Over the past several years I have had many friends tell me that they were doing an Advent Bible Study. Sometimes it was a self-guided study that they were tackling on their own. At other times they were reading an additional book or studying with a Bible study group. The point is that it has become quite “popular”.
I don’t usually do the trendy thing. I was years behind joining facebook and instagram and while I have a TikTok, but I really don’t have the foggiest idea what to do with it. I feel like I spend too much of my day seeing what is going on with my friends by checking out those platforms. So, in truth, I resisted the advent study.
Then, 2021 happened. I haven’t lost my faith, but I did lose my hope. I told my friends that I felt like Moses and that the only reason I was surviving was because they were holding up my arms like Aaron held up Moses’ in the wilderness. Thank you, friends.
Then, I saw on facebook that one of the writer’s that I follow was having an advent study. I joined the group and immediately began looking forward to the study.
Listen to what I just said! I began looking forward to it! Honestly, I haven’t looked forward to anything all year.
So, I went a step further. I started my own group as well! We are following the book, “Embracing Advent: Rediscovering Christmas in the Chaos.” I wasn’t sure how it would be received, but I knew I wanted to share this experience with some of my friends–many of them who prayed me through the wilderness.
We began our study on December 1st and we plan to read one chaper of Luke a day until we conclude on December 25 with Luke 25. We will also read one chapter of Jen Ludwig’s book.
I’m on day three and am so glad I did this.
Advent means “coming.” When we do an advent study we are preparing for the coming of this season. It’s more than reading one chapter of Luke a day. It’s spending time reading, praying and waiting.
Waiting. Do we all feel like we have done enough of that for the last two years? I’m pretty sure the children of Israel waited lots more than that for the birth of Christ. We have it so easy these days and waiting isn’t something that we are good at.
Did you know that the word “hope” in the BIble is sometimes translated “to wait for“? I never thought about the fact that waiting and hoping were so connected. I guess I like things to be taken care of or answered now…right now.
Jen Ludwig says in her book, “In order to actively find hope, hold on to hope, cling to hope and be anchored in hope: we need to be very deliberate in our patient waiting.” Did someone say patient???? UGH.
But listen to this promise:
“But those who HOPE in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
As we begin this Advent season, will you wait quietly for what the Lord is teaching?
I’m going to try.
What are you hoping for? I’d love to hear from you!
This week Jason Roy, lead singer of Building 429, sent out a video explaining why they wrote their new song, “Breath of God.“
He basically said that Christmas is traditionally a time we look forward to–a time that is usually filled with peace and rest. He went on to say that many of us have been touched with a great sorrow this year–a sorrow so deep that it is difficult to think of Christmas in the same way. He hoped that this song would bring peace and a hope for all of us to cling to.
Well, that truth resonated with me. I went to youtube immediately
I have listened to it several times daily since then. I’m claiming it for a life line this Christmas.
In honesty, I’ve been wondering how December will be. In June, when I got the text that changed my life-my whole world fell apart. I cried in sounds that I didn’t even know I could make. I didn’t know how I could go on, but with the encouragement of my daughter, somehow I got up and put one foot in front of the other. I know the prayers of others worked overtime to help me get to the place I am today. I’m thankful for those of you who prayed–even though you didn’t know what you where praying for. (For all of you now trying to look through past blogs to figure out what happened–I’m afraid I never told. It is too personal. The story is not mine to tell at this point. And yet, it has been what defined me for the past six months.)
And on top of all this, my mother was dying and did eventually pass away.
I knew God was there, but I couldn’t get through the pain to converse with Him.
You know when you are so close to someone that you can actually feel their breath? You have to be right next to them….nothing in between. I heard the words to this song and I knew that was what I was lacking. I NEED to have the Breath of God. I need Him to speak peace to me.
Lights, snow, Christmas trees, presents… it’s not enough. We need hope. We need the Holy Spirit.
The song asks God to speak in power to the spirit of fear. It asks God to remind us that He is here. It goes on to say that the stars in the sky remind us that He is faithful and indeed–it does.
