Sunday, October 31, 2010

Soaring and Landing

Last night was the 30 year reunion of SAHS class of 1980. When our 20-year reunion came along, I remember debating whether or not to go, since I only kept in touch with a handful of classmates over the years. I finally made the decision to go ON the day of the reunion. The deciding factor was that I had received an unexpected check in the mail which covered all but $20 of the reunion ticket. Maybe it's just me, but there was something I noticed that was kind of funny.  at the beginning of the evening everyone talked with anyone regardless of who they were. At the end of the evening, everyone broke into the same cliques they used to hang out with in high school. And since I was one of the quiet ones in school, I found myself at the end of the party sitting at a table with other quiet ones, pretty much watching every one else have fun.

This year when the reunion committee announced there would be a gathering of the Saints, I was reluctant to throw my hat into the ring and commit to attending. But since the 20-year reunion, social networking, particularly Facebook, turned the way we define "community" inside-out. I had reconnected with classmates that, ironically, I had never talked to outside of the classroom during my high school years. The same people that I could "never be like" in school (the cheerleaders, athletes, trouble-makers, social butterflies, etc.) turned out to be real people, with real situations. Many were divorced, one of them three times. Several had had major illnesses themselves, children with severe chronic illnesses, even the loss of a dear little angel. And there were many who had lasting marriages of 20 or 25 years, or more. Some with kids in college, and I'm sure some had kids in trouble. We have classmates who are in jail, and some that are very successful in their professional fields. And it didn't matter who you were, at the end of the evening people were having conversations with people they rarely talked to in school.

This week's Topical Blogger theme is "Flying Hearts." Initially, the image of a flying heart brings to mind a heart that is lifted up, allowed and encouraged to soar to new heights that it was never allowed to before. But, like all things that fly, it must come to land at some time and place. Throughout the years we've all had a crash-landing or two, where hearts have been hurt, even broken or shattered. Thankfully, there has been someone to come along side of us, to help us put the pieces back together, and strengthen the feathers in our heart-wings so we can soar once again. The people who come alongside of us are seen as heroes, even angels, who changed our lives. Our peers look at the once-broken, and see them as heroes who inspire us to fly higher than we thought we could. For the most part, the hero looks in the mirror and sees just an ordinary person, and the "heroic" thing they did was nothing special to them - it's just how they roll.

Everyone of us is a hero in one way or another. Each one of us is a feather in our heart-wings. To the Saints of 1980, may our hearts continue to soar. May we strengthen each other's wings so we can all soar together. Hopefully all our landings will be in a place of comfort, a place where we finds acceptance, where there is a sense of home. Let us celebrate the safe landings together! But we know there will be some landings that will be hard. If that happens to you, don't go it alone. Chances are you've been an unlikely hero to someone; allow someone to be an unlikely hero to you. If it happens to someone you know but don't know well, do what comes naturally. You may unexpectedly be the hero he or she needs to fly again.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Miracle of Mercy Land

When I received my copy of The Miracle of Mercy Land by River Jordan I was not sure quite what to expect. Fiction is not my preferred genre of books. When you tie a new story to a particular time period, such as pre-WWII, and the book tends to get knocked down a rung on my reading priority list. I'll be honest – the reason I read the book was because this book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

As a young woman, Mercy Land moves from the backwoods of Bittersweet Creek where she grew up to Bay City, a nearby small town. Here she lands a job as being #2 in charge at the town newspaper. For Mercy, moving to a town of any size, be it a population of 500 or 50,000, would be a major change, having grown up along Bittersweet Creek. Suddenly Doc Phillips, the owner/editor in chief of The Banner, one night finds himself keeper of a book. Not an ordinary book, mind you. It's a book that can tell you what might have happened in a person's life, had he or she made different decisions. Why him? Why this book? And what is he supposed to do about the information he sees in it? He shares the book with Mercy, and the two of them decide to keep the book a secret from anyone else. But not before Doc orchestrates the arrival of a strangely familiar man - a man whose life could be made right by what was revealed in this mysterious book.

What I liked: The story was clearly written, and unmuddled by too many characters. Although the time period was the early 1940's, you'd never know it, except for a few references to pre-WWII headlines.

What I didn't like: Even though the book was easy to read, the characters easy to distinguish, and the story on the whole easy to follow, I never quite grasped the purpose of the supernatural book. Somehow I think the same story could have been written substituting an abandoned briefcase of hundred dollar bills and appealed to the same audience.

Would I recommend this book to a friend? Frankly, I wouldn't rate The Miracle of Mercy Land as a “must read.” This is a book that I would give to a fiction-reading friend on the condition that, after she reads it, she pass it along to someone else to enjoy.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Amazon Rainforest

It's fun to be part of a group that blogs on the same topic every week, but this week - WOW - Who chose this one? "Amazon Rainforest" ... oh yeah. I picked it. And, as most people in my social circle, I don't know much about it. So, I shall do my best to write an Amazing post. Let's see where God shows up ...

