Sunday, April 30, 2017

Remain In Fellowship – Remain Ready

In this service at Westchester Chapel I open the service and introduce the short films A Matter of Perspective and One Day. I also mention Twin Rocks Friends Camp and the Joni and Friends performance that put me in touch with the filmmakers of A Matter of Perspective.

Rachel Taylor teaches on Matthew 24:36-44 and Genesis 6. Dr. Linda Warren prays over the message and over Joyce and my trip to Orlando for the International Christian Film Festival where both films are up for Best Short Film, Best Director and Best Lead Actor. One Day is also nominated for Best Screenplay. Dr. Linda also shares announcements.

Click the arrow below, or if you're reading this in an email you can click this link, to play the service:



This service is available for download free on iTunes, where you can also subscribe to our podcast. Search for "Westchester Chapel" on the iTunes Store.

If you want to more about starting a relationship with Jesus Christ visit www.WestchesterChapel.org/Salvation.

Photo courtesy of NicolettiPhoto.com.

I play a lead in Providence, which you can bring to your area.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Pure Flix Is Getting Attention

The New York Times just did a front page of the SundayStyles section article on Pure Flix: Seeing, and Streaming, Is Believing. Though the title of the article is having fun with the subject, the article is quite fair-minded. 

If I missed one please post it in a comment below. Thanks!

I play a lead in Providence, though it's not yet on PureFlix.com you can bring to your area.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The High School Final

Joyce and I with Cindy on a recent
visit she took to NYC.
Since about 1994 I've been performing in public schools through the invitation of Cindy Sebring.

That year I drove (back when I tried to keep a car in NYC) down to the DC area for a Christians in Theatre Arts conference. I remember the rain was also driving, and my windshield wipers weren't staying up with the volume. I ended up getting there in the middle of a performance by Frank Runyon, the third one-man play I'd seen, after Curt Cloninger and Roger Nelson. A gentleman in the back of the auditorium welcomed me, and after the performance we struck up a conversation. He knew some folks at the Lamb's Church of the Nazarene where I was an intern at the time. He asked me where I was staying, and I told him I hadn't figured that out yet. I didn't tell him, but I was hoping someone would give me a place to stay so I wouldn't have to spend a significant percentage of my savings on a hotel! He invited me to stay with his family, and to join them on Sunday at their church. 

That Sunday I met Cindy. Soon I was invited to perform at a retreat that church was hosting. Cindy offered to drive me to the retreat from DC. 

Soon after the retreat started Friday evening I told the pastor who would be preaching Sunday morning that I'd be happy to write a fresh piece to go with his sermon, but he didn't know what passage he'd be using. At about 10pm Saturday night he said he'd be preaching on John:15:1-17, about the Vine and the Branches. I stayed up until about 3am writing (and rehearsing) The Legend of Billy Branch, which came with some musical interludes. I discovered the next morning that Cindy's room was next to mine and she heard me singing as I rehearsed the piece! 

I'm pretty sure it was on that trip, despite her loss of sleep, that Cindy invited me to perform and teach workshops at her public high school for the first time. In those 23 years she only invited me if her classes were well-behaved, but there weren't many years I missed. 

I just returned from my final performance for her students. She is retiring in a couple of months. It was a very special trip, because these opportunities have been priceless.

This time around I performed The Fall, my one-act piece based on the novel Les Misérables. I shared it with three classes, and after each I followed up with a sociodrama. The first one was short, so I just based it on Les Miz. I engaged them in an exercise which allowed them to express the most valuable thing to them. The winning vote was, interestingly enough, food. My one-act revolves around the bishop forgiving Jean Valjean for stealing his silver, after which the bishop gives him his silver candlesticks. In our scenario the bishop character was a homeless man. Jean Valjean stole his pizza. A police officer brought him back, but Jean Valjean said, "If he stole from a homeless man he must really need the pizza more than I do," at which point he gave him a $5. All of this came from the students. 

The other two classes had just read Fahrenheit 451, a novel about censorship. The title is the temperature at which paper burns. The main character is a fireman, meaning he sets fire to books. I told them some of the discoveries we've made visiting Cuba, ChinaRussia, and two borders of North Korea

The first of those two classes did a sociodrama based on a student who was told by his parents that if he didn't cut his hair he would not be allowed to cut his hair until after he graduated from high school in a couple of years. Afterward I drew from another story they'd read: Death of a Salesman. I pointed out that Willy Loman drew his identity in part from his son, Biff. Tim Keller uses this as an illustration in a sermon on the Breastplate of Righteousness. Then I pointed out that parents who, regardless of motives, have the right to raise their children in the ways they think best, but dictators controlling what their people are able to read and say is a very different thing. 

