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Monday, September 21, 2009

"Children of Eden" a review

I took my little neighbor, Anna, to see the musical "Children of Eden" for her birthday. With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and the story by John Caird, the musical was “freely based” on the creation, the fall of man and the flood in Genesis. The show itself was a nicely directed and choreographed ensemble production by the Fox Valley Youth Theatre. However, I soon began to feel the story and message of the musical were extremely negative. After the glory of creation, God was portrayed as an arbitrary earthly father. And, can you imagine a Noah story with no rainbow?

Two messages disturbed me. First, the musical conveyed the message that creativity belonged only to God and not to curious humans. That seemed to be a major theme and was repeated again and again.

A second message of the musical was that God was a racist – unbiblically portraying God as prejudiced against the children of Cain.

The musical’s final message was that we should love each other. Ironic, since the musical showed human failure to keep every promise made, especially loving your family.

The only thing I could say to Anna at the end of the musical was “thank God for Jesus.”

Friday, September 18, 2009

Lovely Summer at Last

September can be a lovely month. And, this has been one – perfect temperatures, very little rain and lots of sun. No other place on earth seems as lovely as our backyard with its geraniums and petunias and sedum and astors. Even the cucumber vine is pretty with its bright yellow flowers and silly looking fruit. And, I would still like to get to Iowa to eat the grapes and apples that are ready, now.

The mood of the country seems to be more upbeat, too. And, the economic news is improving. The Jewish new year is celebrated tonight and for the next two days. It is a fitting time for a new year. This is a great time for a new start.

Shanah tovah!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

History and Community

What a weekend! The Elgin Housewalk tour was Saturday. The Elgin Housewalk is a wonderful, volunteer event that involves people who enjoy history, appreciate old houses, and love the people of the local neighborhood. Annually, more than a thousand people walk through the houses on tour.

I helped as a house co-captain, and earlier had assisted housewalk veteran Bill Briska with some writing for the booklet. As a writer, I researched four of the homes and talked with their current owners, learning more of the history of Elgin and its inhabitants. As house captain, I worked with thirty volunteer docents and talked with many of the visitors. I loved hearing their stories.

The homes on this year's tour were mostly built between 1870 and 1910. Just walking down the streets of Elgin, you can see the tremendous variety of architecture. This year's tour featured an elegant Romanesque revival brick mansion, a cute little second Empire style house with Mansard roof, a traditional American foursquare, some Queen Anne's and a bungalow.

Inside the homes, you can feel the sense of history, and also see how our lifestyles and attitudes have changed. Kitchens and bathrooms have become more important. Smoking rooms and parlors have gone out of use, replaced by family rooms and dens. Servants, with their own quarters and own stairs, are no longer common for middle or even upper middle class families.

But, the families who lived in these houses experienced the same pain of loss when babies or husbands or family members died, when houses were lost to bankruptcy or when the local economy suffered. They also celebrated life milestones, loved decorating their houses and serving the community in their own unique fashion.

Certain aspects of life change, but the fundamentals do not. How quickly we all come and go from life's stage. What lasts seem to be the things that people do with love and care for others - both in the short term and the long term.

Jeremiah 29:11 'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'

Luke 12:16-21
Then Jesus told this story: "There was a rich man who had some land, which grew a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What will I do? I have no place to keep all my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and other goods. Then I can say to myself, "I have enough good things stored to last for many years. Rest, eat, drink, and enjoy life!"'

"But God said to him, 'Foolish man! Tonight your life will be taken from you. So who will get those things you have prepared for yourself?'

"This is how it will be for those who store up things for themselves and are not rich toward God."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Book Review: Fearless by Max Lucado

In the midst of the current global financial crisis fueled by fear, Max Lucado has written Fearless. The book examines the “why” of fear, and then encourages Christ-followers to “fear not.” Chapter by chapter, Lucado disarms the fears of global calamity, of death, for your children, of the future, of failure, of violence, of insignificance, and of financial ruin. Using short stories, poetry, song lyrics and anecdotes, he speaks with a calm, matter-of-fact voice and uses scripture to back up his assertions.

An easy-to-read book, Fearless reaches across class, ethnicity and age. My favorite chapter was the last and it contained a segment, that, for me, summarized the message of the book: ‘Courage does not panic; it prays. Courage does not bemoan; it believes. Courage does not languish; it listens. It listens to the voice of God calling through Scripture, "Fear not!" It hears Christ's voice comforting through the hospital corridors, graveyards and war zones: “Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven.” (Matt 9:2)… “When reports come in of wars and rumored wars, keep your head and don't panic.” (Matt.24:6) “Let not your heart by troubled.” (John 14:1)’

Just after those encouraging words, Lucado includes a wonderful poem by William Fariss – seven-year-old. This poem is filled with glorious imagery and a global perspective.

For the many who fight fear every day, Fearless is a profound encouragement, and can be read again and again. As the book cover says, “Imagine your life without fear.” And, for some of us, this is a daily – maybe even hourly – assignment.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Value of Volunteering

Today, a friend introduced me to a lovely city park, the Hawthorne Hill Nature Center. Located on the west side of Elgin, this 65 acre plot was once part of a Girl Scout camp. I helped pull weeds out of the prairie planting bed. It was a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours on a warm sunny day, and to get to know June, a volunteer, and April, the woman who oversees volunteers and activities here.

I wish that everyone would volunteer to help maintain our public parks or buildings, or to assist in one of their programs. The library, the museums and the parks belong to us all and remind us to value our community. The volunteering experience and commitment reinforce our personal ownership of these wonderful assets. If we would all spend a little less time in front of the television or computer, and a little more time volunteering to help in our communities, we might discover new or hidden treasures and meet some good-hearted people who share common interests and goals.

I guarantee that those who give of their time would receive back a hundred-fold blessing for their efforts.