Anger: the Bad, the Ugly, and the Useful

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.                                                                                                                                                                                            James 1:19-20

I don’t know how I got into this group on Facebook. It seemed that one day I just started getting notifications of their posts. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was a group of very angry people. They posted the kinds of things that would get your blood boiling, and they wanted these photos, articles, and quotes to go viral. I was routinely admonished to “pass this on to all your contacts!” My usual reaction was to wonder, Why?

Sometimes the post would be a scandalous photo of a well-known person. The most recent showed a very familiar face between two unidentifiable people in white hoods, with a cross in flames in the background. The caption said, “_____ _____  at a KKK cross burning.” (As if we’re too dumb to figure out what the picture was set up to look like.)

It took less than a minute of digging to find out that the picture was a fake, one of many scandalous photos taken by a professional photographer, whose specialty is finding actors who look like famous people and photographing them in compromising poses. These pictures are sent out over the internet, knowing that they will be passed along at lightning speed by thousands of people who don’t bother to check their sources. (Why would they check it out, if the picture “proves” their own personal biases?) These people are angry, and they want to make others as enraged as they are – as many as possible.

Another post quoted a famous person in American history, saying something so despicable that I doubted any reasonable, sober person would have said such a thing. But even if he had said it, I questioned the relevancy of the quote, since this person has been dead for over two hundred years! I seriously doubt we’re going to hold him accountable at this point.

But then one day the group posted a video that sounded an alarm. The video showed a young man with a gun, who gave an impassioned rant about how much he hated black people. He ended the rant by firing his gun, accompanied by an obscenity aimed at black people, complete with the “N” word. A note from the member of the group who posted it said, “This needs to be passed around until it reaches the authorities!”

Pass it around? Are you kidding me? I thought. And I did what would seem the reasonable thing; I contacted the authorities and at their request, sent it directly to them. They called me back the next day, agreeing that the video was deeply concerning and wanting to know where I got it. I told them about the group, and they asked me to contact them and try to find out the source of the video. I told the group that the authorities were on it, and asked where it had come from.

(At last! An opportunity to do something!)

Silence.

I sent a private message to the individual who had posted it and asked who had sent it to her: no answer. I asked a third time. Nothing.

The next day I saw another post from the same group, designed to make people angry about something else they could do nothing about. Meanwhile, here was something we could do something about, maybe preventing another mass shooting, and these angry people were doing nothing to help the authorities catch him and stop him!

Now I was angry.

We all know the kinds of havoc anger can cause in our bodies: indigestion, heartburn, ulcers, high blood pressure, hypertension, heart attacks, stroke, the list goes on. It can also do damage to relationships, neighborhoods, work places, classrooms, even nations.

And yet, anger can be a good thing. History gives us many examples of people who have made a positive difference in the world because they became angry enough about an injustice to do something and make a difference.

So, anger can be damaging, or it can be energizing. When is it okay to be angry?

I have a simple rule that I try to adhere to: If I can do something to change the situation for the better, I should let my anger motivate me to make the needed change.

If, on the other hand, I can’t do anything about it – if my anger will only hurt me and others – I should turn away and focus on an area where I can contribute something positive.

If the cause of my anger is something I have heard that is questionable, I should find out the truth and make it known wherever the rumor has been sown, especially if people have been misinformed. (I am generally not popular with gossips.)

If the source of anger is someone who is out of my reach, I will pray that God will change the person’s heart. (If this seems like a cop-out to you, you don’t know the power of prayer.) And yes, I have prayed for the young man in the video. I really hope that by now he has been apprehended and is getting the help he needs. Above all, I pray that his heart will be convicted of his sins, and that he will repent and let Christ save him from the old,  sinful, hate-filled life and give him new birth.

In other words, Jesus is the answer (as always).

