Thursday, December 31, 2009

Oh Cardamom!!

So I was putting away some Mexican Vanilla bean that my friend Gabe gave me, and I wanted a canister to put it in, you know, store it in a cool, dry place. Well, I open this canister that used to hold Gypsy Tea Coconut Chai (very good I might add), and what do I find there but a bag full of fresh, green CARDAMOM PODS! Now, this may not mean much to you, but when I needed Cardamom about a month and a half ago for some Chai and didn't have any more pods left, I sure could have used this! Instead I bought some more at Whole Foods. In any case, I just couldn't believe that I had that there and that I didn't know about it! And I said, "God, why didn't you tell me about this?"
His response? "You didn't ask."
I could feel him almost laughing.

As I go into this new year, I don't want to take for granted what I have. I want to know what I've got and utilize those resources to their fullest potential. Like Cardamom. Something I'm realizing is that we often have what we need right now. Yes, there are things that we will need later to do bigger and better things. For instance, I am going to need more people to team up with to produce theatre with. But are those people all really "out there" somewhere, or are many of them right in my own backyard, people I have begun to live and play with in the here and now? Or take the issue of space, for example. I am going to need a theater space to produce shows in, and this is something I'd like to begin pursuing more in this new year. But while I'm researching spaces, properties and the like, are there other spaces I can use in the meantime? I want to have another "Show and Tell" party soon, this month actually. And the thought occurred to me a few weeks ago: Why not get some actors together, direct them in one of my short plays (just 7 minutes or so), and produce it right there at the next Show and Tell? We'll have the audience. Why not do it? So hopefully I can get my act together and do what I need to do to make these things happen.

Timing is important, I know. But so is doing. So is utilizing the resources that are right in front of you. I, for one, am a victim of laziness and lack of structure, laziness and lack of structure that I create. So in this new year, I am hoping to become more steadfast and more structured in the things I am pursuing: my love relationship with God, the development and production of two one-man shows, researching what I need to do to get a building (or what I would need in teaming up with others to do so). And where I am lacking, I can reach out to ask others for wisdom and help.

God help us use the Cardamom we already have for good Chai and more in 2010!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Reward of Risk....No Regret

I watched two Christmas movies with some friends tonight, one very light-hearted and another deeper in tone. Both had their moments of inspiration, but what struck me most was the risk some of the characters took, especially romantically, and the rewards they received in return. As is the case with most movies, the rewards of each risk were almost instantaneous. Not always so in real life. But there are rewards none of the less.

There was one scene in particular where a father was encouraging his young son to pursue a girl that he was "in love with." The dad told the boy something to the effect of, "Go for it, son! Tell her you love her, and see what happens, or you'll always live to regret it!" In this case, the boy's pursuit of the girl ended up in him getting what he wanted, her love in return. But what struck me the most was the reward of having risked, whether or not things would have turned out well for the boy.

Earlier this year, I took a similar risk. In some ways I have felt good about the risk, and in other ways I have felt disappointed, as if I lost somehow, since my affections were not returned. I have learned that moving on would be in my best interest, and it has been helpful, but there has still been a sense of loss, or failure rather. But as I was watching this movie tonight, I felt as if something broke off in me, that weight that said, "you tried and you failed." Instead, I could hear God saying, "You did try, and you didn't fail because your trying means you won't live to regret having never tried at all. You did what you could, and I am proud of you. Now you can move forward, knowing you are more of a man for putting yourself out there. You went for it. You took a risk. Good for you."

The thing is, risks don't always beget happy endings as they do in movies, at least not in the way that we would always like. In my case, I'm realizing that my reward was in the risking. I don't have to live with regret, and I'll be that much more ready to take the next risk whenever it arrives.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Version 2: Paradigm Shift in the Sand

I had a revelation last night:

The desert is a place to learn about Providence over Performance. It's a place where one can learn to trust in what God provides apart from one's ability to perform well. I'll unpack this more in just a bit, but let's add one more element: Progress.

Here's my natural way of thinking, which I'm calling version 1:

1. Performance -------> Providence -------> Progress

But this way isn't the truth. It's a recipe for burn-out.

Here's a better way of thinking...version 2:

2. Providence---------> Performance ------> Progress

In version 1, my performance is the catalyst for God's providence (or any kind of provision), which in turn creates progress.

In version 2, my performance is the natural outflow of what God is already providing, which leads to progress.

Version 1 is on me; Version 2 is on him.
Version 1 requires self-sufficiency; Version 2 requires God-sufficiency.
Version 1 depends on control; Version 2 relies on trust.

Which is safer? Me or him? Self-sufficiency or God-sufficiency? Control or Trust in God's control?

Oh, it feels safer to trust me...It feels safer to rely on myself. And it feels safer to have "control." But nothing ever works out like this, not for long anyway.

