Friday, October 31, 2008

Politics: A Messy Mindgame

Like most Americans, I've been following the election news rather closely the last few months. Even more so the last few weeks. I haven't written on it (until now) for several reasons. Others have been writing about it and doing a bang-up job, I can't top what others are saying and I have no desire to try. I do however have some venting to do and since this is my blog and I get to do that here, here we go.

- I've read numerous times that a vote for anyone other than McCain, is essentially a vote for Obama. I know why folks say this, and I understand their passion in not wanting an Obamanation. However, if a person is personally convicted to vote for someone other than McCain, then respect ought to be granted there for that conviction. I know... we're talking politics where respect quite often tends to go out the window, even among Christians, sadly. In case you're wondering, no, I don't think it's disrespectful to refer to an Obama presidency as an Obamanation, considering the man's stand on a wide variety of issues.

- This is the first presidential election in my adult life that I have both payed very close attention to and at the end of the day been left feeling like this is the most significant, downward turning point for the United States of America. If Obama is elected (and I believe he will be) there will be changes coming that will not be undone, should have never happened, and my fellow countrymen will grieve.

- Some Christians have commented here and there that God is still in control and maybe it's a judgement on America that Obama take the reigns. I can see the reason for folks saying that. As a people, we do tend to reap what we sow. If we sow immorality and compromise and tolerance of sinful and ungodly things... well, we get what we deserve. A question to ponder is: do we deserve an Obama Presidency, or a McCain one? It's clear to anyone with 1/2 of a brain cell and a drop of morality that we as a nation indeed have sown generations worth of immorality, compromise and ungodly things.

- Some Christians have mentioned that a McCain presidency wouldn't really look all that different than an Obama presidency. I disagree there, but I do agree that he's not the candidate I'd hope for either - as much as I like Sarah Palin.

- Some say the Obama presidency (and the campaign) is being bought/funded by foreign power and money. Most would be quick to write off such a statement as a conspiratorial paranoia, but we need to really give that one some serious thought. The global political landscape is a game of dirty pool and we all know it, even if we don't want to come right out and say it outloud. Hidden agenda, ulterior motive, self-centered ambition, power-mongering... and those are the just the most obvious hallmarks of politics today. Maybe they've always been part of the political game. If an Obama presidency was in fact bought buy a foreign power, would any rational thinking American really be all that shocked? Seriously?

- Some say Obama isn't even a natural born citizen (was he actually born in Kenya?) and that his (short form) birth certificate is a forgery. More crack-pot paranioa? Is this just mud slinging by the anti-Obama crowd? Again, if it's not, and it can be proven that he is in fact not a natural born citizen of the USA, but gets elected anyway... who would really be shocked? Honestly?

These are just a few thoughts on this rather uneasy time. I don't pretend to have any answers, except to say that it's a really good time to ask ourselves just how much we really do trust God's sovereign hand in setting up leaders and taking them down again.

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Celebrating Halloween

You know what really bothers me about Halloween more than anything else? This:

Some Christians celebrate it and some don't, and both opinions should be respected. If you're one of those idiot Christians who hates it that your kids might actually have fun, and you enjoy being a miserable slob and ruining their lives and scarring their precious childhood memories because that's your personal worldview, then by all means stay home and listen to your kids cry tonight.

I see this every year. Written from the perspective of those who celebrate Halloween, about those who do not. Open, blatant, mockery of those who have chosen to seperate themselves from participation in Halloween traditions. Boy oh boy do I ever get tired of reading that.

I bagged (no pun intended) this annual observance in 1995 after a few years of pesky conviction. I've never regretted the decision, and I have no issue that my 4 youngest kids (who have never celebrated it, in any way) will grow up all messed up in the head because they didn't celebrate it. For those Christians that do still celebrate it, yay for them and I hope they have a really fun time in however they're doing that.

Why can't the same consideration be given for those that chose not to partake? I just don't get it.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Reformation Day: Do You See What I See?

(Originally posted on Reformation Day 2007 - only slightly edited for 2008)

While spending a few minutes browsing through the "bestsellers" category at a high ranked online Christian book site, I left feeling disgusted that such monumental garbage (yes, I said garbage, and that was being kind) is flying off the shelves (both online and offline) and marketed as "Christian". In many cases, it's more philosophical/psychological mumbo-jumbo, than anything else. In most cases it's so doctrinally devoid or skewed, that it doesn't ring true with Scripture at all (no, I haven't read all the books on the bestseller lists but you don't have to, to know what the authors believe, endorse and promote). As I read through the bestselling lists of authors, the overwhelming thought was "why do people buy this trash?" I think maybe a big part of the reason they buy it, is because they want "spiritual" but they don't necesarrily want "biblical". Sadly, the Christian retail business is more than happy to pander to "spiritual" demands at the cost of Biblical.

In reading through some of the Reformation Day posts & comments over the last few days at various blogs & websites, numerous thoughts occured to me as it pertains to the idea of the evangelical church being in need of a NEW reformation. In no particular order, here are my thought questions.

Feel free to answer any or all of them:

1. Does the evangelical church really need a new reformation?
2. If it happened, where/how would it start?
3. What would happen to the Christian book publishing/Christian music/Christian retail industry, as a result of a genuine reformation?
4. How would major Christian conferences/retreats be affected, if at all?
5. Who might be the leading men & woman to spearhead a new reformation?
6. How would it affect you personally, to see a wave of solid, outspoken men and women in the church, calling for a Sola Scriptura approach to Christianity?
7. Did the first reformation go far enough?
8. Does Evangelicism 2008 really look like Biblical Christianity?
9. How would a new reformation change local church ministries (Sunday school classes, youth groups, music ministry, Bible studies, etc.)?
10. Would Christian blogging have any kind of impact on such an idea? (if so, how would Christian blogging be a useful vehicle for promoting a new reformation?)

I'd really be interested in your thoughts on this topic.

(Since this is a repost from 2007, the comments from last year are still there - please feel free to add to those with your thoughts.)

After the Snow...

and now, your local forecast...

SUN! I must say, after waking up yesterday and seeing snow on the ground, and seeing it come down the way it was in the snowsqualls, I was quite pleased to see the forecast for the next five days did NOT contain anything falling from the sky - except the rays of the sun.

How ironic that when I was a teenager my friends used to tease me that I'd be that old lady that wears a sweater and long pants in the summer time if the temperature dips below 75. Ironic since, I'm not officially old yet (not a clue when "old" comes, but I'm pretty sure I'm not there yet), but I do in fact get a chill if it goes below 75. Yes, I do wear a sweater (polar fleece jackets to be precise, I have one in pretty much every color), and long, comfy pants. Indeed, I am a cold-weather-wimp.

I'm going to be enjoying this minor heat wave over the next few days, since it is the end of October and that means months of doom and gloom and cold are just around the corner.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wanted: Christian Geek - Inquire Within

I was talking with a pastor friend last night about prayer. More specifically about prayer journalling, and the benefits of that. By using a type of prayer journal you're able to enter prayer needs as they come up and you're helping to keep your prayer life focused and consistant. There are various ways to do this and this is what we were talking about.

He has a brilliant idea for an e-prayer journal. Very similar to what I've written about here, but something that folks can use electronically as a desktop software program. He shared with me his ideas on how such a program would include pre-set categories for each entry with the functionality to have the program set for daily pop-up reminders, email you, or allow you to print out any or all entries. There are a lot more details than that, but the gist of it is, this would be a downloadable, semi-automated journal that allows you to enter the data for whoever/whatever situation you're praying for - and then gives you a lot of features for reminders and personal/direct contact tabs.

