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
Lucy is the first child in my life to be in the “special needs” category. Oh sure, I had met other kids with special needs, but until Lucy, never really spent time getting to know them. The more I learned about Lucy and Kabuki Syndrome the more it became clear to me that she would be a child that would “stand-out” for her differences. The idea that her future would include being teased and treated cruelly by other kids began to sink in and frightened me.
One day my wife, Lorie, took Lucy to the park. While swinging on the swings another little girl, (at the park with her father) was staring intently at Lucy. Finally, she said to her father “that girl looks funny.”
Thankfully that father said, “Oh honey, I don’t think she looks funny, I think she looks beautiful.”
The little girl shrugged accepting that answer and went on with her playtime.
While this father handled the situation wonderfully, the fact is that there would not always be someone nearby to intervene at those teachable moments. I knew that this was just a glimpse of what would be a reality in Lucy’s future.
Then last year Mallory, Lucy’s mother, posted on social media:
“I have a rare syndrome,
I have a feeding tube,
I have a heart defect,
I have special needs,
But who I am is Lucy.”
And that was the inspiration.
As an actor, I am accustomed to playing a role—getting inside another person’s head. I imagined what Lucy would want to say to those people that looked at her, and all they saw was her differences. They didn’t see her, they saw the scars and what they perceived as defects. I believe she would say, “Those things aren’t me—Who I am is Lucy!”
While many people may consider this a good book for a child with special needs—and it is—the real target audience for the book is people like the little girl in the park and her father. And to be honest, people like me.
Available on Amazon: I AM LUCYPosted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
This summer I have intentionally slowed down my touring schedule. One reason is I wanted to devote more time to writing.
Wait, I need to take this call.
“Hello? No, I don’t need your credit card service. I have asked you about 100 times to take my number off your call list. Please don’t call again.”
Grrr…there ought to be a law! So, where was I?…ah, writing…
The Oregon weather is finally wonderful. So I am sitting out on my patio, looking up at the sky…oh, you have got to be kidding me. I just swept the cobwebs off the eaves yesterday and now they are back! Ugh… where is that broom?
[long pause, we hear some grumbling about spiders]
Okay, I’m back…
Now for some inspiration. Maybe I’ll address the writing process for the creative. Controlling your environment is very important-
“What? Yes, Lorie I know I said I would unload the dishwasher and – Now? But I was gonna… okay…now.”
[another long pause, with dishes clanking in the background]
All right, uh, controlling environment…
I have discovered that I do my best writing when I can find a space to work that is devoid of distractions-
[phone chime alert]
Oh, wow! This is great! A booking just came in. I need to respond to this right away. Let me look at the calendar…
[clacking of keyboard on the computer]
So…yeah…devoid of distractions. In fact I think my best writing was-
[Lawn maintenance guy rounds the corner of the house with a leaf blower. A few wood chips fly up onto the keyboard]
My best writing…my best writing was NOT done at home.
As strange is it may sound, I think I have more control over my environment at almost any place but home…
[long pause in the writing process]
I’m writing this last part at a coffee shop. Not too far from my home. Now I can write without distractions.
“Whoa…is that guy gonna drink all that by himself? That’s one huge drink. I wonder if it comes with a catheter?”
To be continued… or maybe not.
[Note: I really did set out to write about the importance of controlling your environment when writing. Most of the distractions that I mention, really did happen during the writing of this article]Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
This old hat sits in display on a bookshelf in my office. What comes to mind when you look at it? It is pretty beaten up and worn. If a hat could talk I am thinking this hat might have a terrific story to tell. Which is one reason I chose it. I was looking for a hat with a story to tell.
At one time it was actually a pretty good hat. The label on the inside says it’s a Dobbs hat. Dobbs hats date back to the 1930s and the company is still in business today. I was actually looking for something that went back even farther—the 1910s would have been ideal. But for the story, this one would work fine. I found it at a thrift store in the 1980s. When I found it, it was a little too nice. I needed it to look like a hat that had been to there and back. A hat that had experienced all kinds of weather. A hat that had slept in the streets and maybe been kicked and punched a few times.
