Saturday, February 28, 2009

This Aint No Dud, Baby!

When I was a little girl my older sister had a board game called Mystery Date. She used to play this game with her best friend Virginia, and the strangest thing happened all the time. Virginia always seemed to get the "dud" date, and my sister always got the handsome date. I'm not sure if it was rigged or just the way it worked out, but the dud was so goofy looking and the fact that Virginia always seemed to get stuck with him, that it's a notable childhood memory for me. I tested the theory of it being rigged, and while my sister wasn't home I randomly spun the dial numerous times to open the door and see how often I'd get the dud. More often than not, I'd get the handsome dates. Now far be it from me to accuse my sister of sneaky-tricky-stuff, but I'm thinking the odds of poor Virginia getting the dud as often as she did, by pure random chance, were pretty low... if you know what I'm saying. Ahem.

The truth is, life is full of duds. Dud jobs, dud houses, dud cars, dud dates, and dud merchandise. It's just the way life goes. So, when something comes along that is NOT a dud, it's really good stuff.

Not long ago I needed to replace my dish sponge, and I'm a diehard scrubber sponge user. Now I know some folks are purely dish cloth users, and we could wage a war over which is better, cleaner, safer and smarter - but I wont go into that today. As for me, I must have the sponge (real sponge, not that phoney foam business) and a scrubber on the other side. When I worked for the city housing authority as a maintanence worker a million years ago, I had access to the BEST cleaning products available to the human race, and that's what they used. I immediately became a fan and have been set in my ways ever since.

I've skimped many times over the years and bought the cheap store brands when money was tight, but I always prefer the name brand kind, since they last longer and just work better. So recently when I had to replace my sponge, I looked over my choices. Now this may sound goofy to some people but I'm a stay at home mom and dish sponges matter. They're one of the tools of the trade and us stay at home moms take this stuff seriously.

Walnut Scubbers, now this is a COOL ideaWhile deliberating the cheap v. name brand dilema, I spotted something I'd never seen before. It looked like a regular scrubber sponge but the difference was the material that made up the scrubber side. It wasn't nylon or some other man made material, it was made of crushed walnut shells. What?! I'd never heard of such a thing, but I decided to give it a try. Long stay at home mom boring story short, I love this thing. Technically, they should reconsider a new marketing approach and stop calling it a scrubber sponge and call it a Breezer Sponge instead. You don't even really have to "scrub" with this little gem. You just gently glide it across the icky-stickies on your dishes and it picks it right off. It really is amazing. Less scrubbing on anything, at any time, is always a welcome break in my world.

One of the cool things that impressed me with this sponge, is that it uses natural ingredients to clean with. I love it when I find something like this, and that works this well. I have no idea how long these things have been available, years and years, for all I know*. I just know I just discovered them and they're fantastic. Now here's a funny little add-on. When I first took the sponge out of the plastic wrapper I thought "hmm, walnuts" and for some bizarre reason, assumed it would smell like walnuts. It sounds reasonable, yes? I sniffed the scrubber side of the sponge and WHEW BUBBA, it did not smell like walnuts. I do not recommend sniffing your sponge, unless you also heartily enjoy gagging.

Happy Sponging.

*Sometimes it takes a while for products to find their way to Canadian grocery store shelves, so this may also be one of those situations. It's sort of annoying, too, since there's never any real logic to it, such as in the case of Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries. Oh, you mean you've never heard of crunchberries, o Canadian reader? Of course you haven't, because in Canada you cannot GET Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries. I'm not sure why, it could be they're a controlled substance, or dangerous to children in some way. When I was a kid growing up in the states, Crunchberries were the only way! Poor Canadian kids have never had the pleasure, because the Canadian government has their eye on those crunchberries and they are NOT letting them across the border.



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Friday, February 27, 2009

Like a Hawk

VIEW LARGERSometimes, living in the country is kind of cool.

Last Saturday, Kev and the kids spotted a hawk on the deck but before I could grab my camera, he was long gone. He'd taken off into the chestnut tree to snack on whatever he'd collected.

Then on Sunday afternoon, there he was again. Just sitting on the deck railing looking around. I'm not sure how long he was there before we spotted him, but even after he knew we were watching him, he stayed there for several minutes.

He took off right after this picture was taken, and the direction he flew led me to suspect he'd gone around the house to the big juniper outside the kitchen window. I figured since thats where the feeders are, that he knew thats where he'd find what he came looking for, for lunch. Sure enough, that's exactly where he went.

VIEW LARGERSince then, we've been looking out for him in places we've seen him, but we haven't seen him again. Until today, that is. I wasn't able to get his picture again but it sure would have been a great shot. As I was taking bread out of the oven at dinner, I turned to set it on the table and happened to look out the kitchen window. There was Mr. Hawk, just standing on the porch looking in the window at me. Oh how I wished I had my camera in my hand!

I hope he comes back, he's a great looking bird. I just prefer to think maybe he's eating grackles or other annoying bully-birds instead of the pretty little song birds or doves.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, this is a juvenile Broad Winged Hawk.





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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

And the award goes to... a regular Joe!

Rumor has it, there was some kind of fancy pants award show on tv the other night. I wouldn't even know for sure what night it was on, without checking google. That's about how much these kinds of award shows interest me.

The one thing that does interest me though is reality. In reality, the vast majority of what Hollywood actors, producers and directors do, is truly useless in the grand scheme of things. Now don't get me wrong, I like a good movie as much as the next person, but we're talking reality here. In reality, a good movie (which are harder and harder to find all the time), no matter how good it might be, still doesn't "do" for us in any tangible way. It doesn't preach the gospel, it doesn't give us eternal wisdom, it won't pay the bills, help raise the kids, fix the car or put food on the table. In reality, it's just a teeny tiny itsy bitsy momentary and sometimes entertaining distraction. Now with that said, I fully admit I have my favorite movies just like anyone else. I enjoy a good story told in movie format, but with that said I have just a wee bit of an issue with putting on a grand to-do over the people involved in the movies.

