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Beyond the Veil | Love After All

It had been seven years since Anna discovered the truth; yet it seemed a lifetime ago.  A man named Paul had written, as if to Anna personally… “The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes… to free and slave, prisoners, and those who suffer.”  Anna had been a long time in grasping that message in her own heart, although she’d suffered much in her young life; a prisoner of her own pain and distrust.

Thankfully, that truth had sustained her as she struggled to survive those horrifying seven years, while she feared that most of those she cared about were lost forever.

Unable to move now, Anna found herself standing between fading memories and the door to eternity.   Everything had changed, and only what she had finally come to believe kept her from crumbling, as had so many, into total madness.

“Am I breathing… dying?  Am I dead?” she wondered.

The Great Veil

Rising before her was a great, shimmering wall of indescribable dimensions, like an immense veil or theater curtain in the grandest proscenium archway.  Suddenly, the veil ripped from top to bottom before her eyes.  Anna remembered reading a story about something like this in a Bible, during the past seven years when being found with a copy of that forbidden book threatened imprisonment or worse.

The story told of a devastating incident, long ago.  How another mammoth veil in a Hebrew temple had torn violently, right down the middle, as if by unseen hands—as an innocent Man died on a Roman cross.  Anna had finally come to know that Man as her life. Now she understood. He was the only way to God—for her, for anyone.  God Himself, appearing in human flesh; born to die, to pay for the sins of every person on earth, of all time, in one sacrificial act of grace and forgiveness.

Anna hadn’t let herself believe it before that day—when so many people just disappeared!   

Everyone had heard the voice roaring from the heavens then.  Like the blast of a great horn, it had shaken them all to their knees.  Some recognized the voice instantly, yet they had been too late in taking the prophecy seriously, as unbelief, or their “religion,” had masked the truth.  Anna had only covered her ears at the sound, still unwilling to listen.  It had all been too incredible for her to believe.

But, people were suddenly gone, and Anna realized she and millions of others were now left behind to face what Jesus Himself had warned of, “For then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred, since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall be.”

The Man of Lawlessness Comes

The mysterious book of Revelation told of a “man of lawlessness” called Antichrist, who would rise during the final seven years.  Ultimately, it said, he would show himself for who and what he was—Satan incarnate.  At first, Anna had listened to this charismatic world leader; captivated by his smooth, persuasive words.  But, just as the book had foretold, three and a half years later, he changed; morphed into something hideous in nature. A killing force;  vicious and cruel.

“Science is king,” he chanted. “Evolution is truth, and creation is a lie. Your GOD is a lie!”

Then came that day in the new temple; he did the most abominable thing!  

“I alone am god!” he declared, as millions watched via satellite around the world.  So many had cheered, while others like Anna were terrified, knowing who he really was.  The builders of the new temple had finally realized also—and remembered the One they had rejected.  Those who could run fled into the desert.  After that day, those who wouldn’t bow down to Antichrist’s image were destroyed.

The Mark

“Do NOT take The Mark, no matter what!” Anna’s best friend Grace had warned her.  Grace was one of those who did read that Book, and knew the rewards of taking the Mark—that symbol of allegiance to Antichrist.  NOT taking the Antichrist’s “Mark” would mean not being able to buy food or anything else; all privileges taken away.  However, taking the Mark had dire, eternal consequences!

One day, Grace had desperately insisted on reading a Bible passage to Anna… “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his Mark on their forehead or on their hand, they shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God… Here is the patience of the saints (believers); those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus the Christ”

Still, Anna had not listened.  It had taken the disappearance of her friend and many others to convince her of what had been inconceivable before that day.

Now, seven terrifying years later, endless lines of rescued souls stood silently to her left and right.  Waiting.  Unable to move, or even to see clearly beyond the veil, they were captive to a seemingly infinite moment in time, before there would be no more. 

Standing beneath the great veil, Anna’s mind raced at light speed through what had been her life.  Faces of those she had known and loved.  But, even as her heart assured her she would soon be with God forever, deep grief swept over her for those who would never go beyond the veil.

The evidence of the disappearances, and a world gone mad around them, had not convinced most of the world that had been too willing to take the Mark.  Sadly, those would never realize their dreams or find the love they had sought in anything and anyone, but Christ.

For Anna, it was unbearable to think what waited for them now.   “If only they had believed!”

She wept, one last time—her only comfort, remembering what the Book said lay beyond the veil.  “For God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither any more pain; for the former things are passed away.”

A Prisoner and Yet..

Anna woke with a start at the sound of the prison bullhorn; her heart still racing.  The veil was gone now.  The images she had dreamed about in such detail had been prompted by Corrie and Betsie ten Boom’s nightly readings in Barracks 28, from a small, smuggled Bible.  The Tribulation had not yet happened; but now she understood, it would certainly come.

Too early for daylight to show through the dirt-encrusted windows, Anna and hundreds of other women were crammed into a space meant to house much fewer people.  Yet only their closeness kept most from freezing to death in the icy winter of Northern Germany.  Women, Jews and Gentiles of many countries and languages, were forced to lie in filthy, flea-infested bunks, hoping a Nazi guard would not call their name, one final time.

Now fully awake, Anna was relieved to be alive, even in Ravensbruck prison.  There was still time, however short, to comfort others with the hope of heaven beyond this place.  She and the other women would likely never leave Ravensbruck alive.

Night after night, Corrie and Betsie had read scripture to give that hope to all the women.  The images Anna had dreamed about had once frightened and confused her, not having understood John’s vision, told of in the Revelation, was the kindest warning Christ had given His beloved apostle—to be delivered to any of us who might believe and be spared what was going to come.

Love, After All

But, it wasn’t the fear of the Revelation’s horrible images of the end times that caused Anna or others to trust Christ as Savior.  It was those other passages they read each night—about God’s mercy and forgiveness.  It was His willing sacrifice on that cross for Anna and all mankind, if they could only believe.  His resurrection promised victory even over death, and new life forever with Him.

God’s amazing and sacrificial LOVE was what won Anna’s heart!  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,”  Romans 5:8 proclaimed.  And “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends,” says John 15:13. He was Anna’s Friend!

In 1944, Corrie and Betsie ten Boom risked their own lives reading from that smuggled Bible, to the women in Barracks 28.  It was ones like Anna, although a fictional character here, who listened and believed the readings from God’s word each night, who found hope, strength and true freedom, even in prison.

On those dark nights, with death so close, some might have wondered if that man in Germany, Adolf Hitler, was the long-prophesied Antichrist.  After all, his twisted ideology had caused them and so many others to be captive there.  Time would prove otherwise. 

However, the ancient prophecy, found in the books of Daniel and the Revelation, remains a serious, yet merciful warning to any who would find ultimate victory over this world, beyond the veil,  through faith in Jesus Christ—Yahshua, the Messiah!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but that the world, through Him, might be saved” … John 3:16-17

~  ~  ~

[Ravensbruck was a Nazi Concentration Camp where more than 100,000 women, Jews and others, were exterminated during World War 2]

Scripture references include: Rom. 1:16, Matthew 24:21, Rev. 14:9-12, Rev. 21:4.

Love, Don’t Hate! Remembering Corrie ten Boom

Love, not hate
remembering Corrie

“Don’t HATE, Corrie!”  Betsie said.

It was November, 1944, and Corrie was stunned by the look in Betsie’s eyes, full of love and compassion, even for the Nazi guard who was beating Betsie unmercifully.

Corrie ten Boom, younger than her beloved sister Betsie by nine years, could not stand by and watch any longer.  She would never forget the hate on that Nazi woman’s face as she whipped Betsie violently, again and again.  Where did such hate come from?

Suddenly, Corrie knew the answer too well, seeing this latest injustice toward someone she loved.  Hate, even rage, rose up like gall in her own heart, until she was close to choking on it.

Corrie and Betsie had grown up in a household of love and compassion, kindness, and faith in God.  Hate was an enemy they had never met until now. How would these two amazing women deal with a world that seemed bent on hate?

April 15th marks TWO anniversaries for a remarkable and beloved, Dutch watchmaker and Nazi holocaust survivor, Corrie ten Boom.  Born that spring date in Haarlem, Holland (The Netherlands), she would step into eternity on her 91st birthday.

Remembering Corrie ten Boom [April 15, 1892 — April 15, 1983]

Years ago, writer Linda Ellis’ profound poem, “The Dash,” shared the message, that the dates of a person’s birth and death are not as important as how that person spends the DASH in between.  It’s hard to think of many who spent their “dash” as well as Corrie ten Boom, whose life touched and continues to bring hope and encouragement to many, all around the world!

