Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Book Review: 'Performing the Sacred' by Todd E. Johnson and Dale Savidge

An Engaging Dialogue About Church, Theater
By Jerry Starks
Have you ever been around two people who know and appreciate different aspects of the same activity? Maybe one is a florist and the other a landscaper, or one likes playing soccer and the other likes coaching it. You can get a wide perspective very quickly just by listening to them talk about their activity.

"Performing the Sacred" by Todd E. Johnson and Dale Savidge (Baker Academic 2009) is a dialogue between two people who love and understand both theater and theology. Johnson is the William K. and Delores S. Brehm Associate Professor of Worship, Theology and the Arts at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Covenant Church and the editor of "The Conviction of Things Not Seen." Savidge is the executive director and founding member of Christians in Theatre Arts (CITA). He is professor of theatre and chair of the theatre arts department at North Greenville University and has traveled the world as a theater artist. Their conversation (they alternated writing chapters in the book) covers a lot of territory, but by the end I was challenged and encouraged.

Three concepts are the anchors of their discussion: Incarnation, Community, and Presence. Christians will recognize these ideas in terms of theology, applying to our relationship with Jesus and with others. However Johnson and Savidge point out that the three are also fundamental to theater and describe the relationship between the author and the actors and the audience.

Establishing background for a discussion is usually difficult, and I found the first chapter, “A survey of Christianity and Theatre in history,” a little dry. But plow through it (or skip it) because the rest of the book is very engaging. Both authors provide examples from unusual theatrical events, such as Todd’s description of a “play” he attended that took place in the front seat of a Delta 88 driving around the streets of Chicago, while the audience of four was in the back seat. With that backdrop, he then begins a discussion of Presence, both in relationship to theater and in relationship to God.

With the ease of familiarity the authors make observations about church and theater that might disturb some Christians. Then they turn around and make other observations that would startle many non-Christians involved in the theatrical arts: theater is more Incarnational, depends more on Community and is more Present than any other art form. The very fact that it is a performance and not a recording echoes the reality that life is temporary. Because of the interaction between the author, the actors, and the audience, theatre is a very Trinitarian experience. These are the kinds of ideas that bubble forth in the dialogue.

“Well then, why bother going to church if you can experience the presence of the divine in theater?” The authors address the problem honestly. What good (to the Church) is theater if it doesn’t evangelize? Acting is fundamentally dishonest (lying); so how can that honor God? Why should we expose our minds to all the junk that’s on the modern stage? Hard questions are explored with integrity, and I was very pleased by the absence of pat answers. In that way, reading this book is similar to reading a book by Philip Yancey.

The final chapter is written as a conversation between the two authors and it’s the kind of conversation I’d love to participate in. It’s not just a review of the contents of the book: it’s an example of them in context and in action.

"Performing The Sacred" is not a quick, easy read, (the book is published with an academic market in mind), but it is a very worthwhile read. It raises significant issues for any Christian who is interested in theater arts, and it gives a well-thought-out basis from which you can start building your answers.

The book is part of the Engaging Culture series designed to help Christians respond with theological discernment to our contemporary culture. Each volume explores particular cultural expressions, seeking to discover God’s presence in the world and to involve readers in sympathetic dialogue and active discipleship.

To purchase this book (and support Christians in Theatre Arts) click here.

Jerry Starks is associate director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and has numerous acting and directing credits in both secular and Christian productions. He resides in Essex Junction, VT where he is active in the arts ministry at his church.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Catch Retta Blaney on Wild Woman Network

Retta Blaney, author of Working on the Inside: The Spiritual Life Through the Eyes of Actors will visit with Sandra Lee Schubert on Wild Woman Network: Conversations with Creative Vagabonds, Thinkers and Innovators, Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 2 PM EST.

Blaney, author of "Working on the Inside: The Spiritual Life Through the Eyes of Actors" is a theatre and religion writer in Manhattan. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Newsday, National Catholic Reporter, The Jewish Week, The Living Church, American Theatre, Back Stage and other publications. Her popular blog can be found at http://uponthesacredstage.blogspot.com.

