Saturday, November 29, 2008

Calvinists are NOT Saved - Were You Aware of This?

Well then...

After watching the following video at James White's youtube channel, I had a few thoughts. James has turned off his youtube commenting ability, so I'm just going to have to post my thoughts here.

First up, the man who stands to ask a question but gives testimony first, tells everyone that based on a feeling, a personal experience of God's overwhelming presence, and a direct message from God, he finally realized he wasn't saved, as a Calvinist. Now, I would suspect that there are possibly people out there who can repeat the words of a Calvinist, but are truly not regenerated. That much I can believe, only because I think we've all known people in our lives that claim to be Christians and might even sound like one for a while, but that are truly not born again. However, this particular man wants folks to understand that based solely on a feeling, and a very moving personal experience, he came to understand that a.) he was not even saved and b.) God has nothing to do with Calvinistic theology.

Which brings me to my next thought. God has nothing to do with Calvinistic theology. If God Himself revealed this to this man, and he said He did, then every single professing Calvinist on the planet, is unsaved. That means me, that likely means you, and that also means every single Calvinist you know. None of us are saved. Not a one of us. We know this to be true because God Himself revealed it in a personal experience to this man, at the John 3:16 conference - and what's more - is that not ONE of the panel speakers corrected this man. Not one of them.

Why did none of these men interject and said "whoa, hold on there pardner"? Do they also believe like this man, that Calvinists are not saved and that God must save us all out of Calvinism? Similarly, why did none of them speak up and address his "personal experience" and direct revelation from God on these matters? Do they likewise believe that personal, emotional experiences are valid and authoritative? This is a question I might have stood to ask them myself. It's a question I'm asking now, but somehow I doubt any of them will be along to answer. It's certainly not the first time I've heard someone testify that they were regenerated by God's Holy Spirit and base their affirmation of that on an emotional experience. Not broken by their sin, not seeing themselves as a sinner in need of a savior, not acknowledging either of these things or in at least one case I know of, not even knowing that Christ had risen from the dead. Just a powerful, highly charged emotional experience of "Jesus LOVES you" combined with what some claim to be either a direct audible or direct revelation from God Himself, about His love and plan for them, and that was that. Yes, I 've heard this kind of testimony before, and if you've ever been in a pentecostal/charismatic type of church, you have too. Oddly enough though, I've also heard it from those professing to hold to the five points of Calvinism. I'll let someone else do the math on that one, since from where I sit it just doesn't add up.

Another thought I had, was on why this man was frustrated with Calvinism to begin with. He felt that there was no power in it anyway, since he was not able to overcome sin in his life. That was his initial struggle he claims, with a Calvinistic worldview; the lack of power in it. My question to that is simply this - how many non-Calvinists are there walking around that have in fact overcome sin in their lives, and are living a sinless life? None that I know of, and none that Scripture speaks of. Now I know that we all grow and become more mature in our faith and that we do become stronger as it pertains to battling against our own personal inclination toward sin, but I don't care what your theological bent is, while we are in the flesh there is not a single human being that is EVER going to completely overcome sin. It's simply not possible, as we are living in a body OF sin, and we cannot be seperated from that. Sin is always there, the temptation to sin is always there, but so is the grace and the guidance and wisdom of God to give us the direction and the power we need to avoid it - IF - we rely on Him. This man in this clip didn't know of this power. Why is that? I would suggest that it's entirely possible he truly was not saved to begin with, as he suggests, and that would explain why he could easily talk the talk but felt alone when it comes to walking the walk. Genuine Christians know where their help comes from, and we humble ourselves and turn to Him, daily! We must confront the sin in our own lives head on, be honest before God about it and humbly and desperately turn to Him for the wisdom and the guidance to overcome that. If we do not do this, if we do not take responsibility and own it ourselves, but just expect God to do some kind of parlor trick every time sin pops up, we're fooling ourselves about what our own responsibility is, as it pertains to living out our Christian faith.

Finally, the man who stood to deliver his testimony and ask a question, asks the panel what they (the SBC overall) plan to "do" about this horrendous theological nightmare of Calvinism. He didn't say it that way, but it was pretty clear such a horrible theological worldview is thought of this way if it's something God must save His people from. One of the panel speakers (David Allen, the same one that declared James White to be a hyper-Calvinist) answers and in part says that one thing the SBC should not do, to address this issue is to hold conferences where Calvinism is the main focus. Well, I haven't seen all the dvds or heard all the messages (they're not free, and I don't have that kind of money to pay to get them), but from what I have heard, and based on what I have read, it seems to me that whatever their purpose was for this John 3:16 conference certainly turned into a conference where Calvinism was the main focus. I found that just a little bit ironic.

And with that, I leave you to watch this video and come to your own conclusions.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

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Under Pressure

Change. These days, the first thing folks are likely to think when they hear that word is something connected to the Obama campaign. Me? I think of loose change you unexpectedly find, like that quarter that I almost vaccuumed up today. The other kind of change is a shift in schedule, or circumstances. That kind of change I just do not do well with.

The last 4-6 weeks there has been a lot of that going on, and most of it has left me sort of going "wha!?" and wondering how I'm supposed to adjust, adapt, and keep rolling right along. Kev's schedule changed for a month, so I had to adjust to that. I was desperately ill for over a month, and everyone, me included, had to adjust to that. One of my daughters moved out, and there was another adjustment. It began to snow much earlier than usual and so there was yet another change up. I received news that Kev and I are going to be grandparents again come spring, so that was one major and monumental adjustment. There's been other stuff too, and it all seems like it came down the pike at the same time, and I haven't been adjusting too well at all. This was my first week back as "teacher" for the kids and I didn't do so hot with a full day's lesson plan, each day. Next week I plan to get back on track, but this week was pretty much a write off.

As I've been thinking about these changes and praying about things these past few weeks, it has occured to me that the saying "grace under pressure" really makes so much more sense that it ever has before. It may sound trivial to lose it over an insignificant change, but when that one change is accompanied by so many others, and you're already not handling it all very well, it's quite possible that the way you react isn't the best possible reaction you could have. Like for example when you're sick, and not in top form. The dog just runs through the kitchen leaving muddy paw prints, after you've mopped. Not 10 seconds later, someone spills lemonade on the same floor, and someone else is crying outside because they've cut their foot on something (because they were playing outside barefoot, right after you told them to put their shoes on) and they're bleeding all over the deck. In case you're wondering, yes, this actually did happen once. How do you respond?

Do you throw up your hands and shout "Calgon, take me away!!" like the uber-stressed out lady in the old commercials? Or, do you calmly and graciously attend to the bleeding kid first, then have the juice-spiller clean up his own mess, while you re-mop the floor, with a smile on your lips and a song in your heart? The first example is actually quite silly, and the second one (while wonderfully serene sounding) isn't very realistic for most moms. Especially moms who are dealing with multiple things going on at once that all need her attention. However, there is much to be said for learning how to gracefully react to multiple stress inducing situations, even if they do all seem to happen at once.

In life, things change all the time. Sometimes a lot of changes happen all at once and sometimes they are very stressful and hard to deal with. There are a couple of things that will bring a great deal of peace however, in times like that. Those two things are prayer, and Bible reading. Those are the two constant things that never change no matter what else is changing. I have noticed a remarkable difference in the way I react to change now, compared to the way I reacted when those two things were not a part of my every day life. Some people call these spiritual disciplines in the Christian life. I simply call them "what Christians do".

There is a great deal of comfort and wisdom to draw on when you open the Scriptures and begin to read. If you're approaching the word with a humble heart preparing to grow and learn something, your focus is immediately drawn away from your circumstances and onto the richness of God's word. Suddenly, your circumstances seem less immediate or less stressful, as your heart and mind is dwelling on the very words of God. Bowing the knee in prayer will likewise put you in a place of humility and grace. You may not even know how to pray for a particular situation anymore (I think we've all been there), but you simply bring it before the Lord once again, and seek His wisdom in how you are to deal with it. You know He is able, you know He is capable, and you know He has the wisdom and guidance you're seeking. There is no such thing as a situation (or even a whole pile of them all at once) that are too big for the Lord to handle. They might feel too big for you, and they might indeed be to much for you, but you know there is nothing you can go to Him for, that He can't handle, for you.

