In the last 8 days, Lyle and I have made 2 trips by air – one planned and the other unplanned. The first was to see a stage production of C.S. Lewis’ classic The Screwtape Letters in Minneapolis, performed by one of our favorite actors Max McLean. I used our school division’s personal leave day and off we flew. Both of us were under the weather, but it was nonetheless a very fun trip, made meaningful by such a profound play. We even got to meet our hero Max McLean after the show!
The second trip began on Friday after learning of the sudden passing of Lyle’s mom Olga Penner, from a massive stroke. We were anticipating the long weekend at home, but within a few hours our plans changed and we suddenly find ourselves in Medicine Hat, Alberta, planning a funeral and reflecting on Olga’s life, feeling sad but also grateful in the liminal space that death brings.
I’ve been reflecting on what threads to tease out for the blog. Where has God been in all this? Something I have been struck by over and over again is gratitude for the people who seem more like angels of mercy on our travels. When you’re away from home, you feel more vulnerable being out of your comfort zone. It’s amazing how much small acts of kindness mean on a trip, especially when grief strikes so suddenly and tears are not far away.
You realize what is always true, that we are all dependent on the acts of kindness that bring healing to this broken world of ours. The list for us is long and growing longer every day: thoughtful servers at restaurants, strangers, friends and family who offer kind words, the hospitable owner of the bed and breakfast place we stayed at in MN, the kindness, empathy and support of my co-workers when they heard about my mother-in-law, the generosity of my sister and brother-in-law who are hosting us, so many people who offer their thoughts and prayers and condolences – and the list goes on and on. These small encounters are truly a life-line.
One angel we met in Minneapolis was Max McLean. He is an actor we began to follow when our church used his dramatic readings of scripture for our Wednesday Bible studies. It was inspiring to see his play but a bonus surprise was the Question and Answer time at the end of the performance. A part of the great discussion was learning about the vision of the company he founded in 1993 called The Fellowship for the Performing Arts. We live in a world where being a Christian is often badly represented and to many seems quaint, irrelevant or sadly, even repulsive. To counteract this, McLean had a dream: “to produce meaningful, compelling theatre from a Christian worldview that speaks to a diverse audience.”
We had just experienced a play that fit that mandate exactly – the play we saw was meaningful and compelling indeed. It was the highlight of our weekend. We walked away with food for thought and full hearts. McLean was quoted as saying that the words of C.S. Lewis “have intellectual integrity and dramatic power”. His stories hit us in the imagination. To think that someone out there cares about giving voice to the deep message of Christianity to is so hopeful to me. (I was also thrilled to learn they are adapting my favorite Lewis work, The Great Divorce.)
Lyle and I celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary today, May 19th. Over the years, we have stuck together (and almost split up at one point) through difficult times, and the single most important glue has been God’s faith and love for us and our being part of a meaningful faith community. We found ourselves surrounded by meaning and a lot of fun on our “anniversary weekend” together, and I have been so thankful for this not so small miracle. There were times when I could not have imagined the story would turn out that way, so I know that our God means it when scripture says, “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
I am so grateful for all the angels that have been sent our way from God over the years, strengthening us every step of the way, giving us hope and a future.