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Tomorrow, Dec 31 – it will have been one year since Kyle died. I’m pretty sure. You know that feeling of wanting to remember a detail, or double check a date, and then you stop – and realize that is the last thing you want to do – because just remembering the deepest parts of loss is enough – who cares about precision in the face of pain.

Kyle was not only my best friend and the best of all of our friends. We shared an endless amount of adventures together in his short time on this earth.

Fuck. I’m crying now. Why do I not want to cry? Who gives a shit. It is what it is.

Kyle loved Jesus, blues music, graphic design, and camel cigarettes.

As 12 months have passed since he’s been gone – I think my favorite memories of Kyle are the ones that no one knows but me. The private moments. The inside jokes. The long road trips. The hugs. The tears. And the intimacy that is achieved, as only can be, between two good friends. The type of intimacy where you can read each other’s minds and seemingly have full conversations with only mannerisms.

A new good friend of mine is St. Alex Early​. He’s a real author. I only pretend to be. The other night my family and his family got together. As Alex was nice enough to read my book and write a little blurb for it – which he only did out of sheer undeserved grace – I wanted to give him and his wife a hard copy of my book Sinners, Saints, and the Furious Love of God by David Leo Schultz​ …I handed the book to his wife Jana Bradford Early​ and I said, “I’m not an a real writer. The way your husband is – but what I have found is that I am able to write with great ease and passion about things which I am passionate about – and that’s my friends.

I really only wrote that book as a way to grieve. I started writing it when I found out Kyle wouldn’t be around much longer. And even as I was finishing up the book and I literally wrote the words, “any day now I will get the inevitable phone call, email, or text letting me know that he’s gone”…and sure enough I got a text: Kyle’s not alive here anymore. He’s now alive in heaven.

Or something like that. Again, fuck details.

In 100 years no one will remember me let alone these digital scribbles.

Kyle always got a kick out of me being a Christian that gravitated towards not playing bullshit religious games. He would often laugh and shake his head when I would accidentally – on purpose – piss religious people off.

Kyle got it. He knew I too loved Jesus, but also knew I wasn’t the type of Christian that good old fashion baptist protestants were. I wasn’t convicted the same way. Didn’t look at the Bible the same way. My theology didn’t fit into their paradigms of how a Christian should behave.

Even if he thought I was just using grace as a license to sin instead of operating out of just being who I am and where I am at…he would have loved me anyway.

That’s just who he was.

I think it’s very unfair that I’m still here. I’m still walking around with air and my lungs and he’s not. He was a father too. Just like me. He had future dreams and desires – just like me.

It’s not fair. I wonder if Kyle can hear my whispers on the other side of eternity. I wonder if he heard of my prayers before he died, “Take me. Not him.”

But I also know that I live inside of time surrounded by eternity. To be human is to be Two-dimensional. But if I were Three-dimensional – able to see what is still yet to come – I wonder if I would be able to hear Kyle – I wonder if I would hear him whisper the same thing, “It’s not fair”…”It’s not fair that all my friends, family, and loved ones can’t be here to experience “What’s Next” and they are still there.

Kyle and I had more time in the car traveling the country than we did anything else. More time in the car…than we did in our dorm rooms our freshman year, or sleep-overs growing up, or even our comedy shows.

We traveled the country as if we were Jake and Elwood blues – on a mission from God. We both drove like Elwood blues too – that’s for damn sure. Matter of fact that’s where I think we got it. We wanted to be the Blues Brothers – and maybe we were. Who knows? Who cares? Maybe we never got to be the real Blues Brothers – but we at least knew we were brothers. Not by flesh and blood, but perhaps the better kind. The kind that welds your heart and history together.

I don’t have to stretch my heart or memories to far to remember what it was like to be on a long road trip with Kyle. I can still his blondish brown hair styled the way he liked it. His oversized goatee. His smile. His laugh. The holes in his ears where his ear rings used to be. His eyes that were truly the gateway to his soul. The quiet way about him. His, stronger than life itself, faith. The faith that more resembled an intense, focused, warriors bravery. The kind that doesn’t need words, because it has something better. Determination and faithfulness.

You know one of the things I learned in the last 7 years about making movies about two men who really lived, breathed, and died. Is that everyone knows the one who died better than anyone else. It’s their version that counts. Not anyone else’s. I never really understood it, as much as I thought it was a mixture of unresolved grief and maybe even a dash of close mindedness.

But, now, after loosing Kyle – I get it. It IS their version that counts. It’s the one that counts because it’s all they have. The one they lost was unique to them, in the way that no two people see the same sunset. While it’s the same sun – it’s not the same perspective of that sun. And because of that unique combination that comes out of two people’s experience – only WE know our loved one the way We do. And it’s not the same as anyone else. And that’s okay. It has to be. After all, now that they are gone, t’s all we have.

Fuck. I just miss my friend.


A half burnt cigarette and a heart filled with tears

By David Leo Schultz

I spend to much time thinking about movies. I watch too many movies. I write movies. I act in movies. I direct movies. I even dream in movies…

As I smoke my cigarette and stare at the christmas lights that wrap around my back porch I can’t help but ponder about how symbolic this smoke is for my short life.

I suddenly think of a great opening scene for a movie. An old man and a young man sharing a cigarette break. The young man sucks down his smoke like he’s chugging a soft drink. The old man puts his hand on the young man’s shoulder and says…”Slow down. It will be over soon enough.”

I can’t help but think about how short this life was for my loved ones that have already passed away and their bodies are now dust much like the ash from my smoke that has disappeared into the wind.

I think about Kyle who died a year ago this month of December. When I think of my friend. I don’t hear his voice. I can remember if I try but I let the memories of my departed loved ones do whatever they want – not what I wish they would do. With Kyle I just see him smiling. Smiling at me. A smile that is both amused by me as much as it encourages me. He was 35 when he died.

I think about my Step-Mom Paula who died quietly of cancer in a hospital room in Florida. I miss our little talks. I can still hear her excitement when I would call her and ask her for a recipe or help with researching the best deal for this or that. I’m glad she got to see my movie “Ragamuffin” before she died. But I’ll forever regret missing her call the week before she died. I tried to call her back. But I should have tried harder. Maybe I would have gotten to hear her voice one last time. But I didn’t.

I think about my Grandpa & Grandma Schultz. They were always filled with answers to my questions about our Jewish Heritage …and even more filled with compassion for their Christian grandson. My Grandma was a beautiful red headed painter, and my Grandpa was a towering man of steel who was also a welder. I miss them both. When I think of my Grandma Beverly I can see her dancing …and when I think of My Grandpa I can see him serving…why? Because he was the definition of humility. Everyone else goes first. Then him. But it was him who ended up going first in the next life. But before he left, he left one last note to the love of his life that said, “I love you my darling.” Chuckie.

I think about my second cousin – Jim English. I carry a shred of an old picture of Jimmy in a small picture frame. That’s all that is left of his life cut short – by his own hand. Those who know me know I can never stop talking about Jimmy. I can’t remember his voice any longer. The second I think I can is the second I know I’m just wishing I could. I don’t stop talking about you because I don’t ever want to forget – I don’t want to forget my very first hero.

My cigarette is almost gone now as I think about my Grandma Roxy. My Mom’s Mom. But she was my Mom too. When I tell people that my Grandma died – I can tell they don’t get it. They react respectfully of course. But they react as one would when they hear a grandparent passes. It’s compassionate and empathetic but not as much as when a parent passes. I’m not being sappy to say that she was like my Mom. It’s just really true. Beyond biology what makes a mother/child relationship…is the bond. When it comes to biology she was my Grandmother. But when it comes to bond she was my mother.

Maybe I’m too morbid or too wise. Either way I know I’m not humble. And not because or just because I think I have some wisdom. I am aware of my lack of humility because of how “self” focused I can be…but it’s these quiet moments when I realize how truly foolish it is to be focused on me. With the sound of a ticking clock I know that death isn’t too far out of reach for any of us. Although my favorite joke with my wife about my smoking is…when she says, “You know these are going to kill you…” I smile and say…”Death is a myth. Don’t believe everything you hear babe.”

But she’s right. And if she’s not, then life itself will kill me. No one get’s out alive. Kyle didn’t. My Grandparents didn’t. My Step Mom didn’t. Jimmy didn’t.

My friend told me that at the end of my life as I reflect on my wealth and achievements …it won’t be my resume I think about…it will be my family and friends. He’s right.

So, as I finish my smoke. I think about my wife. I think about my kids. I think about my friends. I think I’m going to retire from worry. From rushing and running through life. I think I’m going to quit career chasing and achievement building. I think I’m throwing in the towel on pursuing. I’m done with surviving…but I think I’m going all in on living. I’m want to be fully alive in what I create and being present. I have no more interest in keeping tabs on mile markers or notches in any belt…I just want to work, create, and most of all be fully alive in every moment with Amy – my wife. Lucy – my lovely daughter. And laughing with and listening to my family & friends.

But most of all I want to enjoy my loved ones and the precious gift that this life is…after all. It will all be over soon.

Just like this cigarette.


Vote for Jesus. Not for Christians

I’d like to talk in a general way. Not in a specific way. This is where I am landing this morning as I ask myself the question, “Is it wise to name names?” For now I’m choosing to not for no other reason then grace. But trust me when I say – I refrain with great struggle. So what is the all this angst about?

To overgeneralize? Christians.

Not all Christians. But enough to where their voices during an election period cause me to do a face palm. Now please hear me – I’m not doing a face palm with some type of self-righteous “I’m better than you” type attitude. I’m just embarrassed.

But I’m more than embarrassed. I’m mad. I’m sad. I’m frustrated. I’m fed-up. I’m not going to pull punches – okay? So if you become faint of heart with an uncensored way of speaking. I suggest you hit the eject button right now. And I’m talking right now. Stop reading. Still reading? Then buckle up – especially if you are one who calls themselves a Christian.

I’m sick and tired of people that use the title of “Christian” with their mouth – and out of that same mouth also comes bigotry, hate, shame, slander, name calling, sexism, racism, homophobia, self-righteous rhetoric, and maybe the worst of all…pride. And maybe, just maybe, underneath all of the grossness that publicly and privately fall out of the mouths of these “Christians” is pride.

Did you know some, but not all, Christians think cussing is a sin? What a shame. Please hear my heart I’m not trying to shame them – that’s not why I say, “What a shame.” The reason I do is because I’m afraid because of their theological view of “cussing” they may miss a crucial clue how God himself wishes them to speak with their mouths.

In the Bible – the Christian Scriptures, which many believe to be God breathed and inspired as the Holy Word of God, there is a book called JAMES. And in the book of James, chapter 3, verses 9 & 10 it says this: With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

Now let me confess. I am a Christian. And I am a Christian who doesn’t believe that “cussing” is a sin. You can see my past articles, blogs, or even read practically a whole treaty on the subject in my book Sinners, Saints, and the Furious Love of God. Shameless plug. Forgive me. But for now – no matter who you are – before you read any further let’s just be kind to one another. Lets humbly accept that within the Christian community – there’s lot of different ideas, theologies, and vantage points on many different aspects of the faith. And cussing, is one of them. Remember what St. Augustine said? “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” Let’s lean into that. At least for the time it takes you to read this article – so you hopefully don’t “throw the baby out with the bathwater” – in terms of “the baby” being the heartbeat and message behind these words of mine.