I am convinced that the more you do this, the less those great big, stressful, shifting circumstances will seem so overwhelming. Oh you might still want to lock yourself in the bathroom and take a bubble bath (and I'm a huge advocate of bubble baths) but only after you react with grace, and handle things the way you should.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving: Turkey/Bacon Chowder

While Pyromaniac Phil might have his evangelical-blogworld-famous Thanksgiving Pizza, and while it may very well be a most delightful pizza (it sure looks good), I have my Turkey-Bacon Chowder. I've been making it for a few years now, and it's a hit every time. I've posted the recipe before, but I'll repost today so you have at least one more idea on what in the world to do with that left-over turkey. I'm not a big chowder fan, but this is SO good, it might even become an annual family tradition in your house. I made it yesterday and served with a great parmesan/herbed crispy bread. Enjoy:

Turkey/Bacon Chowder
The perfect solution for holiday turkey leftovers

3 10.5 oz cans condensed chicken broth
2 c. Water
½ c. chopped green onions
½ c. uncooked rice
8 slices bacon
½ c. margarine
¾ c. flour
½ t. salt
¼ t. poultry seasoning
¼ t. black pepper
2 c. half & half cream
1 ½ c. cooked & diced turkey meat

In a large pot over medium heat, combine broth, water, green onions and rice. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer (covered) for about 35 minutes. In a large skillet cook the bacon, allow to cool then crumble & set aside.

When the rice is tender melt the margarine in a medium saucepan over med-low heat. Stir in flour salt, poultry seasoning and pepper. Cook and stir until smooth and bubbly. Stir in half & half cream and cooked until thickened – about 2 minutes.

Stir cream mixture into rice mixture, add turkey and bacon, heath through and serve.

(To prepare ahead of time, follow all the steps but then turn it off after combining all ingredients. Re-heat later and add a little water if it's too thick.)

Great with warmed, crusty bread and green salad.

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Mom's List

Every year, all the kids ask me the same thing. "Mom, what do you want for Christmas?" I never have a good or specific answer because I never really give it much thought. It's not like when I was 10 and I'd sit down on Thanksgiving weekend and strategically plan out my list according to the things I really really wanted, all the way down to the things I kinda sorta wanted. It's been a very long time since I actually wrote a list for things I wanted for Christmas. However, I have been giving this a lot of thought this year, and do have a rather detailed list of exactly what I want.

I want...

A house. Yes, a house. I want a 4 bedroom, full (finished) basement, 2 bath rambler. No more going up these stairs to get the bedrooms, then up those stairs to get to the game room, then back down those stairs to get to the kitchen and bathroom. I'm tired of stairs and I want my whole family existance to exist on one floor, thank you very much. Besides, Dougal is getting old and she fell down the slippery kitchen stairs the other day and scared the life out of both Rachel and me. These are the same stairs I fell down when I was pregnant with Ruth, and hurt my arm real bad. No more stairs! Now, back to the house:

I want it in town, close to church and close enough to walk to the store, the park, library and pool. I also want it close enough to "folks" so that when the kids make friends in the neighborhood, they can walk to their houses to play. Country living is great for a while, but the time has come to shift thinking on all this "out in the boonies" business.

It should have a fairly good sized fenced back yard, big enough to hold the pool, the trampoline, and enough room for Dougal and Tulip to go outside unrestrained, and get plenty of exercise. They're farm dogs so they can't be locked up city-style, they'll go nuts. I'd also like the back yard to have an area just for my garden. There is something very theraputic about digging in dirt and growing your own goodies. It must be in a good neighborhood with good neighbors on both sides, and across the street too. A 2 car garage is preferable, since we now have 2 vehicles and we like to park them inside in the winter. I'd prefer the house be heated primarily with natural gas, but a fireplace would be nice too (just not the main source of heat). I want the kitchen to have lots of windows that catch the morning sunshine. An eat-in kitchen would be fine, but a dining area is preferable, since I don't have a kitchen table, just a dining room table. I'd buy a kitchen table if I needed to, kijiji is great for stuff like that. All wood flooring thoughout the main area of the house would be just fine, but the bedrooms should have nice carpeting. It must be fully insulated with air-tight windows and doors and not a single draft anywhere.

Being in town of course, it will come cable/internet ready, and we can ditch the satellite tv package and dial up internet service, for less expensive cable and more reliable and MUCH faster internet access. The monthly rent and utilities should be comparable to what we now pay, and could even be slightly more, considering the piles of $$ we'd save on gas, actually living in civilization, rather than living on the outskirts of it. It must also come with an incredibly wonderful landlord like the one we've had for the last 6+ years. He's so good, he should hold Landlord classes to teach home owners how to do it right. In all my adult life renting houses, he's by far, the very best landlord ever.

So that's pretty much it. The minor details could easily be worked out later, but that's the basic idea. Moving in the spring would be good, due to weather considerations, and the fact I'd need to hold a monumental garage sale first, to get rid of all the heavy stuff I will never move again, in my life. In the event this is not doable for anyone, both coming in for a tie at second on my list would be:

Really great socks, and The Tim Janis Ensemble's Beautiful America CD.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Yesterday was fun. Since Kev's birthday got all jumbled up with our Thanksgiving dinner, I decided to hatch a plan for his actual birthday, which was yesterday. I didn't tell the kids because kids tend to blurt out secrets and surprises accidentally.

I played it off like the day would be a regular school day, and tried my very best to act normal, before Kev left for work. This wasn't easy since a.) I'm a terrible faker and b.) I'm not normal. It worked though, and he left without a clue what I was up to. Before he was even halfway down the driveway I announced the plan to the kids. Get dressed, brush your hair and get your shoes and socks on, we're pulling off a surprise birthday party for papa! We had to go out though, since I didn't have anything I needed for a surprise birthday party.

First, we stopped at the grocery store to get everything for his favorite dinner (stuffed green peppers) and a cake. I also wanted a nice helium balloon so we picked one out and the lady at the floral counter had such a hard time with the helium machine (and required 2 extra people to help her) they ended up giving us the balloon for free. The next stop was at the dollar store where they have tons and tons of really great hats, gloves, scarves and such, and we picked out a nice matching set for him, and a cute little toy, plus party decorations. You just cant beat the dollar store for such things. Then, it was off to the Christian bookstore where they did NOT have a single book on his book list. They did have plenty of self-help junk, pomo-emergent junk, and useless fluff, however. I found my way to the dvd section and we got him the Ben Stein Expelled dvd. It was time to head home and whip the whole thing together.

We got home just in time, as it started snowing like crazy, even before I had all the bags unloaded in the kitchen. While the kids cleaned up the game room I whipped together the cake, popped it in the oven and prepared the stuffed green peppers. After that I blew up lots of balloons and hung "happy birthday" banners around the kitchen. The cake was done cooling so I frosted that, washed all the dishes and had just enough time to sit down and relax (and plan my Christmas list & card list) before it was time to hide!

It is almost never quiet when anyone walks into this house, so that alone must have tipped him off that we were up to something. It didn't help that one of the kids left the van's side door open, so he already knew we'd been out! At any rate, he came in to an eerily silent house, and called out "hello?" No answer! We were too busy giggling in hushed tones in the kitchen. The kids were hiding behind the table and I was around the corner in the laundry room. He came in and up they popped from behind the table yelling SURPRISE! and I came around the corner with my camera. He was indeed surprised to come in and see all the decorations and to the scent of stuffed peppers baking in the oven.

I've never pulled off a surprise party before, and never pulled off a birthday in just a few hours time. Except for forgetting the ice cream to go with the cake, it was a smashing success! Here are some pics:

Kev and the kids

He was quite surprised :-)

a brand new pool table!

Not everyone gets one of these for their birthday!


Great movie - I highly recommend it.

As an added bonus, after dinner and dessert we all sat down and watched Expelled. Near the end of the dvd Rachel, who will be just 10 years old in a couple of months declared "Richard Dawkins is an idiot". She had never even heard of him before yesterday, and made that assessment after hearing him state his position, himself. Out of the mouths of babes, eh?

