I’m rehearsing my songs at home today, getting ready for our opening performance of Peter the Rock coming in just a couple of weeks. Which means all the neighbors keep looking out their front doors to see what’s going on. Ethel, did you hear another siren? The dog are all howling again.
See, there was a big house fire in our neighborhood last week, and everyone’s still a little skittish. So every time I finish practicing a song, I go look out my front door and act like I heard something too, so nobody will think it was me. Hopefully by the 24th, my songs will be a bit more polished, and the neighborhood dogs will quit commenting.
When we opened Ragtown Gospel Theater in 2007, our first play was Peter the Rock. Thinking back about those early days, we are reminded of how blessed we are that the Lord has drawn some truly wonderful people to work alongside us here. There were a few times back then, when it was just the four of us, Glenn and Twila, and Robin and I.
I drove the bus while Robin and Twila took care of tickets and ushering folks to their seats. Then I parked the bus, ran around to the back door, pulled my jacket on, and the grass burs out of my jeans, and came out onstage and performed my concert. Glenn, already dressed in the ragged tunic of Peter, ran my sound and lights from up in the control room.
During the intermission he and I switched places, while Robin and Twila handled concessions.
At the end of the play, I drove the bus again, taking everyone back down the hill their cars . But I wasn’t the most experienced bus driver. In fact, the very first time I drove the bus, it was dark outside when the play was over. I hadn’t ever driven the bus in the dark, and when we got everyone loaded and ready to take off, I discovered that there was no light on the push-button gear shift. I felt around in the dark for the buttons, found them, and guessed…wrong.
When we took off in reverse, a lady in the back of the bus called out with a little quaver in her voice, “Would you sing Blessed Assurance one more time.” That’s one I’ll never forget. We’ve had a lot of them…unforgettable experiences, I mean.
After every play, Glenn tries to visit with everyone as they leave the theater. He hears their responses first hand. He and I were speaking with a pastor earlier this week, and I heard Glenn tell him that, of all the plays we’ve staged, Peter the Rock is the one that the most people have said truly touched their heart. I believe that, because I had an interesting experience when I watched a portion of the video of the play a couple of weeks ago.
Since I write the plays, it is hard for me to experience them the same way everyone else does. But because I wrote Peter the Rock so many years ago, when I watched the video clip, it didn’t feel like watching my brother delivering words I had written. I was able to hear them in a different way, and it was truly moving to see Peter’s heart, and have those words resonate deeply with me.
I have to admit to a little trepidation at first, about whether people who have already seen the play, or watched the video will want to come see it again. I can only tell you that I can’t wait. There is something special about this play.
Emotion is easy to evoke, but when we are stirred deeper than emotion, all the way to the heart, that means something has resonated, ringing true with the Spirit. I know that the same Spirit who dwelled in Peter’s heart, also abides in yours and mine, and I believe we are seeing something true in this play. I think it is the genuine heart of a man who loved his Lord, who, though he knew he was forgiven, still felt the shadow of that time when he lost his courage, and was not faithful to His Lord.
I believe our production presents a genuine portrait of the fisherman who, when he saw Jesus on the shore of of the sea, did not hesitate to leap out of the boat and swim a hundred yards to get to Him. I love that man’s heart. Jesus did too.
On February 24th, we’ll be starting our twelfth season just the way we began. Both Glenn and I will be doing solo performances for the first time in a long time. I guarantee you will be blessed by Glenn’s portrayal of Peter. The neighborhood dogs like singing along with the songs I’m planning to do, so that must tell you something. Oh…and I promise I won’t be driving the bus.