I wonder if instead of celebrating the makers of make-believe, what life might look like if we celebrated the real life heroes with just as much pomp and circumstance?

I'm no fancy pants event organizer, but I definitely think we should have all kinds of categories for this award event. Categories for pastors, Sunday school teachers, parents, kids, students, school teachers (home, public and university profs), doctors, dentists and bus drivers. I think we should include postal carriers, newspaper delivery folks, fireman, cab drivers, pilots and police officers. Let's not forget nurses, janitors, mechanics, plumbers, electricians and drive-thru window workers. See, in my way of thinking these are the people that we all come in contact with every day and if they do their job well, they truly do make our lives better. They make the kinds of contributions to our lives and our societies that really matter.

These are the people that are actually under-appreciated in our culture and the very people that should be getting the great big THANK YOUs for a job well done. Yes, I think these are the people that deserve attention far and above total strangers that simply pretend for a living.



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New Stuff, Annoying Stuff

So, I started a new blog today. You can see it here.

Since store posts here seem to go unnoticed (for the most part) I figured I'd just go ahead and start a new blog where I can brag about my work. I love what I do and since at least a few people shop there every month, I guess someone else does too.

I put a boatload of work into new designs this week so I'll be posting about that later, over there. Over here, I have a few things to say about the stupid self-indulgent recent award show they had on tv, but that will have to wait till later since I have 49 trillion things to do today.


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Monday, February 23, 2009

Divine Timing - Divine Orchestration

The way God works things out for His people never ceases to amaze me.

When Kevin had to take 5 weeks off work due to his emergency appendectomy at the beginning of the year, we knew it would be tight with him going on short term disability pay. We are one of those families that literally lives paycheck to paycheck, so any kind of decrease is very noticable in the budget. The short term dis. pay was an extreme decrease from the norm, but God's people did what God's people do and stepped up to help us make ends meet.

When Kev returned to work after his time off, he returned in the middle of a pay period. The disability payments stopped at that time, but we knew that he'd only get a 1 week paycheck instead of a full check. Oddly enough, I wasn't really worried about it, because I knew God would work it out somehow. This was one the rare times that I really haven't been worried about making ends meet, and I have to say it's a pretty great feeling.

The same day Kev received his 1 week check, I received my check from the store for December sales. With the exchange rate the amount my check was, turned out to be exactly right down to the last dollar, what we were short with Kev's one week check.

Only God can orchestrate things like this.



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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rumors of a warm spell, going outdoors without boots, flowers growing...

I'm really tired of winter. I love the way the snow looks when it falls, and I love the way it looks when it's covering everything in a sparkly blanket of white. But... one can only stand so much white stuff for so long, before you desperately need a BOLD splash of SPRING COLOR.

So, for the last few days I've been playing florist, sort of. These are all new since I sent out the last store e-flyer, so they didn't make it in (but they will next week). Here's a special Blog Reader Sneak Peek at what's going on in my flower garden! I just may plant a few more very soon...



Black Eyed SusansTulip Bouquet
Gerber DaisiesFresh Lilac



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Calvin500 on the Puritan Board

For whatever reason, I don't usually receive much feedback on my designs at the store. Contrary to the norm, today a friend told me that he saw a thread at The Puritan Board about one my newest designs, Calvin500.

I'm not registered there so I just want to take this opportunity to thank the customer for his nice comments. I'm really glad the order arrived so quickly and that he is happy with his purchase.

The Calvin500 is on my list for Kev and I as well, as soon as that tax refund arrives. Kev prefers the gold, while I like the black and white Calvin. Hmm... maybe my pastor needs one too?
:-)



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Friday, February 20, 2009

The Musical Evolution of Me

Like many people, music has always been a big part of my life, for as long as I can remember. I remember the big console stereo mom had in the living room. Turntable, 8 track player and album rack inside, filled with her albums. There was Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Simon and Garfunkle, Elvis, Roger Miller (oh like you don't remember all the words to You Can't Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd??), and so many others.




Later, my sister's albums and 8 tracks found their way into the rack as well, and among them were Blue Oyster Cult, James Taylor, Steve Miller Band, Alice Cooper and Aerosmith. It was quite the mix of music, to be sure.

95 on your AM dial... which is good since you don't have an FM dial!From my earliest memory, I listened to music every night. I didn't really have much of a choice since I shared a room with my sister, and she had her high-tech radio tuned to KJR Seattle, channel 95. I cannot say that, or even type it, without saying it the way I'd heard it sing-song/station id jingle style, for so many years. This was back in the day where AM radio stations were cool, and I thought if my mom would just put that KJR yellow ball sticker on our car, we'd really be something. I'm not sure what we were going to be, but I was sure all the coolest people had the KJR yellow ball sticker on their car. You'll only get that if you are a.) anywhere near the same age as me or older and b.) grew up in the greater Seattle area.

Over the next few years I guess I tried to figure out what kind of music I really liked. If we were in the car the station was tuned to country western. If we were at home (and mom wasn't) it was rock 'n roll on KJR. Eventually, as I got a little older I drifted toward the rock and roll (Fleetwood Mac was my favorite right through junior high) and even a little pop/dance music in my early teens. My first real job was at the only real "disco" (I know, isn't that freaky?) in town and so I really began to enjoy dance music since I heard it every night at work. Not long after that, someone intriduced me to Journey, then Rush, and before long (and I still don't have a clue how in the world this happened) I discovered metal, and loved it. I know, you're shocked that a homeschool mom is a former metal-head. Well it's true. I think it was probably Roger Miller's fault somehow. In any case, I digress.

For many years I was into metal, but then in my late 20s that began to bore me and I sort of drifted back to what was already being classified as classic rock - the stuff I grew up with. I drifted back there and have pretty much stayed there for the last 10 years or so, and even though I am a Christian, there are very FEW Christian artists I really like. The exception would be Steve Camp (who's music I listen to quite often). In addition to that, I discovered in that time frame that I really love the sound of Celtic music. Iona has been a favorite for many years.

