Monday, June 30, 2008

CAUTION: may explode and emit showers of whining

You're going on vacation. You make a list of everything to pack, and check it twice. You get it all packed, check off everything from the list and stuff it all in the car. Fifty miles down the road that nagging feeling of having forgot something just wont go away. You go over your list again and wrack your brain trying to figure out what it was that you forgot. Everything on your list is packed and in the trunk, and yet there's still something, something unwritten on your list that won't let you travel along the road in peace.

Have you ever had that happen to you? I know I have, more times than I can count. Sometimes I realize what it was that I forgot, and other times I never do. More often than not I've simply resigned myself to the idea that even though it feels like there's something not quite right, there's nothing I can do about it anyway, and I just let it go.

For me, this is sort of what it feels like to be homesick. Of course I knew 10 years ago that when I packed up and moved to Canada, I couldn't take my mom and gma with me. I couldn't stuff the Puget Sound and the scent of saltwater into the trunk, and I knew I wouldn't be able to take Candy Cane Lane at Christmas or our local state part on the 4th of July. They just don't make u-hauls big enough to take it all with you when you go.

Illahee State Park War MemorialTwice a year I get more homesick than any other time, and the 4th of July weekend is one of them. For many years our family had get togethers on the 4th weekend at Illahee State Park. Even as we got older and family attendance dwindled down (as many of the kids moved away and some of the older folks weren't around anymore) we adopted that tradition as our own and still went to the park with the kids. The faces were different, but the old stomping grounds were still the same and it just felt "right" to be at Illahee on the 4th of July. The way the sunlight danced through the tall trees, the smell of grilling burgers and being in the woods, and the sight of kids with giant watermelon wedges running around the playground... the kids playing on the old mounted cannons at the war memorial at the entrance to the park, and running my finger across the old etchings in the cannons that I had seen since I was a little girl. Kids and teenagers had always left their "mark" on the cannons and often with the date they carved their names there. I knew the etchings so well, that I could always spot the new ones with each visit. I'd seen them every year for so many years, that just being there was a marker in my own life.

The end of the day almost always consisted of too much sun as we spent the afternoon down at the water, feet sliced up by barnacles on rocks (that we shouldn't have been stepping on anyway - or at the very least had our flipflops on to protect our feet) catching jellyfish in our bare hands, and coming home with lots of sand in the car. All with the undercurrent of anticipation and excitement, knowing that in a few hours we'd be lighting off fireworks to celebrate Independance Day. In my world, the 4th of July was always a day for families to be with families, rich memories that last a lifetime, and lots of fun. Coming from WA state, it also meant it might start to rain just before you were ready to light fireworks, but that was okay too. Being a native from western WA, we have an unwritten rule. If you can't have fun in the rain, you can't have fun.

In Canada, the Canada Day weekend is pretty much mapped out in the same ways. It's a time for families, a time for burgers and beaches, and a time for fireworks. Some folks head up to cottage country and spend it on the lake and being eaten alive by mosquitos (and loving every crazy minute of it, and doing it every year), others use the holiday as an excuse to party (as do many Americans for the 4th), but for most Canadians, it's a family-friendly event, packed with good times that make up the memories of their childhoods.

The thing is, even though we do all the "things" associated with family-friendly Canada Day, and even though most of those things are the same things Americans do, it's just not the same for me. In some ways, it sort of feels like spending your own birthday watching someone else open presents and blow out the candles on a cake. It's a very strange feeling, even after 10 years of doing it. It's the same feeling as if I've forgotten something on my trip. Of course we all have fun with the kids but that nagging feeling never goes away, as much as I try to ignore it. Yesterday it became a bit much to take the good-natured ribbing of a few friends about my alleged, questionable Canadian status, and it actually made me cry. I know, I'm a big baby.

It did make me stop and consider why it bugs me as much as it does however, that I defend my nationality the way I do. It's not as if I actually have anything to boast of, I didn't plan my own birth in the USA, God did. Maybe I just have underlying, unresolved American pride issues that I've never considered before? It's entirely possible. It's also entirely possible that I just miss my mommy and my family, and being "home" where things are as familiar as the back of my hand. Again, I am in fact a big crybaby, and I have no problem confessing that.

Intellectually and rationally I know it's a waste of time to spend any amount of time being homesick. I can't do anything about it so why allow it? Spiritually, I know most folks would likely say I'm being unthankful, ungrateful and disobedient. Not that I set out to "be" any of those things. I know I'm supposed to be content in all things (situations, circumstances, events) and I really do try to be. It's a process, I guess, and I'm on the road toward the City of Being Content. In more ways than one, I suppose.

Most Canadian families celebrated Canada Day throughout the weekend. Public fireworks displays go on for 3 days in various places, but we did ours last night in the yard. How funny is it, that the goofy "nail it to a tree and watch it spin" firework that NEVER spins and always seems like such a dud, is the ONLY firework last night that I got a great shot of? It just goes to show ya, never say never.


yay, things that blow up and emit showers of sparks!








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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Perverts, Predators and Porn - all just one click away from YOUR child

When my family purchased the first computer to ever be in our home in February of 1993, I had no suspicions whatsoever, of it ever becoming a vehicle for heinous criminal activity, or a tool used to lure naive and self-deluded children into dangerous and even deadly situations. It wasn't long after that computer came into my own home that a doorway into a world opened up that I never even knew existed. I've written about this before, but to make a long story short, I encountered a criminal mind online and eventually he was caught, charged on 112 criminal counts, and found guilty in a federal court of law and sentenced to prison.

During the course of the investigation into his stalking, harassment and fraud activities, the case received quite a bit of national press. It was a new thing, more and more families were just beginning to get interested in what was then called the information superhighway, and this aspect of it frightened them, and rightfully so. Even more upsetting, it was also uncovered during the 3 year long investigation (all the while he continued to harass people and threaten them, even after his first arrest was filmed live for the show Dateline) that he had repeatedly raped a teenage boy living in his home as an exchange student (and continued to do so during the course of the very well publicized investigation).

As disturbing as it was to my family the things he was doing to me (and others online) that was nothing compared to what the teenage boy was dealing with. As heartbreaking as that was, it flipped the lid off of a world that the vast majority of the population (back then) had no clue existed. Criminal investigators knew it, because they'd already been online for years at this point tracking criminals of every sort, from hackers to con men, kiddy porn collecters and producers, and all kinds of other vile things. That case took over 3 years of my life, and I was glad to finally sit in the federal courthouse in Fresno to see this man face justice. One day later, it took a jury less than 4 minutes to find him guilty as charged.

It was during that three years, that I met a Christian brother who was also a seasoned detective who specialized in fraud. Not too long before this case, he'd begun training US federal and Canadian police as well, on how to track these kinds of people online, and nail them. Unfortunately as a part of his job he often (and I do mean OFTEN) came across child porn, and all kinds of predators online - LONG before the show "To Catch a Predator" ever existed. I can tell you, what they air on that show is only a small slice of what's really out there. Or should I say, who is really out there with every intention of luring my children, your children, anyone's children into a variety of compromising and dangerous situations, with only one wicked and vile motive.

Now I'm going to stop here and say this, and I hope people REALLY hear it.