The only problem is, he's not a programmer and doesn't know how to write such a program. Neither do I, or I would have started doing it last night when he told me all the details about it. Therefore, this is a help wanted ad for any Christian geek that might be interested in putting your geek skills to good use. If you're that geek, please do contact me and I'll forward your email to my pastor friend so you can discuss the details.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Little Slice of Heaven

Watch it the first time, then play it again and close your eyes.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Disposable People

I think this probably happens to everyone. You're friends with someone for a time then suddenly you don't stay in touch as often. You get busy with life, they get busy with their lives, and you begin to drift apart. Before you know it, it's been months or even years since you've heard from them. When you do get in touch again, so much has changed and you realize with a hint of sadness that you have become strangers.

In one of the courses that I'm doing with the girls in school, Beautiful Girlhood, a recent lesson was called Keeping Up Aquaintances. The lesson goal was to teach younger girls that making real friends (friends that will encourage you in the things of God, rather than influence you in the things of the world) is very important. Equally important is maintaining those friendships and nurturing them so that you have that network of good and godly support around you, and that likewise they have that support in you.

I have to confess that this is a difficult chapter for me. I'm not the kind of person that has a lot of close friends all at the same time, but the kind of person that generally has one or two close friends at a time. I suppose a lot of people are like this, so I'm okay with that part. I've never been a particularly "social" butterfly, but have always had a very strong opinion about friendships and what constitutes real friends. Essentially it boils down to this: they're the ones who are there when life falls apart and everyone else is nowhere to be found.

I recently read that to have those kinds of friends, that you need to be that kind of friend. I'm learning (once again) that this isn't always the case, and it's not a very pleasant lesson. You can be that kind of friend and still have folks that you thought were your friends, dispose of you like yesterday's coffee grounds. Yep, it hurts. Nope, there's not much you can do about it but carry on. Sometimes, you just have to learn the hard way lessons you thought you'd already learned.


I received an email this morning about this post, from a friend who was concerned the tone may come across as bitter or angry. I wanted to clarify in case anyone else had that same impression.

There are all kinds of friends. Good friends, childhood friends, lifelong friends, long distance friends, complicated friends and even fair weather friends. Most people have experience in nearly all of those kinds of relationships. For me, it is simply frustrating (frustrated with myself) that even though I know sometimes people turn out to be fair weather friends, it still hurts when you realize that's all they were all along. I suppose it's partly because you trusted them in the first place to be a solid friend, and then you find out that this trust was misplaced. It's a big disappointment and can be rather discouraging. I'd suggest it also hurts because maybe it makes you feel like your friendship wasn't that big of a deal to that person - again reminding you that your trust was misplaced.

These are just some of those unpleasant, messy, complicated life lessons that I wish we could all learn once and never have to go through again. I'm neither bitter nor angry, just a tad bummed out that I haven't figured out yet things I wish I had.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Things Change

This past week I decided to clean up the template of my blog archives, and while doing that I took a little trip down Bloggy Memory Lane. I clicked on the archives for 2004 and began reading. It seemed odd to me how on the one hand those things that I wrote in 2004 don't really seem that long ago, but on the other hand feel like a million lifetimes ago. I read the recap of 2004 that I wrote at the end of December and what made the headlines that year. I read what I'd written about my late step-dad who's health was failing him, and that brought tears to my eyes. I read about our trip to Kentucky and it made me smile. I read about how excited I was about the first snow that fall and suddenly heard the sound of screeching brakes you might hear in a car chase in a movie. What!? Me, excited about snow??? Surely I must have been insane.

It's funny how your perspective on a thing can change in such a short period of time. Just four years ago (probably even as recent as just last year, but I don't dare look to confirm) I was excited about the first snowfall of the year. This year? I'm so dreading it that I jokingly scolded Rachel yesterday for daring to say the "S" word.

When you're a kid, if you're like most kids, you look forward to the first snowfall of the year. Especially if you live somewhere that you don't get a lot of snow in the winter time. You don't have to go out into it unless you want to, and if you're like most kids you really really want to! Even if you do have to go out in the snow to walk to school, you look forward to it because it's SNOW! and that's a lot of fun, even if you're freezing. Kids just have this incredible resolve to have fun no matter if they can feel their feet and hands anymore, or not. Things are a little different for adults. I vividly recall my grandparents and my mom lamenting the snow. They always hoped it wouldn't be too deep, or too wet, or stick around for too long. They had to drive in it, and they had to shovel it, where us kids just got to play in it, eat it, throw it at each other and enjoy it. Different perspective, vastly different attitude about it.

I can think of lots of other things this applies to as well. Namely, living the Christian life.

When you're a newly minted believer, you see things in a different way than you did even the very day before you were converted. Five, ten, twenty years later you continue to see things differently. Your views on such things as eschatology & soteriology may change a great deal as you grow in grace and study the word. Your understanding and your perspective on a great number of things changes considerably the older you get. Your views on legalism, relationships, suffering, bitterness, grace, compassion and judgementalism (and more) will change and hopefully with life experience and under the right teaching, you'll come to understand these things in the right balance, and with the right perspective.

If there is anything I've learned in my Christian life, it's finding that right balance, that consistant and grace-infused perspective on life and all that comes with it, can be somewhat elusive. It takes work, and it takes focus and it takes prayer, and it often takes the Lord removing things from your life that you didn't exactly want removed, to show you the things you need to see. It also takes a desire on your part to really want these things. It's very easy (for me anyway) to become lazy and apathetic about a lot of things, including spiritual things. It's much harder a lot of the time to stay diligent and stay focused on the right things and the proper things.

Interesting how perspective changes attitude, and how time changes perspective.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Food for Deep & Serious Thought

I had several things in mind to write about here today. Several unfinished drafts to pick from. Then, I heard this message from Paul Washer. You should hear it too, if you haven't yet.

When you're done with that, get ready for this one. If these don't make you think, your thinker is clearly not working.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Warning: Don't Do It!

This is the bad place. Just clicking this link you'll get all kinds of ideas, and before you know it... you'll be making a list, and checking it twice.

Plus, if you thought that was bad, whatever you do... definitely do not go here. This is the REALLY bad place. I hope you have lots of printer paper, and big freezers. And a good aerobics/pilates dvd, or high metabolism.

You're going to need it.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

When You're Weary

In 1970 an album came out that most of you will be familiar with for at least one of the songs on it. Now, I was only 6 years old the year this album came out and my older sister was only 11, so I'm going to guess it was my mom that owned the album. In any event, it was played in our house for years and the one song on it that I had memorized forward and backward started out like this:

When you're weary,
feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes,
I will dry them all

Surely you recognize this? Indeed it is Bridge Over Troubled Water. Several years after the album came out when I was in the 8th grade our rather hip, rather cool choir teacher told us we'd be performing this song for the fall concert I was about as excited as a 14 year old could be. I'd been singing it for the last 8 years already, so I was prepared. What I wasn't prepared for was how it would sound with a class of 25 other kids singing it who loved it as much as I did. Let me tell you, the harmony and the soul in that choir room brought tears to the teacher's eyes, and many of her students as well. It's funny how I remember that like it was yesterday, and it actually happened 29 years ago. It was just one of those pivotal, emotional moments in life that stand out.