Stage and screen actors form unique relationships with their audiences. Through their work, they challenge, teach, and inspire us by shedding light in all corners of life and connecting with us through our senses and emotions. Working on the Inside goes backstage into the inner lives of respected actors like Liam Neeson, Vanessa Williams, Phylicia Rashad, Edward Herrmann, Kristin Chenoweth and many others to reveal the deep spirituality each one relies on in their lives and work. The result is a book like no other that draws ten key elements of the universal spiritual life from the perspective of actors whose work it is to tap into the essence of life, tell stories, and reveal life's truths.

Blaney was inspired to write this book by the spiritual wisdom actors conveyed in their interviews with her over the years. She dared to ask actors questions few ever do--How does your spirituality influence your life and work? How do you pray? What do you pray for? How do you stay centered in a career with so much uncertainty? And they answered. The result is a book that takes readers into the private thoughts of some of their favorite actors for inspiring tips on how they, too, can begin working on the inside.

Find the radio program at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/SandraLeeSchubert/

The call-in number is (347) 202-0660.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Free Copy of 'A Perfect Mess'

David from Pasadena, CA is the winner of the free copy of 'A Perfect Mess' by Lisa Harper. Congratulations!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Win a Copy of 'A Perfect Mess' by Lisa Harper

We are participating in the blog tour for Lisa Harper's new book "A Perfect Mess." For a chance to win a free copy, send an email with your name, address and phone number to masterworkproductions@yahoo.com with "Perfect Mess Giveaway" in the subject line. All entrees received by 5 pm Sunday, July 26, 2009 will have a chance to win a copy of the book.

Publisher's Summary:Caught up in the self-imposed pressure to do and be all the things they think a Christian woman ought to do and be, countless women are working desperately to convince everyone, including God, that they have it all together. Few have any idea that the Creator of the universe looks at them with delight even when they yell at the dog, drive a minivan littered with French fries, or think bad words about that rude clerk at the store.

"A Perfect Mess" offers hope to every woman who yearns for a vibrant relationship with God but worries she isn’t good enough or doesn’t do enough to merit His affection. With characteristic authenticity, speaker and author Lisa Harper shares poignant stories from her own imperfect life to showcase the real-life relevancy of the Bible in the lives of modern women.

As she guides readers on a story-driven journey through selected Psalms, they will be inspired to experience for themselves how God’s incomparable love transforms the messiness of life into a gorgeous work of grace.

Lisa Harper is a master storyteller whose lively approach connects the dots between the Bible era and modern life. She is a sought-after Bible teacher and speaker whose upcoming appearances include the national Women of Faith Conferences. A veteran of numerous radio and television programs and the author of several books, she also is a regular columnist for "Today’s Christian Woman" magazine.

For more information on the book, click here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

There Are No Shortcuts to Maturity

Guest devotion by Rick Warren PurposeDriven.com based on Philippians 1:6 (The Living Bible)
“I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in His grace until His task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns”

It takes years for us to grow to adulthood, and it takes a full season for fruit to mature and ripen. The same is true for the fruit of the Spirit. The development of Christlike character cannot be rushed. Spiritual growth, like physical growth, takes time.

When you try to ripen fruit quickly, it loses its flavor. In the United States, tomatoes are usually picked unripened so they won’t bruise during shipping to the stores. Then, before they are sold, these green tomatoes are sprayed with CO2 gas to turn them red instantly. Gassed tomatoes are edible, but they are no match to the flavor of a vine-ripened tomato that is allowed to mature slowly.

While we worry about how fast we grow, God is concerned about how strong we grow. God views our lives from and for eternity, so he is never in a hurry.

Christian author Lane Adams once compared the process of spiritual growth to the strategy the Allies used during World War II to liberate islands in the South Pacific. First they would “soften up” an island, weakening the resistance by shelling the enemy strongholds with bombs from offshore ships.