The last class also brought up a parental scenario, but I brought up the difference between parents and dictators right up front. The students ended up exploring a world in which it was no longer legal for us to speak to people outside of our nation. The main character was on the phone with a friend in Russia. The police knocked on her door and told her they discovered that she was on an international call. She hid her phone, but the police did a sweep of her home and discovered a computer, which the enactors decided in the moment was also illegal. She complained that she had purchased the computer when it was legal to have one. One of the officers told her she should have thrown it out the window when the law was passed. (I pointed out that this was an SAT word posted in the halls of their school: "defenestrate.") In the end the young woman was able to escape with her hidden phone. I asked them if Fahrenheit 451 felt more real after living through a similar scenario. There was an overwhelming agreement that the sociodrama had helped make it more real. 

I hope there will be other opportunities to share my plays and workshops in public schools, so if you know of a teacher who might be open send him or her to www.RichDrama.com


A Clear Leading, one of the plays I've shared at Cindy's school, tells the story of Quaker abolitionist John Woolman, who spoke against slavery a century before our Civil War.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Fellowship: Turn to the One Who Knows Your Name

Joyce teaches on John 20:1-18, and she shares one of her funniest stories from her corporate career! Pastor Jim Warren opens the service with "Happy Resurrection Day" in the numerous languages of our congregation, and Pastor Linda Warren prays over the children and the sermon.

Click the arrow below, or if you're reading this in an email you can click this link, to play the service:



This service is available for download free on iTunes, where you can also subscribe to our podcast. Search for "Westchester Chapel" on the iTunes Store.

We opened with Don Francisco's "He's Alive!" This rendition begins with Don talking about his process of writing the song...



If you want to more about starting a relationship with Jesus Christ visit www.WestchesterChapel.org/Salvation.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday: Abandonment to the Cross

Linda with Joyce and I just
before the turn of the century.
Tonight Dr. Linda Warren taught on Matthew 27 and Psalm 22:1-11, and as an analogy she shared how she came to the Lord. I was sobbing and sobbing, because she's the one who led Joyce to the Lord when they worked together at Sports Illustrated.

The opening is by Pastor Jim Warren. Readings from Matthew 27 by Pastor Linda, Elizabeth J., myself, and John C.



Click the arrow below, or if you're reading this in an email you can click this link, to play the service:

This service is available for download free on iTunes, where you can also subscribe to our podcast. Search for "Westchester Chapel" on the iTunes Store.

If you want to more about starting a relationship with Jesus Christ visit www.WestchesterChapel.org/Salvation.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Maundy Thursday Fellowship

At our service tonight I read excerpts from Psalm 78.

Pastor Rachel Taylor leads us in remembering the Lord's Last Supper with his disciples. Kimberly A. reads Luke 22:7-13. Tamara W. Reads Luke 22:14-20.

Click the arrow below, or if you're reading this in an email you can click this link, to play the service:



This service is available for download free on iTunes, where you can also subscribe to our podcast. Search for "Westchester Chapel" on the iTunes Store.

If you want to more about starting a relationship with Jesus Christ visit www.WestchesterChapel.org/Salvation.

Photo courtesy of NicolettiPhoto.com.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Written on a Palm Branch

In this morning's service at Westchester Chapel Dr. Linda Warren shares a story about how she wrote Joyce's name on a palm branch on a Palm Sunday about 25 years ago. It brought me to tears! Pastor Jim Warren preaches on John 12:12-19, with readings from John 11:23-27, 12:1-11, Zechariah 9:9, 12, and Matthew 11:28-30. He mentions The Case for Christ, which is in theaters now. Read my review here. Opening and commissioning of our new evangelism program, Mission Accomplish by Dr. Linda. Joyce prays over the leaders of our new evangelism program, Mission Accomplish.

Click the arrow below, or if you're reading this in an email you can click this link, to play the service:



This service is available for download free on iTunes, where you can also subscribe to our podcast. Search for "Westchester Chapel" on the iTunes Store.

Here's the trailer for The Case for Christ, preceded by an introduction by Lee Strobel and followed by an interview with him.