If one can learn to rely on the provision of God in a desert period, when she cannot possibly provide for herself out of her own ability to produce, then when she gets out of the desert and into a more fruitful season, she'll know that the fruit is not the result of her self-creation but of God's sustaining blessing.

Jesus underwent this very testing in the desert. A more fruitful season of life was coming for him, an amazing three years which would culminate in some of the most mind-blowing, reality-altering accomplishments on the planet. But none of these accomplishments were of his own making or own doing. He was continuously dependent on the Father's love and the Father's power given by the Holy Spirit. Jesus learned this amazing reliance in the desert.

Let's look at the dynamics of this as recorded in Matthew 4:1-11:

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."

Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:
" 'He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"

Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."

Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Boom! So there you go. I won't unpack all of this, but I find it very interesting that each of the the devil's attempts at tempting Jesus had to do with performance, action, control.

First the devil tries to get Jesus to manipulate the stone and turn it into bread. But Jesus isn't going to just take matters into his own hands. He's learning to rely on the Father and what the Father tells him to do.

Then the devil wants Jesus to incite God, to test the Father, if you will. In other words, "I don't see God activity right now. If you are really who you say you are and if God is who he says he is, then make him prove it. Do something to get him to respond. Here! Jump off this really high place and get him to send some angels' to save you. Let's see God do a trick!"
But Jesus wouldn't manipulate his Father. He trusted that the Father knew what he was doing and didn't have to prove himself.

Finally we see the devil say, in effect, "Well, obviously the God you're worshipping isn't getting you anywhere, so worship me instead and I'll give you everything you want instantly. Kingdoms, authority, you name it. Worship me, and it's yours."
Once again, Jesus stands his ground, trusting that the one he worships and loves, the one true God, his Father, would provide what he needed and accomplish all the big stuff in the right time. Jesus didn't have to take action in worshipping something else in order to instantly get what he wanted.

Do do do. Perform perform perform. Control and manipulate!

Wait...Trust...Believe. Rest. Receive.

I'm opting for version 2.

Death before the Dream Come True

I've decided I'm going to work on writing two musicals at once, instead of just one. I'm writing a King David musical for kids, and also one for adults. Both deal with similar themes, and both may include some of the same music. Both are one-man shows at this point, and one will hopefully morph into a large-cast production at a later time. But one must start somewhere, right?

As you can see from my recent posts, hunger in a desert period is something that has struck a deep chord with me lately. I am also intrigued by this in the life of King David. I see David as a man who was given a great promise from a very early age and struggled with the delayed fulfillment of that promise for years to come. At several points in the Biblical narrative, others in David's life have to reassure him that he will indeed inherit the promise that God has made to him regarding his kingship over Israel. At times, it looks as though David is not entirely secure about his future as Israel's king. If I had a raging, demon-tormented King pursuing me with armies through multiple assassination attempts, I might question God on this as well. "So, what was all that about becoming Israel's next king? 'Cause right now I don't know if I'll make it to see the sunrise tomorrow, much less become the leader of this nation."

Put yourself in his shoes. Now add to that conflict the fact that your best friend, the king's son, is next in line for the throne. And even though he, your best friend, has sworn his allegiance to you, relinquishing his birthright to the throne, who's to say that he won't change his mind and turn against you once his father dies, leaving the kingdom up for grabs?

Here's something interesting to consider...David wouldn't kill King Saul, his chief obstacle to receiving his God-given inheritance as Israel's next king. And David wouldn't kill his own best friend, Jonathan, who would have been next in line for the kingship. Somehow David trusted, through all of the doubting, that God would deal with Saul in his time and would turn the kingdom over to him as promised. But I don't know if he ever considered that his best friend would die at the same time. I am not saying that God killed Jonathan or that Jonathan would have gone back on his word to David regarding relinquishing his birthright to the throne. I just find it interesting that at a time when David's chief obstacle (and once-loved fatherly figure), King Saul, was removed, David's best friend Jonathan (and a potential threat to the kingdom) died as well. David lamented the loss of these two great men in his life, enemy though one of them had become, and his grief was so great that he wrote a song about them, memorializing their greatness. It is right after this huge personal loss in David's life that he becomes ready to receive the kingdom of Israel, which he had long since been promised.

I suppose the reason this strikes me so much is that I have been grieving the loss of a friendship recently, or at least a major transition in that friendship which to me, signals the end of a very long season of richness and beauty in our communication. I have been struggling with God some this weekend as a tender wound in me has been jostled, wondering how it is that something so very good and so long-standing could so suddenly be brought to a close. Part of my desert experience, if I can be quite honest, is the absence of this close friendship in my life. I miss my friend dearly, but I know things can't go back to the way they were, especially if I am to maintain a healthy progression of moving on in my heart and being able to live in the here and now, locally and presently.

So I am strangely encouraged as I look at David's life before his kingship. He too experienced deep, personal loss. And it was almost immediately after that great loss that his greatest fulfillment came.