Next, a small group of Marines would invade the island and establish a “beachhead”—a tiny fragment of the island that they could control. Once the beachhead was secured, they would begin the long process of liberating the rest of the island, one bit of territory at a time. Eventually the entire island would be brought under control, but not without some costly battles.

Adams drew this parallel: Before Christ invades our lives at conversion, he sometimes has to “soften us up” by allowing problems we can’t handle. While some open their lives to Christ the first time he knocks on the door, most of us are resistant and defensive. Our pre-conversion experience is Jesus saying, “Behold, I stand at the door and bomb!”

The moment you open yourself to Christ, God gets a beachhead in your life. You may think you have surrendered all of your life to him, but the truth is, there is a lot to your life that you aren’t even aware of. You can only give God as much of you as you understand at that moment. That’s okay.

Once Christ is given a beachhead, he begins the campaign to take over more and more territory until all of your life is completely his. There will be struggles and battles, but the outcome will never be in doubt. God has promised that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6 NIV).

Devotion used with permission. For other Purpose Driven devotions, visit Purpose Driven Connection. Scripture quotation marked "The Living Bible" taken from The Living Bible/ Kenneth N. Taylor, Tyndale House, 1997, c1971 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Remembering Walter Cronkite

Retta Blaney shares some wonderful memories of Walter Cronkite on her blog at http://uponthesacredstage.blogspot.com. Read her personal reflections about this wonderful journalist and how he came to write to forward for her book "Journalism Stories from the Real World".

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Christian Arts Ministry Highlights

Working at Masterwork Productions, I am blessed to come in contact with many Christians and organizations using the arts to reach out with the love of Christ.

Some of them are linked on this site (if you scroll down at right, you'll see the "Christian Arts Links" section where you can link directly to the sites). I thought I would use this post to introduce you to them. All of them can be great assets to you in your worship arts or drama ministry.