See, if for no other reason my big hang-up with Christians having this view that there are certain “words” that are off-limit for the Christian is because they can practically read the whole book of James or many other passages and miss the whole point. It’s not the words that are making the speech bad. It’s the heart. It’s not the four letters that make a word bad. It’s the intent.

During a big election season it seems everyone who dare calls themselves a follower of Jesus (myself included) – should read the book of James over and over and over again.

I have heard Christians hop on social media (their own personal microphone) and say the most awful, gross, disgusting, shameful things…without saying one traditional “cuss word.”

No matter which party line they are in – they say the most inhumane things about the other. Take this election. The year of 2016. I personally know of Christians (at least on an acquaintance level) that have said incredibly awful and gross things about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. A couple things go through my head. One, I go, “Do you folks know them personally? The media is so wonky how would you know what’s true about their character or not.” I mean…Did anyone see the 2014 movie Gone Girl? Secondly, I go…”Wait are they a brother or sister in Jesus?” And if they are – this is when I do the face palm. This is not how we should speak of anyone. Whether or not they are in the same faith group as us.  Simply put: The follower of Jesus should know better. Every human is made in the image and likeness of God – and to shame them – whether the be guilty or innocent – is not only “not cool” it’s also a sin. When the Christian steps out of the boundaries of their political preferences and starts bashing on other people with their hateful hearts – they not only have done wrong – they have sinned against that person. Even if they are a public person. Just because they are a celebrity and in the news – doesn’t let you off the hook for having a compassionate and loving stance towards that person.

Election time seems to bring out the crazies. Especially the “Christian crazies,” as I like to call them. Frankly, they go ape shit. They seem to take every single thing that Jesus said about love and chuck it out of the metaphorical window of their heart. “Love your enemies.” Gone. “Turn the other cheek.” See ya’ later. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”Bye-bye.

The crazy has reached an all time high when I jumped on Facebook the other day and saw a dear friend who I happen to know really really really loves Jesus. And this person had this to say of Hillary Clinton: “What a piece of shit!” I almost threw-up in my mouth. Then another friend, also a Christian, said even worse about Donald Trump. My heart grew sad. I was sad – not for our country. I was sad – not for the state of our politics. I was sad – for Christians. I was sad that it seems so many of us have amnesia when it comes to the gospel of grace. The same good news that first opened up our hearts, in faith, to the reality of the unconditional and unmerited love of God ambushing our lives.

Recently a friend and fellow brother in Christ was speaking at an event on the east coast. This was a Christian retreat of sorts. He was picked up at the airport by a fellow Christian, although not associated with the event – which my friend was not prepared for. He was also not prepared for his politics. This guy went on and on and on about his disdain for Democrats and especially Hillary Clinton. Finally. My friend couldn’t take it anymore. He was exhausted. Not so much by politics but by this Christian’s forgetfulness of the gospel of Jesus and His grace and love. Eventually my friend stopped this man and said, “You know what – I AGREE! Hillary Clinton…is a DICK! And you know what…so is Donald Trump! And you know what…SO AM I! Man we are all bad – aren’t we? We all fall short of the glory of God – don’t we? We are all sinners who you desperately need the grace and forgiveness of God – aren’t we? Thank God – He sent his son Jesus to die on the cross for Hillary Clinton…and Donald Trump…and for me…and for you.

With our mouths, we Christians curse others made in the image and likeness of God. It’s over and abundantly clear during election season – isn’t it? But I’m afraid that’s not the only time. Matter of fact – to live in the United States during this place and time – it seems that’s not all that we have a bad rep for. The list goes on.

Christians aren’t only hateful with our speech (with our without cuss words). We are often a group that because of our actions (and words) and words (and actions) get labeled with with terms like: racist, homophobic, sexist, right-wing nut jobs, legalistic, judgmental, stuck-up, phony, arrogant…and the list goes on…and on…and on…and on.

Face palm.

If we had forever I would tell you how from the beginning of Christianity there has always been a divide within our faith community. The divide is usually between the the faithful and the religious. Those who are following the heart of the gospel of Jesus and those that are seeking nothing more than a moral code with the appearance of good – wherein the reality is – there is nothing good in them – not even Jesus. Because the ball has never dropped – in terms of their faith. Oh yeah, sure – they believe all the ‘right things” and say “all the right things’ but inwardly they have never come to the cross of Jesus and cried out “Father, forgive me I know not what I do.” They have never believed the true gospel of Jesus – the one that says – there is nothing – absolutely nothing you can do to earn God and his love exemplified by Jesus on the cross – there is only acceptance. As Paul Tillich once said, “Faith is the courage to accept the fact that you’re accepted.”

You see if you would look at the four gospels found in the Christian Scriptures – Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John. You will see so much real estate of those passages taken up with a major conflict. Do you know what that conflict is? It’s one that is very popular in our modern area. It’s a very serious issue today. It’s the issue referred to as BULLYING. And for any human that has had to face the torture that is puberty AND middle school – we all know too well that Bullying is a real thing. And it seems that as the generations flee by – things are only getting worse.

This is not true. Things have have always been bad when it comes to bullying. Bullies suck. And the only thing that sucks more than bullies? Christian bullies.

Jesus spent so much of the Scriptures defending the “poor in spirit” against the “rich in spirit.” Jesus was always beat up by religious bullies. Matter of fact – he was eventually killed by them. But the good news is – he didn’t stay dead.

Jesus had a reputation for hanging out with all types of ragamuffins. He would party with drunks, whores, IRS agents, and Used Car Salesman. I’m paraphrasing of course. I just thought I would spell that out for the hung-up types.

Bottom line: Jesus always gave grace to the humble – and always – always – opposed the proud.

Oh, how I wish Jesus was here in the flesh. I bet you he wouldn’t be voting Republican or Democrat. Or even a third party. He might even forget to vote because he would be so caught up with loving the outcasts, poor, and disenfranchised. Don’t get me wrong. He would be respectful of the government system in place, having once said, “Give to Cesar what is Cesar.” Jesus would have paid his taxes.

This isn’t so much an article to jump on my soap box and bash on Christians. Although, the good Lord up on high sure knows I like to do that – especially when I do it for the same reasons that Jesus also bashed on the stuck-up religious leaders of his day once calling them a “Brood of Vipers.”

No – this is something else entirely. There is a two-fold motive in writing this piece. First an passionate apology to those who don’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah – Immanuel – God with us. It’s an apology to those who know Jesus only as a historical figure or a religious relic. Not as a real God-Man they can have a relationship with – Today.

To all those who don’t know Jesus – and to those that think they do – but don’t really. Let me just say – I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all of it. I’m sorry for the hate, racial bias, sexism, homophobia, right-wing nuttiness, and all the cursing. Not the kind that is spelled with four letters. The worse kind. The kind of cursing that shames you without knowing you. The kind that spits on your metaphorical face with the ease it takes to put a comment on our Facebook Status Update. All of this shit – this isn’t a whoopsie. This is worse than that. This is sin. Now I could argue – not only because I like to debate – but I could, if I had the time, to lay-out and articulate – that a lot – if not most of the people who are doing these awful things in Jesus name’ aren’t really Christians. They are mere “wolves in sheeps clothes” at worst…and at best they grew up in a Christian home, went to Church every Sunday, said their prayers every morning, and read their Bible every night – but they never knew that when it comes to Christianity – it’s the one religion – that’s not a religion – and was never intended to be – it was always meant to be A LOVE AFFAIR. The gravitational pull of our religious hearts have and always will want to turn this free gift of God’s grace into something that has to be worked for and earned. What a shame. This is not the good news that God gave us in sending his son Jesus to love us and to love us so much – that he would be willing to take all the punishment for our sins – so that we never have to die a second death – and that we could not only have life forever – but have life now.

I’m just so sorry. All the hate, sexism, homophobia, slander, gossip, racism, and anything and everything else that doesn’t resemble Jesus….is not Jesus. All of that shit – IS NOT HOW GOD FEELS ABOUT YOU. God is crazy about you. Jesus is head over heels in love with you. This is why he came. This is the explanation for the biggest event in human history: Jesus love letter to you. His death on the cross. His burial. And his resurrection.

Julie of Norwich – a 14th century woman who dedicated her life to contemplation and prayer once had a vision of Jesus on the cross and He shouted something to the effect of – “Are you well satisfied that I suffered you?” Because if not – I would gladly ask my Abba Father to allow me to suffer more so that you would believe I love you.”

To those that do know Jesus – the really real believers – those who really have tasted the heavenly gift of knowing and hearing Jesus tender still small voice – those that know the Almighty strength of his toughness and fierce and furious love for you – I’d just say: Stop it. Repent. Change. Turn around from all this political craziness that turns you from a peacemaker of God into a division starter of Hate. Stop shaming people. Stop cursing. Not the four letter kind. The more hurtful kind. The type of words and cursing that can hide behind a political party. Or the kind that can hide behind a theological view. The kind that can hide behind a prayer request in a prayer circle – when it really is just a gossip party in a shame circle. Obey Jesus – be salt and light. Not dirt and darkness. Because all this horse shit – the racism, sexism, homophobia, shaming, hating – that’s what all of this sin is. It’s dirt and darkness – and has nothing to do with or has a place in the kingdom of God. It’s utterly and completely wrong. It’s disgusting. And it’s gross. And finally, stop. Please hear me. Stop being a religious bully. That’s what all of this is. You’ve lost your way. Remember the ancient Christians didn’t call it “Christianity.” That word can’t be found anywhere in the Scriptures. It was simply called, “The Way.” And you my friends, if you are a real believer in and by Jesus Christ, have lost yours. You’ve forgotten your first love – which is the ignited love affair you have with Almighty God started by the kindling of God’s grace. You have put out the fire with your religious pride. With your wrong-headed notions of what it means to respond to God’s grace – instead you think you have to earn it. And has a result you have turned Christianity into some type of moral code, ethic, philosophy, or method for behavior modification. You have watered down the gospel of Jesus. And as a result – your heart has become bitter, cold, and filled with hate. And woe – to anyone who crosses your path – you fucking religious bully. Our only hope to stop you and all your racism, sexism, shame, hate, and homophobia is to pray for Jesus to come and once again build a whip and drive out the fakers and robbers of the true spirit of “The Way” or “Christianity” – which is nothing but total and utter grace.

So all this to say. If you have to vote on whether all this Christianity stuff is true or not. Don’t look at the resume’s of his followers. Look at the reputation of their leader. And if you compare and contrast the two : Jesus & his followers. It will start to dawn on you why they use words like “savior” and “salvation” because they are wretched sinners who sure as hell need saving. They are a group of degenerates who left to their own devices are un-righteous at best and self-righteous at worst. This group of rejects known as Christians only hope is Jesus himself paying for all of their sin like racism, sexism, homophobia, hate, name-calling, slander, and shame with his death on the cross. And their only hope for change and new life is to surrender to him – to die with him – and to be raised to live with him to have a new life in Him.

I should know. Because I am one of the worst ones in this fucked up group of Christians. Trust me. Trust me when I say I have the same grossness you might see in them. I have the same grossness you might see in Donald Trump. And I have the same grossness you might see in Hilary Clinton.

The qualities I have might not look the same. They may have a different label. They maybe have a different title. They might be on a different list. I’d like to think I don’t have a shred of racial bias, sexism, homophobia, hate, and the like – but I know I am filled with pride which is the root of all sin. And so what if it comes out in a different way than my neighbor. I’m still in the same boat. I too – am in  need of a savior.

