Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Much Ado

Maybe you love Shakespeare. Or maybe, like me, you pretend to like Shakespeare in order to appear cultured and cool. Either way, you won’t want to miss the Prairie Players’ production of Much Ado About Nothing under the direction of Lisa Marie Tessier-Burch. I sat in on a recent rehearsal in order to provide you with a bit of a “trailer.”

When it comes to Shakespeare, I don’t believe in spoiler alerts. Given the complications of language, multiple characters with strange names, masquerades, misunderstandings, and downright deceits, the more you know about the play ahead of time, the more you’ll enjoy it. Case in point: did you know the word “nothing” in the title is a play on words? In Elizabethan English, “nothing” sounds much like “noting,” which meant gossip, overhearing, and eavesdropping—all actions around which the plot twists. We miss out on so much because we don’t clue in to these clever details.

For a comedy, Much Ado is pretty intense. Two love stories are intertwined. One follows the formal, romantic relationship between Claudio (Reid Noton) and Hero (Haley L’Heureux). The other couple, Benedick (Fabien de Freitas) and Beatrice (Laurel Giesbrecht), work hard to give the impression neither is interested in the other. They tease and insult one another mercilessly and deny they will ever marry anyone. The Bard gives them both some fabulous lines. Benedick: “When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married.” And Beatrice: “I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow, than a man swear he loves me.”

But their friends arrange for them to overhear conversations revealing how much each is loved by the other. I guess there’s something about believing you are the object of unrequited love that softens the heart.

Meanwhile, the overthrown villain Don John (Christopher Kitchen) carries out serious mischief against his brother Don Pedro (Jordan Thiessen) and Claudio, who helped defeat him. One of John’s men enacts a scene at Hero’s window in which a woman who appears to be Hero succumbs to the amorous attentions of a man other than Claudio. (You still with me?) John further arranges for Claudio and Don Pedro to observe this scene. As a result of seeing this apparent deception, Claudio angrily denounces Hero during their wedding ceremony and, with Don Pedro, storms off as the deceived husband-to-be. 

The friar performing the ceremony (Jocelyn Lequier-Jobin) comforts Hero and arranges for her to be hidden as though dead, until Claudio regains his senses. (Hey, that plot device worked out all right in Romeo and Juliet, why not try it again?) Beatrice’s defense of Hero after her denouncement unites Beatrice and Benedick in the cause of Hero’s revenge, and they declare their love for one another.

In the meantime, Dogberry (a comically bumbling constable played by Adena MacLaren) and company stumble on the conspiracy against Don Pedro and arrest John’s men, who confess their guilt under questioning.

Soon Claudio is forced to admit his error in thinking Hero would deceive him and, believing her dead, mourns for her and agrees to marry one of her cousins. The “cousin” turns out to be a disguised and forgiving Hero. Beatrice and Benedick are also to be married. Don John tries to run off, but is recaptured. All’s well that ends well. Oh, wait. That’s another play for another day.

Rounding out the cast are Fran Myles, Rachael Clarke, Kelvin Bueckert, Lynn Grant, Avery Griffith, Lisa Voth, Krista Austin, and Ron Weir.

Love him or not, you can’t argue the Bard was brilliant. Come watch this lively performance and cheer on our talented local actors on April 26, 27, or 28 at the William GlesbyCentre. Show time is 7:30. Tickets are $15 and can be ordered online from the Glesby website, at the box office at 204-239-4848, or at the door.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

How to Make Pistachio Lush

I saw a recipe online for “Pistachio Lush” and decided to make it for our family’s Easter dinner. Here are the steps you must follow if you want yours to turn out as yummy as mine.

1.      Go to the Co-op first thing Saturday morning. It’s a long weekend, so they’re busy. But that’s OK because you’ve brought your list for the entire week, including the special dessert. Find everything you need except the pistachio pudding mix. They are out.

2.      Motor over to Sobeys. It’s a long weekend, so they’re busy, but that’s OK. Find two packages of the pudding mix, stand in line, check out, and drive home.

3.      Put away all the groceries.

4.      Read through the Pistachio Lush recipe again. Notice the instructions say to mix two cups of whipped topping with cream cheese. Further down, it says to spread “the remaining whipped topping” over the top of the pistachio pudding layer. You’re no math whiz, but you know there will be no whipped topping remaining because you bought a 500 ml container, like the recipe said. Well, technically, it said 16 oz, which is two cups. All the same thing. Get irked.

