Sunday, December 5, 2010

Winter Morning....A New Poem for the First Big Snow of the Season

Winter Morning
by David Ello

Winter's magic, some call tragic,
caught my breath this morning.

Sugar-crested, trees stand rested
underneath their blankets white.

Speckled, golden leaves lay hanging,
candied jewels in sweet suspension.

Were my eyes to write their sight,
days like this they'd more than mention.

But what my vision can't describe,
my heart instead will self-inscribe.

Winter wondered while I slumbered...
Woke me up this morning.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Autumnal Spring in the Winter

What change a year can bring! I am convinced that life comes in seasons, just like the weather can change so drastically from one degree and color to another. A year ago this time I was struggling for full-time work and in the midst of a major desert period. I heard rumblings of rain, the words of those I trust speaking of a plentiful springtime to come. Seems the spring came a year later...but it came nonetheless in what has been one of the most beautiful falls I have ever experienced.

Winter is now approaching or may very well be upon us, but it feels like a further extension of this springtime I speak of. Whereas last year I was concerned with how to find more substantial work and how to get into the school system substitute teaching, now I am enjoying regular full-time work and preparing to enter the schools as a touring theatre artist.

Last year this time I had only the faint beginnings of a partially written kids show. Now I have completed several drafts of a full-length script for "King David: LIVE!" which I have been able to workshop and present in small increments around Chicagoland raising funds toward the full production.

Doubts abound when one lives by what is clearly visible. My doubts as to whether or not God would allow me to stay in Chicago, whether he would continue to provide for me here in pursuit of my dream, his dream, our theatrical dream together, rose and fell at different times like the temperature outside. But over the past year, he has also taught me how to work with the inner thermostat, such that the outside elements of cold, hot, wind and rain (or lack thereof, mostly), have less of a mal-effect on this tree he has planted. I'm taking root, and it's his plan. So I'm okay. And I will thrive, rain or shine, snow or no snow. But there will be snow. And this tree will blossom in it.

Come now, winter, and extend this springtime with your icy, snowy blasts! The Snowman Awaits!

Ecclesiastes 3
A Time for Everything (NIV translation)

" 1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Perfectionism and Progress

I've heard it said that "Perfection is the enemy of the good." Now, one could argue from a theological standpoint that in light of God's perfection, this is not true, since God is perfect and perfectly good. But I'm speaking of human perfection at the moment, so humor me awhile as I digress into two recent discoveries.

I'm finding that perfectionism hinders one from truly enjoying the process. A simple process of cooking delectable hamburger patties on a grill can easily shift from enjoying the aroma of the smoke coming off of the coals and melding with the meat to the incessant inner monologue saying, "Oh my gosh, these stupid, stupid flames are burning my meat! Why didn't I wait 'til the fire died down so I could cook these suckers to PERFECTION like I know I can!" First, that's missing the point. Second, it's prideful and a bit presumptuous. "Perfection like I know I can?" Wow. And if that were actually true, that I could grill the meat to perfection (or perform any such task to perfection), who's to say that I am capable of reaching perfection every time I attempt such a task? It's a big set-up for failure, and I find that one misses a lot along the way. The meat turned out quite yummy, by the way, a little greasy though some of it may have been.

What does this have to do with the Revolution of Chai and my time here in Chicago? Precisely this: There are many things that I set out to accomplish when I moved here two years ago (and as of last Friday it has been exactly two years, thank you very much and thank you God!). And many of those things haven't happened yet, or else they have but are taking place on a very miniscule, hard-to-see-by-the-naked-eye level. Some examples? Becoming a better writer and theatre artist for one. What progress have I made in that regard? Since highschool, no---middle school--I have been acting in at least one show per semester (that's a minimum of two shows per year) and kept my acting chops fresh, growing, expanding. Since moving to Chicago I have been in only 1, yes 1, show (and that was almost two years ago now). That's okay though. I didn't come here so much to act as to write and produce/direct new theatre. And in that way, I have improved. So the actor in me feels neglected but the writer/creator of new theatre in me is growing. I have written more short plays in my two years here and seen more of my original writing acted out in some form or another (workshop, table reading, informal or staged reading at Show and Tells, etc.) than I ever have in my prior 24 years of life in Houston. And as for producing? Well, I actually haven't produced very much original work on a large scale, but I have been able to gather other artists and promote the exposure of their work to some degree, particularly through the Show and Tells we've been doing over the past 6 months or so. I have also seen more theatre here than perhaps in my entire lifetime (not sure about that one, but it seems close nonetheless). And I'm a much better theatre educator than I was before moving here, having compiled more lesson plans and taught more classes than I ever had before living in this city. I have even made significant progress on a play about my namesake that may soon become my first production to be fully produced and performed professionally, impacting paying (and perhaps a few non-paying) audiences. That's HUGE!