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Monday, November 24, 2008

James White Responds to David Allen

I recently wrote about how David Allen accused James White of being a hyper-Calvinist, at the John 3:16 conference. I wrote about it not because it's controversial, but because I too have been accused of this. James wrote something today that I was so glad to see:

"Does God command repentance? Of course. Of all? Yes, of all. Do you proclaim the gospel to all? Yes, to all. Do you say it is the duty of all to believe? Surely, of course. Do you believe the proclamation of the gospel is the means by which God's Spirit draws the elect unto Christ? Most assuredly. So what is the single basis of Allen's accustion of "hyper-Calvinism"? My refusal to believe God decreed His eternal disappointment. I find nothing in Scripture or in the LBCF1689 that forces me to believe that God chose to create in such a fashion as to create His own unhappiness, His own lack of fulfillment. I see no reason to believe that God desires to do something He does not will to accomplish."

His entire post is much longer, and well worth reading. Also, take the time to watch the video he's posted and if you're able, tune in for the Dividing Line, Tuesday at 1pm eastern time, for more on this doctrinal issue.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Internet Suicide

The headline reads:

"Father appalled by virtual audience to son's death"

This news report of Abraham Biggs, a young man who committed suicide on a live webcam is nothing short of disturbing on multiple levels. Several news articles start out by claiming the "entire world is in shock" about this. Frankly, I think that's a stretch, considering how many people have been reported to have a.) intentionally watched it and b.) cracked jokes about it as it was happening. No, the "entire" world isn't it shock, there are many who just couldn't care less.

When I first read about it I wasn't going to make any kind of comment, but the more I read about it, the more bothered I've become. I do have some random thoughts, in no particular order:

The young man's father has said that he was not aware of his son's online presence. I have seen this kind of comment over and over and OVER from parents who's kids have got themselves into serious trouble, online. "How is it possible to not know what your kids are doing online?" many will ask. It's very possible. Kids may be reckless but they're also sneaky when they're doing something they know the shouldn't be doing. Most of them know very well how to cover their tracks electronically from their parents (they learn it online, by others who are doing it successfully), and how to conceal their online usage. Now this is not to say that all teenagers and/or young people online are sneaking around doing bad things, but the ones who are, know how to hide it pretty well from their parents. It's a goldmine of deceitfully useful information for those who are drawn into the unseemly side of internet use. Even otherwise "good" kids dabble with this garbage, and yours may even be one of those kids - and you'd likely never know it. There are ways to prevent it via downloading and installing certain types of blocking/filtering software. I can't recommend enough, that parents use these electronic safety nets, if your kids are online. When they can demonstrate that they are mature enough and responsible enough to NOT have these safety measures in place, then and only then, should you consider removing them. Something to keep in mind however, is that even many adults have this kind of software installed because they know that even they are far too easily tempted to fool around on the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak, online. Whether you use these safety measures or whether you ever remove them, is well worth considering.

According to some of the news reports, many of the viewers (think about that for a minute, people watched, on purpose, by choice) have allegedly commented that they didn't think it was real. Some have said they thought the young man was faking it all, due to past threats he'd allegedly made. Does this surprise anyone? We've raised up an entire generation of people in a culture of death and violence, who are literally fascinated with death and violence... so when they see real death, it doesn't even look real to them. The lines are so blurred and there is such insenstivity to the value and worth of human life, that a threat of suicide becomes something to ignore, and live webcasted suicide doesn't really phase as many people as it seems it should.

What may be even worse than that, is the idea that some of the viewers did know or suspect it was real, and enjoyed it. I know that none of us really want to entertain that thought at all, but this is the reality of the world we live in. Our society truly has decayed right back to the days of the Roman coliseum "games" where people watched and cheered as other people were slaughtered before their eyes. Instead of a local audience in that day, there is now a global audience of all ages, with a much further reaching influence. One report says there were an estimated 1,500 people viewing, in this particular case.

While this phenomena may be too relatively "new" in our day to have any hard data on just how frequently this sort of thing happens, one article reported on a suicide prevention agency that states since 2001, there have been 17 suicides in Britain directly related to internet chat rooms or sites that give information on how to do it. Just last year, a PalTalk user used a live webcam to broadcast his solution to online mockery and insults, and to at least one chatter that reportedly told him to "get on with it" and do it. I would like to believe this sort of thing is rare and will not increase, but I think that would be desperately ignorant to even suggest, considering the fascination so many younger people have with allowing a wide audience direct access to their private lives.

While I'm certainly not one to say "the internet is evil!" as some do, the reality of it is that there is a tremendous amount of wickedness, darkness and detachment and desperation in the hearts of many internet users, and they will gladly broadcast it for all to see and hear. For some it's nothing more than a self-centered desire to have an audience to spread their filth. For others, it's a genuine cry for help and a desperate plea for someone, anyone, to understand them and really hear what they're trying to say.

Parents, get as 'net-smart as your kids are, and make sure you know what your kids are doing, and saying online. It just may save their lives. My heart goes out to Abraham's parents and family. It's hard enough to lose a loved one, but the circumstances of this case only serve to make it so much more painful.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thankful: My Imperfect Family

Well the day is over and I'm a zombie, more or less. Having Kevin's birthday and American Thanksgiving on the same day and preparing a meal for 15 people really takes a lot out of a person. Before noon I had shovelled the driveway (I've already lost count of how many times I've shovelled already this year), walkway and deck. I ran to the store for butter (I always come up short on something, at the worst possible time), came home and made my world famous sausage stuffing, built a fire in the wood furnace, swept and mopped the floor, prepared & stuffed the bird and had it in the oven. Then, I peeled yams & prepared them, made applesauce sliced the strawberry bread and did all the dishes for the umpteenth time. By the time the turkey was half done I was well ready for a nap.

It's quite a lot of work to prepare food for a big family, and as exhausted as it makes me, I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm thankful the Lord provides the means to do it, and that all my kids are under one roof at one time. That doesn't happen very often anymore, now that the oldest three are all grown up and moved out. One change I'm going to make though, is moving Kev's birthday celebration. I think he felt rather left out today for all the busy-ness of Thanksgiving, and that made me feel bad. :-( His actual birthday is on Monday so the kids and I are planning a special day for him. He doesn't read my blog every day so I can get away with saying that and him never knowing until after the fact.

It's funny. If someone had asked me what I thought my life might be like when all the kids were younger, I would have never suspected it would be the way it is. In some ways that's very good, and in other ways it's not so good at all, but it's the life the Lord has layed out for me so it's right, even when it's not so good. I don't plan to live in this great big ole farmhouse for too many more years, so I'm going to enjoy having all this room for big family gatherings, as long as we're here.

I was too busy to take many pics, but the ones I did take are here. It was boys against the girls at Taboo, and even though the girls lost (the boys cheat) it was a lot of fun. I suspect there will be a rematch in 2 weeks when we gather together again for my birthday.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Shifting Focus

I don't know if there's such a thing as Blogger's Block, like writer's block, but if there is then I believe I have some sort of variation of it. It's not as if there aren't a zillion things to write about, it's just that nearly every time I start writing lately, it ends up in the round file. It's a busy time of year, I've been sick as a dog, and there have been events and circumstances come along in the last few weeks that have left me going "wha!?" for days on end. Like the old Morton Salt commercial it seems when it rains, it pours. That sort of thing tends to make me second guess pretty much everything, and sort of retreat into my own thoughts to try to sort it all out.

Yesterday Kim posted on a verse that has been on my mind a lot lately as well. She posted on James 1:2-3, the "count it all joy" passage that is so often quoted and so infrequently really hammered out exegetically. Kim got it right, in that her focus is to be the outcome of the trial by His grace, not the details of the trial. For so long I used to hear "count it all joy" by those who were trying to be encouraging and they just left it there. Joy? How do you find joy when you're crying so hard your body is convulsing, or suffering in so much physical pain that you can't even breathe without forcing yourself to focus? Where is joy when your heart is broken clean in two and you can't even function enough to accomplish basic household chores? Where is that joy when you begin pray one more time for that particular situation and you don't even know how to pray about it anymore? It's in those times that this joy seems to be so far away it's not even possible to be yours.

