This past weekend I released kites. The kites are people; people holding kites. People who will carry The Gospel Story through Theater Art to hundreds, thousands, over the next few months with their kites in hand. The soundtrack rumbles beneath them, the voice overs anchor their story down, their bodies on stage breath with fiery passion that they uncovered in a holy experience we call “Jesus Theater Rehearsals.” Testimony Art has been born again. Salvation calls will be made to thousands. Thousands will come Home.
For the last six months, I have carried this piece inside my own heart – sculpting, nurturing, and teaching it. The end production is a fluid result of glorious and tedious creative work, hammered out both in solitude and collaborate spaces. As the writer, the experience is a creative birthing. As with previous years, this piece went from seed to embryo, newborn to infant, and now finds its feet inside of grown adults who adopt it as their own. I love the creative process; deeply challenging, deeply personal.
The imagery used in this piece wears the marks of my own story, my own need, my own wrestling and pressing forward for redemption. Every year as I write the Jesus Theater, I am faced again with the power of the simple Gospel. As a result, I change. Any meditation on Jesus Christ breeds transformation. I am grateful for this project that presses me annually into a meditation on the heart of our faith. This year in particular, the writing process held me like a walking stick through fiercely challenging winter months - darkness, depression, loss – and a kite fighting to be free.
The kite dares to take flight.
It is trapped by a trash bag.
It becomes enslaved.
Self-liberating efforts produce more pain.
Suffering awakens; hard, long, thorough.
There an empty tomb.
The story is not over.
The kite is offered the sky again.
There is a choice.
Jesus, or not.
And is that not all of our choice, every day? Jesus, or not.
This latest cast was the third that I worked with on this piece over the last few months. Each workshop represented a different region in the nation. Each group hosted a team of directors who will teach the piece in their own setting. Each person had their own story, and courageously entered into this one with fierce authenticity. We met God. Every time. We shared communion. Every time. Art communion. Jesus Theater.
… And every time I grieved when we finished, this time the most. Giving away what I love is a trigger of love and loss for me, all too familiar in my own narrative. Full to empty, again. I fell in love with each group of people, their wet eyes daring to face themselves in the mirror of the Gospel. Their screams, authentic. Their dance, invigorating. Their vulnerability, striking. Their spirits, ignited. I got to spend days at a time with brilliant artists, watching them catch a fire inside and take up a new torch as an artistic minister. The days afterwards, I always miss them. The art itself shared half the year with me, became a companion, holds secrets of my story, validates my pain and beauty, loves me without words, trumpets that my redemption will come. The liberated kites extend hope to me, over and over again.
It’s hard to let the piece go. But I did. Because I must. Broken bread. Outpoured wine. Break it, and give it away. Therein, multiplication. The Wind should get to determine how far these kites go, not me. I cut the strings and let the last group take flight a few short days ago. The curtain closes on a six month project.
Presenting, Jesus Theater – Kites.
No longer mine.
As for me, perhaps my own kite of a life will find the sky again. You and I both, we could get up and try again. After all, kites are made for the sky. “The breath of the King became the wind in their sails and they flew!”
It's time to take flight!
p.s. I am calling Ministers who are Artists to remember the power and importance of your call. Please, help the evangelical world learn to preach through more than monologues.
The wind moves the water. The water does not move the wind. The wind moves the leafs. The leafs do not move the wind. The wind moves the grass. The grass does not move the wind. The wind moves my hair. My hair does not move the wind. The wind has authority. It initiatives movement. It is a powerful source, and yet is familiar with softness, invisibility, gentleness, subtleness, and freedom. Herein lie lessons on leadership from gentle wind:
Wind is not always gentle, but today it is. This gentle wind holds secrets on the use of authority.
Behold; the power of gentle leadership.
I am on the trail again. Chief among the wonders I found here is a woman parked at the same picnic table every morning. The table is pressed to the water’s edge with two trees towering on either side it. The trees hold the promise of autumn; leaking color into their tips before the great fall begins. This woman sits, every day, at the water’s edge. Her hair is short and styled loosely, her clothing comfortable, her gaze consumed. Ink pressed to paper, her focus hangs low on the page beneath her eyes. She writes.
A few days ago, her corner of the park was populated with noise. A club of Moms, strollers, and infants gathered around an enthusiastic stout coach. They hung their bodies upside down on purpose, and fluttered around their screaming children. Ink pressed to paper, the woman’s focus hung low on the page beneath her eyes. She continued to write.
Yesterday, it was scorching hot. The sun beat down and told every living thing to find shade or go indoors. I passed the woman’s table on the trail and found her there with a sun hut on her head. It’s long yellow wings hung down around her determined face. Ink pressed to paper, her focus hung low on the page beneath her eyes. She sweat, and she continued to write.
