Tag Archives: Faith

Classic Post: Loony the Lamb

This post first appeared on April 12, 2017.

For years, I celebrated holidays by directing church musicals. One fateful Easter, I chose Watch the Lamb, which focused on Jesus as the Lamb of God. A live lamb would make the ancient story come alive.

During rehearsals, the cast greeted our lamb with enthusiasm.

Church janitors did not. “Do something before that animal pees all over — or worse.”

Why hadn’t I considered this minor complication? Especially as the lamb made entrances down different aisles.

Most Passover lambs in 30 A.D. did not wear Pampers®.

What other option existed?

God provided the perfect solution: we would cover the stage and church aisles with the burlap-like backside of my recently discarded carpet.

However, God didn’t send angels to cut, arrange and duct tape the carpet throughout the sanctuary. After two unspiritual, aching-knee days, all my bases were covered. No worries now, right?

Wrong.

Loony the Lamb had his own ideas about entrances and exits. A hay bale helped keep him quiet, but for obvious reasons, we avoided feeding him too much.

The 60-member cast’s noise made Loony more nervous than your Aunt Nellie. Kids petted him without mercy. Bright lights and heat caused him to hyperventilate. During dress rehearsal, Loony the Lamb collapsed onstage in a wooly, quivering heap.

Watch the Lamb? No audience would want to watch this.

Two animal lovers carried the prostrate lamb outside while we prayed — and Loony recovered. One guy built a pen outside the stage door where our prima donna cropped grass between scenes. Visiting hours were restricted, with no autographs. We did everything but paint a star on Loony’s gate.

Thankfully, he showed no new signs of cardiac arrest. His brassy baaaaa erupted only once during performances — during solemn prayer after the crucifixion.

Our ingenious actors shifted and blocked escape routes, all the while looking very holy.

One child earned my special appreciation: “Loony was peein’ on my foot the whole time Jesus was on the cross, but I didn’t say nothin’.”

Even after Loony returned home, I couldn’t shake off sheep. Scriptures about lambs leaped from the Bible’s pages. Jesus frequently called his followers His sheep. After Watch the Lamb, I figured He didn’t mean it as a compliment.

Nevertheless, the King of Heaven volunteered to take on the title “Lamb of God.” It meant daily life with stupid sheep and deadly encounters with wolves in sheep’s clothing. What God in His right mind would do that?

Only a King who loves confused, clueless sheep more than His own life.

Even one dithery pageant director named Rachael — which, BTW, means “lamb.”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever participated in a pageant/play that taught you more than you expected?

I Flunked Euchre

I was born and raised in Indiana, the heart of the “Euchre Belt.” Along with understanding all things basketball and eating dinner plate-sized tenderloin sandwiches, I learned how to play euchre, right?

Wrong.

My father, a card-shark-turned-pastor, nixed cards. Even Old Maid made him uneasy. While friends learned to play euchre and that favorite pastime of the devil, poker, I grew up calling clubs “clovers.”

Instead, our default family activity consisted of singing around the piano.

Once, at an Indiana University summer music camp for high schoolers, I sowed the wildest of oats. My sort-of boyfriend, who also attended, volunteered to teach me euchre. He became my partner.

By evening’s end, he was crying. Why, I didn’t know. The clover issue bothered him. Also, I considered spades hearts too — pointy black hearts. He took that personally.

The relationship crashed.

Dad was right. Playing cards messed up your life.

Then, I met my dream guy: taller than me, with bigger feet and a cute smile. Like me, he enjoyed school. More important, he shared my Christian faith, as did his family.

Eventually, he invited me to his grandparents’ get-together.

I was ecstatic. Until everyone started playing heathen euchre.

Worse, no piano graced their living room.

How could this relationship survive?

Especially, as I learned his parents and grandparents played euchre every week. Grandma and Grandpa even gambled (gasp!), winning penny pots and cans of applesauce and beanee weenees.

My parents would want me to be polite. When my hosts insisted on teaching me euchre, I tried to learn.

Only now do I realize the extent of their kindness. Even Grandpa didn’t pounce on me — mostly because Grandma fixed a steely eye on him when I, his partner, trumped his aces.

Fortunately, my future husband was too in love to notice when I trumped his.

