Saturday, June 30, 2007

Actor Joe - An Update

I have gotten five callbacks from my last six auditions. Generally they have narrowed it down to 5-20 people by that point. Here's the thing though - I have missed ALL FIVE callbacks. I missed one because I was filming something in San Diego, another because I was working on my film project in Las Vegas and another while traveling. Earlier this week I was out of town and missed one on Monday and another on Tuesday, which I thought I would get to, but my flight was delayed 36 hours from Ohio.

My new agent has to think that I am this strangely talented flake. (Meaning the only thing stranger than 5 out of 6 callbacks is not being available for them when they come around.) The hardest thing about being a professional actor is that 95% of us have to do something else to survive, but everyone we work with wants us to be available at any moment. It creates a constant psychological unease that is hard to explain.

My film project (Hitting the Nuts) continues to progress and is bigger than anyone thought it would be. This is good on all counts, except that things are moving more slowly than when it was a smaller project. We are taking our time to find the right cast, etc. It will happen, but we aren't sure when it will shoot. Like most of my life, it is up in the air waiting to land...

This week I have thought constantly of Henri Nouwen's idea that the opposite of faith is fear. With so much uncertainly in my life, I am tempted to settle into a fearful place, but faitfulness compels me to desire courage and patience.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ten days may have been a little aggressive

Some people have been asking about my reading experiment mentioned in the last blog. At the official end of the ten days I was wrapping up Isaiah. I made it through around 1,100 of a little less than 2,000 pages in the Bible I have been using. At this rate I should finish up in a week or so. The whole point was to immerse myself in the story and I was able to accomplish that. I found myself talking to people about Asherah Poles and the Year of Jubilee out of nowhere - to their great excitement I am sure. It has certainly saturated my mind in a different way than more "realistic" reading plans have done for me in the past.

I have hundreds of fragmented thoughts that only grow as I start to slug through the major prophets. I must say that the closer I get to Matthew, the more it feels like a kid waiting for Christmas Day to arrive. I can't wait to meet Jesus on the back end of this journey. That is what sustains me when Isaiah starts repeating himself or I read the endless proverbs about how prosititutes are a waste of money.

So yeah, I just realized that I am kind of waiting for Christmas Day, huh? The first one.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


The best things of life are really only learned through immersion. Drowning in something is always the best way to learn about it - assuming, you know, that you don't actually die in the process. For example, I had four years of Spanish classes in high school and another year in college. The problem is that I still can't really speak Spanish. I normally can't understand it either when someone speaks to me. I can sort of read it - I can usually understand two of every three words and put the rest together like a puzzle.

If I really wanted to learn Spanish there is only one guarenteed way - to move to Mexico or another Spanish speaking nation and actually live there. I'm sure my Spanish would improve exponentially as I tried to swim (stay alive, not drown) in a new culture.

Five days ago I decided that I would immerse myself in the Bible in a new way. I decided to plow through at a somewhat reckless speed to see what I felt like on the other end. I don't think this is the best way to study it, nor do I think it is the best way to meditate on it. However, it may be the best way to drown in it. I set a goal of ten days to finish. I have certainly read other books of that length in ten days, so I am not sure why it feels so difficult. Today is day five and I have just finished 1 Samuel. (I'm behind schedule, but I do have a four hour flight scheduled on day ten, which is my Ace in the hole.) I have to say that from Adam to Saul the story is really bloody, often harsh and filled with strange supersticious activities. It is exceedingly clear that Yhwh does whatever he wants, to whomever he wants, for whatever reason he wants. He kills a lot of people and everytime he does, I recoil from him. His people cannot seem to ever be faithful to him regardless of what he does and that bothers me too. The heroes are, for the most part, a little prickly and severly flawed. It is without doubt the story of a god who claims to be The God and his people, a homeless nation called Israel. I find it interesting that The God seems to care a whole lot more about menstration, poop and fungus than other things. He doesn't seem to be overly concerned at all with monogamy, for instance. I told my wife this and she stared at me like she tends to do when I get like this. He does seem to care a lot for displaced foreigners, barren women and oppressed people.

Today I came upon David and he feels a little different than the others. He seems to be experimenting with grace, particularly toward some of his enemies which has gotten me all excited and ready to be a pacifist again. He also seems to be trying to love Yhwh instead of just trying to obey him. I find that interesting as well.

