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In the Face of Grief

I have a distinct memory from when I was younger of my parents and grandparents reading the paper every morning. One of the most important sections to them was the Obituaries. It struck me as so odd to think that the obituary section was so important to them. I have thought about it fleetingly over the years always thinking that I would know I had truly reached old age when that section of the paper reached such importance.

The fact is, the older you are, the more people you know. As you grow older the likelihood that someone you know will have died the day before is huge because people leave us. It is an inevitability that we cannot escape.

It has been a difficult year and a half. We have had several really close friends battle cancer. We have seen people with Covid not recover. We have had several people die unexpectedly and others whose bodies just wore out. We have seen friends battle depression and disappointment that is crushing. In fact, we have seen people grieve. It is so hard to say good-bye. It is difficult to know what to say to those who mourn no matter what they are mourning. Most of the time it isn’t enough, because how can it be? Words don’t replace people and we all grieve and expect things from others so differently.

All I know is that the absence of others leaves holes in our lives.

Here is what I think I have learned:

  1.  Reach out to one of your friends every day. Sure, you have those friends that you speak to every week and sometimes more often, but make sure you have a contact list of people you reach out to every month and find someone that you haven’t checked in on to send a card, call, or text. In our world of social media we really have no excuse not to drop a note and find out how a long lost friend might be doing. I must admit, I’m really terrible at this. I am not a person that naturally is aggressive at friendship. I surround myself with people who call me and ask me to do things instead of the other way around. So, if you feel rejected by me chances are I’m feeling the same rejection by you. (yeah, I know. I don’t seem like that person–I promise you–it’s the me nobody knows) I’m not good at knowing what to say to you in your pain. Don’t be like me, reach out anyway. Even if you call and just leave a message. The thought matters. The simple presence of people can help a grieving person carry the pain of loneliness.
  2. Depending on how much the person that died was in your life  and how many plans for the future you had with them depends on the deep pain you will experience. You may not feel the same pain that each friend feels, but if you have even lost someone you know the same pain. Use your past experience to know how to reach out and comfort. What did you need?
  3. There is no moving on there is just moving forward. That’s okay. Your loved one will not be forgotten. And it’s okay to still feel grief years after death.
  4. Prayer works. I have no way to explain it. But I know that the prayer of other Christians has carried me through several times in my life. The Holy Spirit gives a peace that truly passes all understanding. It is unfathomable that I was able to function while my heart was breaking, but somehow God carried me through. Sometimes it is two steps forward and one back or maybe even two steps backwards with no forward movement at all. Here is the blessing…God isn’t any less present when I’m taking backwards steps than He is when I’m moving forward! Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
  5. Allow yourself to feel pain. There is healing in verbally processing your grief. There is relief in being able to cry. Don’t be ashamed of it or don’t try to hold it in. Take a walk and spend time talking to God. Call your friends and tell them you need them. Journal.  Psalms 32, “When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. The pressure never let up: all the juices of my life dried up. Then I let it all out; I said,’ I’ll come clean  about my failures to God.’ Suddenly the pressure was gone–my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared. These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray; when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts we’ll be on high ground, untouched. God’s my island hideaway.”
  6. Share in their grief. I learned this year that a very good friend of mine never got a card I had sent. That only added to her grief as she didn’t understand why I wouldn’t have reached out. Your words matter. Carry the burden with them.  Share any good words of true  compassion that you can.
  7. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39, NIV Paul penned these words to the Christians in Rome encouraging us that although we will face trials and loneliness, we are not alone.

**In loving memory of Don Opperthauser  who passed into God’s presence on  August 24, 2021. “No more pain when we get to heaven.” I will never forget his faithfulness, musical abilities or his love for his family. Although I haven’t seen him in years his memory will live in my heart and in the hearts of many who knew him.

Are you lonely or grieving today? I’d love to talk to you. Drop me a note and let me know how I can pray for you. As always, please share your thoughts with me or share this blog with others.

Until next time.

My dad’s funeral. Arlington National Cemetery. We all still grieve.
book review, christian, christian blog, christian fiction, family, Fear, history, non fiction, reading, theater, WWII

Reba Reads

Reading has been missing in my life for the last couple of months. Things are getting more busy with the theater. Life is getting back to normal and to add to the excitement we invested in a rental property which has kept me crazy busy.

But, I really don’t  want to lose what I gained during this past year of misery…a reconnection with books.

Here are the ones I read lately:

Book #1 Becoming Elisabeth Elliot by Ellen Vaughn

This book was on my Christmas list this year and I’m so thankful I received it.

From the cover:

Elisabeth Elliot was a young missionary in Ecuador when members of a violent Amazonian tribe savagely speared her husband Jim and his four colleagues. Incredibly, prayerfully, Elisabeth took her toddler daughter, snakebite kit, Bible, and journal . . . and lived in the jungle with the Stone-Age people who killed her husband. Compelled by her friendship and forgiveness, many came to faith in Jesus.  
This courageous, no-nonsense Christian went on to write dozens of books, host a long-running radio show, and speak at conferences all over the world. She was a pillar of coherent, committed faith; a beloved and sometimes controversial icon. In this authorized biography, Becoming Elisabeth Elliot, bestselling author Ellen Vaughn uses Elisabeth’s private, unpublished journals, and candid interviews with her family and friends, to paint the adventures and misadventures God used to shape one of the most influential women in modern church history. It’s the story of a hilarious, sensual, brilliant, witty, self-deprecating, sensitive, radical, and surprisingly relatable person utterly submitted to doing God’s will, no matter how high the cost. For Elisabeth, the central question was not, “How does this make me feel?” but, simply, “is this true?” If so, then the next question was, “what do I need to do about it to obey God?”  “My life is on Thy Altar, Lord—for Thee to consume. Set the fire, Father! Bind me with cords of love to the Altar. Hold me there. Let me remember the Cross.” –Elisabeth Elliot, age 21

I am very familiar with Elisabeth Elliot and her husband Jim Elliot. I have long admired her ability to write and speak and I’m so thankful for the testimony she gave the world by her writing and documentation of a story of 5 heros and their wives who died trying to reach the Aucas in Ecuador. (Through Gates of Splendor) I watched the film End of the Spear and even wrote a play, Flame of Fire, about these five families. (For permission to perform that play please contact us at Overshadowed.org)

I was really looking forward to learning more about this amazing Godly woman who went BACK to the very jungles and people who killed her husband. That’s an amazing woman.