And when it comes to the ONE doing the saving. I know who I’m voting for.

David Leo Schultz

David Leo Schultz is an actor, screenwriter, filmmaker, author, comedian, and speaker.

You can hear David speak live every Sunday Night at 5PM at the HIGH DIVE BAR in Seattle or on the live Facebook feed: fb.com/ragamuffinsundays

You can follow David on Twitter & Instagram : @davidleoschultz

You can purchase David’s latest book : Sinners, Saints, & The Furious Love of God on Amazon or Kindle.

You can purchase David’s latest movie “Brennan” at colorgreenfilms.com


Previously published on THE GOOD MEN PROJECT

Link: https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/race-police-the-bridge-of-compassion-kt/

Race, Police, & The Bridge of Compassion

By David Leo Schultz

An accidental act of compassion two days ago is haunting and bothering me deep in my soul.

I was at a stop light, and I saw a seemingly homeless man who was bearded and bedraggled holding up a sign that read: Starving – need help.

I never carry cash, but on this particular morning on my passenger seat, I had four dollar bills laying there.

At that moment I did what I only imagine most of us do. I had a mental debate on whether should I give this dude my money. Maybe you can relate, or maybe you’re more gracious and giving than me, and there would have been no debate at all.

The debate in my head went as follows: What’s this guy going to do with my money? Is he going to buy food or drugs? Is he really in need or is he a con-man? Is he lazy and therefore jobless or is he, like so many of us, out of options and in momentary despair.

For no other reason than, “Why not—it’s just four dollars.” I rolled down my window, honked my horn and gave him the four dollars.

Now I’m not telling you this story to pat myself on the back or to have you look at me as anything special. Matter of fact there was nothing special to my act of compassion at all. The only reason I was even able to execute this random act of kindness was an accident. I never carry cash.

But on this particular morning, I went to the drug store and paid my purchases with my debit card. I swore that when the little machine asked me if I wanted “Cash Back” I pushed “No.” But when the Clerk handed me my receipt, he also handed me ten dollars.

As someone who is lazily trying to quit smoking, I went to buy a pack of Djarum Cigars. This is my John Candy/Uncle Buck way of quitting. Anyway—buying my smokes—I received my change of four dollars. The four dollars I gave to a homeless man.

But when I gave these four stray dollar bills—that honestly didn’t mean anything to me—to the broken and bearded man, what he did has me undone. And for the last 48 hours, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.

As I handed him this meaningless money he took the cash with his hands, clenched the dollar bills tight, and brought them to his lips and kissed them. And he immediately started crying. He looked up at me and said, “Bless you.”

I was stunned. The only thing I had to offer such as response was, “Bless you too.” But as I drove away I knew I was the one more blessed.

I couldn’t explain it and I still can’t—which is why I am writing in this moment—to make sense of it all. But as I drove away from this homeless saint, I couldn’t help but think of the current climate of race and law enforcement in our country.

I know. It’s weird. I don’t know why. But that’s what happened.

♦◊♦

Some of my favorite and talented friends in Los Angeles are black. And I’m not going to lie. I can’t stop thinking about how fortunate I am to be white. Because when and if I’m pulled over by a cop, I’m not nervous at all. And not just because I follow instructions, but because of the color of my skin. And I can’t help but think of my black friends, that they aren’t as fortunate, and not because they aren’t law abiding citizens who follow instructions, but because they have a different color of skin than I do. If nothing else my heart breaks that they have to do something that I don’t when they are pulled over, they have to be nervous and more careful. I hate that.

And I also have police officer friends. My wife’s cousin is one of the most upright, honest, and loving guys I’ve met. And he’s a cop. Even though I don’t know him well, I am in awe of him. He risks his life, every day, to protect others. Matter of fact my best friend in the whole world is in law enforcement, and like an idiot, he sometimes doesn’t carry a gun—partially because he wants to be like Sylvester Stallone—and partially because he doesn’t like guns.

My friend posted a training video not too long ago, one that describes what it’s like to have to make split decisions in the line of duty. He explained how terrifying it could be—no matter how brave or trained you are—to make those split decisions that can so often be between taking a life and preserving your own, or not taking a life and potentially sacrificing your own.

This is not an easy subject.

And yet, we all know—unless you’ve been living in a cave all your life or you’re an alien from Mars—there is an undeniable racial bias that permeates American culture and skews perspectives on both sides of the fence. It’s undeniable. Matter of fact, to deny that will only continue to keep you dumb, deaf, and blind. Can it change? Yes. And no matter how hard it will be to change, we must. But, even with the best and smartest strategies in the world, one truth remains, it will take hard work and time.

♦◊♦

It’s been stated before; there are bad people out there because there is evil in the world. And these bad people exist—not because of the color of their skin or their work uniform and occupational status—the bad is much deeper than that, it’s a matter that defies race, ethnicity, religion, and sexuality, it’s a matter of the of the heart.

No matter which side you are on—and we are all aware of the Grand Canyon-sized gap that stands between the two—something must be done.

So far, as it seems, we’ve only tried to fill the gap with hate, shame, arguing, debate, on-line trials, journalism, memes, bible verses, protests, picketing, racism, blind defensiveness, and frankly the list is endless…

But what if, WHAT IF, we tried compassion.

I’m not talking about the smile-and-shut-up type of sloppy sentimentality that comes from turning a blind eye to the deeper problems and pain that bubbles beneath the history of racism and social divide.

But a down and dirty type of compassion that plummets you into the shoes of another.

The type of compassion that puts you into the history and skin of another.

The type of compassion that puts in the type of split-second decision making that could mean—if you make the wrong one—either you take an innocent life, or you lose yours. The end result could be that you both don’t go home that night to have dinner with your loved ones.

The type of compassion that allows you to hear the cries and witness the tears on the other side—the other side of the gap—the other side of the coin or the fence that you so vehemently defend.

The type of compassion that allows you to see past the color of a person’s skin, to see them as your brother or sister, a fellow human.

Matter of fact, to be void of such compassion does exactly that; it makes you less human.

To silence your ears and close your eyes to the pain of another is to turn off your humanity.

But, to allow yourself to hear the cries and feel the tears of another, to embrace the uncomfortableness of another’s plight and pain can destroy the pride within. It can make you realize, “Oh, yeah—I see what they’re talking about. And I more than see! I feel it! I may not—and will not ever—have a front row seat to what they are going through, and I may not have the answers nor will ever, but what I can do—rather than do nothing—is offer myself.”

We can offer our compassion. And as we do – we can watch as they take that compassion, grace, and mercy, and know that even if only for a moment they won’t feel alone. They will feel understood, and more importantly, they will feel loved.

But it will cost you, even if it’s only four dollars. At the very least it will cost you your pride, but it’s through your humility that you will also be blessed. You will be blessed enough to open your eyes and ears to the pain and cries of another.

♦◊♦

So go out and love well. Even if it is by accident. As a matter of fact, let us all be accident prone in regards to loving our neighbors.

Because only love—not the romantic or sentimental kind, but a down right real-life-every-day kind, the compassionate kind—can begin to fill the gap that stands between us.

I love you all no matter what. Not because I’m perfect. But because I have been perfectly loved.


This was previously published on THE GOOD MEN PROJECT.

Link: https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/whiskey-cigarettes-r-rated-christianity-kt/

Article: Whiskey, Cigarettes, & R-Rated Christianity

By David Leo Schultz

Before we get started, I should confess that I am a Christian, but I’m often not the type of Christian the way religious folks want me to be. I’m a cigarette smoking, whiskey drinking, often R-Rated Christian. I blame my Grandma. My Grandma was a no bullshit type of Grandma, and that’s the kind of Christianity she taught me. On the one hand, she’d tell me, “David – Jesus is all that matters. He loves you. He’s crazy about you.” And often in the same breath, she would say, “Now get to bed you little shit ass!”

My Grandma was the first person to introduce me to Jesus. But she didn’t present Him to me as a religious relic or a theological concept. She introduced Him to me like an old Friend that she had known for years.

You might mentally shut off right now as you read, and say to yourself, “Oh, I get it. You were born into a Christian home, therefore you became a Christian.” Not so fast.

My Dad’s side of the family is Jewish. And I love that. My sweet Grandma, who we affectionately called, “G-ma,” would often say to me, “David, you know why your so special.” “Why G-ma?” “Because you’re Jewish.” Now you know, and I know – that I’m not. Because in the Jewish culture, you are only considered Jewish if your Mom was Jewish. Not your Dad. Although my Aunt Bobbie told me on our last visit, “David, did you know when that started? It was at a time when Rome ruled the world and Jewish men were knocking up Roman women. And so the Jewish people came together and said…’Hold on! New rule!.” It could be true. It sounds true. But my Aunt Bobbie trusts everything on the internet as she once told me, “I Googled it. Google doesn’t lie.”

Growing up my Dad was a self-proclaimed Pagan, and he would often take me to “Pagan” festivals. The details are fuzzy, but I do remember a lot of Naked people running around. For a young boy approaching adolescence you think this would be a dream come true – but let me just say these weren’t exactly supermodels walking around if you know what I mean. Beyond the “clothes optional” policy. There was a lot I didn’t understand. The talk of gods and goddesses, to the practice of magic, and of course dancing around a fire naked while a bunch of dudes drummed on hand made djembes. As a 10-year-old, my thought was, “Religious freedom is one thing, but dancing around a campfire with open flames naked can’t be the smartest decision.” You might be thinking this psychologically scarred me as a kid. But I can honestly say it didn’t. Now if one of these naked dudes fell into the fire and I saw his junk on fire—then yeah it could be a different story.

I’m not one of those Christian’s who has built themselves a metaphorical bomb shelter where the only people allowed into their subculture are fellow Christians. Or even worse, Christians who only believe exactly the way they do.

My social circles have always been a revolving door of society misfits and religious wingnuts. I have Christian friends and Atheist friends. I have friends that pray to God and others that cast a positive thought out into the Universe. I have friends that represent every religion that you can think of and others that have a religious system that could only be found by “Googling it.” I never question whether it’s a real religion, because after all…Google doesn’t lie.

My point? Growing up, I had a multitude of options. I had a buffet style of choices of belief and unbelief before me. Choices that ranged from the practical to the mystical, from the beautiful to the downright weird. But in the end, I’m not sure I chose it, as much as it chose me.

If you’ve been in America more than five minutes, you’ve heard the expression, “Born Again.” You’ve probably heard it both as a description and a declaration. But I learned something interesting a few years back that probably best describes what happened to me. Christians didn’t start using the expression, “Born Again,” until the early 20th Century. As a matter of fact, some have even described this as a “Born Again Movement” – but what happened was a simple shift in the vernacular. Before the 20th Century what Christians used to describe their conversation experience was, “I have been SEIZED by the POWER of a GREAT AFFECTION.” Yeah. That fits what happened to me perfectly.

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I was around nine years old and woke up in the middle of the night to go pee. When I walked through my Grandma’s living room, I discovered a room filled with police, fireman, family members, and our pastor. They didn’t say a word to me, but when I went to lay back down that night, I knew in my heart of hearts what happened. The next morning my fears were confirmed when my Mom woke me up and said, “David, your cousin committed suicide.”