Today it is raining. She has a bright red umbrella tied to the table. It is secured and “hands free.” Raindrops collapse around her, but her square foot of the world stays dry. The leafs overhead dump pools of water; she seems to be writing faster. Ink pressed to paper, her focus hangs low on the page beneath her eyes. She continues to write.
On the banks of a river trail, I found a writer. I don’t know what she writes, but it is not what she writes that makes her a writer, but rather her dedication to the art form. She does not have to look up to teach me. The power of her focus radiates from the back of her head.
Dedication to anything looks like something. It looks like sticking yourself like glue to that thing and doing it, every single day. Dedication is the vacuum that pulls our passions out of mid air and into a committed existence with us. What wild thing in your heart is waiting for dedication? What if you dedicated some time to it, starting today?
Ink pressed to paper, my focus hands low on the page beneath my eyes. I write.
Thrown into the hot hands of grief,
The waking nightmare of terror,
The sudden racing of survival,
The demand for life-altering courage,
The right to scream, scream hard,
In One life.
The deficit in the home,
The deafening silence,
The shattered family unit,
The injustice of a forced change,
The cycle of chaotic robbery,
In One life.
This still matters. It matters most to those who have been forced to navigate life differently ever since. For those touched by 9/11, I honor you today. Your voice, your loss, and your life are important. Your story is a cradle for history that is paramount in our time. May trauma flee the scene of your ongoing courage today, and may you find a healing grace in remembrance.
The impact of 9/11 remains,
In many lives.
Underneath the role.
Underneath the productivity.
Underneath the appearances.
Underneath the expectations.
Underneath the successes.
Underneath the failures.
Underneath the hard-earned favor.
Underneath the grace-infused space.
Underneath the ability to smooth it over.
Underneath the inability to fix a thing.
Underneath my feet.
Underneath my skin.
Underneath my broken heart.
What is underneath?
Inside of me? Inside of you? Honestly?
That is where God wants to meet with us, raw as it is. This is the essence of Immanuel; God with us. Not God stopped still at the outer layer, but God piercing into the inner layer, the inmost layer, our inmost being.
The core me. The core you. The core of us...
.. is the only authentic meeting place with God.
I took the month of July off from public ministry. The first two weeks were terrible, an unravelling of myself to a hard-knock discovery of how I was really doing. The last two weeks were wonderful, a restoration of who I am outside of roles and responsibilities.
I feel like I am getting my life back.
I want to spend my life for Jesus.
I cannot give what I do not have.
If my life is in the grip of another’s agenda, how am I to give it to Jesus?
How is it that we think we can give our lives wholly to Jesus when we have already given them away to jobs, churches, ministries and other people? What would it look like to really give our lives to Jesus?
Perhaps no contradiction.
Perhaps all the contradiction in the world.
Everyday this past month I pursued exercise, time with God, and finding a way to serve my husband. These three pillars were protected despite a whirlwind of an internal process that was noisy, nasty and frankly embarrassing. Honest, nonetheless.
It is easy to lose sight of our identity when we allow our roles, jobs, responsibilities or lack of significant roles to define who we are. If all of that disappeared today, would you still know yourself?
Tomorrow is August 1. I feel alive, ready for the upswing of this next season. I can see it coming. Fast. Friend, consider setting aside time to re-discover your priorities. The honest condition of your soul matters to God. I recommend a focused number of days to:
Take care of yourself. You matter.
"They intoxicate themselves with work so they won't see how they really are." Aldous Huxley
Nine weeks since I left my full-time job. I have little to show for it except for the symptoms of a detox; a detox I hope not to repeat. I am left feeling bewildered; how in this racing world do we resist the intoxication of work? Our identity is strapped to production as if our life depended on it. Who strapped it? Who knows how to unstrap it?
Putting the breaks on in life is hard work, a discipline. As long as our foot is no where near the breaks we don't have time to acquaint with the destruction of our competitive speeding lives.
Until ... we do.
Until we are forced to ...
And then ... we either run harder, run away, or crash.
There must be a better way.
I think the better way has something to do with self-control. When that is present, strong, alive in our lives, these things do not so easily happen. Self-control. Prove it is present through taking a break. Prove it.
People seem familiar with gifts that keep on giving. My crockpot is nine years old. It's formed porcelain is still performing; pulled pork production and all. All I do is plug it in. It's a gift that keeps on giving.
People are not so familiar, it seems, with losses that keep on robbing. My little girl would be nine years old today; we celebrated two treasured birthdays with her. Every year I wish I could be with Ruby on this day. If only I could plug a shared birthday back in. It's a loss that keeps on robbing.
Celebrating a child's birthday is a gift. I grieve the loss of this experience at five, six, seven, eight and now nine. I am not excited about this day being on every annual calendar everywhere for the rest of my life. Ruby, come home.
Katie Luse is a speaker and writer who is passionate about navigating life with eyes on a hunt for beauty.