When someone says something like this, folks roll their eyes and think "yeah yeah, whatever" for several reasons. They've never run into it online, they've never known anyone that has, they almost never hear about it, etc., so on and so forth. Generally (and sadly after nearly 20 years now of it being publicly documented) folks still think you've got some kind of alarmist mentality when you mention predators online looking to lure your children away, primarily because it isn't something that they have personally experience in their own life. Well, all I can say to that is THANK GOD it has not happened to them. It has happened to plenty of people and their children, and I can only assume they were one of those families that only WISH that they didn't have such an experience. If anyone thinks this an alarmist position, you could easily contact your local FBI field office for yourself, and ask to be put in touch with the agent in charge of either the Innocent Images National Initiative, the Endangered Child Alert Program, or one of the agents in the Regional Computer Forensics Labs. Or, if that wouldn't be enough to convince you just how widespread and horrific this is, you could also check out the Dept. of Justice's Project Safe Childhood fact sheet for yourself. Here's just one item off the list:
"Since the program’s inception in 1998, the Task Forces have reviewed nearly 200,000 complaints, resulting in the arrest of almost 11,000 individuals across the country intent on sexually abusing children. In fiscal year 2007 alone, ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) investigations led to more than 2,400 arrests and more than 10,500 forensic examinations." (source)
Think about those numbers for a minute. These were sexual deviants online, looking for children to exploit. These were just the ones they caught. If you were looking for kids online, where do you think you might go? After you think about this for a few minutes, the disturbing thought SHOULD hit you, that this is exactly where these vile people are hanging out as well. In fact, they're online right now, this minute, in the very same chat rooms, social networking sites, and communities, that kids are in. Right now, this minute, as you're reading this, some of them are even chatting with kids, posing as kids themselves, and encouraging other kids to trade pics with them. And the kids fall for it, ALL the time. It generally begins as a "friendship". They become online buddies, posing as kids themselves, sending pictures of other kids and passing them off as pictures of themselves. It should make you stop and wonder for a minute, just how many of the "friends" kids have on friends lists, are actually other kids their age, and how many are actually adults with an agenda. If you've never considered this before, know that the law enforcement agents that work this field have been warning parents about this for YEARS. It's a very common tactic that these predators use.

From every source I've read in the last 10 years, this crime is on the increase, and with the ease of access (lower prices for computers, computer access in schools, libraries, 'net cafes, etc.) more and more families and children are online, and more and more children are at risk. With the amount of man power and resources being invested into this arena on the local, state and federal level, this is hardly something any responsible parent should be rolling their eyes over.

What prompted me to write this today, was this one quote from a recent case in the news:
"The girl was reported missing around 9 p.m. Wednesday after her uncle dropped her off at a convenience store about 12 hours earlier in Randolph, where she'd said she was going to meet a girlfriend to visit the friend's sick relative in the hospital. But police believe that Brooke fibbed and may have been bound for a meeting with an unknown person whom she'd been communicating with on the social networking site MySpace.com."
This came from the recent news story about the little girl in Vermont, currently missing. The next part of the article that stood out to me was this "Authorities haven't identified the person she was communicating with, but state police computer experts were analyzing the computer in a bid to learn more. They don't know if it was a woman or a man." That's just it - they don't know who this little girl was corresponding with on MySpace, and NEITHER DID SHE. She only knew whatever the person wanted her to believe and she fell for it, hook line and sinker. Now I have no inside information, and have no idea who she was meeting or how old they were, or what they wanted from her. It could have been another girl her own age, it could have been a boy, it could have been a 45 year old pedophile that had wicked intentions. Time will tell who she actually met up with, but the heartbreaking truth of the matter is, the statistics are not in this precious little girl's favor. The fact that police have recovered what they believe is some of the clothing she was last seen in, doesn't offer much hope for this poor girl.

I've read more cases like this than I can count. I've known about cases like this that never even made the national headlines. When the case is closed, it's almost never good.

In this story at FOX news, it would appear that the dad allowed the girl online and then yanked access when he discovered she was up to something she shouldn't have been. My hat is off to the dad in this case for doing that, but unfortunately she chose to disobey dad and go back online on the sneak. (I can tell you I know A LOT of families where the kids do this, and I'd bet you do too).

I read another case today on CNN.com about an ongoing investigation in Sacramento CA (in conjunction with the FBI in a project called Innocence Lost) that is attempting to crackdown on child prostitution online. Girls willingly posting their OWN ads online. Why would a girl do this, you wonder? The article answers that question:


"But why would a girl sell her body online? To help answer that question, Sacramento police made arrangements for CNN to interview a 14-year-old girl who said she'd started selling herself as a prostitute at the age of 11. "I wanted to feel loved. ... I wanted to feel important," said the teen, who did not want to be identified. She said she used Craigslist because it was free and she could post dozens of ads a day. Even though she understood the seriousness of what she was doing, she said she didn't care. You could put stuff in your ad like 'wet and wild,' 'fun and sassy,' things like that to catch their attention, to make them want you," she said."(source)
If you find all of this as overwhelming as I do, I wouldn't be surprised. It's a multifacted issue with a variety of perpetrators, victims, and sometimes, as unreal as it sounds, the victims are even the ones unwittingly setting themselves up to be victims.

Its very easy to simply say keep your kids offline. Not only is it easy, its actually the safest way to keep them from the possibility of being victimized, and/or the strong temptation (especially for girls) to show themselves off with revealing and/or sexy looking pictures & webcams because it drives visitors (and attention) to their little spot on such social networking sites as myspace or facebook. Keep your kids offline? Yeah, I'd be among the first to say that.

However, if you're not so sure that's the answer, there are a variety of ways to strictly monitor your kids if they do use the internet, and I cannot recommend them strongly enough. NO parent believes their kid is going to be the next kid in the news, so it is definitely worth your time and their safety to USE these tools if your child is online at all. Go here for a good source of tools and resources to take a look at for your family.

Get yourself educated on what's going on online, and make sure your kids are web smart as well. They're worth it.



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Oh... Canada, again.

Twice now this month I've posted on the political climate and Christianity in Canada. In my first post earlier this month on free speech in Canada, I posted a quote from the Canadian Bill of Rights, that doesn't even apply anymore, due to the new "hate speech" laws. In the second post on the outrageous pro-gay curriculum being taught now in BC schools, there were some really thought provoking comments left.

Today, I'd like to share with you a link to a program that we watched live, a little over a week ago. This is the Michael Coren show, with Michael interviewing Ezra Levant. As we watched the show, we cheered Levant on, and appreciated the fact that he said all things we were saying & thinking as we watched. For Christians on both sides of the border that really don't have a clue what's going on here in Canada, watch these clips to get a really good idea.

Then pray for boldness for Christians north of the border. By all informed opinions, its only going to get worse before it gets better, and such twisted law-making truly does not require border guard approval, to find its way into the good ole USA.


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Summer Critters & Various Weekend Ramblers

I have a new best friend.

My buddy the Deck Toad

Now just how cool is he? (Click on him to see full size, you know you want to!) He was hanging out on my deck night before last, and was gracious enough to let me photograph him. I asked and he said "groooat". I took that as a yes.

After my computer troubles last week, I'm still installing, downloading, upgrading and organizing things. To say it's a big, fat pain in the neck is an understatement. Since the tech support guy at Dell ASSURED me it was the hard drive, I cranked it up in safe mode and dropped all my must have files onto my flash drive. Before that though, the dumb computer was telling me I needed to reinstall windows (pffft!) so the old version was wiped out and the new version attempted to install but couldn't finish due to the REAL problem, which turned out to be a fried graphics card. (black screen with double rows of vertical dollar signs, anyone?) By the time I got the tower back it had a clean copy of windows (along with a shiney new graphics card, of course) but nuttin' else. All my programs, all my bells & whistles were sitting here on cd (or waiting for me to download them from the web) and I'm only partially there. For a busy mom, it takes a while to get things back in order. Home & family come first and they take WAY more of my time than pc stuff, so it'll be a while before it's back to where it once was.

However, with all that said, I'm sure thankful for some things. For one, I'm thankful that my family understands. When I'm busy trying to get this all back together, they respect that and don't harass me. I very much appreciate that.

I'm also thankful that I have this little flash drive. The first time I ever saw one was on an episode of 24 when Jack Bauer was fiddlin' with some bad guy's computer and retrieving evidence to take him down. It was cool, and it instantly became known in our house as the Bauer Drive. :-) The great thing about it is that it holds a TON of stuff that I don't have to store on my hard drive, but can always very easily retrieve. I love my Bauer drive.

I'm also, believe it or not, very thankful for the 'down time' I had for the week. It gave me the motivation to finally redo my entire workspace in the game room. The northeast corner of the room is mine, and since we moved here 6 years ago it's just been collecting more and more stuff. I'm not exactly sure where this stuff comes from, but I think it reproduces on it's own when no one's looking. In any case, it's been a long overdue project and I made a huge dent in it. I still have a few areas to work on but I got the big stuff done, and that not only felt real good, but it's cleaner, and more enjoyable to sit here in my space and do what I do.

