Matthew 7:13-14

Enter in through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who go in through it. Because narrow is the gate and straight is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. ~ Matthew 7:13-14

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Bell of Alameda

Narrow Gate Theater Presents:


At the Lobo Theater, Central Ave., Albuquerque, NM

Thurs.  NOV. 14TH, Fri. NOV. 15TH - 7:30 PM

Friday, June 14, 2013

Journey Through Shame

I was reminded of an encounter I had in 1985 at Yankee Stadium in Bronx NY. I was covering the Yankees and other feature stories for the Woodstock Townsman. Wendy and I did a whole back page called Life Acting or Woodstock State Of Mind and a sports page .... you get the idea. Without going into detail about our unusual journalistic approach {maybe on the next anniversary of the festival we can have a special lol}

Here's the story today. I was leaving where the press exits and was just outside in the public area and there stood a small statured man whom I recognized. Then I heard shouts from the crowd heading for their cars " tough break bad you got caught" etc etc etc .... It was Richard Nixon. I stand at 5 ft 7" plus" and he was shorter than me. That was my first surprise. I remember those debates vs John Kennedy. I remember two healthy strong men. Big men in my mind as an 11 year old. He apparently had special seating near where the press sits and we happened to exit at the same place and time. My memory of Mr Nixon from when he was a "big man" was impeachment was not enough. Jail would be right. Its not that I was political but hating Nixon was "the norm" for my culture. I graduated from Northeastern in Boston in 1971 I was there for the riots ,and the student strike, Viet Nam ,and Kent State.  

I was vacationing in Mexico in Sept of 1974 and when Pres Ford pardoned Nixon and it ruined my vacation. In my mind justice was not served............but now this moment I was looking into his eyes . I saw a small man who was in great pain. You see this Mr. Nixon was hunched forward and his head was down. The "tough break Dick" comments were reflecting off his body like a person who had absorbed so many punches he could only know he was punched but no longer feel the punch. My sense was he did not need to hear actual comments of criticism from people because in a real sense that was all he ever heard in his mind, in his heart.....that was breaking. I was quieted.

I met the 37th president of the United States and I know this now because I just flew home last week from the Grand Rapids Mi airport which is named after Gerald Ford the 38th president of the United States.  In 1985 at Yankee Stadium I remember no longer hating Richard Nixon, however I did not know Richard Nixon until I shook his hand and said quietly "Mr. Nixon". 

Looking into his eyes he caught my eye and nodded. We met and He then quietly walked away . I think I remember seeing an official security person escort him to wherever they escort former presidents.
My moment was over....but was it? 

In the Greek language there are at least 2 words to describe time. One is kronos from which we get the word chronological and the other kairos which is about a moment that lasts in such an eternal way that one can grow from it. A God moment, an eternal note that plays in time causing a memory to live now and expand in wisdom and truth.

Wendy and I moved away from Woodstock in 1986. We sold all we had and for us it was much. I went into seminary and much time has passed since then, and that is another story for another time. But one thing is for sure, we have seen the depravity of people. We have seen poverty and lived among it , we've seen sorrow and wept with others and they with us. In 16 years of volunteer work at homeless shelters to go along with 14 years of full time pastoral work and now 12 years as a traveling pastor actor director ....etc etc etc etc......I have never seen a more broken person than Richard Nixon.

In literature what makes tragedy tragedy is the high height one falls from. Richard Nixon certainly fits this description ala a Shakespeare tragedy King Richard the 3rd. Richard Nixon however was greater. Richard Nixon was a man who failed and he knew it. King Richard was one of us.  I saw was a broken man. A man humiliated but he did not stop there he continued with his moment over time and Time and it became his kairos. He was humbled.  He was humiliated into humility and it was beautiful to see. Oh that every poor man would also be "poor in spirit". Nixon's shame became his internal badge for those who mourn and are comforted. "Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted". He mourned for his sin not yours or mine, but his own.

