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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Adventures in Odyssey" and Lessons Learned


There's something special about a story that doesn't simply engage your mind as one might engage a stranger in conversation, that is, long enough not to be rude, but not too long because you have stuff to do.

No, a good story overwhelms your mind, blurring the lines between fiction and reality and taking you to a place you never knew you wanted to go but feels just like home.

In these kinds of stories characters become friends (or enemies), their triumphs are your triumphs, their losses are your losses, and each time you revisit the story you invest a part of yourself in it.

By now I've lost some of you with this kind of talk, though I know not a few of my readers will understand exactly what I'm saying.

There's just something special about these kinds of stories and I have had the pleasure of reading many thereof.

However, there is one children's radio drama that can contend with the best of them: Adventures in Odyssey.

Since 1987, kids and adults of all ages have found their home away from home in the fictional town of Odyssey, USA.

The stories portrayed in the Adventures in Odyssey are innocent without being innocuous and they play on drama and fantasy without devolving into immaturity, making "growing out" of Odyssey impossible.

But Odyssey's greatest strength lies in the spiritual truth it impresses upon the hearts of its listeners.

I remember with fondness journeying with God's prophet Elijah in the Imagination Station where through repeated "trips" I memorized what became one of my favorite passages of Scripture:

And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again. -- 1 Kings 18:36-37

In "First Hand Experience" I learned with Eugene the pointlessness of doing things just for the sake of raking in "experiences" and committed myself to have a clear purpose in mind for whatever it was I did.

"60's Something" reminded a wide-eyed, na├»ve, let's-everybody-hold-hands-and-save-the-world, would-be humanitarian that man cannot create a perfect world of peace and love by himself, and that only by and through the gospel of peace (Eph 6:15) will men finally beat their swords into plowshares.

My genuine fear of driving was overcome not in small part due to "License to Drive", and to this day, every time I get in the car I hear Connie's hilariously patronizing voice in my head ("to start the car, you turn the key awaaay from you").

In more serious moments when I felt far from God and overcome by sin, I'd listen to "Harlow Doyle, Private Eye" and remember that I hadn't lost my faith, I'd just lost sight of it, and could, with God's help, see it again.

And sometimes the enjoyment of Odyssey was just in having an "Odyssey night" with family.

Around Christmas time, my brother and sister and I would gather around our home intercom system and listen to "The Gift of Madge and Guy", stretching the thirty minute episode due to frequent stops just so we could laugh at all the dumb jokes.

I treasure that memory.

Finally, in "The Impossible" I came to believe--really and truly believe--that with God, nothing is impossible, and that whatever He called me to do--no matter how crazy or scary or impossible it may seem--I could trust that He would see it through to its completion.

It wasn't even so much that Odyssey taught my spiritual truths I didn't know, but that seeing them played out in the lives of the characters made them come alive for me in a new way. 

Now it has been some time since I listened to an Odyssey episode and I haven't received a new album in years, but just like home, no amount of time spent apart can dull the impact Odyssey had on my life and spiritual growth.

It really is a special kind of story.