"The LORD will always guide you and provide good things to eat when you are in the desert. He will make you healthy. You will be like a garden that has plenty of water or like a stream that never runs dry." Isaiah 58:10-12

22 April 2009

Unexpected Blessings

You know how you can be going along in life with everything proceeding smoothly and then, suddenly, you have one of those days of "unexpecteds"? Well, Monday was a day of "unexpecteds" for me. Or, more precisely, Monday evening was. I went in to work at the normal time and was planning to attend a meeting at a local church over my supper break.

This was a meeting of a mission team that is going to Romania in May. One of my colleagues is the leader of the team and had previously invited me to attend another meeting to teach the group a bit about Romanian culture and language. When he asked me to come to the second meeting I was quite pleased to do so and promptly wrote it on my calendar.

Monday afternoon I made sure to print enough copies of a handout that I'd prepared and, when the time came, I hurried out of the building towards my car. It was then that I encountered the first "unexpected." A scattering of raindrops spangled the exterior of my car and, almost before my brain could process the fact that it had rained, my breath was taken away by the sight of an enormous, brilliant and absolutely gorgeous rainbow spanning the sky over the foothills in front of me! To the left, it stood out against a backdrop of dark clouds and to the right it shone out against a bright blue sky with a couple of fluffy-looking cumulus clouds. Wow!

Naturally, I paused to snap a couple of pix with my phone camera, then hopped in my car and zoomed off to my meeting. Upon arriving at the church I experienced the next "unexpected" when there was nobody there! I waited for a few minutes and then, deciding that I must have made a mistake in the date or time (I discovered later that they'd changed the location and forgot to tell me), I headed back to campus. I must admit that I was a bit frustrated, but I wasn't sure whether to direct that at myself or my colleague.

It was on the way back to campus that I received the third "unexpected." I remembered that our men's football (soccer) team was playing a scrimmage match and realized that I would pass right by the stadium. I decided to turn in and stop there for a few minutes. So... in one evening I experienced:

* the unexpected blessing of a beautiful rainbow
* the unexpected disappointment of a missed meeting
* the unexpected blessing of a few minutes to watch a football match

Ain't God great?!? That evening was a good reminder to me of how often the Lord blesses me in unexpected ways .... Now if I can just keep remembering that!

09 April 2009

Excellent Reading

One of the cardinal philosophies by which I try to live my life is the idea that you'll never get anywhere or achieve anything worthwhile in life if you don't set goals for yourself.

I try to begin each year by setting at least a few goals for myself and then work to achieve them throughout the seasons. I also sometimes set other goals as I go along. I mean, we all know that life doesn't always go the way we planned, right? That's one of the things I like about life in general and life as a Christian, in particular. God doesn't let us get bored! Sometimes He makes it very clear to us that there are things we need to work on or things we need to accomplish.

I must admit that I don't always like those goals, nor do I always find the striving towards them to be a pleasant experience. Nevertheless, I know that I can trust Him that they are good and necessary goals.

There are other times when I set goals for myself and trust that the Lord will let me know if it's ok to proceed with them or if I need to redirect.

Okaaay, you say, "So what are these goals of yours for 2009?" Well, some of them are pretty personal and things I don't need to share, but some are fair game.

One of my goals for 2009 is to read at least 120 books. They can be of any genre and my "To be Read" list continues to grow (I think the last total is 132), but I am making progress.

Book number 37 for the year was an excellent one titled "The Cellist of Sarajevo," by Steven Galloway. I would highly recommend this to anyone who has any interest in world history, current events, international politics or any other related topic. Galloway has written an outstanding historical fiction account based on events during the siege of Sarajevo in 1991-92.

This book made me want to read more about Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the war and all of the various people groups involved. I feel like it gave me a small glimpse into the lives of several individuals living under those horrible conditions and the sacrifices they made.

I was saddened to learn this morning that Vedran Smailovic, the Sarajevan cellist whose actions were part of the inspiration for the novel, is apparently very angry about the book. From what I read on TimesOnline, I'm not certain whether he's angry because of the attention that the book is getting and bringing to him in his quiet home/life in Ireland, because Galloway didn't seek him out and consult him before writing the book or because the author hasn't offered him a share in the royalties.

Galloway has responded that, while Smailovic and his actions were obviously the inspiration for the character of the cellist (who has no name in the book), the story of his actions was common knowledge arround the world. He also says that he merely used the story that he had heard as a starting inspiration and that he also interviewed more than 25 other people and utilized a wide variety of resources in his research for the book.

While I can understand that the seige, the war and the trials that Mr. Smailovic experienced must have been very painful and that it would be very unpleasant to be reminded of them, I have to say that I think Mr. Galloway's book is doing a good job of waking some people up and educating them about those same experiences. Does it really convey the horror and turmoil of that time? No. No words on a page can ever accurately describe man's inhumanity to man or the horror of many things that we experience. What those words can do, however, is awaken more of us from our apathy and make us aware that things like that have happened and are happening and, hopefully, inspire us to take action to keep them from happening in the future.

TimesOnline story: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article4083037.ece

06 April 2009

New Music musing

The state of modern music in the U.S. and the world has been a continued source of consideration and concern in the garden of my life in recent days, weeks and months. It seems that every time I turn on the radio (or at least every other time) I am reminded of the paucity of originality and thought in popular music of the 21st century.

Now, it's not that I think music is totally going down the tube in recent history. It does seem to me, however, that there is a plethora of semi-talented groups and individuals in the U.S. who have gained popularity in America and the world but have very little musical ability and even less originality. We have been deluged with pop-star-wannabes who all sound the same and whose lyrics have 1.)absolutely no sensible meaning, 2.)a fluffy semi-sensible one, or 3.) an extremely worldly and unhealthy one.

Fortunately or unfortunately, music is truly a universal language and it spreads from country to country rapidly, especially through the internet. It's also one of the media that people around the world use to develop their image or perception of different countries and cultures. I have found myself wondering lately about the accuracy of the images that we are portraying to the rest of the world through our music. If you listen to the popular music from your home country, is it really presenting to the rest of the world the image of your country and people that you want others to have? If so, that's good for you. If not, what are you going to do about it?

Recently, I was chatting with a Romanian friend and student about all things Romanian and the topic turned to music. Both of us are quite familiar with a wide range of contemporary Romanian music groups. Some of them have, unfortunately, succumbed to the craze for empty, nonsensical, or fluffy lyrics. My friend recommended to me several Romanian musicians and groups and I decided to go online and try them out. I was VERY pleasantly surprised. I'm not going to mention all of them here, but you may see them pop up in future posts. One that I found very noteworthy is Adi Gliga. Even if you don't understand Romanian, I'd recommend that you give him a listen on YouTube. His songs are very interesting from both a music and lyrics standpoint. Some have English translations, too! Even if you don't understand Romanian, give him a shot. I'm sure glad that I did!