December 3, 2021

Closer Look

62 1Plan for Me

Carmen Cruz’s CD Plan for Me marks quite a journey from the days when Cruz composed birthday songs for my baby daughters at the age of 12. This collection of original songs is a work of mature spirituality and impressive musical creativity, handling “experiences that I’ve dealt with,” says Cruz, “temptations that I’ve had to go through and overcome while being a teenager, learning new things while on this spiritual journey.”

Indeed, Cruz’s dedication to gospel living comes through loud and clear in this refreshing and inspiring production. Words and music are perfectly married; the message flows easily; and the melodies are exquisite and beautifully accompanied by a uniquely colored and versatile voice, which, despite showing great potential, never becomes overdone or affected. Well-thought-out lyrics, catchy and engaging, spring from personal experience that makes them all the more impactful. The instrumentation and arrangements reflect the energy and vitality of a young musician, as the comforting intimacy of “Plan for Me” and “Somebody to Love” contrasts with forceful calls to action in “Perfect World” and the sunny and hopeful “Brighter Days.”

Cruz’s music appeals to a large swath of musical tastes, while at the same time maintaining stylistic coherence. She has successfully encapsulated a timeless message in a new and invigorating musical package. Another talented Adventist musician has come of age, and promises a prolific musical career in the Lord’s service.

Plan for Me can be purchased on iTunes, from Amazon or your local ABC, or listened to on Pandora and Spotify. Hear a sample at

André Reis is an adjunct professor of music at Adventist University of Health Sciences in Orlando, Florida.

62 2Uriah Smith: Apologist and Biblical Commentator

Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2014, 256 pages, US$22.99, hardcover.

The late Gary Land was a master at the craft of history. After four decades of teaching at Andrews University, Land created this valuable addition to the Adventist Pioneer Series. Land builds on the work of Eugene F. Durand by helping to contextualize Smith’s life and background, which allows the modern reader to enter both critically yet empathetically into the world of early Adventism.

Uriah Smith was a naturally conservative individual, both in terms of theology and temperament, who, once he staked out a position, stuck with it. Smith articulated, for example, many of the early positions on Adventist prophetic interpretation. Particularly valuable in this volume is that Land highlights Uriah Smith’s relationship to Ellen White. Smith believed that Ellen White’s writings were not an addition to the Bible (p. 71). Despite personal testimonies, he developed a pattern of resistance followed by confession and submission (pp. 84, 137). Ultimately he became a stalwart defender of the prophetic gift.

Land is not reluctant to discuss Smith’s flaws. Smith was an eloquent writer, but not the best public speaker (pp. 139, 140). Perhaps his greatest weakness was his inability to say “no” and deal with uncomfortable personnel issues. Smith was a “man of the pen rather than a decisive executive” (p. 83). Thus he found himself involved in a series of conflicts, the most memorable being the Minneapolis 1888 controversy. Smith’s greatest contribution was his role as editor of the Review and Herald.

Altogether Smith was a “complex individual” who put down roots in an Adventist worldview, even if that world changed (p. 246). I heartily recommend this book for anyone who would like to better understand the world of Uriah Smith and early Adventism.

Michael W. Campbell is an assistant professor of Adventist studies at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies in Silang, Cavite, Philippines.

62 3Animal Encounters: Up Close and Personal With God’s Creation

Communication Department, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2013. Available on Vimeo and $9.99, DVD.

Animal Encounters is a Christian nature documentary of 11 episodes on three DVDs filmed in the breathtaking landscapes of South Africa. The multicultural presenters, Cassila from Brazil, Gabi from Germany, and Kezia from Kenya, well suit the backdrop of the beautiful fauna and flora of South Africa, which is also often referred to as the “rainbow nation.” Each presenter shares in Portuguese, German, and English, respectively (all with English subtitles), how their personal experiences with different animals have touched them and given them new spiritual insights that draw them closer to their Creator. The episodes include close-up encounters with elephants, cheetahs, monkeys, and birds, as well as (for the more courageous) crocodiles, sharks, and snakes.

Many of the animals that the presenters get close to have been rescued because of being injured in the wild, because of abandonment, or because of threats to their natural habitat, such as environmental deterioration. Particularly touching is the episode in which Gabi is so moved by feeding a baby elephant that she starts crying. The camera captures a rare moment of true spiritual emotion that, fortunately, has not been edited out. When contemplating the prerescued state of the animals, I feel mixed emotions of delight and guilt. Delight over God’s wisdom and His endless creativity in fashioning each particular species, but also guilt over humanity’s thoughtless and cruel dominion over them.

My whole family, young and old, has enjoyed the DVDs, particularly the spiritual focus in each episode and encounter. The series is professionally and attractively presented to captivate the interest of my 7-year-old, yet also includes sufficient intriguing details that my 13-year-old does not get bored. The Christian worldview that sets the stage for this unique documentary makes it more than informative and entertaining; it leaves one marveling at God’s wonders in His creation.

Thandi Klingbeil is a homeschool mom living in Ooltewah, Tennessee.