This leaves me two choices. I can lament the fact that I have been in Chicago for two years and still haven't seen any large scale fruition of what I came here hoping to do, thus holding to a perfectionistic, performance-based ideal...OR I can take a step back from it all and admire this ever bubbling pot of Chai that God is still brewing, yes, even stewing over with great patience and delight, saying, "Mmm....Smell that ginger, look at that cardamom float on the surface, see how these spices are swimming together to make a harmonious whole that's going to make the whole earth's mouth water for more of me and my goodness." (God speaking, of course.) Process. Option 1 is Perfectionism and self-judgment. Option 2 is about Enjoying the Process and becoming free to take in an albeit non-perfect, day by day picture that's a bit different from how I thought things ought to play out. Am I going to breathe in the aroma of the Chai with Jesus or stress over the fact that it's not completely Chai yet, becoming though it may be?

I'll end with this. About two weeks ago, my friend Brian, co-collaborator of the Show and Tell parties and all-around fun guy to hang with, encouraged me with something reflecting the following: "You know, David, you should be really pleased with yourself. You've done good here, accomplished quite a bit. These Show and Tells have been helping a lot of people and have been a great success. And they've provided me and some others the platform to develop some of our work from one level to the next, such that a few of us are actually putting on a house concert and getting our stuff out there. And that was one of the original goals you set out with in the beginning, wasn't it? To promote different artists towards realizing their artistic talents in a more full expression?" Okay, so perhaps I elaborated while quoting, but this is the gist of what he said, or what I heard. And suddenly, like Lucy telling the always down and out Charlie Brown something so simple yet revealing about his positive effect in the world, I felt as if some of my dreams and goals were being realized and this revolution of Chai had indeed begun to take place. I hadn't failed. I haven't.

So thank you, Brian Stark, and thank you Lord for encouraging me with what is instead of what isn't. And thank you that what isn't may yet be, when the time is ripe and the water has boiled out of the milk (you Chai makers will understand me on this).

Perfectionism or Process? Perfection can denote a stopping point. Process implies proceeding. I'd rather proceed. And that I will.

(In the spirit of proceeding, did you know that I have edited this post about 3 or 4 times before finally just letting it be? Perfectionism once again? Or process? I suppose it has to do with my attitude in the midst of it.)

"12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." -Philippians 3:12-14

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Homecoming and Coming home again

To be perfectly honest, Houston and I haven't been on the best of terms since (and before) moving up to Chicago, primarily due to this fear that sometimes comes to taunt me into thinking I may fail in my pursuits here and have to one day move back.

But last weekend made me feel different. I realized afresh just how rich a history I have in the Bayou City, what deep and proud heritage I have in my old church family there, not to mention the special bond I'm very fortunate to have with my flesh and blood family.

It's true that one can't live in the past, and singing songs lamenting the passing of the "good 'ole days" won't ever do anyone much good in engaging the present. But I'm realizing there's an equal danger in simply discarding the past in an effort to embrace the future. Remembrance is important. It helps us to appreciate and honor what's gone before us and to be thankful for the depth of what's been sown, producing hope for new roots to develop just as deep in the new places we find ourselves. To dwell in the past wouldn't be healthy (or actually possible for that matter...not really, as time and space is ever-changing and never remains quite as it was when we left it to engage in the present), but to visit and remember for awhile is a different story altogether.

Thank the Lord for BBQ and Tex-Mex and the Houston Vineyard and Samuel Jones and Tim Simpson and all of the others who have made such a rich impact in my life. How I wish I could carry all of them with me where I am at, or that we could all carry on together somehow, though we are in different places. Thank God for a climate (as much as I criticize it at times) where carnivorous plants can thrive and kids of all ages can take a swim in a summer that's actually hot enough to do so. Praise God for the myriad of amazing restaurants in the city and in the suburbs, and praise him for the quite-complex yet efficient freeway system that transports hungry stomachs to those desired havens.