What made me think of this, was feeling weary. I often think of that line in that song when I feel weary. As a Christian, it's impossible to think of that line without attributing the One drying my tears to my Heavenly Father, even though that's not who the song was written about.

I know we can all feel weary sometimes, especially when it concerns faith and a Christian worldview. We can feel small, insignificant, inconsequential, ignored, overlooked, unimportant and even invisible. We can feel like we don't matter, we're disposable and what we have to say isn't worth anyone's time to listen to. It may sound strange, but when someone says "whatever" to me, those are exactly the feelings that immediately come up.

The solution to weariness however, is pretty simple, and pretty complex at the same time. The first thing you do is do NOT throw a pity party and entertain your feelings of despair or despondency. By that I mean do not dwell on those feelings to the point you're trying to convince yourself that you have every right to feel this way and it's all someone else's fault and therefore you're entitled. It may very well be the fault of someone else that you're feeling this way, and it may very well hurt a great deal, but that doesn't mean you stop there and set up camp in Entitled to Weary World.

We live in a time where the social message is incredibly ecumenical and filled with compromise everywhere you look. Even among Christians there are sometimes folks who will tell you not to be so dogmatic on doctrine and theology because it causes division. Yes, sound biblical theology and doctrine definitely does cause division and it should. There is God's truth, and then there is all else. Take a look at this passage:

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory". "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (1Cor. 15:51-58)
I don't know about you, but I find that passage incredibly encouraging. We are not to cave in, compromise, run away or wimp out - but we are to be steadfast, immovable and always abounding in the work of the Lord and to do so knowing that this work is not empty or meaningless or a waste of our time, as it may at times appear.

May it serve you well to meditate on that last verse there, if you find yourself weary today for your faith and your stand for truth. May you know that your toil is not in vain, in the Lord. For additional encouragement, please take a moment to read Dare to be Like Daniel at Puplit Magazine. I wrote this post a few days ago and let it sit in draft, and then read this today and thought the timing was rather well orchestrated.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Who's Laughing Now, Mr. Smart Mouth?

Why do we laugh at sinful things? That was the thought that kept coming up over the course of a few days. Here are some fairly recent and real examples:

• In an email discussion recently the topic came up about a pastor who cracked a joke at a conference. The joke was about Episcopalians and homosexual relationships.

• I caught a few minutes of Obama on tv the other night cracking jokes about the financial nightmare many American people are dealing with.

• I watched a scene in a movie where a man said something funny but in a vulgar way, which ruined the comedic quality of it.

Anyone who knows me, knows I have a rather goofy sense of humor. Some might even call it "dark humor", but I'm not sure I'd go that far in my sanctified state. Unsaved, it was a different story but a lot has changed since the Lord got hold of me 14 years ago.

The examples above got me to thinking. This can be a dangerous thing sometimes because the more I think about such things the less answers I come up with. In all of those examples above my immediate thought is "but it's not funny, so why laugh?" The easiest answer is "sin". We laugh at sinful things (or mockingly laugh at serious things) because we're sinful people. That's the easiest answer but it defintely gets more complicated the more you unravel it.

In the first example, there is nothing at all humorous about a homosexual relationship, in a Christ-centered context. Not once in Scripture will anyone ever find a joke or a light hearted referenct to this kind of lifestyle. Yet, a pastor cracks a joke about it at a conference and other men laugh and find it funny. Does God find it funny? The first person to come up with Biblical support for laughing at homosexual jokes should post that here in the comments and I'll eat my shoe, and video myself doing it. Okay? (If you're going to try this because you're demented and want to see someone eat a shoe, please be advised that twisting Scripture is generally frowned upon.)

In the second example, there is likewise nothing at all funny about people suffering financial loss or hardship. Joe American works hard to support his family and be a good citizen and suddenly he's out of a job, losing his house, maybe his car too and has no where to go. (I realize this may be extreme but it happens all the time). This is funny? Is Joe American laughing? Is Mrs. American giggling as she tucks the kids in the for the night sleeping in the family vehicle or the local homeless shelter, or someone's couch? Who's laughing when they end up divorced (finances are a HUGE factor in divorce) and the kids are learning to adapt to all that? Where are the jokes when Daddy has to head off to the food bank again because the kids are hungry? Is Joe's dear wife laughing when she goes to bed hungry again because there was just enough food that night for the kids, so she went without again? No, there is nothing at all funny about financial hardship. While a believer may suffer through this (and many of us do, for years) and there may be a peace and an assurance that God will provide all our needs (and He does because He's everfaithful), I can say without question, it's just not funny. In fact, it can be rather heartbreaking and devastating for entire families. Frankly, I'd like to see how funny Obama thinks it would be if he were dependant on the system for a while, through no fault of his own. Or worse, in a state of being over the income limit for assistance but still over his head with bills - and yet still not making enough to care for his family. I bet he wouldn't be giggling anymore. (And this IS the reality of countless American families, every single day).

In the third example, I just got mad. I love to laugh, and I love clever humor. I loathe it when someone ruins it with vulgarity or profanity. It takes more thought to be funny without being a pig-mouth, and the pig-mouths of the world just get on my very last nerve.

Mr. Smart MouthSo the more I thought about why we laugh at sinful things, or why we laugh at things that in reality just aren't even funny at all, the more convicted I became to really guard against this myself because I certainly have been guilty of it myself. Ouch, that really stings.

The more I thought about it, the more reasons I came up with as to why we do it in the first place. Rather than looking at the first two examples above with a "there but for the grace of God go I" and a thankful heart, we process scenarios like that with more of an arrogant attitude that says "ha, I'm not like THAT!" In the third example of laughing at vulgarity, I'm honestly not at all sure why that's something that people laugh at. It isn't funny, but folks will laugh at it every time. Maybe it's somewhat along the lines of knowing that it's risque, impolite and off color, and that someone is "getting away with it" so that makes people laugh. I'm not really sure.

What I do know for certain, is that this is an area where the Holy Spirit convicts me more and more all the time. I might say something that I think is funny, but then be immediately convicted that it wasn't nearly as funny as it was just snarky and snippy. Those are nice words for sinful and malicious. I don't intend for it to come out that way but it sure does, sometimes. I only wish I were convicted more often before the comment comes out, than after. Sometimes that does happen, but I just wish it happened more. I don't want to laugh at sinful things and I certainly don't want to be a Mrs. Smart Mouth.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Just Blogging the Good Stuff

I wish I had them more often, but yesterday was one of those kinds of days that pretty much everything either went well, or above and beyond my expectations. Part of what made the day so good yesterday is that after I heard great teaching in Sunday school (we were in Ezekiel 16 and my pastor handled it with such grace and tact I was impressed and grateful), followed by a really good sermon (fine, my pastor always preaches good sermons) then I came home and listened to a message I'd downloaded earlier (via recommendation from a fellow Christian blogger), on being salt and light in a pagan culture. That message was also very, very good.

So, that got me to thinking yesterday about blogging, and Christian blogging in general and how it's changed over the last few years. More directly, how it's changed my life over the last 4-5 years since I've been a blog reader, and then a blogger myself. When I first started blogging a pastor friend of mine scoffed at the idea of blogs and dismissed them all as gossip columns. He later began a blog of his own. We live in a high-tech, digitally connected world and there are folks out there who love the Lord and use it for His glory. I cannot be more grateful than I am, for those people. Now, while there are a lot of things I would change about Christian blogging that I don't like at all, I'm not even going to mention any of those things because they bring me down. Really down. I don't want to go there today - I just want to focus on the good stuff.