Prayer: Father, You have created us with the capacity to be angry when we see injustice, to be fearful when we sense danger, and to be compassionate when we see someone hurting. Let our emotions be directed by Your Spirit, that we would channel them in the direction that will be helpful, not hurtful. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

 

 

 

A Recovered Alcoholic’s Perspective

They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”                       II Peter 2:19

Recently as I read a blog post regarding the value of feedback, I saw a comment from a fellow blogger,  primerecovery.wordpress.com/ who said he didn’t receive a lot of feedback. I went to check out his blog, thinking I would offer a fellow writer some encouragement, and ended up getting much more than I expected to give. This post makes some excellent points, based on personal experience. As for being persuasive, let’s just say that he made me want to give up drinking – and I don’t drink!

[From “Prime Recovery, Learning to Live Again” by Ceponatia]

Recovery has brought so many gifts into my life that I forget to acknowledge the things that it’s removed. This morning, I’ve been thinking about the negative people, places, things, and feelings that are no longer a part of my life in sobriety. The list is quite long, so I’ll just touch on a few in this post. I hope my sober allies can identify with this list and if you can think of anything in your own life that sticks out, feel free to share! We might have it in common.

Toxic Friends
For years, I accepted “easy” friendships. Do you know what I mean? Real friendships require that you put in work to benefit the people you love and vice versa. Easy friendships are when you happen to fall in with people and there is rarely any emotional or intellectual connection… you’re just lost together. Often they’re cynics, complaining constantly about their problems. I received no benefit from these friendships; if anything, they dragged me down. When I got sober, I cut all of these people loose and never looked back. A few of them have reached out recently and not only have their lives not improved, but they’ve also gotten worse in many cases. I’ve no doubt that if I had continued to spend time with them, I’d be drinking again by now.

Anxiety Attacks
Alcohol is a depressant. We all know that. I’m also a big coffee and soda drinker (pop to those of us in the midwest). During my time in the trenches, I had a cycle where I’d get savagely drunk one day and then drink energy drinks and soda to try to perk myself up during my hangover. The combined effects of caffeine and alcohol withdrawal would frequently give me massive panic attacks that could not be stopped because they were chemical instead of mental. My hands would go numb, I’d start slurring my speech like I was still drunk, and I could feel my heart beating at what felt like 200BPM. It felt awful. But, if I didn’t drink caffeine, I’d be too exhausted and depressed to do well at my job which I needed to fill my alcohol and gaming habits.

Obesity and Weakness
McDonald’s and I were best friends while I was a drunkard. Between the ages of 26 and 37, at which age I finally quit drinking, I went from 155 to 220lbs… pretty rapidly. Since I basically sat on my butt playing video games all day while drinking, I also wasn’t in great physical shape. Truly, the only reason I had any upper body strength at all was that I managed a restaurant which involved putting away heavy cases of meat and produce. All-day I’d sweat alcohol, reeking of rotten ethanol. My beer gut hung over my pants as my underwear carved a daily indentation into my corpulent body. I had bigger breasts than some of the women I’d dated! The month I quit drinking I lost 15lbs immediately, even though I was consuming candy and carbs like a madman. I’m now a comfy 178, much stronger than I was, and my A-cup breasts went away.

Being Shattered by Poverty
In fairness, I do make a little bit more money than I did when I was drinking, but not significantly more. Even so, I now pay my bills with ease and can still afford to have some fun whereas before, I could barely afford food for the week after the money I spent on alcohol. I used to tell people that I didn’t know how I could possibly be considered “above the poverty line” because I never had money. Now that I see how much money I spent on alcohol and its related costs like binge drunk-eating and impulse buys (around $600 a week) it’s fairly plain. I’m not perfect… I still have impulse purchases and sometimes I indulge a little too much on fast food! But it’s far less frequent than it used to be and I actually put money into savings every week for the first time in my life.
I can’t imagine drinking again. Every time a small craving comes up, which I consider more a feeling of boredom than wanting to drink, the actual thought of giving in and drinking makes me physically sick to my stomach. I’ve said that before and it’s still true. It happened just yesterday… I walked by the alcohol aisle in the supermarket and thought back to what it was like to sit in front of my computer and drink a whole case of beer and I felt almost a dry heave building in the back of my throat (sorry if that’s gross it’s just true!). I don’t miss it. I’ll never miss it. Life is going too well.

