Tag Archives: Run

Nowhere to Hide

So Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to the scribe Baruch son of Neriah, and as Jeremiah dictated, Baruch wrote on it all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them.
Jeremiah 36:32 (NIV)

Along my life journey I have taken a few willful detours. I chose to leave the path of following Jesus and, instead, struck out on my own way. It was during these detours that I learned the lesson of the prophet Jonah: You can’t actually escape from God because no matter where you run He’s already there. It’s like the lyrics to David’s psalm:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

In today’s chapter, Jehoiakim the King of Judah is spiritually on the run. Jehoiakim wanted nothing to do with God. He barred the prophet Jeremiah from the temple. He put layers of bureaucracy between himself and the prophet so that he wouldn’t have to listen to Jeremiah’s incessant messages telling the King to turn from his rebellious ways.

And so, Jeremiah dictates God’s message to his servant and scribe, Baruch. He then sends Baruch to jump through all the bureaucratic hoops at the temple. God’s favor appears to be on Baruch as he recites the words of the scroll and his message gets passed up the chain of command until he finally has an audience with the king.

King Jehoiakim’s hard heart, however, was unmoved. As the envoy reads the scroll, King Jehoiakim has each column cut from the scroll and thrown into the fireplace of his chamber. He then tries to have Jeremiah’s servant arrested. So Jeremiah repeats the message to Baruch so that a copy would survive, and he adds a prophetic prediction of the negative consequences Jehoiakim and his royal line will experience because of his willful choice to shun God.

In the quiet this morning I am thinking about King Jehoiakim. He also was experiencing the lesson of Jonah, the same reality I experienced on my rebellious detours on my life journey. You can’t really successfully run from God. No matter where you run, God’s already there. I can harden my heart. I can refuse to listen and willfully ignore the truth, but then I’m just like the child who puts a cardboard box over their head and thinks no one can see him.


Wisdom You Only Find Away from Home

“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians.”
Jeremiah 24:4 (NIV)

I can remember running away as a child only once. Despite a memory that recalls some of the most arcane details of my early years, I can’t for the life of me remember what made me so angry that day. I couldn’t have been more than five or six years old when I announced to my mother that I was running away. I remember that she didn’t seem particularly worried. I left without packing a bag or giving a single thought to where I was going, how I was going to get there, nor what I would do for the most basic of necessities. (Wendy will not be surprised by this.) I hadn’t gone as far as two blocks up Madison Avenue before the realities of my poor decision making caught up with me. I turned around and headed home.

I never attempted to physically run away from home again. I learned along my life journey, however, that terms of exile and running away can happen as much in the heart, mind, and spirit as they do in the body.

Today’s short chapter is a brief word picture God gave the ancient prophet Jeremiah. He writes from the rubble of Jerusalem he had long foreseen and prophesied. The best and brightest of his people had been taken captive back to Babylon. The royal family had either been killed or fled to Egypt to escape being killed. Jeremiah is given a vision of two sets of figs: one good and one rotten. The word picture was simple. The poor exiles in Babylon were good fruit that God would bless and prepare for an eventual redemptive return. The royals and politicians who propagated the mess were rotten figs who would continue to rot.

This morning I mulled over Jeremiah’s vision and the realities faced by the poor exiles facing the harsh new realities of life in Persia. I’ve come to accept along this journey that there are pieces of wisdom that are only found away from home. Abraham was led away from his home and family. Moses was sent down river in a basket and later ran to the land of Midian. Joseph was exiled in Egypt, and his father Jacob redeemed his son only when famine drove him and his family to their own exile. David the anointed boy-king would spend years of exile in the desert wasteland before finally ascending to the throne. The prodigal son only learned how good he had it back home when he found himself covered with pig slop in a distant country. The prodigal’s elder brother, meanwhile, had no idea how lost he was at home.

As a father I came to expect that my children would someday run away in one way or another whether that was a childish block-and-a-half trek up the street or a secret exile of the young adult soul. Looking back I can see that each of them did so in their own way, though they may not be completely finished. Exile and running away can be cyclical or repetitive occurrences along one’s life journey. I realized early in my experience as a father that I would be foolish to shelter, hinder, or deny them the wisdom they will only find along those stretches of their respective journeys.

