Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Every day brings new surprises. I remember when I was in Bible college there was a woman named Ethel Barrett who recorded children’s stories, and since my ministry was focused on children, writing for children, performing for children, leading junior churches, child evangelism, etc., I listened to her tell Bible stories more than most kids. I loved Ethel Barrett and learned much from her. She said something in an interview that I have never forgotten. She said if she had one piece of advice to give it would be to find the adventure in every day. Well! Adventure! Every day! (That’s fine for you to say, Ethel, but the rest of us--) She said she looked for a surprise in every day. (So typical for a children’s story teller, right?) But because I was a good student, and because I loved children, and because I loved Ethel Barrett, I decided to show the Lord how much I loved Him by taking her advice.

It worked. I can’t think of a day in my life that hasn’t brought at least one surprise. I call them blessings, I call them adventures. I call them “interesting.” I’ve even managed a way to find depression interesting. (I write about it—I tell the story of Jonah—I dramatize – I mope around like Job wearing big sleeves—I think about scrounging up money for a taxi to the bridge—I re-consider and imagine a life tucked under the covers until Jesus comes.)  There’s a million ways to find depression amusing. – Have I told you I’m prone to depression? I mean, the clinical kind?

Okay.  Back to Ethel Barrett. She’s in her 80’s now, and her influence is still as strong as ever. She can never know how she inspired me. She was like my little beacon of hope in a male-dominated, grey, colorless world. She was feisty and smart and she wore colorful clothes and she loved God. I was coming from a lifetime in the theatre and suddenly I was implanted in a conservative Bible school where sin lurked behind every bush— Sin? They told me, a leotard-toting ballerina, that a skirt above the knee was sin. Goodness. I was accustomed to men in tights! I was born in a locker room with naked bodies rushing about looking for their revealing costumes. I played Irma in Irma La Duce. I was Lola in Damn Yankees! Okay, okay, I was now a born-again Christian and I was living to serve God and Him only, so be it. Off with the tap shoes and the toe shoes and on with the bonnet and the bow. I loved God. I was serious.

But then! Then! As I lavished my affection upon the children of Chicago and the Midwest, creating puppet shows and theatres, dancing and singing as Deborah and Moses and Martha and Mary—there appeared one Ethel Barrett.

She came to our school and spoke and in her presence I became electrified. My hair must have shot out from my head like florescent cactus fronds. I’m sure my skin turned bright neon. I was transfixed. My life was forever altered. God sent her just to me. Here before me stood a woman wearing RED and slapping our dean on the back with a “Hey, pal!” This was simply beyond my forced nun mentality. She laughed, she hooted, she guffawed – my God, there was hope for me.

She was the only woman on the platform with a gaggle of be-suited clergymen, and she was completely at home, holding her own, possessing the stage, enjoying herself and most of all, enjoying God—

And God said to me at that moment, “Welcome home.”

to be continued……