This story was created from the journals, letters, and other writings of Elisabeth herself. (Maybe we should all keep journals!)The book talks about Elliot’s childhood, her years at boarding school and Wheaton College, and her courtship and marriage to Jim.

Ellen brilliantly weaves the story of the five missionaries with the true story of the Waodani’s who speared the men to death in 1956. The story became a propellant in the missions movement in the years that followed the event.

Elisabeth was brilliant. She excelled in Greek, even reading Plato and Socrates in original text. She was a no nonsense person. She believed that she was to die to self and do what Christ wanted her to do. In that, was the only freedom she knew.

We also get to know the Elisabeth who is lonely and grieves and at times judgmental. Her relationship with her mother is troublesome, but at the heart of it is an Elisabeth who doesn’t act the way others think that she should. She acts the way she thinks God wants her to be. Period.

We learn about her life when she returned to the jungle. I wasn’t aware of the relationship that she had with Nate Saint’s sister and that alone was fascinating to me. She didn’t have an easy life, but I wonder how much of the tension in relationships were brought on by her own intolerance.

What I loved about this book:

I loved learning more about Elisabeth. I was fascinated to see how strict her upbringing was and how hard she was on herself. It is rare to find a person who is so totally committed to seeking and following God’s will. I loved seeing that she was human with failures, passions, and struggles with faith. I loved that the book wasn’t preachy. Ellen told the story fabulously.

The love story of Jim and Elisabeth isn’t a love story between them. It is a love story of Jim’s love for God and Elisabeth’s love for God and how God allowed them to love each other. Sometimes frustrating, but beautiful in the end.

Who should read this book? Lovers of God. Women and young women who struggle with fears of being single. People who love historical biographies.

Favorite Quotes:

Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts. It is easier to talk oneself into a decision that has no permanence, than to wait patiently.

Nothing was lost. The things she missed were stored in heavenly storehouses. Someday she would see God’s glory in eternity, rather than the apparant losses she felt so keenly on this earth.”

Teach me never to let the joy of what has been pale the joy of what is.”

“She was not willing to deny that sometimes even religious leaders, like the fictitious emperor in the children’s story, wore no clothes.”

“God has chosen to leave certain questions unanswered and certain problems without any solution in this life, in order that in our very struggle to answer and solve we may be shoved back and back, and eternally back to the contemplation of Himself and to complete trust in WHO HE IS. I’m glad He’s my Father.”

Rating: 4/5 I found it a little dry in some places.

Book Review: Shipped by Angie Hockman

Book # 2 Shipped by Angie Hockman

From the Cover:

Between taking night classes for her MBA and her demanding day job at a cruise line, marketing manager Henley Evans barely has time for herself, let alone family, friends, or dating. But when she’s shortlisted for the promotion of her dreams, all her sacrifices finally seem worth it.

The only problem? Graeme Crawford-Collins, the remote social media manager and the bane of her existence, is also up for the position. Although they’ve never met in person, their epic email battles are the stuff of office legend.

Their boss tasks each of them with drafting a proposal on how to boost bookings in the Galápagos—best proposal wins the promotion. There’s just one catch: they have to go on a company cruise to the Galápagos Islands…together. But when the two meet on the ship, Henley is shocked to discover that the real Graeme is nothing like she imagined. As they explore the Islands together, she soon finds the line between loathing and liking thinner than a postcard.

With her career dreams in her sights and a growing attraction to the competition, Henley begins questioning her life choices. Because what’s the point of working all the time if you never actually live?

What I loved about this book:

To be honest, I love romances, but I don’t usually like to read them. Modern ones have a little too much sexual content for me and many times they are poorly written.

I did however, really enjoy this one. It was a light read that once I started I couldn’t wait to finish. I loved the attraction between Henley and Graeme. I loved that he appeared to be both a snake and an hero and we had to wait to figure out the truth. Sometimes we all jump to conclusions or is the evidence exactly what it seems to be?

Angie created vivid characters for us to both love and hate and distrust!

I also loved the travel aspects. I loved learning more about the Galapagos Islands and loved the beautiful picture Angie painted for us.

Who should read this book: Lovers of Contemporary romance. Cruise Lovers or if you like a little comedy with your romance.

Warning: Contains sexual content. Also Contains Strong language.

Favorite Quotes:

“People are the problem. But they can also be the solution.” 

Rating:

3/5 Stars

Book #3 The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

From the Cover:

In 1942, Europe remains in the relentless grip of war. Just beyond the tents of the Russian refugee camp she calls home, a young woman speaks her wedding vows. It’s a decision that will alter her destiny…and it’s a lie that will remain buried until the next century.

Since she was nine years old, Alina Dziak knew she would marry her best friend, Tomasz. Now fifteen and engaged, Alina is unconcerned by reports of Nazi soldiers at the Polish border, believing her neighbors that they pose no real threat, and dreams instead of the day Tomasz returns from college in Warsaw so they can be married. But little by little, injustice by brutal injustice, the Nazi occupation takes hold, and Alina’s tiny rural village, its families, are divided by fear and hate.