Then, just a few months ago my friend James White introduced me to the music of Tim Janis. If you don't know who he is or what he does, you've been missing out, BIG TIME. His music is quite likely the most beautiful, inspiring, uplifting music I have ever heard. Another friend hearing his music for the first time recently said "wow man, this music makes me feel like I can fly over mountains". It does, too. I recently received an incredible gift of EIGHT Tim Janis cds, and could barely wait till I got home to open the box. I've already listened to the first four of them (and LOVED every second of every one of them) and will make every effort to listen to the other 4 tomorrow.

I highly and heartily and happily recommend to you, the music of Tim Janis. You too, will want to soar over mountains.





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Here's Your Sign - Obama

Exercise your right to freedom of speech, for those who cannot yet speak for themselves. Just say NO to an American Obamanation!
I'm really glad Oklahoma City motorist Chip Harrison got his "Abort Obama Not the Unborn" sign back, after what he went through.

I was going to offer him a free Obamanation Yard Sign if he hadn't.




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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Teen Pregnancy and the Christian Family

UPDATED: Dr. Albert Mohler weighs in on this issue and reminds parents and teenagers that without strong support and encouragement, that indeed it is very unrealistic just as I've said here, that teenagers will remain abstinent.
------------------------------------

I know I've written about this before, but here I go again. It's important, it matters, and its something that many Christian parents will face, and need to know they're not alone with. Its also something weighing heavy on my heart, so it's time to just lay it out there. This will be longer than my usual blog post. Just a warning.

Today I clicked a link from a link and wound up at a site that had a very brief review of Bristol Palin's recent interview. Since I'm on dial up, loading the interview itself has proven to be next to impossible, so I can only comment on what the review says. So, here we go:



"In her first interview since the birth of her son Tripp, 18-year-old Bristol Palin says she thinks everyone should practice abstinence, but admits the practice is unrealistic."

I agree, 10,000%. This may surprise someone, but we're dealing with what's realistic compared to what's idealistic. The practice of abstinence requires a lot of things. It requires strong conviction, it requires being surrounded by friends and family that support you in this personal conviction, and it requires purposely and intentionally avoiding situations where throwing those convictions out the window and giving in to the temptations of the flesh. So the truth is, the practice IS actually incredibly unrealistic for most people, since most people don't fall into the above category. It's not unrealistic for Christian people, but even Christians can and do fall into this kind of sin.

With that said however, saying that it's unrealistic is not making excuses for this kind of sin. It may be unrealistic and it may be difficult for a lot of people, but it's certainly not impossible and it's certainly still the Biblical way. Just the same as avoiding lustful thoughts, or moments of anger or jealousy, lies or gossip or what have you may also be rather unrealistic (since we all do one or more of those quite frequently), they're still wrong and we still need God's grace which brings personal conviction, to avoid them. Without that, we never will.

The review of the interview goes on to say:



"[Sex] is more and more accepted among kids my age."

We all know she's right. We may not like it, but we know she's right. Even 25 years ago sex was already more accepted in kids of that age, than it was in the day of their parents. It's been a steady decline for several generations, it didn't just happen overnight. Not only has sex become more and more accepted among kids her age, so has homosexuality and abortion, and vulgarity and profanity and divorce and pretty much every other social maladay you can name. We live in a society where good and moral is outdated, old fashioned and only for those boring, old, stuffy, prudish Bible-thumping wackos. We live in a culture where "if it feels good, do it" is the mantra of the day and it's being lived out in full bloom, everywhere you look. Movies, tv, video games, songs, schools, the workplace, and everywhere else people are. The question is simply this: Does being "accepted" make it right? For someone with a Biblical worldview, the answer is quite often NO (depending on what it is that is being accepted in culture). For someone without a Biblical worldview, it's a perfectly OKAY and "normal" thing to simply accept what society accepts. This shouldn't shock anyone, and it certainly shouldn't surprise Christians since we were exactly like that, at one time.

More from the review:



"The young mother, who is engaged to the baby's father, Levi Johnston, admitted that she wished she had waited to have children, but said she has no regrets. "Of course, I wish it would happen in like 10 years so I could have a job and education and my own house... But he brings so much joy. I don't regret it at all."

I remembering hearing someone say once that they had no regrets about decisions they'd made in life, even when those decisions turned out to be disasterous. Why? Well, their reasoning was that it was because of those decisions that they'd learned the lessons they'd learned, grew into who they were now, and what shaped their character. At the time, that made sense to me. However, I'm pretty sure most folks can see the faulty reasoning in this. In a way, all that is, is a way to gloss over the foolishness and make excuses for poor choices. It makes the person feel better about themselves, never having to own their poor decisions or be accountable for them. Taking this approach to life means you never have to say "that was wrong, and I should have never done that". That sounds pretty appealing to most people, since most people do not like to admit they've done anything wrong.

I am someone who has made far more mistakes and rotten decisions than I honestly care to think about. While those mistakes have in fact been a part of what shapes my character today, I do in fact regret the poor choices to begin with. To regret simply means to have a sense of sorrow or remorse for doing or saying something that you know you shouldn't have. It's important to realize that if someone does not have a Biblical worldview, they're not going to feel sorrow or remorse for doing something that the Bible clearly says is wrong. When I was unsaved, I certainly didn't (in most cases) feel remorseful whenever I sinned, and neither does anyone else. The only time I really regretted anything was if someone I knew was hurt as a result of something I said or did. I had what is known as a horizontal remorse (feeling sorry for self, more than anything else) instead of a vertical remorse, feeling sorrow for sinning against God. God didn't figure into my thoughts for the most part, it was all about me - so it's reasonable to understand why there wasn't much regret, or remorse for poor choices or foolish actions.