Thanks Lord for making me a Houstonian. And thanks for the Houstonian Chicagoan that I am becoming and couldn't have become otherwise without my rich history in the Bayou City. From the Windy City, I thank you.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Whenever I go into the darkness, the light within me shines all the brighter. I can feel the burning, the embers glowing deep, a fresh flame igniting as I step into the dark.

Something within me is burning fresh. Burning doesn't always feel good. Actually most of the time, a burning causes irritation. I burn.

I've heard it said that your purpose is found where the world's greatest need and your deepest joy meet (or something of the sort). How about the intersection of deepest darkness with your deepest light?

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Death, death, death. Bring life, life, life all around. All around.

The river begs for Chai without even knowing. Time to get brewing.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Out of the Desert!!!

My friends, it has happened! After 6 months in the desert, God has brought me out and into the next leg of the journey! This past Sunday I got some extra hope while gathering with my church, the Evanston Vineyard, and later on after the screening of "Furious Love" at Oak Park Vineyard. The next day, as I was praying with my roommate for a breakthrough (among other things), I sensed the Holy Spirit say to me, "TODAY." At first I wasn't sure whether to take that in faith and hold God to that, but I finally said, "You know God, I don't want to presume, but I think you're actually telling me that you're going to break through TODAY. So I pray that you would!" About an hour or so later, I get a call from one of the job leads I had interviewed for previously. And BOOM! I'm in. Training started the next day (Tuesday), and the rest is becoming history. It's been a long, hard week of training, but I am so glad to have some stable work after months of piecing together part-time contract gigs.

Here are a few nuggets of remembrance from the desert period. (There are much more, some of which you can read in greater depth through other blog posts here.):

Man really doesn't live by bread alone but by every word that comes from God's mouth. When God says there will be food on the table, or money to pay the rent and bills, there will be. It may not come in the way we expect, but it will be there. Whatever he says, goes.

Performance alone does not create progress. The necessary ingredient is Providence. In this desert, I learned that no matter how hard I strived, it didn't make a lick of a difference in how I was provided for. I know now that everything I have and ever will have is the result of God providing it for me. Sometimes he'll just give it easily, and other times he'll give it in such a way that we have to go out and take it. But the bottom line is that he gives it.

He is faithful, he is faithful, he is faithful. Last week was one of the hardest weeks I have had in a long time. Feeling the strain of not having enough work, getting rejected by job leads and not experiencing any progress in terms of the job-search all weighed in on me, with the voice of Satan (or more likely, his minions), saying, "You're gonna fail. God's going to push you out of this place. You'll have to move back home 'cause you can't make it here. Your time is up. Go back. You did what you could." Lies lies lies.

The truth is finely stated in Psalm 44. I'll leave you with this:

"3 It was not by their sword that they won the land,
nor did their arm bring them victory;
it was your right hand, your arm,
and the light of your face, for you loved them.

4 You are my King and my God,
who decrees victories for Jacob.

5 Through you we push back our enemies;
through your name we trample our foes.

6 I do not trust in my bow,
my sword does not bring me victory;

7 but you give us victory over our enemies,
you put our adversaries to shame.

8 In God we make our boast all day long,
and we will praise your name forever.
Selah " -Psalm 44:3-8

"I sought the Lord and he answered me. He delivered me from all my fears." -Psalm 34:4

Praise Yahweh, the God of the desert and the Promised Land coming after.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Attack. Advance. All hell will not prevail against it.

There comes a time when one must fight. There comes a time when one has to stop defending and start attacking.

I watched a movie called "Miracle" last night, in which the Olympic U.S. Hockey Team was training for the games and to defeat the Soviet Team. At one point in the movie, the coach, masterfully played by Kurt Russel, shows the team what they are up against and how the Soviets have historically decimated opposing teams on the ice. His strategy? Don't defend them. Throw their own game in their face, and advance. Fight. Attack. Get 'em on the offense.

