HGHF 2013: 5th experience and counting
Disclaimer: Some of you reading this may have no idea what I’m talking about, and that’s okay. I purposely wrote this blog post for 1) me, 2) the directors, cast, and crew, 3) our local church body, 4) Reality Outreach Ministries and all who have ever been involved with Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames, and 5) everyone who has yet to experience this amazing ministry tool. If you have never heard of this drama presentation, I encourage you find out where and when Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames will be near you, and I encourage you to go see it. It’s free. Or, you could purchase the DVD to watch, but seeing the presentation live is way better. If you ever get the opportunity to be involved in the cast of this drama, please do so with lots of prayer.
A little over a week ago we hosted Reality Outreach Ministries’ drama Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames at our church. As the blog title hints, I have been involved with this presentation five times. I’ve been a druggie in the party scene, an angel, the old lady, a drunk, and most recently a secretary.
Each year I’ve been involved with HGHF, the Holy Spirit has shown me something, and this year was no different. The first year I was thankful to be on stage again and thankful God used me on the stage. The second year I discovered how difficult being an angel can be (when it seems so simple) and yet how important it is to keep praying all throughout the drama.
The third year I was thankful to have a monologue and be in the first scene; I usually don’t like waiting when it comes to stage productions. Many times my body says I’m nervous when my mind says I’m not, and I live on adrenaline for however many days. I don’t like it. But once I’m on stage fulfilling the role I’ve been given, it’s all good. So, I was glad to get on stage at the beginning of the presentation so I could concentrate on praying during the rest of the drama. In addition, the role I had was perfect for me. As I read the script and learned my lines (with the help of the Holy Spirit), I thought, “This is me!” One of my lines had something to do with longing to see Jesus face to face, and in that scene I didn’t wear my glasses. I found it funny that I could not see the head angel when I got to “Heaven”, nor could I see “Jesus” once my name was confirmed to be in the “Book of Life”. I just knew Sister Pastor was at the top of those stairs as the head angel, and if I would have been able to see her, I could have used her as a cue. And I knew Les would be up there as “Jesus” to greet me with a big hug upon fully entering “Heaven.” And all I saw was bright lights and shiny gold mylar until I was about halfway up those stairs. The Holy Spirit brought to mind the verse “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). I couldn’t see “Jesus” clearly while I was on that stage, yet the closer I got to “Him”, the better I could see “Him”. Then once I got up those steps past the “gates” and into “Jesus’” arms, I could see “Him” clearly. The Holy Spirit used that old lady role without my glasses to make 1 Corinthians 13:12 real to me. And now I get even more excited about seeing Jesus clearly, face to face.
The forth year the Holy Spirit gave me the role of a drunk woman. Cast members came up to me and asked if I’d ever been drunk (NOT by anything other than the Holy Spirit, thank God) and/or said that I made a “good” drunk. Only the Holy Spirit can help me act like something I’ve never experienced, and He did help. He even allowed me to almost totally lose my voice (from screaming when going to “Hell” at the end of the scene in each rehearsal and performance), and He used that to cause me to sound like a more convincing, desperate, drunken woman who had almost lost everything because of her lifestyle and rejection of Christ. And although I have never been a drunk, without Christ I could have easily become that character or even worse. I admit, playing the drunk was a fun role on the surface (hey, who cares if you couldn’t remember your lines—you’re “drunk”! And you can come up with funny through-lines like “You know what? I had a dream last night about grandma…remember when she would take us deer hunting…”), but the reality of it wasn’t fun; it shouldn’t ever be fun. And interestingly enough, I was known as “the drunk” by cast, crew, and other church family for the rest of the year (until another sister in Christ got that role this time). Each time someone mentioned it, I thought, “I’m done with that role! I’m not a drunk! (And Jesus, thank You I’m not, because without You…well, I don’t want to know who I’d be).”
As with any time, this year I began praying for my 5th experience with HGHF. I began praying at the end of August after our annual church Hog Roast, which signaled the end of our co-ed softball season. I didn’t want a speaking part this year; not so much because of the nerves stuff, but more so because I wanted to simply pray for the whole thing. I also know I can act. I know that God has given me a gift of acting and learning lines. This time I wanted the Holy Spirit to use someone who didn’t think they could do it; I wanted to give up my position so God could blow someone else away in that role. As I kept praying, I knew I’d be more surprised if I didn’t get a speaking role. And, yes, the Holy Spirit gave me a speaking role. This time I was a secretary who had tried, tried, and kept trying to explain to a co-worker that knowing Christ is different than “having religion”, and that one day everyone will stand before God alone—just each of us alone with Him. My character never gave up in encouraging her secretary friend to give her life to Christ, even to just consider it. That friend thought she had plenty of time until the sudden reality of being stuck in that office elevator during a fire caused them both to die of smoke inhalation.
Again, this role was more like me. And the Holy Spirit encouraged me to never give up telling people about Him. Christ never gave up on me, so I should never give up on others.
The interesting thing about being involved in HGHF this year, though, was that I was not nervous—at all. I don’t remember a time where I have NOT been nervous before a performance of any kind (except for church choir, because that’s not a performance). I even sometimes get a tad nervous before softball games, which I think is dumb. It was different not begin nervous. I don’t usually ever worry about my lines, so that was nothing new. But I saw how I could have easily become lazy and gone on autopilot for most of those 5 days. And I didn’t want that. So I kept praying with purpose—for me, for the cast, for the crew, for all the Holy Spirit would draw to the presentation each night, for Christ to flow through us and to use us to draw people to Him. The Holy Spirit also directed me to the fact of how easy it would be to grow numb or calloused to each of the scenes after seeing and hearing them so many times, and if it would be easy for that cast and crew after only 5 days, think of how many times the directors have seen each of the scenes. The Holy Spirit reminded me of the importance of praying even more for each team of directors—that they stir themselves up, allow the Holy Spirit to stir them up, see each scene each time with new eyes and a heart that’s even closer to Christ. I don’t want our directors to ever grow numb to how God is using and can use HGHF. Praying for them is so important.
Finally, during the last two nights of the drama, while looking at all the gold and silver mylar on our platform, these lyrics played through my mind: “When the music fades / and all is stripped away / and I simply come…” These are from the song, “The Heart of Worship”, and they encapsulated what would happen after strike on that final night. Once all that shiny mylar was taken down, our roles for that year’s HGHF had been fulfilled, we would still need to come. We still need to come and worship our King with everything we are although it may not be through a big production or on a “stage”. It’s not about us, anyway. All that gold, silver, lights, sound, video clips, drama, acting, etc. is all about Him—not us. If it ever becomes about us, then we shouldn’t be involved in it. Now that the set is all stripped away, all the glitter is gone, now we can simply come. Simply come before our King as ourselves—not as a character facing Heaven or Hell, but as ourselves facing our Savior, our Lord, our Love, our Best Friend, our Father, our King.
He doesn’t want us to forget (we still may find some glitter, and I don’t know where the tape ball went [it always seems to disappear, but usually sometime during the summer…so much for adding to it each year…ah, well], and I still have the scrap of gold mylar I wore as a headband during much of set-up, and the number 6 will continue to have special meaning for me, as well as chocolate chip banana bars), but He’d rather have us live with Him in reality than dwell in remembering what He did in and through past performances.
And I’m already praying about HGHF #6.