I do not know when the 37th president died. I assume in the 80's soon after his beloved wife died. I remember one journalist, a former Nixon hater, writing that when he saw how Richard Nixon mourned for his wife, how real that was that he could no longer hate him. Another journalist had a cartoon illustration showing a huge cloud in the sky and a hand reaching out to a Nixon, very much like the one I met that night at Yankee Stadium, with the caption "pardoned".

I never thought of 1985 as the good old days. They seemed modern and worldly, ie a culture getting colder and less friendly, yet it was 28 years ago. In the last 28 years have you seen corruption, ..guilt,.. mendacity, and cover up? What have you seen in Washington lately in scandals?  What I do not see is what I did see in Mr Nixon. I saw shame in him. Where is the shame today? I do not wish shame on my enemy, but if shame happens then covering up shame only fosters more of what causes shame in the first place. Where is guilt, right, wrong, moral immoral? .... We are at the very end of things my friends. 

Times are meaner; Jesus said that about our times "because of the increase in lawlessness the love of most will grow cold". And because the trends are colder the need for the authentic is greater. You can be your own Richard Nixon and be sorry. Only failures can play. There's hope for the losers. Buck the trend and end the game. Stop winning at the losing game and stop losing at the losing game too. Mr Nixon left the game and found life. The only One.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Journey to The Beginning

What an ordeal. I came for the tail end of something significant. Someone died and something ended. The issue is how do we begin again.

I look at Robin, her new life had focus, and now she must re focus. But putting myself” inside her skin" if you will.” I don't want to begin again; I made my choice with Andrew and me at home." Why, how?  ..Michael’s worst horror is reality. "This is the worst possible emergency" he said when he called me 12:30am mountain time. "Andrew is dead."

I promise you if I wrote the script for life on earth there would be no death. There unfortunately in my world would be greater sorrow because we humans would have our "cake", all its personal particulars, and "eat it too". Without death everyone’s dream of being worshipped, idolized, simply left alone, revenge, dominance, on and on would .., and it would never end.

Andrew came to his end in the hospital. God spoke with Andrew and he and Jesus were there for all your goodbyes. He wanted to stay with you... and God challenged him. He showed Andrew that the "wages of sin is death" and "Andy your wages have brought you to the end". Andy tried to talk Him out of it " please one more chance, I want to make it up to Mom and Dad, please I’ll be good" Jesus said to Andrew " Andrew you are looking right at Me, this is good so listen to Me" ,"I cannot violate my own Truth ...there is no way you can go back. Your day is today, now, and it is final."

Andrew then began to cry and weep for the life {as sweet and charming as he was}, the life, he simply threw away. He cried some more and said to Jesus looking into His eyes." Trusting his listener and being quieted. "Will you be my Daddy will you give me a new beginning."
Jesus showing the depth of His smile said "So glad you asked, yes Andrew you were mine before the creation of the world and you yourself have called on Me before which is why you have not ignored Me now. "Well done good and faithful servant"

Andrew now weeping again experiencing a humility he never knew he had said" what have I done or been for you to say well done" and Jesus said "you gave love and Love is from Me. All who know you know you Loved Me and that's how you gave Love to them. Andrew interjected " What about my sins and the wages of my life", what a waste " And Jesus said "Godly sorrow  leads to repentance and repentance is My gift to you, because you loved Me, and this is Love is what you have for Mom and Dad and brother and sister, aunts uncles and friends." Andrew interrupted what about the drugs, the addiction, the lies, the stealing, cheating my parents and...

Jesus interrupting then said" it’s over Andrew.  Your goodbye to Mom, Dad, brother, sister, friends.. hope for a good life, is very sad especially for you. Looking deep into Andrew’s discouraged eyes, Jesus continued" goodbye also includes goodbye to addiction and the need to steal, cheat, lie, and get high to avoid all the damage that is "the wages of sin"

Andrew had a moment now. Suddenly silenced he noticed something in his being. Still living in a body full of heroin he had no desire for its taste, or for his former employer the world, the flesh and the devil.  Andrew then said "I just want you." I like it here with you."