In the Scripture: ειρήνη (eiríni): from the verb “to join”, peace, implies prosperity, one, peace, quietness, rest
Matthew Henry, in his commentary on Phil, describes this peace:
‘The peace of God, the comfortable sense of being reconciled to God, and having a part in his favor, and the hope of the heavenly blessedness, are a greater good than can be fully expressed. This peace will keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus; it will keep us from sinning under troubles, and from sinking under them; keep us calm and with inward satisfaction.”
I love the last part, it will keep us from sinking under our troubles and keep us calm with inward satisfaction.
God is a God of peace but we do not need to think that He is “resting”. The scripture promises us in Psalms 121:4 that he “will neither slumber nor sleep.” He is watching and caring for me and my pain and you and yours.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. “
God is our foundation and rock— the opposite of the chaos of trouble.
How do we get that peace? I think only when our communion with God is so close (we can feel the breath) that it guards against the internal and external threat to that peace.
Thank you, God, for holding me fast. Thank you for your word that doesn’t return void. Thank you for coming to save us. Please speak in power and bring those who have forgotten you to know you fully. Speak peace to my heart. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for music. Thank you for musicians who can be used to speak truth.
What do you think of this song? Is there a song you are claiming for this season?
I’m really not quite sure where to begin with this story. In this year of never ending painful happenings my mother has now peacefully entered heaven.
I tell this story in case it will help those of you who might go through something similar. I honestly cannot believe I was so naive about preparing for death or long term care but I was. In March, I received a call that my mom’s kidney failure had reached a point that if she didn’t agree to do dialysis she would need to go on hospice. They told me that maximum she would have two months to live. I really couldn’t believe it because at Christmas, mom had still seemed so strong, but I trusted the medical diagnosis.
I went to S.C. and tried to talk Mom into doing dialysis and even tried to tell her that she could change her mind if she didn’t like it, but she was convinced that this was going to be the way her story ended and that she was ok with it. She continued to do amazingly well making me think that the decision for hospice was rash and that there was still time to do dialysis. Every week hospice would call and report that there was no change in her numbers. Somewhere during that time my mom’s right arm started to jerk uncontrollably. It caused her embarrassment, and a great deal of unrest. She simply could not get peace or rest. The hospice staff told us it was a build up of toxins in her body because her kidneys weren’t flushing everything out.
We visited and talked and she always sounded happy and seemed to do well except for the jerking of the arm.
Then, I got a call from the manager of the independent living facility that mom was living at saying that she really wasn’t doing well and needed more help. I called mom and she sounded the best she had in months and I thought, “Ok. I’ll go visit this weekend. Maybe it isn’t an emergency.” Several hours later the manager called me again and told me that mom had fallen.
I made arrangements to get there as soon as possible, but in the meantime, my daughter, a friend, and actually the manager (who seriously is a hero in this story) went to visit her and face timed with me. Mom looked terrible. They couldn’t decide if she had a stroke or not and told me I had to put her in hospice in the hospital and that she had less than a week to live.
I was frantic and couldn’t decide if that was what was right. Mom never wanted to die in a hospital! What should I do? I called back hours later and they told me that she was doing better–in no immediate risk of dying and when could I come get her…..what???? How does a story change that quickly? I mean, great! She is doing better, but….the emotions running through me were pretty wild.
I realize between what the manager had said to me the day she fell and now what has transpired at the hospital that she will no longer be able to stay by herself. What are the options?
I had always thought that assisted living was the step after independant living. When I had originally looked for places for mom–all the assisted living places had nurses at the end of the hall. So I thought that instead of a nursing home this was the next step.
Well, I was wrong. You have to be able to still do many things for yourself before they will take you. For example, feed yourself, dress yourself, help get yourself to the bathroom etc. In short, if someone had taken the time to explain all of this to me months before, she should have been in assisted living instead of hospice. Seriously, no one would take her. (I guess once they let you in they will care for you, but they won’t take you if you can’t do certain things.)
