I sincerely applaud us! Like immigrants, we get the job done! (see what I did there?)
We robe ourselves with the stories of others and output exceptional interpretations. It takes a brilliant mind to do such acrobatics. It takes a certain level of emotional skill to tap into the dark recesses of the world to tell an authentic story and come out of the cave without permanent scarring. I marvel at our community’s ability to do this often and sometimes across multiple projects. We are AH-MAY-ZING!
If I had to remind us of something, it would be to remember that we are valuable beyond what we do. Yes, our skills pay the bills, but we are more than what comes out of us. We are more than our masks. We are more than the stage.
The truth is if we die tomorrow, the show of society would commemorate us for a bit and continue with another cast of characters. So, take care of yourselves, Loves. Our minds, bodies, and souls are more than worth it. I know we lie ourselves down for the sake of the craft, but for a lifetime of creative expulsion, I don’t like seeing us falling victim to the vice of overexertion. Some of us therapeutically deal with our issues through the arts and some of us die physically and spiritually because of them. The cycle in our community has to stop. WE MATTER.
When we sing, notes fly out of our souls like beautifully-winged freedom. When we dance, movement creates waves that disrupt unseen demons. When we act, emotion pours out of us and onto a canvas called life so others can see themselves. Yet… when I see another one of us die by suicide, drugs, crime, and various manners caused by reckless living, I am saddened because it was so preventable and the world is dimmer. Such a beautiful Icarus. Another creative we must love from afar because they got too close to the sun.
Please take care of you and look out for one another. It can be a lonely career although it is dependent upon so many people. Once you give yourself so well and you return to your hotel room or the job is over and you’re back home until the next call, the pause can be rejuvenating or deafening. Let’s be sure that we’re OK. Let’s be sure we don’t get lost in the sauce. Let’s remember that we are people first and we are loved.
We made it through another week, didn’t we? What a blessing! We’re 15 days into 2020 and the new year is going fast!
While walking my dog this week (which seems to be my secondary #LATSOL hotspot nowadays), I thought about Jennifer Lopez. I had just binge-watched Hustlers and Second Act, and being a long-term supporter of J. Lo, I imagined how she must have felt after producing these two films… pride, relief, and excitement. She’s known for not putting her name on anything she does not fully endorse and she exudes excellence in every mission set before her. In her words, she doesn’t see herself as getting older — she just strives to be a better version of herself year after year.
With that said, I pulled a virtual chair next to Ms. Lopez and I kicked my feet up for a split-second. We recalled her body of work on stage, on screen, and behind the camera. She has and continues to produce a broad spectrum of art. We nodded in approval as photos of movie posters circulated in front of us like a carousel of colorful horses. Then, I absorbed the lesson of the moment.
Be proud of everything you produce.
Now, that’s a tall order, but it is definitely doable. You see, we are soil. God created us out of dirt (just take a look in the tub next time for verification), but I believe we host spiritual soil inside of us. It is capable of growing amazing things because everything God made can produce something. That’s the God-like quality in us — to produce inanimate creations like music and lively humans called babies. Part of the reason I appreciate the prowess of Jennifer Lopez is because she is always proud of her work… her produce… the fruit of her labor. How many of us can say the same thing?
So, if we’re the soil, where are the seeds? Where’s the light? Who’s got the water? I’m glad you asked! We host seeds from various places. They’re a special blend of our parents and our experiences. All of them have a chance to grow, but the goal is to produce the best fruit we have to offer the world before we leave here. With Light from the Word of God and a flow of guidance (Water) from the Holy Spirit to nourish us daily, we can produce exceptional things in this life. And let’s not forget Love… that beautifully gritty fertilizer.
Need some help getting started? Here’s a few verses for your journey.
My prayer is to die empty and I can only do that if my soil produces fruit that I am proud to present to my Father and to His Creations. The beauty of it all is that I have this remarkable opportunity every day. So do you.
What are you producing, Sweetheart?
Peace & I’m praying for the soil of your heart. Thanks for listening!
#24 – I volunteered for Upon This Rock Passion Play!
This. Was. Amazing. I’ve worked on productions before, but this was an experience. The people worked together like a well-oiled machine, but with strong family ties that oiled each gear. As it approaches its 35th year in 2019, Upon This Rock: The Passion Play is an Indianapolis, Indiana production that includes over 300 cast and volunteer members that makes the Bible come to life in a unique way. Spoken word, live animals, authentic songwriting, the live choir, and band – individuals come from all over the country to be part of UTR and with the great help of my sister, I was able to finally make the trek to experience it for myself.
When God gives you something, you have an obligation to inhale it and run with it. There’s no time to waste because there are lives that are waiting to be changed by the glory that God gave you. It’s going to take some work, OK… who am I kidding, it’s going to take a lot of work, so it’s not for the faint of heart. You have the ability to complete it and do it well. The biggest obstacle in front of you is YOU. I can’t imagine not experiencing the wealth of creativity, skill, professionalism, and camaraderie that day. So, I am so grateful to Playwright & Executive Director Sharon Thompson-Hill and Co- & Managing Director Pastor A. Thomas Hill for not only hearing the Voice of God, but inhaling the Promise and Direction, and running with the Vision.