Corrie’s autobiographical book, “The Hiding Place,” written with Elizabeth and John Sherrill, was the basis for this stage play, “Ten Boom the Musical.” Her book became a major motion picture in 1978, sharing the powerful true story of Corrie and her family during the Nazi occupation of Holland.  Her “dash” included life in a loving Christian family that would later risk their lives to hide Jewish people from Nazi persecution and death. The family’s work with the Dutch Resistance finally led to imprisonment, where many of them died.  Their story tells of a great love, courage, and unflinching faith in God.  From a quiet life to unexpected intrigue, great pain and ultimate victory, Corrie’s experience has encouraged millions all over the world through her speaking and her many books.

“Don’t Hate!”

If Corrie was alive today, and could see what’s happening in our nation and our world, what would she say to us now?  She had survived three concentration camps during a devastating World War that took the lives of an estimated 50 to 80 million people, military and civilian. Six million of those were Jewish people—killed simply for being Jews! HATE did that, and Corrie had seen the enemy up close and personal.  And yet, I believe her message for us would include a loving warning, like the one given to Corrie herself by her sister Betsie, even about the Nazis…“Don’t Hate!”

It was a harsh winter in Germany, in 1944.  Corrie, Betsie and hundreds of others were forced into hard labor at Ravensbruck prison, a Nazi death camp for women.  The sixteen-hour days of back-breaking work, with little to eat, were literally killing many of the women.  Betsie, born with pernicious anemia, grew weaker by the day. Seeing her collapse to the ground, Corrie ran to Betsie’s aide, only to be pushed violently aside by a cruel matron others called “the Snake.”

To Corrie’s mind, the beating was the last straw. A devoted Christian woman, but how could she continue to turn the other cheek1, while another person she loved was so cruelly mistreated?  The brutality and deaths she had witnessed caused a deep bitterness to grow toward those who purposed to cause pain.  Finally, Corrie just wanted to get her hands on that Nazi guard and pull her away from Betsie, but other prisoners held her back, fearing more retribution.  Restrained now, by the arms of women who had as much reason to hate as she, Corrie’s tears boiled over.

Pray For Your Enemies

The beating had finally stopped. The Snake threatened and ordered all the women back to work. But, Corrie was still reeling from the scene, and rushed to comfort her now bleeding sister.

“I HATE THAT WOMAN…” Corrie stopped, puzzled by the look on Betsie’s face.

“Don’t hate, Corrie. Pray for that woman!” Betsie whispered. “THEY know how to hate and look what it’s done to THEM!  You can’t protect me here, Corrie—you mustn’t try!”

“How do you pray for such monsters?” Corrie wept. She had trusted the Lord since she was five years old, and had never seen the face of evil, as here in this place.  Jesus warned believers, “Be sober and vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”2

Here, behind the ominous, barbed-wire fences of Ravensbruck prison, the smell of death was all around her, choking her with a hatred she had never experienced.  JOY had always defined her life. How was she to deal with such evil?

The True Hiding Place

Corrie remembered the words of the apostle Paul to believers… “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might… take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day; and, having done all, to stand.”3

Corrie was the strong one, feisty even; now she definitely wanted to make a stand. But is that what Paul was saying? She loved the Lord, and was often steadied  by Betsie’s wise counsel, as they grew up. Betsie was right! They were here in this place of death to bring hope to others—not to hate—not even the Nazis.

What Would Corrie Do Today?

The Bible tells us that in the last days, people will be offended and there will be much division. Hearts will turn cold toward others, and hate will abound.4  That people will be as we see many becoming in our world today.5

In Luke 6, Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

On her knees, Corrie asked the Lord to forgive her and to give her the right heart toward these enemies. She prayed the infection of hatred in their hearts would heal also; that they would learn to love again.  If our adversary, even the devil, can cause hate to eat at our souls, then we have already lost the battle. Hate steals any compassion we might have for another soul, while it steals our own peace.

God allowed Corrie and Betsie ten Boom to be imprisoned at Ravensbruck to bring light and hope, the love of God, to others suffering that horror. Even if it meant they themselves should die there! Betsie did die, but that miraculous event would encourage Corrie’s heart for the rest of her life as she traveled to more than 60 countries to tell others, “No pit is so deep that God’s love is not deeper still!

Putting Out Fires of Hatred

It seemed the whole world was on fire during World War 2.  And it seems that fire of hatred and division is spreading across the globe in these times, when LOVE and compassion are desperately needed!

On this anniversary of Corrie ten Boom’s birth, and her going home to the Lord she loved, we pray the world will stop and consider LOVE, not hate!

I Peter 4:8 (AMP) “Above all, have fervent and unfailing love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. It overlooks unkindness, and seeks the best for others.

Angel on the MTA | Nashville

I’ll never forget that day… and that strange ride on the MTA!

“Do you believe in angels, Mom?” I remember my son Mike’s long-ago question as if it was yesterday. He was at an age that can often weary a young mother, and my fairly preoccupied response to my little boy’s question was a decided “No!”

Personally, I had never seen an angel, and had long-since placed the possibility of such a creature alongside Santa Claus and other childhood tales!

It would be a long time before I’d read a Bible and a verse that says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained ANGELS.”1

It was the summer of 1984… months since the Lord had broken into my misery at a large Nashville church. Carrying a huge chip on my shoulder, I had gone there at what seemed the bottom of my life, arrogantly challenging Him to “show” Himself. The Bible says, “Seek and you will find.” 2 I should have been squashed like a bug on a windshield, but was stunned, to say the LEAST, when the Lord spoke right out loud to me. My stony heart crumbled!

My living situation would not be quick to change then, but my perspective on almost everything else had instantly and miraculously flip-flopped. By now, I was sure I wouldn’t be at all surprised to meet up with a real live ANGEL.

But THIS one would definitely be a surprise!

The alarm clock startled me at 5:30 that morning. It seemed only minutes before I had finally fallen asleep after a rough night of coughing and sneezing. A quick swipe at the frosted bedroom window with a rumpled tissue told me that at least it had stopped raining. But something was wrong—more wrong than the fact of this monster head cold!

Most days now, I woke with a deep inner peace and assurance that God’s mercies are new every morning.3 I had kept a positive outlook that, “Surely this will be the day I find a job!” But this morning was different.

Still hoping for a car, I had been job hunting by way of the Nashville Metro Transit Authority (the “MTA”).  I’d never gotten used to the smell of diesel fumes, for all the years I sang with Grand Ole Opry star Whispering Bill Anderson, touring on his Silver Eagle bus.  But, that’s another story.

The thought of bus fumes this morning only added to my nausea, but going back to sleep was not an option. I had a job interview at Belmont College (now University), and I needed to work. The mirror told me it would take the “big guns” to make myself look at all presentable. “Nobody wants to hire an ex-roadie-turned-Jesus-freak, anyway!” I whimpered. Numerous job applications had turned up nothing solid. No one seemed to understand, my life had changed so much and I didn’t plan to head out on the next show bus.

But, the days had dragged on, and my faith was sagging for the first time since hearing God whisper, “You’re going home, Susan!”  How could I ever lose heart after that, I wondered? Still, here I was. Poor, sick pitiful me!

Prayers for Passengers

The interview at Belmont went well enough, as it turned out, and I got the job. But, my head had pounded as I left the campus that day and boarded the #2 Belmont bus headed downtown. The familiar publishing houses and recording studios flashed by the windows as the bus wound through Music Row toward Broadway, where I would have to wait for yet another bus to take me home.

Months before, I’d promised God that, as long as I had to ride the MTA, I would pray for every soul I rode with every day.  I had kept that promise, but this day I just wanted to be left alone.  I didn’t want to have to try to talk to others, even about Jesus, the love of my life; certain my witness would be less than inspiring. “Forgive me, Lord, guess I’m not a very good servant today!”  Self-pity had settled in like my cold.

Forgetting to ‘Entertain Strangers’

I was seated in one of those sideways seats upfront, behind the driver, when the bus came to a stop and an elderly black woman got on. Toting a couple of large plastic bags, she quickly flopped all of herself and her treasures onto the seat right beside me.  Only four or five other people were scattered about the bus and, “She has to sit down right next to me,” I thought. “I’ll pray for her, Lord, but please don’t ask me to talk to anybody today.”

The old woman’s chocolate eyes sparkled and smiled, almost as broadly as the toothy grin that exaggerated her otherwise small, weather-worn face.  “What does she have to be so joyful about?” I groused silently behind a token smile. Before long, I would have the answer.

I couldn’t help but notice, she wore several layers of old clothes, likely her entire wardrobe. Buttons strained to hold multiple sweaters together.  Nothing matched anything else; from the brown knit hat that covered most of her salt and pepper hair, to the out-sized granny shoes on her feet. It was all I could do not to laugh, despite my resolve to bask in a pity party. But that, I tried reminding myself, was not what my new life was about at all!