One day I talked to someone early in the morning who said as long as she could feed herself they would take her. I was very honest with what my mom could do or not do and begged her to please not waste my time so I could move on to someone else if they wouldn’t take her. They told me they would come evaluate her at 10 the next morning. At 3:30 the nurse walked in and I could tell by the look on her face that they would say no. I explained what I had been told and she just shook her head. They didn’t officially call me until 6:30 that night to tell me no. I really unleashed. I was angry that they told me one thing, but it wasn’t true and that I was missing spending valuable time with my mom having to navigate a system that had rules no one tells you about. She mentioned another place that might take mom. She said she had a friend over there. I told her if she wanted to redeem herself in my eyes she would call that friend and find out if I would be wasting my time to visit. She promised she would.
Here were my options they way I saw it.
1) Move my mom to Chicago. I was worried about how she would make the trip. Would it be too hard for her? Then, how would she react to it? The reason she didn’t live here already is that she refused to go that far north. Hiring an ambulance to bring her up here was astronomical.
2. I move down to S.C. to stay with her indefinitely. That was a hard choice, but the one I was leaning towards. I knew I would have to probably shut down Overshadowed and at this point the doctors are telling us it could be months.
3. My aunt said she wanted to take her into her home. I thought about it and might have considered it more, but I just thought I should be the one to take care of her and have that time.
4. Hire full-time care. Thinking about it–but found out that it would be about 16k a month. I wondered if I could arrange people to help me and pay them in shifts to make it more doable.
5. Nursing Home. 9k a month. and I just felt like mom wouldn’t say it, but that she would really resent me doing that. It would have broken my heart.
I really had a melt-down while I was thinking this through. I got so much great advice from many great friends, but it was so difficult. One friend said, “God will show you the next step and you will get clarity.” I wrestled with God all night.
The next morning I asked the representative from the company that had “led me on”if she had contacted her friend and if they thought it was still worth it for me to visit. She replied “Yes, Go ahead.”
When I walked in full of hope I started with the fact that I was sure Brooke had contacted her and told her about my mom. She looked at me quizzically and said, “No?”
At this time I felt like I needed to hit something. The representative from the current company said, “Let’s talk. Tell me everything from the begining. ” Somewhere in my rant she stopped me and asked me why the case worker at the hospital had not listed my mom on the NIV list.
My mouth dropped open in stupidity as I asked what she was talking about. She asked me why my mom wasn’t doing rehab and said that it was standard for people to go through rehab after a hospital visit. Rehab then gets them strong enough so that they can go to the coveted assisted living. She told me medicare would pay for 20 days which would give me time to either pack and go live in S.C. or make arrangements to bring my mom up here. She told me to get my case worker on the phone. At that point she talked my case worker through putting my mom on the list and at the end of the call I had 7 offers of people who would take my mom! Seven. After days of begging people to take mom–now people were asking me to take her. This saint of a women wasn’t done. She gave me the name of a facility that she would send her mom to if necessary and told me to head over there before I did anything else.
After spending time at the rehab center they told me that my next job was to get my mom evaluated by a therapist and according to what that therapist said they would take my mom. They had a case of COVID so they told me to go home and come back to see my mom in ten days.
I went back to the hospital where the therapist got my mom to stand and take a step. Finally, she got to get out of bed. They had been telling her she couldn’t for almost a week at that point! I noticed that her arm was completely at rest. I asked the Doctor about it and he said perhaps a medicine had been causing the twitching. What????? (They had taken her off all her medicines because basically they were just waiting for her to die.)
I honestly felt the clarity that I was doing the right thing. I told my mom that my daughter was going to be there in the next day or so. I told her they were going to move her to rehab the next day and that I would be back the following week.
She looked at me and said, “I love you, sug. (Short for sugar) Be safe.”
The hospital called me in the middle of the night to tell me that she had passed away.
The Lord is my Shepherd.
I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Am I angry about several things that happened in my mom’s final days? Yes, but I read this passage and see my mom walking with Jesus, her shepherd. He is leading her beside green fields and flowing water. She is not afraid. God had prepared a table for her and she is forever with Him.
Thank you, God, for your faithfulness and your answer for where my mom was going to live and who was going to take care of her. Give her a big hug from me.