Suddenly and without any kind of notice Andrew heard his mother’s voice “that’s Mom Jesus that's Mom" Jesus then said “listen son listen to the passion of your mother’s love " “Andrew I love you so", Robin said. Feeling his Moms embrace realizing for one final moment he was still living in a human body, he saw his Mom and then Dad and Aunt Marianne, Ron, even the doctor all those involved with his human body while he was with Jesus . Though only Mom was in the room that moment he saw them all then he saw his entire life in a matter of seconds.

"Go to the Light Andrew. Go to the Light. Jesus is the Light go to Jesus Andrew we love you go to Jesus He is the Light. Go now."Go we love you so now go...."

Now suddenly and forever gone from his body Andrew had another question for Jesus. "How do they begin again, how can they have what I have Lord? Tell me how? "

"They all know you are gone Jesus said. After the memorial service they will have said shalom. They will then begin to face the worst of human suffering the loss of a child. You Andrew are that child and you are with Me, this is their beginning. Because they know you are with Me and because they know you are safe they can begin again. Soon they will let My Peace fill them with happiness for you and a hope for themselves.”

“Can you do for them what you did for me? I mean do they have to die and go to heaven to have this?”  "No Andrew they do not, because you have come to Me they can have Me as you do. Its not that you can do this for them, but your passing leaves a hole in their heart which only I can fill."  Your death is their hole and now I can fill what I have wanted for them for a very long time."

"The meek will He guide in judgment and the meek will He teach His way" Psalm 25:9
"Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth" Matthew 5:5

Love, Dennis

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Victory Journey

When I was 12 I was the pitcher representing Rye NY in an all star game against Larchmont NY. I was throwing a no hitter into the 5th inning and then gave up a grandslam home run to Larchmont and we lost the game. I was devastated. The Greenbergs whose son Carl was on my team seeing I did not have a father living at home invited me to share their Cape Cod vacation the very next week. My mother was blessed by their kindness, and I had a special vacation with the Greenbergs. In my senior year in high school when I was having trouble getting into college, my mother carefronted Mr Greenberg at a high school wrestling match. Carl and I were members of the wrestling team. She asked Mr Greenberg to plead with our wrestling coach Mr Miller to appeal to Springfield college for admissions to their school.

Mr Miller took an entire day off and drove me to Ma and made his appeal to the dean of admissions. I was not accepted but I was inspired to do better, got a " B" average and sent the new and improved grades to Northeastern U in Boston. They accepted me.

At Northeastern I met an entirely different crowd than I would have at Springfield. Finally by my junior year gave up competitive sports for theatre, the arts. Graduated with a degree in English literature, and not physical education as would have been at Springfield. Without the Springfield challenge, however, I would not have had the grades to be accepted at Northeastern.

Why mention this anyway? Remember Mr and Mrs Greenberg? Had I not given up that home run, lost the game in a most devastating way, Maybe they would not have reached out to me. My Mom would not have a friend to call on 6 years later to intercede for me for college. Going to NU had everything to do with being in the garment business as well as staying true to what I could not articulate then ..... a call to acting in plays, in life, to God. As a newspaper writer I wrote years later " I was playing to God.

You see my special partner ,.....I met in the garment business on a trip to California. I met Wendy we fell in love. We met Jesus we got married we had Stephanie. My life is far from perfect, but this is perfect. It would not have happened had I not given up that homerun, lost the game, and found a friend. Wherever you are Mr and Mrs Greenberg, however you are, thank you ,your act of kindness has changed the world ,and is infinitly better because of you. The blessing extends to your sons Carl and David which would not have happened save for you and a most kindly God.
On earth as it is in heaven.

Forever yours, losing pitcher Rye - Larchmont Allstar Game Disbrow Park Rye NY, June 1961.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Super Natural Journey

Just saw the movie The Natural. Its about time I saw this wouldn't you say? I mean it took me until I was 34 for to finally accept I would never be a professional ballplayer.I was a softball player for the Woodstock Collection in Woodstock NY when in a dream I accepted my fate as a non professional ballplayer. I'm a baseball guy and a Yankee fan. How could I miss seeing this movie? Maybe, not to make a pun, maybe this film is too close to home.
There was a great line spoken by Glenn Close character,.. again no pun intended " we each have 2 lives the one we live with and the one we learn from". The latter is deeper than the bullet wound in Roy Hobbs shoulder. What are we learning from the life we live?