• Masterwork Productions
-- A Christian performing arts company that produces shows, events and resources, represents artists for bookings and provides training through workshops and conferences. Our professionals are just what you need to take your ministry to the next level and reach out to your community with life-changing results.
• Reflections in the Light -- Masterworks' affiliated site where you can find the only resource for professional Broadway and theater reviews with an added Christian perspective to help you decide which shows to see in New York or playing in your city
Torrymartin.com -- official site for comedian and author Torry Martin, award-winning writer and actor, screenwriter and networker extraordinaire
• Bill Cooper -- Song writer and performer helping Churches and Christians worship through song.
Lillenas Publishing -- The official publishing arm of the Nazarene Church. Your main source for the best sketches available for performance at churches
Christians in Theatre Arts -- A national networking and training organization supporting Christians involved in both secular and church arts
• Heart of the Artist Ministries -- he official ministry of Rory Noland, former worship director at Willow Creek Church and author of "The Heart of the Artist" and "The Worshiping Artist," two life-changing books for Christians serving in the church
• Project Dance -- New York based company founded by Radio City Rockette Cheryl Cutlip provides training and outreach events in New York and other cities in the US and abroad
Project Dance is a 2009 recipient of Masterworks' "The Lights are Bright on Broadway Awards"
• The Episcopal Actors' Guild -- non-denominational organization reaching out to those in need in the Broadway community
• Refractions -- Makoto Fujimura, visual artist, who served on the National Council on the Arts, offers insights on how art, culture and faith are connected and how they can blend like the colors on one of his beautiful canvases instead of being opposed to one another
• Hotworship.com -- A comprehensive resource for worship leaders
• Gideon Arts Festival -- A conference bringing together artists from the various arts
• Worship Together -- Worship songs, feature articles, interviews with skilled worship leaders
• Worship Leader Magazine -- Online site of the magazine for worship leaders and home of "Song Discovery" where subscribers can submit their songs
• Consuming Worship -- Covers issues surrounding the worship art in the local church
• Praise Pictures -- movie and film reviews, previews, news
• Eric Metaxas -- Prolific author of books ranging from children's stories to an acclaimed biography of Amazing Grace's William Wilberforce, he is the founder of Socrates in the City, a monthly series of a entertaining and thought-provoking discussions on life, God, and other "small" topics
• Amazing Grace the Musical -- The Broadway-bound musical about the life of John Newton. • Angels, the Musical -- The Broadway-bound musical about angels
• Lifeway Worship -- The worship resource arm of the Southern Baptist Convention
• Riley's Diner -- The very talented and award winning writer Michael Leathers offers drama scripts for dramas
• Jeff Lisenby -- Amazing musician who excels on a variety of instruments, including the accordian
• Todd Edwards -- King of the club mix and a wonderful Christian to boot
• Edwina Findley -- Actress with numerous TV, stage and film credits (watch for her in the soon-to-be-released George Lucas film "Red Tails," she is founder of Abundant Life Ministries to teens
• Christian Cultural Center Music Group -- A Musical arm from A.R. Bernard's dynamic church
• Worship Matters -- Bob Kauflin, author, worship leader, pastor and worship song writer
• One Way Productions -- Biblical actor Mac McConnell's one-man drama ministry
• One Time Blind -- Dramatic group communicating the reality of Christ in a modern-day language, using onstage conversation and dramatic elements
• Chuck Neighbors -- Master's Image Productions. Plays, sketches and other resources from a Christian world perspective
• Melea Brock -- "Right-Side-Up" stories from master storyteller and author Melea Brock
• Sight and Sound Theatre -- Larger then life biblical theatrical productions in Branson, MO and Stasburg, PA
• Act One -- Training for screenwriters and Christians wishing to break into Hollywood
• AD Players -- Christian theater founded by author/actress Jeannette Clift George in Houston
• Christians in Cinema -- Angela Walker's excellent site for news and reviews about movies/Hollywood
• Christian-movie.com -- Providing Christian filmmakers with tools to create excellent Christian movies
• Phil Cooke -- The Change Revolution, one of America's leading experts on media, cultural issues, and the power of change

Christy Awards Announced

For a listing of the 2009 Christy Award winners, check out Sally Stuart's blog at http://stuartmarket.blogspot.com/2009/07/christy-awards.html

Monday, July 13, 2009

Willow's New Blog

Willow Creek's worship arts blog has chaged its name again, this time from "Toward Wonder" to "Cultivate."

You'll need to register to participate on the site, where you can get the latest news and information about what's happening at Willow Creek. Visit http://www.cultivateonline.org/

Music Forum Presents Emmy-nominated Harp Guitarist

Music Forum of Church For All Nations will present a concert featuring world renown, Emmy-nominated harp guitarist John Doan in a concert featuring his original pieces as well as some classics Saturday, July 18.

Included in Billboard Magazine’s “Critics Choice”, Doan’s music was described as having “intricate arrangements” and “poignant melodies”.

The afternoon will be hosted by Chris MacIntosh (a.k.a. Grandfather Rock) of WCWP Radio. A pre-concert lecture will begin at 3pm with the concert following at 3:30 pm. Doors open at 2:30 pm. Mr. Doan’s pre-concert lecture will showcase the highly unique harp guitar as well as highlight the Christian aspects of the works to be performed. While the concert is free, Music Forum will be accepting suggested donations of $12.

This special presentation is part of a series presented by Music Forum of Church For All Nations, Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Music Forum of Church for All Nations sponsors this classical series as well as The Stoop Concert Series and provides the venue as a contribution to the cultural and spiritual life of New York City.

The Church For All Nations is located at 417 W. 57th St. (between 9th and 10th avenues)For more information call (212) 333-5583 or visit www.TheStoopNY.com.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Visit with Comedian Torry Martin

Torry with Brian Roberts, director of the new
Veggie Tales movie "Saint Nicholas."