I don't know of any studies or statistics but I'm pretty sure us women are far more prone to focusing on the details of trials than men are, and therefore I think we have a harder time looking at the purpose or the pending outcome of trials. I know we're more emotional than men, so that doesn't help either. We tend to dwell on details and if those details are painful then the emotions take over and that drags us righ off the path.

As hard as it can be to keep our focus in the right place, it is indeed true that there is joy in knowing the Lord will use difficult, painful, heartbreaking times to make us stronger. Not only stronger, but more aware of our dependance on Him, more compassionate towards others that are in or have gone through the same kinds of trials, and also cause us to take another look at our priorities and do a re-shifting there, quite often. The joy is definitely not in the pain, the joy is in knowing God is using it in our lives for something good, down the road.

Like Kim posted yesterday, "I just have to keep repeating. Lord, give me the heart to count it all joy." Toward that end, I've been singing a lot of hymns to myself as I do my chores around the house lately. I've also re-read Calvin, Gill and Henry on this passage and that has been a tremendous help as well. I need those reminders, no matter how many trials I go through. I need to be dwelling on His goodness, His faithfulness, and His grace. When you dwell on that, rather than the details, that joy seems so much closer, and you truly do find your strength in Him.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Christian Discernment Paranoia

I'm tired of it. I see it a lot, and I'm just tired of it. You know exactly what I'm referring to. Someone finds one thing or one quote or one recommendation from someone that they don't think quite measures up to their standard of Christian ethics and BLAMMO, that person is suddenly written off into the Heretic Zone, accompanied by a rather lengthy blog post detailing exactly why the person is the potential candidate for anti-christ. Some may even say I've been guilty of this very thing in the past. Maybe I have, and if I have then it's truly to my shame.

Thing is, I SO get having a high view of discernment. Its critically important to weigh all teachings, measure all preaching and teaching and writing, and be uber-careful in what you accept as true and right and Biblical. We're all supposed to be doing that, all the time. I also get writing about things that are clearly wrong. It's a good thing and a good service to the larger body of believers to be warned about things going on within evangelicism that ought not be going on. What I don't get, is the seemingly obsessive way some folks latch onto this Discernment Wagon and so quickly and so easily write off SO many people and their ministries. It's depressing, really. You begin to wonder who's next, and what dastardly and horrific thing will be said about them. Or you. Or me.

Here's the thing... if some of these folks (that do this) knew more about me and my life and what has influenced me and what continues to influence me and shape my thinking, I'd likely be written off as well since there is no way I could ever measure up to such high and holy and perfect standards of these gatekeepers of Christian Piety. You know what else? The very people who spend their days pouring over people and ministries to tear down and tear apart; they don't measure up either. None of us do. Nope, not a single living, breathing, walking, talking professing believer is good enough, smart enough or discerning enough to NEVER be sidetracked by anything or anyone, in their Christian walk. Not even the ones writing about everyone else, all day long ever day.

grrThere's just no grace. There's no "yes this bothers me here for this reason but I see this here and I like this". There's no balance, there's no appreciation for the good even while correcting the not so good. Now I'm definitely not saying run out and start affirming Osteen or any of the emergent/mystic/ecumenical nonsense, but what I am saying is man alive, have some grace and balance and Christian love in what you write! Imagine for a moment if you are a blogger that writes about this stuff, and someone got hold of YOUR life, and inspected it with a fine tooth comb. You wouldn't be sitting so pretty then, would you? You KNOW what I'm talking about, you know there's stuff about you that folks would be ALL over if they knew about it, like fresh meat in shark infested waters.

Whoever once said that only Christians shoot their own, nailed it perfectly. I just wish someone would take all the bullets away.

I just had to say that. I think I feel a little better now. I now return to my rather imperfect life (complete with stinky dog pee on the living room carpet and dirty dishes in the kitchen sink - hows that for Proverbs 31?), and return you to your regularly scheduled blog reading. If you ever read bad things about me and how I fall short, it's probably true. I fall desperately short all day long every day of my life, and that's why I'm so thankful for God's grace, wisdom and direction in my life in ample abundance.

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What Love Does

"In the absence of evidence otherwise, love believes all things"

Have you ever heard anyone say that? I sure have, many times. It comes from 1Corinthians 13:4-7, specifically verse 7. Otherwise known as "the love" passage, this passage describes how one acts when they live out their selflessness, and humility. I went through this passage recently to do sort of a Love/Humility check up. In a rather systematic way, here's the list of what love looks like acted out:

• is patient
• is kind
• is not jealous
• doesn't draw attention to itself
• is not arrogant
• controls itself
• looks out for others
• is not easily provoked
• thinks no evil
• doesn't rejoice in sinful things
• rejoices in the truth
• bears all things
• believes all things
• hopes all things
• endures all things

As I went through that list it was hard not to notice with each item how/where I fall so incredibly short. The "believeth all things" quote is what initially sent me there, and what I was trying so hard to understand why it so often doesn't apply to me. I wish it did, but the truth is I often suspect ulterior motives or hidden agendas. Quite often my nagging doubts are proven to be true (I guess that's just life experience telling me this is how most people are), but there are enough times when they're not, that I end up feeling like a fool for having those thoughts to begin with. I'm not quite sure how to get from "suspect" to "just believe and let it go". That might not even make sense to anyone but me, but it makes perfect sense to me.

I think a good start to getting from one place to the other, is to keep hearing these reminders when I hear them. It's one thing to hear someone say this, but it's another matter completely to really hear someone say it. I like being reminded that love believes all things, and that it suffers long, and seeks not it's own. More than that, I need to be reminded of these things every single day, since I'm rather prone to acting and reacting in just the opposite way.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Thankful for Nice Folks

I just wanted to take a moment and express a very special thank you to Ron, Clyde, Eddie, Sue, Rebecca and Elizabeth-Kay. These are the nice folks that didn't quit their day jobs to be the Reflections super-models for the winter storefront ad.

Don't they look great!? I confess, I really enjoy it when folks send in their pics for these ads. I have a lot of fun creating them.

If you'd like to join them, just let me know.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

On Being a Country Bumpkin

So, we have this test we use in the winter time to determine if highway driving is safe or not. When it's snowing or has recently snowed, we watch the vehicles on the highway across the cornfield. Between our house and the main highway between the two closest towns north and south of us, is about 50 acres of cornfield. We can't see the highway until the fall harvest is all done, and that's usually the same time it starts snowing - so it's handy they cut the corn down just for us. There are essentially three categories for the test:

1.) if the vehicles are all travelling at a regular rate of speed, the roads are fine
2.) if the vehicles are creeping along at a snails pace, we stay home and wait it out
3.) if most of the vehicles are moving slowly but every once in a while some bonehead is flying down the highway, we stay home and wait it out

Regardless of how much snow we get, there is always a speeding bonehead on the highway. I do not use this term lightly, these are the people that cause massive accidents and much heartache every winter on the roads of Southern Ontario. They don't even deserve to have a license, as far as I'm concerned.

a view from my windowLast night the roads didn't pass the test, as all vehicles were moving slowly. This morning the outcome of last night's surprise snowfall was more evident, as there are LOTS of big branches down all over the yard - and more snow coming down. It's just at the freezing point so this is the wet, heavy stuff that makes excellent snowballs but also brings down branches and power lines. Thankfully we haven't lost power, yet. It has flickered a few times, but that's it.

This was what I woke up to this morning, as I walked into the kitchen. The weather people say we have more coming today, and tomorrow.

Thus begins Winter 2008/09 in the country.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thankful for Preaching Truth

Rebecca is doing a month-long theme on thankfulness, and if you haven't read the posts she's linked to there you really should. I haven't read them all only because I've been rather out of touch with being sick. The ones I have though, have encouraged me each time and I'm so glad she's doing this theme again this year.

Along this same line, I am so thankful for this message from Phil Johnson. When I began to listen to the first few minutes of it, it brought tears to my eyes. This subject is so dear to my heart, so to hear someone else preach on this subject with such deep conviction and in support for a high view of God, His name, and His word, is a welcome relief in ways I'm not even sure I can accurately express. I posted on this very subject here last month, and tried to say exactly what Phil says in this message. I'm sure he says it better.