I do find it interesting however that Bristol Palin says she wishes she would have waited, because that does indicate at least some amount of disappointment in her decision. I'm sure her son does indeed bring her great joy as she is reported as saying.

The last part of the review really stood out to me, as a mother:



"When Sarah entered the interview, she was asked about her unwed daughter having a baby, the former GOP VP hopeful simply said, "Not the most ideal situation, certainly you make the most of it."

I don't know Sarah Palin personally but from all I've read about her, she does appear to have a working understanding and acceptance of the teachings of Scripture. From all I know of her, she does have a Biblical worldview, so her statement makes perfect sense to me.

She is a mother, and like any good mother wants the very best for her children. Best education, best spouse, best job, best of the best of whatever comes their way. We all want the very best for our kids, because we love them with all our hearts. Like any realistic mom however, she also knows that not all of the choices her kids make (or at the very least in Bristol's case) are choices she would hope that they make. No, an unwed teen pregnancy is not the ideal situation at all. Not for the mom, the dad or the baby. The ideal situation is when baby comes after a marriage, where the mother and father have made that honorable commitment to the relationship in front of God, friends and family. A baby born into that kind of relationship is the ideal situation to be sure. A more realistic scenario however, and unfortunately for pretty much everyone concerned, is that is NOT how countless numbers of babies come into the world. In my own family I can count quite a few folks that did not come into the world that way. Even among the married parents I know both in my family and wider circle of friends and aquaintances, not all the babies born were born into an ideal situation, to be sure.

So how does a Christian mother react when her teenage, unwed daughter comes to her and says "mom, I'm pregnant"? That question is hotly debated by a lot of Christians, and I can guarantee you many of them have never actually had their unwed teenage daughter come to them with this statement. It's one thing to know what you think you should say and how you should react, but it's another thing entirely to have been there and gone through it.

Should she react by getting angry and firing off a lecture about keeping herself pure before marriage? Should she rail on the girl and make her feel like complete garbage for giving into a temptation that billions of people struggle with? Should she pick now, this very moment to pile on the shame on her girl for what she did? No, she should do none of that, as far as I'm concerned. If this girl was raised in Christian home, she already knows how her parents feel about this and what the Bible says about it, the time for a lecture is not now, it's too late for that. Likewise, if she was raised in a Christian home, hopefully the parents understand grace enough to give some of that back when their girl needs it. While being honest about how it's not the way the Lord would have it, is good, ripping the girl up, serves no purpose whatsoever.

We (mothers especially) need to remember (and this is critical) that the faith we raised our girls with is OUR faith. It's not their faith by proxy and until or unless the Lord does the same work of grace in their hearts that He did in ours, we cannot expect our girls to make the same choices that we would, or would hope they would. They are living their own lives according to what they've decided is good and right, and while we may not agree with that, there really isn't much we can do about it except for remind them often, that there is a better way, and continually pray for them. We cannot make them live Christian lives or think Christian thoughts. We need to remember that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. By taking that example of unconditional love, this is the time we need to extend that to our girls without reservation. It's also one of the hardest times to do that, when your mother's heart is breaking because you wanted the very best for them, and you know this unplanned pregnancy isn't it.

So while some may criticize Sarah Palin for saying they're "making the most of it" I think she's understood something that many others may not have, and that is that balance of grace and truth. This is a difficult situation for any Christian parent to deal with since we obviously raise our kids with different values than what the society at large says is okay, but there's a lot of choices they'll make that we just have to deal with. We can be thankful she didn't chose to abort the baby. She certainly could have and never even told you she was pregnant. We can be thankful that regardless of the circumstances, God was pleased to bring a new life into our family. We can take this opportunity to support her as a family, and be there for her no matter what. We can remember that we all make choices that carry consequences with them, and how imperfect each one of us, truly is.

Now for something many of my readers here do not know about me. I have been in this situation myself, as a teenager. My mom loved me and stood by me even though she made it perfectly clear how wrong it was for me to have made the choice I did to end up pregnant in the first place. She was absolutely right. While very much like Bristol Palin I'd wished I waited, unlike Bristol, I also did regret it but not because I had a Biblical worldview. I never sorrowed over the life of my precious baby because even as an unbeliever myself I knew that no life comes to be, without God making it so. Like Bristol Palin, my baby also brought me great joy (and she caused me to grow up really fast) and she still does to this very day, 26 years later. But I did regret the choices I made as an unmarried teenager, for a variety of reasons which include the fact that I brought her into a world with only one parent active and present in her life, and not much stability as far as a financial foundation goes. Fact of the matter is, my mom raised me to know better and I made my own choices against what she taught me, and they were the wrong ones.

I have also been in this situation as a Christian mother. Twice, in fact. My (adult) girls have all been raised to know what the Bible says and what I believe, but at some point they strike out on their own and make their own choices based on their own convictions. Ideally, those choices would be the ones they were raised with and what the Scriptures say (and in my own family this IS often the case, and I'm thankful for that), but that's not the realistic picture in all cases, with many Christian families. With my first grand-daughter my heart felt torn over the choices my daughter made, but joy over the fact that this brand new little person was coming to be a part of our family. I love my grand daughter with all my heart, and I am overjoyed she's a part of our family. Moments after she arrived in this world I kissed her, told her how much she is loved, and said a prayer for her, and her parents. Then I cried like a baby.

With my second grand child, the initial reaction when I heard the news was exactly the same. A torn heart. That precious little person is due to arrive in April, and we'll hold him (or her) and love him and kiss his precious little face and thank the Lord for the gift of his life, regardless of the circumstances that brought him into the world. We will also continue to love our daughters unconditionally, despite the choices they make that are not the choices we know they should make. I've heard older parents say for many years "we can't live their lives for them" of their children, and as I've become the parent of three adult children, I understand that sentiment a little better all the time.

