Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rachel's First Chapel

This morning I gave my first chapel and I thought I would share it with all of you who couldn't be there! I know you are all dying to know what I talked about. ;-) Anyway, here you go!


Proverbs 16:1-3 (MSG)

1 Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. 2 Humans are satisfied with whatever looks good; God probes for what is good. 3 Put God in charge of your work, then what you've planned will take place.


Most of you may already know that I majored in theatre performance in college. Theatre was my life, as those of you with kids in theatre programs know. I was in choir, I was in the theatre club, I was running lights, acting in full lengths, and one acts, and the list goes on. By about sophomore year, I decided to go out for one of the last sections of the theatre scene that I hadn’t explored yet and was, honestly, afraid to try. It was the improv group on campus.

I have never been good at improv. I have always wanted to be but I always got too nervous. Give me a script I can memorize and work on and I’ll go out there, head held high. Throw something at me from left field, however, and I’m slightly lost.

So, I decided to face this fear and, knowing I probably wouldn’t make the troop anyway, gave improv a shot. I went to the auditions and I was so nervous the whole time. I did okay, but, as I assumed, I didn’t make the group. I was fine with that, however, and just proud of myself for trying.

From this experience and from my numerous theatre classes, I learned several things about improv and acting. What to do and what not to do. I found an example list online which spells it out nicely into five basic rules:

1. Don't Deny. Denial is the number one reason most scenes go bad. Any time you refuse an offer made by your partner your scene will almost instantly come to a grinding halt.

2. Don't ask open ended Questions. (like "Who are you?") They stop the scene while your partner has to think of something.

3. You don't have to be funny. Play the truth of the scene, make it interesting, and the funny will follow.

4. You can look good if you make your partner look good. People come into scenes with a great idea for a character but your partner has no idea what’s going on in your head.

5. Tell a story. The players take totally random suggestions (like a plumber and a cab driver selling shoes in a cubicle) and somehow "make it work". (I got these rules here.)

These rules helped me get through some tough scenes in theatre and in life. Another rule that isn’t in the improv list but that was drilled into my head was to make a decision and make it big. Once you make your choice, stick with it. If you second guess yourself, the audience will second guess you as well. I use this one a lot.

My next brush with improv was not as happy an experience as the first. I was cast in a play with a small cast. There really were, for the most part, no small parts. I was part of a trio that formed the comic relief team. At one point, we play opposite the lead and, through some witty comments and comic repetition, get a few laughs. The lead, however, was not happy with us getting the laughs and wanted some for himself.

One night, we were going through our routine when, out of the blue, the lead starts throwing lines at us that we have never heard before. He starts improving. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a few lines of witty improv, but, without sounding too mean, hopefully, he wasn’t being witty. Instead, he was making things up just to get some laughs which, when they didn’t come, made him try all the harder.

One of the rules of comedy or improv, if you recall, is that you don’t have to be funny or, the way I learned it, never play for the laughs. One of the first rules of the stage is that you have to be trustworthy and your fellow actors need to know they can rely on you. This sounds a bit like the “official” rule number four: You can look good if you make your partner look good. He broke both those rules that night, consciously. He was being selfish to get a few laughs on stage which he never even got. And none of us could trust him from that night on.

Some improv in theatre and in life is necessary. When a situation arises without warning, on the stage or in life, sometimes you have to jump, take the chance, or fix the situation by doing a little improv. When people improv for their personal benefit only, however, it doesn’t help anyone out.

The way I see it, God is the master playwright. He has a script for each one of us. Sometimes we have our lines nailed. Sometimes someone else throws in some improv and we have to find our way back to the script. And sometimes, we do our own improv for our own benefit and we need help getting back on track. It might seem a little bit of a cliché or even a naive way of looking at the world, and I know that, but it’s one way for me to start to wrap my head around this play called Life. The potters get their metaphor; this is mine as an actor and a playwright.

Right now I’m trying a little improv in my own life by going with the flow and not knowing what comes next. I finished college and now I’m doing BVS and I’m not quite sure what is going to happen next but I’m trusting in God to help me out and guide me.

The rules of improv seem to apply to this situation as well. Don’t deny. Don’t ask open ended questions (What happens next?). You don’t have to be funny (well, thanks). Make others look good and I’ll make myself look good (golden rule anyone?). Tell a story.

Just the other day, Cat and I sat down and drew up a “story board,” if you will, of our lives. I looked at her and I said, “I have a plan! I’ve never had a plan before!” I think about the scripture I’ve chosen for today, however, and make sure that I don’t get upset if my plan doesn’t correspond precisely with God’s plans. I’m flexible and, hopefully, better at improv in life than on the stage.

Let me read that passage from Proverbs again. “Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. Humans are satisfied with whatever looks good; God probes for what is good. Put God in charge of your work, then what you've planned will take place.”

It’s okay to make our own plans, as long as we keep God with us in making those plans. If we keep the intentions good and we ask God’s blessing, it’s hard to fail.