If you want to more about starting a relationship with Jesus Christ visit www.WestchesterChapel.org/Salvation.


Saturday, April 08, 2017

The Case for Christ

At the
AMC Empire on Times Square.
This is my new favorite movie, and that's only changed twice since 1981: Chariots of Fire and Risen are the only ones to have held that place in my heart since junior high.

The Case for Christ tells the true story of how Lee Strobel, a hard-boiled, award-winning investigative journalist for the Chicago Tribune set his skills on debunking the resurrection of Jesus Christ to convince his wife to abandon her newfound love for the Lord.

Acting, writing (Brian Bird: Captive, Touched by an Angel), cinematography (Brian Shanley: God's Not Dead, Do You Believe?) are all top shelf. Nothing cheesy about this one, and major papers are agreeing with that.

The worst The Hollywood Reporter could do was imply that the film stereotyped Lee Strobel as an atheist by showing him 'constantly acting like a jerk, including drinking heavily, accidentally terrifying his little girl, and whining to Leslie (his wife), "You’re cheating on me with Jesus!"' Maybe the reviewer missed the fact that this is a biography based on Lee's life.

My wife, Joyce, who was going to journalism school in Chicago when Lee Strobel was writing at the Chicago Tribune, said it was more accurate to say that those actions stereotyped Chicago journalists of the time. She said you had to be tough to make it.

The reviewer goes on to say that Leslie, 'on the other hand, displays infinite love and patience with her husband, proving that — as was also shown in the faith-based film War Room — Jesus makes an ideal marriage counselor.' I know the validity of Erika Christensen's portrayal of Leslie, because part of my own bride Joyce's testimony is that one of her co-workers said, about a year after Joyce gave her life to the Lord, that Joyce's changed life was the first miracle the woman had ever seen.

Also, the reviewer is leaving out the fact that both lead actors are much more nuanced than his review implies. Lee is very caring and loving at times, and it's clear that his investigation into the resurrection of Jesus Christ is an attempt to save what he perceives to be a crumbling marriage. He is deeply moved when he discovers something he didn't know about his father, played by Robert Forster. On the other side, Leslie certainly expresses the pain Lee is causing her through his attacks on Christianity, she raises her voice in numerous scenes, and at one point kicks Lee out for the night.

Forster's single scene was like an espresso: short but with a lot of punch. Another gem of a cameo was Faye Dunaway, playing another skeptic, but one who reluctantly directs him toward Truth.

One of the charming elements of the film is the detailing of the 80s: He drives a Trans Am with his massive mop flopping over his wide collars. He and his wife have worked out code for his pager. A fast call back to the editor is from a creatively marked pay phone. He pops open a flip top soda can. (I whispered to Joyce: "Hope that didn't take too many takes!") And my favorite: "How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie-Pop? The world may never know."

At the end of the day that's how Lee Strobel's atheist friend, aptly played by Brett Rice, puts it to him. We'll never know everything. It takes faith to believe or not to believe. If you're leaning toward disbelief I challenge you to see this film without presuppositions. If you still have questions read the book of the same title upon which the film is based. I have more ideas about faith at www.RichDrama.com/MyPassion.

I believe The Case for Christ is pure Truth in its best package yet.

We watched it in a packed house on Times Square, where it received robust applause. The showing after ours was sold out.

Find out if it's playing near you.

It's rated PG for images of the crucifixion, some smoking, drinking and a hospital scene of an injured gang member. At one point a character whispers, "Oh, G_d," and it's unclear whether it's a prayer.



I play a lead in Providence, which you can bring to your area.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Fellowship and Servanthood

Elizabeth J. in the Moses Seat at in the
ruins of Chorazin, Israel, flanked by 
Rebekah W. and Anna S. 
in 2005.
I opened this service at Westchester Chapel mentioning The Hill family, who produced A Matter of Perspective, in which I performed last summer. Pastor Randy Solomon preaches on Matthew 23:1-12. He mentions the film Sing Over Me and shares an illustration from The Insanity of God. Joyce shares about films currently in theaters: Facing Darkness and The Case for Christ (trailer below).

Click the arrow below, or if you're reading this in an email you can click this link, to play the service:



This service is available for download free on iTunes, where you can also subscribe to our podcast. Search for "Westchester Chapel" on the iTunes Store.

If you want to more about starting a relationship with Jesus Christ visit www.WestchesterChapel.org/Salvation.