I think I'm onto something...Releasing my grasp to take hold of the future that God wants to give.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Healing takes awhile sometimes.

When roots are deep and uprooting hurts,
which is better:
to lament the pain?
or celebrate the depth of the roots that were there?

Ready to be re-planted. My roots are tingly, aching for some rich soil.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hunger Continued

A friend of mine posted a comment on facebook in response to the last post, "Hunger Filled," which prompted me to write this quick follow-up. I don't think I will come up with all of the answers in this little tid-bit, but I figured it'd be worth exploring a little more.

The comment my friend made had to do with the difference among types of being filled: emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I think the following passage can provide us further insight into ways of being filled.

"Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Will you give me a drink?' (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, 'You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?' (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.'

'Sir,' the woman said, 'you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?'

Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'

The woman said to him, 'Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.' " -John 4:6:15

A few observations:
1. Jesus was legitimately tired, and he asked for a real drink of water. I think Jesus was legitimately asking for something to quench his thirst. Simple enough, yes?

2. Jesus is able to legitimize our need for physical sustenance while simultaneously pointing to the need for quenching our spiritual thirst. You can see this even more so if you continue reading the parts of the passage that I left off.

3. Jesus is holistic. He cares about every part of our lives, physically, spiritually, emotionally. If you read further in this passage, you'll see much of the spiritual component. We've already seen the emotional in Luke, where Jesus is saying, "Blessed are you who weep, for you will be comforted." And there are other instances of Jesus multiplying bread for people to eat, his first miracle in which he turned water into wine, and so forth. Jesus cares about all of our needs. And he can meet them all. Question is, will we let him?

I can say for myself that it's hard for me to trust in a God I don't see, who I don't hear audibly, and whose ways of speaking to me seem very sporadic and very creative. I'm a creative person but sometimes I don't want creative speech! I'd rather have it spoon-fed to me easily where I can immediately understand it. It's much easier for me to talk to a friend or get on facebook or email and try to get my needs met that way than it is to take a moment and ask for Jesus to speak. 'Cause he's so foreign in some ways. But though those other things fill to varying degrees (facebook very little, in my opinion), he's the one that fills the most, when I get it. So how can I get it? How can we get more Jesus?

I'll let you know when I found out.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hunger Filled

It is possible to be hungry yet filled? If one is filled, does that mean that she cannot experience hunger at the same time?

I've been hungry lately. And I have been filled. But I am still hungry. Is that okay? It seems to have been okay for Jesus. Let's take a look at something that struck me this morning during a casual reading of Luke in the Bible.

At the beginning of Luke 4, we are told that "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry."

Two things stick out at me. The first is that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit BEFORE going into the desert. It's almost as if he went there not to get filled but because he WAS filled. As Bill Johnson said not too long ago, it was as if Jesus going into the desert was a way of testing what was already in him, just like putting a patched tire under water to prove its ability to hold up (I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist.) So as I have been in this desert season, I am encouraged to realize that maybe one of the reasons I'm in this sandy place is for the Spirit to show how much of himself is already in me, giving me an opportunity to experience this reality of his presence even more so.

But here's the other part that interests me. Jesus was hungry at the end of his time in the desert. He was hungry physically, and I wonder...could he have been hungry spiritually as well? Is it possible to be so filled by God and by good things yet to still be hungry for more? Is it okay that I am experiencing more of God's provision and episodes of deeper intimacy in this desert yet still longing for more romance and validation?

Once again...Jesus was hungry. He hadn't eaten, he felt that hunger, and that was okay. I sense Jesus saying, "You know, you're hungry. And that's okay. I'm with you in that." Just because one is hungry doesn't mean there's some spiritual or even physical deficiency. Jesus actually commends hunger, at least spiritually speaking. As he was teaching his disciples on a hilltop one day, Jesus said,
"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you and when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets." -Luke 6:20-23

Whether you take these statements to refer to physical needs (poor = little money) or spiritual needs (poor = spiritually poor, as one of the other Gospel writers recorded), Jesus seems to be saying something very definitive: To be in a place of unmet desire, for some portion of your life, is a natural thing, and God actually says it's a place of blessing. Why? I don't have the full answer for that, but I think part of it has to do with the statement, "you will be satisfied." The desire will be met in some way, whether sooner or later. And in this passage, it actually looks like Jesus hits on some very basic and important needs we all have materially, bodily, spiritually, emotionally, relationally. It's all there.

I think what encourages me the most is this realization that Jesus was hungry. Legitimately hungry...And this in the midst of what many of us see as a spiritual peak.

I thought I was getting it wrong here in the desert, since I want to be filled by God yet I'm still hungry. I see now that I'm right where Jesus was at. And I can hear him say, "I'm with you."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

More poetry this evening

We, are the fruit of his lips
He, the root of our tree
The legs to our hips
and everything that stands above

We are the produce of his field
The juice from his grapes
The wine pouring from his bottle
We are the liquid in the glass

He is...

