The Pursuit of Happiness

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

Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee, An Actor’s Life for Me!

An actor’s life for me
A high silk hat and a silver cane
A watch of gold with a diamond chain

An actor’s life is fun
You wear your hair in a pompadour
You ride around in a coach and four
You stop and buy out a candy store
An actor’s life for me!

Hi diddle dee doo
You sleep till after two
You promenade a big cigar
You tour the world in a private car
You dine on chicken and caviar
An actor’s life for me!”
So go the lyrics of the Disney classic from Pinnochio. Based on those lyrics we should all pack our bags and move to Hollywood or Broadway! If only it were true!

REALITY CHECK! Just in case some of you think that’s really the case, let me set the record straight. In the acting industry there is something like a 95% unemployment rate. Even if you are fortunate enough to actually land a paying job in this industry, you are only employed until the current project ends, leaving you unemployed again. I’m not saying that there aren’t those who live the life portrayed in the song lyrics, but they are a fraction compared to those who aspire to that lifestyle. Hollywood and Broadway communities are filled with actors who are also waiters, taxi drivers and shoe salespeople. To succeed you need a great deal of determination and the ability to cope with the inevitable rejection. It is an industry where the old adage “it is not what you know but who you know” is certainly true.

Most of you know that I don’t play in that field. It’s not that I haven’t fantasized the “actor’s life” (minus the “big cigar” and “my hair in a pompadour”). And it’s not because I lack the talent or determination. No, the reason that I have avoided the lure of the “actor’s life” is because my determination comes from a different source than most of those seeking fame and fortune in Hollywood. This actor’s life is driven to use his talents out of a sense of calling to ministry in service to our Lord. (Let me quickly add that there are those who have a similar calling within the entertainment industry! Thank God for those people!) I consider myself blessed to be making a living in theatre that is also a ministry. God has provided a way for me to do what I love to do while at the same time avoiding the traps and pitfalls of life in the secular entertainment industry.

Occasionally, I meet someone who aspires to a career in theatre. They look at what I do for a living and see only that I travel and perform a great deal. At first glance it looks enticing, and they dream of the “actor’s life” reflected in the song and think, “Not bad, I’d like to do that myself.”

I teach a workshop at drama conferences directed to those who aspire to make a living as a Christian artist. The purpose is to give them a “reality check.” Just like those who falsely think that their pastor works only one hour a week (preaching the sermon), likewise there are those who think that the only work a Christian artist does is perform! Nothing could be farther from the truth.

So just what does life as a Christian artist look like? In my case, the term one-man show goes well beyond the time spent on stage. To give you a clue, here is just a partial list of some of the things that occupy my time (aside from being a husband and father).

Bookkeeping: paying bills, maintaining financial records
Booking shows: lots of hours on the phone
Travel: airports, rental cars, freeways, hotels, and fast food
Making Travel arrangements
Data entry: computer database of churches
Mailings & Processing Book Orders
Receipting donors
Writing: drama projects, newsletters, etc.
Rehearsal: for my productions as well as others
Fundraising: Drama & Dessert

As you can see, it involves much more than just those moments in the “spotlight.” Thankfully I have help and support from my family and some wonderful volunteers. It is a very busy life indeed. I’m not complaining, I love what I do!

So what’s my point? For those who think that they want to live the “actor’s life” and can find it as a Christian artist, think twice. It is not enough just to have talent. One needs to be part minister, part performer and part businessperson. One of my first words of advice to those who “wannabe” echoes what I have heard many a missionary say, “Don’t do it unless you are called.” But if you are called, then by all means DO IT!

For the rest of you who have wondered what I do with all that “free time” between performances, perhaps now you have a better idea!

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