So, while it's been a week of inconvenience, it's also been a week of finding the silver lining the cloud. I like it when that happens.


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Friday, June 27, 2008

Fun Friday Stuff

I was busy today having fun. See? (My apologies for the fuzzy images, it was perfect before I uploaded it, and I am clueless on how to fix it.)





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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Flying, Evil, Malicious, Blood-thirsty Minions

Let's discuss for a moment, mosquitos. To make it perfectly clear, I hate them with the burning passion of 10,000 white-hot suns. Okay maybe that's a little over the top, but rest assured I dislike them a great deal. The problem is, they LOVE me. They see me outside and call (they have little cell phones, I'm sure of it) all their friends, family and known associates, to come and feast on my flesh. I can even hear them coming, licking their creepy little mosquito lips and snickering a like a 10 year old at an all-you-can-eat buffet. I'm almost positive I've even seen some of them carrying wee little empty bottles to fill up with my blood, when their nasty little mosquito tummies are full.

As I type this, I am trying my very best (and losing this battle, repeatedly) to not itch one of the numerous bites I currently have. To give you a better idea of what I mean, I have one on my forehead (cyclopse, anyone?), one on the side of my face, one on my ear, several on my shoulders and arms, a few on my right leg, and SIXTEEN of them on my left leg. Apparently "Left Leg" was the soup of the day, yesterday in the strawberry patch.

I don't know why they like me as much as they do, I just know they do, and they always have. I still remember the night my brother and I decided to camp out and went running in the house at about 2am literally covered from head to toe, and even between our toes, with skeeter lumps. Mom put that icky pink calamine lotion all over us, and we looked like pink spotted elephant men. It was brutal, I tell ya. I recall numerous times I've seen them on me, swatted at them and the amount of blood that splattered all over me was quite shocking.

I suppose there is something in my blood they really like, but when I get bit it's not just a little bump. Oh no, often they swell to the size of walnuts. Now imagine if you will, 16 walnut sized, maddeningly itchy lumps on one leg, and you'll get the idea of what I'm currently dealing with just on one leg!

So now that I've painted this ever-so-pretty picture of my itchy-lumpiness, I need some input. I desperately need some tips on skeeter spray that actually works. Something I can spray on before I go to pick my strawberries, or just spend some time outside playing and having fun. Lotions, creams, sprays, AK47S, flame-throwers whatever. I've tried lots of things and nothing really works like it says it will. I think they come with damp little washcloths to just dab the area clean before they attack.

I'm desperate. Please do leave a comment and let me know what works for you. I draw the line at a blood transfusion, although right this minute it doesn't really sound so far-fetched.



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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Blogiversary: A Quick Trip Down Memory Lane

Well, happy blogiversary to me. Four years ago I decided to give blogging another shot. I thought it was a cool idea when I first came across it, but at the time I was so busy with home, family, school, running my own chat room and discussion forum, that my first blog didn't go anywhere or do anything. The more I messed around with google's blogspot, the more fun it was, and eventually the chat room and the discussion forum were gone. Well, technically the forum is still there but it has pretty much sat unused for a long time now. I couldn't bring myself to actually close it, since there were some pretty great discussions that took place there over the many years it was being used.

So this is my little trip down memory lane. It wont be long since four years isn't really that big of a deal. I thought I'd list the posts that stood out most to me.

The week of June 25 2004, I posted about sticking with blogging, making dresses, finding a new church, my grandpa's conversion testimony, a short study on angels and modesty. If you like, you can read those posts here. It was a short week of New Blogger Syndrome.

The week of June 25 2005 was a little longer than the first year. I was feeling very patriotic that week, and you can read about it here.

The week of June 25 2006 was even longer than 2005. I was feeling rather weary and still weary a day later.

Last year, I received a really kind blog "award" and turned right around and gave it out to 10 other bloggers. Then, I mused a bit on what it means to be a stronger/weaker brother.

Big thanks to all the readers here, all the commenters, and the super-fantastic wonderful friends I've made in the course of this short little 4 year blogventure. Now, let's have cake!



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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Name That Tune

Do you ever flip through the radio stations of secular music? I do, and I do it every time I'm in the van. I love music, and aside from classic hymns (and a few of the great newer songs from the Sovereign Grace folks) my favorite music is what is now called classic rock. Generally, these were hits anytime between the late 60's and late 70's, but every once in a while the station I like will toss in an early 80's song as well. I don't like all the music from that era, but there are lots of songs that sort of mark my childhood and listening to them will often transport me back to that "innocent" time in life when my biggest worry was scraping up enough change to walk barefoot to the local outdoor pool to spend my summer day. I enjoy revisiting that simple time of life, through music.

Yesterday while I was out, Billy Joel's song Only the Good Die Young came on. Other than Piano Man, I was never really a big Billy Joel fan, but I decided to listen to this song. I found a couple things about it rather striking. First of all, regardless of not being a Billy Joel fan, I knew all the words to this song. That says a lot for how often they played it on the radio when it came out. With enough repetition, and composed with a catchy melody, you learn the song whether you like it or not. Secondly, the irony of unsaved arrogance hit me. Not Billy Joel's unsaved arrogance, but that of his young fans when this song was a hit. They were the ones that made it a hit, and as a fellow music lover, I know that they fell all over themselves to be among the first to buy the album. (Yes kids, we listened to music on vinyl, it was very cool, and you missed out!)

Due to the fact that I wasn't a Christian until later in life, I remember quite well the arrogance I had about my musical tastes. If anyone dared question my music, the basic response to was to roll my eyes and dismiss them as uninformed, or without taste, and completely ignore anything they had to say. It was my music, I liked it (for whatever reason, i.e. genre, lyrics, amazing guitar solo, etc.), and I couldn't give one rip one way or the other what anyone else had to say. I was ready, willing and able to defend my music to anyone. I know people like that now, they'll give the same reasons I did, for their musical tastes. Interesting how that works.

So, enter the lyrics of this particular song. Without further commentary from me, I'd be interested in what you think this song is all about:


Come out Virginia, don't let me wait
You Catholic girls start much too late
aw But sooner or later it comes down to fate
I might as well be the one

well, They showed you a statue, told you to pray
They built you a temple and locked you away
Aw, but they never told you the price that you pay
For things that you might have done.....
Only the good die young
thats what i said
only the good die young x2

You might have heard I run with a dangerous crowd
We ain't too pretty we ain't too proud
We might be laughing a bit too loud
aw But that never hurt no one

So come on Virginia show me a sign
Send up a signal I'll throw you the line
The stained-glass curtain you're hiding behind
Never lets in the sun
Darlin' only the good die young
woah
i tell ya
only the good die young x2

You got a nice white dress and a party on your confirmation
You got a brand new soul
mmmm, And a cross of gold
But Virginia they didn't give you quite enough information
You didn't count on me
When you were counting on your rosary
(oh woah woah)

They say there's a heaven for those who will wait
Some say it's better but I say it ain't
I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
the Sinners are much more fun...

you know that only the good die young
oh woah baby
i tell ya
only the good die young, X2


You say your mother told you all that I could give you was a reputation
Aww She never cared for me
But did she ever say a prayer for me? oh woah woah

Come out come out come out virgina dont let me wait,
You catholic girls start much too late
Sooner or later it comes down to fate
I might as well be the one,
You know that only the good die young


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Monday, June 23, 2008

O Canadian Depravity... again

Over the last few weeks, there have been more than enough news items pop up about Canadian legislation, to make plenty of Christians on both sides of the border, sit up and take notice. I'm not going to link to them all (hint: google news will bring them all up), but there's the case of free speech and the pastor in Alberta, then the case of dad's punishment of daughter being overturned in Quebec, rumblings about the 'no smoking in the car' topic, and the 'no spanking your kids' issue (read Daniel on this one). I can hear the liberal cry as I type these things... but the problem with this (no matter what the individual issues really are) is that it's cracked open the door to a gradual stripping away of rights, that will eventually be a snowball affect.

