Thursday, July 06, 2017

Added to my virtual bookshelf ... Dreamweaver: Book 2 of the Dream Cycle by Najeev Raj Nadarajah

DreamWeaver is a good enough read for fans of swords-and-sorcery and other stories that fall within the realm of 'fantasy fiction.' I read my e-copy from cover to cover, and I enjoyed the experience. But I can't help but think there's something familiar about it ... something that I've read somewhere and somewhen else, by someone else.

DreamWeaver is the second installment of the 'Dream Cycle' by Najeev Raj Nadarajah, and it follows the journeys of young Weaver - not only physical journeys across a landscape ravaged by conflict, but personal journeys through Weaver's mind, heart and soul as he grows and matures, and seeks his place in a chaotic world.

Weaver is a young man with powers abilities beyond those of ordinary humans - and perhaps even beyond those of other empowered individuals. How far beyond? Hard to say, because Weaver doesn't know himself, and each of those steps in those aforementioned 'journeys' are part of the learning process. Fortunately, Weaver is accompanied by an elder - bound by vows and paternalistic feelings - who protects him and guides him as best he can through those journeys.

But that's only part of the process. Weaver finds himself in school where he will not only study reading and writing, but exclusive classes to help him better command and control his powers. Some of his instructors are warm and encouraging, while others are cold and appear to hold him in contempt. And while he finds antagonists among the other students, he also has a growing circle of friends, companions who will play a significant and supportive role in his journeys.

He'll need that support because there is an evil Lord in this world, one responsible for much of the conflict that has ravaged the land through the exercise of his own powers and the actions of his agents among the people, and one who has a growing interest in young Weaver.

Sound familiar? Oh, and did I mention that there is also some fun and exciting diversion from all this in the form of a sport played by Weaver, his friends and antagonists, and the matches are VERY popular at the school and the community at-large?

I'll admit, this HAS become a crowded genre since the success of J.K. Rowling's 'Harry Potter' ... I remember something like this happening forty years ago, during a resurgence of interest in J.R.R. Tolkien's 'Middle Earth.'

Which is why I give Nadarajah credit for carving-out his own niche, one that has elements all its own ... the story, it's characters, their motives, their powers, the media for getting in touch with those powers and the means for expressing them and taking them to the next stage.

DreamWeaver does have an ending. But in the tradition of serials past and present, it leaves some questions unanswered, some issues unresolved ... and some material for the third installment of the 'Dream Cycle.'


NOTE: I received a free e-copy of this work through LibraryThing in exchange for a review.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Suggestion for PCUSA ... Music for “Marching As to War”

The most recent national election has provided a new President of the United States ... one with an attitude and goals that some within the Presbyterian Church USA find alarming ... to say the least!

Through the world wide web and with the assistance of internet applications, a number of my 'virtual' acquaintances within the church have shared their concerns - their dread, even - over the developing situation ... and a call-to-arms, of sorts, to alleviate that situation. And let me say, their concerns are not unfounded ... in just a few weeks, President of the United States Donald Trump and the conservatives in Congress have already set back victories already achieved by liberal-to-moderate factions within our society during the term of Trump's predecessor, Barrack Obama.

And more may be on the way ...

There is genuine heartbreak among the liberals over these setbacks to their hard-won victories ... and there is anger, as well. I hear expressions of that heartbreak and anger from a number of my virtual acquaintances, and during our weekly #PresbyIntersect Twitter chat frequented by pastors and laymen and general public from all over. They are heartfelt expressions and a number of them are quite strong ... words such as 'action,' resistance' and 'fight' are not uncommon.

And while they're not advocating violence, taking up firearms in their resistance to what's happening, they are calling upon us to stand up/speak up/act up nonetheless, utilizing hearts and minds, voices and votes in this fight fueled, in part, upon Christian faith.

Marching orders ... marching as to war? In a way ... yes.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – a man who knew more than most of us about resistance, about activism in the pursuit of justice for all – once said, “those who love peace must organize as effectively as those who love war.” It was almost exactly fifty years ago that he said those words, in the midst of a rally opposing the war in Viet Nam. But they are words that apply to a variety of conflicts, for those seeking peace to resolve those conflicts for the benefit of all ... including those within the Presbyterian Church (USA) now considering the prospect of action and resistance to what is becoming – for now, at least – the new status quo.

Shall we, as Christians sharing the love of Jesus, go marching as to war? If so, maybe I could recommend some marching music. I have to warn you, though, it is a song of which thew Presbyterian Church (USA) does NOT approve.

"Onward, Christian Soldiers" dates back to 19th-century England, with music by Sir Arthur Sullivan and words by Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould. The hymn was inspired by calls in the Bible for Christians to be soldiers for Christ. A frequently-cited example is II Timothy 2:3 ... "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." ... and, YES, I do continue to prefer my old King James version of the Bible.

Personally, I think the Presbyterian Church (USA) was wrong to strip “Onward, Christian Soldiers” from their official hymnals. In the years since then, I have appreciated those individual PCUSA congregations that chose to dismiss ‘that silliness out of Louisville’ and continue to use the hymn in worship. And I still get a lump in my throat and my heart when the Salvation Army band comes marching down the streets of Pasadena, California every January 1st, playing that hymn ... God bless ‘em all!

But here’s a thought ... considering the points I made above ...

How about presenting a resolution to an upcoming gathering of the PCUSA General Assembly to restore “Onward, Christian Soldiers” to the hymnals? 

Take a moment to read through the lyrics ... considering the calls-to-action that are being heard lately, they may be just what we need to think and say. And maybe it’s time to act upon those words, for us to accept our marching orders ... to be “Christian soldiers, marching as to war.”

Thank you for your patience with my rambling, and God bless you for your thoughtful and prayerful consideration of my suggestion.

Jeff McDonald
Member, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Midland, Texas, USA

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Well done, good and faithful servants!

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following text is from a letter by Pastor Cheryl Homsher, Grace Presbyterian Church of Midland, Texas, to the church family at Grace. The Fellowship Christian Church of Midland (founded by refugees from Myanmar/Burma) had been a part of Grace, using its facilities for worship, fellowship and more ... until this past weekend. It was cause for a gala celebration. The photographs in this post were taken by Homsher and Judy Brown.

This past Sunday, we gathered to seek and to worship God with the Burmese Chin congregation at their new building.

What a truly spirit-filled day!

I believe the 35+mph winds were just a way of reminding us of the tremendous power of the Holy Breath of God in our world and in our lives – and especially today for the Chin.

We started outside with prayer, singing, balloons and ribbon-cutting, and then gathered inside for worship.

The sanctuary was filled to capacity (and beyond), and the service was live-streamed into the fellowship hall, which was also full.

Members of the other 5 Chin churches of Midland were present; we had a strong representation from Grace; and delegations from Chin churches in Ft. Worth, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona and Oklahoma were present. Leaders of the North American Chin Baptist Association were present from Battle Creek, Michigan; Atlanta, Georgia; Indianapolis, Indianaand Des Moines, Iowa.

There was lots a great music, including two songs from The Backsliders. (Thank you, Backsliders!)

Pastor Thang’s mentor, The Rev. Dr. Stephen Kio, preached the sermon. Pastor Stephen, a distinguished guest, worked for the United Bible Society for many years and translated the Bible from English into Falam/Chin.

We were treated to a wonderful lunch after the worship – many different meats, and vegetable salads.

As always the Chin were very gracious, and their gratitude to Grace was overflowing.

And looking back over the day, my words to you, Grace, are these: Well done, good and faithful servants.