Look at JESUS

I haven’t updated this blog in a long time. Part of me had an internal resistance, afraid blogging may be a form of “Look at me! Look at me!” However, I see now that I must more actively tell what the Lord has been up to in and through this process as a way of proclaiming His faithfulness and saying “Look at Jesus! Look at Jesus!” Because of my love for him, I have a calling to feed his sheep. And how better could I feed weary souls than with a true proclamation of his love and care? If Jesus Christ is your Lord and Jesus Christ is my Lord than we have the same Lord. Through Jesus we are one, and thus whatever goodness I proclaim of God in my life is not meant to elevate myself but to remind you that he is good in your life, too. He is faithful.

That said, here is a brief update of the beginning of this tour. We have not as of yet found a permanent stage manager. However, the Lord has provided at every turn. In my first performances in my home-base of this project (Ypsilanti, Michigan), a couple of my director’s past students helped run our technical elements. On the first day meeting with the college-going couple, we began with a simple prayer huddle. All it took was my opening line about God as our Good Father to set the never-met-her-before girl to my right in a puddle of tears. After praying I smiled at her and stated, “Yeah, Elizabeth probably didn’t warn you what you were getting into by coming into this project.”

And so began the weeping.

My time of weeping came in the middle of our first performance. For the first time in my entire life, I lost my voice. Completely. Onstage. Chapter 8–a climactic moment between Jesus and the Pharisees, and nothing came out. I pushed. Squeek. I pushed. A whisper. Fear-filled tears ready to burst from my eyes, I prayed in my mind, “LORD PLEASE HELP ME.” Almost ready to run off-stage, I kept going with the little voice I was able to get out. And with each line I uttered, I prayed in my mind, and I spoke. My voice was working, but I could feel how feeble I was. Line after line, I prayed as I spoke. At one point, I was to turn behind me to “wash my eyes” as the blind man. And so, rather than splash my face, I guzzled the water (a looking back and laughing story now). Then, when I finally finished Act 1, I knelt down in my dark ‘dressing room’ and wept. I knew the Lord was grounding me at a place of utter humility in all this–I can do nothing without him. I am dependent on him for everything down to my very voice. After a series of thanking him–not even for the return of the voice, that wasn’t even what mattered most to me–it was thanking him for him. The Spirit whispered to my heart, “I won’t let that happen again.” And I believe him. And so far, he hasn’t, and he won’t. Much to my surprise, after the show the voice-flub wasn’t what people remembered. Things like “it was like Jesus was speaking to me through you!” were the remarks I received. Oh praise him, in our weakness he really is stronger!

Post well-received performances in Ypsilanti I headed to my hometown, Rockford, IL, for two weeks. My own tears were shed as fear and insecurity reached a new level–paired with various childhood lies that have a way of reawakening and creeping into the soul when faced with old yet familiar people and places. Now without the security of my director’s presence, I had to learn to rely on my True Director as I clung to the True Script: his Scripture. With only a few days to go before my first show, and still no stage manager, I wrestled with anxiety as I clung to the peace I believed the Lord had planted in my heart with his Spirit’s continual voice crashing like gentle waves, “I have someone for you. I have someone for you.” Sure enough, he had someone for me. My past theater director had arranged a stage manager for me, who also served with me for the following weeks shows as well. And she was a gift–a whiz–capable and ready to serve, putting my mind at ease… until a new anxiety arose of course.