Enter, British Columbia. According to one article:

"VANCOUVER - The Vancouver board of education says it plans to enforce a ministry policy that prevents parents from pulling students out of classes that deal with alternative sexuality.A recent staff recommendation from the Vancouver board of education says parents can pull their children out of sensitive lessons in health classes because of religious or family beliefs, but can't opt their children out of gay-friendly lessons in any other classes." (source)

Now, think what you will about this, what I find most interesting about this news piece is this quote:

"The ministry guidelines stem from a contract the government signed with gay activists Murray and Peter Corren. The couple launched a human-rights case against the government, which ended the lawsuit by signing an agreement to add teachings about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered issues to the provincial curriculum."

Yes, you read that correctly. If you're living a lifestyle that isn't currently being promoted by the province of BC in their education ministry, you can SUE the government, to get your lifestyle included in the curriculum. I guess. It worked for these guys.


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Who Am I?

Okay yes I've been goofing around with my profile pic. It was fun, I cut my hair and did a silly photoshoot for a daughter who demanded to see it. Figured I'd use it for my profile pic until I get tired of seeing my own face there. In any event... on to something fun!

I'll provide a few clues, and with your sanctified imagination, you tell me who I am:

• You touch me every day
• When you no longer have need of me, you simply toss me aside
• I am your daily companion, your whole life
• If you neglect me, everyone will know it, and you'll be sorry
• Most of the time you leave me at home, but sometimes you take me with you

Who Am I?


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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Saturdays Were Made For...

Sleeping in
Cartoons
Pancakes
Coffee
Yard Sales
Simple dinners
Playing in the pool
Mowing the lawn
Rollercoasters
Picnics
No makeup
Pony tails
Going to the beach
Bike rides
Gardening
Reading
Crafting
Taking a hike

What is your Saturday made for?



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Friday, June 20, 2008

Dust in the Wind (and everywhere else sin finds a foothold)

This past week I decided to finally tackle the ever growing problem of an extremely cluttered workspace. I could easily chalk it up to the fact that I am an artist and my mess is my drawing board. That wouldn't exactly be the truth though, because even though I'm an artist I detest chaos and disorder. A big part of the reason for the mess is that 1.) I have too much stuff without enough 'stuff holders' and 2.) my kids have a brutal habit of "cleaning up" by putting everything on my desk, or in my workspace. Someday I suppose they'll grow out of that but for now they're my clutter monkeys.

I've made a pretty good dent in the clutter, and it feels really good to clear that away. Something I've noticed though, is that no matter how much clutter I remove, no matter how clean my desk is, no matter how often I dust (every day), there's always a fine layer of dust on everything. I suppose there could be all kinds of reasons for this that I could attempt to eliminate, but this is just the way it is in this house. Things get dusty, and often.

Duster in hand this morning, I thought to myself "wow, this is just like sin". It doesn't matter how "clean" you get, how often you "dust" by diligent study of the word, diligent prayer over things you know you need to pray about, and the super-fantastically-wonderful growing in grace we all do, there is still and will always be as long as we're in the flesh, this propensity toward sin, and sinful things. Worse than ugly dust, it's not just on us but it's in us. All of us.

I was chatting with a friend last night who was frustrated over several different unpleasant events all coming to a head at once, and also frustrated with some of the conduct she witnessed by folks she described as "those who should have known better". I knew exactly what she meant by that. She was expressing that they were Christians and they should have acted like Christians. It's quite a natural expectation - we expect dogs to bark, cats to meow, babies to cry, sinners to sin and Christians to be filled with grace toward others. Most of the time, it works out that way. When it doesn't work out that way with Christians, is when we haven't been mindful of that dust that we carry around in us called sin. In each of us from the fall, it's always there and always something we absolutely must deal with daily, or even hourly if need be.

I know my own weaknesses quite well. Among them include being prone to being short with my kids when I'm busy doing something. I think a lot of parents will understand this one. It's the putting up of the hand like a stop-signal to cut them off and the comment you make that dismisses whatever they just came to you with (because in your mind it's petty and doesn't need to be addressed at that moment in time, and whatever you're doing is truly important and does require your time at that moment). I truly detest that I do this, but I've been doing it since my oldest was about 2 years old so I have lots of practice at it. To a lot of people it's a small thing, but to me it's a layer of inner-sin-dust that I don't want there. While there are some days and some times that what I'm busy doing really shouldn't be interrupted, I should be the one to be the grace-giver and stop what I'm doing to hear what they have to say. Address their concerns (no matter if they're petty to me, they're obviously important to them or they wouldn't be mentioning them) and do my best to steer them the right direction to resolve whatever conflict or unanswered situation they've come to me with. Truly, I should be thankful that I am the one they did come to, and seize that opportunity to be that vessel of grace and a great example of how to respond - but that isn't always my first reaction at all.

Over the last couple of years I become more and more convicted of this each day, and have been trying very hard to respond the right way in this kind of situation. Honestly it is far easier to flip up the hand and dismiss, but that's not at all showing an example of grace and compassion so it's not how I want to respond, nor is it the example I want any of them to follow after, and respond to others with. I have in fact seen them do it, and I'm the first one to tell them how unkind and how rude it is. Funny how it's so easy to see that conduct in others so much more clearly than it is to see it in yourself, isn't it?

If I closely examine my own character, I could easily list all kinds of areas where the dust settles every day. I know it's there, it's obvious to me even if others don't see it, and I get up daily and prepare myself for another day of clearing it away. If I live to be 100, there will still be dust but I will never be satisfied to let it sit there and accumulate or chalk it up to "that's just the way it is". I want to be the person He's called me to be, and I want to see that in my children as well.

That takes daily self-discipline and honest examination on my part just as much as the physical act of dusting does.


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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

mmm... coookie

Not too long ago I was chatting with this dear lady, and she mentioned to me that she had purchased a package of key lime shortbread cookies. I said "WHAT did you say?" I'd never heard of such a creature, but I figured since I love both key lime pie and shortbread cookies, these must be insanely delicious. She assured me they indeed were, insanely delicious.

So, I went trudging around the internet looking for a recipe, hoping that they weren't what this dear lady (who had some today while sitting in my kitchen for a much overdue visit) calls "fussy cookies". You know the kind, all the special steps and preps to make them taste and look anything remotely like an appetizing cookie. I did find several recipes but the one I settled on looked like one I could easily adapt to make my own version, because I cannot ever leave well enough alone. :-)

Here it is:

Glazed Key Lime ShortbreadsGlazed Key Lime Shortbreads

Cookie dough:

1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. cornstarch
1 c. butter - softened
1 T. lime juice*
2 t. grated lime peel*

Combine flour, sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl and set aside. In a seperate bowl, beat the butter until creamy, then add flour mixture and remaining ingredients - beat until a dough forms.

Seperate the dough into two equal portions and form 10" logs with each portion. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refridgerate 2 hours.**

Slice the chilled dough into 1/4" inch slices and place 1" apart on a non-greased cookie sheet.*** Bake for 10 minutes at 350.

Let cool completely and then glaze.

GLAZE:

Combine 1 1/4 c. powdered sugar, 1 t. lime peel and 2 or 3 T. of lime juice. Whisk until blended and pour into a ziplock sandwich bag. When the cookies are cooled, snip a very small corner of the bag to squeeze out the glaze.

* You can easily substitute lemon juice & lemon peel, or orange juice and orange peel.
** I made one log last week that yielded 30 cookies, and left the other log in the fridge until today, and it was still quite fresh.
*** I always use parchment paper for baking cookies that call for non-greased cookie sheets. The cookies never overbrown on the bottom and the cookie sheets stay clean. Just let them cool then put them away!


They may look like fussy cookies, but they're really not. What's more, they're insanely yummy! These make the perfect summer cookie to take along on a picnic, church fellowship lunch, or just to make something a little different.





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Live Roll It

I wanted to take a minute to direct your attention to something rather cool, rather time-saving, and rather fun. If you're a blogspot user, you may have noticed they have a new tool available to add to your layout. It's a live blogroll that you can edit to display in a few different ways. You can access it via choosing elements in your layout page and see it for yourself.