I would really encourage you all to give this a listen.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Is God Your Heavenly "Dude"?

This morning I followed a link from a link and landed on a page that helps you find a good church. It was a short list of things to look for when visiting the church, and specifically addressed how the pastor and the congregation views God. The question to ask yourself, the page stated, was "Do they approach God humbly and reverently and exalt Him in all they do?" Then it went on to say that a person's view of God will affect every aspect of their ministry, their lives and their attitudes. It went on to say that you should discern whether God is the focus of the ministry of the church, or whether they are focused on themselves or their programs. In other words, you should look for a church that holds a high view of God.

As I read this short list of things to look for in a church, it was impossible for me to read this section without thinking of a church I know of that fits the "programs" and "self-promotion" description perfectly, and one where the pastor and some of the leaders are well known for their irreverant approach to God and the things of God, in the name of being authentic and/or culturally relevant and/or missional. Interestingly enough, this church and others like it are quickly becoming the most popular kinds of evangelical churches in North America. It's the new face of evangelicism, and quite frankly I find it rather ugly and repugnant. I also find it rather depressing that these are the kinds of churches and leaders that younger Christians are looking up to.

Something has been lost. Somewhere along the journey of authenticity and the desire to be culturally connected we've lost the basic understanding of who we are, and who He is. Somehow we've exalted ourselves to a level we don't deserve, and brought Him down to our level as if He's "dude". Somehow we've taken the idea that Jesus is our friend, our buddy, our pal, and therefore we get to address Him like you'd address anyone else you'd call friend. I have a friend I jokingly call all kinds of things, but I would certainly never address my Lord and Savior in the same way. Why?

Is Jesus my friend? Yes, He is according to John 15:13-15, but what does that really mean? It means that the grace and mercy and love of God came and was carried out in the person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It means He willingly laid down His life and died in a way most excrutiatingly painful and humiliating, for those the Father gave Him. It means that three days later He rose again, that He was the propitiation for our sins, and that IF we follow Him, love Him, serve Him and believe on Him, that we are closely associated with Him, His philos, familiar aquaintances, and therefore considered BY Him, to be His friends.

Whenever I hear or read of someone calling our Lord "dude", it makes me cringe. That someone would be so irreverant and to hold such a low view of God to call Him that, just blows me away. Especially when it's someone that claims to understand His grace in their own lives. Yes He is our friend, but He is a friend UNLIKE any other friend that we might be so casual and flippant with. HE IS GOD IN THE FLESH. He stands apart from any mortal friend we could ever have, and He deserves our honor, and our reverance. He holds our very breath in His hands, every beat of our heart, and guides every step we take. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He is King of kings and Lord of lords and were it His holy will to do so, He could wipe you or me or anyone else off the face of the earth this very moment.

Is this really someone we want to call "dude", or is this our Heavenly Father that we have somehow lost holy fear of?

Romans 3:10-18 describes the kind of character among people that have no fear of God. It's not a pretty picture. By contrast, Proverbs 9:10 tells us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

Something to prayerfully consider.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembering Soldiers

Today is Rememberance Day in Canada, Veteran's Day in the US. Growing up in a military town, Veteran's Day celebrations and honoring those in service (present and past) was a very big deal. It's a big deal in Canada as well, and there's a tradition here that I really like that wasn't a part of my American tradition. On this day at 11:00am the tradition is to have a moment of silence in honor of those who have given their lives in service for their country. We have that moment of silence and we give it to the Lord in prayer.

Considering the political climate in the US, my thoughts today are on a different kind of freedom, liberty and justice. A different kind of war and a different kind of soldier. A different kind of bravery and a different kind of courage. Of course what I refer to is the spiritual realm, not the physical.

We live in a time unlike any other in North America. We live in a culture where you can go to jail if you stand in your pulpit as a pastor and preach what the Scriptures say about homosexuality or slaughtering unborn babies. We live in a time where sterilized, generic spirituality is praised but Biblical Christianity is mocked and derided. We live in an era of God-hating culture, and man-centered religion & morality. Indeed this is a serious challenge for any Bible believing Christian desiring to live their life in a way that pleases God and not men. The younger generations of Christians face challenges that us older Christians never faced, growing up in a different time.

For the serious Christian, the time is now to not cave in and become weary, as easy as that is to do. This takes courage, and it takes conviction, and it takes the grace and the strength of God, to do it. Of all the Christians I've read that have their finger on the pulse of North American culture, not one of them has any hope that things will get better, but instead that the battle will become more intense, and more outrageous than North American Christians have ever experienced first hand. Some say that this is exactly what the church needs to strengthen it. Frankly, I don't look forward to it but if that's what is coming then let it come and let us stand in the face of it.

Let's remember today, the Christian Soldiers that are on the front lines of battle in ministry. In foreign and domestic missions where the unlovely and cultural cast-offs are being loved and cared for. In evangelism in the most hostile situations. In apologetics where speaking God's truth against false religion can get you killed. In clandestine house churches scattered around the world where knowledge of your faith can end up causing your entire family to be slaughtered. The young people in North America that love the Lord and battle man-centered philosophical garbage as they attempt to live out their faith according to the Scriptures.

The list could go on and on, but these are the soldiers of faith that I think of today. They inspire me and they need our prayers every day.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Store Stuff: New Stuff

Just a few new designs to bring to your attention:



New Attitude


Iron Sharpens Iron

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Christian Families, Television, and Sex

Last Friday on The Albert Mohler Program, his topic was from a headline I'd read earlier in the week. Here's the headline:

Teen Pregnancy Linked to Watching Sexy TV Shows

The article leads off with this:

"CHICAGO — Groundbreaking research suggests that pregnancy rates are much higher among teens who watch a lot of TV with sexual dialogue and behavior than among those who have tamer viewing tastes."

I thought it was interesting when I read the headline and thought "and they needed research for this?" since anyone with any amount of common sense already knows this to be true. Albert Mohler started his program off with "and they needed research for this?" Yes, apparently they did. As Mohler points out on his show, the evidence gathered from the study is very good because it disproves the claim made by some that the media doesn't actually influence the way people think, act, speak, etc.

I can't imagine anyone making such a claim would be taken seriously by anyone else, but apparently there are those among us that do make this claim (and expect us to believe it), and the research has now proven them to be wrong. Just about any parent could have told you this same information, but it doesn't quite carry the same weight as when it comes from a behavioral scientist who's work is featured in the November issue of Pediatrics. In the FOX news article, Bill Albert, chief program officer at the nonprofit National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy was said to have praised the article because "catches up with common sense."

When I read the article I was just a little bothered to see what shows these teenagers are watching that has the most impact. Listed among the popular shows that teenagers are watching is "Sex and the City," "That '70s Show" and "Friends."

Now this is the part where I begin to sound like an old fashioned prude, a big meanie and someone stuck in the past. I just thought I'd mention that ahead of time.

I've never watched Sex and the City. I've seen the previews for it enough that I knew I had no desire whatsoever to watch such an overly-skankified hoochie-mama type show. I've also never watched That 70's Show. I've seen previews for that one too and found it rather stupid, actually. I have seen Friends, and while I confess that I actually did laugh a few times at the comedic quality of the show, the sexually immoral/liberal content bothered me enough that I can't watch it without that aspect bugging me. Keeping in mind, this is just one opinion of one mom in her early 40's, and it may not reflect anyone else's opinion at all - but, according to the study, these are some of the shows that have the most influence on teenagers and their attitudes towards sex.

I want to point out that the study referenced above suggests that as parents, we should LET our kids watch this stuff and then just talk to them about it. I have to say from experience, this can backfire in monumental ways and it doesn't always have the affect you hope it will. In other words, while the study may suggest this, know in advance that this is potentially playing with fire and your kids could be the ones that suffer the worst, from it. Of course every parent-child relationship is a little different and there are some teenagers out there who could potentially watch this stuff, discuss with the parents afterward, and be better for it. I have to honestly say that I think those teenagers are the exception however, and not the norm.

