The Spirit of Stephen

Brooklyn Tabernacle is going through The Book of Acts right now, and not too far off of where our church ( ) is. As much as I travel, I've seen again and again how God leads in similar ways across the land. Here are notes from the service:

Acts 6:1-10
(Quotes are paraphrases of Pastor Jim Cymbala): "If the toilet needs to be cleaned, someone should clean it."

He pointed out those called to service have to be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to distribute food. Ergo not all Christians are filled with/controlled by the Holy Spirit. Nothing was menial to them. They made a big production of handing out food. Stephen was FULL of faith as well as the Holy Spirit. the word of God spread "because everyone was doing what they were supposed to be doing." They didn't teach wisdom: they found people with the gift of wisdom. Don't be discouraged because not everyone follows you: they crucified Jesus. Stephen was assigned to hand out food and keep some women from arguing, but he performed God's acts, preached the longest recorded sermon to the religious leaders and was stoned to death for it. As they were attacking him, he was so calm and full of the Holy Spirit that he had the face of an angel. He was like his master in asking the Lord not to hold their sins against them. If you're faithful in small things, He will promote you to big things.

There's the faith that receives Christ & the Holy Spirit lives in them. But some Christians are luke warm. To be filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit is about surrender. God takes possession of that which is yielded to Him.

There is an abiding in the Holy Spirit so that you can be used by the Lord. Stay connected: not like people who do a great work one day, but curse someone out the next. Pastor Cymbala's greatest desire is to walk with God, to stay connected. Is the church in better shape now than in the first century because our leaders have all the credentials? Education is great, but all of us can be led by the Spirit as the first Christians were.

Bridge trumps stack

We decided to walk the Brooklyn Bridge rather than take advantage of the free IHOP pancakes.

NYC MWF reunion tonight

We're going to visit Brooklyn Tabernacle's prayer service tonight. We'll meet at Casa Java (near the street-level Au Bon Pain) in the south terminal of Port Authority, close to 8th Ave & W 41st. We'll head over to Brooklyn and grab some food at Wendy's‎: 425 Fulton St, which is just a few steps from the Borough Hall station on the A, C & F lines. We'll try to get to the church, at 17 Smith St., by 6, for the recommended hour before the 7pm service. You're welcome to join us at any point, even if you're not connected to MasterWorks.

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Afterward we'll claim our free pancakes at IHOP: 276 Livingston Street.

Jerry Lewis

Tonight Jerry Lewis was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at tonight's Oscars. One of our MasterWorks master class instructors this summer, Mac Nelson, performed with Lewis in Slapstick (of Another Kind).

Where I've been

Here's a list of nations, followed by states where I've performed, taught and/or directed:

North America
Puerto Rico (a self-governing commonwealth in association with the United States with their own Olympic team!)

South America

Northern Ireland


South Korea
Hong Kong
the Philippines
Pakistan (preached over the internet)

New Zealand

* Hebrew (Israel: "Jonah")
Spanish (Bolivia, Honduras, Guatemala: "La Gente Que Jesús Conoció", "Lazarus", Beyond the Chariots)
French (Paris: "Jonah", "Sheepish")
Traditional Chinese (Hong Kong, Taiwan: Beyond the Chariots)
Simplified Chinese (China: Beyond the Chariots)
Korean (China, Korea, Chicago: Beyond the Chariots, Big Fish Little Worm)
Swahili (London: testimony, part of "Lazarus")
Nafe (Vanuatu: "Jonah")
American Sign Language (Indiana: Big Fish Little Worm)
Tagalog (Hong Kong, the Philippines: "The Way")
Tamil (London: Beyond the Chariots)
Hungarian (Romania: Beyond the Chariots, "The Rich Young Ringmaster", workshops)
Russian (Russia: "Принцесса Лягушка")
* German (Princess Cut)

West Virginia
North Carolina
South Carolina
New York
New Jersey
New Hampshire
North Dakota
New Mexico

I teleported & time-traveled in 1 day

Yesterday was the launch of a new youth study at our church:

I was asked to teach on the first chapter of John. I remembered that our friends in Paris start with that chapter when they meet people interested in knowing more about life with Christ. So I set up a video conference. When the youth arrived I said, "Welcome to Paris." On cue, my friends on the monitor said, "Bon jour!" They touched on a lot of great things, but most powerful to me was when they said that many Parisians could care less that Jesus is God, but that He's the Light of the World and can illuminate all the dark places in their lives: That intrigues citizens of The City of Lights.