Then, as the fabric of their lives is slowly picked apart, Tomasz disappears. Where Alina used to measure time between visits from her beloved, now she measures the spaces between hope and despair, waiting for word from Tomasz and avoiding the attentions of the soldiers who patrol her parents’ farm. But for now, even deafening silence is preferable to grief.

Slipping between Nazi-occupied Poland and the frenetic pace of modern life, Kelly Rimmer creates an emotional and finely wrought narrative. The Things We Cannot Say is an unshakable reminder of the devastation when truth is silenced…and how it can take a lifetime to find our voice before we learn to trust it. – Graydon House

What I loved about this book:

Well, dual story lines are definately in right now and I must admit I don’t love them, but in this story I at least liked it. There is a love story between a grandmother and granddaughter as well as the love story of Alina and Tomasz. I love that Babcia–Eddie’s Great grandmother– can love on him and ground him when he is upset. Grandmother’s should be special like that don’t you think?

I loved the way Kelly described the scene when Alini’s brothers had to leave. She covers all emotions in the way she paints the scene causing us to think in ways that had never occured to me.

I loved that I didn’t figure out the “sacrifice” until the end and it brought me to tears when I did. I loved that the author didn’t manipulate my emotions. I loved learning more about autism and how it affects every member of the family. I loved the journey Kelly took me on as she told the story of desperation, love and loss and ultimately reconciliation.

In the season we are in–where political agendas result in hatred towards anyone who has an opinion other than ours–I loved the message Kelly promotes. In one scene Tomasz tells the story of a friend of his–someone who by all rights should have hated him, but didn’t. Instead, as Kelly writes: “He refused to debase himself with hatred.” The friend had lost everything because of people like Tomasz and yet he forgave him. Challenging thoughts.

I love the undying love Tomasz has for Alina and how Kelly uses such vivid words to make us understand that love.

Lastly, I love the connection Kelly has to the story due to her own heritage. I love that Kelly took a story that could bring out the worst in hummanity and instead finds love, grace and hope. She writes, “I marveled at the way that not even the worst of humanity is powerful enough to stamp out grace or hope or love.”

Can we do the same?

Who should read this book?

Read this book if you are interested in history, World War II, Polish heritage. If you like emotional reads or family stories it is also great.

Warnings: oblique references to the Holocaust, gun violence

Favorite Quotes:

To destabilize a group of people is not at all difficult, not if you are willing to be cruel enough. You simply knock out the foundations, and a natural consequence is that the rest begins to tumble.”

I had no power to change my lot. All I had was the breath in my lungs and a tiny fragment of hope that if I kept moving forward, I could survive until someone else changed my world.”

“Home is not the country we stand in–it’s us.”

“You must believe that if God allowed you to survive this far–there is a purpose to it. You must believe that there is work left for you to do on this Earth before you are released to peace. Hold tight to what you have left, Saul Weiss. And if all you have left is your faith, then your cling to it with every shred of strength you have left–do you hear me?”

Rating: 5/5 Stars

What are you reading now? Have you read any of these? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time!

Reba

acting, artistic vision, audience, broadway, christian, christian blog, christian theater, critics, directing, entertainment, family, hope, theater

Crusade: The Musical and What I Learned About Theater From It

The tag line reads:

“A modern musical about the historical events and relationships that helped shape Billy Graham’s faith as he became the most iconic evangelist in the world.”

(Sadly, I have searched for the author/composer’s name and cannot find it. They announced it at the performance Sunday evening, but I thought it would be on my program so I didn’t pay attention. I am deeply regretting that. I also wished I had stayed  after the show and asked more questions. If this musical was a part of a residency program I probably would be  a little softer in my review. My encouragement to this group would be to publicize those details…maybe there is a financial backer or someone who wants to produce your musical that is trying to get in contact with you.)

Years ago, I heard Karen Kingsbury speak. I have followed her blog ever since. In July, she wrote a blog about the passing of time and how the clock stops for no one. She went on to say she had been watching Crusade: The Billy Graham Musical and was struck with the fact that a” blink ago Billy Graham was young and preaching and now he is gone. Just like we will be one day.”

I loved the points she was making, but more than that I was fascinated that there was a new musical out about Billy Graham! After research, I realized that it was performing very close to where one of my daughters lives…and with great anticipation I bought tickets.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I found.

I was expecting a big venue. Why? Karen Kingsbury’s son-in-law (Kyle Kupecky) and daughter (Kelsey Kupecky) were the leads. Kyle is a singer that has actually toured with Mercy Me and together with Kelsey has authored the book “The Chase.” My preconceived ideas  decided this musical was going to be in a big venue, with hundreds of people attending per night. Stars plus subject matter? It’s a win-win.

When we arrived we pulled into a small parking lot that held perhaps 100 cars….I think that is stretching it, but…maybe.

We walked into the lobby and discovered that to get to the performing space we had to walk up a curved staircase. When we entered the theater area I realized this small space, that might have seated 100, was packed and literally had no empty chairs. One of the workers gave up three seats that she had saved for her family saying, “It’s okay, we’ve all seen it.” Hmmmm. Did  they oversell the show? Why were there no seats?

As the show begin we were seriously blown away by the projection and the graphic design. It was vivid, always in motion and brightly conveyed the scenes of the play as it progressed through Billy’s life. Many of the actors played multiple characters moving through the timeline of his life.

The music was loud. I don’t want to sound like a fuddy-duddy, but I really like to understand the words to the songs that the actors were so  passionately singing, but I couldn’t always hear them. One of my costumers also attended with me and was bothered by small details, like no flash bulbs in the prop cameras. These things are easily fixed.

