In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Every year I spend some time in prayer and set some goals.

Recently I was listening to Relient K's Christmas CD Let it Snow Baby let it Reindeer. I found myself relating only too well to this part of their song I Celebrate the Day when the writer is expressing his disappointment with himself to God:

If only I could find the words to say to let you know
How much you've touched my life because
Here is where you're finding me
In the exact same place as New Year's Eve
And from a lack of my persistency
We're less than half as close as I want to be

Most likely we can all relate to failure. Not measuring up to what we wanted to accomplish. But I don't want past failure to keep my from still aiming for where I want to go.

So, having said all that, here's my Goals for 2010:

1. Continue to spend time in the Word daily. Specifically this year I want to make sure that during my daily time in the Word I: Participate with Crossrads in the 31 Proverbs in 31 days in January, Facilitate the Beth Moore Esther series for the women's ministries at our church, Complete The Beatitudes study on developing spiritual character by John Stott, and Read through Genesis, Micah, Mark and James.

2. Read some books (The new reading list for 2010 will be posted on the side bar within the next week).

3. Have at least 6 dinners this year where we invite people over. We have a new family who moved in across the street that I want to have over, we want to make sure we have some of the people/families we don't really know very well from our church yet, and we'll most likely also meet some people this year in various ways that we'll feel led to invite over.

4. Continue to increase healthy habits.
A. Last year I added in hiking or walking at least 5 times a week that is now a firmly established habit. This year I want to add in engaging in this yoga type exercise CD at least 3 times each week.
B. Last year I added drinking more water every day which is now a habit. This year I want to add in refraining from eating after dinner in the evening and eating when I'm hungry (vrs eating for all the other reasons I eat).

5. Finish working through "The Love Dare" one dare each week. I got started this past year but then let myself get side tracked. It's so good that I want to pick it back up

6. Refrain from repeating or making negative comments about people. My mother (and apparently everyone else's as well) used to say "if you haven't got something nice to say, then don't say anything" to my siblings and I; there's a lot of truth to this. Recently I caught myself repeating a negative incident/behavior about someone and realized what a jerk I was - I don't want to be that way.

If it's God's will, I'd really like to figure out where I'm supposed to go with my career this year.

I appreciate the way Debby, over at Heavenly Humor, decided to handle New Year's Resolutions. She decided to post hers, invite others to post some or all of theirs if they like, and then they could circle back near the end of 2010 and see where everyone was at.

So, I've already given you mine. What are some, or all, of your goals for 2010?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

When is it OK to judge?


I have a problem with judgmental Christians. I've been hurt by them.

I know I'm not alone in this.

Many non Christians are turned off toward Christianity due to these often well meaning people. Many Christians have suffered great pain due to insistence of how "right" their brothers are concerning issues where they do not agree. Some Christians have even wandered away from God in their pain induced by the self righteous judgmental attitude they've experienced in the body of Christ.

My defining experience with judgmental Christians was when I was in my late teens. I went away to a Christian college. I won't say the name of the school because the pastor who has been president of that school for decades is a very well known Christian author, speaker, preacher and evangelist. I've seen many people come to Jesus through this man's ministry and when I look at his doctrine, every single bit of it is accurate. But when I hear him preach, there's always this under current of judgmentalism; this feeling that he's very interested in you and he both being "right" way more than he likes you. My experience at that college was that there was a constant expectation that everyone was to believe all the time in a very specific manner, questioning was not something encouraged. Issues such as if dressing fashionably was acceptable, if it was a sin to go to the movies, if one did watch movies (at home of course) what movies were acceptable, the "fact" that drinking alcohol or dancing were unquestionably "super sins", the need to follow rules to the letter - these were the big issues of the day. This environment left my heart hollow, parched and damaged; so I ended up transferring to a University of California for my last two years. There I joyfully participated in Bible study groups on campus, engaged in meaningful relationships with non-Believers, questioned my professors about everything of interest to me, exultantly wrote papers discussing issues of faith when appropriate, and generally grew greatly.