We are...
the rain from his clouds
the rays of his sun
We are the ocean resevoir of his heavenly downpour

We are the cotton of his candy
The lolly of his pop
We are, the chocolate chip
in his cookie dough

He is the oven
We are the bread

We are the oven
He is the bread


You are the raindrops on my window pane
Crashing gently,
Trickling with violence
Ra-tap, ta-tat tat....tappa tip!
Ba-dip ba dip ba dip...
da rop...drop..Drip!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Snow Prayer by David Ello

I tried to keep the snow,
Clutching hard to keep it here.
I said that it was mine,
and now I stare at water.

I tried to keep the snow...
Waiting now for more to land.
In snowless places I will stand
and pray for it to come.

O Come, Come,
Snowflakes come again!
Dust us with your cold caress,
careening on the wind.
Sprinkle us with sugar's kiss,
Enfold with chilly arms.
Release us with a child's bliss,
to see you come again.

Come, come, O Giver of the Snow.
The ice will melt, but you, My God,
Will not be made to go.
Come, come, O Bringer of the Spring!
Delight with white this winter world
so child and snowman sing.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Beginnings....Show and Tell

The Chai is pulsating through my veins like inspiration flowing through a pen.

Tonight (or should I say "last night" since it is now almost 5 A.M. the next day?), for perhaps the first time since moving into this city, I felt like I got to do what I was sent here to do: pour the Chai into the river and invite others to do the same.

It's been a long-held desire of mine to share original artistic work and enable other artists to share their work at the same time. It has been a goal of mine in coming to Chicago to provide encouragement and support to artists through providing a framework in which we can all share our gifts together. I believe that as we pour out our gifts for others to enjoy, we are pouring out a bit of ourselves. And if Jesus is inside, all the better.

Tonight--Last Night---saw the fruition of the first "Show and Tell" party, an idea that started percolating in my mind a few months ago while sipping on a beverage at Borders and strategizing with God about how to do more of what I want to do with others. This vision began to become more of a reality when I met with a few other friends a little over a month ago to plan out the logistics for such an event.

It wasn't very complex, really: just a bunch of creative people coming together to share some good food, drinks (Chai included, of course), conversation, and art-in-process. We had everything from stand-up comedy to breakdancing, poetry and set-design. Many played instruments and sang, one shared a short play (can you guess who that was?), another played a recording of a smooth, 80's inspired jazz composition he had written. I was amazed by the end of the night that we had spent a whole evening showing and telling about what we had been working on, and it didn't even seem that long. (There were some breaks in between, of course.) And I was equally amazed at how much talent was concentrated into one area. We must have had 14 or 15 people share something creative that they were working on or had created sometime in the past. Another beautiful element was the mutual appreciation each artist showed for one another, providing words of encouragement, affirmation, and and constructive feedback specific to each artist's humble offering. I say humble because it takes humility to put yourself out there in front of people, especially when you're bringing something that's not necessarily complete and quite possibly in need of further process.

I liken this evening to a good cup of Chai. Many ingredients all blending together to make a most heavenly brew.

The Revolution of Chai has begun. Drink up, Chicago! Drink up my God.

"Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the one who trusts in him." -Psalm 34:8.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dessert in the Desert

What do you think of when one says the word, "desert?" A sandy, arid environment? A place devoid of life or little of it? Sand dunes a-plenty? How about dessert?

What would you do if someone told you, "Hey, I'm taking away your regular food supply for awhile, but I'm gonna give you something better in return?"

How about Chai in the desert? Or dessert for that matter?

This past weekend, God spoke to me about where I'm at in my life right now: the desert. And he wants to give me dessert while I'm here. He's told me recently that a season of abundance is coming, of greater fulfillment and amazing things happening to and through me. And it's coming soon. But it hasn't yet....No, not yet, not fully. And for now, I'm in the desert. And I'm excited about this. Why?

For one thing, it's good to know where you are so that you can navigate the terrain appropriately. Now that I know that I'm in a desert period, I can know better how I am to survive and what God wants me to do or learn in this place. So it's good just to know that.

Secondly, I'm excited because of what the desert means. It means that God is inviting me to a place of deeper intimacy with him, of greater reliance upon him and his sustenance. When Jesus was in the desert and the devil tempted him to turn a stone into bread to satisfy his hunger, Jesus' response was, "It is written, 'Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' " I have to believe that Jesus was getting some really yummy words from God out there in the desert, or else taking what God had already spoken to him and chewing on it, savoring it. God has likewise been inviting me to eat more of his words, to gain more from him directly, more affirmation, more support, more love, more connection. I'm sick of hearing other people sing so passionately to Jesus or the Father or Spirit and me feeling jealous that I'm not as passionate as they are. I want to experience this more for myself. And I will. I'm starting to more and more, today.

