Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Reflections on Awaken - Part 2

One post apparently wasn't enough for me. So much more came to mind as soon as I hit "Publish".

The physicality of AWAKEN caught me off-guard: lots of running during Creation; a sword fight, swinging around a not-at-all-light-weight sword; running away from the roman guards, and so on. Definitely helped get me into "the zone".

To be a witness and participant in the majesty of Creation - how awesome and amazing and exciting and so many emotions for which I do not even have words. How beautiful to see the promise of Heaven, to be an angel welcoming "Our Gal" Home. Chris Tomlin's Glory in the Highest brings me instantly to tears, it will forever be inextricably linked to these emotions, to the promise of life after death.

My role last weekend as Peter - I deny Jesus three times, I stare into His eyes, then I run away. At the Cross after He dies, have I ever thought what the disciples were feeling? AWAKEN brings that story alive to me: what were those emotions?

Courtney gave me the suggestion, think how you'd feel if your best friend had just been killed. Well. I think I caught her off-guard. Not my best friend, but I told her about Katherine. Courtney had heard her story, and actually because of it, she's brought friends along when she goes to interviews from Craigslist. That detail struck me.

When I, as Peter, approached the Cross, I saw Matt hanging there, but in my mind I was thinking of Katherine, putting myself in that dark place, and the sniffles and tears were real, that wasn't acting.

AWAKEN needs to be experienced, it is beyond words, beyond description. Being a part of the team, how humbling, how incredible, to help tell a Story so much bigger than me.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Called to Ministry

Not seminary. Lesson learned in LA a couple weeks ago: I can't sit in a classroom, not right now. 10, 20 years from now, seminary might happen. But not now. I'm called to ministry now.

What does that mean? What does that look like?

I have some ideas, I don't have answers.

I miss playing guitar. I don't get to play at church, I don't get to play at school for chapel, and I miss it. And I can honestly say, I don't miss it because of selfishness: I miss it because I know that's supposed to be a form of ministry, a gift God has given me and I'm to use responsibly, but nevertheless I am supposed to use it.

When I was in LA, when we were hanging out in Santa Monica, Bernadett said to me "when you get out here, I think we should grab our guitars and minister to the people, like these street performers". That was the best idea I've ever heard. Especially because it came from someone else - not me. That removes my fear of "am I doing this just for myself?"

And this year I'm in AWAKEN. How can I bring that to LA with me? Because I'm not ready to leave it behind.

This weekend in the mime I played Peter, and my big scene, my "time to shine" as the director put it, is telling the story when I walked on water. I set the scene, I illustrate that I'm in a boat, I look out over the sea, and I stop, I see something; jumping to the other side of the stage, I point at Jesus, and then I mime Him, calling me (Peter), gesturing, "come to me"; "me? no no no you've got the wrong guy"; "Yes! You! Come to me!". Cautiously I step over the edge of the boat. I take a couple steps! Excitement! I'm doing it! I stumble. He catches me. It was all by His power.

The power of that scene didn't hit me until today. My friend Dan stopped by my office, something was wonky with his computer. Then we talked. I shared my story. He pointed out to me the passion he heard in my voice as I told him about AWAKEN. And then I don't even remember the context, but he made a similar beckoning gesture that I used during the mime, and I realized "Oh my. God, maybe there's something deeper here?". Maybe God's beckoning, gesturing for me to step out of my comfortable boat, walk on water. Not by my power, by His. I already know anything I would do to bring AWAKEN, or something similar, to California is so beyond my power. But not beyond His. And as Dan pointed out, even when you walk on water, and fall, there's a hand reaching down to grab you and pull you back up.

Trust, Jeremy.

One of my friends from AWAKEN two years ago is living in California, not too far from LA. Yesterday I posted on her FB wall, what would you think about starting an AWAKEN ministry in CA? I admitted I don't know if that's what God's Calling me toward, it's just an idea. For now.

She said that's the best idea she's ever heard.

I know I'm called to ministry. Counseling friends, that will never get old. I can do that anytime, anywhere. And that's enough. Or is it? Is it a stepping stone? What's next?

I don't know.

But I'm excited to find out.

Awaken - My first experience as a mime!

I was a mime this weekend!

You may recall I bought contacts two months ago specifically so I could be a mime in AWAKEN, but then that particular performance was cancelled because of weather.

Last week one cast member had to withdraw himself from the drama, and another one fell ill. When I read that email, I admit my hopes soared that I'd be getting a phone call later that day, since the leadership team all knew how excited I'd been to be in the drama last month. Sure enough, a text message came that evening: "Hey Jeremy. I have a question for you, would you call when you have a sec. Thanks!" The phone conversation started with me saying "If your question is what I think it is, then the answer is 'yes, I'd love to'". She laughed, and asked if I'd like to be in the Awaken cast. I affirmed, yes, I'd love to. At that point they didn't know exactly which role I'd play, just that I'd have a role.

On Friday I found out I'd play Peter. Tiffany graciously typed up notes for me about each important scene, and I was able to read through those before leaving home.

The Minneapolis crew met at my house at 7:30 Saturday morning, and we arrived in Waukee, IA at 11:40. Lunch. Then unloaded the truck and began setup. Once I had audio up and running, I excused myself and started writing my cheat sheet note card to keep in my pocket during the drama, combining my notes from Tiffany, the script, and the other cast members I was sitting with.

Once all the equipment was running and the entire cast had arrived, we ran several scenes as a rehearsal. Didn't have time to run the whole show, though.

Before each performance, the cast gathers and we pray out our voices - during the drama there is no talking, even back stage. The first time I heard about this (two years ago) I didn't really get it. This year, I've come to appreciate the spiritual discipline of surrendering one's voice.