I've read one critique of Sarah Palin "parading" her unwed daughter around, and found that rather harsh. It's not as if she's putting her up on a pedestal and setting her up as an example for all teenage girls. I've yet to see or hear her do anything like that at all. What I have seen and heard, is Sarah Palin showing grace and and love to her daughter and grandson, even though she's been quite vocal about how she obviously disagrees with the choice her daughter made. I think it's a lot easier to criticize a mother for this if you've never been in the position Sarah Palin is now in, and it's a lot easier to be compassionate and understanding if you have been through what she's dealing with.

I know there are folks that disagree with my approach to this, and that's fine. Some believe you need to pile on heaps of shame, humiliation and criticism on the young, unmarried girl. I honestly don't see what purpose this would serve, since she already knows what her Christian parents think when it comes to this subject. I can also see how doing that would do more harm than good, and cause a great deal of alienation, at a time when your girl needs her parents the most.

For me it's pretty simple, you love your girl through it, and keep on balancing grace and truth. To do that, and to do it well, you rely on the Lord and trust that He'll give you the right words to say at the right time.


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reflections at zazzle too!



Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy 500, John Calvin

On February 20th this year, I celebrate the 4th anniversary of my store's grand opening. What started out as a very small (just a handful of designs), very obscure store, has turned into a much larger (over 12,000 products in store) but still rather obscure store. We're "family friendly" and Christian and even more exclusive, we're Calvinistic Christians. Not only is it a niche shop, it's a niche in a niche, in a niche, which makes it pretty easy to go unnoticed. It's not that Calvinists don't spend money shopping online, it's just that they tend to spend it buying far more books than they ever do in my store. I am thankful however for all the ones who do shop at Reflections. More than a few times those purchases have helped us to keep the lights on, books for school and that sort of thing. My customers are a blessing to my entire family.

Far more important than my little store however, is another anniversary that most Calvinists are well aware of. This year marks the 500th birthday of one of the most brilliant thinkers in modern history, let alone church history. That man is of course, John Calvin.

While many have their own private disagreements with what Calvin taught on this, or what his position was on that, it's impossible to logically and/or intelligently argue the fact that what he contributed to the Christian church has not only proven the test of time but has stirred up a hunger and a thirst for deeper knowledge of the Scriptures and a greater understanding of God, by countless numbers of Christians over this 500 year span. God did a pretty incredible thing in raising up John Calvin in his time, to do what he did in his very short life as a Christian. I was blessed today by listening to two lectures, The Life of John Calvin and The Theology of John Calvin given by David Calhoun. I would highly recommend these lectures to anyone.

In honor of the contribution and the astounding impact this French theologian has made to the Christian community worldwide, I decided I'd like to create something very special. So, without further fanfare, I give you Calvin500 - now available at Reflections Apparel and Gifts, in a wide variety of t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies and giftware:


Celebrate noted theologian John Calvin's 500th birthday this year in style.  Commemorative Calvin500 t-shirts and gifts for all ages.





Great Christian t-shirts and gift ideas for the whole family
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Today is the Day

Last night I got a message that my 11 yr old daughter and my sister in law happened by a car accident that had just occured. They didn't witness the accident (thankfully) but they arrived at the intersection just seconds after it happened, and before the emergency vehicles arrived. From what my sister in law told me, 3 boys were on the side of the road and one decided to cross. When he did he was struck by a car, and knocked a good distance from where he was. By the time my sister in law arrived on the scene (she was on her way home, just around the corner), the boy had just been hit and was laying in the street, face down, suffering severe convulsions, with his two friends standing over him, in shock. She pulled over to the side of the road and grabbed a blanket out of her car and covered him up. She stayed with him, rubbing his arm and making every effort to comfort him until the paramedics arrived.

Thankfully, my daughter stayed in the car and did not see the full scene as my sister in law described to me (I've left some things out, it is way too sad to include them), because call me an overprotective mom if you like, but some things people are better off, without ever seeing in this lifetime. My sister in law downplayed the situation to my daughter when she got back into the car, for the simple purpose of not upsetting her more than need be. She'd already seen the boy in the street so she knew he was in trouble, she didn't need to know any more than that. I tried to locate any kind of news report on the status of the boy, but so far I've been unable to find anything. My heart goes out to his family, and his friends who saw it happen, and the man who hit him. I hope he makes it and I hope his brush with death causes him to think deeply about eternal things.

This accident, and several folks I know who have recently said goodbye (at funerals) to a young person, brings the reality home once again, that this life is truly but a vapor as James says, and what we do with it while we're here makes an eternal difference. Not one of us knows what tomorrow might bring. Someone could be struck down by a vehicle, or receive a terminal diagnosis at a routine doctor visit. It doesn't just happen to other people (as some go through life with this invincable attitude), it happens to us all. It happens to the young husband and father with a promising career. It happens to the young bride on her way to work. It happens to the busy mom, the executive dad, the actively retired grandparents and everyone else. Death comes to us all, there is just no way around it.

When it happens close to home, it's a reminder of the urgency to share the gospel of grace, as much as humanly possible. We have to be teaching this truth to our kids from the time they are old enough to understand basic language skills. We have to share the gospel with extended family, friends, co-workers, schoolmates and anyone else we come in contact with. No, it's not always easy and yes it's quite often uncomfortable and awkard to even bring it up with many people. Yet, their very eternity depends on whether or not they hear and believe the truth. This is not 1962 where just about everyone growing up in North America went to church on Sunday and heard the gospel message whether they liked it or not. This is an entirely new generation of young people that in many cases have never once been inside a church, never owned a Bible, have no idea who Jesus really was, or what He taught. This is a people group that came out of the degraded family values era, complete with divorce, broken and dysfunctional homes, an increase in crime and violence and vulgarity in every entertainment avenue, pro-abortion, anti-God, uber-liberalism. This is a people group that cried so hard and so loud to be free from the shackles of anything conservative and moral, that they've found themselves sitting happily and most assuredly deceived into oblivion. I'm no history expert, but from what I do know of American and Canadian history, North Americans have never really seen a generation of people like this that are so horrendously and happily ignorant of basic Christian teaching.