On the Sunday morning of my first Rockford performance, I clung to the Lord’s faithfulness as much as the steering wheel as I drove to Court Street Methodist Church. I was scheduled to perform just a small paragraph of John 3 for the congregation as part of their morning worship as well a plug for the afternoon show. Having never met the pastor, I was a little intimidated for our first conversation–I felt on my heart that I needed to do the entire Nicodemus section… a whole lot more than a paragraph. When I arrived: no pastor. Couldn’t find him. Until right before the service. After introducing myself, I shyly suggested that I do a longer section. Full of energy Pastor Cal opened the church’s bulletin to see what was written: my name and what I was doing, but they had forgotten to put which verses I would be speaking, leaving it completely open. When Pastor Calvin asked which verses I was thinking about–they happened to be the exact same ones he was preaching on. With a boisterous enthusiasm, he told me he always seeks to be open to the Spirit’s leading and he had changed the direction of his message later that week. His joy pierced through my oddly-shy shell and my voice broke free–laughing and proclaiming the Lord’s faithfulness. We were connected–brother and sister in Christ! As if to affirm our kinship, that morning was a special annual prayer service. Upon entering the church, we were told to write our name on a colored slip of paper. Later in the service the folded slips would be passed around in the offering plates. We were then to draw a slip of a color not our own that we may receive the name of another in the congregation to pray for throughout the year. When the time in the service came to draw a name, I heard the Spirit whisper, “Draw a purple one.” So I did. Whose name did I draw? Pastor Cal. In a room full of strangers, the Lord gave me the name I knew. A name who already meant something to me, and who means a whole lot more to Him.

Fast forward: that afternoon, we had our show. It went well, but without any fancy lighting and a seemingly sleepy Sunday crowd, I wasn’t quite sure how the Word was received… Lots of compliments, but nothing stuck. I don’t want to leave people with “Wow, she memorized all that” or “What a great actress.” I want to leave people with Jesus. I can’t judge what goes on in anyone’s heart and I trust the Lord does his work–I don’t need to see. But I am thankful for the little glimpses he does give me. This particular time, through one man, probably in his 50s (though I am terrible at estimating these things), waited after all the giddy old ladies to speak with me. When he approached words caught in his throat as tears welled into his eyes. Turning back to gather himself, he again came up to me, and this time the tears surged. He was weeping. Unsure how to respond, I gently asked “Can I pray for you?” Through his tears he mustered the strength to reply, “No… I am just… so… happy” and gave me a hug. It was then that I knew, this is why I am doing this show. For the sheep. That they may have a moment listening to their shepherd.

The following week, the weeping overcame me–a kind I cannot explain. The kind that unleashes from the soul when you feel utterly dependent on the Spirit who is forming the tears. It was a Sunday and had a performance later that evening at Mount Olive Lutheran. My body felt incredibly frail, my emotions a dark cloud, my mind distant. I was weak, so weak, and so unexplainably sad. And so, in the little, vacant church that would be filled with audience members just hours later: I wept. I prayed. I wept. And the Lord refreshed me. He gave me his strength, and I went out. I performed. He showed up. And blessed the people yet again. By his mercy and grace.

Fast forward: time to leave Rockford. I get a special facebook message, which I will soon explain, but first I have to preface.  For many months–even before leaving Honduras–India has been on my heart. I have told countless people and have asked for prayer from a few trusted prayer partners about this affirming time and time again “I need to go to India.” Now, I know this is of the Lord, because if it weren’t for the Lord India is very likely the last place on earth I would want to go. A homebody, a woman who enjoys her independence, and doesn’t enjoy long travel or lack of sleep, I am not naturally built to desire a trip to India. But I do desire the Lord and want to go where he wants me to go, and if that is India then it is the first place I want to go. And so, the message. Right upon leaving I received a message through our website from an Indian pastor. He had read a facebook post from our mutual friend who attended Mount Olive’s performance the night before. With a desire to bring the Word to his people, he invited me to India for a month’s stay: free food and lodging. Call me crazy, but I know this is of the Lord. I wasn’t even able to get the first few excited words out to my mother before tears flooded her eyes: “NO! You’re not going! No! I won’t let you!” All I could do was laugh and dance around, “Mom! This is of the Lord–it is what I have been praying for for months! He is with me!” Mom followed me out to the car, “You’re not going to India alone.” “I won’t.” God is with me.

If you read this post–bless you! This is my stream-of-conscious journal entry, not an edited masterpiece. But I hope that even throughout my measly words the Word of God–the Lord–is made evident. He really is faithful. He leads, he guides, he sustains. And he speaks. Because I am his sheep, I know his voice. Sure, I still battle lies and doubt I hear at all. But he is confirming which voice is his through every step. And with each step it seems that his voice gets quieter and quieter… but I am all the while getting more and more certain which one is his. So even that is a blessing. May you be blessed to as you abide in his Word and do what he says. Let him lead. Follow!

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