Not only does this desert instigate greater intimacy with my Creator; He's also going to use it to prepare me to receive what he has when I come out of the desert. I'm talking powerhouse time, David running on all four cylinders on Holy Spirit gasoline, full-throttle kind of stuff. See, when Jesus got out of the desert, the Biblical narrative tells us that he went into high gear-mode, carrying out his full-on ministry. Same thing for King David before he became king. He spent a significant time in the desert being chased by King Saul before receiving the kingship that had long before been promised to him. But sometime after the desert, he got his kingdom. Or take the Israelites back in Moses' day. What did they do after escaping Egypt? They were in the DESERT! And what happened after the desert? Promised Land! Now, it took them 40 years, and many of the original Israelites didn't actually make it to the Promised Land 'cause they were too busy doubting God. So he let them die off and brought in the ones who would trust him. Why? And why all this time in the desert?

I believe God was creating a people for himself, and not just for his own sake but for their own sake, such that when they got into the Promised Land they would be able to inherit, conquer, and keep that which he wanted to give them. What good is a gift that you're going to squander? What good is new wine if the wineskin it goes into is going to burst and spill the goods all over the place? Or as Jesus asked, what good is it for a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul?

When we are in a desert period, God has the opportunity to show us more of his goodness such that we rely on him and his character more than anything else in our lives, and when more of the goods come on the other side, we can own it without it owning us, 'cause we've learned how to rely on him instead of the stuff. I don't want crazy power if it's going to destroy me when I get it. I don't want a girlfriend and money and success if these things are going to make me full of myself and empty out God when I get them. But ah, if I can keep my footing on him, on the foundation of who God is and who he says I am without relying on these other things for my identity, then, THEN, maybe I can have these things and they be good. Then maybe I can contribute to a wholesome relationship, contribute to success, contribute to whatever else comes my way, 'cause I'm already getting the core of what I need from the God I got to know better in the desert. I get to have my Chai now, so when other yummy things come along, I won't mistake them for Chai and can still enjoy them.

Man does not live on bread alone, but on every ounce of Chai that flows from the mouth of God. Lord, let me drink it in. I want to drink you in, and others can call me "full of it," in the best of ways. Yes, I will be full of you.

Let me say one more thing, and I'm taking from something that Bill Johnson said in a sermon or two once. The desert period in a person's life isn't meant to be an experience of simply scraping by. Rather, it's an opportunity to see the God of heaven show up and do some crazy things. Look at the Israelites again. They had a cloud guiding them and giving them shade by day, and a pillar of fire to warm and guide them by night! Crazy! And their sandals or shoes or whatever they were wearing on their feet didn't wear out! And they got this crazy bread from heaven called "Manna," and God gave 'em water gushing out of this rock, and all kinds of crazy stuff! I'm ready for the crazies! And I've already experienced a lot of that already! Dessert, dessert, dessert. Oh, and how 'bout some more...dessert?!? Seriously, that's what's been happening, mainly "trifling" things (or should I say "truffling?") that I don't necessarily "need" but things which God knows will encourage my heart. And he's dealing with the needs too, just in ways that I may not expect or prefer...kind of like the manna.

So I say bring it on. More Jesus, more Father, more Spirit, more Chai. And when I come out of this, it'll be Chai-time for more.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Brewing a Revolution

When I make Chai, many benefit. Notice the progression from "I" to "many." I make, I drink, but because it is so good, I can't help but share what I have made with others.

When we create, others experience. There's the progression again, this time on a larger scale: "we" to "others."

I'm starting to realize that whatever I do, creatively or otherwise, is not to be simply for my own enjoyment, but for the benefit of another. Whether that "other" comprises of the Godhead---Father, Son, and Holy Spirit---or other human beings such as myself, the things that I initiate are supposed to propel movement somewhere else. Moving the heart of God, moving the heart of man, moving the city, the nation, the world to respond with a movement of their own.

This, in a very simple fashion, is how the complex work of culture-making takes place. It is a continual building upon what was already, to create something that was not, so that others can experience and build further upon or around it, whether good or bad.

What if we were to create a culture of Chai?

A Jewish friend told me some years ago that Chai is also a Hebrew word meaning "life." And Chai in my world is that most beloved substance, a tea latte with honey, milk, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and an array of other spices (depending on who's making it). Chai awakens, it stimulates the senses, it tantalizes the taste buds and fills those who drink it. It is the perfect metaphor for Jesus since he does all of this and more.

What would it look like to create a culture of heavenly substance, a life-giving spicy brew for others to drink and tangibly experience what God is like? And since I am an artist, I ask the question, what would that look like for artists?

I was inspired one night about a month ago as I was reading my Bible, and the words of the Scriptures I had been reading began to make sense to me in a way that they hadn't before. They supported and further illuminated a previous vision I had for a series of artistic events called "Show and Tell," and they beckoned me to look further. Let me tell you what these would look like tangibly, in my world, for artists. Then I'll show you the verses themselves.

