No matter your belief paradigm, Los Angeles is a furnace.
This month it has had this eery sheen.
Smudgy bronzer lines the gutters of Hollywood Boulevard. We have red carpet covering that corner where the homeless man was killed by police. Is that a woman putting a price on her body? Darling, no. That’s a nominee.
The Oscars are the ultimate reflection of a hope deferred.
They are the television show masquerading as an institution, the marketplace pretending to be a temple. The top of the ladder, the dream of every kid waiting tables in WeHo. Judgment day.
We see the holes. We see the discrimination, the inconsistencies, the media frenzy asking us to buy into it. We watch it, still. Better to study the politics of a controlled contest, than a real war. Right?
LA is stirred up, this time of year. It’s pilot season, which means thousands of actors flock into the city to audition for the plethora of potential new shows being trialed. Only a handful of actors get roles. Only a handful of the shows will go on to be funded series.
The town is abuzz with the stress and excitement of opportunity.
Actors, producers and casting directors alike live day-to-day, ready for green lights, for phone calls, for breakthrough. ‘Is this the 90 second audition that changes everything?’
It is obviously insane, but it is exhilarating and enjoyable, like any form of gambling. It’s mysterious and addictive, and it’s a process you grow accustomed to. You learn to take the hit of rejection without falling over. You learn how to calm your own expectations. You learn how to create a new character every single day. You learn how to invest just enough to feel transported, for a moment.
Yes, it is a city burning.
Burning with longing. Burning like stars, falling.
But beneath the surface, a new fire has been growing.
LA has embers that have glowed with promise for 110 years.
When I landed, I felt sick with the smoke of it.
Two days in, something arrested my spirit, and I heard God clearly.
It was deeply personal – I knew exactly what it was for – but it felt like a clear call from my environment, too. Something was happening in Los Angeles.
It was tangible, audible. God was speaking. Believers from around the world felt called to move to LA – some to seek careers in entertainment, some to seek and build community. Everyone around me was being chased down with a furious and unrelenting love. If I wanted to enter in, if I wanted to engage with what God was doing there, I knew I had to step up.
Back home, in Australia, things feel different. The spiritual climate is often perceived negatively. It is heavy with politics and disunity. Even the beauty and goodness contributed by the Australian churches is often quickly dismissed publicly. There is an inherent mistrust, and as someone who has been on both sides, I get it. As a believer in Australia, I have found that without the accelerating force of consistent community and focused prayer, momentum can be difficult to keep.
Los Angeles, despite being a place of such intense distraction, was stirring with a passion for God. I mean, heck, we’re not talking about a monastery nestled in the Himalayas – it’s LA. Everything you could ever want is at your fingertips. Even if you chose to visit a church in LA, they are often large, and loudly talk about ‘abundance’ and ‘destiny’. If you wanted to avoid God and all that comes with Him, this would be your city of choice.
And yet, the spirit was falling with a heavy and intruding peace, and a lot of people could feel it.
Fasting – for those not familiar – is the practice of limiting something (usually food) for a time, in order to gain spiritual clarity and answers to prayer. Sometimes fasts last for a day, sometimes forty days. Not everyone does them, and they aren’t forced or required. My fast wasn’t extreme – I was only abstaining from meat and alcohol – but I knew it was for the entire five weeks of my trip.
I braced myself, and I decided to be expectant. You want to meet me here, God? Okay. Do your worst.
Needless to say, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Within twenty-four hours of starting the fast, I felt like I was unceremoniously dumped by a wave of grace. Steam-rolled. Smashed to the ground.
God threw me into circles of people who recognised exactly what was happening, and in their discernment, began to impart wisdom and guidance to me. My heart felt like it was breaking and healing every day.
I got to work quickly, jumping from audition to audition. That side of it was strangely released – I was overwhelmed with freedom, with the loving-kindness that was drawing me into intimacy. My friend and I decided that the primary task for each of our auditions was to find people in the waiting room we could bless. The next taping my friend had, she stayed back for half an hour after her appointment, running lines with her competitors, and telling them what excellent work they were doing.
And then, of course, came the feathers.
I had previously ended my story with finding the white one in the snow. After posting that last piece (which can be found here), I felt a sort of closure to the whole thing.
It wasn’t until I started receiving messages from people – pictures of the feathers they were finding – that I realised something was growing, rather than fading.
The day after I posted the article, my parents found a feather in my empty bedroom in Brisbane. I stared at the photograph in confusion. Why, God?
The next day, one fell out of my friend’s hair as we prayed for her. The friends hosting me explained how God had given them a feather that had healed their son. They showed it to me – it was just a fluffy, white feather, like so many of those that I had found.
