What happens when you join together a newspaper journalist who has always loved big-city life, with a veterinarian who has two daughters plus pets, and wants to leave the big city? You get a blended family living halfway between the city and the country, in a suburban house with a strange mix of animals. Brian, the journalist, is a die-hard dog guy who had an incredibly close relationship with his old dog Harry. Pam and her girls have an expanded love of animals, including a rooster named Buddy. Everyone loves Buddy – everyone but Brian. And Buddy feels the same way about Brian.
I suspect that life with a rooster is much more enjoyable to read about than to actually experience. Buddy’s habits and attempts at attention often had me laughing. But the descriptions of the messes he left everywhere created a vivid picture in my mind of a never-ending cleaning job. It takes a special kind of a family to raise and love a rooster. But in the end, Buddy brought his little suburban family closer together, and indeed left his stamp on the world.
If you had the opportunity to sit down and talk to someone on the other side of the world who has totally different religious beliefs than your own, would you do it? How about if this individual was believed to be the mastermind behind terrorist bombings that left many of your countrymen dead? Ahmad Hani Sa’id says Mark Taylor is the only journalist he is willing to give an interview to. Why is he so insistent on this particular man?
Mark is a former Marine who served in the Gulf War, during which time he formed a friendship with a Muslim young man who saved his life. Mark has often wondered what became of the young man, and suspects he may have something to do with the interview request. Tracy, Mark’s wife, begs him not to go. The CIA, on the other hand, wants him to go so that they can trail along and kill Sa’id.
Despite great trepidation, Mark accepts the assignment. The author does a powerful job of slowly building up the suspense, and doesn’t even get to the actual interview until page 273. Throughout the story, faith in Jesus is contrasted with faith in Muhammad. A faith based on love and salvation versus a faith based on violence and slavish rules. The message of the book comes through loud and clear: Jesus loves every person on earth, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist. Grace and forgiveness is offered to all, and it’s up to each person to chose who they will follow.
Memory is a double-sided gift. It gives me the ability to hold on to the special moments in life, as Jim Croce sang about in “Time In A Bottle”. Like the memory of being four years old, and playing on the floor with my newly-adopted sister and brother. The first time I met my husband. The moment I held my sons in my arms for the first time. Watching the kids graduate from high school. Laughing and playing games with the cousins. Seeing “Star Wars” on the big screen back in 1978. Yeah, these memories are keepers!
But on the other side, there are the memories that I really want to forget, ones that play over and over in my head like a horror movie. Like two years ago today, when our son died and then was brought back. I remember watching him in the ICU on life support. I remember the groans of pain that I could do nothing to alleviate. I remember the slivers of glass and dried blood flakes that slowly worked their way out onto the pillowcase over many days. I remember the therapists trying to get our son’s legs working again as he struggled with nausea and excruciating pain. And yes, I remember that wicked fixator device that he had for almost two months to hold the bones in place.
But as I think more about that day in 2016, it brings to mind other memories. The family friend that came out to the hospital in the middle of the night to sit with us as life and death fought each other. The dozens of soap-makers from an international blog site who sent word that they were praying. Friends that came by to encourage us and pray. The Sunday School class that sent over a care-box of things to do. The crafty friend who brought over a couple looms and an entire bag of fabric loops to make potholders with (the cure for fidgety hands). The trauma doctors who kept tiptoeing into the room during the first week, wanting to see the young man that by all logic should not be alive. Then there were the nurses. I remember the gentleness of seven nurses changing our son’s bed-sheets, a difficult task with someone whose body was broken and damaged in so many places.
It’s been a rough two years for our son, and for all of us. Doctors’ visits and physical therapy are ongoing. There may never be total recovery, but we are getting used to a new “normal”. If you have a body that works perfectly fine, and you have no pain or physical ailments, thank God! All it takes is one unexpected event, one second in time, to take life in a totally different direction. We carry memories of both the joyous and the terrible times. But through it all, Jesus has walked with us, and that is sometime we remember always.
