Tag Archives: Spotlight

The Junior Babcock of History

He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign; he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles 27:8 (NRSVCE)

The very first role I had in a main stage production was my freshman year in high school. I played the role of Junior Babcock in the musical Mame. Remember that one? Didn’t think so. I still remember the day scripts were handed out. My script had one page in it which contained both of my monumental lines along with the last few words of the “cue line” or the line just before mine. That was it. I had no idea what the context of my lines or where it fit into the storyline of the musical.

I had a great experience in Mame. Along with my walk on, walk off part as Junior Babcock I got to sing and dance in the chorus. I learned the jazz square. I dressed in a tuxedo for the first time. I met a ton of new friends, including some Juniors and Seniors who actually treated me like a real person. I even got invited to cast parties. My unremarkable role was such a great experience that I decided that being involved in theatre was something I wanted to explore.

Today’s chapter is a short one. The Chronicler slips in one paragraph (only nine verses) summarizing the sixteen year reign of Judah’s King Jotham. Poor Jotham gets the Chroniclers thumb’s up rating for being a good king and following the ways of the Lord. Yet even with that Jotham only gets one paragraph, and two of the sentences in the paragraph are basically repeated word-for-word!

Jotham’s reign appears to have been unremarkable in the mind of the Chronicler. “All the world’s a stage,” Shakespeare wrote, “and all the men and women merely players.” Jotham appears to have been cast as Junior Babcock.

This morning I find one of my life verses welling up in my spirit:

“…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

As I’ve shared in the past, I’m a Type Four on the Enneagram. Type Fours are all about having purpose and significance. It’s easy for types like me to equate purpose and significance with greatness, the spotlight, and starring roles. Yet along my life journey I’ve learned and have been continually reminded that there is both purpose and significance to bit parts and roles in the chorus. My unremarkable role as Junior Babcock had all sorts of purpose and significance for me and my journey. In fact, I’ve had a few “lead” roles which were not nearly as significant or purposeful.

Most all of us are part of the Chorus in this grand production of Life. Like Jotham we will play our unremarkable part and get a paragraph (maybe two) in the Obituary section of our town’s newspaper. Today’s chapter is a good reminder. I want to make sure I nail my couple of lines, hit my cues, support the production, build great relationships with other members of the Chorus, and play my part well.

“Places.”

The Lot Sometimes Falls to Smelly Tasks

source: James Warwick via Flickr
source: James Warwick via Flickr

Young and old alike, teacher as well as student, cast lots for their duties.
1 Chronicles 25:8 (NIV)

I have been actively involved in community theatre for a decade now and in leadership with community theatre for nine years. Wendy and I enjoy it, despite the long hours and weeks of production and the never ending tasks of administration. There is a lot to be done, and a lot of work that very few people see or realize. Wendy and I are a good team, and together we can get a lot of things accomplished.

Over the years I have been awestruck by the small company of faithful volunteers who do anything and everything to make our productions and organization successful. I have also been struck by two other types of individuals. There are a few who will only do one thing (usually acting) and refuse to do anything else for a production or the organization. Then there are a few who might be willing to do other things, but only those things that put them in control or in the spotlight. In both cases, these individuals appear to consider some tasks to be beneath them.

I found it interesting this morning that when David chose musicians for the worship, everyone cast lots for their assignment. There was no preference given to seniority and no preference given to talent. The lot was cast and they were expected to work with the team and the task they were given. There was a subtle message there for the musicians: you are no better than anyone else, and everyone is equal in the task.

No matter what your age or stage in life, I have found that there are times you may find yourself in the spotlight and there are times you may find yourself mopping up the overflowing toilet so that patrons have a clean, usable bathroom at intermission. Both tasks are necessary for the good of the whole. When the lot falls to me to pick up the mop and clothespin my nose, then it’s time to put on a smile and do the job well. In those roles, I have an audience of One and, for Him, I want to play my role well.

Responding to Speculation and False Accusations

Tabloids a Twitter
Tabloids a Twitter (Photo credit: noodlepie)

Let them know that it is your hand,
    that you, Lord, have done it.
While they curse, may you bless;
    may those who attack me be put to shame,
    but may your servant rejoice.
Psalm 109:27-28 (NIV)

Those who live life as public figures or in the spotlight of leadership are likely to find ourselves in the midst of a whirlwind of speculation and suspicion at some point in our lives. People are people, and whether you lived some 30 centuries ago in Jerusalem or live in rural Iowa today you will find that some experiences are common to humanity. There is a particular kind of insanity producing frustration that comes with finding yourself at the center of others’ misguided gossip and false accusations.

King David, who penned the lyrics of today’s psalm, was no stranger to the spotlight of popularity and leadership, nor was he a stranger to scandal and public ridicule. For certain, some of the public ridicule David brought on himself. Like all of us, David made his share of boneheaded mistakes. Yet, even in the tornado of gossip the truth often becomes distorted and inflated into crazy tabloid speculation.