Indeed we do have a mission field right here at home. In most cases, probably even closer to home, and/or IN our homes, than we're even comfortable admitting. It's a really good time to sharpen our evangelism approach, and make every effort God affords us to share the good news of the gospel with anyone that will listen.



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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Obligatory Valentine's Day Post

w00t, lumpy nasty pork fat, my fave!! (This is a repost from a repost from last year and the year before that, slightly revised - but it's timely every year. I only hope I don't get a can of pork & beans as a gift this year.)

Once upon a time in the land of pagan lore, every year on February 13th the men would take large clubs and perform fertility rituals. They would beat the ground to please the pagan gods (although I'm not sure why a bunch of men clubbing the dirt pleased the pagan gods, but pagan gods generally have some kind of twisted demands, don't they?), in hopes of being rewarded with a bountiful crop. Yay, bountiful crops rock.

They would then turn on their women and beat the tar out of them (not sure if they used the same clubs, but whatever), for the same purpose - in hopes of pleasing some lunatic god into rewarding them with large families. Yay, big families!

On February 14th, in a lame attempt to get back into the good graces of the bloody stump formerly know as "the wife", they'd bring her gifts and delicacies and probably some other junk that no one cares about, like a case of pork and beans, a ratchet set and/or the head of a one eyed goat. Apparently she'd be totally okay with the fact that he beat the snot out of her the day before (after all, she worshipped the same twisted, sadistic gods he did) and she'd receive the goodies and all would be peachy keen in pagan land. Yay, happy endings!

Thus... your history of Valentine's Day, more accurately known as

HAPPY BEAT YOUR WIFE WITH A STICK, DAY

I'm just waiting for tomorrow when all the boxed chocolates go on sale for a whopping 75% off. I LOVE February 15th.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Useless Distractions

Have you ever really considered how much there is you don't know? I know that sounds like a strange question, since I'm not really sure how many rational people sit around pondering all the things they know nothing about. If you did, you'd end up sitting there for a very long time.

What I find amazing though, in our digital age, is just how fast you can learn things about something that 5 minutes ago, you knew absolutely nothing about.

In school this week, the kids had a science lesson to become "instant experts" on a sea animal. They were to pick their animal and then after doing research, fill out a profile on the animal. The profile was to include a rather comprehension physical description, scientific name, and various habitat facts. So, after they each picked the animal that they wanted to profile, I ran a google search and within minutes they were each writing down bits of information on their animals. Since they're not permitted yet to use the internet, I did the google search for them and sort of walked them through what google does and how it lists all the pages on the internet that pertain to what you're searching for. While I did the first part of the "research" for them, they were in charge of reading what I did find and using it in the right way. Within just minutes, Samuel was pronouncing the scientific name of the Great White Shark and Rachel was quite surprised to learn just how many kinds of dolphins there are. She commented "this is so cool, I love this stuff!" She was referring to the instant access to so much information. She's going to be a research junkie like her mom, that much is obvious.

I found it rather interesting that this would come up on the same day I watched this video. If you haven't see this presentation that James White gave at the Sola conference, I highly recommend you watch it. In that presentation he commented on how much information we have available to us today (as Christians, and especially pertaining to Biblical languages, information on the Scriptures, church history, etc.), and how little we actually utilize it. If you stop and think about how much the average Christian (and this certainly includes myself as well) knows about the Christian faith and doctrine, it's sort of a dismal picture. Especially in light of how much information is available, and just sitting there un-accessed.

I guess most of us can chalk that up to being busy. Always busy, always distracted. Jobs, school, homework, families, housework, church activities, sports, tv, games, whatever. We've always got something going on that occupies our time, from the time we get up till the time we go to bed. I suppose it would be fair to say that some of that occupation is legitimate and an honorable thing to spending time on, while a good majority of it is truly useless in the long run, but nevertheless entertaining and enjoyable. I think of my own kids and realize if they knew half as much about the faith as they know about Banjo Kazooey, they'd be pretty Bible smart kids. I can say the same for myself as well, and use the characters in 24 as the example. I'm sure lots of folks can think of something in their own life that they know more about, than they know their Bibles, or Christian doctrine.

The irony of this is, is that it doesn't seem to matter how many times I hear a convicting message like this and make an effort to do something about it, something always seems to pop up to take the place of whatever it was I've eliminated from my daily distractions. Indeed it's an ongoing battle to balance the useless yet entertaining fluff (it's fine, in it's place) with the eternal treasures of the Christian faith.

One way I've found that really helps, is to limit my own tv watching. I know there are lots of really interesting things on the tv (and a lot of really useless and harmful junk), but I have been limiting myself for several years now on what and how much I will watch. During the regular prime time television season there are six shows that I normally watch. That may not sound like much to some people, but even when I figure out how much time that actually is sitting in front of the tv, it seems like too much. I like it when summer rolls around because then I hardly watch any tv at all.

Another useful help, as much as I really dislike it, is the fact that I'm on dial up internet. If I had a normal connection like a real person, I'm fairly convinced I'd be FAR more distracted than I even am now. So indeed there is a blessing to the whole idea of not being able to access all the electronic fun online, that most other folks can just click away to. I don't have a cell phone, a blackberry, a laptop to take with me wherever I go, or any of those other tech toys, but if I did I'm sure I'd be even more distracted than I already am.

Being in the word and knowing how to give an answer for the hope that you have, is a Christian discipline that takes work and takes intentional time invested into it. I've often heard folks say that if Christians knew as much about their own faith as Mulsims do, or Mormons do, then we'd be a force to be reckoned with. I'd like to think that statement isn't true, but I'm afraid it probably is.

I don't want it to be true of me or my kids, so it's a daily thing to make it not so.



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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Should Christians Talk about Love and Sex?

Like pretty much everyone else these days over the age of 10, I get lots of email. Even with all the spam filters and that sort of thing, I still manage to get a bunch of email that I'll never read. 99% of the time I just delete it and/or add it to the spam list and then delete it. Regardless, it still comes just about every day.