The music was current and passionate. It was played by the author and composer with a keyboard and guitar. I’m sure there were some pre-recorded tracks as well. I’m not totally a fan of all of the electronic music, but it was performed with such power that I enjoyed it. In fact, the honest response is that at times I felt more like I was in a church service than in a play. All of the actors sang as if they were singing worship songs. I’m not sure why I was bothered by that except  that I went expecting to see a musical and this was a different kind.

As they were telling the story of Billy they mentioned that he had first attended Bob Jones College. Well, I wish they had just mentioned it. Instead, they had a scene that included Dr. Bob yelling and really chewing Billy out for failing and having so many demerits. Trust me, I am not always proud of everything Bob Jones has done, but it felt more like the author was making an attack on Bob Jones. When I asked about it at intermission, I was told that this attitude was from Billy’s perspective. Hmmmm. perhaps. I’m just not sure why it needed to be such a big point in the scene. Did that one incident become a turning point in some way for Billy?

Did I like the musical? Yes, I really did. I am not sure what  message the author was trying to present, but this is what I received:

Billy Graham was a typical kid. He loved movies and playing. In fact, wanted to be just like Tarzan, but God had other plans. Billy ran from God. He sometimes questioned authority and even “bucked the system.” God had other plans. He had a magnetic personality and could charm  even people like, George Beverly Shea. He was loyal to his friends. He questioned religion but then firmly believed in the infallibility of the Bible. He was passionate about all people, all races, and become their advocate proclaiming like Jesus,  “Do not forbid one to come and hear.”  Billy Graham is a man who has gone on to heaven. 

The more important message? This is a story about a man who lived in a different time, his time has past. But you can still be a Billy. You, today, could make the same decisions that Billy did. What will you choose?

In the beginning I made the comment that I felt like the whole cast was singing as if they were singing worship songs. They were. This cast poured their hearts out and sang for Jesus. They cried over us as they sang one last song and, honestly,  I might have even shed a tear or two as well.

Here is what I learned and they are important lessons for me as an owner of a Christian theater company.

  1. The venue doesn’t matter. I spend so much time thinking about what people think or about how comfortable they are. Believe me, our seats and views of the stage at Overshadowed are so much better than what we experienced and yet, people came. Night after night they were sold out….just like a Crusade.
  2. Christian themed plays can still attract sold out audiences. Sometimes our original Christian works are poorly attended. It is sometimes discouraging for me, but this gives me hope. I know this, but a good reminder is always important.
  3. God moves in the audience’s hearts. He doesn’t need great acting, big theaters, grand sets. He just needs me to be willing to follow His leading
  4. We should pray over our audience more. To be honest, it felt a little manipulating to be told that the cast prayed over each seat: for our spouses, future spouse, children etc. But in the end, I was comforted by that. That’s pretty incredible and felt pretty personal.  

If you get a chance please check out this musical. You can purchase the soundtrack from their website at http://www.crusadethemusical.com

Here is a sample:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjJTkOmmvoA

Who was Billy Graham to you? What are God’s plans for you? Is He calling you to be a Billy? Do you think you would enjoy a musical like this one? I’d love to hear your thoughts! And as always, it would mean a great deal to me if you would like and follow my blog!

Until next time–this is just me–talking to you–from the wings.

acting, audience, christian, christian blog, christian theater, communication, entertainment, family, theater, theater education

Theater That is More Than Just Theater

I must confess that I have never personally read any of Jan Karon’s popular Mitford series. I have heard of them, of course, and almost since the day Overshadowed began have been told that I should produce the play, “Welcome to Mitford.” 

I have been told that lovers of this series have a vision of the North Carolina town called Mitford. In fact, many Karon fans think that Mitford was modeled on Blowing Rock, where Karon once lived. 

When you are producing  a play, setting becomes very important and in this one it almost seems that the characters are held together by their relationships with each other, but equally important their relationship with the town. 

Karon’s novels tell the story of Father Tim Kavanagh, the beloved bachelor rector of Lord’s Chapel church in Mitford. His life is absorbed with the life of his town until he takes in teenager Dooley Barlowe, the unruly, orphaned grandson of the church gardener. The town’s complacency is further disturbed when Father Tim falls in love with and weds his new next-door neighbor, Cynthia Coppersmith, who writes and illustrates children’s books.

It is indeed a love story, not only between Father Tim and Cynthia, but also between Father Tim and the town. And just like in real life…there is conflict….but unlike real life…the community is so cohesive that they get through the conflict…together.

It is a joy to see something so encouraging. 

In fact, Father TIm says in one scene, “Give thanks in everything–in loss of all kinds: in illness, in depression, in grief and in failure, and of course, in health and peace, success and happiness. Give thanks in everything.” 

Thank you, Mitford, for reminding me of a lesson that is at the very core of my belief in God. “Rejoice in all things, again I say, rejoice.” Not a suggestion…. a command.

Are you with me? Are there days that your faith just isn’t strong enough to rejoice? Maybe the answer is that I shouldn’t be trying to find joy when I’m discouraged…but GOD!

What?

Mind altering for me. I shouldn’t be trying to figure it out or figure out why? I should just rest in the Lord. Remember the song, “My hope is in the Lord….

I don’t embrace my troubles…I embrace my God.  

Transparency now….it isn’t easy and I haven’t been resting in Him and filled with joy over the past few weeks. But, coming home from our summer musical the other night all of a sudden I thought, “I’m singing! I’m singing with the radio.” 

Weeks ago that was normal for me, but my joy was gone and for most of the summer I just couldn’t….