In my experience, there are only a few things you can do when you find yourself the subject of local gossip and speculation:

  1. Plead your case in the right place. Vent your frustration to God. That’s what today’s psalm was all about for David. Psalm 109 is an ancient example of a screaming, venting, thrashing Metalcore anthem. Get it out. Express your feelings. Tell God what you’d really like to see happen to those lying gossips talking about you behind your back. It’s okay. God understands your emotion and isn’t surprised by your feelings of vengeance. It’ll be good for you.
  2. Let it go. Once you’ve vented your anger and frustration, take a deep breath and then let it go. Believe me, there is nothing you can do to chase down and confront every source of gossip and every false accusation that you hear on the streets and behind your back. You’ll ultimately fail, drive yourself crazy in the process, and your efforts will only fan the flames of speculation. Like David, don’t just plead your case to God but also relinquish your desire for justice to the only True Judge.
  3. Stay the course. When Wendy and I were married (Eight years ago this New Year’s Eve!), it created a fair amount of talk in our neck of the woods. I was recently divorced at the time and I admit that the timing of our quick courtship did not do anything to quell the rumors and idle gossip. We heard the whispers and felt the self-righteous judgment and disapproval of others. At that point in time, Wendy’s mom gave us a sage piece of advice: Make like a turtle. Toughen up the shell, let it bounce off, and keep plodding towards what you know is right. Slow and steady wins the race.
  4. Give it time. Just this past week I was told that a young adult, who has watched Wendy’s and my marriage for the past eight years, commented that they see our relationship as an example of the kind of marriage they want for themselves. Wendy and I talked about that last night and marveled at how far we’ve come from those days when it was whispered that ours was a flash-in-the-pan rebound relationship doomed to failure. If you find yourself falsely accused, remember that what is true about you will be revealed in the test of time as others observe your faith, love, life, actions, words, and relationships.

There are No Lesser Roles

choices choices_SnapseedThree different times I begged the Lord to take [my suffering] away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9a

I am currently in the middle of casting a show for our local community theatre. I had a lot of people try out and there are many roles to fill. In all my years of working on the stage I know that the vast majority of people are wanting to be cast in one of the major, lead roles. This show has a host of smaller “bit” parts and I know that many people will be disappointed when they see that they have been cast in one of these “lesser” roles. Most people think that bit parts are by definition worse parts and that being cast in them means that they are considered lesser actors or have been maligned in some way. But, as a director, actor and playwright I don’t see it that way and it grieves me to know that people will be disappointed by my casting decisions.

Most stories and plays have “bit” parts because they are crucial to the telling and they often provide for some of the most important and entertaining moments. As a director, I pay close attention to the smaller parts and consider the casting of the bit parts to be among the most crucial decisions I make. In some cases, a “lesser” role is so important to the story that I only want to cast a strong actor whom I can trust in that role. Time after time after time I have watched productions in which audiences buzz afterwards about one of the “lesser” characters who played their part so well at such a crucial moment that they “stole the show” from the lead actors.

Shakespeare wrote “All the worlds a stage, and we are all but players in it.” In today’s chapter, Paul realizes a similar lesson about his own role in this life. Like our desire to have the lead role, we all tend to desire the spotlight of power, prestige, fortune, and fame. Paul had learned an important lesson, however. He learned that God, the author of creation and master playwright, is known for a recurring theme: common, lesser, younger, weak, marginalized characters become the most important and powerful pieces of the story. Consider the line up of players like Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, David, John and all twelve of Jesus’ disciples. All of them were considered “weak” and “lesser” in the eyes of the world for various reasons (age, birth order, home of origin, handicap, social status, etc.), but ended up being among the crucial pieces to the Great Story. As God revealed to Paul, He specializes in making weakness a conduit of true power.

Today, I’m thinking about the many ways I feel “weak” on the grand stage of life as I compare myself to those who live in the spotlight of this world. I think about my own feelings of being “less than” and my need to be reminded of an old adage of the stage:  there are no small roles, only small actors. Help me, Lord, to play my role well today.

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 23

 

“Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.” Matthew 23:11-12 (MSG)

I’m almost 45 years into this journey, and I’m still trying to get a handle on the whole “be yourself” thing. I must confess that in my younger years I professed to have a good handle on who I was. In retrospect, I think my self confidence was part honest ignorance, part youthful innocence and part self-delusion. I’ve learned a lot about myself along the way, and the times of greatest clarity come from periods of “stepping down.”

I’ve had a lot of experience standing in a spotlight and it is a very interesting experience. The spotlight can at once be exhilirating, addicting, and powerfully intimidating. All of that attention focused completely on you. All of those eyes staring at you in the same moment.  You had better be “on.” You had better look the part. You had better not embarrass yourself. Make sure the costume is perfect. Push the energy. Turn it on for the audience. Play the part. The spotlight has a tendency to reveal our blemishes, so we tend to cover them up with just so much make up.

Stepping down affords introspection out of the spotlight’s penetrating glare. It reduces pressure. It allows for things to be revealed in the normal light of every day life. It gives opportunity for change. Stepping down allows me to figure out who I am back stage and off stage. In an interesting paradox, I’ve found that the better I know myself outside of the spotlight, the better and more authentically I play my role in it.

Chapter-a-Day Romans 9

All we’re saying is that God has the first word, initiating the action in which we play our part for good or ill. Romans 9:18 (MSG)

One of our friends is a talented actor with a marvelous voice. She has often found herself cast in smaller “bit” parts when I suspect her heart truly desired a leading role. Yet, time and time again she turns her handful of lines and precious few minutes on stage into memorable moments that steal the show. It’s her “bit” performance that I hear audiences talking about as they leave the auditorium.

As I’ve helped countless times with the audition process, I’m struck by those individuals who feel that bit parts are beneath them. I get it. My pride leads me to want the spotlight, too. Nevertheless, some of the smaller parts have been the most fun, and are the ones people continue to remember and talk to me about years later.

God is a great casting director. He chooses just the right players for the roles he needs to move the action the way He intends. I don’t always get it. His choices sometimes leave me scratching my head. Nevertheless, I have learned not to worry so much about the other roles. My joy is to be found in pouring all that I am into the role that I’m given – even if the part is a “supporting” role and not a “starring” one.