My very favorite work is to partner with my bride in ministry! Today we got to join forces in a really cool way. Through Scripture and teaching we took Westchester Chapel Church of the Nazarene through the Book of John to show how Jesus is the Light of the World, the Lamb of God, the Bread of Life and the Hope of the World. Through this experiential exploration, we are led to an understanding of how the Lord became everything to us to save us from ourselves and deepen our relationship with Him. The service is divided with songs that were picked to highlight each teaching.
Joyce and I saw a screener of the film and really loved it! Our friend and colleague, Bev Holloway (Beyond the Mask, I Can Only Imagine, Mom's Night Out) was the casting director, and she put together a great family. Shari plays Gladys Staines opposite Stephen Baldwin (105 credits on IMDb). Both do a brilliant job of bringing this couple to life and showing their peace in the presence of persecution. The screenwriter has framed the atrocity at the heart of the film in a very intriguing way. We see it unfold through the eyes of a journalist who is trying to find evidence that supports his viewpoint. So it feels relevant in an era of fake news. This important story is being told in theaters February 1 with a special showing January 31. Find a theater near you: www.TheLeastOfThese.movie.
Shari's talk for NYMI was outstanding! She shared some personal trials she and her family have gone through, and she said as Christians we shouldn't cringe when we face battles because it's an opportunity to take ground for the Lord. She said we are created and called to take ground for the Kingdom of God, and Jesus the Warrior is by our side when we walk in obedience. She shared that in the midst of her family's trials she heard a sermon on Joshua leading the Israelites to circle the city of Jericho six times, and on the seventh they blew their trumpets and the walls came down. I've personally seen those crumbled walls, and archeologists have found the corner where Rahab's home was kept secure. But that day Shari didn't want to hear another sermon on Joshua. The Lord urged her not to just look at the march and the fall, but to look at what led up to it. She remembered Joshua's obedience to speak an honest report about the Promised Land in the face of the majority of the spies who were cowards. He was obedient to take over when Moses died. He was obedient to lead the way across the stopped-up Jordan River. And when the Lord appeared to him in human form (one of many evidences of the Trinity), Joshua worshipped Him. It was Joshua's life of obedience that paved the way for the miraculous wall fall.
Shari's obedience was to go back to her beginnings. She charted a map of all the connections that got her where she is today, starting back to her childhood. When she looked at the map it was so clear to her that the Lord had a hand in it all! She urged us not to get wrapped up in doing projects that make us famous. Every December she prays for stories to tell in the coming year that will make Jesus Christ famous. When we operate in obedience to his call on our lives the walls will fall, and He will get the glory.
The Fathom Event
I watched the Fathom Event on January 31, and I was moved all over again! It was followed by an interview with Shari and world-renowned apologist, Ravi Zacharias.
Shari talked about working in the presence of real lepers in one of the actual Leper Homes the Staines had run. She said that when one of them raised her foot for Shari to work on it the smell of death was in the room. She ran off camera to her husband, who encouraged her. They prayed, and when she went back to the set she smelled a fragrant aroma she knew was the Holy Spirit. Others on set commented on it, too.
Shari loved working with the three Australian children, who were actually siblings in real life! She was grateful that they were helping her with her accent!
When the interviewer, Krish Dhanam, asked Shari what she would say if Gladys Staines was in the room, Shari broke down weeping. She said she would thank Gladys for such a profound act of forgiveness.
Ravi thanked the filmmakers for shining the light on the good that Christians are doing in India, and have been doing for hundreds of years. He said that the story of forgiveness is a picture of what Christ did. All forgiveness requires sacrifice, and we saw that so profoundly through this story, but Jesus Christ forgave all of humanity. What a price! What a reward! All who call on Him will be saved.
I got to perform in For the Glory and The Screenwriters with Jason Burkey, who performed in October Baby with Shari. The photo shows us in our 1940's duds covered up for a meal on the set of The Screenwriters.
I was grieved to discover that my friend, mentor and colleague, Roger Nelson, has gone home to be with his Savior.
I was honored to read some of Roger's favorite Scripture passages and lead two of his favorite hymns at his memorial service on March 2, 2019.