How Bad We Need Each Other by Marc Scibilia (I played it on my laptop, but you can find the youtube version here.)


God, you know your plans for us. Whether they are elaborate or simply that you want us to be happy. Thank you for watching over us as follow the path you have set out for us and as well as when we stray from that path. May we find many wondrous things on our journeys and always keep in mind those around us. Thank you for your presence in our lives. Amen.

End scene.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A little behind... oops!

Greetings Friends!

So I must start by saying that I had intended on posting this a while ago, but it never happened. My apologies that I am a little late on some of this, but it is still to have on our blog.

Over a year ago, I had been at my BVS retreat. I soon got to talking to a new friend about various things, and he told me all about the St. Patrick's day celebrations that take place in the city of Chicago. I thought that it sounded pretty cool, but I realized that I would probably never be around for another year. Well then, I decided to sign on for a second year and I happened to be at home in Elgin St. Patrick's day weekend. Kendra and I decided that a Chicago St. Patrick's day was something that we needed to experience for ourselves.

We decided that due to all the traffic that would be in the city, it would be best if we took the metra into the city, rather than trying to drive a car in. We were the first ones on the metra, so we obviously got a good seat, but it was pretty hilarious to watch all the people dressed in green getting on the train as we would stop at every station. It was also funny to listen to everyone, as we got closer to Chicago and the noise levels would continue to elevate.

It was a beautiful day in the city.

I hope you enjoyed coming along to Chicago :) Carol

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Little Spring Cleaning

    It’s finally spring here in Elgin. Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, children are playing in the streets, and I can finally go outside without having to bundle up first. Oh yes, spring is here.

    Inspired by the warmer weather, I cleaned out my room at the BVS house a couple weeks ago. With the cool breeze coming in through the open windows I sorted through the piles of papers, clothes, shoes, and scarves strewn about. Then I went through every single drawer, nook, and cranny to decide if I really needed that thing. All this was done while listening to the wonderful Jason Mraz, who Rachel listed lyrics for a couple weeks ago for her blog.
    Listening to his music brought back a lot of memories from college, when his music was quite popular. My friends and I would listen to his music as we zipped away from State College to drive to Whipples Dam. Whipples was our ‘beach’. I use quotations because if you go there it’s a manmade lake with a little roped off swimming section and some sand. But when you’re stuck in the middle of Pennsylvania, Whipples, is a site to behold.

    When we arrived at the ‘beach’ we would troop over to the sand and find a spot not too close to other college students. Lay down, read magazines, sun bathe and if we were feeling particularly adventurous we would actually go into the water.

    As my mind switched back and forth between sun bathing and whether or not I should keep these poppers from Chinese New Year, I started remembering many other things from college that hadn’t been so pleasant. In fact, it put me in a debbie downer kind of mood and while brooding in my room, I had had enough. I went over to my computer and typed into Google, “Mental Spring Cleaning”. One of the first search results that popped up was this site:

    It’s a blog post written by someone suggesting different ways to clean out the clutter in your head. The writer gives seven suggestions for clearing. I’ve shortened them here, but if you want to read the full descriptions, refer to the site I put in above.

1. Clean out the anger, hatred, jealousy, and self doubt.

2. Wash away delay and procrastination.

3. Dust off your attitude and put on a fresh coat of positivity.

4. Throw out misunderstandings, and lack of patience.

5. Lighten up your life with humor and fun.

6. Open the windows of your mind to new ideas and a fresh perspective on living a happier, better, and easier life. Change takes action.

7. And finally: Enjoy the person you are.

    Sounds simple enough right? I thought so at first, but then starting with number one, I tried a little exercise we had done at spiritual direction previously. First you think about someone you know very well and love very much. Pray for them. Then you think about a person that you don’t know so well, an acquaintance. Pray for them the same things you prayed for the person you love. Finally think of a person you really can’t stand and are not friends with at all. Pray for them the same things you prayed for the person you love.
    After thinking about that process I realized I was stuck at number one on the mental cleaning list. Not a good way to start. So I skipped it and went to the last 6 and have been working on those for the past couple weeks. I found that I could do these things with great ease, which made me happy! But now it’s back to that number one. The things that trip me up are cleaning out the anger and self doubt.
    I’m not an angry person, but things happen and stick with you and it’s hard to shake those emotions. The self doubt bit started in high school with a couple cruel comments from a classmate. Don’t worry, I dished it back to him at the time (I was no pansy) but after those comments I always wondered, what if he was right? Maybe I’m not as smart as I should be…
    This year in BVS has helped me to come to grips with the past and work on bettering myself mentally and spiritually. I’ve realized now that those words in high school were just that: words. They held no malice or ill will towards me and I’ve just shaped and molded them over time and used them to hide behind. This is a notice to myself that I’m kicking all that aside. No more anger or self doubt. It’s going to be hard, but sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. And I need to do this. Anyone else out there with me?
    Jason Mraz will forever have a little place in my heart for those good times. And now those Chinese poppers will always have a little place in my soul to remind me of my healing and cleaning.

Rock on.