This theatre season, my cast worked through enormous obstacles to perform Les Miserables.
And then .. on opening night?
Covid-19 starting shutting down all assembling of groups.
So 10 weeks of hard work.. and the kids were only allowed to perform for their families. The cast was heartbroken… but they wiped their tears… and performed an awe-inspiring opening night.
I could NOT have been more proud.
This experience is a little surreal…
Surreal in the sense that everything was so different from where we were 2 weeks ago. 2 weeks ago, I was reminding the kids to hang up their costumes and to clean up their own messes.. and to turn in tee shirt money.
And today… I am JUST praying that each of my cast members stays safe and healthy..
But it is also surreal for me in the sense… that ALL of my life I have been studying Plagues and epidemics .. and pandemics. The Black Death.. the Spanish flu (that started in The US)… siege sicknesses, the viruses that wiped out the Natives, etc..
Not so much for the illnesses or the deaths… because death and suffering saddens me…
…but how those illnesses.. and the fear… and the chaos affected the people. And how those effects changed the course of history.
How poor people could suddenly own land…
…How our children still sing “Ring around the rosies”.. to ward off evil spirits…
And here we are… smack in the middle of what WILL BECOME history. Someday, kids will be studying about the Covid-19 pandemic of 2019.. and wonder how the “population coped with the terror” and the isolation..
I wonder if the history books will tell how we had a shortage of toilet paper… and no shortage of the conspiracy theories?
Or will the future history books say that the “population” learned from the history books of the past? Will the history books state how we all chose to obey isolation and quarantined ourselves at home?
Will the history books say how we banded together to give each other hope for a future?
Because we WILL have a future.
Even the worst plagues… the survivors dusted off their hats.. picked up the pieces of their lives.. and made a future for themselves.
And little by little?
We learned from them. From the survivors. We learned to wash our hands. We learned to quarantine ourselves if we have been exposed. We learned not to panic.. and not to take the virus to the next town in our panic.
We HAVE so much knowledge at our fingertips THANKS to the records and observations kept of those pandemics in history.
Because we have learned from our history? We find ourselves in quarantine BEFORE it gets too bad. We find ourselves bored and creating funny memes about isolation “cabin fever”.. while we wait for the virus to run it’s course.
But … we will ALSO find ourselves with a better future.
A future that MAY hold graduations later in the summer. A future with delayed vacations.. delayed celebrations ..
A future with strange new school routines.
A future that has changed us all in small ways…
For me? I’m praying that my future has our cast performing Les Miserables when the crisis is over.
And I’m praying that when we hear Marius sing about empty chairs and empty tables… that there are no empty chairs in our community..
I’m praying there are no empty chairs in our cast…
And I’m definitely praying that we did our part enough.. that I won’t have ANY empty chairs in my family.
But even if we never hear our cast sing a song rejoicing in “one day more”… ?
I’m happy that our nation and our schools gave them their best chance at being able to sing another day.
At Easter we find ourselves celebrating with Eggs..
Colorful delicious Easter Eggs.. And sometimes chocolate eggs..
What do eggs REALLY have to do with God sending His Son to die for our sins? To pay for our pride, our envy.. Our jealousies.. Our gossips.. Our judging.. And our other sins we hope no one knows about..??
Well the Egg represents the New Life we find in Jesus .. WHEN we accept that sacrifice He made for us..
We make them colorful to represent that Blessings can make our lives so colorful .. WHEN we follow Jesus…
And chocolate eggs represent.?? That life can be so sweet.. WHEN we have Jesus..
So this weekend as you see Easter Eggs everywhere you go? Let us remember that they represent New Life with Jesus…
Happy Easter All.. And may God’s Love fill you this celebrated weekend..
I woke early today. Before the sun rose over the horizon. Fog clung to the Earth with a chill in the air. If you looked closely through the fog, you could see deer moving slowly and quietly through my backyard.. Eating treats where they can find them. With spring, my backyard is coming to life.. so the deer stopped often.. If you didn’t watch closely, you would miss the movement at all.
As I drink my chai, I find myself thinking.. Did Mary, mother of Jesus, look out her window 2000 years ago and see a quiet foggy morning? Did she wonder what would happen that day? Did she wonder why Nature seemed so calm when her life seemed to be falling apart? Did she wonder why God didn’t send a terrible storm? Full of fury and winds?