[Back to “Seeking Divine Perpsective”]

We all struggle with something, it doesn’t have to be alcohol. I hope and pray that this “view from the other side” has given you something to be grateful for, or motivation to ask for God’s help in making whatever changes are needed in your own life.

Prayer: Lord, You know that every one of us was born with a sin nature that has led us into troubles of all kinds and kept us from the relationship You want with us. Thank You for Your patience with our frailties and Your willingness to help us up, if we will only trust and obey You. Help us today, in Jesus’ name. Amen

 

If You Don’t Mind My Asking …

One thing I was not expecting when I started blogging was how the blogging community is … well, a community! Having followers in other countries was something I hadn’t expected, and I get geeked at the thought of connecting with people all over the world through my writings and theirs. Many of the places I hear from are places I will likely never visit in person, but it’s good to know that distance doesn’t keep us from sharing our ideas and inspiration. I’ve learned a lot in the past year and a half, and I feel as though my global perspective has broadened quite a bit, thanks to you.

I want to ask all of you a favor, because I would like to have a mental picture of how my followers are spread over the globe. Some of you have your location clearly stated on your home page, others are a little harder to figure out. (I just found out that a blogger I assumed was American all this time is actually in South Africa!)

So, if you are willing, please let me know where you are writing from. You don’t have to be that specific, unless you want to be. If you’re in the U.S., you might just tell me what state you’re in. If you’re in another country, you can just tell me what country, or be as specific as you want to be. If you’re uncomfortable posting where you are, feel free to email me (bascha3870@yahoo.com). And if you aren’t comfortable telling me where you live, that’s fine, too. I don’t want to be “creepy,” as my kids would say. I just want to know my blogging community a little better. (I can see myself getting O.C.D. about it and covering a map with little pins showing where my followers are. … Yeah, I’m weird.)

I love dialoguing with people in faraway places, but I also love finding out I have followers who live close to where I am, and that there’s a possibility we might actually run into one another sometime – or meet intentionally.

For those of you in the Great Lakes area of the U. S. or Ontario, if you are anywhere near Port Huron, Michigan, around September 21, I want to invite you to an “author’s event” – a catered luncheon, speeches by guest authors (including yours truly), and an opportunity to meet, ask questions, purchase books, and get said books signed. I attended last year, and the sheer diversity of authors made it a very interesting occasion. (I wrote about the event and about an epiphany I had there in my post “Who’s Prejudiced Now?” – October 12 of last year.) I think I came home with a copy of every book that was sold there. Who knows? If you live close by, maybe you could end up being one of the featured authors next year!

Port Huron is a beautiful town about 50 miles north of Detroit, Michigan, on the shores of Lake Huron (at the base of the “thumb”) and across the Blue Water Bridge from Sarnia, Ontario. It’s also about 60 miles east of Flint, Michigan. The author’s event is at the Griswold Street Baptist Church, 1232 Griswold Street, Port Huron, and will go from noon to 3:00(ish).

If you are near Grand Rapids, Michigan – on the other side of the state – around October 8, consider attending the “Prologue Writer’s Night” at Baker Book House, 2768 E Paris Ave SE. I’ll be speaking at 7:00 about “Harvesting the Stories Around Us.” Following a 20-minute talk, there will be a writing time until 10:00. If you come earlier in the day, you can meet me, as I will be signing copies of my first four books from 9:00 A.M. until 1:00 P.M. I would love to meet some fellow bloggers, especially ones that I feel I already know! This event was set up by a former student of mine, who now works with Baker Books. I’m sure she would love to meet some of you, and of course, it’s always nice to get together with other writers.

If you are able to attend either of the Michigan events, please drop me an email (bascha3870@yahoo.com) and let me know. I’ll get back to you with more specifics. The people putting on the luncheon on the 21st would like reservations to be in by August 31, if possible.

If you are too far away to attend either of these, of course I understand.

Again, I am thrilled to have such a broad circle of friends – and I do consider many of you my friends. You have shared pieces of your lives with me and allowed me to share pieces of mine with you. Some of us have prayed for one another on occasion, and that is certainly my definition of “friend.”