Usually when we think about the Amazon Rainforest, it conjures up visions of lush tropical botanical life, brilliant colors, exotic animals, and, of course, rain, from a very fine mist to big fat drops. It also brings to mind the need for conservation of the abundant resources that God has placed there. There is so much of the rainforest ecosystem that is beneficial to the earth and to mankind: the plants with their function of cleansing the air; the Amazon river as a main thoroughfare across the continent of South America; the untapped medicinal benefits of many of the plants; the brilliant colors of the animals; the desirability of the wood from the trees, just to name a few. But even with all the rainforest has to offer, it is constantly being diminished by a ruthless enemy: Man. At first it wasn't so bad, just harvesting some acreage here and there. But the little bits do add up, and what seems insignificant at first has become an issue of global importance.

In a way, mankind is like the rainforest. Because of the gifts God has given each of us, we have the potential to make a tremendously positive impact on people's lives. Yet we are under constant attack from an enemy, Satan, who is bent on destroying our dreams and visions. Oh, the destruction doesn't seem obvious at first. A little bit of doubt here, a bit of compromise there, ... and before we know it, our concept of who we are and the fullness of what we have to offer is cut down until all we know is that we are unable to salvage what we once had.
In order to save the rainforests, we all need to be aware there is a problem, and, more importantly, a means to save it. Likewise, in order to save ourselves from the destructive power of our enemy, we must first be aware of what the problem is, and know the means to be saved from its grasp.

The problem with mankind is that we have a predisposition to give in to temptation. No matter how hard we try to be perfect, we eventually give in to one thing or another. There's a name for that: Sin. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We have all sinned. We have all done things that are displeasing to God. There is no one who is innocent. With sin comes consequences, and since we've all sinned, we all have consequences for it coming our way, and it's not good. "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

What? We're all gonna die? Yes, someday we all will die a physical death. But the death spoken of here is more of a spiritual death, a separation from God's love. You see, God is perfect and holy. That means that he can't be mixed up with sinners like you and me. We were created to walk together with God in a perfect garden, but our sinful nature has tainted our rainforest, contaminating what was intended to be pure. We've forfeited paradise, and there's nothing we can do on our own to get it back.

But there's good news -- "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). All is not lost. God has a plan to restore us. We have an advocate who wants nothing more than to save us from the damage sin has created in our relationship with God, and that advocate is Jesus Christ. Romans 5:8 declares, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Jesus Christ died for us! Remember the consequence of sin? Jesus' death took care of it for us! And his resurrection proves that God accepted Jesus' death as the payment for our sins.

Because of Jesus' death on our behalf, all we have to do is believe in Him, trusting His death as the payment for our sins - and we will be saved! "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). Salvation, the forgiveness of sins, is available to anyone who will trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. This is the means by which you and I can again have peace with God, and be allowed to have everlasting life in heaven, an eternal paradise with more vibrant colors and benefits than any rainforest on earth!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Angels Among Us

The community where I live has an event the first Friday of each month called “First Fridays.” Businesses along one of the main traffic corridors stay open late, local musicians provide entertainment, and local artist exhibit their works in what used to be an old furniture store. It's quite fun (and mostly free).

Last December some friends and I went to First Fridays as a festive kick-off for the Christmas season. We dressed in Christmas attire, went to the tree lighting, had pictures taken with Santa, the whole sh'bang. But I think one of the more memorable moments was at the gallery. One of the local artists had displayed a pair of ginormous bronze wings. I thought they looked cool, but they would look more cool if they were angel wings, so we took turns with the cell phone camera, and now we have angel pictures of ourselves.

Right now as I write, it's early October, pre-Halloween. Alongside of the rows of trick-or-treat candy and costume accessories are rows of Christmas decorations and housewares, with likenesses of Santa Claus, gingerbread men, snowflakes, and angels. It seems we only see angels among us during November and December. Is that the only time God allows these heavenly beings He created to breach the veil between heaven and earth? What do they do when they're not adorning our Christmas tree? Does God pack them away in a box when January rolls around?

Thankfully, God created angels with a purpose that does not know seasonal limitations. He created them to be His messengers to carry out His business in the world. They can be here one minute, warning us, embodying God's love for us, or filling a desperate need for us, even executing God's judgment against us (as in the book of Revelation), and then be gone then next. Although they may appear visibly or be heard audibly, they usually perform their duties as invisible, yet very real, agents of God. Most of the time angels are depicted in our modern culture as young women in wispy full-length gowns and delicate wings. Personally, I don't fully buy into that image, and from what I've read in Scripture, God doesn't want us to limit them to that view either. Sure, God can command an angel to minister to us in the form of a bystander giving words of comfort to someone going through a tough time. But when it comes to protecting us or defending us from the schemes of the devil, I'd much rather have God employ angels that are more characteristic of highly trained American soldiers than three chick friends standing in front of a bronze sculpture! I would not want to begin what kind of evil and terror we would go through if God's army of angels did not watch over each and every one of us!

A discussion about angels and the theology behind them can be very long and very deep. Friends may have at one time or another considered me as an angel, but that does not make me one, nor am I an expert by any stretch of the imagination. For in-depth reading on the subject, I recommend Angels by Billy Graham (Thomas Nelson / 2000), and Angels: Who They Are and How They Help... What the Bible Reveals by David Jeremiah (Random House, Inc / 2009).