I have a long list of things I would like to get done today. Mostly getting prepared for the fun family celebrations this weekend… But it is definitely work.. and I would rather sit here.. blending into the still world around me.
The still world around me?
Being still this morning? It made me stop and remember.. Remember that right about now? Right about now Jesus would have been in pain and bleeding.. Jesus would have been exhausted.. And marching with a heavy cross upon his back.. Moving forward as fast as His earthly body would let him…
Yet Jesus never complained.. He never tried to get out of His duty.. Jesus knew what God was asking of Him.. He knew He was about to die to save us all from an eternity in Hell.. Yet when Pilate told Jesus that he could set Him free.. Jesus didn’t jump at the chance.. He simply answered…
Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” (John 19:11a NIV)
In other words.. Everyone on Earth is only given the power which God has allowed them… and Jesus knew that He was sitting in Pilate’s office that day because it was God’s Will that it should be so..
So what did Jesus do?
He politely refused Pilate’s help.. He accepted God’s plan for Him.. He picked up His cross and Jesus set off to do God’s Work.
I am tired today. I fill my days with volunteering.. and parenting. I squeeze in doctor’s appointments and cleaning the house. I have chicks to care for, chickens to feed and laundry to wash. This week I have also had friends who needed support, children who needed to be listened to, people who needed prayer and meetings to attend. Not to mention fighting off a virus.
I literally had no time to write this week.
So today? YUP.. today I am tired.
But when I think about Jesus on Good Friday? Think about Jesus on the hardest day of “work” in His short life?
I think I will politely refuse Pilate’s offer to set me free from my tasks. And with this last sip of chai, I will hoist my cross.. my heavy tasks.. up on my back and set off to do God’s Will…
…because my day will be nothing like Jesus’s Good Friday… but it is what God has asked me to do….
Everyone makes a journey through their life. My journey was pretty even paced until I had kids. Then? Then there were quite a few years where the journey was rough.. and full of pot-holes. When my son was unstable? And we tried medicine after medicine to try to help him? There were days (and weeks).. that I was so exhausted that I begged God for answers. Days that I dreamed of those dog-days of childhood. (You know?.. the days when you were a teenager.. and you were SOOOOO bored.. and you were the ONLY one in the world still at home and not at the beach… with NOTHING to do?!?..) … Yup… There were days I wanted to be bored again…
But I knew that it was all part of God’s journey for me. I knew that EVERY step on that path had a purpose… So after some tears.. and a deep breath (or two.. or three…)… I prayed for strength .. and took that next step…
When I look at Jesus’s journey on this Earth… it makes mine look like those dog-days of childhood.
Actually.. the beginning of Jesus’s life wasn’t so different from mine. After His amazing birth and His family’s escape to Egypt… Jesus’s childhood sounds kind of .. well?.. kind of boring.. His family moved around some.. Jesus went with them. Mary and Joseph took their family on “vacation” every year.. to Jerusalem.. Jesus went with them.
And then when Jesus was 12.. His parents left him behind.. When they noticed He was gone? They rushed back to find Him in the Temple..
After that.. There is nothing much to note.. The Bible merely states that Jesus lived in Nazareth with His family.. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Luke 2:52 .. In other words.. Jesus grew smarter… He grew taller.. He made God proud.. and everyone liked Him.. An excellent childhood… but still? Pretty uneventful..
So in Jesus’s Journey through life? The path through His childhood was pretty easy..
In fact, the Bible says His Life was pretty non-eventful until Jesus was 30. Why 30? I am not sure.. maybe I will ask God someday when I see Him.
But what we do know is that at 30.. Jesus started His Ministry. He collected disciples.. and started His Journey to spread the news of God’s Love .. and God’s Plan for us.. And for this part of His life? Jesus actually did travel a lot. If you read through the book of John? You see all of the places Jesus travelled to.. Mostly on foot.. sometimes in a boat.. and even walking on water once. We know that His ministry lasted around 3 years.. But still that is a lot of walking even for 3 years.
As those 3 years came to a close, Jesus prepared to carry out His Father’s Plan.