I think Galations 5:1-6:10 really speaks to the heart of this issue. When I read this passage I'm overcome by a profound gratitude at how great God's incredible grace is toward me. This passage refers to the law of Moses, that law which shows us right behavior. The fact that none of us could ever measure up to this exact standard of right behavior is underscored. I see these words in Galatians 5:4-6(MSG):

I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.

I already know from Ephesians 2:8-9 that it is God, in His supreme goodness, who gave me the ability to believe/have faith in Him. It is His great love that drew me to Himself and His salvation. For me to start this microscopic focus on the external life, on my own and others' behaviors, is to go back to the law which can only bring condemnation. God wants my life to be about loving Him and loving others. In Matthew 22:36-38 I read how Jesus said that loving God and loving others are what makes the rest of the law work.

So, is it always wrong to judge? Is there ever a time when exercising judgment is correct? Do I have a responsibility, out of love, to tell others when they are in error?

Let me tell you what I think, and then I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts on these questions:

1. Each of us must judge doctrinal truth for ourselves.
1 John 4:1-3 tells me to test for doctrinal truth. I believe that I'm to be a student of scripture, to compare passages with other passages, to be in prayer, to let the Holy Spirit guide me into truth, rather than to just believe what ever someone tells me. I can not read this particular scripture in any way other than to see it as addressed to the individual Believer. I do not see this specific scripture as a call for me to go around judging others doctrine so I can tell them where they are in error, but rather as a call for me to be accountable for what I believe.

2. My role in judgment regarding those who do not know Christ is to proclaim the Kingdom to them.
In Matthew 9:36-38 I see Jesus telling His followers that people are in great need of Him, He directed His followers to pray that God would send out laborers to bring people into His kingdom. I believe that there is the implication here that we should both pray for laborers and be laborers to show others how they can come into God's Kingdom.

3. One of my roles in judgment toward other Believers is to help them learn to judge scriptures themselves and to grow in their faith.
I see the model established in 1 Timothy 2:1-3 where we are to teach others who have chosen to follow after Jesus the scriptures. The entire 17th chapter of John shows how Christ's followers are given His Holy Spirit to be their guide and teacher; to help them understand God's truth. I believe that after someone has come into a relationship with Christ, that the Holy Spirit will reveal truth to that person through God's Word. God will grow that person in His timing and it's not up to me to force my time table onto someone else.

4. Another one of my roles in judgment toward other Believers is to care enough to see if they are caught up in sin and to try to help them out of it.
There are times when a brother or sister in Christ gets caught up in sin. Galations 6:1-10 tells me that that my response to these situations should be about restoration. It's interesting to me how that word "gently" (New International Version) from the first verse is translated - in the Message paraphrase it's says "forgivingly restore him", in the New Living Translation is says "gently and humbly help that person back", in the New American Standard Bible it states "restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness" - every translation or paraphrase that I can find has this tone of kindness. I do not see a heavy handed I'm gonna tell you the truth and you'd better get in line with it attitude; instead I see a kind, compassionate, considerate approach. The goal here is to stay in relationship with the brother/sister in Christ, to live together and help one another; not condemn one another.

There is also the whole thing of church discipline toward one who confesses to be a follower of Christ who is dead set on continuing in sin. But there is so much to in that whole discussion that it requires at least one post all to itself. These 4 points are in no way meant to be all inclusive and to completely cover this topic; these are more of a starting point in my own thoughts on this matter.

So, now that I've shared my thoughts, I'd be interested in hearing yours:
Is it always wrong to judge? Is there ever a time when exercising judgment is correct? Do I have a responsibility, out of love, to tell others when they are in error?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Terrific Tuesday with Brad from Sound of a Soft Breath

Today's Terrific Tuesday guest is Brad who writes at Sound of a Soft Breath. Brad started his blog as a a place to write down the thoughts that develop out of the time he spends before God reading the Bible.

This is one of my favorite posts from Sound of a Soft Breath:

037 | Life is More than Flesh & Blood


"I've also seen the effect of the devil's work in the lives of broken and destroyed people, and as we see in Luke 4:1-13, the devil was attempting to destroy Jesus..." Whitney T. Kuniholm wrote this in his reflection titled "Deliver Us from Evil" in his book The Essential Jesus: 100 Readings Through the Bible's Greatest Story. As you may know I am blogging through this book. I am on passage reading number 37 of the 100 passages.


