all the stops making these presentations into full radio theater style productions, complete with musical score and sound effects.  This makes for a truly unique listening experience, totally different from the live performance.

I offer them here for free.  You can listen here or download them to your computer in mp3 format and/or transfer them to your mp3 player to listen to on the go. (Click to play in a new window. Right click or option click on a Mac to download to your computer as an .mp3 file)

 In His Steps .mp3

In His Steps

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas, Mr. Jones .mp3

Merry Christmas, Mr. Jones

 

 

 

 

 

Also be sure to visit the online store for videos, books and scripts!

We invite you to sign up for our monthly newsletter via email (see signup on the right) and to “Like” us on Facebook to keep up with all the latest happenings!

If you’ve experience one of our shows,  we’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please leave a comment below or send us an email at info@mastersimage.com.

© Copyright - Theme by Pexeto