One of the ways Christian blogging has impacted me the most, is via resources. On any given day you can find a monumental amount of book recommendations, sermon links, conference information or Bible study notes on someone's blog. If you're like me and you've fine tuned your blog reading to just the best of the best, then those links and resources are sure to be ones that will bless you and benefit you in big ways. Were it not for blogging or blog reading, I'd never come across most of these resources.

I read both men and women's blogs, and on each I find new challenges and encouragement almost every day in my way of thinking, my way of parenting, my way of homeschooling, prayer, evangelism, relationships and attitudes in general on a wide variety of topics. I like it that bloggers get personal, get doctrinal, and get honest about what they struggle with and what they've overcome by His grace. It's a big help to me too (even if I never comment because I'm the world's worst commenter).

Through blogging, I've met some pretty incredible people, and formed some pretty incredible friendships with folks I would have never met, otherwise. Some of those folks I've met face to face and others are folks I talk to nearly every day, even if it's just to say hello, discuss a prayer need, or hear some good news.

In the last few months I've really changed the way I spend time online and the amount of time I spend when I am online. My offline world demands more of my time now than it did before so I've lightened my online reading considerably. In doing that, I find that I don't feel guilty anymore that I've got 8 million blogs on my rss reader, and far too overwhelmed to ever catch up. I've got a handful of good ones that I read every day, and that's it. That's enough, because they're the good ones!

So I wonder, how has Christian blogging affected your life? What are some of the best things about it that you can think of and what are some of the most unique ways you've seen Christian blogging being used?

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

A HUGE Book Issue!

I have unread books sitting on my desk. I know! Isn't that insane?

I have had my reading routine seriously altered, but over the next week or so I hope to clear away some obstacles that have altered that routine and get back to it. I'm very much looking forward to being back in my comfy chair with my lap blankie, my cheetos and a good book. (No, you can't read a book without snackies, because you might be there a while and you'll get hungry - so you need to have supplies with you!)

So, I'm putting up a new poll for a couple of weeks, to see what my readers suggest. The four books I want to read the most are there, and I'm curious which one you think I should read first.

In addition, if there is a great book you've recently read that isn't on my list and one that I MUST read, please do leave that suggestion in the comments. I'm a fast reader, so once I get back into my routine, it wont take long before these 4 are done. (Hint: I'd like some solidly reformed women authors on my list).

Oh, and if you're interested in the results of the last poll:

What is your age group? Of the 66 voters, here's how it came out:

Under 20: 2 votes (3% of readership)

21-30: 11 votes (16% of readership)

31-40: 12 votes (18% of readership)

41-50: 23 votes (34% of readership)

51-60: 11 votes (16% of readership)

Over 60: 7 votes (10% of readership)

I didn't really have a reason other than curiousity, for posting that poll. Thanks for voting, and please do take a minute to vote in the new one.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

If you could be anyone else...

So, this was a complete waste of time but a lot of fun. I strongarmed everyone in the house at the time, to stand still so I could take their picture today for this silly bit of fun. The one of me was taken a couple of months ago because I'm having a very bad hair day today. I only have a good hair day once a month, and today is so not my day. In any case, enjoy the silliness:


And for more weirdness:

MyHeritage: Family trees - Genealogy - Celebrities

The rest of the celebs...








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Mystery Hunter: Cornbread Hiccups?

(General disclaimer: what follows is a rather frivilous post. Yes, this is a Christian blog and no there isn't anything very deep in the following post. Oh well.)

The Mystery: the only time I have ever come down with a case of the hiccups, is when I eat hot cornbread. It doesn't happen every time, but if I do get hiccups, it's during or after eating hot cornbread. Never any other kind of food or drink. Why?

The Mystery Solved: (from

""Hic!" You've just hiccuped for what seems like the tenth time since you finished your big dinner. Wonder where these funny noises are coming from? The part to blame is your diaphragm (say: die-uh-fram). This is a dome-shaped muscle at the bottom of your chest, and all hiccups start here.

The diaphragm almost always works perfectly. When you inhale, it pulls down to help pull air into the lungs. When you exhale, it pushes up to help push air out of the lungs. But sometimes the diaphragm becomes irritated. When this happens, it pulls down in a jerky way, which makes you suck air into your throat suddenly. When the air rushing in hits your voice box, you're left with a big hiccup.

Some things that irritate the diaphragm are eating too quickly or too much, an irritation in the stomach or the throat, or feeling nervous or excited. Almost all cases of the hiccups last only a few minutes. Some cases of the hiccups can last for days or weeks, but this is very unusual, and it's usually a sign of another medical problem."
Okay, so this either means that I'm excited to eat cornbread and I eat it too quickly, thereby irritating my diaphram? Hmm... I'm not buying it. In any event, it's pretty incredible that we are designed in such a way that even the slightest things can cause our bodies to react with a case of goofy hiccups.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Legalism - or - Real Faith Applied?

The Bible says in 1Tim.3:1-7 that pastors specifically, are among many other things to have a good reputation so that they do not fall into reproach.

In thinking about this yesterdat, I began to wonder how this applies (what it actually looks like in practice) to any professing Christian - and not just pastors. In a pretty small nutshell, what it essentially means is that we're not to conduct ourselves in any fashion that could bring disgrace and shame to the name of Christ. Personal and public conduct covers a huge territory. From the way we dress and speak, to the associations we have, to the places we go and things we do. It's about our lifestyle and living one that brings glory to God rather than brings shame to Him. How this is actually lived out with each individual believer will look and sound a little different, depending on where in the world they are. A believer in a small country villa in Germany might not look or sound like a believer in downtown LA. Yet, He is the same Holy Spirit working in each believer, without a different standard for the believer in Germany than He has for the believer in LA. The more I thought about that the more complicated it seems to get - and the more I realize I don't fully understand how it all works. I suppose I'd have to say that cultural nuances may look different on the outside but it's still the same faith on the inside.

One aspect of being called to live above reproach that I've heard countless times (and read again just recently), is the accusation of "legalism" that comes up when this is discussed, preached, proclaimed or declared. The accusation is almost always the same and it follows along the lines of "well maybe we should have a list of approved things that meet your standard". Generally said in a rather sarcastic, condescending way, and generally said by those that feel a bit more Christian Liberty Muscle Flexing is in order. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard someone say that, read something that someone wrote that said it, or heard from another Christian that they heard it, I'd have so many nickels it would be ludicrous.

Its really hard to have those conversations because you're not on the same page to begin with. Getting on the same page has often proved to be rather difficult. (But it is possible, and can be a great blessing to both parties).

The thing is, it's not about being legalistic. It's not about living according to some other believer's list of do's and don'ts, but it's about living a lifestyle that is Scripture Approved. That's the key right there.

While that's the key, that's also a source of disagreement since my understanding of Scripture and someone else's understanding of Scripture may differ in gigantic ways. I know that for me, I cannot dress the way I did when I was unsaved. I cannot go to the places I went, do the things I did, speak the way I spoke, or associate with the people I associated with. In many cases, I can't even listen to the same music. I cannot conduct myself that way because none of it brings glory to the name of God. All of it glorifies sin, self and the flesh. For me, it isn't about being legalistic its about being realistic, and understanding what sin is, and how it manifests.

