Thursday, September 29, 2011

5 Great Things about the Rangers Regular Season

Great things about the regular season:

1. Rangers get the most wins ever for the franchise (96).

2. Michael Young gets 213 hits, tied for the lead. This is special, and probably underappreciated.  Each year, maybe 5 players in baseball get 200 hits. Young has done this 6 times.

3. Napoli and Beltre, two Angels rejects, help us beat the Angels.

4. The Rangers win the last 6 games, refusing to coast after they clinched.

5. We did it with several solid starting pitchers, not just one Alpha dog.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Review: "Paper Angels", by Billy Coffey

Billy Coffey showed promise with his first novel,  "Snow Day", which was good overall, and great in places. But the leap forward from "Snow Day" to "Paper Angels" is a giant one for the author. From the very beginning, this story had my attention, and it never let go.

The main character, Andy Sommerville, is a lifelong bachelor who owns a gas station. A severe injury puts him in the hospital and forces him to face many non-physical wounds from his past. Wounds which didn't so much shape him into the man he is as much as they derailed him somewhat from what he was made to be. As he is shown the meaning and importance of each of these hurts (represented by various mementos he had collected over the years), a new friend named Elizabeth helps guide him, addressing each wound by first peeling back the bandages that had covered them, sometimes for decades.

Most people have wounds that have stayed with us for years. What sets Andy apart is that he has a personal angel, provided by God as an answer to a boyhood prayer, who has stuck by Andy all his life, encouraging him to learn life lessons--and to save those mementos--along the way. Andy keeps the existence of his angel a secret from all who know him, which contributes to his tendency to distance from people, costing him an important relationship or two along the way.

The previous paragraph could lead the potential reader to consider "Paper Angels" as a print version of a lame episode of "Touched By An Angel", but nothing could be less accurate. It bears more of a resemblance to "The Kid", a powerful story disguised as a lighthearted Disney kids' movie starring Bruce Willis, than any angel-centered movie or TV show I can think of. Sadly, I can't explain more without giving too much away. I will say this, though: the supernatural aspect of an angel is not a big part of the story. From one chapter to the next, it is simply about Andy, with the help of Elizabeth the counselor, learning about his past one piece at a time, in order for the healing to begin. The result is a truly powerful book which, if I had my way, would be read by everyone important to me.  It's that good.

Hachette Books provided me with a free copy of "Paper Angels" for review purposes, with the only obligation to give an honest review. That said, I am recommending "Paper Angels" as strongly as anything I have read in at least a year, maybe two. It comes out in November. It can be pre-ordered here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

In the Potter's Hands

Isaiah 64:8 "But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand."

Some years ago, it was pointed out to me that our relationship to God is described in several metaphorical ways, all of which matter. Some authors/teachers have even been known to rank the relationship descriptions in some way--for example, in levels of intimacy:

Clay/Potter
Slave/Master
Sheep/Shepherd
Subject/King
Son/Father
Bride/Groom

While I cannot argue with the theology of such a ranking, it does have the unintended side effect of causing the reader to dismiss the relationship descriptions listed earlier on the list. It's just as important to understand the potter/clay dynamic between us and God as it is anything else. He mentioned that particular picture dozens of times in books by no less than 4 biblical authors: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Paul, and John. Yes, He's our loving Father, but focusing only on Him as Father can lead us into missing out on some important truths.

We are clay, not pots
What is it about a clay and potter which describes how we are to relate to God? I've got a few, but let me first say what I believe the most important one: a clay is liquid. It's soft. It's essentially mud. Of the multiple passages which describe God as a Potter, only two of them describe us as pots, and in both of them, He reminds us that He can and will, if necessary, break us in pieces.

The idea of us being clay, as opposed to pots, is vital in our understanding that He shapes us, and is still shaping us. You are a work in progress. I am, too.

With that understanding under our belt, we can move forward in seeing what else this Potter/clay thing means:

1. Working out the bad stuff: At first, clay has things in it which shouldn't be there. The potter uses his hands to work out the impurities.

2. Shaping us: The potter shapes the clay into what he wants it to be. Sometimes, that means stretching, molding, pulling, pushing, and moving things around a bit. It's not always going to be comfortable.

3. The Sponge: while the potter's fingers  make changes to the general shape, he also uses a sponge to smooth out the bumps, so that the end product will be smooth.

4. Who's in charge: The clay has no say in what shape or type of vessel it will become. The Potter decides, and will make the clay according to the potter's purposes.

5. Beginning with the end in mind: Before actually starting, the potter knows what he wants to clay to look like when finished. He sees the completed cup, jar, or pot in that lump of clay long before anyone else does.