Sunday, October 23, 2011

Who Are You?

Maybe I should stop reading the news. Maybe it's just too depressing, too disturbing, too filled with strong evidence that we live in a fallen world.

Two stories really shook me up this week. The first was the story out of China of a toddler, hit by two different vans, left bleeding in the street while 18 people walked, bicycled, and strolled past her broken body. Security cameras caught these people turning and looking, practically stepping over her, clearly aware of the child injured so badly that news stations blurred the image to spare us the view. But before we condemn them, we should recognize - this could have happened anywhere. China has not cornered the market on heartless insensitivity to children.

The second story was that of young girls in India participating in a 're-naming' ceremony. You see, their parents had looked upon them at the moment of their birth and chose to name them "Unwanted" in Hindi. Can you imagine? I think of the moment when I gazed into the precious face of each of my children and try to conjure up what circumstance, what horrible life history, could cause a person in that moment to hang such a hideous epithet on their own child. The government, recognizing that their society is doomed if it continues in its current trend toward a preponderance of males, is trying to right this wrong and allow these girls to select their own name - trying to give them hope to persevere in a very difficult life.

I attended a lecture recently on globalization - working in a 'flatter' world. The idea is simple and pervasive - the differences between us are disappearing. We are becoming one society - whether we like it or not. These news stories from the other side of the globe are not about 'them' and 'us' - they are all about us. The human race. Do we need any further evidence that we live in a fallen world? That we are sinful people? That we desperately need a savior? Not a savior - THE savior?

Juxtaposed against these news stories is a story from our mission team's recent trip to India - about a young girl who suffered from an infection that prevented her from being allowed into the building they were teaching and preaching in. So she stood by the window, listening, watching - taking it all in. For six hours she stood there. Can you imagine? We complain about standing in line for 20 minutes to spend $5 to ride a two-minute thrill ride at the fair!

You see, the world is not only desperately in need - many of them KNOW they are in need. They know they are sinful. They want the forgiveness provided through Jesus, but have never heard the truth. Another heartbreaking story from their trip to India was the sight they saw of people walking as much as thirty miles, barefoot, because they believed that this pilgrimage would bring them forgiveness for their sins!

Of course, there are millions who have heard. Who don't believe they need a savior. They spend their lives happily comparing themselves to 'the next guy.' You know what I mean, "I'm as good as the next guy." Problem is - the next guy is sinful too! They're like the Pharisee who puffed out his chest in pride and said, "Thank God I'm not like that tax collector"; when in reality they are so much worse.

So which are you? Are you the careless driver, leaving a trail of wrecked lives behind you and ignoring it as you go on with your life? The heartless bystander ignoring someone in obvious need? The child named "Unwanted" searching for someone to love you? The parent who allowed the cares of the world to rob the most precious blessing from your life? The girl at the window, eager to hear the truth? The tax collector repenting with tears or the Pharisee departing unjustified?

Whoever you are - Jesus is waiting for you.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tales from the TRIP - Day 16! The Journey Home

Since we had booked our flights at different times, we weren't able to get on the same flight as Megan - especially unfortunate since she had a direct flight and we had another long layover in Boston. Megan had to get to a different Terminal, but the driver of the golfcart/shuttle from our hotel to Terminal 4 was able to direct her to the train that would take her right to her terminal.

Her flight had a departure time about an hour before ours so we went over to Terminal 4 together and then said goodbye. It was a very good thing that we arrived at the Terminal early...this is what it looked like when we got there:

They had a fairly orderly means of waiting in lines, with an airport employee guarding where they broke the line to provide a space for through traffic and they made sure no one used the break as an opportunity to jump in line ahead of those of us on the other side. They also had an area for weighing and re-packing your luggage, which we almost missed. We had to pull a few random items out of our suitcases in order to be within the weight limit, but they let me run each suitcase over and make adjustments and then rejoin Mom in line.

They had significantly overbooked the flight and were offering $1000 in flight vouchers plus a free hotel and meals to anyone who would wait a day to take a flight. It was a very tempting offer but Randy and I had arranged for Matt to stay with a friend for the day since Randy was leaving that morning for camp with Kelsey and Daniel. Mom was exhausted and we both were ready to be home so we said, 'No, thanks' to their offer.