The thing I really like about it is that it's LIVE, and updates on it's own each time one of the bloggers you have listed, posts something new on their blog. Not only does it do a live update for you and your readers, but the newest blogs to update automatically jump to the top of the list to make new content easy to locate.

When I decided to use this blogroll format instead of the old one, I also decided to finally (begin - there are some others I want to add but time keeps running short for me) update my blogroll with a more accurate list of the blogs I actually read on a regular basis. Of course there are others I still read, but the ones I have listed now on the LIVE blogroll, are pretty much my daily reads. If you see yourself listed there and think "hmm, but she rarely if ever comments", then you'll have to forgive me for being a horrible comment leaver. I do read though, and I'm sure glad you do what you do, it sure does bless me.


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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Books, books and yes, MORE books :-)

It's almost that time of year again, to go book shopping. Not just any old books, but homeschooling workbooks, text books, answer keys, teacher's guides and all those goodies. In some ways I look forward to it, and in some ways I sort of dread it. The part I look forward to is actually getting the new books in the mail, and going through them. It's always an exciting time to see the new material the kids will cover in the following school year, and how much their minds will grow as a result. The part I really don't look forward to, is the idea of getting all their current books out, and making my list for each kid, one by one to determine where they are, if they'll need a new book for next year in each subject and then compiling those 4 lists into one list to place my order. It doesn't seem to matter that I've been doing this now for almost 9 years, it's still one of the things about homeschooling that as a public school parent you just never have to think about or do, and one of the things I would still rather someone else do. Of course in the grand scheme of things it's really a rather small task, but it's a task nonetheless and it has to be done carefully so that I'm sure to order the right books, and the right amount of them.

In some subjects, for certain grade levels, each year we have a limited amount of books that we've hung unto since we started homeschooling, so I don't always have to buy new ones. Last year we sort of came full circle, since we started homeschooling when our now 17 yr old was in third grade, and last year was the first time those third grade books were used again. We have quite a few text books like that, but now we have 3 kids in some of the same grades so we still have to buy extras. Last year was also Ruth's first year of formal schooling, and other than extra workbooks that I get at the dollar store, we'll never have to buy her any of the text books.

From time to time folks ask me questions about homeschooling, and I like to be able to offer as much insight as I can to help them make informed choices about homeschooling. I've written about all this many times before, but I know for new readers who might be wondering how all this works, this might be new information. For the books themselves, we use Christian Liberty Press as our core curriculum, and then add various things to round it out. For the best deals on shipping those books, we use CBD almost exclusively. The rates are still the lowest, and the turnaround time from date of order until that pretty brown box with blue lettering arrives at your door, cannot be beat. I always try to get my list done by July 1, and get the order in by mid-July so I have time to set up a fall schedule for each kid, each subject.

One of the trickier things to juggle, is the grade levels. When someone asks me "what grades are they in?" of one of the kids, it's an almost-impossible question to answer. Ontario schools have kids in a grade higher (they start at age 4) than Washington schools (where I'm from, YES, I am an American!! lol), so that always throws me off a bit. Then, each of them have strengths and weaknesses that have either allowed them to excell or have them in a grade level below their age. So to give an example of what that looks like, I'll use my son Samuel as the sample. Samuel will turn 8 in September, so if he were in public school (in WA) he'd be entering the 2nd grade. Here in Ontario he'd be entering 3rd grade. At homeschool, here is the way it breaks down for Samuel's daily workbooks beginning this fall:

Bible - entering 5th grade
Math - continuing 2nd grade
Spelling - entering 3rd grade
Phonics - continuing 2nd grade
History - entering 5th grade
Science - continuing 4th grade
Handwriting - beginning 3rd grade

In addition, while I have not tested him yet (and will, just for my own records) his reading level is roughly that of a 6th grader. Due to the fact that we've allowed the kids to move at their own pace through their workbooks, all of them are much further ahead in certain subjects than in others. If for some reason we had to put any of them in a public school classroom, they would quickly become frustrated because they'd be miles ahead in certain areas, but would be expected to muddle through the same grade level work as all the other kids. It's funny but I remember those kinds of kids in school that zipped through their work (and did it correctly the first time) then found themselves getting into trouble for talking or distracting other students because they were finished with their own work, and bored! Something is just very wrong about not letting kids excell, as much as it's wrong to push them ahead when they haven't mastered the material yet.

So, that's where this homeschooling teacher-mom is at right now, in our summer vacation. School may be on break for them, but summer is the time we re-group and gear up for the following year.



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Crack that Whip!

Yesterday at Pulpit Magazine, *John MacArthur posted several very good starter tips to help anyone begin the process of self-discipline. If you're anything like me, and pretty much stink at self-discipline, you can (and should) read that post.

As I read through the short list, #1, #4 and #6 without question apply to my life. I'm a neat freak (although you wouldn't know it by the general appearance of my home - that is the result of going through years and years of phases of kids - none of which are neat freaks like me!) and I'm a list maker/keeper/doer, and I'm so into self-denial that when I fold laundry I often think "wow, I NEED to buy some new stuff some day". You sort of have to be a self-denier in certain areas, when you have as many kids as I do.

The thing about practicing self-discipline is, it spills over into every area of your life. When you begin a discipline in one place, your way of thinking is such that you'll want to be like that in other areas as well - and in the critically important areas such as prayer, bible reading, bible study, and those areas of your character that you know need work (temper, taming the tongue, easily provoked into jealousy, etc.).

Truth is, while I actually do practice diligent self-discipline in some areas, I'm really awful at it, in others. I know I need to do it, I know I want to do it, and I know the benefits of it will be a blessing, and yet it eludes me.

One area of this that really stands out for me is losing weight. Ten years ago I was at my ideal weight for my height and build, but then within 4 years I had 3 more children and the last 20 pounds just never came off. It's not that I eat like a horse (anyone who knows me, knows I barely eat at all, even though I joke about pie and goodies and stuff like that all the time), and it's not that I'm morbidly obese or have weight-related health problems. It's just that after almost five years of having my last kid, I'm still carrying around excess weight, and it all in the "pregnant" spots for women, and I hate it. Nothing fits the way it is designed to fit, and I generally have to wear clothes that are too big in every other area so that they cover the bigger areas. This explains why I live in big t-shirts and comfy pants - even though I don't really want to.

I know exactly what I need to do to get rid of this weight, and for the life of me I just can't do it. I can't do aerobics, I can't do sit ups, I can't find the time to ride my bike, and I can't go join a gym. It's not that I'm physically incapable of exercise (although doing a sit up might be rather comical, after having 7 kids and abs that are now made for soft spots for kids to sit), I just detest the idea of setting 20 or 30 minutes aside each day and "working out". I've tried it many times and I never stick with it. Ever.

I've bought work out dvds, I've tried to set aside time to ride my bike (yeah, the one in the garage covered in spiderwebs that hasn't seen the light of day for 2 summers now) and I even have a stationary bike sitting right behind me that my friend gave me a while back. I had every intention of riding it for a few minutes a day, and yet there it sits, stationary. Gack.

So, I decided to post this today with the hope that mentioning it might go a little way toward helping to keep me accountable. It is my plan (how many of those have I had?) to start a small exercise plan each day. In the same way that I wash the dishes, wipe down the surfaces, sweep & mop the kitchen floor, start a load of laundry then clean the bathroom every morning, I want to add to that morning routine some type of exercise. Even if it's just hiding in the laundry room and attempting some crunches for 10 minutes. Even if it's just something small to get me started.

I thought about posting a little snippet in the sidebar to show my current weight and weekly progress, but I'm not entirely comfortable with that just now. It's not that I care about folks knowing what I weigh (I'm 5'8" and weigh 165 pounds), it's just that I'm battling the idea of having to post my progress and admit each week that I'm still at 165. Insert another 'gack' there.

Okay, that's it and that's that, and I'm off to the morning routine. I guess we'll see how this works out. No pun intended.

*I'm not sure if that's actually pastor MacArthur posting, or if it's one of his staff posting his material. Either way, it's always good stuff.


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Monday, June 16, 2008

When Dreams Matter

I had a dream last night that caused me to wake up sobbing.