I know of a young lady who grew up in a Christian home, was by all accounts a good, well-mannered girl, a professing believer and was a joy to her family and everyone that knew her. As she grew into her teen years and began watching tv programming geared toward teens, she began to change. Only in slight ways at first but enough that folks around her noticed it. She began to dress the way the girls on tv dress, and to take on the same attitudes and worldviews the girls on tv expressed. By the time her parents realized that some of this was coming from the influence of the tv shows she was watching, it was too late. Her parents put their foot down and would not allow certain programs anymore, talked to her about it and expressed how everyone but her had noticed the change in her, but the more rebellious she became the more determined she became to disobey her parents and watch these kinds of shows and emulate the same behaviors as depicted on these tv shows. She is now a young woman living 100% in the world, in every way. There is nothing left (at least on the outside) of the nice, respectful, enjoyable girl she was before the teen years.

Certainly there were numerous factors at play, numerous influences aside from tv shows (music, movies, internet activity, worldly friends, etc.), but it's very clear that the messages on tv do in fact influence the minds of viewers. Most parents already knew this, but now there is solid, scientific research to back this up. I guess if there is one message I'd want to put out there above all others it would simply be to head this influence off at the pass. Don't let it be broadcast into your house in the first place. There are enough battles our teenage kids face today that we as parents didn't face at their age - there's no reason to make it even harder on them by letting these kinds of tv shows shape their thinking.

You might be considered the "mean" parent, but at least you didn't hand them the weapons they need to destroy themselves.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

You're a Hyper-Calvinist

"James White is a hyper-Calvinist by the definition of Phil Johnson." - Dr. David Allen, John 3:16 conference

Wow. Who knew such a statement would carry such baggage. Well, I did and as soon as I read it here I thought "eww, here we go". Here we go, indeed. James has already responded here, and Phil has responded here.

Like James, I too have been accused of being a hyper-Calvinist by someone wanting to use Phil's Primer on Hyper-Calvinism as the criteria, and I find it needlessly divisive, not to mention ignorant and inaccurate.

In my case though, it'll likely go well under the radar. I'm not in the same league as James or Phil, and that's perfectly okay with me. I'm going to respond anyway since my accuser Tony Byrne has in fact accused me once again at John Mark's blog.

Here's the accusation from the comment thread there:

Tony // Nov 7, 2008 at 6:45 pm

Carla,When you were in Paltalk in the past, you were in agreement with the 5solas group (Brandon Kraft, etc.) that denied “duty-faith,” in addition to denying that God wills the salvation of all men by will revealed. Moreover, you were all staunchly denying common grace (i.e. the concept itself, not merely the terminology). Those are the FACTS, and those were my criteria. I don’t know what you believe today. I hope you have adjusted your viewpoints on thost topics. But, the above things used to be your actual position.

Grace to you,
Then moments later an add-on comment:

Tony // Nov 7, 2008 at 6:48 pm

Oh, I could also add that you were all staunchly opposed to the notion that God loves any of the non-elect in any sense.

The above topics and more are covered in Phil’s Primer.

A brief timeline is required so I hope you'll take the time to read these things (as a sidenote, Tony mentions PalTalk in his comment at jM's blog, and what follows is almost soap-opera style drama that was such a HUGE part of PalTalk and from what I hear, remains this way today. Please forgive the longwindedness of this, but the background is needed to understand where all this comes from):

In January of 2005 I wrote a post called Bad Theology According to Phil. What prompted that post was the notice that someone sent me, that Phil had listed the parent site of one of the forums that I helped moderate in his Bad Theology bookmarks page. The "group" that Tony mentions above, 5Solas, is the one Phil listed on his bookmarks page. Tony Byrne, along with several others were on PalTalk at the time trying to tell people that Phil had specifically condemned my chat room there (then called 5Solas Bible Fellowship - later changed to Sovereign Grace Bible Fellowship - then finally closed in 2006 as I got sick of the nutcases on PalTalk causing so much strife and division and drama that fellowship was nearly impossible) as a hyper-Calvinist chat room. For the record, Brandan Kraft of 5Solas had virtually nothing to do with my chat room, other than the fact that a couple of years prior (on msn chat) we chose the name together and he occasionally helped me moderate the room, as I was a moderator for his forum. As Brandan's theology became more extreme, he spent less time in our chat room and I spent less time on the forums, even though I was still a moderator there. Phil Johnson didn't even know the chat room existed, nor was he referring to the chat room OR any of the people moderating it, when he wrote his piece for the Bookmarks page. When folks came in the chat room asking about it (after hearing about it from people like Tony, and his friends), many of the current moderators in the room didn't even know who Brandan was, nor had they ever heard of the 5solas site. That's how "connected" Brandan and 5Solas was, to my chat room at that time.

I want to clarify two things about this. One, when I wrote the blog post mentioned above, I really struggled with it. Initially, my post was to jump to Brandan's defense in a personal "this is my friend you're talking about" way, more than anything else and that was a mistake. In doing that I attempted to take on what Phil had written about Hyper-Calvimism and that was my next mistake, as I pointed out a year later when I wrote this post attempting to revisit and clarify a little bit. At the time, I really didn't understand what hyper-Calvinism is, nor did I understand the various levels of it or the various things people mean when they use the label. It can get very confusing, very quickly. I was far more dogmatic in that first post than I had any right to be.

The other thing I want to clarify is that when I wrote this post, I hadn't been following all of Brandan's posts at 5Solas and I didn't know how extreme he had become. When I read through later on, I cringed and fully understood why Phil said what he did. More than anything I responded initially to defend my friend, while Phil wrote to critique his theology. Two different levels and I made the mistake of mixing the two up.

In the post mentioned above written a few months later, I still struggled through understanding hyper-Calvinism. What do people mean when they say common grace & duty faith? How do you know what a non-salvific love for the non-elect looks like, compared to a salvific love for the elect? These are incredibly weighty subjects and if you talk to 5 different people you are sure to get at least 11 different answers. Not everyone knows what in the world they're talking about on these subjects and unfortunately they just keep talking and confusing others, like me! To this very day, a lot of this doesn't make sense to me based on the teachings of men I have heard over the years. For me, it doesn't square with what I read in Scripture and I don't know to MAKE it square, or if it even does. Admitting this doesn't not make me a hyper-Calvinist, it makes me honest about not fully understanding these teachings. In the past I have voiced my opinion on these things and done so without being fully informed and that has been my error. I'm still learning how to eat the meat and spit out the bones, as the saying goes. Some of these things just just still do not seem clear to me.

A year later, Tony shows up again (this time in the combox at Frank's) and makes his accusations again. I wrote about this here, attempting to clarify once again, and Frank took up for me in the combox at his place. My hat is off to Frank for actually reading what I wrote, rather than reading what someone wanted me to be saying so as to fit into his neat little category of hyper-Calvinism and continue accusing me of holding to it.

There have been other discussions and posts on this over the last couple of years, but that's the gist of it. Going back to Tony's claims of today however, I have actually tried to clarify all this before and it seems to fall on deaf ears. I was never, have never and am not now, a Hyper-Calvinist. I am on the other hand, sometimes over-zealous with my opinions, not always clear enough when I should be, and easily frustrated by people who get ticked off when you don't just agree with them from the start, then slap a label on you and walk away. I'm learning not to be so eager to opine, to be more clear and define what I say, and not get so frustrated with people that won't listen. It's a process, and if I have to be popped into a category of hyper-Calvinist while I make my way through that process, then that's their issue, not mine.

When I read James White's response today to this accusation, I agreed 100% with what he said:

"If you believe you have to affirm that God is disappointed in Christ, disappointed in His attempts to do something He tries to accomplish but can't, to avoid being called a "hyper-Calvinist," then let's stop playing games about the meaning of words. If you can evangelize, call men to Christ, believe in common grace, etc., and still end up smeared by the "hyper" name, then clearly the debate has devolved down to a level beneath what is proper for believers."

I hope all that made sense. Oh, and if you've read all that, now you know why so many people (myself included) hate PalTalk. It's a breeding ground for theological insanity. Yeah, I went there before I realized what a train wreck it really was.