Yes.. at the ripe old age of 33? Jesus prepared to die. Not because He was sick.. No.. Jesus had been well cared for by friends and followers on those 3 years of Ministry. He was not about to die for anything He had done.. Jesus was blameless.. sinless. No.. Jesus was preparing to die for each and EVERY ONE of those friends and followers… and He was preparing to die for each and every person who was about to put Him to death. To die that we all might live..
All the while Jesus was preparing to save us? He had to keep walking down that Path.. one step at a time.. And those last few days? I can imagine it took a lot of strength to keep walking. To watch a crowd of your country men demand that you die? Yet He kept moving forward. When they forced him to carry a gigantic cross on His back? Jesus kept moving… He kept putting one foot in front of the other.. When they beat Him? Just kept walking.. He followed His journey.. for us…
So I have to ask?
Where are you?
In your journey through life.. where are you today? Where are YOU on Good Friday?
Where am I?
Am I in the crowd that demanded the release of a murderer .. instead of a sinless man? No… I see no sense in this.. except that it must have been God’s Plan…
Am I with Peter? Am I denying that I have a personal relationship with the One true God’s Only Son? Am I denying that I spend time each day in prayer with Jesus? I think sometimes I am.. Not purposely.. but when I can’t find the right words to express my faith.. sometimes I remain verbally quiet… But Peter? Peter loved Jesus.. and so do I? So yes.. sometimes I travel with Peter….
Am I in the crowd that watched Jesus drag His heavy cross? A cross that is to symbolize his crime? A crime He didn’t commit? Do I stand in that crowd and watch Jesus struggle? Do I reach out a hand wishing to help? Do I step forward? Step forward and allow myself to be forced by the soldiers to carry the cross with Jesus?
Am I with the soldiers? Am I hitting God’s Son? Poking Him with sticks? Stabbing through Jesus’s side with spears? Am I offering Him sour wine? Am I laughing at God.. and His Miracles? Taunting Jesus’s inability to call on God to save Him?
Am I with the Priests? Am I still doubting that Jesus IS the Son of God?
Am I with the crowd who divided up Jesus’s belongings? Am I gambling with them to see who would take His robe or His sandals? Am I hoping that having a Holy item will bring me prosperity.. or luck?
Am I standing with Mary, Mother of Jesus at the foot of the cross? Am I holding her hand? Am I holding her up as she watches that beautiful boy.. that beautiful soul die before her eyes? The miracle child that God gave her. The child that grew within her. The child she protected and raised. The child she watched and wondered at. Am I watching with her as Jesus’s blood pours from His wounds? Do I hold Mary’s hand as the crowd laughs and taunts Jesus? Do I hold her tightly as He struggles to hold His head up? Am I crying with her? No.. when I imagine standing with Mary.. my chest hurts so bad I can’t breathe.. I wouldn’t have been crying.. That would take too much strength.. I am on my knees with Mary.. wanting to reach out.. wanting to demand they take Him down… wanting to scream at everyone of Jesus’s innocence.. scream the insane injustice they are carrying out.. But all of that takes breath… so I just kneel.. and hurt… Right next to His mother…
Am I hanging on the cross next to Jesus? Are my sins so great that I deserved to be crucified? I have sinned.. All have sinned. No one who has sinned is worthy of Heaven.. so Yes.. I should be hanging on the cross.. I should have nails through my hands and through my feet.. I should have holes in my sides..
But I am not.. Jesus took my place.. He took THAT section from my Journey away from me.. So instead? Instead I am forced to walk PAST His crucifixion. But where we stand to watch? God has left that decision up to us…
When Jesus knew that Every item on God’s Easter List was finished (John 19:28)… His last words, “It is finished!” echoed through the air… Jesus knew then that His Journey was done.. Jesus had fulfilled God’s plan for Him…
So.. today at noon.. when the sky should dim in rememberance?? When every head should bow in shame?? When a tear should come to every eye?
I have been sick for almost a week now. A nasty stomach virus that completely shut down my world. I will not share details.. but for 2 days I cancelled everything and lay quietly in my bed.