Peace & Thanks for listening.
By the way: Show dates are April 19-20, 2019 and tickets go on sale January 1, 2019. Go ahead and put it on your calendar. You won’t regret it.
Tonight, I’m sharing an open letter to my performing arts troupe. As you read it, think of how you can inhale and exhale more efficiently with your squad. If you don’t have one, you got me. Here we go…
ON THE 6: an open letter to Workmanship Incorporated
The number 6 represents the imperfections of man, labor, and is often used to indicate symmetry.
There were 6 days of creation and the Creator made man on the 6th day.
A family table often hosts 6 chairs.
What a unpopular, yet fitting number to celebrate.
In 6 years, we have disrobed and unmasked before each other, revealing the vulnerability of ministry – raw, beautiful, and free. Our paths were forged long before we formed a crew, and so were our tears. The struggles, the laughter, the prayers, the outpour of anointing… all of which encompasses the journey we chose to take together 6 years ago. I wouldn’t trade anything for June 5, 2012, when my hands shook with nervousness before each call to request your time and energy.
Now, we breathe as a family of imperfect people on fire for God’s Love and Creative Expression. We are His Workmanship and it’s an honor to serve with you.
My last Monday night rehearsal with UAB Gospel Choir was last week. Due to my work schedule, I couldn’t soak in all of the goodness of the director’s farewell semester, and honestly, I was sad and sentimental about it every Monday night for 3 months.
You see, for a period time when I wasn’t going to church, Monday was my Sunday. It was my exhale of the week and my musical family reunion ritual. We learned music and history, but most importantly, we learned friendship and camaraderie. Students were treated like professionals in training, not underlings. It was rigorous, but respectful. The Class called UAB Gospel Choir turned from a mere repeatable credit hour to my saving grace and I was missing out on forging the last moments of it.
So, last Monday, I soaked in the truth that for 16 years of my life, I was connected to this choir’s legacy as a student and an alumna. My heart poured there. My tears ran freely. My skills were sharpened. I was made into a better version of myself. That Monday night, I saw people I had not seen in years and laughed until my face hurt. It was beautiful. I guess you can say, I was reunited, although my heart never broke away.
What or who are connected to spiritually that you can’t reach physically? Does the distance hurt? Do you feel inadequate without interaction? It’s OK. I get it.
Set a date and reunite. Feed your soul with the goodness of fellowship. Invite the intimacy of connectivity. I don’t care of it’s a phone date, video chat, or grocery store run… reunite. Whatever the sacrifice, the result is priceless.
Thank you, Bishop Kevin P. Turner, for providing a safe place for us to grow and develop into the purposeful people we were designed to be. The harvest of your academic and musical seeds will multiply forever.
I have the best creative team in the world. Give us space and time and we do extraordinary things, like create moving water, tumultuous trees, and a visual Bible story in seconds.
On last Sunday afternoon and into late that evening, my performing arts troupe, Workmanship Incorporated, rehearsed for our upcoming performance at the UAB Gospel Choir Reunion Concert to be held at the Alys Stephens Center on Monday, November 13, 2017. I was torn between physical pain and supernatural will, but I made it. One of my teammates lives in another state and she drove into town to join us. Other teammates came from church, work, and family duties to give their sacrifice of dance as well. To check out a short clip of the rehearsal, click here.
At one point in the rehearsal, I stepped back and just marveled at how fantastic they were. Willing and diligent to get it right so God could have complete control on performance day. No one complained. No one was belittled. No one was anxious to leave. We were on one accord. Everyone was pressing toward the mark and it was beautiful. I loved beholding the glory of God working in them behind-the-scenes.
In a bigger perspective, many will never see what we go through at home in order to produce the fruit on our limbs in life. We have structured areas and danger zones where we get our lives together before heading out into the world. In the performing arts arena, the audience may see 10 minutes of creativity for 10 hours of preparation. It’s a labor of love and a gritty process, but well worth it in the end. That’s the essence of your life, your relationships, your dreams, your responsibilities. If you do it right, grit becomes part of your daily diet. It’s good for you and for those around you. It doesn’t let you quit or whine. It pulls you over the humps and having others with you that chew on the same stuff makes all the difference.
So, there I was… with a front row seat looking at a dream realized from my 14-year-old self. Rehearsing with all of the energy we could muster. Laughing through trials and sharing our victories. And I realized then,the aftertaste of grit tastes good.
Peace & Thanks for listening!
And to my Troupe, Workmanship Incorporated, thank you for being my muse. I love y’all. Xoxo
There are few times when I travel backward in my mind and find nuggets of perfect synchronicity in a fraction of a second. Saturday was one of those times, so allow me to walk you through the steps. Bear with the chain link of events below as I bare my soul.
STEP 1: THE PLAN
It all began with an idea to have a fun-filled, let-your-hair-down kinda day for my performing arts troupe, which consists of experienced professionals in various industries. They’re amazing superheroes in their respective fields and on any stage of creativity. A beautiful dichotomy of talent if you ask me. This delicate balance needed a breeze of fellowship, so August 13th was set for Summer Fun Day at Avondale Park. I could hardly wait.