You can see the whole Pasadena Memorial Service at www.A1ManPlay.com/roger-tribute, where you can leave a tribute. It's the first memorial you come to. I read some of Roger's favorite Scriptures and lead a couple of his favorite hymns at 9:25 and 1:05:20. That service is followed by the Covenant Shores Memorial Service.
If you don't have time to read the whole letter, here's my favorite passage:
During his final days Roger's sister, Joan, visited him daily. Though Roger slipped in and out of
consciousness, Joan observed many encouraging signs that he was "in touch" with the Lord. Joan shared
that a few days before his death she observed one of Roger's Christian nurses praying fervently at his
bedside. As the nurse left the room Joan heard Roger whisper a faint "Hallelujah."
In the course of his 37-year career he gave about 1,800 performances of his one-man plays in 32 countries on six continents and all 50 states, including venues like Carnegie Hall, the Pasadena Playhouse, Shakespeare Centre at Stratford-Upon-Avon, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Stratford Festival Theatre in Canada, Oxford University, and Wesley's Chapel in London. Other international performances included the following cities: Adelaide, Athens, Bangkok, Belfast, Berchtesgaden, Bonn, Brisbane, Cairo, Canberra, Caracas, Dubai, Dublin, Geneva, Glasgow, Guatemala City, Heidelberg, Jerusalem, Kuwait City, Livorno, Melbourne, New Delhi, Nurnberg, Panama City, Paris, Perth, Port of Spain, Prague, San Jose (Costa Rica), Singapore, Sydney, Tel Aviv, and many others.
We shouldn't be surprised by his productive career. At the bottom of each of his newsletters he reminded us to pray for The Five S's: Safe travel, Stamina, Solid relationships, Sterling performances, and Souls. Those prayers were answered again and again!
Roger is the second person I ever saw perform a one-man play. It was The Man from Aldersgate, about John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, in 1993 at a Christians in Theatre Arts conference in Vancouver, B.C. I was trying to decide whether to move to New York City. That conference and Roger's performance were instrumental in my decision to move from our 70-acre farm in Oregon to an 8.5' x 11' room on Times Square, a move I'll never regret.
The next summer, Roger stayed at the Lamb's Church, where I was an intern at the time. When I told Roger how much I appreciated The Man from Aldersgate, he told me that he had attended the Lamb's Church years earlier, when the founding pastor, Paul Moore, told Roger of a dream he'd had in which Roger was John Wesley. Roger asked Rev. Moore, "Does he play for the Mets?" But Roger took the dream seriously and had a script written. He performed that play thousands of times all over the world.
Roger allowed me to sit in on a rehearsal of the second one-man play he was just starting to perform, The Confession of St. Patrick. I got to shadow him for a performance, help him set up his merchandise table, see how carefully his show was designed to fit in a suitcase, watch him put on his beard and makeup.
I asked him endless questions, and he always answered graciously and candidly. At some point during that conversation he mentioned the year he quit his day job. I quit mine the next year, and I've never looked back. The Lord used Roger's inspiration to launch my career with one-man plays, and I'm eternally grateful.
Roger and I kept in touch, and in 2004 (I think), he set up a staged reading of a rough draft of Beyond the Chariots, my at-that-time brand new one-man play that tells the rest of the Chariots of Fire story. It was at William Carey International University, and it was such a huge encouragement to share the story of a missionary with future missionaries. I loved having Roger there as I set up!
In 2006 Roger approached me about teaming up to rent an Off-Broadway theatre to perform our plays in rotation. We selected The Man from Aldersgate and Beyond the Chariots, and we called it Fire Off-Broadway, drawing upon the imagery of the flame in the symbol for the Methodist Church and Chariots of Fire. What a thrill to collaborate with the man who was such a huge inspiration to me!
My last visit in-person with Roger was in 2016 when I was in L.A. for a booking. We got together and watched one of the World Series games: Cleveland Indians vs. The Chicago Cubs. He liked the Cubs even more than the Mets, so he was really in it! During one of the commercials something reminded him of a production in his youth that he regretted being a part of. We prayed together to renounce it and break any hold it continued to have over him. It was a beautiful moment as my mentor was showing the way to an even deeper walk with the Lord, and inviting me to help him take that journey.
Looking forward to our next collaboration in Glory!