I want to focus on the first four verses of this passage.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'People do not live on bread alone.' (Luke 4:1-4)
The question is did the devil know who Jesus was when he said "If you are the Son of God..."?

In Context of the Whole of Scripture

One thing that I have found to be very helpful when studying Scripture is to put the verse or passage that you are focusing on into the context of the whole of the Word of God. This is not easy and I often fail and this is one reason I find the need to continue to study the Bible. The ideal is to somehow keep all the knowledge you have learned from Scripture in your mind while you read each verse. I am not sure it is really even completely possible for any human, but there are those who do it very well. One can compensate some for an inability to do this with an in depth Bible study. Study a verse or passage for an extended period of time, referencing the rest of the Bible, and putting it into the context of the whole of Scripture. This approach is well worth the effort.

After some study I found some verses that show very precisely that evil spirits acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God (Mark3:11). In Mark Chapter 5 we read an account of Jesus restoring a demon-possessed man where the legion of demons cried out through this man "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?" (Mark 5:7) Evil spirits and demons are all under the command of the devil. If they knew who Jesus was the devil certainly knew. There are other clues in Scripture that would also prove that the devil knew that Jesus was the Son of God.

Sarcastic Taunt

For whatever reason, before this study, when I read what the devil said to Jesus here I read it as if the devil was honestly attempting to find out if Jesus was in fact the Son of God. Almost all Bible versions translate it this way "If you are the Son of God..." At first I read that as Satan not really knowing and wanting to find out. But after spending some time in thought and study of other passages in the Bible I now read this more as a sarcastic taunt. It seems pretty clear from a study of Scripture that Satan knows exactly who Jesus is.

Here is how David Guzik puts the devil's sarcastic taunt. "Since You're the Messiah, why are You so deprived? Do a little something for Yourself."

Derail & Distract

Satan had one goal, one focus: maintain the separation between humans and God. A separation Satan in the form of a serpent had instigated in the Garden of Eden. The evil one knew that the the work of Jesus had to be derailed. So here we are right out of the gate and Satan tries to distract Jesus. Tries to have Jesus take his focus of the will of his Father and his plans and focus on his own flesh.

Satan wanted Jesus to use his power as God to satisfy his own human hunger. Satan wanted Jesus to perform a miracle for the sole purpose of satisfying his hunger and proving his deity. From what I know of Scripture Jesus did not use his ultimate power as God to satisfy his earthly needs. He only performed miracles for the benefit of other people. Benefit in the sense of both a physical healing and giving a glimpse of who he was really. Miracles helped many "say wait a minute this is not a carpenter, this is not a teacher, this is the Messiah, this is the very Son of God."

Not Fully Human

I think Satan also wanted to get Jesus to use his power as God for his own benefit to be able to in a way show that Jesus was not like us. He had it easy, he has all the power to make his life comfortable, with no trouble, and without suffering. Perhaps Satan wanted to create a gap between him and us. In a twisted way I think Satan wanted to be able to announce that Jesus was not fully human that Jesus was not like us humans in every way except sin, he had power to make his life easy and he would use it.

Do a Little Something For Yourself

David Guzik goes on to point out that just as Jesus was tempted with a sarcastic taunt the devil comes to us saying "If you're a child of God, why are things so tough? Do a little something for yourself."

Let me tell you I have tried to "do a little something" for myself. I have spent way to much of my life doing a little something for myself. I have tried to use the power I have to make my life more comfortable. I have forced things just to get my way, just to make me happy and frankly looking back, it wasn't worth it. In fact I am embarrassed. I have been selfish and self-centered. I have spent way too much of my time focusing on my flesh. I know I am not alone in this.

