Thursday, April 28, 2011

Overwhelmed, and finding Peace

I have too much to do. At work. In my personal life. Maintaining relationships. Discerning theology. Too much on my todo list.

So tonight I took a walk with my iPod and worshipped instead.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Imagine how much Good the Church could accomplish if we stopped wasting time arguing about gay marriage, evolution, abortion rights, which politicians are "Christian" enough, who's in, who's out.

Imagine if the Church focused on Love instead.

What a novel concept.

Friday, April 22, 2011

AWAKEN: The Final Weekend

AWAKEN season 6 ended last weekend with performances in Woodbury, MN and Story City, IA.

I miss it so much. I’m not ready to leave this chapter in my life. At the same time, I’m looking with great anticipation to discover what’s next. Where am I Called now?

I learned lessons of servant-hood. I learned to be flexible. I learned that what’s best for the ministry, what’s best for Jeremy, and what Jeremy wants, are not all mutually exclusive. I learned how to mime, how to channel emotion into my role when I cannot use words, how to take criticism knowing the love with which it’s given. I learned how to sit still and let Lynnea paint my face :) I learned to be less inhibited and just be me - if I feel like jumping as part of my worship, then I’m going to jump. I learned that I need a ministry like this in my life, something that makes me come alive, something I spend my entire week longing for, checking each day, “is it Friday yet? Do I get to go to AWAKEN yet? Do I get to see my family yet?”, and something after which I'm exhausted, but I feel good about having given my all.

Certain friendships were deepened that frankly I had never suspected would. Acquaintances became real friends, people with whom I will now choose to hang out and keep in touch.

Some of the Gospel characters came alive for me. I played Peter 4 times, and each performance I learned something new about him, putting myself in his spot, trying to feel what he would have felt. Maybe he’s my favorite apostle now :)

I also played an angel in those 4 performances, plus this past weekend. I got to participate in Creation, announce the birth of Jesus, and at the end, help welcome our humanity character into Heaven. The physicality, running around, adds to the excitement, gives me a small glimpse to how the angels might feel.

In the final two performances, I played a pharisee, standing on the opposite side of the stage from Peter. It felt out-of-body. I got to see the aftermath of what I [as Peter] had run from.

Of course my parents and friends from home thought I did a good job. What else would they say? Yet I’m convinced I did, because there are friends in AWAKEN who do tell me the honest truth, and would have told me if I screwed up. The director being one of them. For those people in particular to tell me I did well - that meant a lot.

Switching roles between weekends was a combination of mildly amusing and mildly confusing: as an angel, one week I was 3rd in line, the next I was 4th; very similar role even though I was subbing for a completely different person. Then I’d have to remember, “no, I’m not getting the whip, I fly over to the side and get the hammer and nails instead.”

Logistics of last weekend: Friday night five of the Ames crew drove up and stayed at my house. I felt so domestic hosting them: I had brownies fresh out of the oven when they arrived, plenty of snacks and drinks, sheets and blankets and pillows, I’d vacuumed (for the first time in longer than I’d care to admit), I’d cleaned, and most importantly, I loved being able to open my home to my friends.

Saturday we started setting up at the church at 9 - we had to be done working by 4 so the church’s band could prep for their 5:17 evening service. Some of the team (myself included) attended the 5:17 service, which was a Palm Sunday celebration. And their band played Hosanna (Praise is rising), which just happens to be our Palm Sunday song in the mime!

Several of my friends from church, and several friends from movie-making, came to see the drama that night. I was so happy to see them. There were others I really wish could have come, I longed for them to experience this Story. I can only do so much, I can’t force anyone to come.

Saturday night I hosted Jesus (Matt) and his wife at my house. Sitraka (our tech director) locked his keys in his car that morning when we left my house, so he had to break in through his window that night. Jesus stood in the street with a flashlight to help him. That's just fun to say :) I came out and ate a brownie while I watched, hoping to mollify any neighbors' suspicions about the apparent car-jacking.

Sunday morning we drove to Story City. The cast traveling in the 15-passenger van met at the church at 7:30. The four of us leaving from my house didn’t have to leave until 8:30. Beautiful :)

I did something really stupid on the way down: stubborn me kept saying I’ll have enough gas to make it to Albert Lea and fill up at my favorite gas station/plaza there. Well, we did have enough gas, but I think I was literally down to fumes - I pumped more gas into my car than I knew the tank actually held. Oops.

