Prov 17:22

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

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Peace We Often Forfeit

It’s a silly little play, really. The original version was created in eight hours during a competition at Winnipeg’s 2015 Femfest. The assignment was to write a script about anything, but you had to incorporate three random things: a red line, a yellow submarine, and hysteria. The five competing scripts were then read by professional actors before a live audience, who voted for their favorite.

Mine did not win.

It’s still my favorite.

When the Prairie Players asked me to write a short play to present at this year’s ACT Festival (2019 is our group’s fiftieth anniversary and we’re hosting the festival—its fortieth year!), I decided to resurrect the Femfest script and tweak it a little to suit its new purpose. The red line, yellow submarine, and hysteria were all left in. This time, the actors are not professionals, but they did a far better job. They all contributed to the further tweaking of the script—one of the perks of creating your own is the power to change it.

Haley L’Heureux portrayed sixteen-year old Morgan, whose worst nightmare is coming true: a road trip with her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother—and a dead cell phone. It’s the longest four hours of her life.

Her mom, Kelly (played by Rita Carignan), isn’t sure how she allowed her mother to talk her into taking this four-hour drive—each way—to watch her overachieving sister perform a one-hour excerpt of Mary Poppins for the ACT Festival. All she wants is a little respect and maybe some rest. She’s getting neither.

Kelly’s mother, Doris (portrayed by Vicki Hooke) dreams of a happy family where everybody gets along and enjoys one another’s company. Surely they can have fun together for one day. Can’t they?

Nita Wiebe (songbird extraordinaire) played Ruth, Doris’s ninety-year-old mother. Ruth wants to join the church choir and drink orange Crush with two straws. While deafness and dementia have robbed Ruth of independence, memory, and respect, she clings to some pretty powerful truth in the form of an old hymn. Too bad no one else is listening.

Rita Carignan, Vicki Hooke, Nita Wiebe, Haley L'Heureux
What a Friend We Have in Jesus is the life story of Joseph Scriven, born in Ireland in 1819. When his fiancĂ© drowned the day before their scheduled wedding, the heart-broken twenty-five-year-old left for Canada. Later, he met and became engaged to Eliza Rice. But just weeks before their wedding, she grew sick and died. Joseph swore a vow of poverty and devoted his life to helping the poor. Ten years later when his mother lay ill and he was too poor to assist, a heart-felt poem emerged from Joseph’s soul. Within two years, Charles Converse set the poem to music. However, it was not until after Joseph’s death that the hymn was carried to every corner of the globe. Ironically, Joseph Scriven drowned in a Canadian lake in 1886.

The uplifting words of this old hymn become more significant when you understand the grief of the hymn-writer’s tragic life. Though our little play is far more comedy than tragedy, the age-old truth rings loud and clear: what peace we often forfeit, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything—EVERYTHING— to God, in prayer.

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Ultimate Superhero

Ever wish you could be the caped hero who swoops in and fixes all the ills of the world? Who magically zaps people and heals their diseases, repairs their hang-ups, makes them good? Who wipes out evil and famine and war? Or who, at the very least, helps one hurting person climb out of their self-imposed sinkhole and stand on their own feet?

If you have, you might make a great counselor.

If you have ever sought and received professional counsel for your life and relationships, you know the process can be both encouraging and difficult, but worth it. Taking time to root around beneath the surface exposes emotional rubble we don’t always want to look at. And we all have our rubble.

Whenever I look at mine, one of the most overwhelming and recurring impressions I’ve received has been the staggering size of God’s heart. My hurts and disappointments may be minuscule compared to what others have suffered, but when you multiply those hurts by the billions, for every person who ever breathed, all with our pain and scars, one question surfaces. If God truly sees it all, how can he bear it?

We hear on TV about abused or malnourished children and we want to change the channel because our hearts cannot handle it. The atrocities of war fill volumes. Hunger and disease run rampant. The age-old question about why God allows all the misery crops up easily. It leads many to conclude he may be loving, or he may be all-powerful, but he certainly cannot be both.

And then our protest is silenced by the shadow of a cross.

If the Bible is true, not only does God see it all, but he loves each hurting individual with a love we can only imagine. How can his heart stand it? His capacity for pain must be at least as great as his capacity for love. God’s heart breaks for the abuser as much as the abused, the perpetrator as well as the victim. And on some level, we are all both.

Jesus died on the cross not only for the sins you’ve committed but also for the sins done against you. Not just for forgiveness, but for healing. I don’t claim to understand this, but Isaiah foretold it: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

It’s been said that if you can comprehend God, your god is too small. As you celebrate Easter weekend, may God grant you a fresh picture of his heart. We simply cannot put him in a box, understand, or explain him with our little human hearts and brains. We cannot fully appreciate the battle at Calvary, when all the forces of darkness rallied everything and hurled it all at my hero as he hung there. Every vulgar thought, every loathsome deed, every emotional or physical wound ever inflicted. All of it, flung at him as though he committed it all himself.

The suffering will one day come to an end. We have the ultimate Hero. He took it all. He paid the price. It is finished. We win!

Happy Easter.