Monday, January 2, 2012

The Hunger Games

Depriving one's life of leisure reading is toxic for the soul.  Sadly, I had done just that to myself, which is clearly evidenced by my lack of blogging since this past August.  Thanks to the urgency and desire to feed my brain with entertaining literature, creating a "Book Club" of sorts, and having more than a week off of work, I was able to dive into one of the market's "hottest" books -- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

This suspenseful Science Fiction novel, set in the futuristic country of Panem, (a country created from the remains of what was once the United States) explores the journey of 24 teenage boys and girls, who are forced into participating in Panem's annual Hunger Games.  The brutal game of life and death places 1 boy and 1 girl from each of the 12 Panem districts into a battlefield arena, where they are to fight, kill, and attempt to save their own lives.  Not only do the teenagers have to fight for their lives, but the Capitol televises the battles, to remind the people of Panem that they are merely citizens with no power or control.

During the lottery draw, Prim, a mere 12 year old girl is selected to represent District 12.  Katniss, Prim's older sister, sacrificed for her family her entire life.  She hunted their food.  She bartered for the necessary herbs to heal the sick in her district.  She wasn't afraid to step-up to life challenges, and the lottery draw proved just that.  Katniss voluntarily took the place of her sister Prim, in the annual Hunger Games.  She was joined by the baker's son, Peeta.

Coming from District 12, neither Katniss nor Peeta had the favor of winning in their court.  Not only did they come from a district of severe poverty, but their mentor was the district's local alcoholic -- Haymitch.  Despite their disadvantages, both competitors faced the arena with courage and dedication.  Throughout the battle, friendships and alliances were formed, death was witnessed and initiated, and a love story developed.  

This tense, dramatic, and engrossing novel will undoubtedly hold the attention of any avid literature junkie.  Collins follows this novel with Catching Fire and Mockingjay, the other two novels within the trilogy.  I will most definitely add both of the aforementioned books to my must read list, especially after the "reader satisfaction" that I gained from The Hunger Games.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Life, In Spite of Me

I often wonder how someone could contemplate ending his/her own life.  What is so bad about the world that we live in?  Yes, life can be difficult.  Yes, life can be overwhelming.  And yes, heartache and pain in one's life can feel unbearable.

If you chose to end your life today, would you be OK with the decision?  Would you feel proud that you broke the hearts of your friends and family members?  Would you wish that you never did what you chose to do?  Kristen Jane Anderson, the author of Life, In Spite of Me wished that very thing.  The wish that she never would have laid down in front of an oncoming train.

Within her novel, Life, In Spite of Me, Kristen shares the journey of her life, both before and after her accident.  Kristen was a fun, loving, and outgoing young woman.  Her life quickly began to fall apart when she faced the death of her grandmother and 3 close friends, along with being raped by a friend whom she felt that she could trust.  She fell into a deep state of depression.  Unfortunately, the depression took hold of her life.  While walking through a Chicago park, late one night, Kristen heard a train whistle blow, and realized that laying down in front of the train could end all of the pain and sorrows she was dealing with.  She laid down.

She survived.

Kristen's survival was seen as both medically impossible and miraculous.  33 train cars rolled over the top of Kristen's body, which severed both of her legs.  After the accident, Kristen underwent several reconstructive surgeries and therapy sessions.  She battled physical pain and emotional distress.  But, most importantly, Kristen found God.  She realized that she couldn't live her life on her own terms, or in her own way.  She needed someone to lean on -- and God was just that.
Kristen's story was simply astounding.  Not only did her perspective on life drastically change, but she was able to discover and experience a love that is nothing like that of an earthly being.  Since her accident, Kristen has founded a ministry, Reaching You Ministries.  Through this ministry, Kristen is able to help those who feel that suicide is the only way. 

Please know that suicide is not the only way.  You have friends and family members who love you.  God loves you -- more than you could ever imagine.  He wants to live your life with you.  He wants to show you the beauty of the world that He has created just for you.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Where Did All the Passion Go?

Rumors of God: Experience the Kind of Faith You've Only Heard About, written by Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson, is a compelling and thoughtful illustration of the modern-day Christian life.  It's inevitable.  We live in a fast-paced, overly stimulated, and stressful society.  We are constantly traveling from one place to another, checking items off of our to-do lists, and attempting to do our "good deed" every now and again, all while making sure that we are hanging on to God, by the tiniest of threads.

We often wonder where God is when we need Him the most.  