For those of you who might be in my shoes one day. Don’t trust that everyone has your best interests at heart. Find out now what each of these medical branches does in your area and plan how it is going to get paid for. If it isn’t too late I understand that there is a long term health care policy that is available.
In memory of Rachel W. Ruffin. Beloved mom and sister and Grandmother.
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:
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.
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?
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
“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 Musicaland 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 newmusical 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
“For I have satiated the weary soul and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.”
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in me.”
“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.”
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.
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…
One last thought: Corrie Ten Boom said, “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.”
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:
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!
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.
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!
Yes, it is supposed to be Spring. Yes, the temperature is 41 degrees outside right now.
We have a thing in our house. We get past Decemember and start thinking about going somewherewarm in January or February for a couple of weeks. After we get back from that trip Chuck starts to say that we only have to make it one more month and then we’ve made it through another winter.
For some reason that statement always bothers me. I know that every year it snows it April. I know that we have to make it more than one month. Winter isn’t over and somehow that false hope makes the last month or so of winter almost intolerable for me.
There are days of warm sunshine….days of hope, but some days I feel like the weather is just teasing me–making me enjoy the hope of spring only to shower me with hail and snow the week after.
There is something about the cloudy, dreary, windy days in the spring that seem so much more dismal than the same type of day in the fall.
And there you have it….I stuggle with faith and hope in the season of spring.
Some people aren’t like that. They realize that into every season some rain must fall and they take the warm days and cherish them. They know that the warm is eventually coming.
Others see the winter as endless and depressing.
Is there a possibility that our spiritual life is like that as well?
Sometimes we are in the slough of despond and other times our faith is so strong that we know God will bring the next season.
Maybe you are in a time now where you just can’t see the end of the journey you are on. Maybe you feel the hail beating down on you and the wind blowing you so hard that you find it difficult to keep your footing. Perhaps you have stopped trusting in God and started to try to take matters into your own hands–trying to control what you can. And just like we hope that spring is coming-you hope that things are going to get better.
And when it doesn’t–the pain becomes unbearable. You decide maybe it is better not to feel, not to hope, not to believe.
When things get tough, when faith grows weak, when God seems far away…what should you do?
Press On. Lean in to God. Search His word for His promises. Pray.
Watch for all the ways God answers prayers. Celebrate the baby steps!
Don’t hide away, but surround yourself with God’s word and friends that will encourage you through the days.
For I promise you….Spring is coming. It is okay to hope. Even when you don’t see signs of spring God promises us that He is in control and He is working.
Psalms 104:19 – “He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down.”
Isaiah 55:10–11 “For as the rain cometh down, And the snow from heaven, And returneth not thither, But watereth the earth, And maketh it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: It shall not return unto me void, But it shall accomplish that which I please, And it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”
Daniel 2:21 – “And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:”
Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To everything there is a season.”
Today I’m going to go outside and lift my eyes towards heaven. I’m going to remember all the things God has done for me and all the things I have seen Him do for others. And if I have to wear my coat for a few more weeks…it’s okay. It will make the warmth even better when I get to enjoy it!
Do you struggle with any of the seasons? I would love to hear about it!
In Matthew 27:55 it tells us that there were women at the crucifixion of Christ “looking on from afar” it also says that they had “followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him.” Those named in the different Gospels include Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons–Salome. In John 19:25 it says that the two of them were with Mary, the mother of Jesus who stood by the cross. Perhaps they were not allowed to come closer at first? Or perhaps they were afraid? But as time went on they came close enough to Jesus that He could speak to them.
Where were the apostles? Remember Peter? He denied Christ three times just as Jesus said he would. Most of the apostles fled and hid.
But these women had more courage than the disciples themselves…these women stood close and watched.
The mouth knows not how to express what sorrow they must have felt as they saw their Lord betrayed. How their hearts must have broken as they watched Him suffer. How can we conceive the hopelessness they felt as the world grew darker?