Stranger than Imagined

“Okay, Lord,” I finally yielded, “If you want me to tell her about your Son, you have to give me an opening!”

Surprisingly, SHE spoke first.

She was full of information about the history of “Music City.”  Her thick brown knee socks sagged annoyingly, I thought. But, it only allowed her constantly animated hands one more lively gesture, as she gave the socks an occasional tug. She talked about the weather and the city’s plans to turn the old Union Station Depot on Broadway into a “fancy” hotel.

Surely, I thought, she would take a breath and I would be able to say something. Feebly, I tried to jump in a time or two, but I guess the most I was ever able to say was, “Well, I…” or “Yes, but…,” and she was off, onto another subject.

Don’t get me wrong, she certainly wasn’t boring or negative—in fact, she was downright funny! But, getting a word in edgewise, I decided, would take a sure act of God.

Botched Assignment

Finally, the bus came to another stop and this irritatingly joyous—but “lost” I was afraid—“bag lady” jumped up, straightened her bundles, and prepared to get off the bus.

“Well,” she said, wrestling comically with her bulging load, “Nice talkin’ to ya!”

I smiled weakly and nodded, feeling like a complete failure for not being more forthright to tell her about Jesus. She shot one last oversized grin at me and, elbows high, hauled her bundles down the bus steps.

 “I blew it! I’m sorry, Lord,” I sulked, wishing I was home in bed. “Now she’ll probably never know You!” A sympathetic smile, if not a big LOL, must have filled the Lord’s face—no doubt shaking His head over my still infantile faith.

Half-way down the steps, that funny old woman turned and ambled nimbly back up toward me. Now, placing a dark, ancient hand on my knee and searching my eyes with a depth and compassion I hadn’t noticed before, she said, “Don’t ever stop talking about Him!”

Then she leaned in closer and said again… “Don’t you EVER stop talking about Him!”

Touched By An Angel

I must have turned angel-robe white! I hadn’t been able to say a word to the old “woman” about God, my faith, or even myself on that bus ride down Broadway.  I sat stunned as the bus door closed behind her, and she was gone. I mean, she was just gone! I looked both ways on the street. Gone!

It occurred to me, she hadn’t had those bundles in her hands when she stepped back up those stairs.  More amazing, I wasn’t feeling ill anymore either! A renewed joy started in my heart and crept up all over me as I realized what had just happened.

“Oh my gosh, Lord, that wonderful old street person was from You!” Tears flowed even as I wanted to laugh right out loud at God’s sense of humor and the method He’d used to lift my spirits. He had sent an unlikely messenger to encourage me that I was on the right track, even if it looked just plain “crazy” to the whole world.

I was more assured than ever that God’s word is true. Angels ARE real!  Sometimes they even ride the MTA!

For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways …Psalm 91:11

 

[From Susan Beyer’s book, Above “Reality”: Where Miracles Happen and Healing Begins – Available at Amazon.com]

References above:  1 Hebrews 13:2,  2 Matthew 7:7-8, 3  Lamentations 3:22-23

Uncle Tom | An Unfortunate Myth

A big lie has been perpetuated for more than a century, about the character of a character known as “Uncle Tom!” I hope to set the record straight here, and that many will choose to learn the truth, by reading one of the greatest and most controversial books in American history.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a book by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852), meant to expose the hideous practice of SLAVERY, for what it was. However, although an instant best-seller, the book soon met with enormous opposition, that caused many to believe and spread an unfortunate myth, and to ignore truths that might have helped heal a divided nation, short of a deadly Civil War.

“He’s just an Uncle Tom!”

Many African Americans still use that misnomer to shame other black people they think of as “weak, go-along” sorts—“sell-outs to white masters.” But, why defame “Uncle Tom?”  Where did that comparison come from, about a character I’ve come to admire as one of the greatest men ever written about—fictional or real?

Black slaves, likely unable to read Stowe’s stunning book back then, or barely even to speak English, no doubt believed the propaganda of the book’s CRITICS, who portrayed Uncle Tom as a traitor to the black race. Yes, an unfortunate myth!

Who Was “Uncle Tom”?

Uncle Tom’s Cabin  describes its main character as a gentle, amiable black slave named Tom—a man of deep faith, loyalty and integrity. A victim of a cruel injustice in those times, Tom worked hard to keep his family together; not sold off separately, like chattel to the highest bidder. A man of his word, Tom obeyed his “owner” so long as the requirements did not compromise his faith and moral convictions. Closer examination shows the character as, I would say, a powerful role model for black people and others alike, even today. But, those who profited by the slave trade then wouldn’t have wanted THAT to get around. Stowe’s book posed a threat!

Ultimately, Tom chooses to die at the hands of a vicious slave master named Simon Legree, rather than betray two slave women who had escaped. In that, “Uncle Tom” proved one of the most Christ-like characters ever to grace the printed page. Uncle Tom exhibited colossal courage and character, as he laid down his life, rather than betray others!

The Bible says, Scarcely for a righteous man will one die… but God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still slaves to sin, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:7-8]

Moving South

In 1977, I moved with my three children to Nashville, Tennessee, and have since learned much about the south and its history. My Louisiana-born husband Philip and I love to read historical and other thought-provoking books together. A few years ago, we decided to tackle a rather large volume, titled Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  As a southerner, and “baby boomer,” Philip remembers some of the harsh realities of bigotry that lingered long into the 20th century. For my part, originally from California, much of my life was relatively untouched by the true story of slavery in America.  However, my husband and I agree, slavery was an ugly blight on our nation—one never to be repeated!

Sadly, I realize now, many black people believe they are still victims of “white supremacy.” Yet, I believe the great majority of our society recognizes the equality and worth of all humans; all races. Many black Americans have risen to high and influential positions in our nation over the past decades; in the military, as high-ranking statesmen and women, as mayors of major cities; even as president of the United States. Many excel in business, medicine, science, media and journalism; in the arts, sports, and in academia, etc.

Are all of THOSE “Uncle Toms”?

I like to believe, rather, they have courageously overcome any victim-mentality passed on to them by more cynical blacks, or purposeful/political race-baiters?  Thankfully, many seem to have been able to look past the ignorance of any lingering prejudices in our society, and to make their way.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin | The Controversy

With Uncle Tom’s Cabin published in 1852, abolitionists and Northerners generally praised Harriet Beecher Stowe’s fictionalized, albeit candid depiction of the inhumane and often gruesome nature of the slave trade, and they were quick to confirm the truths Stowe had written about.  

On the other side, PRO-SLAVERY advocates claimed that Stowe was “misrepresenting slavery and exaggerating the cruelty of the institution.” They said her book was “a distortion of the facts and a mutilation of the records, for the sake of giving substance to a scandalous fancy.” Interestingly, they didn’t accuse her of using false documentation. Rather, they claimed that, “The examples Stowe provided are the most extreme instances, meant to give the worst possible impression of the institution of slavery, and of the south.”

Nicer Slave Owners?

Were there those wealthy land owners who took in slaves to keep them from the auction blocks that demoralized many blacks for profit then? I suspect there were. I’ve found southerners to be, generally, kind, God-fearing and hospitable. I would hate to think that back then they were overcome by some collective evil spirit void of compassion for those black immigrants. But, how many, otherwise good, people in Germany looked the other way when the Nazis victimized the Jews during WW2?

Slavery is a monstrous thing, and Harriet Beecher Stowe was courageous and right to expose it as she did!

Other pro-slavery reaction to Stowe’s writing was more a critique of her character, than a critique of the work itself. One review, by George Holmes, questioned Stowe’s writing of the truth as a “lack of decency,” portraying “scenes of license and impurity, and ideas of loathsome depravity.” Holmes appealed to women, especially southern women, NOT to read Stowe’s writings.  History proves that the so-called “decency” of many of those women and men of the time turned its back on other human beings who truly suffered, often the cruelest enslavement.

A Legitimate, Yet Unrecognized Hero

It seems there has always been, and may always be, those who would demean, oppress, enslave, even destroy others to further their own ambitions. Corrie ten Boom met head-on with that in her time!

On the other hand, I believe the power mongers of our world, and any of us, could learn much from the character of an “Uncle Tom.” Compassion for other human beings, as Jesus showed us during his time on earth, is what brings greatness to a person or a people. Tragically, those such as Adolph Hitler, the fictional Simon Legree character, and other Judases, are remembered only with disdain, if at all.

I highly recommend that everyone read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”—especially black Americans. The truth is a great healer—our nation longs for it!

The Grand Pixel | Our Earthly Home

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known,” wrote Dr. Carl Sagan, American astronomer, scientist, author, and self-proclaimed atheist, regarding our universe.  He was closer to the truth than he could know then!