However, even he tired of waiting while I pondered various plays. He joined the others in extended coffee and bathroom breaks. Grandpa built a garage.

“With practice, you’ll do fine,” my sweet, future mother-in-law assured me.

She was right. After 25 years of marriage, I could play without anyone building garages.

Of course, our children caught on to the game as preschoolers. Their children also are fast learners.

The Phillips family playing euchre.

When we play with friends, the card sharks my father warned me about, they can’t play plain euchre. No, we must bid and think high and low and upside down.

You mean the cards read the same upside down?

My euchre education continues.

Occasionally, even the friendliest card sharks lose patience with me. But the important relationship hasn’t crashed.

He still possesses a cute smile. And Hubby can sing around the piano, too.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What in-law tradition tripped (trips) you up?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Is Heaven Tropical?

O Jesus, even though I’m allergic to bathing suits, I love Your beaches with palm trees doing their tropical dance. But, cabin fever notwithstanding, OMG, I hope Your heaven includes one winter planet swathed in Your magnificent snow.

“Fear Not” — Are You Kidding Me?

(Note: I wrote this piece in 2019, with no idea of what lay ahead. Reviewing it, I thought it might prove even more relevant for Christmas 2020.) 

Children nowadays text Santa with requests. Some use PowerPoint presentations. (“Last year, you brought a baby brother instead of a puppy. Seriously, Santa, you and Amazon Prime really messed up.”)  

Yet, up-close-and-personal encounters continue as children assure Santa they’ve been good. He probably doesn’t do background checks, because even mean kids make out like Christmas bandits.

The majority, however, look scared.

Reading storybooks on Mommy’s lap about jolly St. Nick felt cozy and familiar.

Sitting on a big, bearded hippie’s lap doesn’t. Children inform the entire mall this wasn’t their idea. The only photos taken feature close-ups of tonsils. Or kids’ calling Uber for a ride to Bongo Bongo.

Yet loving grown-ups assure them, “Don’t be afraid.”

They’d never endanger children. Even hired Santas probably would have found easier work — like digging ditches — if they didn’t care about kids.

The children are safe. Cherished.

I find similar, odd “fear nots” in the biblical Christmas story.

When the angel Gabriel told Mary about her impossible pregnancy. When another urged Joseph to marry her, carrying a Child not his. When shepherds hit the ground before a regiment of angels. Mary, Joseph and the shepherds had real reasons to be afraid.

These strange visitors weren’t wearing wings and halos from Dollar Tree. Seeing genuine angels today while shoveling snow or brewing coffee — who wouldn’t set Olympic records for the 10-mile dash?

Besides, the angels’ words smacked of the revolutionary.    

In Mary’s culture, a woman pregnant with a supposedly illegitimate Child might be stoned.  A man who married her would bear her stigma, affecting relationships and his job. Having left flocks untended, the shepherds also might lose their meager livelihood.

Worse, the angels proclaimed the Baby was a King. Paranoid Herod, who killed family members, considered that high treason. Also, Romans readily crucified anyone who didn’t worship Caesar.

Crazy times. Terrible times. Yet God’s message rang out: “Fear not.”

Today, we want to call Uber and escape this scary mess. Go to Bongo Bongo. Or Neptune.

Adult Jesus did, too. He knew His enemies would kill him. Yet, His life vibrated with that theme: “Fear not.”

Jesus could have blown away his foes. Instead, He used His murder to pay for human sin. Then, He laughed at death — that thing we fear most — and rose again.

Jesus wants us to know if we believe in Him, we are safe. Now. Forever. Loved. Cherished.

“Fear not.”

He wasn’t kidding Mary, Joseph or the shepherds. He isn’t kidding us, either. Or our children and grandchildren bawling on Santa’s lap.

Joy and peace to you this Christmas.

Really.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you trusting Jesus for 2021 — and your forever?

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. —John 3:16 NIV

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Crazy Christmases

O Lord, not a normal Christmas! We exchanged gifts with family, not around our Christmas tree, but met in a park we’d never seen before. Sharing fervent, but distanced love and hot chocolate to combat chilly Michigan weather helped, but — crazy!

What’s that? OMG, of course, You’re right. The first Christmas was pretty crazy, too.