I know not what was in Mary’s head as she stood at the cross, but perhaps it went something like this:
She wasn’t sure how long it had been since she slept. Her eyes were swollen from all the tears and she was weary. The procession to the cross was full of emotion she did not understand. There was dread and excitement. The people began to cry out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” She saw the soldiers and someone carrying the cross, and then…her son. “What was that on his head? There was blood…was it thorns?” She gasped as she saw the open wounds on his back. “My Lord, I do not know how to pray.” She continued to watch as they climbed up the hill and listened as the crowd grew to a maddening mob. “Crucify Him!”
The soldiers took Jesus and laid Him on the cross. She turned away as she realized they were going to hammer nails into his hands and feet to hold Him to the cross. When the pounding stopped she looked again and watched as the soldiers raised the cross and set it in place. Tradition held that He would need to hang there until His death.
“How long have I been standing here? It seems forever and yet time also seems to stand still. I can stand. I will not fall. I will be strong for Him…although He does not need me. I need Him. My Son. My Messiah.
Thirty-three years. It went so fast. Lord, I could never forget the angel that told me I would bare this son! I still don’t understand why I was chosen! I should have been afraid, but somehow You comforted me as the angel blessed me with the news of Jesus. Joseph. How amazing that he understood and became such a wonderful earthly father. The trip to Bethlehem. Did it really happen thirty-three years ago? The star. The stable. The shepherds. “
Mary forgets where she is for a moment and smiles at the thought of Jesus at twelve. “We had gone to Jerusalem to pay our taxes and had started home. We traveled a whole day before we realized he was gone. We had to go all the way back to Jerusalem to find him. Finally after three days we found Him in the temple sitting among the teachers. I didn’t understand at that time what He meant when he answered us, ‘Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?'”
She looks up at her son hanging on the cross and her smile fades. Mothers always want to save their children from pain and protect them. She shakes her head. “Oh, Father, Your son has never done harm to anyone! And now he hangs…nailed to a cross! What was the crime? Jesus who taught scriptures, healed the sick and even….think of it…raised the dead. What was the crime? He said He was the son of God.”
Mary reaches over and grasps the hand of her best friend, Salome, who is lost in her own thoughts. She catches the eye of John who stayed by her side. Then she looked up at her son again just in time to hear Him say,
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” She also heard him say to John, “John, behold your Mother.” and then to her, “Mother, behold your son!” Tears filled her eyes again. How could He be thinking of her while in such pain??
“My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?”
“Soon, God, please do not let Him suffer longer.” Mary watched as Mary Magdalene stepped forward, watching in disbelief. Salome reached for Mary Magdalene and the three of them held each other close sharing their raw emotions and comforting each other in a way only those who share pain can.
“Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. It is finished.“
Mary thought, “Finished? No more beatings or death or pain or suffering. Finished.” And in the next horrific moment a soldier plunged his spear into Jesus’ side and water and blood flowed down his side.
She watched as Jesus’ body was lowered from the cross. “Where will they take Him?” She listened as Joseph of Arimathea offered a tomb. She watched as he and Nicodemus gently lay Jesus in the tomb.
“Too soon, O Lord! I cannot make sense of it all! The angel told me He would be King of Kings! Savior to our people! But, He’s gone. Hope is gone.”
As the sun sets it begins Sabbath so they all need to return home. Home that will never be the same again.
It was difficult for Mary and others to understand what Jesus had tried to teach them– for the exciting thing about His death is that He did not stay dead, but arose from the dead on the third day. For this reason, hopelessness is turned into hope and despair is turned into joy. It is not the end, in fact, it is the beginning!
They only needed to wait a few days to discover the rest of the story.
What about you? Do you know that Jesus is alive today interceding to the Father for us?
What about you? Are you able to stand firm and keep your eyes of Jesus even when you do not understand?
What about you? Are you able to find hope in “the Father’s business”?
What about you? Do you follow Jesus at a distance? Or do you have the courage to draw close and make others aware of your faith?
What about you? Will you run to tell others the joyful news, “He is risen! Let us worship Him.”
One interesting fact to note. The women didn’t cave to fear. They didn’t run away. They were first at the tomb on Sunday. Nothing could keep them away, not fear of death or punishment from soldiers.