So I worked it over a bit. I wadded it up and stomped it in the dirt until it had the look I needed—a hat that had once been distinguished, now beaten, faded and tired. A hat with a story.
At that time, in the 1980s, it didn’t have any holes in it. Those came later. The holes appeared after telling the story hundreds of times. I would tell the story while holding the hat in my hands and fidgeting with it. That, combined with being thrown in a suitcase until the next time I told the story, eventually wore holes in the hat. Small at first, but becoming more pronounced over time.
Soon it reached a point where it was too worn and too fragile to withstand the rigors of the storyteller. I feared it might disintegrate in my hands if I were to keep demanding it to perform. I needed to replace it, to recast the role of the hat with a different old hat.
So I did. I went to another thrift store and found another old hat. This one was a different style but still appropriate to the time for the story. It would work, and has been my companion for telling the story for many years. But it is not the same.
I miss this old hat.
We shared so much time together. This old hat became not only part of the story I told, but part of my story too. This old hat is linked to a lot of memories. Cherished memories that I don’t want to forget.
So I keep it around, letting it occupy a place of prominence on my bookshelf, where I can see it often. It still serves a purpose. It reminds me of the journey we have had together. Of the stories we have told. It has become a part of me.
I’m just not ready to give up this old hat.Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
In the previous blog I talked about our new venture as hosts for an AirBnB apartment in our home. Although I am a well traveled person, I have rarely been the host to other travelers and am learning a few things as we go. I’m learning that things I take for granted are not neccesarily true for the people we are hosting…especially when it comes to people from other lands and cultures.
We recently hosted some guests from another country and upon cleaning up after their week long stay we made some interesting observations. Wet towels were neatly folded and left on a chair in the bedroom, the trash cans were empty as they took their garbage with them. None of the food items we left for them were touched, including fresh baked muffins. A spare toothbrush we left in a drawer was used and then put back in the package for the next guest, I presume. But the most interesting observation to us was that they apparently slept on top of the blanket instead of between the sheets, and used the duvet for their cover.
Ah, the things we take for granted. Doesn’t everybody sleep in a bed the same way I do? Between the sheets not on top of them, right?
I often stop and think about the things we take for granted in other aspects of our lives, especially when it comes to how we do church. I’m a “guest” in a different church almost every week, and often in churches with many differing styles of worship. I like to ponder what is going on in the minds of people who might be visiting and are unaccustomed to attending church. We in the church, I think, take so many things for granted. Consider these as if you had never visited a church before:
You get the idea. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with any of those things. But I do think there is a lot taken for granted in the average church service. For a time the church was extra sensitive to this with the introduction of the “seeker sensitive” worship service. While criticized by many, I do think it is worth applying that filter to the everyday life of the average church, especially when it comes to worship and the inculusion of guests.
A few years ago I created a video series called “There Goes Bob.” The series was inspired by the thought that more people would attend church if invited by a friend. In the 4th and final episode the invitee shares some of his observations about the church service he attends. I think it applies to this topic. Watch and see:
I changed a few things in my checkin procedure for our next AirBnB guests, also from another country. While showing them how to operate the control for a Sleep Number Bed, I casually mention “Oh, and in our western culture we sleep between the sheets” as I show them where the covers get pulled back.
I don’t want to take anything for granted.
The letter came by certified mail. It required a signature as proof that I had received it. The subject line contained the word “Audit.”
There is just something about that word—audit—especially in the context of a certified letter addressed to you, that makes you feel like a criminal. It gave me that goosebumpy, shortness of breath feeling as though I had been caught doing something wrong. I know the feeling well— it’s called guilt. And in the context of the word “audit” I think the assumption is guilty until proven innocent.
After reading the rest of the letter, I took a couple of deep breaths to calm myself and then tried to figure out the nature of my crime. At least it was from the City of Salem and not the IRS. Last year we began offering a part of our home as a short-term rental through AirBnB. There were hoops to jump through with the City of Salem, one of which is collecting a Transient Occupancy Tax that we would report and pay monthly. While this task is a nuisance, I complied and was certain that I had not intentionally done anything wrong.