Blessings, and I hope to see some of you soon.

Annie

PS If there’s a name you like to be addressed by that isn’t in your blogging title, let me know that, too, so I’m not just calling you “hey you.”

PPS. I am Ann, or Annie (or “Mom” or “Nana”), in Kentucky half the year, Michigan the other half. (You can probably guess which half. 😉 )

 

 

 

 

Knocking Down the Wall of Racism, One Brick at a Time

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.              Romans 12:21

One of the things I miss about my dad is his self-deprecating sense of humor, which would come out at random times and have the whole room laughing. Or just the passenger in his car.

At the end of a brief visit during my freshman year in college, Dad was driving me back to the airport. We came to an intersection where we had to stop but the cross traffic did not. It was a busy time of day, and cars sped by, with seemingly no one willing to sacrifice a few seconds to let us on. After about five stressful minutes, Dad muttered under his breath, “Come on, somebody …!”

Just then, a black man slowed his car down, smiled at Dad, and motioned to him to go ahead. Dad smiled back, waved a “thank you,” and pulled out. After a moment of silent smirking on my part, I heard Dad mutter in mock disgust, “How’d’ya like that? Forty years of prejudice, shot to hell.”

If my father were alive today, he would be over 100 years old. He grew up in a time and way of life that might be called “racist” by today’s standards, but I have never known a sweeter man. Dad was one of three boys, raised on an “farm” – a large lot with a pond, some chickens, a vegetable garden, and an occasional random creature, such as an orphaned baby bear and an alligator, which wouldn’t have been unusual in Florida, but this was Missouri. (Don’t ask.)

My grandparents had “hired help,” which I’ve come to understand were more like members of the family. My grandmother would discuss dinner options with her cook, who told her it didn’t matter how many chickens they prepared, the boys would eat everything in sight anyway. According to family lore, one day after a rainstorm, the chickens lay around looking as though they had all drowned. The cook told Granny that they weren’t dead, admonishing her to hang them on the clothes line by their feet. Granny followed her advice. Sure enough, after dangling in the sunshine for a while, the chickens dried off, perked up, and began flapping and protesting.

A generation later, my parents had a maid named Vester, who worked for my mom from the time I was about five. (I remember hiding from my sister’s wrath behind Vester’s skirt, and her ordering Susie to be nice to her little sister.)

Vester was the first one in the family to know that Marty and I were engaged. As it was a week before Susie’s wedding, after the initial silent squeals and hugs, she advised me regarding the best time to tell my stressed-out parents. Vester traveled all the way from St. Louis to Michigan to attend the wedding – not as a caterer, but as an honored guest. I will never forget how beautiful she looked in her royal blue kaftan.

Four years later Vester was the first to know that Joanna was on the way, not because I told her, but because she’d had a dream about a child in the woods. When she had asked who it was, a Voice had told her, That’s Ann’s little girl. 

Although Vester was nearly as old as my father, after my mother’s death she kept “working for him” (taking care of him). And Dad took care of her, in the only way he was able in those last years, by giving gifts to her and her family. When he could no longer drive, he gave his practically-new luxury car to her grandson, who was a chauffeur. Vester stood in Dad’s room at the assisted living facility and gave a tearful speech about not waiting until someone’s funeral to give them flowers. “You gave me my flowers today.”

After Dad had passed away, my sister and I kept in touch with Vester and her daughters during her last days. I remember visiting her in her home and seeing many familiar things that I recognized as having belonged to my mother, and even my grandmother. (Vester had more heirlooms than we did!) Her devotion to our family was so profound that my youngest daughter Kelly and I traveled from Michigan to attend her funeral at a church we had never been to, in a part of St. Louis we had never seen, full of people we had never met. Vester’s daughters excitedly introduced us to almost everyone there, and almost everyone we met fairly gushed about how much Vester loved our family. There was no talk of race or economic status, only talk of God, grace, and the devotion of people who genuinely loved one another.