Not Only About Our Flesh

I desire to have the focus Jesus did here. A focus on the will of his Father that is so strong, so complete, food is of little value to him as he confronts the devil, one on one. He resists the devil's sarcastic taunt with the simple truth that our lives are more than just about our flesh and being comfortable. Our lives are sustained by the very words of God, in fact, every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Jesus responds to Satan with Scripture. He quotes Scripture that I am sure the devil was familiar with in Deuteronomy.
He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that people do not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Perfect Detachment

Sometimes I find that I've become too attached to the way I want things. This prayer by St Ignatius Loyola encourages me to aspire to a different way of life, one in which I am not the center of my focus and universe. I hope that this prayer may be an inspiration for you too:

Grant, O Lord, that my heart may neither desire nor seek anything but what is necessary for the fulfillment of Thy holy Will. May health or sickness, riches or poverty, honors or contempt, humiliations, leave my soul in that state of perfect detachment to which I desire to attain for Thy greater honor and Thy greater glory. Amen.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

An Outsiders ponderings on Football


OK, I'll admit it, I never really "got" football.

I grew up in a home where football never graced the screen of our TV. I have 2 older sisters, and a dad who enjoyed playing baseball with us, but who thought professional athletes were paid too much so he never watched sports on TV. In high school I attended football games as a social event and garnered just an inkling of what the game was about.

Fast forward several years later, a new marriage to a man who totally adores watching football, and life in a small town where everyone is into the one local high school and their football success. Add to this the fact that my 2 younger sons have started playing football and one of them even dreams of obtaining a football scholarship to college.

So now I'm immersed in football and this experience has caused me to notice some things.

Have you ever noticed that Football is about way more than the game?

It's as if there is this fraternity of football fans & players, past and present, that creates an entire culture. My husband watches these 4 guys who commentate on football during the half times (they analyze NFL football teams, their chances of success, who did what well or poorly); my beloved one actually acts like these guys are his pals and says things like "oh Terry has such a good sense of humor; he's such a crack up". Fans, people whom I'll assume have normal day jobs, not only wear team colors to the games but actually paint their faces/bodies to represent the teams they adore. People talk about "their teams" as if these are people they know, love, and support through the good and bad times (I mean, many of these folks could apply the same interest level, devotion and support to their spouses and have the best marriages imaginable).


Have you ever noticed that football is one venue in American culture where males can still be unashamedly, totally, "male"?

In a culture where schools have become overwhelmingly PC and where high levels of activity and competitiveness are considered bad things - football is one place where boys can still be aggressive, competitive, and get dirty and it's considered not only OK but good.

A couple of years ago when my youngest son was in Pee Wee football (our first foray into this strange football world) his coach gave away T-shirts to each team member. Each T-shirt has a slogan on the shirt. One of the shirts said "mean and nasty". I remember feeling relieved that my son didn't get such a shirt, only to be surprised when he expressed great disappointment on the way home that he didn't get the best shirt - the "mean and nasty" one.

My two younger sons who play football actually brag about what "beasts" they are, how much weight they can lift and how much weight they've gained. Bragging about weight gain is truly a concept way beyond my comprehension.



Have you ever noticed that players on a football team experience a bond that as deep, if not deeper, than family?

For college and NFL teams, this bond even seems to extend to some of the die hard fans. Watch these games, and you'll see that when a guy gets a touch down he actually goes and jumps up against the wall where the fans are seated so that the fans can gather around and give him some love for the feat he's just accomplished.

These guys are committed to one another. During these last 3 years of my sons playing high school football I've observed that these kids are highly committed to practicing together, helping each other out when they were having problems and even share meals. My sons practiced all the time during the season; even on Thanksgiving day. It didn't matter how tired they or their team mates were, or even if they were slightly sick, they always gave their all and were there for each other. When one of the team wasn't doing well in math so he had to take it in summer school, my youngest son didn't hesitate to step up and provide individual instruction to him after summer school each day to help him through the class. My middle son is a offensive guard (I feel so proud of myself that I actually know the name of a position), and the parents of the offensive line traded off feeding all the boys once a week throughout the season.

It's as if football is not just some sport they play - it's their life and everything revolves around it. For both players and fans.

It's odd for me that I lived my entire life up until 3 years ago, without anything to do with football. Then, during these last few years, I've come to experience all these interesting aspects to football and the culture.