In 1977, when the Voyager 1 space probe made its journey toward the outer reaches of our solar system, Dr. Carl Sagan and other scientists prompted NASA to turn the probe’s camera around, so it could photograph what it was leaving behind.

Witnessing our vast star system and planet Earth fading into the distance, Dr. Sagan would write a book titled Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, believing Earth to be only a mere “pixel” in the universe.

The following is an excerpt from his book:

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there, on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.  In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. To me,” wrote Sagan, “it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

Corrie ten Boom | Her thoughts about God’s “pale blue dot”

It would have saddened Corrie ten Boom to hear Dr. Sagan say, “There is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”  For Corrie, having met her Savior at only five years of age, Help had already come.  I believe Corrie would have kindly assured Dr. Sagan that, “God loves you, and wants to share with you His knowledge of the universe He made. Wonders beyond anything you have yet imagined!”

Having survived the WW2 Holocaust and three concentration camps, Corrie ten Boom—a Dutch watchmaker who, along with her family, was arrested for hiding hundreds of Jews from the Nazis—spent the next four decades of her life telling thousands about her experiences. Mainly, she shared about her faith in God, and the miracles that helped her and others during that dark time. “Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible,” she said. “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”  Hers was a message of hope and assurance.

Even amid the dark horrors of the prison camps, Corrie was able to tell others, “In darkness God’s truth shines most clear.” Surely, that would also be true in the darkest reaches of space!

Without God, Hearts grow cold

It was obviously important to Dr. Sagan that people “deal more kindly with one another,” a sentiment most people would agree with; especially Jesus, who entreated his followers to “Love one another.”  [1]

Sadly, the wisdom of scripture is more and more ignored in our world. Yet, it forewarned about these times we live in, “Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” Corrie experienced those places where the coldest of hearts had learned more to hate, than to be kind.

God knows the human hearts he made with such care; and what happens when we choose not to believe Him. God IS love, and without His guidance, our world has only become more divided; more dangerous.

Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie spoke of God’s love with their fellow prisoners, that they might find strength and courage facing death at the hands of the Nazis. In the dim light of the barracks, they read that Jesus Christ was God in human form on Earth [2]; that they could know and trust Him with their very lives, even there. “For by Him, all things were created that are in heaven and on Earth, visible and invisible,” they read, “whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” [3]

Scientific Research | Honest to God?

Corrie might have wondered, how an honest study of the precision of our world could overlook that possibility?

Is there anything on this “pale blue dot” that was not conceived, designed and constructed by some intellect?  Shouldn’t scientific research sift all possibilities before coming to conclusions?

How could such research dismiss the wisdom in that ancient Book that has endured for eons, outlasted civilizations, and been attested to by so many millions of changed lives? Is our planet Earth really just “a lonely speck of dust” in the universe?

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth,” [5] the Bible tells us.  And “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork.” [6]  Are we not awed by all of it, even as Dr. Sagan was?

I know from my own encounter with the Lord in 1984, that God does indeed “come to rescue us from ourselves.” I, and so many others have found victory over our broken lives, here on this grand and privileged planet!

What is Man that You are Mindful of Him

For all of Dr. Carl Sagan’s research into extraterrestrial matters, I’d like to think that, after all, he didn’t miss the main truth about this pixel we call home… Earth was purposely designed by a gracious God, to sustain life; specifically, human life, male and female, who were created in His image.

Night after night in Ravensbrück concentration camp, Barracks 28, Corrie and Betsie ten Boom shared about God’s gifts and promises to us, from one precious small Bible.

King David had once inquired of the Lord, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained—What is man that You are mindful of him?[9]

In so immense a universe, some believe we mere mortals are alone, insignificant.  But, GOD LOVES US! Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”  Is that not amazing! [10]  Jesus Christ, God on Earth in the flesh, [11] told us, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father but through Me.” [12]

Only a sovereign, creator God could say that. Only God, through Jesus Christ—Y’shuah, the Messiah—did!

Voyager 1 | A Message for the Cosmos

The Voyager 1 space probe was launched from Earth, September 5, 1977, forty years ago. NASA will continue for another ten years to monitor its journey through space, traveling at 38,610 mph. So incredibly immeasurable is God’s universe that scientists calculate it would take another 70,000 years for V-1 to reach Alpha Centauri, the nearest star other than our sun. That’s a distance of approximately 4.3 light years, or about 25 trillion miles from Earth.

Wondrously, it only takes a moment, right here on Earth, to eternally connect with our Creator God, by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts were sent with a greeting from Earth, to any form of life that might be encountered. The message is carried by a golden phonograph record; a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. The contents of the disk were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Dr. Carl Sagan while at Cornell University. He and his associates assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds. To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earth-people in fifty-five languages.  “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played, only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space.” – Carl Sagan

Sadly, Voyager’s recorded message did not include any hope-inspiring passages from the Bible, or any other faith-based writings and majestic hymns of faith.

A Lonely Message to Something waiting to be known

Will Voyager 1 just continue moving through the darkness of space, where only God is likely to hear its lonely message? Perhaps the Lord would receive the message as a desperate call for Help, a prayer even, to that “something incredible that is waiting to be known.” God answers prayer!

By now, Dr. Carl Sagan knows that the Answer to all his research was right there, all around him. He knows that only an almighty God could create so unfathomably vast a universe with such precision and beauty. That only man’s poor choices made any of it ugly. By now, he knows that God so loved him personally, and us, that he placed us on one perfect “pale blue dot” in the immense space of His love and grace, that we might find Him and believe. He’s waiting to be known by every soul on planet Earth.

As Dr. Sagan often said, “This is the only world known to harbor life… the only home we’ve ever known.”

Much more than that, Earth is where God’s Love took the punishment for all our sins, our human failings, on a rugged cross—past, present and future—that believing His sacrifice for us, we might share in His eternal home forever.

For each of us, it begins with faith, here on this perfect, privileged, grand pixel in space—our Earthly home.

~~

The Fan | Theater from the Heart

The FanThe Fan | Theater from the Heart, we call it!  Recently, a talk show host asked, “Why did you think to set Corrie ten Boom’s story, The Hiding Place, to music?”

Others have also wondered, until they hear the songs from our play, “Ten Boom the Musical.”

In fact, I and my real-life sister and musical co-writer, Donna Marquean Griggs, pulled material from more than just that one book.

A Musical Family, for sure!

The ten Boom family was actually very musical, like the family in which Donna and I grew up! Many played musical instruments and sang. Corrie’s nephew, Peter van Woerden, was a master organist and music director for a Dutch Reformed church in The Netherlands.

The ten Boom’s were known for inviting musicians to their home, to “jam” on many evenings. Of course, it was mainly classical music. Musicians, coming and going, turned out to be a good cover for people in the Dutch Resistance. Some even carried instrument cases as they entered or left the house at odd hours. For a few years, the Ten Boom’s were able to hide and transport more than 800 Jewish people. And  Nazi’s were none the wiser! Music turned out to be a life-saver for many.

The gift of a new radio was a treasure for “Papa” ten Boom, on the 100th Anniversary of the clock shop. It allowed their much-loved symphony music to “fill the house with joy.”

Donna and I have loved good theater all our lives, although from somewhat different perspectives. Actually, it made our partnership in the writing of the musical work even better. Of course, we grew up singing and loving music, but the theatrics—the “mechanics” of theater—was a challenge.

The Mechanic and The Fan

Of the two of us, I was always the “drama queen,” so to speak; hoping in childhood to become an actress.  Donna was more level-headed, more interested in just enjoying the story and characters in good plays and movies. She was a true fan—one of those people who can make or break a good film or stage play!

While Donna was more apt to be moved emotionally by a performance, I tended to love the technical aspects. I was always into the acting, the script; how it all comes together, etc. Having been on the road as a performer many years, I had trouble just watching other performers without much critique. I admit MY perspective could ruin a good performance for someone just wanting to enjoy it!

As Donna and I came together to bring the script and songs to life, I valued and trusted her thoughts and perspectives, more and more.  As we wrote, if the lines in the script or a song made her cry or laugh or get angry (in character), I knew we were on to something.

Fans and audiences should be touched emotionally, somehow; or something is lacking in a play or film! They are the necessary ingredient in a success or failure in The Arts.

So, in 1997, we two sisters, two best friends, brought our unique perspectives together. We had fun putting music to the miraculous story of Dutch evangelist and Nazi Holocaust survivor, Corrie ten Boom. And, it made for a wonderful stage play!

We were sharing an apartment in Nashville for many years, as we had shared a room at home as little girls growing up.  Only now, we had our own “big girl” rooms and spaces. It also gave us plenty of time to work on the play.