Now it is Thursday.. and I am scrambling to catch up. After all.. it is only 3 days until Easter and I have NOTHING ready for my kids’ Easter baskets.. No Easter clothes bought.. No candy for our huge family Easter Egg hunt… and my oldest daughter is leaving tonight for her senior trip to Washington DC (…not happy about the timing on that..) …
So I am making a list so that I get EVERYTHING done…
Then I wondered.. Did God have a list that He wanted to get done before Easter? NO.. Before Good Friday!
Did He sit down and make a list…
*Make sure Jesus yells at the people selling things in My Holy Church.
*Make sure Jesus shows everyone Love.
*Make sure Jesus shows everyone Miracles.
*Make sure Jesus tells everyone My Plan for them.
*Make sure Jesus teaches them how to pray.
*Make sure Jesus tells everyone the path to Heaven.
*Prepare Jesus to die.
That last one? It makes my throat hurt… more than a little..
Can you imagine being God today? Can you imagine Him 2000 years ago? The day before Good Friday.. (How can you call it Good Friday when such a beautiful person was about to die?) How do you prepare to sacrifice your own Son? Knowing that His sacrifice would save the souls of so many.. knowing that it WAS the Perfect Plan… but knowing that you were going to have sit there and watch Him suffer? Sit there and watch people torture Him…
I look at my children and I wonder.. which one would I sacrifice if I had to? Which one would understand that sacrifice more? When I think about their sweet faces.. I am not sure that I could.. Could I chose to save your child and sacrifice mine?
I am not sure I could do it..
But then I know I could not just watch your child suffer.. to keep mine safe either…
So Which ONE? Which would I chose?
I am thankful to say.. I would chose none of our children. I wouldn’t have to… None of our children are perfect enough. My children have all sinned.. just as your children have sinned.. just as WE have all sinned. We all fall so far from God’s standard of Perfect .. that we are ALL unworthy of being a sacrifice for the world. Not one human was worthy of saving the world.
Then there was Jesus.. A child without fault. With no sassiness.. no quarrels… no backtalk.. no laziness. The only perfect child. So God’s plan was the only plan that would work…
I am so thankful that it did. I am so thankful that God chose to sacrifice His son.. chose to watch him suffer and die for NO crime.. so that MY children can join Him in Heaven.
But today… When God is looking down at us? When He sees us scrambling to fill our Easter Lists.. when we are choosing which color peeps to put in our children’s baskets.. Is He happy?
When I looked at my own list? My eyes filled with tears. It seems so frivolous to care if my daughter has a new Easter dress. It seems pointless to wonder if I will be able to find Easter candy that follows my kids’ dietary needs.
Today as I go through my Easter List.. I chose God’s Son…
Now to figure out how to fit him in a beautiful basket.
I have a brother.. Well actually I have 5 brothers. But one of those brothers was only a little more than a year older than I was (then I am). He was my closest friend growing up. My brother let me follow him everywhere.. him and his best friend. They never minded that I was slower. Ok.. maybe they minded.. but neither of them ever let on. They would adjust their walking speed for me. They pounded in wooden steps, where I could not climb. When I was too afraid to keep going..? They talked me through. And if there was danger.. my brother would always warn me… “Step back Julie.. we’re gonna get stung.. ok!?!”
My confusion didn’t stop my feet from stepping back though. Once my brother felt I was at a safe distance? Well then he would carry out whatever experiment he had in mind for the poor bee’s nest. As I would watch from my safe distance.. watch my brother getting stung.. (because INDEED he did get stung).. I would marvel at his ability to stay calm. My brother would simply pull each stinging bee off his skin.. and calmly crush it before reaching for the next one.
It is said that our childhood memories magnify things that we remember, by leaving out details we didn’t notice.. and giving super human powers to the details that were significant to us. But regardless of any other details that my childish brain leaves out of my memories.. I can be sure of who my brother was.
My brother was the bravest person I had ever met. Brave.. and he was very curious. Kind of a lethal combination I fear. Now my brother never died.. he never came close .. as far as I can remember. But I think my heart stopped a couple times. They say the events that happen TO you are the most traumatic … Well “they” are wrong!! (whoever “they” are.) They are wrong because the events most engraved into my brain? They were the events when I had to watch someone I care about IN a dangerous situation? When I stand by powerless.. worrying? Those memories will be forever ingrained into my memory. By far more crippling ..than anything I lived through.