It's hard to keep up with Masterworks performer Torry Martin. If he's not telling "Torry Stories" at an event somewhere in the country, or writing screenplays or sketches, he's probably auditioning for a movie (he just provided some singing voice for the latest Veggie Tales movie "Saint Nicholas")or acting in a television show or commercial.

When you do catch up with him, he's probably busy working on the next project in his amazing Super Hero office. You can check out his office, being featured on the television program "Splurge" in a promo video for the show here.

Meanwhile, we offer a special treat this week: part one of Torry's popular "Sourdough" stories which he co-writes with his former pastor Jack Aiken for Enrichment Journal.For additional stories, visit http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200902/200902_098_%20Sourdough.cfm

To book Torry at your church or event, visit http://www.masterworkproductions.org/.

Sourdough, AK
A Salt of Character
By Jack Aiken and Torry “Moose” Martin

It was Monday morning. Pastor Mack was sitting at his desk rehashing the Sunday services. Attendance was low — again. He groaned as he leaned back hard in his ancient chair, forgetting that it always tipped violently to one side when he did that.

As he struggled to right himself, his secretary/bookkeeper/Jill-of-all-trades buzzed his intercom. “Someone wants to speak to you, but he wouldn’t give me his name or tell me what he wanted,” she said as she chomped furiously on her wad of gum. “Some people just have no concept of phone etiquette.” Bertha then popped her gum with a loud smack as an added emphasis of her displeasure.

Pastor Mack rolled his eyes as he reached for the phone.

“Hello, this is Pastor Mack. May I help you?”

“What kind of preacher are you?” the voice growled.

Dynamic, insightful, anointed, and totally awesome, Pastor Mack thought in a sudden burst of egotism. But he answered, “I’m not sure I know what you mean.”

“Look,” the gruff voice said, “I just got outta prison, and I’m looking fer a preacher like the chaplain that done our services. Name was Chaplain Beyers. Know him?”

“Yes, I do. He’s one of the chaplains our denomination sponsors,” Pastor Mack responded.

“Well, ain’t that something!” Jake Smedley exclaimed. “Preacher, I just done 15 years for murder, though God as my witness, I swear it was self-defense. Anyway, now I’m living here in Sourdough, but ain’t got no car, so’s I was wonderin’ if’n ya might come over to my place? I got saved in prison, and all, but I still got me a mess of questions ’bout God, and church, and stuff.”

“Why, sure, Jake, I’ll be glad to visit with you. Just tell me where and when.”

“The when don’t matter diddly. I’m here pretty much all the time. My address is 101 Totem Street. I’ll be looking for ya.”

She didn’t say it, but her expression screamed Are you nuts? when Pastor Mack told Sister Bertha what he had agreed to do.

“Probably some bum looking for a handout. Honestly, you’d think those people would just get up off their lazy backsides and do something for themselves.” Bertha then gestured toward a stapler just barely out of reach. “Now, be a hon, and hand me that stapler. Someone moved it clear across the room where I cain’t reach it.”

Pastor Mack scooted the stapler about three inches across the desk toward her. “You know, Sister Bertha, I was thinking it’d be great if Jake would begin attending our church. Maybe you could be his sponsor,” Pastor Mack teased.

Humptft,” she said, “maybe grizzly bears will become vegetarians, but I don’t think so.”

Bertha’s negative reaction to Jake caused Pastor Mack a bit of consternation. Where is Jesus in that attitude? he asked himself.

The following day Pastor Mack finished his essential tasks a bit early and decided to make his first visit to Jake. When he arrived at the address Jake had given him, he discovered it was the Mush-Inn Motel, Bar, and Grill,” one of the most disreputable places in town. After making enquiries at the bar, Mack climbed a dark stairway to the second floor and entered a shabby hallway.

Mack tentatively tapped on the door of room 1, as Jake had directed him. The door opened and a rough-cut man of about 60 years with startlingly clear blue eyes stuck out his hand and said, “Hello, preacher, I’m Jake. Come on in, and take a load off.”