A Jewish “Fiddler” and a Christian Holocaust Survivor

The play had been on my mind and heart for many years, since coming to faith in Jesus the Messiah in 1984. I had performed in “Fiddler On The Roof,” many years before, portraying Tzeitel, the eldest daughter. Also, I was blessed to choreograph the play for the Maryland Community Theater back east. Now I wondered, “Why can’t Corrie’s story be told in a musical play as big as “Fiddler?”

But, if the idea to write “Ten Boom” was there for years, the project remained mostly untouched until 2009. It was then we took actors into a recording studio to do a read-through of the initial script.  The songs had been arranged and recorded, two years earlier.

Donna and I had sung harmonies with our older sister Judy and another friend, growing up.  Later, we were able to perform in the wonderful, “Passion Play at Two Rivers” in Nashville, for over twenty years. We loved the first century costumes and the majestic choral arrangements. Mostly, we loved sharing the gospel (good news) with thousands, as we portrayed characters who walked with Jesus.

So, How Did We Write the Musical?

Today, when people ask how we wrote “Ten Boom the Musical,” I tell them this. “We took an amazing true story, some said was too sad or dramatic to become a musical. After all, was “Fiddler On The Roof” not also dramatic?”  The Jews suffered much always. And what about musicals like “Les Miserables,” “West Side Story,” “The Color Purple,” even “Beauty and the Beast,” etc.?  Sad things happened in those plays, too; but most ended on a high note.

“Ten Boom” was written to show the heart and joy of a woman and others who found victory, even in the darkest time in history.

I’m a “mechanic,” a singer/writer who loves to put words and pieces of a story puzzle together to touch hearts.  Donna’s musical interests and instincts, along with her trusting heart helped make it all work right. You see, Donna is the perfect “fan”—someone who assesses the worth of a film, a play, a character, in a unique way.

Together, it all worked to make our play, “Ten Boom the Musical,” theater from the heart!

 

[Ten Boom the Musical shares the true and powerful story of Corrie ten Boom. To present this musical at your church or venue, contact us at 615-425-2652, 615-300-8591, or email us at susanmb@tenboomthemusical.com]

 

Christian Stage Play “Ten Boom” | Premier Performance VT 2014

Christian stage play

Ten Boom the Musical

“the PERFECT LOVE story”

Script & Music by Susan Meredith Beyer & Donna Marquean Griggs
Based on “The Hiding Place” book by Corrie ten Boom, with Elizabeth & John Sherrill

 

 

“Ten Boom the Musical,” a Christian stage play, was presented for the very first time, May 2-3, 2014, by the students and faculty of Grace Christian School (GCS) in Bennington, Vermont. [See Cast photo]
Laurie McCaskill, a dedicated GCS instructor, called us in February 2014 to engage the play, as an all-school event to present to the Tri-State community (VT-MA-NY). She hoped “to share the love of Christ through the amazing story of Dutch Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom.” Laurie  had always loved Corrie ten Boom’s true story, and had gone online to find a “short play… something, by or about Corrie’s life.” She found our Website and called for more information.

Never, since we began working on this project, had I heard deeper conviction from anyone so hoping to reach others for Christ, and sure our musical was exactly what the Lord prescribed. Laurie’s deep faith, humility, and genuine heart for others, caused Donna and me to trust GCS to abbreviate the play a bit. Somehow, we had total peace they could do it, and without us coordinating that!

Ten Boom co-writer Donna Marquean Griggs and I, along with my husband Philip Beyer, were able to fly in to see two of the school’s three performances. Philip said he was “dumb-founded” after our trip: “If I had not been here to see this for myself, you would never have been able to describe what happened here; the ways God showed His hand in all of it!”

READ ON, and see if you don’t agree!

Miraculous Christian Theater

We soon realized, God’s hand was in this, from Laurie McCaskill’s first phone call, to our return to Nashville. This amazing experience confirmed for us and others that “Ten Boom the Musical” is meant to touch many lives!

Grace Christian School was established in the fall of 1997; the very same time Donna and I began writing the musical. That was just one of many “coincidences” we would discover there.

Over the previous two years, we had contacted many larger churches, Christian university Theater Arts departments, and certain community theaters. Even as the writers, we thought the play was “too big” for smaller venues. However, the Lord had something else (better) in mind to launch our play. Apparently, He wanted to show us what HE could do with a group of truly committed actors and believers in an unexpected, smaller setting. GCS was a total surprise!

Arriving in Bennington VT

We were given an overwhelming welcome, including large baskets in our motel rooms. Those were full of Vermont specialties (maple syrup, apples, candy “moose kisses”, etc.). The next day, Joyce Lloyd, school founder/administrator treated us to lunch, after giving us the grand tour of their community of teachers and students. The last stop on the tour would be to see the stage and set for the play. Very exciting moment!

Everyone greeted us with genuine excitement—“You’re the ones who wrote the musical!” Handshakes, hugs, thank you’s. It was amazing! With each step on the tour, Mrs. Lloyd told us some of the “miraculous” stories of how the school (a wonderfully-converted former Ramada Inn) had come together. Philip smilingly commented to Donna and me, “You two are rock stars!” The entire school—students, teachers, cast, administration people, parents, even people we ran into in shops downtown—made us feel like visiting celebrities. We were humbled and blessed!

Story #1 | Divine Supply

Mrs. Lloyd was educated as a chemistry professor. So, she was happy to discover, the room that had been a bar/lounge in the former Ramada was a perfect place for a chemistry lab. The Problem was, they had no equipment to teach chemistry; couldn’t afford it, at that point. But, within the first couple weeks, totally unsolicited, they had received several boxes filled with chemistry/lab equipment and supplies. Another school had heard GCS was starting up and thought they might need the equipment—no charge.

Stories like that had Donna, Philip and me on the verge of tears with each step; so strong was the Spirit in that place. We couldn’t wait to see what they were going to do with our play! Over the next two nights, we watched them perform to two packed houses. No professional actors or singers, but people of all ages giving their total heart to a creative, God-honoring performance WE DID NOT EXPECT!  It was stunning, to say the least!

The cast and crew of their presentation (about 60 people) was made up of GCS students, including foreign exchange students from Germany, Korea and China. Also in the cast were some faculty members, and students from the Northeastern Baptist University on the old Ramada’s second floor. They followed the directions we had written into the script, pretty closely, and it came together. Honestly, they had taken some creative license that  made us wish we had thought of some of those things ourselves. They put together surprisingly good sets, props and costumes; even their own media and sound effects. They had done some really nice promo, and worked as the most amazingly cohesive team, in one Spirit.

Laurie McCaskill did a great job directing the play, even as she faced personal challenges, at the time.

Story #2 | Divine Coincidence?

Sadly, Laurie’s mother was in the last stages of Lou Gehrig’s disease; but was being lovingly cared for by Laurie’s brother in nearby NY.

The week before the play was to go onstage, Laurie had called her brother and found him reading to their mother. When Laurie asked what he was reading, her brother said, “The Hiding Place, about Corrie ten Boom.” Laurie was amazed, as she had not told her brother about presenting our play, prior to that. They were both stunned! Laurie said, hearing that, she felt her decision to do the play had been totally confirmed.

Sunday morning May 4, as Philip and I waited to board our plane to go home, Laurie texted me. Her mother had “died peacefully at 10:30pm Saturday night, just as last night’s final performance ended.”  Laurie texted further, “Mama’s gone home to be with Jesus and Corrie.”

More Absolutely Divine Stories

  • A lovely young German girl, a foreign exchange student, did a fine job of portraying a Nazi guard. We were not allowed to take photos of her in that role, as her sponsors back in Germany might not understand her taking that risk. But, she insisted on playing the part, and protected herself to some degree. For her costume, she wore the red armband inside-out so it wouldn’t show the swastika. She certainly didn’t let it hinder her performance. When she shouted in German, “ALLE NASEN GEGEN MAUER!  EVERY NOSE TO THE WALL,” the whole audience came to attention!  Because of her affiliation with GCS, she became a Christian.
  • Then there was the Korean boy, also a foreign exchange student, who spoke almost no English. He took on the singing role of a German Nazi youth named “Otto” with a vengeance, so to speak. The young actor’s brother, who also had a lead role, spoke better English and had taught his brother the meaning of his lines. Our Korean “Otto” had memorized the English words so he could be in the play. He did a GREAT job… what a trooper!
  • One young actor was so dedicated to his role as a Nazi captain, he hand-made his own, authentic-looking uniform.
  • At one point, we visited an art & crafts store called Fiddlehead in downtown Bennington. We met a likeable young man who worked there, who was also a former news reporter. He became very interested in our visit to present our play, and he interviewed/ photographed Donna and me for the store’s Website and Facebook page, to help promote the event. Donna and I were able to share our stories with him; I gave him a copy of my book, and we invited him to the play. Before we left the store, he told us he was actually Jewish. He said, “I went through the bar mitzvah, the whole nine yards, but I no longer believe in all that God stuff.” Still, when Donna went back the next day to buy a gift, he asked to hear more about her faith, about Corrie, etc. We’re praying for him to know his Messiah, Jesus!!