I think there comes a time in our minds when we've got to do that, to stop defending against the negatives, the fears, the what-ifs and maybe-nots, and instead go for the jugular. I don't want to simply sit on my sinking ship, hoping that I can deflect the cannon balls coming my way and somehow stay afloat long enough for the enemy ships to go away. I want to hit 'em back, shoot some cannon-balls of my own and capture their fleet. Plunder!

You may think I'm talking about the U.S. military, or some personal enemies in my own circle of society. But that's not the case. I'm speaking of a spiritual battle and the spiritual forces that seek to undermine those who have chosen to pursue a divine destiny. I'm talking about the devil.

"The devil?" you ask. "Little man in red spandex with cute horns and matching spandex?" No. I'm talking about a fallen angel who's had millenia to craft deceit and hurls his lies at even the most astute players on this stage. The one that the apostle Peter refers to as a "roaring lion, prowling around, seeking someone to devour."

What's his main line of attack? How do we attack back? For me, it's been words, thoughts, so-called truths that are in fact no truth at all. Lies lies lies. It's the subtle art of undermining. "You're time is up here. It's time to go back to Houston. You are not succeeding here because you're not supposed to anymore. The doors are closing because you're supposed to go back and succeed there."

So it's time to attack back.

"The Lord will fullfill his purpose for me. God wants me here. My God will meet all of my needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. The Lord plans to prosper me, not to harm me. Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. God is not a man, that he should lie or change his mind. He is not fickle. He's not going to uproot me so suddenly, just because I'm used to a history of not getting to stay in one place for more than a few years. No. The Lord will provide. We live by faith, not by sight. It's not time to let go. It's time to hold on."

Maybe this doesn't mean anything to you. Perhaps it's just for me to get out on paper (electronic as it may be), to declare the truth in cyberspace, to make a further declaration of war. Well, this is my declaration: My God has sent me on a mission to Chicago, and I haven't seen that fulfilled yet. His time for me here is not finished, and whenever it is, he will let me know in a way that produces peace, not fear. I will not go on creating alternate stories which I can understand, to place my faith in those. I'm going to continue believing in the God whose ways are often unseen, like a mustard seed that is planted and grows slowly under ground, only later to produce a plant that provides shelter for multiple others.

I will not be intimidated. I will intimidate the enemy with my steadfast trust in the Jesus who is with me, teaching me how to walk on the water and kill giants. The battle isn't mine anyway. It's the Lord's. He's going to bring in the victory. I just have to hold the ground I've been given and keep moving forward. You may recall that David, before he became king of Israel, had to face a giant. And he didn't retreat. The account in the book of Samuel says that David actually ADVANCED towards the giant Goliath. He RAN towards him! Subtle defense? Hardly. It's time to advance. It's time to go get the giant. It's time to knock him down and chop his head off. And I will, because the Lord God who delivered David then is with David to deliver him today.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Surprised by Chai

C.S. Lewis wrote a book called "Surprised By Joy" in which he details the surprise, romantic relationship and marriage God brought to him in his later years. I'm not nearly as old as he was when wrote that, and I hope I'm as much surprised by the joy of such a relationship before that age. For now, however, I'm finding myself surprised by Chai.

As many of you know, I went through a great withdrawal season when Borders switched all of their cafes to Seattle's Best, no longer serving my beloved substance, that most glorious Borders Chai. And though I have made attempts to concoct my own heavenly brew, I can never quite match the taste of that legendary liquid I used to consume. It's no surprise then that sometimes I have dreams of finding this kind of Chai again in the most random of places.

What's shocking is that these dreams are becoming a reality.

Months ago, I was visiting the International House of Prayer in Kansas City where I stumbled across a Chai that most certainly resembled in taste and texture the wonderful drink I used to get from Borders. I was amazed! When I asked what kind of Chai they were using, they told me "Big Train." Big Train. Remember.

So since then I have wanted to get some Big Train Chai, see if it really is the same stuff, but due to limited resources and feeling like I should spend my money on more reasonable things, I've held off on making such a purchase. Big Train.

Just before Christmas I was thinking of ordering myself some of this Chai to enjoy on my visit to Houston for the holidays. But I didn't. And just two nights ago, I was talking to some friends about Big Train Chai, suggesting they order some to consider selling at their coming coffee bar (check out But I didn't intend to get any myself.