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Friday Bloggelaneous

Lots of mini posts that don't really warrant posts of their own. Sounds like a good enough definition to me.

- First on the agenda today: Store Stuff! So the reflections weekly newsletter is up, but there are 2 brand spankin' new designs that didn't make it into the newsletter since they weren't done until after the newsletter had already gone out. Here they are! Believe it or not, "mom likes me best" is our most popular shirt. So, since folks like this design so much I decided to offer a couple of different styles to add to the one we already have. For whatever reason, folks really like this very simple design. I know the next family reunion/event I go to, I'm wearing mine. :-) (By the way, at the suggestion of a really smart web guru type, I've added commenting to the store's front page. Said guru told me that folks like visiting sites where they can interact by way of commenting, so I went ahead and put the comment feature there. Sure enough, the very first day a world famous rock star showed up and left a comment! It's true, go see for yourself). Here are the two new "mom likes" designs. I hope folks like, too.

mom likes me best mom likes ME best!

- Even more store stuff, is my zazzle stuff: Dark Hoodies, Outerwear, Shoes and Tote Bags. Now here's the cool thing about zazzle: If you see a design you like on a piece of apparel that you don't like, but you prefer a different type of apparel, you can actually try it on, on different styles. It's a pretty nifty tool, and saves a lot of guess work. The perfect gift for someone on your Christmas list, is only clicks away! :-)

- I woke up early this morning to catch the sunrise and enjoy my coffee on the deck for one last time this year. Okay that's not true at all. I woke up after a horrible, fitful night of tossing and turning and a maximum 4 hours of sleep. I figured since I was up, I might as well go watch the sunrise. I had a horrible night because...

- I'm sick. Sicker than I've been in a long time. For the last 3-4 weeks I've had brutal cold symptoms that seem to go away, then come back. It makes no sense, but that's the deal. I've missed church for 2 weeks in a row and that stinks big time. The past week has been the worst and the miserable sinus junk has now turned into miserable chest cold junk. I'm trying to avoid taking anything too strong so I don't get all wonky (drowsy and stupid) or zippy (wired and spastic). I hate both kinds of drug-induced wonk and zip, but sometimes I have to give in and take it, then I'm even more miserable. Someone once told me to take ester-c to ward off this junk, so I think I'll be getting some of that. In spite of being sick as a dog...

- The flexibility of homeschooling is really a wonderful thing. Monday morning we declared this Fall Cleanup Week. We scaled back on several subjects in school and after morning devotion, Bible study and current events, we all headed out to take full advantage of the weather and get the place ready for winter. This means cleaning up all the toys & yard tools, bringing in a few garden decorations, rounding up all the bikes and putting them in the garage, taking down the trampoline, and that sort of thing. It also meant putting up the Christmas lights, but we didn't quite make it that far. They're ready to go up, we just had so much else to do that it never happened. We missed the window of opportunity last year, and didn't have outdoor lights. That was a first for me, and I didn't much like it. We actually have a rain/snow mix in the forecast for Monday, so I just hope we didn't miss that window again this year.

- Do you like to waste time online? Me TOO! Some time ago, it became a running joke in #prosapologian that my dial up connection is so slow, that it's actually run by squirrels. To be specific, fat, lazy Canadian squirrels that would rather watch hockey than run my connection. Once, someone "kidnapped" my squirrels and took them on vacation to the sunny southern states where they were pampered and fussed over so much, they decided they didn't want to come back to Canada. So, the other night someone posted this link, and thought of me. I have to tell you, I have never had so much fun launching rodents. Watch them right before they get launched, they put their wee little aviator glasses on for saftey. How cute is that!? (For the record, these are definitely not the same rodents that run my dial up connection, these little guys are much faster).

- The big news story in the greater Toronto area today, is the xbox boy. It's truly a heartbreaking case. Ticked off after dad took away his xbox he ran away, and has been found deceased. This is a horrible thing that should have never happened in the first place, but it's certainly not uncommon in our day. Earlier this week another headline reported the story of an 18 year old that slashed him mom with a knife when she pulled the plug on his myspace account. I've read several cases of siblings fighting to death, literally, over game box controllers, and who's turn it was to play. Over and over again the headlines are filled with case after case of another young person that went ballistic because mommy and/or daddy took away their electronic entertainment - or someone else prevented them from playing or being online.

I could easily make this a post all on it's own, but suffice it to say for now, parents: LIMIT your kids' use of electronic stimulation/entertainment. It IS addictive, so don't let your kids go there. Set rules for this stuff and enforce them, even if it makes you the bad guy. Keep all this sort of thing (computers, game consoles, etc.) in a common family area such as the living room, rec room, etc., and do NOT let your kids have this stuff in their bedrooms. If you do, they WILL be on in when you've told them not to be, and they will quite possibly become e-junkies. Almost every time I read a news story like this, the parents say the same thing "I never realized this could happen to my child". It can, and it does. It IS within your power to control it, so do it.

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Now That's Just Plain Freaky-Weird

I woke up yesterday morning and plodded into the kitchen for my first cup of happy sanity coffee, and was suddenly startled by three loud BANGS. My first thought was "gunshot, very close!" It was so close in fact, it sounded like it was right in the yard. I headed out to the deck and before I even opened the door I heard two more shots. Sure enough, it was gunfire. Later, mmm... supper!one of the barn workers said someone was out near the road shooting at deer. What???

I realize the economy is bad, but who stops on the way to work to kill supper? I mean, you're driving along the road and you just so happen to have your hunting rifle in your vehicle... see a deer and pull over and start shooting at it? Who does this?

Very strange indeed. What's even more strange, is that about 90 minutes later I received an email note that someone bought this from my store.

I couldn't have made that up, if I tried.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thank you James

You may have already watched this today. When I watched it, it so accurately summed up my own thoughts that it seemed rather redundant to say much of anything else. I hope you will watch this and if you're a believer, find encouragement in James' words. If you're an unbeliever, I genuinely hope your heart is broken by the power of the Holy Spirit, and you flee to the cross of Christ.

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Growing Pains

I don't know who to credit for saying it, but I once heard a saying that went something like this:

"'Tis better to remain silent and thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt".

I know I laughed the first time I heard that, and then I went "eww, that applies to me too". I don't like it when things like that apply to me too. I'd rather deny and deflect and pretend it doesn't apply because I'm somehow above or beyond such things. I know, it sounds arrogant and indeed it is. I don't mean to walk around with arrogance but the truth is not always pretty.

Over the last couple of weeks I've had some situations and circumstances that have been pretty hard to work through. I've started to write about them several times, but sometimes when things are so intense that for me, I just clam up rather than let loose. I'm not sure why I do that, maybe it's a self-protection thing I have going on. I remember doing it quite a lot when my first husband was very sick and times were so difficult to bear. I wanted to say so much but words just didn't (and still don't) exist to express what I was feeling and thinking, so I just clammed up. It was a very weird feeling, and it just sort of became a pattern for me. Being quiet really isn't that bad of thing, either. My gpa used to say that folks would learn a lot more if they'd spend more time with their mouths shut and their ears open, than the other way around. Gpa didn't do a lot of talking but when he did, you remembered what he said.

So on that note, over the past couple of weeks I've had the opportunity to "listen" quite intently to some things that a couple of folks have shared with me, by way of very helpful advice and insight. In one case, the advice wasn't even solicited, but the words shared stung so much that I knew I needed to pay closer attention to the why of the sting. In the other case the advice was solicited, and the insight was something I very much needed to hear.

I know that sanctification is an ongoing thing, and sometimes we don't even realize how we come across to others. We don't realize the implications of how we act or react until someone comes along and says hey, did you notice what happened there? When we see it that way, it may sting but it's the kind of sting we need. It's truly iron sharpening iron, and that doesn't always feel so good - but it's desperately needed.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Looking Back - Looking Forward

When I first began blogging in the spring of 2004, I wasn't really sure what I was doing or why I was even blogging. The most prominant thought I had was "why would anyone care what Carla the Nobody has to say?" I still have that thought today.

