The term “mixed blessings” is redundant. Why do I say that? Because all true blessings are mixed. God isn’t just in the blessing business, he’s in the growth business, and growth requires challenges, difficulty. Just as our muscles don’t grow unless they’re pushed, neither does our character.
It was the start of my career. I’d just come back from England. As a brand new theatre instructor, I’d wrangled an unbelievable summer gig teaching visiting American students acting alongside members of the Royal Shakespeare Company, including future “sirs” Patrick Stewart and Ben Kingsley. While I was there I fell half in love with a British nursing student and completely in love with England, so I couldn’t wait to resume both career and romance in the UK. As I was stitching together my plans, a friend handed me a phone number. A comedy trio famous in the Christian world, Isaac Air Freight, was looking for a new member. On a whim, I auditioned. And they said yes! But what about England? And what about that adorable nurse?
I asked my study group to pray for me. The minute they said, “Amen,” a stranger walked up and handed me a slip of paper. “God told me to give you this,” she said, and left (I never saw her again). The slip read, “Behold, I have set before you an open door that no one can shut ” (Revelation 3:8). And so, I joined Isaac Air Freight.
I toured with them for four years, appearing in videos and recording albums (5 studio recordings and 7 radio show compilations). That experience laid the groundwork for my entire career to come. So, why do I call it a mixed blessing?
In a word: relationships. We were oil and water. They were down-to-earth funny guys with an undying love for sports; and I was an artsy-fartsy type who’d just come back from teaching Shakespeare in freaking Stratford-upon-Avon! The only thing we had in common was our love for God. We were oil-and-water. Which meant we had to constantly stir the pot to make the ingredients mix. But mix they did. Why? Because God, the mixed blessing specialist, had put us together.
Zoom forward to 2013: I was struggling to build a film production company, when I got called to audition for the lead role in an independent film. For reasons I couldn’t fathom, I felt like I was “supposed” to do this, that it was “a God thing.” When I was offered a small two-day role instead, I figured I’d been mistaken. But then, two days into filming, the producer halted shooting, insisting they’d made “a terrible mistake” in casting. One week later, filming resumed—with me in the lead! I was terrified, but exhilarated.
After production of Promises to Keep was completed, I assumed I’d go back to my original plans. But God had something else in mind. The producer who’d cast me in the lead pursued a friendship with me. Why? We were oil and water: he was more Catholic than the Pope, and I was a loosey-goosey Jesus-follower. We saw eye-to-eye on almost nothing. And yet…
The following year that producer greenlighted my first feature film as a writer-director. Why? Because God, the mixed blessing specialist, had put us together. So, who were we to say no? That feature film Healing River has won over twenty festival awards and honors, and remains one of the top-rated inspirational films ever shown on Amazon Prime. I look forward–with a healthy dose of fear and trembling–
To whatever mixed blessings God has in store next!