My cousin Jimmy, who was actually my Mom’s cousin, was much older than me. My parents had been divorced since I was two, and at this point in my life, I saw my Dad, at most, every other weekend. Jimmy was more than a second cousin. He was even more than a cousin. He was like a father to me. We’d play basketball in my gravel driveway. We’d play Monopoly for hours on end. And he would even try to teach me to play the guitar. To this day, I can’t bounce a ball, pass “Go” and collect $200 or listen to a guitar solo without thinking of Jimmy.

Within the months following Jimmy’s death I had a new friend. And his name was Depression. He’s a friend that’s never really left. At times his company is empathetic, other times he’s a haunting reminder of the meaningless of the daily routine of life. I don’t like him very much.

I can still remember the feeling of laying on my mattress in my bedroom at G-ma’s house. I’d lay there with a knife to my wrists tempting my fate. Some days I find it a miracle that I’m still here. But there was hope to be found in my life. And it wasn’t a philosophy or religion. It wasn’t a self-help book, diet, life-coach, or more exercise. I found hope in a new Friend. And his name, as I’ve come to know, is Jesus.

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I can’t pinpoint when or how we met. The best way I can describe it is much like a lingering acquaintance you once met at a party. As the party rages on into the late hours of the night and people begin to disperse – this Friend keeps hanging around. Even when everyone has gone home for the night, after they have returned to the busyness of their lives and problems. This Friend remains.

I can’t speak for everyone else. But what I have come to believe—apart—from any religion, is that we have something ingrained in each of us. Within each and every human being is an aching desire to be loved. And not to just be loved, but to be loved perfectly. We hunger to be loved in a way that seems impossible. We want to be loved, desired, and liked with a type of love that doesn’t quit. With a love that has no strings attached. We want to be loved in a way that has no return policy. We want to be loved with a love that defies the human condition and expectations. We ache for it. We crave it. Maybe you believe me, and maybe you don’t – but I challenge you with this. Stop. Listen. And Reflect. Quiet down your soul. Slow down your racing thoughts. Take a break from the imaginary busyness that you have created for yourself. If you do, I think there is a high probability that you will come to realize that your angst, your worries, your spinning wheels, your desperation, and your behavior (the good and the bad) – all stem from an unquenchable thirst deep inside you to be unconditionally loved.

And trust me, folks. I’ve looked everywhere. For something. For anything to quench this thirst. You name it. I’ve tried it. This isn’t a condemnation as much as it is a flare of hope I’m shooting out and into the blogosphere. This isn’t a lesson on morality I’m describing here. It’s a love affair. I did find it. And I was shocked. The hope I was looking for to satisfy my hunger wasn’t found in something or anything. Matter of fact, it wasn’t found in a thing at all. It was found in the person of both God and Man: Jesus himself. Not the pale white Jesus you’d find in bad B-movies from the 70’s. Not the hippie Jesus, or the machine gun Jesus that’s ready to shoot you up when you’ve done something bad. I found a Jesus that, to quote the author Brennan Manning, “Loves me as I am. Not as I should be. Because none of us are as we should be.” Yes, it’s true. I found Him. Or should I say, He found me. Either way – I am talking about faith.

But don’t cast me off too quickly here if you are saying to yourself that faith is for the intellectually weak, or the psychologically and emotionally fragile. I don’t think of faith in those terms. I think of faith as a human quality that is impossible not to have. After all, none of us chose to get born here – and yet – here we are. Spinning on a rock in the middle of a bunch of planets, suns, and nothing but space in between. And what we are left with is nothing that can be proven, no matter how hard we try, but something that we are left to hope for. I think faith is possible for everyone because faith is at the same time impossible for everyone. Faith is impossible NOT to have. I love my atheist friends. And, at least the ones I know, love me too. But sometimes my Atheist friends say to me, “David, I love you, but I don’t believe in nothin’ – I don’t have faith.” And I lovingly smile and say, “But yes you do. You have faith. You don’t know that there isn’t a God. But you, in faith, believe there isn’t one. That’s faith.”

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Can I ask you all to forgive me right now? I am a bit A.D.D. (self-diagnosed). And I have gotten way off track. The purpose of this blog/article/verbal vomit wasn’t to evangelize. It wasn’t. I just wanted to set a preface for what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to paint a picture that I didn’t just accidentally choose Jesus, but what I have experienced in my life is that He has ambushed me with his tender compassion. I wasn’t looking for it. But I have come to believe He was looking for me. And I believe He may be looking for you. Yes, you. The one reading this. Well, shit. I still may be accidentally be evangelizing. But that wasn’t my intention. I’m just in love. For example, my 2-year-old daughter Lucy has this stuffed bear she affectionally calls, “Blueberry.” She loves that damn bear more than anything. And let me tell you. Blueberry is gross. For going on two years now that Blue Bear has been spit on, pooped on, and thrown up on. But Lucy loves Blueberry. And every morning, without fail, when I see her – she looks at me, smiles, and hands me Blueberry. Her most prized possession. The thing she most loves. She can’t help it. She didn’t plan on doing that. There’s no system or religion there telling my 2-year-old to hand her Daddy the bear. Out of love, she wants to love. And in love, she shares what she cares about the most. That’s her way to love. And that’s what I feel like has happened here. Throughout my broken and fucked up life, I have come to love Jesus more than anything.

Why? Because I have discovered that he loves me more than anything, and although I didn’t plan on sharing that today that’s what happened.

What I wanted to talk about is this: While, in faith, I believe that Jesus is crazy about me. I have often found myself not wanting to “Be a Christian.” After all my chit-chat rambling about how much Jesus loves me and I love him how could I possibly be taking a sharp right on the road of this post to tell you that I don’t want to be what I profess to be: A Christian.

Why? The simple answer is this: Christians.

♦◊♦

Right after college. I shipwrecked my life. I blew it. And to make matters worse, I was surrounded by a bunch of “Religious Christians.” Now you might be beginning to relate. No matter who you are or where you have come from, no doubt you’ve run into to these types. The legalistic sour pusses that seem to believe that Christianity is nothing more than a moral code—than what it is—a love affair. The best part of screwing up your life in a religious community…is that they let you know you did. Sometimes the let you know with a comment—which is bad. Or with silence, which is worse. I remember being so pissed off at God. I can still picture myself in my Nissan Sentra pounding my fists on the steering wheel saying, “God I am so pissed at you. I am so mad because I am convinced. I am convinced you’re real. If you weren’t, then I could easily walk away. But God, it’s not you I can’t stand. It’s your Christians.”

Right now I am picturing the end of Back to the Future and the beginning of Back to the Future 2. The scene where Doc says to Marty, “You’ve got to come back to the future with me.” And Marty says to Doc, “Why…do we turn into assholes or something?” And Doc says, “No. It’s your kids. Something’s gotta be done about your kids.”

This is often my prayer to God. “No God. It’s not you. It’s your kids. Something has gotta be done about your kids.” Now I know you don’t know me. I’m just a random blogger, complainer, or weirdo to you. Fair enough. But for those that know me know I often complain and pound my fists, from everything about what annoys me in Christianity to what outrages me.” And this is usually the point where people say, “David, you hate judgmental Christians. But aren’t you being judgmental of the judgmentals?” And I say, “Well, yeah. But they started it.” I know that’s very childlike. But sometimes it takes a child to call it like it is. I mean, the scariest people in the world are children. Why? Because they don’t hold back. Matter of fact, they seem to intuitively know every hidden insecurity you have and be able to crush your soul with an off-the-cuff comment. And then what happens? We all go into a bathroom and cry.

♦◊♦

I’m not trying to be a jerk, but I’m also not trying to allow the behavior of the modern day Pharisee to be acceptable. There is a certain type of Christian out there. A Ragamuffin-Type Christian, if you will. A Ragamuffin-Type Christian doesn’t fit into the average Christian’s man-made box. Ragamuffin is a term that was first coined by Brennan Manning, author of the book The Ragamuffin Gospel. If you have never read that book – get off your ass. It will change your life. It changed mine.

In The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning says, “Justification by grace through faith is the theologian’s learned phrase for what Chesterton once called “the furious love of God.” He is not moody or capricious; he knows no seasons of change. He has a single relentless stance toward us: he loves us. He is the only God man has ever heard of who loves sinners. False gods—the gods of human manufacturing—despise sinners, but the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do. But of course, this is almost too incredible for us to accept. Nevertheless, the central affirmation of the Reformation stands: through no merit of ours, but by his mercy, we have been restored to a right relationship with God through the life, death, and resurrection of his beloved Son. This is the Good News, the gospel of grace.

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The God known by the Ragamuffin Christian is one who loves them no matter what. And yet the Religious Christian seems to be not so sure. They think they have to earn God’s love. They are addicted to earning God’s love versus responding to it. You may not have a clue who Brennan Manning is, but let me share three arguments people often use against this author:

First, they say that Manning is a Universalist. This is simply not true. Brennan once said, “So I want to make this abundantly, luminously clear: I’m not a Universalist. Universalism is a heresy that makes the death and resurrection of Christ irrelevant. The key is that you stretch your mind and stretch your heart to accommodate God’s all-embracing love in Jesus Christ.”

The second argument goes something like, “Brennan Manning and his writings are all about God’s love and has nothing to do with living a changed committed life to following Jesus.” Again, false. Manning once said, “God says…you don’t have to change so I’ll love ya. I love ya so you’ll change.” People like myself, the late great Brennan Manning, and Rich Mullins, or countless other Ragamuffins around the world who can’t stop talking about the gospel of grace, often get accused of talking about “Cheap Grace,” or we are perceived as the one’s who say, “God loves you. So it doesn’t matter how you live…matter of fact, you can go out and do whatever you want because God loves you and nothing else matters.” But this is bullshit of the highest degree. None of us say this. Matter of fact we often say the opposite. It seems religious folks often interpret the ranting and raving of the Ragamuffin Christian backward. And I do mean backward. We’re not saying that you shouldn’t live your life for Jesus. You should live your life for the one you love. Anyone outside of the Christian faith understands this concept. If you love – you love. If you love your friend, family, or foe – you do things for them. You do things to love them, and you do things to avoid what isn’t loving towards them. That’s it. It’s a foundational issue. A grace-filled life in response to the love of God is one that lives in response to God’s love. But not one that is trying to earn it.

And the third argument, I have found, against guys and gals like Brennan Manning and myself is, “You all talk about God’s love too much.” On this point. I see what they are saying. I just disagree. I don’t think we are talking about God’s love too much. I think we aren’t talking about God’s love enough. My honest confession here is that I don’t think the topic of God’s love is “something” in Christianity – it is everything. We are nutty. We are a little bit off balance. We are a little bit crazy when it comes to this topic. Rich Mullins once called it, “The reckless raging fury that they call the love of God.” But, I think that’s what happens when you are in love.

♦◊♦

As someone who has traveled the country back and forth as a vagabond of sorts, and has spoken and performed in and out of every type of Protestant denomination you can think of, I have a gut-wrenching concern I believe is the reason so many Christians I meet are what I politely called, “Grumpy Gus’.” The one’s that like to get on the internet and spread a message of condemnation versus a message of grace. The one’s that sneer when you walk up to their church building with a cigarette in your mouth or the ones that get sad if you order a Jack -N- Coke with your meal. The Christians that would be so offended if you said, “Oh, shit. I stubbed my toe.” But would have no problem talking about Sally who recently had an affair with Frank because they have disguised their “gossip” as a “prayer request.” The concern? I think they don’t know Jesus loves them.