Wow! Did it feel good! The ice isn’t gone around my heart, but it’s thawing and I’m so thankful.

That passage of scripture goes on to say, “Tell God what you need and thank Him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.”

So, how can I get myself out of my sadness and back to rejoicing?

  1. Meditate upon God and His Word.

Find verses and put them in front of you. Wake up and recite them. Sit and think about them. Journal your thoughts and prayers. MAKE AN EFFORT.

  2. Remind yourself of God’s promises.

Read books. Memorize scripture. Remind yourself that one of the attributes of God is that He is the Great Comforter! Lean on Him.

3. Keep your mind busy.

Fill it with things that will take your mind off of your sadness and give your mind peace and joy.  Perhaps being with friends? Or singing?

Or….

Come see this play this weekend and leave with a renewed hope in family, friends and community!  http://www.overshadowed.org

Did you know that theater increases creativity? It is a source of imagination. Theater requires a different kind of resourcefulness than just watching TV. Perhaps if we all learned from theater we would be able to solve some of the world’s problems! In fact, research has found that people who engage with theater either participating or viewing for two or more hours per week show signigicantly better mental health. Did you know that science shows that when people sit together in a theater their hearts beat together. That’s connection. Something most of us need.

In fact, theater is what got me through my sadness this summer. It’s the reason my heart is thawing in a way that I can sing again and ultimately it is what has reminded me to rejoice and lean in and embrace God.

I hope you’ll join us this weekend. Let’s support a new generation and show that there is good in theater and that theather TEACHES.

Until next time–this is just me—talking to you—from the wings.

acting, artistic vision, audience, backstage, broadway, christian theater, directing, entertainment, family, intermission, planning, stage, theater

The Pain and Joy of Closing Weekend

I always get to this point in a show. Do you know the moment? It is when something is almost over–you can see the end in sight–a time you will never experience again–It is  here and I regret that more people haven’t seen this musical. I want to share it. There is pain and joy in the closing of a show.

This year has theater audiences struggling to come back from what they lost during Covid. We decided to do a smaller show for several reasons. We weren’t sure that people would want to sit next to each other. Or maybe we’ve all gotten used to sitting and watching our entertainment inside instead of taking the trouble to go out and actually BE with people.

So…I decided on The Marvelous Wonderettes. It is a jukebox musical. It was an off Broadway success. In fact, so much of a success that there are multiple sequels that are written and performed about these four girls.

These four girls….Missy, Cindy Lou, Suzy and Betty Jean. Entered my world months ago as strangers as did the girls who played them. (Amy Keipert, Jessica Means, Brooke Kassal and Grace Ryan) They worked harder than I think any of them expected as they discovered that this musical was much more than a few great songs strung together. They worked hours daily on their harmonies and choreography and characters and the work paid off. What we have is an amazing show with four brilliantly talented girls who sing difficult harmonies effortlessly.

Here I am at closing weekend wishing that I could convince everyone I know to spend a couple of hours in the theater with this show. Here are a couple of remarks I have received:

What a perfect show to mark the return to live theater. It was so good to laugh and smile and sing along with such fun songs.”

I haven’t had that much fun in years.

This show is better than vitamins. I feel ten years younger.

Honestly, those comments mean the world to me. The reason I am in theater is because I want to bring joy to the world. (well, one of the reasons.) This show did that.

We have one weekend left and if I could convince you to come out and join us for one of the remaining shows, would you? overshadowed.org

Even if you have seen the show before, the beauty of live theater is that it is never the same. Every night has a new audience and a new energy and most importantly a new moment to experience. I see the show night after night and love every second of it.

As we begin this weekend, we are tired, but it is a good tired. We are filled with the joy we have shared with audiences, the satisfaction of a job well-done and the feel- good sensation when you learn and grow from an experience.

We would love to share this joy…this story…this experience with you. We have lots of tickets left for tonight, friday night and two shows on Saturday…and it’s air -conditioned. (It’s a win-win.) Won’t you shake off the Covid hibernation and join us? Let’s get back to the joy of live theater.

Here is a little tease of the show:

Until next time–I’ll be in the wings–

Reba

christian, christian blog, family, Fear, hope, theater

Hope from the Wings

It has been awhile since I’ve scraped time together to write.
When I had the time I didn’t feel like it.

I couldn’t. I’m not usually one to spread my feelings all over social media and I was afraid I would go too far. Those of you who follow me on other platforms know I asked for prayer on one of them and for some of you that was a tell that something was really wrong.

It was. It is.

I’m not going to go into the details, because the story is not mine to tell.
What I will tell you is that I received news that was heartbreaking to me. It was news that was shocking, and surprising. I had no idea it was coming and no idea what to do with the news or how to handle it.

I literally screamed out to God for about 24 hours. My oldest daughter told me to put one foot in front of the other. I told her I couldn’t. She said, “Yes, you can. Just do it and don’t let Satan rob you of the joy you have built with Overshadowed.” (We were in the middle of camp when I found out.)
Somehow I opened the door to the car and started walking into the building. Somehow when I stepped into the building I stopped crying. I have no idea how…except God.

I somehow managed to make it through that day. (I might have hid in the balcony for part of it) At least I made it without making too much of a spectacle of myself. You see, this story really isn’t about me and I didn’t want to make it about me… and yet…the pain I felt was crushing. And in some strange way,  it is my story. Now, before I confuse you too much, I’ll move on.

I haven’t lost my faith, but I felt dead inside. Maybe I still do a little. I told my husband, that I lost hope. I don’t know how to pray. I just call out to God, by calling on His name. I know that the Holy Spirit will make intercession for me without me having to say any words. My friends have prayed over me and I feel the prayers like Aarron holding Moses’ arms up in the wilderness. Thank you.
All of you. You will never know how much you mean to me.