Scripture tells us that bad company corrupts good morals (1Cor.15:33). Either we believe that or we pretend it's not there, or applies to someone besides you, but that's what it says. I know for me, it is a factual statement. In a prime example, I once went quite some time without hearing a single cuss word on any kind of tv show, movie or in public. Then, we rented a movie that was loaded with cussing and the very next time I got angry, those very same words desperately wanted to fly out of my mouth. I was quite stunned at how easily this happened. I know I'm not the only one that this sort of thing happens to either because the Scripture doesn't say bad company MIGHT corrupt good morals. In fact, the verse clearly says do not be deceived into thinking it DOESN'T happen. It can, it will, and it defintely does. It may manifest itself differently for each person but it most certainly will happen if you're surrounding yourself with bad company. Obviously this can be any kind of ungodly or purely worldly influence, whether it's people, music, junk on the internet, fashion, movies, etc. Whatever you're consuming your time with, filling your ears or your mind with, is your company.

Since He is the same Holy Spirit with every believer, and since the Bible says and means the exact same thing in any language, surely there must be only one standard for holy living. Right?

It's not my standard, or yours, or anyone else's standard but God's. If then, God sets the standard it makes perfect sense to me that each believer would be inclined to examine his own conduct, and ask a few self-exam type questions. Such as - does this glorify the Lord? How does it bring Him honor? Is there a good possibility someone will stumble over this? What does my reputation say about me? What am I known for, both by those that know me and those that only know of me? I admit, I don't ask myself those questions nearly often enough, even though I know I should. Like everyone else I suppose, I get distracted, I get busy, I get lazy and I get forgetful.

The other question I've wrestled with over the years is "does my Christian liberty or my cultural status grant me license to do as I please?" First, Christian liberty to me means that I am no longer a slave to the sin I was once bound up in. I have been set free from that and been given the power, ability and desire to strive for a high and holy standard. I want that, where I once didn't care. For me, my liberty in Christ doesn't afford me license, it affords me grace and conviction to put others first, where I once couldn't care less what anyone thought or how my conduct affected them. Secondly, my cultural status notwithstanding, my desire is to please the Lord and not man. If how I conduct myself accomplishes both (pleases the Lord and encourages others) then thats a great thing. Yet, there is no way I can bring myself (biblically) to a place of pleasing others first, regardless of whether or not it pleases the Lord, with the idea that the ends justify the means. That's a large load of hooey, in my opinion. For ample proof of just how much hooey is associated with this, take a trip with google to see what goes on within Christian ministries that boast of being culturally relevent.

To get you off to a shining start: Contextualization Gone Hog Wild

If then, the conduct of a believer is so important that it's addressed over and over in Scripture, then it's Scripture that should be our standard. Whether this is in evangelizing, pastoring, ministering to your neighbor, the way we dress, think, act, etc. No, it's not legalism to strive to live according to the written word, it's just Basic Biblical Christianity.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I Flipped

Flip Mino by Reflections

I received some pretty cool news yesterday. Cafepress, the merchandise supplier for my store has gone into partnership with Pure Digital, the makers of the ultra cool, ultra thin Flip Mino Camcorder. What's even cooler is, that means I get to design unlimited designs for custom flips and pass on the coolness, to you! Before I jumped on this, I read up on the Flip Mino, checked out tons of product reviews, test videos at youtube, and all that good stuff. I was rather impressed at not only the picture quality of this little camera, but the price, features and functionality. Yep, I was sold and yep, I want one!

So yesterday after school (and chores, and a nap) I had a great time playing around with this, and fired off 20 brand new designs for the Flip. I have LOTS more planned (I confess, it's a blast designing for this little camera), but you can see the new product and all the new designs, right here.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How to Keep Bitterness at Bay

Like anyone else I'm sure, there are some things in my life (unresolved, unfixable, or just downright frustrating) that if I let them, could be the source of quite a large dose of bitterness. Every time I pray, one of those things comes to mind and I of course pray that the Lord would be gracious and spare me a bitter attitude on that particular issue. I suppose this issue comes to mind because it's one that could quite easily cause bitterness for me.

Due to the fact that I'm mindful of this every day (and not by choice), it's an every day effort to fight against bitterness. I try to keep a "half full, not half empty" attitude, and be thankful that things aren't worse. I try to keep it in perspective and remember that there are other really great things to dwell on that outshine this one thing. I try really hard to be content as the Scripture says we're do to.

"But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content." (1Tim. 6:6-8)
Truth is, it's just a lot easier to be content with certain things, than it is with others. There are some situations and circumstances that are relatively easy to put on the back burner so to speak, and not allow them to pick at you and cause you discontentment. Then there are other situations and circumstances that simply will not go away and pick at you all day long, every day, without fail. It's those things that are present and accounted for each and every day that are unresolved or in an unrepaired state, that can easily cause bitterness to take hold.

I wonder, have any of you read a particular book or heard a certain sermon or teaching that was especially helpful to you on the subject of bitterness? Do you ever find yourself struggling with this and have particular verses of Scripture that you meditate on to reform your thoughts? I welcome any and all feedback on this subject, and look forward to your thoughts.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

When Seasons Collide

By all accounts, it looked very much like any summer day. With a high of 80 degrees, the sun was shining brightly in the blue sky, as a warm and gentle breeze drifted through the air. Everywhere you looked, people were about, washing their cars, riding bikes, walking their dogs, or rollerblading down the sidewalks. Dressed in flip flops, tank tops and shorts, they were all enjoying the beautiful day. However, instead of water drops coming from yard sprinklers on a typical summer day, the only thing falling were autumn leaves. Instead of the backdrop of trees dressed in their brilliant shades of green, they were all dressed up today in fiery reds, dazzling oranges and starburst yellows. Yes indeed, Thanksgiving Day 2008 in Southern Ontario will go down in the history books as one of the most beautiful fall holidays.

I was able to enjoy the scenery today since I had to run some errands (to the very few places that were open to day) and so I took my buddy Kodak with me:

One of the most incredible things happened today though. This is something I have never captured on film before. It's a well known country legend that on the first full moon of the Autumn (and it must occur before the corn is harvested), just at dusk, childlike creatures will actually descend from the trees! I've heard this was true but until tonight, I'd never been able to prove it. I submit proof that the country legend is actually true:

It's just a coincidence that this particular herd of childlike creatures happened to descend from the trees just above the trampoline.

More pics here at my flickr page from today, if you'd like to see those.

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Oh, My God!

While I was growing up I was always taught and always understood that saying "oh my God" in a way that is used to express shock or surprise, is taking the Lord's name in vain. The idea is that using His name this way (although many argue that God isn't His name) is using it in an empty, worthless, meaningless way. Turning His name (or His title in the Godhead) into a common word that one can just toss around as if it means nothing, is worthless and empty.

It wasn't until I became older that I ever heard anyone reject this teaching and claim that taking His name in vain means something else. I've heard several definitions of this, including the one that says professing to be a Christian and then looking/acting/sounding just like the world, is a form of taking His name in vain. I find it striking however, that among some who've rejected the teaching that I grew up with and give it a different meaning, they use His name (or title) in the very way I've defined in the first paragraph.

In our day, you can't turn on the tv, radio, computer, go out in public, go to work or school, without hearing someone say "oh my God". This bothers me a great deal, and bothers me more and more, the older I get. Of course I realize it's coming from the lips of those that have no relationship with God and therefore think nothing of using His name this way. To them, it is indeed empty and meaningless.

This year in school our youngest Ruth is learning the shorter catechism. One of her sets of questions and answers to memorizie is:

Q: How can you glorify God?
A: By loving Him and doing what He commands.