Note: See this post to better understand what happened to our son:
What do you think of when someone says “homeless”? Perhaps you picture someone society sleeping off a hangover on the sidewalk. Or a guy who hasn’t bathed in weeks asking people for money. But when Melvin Trotter looked at a homeless person, he saw himself. He had been hopelessly addicted to alcohol himself, with a failing marriage. Mel wandered into the Pacific Garden Shelter in Chicago, and found a personal relationship with Jesus there. From then on, he was a changed man with a passion for every alcoholic he saw on the street. He would tell every homeless person that Jesus was the one who could forgive their sins and help them build a new life.
In 1900, the city of Grand Rapids opened their City Rescue Mission in response to the growing number of homeless men and women. Mel came up from Chicago, and started holding services there. Spiritual revival broke out, and people’s lives were changed left and right. Even people that weren’t homeless came out to hear the preacher tell them the Good News about Jesus. Mel was asked to be the director of the mission, and he accepted the challenge. Bible clubs were started for children, revivals were held, and a sewing ministry was started for impoverished women of Grand Rapids. Clothes were gathered for those in need of them, and the sewing groups added clothing for children that they had made. A daily radio Bible program reached out to the entire city. An outreach to those in the local jail was begun. The men and women that made up the core of the rescue mission took to heart the message of Jesus’ famous Sermon On The Mount. They fed the hungry, they clothed the naked, they nursed the sick, and they visited those imprisoned.
I loved the zeal and love that permeated the story in the first 79 pages of the book, which is the part that covered Mel Trotter’s life. The remaining 100 or so pages, however, were a long list of this one and that one who served as ministers or supervisors at the mission. It soon became monotonous, and I found myself skimming through it rapidly. The fire and passion of the mission while Mel was alive was never quite the same after he died. The author should have just stuck to the life of Mel and his mission work, and maybe had a list at the end of the book of other people that served in the ministry. The book would have been far better had it been shorter. Despite the lackluster second half of the book, I would still recommend this book.
This was the view from the inside of the car window this morning. Exquisite patterns of frost clusters were glued to every inch of the car! I turned on the heat and the window defrosters, but was almost sad to do so. It felt rather like erasing someone’s art work. Indeed, it IS someone’s artwork – God’s.
We had a pillar sunrise this morning, with the glorious ball of light pointing heavenward at its creator. (Unfortunately, it was not well captured by my camera.) It lasted only a few minutes, then abruptly changed a horizontal streak of yellow light.
I stood by the kitchen sliding door and looked out in amazement. It didn’t last long. Far too quickly, it went back to just white, white, white everywhere.
Tomorrow the snow is supposed to melt, which we are eager to see happen. It makes for lovely pictures, but miserable driving and an awful lot of shoveling. We’re hoping that this is the last big snowfall of winter.
Yesterday I was flipping through channels on our over-the-air TV, and came upon an hour-long special of African American Short Films on one of our local channels. Unfortunately, I only caught the last short story of the hour. It was about ten minutes long, and featured a black WWII soldier walking into a little diner, and his encounter with a white couple who was running the restaurant. It was short but thought-provoking. It was an excellent film, and I was impressed by both the picture quality and the plot.
Today I checked to see if any of these films are available online. Yes, they are! The films are produced by an independent company called Badami Productions. Their motto is: “Educating Through Entertainment”. You can go to their website and see some of the videos: http://www.badamitv.com/. They also have a facebook page you can check out: https://www.facebook.com/pg/AfricanAmericanShortFilms/about/?ref=page_internal.
If you are looking for some creative short films exploring issues important to the African American community, watch one or two of these films (they average 10 minutes each). See the world from someone else’s point of view; it’ll give you something to ponder.
Looking for a simple, happy story to read aloud to the preschooler in your life? This is the perfect winter book! A little boy – Peter – wakes up to find that snow has fallen overnight. He goes outside to play, and does everything I remember doing in fresh snow as a child.
What I love most about this short story is the joy and wonder that the little boy feels as he experiences God’s great snow. The illustrations are simple but convey the story well. Mr. Keats was one of the first children’s authors to publish books that portrayed black children. Back in 1962, this was very rare. His books also tended to be set in multi-cultural, urban settings, showing neighborhoods that were familiar to many young children. “The Snowy Day” won the Caldecott Medal for children’s literature in 1963.
Mr. Keats would go on to write more children’s books, like Whistle For Willie, Peter’s Chair, A Letter To Amy, and Pet Show. These stories have been enjoyed by children (and adults) for several generations, and will continue to be read for many more years.