 

Don’t Doubt the Reality of Divine Appointments

There were what we would call other “divine” appointments and uncanny “coincidences” that made our Vermont trip an amazing experience! Moreover, we know now, the Lord is in this musical project, and we’re encouraged to go forward. More than ever, we’re happy to wait totally on His timing and certainly His choice of venues!

The Bennington newspaper sent two reporters to GCS to interview Donna and me that first day. Funny thing—we picked up the paper at breakfast the next morning and began looking for the article, expecting it would be in the BACK pages. We all laughed when Philip turned the paper over and saw that the story took up the bottom third of the FRONT page. We hadn’t expected THAT either!

Everything—every bit of timing for the entire trip, was mind-boggling, including Donna’s iffy “stand-by” return flights to Ft Worth, Texas. It was all she had been able to book, but had her set to depart Albany NY airport some FIVE HOURS LATER than Philip’s and my flight to Nashville. Long stand-by list, yet Donna was able to change her flight back to Texas, at the last minute.  She departed Albany not only near the same time we did, but landed in Dallas at the exact time Philip and I landed back in Nashville.

We came home with a new commitment, and made some strategic tweaks to the script. Laurie McCaskill’s heart for Corrie ten Boom, and a cast of committed young actors in Vermont, made us more sure of how “ten Boom” should be presented. Also, it made us more confident of our original concept.

Exciting New Resolve Back Home

On our return home, we revamped the play’s ending, adding a new song, “Imagine/Perfect Love (medley),” making it much more powerful. Actually, it was more in keeping with the integrity of Corrie’s remarkable true life story. We also eliminated a few characters and condensed the dialogue some.

“Ten Boom the Musical” has been performed in other places now, but that first-ever production will always be a special memory for Donna and me!

We look forward to seeing what the Lord is going to do with “ten Boom the Musical” in the future, and pray many more churches and venues will see the value of performing it!

We pray that this example of God’s involvement in our work will encourage others to know and believe; He is always watching, ever present—He cares about our lives, our work in Him, even in the small details. He does direct our paths.  In Him, ALL things are possible!

 

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble
And surround me with songs of deliverance.
Psalm 32:7

Dear Dad: A Long-overdue Love Letter

Dear DadDear Dad,

It’s been so long since that last day we talked and you’re on my heart today.  I miss you, Dad!

Remember that day, Dad? You sat in that room, mostly silent and sober. I think about that day, and all the days and years that led up to it.  It all seems so long ago now.

You were my hero, growing up.  I wanted to be just like you!

I have often told people, “My dad could do just about anything! He was a child prodigy; a fine violinist, and a darned good fiddler! Dad could ballroom dance like a Fred Astaire, and swim like Johnny Weissmuller of “Tarzan” fame. He was also a wonderful sketch artist. My dad could be the funniest, most charismatic person in any room. He was, in fact, the most gifted person I ever knew”—but, maybe the most tragic back then.

That day, sitting next to your bed in that hospital room in Paris, Arkansas, it was so important to me to share what I did, even at the risk of upsetting you. And, by the pained look on your face, as I had to leave you that day, I guess it did.  But, time was running out, Dad, and it seemed too late to talk through all those other things that might have helped heal our family years before.

This letter is not meant to open old wounds, Dad, but to say some things that might be healing for any of us, even now!  I pray you finally understand and have forgiven.  I’ve learned a lot about forgiveness since then. The world could use a lot of it, just now!  I thought you would be proud to know, Donna and I even wrote a wonderful stage play about that.

“Ten Boom the Musical” is based on the powerful true story of a Dutch woman named Corrie ten Boom. She and her Christian family were sent to concentration camps, after hiding hundreds of Jews from the Nazis. But, the heart of the play is about what gave them the courage to endure. Joyful family memories and faith in God helped Corrie and her sister Betsie bring hope to others in those terrible times. Love and forgiveness helped them find victory, even there!

It was because of you, Dad, that I grew up to be a professional singer for many years, and a lover of music.  I remember the pains you took, teaching me and my sisters to sing close harmonies, when we were about thirteen, ten and nine years old. Remember?

Doing dishes after dinner each night was more than a chore for Judy, Donna and me. We would always argue about who got to wash or dry.  Judy always washed, of course, because she was the biggest, and could be pretty intimidating! :o)  Donna would cry about that. I just got mad. So, the jousting went on each evening!

I remember the night you finally laid down the law! You came into the kitchen and sat the three of us down on that redwood bench by our picnic dinner table. “From now on, I don’t want to hear another argument!  If you’re going to make a sound, it will only be to SING!  Doe-Ra-Me,” you sang.  That’s how it began.

Night after night, we practiced musical scales for what seemed hours. Sometimes to the point of tears—mostly ours, “Daddy, I’m too tired” or “I can’t do it.” For you, it must have been like pulling teeth, trying to teach three squirmy girls the discipline of learning and singing music. But, you persisted, as Judy sang the alto, I sang tenor, and our little sister Donna sang the lead.

Eventually, we were so proficient, all we wanted to DO was sing. You taught us mostly “barbershop quartet” songs—“Sweet Adeline,” “In the Evening By the Moonlight,” “Now is the Hour,” etc. No rock ‘n’ roll, as we might have wanted to sing in the fifties. But, we have to admit now, it really was a beautiful blend, those sister harmonies, and we had fun, after all.  Thanks, Dad!

You had long-since given up your dreams of being a professional musician, needing to “get a real job and feed all of us.” You became an electrician then, and it seemed your own personal light went out.  I know mom never encouraged your music, and even seemed a bit jealous of it, sadly. Not to blame her—the years had taken away the heart to pursue your dreams, only to mourn the loss of them.

Even so, because of you, three young girls also learned to dance and swim really well. You taught me to play a ukulele and encouraged my acting in school plays, and singing with school and Bay Area dance bands.  We learned to fish off the pier in Monterey Bay, and to jump the waves and discover seashells on the beach in Carmel. We learned to catch crawfish with bacon, and swing out on a tree rope to drop into a swimming hole at the “big dam” near our riverside home in Boulder Creek. You made a pull-cart to fit our beloved Australian Shepherd, “Duchess,” so we could go for rides behind her. You taught us the ‘art’ of trimming a Christmas tree with cellophane rain; how to pitch a tent, and (at least for me) how to make the best darned pot of spaghetti, or sauerkraut and spareribs with dumplings, ever!  I can even thank you now that you insisted we learn to mow and trim a lawn, and plant vegetables. That would come in handy later!

I so wanted to please you, Dad!  I would like what you liked, and eat whatever you ate, even Limburger cheese on crackers. Although I never acquired a taste for beer, like you!

You were my hero, Dad!  I guess that’s why the hurt came—the deep disappointment!

We were too young to understand “grown-up” things—like being in an unhappy marriage, too many bills and not enough money, or doing a 9-5 job you hated every day. I never understood why it was wrong to talk about “religion” or God at home, although Mom taught us that “Grace” dinner prayer, and let us go to a church now and then.

The hardest thing for us to understand was when you began to stay out late after work on so many Friday nights, only to come in, having drank up your paycheck at a local bar.  After several volatile incidents on those nights, I remember the fear of seeing you come home then.

We never understood how you parked the car in our narrow garage; then barely making it through the back door, you would pass out on the laundry floor.  On more sober nights, you could be jolly, wanting us to sing, or playing your violin—but, only for a while. Those were the nights we didn’t want to sing, but were afraid not to. Inevitably, you and Mom would fight, and the sometimes cruel name-calling came from both of you. You would turn into a raging bull then, and we all feared how it might end.

Remember, THAT night, Dad? The night a distraught friend of yours named “Bill” had gone home drunk one night, and threatened to kill himself. His wife called you to “come help,” and for some reason you took all our family there with you. I was only seven then, and we were all traumatized when Bill shot himself right in front of us.  I wondered, would you do that, too, on one of those Friday nights?

Those were scary times for us. Sad times, when we also learned about shame! Children of alcoholics suffer lasting pain. But, surely you knew that, Dad, being the victim of an alcoholic step-father when you were a small boy.

Do you even remember those nights when you would angrily stand the three of us girls in a row like soldiers, commanding us to, “Stand at attention, and pull in your stomach,” sometimes punching us there! But, the sometimes crude accusations and threats to three young, still virgin girls was the most painful part of it. “Oh, Daddy”… we would cry, fearfully. Maybe you were just mustering up courage to take control of your life. But, alcohol was never the answer, Dad.