In the dream, I was accused of doing something I did not do. The thing I was accused of doing was an awful thing, but the circumstances were such that even though I didn't do the thing I was accused of, I was there the day (although not at the time the awful thing happened) I was being accused of being there, the people involved saw me there and testified to the fact, and I had no ailibi to place me anywhere else during the time of the awful event that took place. I went to everyone I knew and tried to explain my side of the situation, and not one single person believed me. Most didn't even want to hear my side of the story, as they had already made up their minds. Many had gathered together before I had a chance to go to them to discuss the event and through the course of discussion they'd all come to the conclusion that I was guilty. Without any of them ever coming to me to ask my side of the story.

It hurt so bad every time I'd try to confide in a trusted source, only to have them dismiss me or say "I really don't want to talk about it, it's very unpleasant". It was worse when I'd start to cry only to be mocked by others and told how I deserved to be treated the way I was being treated. By end of the dream I was alone and betrayed. Having been lied about, falsely accused, having my name drug through the mud, laughed at, distrusted and without anyone to stand up for me or with me.

You can imagine why I woke up sobbing. I'm glad I don't have dreams like that often, but I have had them before and it usually takes a few minutes to shake off the fog of a dream like that and remind myself it WAS just a dream and that's not my current real-life situation. The feeling is as real as if it is really happening, so it's the feeling I have to shake off before I can fall back asleep.

I'm pretty sure I know why I had that dream, too. I recently read some things that brought to mind some advice a pastor once gave me during a conversation on the topic of the importance of going to someone when they've sinned against you, or have offended you either intentionally or unintentionally, rather than going to others to talk about them and that offense. What that pastor said, was that if you don't go directly to that person but instead take your offended feelings to others, you effectively engage in gossip and slander about that person, casting doubt on their reputation in the minds of others (which you have no right to do). That might seem like obvious advice (and it did to me) but he assured me that it's one of the most common things he deals with, as a pastor.

I thought about that statement for a while, and realized that I have been guilty of doing that very thing. Maybe to blow off steam or maybe to get counsel, or just use someone else as sounding board before going to the person directly. We've probably all done it, if we really think about it. It can be a most awkward situation to be in, and going to someone else besides the person who offended you might seem like a good idea at the time, but the Scripture is very clear on how to handle those situations:
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. (Matthew 18:15)
It really cannot get any clearer, can it? I suppose most people don't want to do this though, because it involves direct confrontation, and most of us really would rather do anything than be in a confrontation with someone. I know I don't like it, especially because you never know how it's going to go. What if they blow up at you? What if they just make it worse? Both very real possibilities, and neither very pleasant.

I do think each situation has to be evaluated on it's own merits though. Sometimes going to a trusted person for Biblical counsel first, is good advice (especially if you truly do not know what to do, or what to say). Sometimes it's also good to have a trusted friend that you can blow off steam with in confidence, who will (when you're done) tell you what a dolt you are and how to proceed Biblically and with grace. (It has been my experience that the more I blow off steam, the less I find myself needing to do it. I can only say that this is the faithfulness of God helping me to think things through before I run my big mouth off and say something I might regret later). Sometimes it can be unwise to confront a person directly (if they have a history of violence, or a well-earned reputation of various other forms of abuse), and those are the situations that can be rather complicated. Sometimes, it can be best to take the position of silence and prayer and just let the Holy Spirit do His work in that person's heart, if that person is a true brother or sister. But in most situations, I think the Biblical example of going to that person privately and calmly discussing the offense is the absolute best thing to do.

It may be revealed in such a conversation that your offended feelings were the result of a misunderstanding, and you could turn out to be the one who needs to do some apologizing. It may turn out that the offending party truly meant no ill-will and had a blind spot that they end up thanking you for, for pointing out to them. It can turn out in good ways, and it's definitely worth it to at least make that effort to have such a private conversation if at all possible.

What is never advisable, never profitable, never fruitful and never beneficial, at least from where I sit, is to engage in chatter about the person with others, tearing them down, coming to a conclusion of "guilty as charged" without ever giving them the courtesy of that private conversation, and sparing them the marred reputation in the minds of others. I've been on both sides of this fence and was deeply convicted as the one participating in it, and deeply grieved as the one being discussed and found "guilty".

Of course, there are variables and this thought here certainly doesn't apply in all situations at all times. I strongly believe that public statements or actions by public figures falls into a slightly different category (as in, going to them privately is impossible, but addressing their public statements or actions is within the bounds of what is acceptable), but even when expressing opinion about such statements or actions our standard is supposed to be grace and truth, with a desire for building up, rather than tearing down.

This is an area where the Lord is really really working on me. While the dream was technically a nightmare in terms of classification, I'm glad I had it because the lesson in it matters. Even if it only matters to me.


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Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Heart of True Friendship

Okay, the screen is too small, there are no fancy-dan programs for me to do any kind of creating or editing, the lighting is bad in this location in the evening, but I am using the family computer until I'm up and running in my own corner of my game room. I'm only complaining a little bit, because it's really turned into a blessing. Before I get my tower back to it's healthy self, I'm going to completely re-do my workspace. I've been wanting to gut it and start over for a while now, and this is the perfect time to do that. Now then...

I sure wish sometimes that I had a photographic memory when it comes to hearing things. I have a really good memory when it comes to visual things and being able to recall detail, but when it comes to hearing things I'm not nearly as good at that. For that reason, I take a lot of notes during both Sunday School and the Sunday morning service. This morning however, I have to admit I was a little sleepy and I didn't take notes. I really should have.

The subject of our Sunday School lesson today, was how to secure "change" in your life via Biblical Friendships. It was the last in the 10 part series of James MacDonald's "I Really Want to Change, So Help Me God" series. I was a bit reluctant to sit through the series because quite frankly I have heard this teacher on the radio say some things in the past, that go against the reformed faith - however - I was encouraged by a dear friend to really give this series a chance. I'm really glad I did that.

Ever since my oldest became of age to really begin having a "social life" (which generally occurs for girls at around age 12), the importance of having genuine Christian friends really became a focal point in my life, for my children. Interestingly enough, she was also almost 12 years old when I was converted to Christ myself, and began to consider what true friendship really meant to me as well.

The first few years of my Christian life was by most people's standards, a most horrific rollercoaster ride. In that first few years, I became a widow, lost my home (my own fault), and many of my dearest possessions - twice, made some of the worst decisions in my life, and suffered some pretty extreme consquences as a result. Suffice it to say, my new life in Christ was initially far more painful and lonely and heartbreaking than my life in the flesh ever was. However, it was a transformation that clearly had to happen for God to bring me to the place He eventually brought me. I lost so much, but what I gained was far more valuable. Through it all, my hunger for genuine Christianity never wavered, and God was certainly faithful to bring me to a place of understanding what that really is.

At that time however, I really didn't have the kind of genuine, Biblical friendships that pastor MacDonald described today in the series. He defined these kinds of friends in two ways:

1. friends that lift you up when you fall
2. friends that hold you down when you stray

In the first example, he defined these kinds of friends who are always there for you to pray for you, encourage you, calm your fears and give you hope. In the second example, he defined these kinds of friends as those who tell you the truth even when it's not pretty, shoot straight and tell you what you need to hear, to either get you back on the straight path or keep you from wandering off it, if that's where you're headed. He suggested that it's generally not a common thing to find both character traits in just one friend (although certainly possible), so it's good to have more than one friend like this in your life so that both areas are well covered. It's been my experience that MacDonald is correct, and finding all of those characteristics in one person is fairly rare. Possible, but rare. (God seems to gift people with varying gifts, rather than gift each of us with lots of them).