After a grueling hour or so in line, we finally got checked in and found our way to the handicapped 'corral' to await Mom's transportation to the gate. We didn't have to wait too long and before we knew it we were sitting at our gate eager for the boarding call for the flight home. We were sitting in the two seats closest to the gate with Mom on the end and a small space between her seat and a pillar. All the sudden I noticed a man, in his 20-30's, who appeared Middle Eastern, squatting down beside Mom's seat, panting as if he'd been running and looking around nervously as if he were being chased. I said, "Excuse me, are you all right? Is there a problem?" He stood up, stepped across the aisle from us where a kid sat wearing a baseball cap, snatched that hat from the boy's head and placed it on his own, looking around as if he were hoping the hat would disguise him. I said, "You are acting very suspicious; I'm going to call security." The words were barely out than he tossed the hat at me and ran through the crowd back towards the main terminal. I started yelling, "Security!" When that only brought odd looks from the crowd of passengers seated around the gate, I approached the desk and explained to the Delta officials what had happened. They seemed barely interested in what I had to say and, as far as I could determine, security was not called - no one chased after the man, no security guards arrived to ask for a description - nothing!

Nothing, that is, until it was time for us to get on the plane and then I was 'randomly' selected for an additional security check - so they completely emptied my carry on bag, carefully checking every single item. I had to take off my shoes and was patted down from head to toe - for the second time that morning! Even worse - when I returned home and sent a message to Delta complaining about their lack of response to what certainly seemed like a security issue of some variety, their response was to send me a voucher for $50 off my next flight with them. They needn't hold their breath waiting for that reservation!

Once we boarded the plane, the flight was thankfully uneventful. I enjoyed watching a couple of movies - Adjustment Bureau and Soul Surfer and then we had another long layover in Boston before arriving home in time for Dad to pick us up and have dinner.

Thanks, Mom, for a great adventure!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Tales from the TRIP - Day 15!

Our last day in London dawned rainy once again. In fact, the whole time we were there it alternated between dreary rain and steamy hot sunshine about every thirty minutes it seemed.

We had decided to get a day pass on the hop-on, hop-off bus that was always outside our hotel. For about $27, we figured it was a pretty good deal rather than fighting the crowds on the London Underground. The thing we did not count on was how far removed the various sights we wanted to see were.

We set out to see the British National Museum - what can I say, I'm a sucker for mummies? But really, I wanted to see the Rosetta Stone, the Codex Alexandrinus (a 5th Century Greek Bible), and a few other highlights. Unfortunately, to reach the museum, we had to change buses - after waiting in the rain for about 20 minutes. The problem with the hop-on, hop-off buses in London is that apparently no one told them it rains there. A lot. When Mom traveled to Barcelona, the buses there had retractable covers that they could pull over the top to keep you dry if it rained. In London, they hand you a plastic rain poncho. Which we were very thankful for since the rain was pouring - and I do mean POURING - down the stairs from the upper deck.

It had quit raining and the sun was shining when we reached the top for the Museum and we found it without too much trouble. We finished up around noon and started looking for a nearby pub for lunch. Of course - by then it was raining again! A little soggy, we found a place that served tomato soup and cheese bread which was perfect. Then we started calculating how long it would take for us to make the bus circuit clear back around to where Mom wanted to go to see the Victoria and Albert Museum. There was just no way to make it work and still get back to the hotel by the time we had asked them to have a taxi for us for our ride out to the airport. Since the museum was just a few stops past our hotel, and the buses run only one direction, we would have to make the entire circuit again to get back to our hotel after visiting the museum. Our flight was the following morning and we wanted to spend our last night near the airport rather than have to rush and worry about traffic, delays, etc, making us late for our flight.

We finally decided to just ride the bus back around, past the London Eye, the Tower of London, and some other sights, and head out to the airport.

The taxi to the airport cost about $120 - but it was money well-spent. We were pretty exhausted at that point and ready to just relax. Staying at the Heathrow Hilton was definitely a good choice - it is a beautiful hotel. They have several in-house restaurants and we decided to go to the Chinese restaurant, Zen Oriental. We were a little surprised when the maitre d' pulled the table aside to let each of us slide into the booth. Then when they served us spring rolls, he actually served one to each of us - I thought for a moment he was going to cut it and feed it to us too! It was the fanciest Chinese restaurant I've ever visited and probably the best as well. The food was fantastic and we were so sorry we couldn't save the leftovers since our flight was the next morning. Of course, it was also the most expensive Chinese restaurant I think I've ever visited - over $100 for the three of us.

The lobby of the Heathrow Hilton is particularly spectacular - it is open all the way to the roof with glass walls in the front and back and a walkway connecting the two wings of rooms. The elevators are in the middle of the walkway so as you cross to your room you can look down on the restaurants and lobby area. The open space above the restaurants had hanging sculptures reminiscent of a couple dancing.

The beds were typically European - about the size of a twin rather than a double or queen like you see in US Hotels, so we had to do a little rearranging of the room to push the beds together so that all three of us could sleep in one room. But they were pretty comfortable and I don't think Megan slipped into the crack between them too much!

Tomorrow we head home!!