STEP 2: THE CONSIDERATION
One of our members attends graduate school out-of-state and was making the trek to spend time with the team, so I watched the weather closely to ensure that she could travel to us safely. I didn’t see some responses from my crew (which I later discovered was due to a technical glitch), so I considered canceling it altogether. After all, we had received bursts of thunderstorms every day that week and Saturday was going to follow suit. I decided to keep the plan based upon the forecast, and added some extra prayer to the meteorologist’s news. So glad I did. The weather was perfect.
STEP 3: THE IDEA
On the previous evening, we held rehearsal and one of our members brought up the notion of eating at Saw’s Soul Kitchen in Avondale, Alabama. I had never been, so I immediately was intrigued and ready to go. The dance of overcasting clouds and sunshine made for a mean game of volleyball and Uno. We were having fun, exactly what I prayed for. It seemed only fitting that we carry the good vibrations over to the restaurant.
STEP 4: THE GOODNESS
The food was delicious and so was the laughter. We sang along to the old school soul music showering over our cozy little table of five. We were enjoying each other’s company, exactly what I prayed for. Then, enter a smiling stranger who politely asked us if we were about to leave and if he and his family could have our table. If you’ve been to Saw’s in Avondale, you know the severity of this request. There are less than 10 tables in this eatery and the line to obtain one when they open at 11 starts at 10:40 AM at best. I’m ashamed to admit that I shook my head “no.” Thank God for my friend, who apparently was closer to Jesus than I was in that moment, that said yes and my stone-faced look morphed into a smile and a nod. He was kind and respectful, and I was proudly selfish. I’m usually the person that is cognizant of busy hours and needed seats, but on that day, I didn’t want to be considerate. I was marinating in the loveliness of time that our team rarely experiences without the demands of a deadline. I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want it to end…
but it was time.
STEP 5: THE SUGGESTION
After releasing our table, the same friend that suggested Saw’s pointed our attention to a thrift store nearby that she loves to visit. Sozo Trading Company was the destined place. Being the economical giants that we are, we jumped at the chance to embark on another adventure. Like giddy children filled with wonder, we walked inside and immediately felt peace. Dakota greeted us with a smile and noticed our matching shirts. She inquired of our talents and we agreed to perform a human video before we left.
STEP 6: THE CRUX
Remember when I gave you the demographics of the team in THE PLAN? The challenge that comes with our creative make-up is that schedule clashes are inevitable and not everyone learns the same piece at the time it is taught. In this instance, there was also the factor that one of our members had not performed with us in over a year. So, the suggestions started flowing. “What about this?” “Were you here when we did that song?” “I don’t know that one, but I can learn it.” The communication about the business at hand resulted in my spirit being nudged to return to the first song I heard in my soul stereo – How He Loves Usby Jesus Culture featuring Kim Walker-Smith. It fitted the mission of Sozo perfectly, so I shared those thoughts with my team. So, in true Workmanship Incorporated anointing, we quickly forged as a unit and half of our quad learned the piece in the back of the store. The funny part is that no one batted an eye of curiosity or annoyance. They just shopped around us as if our full-bodied belonged in the setting. In less than 45 minutes, we were all caught up and ready to serve.
STEP 7: THE BLESSING
We ministered. Right there inside of the front entrance doors.
If you’ve never performed a human video, it requires all of your muscles to cooperate and be in sync with those around you in order to present the storyline clearly. Two of us were negotiating with our bodies about previous injuries, two of us had learned the piece in minutes, and all of us were in sync. It was beautifully amazing. As usual, we performed for an audience of ONE – the ONE who gives us Life and the ONE who needs it. Dakota recorded and took pictures. When the song was over and we expired all we had, Dakota was teary and patrons were nearby. A man approached us with watery gratefulness in his eyes and hugged us, thanking us for the message of Love. His courage to be touched is what sincerely touched me. An open masculine heart is said to be soft, weak, or feminine by society’s standards unless they’re crying about winning a championship, but at that moment… he felt loved and reminded, and that was all that mattered. Then, it dawned on me. He was my blessing. Dakota was my blessing. Austin and Amanda (fellow Sozo staff) were my blessing. The gentleman at the restaurant was my blessing. Steps 1 through 7 were the blessing that led to the makarios moment… this man hugging people he didn’t know because of a Message that we said silently. We were presented with the opportunity to eulogeó (to speak well of, praise, or bless) God in the presence of His people and it resulted as a makariosexperience for ourselves and others (refers to the believer in Christ who is satisfied and secure in the midst of life’s hardships because of the indwelling fullness of the Spirit).
What did I learn that day?
That your plans are never yours. They always affect someone else, even when you don’t know it. And you’ll be better off letting God lead the choices you make because He always has a two-edged blessing waiting for you. Blessings are always simultaneously designed. They are never unilateral.
To learn more about Greek words related to “blessing/blessed,” click here and here. I hope you enjoy the insight as much as I did.
Peace & Thanks for Listening. (I know it was a long one this time, so really… thank you.)