Our timing arriving in Story City was perfect: everyone had just finished unloading the truck when we walked in the building. Lunch. Then set up.

The school where we performed, two years ago we performed there, as well. And two years ago, on that very weekend, that was when my Crohn’s symptoms returned after 43 weeks off Remicade treatment. I was spiritually broken that weekend, my miracle had ended. Despair. And yet I knew God was somehow still there: of all the random fundraisers, this school was fundraising “coins for Crohn’s”. What on earth. Signs all over the hallways. That’s not your typical fundraiser. Not in a high school. God was present.

Two years later I’m back again, and I reflected on my faith journey over that time.

When I played Peter in the mime, I keep my eyes closed during the resurrection, Jesus comes to find us a few moments later. This night, this final performance night, I was not Peter, I was in the back ready to fly out as an angel in the next scene, and so I resolved: I’m sneaking into the doorway and watching the resurrection tonight!

Tear-down was hard. Emotionally. Last time. Last time to wrap cables, lift down the speakers, disconnect the audio board from Houston (our control center), wrap the audio snake, load the truck. And as that happened, people were leaving. I said goodbye to friends, and I won’t see them next weekend, I won’t see them for at least a month (post-season party), but some of them not even then. I don’t know when I’ll see them again. That’s sad.

In Gierke family tradition (my Mom’s side of the family), I was one of the last to leave. Sitraka agreed that he wouldn’t mind staying to help unload the truck into the storage locker, then we stayed with Blair and Tyler and Tanner, prolonging the weekend into Monday morning. (I took Monday off work, and didn’t read a single work-related email until Tuesday morning).

It rained when we unloaded the truck. Fitting. I didn’t cry, not at that particular moment. I didn’t need to. Monday afternoon, though, I had my sob-fest. Alone. Just me and God. I felt better afterward.

I’m not ready to be done. I keep listening to the AWAKEN soundtrack over and over. These songs will forever have meanings attached: creation of humanity; setting the stage for Jesus’ birth and lift; the Call of the disciples; walking on water; Palm Sunday; the Last Supper; prayer in the Garden; the Crucifixion and burial; the RESURRECTION! And HEAVEN! Once an AWAKEN song, always an AWAKEN song.

God, your servant is ready. I'm ready for the next adventure. Please don't make me wait too long :)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Day of Silence

Last night before bed I spent some time playing guitar, and ended that time by praying out my voice for the following day.

Today is the Day of Silence, a national "movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies."

For me it's been a long process "coming out" as a straight ally. Being that more than half of my closest friends are GLBT, though, I can think of no other way to live my life consistent with my experiences, relationships, and faith.

Many practicalities prevented me from being truly silent today: I still have to work, I still have to get my job done and interact with people. As much as possible I limited myself to digital communication only: emails, text messages, and typing notes on my computer when there were people in the office. Even this felt like cheating, but I accept the compromise. A couple times a student would come in and ask for help - when my coworker was in the office with me I could get away with gesturing (he understood me), but once he left I did have to break silence. I minimized my talking. The entire day, I've tried to listen more.

This morning I asked God to help me learn some lessons today. I was perhaps inspired by a TED talk I've seen of a man who stayed silent for 18 years, not in protest of anything, rather to learn without hindrance. I hoped to learn something.

I learned I was afraid. I feared being discovered, as it were. Yet why else would I have chosen to be silent today if not to make a social point? Perhaps I only wanted to prove something to the administration. Yet sitting in my office, I feared interactions, because... I feared judgement? I feared having to speak? I don't know.

Originally we were to meet with the principals this morning about technology decisions, but the meeting was postponed. I lament that, I wonder if I thought that was my one chance to "stick it to the man". That sounds harsher than I mean it. What I mean it, my school is not a safe space for GLBTQ youth. It's not. I myself contributed to that oppression when I was a student. It saddens me. Last year my friend was not hired for the sole reason that he's gay. I was forced to remove a "Safe Space" sticker from my office door because "it might send the wrong impression [that other parts of the school aren't safe".