I got one like this today, with a real catchy subject line:

"Should Christians Talk about Love and Sex?"

I suppose it's the die-hard snark in me but my first thought was "no, we should never speak of such things, ever, under any circumstances!" I know, completely sarcastic answer to a rather ridiculously obvious question.

It's not that Christians shouldn't talk about such things, it's that in our day the line of propriety has been so dreadfully blurred and trampled on and generally disrespected even by those in the office of pastor, I think there are a lot of folks left wondering what context is the right context.

For me, it's a really simple answer. Men should discuss these things with other men, in a private one-on-one setting, and women should do the same. Relationship issues and intimacy issues are extremely personal, and they should be discussed if the need arises, but they should be discussed privately and with confidence and complete confidentiality. Brothers should be able to have another brother to talk to, and likewise for sisters.

I know there are lots of people who think this is an outdated and prudish approach to these topics, and they are more than welcome to have all the opinions they like on this and any other subject. I think this is the smart way, the Biblical way, and the healthy way to not only discuss such things but get counsel and wise advice for questions and concerns that come up in the natural course of relationships. The biggest problem in our day seems to be loud-mouth pastors running all over the stage at churches and conferences, making shocking statements, and opening the evening with all kinds of private matters being used for public address. In the minds of many younger, impressionable people the message they're sending is essentially saying "if this pastor can do this, and people LIKE IT, then it must be okay".

Nope, it's not okay, it's a way to generate a lot of attention and a lot of controversy. We all know sex sells, and sadly it even sells in the church.

So in conclusion the answer is yes, we should talk about these things because they matter. However, there is a time, and a place, and a way to do that, and what's being promoted within the evangelical popularity circles, is the wrong way.

That's what I think. Your mileage may vary.


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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Home Invasion: Not for the Faint of Heart

UPDATE BELOW

We had quite the adventure in our house last night. Just as I was shutting down some programs on my computer to head off to bed, Kev says "no WAY, there's a bat in the house!" I turned around to look and in that 5 seconds he was already curled up into the fetal position on the couch, pointing out to the enclosed porch between the game room and kitchen.

Of course in my mind I immediately think of several reasonable possibilities to counter poor Kevin's delusions, because a BAT IN MY HOUSE is simply out of the question. First I think no, it's one of those great big moths we often get here (forget the fact that we never have them until July - we never have BATS until then either!), and the shadows he's seeing flying around the light in the other room are from that big ole harmless moth. That would have been a lovely explanation. Then I saw it too, and realized "moth" was out of the question. So then I think "bird!". Yes indeed, a bird in the house would be completely acceptable and reasonable, since we have them in the garage year round, and the kids often leave the garage door open. A bird in the house is fun, you get to take pictures and then catch him and let him outside. Then you all get to talk about how lovely birds are, and wonderfully and beautifully created. Alas, it was not to be - that little beast with flapping leathery wings and fangs as long as my arm flying around the light in the other room was definitely not a bird.

FINE, I had to accept the fact that this was indeed a bat. In my house. IN FEBRUARY. All of these thoughts went through my head in about 60 seconds. The very next thought was "where is my badminton racket!?" OH YES, GAME ON!

creepy stuff you don't want to see in your houseEventually the bat made his way upstairs, and Kev went to get the racket bag. Each of us heavily armed, we slowly made our way upstairs to find the spooky creature. As I've told Kev, there's a reason all the creepiest of the old scary movies feature THIS house (long, ornate, wooden stair case, with the sound of wind whistling through the cracks in the house, wallpapered walls, etc.), and as we made our way up the stairs (trying hard not to panic/laugh/freak out all at the same time) I was sure I could hear pipe organ music. I half expected Boris Karloff to come around the corner at any moment.

It took Kev a long time to get up his nerve to whack the bat, once we found it. We were ready for an impromptu game of BATminton upstairs, but thankfully we didn't have to do that. The vile little beast was hanging off the drapes at the top of the stairs. Eventually, after much prompting and pep talks telling Kev to pretend he was Jack Bauer taking down a terrorist and me giggling nervously, clutching my own racket from the saftey of the bathroom... he made his way to the drapes. BOOM! And the bat was down. I immediately scooped him into a bag along with my racket and relocated him to the deck, while Kevin recovered from his almost-heart attack and adrenaline rush that could have prompted him to run a few miles.

The biggest problem with having a bat in the house (aside from the blind panic he'll cause perfectly rational, mature adults) is that he might have rabies. We don't know if he came in through the attic and spent time upstairs around the sleeping kids, or if he came in through the basement and never went anywhere near the kids. Its the unknowing that is the problem. So, I called the hospital at 1:15 am (it took us forever to finally bag him and get him out of the house) and they put me in touch with the emergency after hours folks for the local health unit. By 2am I finally got a call back by a nice lady who took down all the details. Someone would be calling by 9am to make arraingments to come pick up the bat and send him off for rabies testing.

By the time all was said and done, it was 3am and Kev and I were both half-convinced every little sound was another bat. That's quite a creepy feeling, I'll tell you! I reminded Kevin that it's a REALLY good time to once again discuss moving out of this old Bela Lugosi movie set, and into a real house in town. At 3am he was all for it, and went further to suggest a nice little sealed room where nice attendants bring your meals on shiney trays, three times a day.

The health unit people just called, and they'll be along smartly to pick up the bat. They requested I write down the names, DOBs and weight of each kid potentially exposed, for vaccination information should it be needed. Lets all hope BIG TIME that the bat was not rabid, and the kids do not have to go through that miserable procedure. We should know more by mid-week.

Kev's last comment around 3am was along the lines of "of all the reasons we miss church in the winter..." I'm still shaking off the creepies, and only half awake at 9:30. Oh yes, it is HIGH TIME to relocate off the movie set, and into a real, bat-free house, in town.