Whitehead and Tyson combine stories of both the past and present, to illustrate where we, as modern day Christians, have gone wrong.  Living a passionate and fulfilling life isn't about our own plan, but about His blueprint and the story that He is creating with us, each and every day.  Once we can set aside the desire for recognition, re-ignite the passion within our souls, and intentionally breathe each moment for God, we can begin living a life worthy to our Savior.
I will willingly admit that it's extremely difficult to live a passionate life, especially one merely close to that of Christ's.  Life's unending list of tasks seem to be overwhelming ...

Building relationships.
Paying the bills.
Actually enjoying "me time."

After both reading this book and reflecting on my life's journey, I realized that I needed to, once again, find that passion.  I can rely upon Him to fulfill my life with the people, places, and things, to complete His story.  He has ALWAYS been faithful.  God is in control, and without placing my trust and faith in Him, I know that my life will be at a standstill.

I have re-ignited MY passion.  So, that leads me to ask you ...

Where did YOUR passion go?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Is Heaven Really Real?

What is heaven?  

What does heaven look like?  

Are we really reunited with our loved ones, whom have sadly departed from earth?

Is heaven really real?

These are a mere handful of questions that I often struggle with, even in my strong Christian faith.  The Bible tells us of the glorious and eternal life that is awaiting our arrival, yet I often find it difficult to understand this complex concept of a new world that is not truly known to man.  Or is it?

When browsing through the New York Times Bestsellers list, a few months back, I came upon a book entitled:
Heaven is for Real:
A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back
written by Todd Burpo

The title instantly grasped my attention, and pulled me in.  I found myself searching for excerpts from the text, reader's reviews, and availability at local libraries.  I immediately requested the book from two local libraries, and to my dismay found that I was placed on a waiting list.

A long waiting list.

After relocating to a new city, I was forced to remove myself from the waiting lists at home, and "try again" with a new library.  I slowly felt the reader's grudge settling in.  In all honesty, no reader wants to wait for well over 3 months to read a new and intriguing title (unless, of course, you purchase the book from a local store).  I happily received the book after being on the list for a mere week of time.
In this novel, a young boy, Colton, faces a ruptured appendix, which results in the grueling surgery necessary to save his life.  Despite medical opinions, Colton miraculously survived the surgery and transformed into an active and rambunctious boy.  Several months after Colton's near death experience, he tells his parents of the "experience" that he had while in surgery -- his travels to heaven and back.

Jesus' rainbow horse.

His angel wings.

The sister he never knew that he had.


It was simply astounding to read about this young child's vision of what heaven is like.  Particularly, I found it most interesting to "understand" how Jesus appears to the human eye.  In the majority of illustrations found in our society, Jesus has long, flowing, dark brown hair, a crown of thorns, a rugged beard, eyes of despair, and a face as fragile as a porcelain doll.  However, Colton focused his description on the beauty of the Lord's eyes, and often said "And his eyes ... oh, Dad, his eyes are so pretty!"  

"Prince of Peace"
Our Savior's appearance -- according to Colton

So much of what Colton shared aligns clearly with the stories found in the Bible, sermons from church, and conversations with fellow Christians.  It is nearly impossible to NOT believe the things that this young boy shared with his parents.  How can a child simply make-up a story from beginning to end, with such vivid detail, without truly experiencing a trip to heaven?

I don't think that this book, or any other book for that matter, can persuade someone into believing that there is a place called heaven.  (Not that I felt that that was the purpose of this book at all.)  You must trust God and take the "leap of faith" in knowing that He has created a home that is beyond human comprehension and understanding.  While we may never understand His reasoning, it is comforting to know that we have an eternal home to look forward to -- one that is a million times better than the one that we are living in now.

And yes, I do believe that heaven is really real.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Reader's Refuge

Fond memories flood my mind, as I reminisce on my childhood as a young and innocent little girl.  I, like other young girls, enjoyed playing with my dolls, forcing my brother to submit to my demands of playing house, and even twirling around in my frilly dresses.  However, a passion for reading books always managed to consume every ounce of my free time.  I loved the weekly trips to our local public library, curling up into my mother or father's lap as they read me the many books that I was so eager to explore, and embracing the aroma that each book so graciously provided.  It was inevitable; I was bound for a lifetime of literary excitement and pleasure.

As a young woman, I seek the adventure of getting lost in novels.  There is something quite euphoric about setting aside the stressors and worries of daily life, while finding a way to make myself feel as though I am one (or many) of the characters within each book that I read.  I am able to fulfill my childhood dreams that I have yet to attain in "real life."  I am the princess who marries her prince charming.  I am the strong and loving wife who is fully appreciated by her husband.  I am the faithful Christian woman and a positive role model to other women, of all ages.  I am the passionate teacher who connects with "the child" that no one else can understand.

Reading relaxes.  
Reading helps me grow.  Spiritually.  Intellectually.  Emotionally.

I have found my refuge.