After they were seated, Jake began, “Preacher, the only church I’ve went to since I left home is the prison chapel. So I’m just a tad nervous about going to a real church and all. I guess that’s really why I invited ya over. On accounta I wanted to check ya out first to make sure ya was legit — someone kinda like my Chaplain Beyers was — not all stiff and stuffy like the preachers in my parents’ church.”

Pastor Mack thought, This is probably the first time an inmate has done a background check on a church. But what he said was, “Go ahead, tell me what you remember about your parents’ church, and we’ll see if my church is any different.”

“Well, I don’t remember much ’ceptin the men couldn’t wear neckties. ‘Ties,’ they said, ‘is a sign of pride.’ In fact, there was one guy who cut all the buttons off his suit coat and used big silver safety pins instead because he was convinced buttons were also a sign of pride. It’s like they was proud to be humble, if’n ya git my gist.”

“You know the Bible kind of speaks to that,” Pastor Mack answered.” Jesus called it ‘straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.’ Can you imagine what a camel would taste like?”

“After 15 years of prison food, probably pretty good, I reckon, especially if you had a soda to wash it down with. Hey, that reminds me of another one of them ‘rules.’ You weren’t allowed to drink soda out of a bottle at that church neither.”

“No kidding?” Pastor Mack interjected.

“Yeah, because they said that from a ways off, a person might recognize ya, see the bottle, and think you was drinking beer — you’s gotta avoid all appearance of evil, ya know.” Jake paused, then continued, “Your church don’t have no rules like that, do it?” he asked apprehensively.

“No,” Pastor Mack laughed, “we don’t have any rules like that. We have enough trouble just doing what the Bible says.”

Jake grinned, “Ain’t that the truth!”

“Jake, I really would like to encourage you to come to Sourdough Assembly this Sunday. We have a great bunch of folks who will welcome you and accept you just as you are.”

“Ya think so? Even when they find out I jest got outta the joint?”

“As long as you were released and didn’t break out, they should be just fine with it.” Pastor Mack chuckled at his own joke. “Seriously, though, no one at my church will think a thing about it. Our motto is, ‘Judge not, and you will not be judged.’ ”

In the meantime, Sister Myrtle, Sourdough Assembly’s Women’s Ministries director, just happened to drive by the Mush-Inn Motel where she spotted Pastor Mack’s tan minivan parked out front. She turned around and drove by again — slowly this time — for confirmation. When she saw the “Don’t Laugh, It’s Paid For” bumper sticker, she knew it was, in fact, Pastor Mack’s van.

She turned around again, almost hitting an oncoming car as she madly dug to extract her cell phone from her purse.

Most churches have a prayer chain, and Sourdough Assembly was no exception. However, it was the gossip chain that Sister Myrtle was activating — and a more efficient means of disseminating information has yet to be devised.

“Lilly, you won’t believe what I just saw! Pastor Mack’s car is right this very minute parked directly in front of the Mush-Inn Motel!”

“What in the world could he be doing there?” Lilly gasped.

“Well, I’m sure he’ll come up with a good story,” Sister Myrtle replied, adding a significant sniff after the word good. “I just wanted to ask you to pray with me about what I saw. What should I do? You know me. I’d never start any trouble, especially for our pastor. But what do we really know about him, him being from the lower 48 and all?”

A few minutes later Myrtle rang off with Lilly as she drove into the parking lot of the Trading Post, Sourdough’s grocery store and unofficial community center. She grabbed a cart with a wobbly wheel and headed down the produce aisle. Providentially, as she shopped, she ran into several Sourdough Assembly ladies with whom she was able to share her prayer concern. The gossip chain was soon in full operation.