Q: Why should you glorify God?
A: Because He loves me and takes care of me.

It is critical for me as her mother, and as a believer, to see to it that she understands Who holds her very breath, her beating heart, her very existance in the palm of His hand. More than that, to give Him all due honor, reverence and respect, because He is indeed her Creator. It is my heart's desire that all my kids understand this and live accordingly.

As I thought about this over the last few days I think one of the reasons it bothers me so much when I hear His name used so flippantly is partly what's implied in this verse:

"You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" (Romans 9:19)

The implied attitude behind this verse is that mere man has the audacity to question the omnipotent, omniscient Creator of all. The very next verse lays it out quite clear:

"On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? (Romans 9:20)

Quite often when I hear the Lord's name taken in vain in the way it is when used as a meaningless expression of surprise or shock, I find myself thinking along the same lines - "who are you mere human, who speaks His name in such an empty way?" Part of my reaction is sadness, that His name IS meaningless to so many people. Part of it is a fierce loyalty to Him that anyone could dare be so disrespectful to Him in that way.

It becomes harder and harder to watch anything on tv, including commercials, without hearing this. Truly we do live in a Godless society and the media reflects it (and both influences and reflects culture more and more all the time) in just about every kind of medium.

Some would call this nitpicking. Some would call it being judgemental or making a big deal out of nothing. Some, would have me lighten up and live and let live. For those that call it nitpicking and judgemental, I can only refer them to this verse of Scripture:

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. (Ex.20:7)

Psalm 139:20 Goes on to say that it's the enemies of God, that take His name in vain. I don't know about anyone else, but I would certainly never want to carry that title around and be known BY God as an enemy of Him and His very word says this is exactly what His enemies do. His enemies think nothing of taking His name in vain - speaking against Him, showing Him no honor, no reverence, and considering Him meaningless, and useless.

Some would say, that saying "Oh my God" in a way that expresses surprise or shock does not fall into this category at all. I've heard those arguments and somehow they're just never as convincing as the ones trying to make them hope they are.

Yes, I do believe words matter.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Canadian Thanksgiving

What do you do when you have one husband, one mother in law, one sister in law, seven kids, one grandkid, one daughter's boyfriend, five dogs and three cats all in your kitchen?

this is the 'why is everyone in my kitchen, again?' look

First, you pray and thank the Lord for His goodness and His provision. Then, you tell everyone to get out so you can finish preparing dinner. Then, you line all the food up buffet style, dish up the smallest kids and tell everyone else to grab a plate and get in line. You realize you forgot to make the corn, but there is already so much food on the table now, you're running out of room for hot pads & hotter dishes fresh out of the oven. You laugh when your mother in law drops the rolls out of the foil straight into the oven and the jokes begin about "exposed buns". You make sure everyone else gets their plate before you do, because you're the mom and that's what moms do. Then you dish yourself up and find a spot to sit.

I'm so glad all my babies were here today. I honestly don't think anything makes me happier than to see them all under one roof. Even if I do have to give them all the look that says "get out of my kitchen or you're eating cat food for supper". :-) Hearing "thanks for dinner, mom" and watching them pitch in to clear the table and wash dishes without being asked, is just the icing on the cake and proof that I did something right raising my beautiful people.

Just as we were about to have pie, one of the nice young women that works in the barn showed up with her horse just for the kids to take a ride! Imagine their faces as we all stood in the kitchen ready for pie, and a big, beautiful horse walks into the back yard. Pie plates were immediately put down on the table as all the kids bailed out the back door to see Debbie and and Daisy!

What a wonderful treat for them today. Samuel opted out of a ride (he's not very adventuresome) but the girls all had a wonderful time.




Aunt Kim and Jocelyn

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Caution: Images are not always what they may seem at first glance

Yesterday I clicked a link, then another, then another and ended up reading this document then this list of articles. On that list I read maybe half of them, they're not very long.

I wasn't entirely happy with myself after reading there. It's not the material, it's me.

I wish I could remember where it is and who wrote it, but a few years ago I read something by another Christian woman that said something I'd never heard before, and was so glad to hear someone say. Hugely paraphrasing she wrote about how there are two kinds of perceptions Christian women in the world:

a.) The Betty Crocker/tea party, always seems to have it together, fashionable yet modest, puctual, always hospitable, never says a harsh word, home neat and orderly and lovingly decorated, with well-mannered children.

b.) the rest of us.

The author of the article that I can't locate, went on to say that this is only what it looks like on the surface, and that while the ladies in category A may certainly seem to fit that description on the outside, they generally don't see themselves that way at all. The article also said that the ladies in category B often struggle with trying to measure up to the image of cat. A and almost never feel like they achieve that, and are often left with a sense of disappointment, and discouragement.

I remember reading that with tears in my eyes. I was so relieved to see that someone else gets it. I am officially a cat. B Christian woman, and I too struggle sometimes with feeling like I have to measure up to cat. A, regardless of whether it's a realistic depiction or not.

I think in some ways this is a good thing, because the descriptions of a cat.A Christian woman are all GOOD things. Noble and God honoring character traits, these are things that Christian women should be striving to attain. On the other hand (there's always another hand, isn't there?) it can be a bad thing, if us cat. B girls somehow turn this into a "I must be like THAT lady" thought. That's a hard one to battle against since that's the way most of us think, regardless of whether we want to or not. We do compare ourselves and our lives to other people, no matter how much we don't want to.

That article that I once read went on to give a more realistic description of cat. B women and it was something along the lines of this:

The cat. B woman doesn't host tea parties but she does open her kitchen and her heart to anyone that needs a shoulder to cry on or someone to share good news with. She doesn't have it all together, and likely never will, but she can find it if you give her a few minutes. She isn't exactly fashionable because she puts the needs of others first (and does the best she can with what she's got - the budget only stretches so far). Sometimes she vents and speaks a harsh word and the longer she walks with the Lord, the more this convicts her and the less she does it. She's learning to tame her tongue, because it matters to her. Her home is often a mess, but it's a place of love and a refuge. Her kids aren't always as kind as they could be, but they need grace as much as she does, and they're all growing together.

The original article was SO good, and I didn't save it. I really wish I would have. It warned against the dangers of "image" and comparing ourselves to others, and how that's just a recipe for failure. It spoke about being content in the place you're in and being assured that the work He's doing in you is right on track according to His timing. It mentioned that those women who seem to fit into cat. A are sometimes women who are struggling to maintain an image, while hurting desperately on the inside - and still others actually are like this, and we should be thankful that they are such beautiful and godly examples. It mentioned how the body is made up of all kinds of people with all kinds of gifts, talents, personalities, shapes, colors, etc. While we are not Stepford Christian Women, we all do have character examples set out for us in Scripture (Titus 2, Proverbs 31, Ephesians 5) and how that manifests in the lives of Christian women will vary in many ways.

I don't know if this will benefit anyone today, but I do know the kitchen floor needs to be swept, stuffing needs to be made and a bird needs to be stuffed if it's going to be done by 3. All my kids and my grand-daughter will be here today, and we'll laugh, we'll eat pumpkin pie with freshly whipped real cream, and it's a gorgeous, sunny, warm day. There will be a ton of dirty dishes, someone's going to spill something, somewhere, and there will be too many people in the kitchen at once. I wouldn't have it any other way.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Thankful: Days Off

I don't recall how long ago it went into affect, but one day out of the blue, Kev was notified at work that the plant was switching to rotating shifts, for all workers (except office staff). His seniority completely out the window, and the fact that he'd worked for years to snag a straight day shift was gone. *poof* Just like that, it's rotating shift or sayonara, Bubba, find another job. More than a few folks at the plant did exactly that. What this rotation means is that for 2 weeks he's on days (7am to 3pm), then for two weeks he's on afternoons (3pm to 11pm), then for 2 more weeks he's on nights (11pm to 7am). It's been quite a while he's been on this shift, and for the most part, we all pretty much hate it.