I was a curious child by nature. Curiosity by itself isn’t really a bad thing. But unbridled curiosity?? That can be. You see.. kids do not always see the danger in the world around them. And ohhh was I blind…
I was travelling through the woods with my brother and his best friend. Travelling in the company of the bravest person I had ever met.. and his faithful companion.. Almost like travelling with Robin Hood and Little John.. or King Arthur and Lancelot.. Batman and Robin.. To my adoring childish brain?? I was in the safest place. I never worried when I was with my brother.. My hero. What could harm me when he was looking out for me?
And most of the time?? This proved true.
And then.. Then we found a barn… Ok, in truth the barn had probably always been there. But somehow we stumbled across it. Stumbled through the rows of field corn.. to find a gigantic red barn.. HA .. Alright, alright.. it doesn’t sound that amazing when I say it out loud.. But to a young girl who loves history? It was like a fantastic fanfare was playing .. as the wind blew through corn stalks… As we walked closer, I could see bigger glimpses of this beautiful old barn through the gaps of the tall plants. And when we came to a stop in front of the old doors? History came alive for me. All the books I had read about pioneers? All the history we learned in class? HERE was proof.. Proof that it existed.
And I needed to know more. My curious brain didn’t stop to think about danger.. because it KNEW that my brother would protect me.
SOOO?? I convinced them.. my brother and his friend… I convinced them to take me inside. After a moment of thinking.. they agreed. We stepped through that magical portal of time and I fell in love. I saw the dowel ladders.. the peg construction.. the stalls for horses. I didn’t stop to take in the fact that this barn was not ONLY historic.. I didn’t stop to think that Historic barns are OLD.. old and falling apart. And neither did my brother. While I was constructing historical scenes in my mind? While I was created imaginary farm animals? While I was creating imaginary people.. people who needed this important barn for their farm? While I was locked in my imaginary world.. my brother and his friend were exploring the rafters of that old barn.. And I imagine that barn was doing much more than swaying in the wind.
We were never quite sure how that farmer knew we were in his barn. We really never talked about it. That farmer that called our friend’s dad. All we knew was that farmer spoiled our fun.. and got us in so much trouble.
When our friend’s dad stepped into the doorway of the barn? It was like he blocked all the sun from my life.. Because he was evil?? Nope! But because in the moment that I saw his face.. I knew.. I knew how much trouble we were in. With a call to the boys, they scurried down the ladder and outside. I followed close behind… barely breathing… Why had we gone in that barn? “Julie wanted to see the inside of the barn.. so we took her,” one of the boys explained. I nodded.. that IS what happened. But this man.. this neighbor that seemed like family? He too wanted to protect me. “Don’t you dare blame this on her.. She wasn’t in that hayloft.. she was on the ground waiting for you..,” and you know what? They never denied it. Neither one of them mentioned my guilt again after that moment. Neither one of them tried to get me to share in their punishment. While they were scolded.. all the way home?? (And we had travelled quite a ways from home..).. While they were scolded? I was getting carried.
You see it is far worse to see someone punished for your crimes.. then it is to take credit for them yourself. The sacrifice that my brother made for me.. The sacrifice he made to save me from punishment? It was painful for me. It pressed on my chest like the heaviest weight. Whenever I saw his face after that.. I saw him taking credit for going into that barn. Bravely taking the punishment that should have been mine. It hurt.
Now as an adult.. I know why that farmer was so “Mean”.. why he had to spoil our clean fun. It is true.. we were not hurting that old barn.. We were simply curious and exploring. But that farmer knew what we could not see. He saw the danger in our situation. I trusted my brother to protect me. My brother knew that his bravery could help him in any situation. But that farmer knew the barn was rickety. I remember hearing the creaks and groans.. I remember thinking it added to the mystery of it all.
But imagine being a father.. Being a father and stepping into that rickety barn. Seeing your child and his friend playing in the loft of an old barn. Your child making the barn sway.. making it groan and creak.. Groaning and creaking loudly, while this curious curly-haired girl explored below. Imagine being a father.. and SEEING the danger in the whole innocent situation?? And now I know why he was so angry. I know why he yelled all the way home.
