So another learning from that Mountaineers trip from a few years ago where we were studying improv comedy was “Yes, and…” The idea is that when doing improv, the person you are working with gives you something to go with–a premise–and your job is to say yes, and then keep going. You have to reciprocate and give them something to go with too. For example, your colleague might offer up the premise of being in a pet shop through the way they are acting, so you start acting the part of the little puppy in the window. I feel strongly that this is often the way that it is with God. Suddenly something falls into your lap, so you go with it and see where it will lead you. I would say that this concept definitely dovetails with the whole, “Forget Your Fear,” thing.
Scripture is filled with, “Yes, and…” stories, and they often take on the guise of the call of the prophet. Moses wanders in the wilderness and comes across a talking burning bush–okay, let’s go with it–see where it leads us.
This is another attitude I wanted to embrace in the sabbatical. After all, this sabbatical is supposed to be about storytelling, and good stories need a bit of a leap–a risk–to get started. They need a “Yes, and…” Perhaps that is how I found myself at a tattoo parlor in Brooklyn on day two.
But let’s back up…I didn’t have anything on the calendar for day two, so I just started wandering through the city. I wandered through Time’s Square where it was hard to ignore the many jumbo-trons pitching the Yankees-Redsox game. I pulled out my phone, and next thing you know, I have a ticket to the game. Yes, and… (though let’s not be too quick to compare buying baseball tickets to prophetic call). I continued to just wander. I was sort of entranced by the city. I was amazed by the sites…the sounds…the smells. I was particularly taken by the fact that over the course of about four or five city blocks, I counted at least a dozen different languages being spoken. Pretty soon I had wandered about 50 city blocks and found myself close to a friend’s church. I tried stopping in, but they were out at a business lunch. So I went and sat in the park and watched the mass of humanity moving through the city.
As I was sitting upon that park bench an inexplicable memory popped into my head. Years ago, as I was discerning my next call, I head a somewhat mystical experience in which an eagle played a key role (that full story is for another post). As a result I asked a good friend to create an artistic rendering of the moment, thinking that perhaps one day it would become a tattoo. I thought that the ship had sailed on the part about it actually becoming a tattoo and simply hung the picture in my office. However, as I sat on that bench the idea started to dance through my head. I then realized I owed my sister a phone call to start arranging things for our time together in the coming weekend, and she had a tattoo parlor that she had work done at on a number of occasions. Hmmm….
Next thing I know, I am on my way in to Williamsburg to the 8 of Swords Tattoo parlor, and about an hour and a half later, I have marked this auspicious occasion with new ink. I really had no intention of doing this going into the sabbatical, but…”Yes, and…”
Honestly, the eagle does represent one of the most important, “Yes, and…moments of my life. It was the moment that I discerned that God was calling me to be the pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque, NM. That was an important, and difficult decision. But now looking back on that moment almost 5 years ago, it quite clearly was a burning bush moment for me, a “Yes, and…”
Later that day, I would find myself watching the intense crowd at the Yankee game with a slightly sore shoulder and would relish the moment of “Yes, and…” While watching the game I would find myself texting back and forth with friends from Covenant, trash talking Yankees V. Redsox. All the while I was rejoicing in the time that I have been blessed with at this church. Life is more interesting when you let God take the lead and see where you end up. That is where the best stories come from. That also appears to be where tattoos come from as well!