As an adult, I have enjoyed deep friendships with people of different ages, races, religious traditions, nationalities, and backgrounds. I have learned a lot from them all, including that practically every individual I encounter has the potential of becoming a close friend. It keeps life interesting.

I was sharing the anecdote about the intersection with another blogger, and it occurred to me that the black man on the busy street had the answer to racism – kindness! He wasn’t glaring at Dad, pointing a finger and calling him a racist. He was treating him as he himself wanted to be treated. And while admittedly there are people and situations that are too far gone to respond to kindness, attacking a racist is not going to change him, either. Hateful behavior only drives prejudices deeper. (Why do we even have to state this obvious truth?)

What would happen if we treated everyone with kindness and respect, even those we perceive aren’t worthy of it? (Are we worthy?) Who knows, we may see more people’s attitudes change for the better – more “years of prejudice, shot to hell.”

Prayer: Lord, open our hearts and minds to Your image in every person we encounter, and help us to resemble You by loving them as You do, in Your name. Amen.

The Ballad of Narnia

Teach then to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Deuteronomy 11:19

One of the perks of being retired is being able to spend an extended time in our family summer home, up north and away from the oppressive heat. Of course, this is the season where everyone here has family visiting from the hotter climates, and we’re no exception. Children and grandchildren have filled out house with fun and shrieks and giggles and sand and damp towels. Evenings are different from evenings a generation ago. We have a TV now, and they have their devices, and when we’re all gathered inside for the evening, it’s hard to peel the kids away from the screens. But I have fond memories of nights when their parents were little, snuggled up together in bed or in front of the fireplace, reading our summer books – mainly The Chronicles of Narnia. I think it was about five years in a row we read them each summer. There are seven books in the series, so that was enough to fill our summer evenings with fauns, centaurs, unicorns, dwarfs, Marshwiggles, Dufflepuds, and of course, the wonderful talking Lion, Aslan, who ruled over it all.

I also remember singing to my children as they were going to sleep, and I would often try out my original songs on them. I guess it was inevitable that I write a song about Narnia.

The Ballad of Narnia

Peer inside the wardrobe door, and see what you will find;                                                                 If it be that Aslan calls, you’ll leave this world behind                                                                        And step inside another realm, envisioned in a dream,                                                                    Where fantasies are very real, but not quite what they seem.

Narnia, fair Narnia, O where do you come from?                                                                                   Spoken from the Lion’s mouth before time had begun?                                                                         Narnia, dear Narnia, you seem to call to me                                                                                            To come and be the true creation I was meant to be.

Gaze into the winter skies and see the wonders there;                                                                           The Narnian stars are huge in size, their beauty bright and rare.                                                         And when upon the peaceful snow they shine their friendly light,                                                     Tiny hoof prints tell of fauns who danced one moonlit night.

Hear a tale of long ago, when evil ruled the land,                                                                                        When all of Narnia lay in snow beneath a witch’s hand,                                                                         How children from another realm arrived amid the strife.                                                               The lion Alslan saved the kingdom, though it cost his life!

Narnia, dear Narnia! He must have loved you so,                                                                                          To make himself the victim of more hate than we could know;                                                       Narnia, dear Narnia, now was it worth the pain?                                                                                     He must have known he’d given more than he could ever gain.

Gather up your courage, for there’s danger in the air,                                                                                And all who love the Lion must for battle now prepare;                                                                     It is a war of wrong or right – there is no neutral ground –                                                               And every good and honest creature now is honor-bound.

Take up your sword, dear child, for it is time for us to fight                                                                     The evil forces lurking in the shadows of the night;                                                                               But have no fear – the Lion himself is fighting at your side,                                                             With golden mane a-flying, and his great jaws open wide!

Narnia, dear Narnia! This war’s already won!                                                                                           For Aslan’s royal face is shining like the noonday sun.                                                                        Narnia, dear Narnia! He came to set you free!                                                                                    He’s given death the final blow, and you the victory!