Our flawed hero as a young man was a great talent and he knew it too. Proud ,but not arrogant he made a deadly enemy. He loses not only his game but his youth. I say hero because he kept something of innocence from youth to adulthood. His love for baseball was really his innocence and revealed his love for life. He had a tenacity for integrity. He came back. 

He returned to baseball where he had his youth and hope, fear and despair. His love led him back even more than his talent. That's why we write about the man. God is Love and it is beautiful to see this played out in life.
No this film doesn't have Gods name in it. In the version I saw on MLB network it did not have Gods name in vain either. Truly if it did I don't think I could see the films purity of heart.

What I saw is what we all need to see and that is to live our lives with the purity of heart of a child. It is beautiful to change by facing who you are and what you've done and go back to that place and find God is there .Your new childhood and your grown up new beginning all as one life lived and learned from.
In the culture of death which is our world and time it is so difficult to fathom and to navigate life as it was intended to be. Seek for real life and you will find it.

I lived life in my 20s too. My greatest love- talent was not baseball but acting. I had my plans and career set in my mind. I had great pleasure and some pride in it too. Then life intruded,
betrayal,discouragement, disappointment, and disappearance from almost everyone I knew before.
I call those years Lost In Brooklyn.

My wife Wendy was my close one {Glenn Close character }and the love of my life. It truly is a blessing to fall in love. Go for it. If you are married you can fall in love every day. Just have the courage to act on the purity of your passion no matter what the calendar tells you about how old you are. Or how badly you failed last time out.
At 52,oh so many years later, after my youth ,and days of theatre and being told I had talent and a great future... there I was with my daughter and my wife doing The Sermon On The Mount at a church whose name I do not remember. It was not the major leagues of theater it was South Bend Indiana. It was also the beginning I got to do all over again. I do this full-time and have for many years now.  Its The Natural and as organic as life can be. It is not me making up for my past it is what I am about now.

This isn't about a movie anymore. Its not about taking up acting either. It is however not living by what the resume says you are .Its about believing in your calling more than your career. If words like "calling" scare you reconsider that a child would not fear those words. Go for the things that are free and that last forever. Seek and you will find a you ,you never knew ,and a God you somehow knew was always around and now has been invited in. By you. 
Its Super....Its ..Natural.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Journey To Zero, + -

Its still the beginning of the new year and I just looked over last years information ie where I was ,what I did.  Fact and figures.  Of course there is another story that the " boxscore" cannot tell. Paul Harvey called it "the rest of the story". This story is what keeps me doing my story. The inside scoop. The small that makes sense of it all. The personal. Life is personal, painful ,passionate,...boring at times too.

Like driving on the 40 freeway into LA area from where I live in Albuquerque NM. I always think that's a short drive that is until I am peaked with exhaustion just over the state line into Arizona. Driving, driving, driving, and boredom hits. All the wonderful perks from being a bible -actor are hard to fathom. Another cup of coffee. Thank God for McDonalds there are so many of them .Sometimes I have as many as 3 oatmeals at 3 different times with apple and splenda and of course half and half.

The big thing on that drive is what I call breaking the time barrier. This usually happens after driving 9 to 10 hours and by now I have drunk 3 quarts of water and my strength is back. I am no longer home sick or home either. The time barrier is much more than mountain to pacific time . Its ,..I am going to bed soon wherever I am staying and tomorrow is what counts and where I will be is the place. Don't want to sound corny , but by now God is my home and He and I are chatting along the way. A kind of crashing through " the narrow gate". Crash and I am not tired anymore. A good crash of course.

