Monday, April 14, 2014

Centerstage



Dim lighting reveals the unique textures of exposed brick wall, old props and other hints to the past and faded memories of forgotten performances. Musty glimpses of unseen grandeur, seem to be suspended in time from the high-reaching ceiling, in this beautiful, historic theater. A few unmatched chairs line the edge of the open area. Here, behind-the-scenes where only a few see what really goes on, to make a play production happen, and where cast members congregate.

The whole bunch of them gather. The minor players and the major characters. And both of them need the other.

The director stands in the center. He is a good man. A seasoned actor, gifted, yet humble. A ragged circle is formed. Everyone pushes in close and a hush falls over the group, as he begins to speak. There is a recap of yesterday's performance. He highlights what was great, what needs to be modified, and then he opens the discussion to others and their thoughts on what would make today's performance, the best yet.

There was not a hint of condemnation in his voice. He talks about little-big things, like a longer pause to bring closure to a scene or allowing full rests, to allow the audience to respond with laughter. Simple words of encouragement, useful tips and information were offered, that would make the experience better for those who would come to see them perform and to draw the team closer.

They aren't playacting right now.

This moment, represents long hours spent. Accumulated over weeks and now the months that have preceded. It demonstrates how a common goal has united them. What began as a random group of forty children and twenty seven adults, and one dog, has now become an integrated cast of talent for the beloved play, "Annie."

Soon the theater lights would be lowered, the sound of fine-tuned strings and keys will rise from the tiny orchestra pit to set the tone for each scene. Stage lighting will flood the space where the players in the production will become someone else, while bringing who only they can be, to the character.

They draw in the audience by their heart-strings, to engage them in the story of the vibrant, bouncy, perpetually optimistic, orphan girl named Annie who lives in New York City in the 1930s.

And this little nine year old 'Annie," brings the character Annie, alive.

The darling girl with the beautiful voice, brings her energy to the theater that is absorbed by the audience who fill the rows of red velvet covered seats. From backstage, I can hear the audience "ooh" and "aahh," offers of polite applause and bursts of laughter, until the final scenes when the orchestra music cues building anticipation and excitement that the final moments are being played out before them.

Wrong or right, there is one who just steals the show.

Her stage name is "Sandy."

She just comes out, playing her most adorable self. Sweet, obedient, hoping for a small reward.

And she goes and kind of steals the show.

She is actually named Nestle. As in chocolate.

She doesn't really get what it's all about.

She hardly notices the details of the pieces that make up the set, the intricacy of the costumes. The lights and sounds and the people sitting in the orchestra pit with their glasses sitting on the tip of their noses didn't mean a thing to her. Every solo, every chorus, and the crescendo that brings your heart crashing to the climax of the play. She isn't rooting for the heroin and or wanting to boo the antagonist. Her best performances don't impress her any more than her not-so-good performances.

She doesn't long to feel the heat of stage lighting, to hit each mark, or to be the character.

She is just, who only she can be.

Nestle.

An English yellow Labrador retriever.

And she seems pleased to hang out with all those who delivered every line and were able to bask in the glow of a big finish or that moment when they know -- just know -- that the audience was theirs. In fact I think she preferred the little known orphans who hung out and fell asleep through the long parts that they had to wait through.

It wasn't her dream to be center-stage.

But she was there and was one of the stars. Plus she brought a bit of comic relief to the whole show.




Hanging out with the dog-star reminds me that behind-the-scenes, is where much of the center-stage-stuff happens.

The places that are not as glamorous. Where there are few hints to the rich architecture of the building, which was erected in 1929, right before the Great Depression, the time period in which this play is set.

Not a single intricately designed panel or wall mural. Not one column woven with gold ornamental molding to be found.

No marquee with bright, blinking, flashing lights.

But the heartbeat of center stage, comes out of a lot of behind-the scenes moments.

Every piece and part is vital to the whole.

Hanging out backstage was a sweet reminder that when everyone serves with the gifts they have been given, amazing things happen. A group of people gathered here, who understood this and became a part of the bigger plan, which fueled their level of performance as a team. Not for individual glory, but for the greater good of the whole group.

The Directors and performers all seemed to understand this well.... we all need each other.

And Nestle-girl was satisfied with a little praise and a few dog treats.


Monday, April 7, 2014

When You're Not Invited To The Party




There was quite a stir in the little town.

The guest list included all the right people.

Emotions of anticipation, mixed in with excitement mounted, as the preparations were made.

Goblets were positioned at each place-setting and attention given to every hurried detail.

As the master of the ceremony stood, things took an unexpected twist.

This was the backdrop of the story, where the great Prophet Samuel, had arrived in the little town of Bethlehem and called for Jesse and all of his sons to join him.