Imagine a group of artists coming together to share food and laughter, inspiring inspiration and provoking more creative thought. Imagine a place where artists could share a piece of their heart in the form of a piece they are working on or have finished, whether visual art, photography, poetry, graphics and animation, a scene or two from a play, a new song, a dance or vision for a new dance project, etc. And imagine that these artists somehow felt more human, more alive, for having shared and received such truth and beauty.

Now take it a step further. Imagine a group of artists who did all of the above and then put turbo jets on the wings of the creative visions shared. "Turbo jets? Wings? What?"

Let me explain.

Art is sometimes a very slow process. One of the greatest deterrents of art really progressing, is a lack of resources. Resources = a supportive community, people to share and help carry out the vision, the money to make it happen, the word of mouth to bring others outside to interact with the art, etc.

So back to the turbo jets. What if a group of artists were to pull together say once a month or once every two months (or however it worked out logistically) and said, "Okay, Artist A, this month we are going to support you in your project. Remember that thing you shared with us? We want to help you make it happen, to bring it into greater fruition. Tell us what you need. How many people? What kind of money? What else? We are going to work together to help you see your vision realized, and it's going to be so awesome that God is going to get the glory for it, not just in the finished product but throughout the process. And everyone will be in awe." And then that happens. Miracles take place. Art gets produced that would have never been produced before, or at least not on that level or in that time frame. Next time, Artist A and the others say, "Okay Artist B, now it's your turn. We've seen what a group of committed people can do when the wind of God is behind them. Which vision of yours do you want to see realized? What can we do to help? How can we pray? Let's make it happen!" And again, everyone is in awe.

The thing is, we artists are so individualistic. We think we can do everything by ourselves and that we're supposed to, entitled to, 'cause after all it's "my art" and "my vision." But individualism in the extreme is just a limb cut off from the tree. It wants to hang in the air, displaying its beautiful leaves for all to see, but it doesn't want to rely on the branches to hold it up. "Branches fall off sometimes, you know. And where does that leave you?" Same place you were when you said you didn't need the branches. On the ground. So why not take the risk?

This may sound like idealism....or some weird form of communism. But it is neither. It's the way things are meant to be, and can be. It's grounded because it has roots. Check it out:

"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fuflill the law of Christ." -Galatians 6:2.

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." -Phlippians 2:1-4

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." -Acts 3:42-47

Like I said, this idea has roots--deep roots--and the power is in the sap, the Holy Spirit who flows through those roots into all the branches.

So let's get rooted, let's get together, and with out leafy branches interconnected and supporting one another, let's reach for the sky. Or to go back to the original metaphor, let's brew some Chai.

Ready for a revolution?

Thursday, October 15, 2009


"I'll call you tomorrow."

"I'll meet you at 6:30."

"We'll go do______."



... ... ..................

Reliable. That's a word I'm not used to. I have been let down so many times by so many people in so many settings that it makes it hard to trust that people will really do what they say they will. Actually, that's not true. Typically I'll trust people to do what they say they are going to do, but when it comes to God, I tend to doubt him, a lot.

I don't know about you, but I consider myself an idealist in many ways. When somebody says they're going to do something, I believe they are going to do it. When somebody says something in sarcasm, it's sometimes difficult for me to discern right off whether they are joking or not. As you can see, I tend to take people seriously most of the time. So joke or no joke, when someone says they are going to do something, I usually take that word at face value.

And more often than not, I fall on my face.

This develops a pattern of distrust. How can anyone be reliable, much less a God who makes crazy claims about himself and what he wants to do in my life and in others' lives? If I can't trust people, who I can see, how can I trust in a God, a triune-God at that, who is somehow three persons yet one entity, and completely unseen?

Funny enough, my experience has been that this unseen God has proven himself more reliable to me than the ever-changing people in my line of sight. How can an intangible God be so tangible? How can Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be so very close and real? And how can I trust them, him, God, more?

This is helping: Man is like God, but God is not always like man. Humans may reflect God, but we are just that...a reflection, and incomplete. So while we can learn a whole lot about our Creator through the characteristics he placed in us (as Genesis 1:27 says, we were made in his image), there's still so much we can't see. We tell the truth, and we lie. We say one thing, and do it, then we say the same thing again the next time, and fail to follow through.

If only man could reflect God completely. If only God would reflect man completely. What does he really look like? What are we supposed to look like? Can't someone just SHOW us?

He did. And he does. :-) Colossians 1:15 says of Jesus, God the Son, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation."

Read that again. "He is the image of the invisible God the firstborn over all creation."