Yes, it’s true. I tend to be a little bitter. Bitterness isn’t okay or healthy. As my friend, Jesse Bryan, once told me, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” But still – it’s in there. I hope not forever. Why does this bitterness linger? I have had too many friends I know that have been beat-up and abused by the Religious Christian. When some of my friends have walked away from professing faith in Christianity I’ll ask them what happened and more importantly, Why? Their response is simple. They just say one word: Christians. I have had countless brothers and sisters in the faith that have come to me with horror stories of being kicked out of churches and abused by legalism. Often the advice I never give, but often want to say is a piece of advice Richard Pryor once gave to Eddie Murphy, “Tell them to have a coke, a smile, and shut the fuck up.”

♦◊♦

Now, let me make something straight. I didn’t write this article to condemn them. I wanted to write this to help them. To give these “Grumpy Gus’” a gentle but firm kick-in-the-ass reminder that moral behavior isn’t a prerequisite for God’s undying affection for you.

It’s at this point in reading this that my Reformed Christian friends want to point out the verse, “But the Bible says in that one verse…’But Jacob I loved, and Esau I hated.’” And it’s at this point where my Gospel of Grace friends pipe up and go, “Ah Ha! You have forgotten the most memorized verse in all of Scripture – John 3:16 -‘For God so loved the World that he gave his only begotten Son.’” And then all hell breaks loose. What starts out as a friendly debate turns into a mean-spirited game of theological volleyball.

Honestly, I’m over it. I’m over the arguing. The back and forth. Everyone has their verse that they have underlined. As Rich Mullins once said, “…Which is the thing about the Bible that’s why it always cracks me up when people say ‘Well in Dududududududududududududu it says’ you kinda go ‘Wow it says a lot of things in there.’ Proof texting is a very dangerous thing. I think if we were given the scriptures it was not so that we could prove that we were right about everything. If we were given the scriptures, it was to humble us into realizing that God is right and the rest of us are just guessing.”

♦◊♦

If I am honest, the saddest thought I’ve had about these Religious Christians—I wonder if they really know Him. I’m not trying to be a dick. I mean it. I’m genuinely concerned. Because I think once you know Jesus—or should I say as you get to know him—as you, and if you, continue to grow in intimacy with Him. You know that there is nothing you could do for Him to change His mind about you. He loves ya. Even if you don’t love Him back. Now you may choose not to live in His love, and therefore, depreciate your awareness of his affection—but that has nothing to do with the reality of his constant pursuit of you with His compassion. My prayer for these folks is that His fondness ambushes them and that they will come to know, there is no “earning” Him. There is only responding to Him.

Of course, they are concerned about me and others like me, too. The ones that don’t look at the Scriptures the way they do. The ones that have given the Bible more of a G or PG rating. The ones who think all the verses they use to say we shouldn’t cuss, smoke, and drink are distorted and taken out of context. They are worried that we are just, as my friend Bill Clem once said, “A Grace Pervert.” I get it. I do. And I have spent countless hours trying to convince my fellow Christian brothers and sisters, some of them my closest friends, that I’m not ignoring Scripture on these issues, but I view them differently.

Sadly, in the Christian Community—a faith built entirely on undeserved grace—we rarely have grace for each other. We tend not to allow room for what a sane person would call, “a difference of opinion.” It’s a group of people that tends to say, “I’m right. End of story.” As my friend once said, “Christians feel like they have the market cornered on truth.” I sometimes wonder if he’s right. Don’t get me wrong. I’m convinced some of us are sincere. Some of us know Jesus. Not as a historical figure or a theological concept – but really know Him. But sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder if we don’t know much else.

♦◊♦

Some Christians believe you are holy if don’t drink. And some believe you are holy if you do. Some Christians believe you are holy if you don’t smoke. And some believe that cigarettes only power is to kill your body with cancer – not your soul with sin. Some Christians believe the only “unwholesome talk or filthy language” that the Scripture mentions is referring to four letter words and others believe it’s just a matter of context. Some Christians believe you are only holy if you go to a church building every Sunday and read your Bible every day. And some Christians say, “What? That’s insane. What makes you a Christian isn’t what you do – it’s what Jesus did for us on the Cross.”

If you haven’t caught on, Christians are a mess. I am a mess. I am both the Elder Brother and the Younger Brother in the Scriptures (Luke chapter 15). I’ll preach grace with my mouth, and practice legalism in my heart. I hate the religious person I talk about, and sometimes I am the religious person I talk about.

We who claim Christ are just a bunch of paradoxes. I just wish we were nicer to each other. A little kinder. A bit more grace-filled. If I could gather every single Christian in the world right now I’d probably say this:

My friends. My brothers & sisters in Jesus. Those of us who aren’t practicing religion as much as we are living in a relationship—by faith—with a living and loving God. Can we stop being assholes to each other? Even if on one side thinks that we are in sin because we cuss. And the other side just thinks they’re being closed minded assholes. Can we stop fighting with everyone? And I mean everyone. We treat each other like shit. And frankly, I’m sick of it. And what’s worse we treat people who don’t know Jesus like shit. We hear about their lives, their views, their politics, and their shenanigans and we don’t love as Jesus commanded us to – we hate. Enough is enough. Remember that old hippie song from the 60’s and 70’s? “And they will know that we are Christians by our love?” That’s not true anymore folks. If it ever was. Obviously in individual cases and communities they do – or might. But not in a general sense or global perspective.

At best we are known by our bumper stickers or the Jesus fish on our car. People who have claimed Christ throughout the centuries have given us a bad reputation. And this century is no different. Whether it be the Crusades, slavery, racism, right-wing nuts, end-times nutballs, or IRS Agents, we’ve been represented by ass holes. But there has always been hope throughout those ages of past. Not all folks who claim to be Christians hold up signs that say, “God hates….” The Christians- the really real Christians, even the religious ones, that truly know Jesus – hold up signs that say, “God loves.” There have always been Christians in those times that didn’t represent the majority. Sometimes the religious can be loud, and it drowns out the true representation of the gospel of grace. Maybe it’s time for those who have come to know the ridiculous love of God to be a little louder. If not with our words, then at least with our actions. But, also with your words. No matter you fall on the spectrum – whether it be a religious zealot – or grace-filled ragamuffin, I hope we can both be drawn into the love of our Heavenly Father. The one who says, “you both are lost.” One in his unrighteousness. And one in his self-righteousness. I pray we can both be consumed by the divine fire of his compassion. That we can both grow in our understanding that there isn’t anything we can do to earn his love, and there is no amount of “bad” that can keep you away from his love. Because with his love – there are no strings attached.

No matter you fall on the spectrum, whether it be as a religious zealot, or a grace-filled Ragamuffin, I hope we can both be drawn into the love of our Heavenly Father. The one who says, “you both are lost.” One in his unrighteousness. And one in his self-righteousness. I pray we can both be consumed by the divine fire of his compassion. That we can both grow in our understanding that there isn’t anything we can do to earn his love, and there is no amount of “bad” that can keep you away from his love. Because with his love – there are no strings attached.

♦◊♦

And to the rare reader that has hung on this long. The one who, much like a polite dinner guest at a family dinner, is just sitting there in silent observance at this “family discussion.” Thank you for entertaining my bitching. Thank you for bearing with my fed-up frustrations with both my family and myself. Thank you. But I don’t want you to feel ignored. So now, if you would allow me a moment. I would like to ask something of you: Please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

For too long Christians have done terrible things—and sometimes these terrible things have been gift wrapped with a “Christian Bow.” You know the ones. The ones that don’t want to leave you a tip. The ones who invite you to church, but also flip you off in traffic. The list goes on and on I’m afraid. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for the way every Christian has treated you, both directly and indirectly. The list is too long, much like this article, to name every sin that we’ve committed against you. But you know which ones. The minute I said I’m sorry—that painful thing we have done popped up into your head because it has already pierced your heart. I’m not only apologizing for the hope to have peace between us but also because we have misrepresented God’s affection for you.

I know I don’t know you, but if I were to guess, I’d say because of our actions you might have a misguided or distorted view of the God we claim to know. Through an outside perspective, you might view God as a religious tyrant ready to cast you out of his kingdom every time you do a “bad thing.” Or maybe you view God a religious rule keeper who has his charts, spreadsheets, and lists of every “bad thing” you’ve ever done.

To put it bluntly—maybe you think God is an asshole—because you’re only interactions with him have been through those who claim to follow him—also assholes. At least ones that from time to time act like assholes. Or maybe you, because of our hypocrisy, view God to be nothing more than a fable. Or perhaps, because we too often don’t practice what we preach, your opinion God is that He says he loves you, but deep down He doesn’t. I mean how could He? Or because we say we love you, but we have a resume that would say otherwise—you view God just to be much like an absent Father—one who just doesn’t care.

♦◊♦

My friend. You have faith. You can’t NOT have faith. It is what it is. It’s just a part of being human. Accept or reject Christianity—a religion that’s not really a religion, but an invitation into a love affair, it’s up to you. But before you walk way; before you stop reading—never to give another notion to reading one more article from some crackpot Christian. Let me end with telling you what I have chosen to have faith in—a faith that opened up a door to a deeper reality. A reality of Divine Love. A love that I often run away from because it can be frightening as it is enticing. In faith, I believe God loves me. And he loves you. Yes, you the one reading this. He’s crazy about you. When you woke up this morning, I believe He lept for joy and said, “Oh, good. They’re awake!” I pray you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. And Yes I’m talking about Jesus. And no, not in the flat out hilarious way that Will Ferrel did in the prayer scene of “Talladega Nights.” I mean in the really real way. The way that I believe God has been shouting his love to you—the one that has echoed from the very beginning of time.

I think Brennan Manning put it best when he said:

Jesus not only knows what hurts us but knowing, seeks us out. Whatever our poverty, whatever our pain, his plea to his people is ‘Come now, wounded, frightened, angry, lonely, empty, and I’ll meet you where you live. And I’ll love you as you are, not as you should be, because you’re never gonna be as you should be.’ Do you really believe this? With all the wrong turns you made in your past, all the mistakes, the moments of selfishness, dishonesty, and degraded love, do you really believe that Jesus Christ loves YOU—not the person next to you, not the church, not the world, but that he loves YOU beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity … no matter what’s gone down, he can’t stop loving you. This is the Jesus of the Gospels.

♦◊♦

Thanks for reading. And no matter what, remember. No matter who you are. No matter what you believe or what you don’t believe. Whether you cuss or don’t cuss. Whether you smoke or don’t smoke. Whether you drink or don’t drink. Whether you are in some metaphorical prison—some type of pharisaical type of religious mutated version of the Christian faith. Or a faith that you created—some type of religious treadmill of “earning God’s love,” that you can’t hop off of. Or if you have been freed by Jesus and His gospel of Grace. No matter your skin color, sexuality, or whether or not you like Ice Cream—No matter what—know this: God loves you.


Hey my friends,

 

David Leo Schultz – here. I’m going to make this site the main site for my future blogging. That being said – there are some past articles or blogs that I have done that I think you might enjoy. So I am posting them here as well:

 

Here is one on the lessons I learned in NOT having my dreams come true that was syndicated on the Huffington Post:

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/good-men-project/celebrating-my-failure-of_b_11779828.html

 

Article:

 

“Chase your dreams, but don’t let them define you” – David Leo Schultz

Yesterday I found out from my manager that I will NOT be flying to NYC to do a live audition for SNL.