Surprise surprise! Tonight, at the invitation of some of my other friends, Joel and Elda, I came to their house and received one of the best gifts a man like me could ever hope to receive: a large canister of Big Train Chai! I was ecstatic! I opened the canister almost instantly, sniffing and inhaling the sweet aroma like an addict who's gone months without his fix. Ah......Ah.......AH! JESUS JESUS JESUS! (If you think I'm making this up, ask Joel and Elda. They were there to witness my elation, and it sounded much like I'm describing here!) They proceeded to tell me that they wanted to get me something for taking them to the airport back in December. This was just before I left home for Christmas...the same time I was thinking about Big Train Chai. Coincidence? No.

I'm in love with a God who knows my deepest desires, who woos me with gifts and sweet whispers and longs for me to pursue him in return. I believe in a Jesus who wants to give me "life and life to the full." I'm a friend of this crazy God who backs statements like, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." -Psalm 37:4 I'm in love with a God who loves me and loves that I love Chai because he loves Chai...and likes to surprise me with it.

I think what I'm most surprised by is the fact that I really didn't do anything to procure this. I didn't order the Chai, didn't ask my friends, "Hey, can you get me some of this stuff?" didn't beg and plead for God to bless me with...well, maybe I did ask him back in December. But I didn't do anything to get it. He just gave it to me and in his crazy timing.

I love this God of surprises. I love how he loves to show me himself through other people. Sometimes I say, "Jesus, I want to see your face." And I often forget that I get to see him all the time in other people, in my roommate, in my friends, in the guys that are helping me work out three times a week and pushing me further so I can get in the shape that I want to be.

Surprise me more, God, and continue to do so through the people you have made!

Let's get ready for surprises, shall we? Surprised by CHAI!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Enjoying the Process (or Drinking with Jesus)

I've been feeling heavy this morning and much of yesterday as well. I've wanted to get so much done and have actually been somewhat productive but still lacking the greater results I want to see. I have been seeking God for solutions, answers, revelation. And what I got just awhile ago was so much better.

I had it all planned. I was going to wake up early today (which I did), read my Bible part of the time (which I did), and do some strategic planning with God to create more structure in my life and hopefully a more productive day-to-day lifestyle. This strategic planning hasn't happened yet. I thought A and B would lead to C, but the thing is that A and B left me high and dry. And it's not that waking up early and reading my Bible were bad things. Those are good things! But Jesus showed me that instead of searching the Scriptures for him, I was just looking for answers, solutions, results. Is that bad? Not entirely. God is full of answers. He calls us to seek wisdom, search it out, all that good stuff. But my primary motive was off. I was seeking him, but not so much for him. More of a side-thought to get what I really wanted: more clarity, more results, more progress.

As none of this was bearing any fruit (not to my knowledge anyway), I decided to pop in a CD that had a sermon on it a friend gave me from Bethel church (, the title being "Enjoying the Process." It was about how we're so results oriented in our western mindsets that we often get sidetracked from just enjoying the process with God, getting to know him, BEING with him. And I began to cry as I realized I wasn't seeking Jesus this morning as much as the results he might give me.

Here's a thought. Who of your best friends, or let's say best long-distance friends, have you had the best time with? And what are you doing in that time? Are you actually DOING something? Or is most of the good stuff happening in the being, the talking, the sharing of life? How much of what's going on, whether in person or on the phone, is instructional, and how much is simply relational? As for me, why do I feel like more often than not, if I'm gonna get something from God, it's got to be instructional? Don't get me wrong, I know the Bible speaks of God confiding in those who fear him. He makes known the paths of life, he teaches us truth, etc. But is that limited to didactic truth? Might some of that life, that truth, that knowledge include things like, "This is why I love the color green," or "You are so beautiful to me, " or "I want to share with you the joy of making a snowman" ?

Process. Jesus. Process. I don't want to just feel the effects of the caffeine pulsating through my veins, waking me up and making me happy. I want to participate in making the Chai, peeling the ginger, crushing the cardamom, watching the cinnamon sticks simmer with the black tea as it creates a lush rue before adding the creamy delight. I want to taste the tea on my tongue, embracing every spice, and swallow. I want to drink Chai with Jesus. I want to drink him in. Would you like to drink with us?