Not a Kid Thing

Over the weekend, I was busy playing for the local community college’s production of “All Shook Up”.  If you are new to my blog, I am a SERIOUS musical theater junkie – acting, directing, playing, working on stage crew, whatever.    I love ALL of it.  (If you aren’t new, you already knew this!)  A friend stopped me during my pre-show preparation one day because she wanted to ask me a question.  This friend works with a campus ministry and we have interacted a handful of times in the past few years.  She made one small disclaimer before asking her question:

“You may need to think about this and get back to me, but what needs to change in churches to make our “arts” kids feel more welcome?”

The thing is, I didn’t need to think about it.  Not even for a moment.

“A passion and talent for the performing arts is a part of the divine fingerprint.  We need to stop treating musicians and actors as though their passion – in some cases a lifelong passion – is something they should and will eventually outgrow.”

I explained further and after chewing on it for a few more days, I’m sharing my thoughts here.

My passion for the theater is not a phase I’m going through. It’s not something I will eventually get over or outgrow.  I am the truest form of me that you can possibly know when I am in the throes of the latest production.  The only other venue that comes close is singing or playing the piano.  And I want those things to be done well.  Very well.  Excellently even.  But many churches do not include any kind of drama in their services on any kind of regular basis.  And just as many churches don’t give much thought or preparation to the music that is included in the Sunday morning gathering.  When someone like me questions it, I usually get the same answer.  “We’re doing it for Jesus.  That’s what matters.  It doesn’t have to be amazing.”

That attitude breaks my heart. And I have a sneaking suspicion it breaks the heart of God as well.  Cain brought less than his best and God wouldn’t accept it.  In I Chronicles 9:33 we read “Those who were musicians, heads of Levite families, stayed in the rooms of the temple and were exempt from other duties because they were responsible for the work day and night.”  Just let that simmer in your brain for a minute.  High quality music in the temple was such a high priority that musicians were appointed from the Levites, the tribe of the priesthood, and their ONLY job was to prepare said music.  Compare that with the attitude found in many churches today where we just wing it and expect God to accept whatever happens regardless of whether or not it was our very best.

I am very aware that this sounds like a rant.  But maybe . . . just maybe . . . the time that I spend in performing arts events with the youth – in middle school through college – in our community is just so I can show them that there ARE people like me in churches.  People who value the performing arts and want to see them done excellently as a part of the weekly gathering of the body.  And maybe . . . just maybe . . . I’ll help some in the church understand that a commitment to excellence in the arts is a calling, not just a childish hobby.

Design and Function

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  Psalm 139:14

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:10

” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’ ” Jeremiah 29:11

The verses above are personal favorites.  One of them has only recently become a favorite.  I spent many years doubting that I was “fearfully and wonderfully made” but that is a story for another time.  Maybe.  These verses are only a few of the scriptural references that state each human being is here with a specific purpose included in their design.

So why do we look at some passions and discount their value as a part of one’s God-given design?  Why do we buy into the belief that some parts of our “design” are somehow less honorable than others?

It’s no secret that I love the theater.  I mean, I LOVE the theater.  I am on the board of a local community theater and had a committee meeting this past week at the theater.  Most of us got there a little early and watched the rehearsal for the next show on the calendar.  I got a thrill just from watching the theatrical process at work.  Yes, I’m such a theater geek that I get jazzed just watching a show in rehearsal!  I told my husband later “I felt like I was home.”  The crazy thing is, I’ve never actually been on-stage in that particular theater!

My passion for musical theater was placed in me on purpose and with a purpose.  I am in a city that had very little for teens who were interested in musical theater.  The high schools do a musical each Spring and the community theater I mentioned before does a show around Christmas time for teens and kids.  But that’s it.  I am blessed to be a part of a church that has chosen to provide space for a youth theater every summer and fill a need in this community.  We give teens another theatrical experience to participate in and I’m thrilled to get to be a part of it!

A few years ago, someone (a fellow believer) asked me when I was going to “grow up and stop all this theater ‘nonsense’ “.  I don’t remember exactly how I answered but I VIVIDLY remember how I felt.  Ashamed, frivolous, shallow . . . I took this person’s words to heart and I shouldn’t have.  I’ve gotten beyond that now thanks to wonderfully supportive friends and my hubby who is my biggest fan.

I will never choose to give up my “theater nonsense”.  It’s as much a part of my design as my eye color.  God gave me the passion for a purpose and I intend to keep using it until He says otherwise.

I make this promise to my fellow Jesus-followers:  when I see you at work in an area of passion, I will celebrate your design with you, pray for your impact in your little corner of the community and cheer you on (even if I don’t fully understand why that particular activity interests you!).  After all, I could never do the work you are  doing or touch the hearts that you are touching so I need you right where you are doing exactly what you are doing!