UPDATE:

The Bat Man called this morning. The bat tested negative for rabies. WHEW.




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Monday, February 9, 2009

The Big Idea of a Focused Life

I know I've likely expressed this before here on the blog, but as a mother and a teacher I reserve the right to repeat myself, and to do it often.

There are many benefits and blessings in homeschooling. One of those just so happens to be the Bible course the kids do, and the unexpected blessing is not what they're learning (although it's truly a great course) but the benefits I get out of it.

This week we're going over the outline of Ecclesiastes. Before we start the study in the book we always go over the outline which includes the following sections:

Author, Date of Writing, Purpose of the Book, Outline of the Book, and The Big Idea. I really like the Big Idea section because it's written in a way that is usually a springboard for further discussion. In today's Big Idea it starts out this way:

"Ecclesiastes is a philosophical book that preaches about the emptiness of life when we do not fear God and serve him."

It goes on to give general contrasts between a life lived for self and how that impacts people around you, and a life lived for God, and likewise how that also affects people around you. What we usually do is use the general examples the Big Idea section gives and then insert real life examples from various sources such as stories we've seen in the news, or people we know personally. In today's example it was fairly easy to do this, since there have been more than a few cases in the news recently about someone who lived like a hermit while stowing away ludicrous amounts of cash their whole lives. At the end of life's journey, these are truly empty lives lived purely for self, where they could have been fantastic lives lived for the glory of God and doing amazingly gracious things for the people of God. While they were not lives lived without focus, the focus was in the wrong place all along, and once they're gone there is quite literally nothing to show for it except a few comments along the lines of "wow, that's really sad".

I suppose it's only normal and natural that the older I get the more I think about my own mortality and what kind of example I'm setting for those who will look at my life once I'm gone. In my case I've actually had to think about it quite a bit sooner than maybe other moms my age, after dealing with becoming a widow at 29. The older I get though, the more I do think about what kind of impression I will leave and if people will say "now there was a self-centered person" or if they'll say "she lived for the Lord". Obviously as a Christian I certainly hope they will say the latter, but some days I'm pretty convinced it might be the former. When all is said and done, I definitely want my life to be remembered by those that knew me, as a life with God-centered focus and one that will be a good example for others to follow. Even typing that out gives me a sort of chilled feeling, since that's a HUGE goal to aim for, and I know myself well enough to know that I fail miserably in tons of ways, every single day.

Still, it's my goal and by His grace I'll keep aiming for it, no matter how gigantic it seems to be.



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Saturday, February 7, 2009

where did CAPS go?

Okay so... not to be nit-picky or single anyone out, or point fingers or sit in judgement or anything like that, BUT...

Am I the only one that is driven up a wall by the commonplace use of lowercase letters for just about everything these days?

it doesn't seem to matter if the person is writing about god or aunt annie or texas or a day of the week, they just refuse to cap anything.

Like that. It REALLY gets on my nerves, and I can't even figure out why. Maybe I'm the only one, and I just need to get on board with the tidal wave of lowercasers.


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Saturday Stuff

I used to say that I could pretty much post anything on a Saturday, and it would go unnoticed because no one reads the blog on a Saturday. That was before I posted something sorta controversial (I can't even remember what it was) and got a zillion comments before I even knew anyone was reading. Just goes to show you, right when you think you have something figured out, you realize you didn't know as much about it as you thought you did. Moving right along... here are just a few things in mind today:

Today is the first day it's been THIS far above the freezing mark, since the week after Christmas. The high today is 45F and we're losing lots of snow already. YAY! I'm glad to see it go. Now of course I realize there's more winter left, but I'm taking this blessing of a little break and going to enjoy it VERY much.

The VisitorI watched a really good movie last night called The Visitor. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. The product description at amazon reads this way:

Hailed as "one of the year's most intriguing dramas" (Claudia Puig, USA TODAY), The Visitor stars Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under) in a perfect performance (Lisa Schwarzbaum, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY) as Walter, a disaffected college professor who has been drifting aimlessly through his life. When, in a chance encounter on a trip into New York, Walter discovers a couple has taken up residence in his apartment in the city, he develops an unexpected and profound connection to them that will change his life forever. As challenges arise for his tenants, Walter finds himself compelled to help his new friends, and rediscovers a passion he thought he had lost long ago. The year's first genuine must-see film" (Ann Hornaday, THE WASHINGTON POST) about rediscovering life's rhythms in the most unexpected places

I find inspiration for new t-shirt designs in the strangest places. Dreams, movies, something someone said, and even once in a bowl of jellybeans. Yep, it's true. Here's what popped into my head last night, after considering one of the most comforting verses in all of Scripture, Philippians 1:6:

Consider this: no matter where you are right now, no matter how you react to situations, no matter your failures or your little victories, God is quite literally not done with you yet. Indeed He will continue to grow you up and turn you into the person He has called you to be. This is not an excuse to say "well God's not done with me yet!" but it is encouragement to remember that there is still yet work to be done. You and I are in fact, Unfinished Business.

All by myself (with a minimal amount of aid from google, my faithful assistant), I took my oven apart yesterday, removed what was left of the bake element that exploded recently, took the partial element to the hardware store and bought a new one. I came home, installed it, then put my oven back together. In honor of this momentus occasion, we had pizza for dinner.

Okay that probably doesn't sound like much of a big deal to most people, but it's pretty monumental stuff for me for one reason: I never, ever (ever!) attempt to fix anything electrical. Anything electrical in disrepair gives me the major willies. However, when I read on google how easy it really is to do this and do it correctly, I knew I could do it, and I did. The funny part of the Great Oven Adventure story, is that when I arrived at the hardware store, the first associate to ask me if I needed help locating anything, was one of my elders! I didn't even know he worked there. Even funnier, is that he told me 2 other men in my church also work there. Now just how handy is that?

And with that, it is now time to conquer Mt. Unfolded Laundry. I hope you have a great Saturday.


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