As best I could, I tried to honor that. However, because I was new this week, Tiffany explicitly told the cast before rehearsal, "If Jeremy talks to you during the performance please talk back to him, don't try to mime it, it's okay". I appreciated that. Fortunately, for most of the drama, I just needed to follow the "J-Train" (Jesus and the disciples) and "react" - this mostly consists of looking astonished every time Jesus did a miracle. But there were a couple times when I got backstage and had no idea where I was supposed to go next - at those moments the cast was incredibly gracious. Courtney and Jacob both went above and beyond to look out for me (both before and during the drama), and every single cast member lifted me up with encouragement, I can't even name specific names because I'd have to name the entire team. I know people always say that, it's cliché. I actually mean it. I literally cannot think of a single person who did not go out of their way to encourage me.

That's what makes AWAKEN different from theatre. It's a ministry, not only to the audience, but to our team, as well.

A few lessons I learned: I have a new appreciation for glow tape. I never knew how hard it is when you're in full light and then all of a sudden, complete blackout and you can see nothing. There is one moment in particular when I run full-steam from stage to the back of the venue, and there's a point 2/3 down the aisle when the light stops and I can't see anything (even with contacts :), just keep running and hope you don't hit anything.

I learned what it means to be a servant. Sort of. I mean, I really wanted to be in the cast, I was really excited, but at the same time I don't have control over what role I'll play, I needed to surrender myself to what the leadership determined was best for the ministry, not for Jeremy. (I don't believe those are mutually exclusive) Doing both crew and cast meant I never got much of a break. And I was a driver. So here was my day: drive 4 hours Saturday morning, help unload the truck, set up audio, learn my role, run through rehearsal, set props, change clothes to cast, eat dinner, get face painted, do the drama! change clothes back to techie, strike, load truck, drive to host home (1.5 hours). Sunday, breakfast, church, unload truck, help with set up, switch to "cast mode", rehearsal, dinner, face paint, drama, strike, load truck, drive 3 hours home (arrive home about 1:15 am).

I loved every single minute of it. Except the driving, I could have done with a few less hours of that. Otherwise, loved every. single. minute.

Also, I learned face paint is really hard to take off. Unless you're not trying. You never know how much you rely on being able to itch your face, blow your nose, take a sip of water... until you can't :) Huge thanks to Lynnea for her amazing face-painting talents. I was very sad when it did come time to wipe away her artwork.

And this story is perhaps the epitome of AWAKEN: things won't go as planned. Saturday I nearly fell off a ladder when I was an angel (apparently it was only noticeable if you knew what that scene was supposed to look like), and then Sunday we had to carry Jesus by hand because the stretcher prop was missing. Improvisation. Oh, and Sunday's venue had an elevated stage, so we had to contend with steps and slightly different staging for the fight scenes. It all worked out well, just more lessons learned that I wouldn't have really paid attention to as crew.

After each drama, the cast gathers again, and we pray our voices in. I can't describe in words, it's a humbling experience. God, thank you for my voice. May it be an instrument of healing, reconciliation, and outreach, not just to Your Church, but to those who've been rejected, who've not experienced Your Love.

My heart is once again torn. I'm moving to LA soon, but before I made that decision, I pondered delaying my move until June 2012 for the sole purpose of joining AWAKEN next year as cast, not crew. That's why the opportunity to join cast mid-season this year is so perfect - I get to fulfill all my dreams. This ministry means so much to me, and it will forever continue as part of my heart and soul. I do not feel I can delay my move another year, but the thought is very tempting. I'm asking God for discernment now on how I might bring His ministry to California. Am I Called to start a "new" AWAKEN on the west coast? Is there already a drama group out there that I can join? Is there a way of bringing AWAKEN out there all the way from Iowa? These questions are so much bigger than I am. Good thing they're not bigger than God.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Not ready to leave the Adventure

Awaken season 6 will be over in less than 3 weeks. I'm not ready. It's too soon. This ministry fills a void in my life I never knew I had: a passionate yearning to show the world what God's incredible, crazy love looks like. God, please lead me forward, please guide me to new opportunities for outreach, especially as I move to California. May the flame that Awaken has ignited never burn out.

Going to WWDC11

For over a month I've stalked Apple's web server, lurking in wait for any news about this year's Worldwide Developers Conference. And by "stalked" I mean I set it as my browser's home page, and also wrote a script on my server that checked the WWDC home page every 20 minutes, then text my phone if there were any change in the source code.

Over the last week the script had a couple misfires, and then this morning, my phone woke me up a little after 8 with the same text message. Sigh. Roll over. Open a web browser on my phone, pull up the page. Blink. What? Could it be? WWDC11? Adrenaline rush. Throw back covers, run to computer, yes it's true! Call work, verify I have approval to purchase the non-refundable $1599 ticket, approval confirmed, hang up, glance through some of the pages on the WWDC site, then BUY MY TICKET! Woohoo! San Francisco here I come!

Last year the conference sold out in 8 days, and they're expecting this year to sell out even sooner. Which is why I purchased my ticket literally within one hour of when they became available. Score.

Friday, March 11, 2011

First Bumper Sticker

My St Olaf alumni window cling being the exception, my car has never sported bumper stickers. Until two days ago. Now I proudly bear an HRC blue and yellow equality sign.

Back from Narnia

Two weeks in Narnia was enough to captivate me. I flew home from Los Angeles earlier this week, very nearly covered in my own tears - it was an emotional struggle, coming back to Minneapolis. My heart is divided. As a friend aptly put it, "welcome back not-home".

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The Tao of Pooh

I get super stressed with worry trying to figure out my life plans. A couple months ago my friend Lynnea recommended this book to me, and since reading it I am trying hard to take life each day at a time, not stress about making complicated plans, and just relaxing and trusting God to guide me. I am calmer these days.