What about you, what are your experiences with Football?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What I just can't get over at Christmas

Christmas reminds me of Jesus' birth.

This event, God leaving His rightful place full of glory, power, and the worship of all in His presence, to come to earth - it never ceases to blow my mind. That God would take on human limitations just so He could ultimately go to the cross and die in my place - it is a fact at which my brain can only grasp. But I can grasp enough to be totally overwhelmed with gratitude.

I adore the way the 17th chapter of John reads in the Message paraphrase. I'm captivated by the way Jesus lived, propelled by His purpose here on earth, as I read this part of His prayer (John 17:2-4):

You put him in charge of everything human
So he might give real and eternal life to all in his charge.
And this is the real and eternal life:
That they know you,
The one and only true God,
And Jesus Christ, whom you sent.
I glorified you on earth
By completing down to the last detail
What you assigned me to do.

So here I am on the eve of Christmas contemplating Jesus anew, His birth on planet earth and all He's done for myself and everyone else. I'm so humbled with deep gratitude.

I also find my heart filled with well wishes for those I know through the blogosphere. From my heart I say to you today

May you experience a profound awareness of God's love for you as you celebrate Christmas with your loved ones. May His blessing be upon you and spill over onto those you come in contact with this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Celebrating the Holidays when you have a mentally ill relative


Now I know many of you are thinking that yep you've got one of those too. But I'm not talking about annoying, irritating or even emotionally unhealthy relatives; I'm talking about mentally ill (as in major breaks with reality that can be found in schizophrenia).

One of my sisters is a paranoid schizophrenic. Like most things in life with a schizophrenic, holidays can be both good and terrible. As I'm cooking, wrapping presents and making Christmas preparations, I find myself thinking about her.

First off you never know if she'll actually show up. I've learned to deal with that by always having a place set for her at the table and some sort of simple gift for her ready and waiting. The only bad thing about that is that if she doesn't show up I can see my mom, when she doesn't know anyone is watching, looking sadly at that extra place setting at the table. I know she's wondering if somehow she did some really wrong, bad thing to make my sister so crazy. It doesn't matter how many times I try to explain the whole thing about how mentally ill people have a different brain chemistry than the rest of us and how it is a physiologically based illness; in some corner of her mother's heart she will always wonder.

Then if my sister does show, you hope that at some point she will leave and not linger at your home for days on end. Oh I know this sounds terrible, but only if you've ever tried to live with someone who perseverates on negative topics, mumbles to themselves, periodically sneaks sideways glances at you to ensure you're not doing anything that could harm her in some way, washes things repeatedly and leaves wet things about the house, repeatedly starts water boiling on the stove for some end that she never seems to get to, stays up almost all night wandering about the house, drinks and drinks and drinks coffee, says things that are totally untrue and not at all in reality and to which you are never sure how to respond, sometimes becomes agitated and will hit herself - only when you've lived with all of this plus more - only then can you understand how difficult and draining it can be.

But on the actual holiday, it can be good. I've found that if I work really hard to keep things in the present, right now, we can have fun together. My sister can be her real self for awhile and relax. We can enjoy the festive atmosphere, food, walking together after the meal. Like many mentally ill people, she can "hold it together" for awhile.

I guess I write about this because it helps me process and prepare. I also do it because I think that most people have no clue about mental illness and the challenges it brings and I hope to bring a peek inside this experience.

Peace on Earth

At Christmas time we often hear the phrase "peace on earth"; as if echoing the words of the angels to the shepherds announcing Christ's birth.

But do we experience Peace?

I find that it's really easy for me to get caught up in the business that can sometimes take over at Christmas time, if I let it. It's really easy for me to lose sight of what Christmas is about and miss out on the joy, if I'm not careful.

Recently during my morning time with God I was reading in John 16 and came across these words of Jesus in the 33rd verse:

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Jesus didn't promise His followers that we would have peace on our circumstances, He promised us peace in Himself.

So in the hustle and bustle of the Holiday season I'm making sure that I make time each morning to spend praising Him, thanking Him, reading the Word and centering my life around Him. For me it seems that's the only way to develop that inner place of peace that I can draw from when stress, irritation, or problems come my way.