Samuel had been sent to anoint the next king.

The old prophet took one look at the oldest son of Jesse and saw that he was tall, handsome and distinguished. He responded, "Surely this is the one!"

You can read the story for yourself (here.)

God responds with this famous line, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

Even the Prophet Samuel was looking for the next king through human eyes, instead of God-eyes. And I wonder if the old prophet thought that the new thing God was about to do, would look like the old thing that had already been done.

As each of the sons in attendance were brought forward, it became apparent that someone was missing.

In fact, the person that the party was being held for, had not even been invited.

That's how it was for David.

David.

Soon to be, King David.

One of the Bibles most well-known names. The man who would go on to be king over Israel for forty years. The man who, the book of Psalms is largely attributed to. The one who was mistreated and despised by his siblings. The boy-man sent out to tend the sheep in the open wilderness.

The same man who it is said, was indeed, "a man after God's own heart."

Yeah. He wasn't even invited to his own party.

Just let that sink in for a few minutes.

And I love that Samuel directs them to go get the boy and that they will not be seated until he arrived. The hours that passed must have been a little awkward.

David's own father doesn't even call him by name when all the other sons are rejected. He is just called, "the youngest." One Bible version says that he was "the runt."

The boy David, had been hanging out in dangerous open country, where few if any, could see what he was doing. Some scholars suggest he was only about twelve years old at the time of this event.

Whatever age he was, while no one was watching, he honed his skills on the harp, prayed songs out of the depths of his heart, and learned to be brave. The Bible says that he killed a lion and a bear and grabbed them by the scruff of their faces to save the lamb that was being carried away. (read here?)

All agree, that David was the least likely to be the next king. 

He had long been overlooked.

Unseen. Unnamed. Uninvited.

He lived and served in obscurity.

But God saw him. 

That is how the Kingdom of God is.

Those who look like they have it all together, are not necessarily the ones who do. Those who are invited to the party, are not necessarily the ones that God reveres.

I wonder about you.

Do you feel like you live in obscurity and that what you do, doesn't really matter?

Like the mom who is up in the night with a crying child. The one who does mountains of laundry that only seem to need done again. Or maybe you are a person who sits with that aging parent, who played favorites and who isn't kind or grateful. Perhaps you are the one who is taken advantage of, but didn't retaliate. A person who was slandered, that turned the other cheek. The one passed over for the promotion. The one left off of the guest list. The one who isn't seen as young enough, pretty enough, rich enough, have a large enough social network platform. Not, what-ever-enough, to be in that group.

God sees you every single time. 

And His, is really an upside-down economy.

The first shall be last.

The true leader is a servant.

What seems unseen, is seen and will someday be fully revealed.

And God can reach down in your obscurity and promote you when the time is right.

In the meantime, we remain faithful to do the things He has given us.

It is important that we understand, unlike people, God doesn't play favorites.

In Ephesians 2:10 it says: "For you are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."

Emily Freeman points out in her book, "A Million Little Ways,"  that the word "masterpiece" is from the root word "poiema" which means, poem. So each and every person is a great work, a poem. And God has things for each of us to do.

In addition, every day,we have to choose if we will be who we most deeply are, and embrace that job that only we were designed to do. She points out that no one else can be who you are, speak with the voice that you have, and bring to the table all your life experiences that you have lived. (loose paraphrase)  =]

The world needs you to be that poem, that masterpiece you were created to be.

And when you fully embrace who you are most deeply designed to be, I get a glimpse of Jesus in you. That encourages and blesses those around you.

We have to know that every task we do, can be done for God's glory. That includes the dishes and really loving deeply those around us when no one seems to be watching.

It includes every act of love that you extend in Jesus name.

That is the key thing. That we do what we do, is for God's glory and not our own.

So today, we go with God's agenda instead of our personal plans and American dream.

Every day we have the outline of the day and then we roll with the interruptions that are just going to happen and we live them out to the glory of God.

I've always wanted a heart like David's.

A heart that would long for the things God wants me to desire, no matter who understands. A heart that loves, even when rejected or passed over. I adore that David danced to the point of making a fool out of himself before the Lord and in front of people who thought he should tone it down a bit.

David served in a pasture and was promoted to the palace.

Because he served with integrity, a God-that-sees.

That's what God does.

He sees.

He sees you right where you are. Right now.

God sees your heart and is in the business of reaching down and promoting the most unlikely people.

Be the Masterpiece you were designed to be and see others as God sees them.

~~~~~~~♥~~~~~~~

**Thank you Cherri and the team at Mia Bella for allowing me to come share my heart with your women. 
May we all walk with eyes to see as God sees today? **



Sharing my words over at Jennifer Lees today.





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© Rhonda Quaney