Patterns of Evidence: Exodus was shown in theaters nationwide a couple of years ago, and Joyce and I saw it on Times Square. Many of the archeologists the filmmaker interviewed deny any evidence of The Exodus, but [SPOILER ALERT] others point out that there is an abundance of evidence: a small (empty*) pyramid tomb with a statue of a non-egyptian wearing a multi-colored coat and surrounded by 11 graves, an entire settlement of semitic people that was clearly abandoned in a hurry, a papyrus document (Ipuwer's "Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage") describing blood in the water and everyone burying someone. All of these are discounted by many scholars because they don't fit the established timeline, or -- as Egyptologist, Maarten Raven PhD, says about Ipuwer -- "He couldn't have seen it. He must have imagined it." In other words, the document can't support miracles because miracles don't happen. Those of us who have experienced countless miracles don't have this presupposition. If we lived in an intellectually honest society this film would have made the front page of every newspaper in the country. The filmmaker shows that there is evidence the timeline really does line up with Scripture. Patterns of Evidence: Exodusis now available, and watch for their next film, Patterns of Evidence: The Moses Controversy.
*The coffin is empty, which lines up with Joseph's request in Genesis 50:25-26: "Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” So Joseph died, being 110 years old. They embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt." That request is confirmed in Exodus 13:19: "Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.”
Take a moment to think of people who encouraged you to get where you are today. See their faces? Now thank yourself for accepting their encouragement!
A recent New York Times article by Micaela Marini Higgs titled,"How to Accept a Compliment — Even if It's From Yourself," explores how "meaningfulpraise can measurably boost motivation and performanceand can improve your brain's ability to remember and repeat new skills." The catch? We're not wired to give or receive praise! Cited in the article, Dr. Kristin Neff, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, says, "...our brains are designed to look for problems."
An exercise we sometimes share in our training is called, "Observation/Compliment." It addresses what happens to us humans when we're asked to give and receive praise. One of the rules is that participants are asked to keep their hands at their sides when receiving the compliments. It's a lot harder than you think becausewe're so programmed to deflect complimentslike Wonder Woman blocking bullets! So, the next time someone compliments you, let it in and enjoy.
Now, it's one thing to learn to receive praise, but offering encouragement can be just as big of a game changer.
Offeringhonest, positive and specific feedbackcan transform your workplace. How? Because people do more of the things they're praised for. Let's be real – we spend more time with our co-workers than we do our families, so why not make an effort to create a positive experience for everyone? The next time you need to give someone input,lead with sharing what they did well. By starting with praise, it shuts their inner critic down and immediately gives their brain that positive boost of the good stuff, leading the way for improvement. Isn't that what we want for ourselves and our colleagues — and our family members for that matter?
Here are some suggestions on how to offer praise in a way that can help transform your environment at work and at home:
Highlight What Went Well:If your team had a rough presentation or meeting, make sure you spend enough time focusing on what went well. In the article, Higgs says, "Small setbacks can have a negative impact three to four times stronger than the triumph of a small win..." So, bring in the positive stuff big-time!
Give Constructive Feedback:When you lead with praise, giving necessary constructive feedback tends to be more graciously received and appreciated.
Be Consistent:If you're consistent with offering praise to someone, that person will be more likely to come to you for input and feedback. Remember, you have to offer honest compliments; no blowing smoke!
Encouragement is just so good! It has the power to move you and your colleagues to greatness. Let it flow! -- Rich You can read the full Big Bold News here.
We were greeted with my favorite verse, which Morgan remembered from Film Camp and wrote in calligraphy on a card!
I'm playing the role of the father of a young woman played by Joanna Ferbrache (Celebrity Confessions), who is being seduced by my character's arch nemesis, played by Andrew Hurt (Polycarp, "One Day"). I'm also serving as acting and accent coach. We've set it in Florida in the late 30s, so the cast (and some of the crew) were speaking in Southern accents all week. One of them said to me, "I don't know if I'll be able to stop talking like this when we leave!" We were all having a ton of fun in the Florida sun!
On Day Two I got to drive this 193 Chevrolet nicknamed "Ethel," and it was an AMAZING experience!
The production value has been astonishing! The cars, costumes, furniture, and especially the locations, almost all donated in order to help tell the Lord's truths in film. It's going to look like a much more expensive production than it is.