After I had heard the news, I went out to celebrate.

But I had just been given “bad news,” why would I celebrate? To understand why you need to know the full story.

♦◊♦

I must have been around eight or nine years old when my mom put in a VHS tape of a movie called “The Blues Brothers.” For the next few weeks, if I was watching a movie, I was watching “Blues Brothers.” My mom wisely said, “Hey, if you like these guys—-then you’ll love Saturday Night Live.” My mom and I have never really gotten along in life, and life growing up was, to be honest, mostly hell, but damn—-she sure was right about my love for Saturday Night Live.

She told me. “It’s still on the air…but you can’t start watching now. You have to start from the beginning.” When you are pulling memories from the past, I’m not sure chronology has much relevance. It’s not the details that matter as much as the life-changing impact of seemingly inconsequential events.

My mom drove me to a local drug store where they also rented VHS tapes. There was a tape called the best of SNL 1975-1976. This was volume one. There were four more volumes. I devoured those tapes. I’d practice falling like Chevy Chase, dancing like Jake & Elwood Blues, speed talking like Aykroyd, yelling like Belushi, being a kid like Gilda Radner, and wild & crazy like Steve Martin.

Next thing I know I was in love. Every Saturday Night, I would sit in front of our Big Box TV, and I’d watch Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, & David Spade. They would bring me to tears with belly laughter.

These tears were refreshing. Especially juxtaposed with the tears that were typically shed in my house. SNL was my escape from my reality of fear and hell into one of comedy and laughter.

♦◊♦

I remember in elementary school I was painfully shy. I was even picked on by a few bullies. Nothing terrible. But I was made fun of a lot. I can’t remember what was said, but I remember the feeling of turning the tables on some kid picking on me—-and I had the whole class laughing at him. Revenge was sweet AND funny.

In some ways, Comedy was the first friend I ever had.

In the coming years, I would make videos with my classmates like I was Chevy Chase as their “substitute teacher “—-a bumbling idiot who would fall a lot. I would make my loved ones laugh pretending to be Chris Farley’s character “Matt Foley,” showing up at family gatherings unannounced. I would make my Grandma Roanna cry from laughing when I would walk into the kitchen on Sunday Morning pretending to be speed talking like Eddie Murphy, “Grandma where are my eggs? You told me I was gonna get eggs, and I got my ass out of bed, for church, because you said before I went to church I would get some eggs, but guess what Grandma—-no eggs!” And for Halloween, I would always want to be a “Ghostbuster.” Every year. Every single year. My cousins still make fun of me for it—-as they should.

In High School and College while everyone else was busy with sports and studies I was busy making people laugh with my sketch team, The Color Green. I never took comedy too seriously until after college. I had done Comedy Sportz in Indianapolis and even auditioned for the Second City touring company up in Chicago for an understudy position. But it wasn’t until after college and after I shipwrecked my life and found myself driving across the country leaving Indiana in my rearview—-that I would discover my passion for comedy transforming into an obsession.

♦◊♦

Shortly after arriving in the city of Angels I dove head first into my self-made comedic University comprised of classes from Groundlings, Improv Olympic, and sketch writing from an original SNL writer—-Anne Beatts. Anne, for a small time, would become family to me. I even house sat for her once. Now this is before “Youtube”…and I about shit my pants when I saw an old VHS tape that was simply labeled “Auditions.” I put the tape in her VCR and sure enough…it was the original group, the “Beatles of Comedy,” screen testing for the show. Jane Curtain, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, Garret Morris, and Chevy Chase. I think Andy Kaufman was on there, even. But my favorite was Bill Murray. Even then you could hear everyone dying behind the camera. I felt like I was traveling through time seeing something that very few people have ever or will ever see—-especially when I heard someone yell—-“Do that lounge singer character?” And Bill obliged.

The tape ended. Then came the static. So I went to eject the tape from the VCR. And it was stuck. A million thoughts ran through my head of how screwed I would be if I ruined this tape. I remember I had an embarrassingly stupid and funny thought, “What if this was the only copy…and it’s being passed back and forth between all the original gang … and I just BROKE IT! Like, what if Lorne Michaels mailed his copy to Anne and then she was supposed to send it back. If that’s true, I’m FUCKED!”

Don’t worry, I eventually got the tape out of the VCR and was able to stop the world from coming to an end.

♦◊♦

Through Anne, I got to meet some cool SNL folks like Laraine Newman & Rosie Shuster. This wasn’t my first brush with SNL folks, and it wouldn’t be my last. In the fall of 2002, I went to NYC and stood outside one cold Friday Night in October trying to get a ticket for dress rehearsal. I did get in, and it was everything I hoped it would be. John McCain was hosting. I saw Chris Kattan doing some “Joe Hollywood” Character on Weekend Update. I saw the live show years later and realized that bit was cut … I saw Maya Rudolph wish Chris Parnell luck before the opener. I saw a blonde actress that brought the house down. She was a new cast member. I think her name was Amy Poehler. I was in comedy heaven.

On that trip, I got to meet both Chris Parnell and my hero Lorne Michaels. Chris was so kind with this nerdy SNL fan. He told me about Groundlings and how he was just “thankful to have a job.” I got my picture with Lorne as he was on his way to his waiting car. Don’t worry. I didn’t give him an awkward hug or anything. I kept my cool. When I got to college, I bought a two-picture frame for the photos of me with Chris and Lorne. I still have it somewhere.

♦◊♦

Around 2008 I was working with a manager, who shall remain nameless. But this person had worked with the show in the past to some slight degree, and they knew everyone. So we flew to NYC because this person was going to introduce me to everyone. They told me the plan was to introduce me as their client, and talk about my comedy and try to open some doors. We got to Rockefeller. And it was a surreal experience. I saw Lorne’s Office. I saw the writers room. I even saw a miniature picture of Anne Beatts on the wall. Btw. It was the only picture on this otherwise empty wall. I smiled. And the nostalgia and history of that place were palpable. This time, I saw the live show. John Malkovich was hosting. It was Christmas time. And it was amazing. After the show, I was on the floor with the rest of the cast greeting their guests. I saw Will Forte & Kristen Wiig talking with some friends. And my manager and I waited for Ayala Cohen, a producer at the time and a friend of theirs.

We all got in a black town car and went from the show to the SNL after party. I had this feeling of what it would be like to be on the show traveling from 30 Rock to the after party. I daydreamed of being on the show myself and opening a blues bar like Aykroyd and Belushi did in the 70’s. So after the after party we could go to the after-after party at my blues bar. Silly, I know. At the after party I got to talk with Ayala, and she was awesome. She was sweet, kind, and answered all of my fanfare questions with grace. She had been there since the Chris Farley days. I was pinching myself. I was living out what I had only previously imagined. I was in the midst of the culture of SNL.

Then the king walked in. The King of Comedy. Lorne Michaels. He walked right up. Smiled this big smile and shook my hand. “Hi, good to see you.” Now. I get he didn’t know me from Adam. But I didn’t care. It was an incredible feeling. And it would only get better, as I was on the level with the main cast. I talked with Andy Samberg, Fred Armisen, and sheepishly waved at Bill Hader. But I must say, the nicest person I met that night was Jimmy Fallon. He talked to me like I was a somebody even though I was a nobody. I told him that I was excited to see his new talk show. And he said, “Man I’m just ready. We’ve worked so hard and rehearsed so much I’m just ready to do it. Ya know?” And I’m standing there thinking…”Jimmy Fallon is talking to me like I’m one of the gang”. So I say back to Jimmy Fallon, “Yeah. I know.” But what do I know?

♦◊♦

Let me back up. A few months before this, out of the angst of being a struggling actor I had made a few movies. And in one we had Chevy Chase and the other Chris Kattan. And through that process, I talked to Bill Murray. Yes. THE Bill Murray. On the phone. It’s a long story. But the short story is: I was on the toilet taking a shit and my cell phone rang. I answered and talked with Bill Murray. I flushed the toilet walked out of the bathroom and screamed at the top of my lungs in this production office, “THE MOST AMAZING THING OF MY LIFE JUST HAPPENED!”

Making the movies was awesome. Talking with Chris Kattan about his SNL days. Rehearsing lines with Chevy Chase. And I had written and acted in both of these movies with some of my SNL heroes.

♦◊♦

Now flash forward back to the SNL after party. I’m there with this manager and they introduce me to the producers of the show as a buddy that’s going shopping with them in NYC, and we just stopped by. First, that was weird. Second, I was so destroyed. After all, I paid for the whole damn trip. But it wasn’t about the money. They totally lied to me. “A friend?” You’re my manager—-you told me you were going to talk me up to them and tell them about me. I was devastated.

Luckily Chris Kattan had texted Mike Shoemaker and Steve Higgins about me. So I got to chat with them for a second. But I’m horrible at self-promotion. I don’t like patting myself on the back and despise the feeling of “selling myself.” So, I didn’t. I just said, “Chris Kattan says, ‘Hello.’” I chatted with Shoemaker and Higgins for only a few more moments. I wanted to keep it short and sweet—-as to not embarrass myself too badly. It wasn’t a total loss, but I left New York with such a mixture of joy and depression.

♦◊♦

I thought my dream of SNL was over. That is … until my buddy David Murphy, the director of the Chevy Chase movie, sent an email to Chevy’s manager, Erik Kritzer, asking if he would take a meeting with me. He asked for my reel. And I got the meeting.

Over the years Erik Kritzer has gone from manager to a true friend. In 2009 we got close to SNL, but neither of us knew if Lorne ever saw my tape. We kept hearing they were saying “no” to people. But with me, I was still in the running. Until eventually the “no” came.

Over the years we’d try with no real success. I was in the Groundlings school and was devastated when I wasn’t even voted into Sunday Company. I blew that opportunity. But it was a good lesson. I was trying so hard to be a “Groundling” and to be what people wanted me to be. Instead of being me and doing what I thought was funny. I was self-aware and full of fear. Not a good recipe for comedy.

For no other reason than, “Why the hell not”… I decided to make one final tape for SNL this summer. Lessons learned from my failure at Groundlings. I decided to make a tape that was whatever I thought was funny. And my kick ass manager made me do it again and again until it was as sharp as it could be. I’m so glad he did.

About a month ago, Erik called me, and I swear I’ve never heard him so excited. He had just gotten off the phone with the fine folks at Saturday Night Live. And they talked about ME. Me? David Leo Schultz? A kid from Indiana? I’ll be honest. Call me a wimp if you want, but I got off the phone and cried. Why? Because 13 years ago I drove across the country with only one real goal: I just wanted to be on SNL. And Live Audition or no Live Audition. Booking the show or not booking the show. I felt at that moment that my dream had finally come true. The Impossible had become Possible.

♦◊♦

The folks at SNL asked us to send a release for my audition tape. And that’s exactly what we did. A week or two went by. “No decisions yet.” Another week or two went by. “Sorry, still nothing.”

And then we waited, and waited, and waited … until the call that I had a feeling was coming eventually came. I am NOT going to get a live audition this year. But the bitterness and disappointment came with a silver lining.

Lorne gave a message to be passed along to my manager. “Lorne is only seeing new people this year, but wants you to know that he has seen David’s material and has seen his stuff before and thinks David is very funny and talented.”