How does one go on when they are having trouble hoping?

1) Have friends pray for you.
2) Don’t shut yourself off from friends. Make sure they know that you might not want to talk or explain things…or maybe you do…but their job is to distract you or comfort you or just be there.
3) Write BIble verses that contain hope so that everywhere you look you can see them.

Here are a few of mine that my friends sent me:
Jeremiah 31:25
For I have satiated the weary soul and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.”

John 14:1
Let not your hearts be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in me.”

Psalm 126:5
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.”

Psalm 100:5
The Lord is Good. His mercy is everlasting and His truth endureth to all generations.”

For days people sent me BIble verses and I devoured them.

I NEEDED them in front of me.

Friends also sent me music. This is one of my new favorites.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtvQNzPHn-w

One more really special blessing from God.
On the day I found this news out I was at camp. I waited until I thought all the campers had gone until I reentered the building. (I was a crying mess) But, several of the campers were still there. Three of them literally threw their arms around me and started to pray for me.  It gave me strength and a huge blessing that I will never forget.

Thank you, God, for your faithfulness. Thank you for showing your love to me through your people.

Thank you all for being patient with me as I pour all of this out for you, the reader, without any explanation of what has been going on in my life.

Perhaps one day, someone will need hope to cling too and the verses will be their lifeline.

Hopefully, I will now be back on a regular writing path and that next week I will be back to normal…at least I will try to act that way!

Thank you for praying for me!

Until next time…this is just me…talking to you…from the wings…

Reba

 

One last thought: Corrie Ten Boom said, “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.”

Hope.

adam and eve, blame, christian, christian blog, communication, entertainment, family, genesis, theater

The “It’s Not My Fault” Syndrome

Not to sound like a broken record, but Covid has really changed my habits this year. One habit was that my husband and I watched A LOT of TV nightly. We tried to mixed it up as we ran out of things that were interesting to watch.

One of the shows we watch on a regular basis (even before Covid) is Amazing Race. If you’ve never seen it-I highly recommend it. It has competition, strategy, luck and you get to see the world as you watch. So, Chuck and I decided to watch from the beginning…season 1. We are now on season 24 so this kept us busy and entertained over the past months.

The season we are on now took place in 2014. It was an all-stars season in which they asked many of the former favorites to try again. Team Kentucky was made up of Bopper and Mark, but at the last minute one had to drop out so they asked another former Kentucky favorite to step in. Mallory Ervin. (You can find out more about Mallory at malloryervin.com. Her podcast is Living Fully) This was not Mallory’s first rodeo. In fact, this is the third time she raced. I liked her from the very beginning and loved that she had such a great relationship with her racing partner, her father. So, when she was asked back, I thought this was going to be an incredible season. (It still is, by the way) This past week though was quite disappointing. Her partner, Mark, had to build a toy car (the size children can ride in) He then carried it to Mallory and said, “Take care of my backpack.” Their next task was to  find a taxi to deliver this car to a kid’s school. Halfway there Mark asked where his backpack was to which Mallory answered, “I don’t know. I gave it to you.” It seems she carried it to the taxi, but then put it at his feet while he was putting the car in the trunk of the taxi. What followed next was ugly. Mark was angry. Mallory kept repeating you don’t need it I have your passport and It’s not my fault…. They ended up going back for the backpack and ultimately getting eliminated. Now, I know that TV has a way of twisting the facts, but I did hear Mark tell her to get his backpack. I think if I had been responsible for such an important item, I would have made sure Mark saw and grabbed his backpack.

But, she said it wasn’t her fault.

She said it over and over and over again.

Okay. He asked her to get it. She did. Was it Mark’s fault?

Maybe. But here is the point. Why wouldn’t she own up to it and at least feel badly that she didn’t make sure Mark saw his backpack? It was obvious he thought she was taking care of it.

I find this happening all the time.

People don’t want to take responsibility.

It is so much easier to blame and point the finger.

I mean, it started in Genesis.

God told Adam and Eve not to eat of one particular tree in the Garden of Eden. The serpent told Eve that God was keeping knowledge from her and that when she ate of the tree she would be as a god  and that she would not die as God had said. So she ate and gave the apple to Adam and he ate also.

When God called for them He asked them if they had eaten of the tree and Adam said,

“Well, the woman, (that woman that You gave me, Lord.) she gave it to me.

And when the Lord asked Eve she said,

Well, it’s not my fault, the serpent tricked me.”

Blame. From the first two humans.

Is there hope in this?

Yes.

God forgives. He paid the price when He carried our sin all the way to the cross where forgiveness became apparent even while He was still hanging there.

Can we take blame? Can we look at ourselves and try to make things right? Can we see where we are wrong and how to make it right?

Would the world be different if we did?

Perhaps instead of proclaiming, “It’s not my fault.” We should cry out, like David did, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Do you struggle with the blame game or instead wear the guilt of everything you do?

Until next time,

christian, christian blog, communication, Fear, hope, theater

Trust God With All Your Heart

Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.”

My life verse. These two verses are  pretty “popular.” In fact, at times I have been almost embarrassed to tell people that these are my life verses.  I thought people wanted verses that were more “unusual.”

But these….these are the verses I needed to always remember and to guide me. You see, I’m a little bit of a worrier.