So today if I felt unsafe as an "out" ally, I can't imagine the real deal. What if I was gay? What if I were still a student? Yes, there are many teachers here who share my beliefs. But institutionally, the school does not.

What else did I learn today?

I learned how to type quickly. And to mime computer stuff. Click here, type your password, don't do that, do this instead.

I realized just how much I normally talk to myself during the day. My head was strangely quiet today.

I realized how much I love singing with the radio in my car. Or humming along with my music at work when no one else is in my office.

I felt support from friends on Facebook who commented or liked my status. I appreciated my coworker who wrote "Okay. I will simply wave at you today. No 'Hello, JG!'" We smiled when we bumped into each other, waved knowingly, and carried on.

Someone else wrote
Thank you for posting this Jeremy! I often tell my friends of faith that they really aught to show love to folks who are LGBT, because as far as I am concerned, God doesn't make mistakes... who are we to judge the way his children find love?

As someone who aspires to follow Christ, today I feel I was called to nothing less than silence.

I miss my voice.

Thursday, April 07, 2011


I played Peter again this past weekend for AWAKEN.

On Sunday we added something: after Peter's third denial, I held up three fingers, calling back to earlier in the drama when Jesus held up three fingers and told me I would deny Him three times. Simple action, it caught me off guard when I actually did it. I held up my hand, I realized, I looked Him in the eyes, and I ran for all I was worth. I wanted to keep running. I almost ran into a wall once I was outside the sanctuary. I didn't want to stop. I thought of all the time I've spent denying God, not often because I was afraid and wanted to be cool, moreso my years-long struggle to figure out who Jesus was. How much time did I waste? Impossible to put into words. Suffice it to say, I felt a small glimpse of Peter's emotion.

Sunday was an adventure. Our man who plays Satan was injured (concussion and a couple cuts on his forehead) during rehearsal, and he took out the projector as well. This on top of having one cast member sick, one still recovering from illness, another out of town. Then half our lights started malfunctioning.

There's a happy ending, it all worked out okay, but my first thought was: who's coming tonight that the real Satan doesn't want to be reached?

I'll probably never know that answer, and that's okay. It was just my first reaction.

Rehearsal was over then and there. We waited patiently as they tended to Alexander's wounds. We prayed as a group. This is where AWAKEN shines: we are a family.

Our executive director, Tiffany, took on the role of Satan. Rather than rearranging any of the other cast (we already had three people subbing in this weekend!), leadership decided she knew the role best. I think she needed to do it, too - as she put it, "I may or may not have some emotions to put into the role".

And Blaire and Sitraka and I fixed the lights - it took over an hour swapping out dimmer packs and cables to narrow down the TWO, not just one, bad DMX cables. We finished about 30 minutes before the doors were supposed to open. I ran and ate dinner, the church graciously kept the food warmed even though everyone else had already eaten. I changed quickly, put in my contacts, and then tried to calm myself as Lynnea painted my face.

It was stressful pulling double duty: crew and cast. I wouldn't have traded it for anything. I knew I was doing Good. And that's worth being exhausted for.

On Saturday Kelsey, our director, shared with us the story of the woman in the temple, who gave her two copper coins to the offering. She asked us to ponder, what are our two coins that we're bringing to God?

On Sunday Lyndsay, our tour manager, shared the same story, completely without knowing Kelsey had shared it the day before. She shared with us about a little boy who saw Saturday's performance, and how enthralled he was, and how, at the end during offering, he emptied his pockets of the few dollars he had, and then said "I wish I could give more".

I spent a lot of time thinking about what my copper coins look like. In the end I think I decided it was my body: bad eyesight, incurable Crohn's, pain in my foot every time I walk (injury from last weekend's performances and heavy lifting, I think). But I gave AWAKEN everything I had - I gave God everything I had. When I laid down in bed Sunday night, I was exhausted, in a good way. Physically draining, AWAKEN remains life-giving. Hearing my friend say he was bawling the entire show. Hearing the story of that little boy. Knowing the difference AWAKEN has made in my life, both as past audience member and as current crew/cast. Those stories make it worthwhile. Those stories make it worth giving my everything.