In a fascinating, one-on-one ‘Off Camera’ interview with renowned photographer Sam Jones, Ethan Hawke covered a lot of good and fertile ground. In one of the many highlights for me, he described a powerful lesson from his early work. White Fang was about a relationship between a boy and a wolf. In one particular scene, he was shown to have made friends with the animal by feeding him from his hand. But Hawke says that it took forever to get that moment on film, because a wolf can tell if you’re acting. He can smell the phony.
“He can sense if you’re faking it,” says Hawke. “If he thinks you’re full of it, he’ll run away.” So Hawke said he basically had to build a camp and sit in silence and stay busy to convince the animal he was serious. Eventually, the wolf believed him and ate from his hand.
A day away from a new year - like me - you’re ready. But 2021 isn’t coming with that, oh how would you describe it? That expected freshness? It doesn’t have that same “New Year” vibe. I suppose it’s because when we wake up on Jan 1st, the pandemic, shutdowns, social media nonsense, and the divided mess of our reality will linger like a stray. New Year, New You? We wish.
THE CIRCLING WOLF
I remember when January was a big month for PrayFit. Through the years, Simon & Schuster and Lionsgate Entertainment both scheduled launch dates for our books and products each January to help people step into new habits of spiritual and physical stewardship. National bestsellers, we hit #1 on Amazon 4 times. Boy how times change.
For me, personally and professionally, 2020 found my chin. In January, we launched our most precious initiative in 10 years to focus on our 2 areas of vocation and passion: Respite and Mobility. The 2nd Mountain as I often refer to it was primed to usher us into a new decade of significance. I had dreams of becoming the “Charity: Water” of the fitness world in how we served those with special needs and disabilities. We dreamers have our way.
A few short months later, COVID broke through the sediment of our little path and it stopped our ascent in its tracks. But because we didn’t bring any “quit” in our backpacks, we did what determined climbers do in storms. We made camp. Stayed busy. Improved processes. Made a short film. And waited. Truth is, non-profit organizations like ours were hit especially hard. Like a cunning, circling wolf, COVID measured us up. Sniff. Sniff. Were we for real?
A CLARIFYING DARKNESS
On the way to Romania last year with Joni & Friends to help deliver hundreds of wheelchairs to those in need, I situated my seat and got comfortable for the 11-hour jump to Europe. Thing is, I don’t sleep well in my own bed, what makes me think I could sleep on a plane? So, I measured my options of books, magazines and movies. I settled on the title for a flick about which my mind often yearns: SILENCE.
In a Gospel Coalition review of Scorcese’s film: “Silence” is an indelible reflection on faith, doubt, and the inscrutable mystery of God. This is a literary masterwork, but recommended to any Christian interested in a window into the persecuted church and the clarifying darkness of suffering.”
My review isn’t nearly as poetic, but here I go: SILENCE is a brutal film about the 17th-century persecution of Jesuit missionaries in Japan. It’s uncomfortable to watch. Basically, you either suffered for being silent, or you suffered for trampling on your faith; a literal reference because the test of whether or not you were a Christian was whether or not you would step on a picture of Jesus. Apostatizing meant an end to the pain. Staying silent prolonged it.
WHATEVER IT TAKES
Gina Spivey, pastor and director of the Calvary Special Abilities Ministry, recently sent an update on the progress of the construction of our new room:
“This wing of our building is designed specifically for the needs of our most special families including vital components like: private bathroom with adult sized changing table, large sensory/quiet room, increased space for movement and learning, self-contained outdoor learning and play areas, secure doors and check in systems and MOST importantly…a location on the first floor right by the entrance to our building. This new wing will increase convenience, safety, and functionality for our entire ministry for many years to come.”
For those of you that have poured into PrayFit - whether you participated in The PrayFit Run, purchased our merchandise, built fundraisers, or if you are one of the 35 committed monthly donors that make up the heart of the Body, you are helping complete this project. Gina, her team and the kids and families that will walk, run and roll through those new doors are the very souls PrayFit is committed to serving even in the smallest of ways.
Not sure if we’ve helped supply a little paint or a little door, but the parents of these amazing kids are those that I’ve described in our latest film as ones that “can’t stop.” They’re who I think about as I warm my hands on the steep side of this mountain and wait for the storm to pass. Sitting here in silence reminds me that I’m weak and prone to wander. It occurs to me that I’m vulnerable to every kind of pressure, capable of every kind of sin and susceptible to descending, not only down the mountain but in despair.
Meanwhile, I am reinventing myself in pursuit of additional work. A former hospitality executive - turned author - turned disability advocate, I’m doing whatever it takes to pay the bills and maintain the ministry.
Yeah guys, 2020 revealed some things; things like character, faith, hope, resilience, our treasures, our hearts. It stripped many of us of health, jobs, opportunities, graduations, weddings, retirements and even funerals. It kicked us when we were down. And for my little part as I secure myself alongside this cliff in silence, 2020 served as a clarifying darkness, bringing into perfect focus my depravity, smallness and my God-given mixture of limits, hustle and tenacity.
The wolf is still out there, of course. But I think he’s getting the message.