Let’s take it apart:

  1. Trust in the Lord.                                                                                                                     Google defines “trust” as: firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.                                                                                                                             When days get dark, when I am not sure where to turn, when people make fun of me, I remind myself who God is. I believe in Him and His ability to care about the things I care about. My prayers may not be answered the way I want them to, but I believe, I TRUST that God knows best.                                                                                                                                 I am reminded that getting advice from the world may not be the best advice. Do you remember Job’s wife? “Why are you still holding on to the idea that your God can help  when he’s not doing anything? You might as well curse God and die.”  As the story ends, Job is restored to health and receives double of every earthly good he lost. Job’s decision to trust God no matter what ends up being the correct one.                                                             I admit that some days it is easier to talk about trusting God than it is to do it–which is the reason I choose these verses. It is a constant reminder: trust God.

2.       With All Your Heart.                                                                                                                             I must completely rely on His promises, wisdom, power, and love to  help me in every circumstance. He is the only one who sees and understands the plan. Human understanding is limited. It is tainted by emotion and frankly human error.

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” If we trust in the Lord with all our hearts we have hope and need not fear or worry.”

Jeremiah 17: 7-8, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.”

3. Lean Not Unto Thine Own Understanding.

Well, let’s think about that for a second. How do we do that?

We spend time with Him.

We study the words He has given us and taught us.

Be willing to wait for His direction. (I am often impatient and want the answers right away.)

If we take these steps it will help us to allow God to take control and  wait and trust Him.

4. In All Thy Ways

ALL. Everything. Every desire, thought, plan.

5. Acknowledge Him.

From what I understand the word translated to acknowledge is “yada” which means to know or recognize. It is to know His ways inside and out and to recognize that God is the ultimate arbiter of our lives.

Webster’s dictionary defines acknowledge: “to recognize the rights, authority or status of someone or something.” In other words, if you are acknowledging someone’s authority, you are acknowledging that they have power over you.

This is a life-altering change. This is an active day after every day decision.

6. And He Shall Direct Your Paths.

All my life I wanted to know what it was that God wanted me to do. “What school should I go to?” “What should I choose for my major?” “Who should I marry?” and many more decisions.

Claiming this verse reminded me that God would direct and that He would not fail me.

Paths go somewhere–there is a destination. So my life has a purpose that God will direct and lead.

This is the  kind of life God promises.

To me I remind myself:

Reba, trust in the Lord:  not the news, the world, yourself. With your whole heart. Don’t allow sin and worry to have even the smallest part of your heart or mind. Give God all the trust. Lean not unto your own understanding. Reba, you don’t know. You can’t know. God sees and knows the whole plan. Trust Him. In all thy ways. Everything. Acknowledge Him. Give it to God every time you think of it. Make it an every morning decision to give it to God, and He will direct your paths. Relax. it isn’t up to you, Reba. God’s got this.

Do you have a favorite verse? I’d love to hear why you picked it?

I’d love it if you’d subscibe to my blog and share it!

Until next time-this is just me-talking to you-from the wings!

christian blog, family, Mother's Day, God, Fiddler on the roof, theater

It May Seem Impossible…But God

Last year…. wow! I am super glad that is over… well, at least we have started to heal.

This post was last Mother’s Day. I hope we never forget what last year taught us!

Happy Mother’s Day!

This past Sunday we all celebrated Mother’s Day. Some of us had the luxury of being together. Some of us had wonderful zoom calls from our kids. Some of us mourned the loss of our mothers. In whatever way you celebrated, I’ll guess that the conversations around your table were different than the conversations held in the past. I’ll tell you the most special gift in the world would have been to be with my children and my mom. As the day went on I thought about my mom spending mother’s day all alone in her retirement home. I am so thankful she is safe, but just like so many other mothers…she is alone. On the day that is set aside to remember mothers and celebrate them–countless numbers of them spent the day all alone. Honestly, I grieved not being able to see her or my kids.

My mom with her mother and older sister. I never knew my mom had curly hair like this!

So what are we learning through this crisis?

  1. To celebrate life. Each and every moment is important. We never know when we are going to be able to spend an additional moment with those we love. We will never take them for granted again.
  2. We are learning that things we took for granted are infinitely more valuable and necessary than we knew. A hug from a friend. Dinner with a friend. A visit with mom.
  3. Priorities. What are the things you are missing most during this time? What can you live without? What can’t you live without? Is it possible that we could be building new habits as we realize what things are truly important?
  4. Things we need to work on. If there is anything we have now it is time….time to think. Time to reflect. Time to figure out if there are bad habits we need to get rid of or good ones we need to develop.

What do you have time for that you never did before?

I’m not going to say that I NEVER had time for a Bible study because I’ve done quite a few in my life, but at the beginning of our shelter-in-place a friend of mine suggested that we start a book/Bible study. I resisted, but as weeks went on I realized it was a really good idea. My mind needed to focus on God and not searching the internet and Facebook for everything that MAN was saying. We are only on our third week, but it is such a blessing to gather and pray with these ladies. And listen….I do not think I would have joined….if not for the virus. Thank you, God, for giving me time to commit to you in this way. Thank you, for the time we spend together.

I look around me and, while I treasure my mom and my family; I am also spending time thinking about all the hardships I see around me. People out of work. People struggling to pay bills. People who have lost loved ones to this horrible virus. People who are suffering with depression or feelings of hopelessness. People who have loss loved ones! Let’s face it, we can all look at the hardship and hopelessness all around us and start to feel lost, depressed, discouraged.

Or, we can come face-to-face with something else. Jesus is the only one that can help. Someone wrote me this quote the other day, “It may seem impossible, but God….”

God. Healer. Comforter. Prince of Peace. Deliverer. One who Sets Us Free. Mighty God.

There are many more, but these are the ones I am claiming for today….

It may seem impossible….but God!

God understands our loneliness. Our Grief. Our disappointment. Our fear. He reminds us with each name from the Bible to call on Him–He alone can comfort, protect and deliver us! Will you all join me to pray earnestly for healing for our country? A treatment? That God will stop this virus?