Jesus, the image. Imagination. Imagine if we could see God. Jesus is the result. Ah...But he's not the result of our imagination. Another part of the Bible tells us that Jesus was with God the Father from the very beginning of everything. Jesus shows us what God is like, and he also shows us the embodiment of God's imagination for us human beings. Imagine what humans might look like at their peak, flawless. Jesus shows us this. Somewhere in the Bible, we are told that Jesus was the second Adam, that this God the Son came to earth to re-do what the original human being messed up. He came to reclaim the image. And in reclaiming the image of human beings, he was reclaiming the image of God. Or, put another way, in restoring the image of God, showing us what God really looks like, he was and is reclaiming what we are to look like, since we were originally made in God's imaT

So, the word reliable, how does that figure into all of this? Jesus shows us the Father. The Holy Spirit shows us Jesus and the Father. Jesus is reliable because the Father is reliable. Some of the religious people of Jesus' day couldn't wrap their minds around this whole thing.

"Who are you?" they asked.
"Just what I have been claiming all along," Jesus replied. "I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world." They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father.
(John 7:25-27)

The account of Jesus' physical life on earth show us that many of the people around him couldn't get what he was saying because they kept trying to put him on a human grid, making everything fit into their pre-conceived notions of what a God-sent man should look like and act like. I do that myself sometimes. But I'm learning that Jesus is the answer, Jesus is the grid, and he is the culmination of the Godhead's imagination for us. As we see him, we see God the Father, and in seeing and connecting to the Father, we can start to see and become our true selves, increasingly reliable.

"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." -Jesus, as recorded in John 14:12-14.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kingdoms Revisited

11 years ago, I got a vision for a play called Kingdoms. I had been writing music for this production years prior to knowing about the production, and as I began writing the script, many parts of my life seemed to come together: my love for writing, my talent for composing music (much of which was purely instrumental and sound-track-like for the longest time), my experiences and aspirations as an actor, my love for creating new theatre and drawing a crowd. Towards the end of my junior year of high school, on a trip to Europe if I remember correctly, I finished the play and set out to have it produced as a senior project in the coming school year.

This didn't happen.

Oh, I did what I could to make it happen, from submitting the script to my theatre teacher, to looking for other venues in which to produce the work when my teacher denied me what I felt was my right to stage it as a senior project at the school, even gathering an informal table reading among friends in the living room of my home. But the production still didn't take flight. It wasn't time, and after the reading, I knew it. The script wasn't ready, wasn't developed enough. The production as a whole would take a lot more work, time, and experience than I had anticipated, and I was lacking in all three of those areas. So I gave it to the Lord and put it on the shelf, literally (all 20 copies of it or however many I had made for the reading). I knew he had given me this vision for this play, and I already had some really cool songs to go along with it, not to mention a whole slew of characters just waiting to be fleshed out by live actors. But it wasn't time. Wasn't time. Wasn't time.

I think it's time now.

Time to produce the show? No, not quite. Time for a re-write that may lead to it becoming time to producing the show? Yes. Yes indeed. Yes indeed and no.

Let me explain. I have a pattern of doing too much on my own. I can act, write, sing, direct (though I'm not as confident in this as in other areas), produce, compose, perform. And because I can do so much, it's easy to try to do it ALL, without sharing the wealth of the creative process with others. The same was true in Kingdoms. It's limited....I have limited it to myself.

I think it's time to open it up to others. What I would like to do is to gather a group of actors, writers, and possibly musicians, all who are interested in hearing about a new work and the opportunity to collaborate on something ground-breaking. But it can only be ground-breaking with the help of many, many feet walking the ground. I would like to share the vision of Kingdoms, the basic story along with some of the music and characters, and ask those who are interested to take a character or two, a theme or more, and see what they can come up with. I'm talking monologues, song ideas, possible scenes. I don't know how this would work, but I'm guessing that something much more beautiful and multi-faceted can be created as many minds and hearts come together to build something extraordinary...the structure for a story which will house the very spirit of God. 'Cause that's what good art does, I think. Provides a structure in which God can speak, dwell, create something new.

So...what's new? We'll see in time.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Declaration of Independence

To the following lords, which keep me in servitude under their tyrannical rule, I hereby declare my independence:

Clutter, that ruthless dog, obese and insatiable, whose over-sized mass buries simplicity underneath and acts accomplice to the taunts of chaos, nipping at my heels;

The Lie of Inferiority, that life-sucking devil who prophesies failure in my art, my love, and my ability to succeed in the areas wherein I was born to thrive;

Financial Ignorance and the Gluttony of Debt, those brutish brothers who plunder and pillage with no regard to my actual welfare;

I go now to colonize my territory, for God, for gold, and for glory, and I declare that henceforth you shall have no right to any share of the bounty I receive in these admirable exploits. Should you choose to hold to the course of indecency through forceful insistence that I continue to languish under your captivity, you would do well to take to arms and prepare for the war and affliction that you will incur by my hand and by those who side with me in the protection of this new-found freedom.

This independence I declare, henceforth, on the 31st of August, 2009.