I had to schedule a time with the City for the audit. The soonest date I could get was about three weeks out. Three weeks of having this cloud of suspicion hanging over my head. Three weeks of wondering what I had done wrong.
I am pretty meticulous when it comes to keeping records. The City’s paperwork for collecting this tax is cumbersome, with too many boxes to fill in. I automatically assumed I had messed up on one of the forms. Then all the doubt set in…what if I made a really big, stupid blunder? Maybe I am slipping up. Recently I made the mistake of depositing personal money into the business account. Then there was my credit card payment that I accidently paid to my cell phone provider. Did I somehow miss a payment? Did I send the payment to the wrong account? Did I put the wrong amount on the check? So many possibilities.
Over the next three weeks I fretted and fussed and double and triple checked the records. I couldn’t find any mistakes.
I arrived, records in hand. I was shown into a room with two auditors, a man and a woman, at a table. Smiles and handshakes all around. Very gracious, offering me water, coffee, and even a lollipop…your tax dollars at work!
Then the man spoke. “This is just a routine audit. We are auditing all the AirBnB’s since this is brand new to the city. We mainly just want to make sure you don’t have any questions.”
“Well…uh…” this puzzled me. I thought I was there to answer their questions. “Well there is one of the forms that I have a question about…”
I asked my question and he made light of it, no worries. “Do you have a summary statement from AirBnB on your earnings? We will just do a quick check to see that our numbers match. We don’t need to see any of your ledgers or bank statements.”
I handed the summary over to the woman, who punched in the numbers.
“It’s all good,” she said, “everything matches.”
Then the guy said, “Well, just keep doing what you are doing! Thanks for coming in!”
What!? That’s it? I was actually disappointed. I spent all this time preparing, going over records, crunching numbers and had proof in hand. They didn’t even want to see my meticulous records. Add to that all the stress of the last few weeks in anticipation of this meeting. I couldn’t believe it! All they really wanted was a meet and greet? Why the certified letter? Why even use that scary word “audit?” Why tell me to bring in all my records, bank statements, etc.? Why all of that when there wasn’t anything to justify. Nothing at all at issue?
And then I was relieved. I am doing things right. Not guilty after all…and I didn’t even have to prove it.
As I walked back to my car, enjoying my cherry lolipop, one word kept popping into my head.
Amazing, isn’t it?
If you are traveling to Salem, we would be delighted to have you consider our Sunnyslope Retreat apartment! Check it out!Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
As you may know, in addition to the stories I share in my travels, we also represent other artists through Master’s Image Productions. Two of our team have added to their lineup recently and I think they are productions you should consider for your church/organization.
If you have experienced Marcia’s presentation You Raise Me Up you know she has a powerful story to tell of her journey to discover life after loss. Her story does what a good story always does—leaves you wanting more. People had so many questions they wanted to explore that she was compelled to create a sequel to address some of the issues left unresolved in You Raise Me Up. Her newest presentation, Broken, does just that. It addresses her continued journey to healing and wholeness, a message of hope that will inspire those who listen. To learn more or schedule Marcia for a presentation: www.marciawhiteheadusa.com
Steve has had a varied career, from cleaning windows to working as an actor in Hollywood, and pastoring a rural church as a young seminary graduate. It is from this experience as a young pastor that he shares his story called Unlikely Prospect. I have had the pleasure of looking over Steve’s shoulder as he wrote out this story and I can tell you it is a story for anyone who has ever wondered about the purpose of the church—a fellowship of believers learning how to live life together as the body of Christ. You will laugh, squirm and be moved to tears in this inspiring true life story of faith. Check out Steve’s presentations at www.stevewilent.net.
While I don’t have a new production waiting in the wings at this point, I am still enjoying sharing my stories and especially those that, like Marcia’s and Steve’s, are based on my real life adventures. So be sure to check out Truth be Told…from a Guy Who Makes Stuff Up and Go Ask Your Mother…a Father’s Story.
It it matters, there’s a story!Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
“It changed my life” is an adage that’s often repeated. There are certainly events that are life-changers: birth, graduation, job, marriage, children, death… and so many more.
But can just the simple hearing or reading of a story actually change your life? I’m not talking about making us laugh or cry, or evoking emotions of compassion or anger. Those are a given. I’m talking about tangible change that results in action. Change that makes someone do or live differently.