What about you, do you experience peace? What is it that helps you keep peace in your heart?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Terrific Tuesday with Marty from Coffee with Marty

Today's Terrific Tuesday guest is Marty who writes at Coffee with Marty. Marty is single, 20 years old, and lives in Iowa. I've commented before on how much I enjoy the fact that I meet people via the Blogosphere that I'd never get to meet otherwise, and Marty is one of those people. His daily experiences, faith and devotion to God have encouraged my own faith on many days.

Here's what Marty has to say today:

We all know how these stories end. Sometimes we question our own life thinking that surely, someday we will wake up and realize we've just found that page in our book that starts with "Once upon a time..."

What happens then, when we don't find it? Surely we've been mistaken, and so we look over the past, searching.. Searching for that one page that is surely missing. And when we don't find it... we start to question.

We look for the purpose why everything didn’t turn out the way we had planned. We seek for the reason, an answer to the ever lingering discontentment. We find ourselves on our knees, asking God for answers.

And so, for a moment, we hold our breath. The clock chimes solemnly as time moves forward, and we find ourselves caught in a monotonous routine called life.

Gone are the days that we find joy in the simple pleasures of life. Gone are the times when we laughed simply because we were happy. We become numb, inviting unhappiness into our souls. Our eyes lose their sparkle, and we no longer recognize the person we've become.

Failure... Hopelessness... Futility...

And in desperation, we hear a gentle whisper...

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Jeremiah 29:11

The scripture says it all... Today, I find myself smiling, and I realize I've found that page. The page in my life that starts with:

Once upon a time...

there was a boy that loved God....

And I’m sure that He will be there to guide me, to settle the uncertainty about the future, and give me a reason to smile. And I can’t wait to see what happens in this story...

-Marty

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What do you think about Jenning's reading list?


I've always been against banning books.

However, banning books is a far cry from believing that some books are not worth reading. Or recommending specific books.

Larry, over at Photogr Thinks emailed me this week saying he was appalled and asking if he was becoming a prude in his old age with a link to an article about Kevin Jennings promoting explicit school reading lists. Somehow I'd missed out on this whole situation so I did some research to find out more.

What I found was that Kevin Jennings is the founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Recently he was appointed by the Obama administration as Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe & Drug Free Schools in the US Department of Education. GLSEN strives to influence the educational curriculum to include materials which the group believes will increase tolerance of gay students and decrease bullying. To that end, GLSEN maintains a recommended reading list of books that GLSEN’s directors think all kids should be reading: gay kids should read them to raise their self-esteem, and straight kids should read them in order to become more aware and tolerant and stop bullying gay kids. Through GLSEN’s online ordering system on their Web site, teachers can buy the books to use as required classroom assignments, or students can buy them to read on their own.

But critics say many of the books, particularly some that are targeted for children between Grades 7 to 12, are inappropriately explicit. Maxim Lott over at Fox News had this to say about some of the books on this recommended reading list:

"One recommended book is titled "Queer 13: Lesbian and Gay Writers Recall Seventh Grade." On pages 43 through 45, writer Justin Chin tells of how as a 13-year-old, he went along with "near-rapes" by older men, but "really did enjoy those sexual encounters." Chin also recounts each sexual action he performed with an "ugly f*** of a man" he met on a bus.

In another book, "Passages of Pride," the author writes about a 15-year-old boy's relationship with a much older man."

I also found an informative article at First Things that actually has photocopied pages from books on this reading list, and then has written what is on the photocopied pages next to the photocopied pages for easy reading. These pages gave me a better feel for what all the concern about these recommended books was about.

As I say above, I'm not about banning books. I also do not want gay students, or any other students, to be bullied. I think learning to live with others who have different lifestyles and beliefs from your own is an important part of children learning to live successfully in their world.

However, in response to Larry's query to me, No, I do not think he's a prude.