This morning I’m smiling at the memory of a young boy, in full-blown childish tantrum, announcing he was running away and storming out of the house. My mother didn’t stop me. She didn’t run after me. She didn’t try to convince me of the error of my ways or my foolish lack of preparation. She wished me well and watched me walk up Madison Avenue. A short time later she silently said nothing as I returned home having gained nothing but a simple piece of wisdom that has served me well the rest of my life.

Thanks, mom.

featured photo courtesy of wespeck via flickr

Preparing for a Role: Rehearsal Process

Ah Wilderness Rehearsal

Time is flying and between work, sleep, and rehearsal I’ve not had much time to write. I’m finding that the rehearsal process for college is shorter and more intense than I’d remembered. In community theatre you tend to rehearse a show for 8-12 weeks and have about three rehearsals a week. With Ah, Wilderness! we’ve been rehearsing five times a week and only have 5-6 weeks.

For those who’ve never been in a show, the rehearsal period can basically be broken into:

  • Blocking: In which you go through the scene, script in hand, and the director decides where she/he wants you to move as you say your lines. You do a lot of jotting down where you are on stage and where you’re supposed to move.
  • Working: The scenes are “blocked,” but now you start running through them top to bottom to get a feel for how it flows. You dig in to what your characters are doing and thinking. Eventually, you put down the script and run it “off-book.” The stage manager is generally sitting there with the script. If you forget your line you yell “Line” and she/he feeds it to you.
  • Run & Polish: With everyone off book and things starting to come together, you begin running scenes, acts, and the show from top to bottom. Costumes, props, and set pieces are incorporated. The director begins targeting scenes that need to be polished. Eventually, the director tells you you’re “off-book” and if you drop your line you’re on your own.
  • Tech Rehearsal/Cue-to-Cue: These rehearsals (typically in the later stages of the process) are all about incorporating sound effects and lighting changes. Actors typically do a lot of standing around and running scene changes over and over again as the tech crew get their cues set.
  • Run/Dress Rehearsal: With all the elements in place, you begin running the show as you will in performance. The director waits until the end of the night to “give notes” in which she/he will tell you what you need to work on or change before the next rehearsal.

I’ve really been enjoying rehearsals at Central College. We’ve finished blocking the show and are beginning to work the scenes and acts. It’s been fun working with the students and we’re getting to know one another. Chatting in the dressing room with Jacob Anderson who plays my son Richard in the play, I came to find out that Jacob and his family used to be members of Westview Church where I was a member before moving to Pella. I knew Jacob when he was a baby and now he’s a freshman in college and I’m in a show with him [cue: weary groan] Dang, I’m old.

The students have been great to work with. I have the advantage of having seen many of them in multiple shows at Central, and I’ve gained respect for their abilities even though I’ve never truly met them. They’ve never seen me on stage, however, and don’t have a clue who I am. So, we’re getting to know one another.

So, what am I learning?

  • Life makes you a better actor: Wendy and I were watching Derek Jacobi on PBS’ Shakespeare Uncovered yesterday. Sir Derek was watching himself play Richard II when he was 30 years younger. “I wish I could do it again,” he said. “I could do it better.” Wendy and I said in unison, “Of course you could.” The truth is that actors draw from life experience in developing their characters. The more you experience in the life, the more you have to bring to your character. The other night I had a conversation with Tiki Steen, a fine young actor, who plays my wife Essie in the show. There’s some subtext in one particular scene in which husband and wife are doing the subtle, unspoken flirtations that husbands and wives weave into everyday situations as they toy with the idea of making love that night. Obviously, Tiki has never experienced these flirtations so I was able to shed some light on what Nat and Essie are really communicating with one another.
  • Productions have different motivations: Actors talk about their character’s motivation all the time, but the entire production has a motivation, as well. Wendy and I were having a conversation with Ann Wilkinson who is directing Ah, Wilderness! the other night after rehearsal. She spoke about the transition she’s had to make from being a professional casting director to small college professor. A hollywood film is about motivated to make money, but a college production is motivated to educate students. The atmosphere in a Central production is different than a USP production because college and community theatre have slightly (though not completely) different motivations. Sometimes you have to alter your personal expectations and lean into the production’s motivation.
  • I love the process as much as the performance: I can’t say I’m learning it for the first time, but I’m rediscovering it again, as I do every time I get the opportunity to dig my teeth into a role. While there is no rush like making your entrance with a packed house watching, there is a subtle and somewhat more satisfying rush from the process of discovery, work, and collaboration in rehearsals.