You must go now, back into the world where you belong,                                                                        But Narnia lives within your heart; she’s an eternal song.                                                                 And Aslan will be with you, though he will not look the same,                                                       For here we call Him “Jesus,”                                                                                                                                                               and He’s calling you, by name.*

Prayer: Lord Jesus – Lion of Judah, our Savior – we marvel at Your love for us, that You would give Your life as a ransom for us. However the story is told, it’s still the greatest story of all. Thank You for the privilege of telling the story to our children, and our children’s children. May it always be in our hearts, in every generation.

*”The Ballad of Narnia” copyright 1991 Ann Aschauer

 

Being the Answer

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.                                                                                                                                                                                                             I Thessalonians 5:11

Sunday afternoon I was at the local yacht club, where the biggest gathering of the year was taking place. The annual brunch was over (I had been at church, so missed that part.), and the races were taking place.

I should probably explain that by “yacht club,” I mean a fenced-in yard with a dock and a building smaller than most houses. There are two restrooms, a mini-kitchen, and a sort of “all-purpose room” with a bookshelf, ping-pong table, and glass case full of t-shirts, caps, and mugs with the yacht club insignia. On the counter there’s usually a pot of coffee. We used to have a phone, but sometimes strangers would call saying “We’re coming into your area Thursday night and need to reserve a slip for our yacht. We’d also like to make reservations for dinner.” Whoever answered the phone (usually a kid in swim trunks) would say, “Um … we don’t have ‘slips,’ but we’re having a pot luck this Saturday …”

There’s no yacht club phone any more. Just a Facebook page.

Sunday I saw people there that I had never met and some I knew well. Others I had met but hadn’t seen in ten or eleven months, maybe a decade, with their kids who had shot up and were suddenly full grown people. They were gathered to race their Sunfish – little sailboats that hold one or two sailors. The boats were crowded together, bobbing over what used to be beach (lots of rain this year), and the race course was on the dry erase board. The races had been postponed the day before due to the weather – or the anticipation of bad weather – but the day had turned out fine after all. (Hey, this is Michigan.) So Sunday there were five races rather than two.

“Wow, that’s a lot of races,” I said to a woman. She looked vaguely familiar, but if we had met, it had been years. After a few more words of small talk I asked her name. She reminded me, and we proceeded to “catch up.” As is often the case with my generation of women, we landed on the topic of grandchildren and the joys of being “Nana,” or “Grammy,” or Meemaw,” or whatever a creative or verbally challenged grandchild comes up with.

At one point we were talking about movies the kids love, and as I told her how my daughter Kelly used to love “Snow White,” I told her about the day I came into the room on my way to fold laundry just in time to see the Prince carrying Snow White off to his castle to be his bride, how the castle was in the sky, and how I almost dropped my basket of clothes as I realized that the whole Gospel was in that story. (For details, see “Snow White: A Parable,” posted September 14, 2018.) I wasn’t sure why I was sharing this, as I didn’t know if she even knew what I meant by “gospel,” but suddenly I saw her face light up.

What followed was for me a little foretaste of heaven, sharing stories with a fellow believer. While the people around us were focused on sails, wind direction, fouls, protests, and who would be first to cross the finish line, we were telling each other about answered prayers and the fun of living a life waiting to see what God does next. It was such an unexpected encounter in that environment that we were laughing at things that would probably not seem funny to an outsider, but the pleasure of having found a “sister” was just too much to contain.

I’m not sure how long we had been talking when my new friend began to tell me something, hesitated, then apparently decided to go ahead and tell me.

“This morning I asked God if He would send me someone, a friend, that would encourage me. – And here you are! We looked at each other, and again broke into happy laughter. “Yes, He does that, doesn’t He?” We were both encouraged.

I proceeded to tell her about the time I was at college doing a short term in a school where I’d arrived knowing no one. During my “devotions” I had asked God to show me who the Christians were so I could have some friendships that would encourage me. Immediately, I’d heard a knock at the door, and a beautiful young lady, wearing a cross and carrying Bible had said sheepishly, “This may sound weird, but would you like to have devotions with me?” She had been missing her roommate, who had always had morning devotions with her, and who’d been away for short term. As this young lady had been walking down the hall in the dorm, telling the Lord her feelings, she’d sensed Him saying, Knock on that door, so she’d obeyed.