The family music had stopped for us then!

When your anger subsided on those nights, and you finally ceased troubling us, you would begin to cry and shoo us out of your sight. Later, hearing you cry alone in the living room, I remember going out to console you, if only with a hug. I was too young to make sense of things you cried out about then. How you had lost your first wife, the real “love of your life.” How you missed her and your two now older children back in Pennsylvania. You missed playing your violin with all those orchestras. Your dreams were all gone.

You never stopped grieving over those losses, and even more so as the years went by.  That was a lot of grief for young girls to bear, too, Dad! Getting it all mixed up then, I felt more sadness for you than I did for Mom, who must have hurt deeply all those years, hearing you call another, “the love of your life.”

I wondered, Dad, why you never went back to see your first family, to resolve any of that—why you couldn’t see you were driving away any of us. And why hadn’t you and Mom sought help somewhere—or, more importantly, given it to God?

It’s been years since I thought of these things, Dad.  So why do I say them now, even for others to read?  Is it that I haven’t forgiven you?  No, Dad—truly I have!  That’s what I want you to understand now. And I pray you’ve forgiven me for any pain I ever caused you in return.

Maybe someone out there can relate to this now. And maybe it will help them resolve some of their own painful memories; and forgive also.  Addictions and dysfunction in families just continues, unless or until someone decides to make it stop.  For me, Dad, Someone did!

That day, as you sat so silent in that hospital room, I couldn’t know it would be the last time we would see you. The doctor told us you might have a few months at best, because of the cancer.

I was desperate that day to share the one thing I finally knew for certain, that had changed everything for me and so many others. I prayed it would dispel all your pain, also.

Remember, Dad?  It was 1984 when my own desperation had come to a head, after years of broken relationships, broken promises and my own failed dreams. My children were growing away from me, as yours did years before. Feeling “old” then, I also felt betrayed by other “saviors” in my life—even my music. The “raging bull” inside of me, found me in a large Nashville church, silent but angrily daring God to “show” himself, if he even existed.

And you know what, Dad?  He did that!

Sitting there in a church pew—my defenses high; pain bottled up to where I couldn’t even cry anymore—the Lord spoke right out loud to me. “You’re going home, Susan.”  Twice, He said it!  There were not enough tissues to mop up the tears then, over years of confused beliefs and memories, losses and pain. It was a Voice that said I was truly LOVED, even so. Tears turned to joy then. I’d never known that!

I thought how He could dry your tears, Dad, if you could only know how much He loved you, too.  I called you so many times, those first months after I heard His voice. It must have frustrated the fire out of you, but I had to try to make you understand. “The confusion is gone, Dad” I cried. “God is real, and He moved time and space to show me!”

I remember calling you one day, and you saying angrily, “I thought you were going to make something of yourself and now you’ve given it all up for religion!”

No, not religion, Dad, but I finally believed God more than any person! Your words that would have hurt me not so long before only made me love you more!

As physically strong as you were, you had often been like a needy, weeping child, trying to do life by your boot straps, yet never seeking what could have changed your life then—all our lives. That was the real tragedy.

That day by your bed, I did my best to tell you all the wonderful things I was learning, that you could know, too. I was happy when you said “yes” to letting me pray with you then. As Donna and I turned to go, that last day, the look on your face was anything but joyful.  But, both of us believed that God would somehow make up the difference—“replacing the years the locusts had eaten” of our lives.  Less than a week later, the call came that you were gone.  I cried that day, too, Dad, but was comforted to believe with all my heart, you were in God’s hands now, and we would see you again one day.

There’s a verse in the Bible that says, “Above all, love one another deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8). I finally learned what that verse means, Dad.

You’re not here to see it, but the world seems to have gone crazy these days! So many people’s hearts have become cold, unloving, unforgiving, and saddest of all, unbelieving in the only One able to set any of us free from our heartaches—our sins.

That’s why Donna and I set Corrie ten Boom’s story to music, Dad; to help others see the power of love and forgiveness.  If anyone should have been bitter, seeing hate-filled people kill millions of others in World War 2, including many of her family, it was Corrie.  But, she chose to love, not hate—her heart and the ministries of her life would always be toward peace. She learned to find joy in others, and to forgive—even a Nazi!

I can only imagine a world where everyone is like that. I’m thankful to believe you’re experiencing that first-hand, even now!

I love you always, Dad.

Susan

 

[Photo above, L to R:  LaRue Parker “Dad” Croop, Susan Beyer, Judy Hunter, our dog Duchess, Donna Griggs, and our mother Mary Gribben Croop, c. 1948]

[Ten Boom the Musical shares the true and powerful story of Corrie ten Boom. To present this musical at your church or venue, contact us at 615-425-2652, 615-300-8591, or email us at susanmb@tenboomthemusical.com]

Wonder Woman—Yet No Superhero

wonder woman no superheroWonder Woman, the latest in a string of blockbuster, superhero-saves-the-world films, is a visual feast for DC, Marvel and other comic book fans out there.  My husband Philip and I grew up when those “funny books” (as some called them) were in every kid’s hands. I had a drawer-full at home.  I loved “superheroes” back then!

So, remembering those times, also the 1970’s TV series starring Linda Carter, Philip and I went to see the new film.

What does this have to do with Corrie ten Boom, you ask??  I believe, if you will read and not just scan my “comparison of heroes” here, it will all come clear to you!

So, please read on…

Movies are a powerful medium for changing hearts and minds, as many would agree who saw “The Hiding Place” film years ago. What we allow ourselves to be influenced by, good or otherwise, generally determines our future!

Being a life-long movie buff, I just enjoyed the film for what it was; a fanciful, action-packed romp, pitting good against evil, allowing the good guys to win the day. I like that!  For all the over-the-top high jinks and mythological blabber in the film, actress Gal Gadot is the quintessential “Wonder Woman.” Moreover, the film actually has some worthy messages.

My sister Donna Griggs saw the film and reported back. “Wow! I saw all kinds of wonderful things about relationships… unselfish sacrifice. Strength… love overcomes evil!”

I remember loving the character, especially when I was too young to understand any of the political or social implications. It seems now Wonder Woman has come full-circle since her inception in the early 1940’s!

The Wonder Woman Character

According to Wikipedia, the fictitious Wonder Woman character was created by American writer and psychologist, William Moulton Marston, with artist Harry G. Peter. The character first appeared in All Star Comics in October 1941. Caution: Marston drew a great deal of inspiration from early feminists, and especially from birth control pioneer, Margaret Sanger. She was founder of the American Birth Control League, later known as Planned Parenthood. As the Feminist Movement grew, in 1971 Gloria Steinem placed her concept of Wonder Woman on the cover of Ms. magazine.

Identified in the film as “Princess Diana of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta,” Wonder Woman is also known (in her street clothes) as Diana Prince. In the Carter series, Diana identified herself as “the daughter of Isis.” Hmm!

As the film begins, Diana is introduced as a feisty little girl with a secret not yet known to her. She’s the only child on an isolated island of warrior women (not one man), known as Amazons. Hiding from the evil war god Ares, these female descendants of mythical gods have tired of war—and MEN, whom they blame solely for all the world’s ills.

Wouldn’t you know, along comes a World War I pilot, played by actor Chris Pine [latest Captain Kirk, Star Trek] who crash-lands into the sea near Paradise Island, later proving to Diana’s heart that, “Love is the only thing that can defeat evil.” 

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere!

Maturity Changes Our Heroes

Having added some years since my “funny book” days, plus a more realistic outlook on heroes, and “gods”… I had to wonder…

Why is it that human beings (especially us women), ever-longing for love and rescue from life’s enemies, turn to fanciful “heroes” for comfort?  Yet so many reject the very real Father God, the Eternal Superhero, who created and loves us! To all our detriment, many choose instead to believe fiction over Truth. Yet, His Book assures us that, GOD is love!

In ancient times, when mankind began to multiply on the earth, we soon proved to have a fatal flaw—PRIDE.   Created in God’s image, and provided for in every way, we decided we could just “take it from here.” We could be our own persons—no thanks to or respect for the One who gave us the earth under our feet. By the way, He also gave us the air we breathe, and the promise of the love and covering we innately desire.

Enter Abraham, a nomadic leader, long since venerated for proving himself true to God. Later came Moses, born a Hebrew, but raised as an Egyptian prince. At age 80, he was chosen of God to deliver the Hebrew people out of Egypt and slavery. Great men of faith!

But Abraham and Moses were not Superheroes, just men who obeyed the One they recognized as the one true God!