My film friend Scott is a big help on these trips too. He has energy to talk and when driving to Ca I am a captive audience. Of course I am known to like to share too. We have spent sometimes 2 to 3 hours on one call. Sharing passions and plans and peace. I really love that guy.  Did you ever read Working by Studs Terkel? He interviews people from all walks of life. Everyone is saying in his or her own way, "I am more than what I do for a living or more than what social mores and other people tell me who I am."

We celebrated our 12th year in January as Dramatic Christian Ministries- Narrow Gate Theater. I thank God. Our ministry is His outreach to me, us. I remember a 12 year old Stephanie doing a ballet to Sermon On The Mount and Wendy singing Seek Ye First The Kingdom of God. We were a family together in South Bend In. This 1st date Jan 2001 is to me a picture of not only our family, but of family itself. It was for me however, the beginning of not following " the beaten path, but establishing a path others can follow. "Its not intentional leadership as much as finally saying there is no other way to truly have love by being who you are.

My greatest pleasure these days is the Narrow Gate Theater and specifically engaging as teacher with other actors. If I had a "sentence "to describe my passion to students it would be " an actor is an author bringing his story into the one he or she is playing. By playing your part you can discover who "you are "by discovering characteristics you did not know were yours. You have to bring you into it , not your ideas or your ideals, or what should be, ..but bring you into it. Acting is subjective. A lot like God don't you think. " I am the way and the truth and the life". The "I am "wants to meet the who you are. " Lose yourself in Me " He says is the way to find you.
Even our friend Studs from Chicago reveals down deep in his interviews with all kinds of people.. we are tired of looking at others to find out who we are. Jesus who says " lose yourself in Me" knows who you can be, but not if you seek you in what you see in everyone else. Love one another, does not mean copy one another. Losing yourself in Him also does not mean being Jesus ..but being you. Its not for God but from God. Its not playing Jesus , but Him playing you.

Starting a new year is a lot like my 1st drive on Jan 5th to Banning Ca. You start at 0 or to spell it out zero..and you quickly want to add a number to the zero. Income, a good show, a compliment from someone, anything is better than 0 right? By the time I reach Flagstaff AZ which in my mind is part of Abqs neighborhood I am always surprised not only how long that took about 5 + hours but how bored I am. The number 0 at this point looks like a high number because I am below zero. I want to turn back but it took so long to get here. I can stay at a hotel, go home ,or pick up and drive the rest of the way at 3 am. No to all that. Why?? I don't have the money or the time. Its right about here just after Flagstaff I see the sign for Kingman AZ and now I have a plan. I am beginning to see my advantage. I have a plan and a partner. God has narrowed down my options so that its only Him and me. Its not that God is a loner and I am His only friend, but He is showing me the key to personal identity. Limit your options, your resources, your opportunities, associations, get it? Enter through the narrow gate. Its always uncomfortable.

One of the frequent challenges for "the tour" is where I will be staying and or who it will be with. I want you to know I again am fortunate. You may remember the Bates hotel in Hitchcocks movie Psycho in Az , well I have not stayed there. I stay with the "salt of the earth" and all of everyone's dogs, cats ,TV programs ,and conversations ..and love. The key time for me when I get there is to get to my room as soon as I can. I call Wendy check in on Stephanie, hope they are together in church in the am and meditate on tomorrow am. Somewhere in the night, or the next am driving to the church this something comes over me. Its spiritual and its physical too. Its wonderful and its the perk of the narrow gate, the zeros, the minuses that are really huge pluses.  Its here I know who I am and I know its not God . He is Himself and He's doing very well at who He is. I am just so very happy in these times and though I am not " there " yet is in these times I know whose I am ,and am sure this is another good " crash" along the road to know who I am. 

I trust these times. I have them so often. In serving Him He serves me and I know this is His outreach to me. If I didn't think this was for you I wouldn't bother you with this. I call this the minus that brings the plus. As I tell my fellow actors anyone can have this. Its not in building your resume, or doing something great for God either. Its what's in you that needs to play itself out. Its "play" that finds the passion that is you. A good friend Bill Walters often said to me  God is in your passion". What's your passion. Go to zero and find it. Stay at zero and find contentment.
"The Lord Is There"