That afternoon we drove to Florida... NY, where we interviewed a gentleman who narrowly escaped death on 9/11. We stepped back in time seven and a half years to relive the day that he and his guys escaped the death which came to almost 150 of New York's finest in the next room when the South Tower buried them.

We're weaving his story into a play our church will produce in the near future called The Interview.

The infamous door

I was once performing my play about Jonah in a semi-rural Quaker (Friends) meeting, just outside Boise, Idaho. The pastor, Ken Redford, is a friend I've known since junior high. That’s probably the only reason I got invited back after a fellow actor's post-performance comment was broadcast through his still-live lapel mic. They didn’t clap after our performance, so Sean Gaffney said, "I don't think they get that it's over,” at which point they clapped.

So there I was again, and I wanted to win back Ken's confidence. Now, when a church has a balcony I often sprint up there to yell, “Repent!” from above the main congregation as my character is calling down fire and brimstone on Nineveh. In this meeting house there was a door to the lobby, where the staircase to the balcony began. I noticed the face of a woman peering through the little window in that door, so I just figured I wouldn’t run into the balcony. Since Quakers tend toward stillness and silence as compared to running and shouting that might have been the better choice anyway. But in that moment of the play I looked up and her face was gone. I leapt off the stage, planning to yell, “Repeeeennnnntttt!” with one breath all the way up as I typically do. I hit the swinging door at full speed. There was a loud thump as I realized that the woman had not fully cleared the trajectory of the door. So it sounded something like, “Repeeeeee...” THUMP, “Oh! I’m so sorry!!! ...eeeeeeent!” Thankfully the woman was fine and laughing about it after the show. My vanity, however, was smacked into a bruised lump of mush in the corner.

While performing at that church a few weeks ago (Can you believe they invited me back!?) the woman was good-natured enough to pose for this photo through that infamous door.

*The link on Ken's name sends you to a report years later, when he was the keynote speaker at the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends. 

Hong Kong: past and future

Good News Communication, which produced a documentary on Eric Liddell that I helped create, Olympic Hero in China, may be bringing me back to Hong Kong to teach some acting workshops this summer. While updating my itinerary I went to their website and saw that they'd loaded some photos from our last trip during the Beijing Olympics, including this one of me sharing my testimony, while being translated to Cantonese, immediately after we showed the documentary.

The Billy Graham Library

Between performances in South Carolina I drove up to Charlotte, NC, to visit the Billy Graham Library. It was quite impressive. The breadth of Dr. Graham's career, which has covered seven decades, was told in a wide variety of ways. The one that brought me the most delight was when I entered a room filled with images of people from all over the world. In between documentary snippets on three huge screens, one of the people began speaking! The man's image was on a vertical TV! In another section, there was a replica of the broken Berlin Wall to help tell how much Dr. Graham did for Germany during its unification. Another room played clips from some of the 70 films his World Wide Pictures produced. One of those featured was The Hiding Place in which Jeanette Clift George played Corrie ten Boom.

Very creative stuff to celebrate a man who's creatively used technology at every stage.

But the Library isn't really about Dr. Graham at all. At every step the focus was on the Good News that Dr. Graham was sharing. In the room with all the images of people from around the world a young Billy said that he resented the idea of being called an evangelist, because it was associated with emotionalism and greed. But then he realized that an evangelist is one who proclaims the Good News that Jesus Christ meets every need that we have from now to eternity. He said he's just sharing the Truth: "I didn't make it up."

Not a bad way to spend a 3hr layover

Rocking chairs and free WiFi: The Charlotte Airport does a lot of things right.