I guess if you are going to get a “No.” It’s probably the best type of no you can get. Am I bummed? Sure. I’m bummed. But receiving word that my hero, Lorne Michaels, has seen my work—-I finally felt like I had peace. Why? Because I felt like I had finally crossed the finish line. A marathon that had begun almost 30 years ago, in a living room on the east side of Indianapolis, was finally coming to an end. A dream that drove me to drive thousands of miles from my home to a lonely city called Los Angeles. A dream that, frankly, almost killed me. A dream that cost me blood, sweat, and tears. But it was a dream that was worth every single moment. I don’t regret a single second I spent. But, why?

Let me tell you why I celebrate this failure. I celebrate because I finished the race. I won’t ever wonder “What would have happened if…?” What would have happened if I got Groundlings?…What would have happened if I got Second City …? Then would I have had my shot for SNL?

I got my shot. I got my shot without Groundlings, Second City, IO, or UCB. Although, in a way, I did get my shot because of them. Because of ALL of them. The training provided at these places is invaluable. They all have a slice of the comedy training pie. And I would encourage any newcomer to not just do one of these fine institutions. But to do all of them. I sure am glad I did. My only regret is that I didn’t do UCB sooner.

♦◊♦

And, yes, it’s a “No” to SNL. But guess what? I know. I don’t have to wonder if Lorne saw me or if it was passed over by someone else. Unlike so many comedians before me and after me will have to do. I don’t have to wonder. Don’t hear me wrong. I’m not bragging. That’s not pride you hear. That’s gratitude.

I made it to the top of the mountain.

Like Steve Martin said, “Perseverance is a great substitute for talent.”

Or like Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

I didn’t get here alone. It was the training I received from UCB, Groundlings, IO, UCB, Anne Beatts, the countless number of comedians who working with and besides have sharpened me and pushed me to be better. It was two of my best friends BJ Bales and my lovely wife, Amy, always encouraging me not to give up. And my manager turned friend Erik Kritzer who made me a promise—-and kept it. Kritzer—-thanks for believing in me and for your friendship. Thank you for getting me to the top of the mountain. I hope I can make both of us millions one day. Until then, I’ll keep going. I will persevere.

And finally to Lorne Michaels and Saturday Night Live—-thank you for making a kid from Indiana laugh. I’m a kid that needed it. In some ways the comedy you created saved me. At the very least it was a friend in the loneliest and hellish moments of my childhood. And I’ll be forever grateful. And thank you for giving me an impossible dream. Yes, a dream that didn’t come completely true. But that’s okay, the pursuit of the impossible has made me stronger and more fearless. And it’s taught me that it’s not the destination that’s the most important part of the journey. But who you are along the way. It has taught me not to give up. But to persevere. To dream and chase the impossible. After all, no one has ever made history by sitting on their couch.

♦◊♦


The Background Story

Hello, I’m David & I’m a Ragamuffin. As I begin to do an entry here to describe to you what “Ragamuffin Retreats” will be and what our hopes are for this experience, I can’t help but to be overwhelmed with gratitude. So let me begin with thankfulness. Because out of our gratitude comes another stepping out on faith called, “Ragamuffin Retreats.” The past four years of my life have been a roller coaster mixed with both adventure and God’s love. The honor to have been able to make a movie about my one of my hero’s in the faith Rich Mullins, and to be in the process of making a movie about another hero, Brennan Manning is a sheer delight. To put it simply it’s been a blast. Recently I was being interviewed for an article someone was doing on the movie “Ragamuffin” and they said in one sentence describe what your favorite part of making the movie was. And I said, “My friendship with Dave Mullins.” Dave has gone from stranger, to friend, to a person that I admittedly look up to and admire. Dave Mullins is the real deal. He loves Jesus, is steadfast in his faith, and has an almost laser pointed wisdom- that goes un-parralled to anyone I’ve ever met before. Simply put, I think one of the reasons God allowed me to make the movie, was to allow me to learn from a guy like Dave. Making the movie was an incredible adventure, and our dream has come true—not because a movie was made, but because we never wanted it to just “be a movie” but a vehicle for the message of God’s grace and love to shine through.

And my friends, if you happen to be reading this, I wish you could see the delight in my face–it’s happening. We are astounded. Story after story has been tumbling in hearing of people saved, lives transformed, relationships with family members mended, and brokenness healed. It’s all Jesus. Not us. But we are thankful to get a front row seat to the stories.

When I was growing up my home life wasn’t great, matter of fact it wasn’t even good. But God doesn’t promise us good, or great, he gives us HIM, and he is the good, and the great, no matter how bad things get. Well, when I was growing up things were bad. Home wasn’t a place of grace & love, but of fear and pain. There was still beauty and glimmers of hope in the midst of growing up, my cousins, my grandma, ice cream, & camp.

Camp

There was something so special about camp. Jesus saved me when I was seven years old at camp. My parents weren’t Christian, so camp became this place where I could actually learn about God, and was also a safe harbor for me. It’s super cheesy and nerdy, that I am about to reveal this, but I used to be so excited about camp that I would pack literally after Christmas every year. I’d lay out my little suitcase, and start making my list. Nerdy I know, but all these years later I get why I was so excited. I never knew what a Christian Community was or could be in my home, and to actually have people communicate the gospel of Jesus in a tangible way was unheard of for me growing up.

I remember one year in particular. I was 13. I remember making a decision to give Jesus my life. I was on such a church camp high. (side note: remember rich mullins rant on camps…”keep doing it. Keep going back and making those decisions…every year…because by the time your my age you’ll realize you need to do it multiple times per day”- Rich Mullins)…The day that camp ended I remember my cousin picked me up, and in her car a tape was playing (remember tapes)…and it was a song called “The Color Green”…and I said, “Who’s this?” and she said “Rich Mullins”. My cousin and I joked about doing a Christian Drama Team, called The Color Green. The joke stuck. I did this through jr. high, high school, and college. Eventually this turned into me doing some variation of comedy & speaking.

In college I was given a copy of “The Ragamuffin Gospel” By Brennan Manning (actually given a copy from Mike Koch –who played Rich Mullins in the movie), and it changed my world upside down. At that time in my life, the religious circles I was in, and was used to –It wasn’t popular to be authentic about your sin & struggles, and if you were- you were treated with judgment, legalism, and hate. As I’ve learned grace is a mixture of both compassion & truth. But I wasn’t getting really either, just hate. The music & life of Rich Mullins & books of Brennan Manning taught be not to hide my sin, take off the mask, and let God’s love in, and not to use God’s love as a license to sin, but to respond to his love with surrender.

This was a game-changer for me.

 A New Way

Throughout all of my years of doing the ministry “The Color Green” I would often wonder if there could ever be a type of camp or retreat where people wouldn’t be afraid to be themselves, to be honest about their sin, brokenness, shame, that they too are merely ” a beggar at the door of God’s mercy.” We saw so many lives transformed and effected by the message of God’s love, and we never failed to hear of stories of fellow ragamuffins who were hiding in the shadows because they thought their sin was to great, and they could never take off their mask for fear that nobody would love them. That’s what always struck me as special about a camp or a retreat. There’s something great, about just “getting away” that provides the space for God to work. Not that God can’t work anywhere, but doing by doing a retreat, we are the ones who are making time to listen to God, to hear what he has to say. There’s an openness that often happens when people get away that they don’t find in their normal routine of life. Even within a church group that would come to these. They experience such life change at these, even though its still within a group that they see day in and day out. A retreat is good both for the individual and the group.

In 2005 I founded Color Green Films, and Jan 9th, 2014 we premiered “Ragamuffin” at the Orpheum Theater in Wichita, Kansas to a sold out crowd of 1,300 people. We didn’t know if anyone would show up. At first thought we would do one screening. Well, one turned into two, and two turned into ten, and eventually we grew to 204 screenings between Jan & May.

The best part of this year has hands down been Jesus changing lives. We’ve seen people saved at Jail Screenings, received countless emails and messages about being delivered from Religion to an authentic relationship with Jesus, and heard amazing stories of reconciliation, to simple notes saying “I’ve experienced the Love of God for the first time.”

The movie, for many, has begun a conversation about “The Love of God.” We just want to continue the conversation via “Ragamuffin Retreats.” Much like we went out on faith to have screenings for the movie, we want to do the same with the retreats. We want to offer the opportunity to provide a retreat experience to grow in their faith, & be inspired to live in reckless abandonment in response to God’s love in the ways he’s created you to be.

Some Things To Expect at Ragamuffin Retreats

We will have teaching & speaking on the love of God, a life lived in response to the love of God in reckless abandonment, and touching on various themes of the movie. I will be joining some cool speakers and teachers in this. (I am beyond excited. Speakers/Teachers to be announced at a later date).

We will have a new artist Matt Liechty as one of our folks leading worship along with Mitch Mcvicker (who both will be & is on the Album being released in july, along with Jars of Clay, Derek Webb, Andrew Peterson & others…)

But we at Color Green Films are very passionate about the arts and the impact they have had on us and can have on others. They are a great tool. We will be offering different tracks through the weekend where we will offer potential workshops, like filmmaking, acting, music & art. Jesus was a storyteller. We are too, because we all have a story.

But this retreat isn’t only for artists, it’s also for those that want to just dive in, and “retreat” away to grow in their faith. Fellow Ragamuffins will remember that Brennan Manning would often lead “silent retreats” and do more intensive spiritual retreats. We will also offer this track as well.

But for those ragamuffins that truly are in a season of being “burnt out and bedraggled” we will offer a “rest track” for you. Some come, listen, learn, play, & rest.

We don’t want this to be a come & listen event…but to come & experience event. Learning more about the love of God, and living our lives in response to God’s great love, but also being inspired by each other in a unique ragamuffin experience.

We also have several other things we are working on like hearing and experiencing each others stories, and encouraging others to do the same. We are visual storytellers and passionate about wanting others to come to know Jesus and inspire others to live a life of response to God’s great love.

Yes, we are working on having some cool speakers & artists at these retreats, but we hope that you come not to be a fan, but because you want a chance to get away, to learn and grow in your faith, to experience something different, unique, and be inspired by other ragamuffins who are also learning to let the awesome wonderful love of God wreak havoc in their lives.

Ragamuffins Welcome

So no matter who you are, where you are from, where you are at we want you to come, come and hear about the love of God in a unique experience called “Ragamuffin Retreats.” Ragamuffins welcome.

You will get an opportunity to hear about the making of “Ragamuffin” from the filmmakers, and get to hear about their next movies in development “Brennan” (about the life of Brennan Manning) and “Room of Marvels” (based on James Bryan Smith’s book).

While, yes we want all ragamuffins to come, and we know that includes this wonderful culture of people who’s lives have been effected greatly by the ministry of both Rich Mullins & Brennan Manning. While we recognize that our lives, work, and ministry have also been greatly effected by Rich & Brennan. This won’t be a retreat set up to worship or lift these men up, but to be about …what they were about …which was Jesus & God’s love.

Also while we recognize, and open our arms open wide to those that don’t normally feel comfortable to walk into the doors of a church, we aren’t trying to be a ministry to replace the local church. Rich Mullins once said, “The church is not a man made invention, it’s a God made invention.” Matter of fact we will and want to encourage anyone and everyone to get plugged into a bible believing, Jesus loving church. On the flip side, people are at where they are at, and want them to feel welcome to come “as they are, not as they should be” and hear the good news of Jesus, and experience His love, grace, & compassion.