As a storyteller I have heard “life-changing” applied to my craft. I have often accepted the statement as a compliment, but not taken it too much to heart. I am not sure I really believed that someone was going to live their life differently because they heard a story I told them.
I decided to put it to the test. Could I actually point to life-change in my own life because of stories that I heard or read? Once I seriously considered the question I was surprised at how quickly the answers followed.
• It was through hearing and reading the Gospel story in my youth that I became aware of a need for Christ in my life. It was the added stories (testimonies) of other believers that convinced me to become a follower of Jesus, a change that resulted in me living my life differently.
• It was hearing the stories from a missionary to South America at a youth retreat in Michigan that I became convinced that I wanted to actually serve God as a vocation. One of the few Spanish phrases I can actually remember is the translation to a familiar song that he taught us: “He decidido seguir a Cristo” (I have decided to follow Jesus). I didn’t know the path I would take, but I have never considered a job for more than a brief season of my life that was not also a ministry.
• It was through first seeing plays as a kid and then performing them that I discovered my passion was to be on that stage as a performer. I wanted to tell stories like the ones I was seeing–I wanted to live them. It became the inspiration and motivation for me to find a way to combine my desire to serve God with my desire to be a performing artist. My first job after college was 10 years on the road with a professional touring theater ministry.
• It was reading the book In His Steps by Charles Sheldon that challenged me with the famous question “What would Jesus do?” Little did I realize that years later that same story would keep me awake at night–a still small voice saying “tell that story.” Later adapting that book to the stage has indeed been life changing. It launched my current ministry and set the course of my professional/ministry career from 1984 to this day.
I am still thinking through the question but these thoughts flooded in once I opened the door to the question, “Can a story change your life?”
My answer is without a doubt, yes!
Story really does matter!
Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
As a kid, before the VCR, DVR, and Streaming, there would be those movies on TV we would watch again and again. The Ten Commandments at Easter, It’s a Wonderful Life at Christmas, and of course The Wizard of Oz. All of these would air once a year on network TV and it was an event you actually made plans to watch.
Times have changed, and with the overwhelming amount of content generated on TV, we often find ourselves struggling to keep up with the latest episodes of our favorite shows. Who has time for a rerun?
With this mentality in mind, I am always a bit taken aback when a pastor asks me to perform something that I have already performed at that same church just a few years earlier. I have a handful of churches that I perform for every year and they are often the ones that motivate me to write a new show. I think to myself, “If I don’t come up with something new I won’t be invited back!” (I wonder how many of my pastor friends have that same thought when it comes to writing their sermons? “Will they remember if I preach that same sermon I preached two Easters ago?”)
My friend, Jon Karn, is a pastor in Southern California. I have followed Jon around from church to church beginning in the Pacific Northwest back in the 1980’s and at several churches he has served in California. Jon has probably seen my adaptation of Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps more than any other pastor. I can say this because not only have I performed In His Steps at every church Jon has served (at least 4 churches), but Jon has requested that I perform it multiple times for at least two of those churches. Jon really likes In His Steps!
I was back at Jon’s church a few weeks ago. I was slated to do one of my newer shows, Truth Be Told…from a Guy Who Makes Stuff Up. A couple of weeks before my scheduled performance, I get a message from Jon: “Chuck, we have decided we want you to do In His Steps again!”
Somehow I was not surprised. I mean it is Jon, and he really likes In His Steps. I asked Jon why he wanted me to do that instead of a piece that he hadn’t seen before. He replied:
“People always need to see what following Jesus looks like. I doubt the congregation will read Sheldon’s classic but they will happily watch the drama. I guess I’d say In His Steps sounds like something I’d preach. Personally, I probably need to see it for my own spiritual health, at least once every year or two.”
If I’m being totally honest, I get a bit tired of the rerun. I mean, I have performed that piece well over 1,000 times since 1984. But I need that reminder that it is not about me – that art can speak to people in powerful ways and a good story bears repeating, which is one reason we call Sheldon’s book a classic.
Anybody up for a rerun? I’m booking dates for 2018!Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 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