I had been reading other blogs before this, so I had a basic grasp of what they were for, how they were being used, and that sort of thing. I decided my first post would be one that would both honor the Lord, and honor the one man that had the most profound impact on me growing up. My grandpa. That first blog didn't last long and so when I began Reflections of the Times a few months later, I imported that post right away.

Today is my grandpa's birthday. I've decided to repost that piece with a good bit of clean-up editing. My grandpa is no longer among us, but with the Lord now. I still miss him a great deal. The following is my grandpa's conversion testimony the best that I can remember it.

My Grandpa

In 1991 grandpa fell seriously ill. Prior to that, no one suspected there was anything wrong with him until grandma found him one morning, sitting in his chair unable to breathe, skin turning blue before her eyes. He was rushed to ER, and immediately placed in ICU. After a series of tests, it turned out grandpa had asbestosis and the prognosis was not good. They had a very hard time stabilizing his oxygen level and for a few days it was very touch and go. He seemed to stabilize for a few hours then suddenly his condition would rapidly deteriorate, and they'd struggle to stabilize him again. This happened over and over again. Finally, the last time it happened they were not able to stabilize him. They tried and tried for hours, without success. The head nurse in ICU called a couple of family members to tell them if they wanted to see him, now was the time to come, as he would likely not make it, to the end of the day.

He was intubated, and was unable to speak. By the time word got around to the rest of the family and we all began to arrive at the hospital, his doctor had shortened his prognosis even more, down to "minutes" instead of hours.

My brother arrived, and his first question was "has anyone prayed with Grandpa?". He didn't even wait for an answer, and asked the nurse if he could go in. He went in, sat down next to grandpa, and began asking him some questions. (There are 2 versions of this part of the testimony; the second one is after this one) He asked grandpa if he could hear and understand him, and if he could, to raise his finger. Grandpa raised his finger for each question. He began to ask him such things as "do you realize they say you're dying?" (grandpa indicated YES), "do you believe after this life, there is another life?" (grandpa indicated YES) and "do you understand Heaven and Hell are real places?" (grandpa indicated YES). My brother then shared the gospel of Jesus with grandpa, and asked him "do you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?" My brother said he looked in grandpa's face, and saw the tears in his eyes, and my grandpa lifted his finger, and indicated YES. Gary then prayed with grandpa, a prayer of repentance.

At this same time, something began beeping and making odd noises at the nurse’s station, and the nurse got up to enter grandpa's room. None of the family members knew anything, except that Gary went in to pray with grandpa. We honestly thought it was over, and grandpa was gone, and we were bracing ourselves for the nurse to come out with the worst news. She did come out rather quickly, with the most perplexed look on her face I've ever seen. A few seconds later, Gary came out of grandpa's room with tears on his face, and a smile. All he said was "grandpa is ready to see Jesus". We all began to cry, or cried harder. The nurse approached my grandma and told her something odd was happening, but I don’t know if grandma even heard what she was saying. Many of us overheard her, however.

She could not explain it, but all of my grandpa's vital signs, were stabilizing. They were not supposed to. Prior to this he had only minutes to live. They began to remove some of the life support apparatus from him, because as he stabilized, they had to take some of these things out. The nurse could not explain it, the doctor who rushed in could not explain it, but I remember one of them saying "the only thing that makes sense, is a miracle".

Over the next few weeks his condition continued to improve and eventually grandpa was well enough to come home. He was on oxygen 24 hours a day but he was doing remarkably well, for an 82 year old man with “minutes to live” just a few weeks prior.

When my brother shared what happened in grandpa’s room that day, this was the only testimony any of us knew. Grandpa had his own testimony which he shared with grandma, but he asked her not to tell anyone, until after he was gone. He thought people might think he’d went crazy.

Grandpa’s version was very similar to Gary’s except for one small detail. He remembered Gary walking into his room, he remembered the entire conversation, the prayer, and feeling at peace with God, but he also remembered wondering who the man was with Gary. He said when Gary first walked into the room, he noticed another man behind him, but really didn’t pay much attention to him. During their conversation, from time to time grandpa would try to get a look at the other man, because he thought he recognized him somehow. He said the man wore a long white robe, had a very peaceful face, and comforting eyes. At first he thought he might have been someone from Gary’s church, but there was something about him that intrigued grandpa, not the least of which was the long white robe. Men just don’t walk around in long white robes. Grandpa said the robed man stood the whole time, just behind my brother. After my grandpa prayed he looked at the man, and the man nodded his head in affirmation, and smiled. When Gary left, the man in the robe left behind him.

Grandpa had intended to ask Gary who that man was, but the more he thought about it, the more he realized Gary didn’t know anyone was with him that day. My grandpa didn’t want anyone to know this, because he was afraid folks in the family might think less of his conversion experience.

18 months later, Grandpa went to bed one night, and woke up in Heaven. I went to work that day and for reasons I could not explain I had a monumentally heavy heart. By 9:30 in the morning I had to tell my boss that I couldn't concentrate and was about to burst out crying at any moment. She asked me what was wrong but I could only answer "I don't know, something is just very wrong, with someone, somehow." I knew it didn't make sense but that was the only way I could explain it. Oddly enough she understood and told me to go home. As I walked through the door the phone was ringing and even though I didn't know who it was, I just stared at the phone, terrified to answer. Finally I picked it up and without even saying hello, on the other end I heard my sister's voice saying "Carla?" I said "who?" (meaning, who is this call about) and through tears of her own she said "grandpa's gone". My knees gave out and I was on the floor in tears. Somehow (and I don't pretend to know how) I knew that day that something painful was coming, but I had no idea just how painful it would be. I did not know I'd be on my floor unable to move, holding the phone tightly in my hand as if the harder I held it I could somehow hang on to gpa.

Those 18 months after he came home from the hospital he spent fairly bedridden, on oxygen. I was still living in the world at the time and on Halloween that year, I did what I always did. I dressed up along with the kids, and took them over to grandma and grandpa’s house, to trick or treat on their street. I had on a tall, pointy black hat, and came in the living room and said “trick or treat!”. Grandpa smiled, and jokingly said “hey, someone get that witch outta my house!”. The kids all went over and showed off their costumes to him, and he smiled and talked with them all for a few minutes. That was the last time I saw him. That was October 31st. Grandpa went home to Jesus, 6 days later. He was 83 years old.

He was the literal interpretation of the 11th hour laborer. (Matthew 20)

About a month later, grandma shared with me, grandpa’s version of what happened that day in the ICU, when Gary came to pray with him. All of these details did not escape me, even though I was living my own life as an unbeliever. I began to search the Bible for an answer to the robed man in my grandpa’s room, and found this passage:

But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? (Hebrews 1:13-14)

And this one: Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:2)

I cannot say for certain, that this was indeed an angel, but those two verses stood out in my mind as boldly as anything.

My own conversion to Christ happened just 17 months later.

My grandpa was Harry McKinsey, beloved husband of Zora, father of 4, grandfather of 13, great grandfather of 17 (at the time). He was US Army, and had been a machinist in the naval shipyard for 25 years, before retiring. Anyway, that's what the newspaper obituary said.

Growing up without a dad, my grandpa was the father figure in my life. He was smart, he was a gifted craftsman, he loved his wife, his children and his grandchildren, and he was the rock of our family. He influenced his children and many of his grandchildren in a wide variety of ways from being an example of a strong work ethic, to holding your tongue and appreciating the value of times of quietness.

I still miss gpa to this very day, and I suppose I always will. I miss that he never said "bye" when having a phone conversation. When he was done talking he just hung up. (I have a friend that does this, and while it's sort of annoying it's also sort of comfortingly familiar, as strange as that sounds). I miss the way gpa's cars always smelled - like they were brand new, no matter how old they were. I miss the image of walking into their house and seeing gpa sitting in his recliner watching tv or working on a crossword puzzle. I miss going to their house on Christmas eve to watch them open presents and no matter what anyone handed him to open he'd shake it and say "nope, it's not a jigsaw puzzle". More than anything, I miss his presence in my life. He was a good man, and someone I looked up to a great deal. I take an enormous amont of comfort in his salvation, and knowing that when his battle through life was finally over here, he went home to our precious Lord.

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