Other pertinent info:

There will be limited space available. So if you want in on this please sign up soon. Our subscribers at Colorgreenfilms.com/ragamuffinretreats will get advanced notice when & where to buy tickets.

If you are a church group, or group of any kind we will be offering a discounted price. Please Email retreats@colorgreenfilms.com for info or questions. Although info should be available when tickets go on sale.

We will be announcing speakers, artists, & musicians at a later date (after tickets go on sale).

There will be three cities we do this in over the course of the fall. (One in sept. One in oct. & one in Nov.)

If you think you are coming and want to help us spread the word, get your church involved, write us at: retreats@colorgreenfilms.com and we will let you know how you can help.

**We will have a video promo in the next few weeks that you can help pass around to get the word out

In other words:

All this to say. Our lives have been greatly impacted by the Love of God, and we have a huge heart for ragamuffins (beggars at the door of God’s mercy) and we want to create a unique experience, a safe place, to retreat away to learn more about Jesus, about God’s love, and be inspired that with the reality that we all have a story, and that God is at work within our story. We all have a story to tell.  A ravenous love story. Because as Brennan Manning has said “God loves you as you are, not as you should be, because none of us are as we should be”

be God’s,

David Leo Schultz

Speaker, Storyteller & Director of “Ragamuffin”

retreats@colorgreenfilms.com


I was talking with my friend, Kathy Sprinkle, this morning and I joked with her as I have with a few friends in the last month and said…I have heard the words “Shame on You” more in the last few months from “Christians” than I have in my entire life…all I had to do was to make a movie in the hopes to point people to Jesus and His Love.

Yay!

And she said the most beautiful and truthful reminder. “There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.” Oh Yeah, well tell that to Suzie, Phil, Sarah, and Ben (Names have been changed for their protection;-)

Trust me, there are plenty of skeletons in my closet that are much deserving of someone to say, “Shame on you.” And no one knows this more than God himself, and yet the simple, yet earth-shattering Giver of grace is here to say…”No, not with me, not in me…there is no condemnation in me.” Man I love that. Apart from HIM there is, with HIM there isn’t. Not that I, you, or anyone else isn’t deserving to be shamed on, but because of the love, grace, and forgiveness Jesus has given me through his atoning sacrifice on the cross and continual affection for me out of his character of perfect holiness – — there isn’t.

Hmmmm. Then how come I run into so many Christians who are so quick to draw their pistol from their “belt of self-righteousness” and say “Shame on you.” 

Let’s say (and I do at times…sometimes more than “at times”) I do shameful things, why is the beautiful gospel of Jesus not preached from their lips to simply say “God loves you friend. Come home to HIM” . No instead I get “Shame on you.”

I often think of the scripture where Christ talks about how the world will hate you because of ME. But why do we often experience that hate more from Religious types than people who don’t claim to be Christians? I’m not sure about that one. That’ll be on my list of questions to ask when I meet Jesus one day on the other side, but I do think he’s give me and you a clue…It’s found in the history books. The gospels. Yes he said that “the world will hate you because of me.” Yet look at his life. Who hated him the most. It wasn’t the pagans. It wasn’t the followers. It wasn’t the tax collectors or the whores. It wasn’t the sinners, they loved him, were drawn to him, woo’ed after him…nope! It was the religious. The RELIGIOUS hated him. Listen to Jesus, he speaks from experience. 

Man I love Jesus. Not in a trite way. In a thankful way. May he have mercy on those that shame. May he forgive those that hate. And when I at times or more than at times am like them…shaming others and violently shaming myself…may he forgive me too, and not shame me, but woo me back to himself with his compassion.

So go out and Love God and love people, but be careful there our religious land-mines out there placed out there by the self-rightouess, but don’t stop…do it anyway…live dangerously…because just like Jesus said “I haven’t come for the healthy (the self-righteous) I’ve come for the sick (the poor in the spirit- those who know and accept that they are sick) because if you’re human… you are sick, you are in need, you are a ragamuffin. The reality is some know, and some don’t and or can’t accept their poverty of being human. And, yet there is still so much beauty in the poverty, the pain, the heart-ache. Bask in the good news of his love, because in HIM there is no shame.

be God’s,

David Leo Schultz


I am watching Braveheart as I type this. Yeah, I have a.d.d., but I write because ironically what has saturated my prayers lately is literally the title of this movie, “God give me a brave heart.” I think often what stands in the way of absolutely everything of what I really want is that while I can love, even love Jesus from time to time, and have intentions as pure as the night sky on the clearest night, fear holds me in shackles.

It’s depressing.

Depressing, because the life I could have if I had no fear, but even more depressing because fear holds me in a prison that has a two way mirror, where you can almost see the life you desire right in front of your eyes or what you can imagine. It’s a common sickness that doesn’t escape any of us. Maybe some of us have some good days, but most of live in void of bravery.

But maybe, just maybe if God would make us brave, if we would be willing to carry our crosses, and follow him, they way He intended maybe we’d finally be free. Free to tell the truth, to follow the dreams of how we were wired to dream, to put in action the passion that we were instilled with instead of making more excuses.

I could even use a little bravery to be a Christian these days. Ironically not in the old fashioned ways of being bold about your faith, but more to be bold with religious folks. Honestly in this time and age of social media that we live in, it’s exposed an obvious flaw, that legalism and religiosity is alive and well…and it’s ugly and fierce and poisonous.

I remember once when I had sinned. When I had really blown it as a follower of Jesus. I had this thought. What if no one would know I was a Christian..what if no one would ever think that I was a Christian…what if everyone forever and ever just looked at my Christian resume and think that I was a disgusting human being who deserved to be called a Christian because my sins were so grievous?

The answer I felt on that day, can also be found in the gospel of Jesus: exactly.

The title of Christian, the adoption into God’s family, the love and grace that Abba father freely gives, the proof of God’s unconditional love found in the subtitutionary death of Jesus on Calvary is all given, not earned.

The challenging word, I felt I heard from God that day was him asking me…”Would you really follow me, love me, and be mine even if no other man or woman ever thought you were a Christian?”

I made a decision that day. My answer to God was yes. Jesus saved me long before that day, but something changed that day. My heart grew a little stronger, it grew a little braver.

As I’m wrapping this post up, the movie is finishing up, and I can’t help but think of what Jesus said, as I watch the visual of william wallace being executed on a cross like structure. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If you really want to come after me you must deny yourself and take up your cross daily and follow me.”

God make me brave. Help me follow you, and leave myself behind. This may be me my only hope for bravery, if I’m not part of the equation.

I love you Jesus. Boldy, at least in this moment.

David Leo Schultz

 


Image

 

This is a photo of the old church by Rich Mullins house in Belsberg, Tn. This photo is all that remains. The building was torn down. I don’t know why, but I think of this photo all the time. The movie started with this church. I day dreamt about the movie starting with this church. As I’ve spent the last two months on the road, and I spent most of my time in church buildings, rental cars, and hotels. I’ve thought about something my friend Dave said. The subject line is a quote from Dave Mullins. That’s pretty much how he described the experience of making the movie. I agree. They were some long nights, even some horrible ones, and even worse hotels. But didn’t bother me much because I didn’t sleep much anyway. That was almost two years ago. This two month revival of vagabonding around the country brought back sweet memories of making the movie, but even deeper memories of traveling the country with fellow ragamuffins and wannabe evangelists. It was a joy seeing almost everyone I love. I almost felt like I saw everyone I knew. It was a wonderful whirlwind. I’ve often been in torment for the last 14 years because I thought I had to have life figured out. I thought I was supposed to have my 10 year plan. It seems like everyone was always telling me that. From high school, to college, to job interviews everyone wanted to know what my plan was, what was it that I wanted to do with my life…but I never quite knew how to answer that question. Then you hear those “religious” types say things like “God called me” or even worse “God told me”…do I think it’s real? Do I think it happens? Sure, sometimes. Not all the time. Sometimes folks throw that expression around like “God bless you” or “Amen” and they don’t even know what they’re hoping God blesses or what they are Amen’ing…but I digress… I think perhaps God does tell some people or calls some people…but it’s never happened to me. I guess I’m not that important. I supposed if God called me, or told me to do something I’d have to be pretty important. I mean, he’s God, and I’m not. Maybe it’s not a big deal to hear a call from God, or have some 10 year divine plan, maybe, just maybe it’s a better thing to pray for daily bread, forgiveness, leading me out of temptation, and delivering me from evil. Maybe instead of praying for something special, I should just pray how Jesus taught us to pray, and maybe, just maybe that’s special enough. 

I’ve had two hearts. My dreams have always been this combination of creativity, and a passion to preach Jesus. For the past 14 years, maybe longer, I’ve tried to kill one and pursue the other. In Ragamuffin, I’ve seen the fruition of both. Those very few that remember the color green, might have seen the inklings of what is the fruition of Ragamuffin. One just cost a lot more. The Color Green was such a large chunk of my life, and when you’re a kid it’s your whole life. Ragamuffin took four years, but as your older time goes so fast, it all feels a bit arbitrary. 

Traveling around from church to church, plane to rental car, rental car to motel, speaking, showing the movie, speaking, saying hi to a few familiar faces, making a few new friends, and then the next day doing it all over again has been some of the best moments of my life, and yet in those quiet moments loneliness and depression are near. The shadows aren’t too far away. They know how to find me. They’re at bay. For now. I’ve quipped from stage that I’m 33, that really dangerous age, I hope I make it. I’ve meant that in a way. The movie is the fullfillment of everything I’ve ever wanted, and seeing all these familiar faces, friends, and loved ones I’ve often wondered if God is about to kill me. Hopefully not yet:-) But one day death will come. Probably sooner than any of us want, are ready for. But it will happen. I think of that Rich line, our tag line for the movie, “In the end it won’t matter if you have a few scars, but it will matter if you didn’t live.” 

I have no idea what’s next. But I don’t know that I want to know. I’ve tried that, and it never worked for me. Maybe we’re not supposed to know. Making plans has never really worked for me. I hear it works for some. Seems boring to me. But boring isn’t such a bad thing. Especially when life seems closer to hell than to heaven, we might even pray for a little boring.

I never thought I’d find myself in this churchy church world again, and in some ways I’ve never left. I’m shocked by most of these conversations I have in these churches. I’ve experienced the hate, legalism, judgmental religious goppity-goup that is everything the world has come to expect from Christians. Yuck. But I’ve also seen some pastors and others that are the real deal. Genuine. Humble. Honest. Broken. Loving. And It’s encouraging, really encouraging. Hard core people that really love Jesus and love people. 

Sometimes when I stand in these church buildings, and talk to these churches I think about that picture. In 100 years will this church still be here, or will it be some black and white photo of a place that used to be before it was bulldozed to the ground. None of us know, there’s not much that we can control, because the more we can control, it seems to escape us, probably better that way, after all Jesus told us to follow Him and leave ourselves behind. So maybe we should give that a shot. Let’s deny ourselves, let’s leave our dreams, plans, schedules, desires, all of it, really leave all of it…what would happen if we would or could or did leave ourselves…if we truly emptied ourselves and he became the true lover of our soul, the object of our worship…it could be dangerous…it could be a whirlwind…it could leave us bloody, bruised, and scared…but maybe just maybe we’d taste, even for a moment, what it would be to be truly and fully alive.

your fellow future black and white photo,

David Leo Schultz