By the next Sunday, practically the whole church had heard about Pastor Mack’s visit to the Mush-Inn Motel. And on some branches of the gossip tree, people had embellished the facts considerably. Fortunately, Sister Bertha, who is a skilled eavesdropper, caught wind of the gossip and informed Pastor Mack of the potentially catastrophic situation. After much prayer, he felt God gave him a plan to deal with the gossip, and assure that Jake would be well received.

When Pastor Mack spoke the next Sunday morning, he began by telling a story. “Before the advent of salt shakers, when ladies set their tables, they often placed a little dish of salt at each place. These salt dishes have always fascinated Annie. Over the years she has accumulated quite a collection of them. She delights in using them, especially when entertaining guests.

“One Sunday, a few years ago, while we were living in Tennessee, we entertained an evangelist and his wife. His wife was really nice, but he had an exaggerated view of his knowledge of all things. When his wife picked up the salt dish with the obvious intent to inquire about it, she received a not-so-subtle kick under the table. She promptly sat the dish down without saying a word. Then, to display his superior knowledge, he promptly picked up his salt dish and dumped it into his unsweetened iced tea.

“I’m not sure how we did it, but nobody said a word. Perhaps we were just too stunned to speak. Once the crucial moment had passed, we all waited with bated breath for Mr. Know-It-All to realize his mistake. When he took his first sip, we all exploded in laughter. When we caught our breath, Annie gave him a fresh glass of tea and explained the purpose of the little dishes filled with a granulated substance.

“To his credit, the evangelist took it well and enjoyed a good laugh at himself.”

Pastor Mack continued, “I’ve told you this story to make a couple of points. First, things are not always as they seem, and second, making prideful assumptions often leads to distasteful situations.

“Something distasteful has developed this week. Someone — not from Sourdough Assembly, I’m sure — saw my car at the Mush-Inn Motel. And rather than giving me an opportunity to explain my mission there, they dumped the salt into the tea and created a very distasteful situation. If they had given me opportunity, I would have been happy to tell them why I was there. Be that as it may, I am thrilled to tell you my mission to the Mush-Inn was successful. It was there I met Jake Smedley. I would like you to meet my new friend.” Pastor Mack motioned toward the stranger on the back pew.

“This is an example how dangerous assumptions can be. You see, making assumptions is just another form of judging, which Jesus condemned.”

As the service ended, some members wore sheepish grins, and others gave Jake Smedley a warm and friendly welcome to Sourdough Assembly — including smiles and a firm handshake from Bertha, who also gave him a piece of her inexhaustible supply of gum. However, she did this more out of self-preservation than politeness. Bertha thought, I suppose ex-inmates are acceptable in church. But halitosis? Never!

Introduction to Sourdough, AK
I had just opened the Wednesday night service at King’s Way Assembly in Eagle River, Alaska, when Torry Martin and his friend, Rob, slipped in. After the service, I chatted with them.

Torry and Rob became frequent visitors in our home. This is where I first heard the stories about Torry’s misadventures in Alaska that form the basis for his comedy routine and this column. Torry credits his current performance ministry to my suggesting he combine his stories with a spiritual application.

I discovered he was writing Christian drama sketches and wanted to compete in the comedy writing and performance categories at the Christian Artists Convention in Estes Park, Colorado. He could not afford the trip, so I asked the church to help him. At this convention he won both individual categories and the overall grand prize. Besides writing for Adventures in Odyssey Torry has also published seven books, numerous magazines articles, and performs his “Torry Stories” nationwide.

“Sourdough, AK” is a combination of our imaginations and actual events. You decide which is which. It is about a fictional town in Alaska with a fictional pastor and congregants. So, I introduce you to the members of Sourdough Assembly in Sourdough, Alaska. We are glad you could join us, and we hope you decide to stay.


Daily Inspiration

The Blind Side

Read about the real life mom from "The Blind Side."

Lifeway: http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=169816

Guideposts: http://www.guideposts.com/story/sandra-bullock-blind-side-football?page=0,1

Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at http://www.buddyhollywood.com/.

Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light (http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/) and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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