Well, this is a theater blog after all, right? So I’d like to end with a song that I’ve been thinking about.

This is from Fiddler on the Roof. It makes me cry every time I hear it.

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older,
When did they?

When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?

Sunrise sunset, sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly flow the days,
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers,
Blossoming even as they gaze…

Sunrise sunset, sunrise, sunset!
Swiftly fly the years,
One season following another,
Laden with happiness and tears…

My Mom and me. I think 2018?

Dear Father God,

They grow so fast. The days go quickly. Please let us see our families and enjoy the wonderful gifts that come from You. Please help us to understand our purpose here, when we can’t go out , and it seems like months before we even be able to worship together. How are we supposed to act? What are we supposed to do? We walk in places we have not walked before. Thank You for leading the way, because humanly it all seems impossible. But we know You are the Creator of all and nothing is impossible with you. We also know that you love us more than we can fathom and that you feel our pain during this time. We take comfort that as you wept at the grave of Lazarus that you feel our pain. We ask that you send the Holy Spirit to comfort us and give us strength.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you are coping and praying during this time.

If you think this might be a blessing to others please take time to follow and share.

Until next time,

Reba

artist, artistic vision, audience, backstage, christian blog, christian theater, directing, entertainment, family, Fear, hope, theater, theater education

Theater Through the Eyes of a Child-By Guest Blogger Kendra Jones

I am so pleased to share these thoughts from Kendra Jones. I met Kendra several years after Overshadowed began, and she instantly became a friend as well as a significant part of the company. She recently moved away, but her impact will stay with us for years to come!

                                           Theater Through the Eyes of a Child

It was unlike anything I had ever seen or experienced. My mom had planned a special date for the two of us. I knew this had to be a special occasion since she had me get all gussied up in my favorite dress and my Sunday shoes.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and I remember the glass-paned lobby feeling bright and warm as the sun streamed in through the windows. There were lots of other children there with their moms and dads. We walked from the lobby into a room like I had never been in before – their seats sloped up and there was a stage in the middle of the floor. My mom was taking me to my very first play.

At the time I probably didn’t fully grasp what a play was, but I do know I was in awe of every moment. From the time the play began, I was caught up in the story. It was the tale of “Hansel and Gretel.” I clearly recall the Father character with his rugged, lumberjack look, complete with full beard, plaid shirt, and suspenders. Hansel and Gretel were children! Just. Like. Me! Their journey through the magic forest to the witch’s house made of candy had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. When Hansel and Gretel and their Father were reunited at the end, their loving family embrace in the middle of the pink and purple illuminated stage is permanently etched in my mind. It was a true “happily ever after” moment! This experience created a life-long passion for theater in me.

Fast forward to 2009, when Reba and I had discussions about beginning our Kids and Family Series for Overshadowed. While all of Overshadowed’s shows are family-friendly, we felt it was critical to begin offering shows that would be targeted for a younger audience. Why? Because the earlier a child is exposed to the arts, the more likely they are to appreciate and engage in the arts as they grow. And the show I selected to begin our family series with was none other than my first foray into the theater…”Hansel and Gretel.”

Since that time, we have produced eleven shows in our Kids and Family Series. Each time, each show has become more precious than the last. We realize that the time and money you invest for your children is of great value to you, and we have strived to create more than just a production, but a true experience.

Watching this program develop, I have made the following observations about kids and the theater:

1. They want to become part of the story. As much as possible, we try to find moments within each show to engage the audience and allow it to become interactive. Admittedly the times I have enjoyed the most have been when it has happened organically. During a performance of “Hansel and Gretel,” as the witch was stealing the pebbles the children used to mark the path to return to home, a little boy loudly exclaimed, “Oh, no, no! NO! You bad witch! I’m gonna get you!” Good thing we were headed to intermission after that because everyone (audience, crew, and cast alike) erupted into uncontrollable laughter for the next several minutes!

2. They want the special occasion experience. We have seen grandparents come with the grandkids; Daddy/daughter dates; Mom and kids days out; group events with extended family and friends. More often than not, just like I was as a child, they are all dressed up in their finest. One time a father came with his daughter…he in a tuxedo, she in her prettiest dress. Not going to lie…that one made me tear up a bit.

3. They want the story to continue. After every performance the cast lines the hallway, still in costume, to greet the audience and take pictures. Quite frequently I have overheard children “expanding” the story as they engage with our cast members about what they would have done in a character’s situation, or how it should continue to play out.

4. They want to overcome their fears. Most every story has some kind of villainous character. It is in the nature of literature itself. We are always very cautious with our approach to the villains with a gentle hand, because we don’t want to create a fearful situation. But at the end of the day, a villain is still a villain. I always feel a little badly for our “villains” during the greeting time, as they are often left standing there with no children to greet them. After all, who do you want a big, warm hug from after visiting Narnia…the White Witch, or Aslan the Great Lion? After a production of “Alice in Wonderland,” I observed one of the most beautiful interactions. The White Queen (portrayed by Traci Cidlik) noticed a little girl watching her. Traci had figured the girl wanted to approach her, but being a villainous character, the girl was a little afraid. Traci knelt down on the floor and started talking to her. Slowly the distance between the two of them grew shorter as the girl began taking baby steps toward Traci. And before you knew it. The child threw her arms around Traci’s neck and gave her a hug, and wanted to take a picture with her.

Young or old, novice or experienced theater-goer, I hope I will continue to enjoy every theatrical experience as through the eyes of a child.

Suessical!
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Whatever you do today I hope it is magical!

What was the first play you ever saw? Do you have fond memories of it? I would love to hear about it!