Ruth Bell Graham is buried on the grounds of The Billy Graham Library. She was born in China, where her parents served the Chinese people through their medical expertise. The Chinese symbol on her gravestone is "righteousness," which is made up of two other symbols: the symbol for lamb over the symbol for me. Over 1000 years bC the idea of sacrifice and atonement were written into the Chinese language.

If you never heard Billy Graham speak, or if you rejected his message in the past, here it is in a nutshell: Steps to Peace.

Don't listen to what "they" say

The featured quote on today's (where a cup of rice is donated to the hungry around the world each time you visit the site and click the button) featured Carl Lewis today:
Scientists have proven that it's impossible to long-jump 30 feet, but I don't listen to that kind of talk. Thoughts like that have a way of sinking into your feet.
The photo, by our friend Ava Parkes, is of Lewis when he spoke at the Beijing International Christian Fellowship while we were there during the Olympics. I got to perform 15 minutes from Beyond the Chariots during their first two services that morning. Then, Lewis closed the third service, dubbed Evening with the Stars, after about a dozen Olympic champions spoke.

The service, which was approved by the Chinese government, was broadcast all over the world.

Lewis was named by peers "the greatest athlete of the 20th century," a title which can never be taken away! His quote is encouraging on so many fronts, but having just come from teaching a drama ministry class at North Greenville University I hope it encourages those of us called to the arts that nothing but a different calling should keep us from doing what we've been created to do. In this financial climate it can be a scary proposition, but what's the worst that can happen? Poverty? A huge majority of the world's population lives in poverty. I've met people in some very poor nations: Bolivia (the poorest country in South America), Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and The Philippines. Most of the people in those nations have as much or more joy than people I've met in the US and Europe.

I'm not saying that we should let the poor stay joyfully hungry! I've partnered with Compassion to do what I can to bring an end to world poverty.

Neither am I saying that a calling to drama ministry is going to automatically lead to poverty. Joyce and I have been debt free all of our married lives. I'm just saying poverty is not something to fear, especially when we're working for a Boss that owns the cattle on a thousand hills.

By the way, Lewis never disproved the scientists about the 30' barrier in the long jump, but he came within ten inches of it. I doubt he would have come that close if he listened to those scientists.

A church in Tigerville, SC

I'm within a few miles of where they filmed Leatherheads.

I just had a great session with North Greenville University's Drama Ministry class, then passed this sign that sums it all up pretty well.

The Bible Incorporated

While rehearsing last month for A Clear Leading I had misplaced the little Bible that I use as a prop, so I searched our shelves for something that was about that size. I came across The Bible Incorporated, Into Your Life, Job And Business. Joyce had it before we married, so I'd never looked into it before. Each day has a devotional on a subject, such as "The Key to Endurance." The text is made up entirely of several different passages of scripture woven together to address the topic. I set out to read through the Bible each year, and this has been a refreshing way to approach scripture. This would also be a great way to introduce someone to scripture who doesn't know where to start.

Article in Gaffney Ledger

Actor Rich Swingle to perform Feb. 9 at Limestone College
Gaffney Ledger (subscription) - Gaffney,SC,USA
Christian actor Rich Swingle will present The Acts on Monday,
Feb. 9, at 7 pm in Carroll Recital Hall at Limestone College.
The Acts tells the story of the ...


Joyce and I were delightfully surprised by this charmer. It's a futuristic Noah tale, filled with hope and a dove bringing back an olive leaf.

The Acts in South Carolina

I'll be performing my one-man play, The Acts, in South Carolina this weekend:

For more on The Acts and to view clips from the show, visit .

Hope to see you there!

Transforming Culture: A Model for Faith and Film in Hollywood

I just spoke with Christine Gunn-Danforth. We were connected by Ken Wales, who thinks very highly of her. She spoke so passionately about how performing arts and media can effect the culture that I just had to order her book: Transforming Culture: A Model for Faith and Film in Hollywood.

Super ESB

The Empire State Building is displaying the colors of the Steelers on two sides and the Cardinals on the other. Tomorrow they'll celebrate the winner.

My heart was warmed

I just performed at a retirement center in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The chaplain told me that the people would bless me, but I had no idea! They were so generous in their encouragement that I sensed the Lord's pleasure.