5.      Find the online recipe and leave a comment, pointing out this discrepancy.

6.      Get out the butter so you can at least start on the graham wafer crust. Smell the butter. Oooh. When’s the last time you used butter? It doesn’t smell so good, but that’s OK. This might be a good way to use it up, and if not, there’s more in the freezer. Stick it in the microwave to melt.

7.      Pull out the box of graham wafer crumbs you just bought at the store. Discover they are not crumbs, but whole crackers. Yes, you could smash them into crumbs yourself. But then you’ll be left with two-thirds of a box of graham wafers which will sit in your pantry for six years until you finally throw them out. If you leave the box unopened, at least you can take it to next month’s food drive at church. Get even more irked.

8.      Take the butter out of the microwave to discover it smells worse than ever. You should also now be more irked than ever. Toss out the butter and forget the whole thing. Your family can eat the store-bought pies you grabbed as back-up and be none the wiser.

9.      Take a nap. While napping, remember that you forgot to buy colored napkins for the Easter table. Since you’ll need to go to the store for those anyway, you might as well buy the whipped topping and graham crumbs so you can go ahead and make that Lush. 

10.  Decide on Walmart, where you can get everything. It’s a long weekend, so they’re busy. They are nearly out of parking spots and completely out of whipped topping. Grab a package of pink napkins and a bag of graham crumbs, wait in line, and check out. Discover that someone has hemmed in your car between theirs and a snow bank. Perform some death-defying maneuvers and carry on.

11.  Consider that the boys may not be crazy about the pink napkins and maybe you should find a second color. Stop at Dollarama. It’s a long weekend, so they’re busy. Not only that, it’s the first time you’ve been inside since they rearranged the whole store. Feel completely disoriented. Find a package of bright green napkins, wait in line, check out.

12.  Walk to Sobeys. Grab some whipped topping, wait in line, check out. Drive home.

 13.  Prepare the recipe according to directions. Place in the fridge until time to serve.

The dessert was a hit. I figured I better document all this so I can be sure to repeat it next time. Otherwise, it might not turn out.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

I Can Only Imagine

Easter’s over, but no series on mortality would be complete without a few words about Heaven.

Our planet recently lost two prominent citizens. Reverend Billy Graham died on February 21, and renowned physicist Stephen Hawking on March 14. How could two such brilliant minds have held such opposing views on the afterlife? Compare these statements:

Hawking: “We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is: there is no God. No one created our universe, and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization that there probably is no heaven and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that, I am extremely grateful.”

Graham: “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

Was one of these men completely wrong, or is the truth somewhere in the middle? How can we know? It’s been one of the top questions of humankind since our beginning. It’s the reason people are drawn to mediums who claim they communicate with the spirits of the departed. It’s what makes songs like Mercy Me's I Can Only Imagine and the movie behind it so popular. It’s why we’re so fascinated by those who’ve had near-death experiences (NDEs). We want to know. We want assurance that something better awaits us, or at least nothing far worse.

Books about people who’ve had NDEs abound, and their stories share too much in common for us to dismiss. One of the most powerful I’ve read is by Dr. Eben Alexander, a highly trained neurosurgeon who firmly believed NDEs are fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress—until he experienced one himself. For seven days, Alexander lay in a coma with the part of his brain that controls all thought and emotion shut down completely. His recovery is a medical miracle, but the real miracle lies in the journey he took during that time, through a sphere where neither time nor place mean anything.

Before he underwent his journey, Dr. Alexander could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul. Today, he is a doctor who believes true health can be achieved only when we realize that God and the soul are real, and death is not the end of personal existence but only a transition. In his book, Proof of Heaven, he tells the story of meeting and speaking with the Divine source of the universe itself. He says it is the hardest story to tell, because our limited language has no words for what he experienced.
Delta Beach, not Heaven. Not even close.

This falls in line with the words of Jesus’ disciple, John, who received a glimpse into Heaven and recorded everything in the book of Revelation. The book is difficult to understand because it was difficult to write. We have no words.

My favorite promise of John’s, though, is from Revelation 21:4-8: He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away…”

There’s more, and I hope you’ll look it up for yourself. It’s why we sing with great gusto one of my favorite songs, Come as You Are by Crowder. The best line? “Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal.”

We can only imagine.