In the first few years of my Christian life I didn't have these kinds of relationships, and while it's mere speculation, I suppose I wouldn't have had the extreme trauma I had, if these kinds of people were in my life at that time (and I also wouldn't have learned some of the most valuable lessons in my life). Over the years since then however, I have been blessed to have these kinds of people come into my life. I have also been through the experience (as I'm sure everyone else has as well) of having the kinds of "friends" that make it so difficult to be in that friendship, that you're quite honestly better off without that in your life. I've heard this called "toxic friendships" and they're described from one end of the spectrum, as in just fair weather friends, to the other end of the spectrum of those kinds of people that place heavy conditions on your friendships and will only be your friend if you meet all those conditions. I found it striking that MacDonald mentioned in his lesson today that his own daughter came to him once and told him about a girl in school who was doing this to her (wouldn't be her friend if the daughter played with certain people the other girl didn't like), and how he advised her on that. The reason it struck me as so familiar, is because I also had a friend in the third grade who was identical to that. Sadly, I've also known adults who do the very same thing and place very restrictive conditions on friendships that make it a "my way or the highway" kind of relationship. Those can be very emotional to maintain, and quite honestly they're not Biblical friendships at all.

It was suggested in today's lesson, that finding friends like this (and we really have to intentionally choose our friends in this way) was to be a friend like this. This is something else that I've learned by experience is exactly true. While I certainly do not have a horn to toot here, I know that I have strived diligently to be the kind of friend that not only tries to be there if I'm needed, but will also (and I hope with grace) say what needs to be said, even when it's not pleasant to hear. I fail at both and I fail more often than I'd like to admit, but the interesting thing is that trying to be this kind of friend seems to bring other people into my life that are also striving with all their hearts to also be this kind of friend. It's a great thing, really - because iron definitely does sharpen iron in this situation.

I'm really glad I didn't miss Sunday School today, and I'm really glad I took the advice of one dear friend who suggested I give MacDonald's series a chance. It was a tremendous blessing, and I would recommend the series to anyone, who really wants some practical teaching on how to live your Christian life with an intention toward godly growth.


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Saturday, June 14, 2008

I'm Down

Well, after waking up to the dreaded blue error screen, then 4 hours of doing this, that & the other, then another hour & 40 minutes with Dell tech support (don't GET me started on English speaking tech support people), the diagnosis is: one dead hard drive, to go.

I'm using the 'family' computer for now, but it's bare bones (and I do mean bare bones, as in, it won't let me do hardly anything but type) and I have no clue when I'll be back up and running.

I'm very sad :-( but I guess this is just the way the cookie crumbles.


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Friday, June 13, 2008

Free Speech, EH?

"Canadians are proud to hold one of the most valued citizenships in the world. The following passage is written on the Canadian Bill of Rights – a bill that encompasses the Canadian rejection of discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion, or sex: “I am a Canadian, a free Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship God in my own way, free to stand for what I think is right, free to oppose what I believe is wrong, free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” (source) (HT: Alan Kurschner)


O Really?


Free Speech, EH?. If we don't speak up for our freedoms, they'll be ripped out from under us!  (Disclaimer: any resemblance to conservative Canadian talk show hosts, Canadian pastors, or American Apologists, is purely coincidental and unintentional.)

"The Panel finds, and the Panel orders as follows: That Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. shall cease publishing in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the internet, in future, disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals... Further, all disparaging remarks versus homosexuals are directed to be removed from current web sites and publications of Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc." (source)


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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pretty Bird!

I told the story of how I got involved in birdwatching, in this post here. As the result of a pteradactyl attack, I fell in love with the adventure of birdwatching. Now I know that a lot of people think such a pasttime is for middle aged folks or old folks, and I used to think the same thing. I don't really know why people think that, unless it's because they assume it's a quiet, boring hobby and that older folks need quiet and boring because they can't do loud & active anymore. Part of birdwatching is being quiet (I prefer to call it 'stealth mode', especially if I've got my camera and I want a great shot), but you can also very easily combine it with very rigorous day hiking trips as well. Those are really a lot of fun, and we don't take them as often as I'd like.

Learning about all the different kinds of birds there are, has been a lot of fun too. There are still (once in a while) birds that come into the yard that baffle me, and make me go looking for the field guide to identify them. I enjoy that, and I also enjoy that most of our kids can also identify most of the songbirds they see. The songs they sing, the colors they all come in, made me think one day that they're like melodic flying rainbows. How cool is that, that God created so many of them in all those colors, and singing pretty songs?

Well, I think it's exceptionally wonderful, and toward that end I have spent some time this week completely redoing ALL the graphics in the Bird Lovers section of my store. Most of them originally started with a photograph (mostly mine) and were then recreated in a style that closely resembles a watercolor painting with a soft glow. I was quite pleased with the way they turned out, but of course I had to run them through the quality control panel of experts (Kev and the kids). It was unanimous, they all really liked them as much as I did. I'm not done adding designs yet, but here is what I have completed so far:



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Mailbox Walk

I'm not exactly sure when it hit me, but sometime over the past year it occured to me that I'm not getting any younger, my youngest 4 kids are at the most active time in their life, and I'm not keeping up. This is not a good thing. So, I've been a bit more determined to keep up, and toward that end I have very much been looking forward to spring/summer and getting outside and being more active. These way-too-long-Canadian winters don't do a thing for me as far as being active goes, and shivering under a blanket for 6 months out of the year doesn't count as "active".

Last night after dinner I took my camera (yes, it has to come too!) and went for a short walk down to the mailbox. I love these walks and I try to take them all summer long, weather permitting.

Here's a pictorial of my walk last night:

Dougal

I heard a bit of huffing and puffing, turned around to see poor old Dougal trudging along the laneway behind me. She doesn't get around as well after being hit by a truck a couple of years ago.

Dougal and her annoying sidekick, Tulip

Of course you can't go for a walk without Tulip, she just wont hear of it. If you're wondering what they were distracted by, it was...

corn

Corn. Yep, that's what they were looking at, until this came down the dirt road

farm fun

I'm not sure what this thing is called, but it's very exciting for dogs, and it's loud. I call it the Monster Truck of farm life.

On the trip back, I spotted a sleepswinger in the yard

sleepswinger

You've heard of sleepwalking?

sleepswinger or pouter?

Well, it looked like sleepswinging, but it turned out to be simple pouting. I'm not sure what the issue was, but it takes talent to pout AND swing at the same time.

I love this time of year, and look forward to lots more of these Mailbox Walks. You just never know what adventures await!


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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

O Canadian Christians

Sometimes, someone else says exactly what you were thinking, before you had a chance to say it. That happened Tuesday on James White's Dividing Line, as he addressed the legal issues surrounding the religious persecution of Canadian pastor, Stephen Boissoin. James blogged about this here on Monday, and Tuesday's show was one that every Canadian Christian really should listen to.

For that matter, every American Christian should listen very closely as well, especially if they still think this can't happen in the states.

When you're done reading and listening, watch this.


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Monday, June 9, 2008

Rainbowspeak

Yesterday at church, my pastor preached a message from James 4:7-10. He specifically focused on two words in that passage; submission and resistance, from verse 7.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

He took the time to point out numerous verses that speak of submission to His Lordship, and how in the Christian life this act on the part of man must come first - before ever being able to rest in the power of God is even possible. It was a really good message, and I took lots of notes. At the end of the service we sang this closing hymn:


Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.


I absolutely love this hymn, as it outlines what should be the desire of any Christian, to offer their entire life to Him, without reservation. It is my hymn, as it definitely speaks for me, even though I know I fall extremely short in every area. The one line that stands out to me personally (because it's the one area that I am so weak in) is this one: "Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee." Yep, my speech - both written and oral.

I've written before how prior to becoming saved, I had what we call gutter speech. Not only did I use the profane words of the world, I was often (and easily) quite sarcastic, insulting, condescending and disrespectful. Somehow I justified speaking this way to people because they "deserved" it. It's somewhat creepy to look back at that now and see how twisted my own thinking once was. While I certainly haven't 'arrived' at the place I want to be with my speech, the Lord has brought me a very long way from where I was just 15 years ago. And still, it grieves my heart often that my lips are not filled messages from Him.

Yesterday afternoon the weather delivered quite a powerful punch to most of southern Ontario. Several storm systems rolled through, complete with torrential rain, hail, thunder & lightning, insane winds, and even a few tornados.

a sign of hopeBetween storms, I went outside with my camera to take a little stroll around the yard and I saw this as soon as I went out on the deck. I don't know about you, but I find rainbows simply breathtaking. I don't see them as often as I'd like, but when I do see them there are certain words attached to them that always and immediately come to mind. Words such as hope, promise, faithfulness, peace and encouragement. When God told Noah in Genesis 9 that the rainbow would be for a token of remembrance of the covenant between Him and man, that He would never again flood the earth, that meant something. God being God, was under no obligation to leave a token in the skies for man to remember this promise, but He did it anyway, and when I see one my thoughts always turn to God and His grace, and promise.