No longer yours,
David Ello

Monday, August 24, 2009

Chai for the Present

"Those who sow in tears
will reap with songs of joy." -Psalm 126:5

A little more than a week ago, God invited me on a journey into the depths of my heart, to let go of something that had been taking root for a long, long, time. This something wasn't a bad thing, mind you. But because it doesn't belong there any longer and is taking up space where new growth should occur, it needs to be taken out. I need to let it go. And it's hard. There has been a seed of hope resting in the rich soil of pleasant memories and taking root in the hope that those memories might become present realities, or at least blossom into buds for the future. But memories aren't a good place to live.

Something that I feel God showed me this past week is that I have been sowing into the past, into something that no longer exists, which leaves little seed for the present.

Another way to look at is is through the metaphor of Chai. I used to go to Borders and get my Chai fix on a regular basis, as they sold the best Chai available in their signature Borders Cafes. Today, these Borders Cafes no longer exist. Oh, the Borders stores still serve cafe beverages, but it's a totally different cafe and thus a totally different set of drinks. They say they offer Chai, but it's not the same stuff that I grew to love and write poetry about back in the days of Borders Cafes. So back to the present. There's this hope in my heart, this longing, even a belief, that I have held onto for so long, but it's a belief that is rooted in a past longer present. Were I to hold onto that hope from the past, it would be like me hitting up today's Borders stores in the pursuit of my most beloved Chai, to no avail. Why? Because Borders doesn't serve the same Chai any more. It's a different cafe altogether, so why am I seeking what is no longer there?

Here's a nice surprise. If I leave the safe world of Borders stores (which I have), and venture into other cafes to try the various Chai's offered, maybe, just maybe I will find a Chai as good as the one I used to enjoy in the glory days of Borders Chai. Sure, I might run into a good number of counterfeit Chai's, coffee shops promising something that they can't deliver (which has often been the case in my experience), but is it worth the risk? Might I find a Chai somewhere whose divine quality resonates with the kiss of heaven? Is it possible? Is it?

It is. I have found it.

You see, last weekend while visiting the International House of Prayer in Kansas City after a friend's wedding, I stumbled upon my most beloved substance in quite an interesting way. I was in this prayer room, which was really intense, and there was a part of that intensity that I was able to enter into. But after awhile, there was a part of me that needed a rest and almost sensed God saying, "Take a rest, David. Come into the cafe with me."

I ventured into this cafe they have called "Higher Groundz" and I was struck when I found that they had three types of Chai, four. I thought, "Hmmm...That's interesting. Reminds me of the Borders days." I asked them what kind of Chai they served, and the barista said it was "Big Train." Big Train. Hmmm...I thought I'd had Big Train before and wasn't impressed, but maybe I was mistaken. Let's go for it. So I went for it, and here's what happened. After sitting down with my Vanilla Chai (for that's the best there can be), I took one sip, and immediately my senses were aroused. My nose knew the aroma that can only come from sipping the beloved Borders Chai. My tongue leaped with joy inside my mouth as if it were surprised by the greeting of a very old friend. "This is Borders Chai!" I thought. "Granted, they didn't put enough of the Chai powder in there, but I daresay this is the same as Borders Chai!" I proceeded to ask the barista if he would give me more of the Chai powder to place in my drink (yes, as a matter of fact, Chai powder concentrates CAN be very good), and after stirring it in and taking another sip, I knew I had entered a sacred place. But it wasn't Borders in the present, and it wasn't Borders in the past. It was a moment in time I would have never expected to find Borders Chai, in a place I had never been and never imagined the site of such a joyful reunion.

There are surprises awaiting in the present and cups of joy abounding in the future. If I can celebrate what's past and lament the loss of what is no longer here, then I can open my heart wide for the present Chai pouring in. And I too can pour into the present, preparing a rich brew for the future.

"I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." -Psalm 81:10.

Taste and See

Taste and see....Taste and see. What do those words mean? Taste and see? What if we could taste heaven? What would it be like if we could see it? savor, try out, experiment, ingest, imbibe, consume. glimpse, view, behold, catch sight of, take in the with eyes, capture a vision.

Psalm 34:8 says, "Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the one who trusts in him." Who is this Lord? Why is he good? Why is such a trust in him considered blessed, lucky, happy, fortunate?

Taste and see.




Beloved Substance

Beloved Substance
by David Ello

A cup of Chai for people to drink, that they may get a taste of goodness…that is what I would be.

A cup of Chai whose divine qualities speak boastfully of the being that created it…that is what I would be.

A cup of Chai that communicates what vitality there is to be had in this life…that is what I would be.

A cup of Chai made with rich love and skill, and not the counterfeit that is produced at certain other coffee bars…that is what I would be.

A cup of Chai: a tea latte with honey, milk, sugar, ginger,

cinnamon, and an array of other spices…that is what I would be.

I am not a cup of Chai, for though I am Chai, this vessel is only


May the one whose creativity has been poured into this beloved beverage, pour forever more, that I may become a full cup of Chai,

complete in every aspect of my essence, as I was created to be.