We laughed again, marveling at the many ways God fills our lives with serendipity.

Sometimes God answers our prayers with No, sometimes with Not now, sometimes with a resounding “YES!” (I’m guessing those are the times when we’re finally asking for the right things.)  Sometimes our prayers are answered so quickly our heads are spinning.

Sometimes we get to see the answers to our prayers, and sometimes we get to be the answer to someone else’s prayers. I’m not sure which is more fun.

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for blessing us with brothers and sisters to encourage, and who encourage us. Although You have risen and are seated at the right hand of the Father, You are still with us. – We are the Body of Christ. Help us to live out this beautiful reality, in Your name, Amen.

Satan’s Worst Nightmare Excerpt #3: Small Beginnings

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Zechariah  4:10 NLT

 

                                          “You Get What You Pay for.”

The “set” we used for the first year of the drama is not exactly something we look back on with pride. The Tuckers’ yard had a playhouse that we turned into the “gates of hell” without too much work. We decided the swing set in front of the playhouse would be the frame for the Empty Tomb. We took old sheets I had collected from a local nursing home, draped them over the bars, painted them with various shades of gray, and tried to make the Tuckers’ round picnic table look like the stone by rolling it on its side and wrapping it with the remainder of the sheets and spraying it with the last of the spray paint. (I’m afraid the only realistic thing about it was how heavy it was when the angel rolled it away.)

Since we were without a sound system, not to mention any performers who could project, especially outside, it was clearly going to be hard to get the point across. Our “sound system” was a boom box, and the volume of the “boom” depended largely on how windy it was on any given rehearsal day. Since most of the people involved in the drama were our children and some of their friends, getting them to listen carefully for their cues, helping them to remember what to do, and holding their attention was … “somewhat challenging…”

Who am I kidding? It was like herding squirrels.

                                                     Professional Help

We needed a mature actor to play the part of the devil, someone who could lip-sync “No One Believes in Me Anymore” and remember numerous stage directions. It also had to be someone who could tolerate working with young kids. Fortunately, my daughter Joanna’s father-in-law Tom was a very sweet guy as well as a seasoned actor with the local theater group, and he agreed to help us out. Surrounded by grade school kids, he resembled one of those charismatic adults that kids love to hang out with, which can be either endearing or creepy, depending upon who that person turns out to be. When it’s the devil, the image made quite a statement.

                                            Deficiencies and Distractions

Rehearsals were sort of hit and miss. Since the children couldn’t drive themselves to the Tuckers’, they were dependent upon their parents, and so were we. So, attendance was irregular, at best.

Then there was the general environment of the rehearsals. October in Michigan isn’t exactly predictable, and young children are predictably unfocused. After I had finally succeeded in getting and holding their attention, a raindrop or two would elicit shrieks, and immediately several of them would want to run inside.

Then there were the bells.

Across the street from the Tuckers was a Lutheran church with bells that chimed every fifteen minutes and played a minute or two of hymns every hour on the hour. These bells drowned out my puny boom box and were enough to distract the children yet again. I remember wondering more than once what we had been thinking, and whose crazy idea was this anyway?

                                          Meanwhile, In the Dining Room…

While I was working with the kids, Kelly Tucker gathered a group of women around her dining room table, where they filled the gallon Zip-loc bags with tracts and treats, and loaded hundreds of the bags into big plastic bins. The fellowship was sweet, I’m told. This was the group of women who had been meeting at least once a week to pray for months before the outreach. I would have loved to join them. But I was outside squirrel-herding, trying to shout over the church bells and children’s chatter, and praying the rain would hold off just one more hour…

Prayer: LORD, thank You that You are a God of small beginnings, second chances, and the grace to bless our efforts, however feeble. Thank You for keeping us humble by reminding us that we can do nothing on our own, and that today’s “disasters” are tomorrow’s memories that we will retell and laugh about again and again. Keep us in the center of Your will today, whatever that may look like. We love You, and we trust You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.