As the days continued, and I encountered God more deeply, the feathers continued. In my bed, on my clothes, under the fridge… there was no pattern to them, but there was consistency. My curiosity grew wings under God’s affection. I had an energy that I had not been able to access for months. Each audition was a joy – and I think a few actors could attest to the fact that this is not always the case.
Ten days in, I had the afternoon off. For the first time in weeks, I sat down to properly read the bible. I felt led to 2 Kings, and dived in.
Not long afterwards, I sensed God hovering.
You haven’t listened to a teaching in a while, have you?
It was true. I had avoided them, actually.
Let’s go for a walk.
The first podcast I opened felt right. Bill Johnson, teaching on Perseverance and Breakthrough.
Good one, I thought. Nice and comfortable.
Now I’m going to get specific, because God is, and I want the weight of this land.
Firstly, he preached on 2 Kings – the exact chapter I had gotten up to. He then moved on to Daniel, and fasting meat and alcohol (amongst other things). I was struck – the sermon felt crafted for me.
My walk was around downtown Glendale – a bustling mini-Armenia beneath a couple of mountains. I felt like my steps were being directed.
Bill moved on to talk about the history of the charismatic movement in Christianity. It had started in a building on Azusa St, in Pasadena, in 1906. The spirit had broken out, and did not stop. As I passed shops, and people, it occurred to me that I was literally a fifteen-minute drive away from Azusa St. The spot was of great significance – it represented an incredible revival, and was a profound moment of racial unity (it was facilitated by African-American leaders). I couldn’t believe I’d never visited.
The sermon then moved on to discuss a man called Lou Engle.
I had crossed paths with Lou a year before, and felt a connection to him and his ministry. It was Lou’s belief that God wanted to pour out His spirit on Los Angeles, and in faith, he had sold his house in order to put a deposit on the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for one day, on the 110th anniversary of the Azusa St revival. He called his gathering ‘Azusa Now’, and expected to fill the stadium with almost 100,000 people on April 9, 2016.
His fervor was undeniable, but the risk made me nervous.
Sure, it was one thing to want to see miracles. But to sell everything you had to prepare the way for them?
I believed, but I didn’t think I could ever believe like that.
LA felt like it was bursting at the seams spiritually, but could it overflow to meet that kind of expectation? It didn’t feel safe. I wanted my God to be tamer than theirs.
The spirit kept directing my walk. I smiled inside, oblivious. What are you trying to show me?
Eventually, I was back on the street I had come from. About two hundred metres from home, I looked down. There was a white feather. I chuckled, hardly surprised.
As I stared at it, I realised that there was another next to it. Good one, God.
My eyes fell on the road, where I saw another, and then another. Weird.
As I turned back to the grass, I realised there were more. A lot more.
They were all white, in different sizes, with different textures.
I took a few steps down the path and started to freak out. All around me, there were at least one hundred bright, white feathers.
There was no bird to be seen, no blood, no scuffle.
They were on the road, in the gutter, on the grass, on the footpath.
I was taking photographs, mouth agape. Cars slowed down, thinking there was something wrong.
I ran back and forth between the feathers, overwhelmed, and unsure what to believe.
God’s voice caught me, calmed me.
Pick up 24 of them.
Shaking, I chose 25 (I couldn’t help myself), and walked back, feeling weightless.
The feathers continued, more sparingly, all the way home. I found the final feather directly outside my hosts’ back door.
Once in my room, I placed them in a zip lock bag and stared, in awe.
But why 24?
Naturally, I went straight to Google. ‘What does the number 24 represent?’
Priesthood. Yeah, maybe?
24 hours in every day?
A couple of days later, I got a prompt.
Count how many days you had left of your fast after you found the feathers.
I knew before I’d even done the calculation.
There were 24.
The following week, Lou Engle visited the same church I did.
The week after, at my old church, they presented a video of him and his dream.
Azusa chased me around LA, and occupied my prayers.
I began to believe in the rising fire. How could I deny it? I felt lit.
I came home last week. The journey was bittersweet. I had missed my loved ones, and I was keen for a glass of wine and a steak, but I didn’t want to exit the building tension.
I acknowledged that I was leaving a heightened environment, both spiritually and professionally.
The anticipation wasn’t normal, but it didn’t have to be abnormal. I needed to learn how to walk with the same momentum in Melbourne.
God is not exclusive to America (despite the commonly held belief), but LA is a city on the verge of something astoundingly beautiful.
Light a fire in Hollywood, and you can be sure that fire will spread.
A few days ago, as I watched the Oscars from my over-heated apartment in the southern hemisphere, the eyes of my heart soared.
Behind the gold facade, there sits a treasure.
Behind the illusion, there lies the miracle.
Behind the scenes, we find humanity.
(The last time I wrote about Los Angeles: Antinome)