As I stood there yesterday looking at this rainbow, and still thinking about the sermon I heard yesterday morning, and the closing hymn we sung, I wondered what it might sound like if every time I opened my mouth, my very words would carry the same impression as the rainbow does. Words only of hope, of grace, of peace and of compassion. Some days, I secretly wish God would simply flip off the snarkasm switch in me and allow me only to speak words just like that, but it just doesn't work that way. Sanctification isn't a flipping of a switch, but an ongoing process.

While I fully understand the need sometimes to say things that might be hard to hear (those things can still be said with grace, with truth and with courtesy and respect), the more I become convicted of my own attitude behind the words I use, and the more I notice the not-so-sanctified, blustery, damaging, thunder and lightning attitude behind the words that others use. When I see (written) or hear these kinds of words and this kind of attitude I immediately point my finger back at me and "please Lord, don't let me be like this" becomes my prayer. I'd much rather speak like a rainbow, and I know He'd rather I do that as well.


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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Family Friendly Bookstores?

(Orginally titled" "Absolutely UnSTINKINGbelievable")

From Brannon Howse at Christian Worldview Network:

On June 5th, my eleven year old son joined me in a visit to our local Barnes and Noble Bookstore. I was horrified at what my son saw. Open on a table was a very large, full-color, picture book displaying a man in full frontal nudity. The cover was two men kissing with the title GAY SEX. This book was filled with full-color pictures of gay men doing what they do. The assistant manager told me that this was the second time that night this book had been laid open in the store. She also informed me that such books were regularly found in the men's room. she said a young boy had been sexually assaulted in the bathroom at this store and the man was never caught. The assistant manger walked me to where the book was normally kept. Was it behind a counter? No, it was on the top shelf of a bookcase that any 13 year old could reach. Welcome to the 21st Century where being gay is mainstream and celebrated as normal in a family bookstore. Listen to find out what I am going to do. ( Download the MP3 (1) (Right click and select "Save Target As")

I posted this last night after only having read Brannon's post at his site. Since I'm on dialup, downloading his show took a while. Now that I have, I can't encourage you enough, to listen to what he had to say about this.

And now, some thoughts of my own that were too long winded to leave at the above linked site.

Laws governing sexuality explicit material. Of course I don't live in TN but I was under the (ignorant?) impression that it was a rather common law in the states, that such material available in books, magazines, videos and dvd would be restricted to 18 and older customers. It wasn't that long ago that in our society that material wouldn't even be found in a mainstream bookstore. To find that material, you had to go to the "other side of town" to that little building that was unamarked, but that everyone knew what they sold. While in terms of time it really wasn't that long ago, it does say a lot for just how much our culture has changed in such a short period of time. There's a convenience store in town that Kev had to stop shopping at, because their hardcore porn magazines are on full display at the front of the store. It was impossible to avoid them in the store, so instead he chose to avoid the store. Bearing in mind we're in Canada, where the laws pertaining to these things are far more liberal than those in the states, and especially in the southern, "Bible Belt" states.

The Campaign to Normalize Homosexuality. It has apparently become so "normal" to accept the gay lifestyle as just another lifestyle, that the fact that this material is sold at Barnes and Noble, hasn't appeared to really upset anyone all that much. It bothers me, that this doesn't bother more Christians. It makes me wonder which kind of pure wickedness will be next to be accepted as "normal". It makes me grieve for the next generation.

Guarding our Eyes (and those of our children). I have never seen the kind of material that Brannon Howse's son was exposed to last week, and I hope I never do. I have friends in law enforcement who have as part of their field, had to investigate child pornography. They will say that the images of unnatural acts they have seen are burned into their memories, forever. Some of them need ongoing counselling to deal with just having those images in their minds, and these are adult men and women.

I know that many will disagree about the damage that images can cause, but the testimonies of countless adult men and women who are addicted to porn, or who were formerly addicted to porn, should be enough to give us all pause for thought as to the potential for harm of placing things before our eyes, that should not be there. This caution goes quadruple for children, that aren't even close to being old enough to process what they see from a mature, discerning worldview. I have read (as I'm sure others have as well) testimonies from former porn addicts (and violent criminals as well) who often say that being exposed to "adult" images as children, is what began their life in that arena. I can't prove that there is a connection between "adult" images seen by children and a sinfully wicked lifestyle as an adult, but it sure seems obvious to anyone really paying attention. (There may be statistics that bear this out, I haven't researched it to know). Based on what I just said, how do "homosexual adult" images have any bearing on the mind of a child? I cannot begin to guess for certain, but I suppose it just deepens the damage - especially considering the culture we live in that shoves this lifestyle in our faces and fully expects us to embrace it.

Boycotting Blatant Ungodly Businesses & Business Practices. Well there's a big ole can of worms. Does it work? I don't know, some will say yes and others say no. I think it's really more of a matter of conviction. Does ABC business sell trash? Yes, and I don't shop there. Does XYZ utility company support some anti-God, anti-Christian organization or association? Yes, many of them do, but that doesn't mean we're going to shut the lights, phone, cable, sat, water & gas off, just to not be connected to them in some way. We all have to make choices all day long based on our Christian convictions. Where we shop, what we watch on tv, sites we visit on the internet, what we read offline, etc. If in this case, Barnes and Noble refuses to change their policy regarding their homosexual porn literature (and I can't see why they would), then it's up to individual Christians to make the choice on whether or not to shop there. Bearing in mind, pretty much every other mainstream bookstore carries the same stuff, so no matter where you shop for books & such, you're going to run into this to one degree or another. Welcome to living in a fallen world where sinners act like sinners. God's grace and mercy on those sinners is what changes that - not boycotts, but at the same time I'm also not convinced they're necesarrily a bad thing. I can say, that if I were in the same community as Brannon Howse, I would not shop at Barnes & Noble after hearing about this. Easy decision.

Finally, I keep hearing Christians describe sinful behavior as "sick". Several of the callers who called into Brannon's show used this word to describe the event. I've used the word myself, and know that what I mean is sick as in, so twisted in the mind and heart, that what is good and right is avoided for what is vile and wicked. I have no reason to doubt that this is what others mean as well. It may sound nitpicky of me to say this, but I think maybe we're all using the wrong word. "Sick" doesn't really nail the heart - the nature of the matter the way "wicked" does. Not that I'm calling for a reform in the words we use or anything, but it's just one of those things that stands out to me, in the way we (myself included) speak of ungodly things. Somehow, I think we've wimped out a bit and softened our speech. Just a thought.


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That's My Bag

I've been really really busy the last few days. Between stripping wallpaper (gack), setting up the pool (yay!), getting a sunburn (ugh) and always trying to keep up with Mt. Laundry at the end of the day (pfft), I've also found some time to restock my very old zazzle account, with some pretty nifty tote bags! I have quite a few to add yet, but you can see what I've been up to over there, just by clicking on the little panel in the sidebar, or by clicking here. "Cool Christian Themed tote bags! The perfect solution for books, crafts, grocery shopping and gift giving. Earth-friendly, 100% cotton canvas totes with a message of faith! " I can't decide which one I need first. I think I might be going with In His Image.

It's funny, while puttering around outside yesterday and noticing how many strawberries and red currents I have this year, my thoughts turned to canning jam. It's been a while since I've had enough fresh garden (my own, not store bought) produce to do any canning, so I'm looking forward to it this year. Then, I saw an ad in the local grocery store flier for another type of produce that sounds like it also would make a most delicious jam. Pluots!

Maybe I just haven't been paying attention, but I'd never heard of pluots before. Have you? Have you ever made them into jam? If so, I'd like to hear from you.

And I'm off to finish setting up the pool - a high of 91 today! (Although, with ice cold well water on day one of pool opening, I think it'll be a while before this old lady will be in that pool!)


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