Wonder Woman and Other “Heroes”

The Diana Prince character is portrayed as empathetic, courageous, loyal, compassionate! Not to mention, able to throw tanks at will!  Personally, I liked Diana, but then, I liked Superman, Captain America, Tarzan, and Mighty Mouse. I also liked some less-superhuman characters such as Atticus Finch, Indiana Jones, and, oh yes, “Uncle Tom” (often given a bad rap). ALL heroes, and yes, all MALE figures, but surely fictitious!

Someone wrote, “A hero can be just about anyone, from a steadfast politician working to secure world peace, to an average man or woman who demonstrates remarkable bravery and giving.”  I’ve been blessed to meet many of those—soldiers, cancer survivors, foster parents, teachers, firemen, police officers, pastors, stay-at-home moms, over-comers, truth-tellers…

History lists some extraordinary people who were or are heroes to any of us. Sadly, for many, those “heroes” have replaced any veneration or regard for the one true God.  Could any of those help us reach heaven?

More “Wonder Women”

My personal list of heroic, real life women includes: Mary, Ruth and Esther of scripture. Also, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller, Harriet Tubman, Margaret Thatcher, Gladys Aylward, Rosa Parks, and Madame Curie.

But, one special woman stands out for meCorrie ten Boom, a true wonder woman, yet no Superhero… just a woman who loved and trusted God!

Raised in a Christian home, Corrie ten Boom was never known to lie, she never betrayed a friend or a neighbor. She was also fiercely loyal to her family. She never married, yet taught many children and youth how to live uprightly and courageously. Risking their lives, she and her family rescued and hid Jewish people during the Nazi occupation of Holland. For that, they were later arrested and taken to concentration camps. Corrie survived three such camps, in the meantime sharing the hope and love of Christ the Savior with many. She wrote many books and visited 60 countries, telling virtually millions that, “No pit is so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.” Corrie was a true and humble woman of faith, who proved herself heroic in the face of great evil during WW2.

Corrie, Wonder Woman and Mere Mortals

I wonder what Corrie would have thought of the “Wonder Woman” character, who was conceived in Corrie’s era (1930s-40s). Corrie—certainly not a “feminist,” nor one who would have espoused Margaret Sanger’s views—was a woman of real character and strength. She also extended true compassion and grace to others different than herself.

My guess is, Corrie would have liked “Diana” for the courageous character she was, if only a writer’s fanciful creation. And, I’d like to think even a Wonder Woman would have loved and been humbled by the powerful faith of a very real woman named Corrie ten Boom, who always gave the Lord any credit for her victories and accomplishments.

The First Commandment says, “I AM the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before Me.” Not even “Superheros”! And Christ Jesus—the Word, and Almighty God in the flesh [John 1:1-4, 14]—revealed, “I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Superheros are characteristically “immortal.” Not so, human beings! When I was younger, I came out of many a film visibly moved, inspired, disappointed, exhilarated, even depressed, at times. That’s what movies are meant to do—touch us where we live! Superheros give fans the sense that they can “fly,” when life may seem to be holding them down. However, trusting our emotions and romantic notions to fictitious or even real-life “heroes” can be problematic, if not fatal.

TRUTH IS, we mere mortals must find our hope and assurance in the Truth. After all, the Lord actually DID come to save the world!

As Corrie would say, He’s the one who died and rose again that, trusting Him, we might also.

Now THAT’s a Superhero!

# # #

[Ten Boom the Musical shares the true and powerful story of Corrie ten Boom. To present this musical at your church or venue, contact us at 615-425-2652, 615-300-8591, or email us at susanmb@tenboomthemusical.com]

 

 

What in the World is Out There?

whats out there in the world

Sitting high on a sandy cliff, gazing out over what seemed an endless sea, I remember thinking, “What’s out there?”

A favorite print that hangs on a wall at home shows a little blond-headed girl sitting on a sandy beach, reminiscent of a place our family lived long ago.  The child in the print, maybe six, is dressed in a white blouse and blue shorts; tiny deck shoes lying beside her in the sand.

I had found the old print among the dust and clutter of an antique shop in Tennessee some years back and was struck by my own memories at about that age, sitting high on the dunes of Carmel by the Sea, now far away, playing with grassy reeds and shells; watching the waves roll in to shore, and seagulls noisily doing fly-by’s.

Unable to see beyond the vast Pacific Ocean, I couldn’t imagine the infinite possibilities. “What’s out there?” I wondered.

Did one of the many Carmel artists take time one day to capture the little dreamer I was on canvas? Even the Dutch boy haircut on the child in the print was the same as mine back then.  I’ve never stopped wondering about life, and asking questions about it.  My mother would tell you it was one of my most annoying attributes.  It’s also what led me to seek after God.

Is God real?

“No one can know God!” Mom said that many times when my sisters, Judy and Donna, and I were still wearing her out with our many questions and some shrill tattling.  Our parents never went to church, but sent us alone occasionally, maybe to give them a quiet Sunday at home.  The rule in our house was, never to discuss religion or politics. And—except for saying a memorized “grace” prayer before dinner now and then—we never did.

My siblings and I were pretty much left to our own fancy as to what God was about. For me, it only prompted a deep curiosity about what was written in a dusty old King James Bible that sat neglected on the shelf at home; sneaking peeks into that Book more than a few times. Unfortunately, meeting head-on with the “begats” (and not understanding this was NOT like other books that offer a plot, a story and a certain ending), I soon gave up trying to make sense of it.

It would be forty years, and a lot of looking for love and other answers in many wrong places, until I would seek answers beyond my mother’s understanding that, “No one can know God.”  Thankfully, I would discover the opposite was actually true… that the answers to all my most important questions had been right there in that dusty old Book all along.

Finding answers

It began one night when I was on the road, touring with my band out of Nashville, Tennessee.  Our front man, Butch, was driving our oversized van and watching me out of the corner of his eye, as I sat in the “shotgun” seat; my stocking feet against the glove compartment, engrossed in a nondescript novel.  Butch finally asked, “Susan, why don’t you read the Bible?”

Suddenly, inexplicably irate, embarrassed even, I shot back with, “Why don’t you mind your own business!”  He had just driven on then.  But, for days after that I couldn’t get his question out of my mind.

“I’m an intelligent person,” I assured myself. “I’m always curious about things… doing, seeing new things… reading all kinds of books.  So, why haven’t I read THAT one?”  Up to that point, I’d had a (bad) habit of using a book, even a Bible, in any of those on-the-road motel rooms, as a prop for the lid of my makeup case… its contents still neglected.

Strange, that a few days later, arriving at another venue where we would perform, I would find a paperback book in my motel room! The cover read, “FREE, take this copy with you.”  The inside title page read, Good News For Modern Man.  About that time, so many things were going wrong in my life, and mostly I missed my children back in Nashville.  I needed some “good news!”

A most important question

After our last show that night, in the quiet of my room I settled into bed with the FREE book. Jumping right past the Table of Contents and the Introduction, I began to read.  “What IS this?” I wondered cynically, “the Dick and Jane version of that dusty old King James Bible back home?”  But, by the time we packed up to drive on to the next venue, I had read several chapters, still not really understanding.

Not long after, back on the road, Butch was again driving the van as I sat on the passenger side, this time reading the “Good News” paperback.

I had just one question for Butch:  “Who did this guy think he was, anyway…” I asked facetiously, “…God or something!?”  Butch’s wordless, half-smiling shrug, in response to my question, was the beginning of a whole new life for me…

Over the next several years I would find myself singing a new song; spending time with my children and family in more meaningful ways; finding friendships I’d also never known were out there.  I was soon hosting/producing Christian television programs, and working with a radio media agency.  I was blessed then to marry my best friend, who encouraged me to write my first book.

Called to write a Musical

A few years later, my real sister, Donna Griggs, and I were led to write a full-sized musical stage play about a Dutch woman and her family who had been imprisoned for hiding Jews from the Nazis during World War 2. Corrie ten Boom and her real sister, Betsie, brought hope to prisoners in three concentration camps then, sharing that same “Good News.”  Our hope is to continue to do the same, by way of this musical telling of Corrie’s powerful story, “Ten Boom the Musical.” 

Remember that little girl in the print? The one sitting high on a sandy hill in Carmel by the Sea, now far away from my Tennessee home, wondering, “What’s out there?”

I’m thankful, over many years since, to have seen much of the world.  And I’m eternally thankful that, when I had lost the wonder of childhood, and even the will to keep trying, in one stunning moment the Lord had changed my life.

So, what is out there?

I know now, it’s the beauty that God made… the ugliness that sin has wrought… and a world of people out there who need assurance of the love of the Lord who gave His life to redeem us all, on another hill far away.

[Ten Boom the Musical shares the true and powerful story of Corrie ten Boom. To present this musical at your church or venue, contact us at 615-425-2652, 615-300-8591, or email us at susanmb@tenboomthemusical.com]

 

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