But when I was a child? I didn’t see the worried anger.. I never saw the danger.. I only saw my brother’s sacrifice for me.
And I never forgot.
Last year, I was cleaning out my chicken coop. A disgusting job.. but necessary. And rewarding.. to take a mess and clean it up? Nothing feels more fulfilling then that.. But my mind started to wander with each shovelful.. with each disgusting shovelful. My mind wander and I began to think.. (hey.. thinking is my life..)..
I thought back to my brother.. the sacrifice he made to protect me.. and it got me thinking..
Thinking about Easter.. Easter is about how Jesus died for our sins, right? Died and rose again. Jesus protected us from the punishments we deserve. We all deserve to be punished for our sins. And Oh the sins we have ALL sinned.
BEFORE Jesus’ sacrifice, we (God’s people) would offer up the life of an animal to pay for our sins. If we told a small falsehood about a neighbor, you would take a dove to the altar. If you stole a calf from your cousin.. You would take a goat to the altar. If you killed a man in a fight? I think you get the picture.. the bigger the sin.. the bigger the animal. (In my memories.. it felt like my brother had paid the price of at LEAST a Moose..)..
But when Jesus died for us. Died for all mankind? He didn’t just have to sit on his bed until His Heavenly father came to talk to him. Jesus didn’t have to simply do extra chores. And He certainly didn’t get to be grounded to Nazareth. Jesus took the blame for every sin that any of us every did .. or WERE going to do… A man who had done nothing wrong.. took the blame for not only His earthly sister and brothers.. but for every earthly sister and every earthly brother… That to me.. makes him the bravest man I have ever met. Even braver than my brother.
The memory of my guilt came back to me then. That crushing guilt I felt for years (Ok.. I was a kid.. it was probably only months..).. the guilt that made it hard to breathe when I thought of my brother’s sacrifice. If the guilt I felt for one sin? One innocent childish sin? If the guilt from that one sin.. crushed my heart making it hard to breathe? What would a whole world of guilt.. a whole world of sin feel like?
As the tears fell from my eyes.. running down my cheeks and dripping onto the disgusting shovel I was leaning on.. I started to wonder..
Did Jesus actually die from the crucifixion? Did He actually die from the holes in His hands or the spear holes in His sides? Or did Jesus die as the weight of all our guilt crushed his pure heart? That our sins were too much for His Godly soul.
And that’s when I remembered my brother’s smile.
You see.. my brother was never bitter about taking my punishment. He never once scowled in my direction.. He never even got angry. In fact, at one point he did turn to me and smile. A smile with such bravery.. and such brotherly love. And that is how I think Jesus looked as He was being punished for our crimes.
But I think I do know what Mary felt as she watched from the crowd. I think I know how Jesus’s friends felt as they watched. AND I definitely know how Peter felt. Peter who had denied knowing Jesus just hours before. Such a simple sin.. denial.. but a sin nevertheless. Peter would have felt that crushing guilt..
Jesus gave us the cure for that crushing guilt.. forgiveness. He gave us a way to breathe again.. A way to live. Through His sacrifice for His sisters (and brothers).. He gave us ALL .. Life..
After that fateful day in a barn.. I don’t have many memories of tagging along after my brother. Whether they decided later that I should have told everyone it had been my idea. Whether they tired of my slowness.. Whether my guilt over the punishment they took for me prevent me from following them.. or simply that summer ended and we returned to school. Whatever the reason .. I don’t have many memories of tagging along after that day. I do have memories of that guilt creeping up, time after time. That guilt lingered with me for years. But also loyalty. Loyalty and love for someone who stood by me no matter what. I would have done anything.. and I still would.. for my brother.
So today.. I am going to honor the sacrifice my brave brother made for me.
And I am going to honor the sacrifice Jesus made for me. Because whether I try to be good or not.. at least a couple of the thorns on that Crown they placed on His noble brow? They were for me. At least ONE of the blows from the hammer… nailing Jesus to the cross.. was for me. But when I think about His brave sacrifice.. Imagine that he made it with a beautiful brave smile .. full of love.. A smile that I imagine looked a lot like my brave brother’s? If I Honor that sacrifice? Then His sacrifice will have been worth it..
Everything sounds better with the echo of a still small voice.