There are a million reasons to hate it, which include the fact that for 2 weeks he's sleeping during the day and in the winter time when all the kids are stuck in the house because it's too cold to play outside, they have to tiptoe around like mice. Ever tried to keep 4 kids under 10 quiet all day long? Ha! It's not much better in the summertime when they're outside playing, because there is a rule with kids when you're in the pool or on the trampoline and that rule is "you must scream, and do it often, and as loud as possible". So, it's hard on them when he's on night shift. It's hard on me too, trying not to stress out keeping them quiet. Even worse, it's hard on him! He can't get used to it, and the first week back on night shift he can't sleep during the day, and he's a zombie come the weekend. If someone ever decided to make a movie called "Night of the Living Dead Factory Workers on Rotating Shifts", I know exactly who they should cast. They wont even need much make up, the dark circles and expressionless stare is on the house.

One of the other 987,534,226 million reasons to hate this shift, is that in many ways, it leaves all the household/outdoor projects and chores that need to be done, with me. Due to the fact that it's a 45 minute commute each way, he's away from home for roughly 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. Midnight shift is even worse since even when he's home, he's not all there (nor would I be, I'd be a wreck if I had to do it!) So then, along with all my regular chores such as dishes, laundry, mopping, etc. (all those things that everyone does every day) I also get lawn mowing, pool cleaning, driveway shovelling, firewood hauling, bird feeder care, and anything else that needs to be done outside or around the house. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind hard work at all. I'll do it because it needs doing, but HE doesn't like it that it's on me. When he's home and has been able to have enough sleep, he'll head outside and like a whirlwind sometimes he'll get so much done we're all amazed.

Somehow, we manage to get homeschooling in there too, and eating meals at a regular time, breathing, blinking and running all the errands that need to be run, going to church and waving hello/goodbye to whoever's coming or going. It's funny, when I write it all down I really don't know how we do what we do. This does explain however, why I never have the tidiest house on the planet, and why I have "stuff" sitting around the house all the time. Stuff that needs to be put away/repaired/cleaned/ironed/washed/donated/etc. That does get to me, because I'm a neat freak and I will never be okay with clutter. However, a person can only do so much in one day before one needs to just sit down and declare chores "done!" for the day.

So that's our life and that's the way it is. I know for some folks it might seem overwhelming (and to be honest, some days it is) and for other people who are far more busy than us, it might seem like a walk in the park. Either way, whatever your life is like you just do your best to adapt and that's what we've done.

So then what am I thankful for today? I'm thankful for his afternoon shift. When he's on this shift he's the homeschool teacher and I get to tackle those mountains of stuff, run errands, and just do what needs doing around the house and outside. It's nice to have this two week break from school, every 4 weeks. I'm also thankful for our homeschool schedule in that we pack all the book-learnin' business into the first 4 days of the week and Fridays are for extras, like the public swimming pool for an hour in the morning. That's where we're headed this morning. Yep, there's always a silver lining and always something to be thankful for, no matter how small or how overwhelming the other stuff can be.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Nightmares and Dreamscapes

Yep, that's the title of a book. It's also a good way to define my dreams. It has occured to me before, that people like Stephan King and M. Night Shyamalan probably have dreams like I do, and have figured out a way to make a hefty living off it. I can tell you one thing; if what happens in my dreams actually happened in real life, and I wrote about them each time, this little old blog would be a lot more interesting.

Last night I had one of those that comes in more than one part. You know the kind - you have a dream then you wake up shaking and glad it was just a dream. Then you go back to sleep and here comes part 2! Sometimes, you repeat the process and upon falling back asleep, part 3 is played out. UGH! I hate those dreams. Last night was a three-parter.

Minus all the blockbuster-movie-of-the-year-gory-details, I had somehow enraged my brother (who was in prison for doing something really really bad) and he had vowed to take me out, when he was released. And I don't mean take me out to lunch.

In the dream I was single and had two small sons (I know, dreams are weird) and was living with a big family in their basement apartment. They knew about my brother's threat, and they promised to help me "disappear" before his release date. For some reason I can't explain, the police could not be involved so they were unable to protect me. So then, my brother's release date was approaching and I was getting myself and my boys ready to go into hiding, when there came a knock on the door. You guessed it, Mr. Early Release showed up a week in advance.

That was part one. I woke up and thought "my brother would never DO that, what a STUPID dream!" As I was drifting back to sleep I wondered why I have dreams like that. I had not been thinking about my brother, prison, getting picked off, or living in someone's basement apartment - so none of the details were "leftovers" from the days thoughts. Sometimes you have dreams and you can immediately pick out why you had such a dream, when some of those leftover daily thoughts show up in your dreams. This one was completely out of left field.

So I fell back to sleep and part two began. Again, minus the gory details (and they were indeed) the second part of the dream begins with a home invasion scenario where Brother Convict goes ballistic and removes all obstacles looking for me. Scene after scene I'm either running, or hiding, or crying or praying and he's right on my heels. Suffice it to say, not everyone trying to help me makes it through this scene. Then I wake up again. UGH! I really really hate these kinds of dreams, because now I'm grieving for people who a.) don't even exist, b.) aren't even really dead! and c.) were such really kind and loving people and didn't deserve that!! None of that matters though, because in my dreams all of the emotions you'd feel were it actually happening are the emotions I wake up with. Out of breath, crying or laughing (there was no laughing in this one, I assure you) or frozen with fear, I wake up feeling like that and sort of have to talk myself down and remind myself that it was just a dream.

So, I intentionally try to think about things that have nothing to do with what I just watched in DreamLand DVD mode. The last thing I remember thinking about before I fell asleep again, was cranberry muffins. I'll be baking today for Thanksgiving so I can only assume thats where this thought came from. Sure enough though, as I fell back asleep the dream continued and there were no muffins involved at all, unfortunately. It was me still running and hiding and finally snapping and going a little Rambo myself, on my brother. Eventually the police did become involved and by the time the dream was over and he was no longer capable of hurting anyone, I was filthy, my hands and feet covered in deep gashes and bruises, my clothes torn and my face streaked with tears. I was so scary looking the police were even afraid of me, until I just sort of collapsed with sobs wracking my body. End of dream.

UGH! I woke up at that point and it was just beginning to get light outside. Too early to get up yet, and too exhausted from running all night long from a lunatic brother who had monumental revenge issues, I just fell asleep again. You guessed it, short clips of "alternate director's cut endings" played themselves out. Nothing really scary, but at one point I was hiding in the trunk of someone's car, with my two boys.

Often I've wished that I could write out all the details of dreams like this and turn it into a book or a movie. Of course I'd have to cast the picture myself, since I'm the only one who knows what these people look like, act like and sound like. I'd also have to direct it in a way that only suggests what happens (in the really scary scenes) rather than allow the actual event to unfold, because sometimes they're just too gross and creepy. No one needs to see that. In any event, I can't do that, so I just blog about them sometimes. Someone once suggested I keep a finely detailed journal of all my dreams like this, but I've never done that either. I suppose I could, since I remember them all so well, but I've just never got around to doing something like that. I think it's because I'm not really sure what purpose it would serve, except to document that I have a very twisted imagination.

