In 26 years of ministry, this is one of the nicest letters I have ever received. It's from a lady from Duesseldorf, Germany that was in my seminar at Interlakken, Switzerland. I am including it because it has more to say about the nature of art and the Christian faith than about me. I hope you enjoy it!!!
Hi there Jeff ,
Your seminar in Interlaken really impacted my life! I've written this to say how if you want to read it all! and- if you like you can share it on your site - Thank you SO much for your ministry.
My suitcase is unpacked and my usual daily routine dictates my time, making the recent workshop experience at the IBC Summer Conferece in Interlaken seem very far away. I miss Jeff Smith’s teaching, the camaraderie of our group and the buzz of impromptu dramatic performance.
This kind of missing has a thoughtful wistfulness about it, an other-ness, a tug to turn the time back.
I catch myself thinking… what was it that happened there, and why do I miss it so much?
When I took my seat in the seminar room on Monday morning, I expected to be a passive observer at the back row, and I came prepared to take notes. But Jeff got us on our feet within minutes of arrival. Being self-conscious just wasn’t an option! It was remarkable how Jeff animated this room of people. We were from about ten different countries, with only breakfast as a stimulant, and within minutes we were happily hopping the steps to the “”can-can",“doin’ tha monkey" or giggling over bumping our neighbor in a line dance! - and what is amazing, we actually liked it! -I felt like a little kid jumping up and down with excitement, yelling, “pick me, pick me!”.
With Jeff’s demonstration, a little practice and repetition, the movements became easier (though even on a good day I find balancing on one foot a challenge and am famously uncoordinated), and our group bonded as we followed his lead.
With each day I was there, the sense of anticipation was heightened. Jeff gave us tangible and practically useful ways of bringing the Bible to life and I did make some notes, yet something woke up in my heart in the sessions last week.
He introduced us to his idea of using "Scripture as script”. It is a powerful tool that requires nothing to be added to the (already perfect) Biblical content. By changes in voice, volume and with judicious use of timing,. the text breathes, enabling us to consider it in a way we’d never done before. Taking part in the exercises was a chance for us to “be the text" rather than simply reading or listening to it.
I “felt” the agony and self-revulsion of David as we discussed his confession in Psalm 51; I “saw" the courtroom as Jeff, in the character of a defense attorney, used the words of the apostle Paul to deliver a his closing argument for the faithfulness of Christ under trial.
In the "Pop-up scenes” my voice accused the disciple Peter of being associated with Jesus (who was being tried before Pilate), In the “God-rod" drama called "The Web”, our group were both witnesses and perpetrators in the death of the Messiah. We were the catatonic, unwilling audience of Satan's self-congratulatory, (and chillingly familiar) speech as he strutted around us prematurely convinced of his victory over Jesus in death. As the music changed, I could imagine the spiritual shockwave as our web (representing sin) was broken apart and Satan was defeated. The resurrection of Jesus was celebrated through the soaring music of “Arise My Love”, and borne on our outstretched arms. - I was taken off guard by the power of the moment, my eyes filled with tears, as my heart responded in spontaneous grateful praise.
It was like plugging into a new kind of technology for the first time. I was then, and still am fascinated and exhilarated by the experience.
I like reading with expression, I love words "lived-out-loud" in drama. But drama is reserved for lively stories with my son at home, or for a puppet in a Sunday School class. In the past, when what I call my ‘crazy side’ popped out in adult company, I would cringe internally and bid her a swift retreat. I’d never considered that this “crazy side" could be something God could use in a church or adult Bible study setting.
It amazes me to learn that MY delight can also be HIS delight.
Thinking (or acting) outside of the box, even church-shaped-boxes, can be a risky business. But seeing Jeff in action, I am amazed at how he uses exactly the elements I considered to be “unsafe”, to captivate and hold the attention of everyone in a church service, young and old alike. With rapier wit and swiftly applied truth, lessons are learned through laughter, or by the skillful rendering of known stories in culturally relevant ways (remind you of Someone?)
I was fascinated to catch a glimpse this week of how this unusual brand of gifted playfulness is such an effective communication tool, and I am convinced it makes God smile too!
Jeff has not buried his God-given talent but has trained and disciplined it for good use. In in the faith-investments he’s made, it’s been multiplied into basketfuls of resources for others.
I think Jesus enjoyed being around children because they are naturally playful and gloriously uninhibited. Children live out a freshly-squeezed sort of joy untainted by cynicism or an internal critic. Perhaps it is the sort of joy He designed in Adam in the first place. I think we tend to train-it-out of ourselves in the sober process of being "grown up". I see this joy in Jeff and since then it’s taking root in me too.
With the soul-permission that this new knowledge has granted, coupled with the realization that this freshly awakened creativity in me can be a valid form of worship, I feel like a little kid who has just found a present with her name on it at the very back of a dusty old cupboard, and with shining eyes she sits cross-legged on the floor, the treasure in her lap and starts unwrapping it, holding her breath to see what is inside.
Thank you Jeff. Keep living your calling - you make a difference!
Blessings to you and yours,
Judy Machine' in Duesseldorf, Germany