I'll shoot you an update in a few days somewhere in the Psalms or Prophets. It is strange that I know exactly what is ahead of me, but I have been ruthless with myself in reading the text as if for the first time with new eyes to see the story in a new way. Here's hoping for some great new revelation in five and a half days...if not, maybe just the joy of having drowned in a collection of 66 unique ancient texts and being able to live to tell about it.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Happy 8th Birthday, Eli!

A Blessing on Your Birthday:

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons
bring the best to you.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Improvisation as Spiritual Reality

I am an improviser. This is my primary identity as an artist. I am an improviser before I am an actor, writer, director or producer. I believe in the rules of improv:

1. "Yes/And" - Always agree to what your partner says and add something to the story.
2. Listening is more important than talking.
3. Be Selfless.
4. Find the game...and play it.
5. Help your partner.

I believe in improv as an artform because I also believe the above rules work amazingly well in every area of life. I think they are spiritual.

I just finished reading a little book by Mark Batterson called In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. At one point he claims that improvisation is foundational to a life of faith. In essense, that faith teaches us to improvise through life more than giving us the "script" for a perfect existense.

I had another thought today in that regard. We took the kids down to Newport Beach after dinner and spent an hour or so walking around. I was captivated by the birds (sea gulls?) that hover above the ocean and then dive nose first at full speed into the water to catch a fish. I had this thought that "that's what they do." I thought of other animals and how all animals do something special and beautiful like that. I quickly found myself thinking about what an outsider would look at the human animal and say "that's what they do." (This is all going on in my head as my kids are throwing sand at each other and annoying tourists...) I looked around and watched us - all of us humans. We were surfing, sun bathing, fishing, running, selling and buying. I saw the residue that we leave behind - beach houses, pizza shops, volleyball nets, boardwalks, hotels, parking lots, etc. It occured to me that we, the human animal, improvise. It's simply what we do. We take all of the things that the birds ignore while they finish their scripted lives and we do something else with them. We turn trees into piers, cotton plants into string bikinis, cacti and limes into margaritas, stones into sidewalks and metal into massive moving motor vehicles. We don't adapt to our environment so much as we adapt our enironment. We create. We improvise. Why? Because that's just what we do. But why is that what we do?

Because...In the beginning God improvised....and then he grabbed a chunk of dirt and improvised something in his own image. He created a community of improvisers and said YES, AND be fruitful and multiply.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Rich Mullins meets Youtube

A few months from now will be the tenth anniversary of the death of a friend. When we knew each other I was a teenageer and he was about the age I am now. I can't say that we were great friends but he always remembered my name and the names of my friends. He would spend a few weeks every year with my group of friends and we would just hang out, ski, and sing together. I believe that he subconsciously influenced what I believe about God more than any other teacher of my youth. I stumbled upon all of the same authors that influenced him shortly after his death. I would doubt that one week of my life has gone by without listening to his music. It is my heart music. Deb used to make fun of me for listening to his early eighties albums because they are full of cheezy organs and are rather poorly produced. They haven't held up so well, but the lyrics generally have.

Rich Mullins was the first Rebel Pilgrim that I ever met. He had issues, but he had perspective. He loved the poor and he loved being with us kids more than the adults. He gave most of his money away and wasn't afraid to let God change his views. He smelled like incense and rarely bathed. I miss him and my biggest regret is that he died before I could have one last talk with him to let him know that I finally understand what he was always trying to teach me.

I found Rich on youtube tonight. You can look him up there too. It was emotional to see him again and a little odd to see how similar I have become to him as a teacher. Here's ten minutes of vintage Rich for you. He speaking to a group of evangelical Christians in Texas. It's fun to watch him masterfully critique them while they laugh as if he is kidding. Enjoy...

Saturday, June 02, 2007

So, It's June...

I started a new Lifelines series going through the book of James tonight. I think I made it through about five verses in 45 minutes, so we may be there for a while. I have come to enjoy teaching more of late. It has been a constant in my life through the years regardless of whatever else I may be doing.

It has certainly been the slowest season yet as an actor. I haven't had an audition for a few weeks. I haven't gotten out yet with my new agent, but TV has shut down for the summer and things tend to slow down. I'm not really discouraged about it, but it is obviously slower. Things with my own project continue to grow and morph. It ebbs and flows on a daily basis. By all accounts it is in a good place, however uncertain at the moment.

The kids have less than three weeks of school and then summer will be upon us. I am happy for them, though it makes our day to day schedules much more unpredictable when they are home. Eli turns eight in two weeks, which is insane. I made the biggest decision of my life when I was eight and it formed me into who I am will be fun to see what this year holds for him.