So, with all that said let me just also say that I'm QUITE thankful today that my dreams aren't things that happen to me in real life. Oh, and let me also say I'm really tired today. Running through the city all night long trying to get away from a crazy brother, certainly isn't something I'm in training for.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Farther and Higher

I love this song, so I wanted to share it. I hope this encourages you as much as it does me.

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Thankful: Body Parts

By that I mean, others in the body that consistantly encourage, challenge, inspire and edify me.

It's kind of funny to look back at how I used to think of Christians. When you're unsaved, you have an impression of what Christians are like, but you don't really know what they're like at all. Your impression might come from tv shows or movies, or maybe even a professing Christian you've met that may not have been the best witness for Christ. Maybe you've even had a really good experience with a Christian in your unsaved state, but you still don't really get it, until you become one. By getting it, what I mean is the way the Lord changes hearts from self-centered and self-serving, to other-centered and other-serving. Quite literally, one day you're walking along in your sin, then He changes you and the next day you live to serve and you LOVE to serve. Isn't that incredible? You know it's not you doing this, because yesterday this was not you, and today it is, and it's very real.

There are some ladies in my church who serve tirelessly. They are the first ones anyone calls on because they have become known for their service. They are also the first ones to volunteer, because it's what they do.

A few weeks ago while doing our Beautiful Girlhood lesson, the girls were to list a couple of women that they know that they might think of when they read about a Proverbs 31 woman. An example in their own lives, that they could look up to as a mentor. The only rule was (and this was my rule) that they couldn't name me. I am so far short of a Proverbs 31 woman, but I know my girls and I know they'd want to name me because they like to say nice things about me. (They're not teenagers yet, I suppose this might change in a few years). So, I encouraged them to think about some of the ladies in our church.

I found it interesting that they both immediately named the same two women. When I asked them "what is it about these two ladies that make you think they're Proverbs 31 women?" They each rattled off a list of all the ways these ladies help, and care, and are always there when needed, and that they love the Lord. Interestingly enough, everything they said about these women is not only true, but it would have been the same thing I said, had I been asked.

Not only do my girls need good and godly examples of women in their lives, but I sure do too. So today I am thankful not only for myself, but for my girls too, for such a blessing.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

When Propriety Goes Out the Window

I like that word, propriety. The thing is, I don't think most people under the age of 40 even care what that word means. No offense to those under 40 that do care (and yes, I know they exist).

It occured to me today, that I think I've finally hit that magical age in every generation, where I feel right at home saying "these kids today" and feel rather sad that something in the younger generation has been lost. I actually had that feeling about 20 years ago, but I wasn't old enough to say "these kids today". When I was in my early 20s, one of the girls that used to hang around my crowd of degenerate friends was a 15 year old girl. She was pretty, and she was smart, and witty, but she was also rather gross and disgusting. She'd belch outloud (really loud, and on purpose) and never say excuse me, and she'd cuss up a blue streak like nobodies business. She did this in front of anyone, she didn't care. I told her once she was a pig, and she just laughed. She was like a little sister to me, and I didn't want a pig for a little sister. That was really the first time I noticed something was missing in the generation coming up after me, but somehow that thought just got shifted to the back shelf as my own life and all the details associated with it, took precedent. I had the chance to speak with her by phone a few years ago, and it was hard to listen to her speak with every third word being the F word. She had changed a lot from when I knew her when she was 15. She was much worse, unfortunately.

I've never studied cultural shifts and human behavior (and how the two blend together, or why), but it doesn't take much to look around and see how things are so completely different today than they were just 20 years ago. What we once called "polite society" doesn't even exist anymore in the larger context of society. It exists if you hang out at a retirement home or with folks over the age of about 40, but under that age the majority of society doesn't look OR sound the same at all. I think in some ways that's okay (times change, and it's not ALL, always bad), but in other ways its actually quite disturbing. The one area that bothers me the most is that almost nothing is private any more. There seems to be no such thing as topics that are off limits to be discussed in mixed company. It's all out in the open, no matter what it is, or who wants to discuss it. To be clear, I am specifically referring to the most intimate details of someone's sexuality - whether married, single, heterosexual, homosexual, or any other preference. I wasn't old enough to observe the "free love" phase of the 60s, but I have to wonder if in some ways, this is what it looked like and sounded like in the subculture of that era?

I think about these things and I wonder how we got here. I wonder if the internet and all its psuedo-anonymity had a hand in feeding our already sinful, self-centered, self-gratifying egos? As we all know, on the internet you can be/do/say anything you want. It doesn't matter if you're an overweight middle aged man, your avatar shows a buff 20something guy and thats who you think you are (and who you want people to think you are). You can engage in all kinds of discussions with all kinds of people and there is quite literally NOTHING off limits, as it pertains to topics open for discussion. Add to this, the rapidly increasing push for having "hyper-connectivity" with everything from cell phones to social networking sites, and suddenly the entire world is almost quite literally sitting in your house (if not your bedroom), knowing every detail about your life. They know it because you tell them. You tell them in text messaging, you tell them in your videos, your provocative profile photos, the chats you have with them and the things you write about on your MySpaceBookFace pages. Nothing is off limits, even to complete strangers. We act in ways online, that was virtually unheard of, just a few years ago, offline. And it has become common, to this generation of younger people.

It's common (and therefore socially acceptable) to see a female of just about any age, walking down the street with "hotty" plastered across the backside of her pants/shorts. Have you ever stopped and thought about what message she's really sending? More than once I've wanted to walk up to these women (and young girls) and ask them "so, your pants say "hotty", what does that mean exactly?" I think the only reason I don't ask, is because I'm afraid they might say something like "it means I'm hot and I know it, you idiot!" That would make me sad, but I have a hunch many would say something just like that. Along with propriety, modesty is also out the window and it's common to advertise your wares, so to speak. (Didn't we used to call that prostituting one's self? When did that become common as well?)

Its common to see "adult" dvd stores in the main part of town, when not that long ago you had to go to "the other side" of town to frequent those shops. Its common to have community-wide Gay Day or whatever its called in your part of the world, where the meaning of the word shame, is completely lost. Once upon a time, deviant sexual conduct carried a shame with it that it no longer does. It's all common, it's all out there baby, free love.

Then, to make it even more bizarre, you have pastors of Christian churches (and this is just ONE of the many examples of this) jumping on the bandwagon and making this theme THEIR theme, on a regular basis. Whatever happened to privacy? Whatever happened to modesty, and responsibility? Whatever happened to not conforming to the world, but continually transforming our minds to the mind of Christ? Well, for a lot of Christians, apparently, being culturally relevent is more important. Pragmatism rules at the end of the day, and the ends justify the means, no matter how much of a prude you are, and live in yesteryear.

Nope, we don't live in a polite society anymore. Propriety now means doing whatever the norms of society say is okay to do. Pragmatism says it's okay for Christians to look and sound and act just like non-Christians because we're reaching the lost that way, and speaking their language, and identifying with them. The fall of the Roman Empire, anyone? If you've never read what culture was like in those days, you should. You might think you're reading a current event report of North American culture, 2008.

Well, color me an old fogey at 43. Color me culturally irrelevent. Color me someone who doesn't bag morality, propriety and modesty because my culture says it's okay. My God says it's not, and I'll take His word over any other, any day.

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