As I read through the pages over at First Things it hit me how poorly written the material was and how odd it was to be recommending this type of book in a school setting. Then, the more I read, the more I found the writing of what could be described as a porno type style; the type of thing one would buy in a paperback, low quality book. I also found the types of encounters described in these books to involve adults and children together in sexual activities - which should not be occurring be it homo or hetero sexual activity. So all together I found myself appalled that anyone would want to list these books on a reading list for young people in schools; much less someone who is serving as our Assistant Deputy Secretary for our Office of Safe & Drug Free Schools in the US Department of Education.

But, I'd be interested to hear what you think. What do you think of the Obama administration's appointment of Kevin Jennings to be Assistant Deputy Secretary for our Office of Safe & Druge Free Schools in the US Department of Education? What do you think of his recommended reading lists for school children?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Should we bring terrorists onto US soil?



Should we relocate detainees at Guantanamo Bay to a prison facility in Illinois?

This is certainly a question on my mind today.

Like many Americans, I've been spending some time thinking this past year about if the CIA did indeed engage in torture against war criminals, and if we should move prisoners out of Guantanamo Bay. These thoughts are especially paramount today since one of the lead Yahoo news stories today began by claiming that:

"President Barack Obama has ordered the federal government to acquire an underused state prison in rural Illinois to be the new home for a limited number of terror suspects now held at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

Don't you just love what counts as news?

Never mind that this can not really happen until there is a majority support for this in congress. Later on in the Yahoo article they did mention that:

"Administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they could not yet lay out a time frame for when a transfer of detainees from the Navy-run detention facility to Thomson. They said the administration would have to work with Congress to amend laws and secure funding before any prisoners are brought to U.S. soil."

Guess that initial statement was to grab my attention.

It worked.

I'm here thinking about this whole situation. I'm remembering that since he first got into office, President Obama has been been wanting to close down Guantanamo Bay. Not long after he was elected as President, he was quoted as saying:

"But I don't want to be ambiguous about this. We are going to close Guantanamo and we are going to make sure that the procedures we set up are ones that abide by our Constitution,".

One of the initial big issues was that the former, Bush, administration was criticized for allegedly torturing people at Guantanamo Bay. What has always concerned me about this whole issue is that we all agree that torture is wrong. We just don't agree about if what occurred at Guantanamo Bay was indeed torture.

Our country's own Army Field Manual 34-52 Chapter 1 says:

"Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear."

This past spring Clifford May wrote on an interesting article for National Review that gives you some of his perspective on if the CIA did torture people. He basically makes the point that if there really had been evidence of illegal (remember torture is illegal) actions that there's been ample opportunity for prosecutions since 2003 and the reason that there have not been any is because nothing illegal was going on. He also raises an interesting point that the Bush administration did keep this country safe from terrorism due to information gained during interrogations.

By far my favorite look at this topic was presented by Engram on his blog Back Talk. Engram makes the point that basically all Americans will say that torture is wrong, but the issue comes in when we set about trying to define torture. Engram points out that he thinks it's even more important to the conversation to clarify what is not torture.

But, weather one believes the CIA did engage in torture, or one believes their behavior did not meet the definition of torture, the question is still if we should continue to house the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

What do you think - Should we make necessary adjustments to the Thompson facility and bring some, or all, of the Guantanamo Bay detainees to Illinois?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Terrific Tuesday with Larry from Photogr Thinks

Today's Terrific Tuesday guest is Larry, or as he sometimes refers to himself due to his photography hobby, Photogr, who writes at Photogr Thinks. Larry is a husband, father, amateur photographer, nature lover, NASCAR fan, and whole-hearted follower of Christ. I've enjoyed reading Larry's blog because he simply shares from his heart and his daily life experiences with Christ; I've frequently found myself encouraged and inspired after reading what he has to say.

Here's one of my favorite posts from Photogr Thinks:

YOU ARE NOT RETIRED, YOU ARE REFIRED UP.


When one decides to retire and take life easy, one does not expect to do any more task or jobs. You know, the easy life. The one thing you planned all your life so you didn't have any time sheets or cards to punch. No more bosses, no more deadlines, no more pressure and no more stress. Yep, that is going to be great or so I thought. I was fortunate to take an early retirement as I had planned for decades. Well I have to tell you for me, it did not happen or didn't work As I was getting used to the "easy life", I always felt uneasy and wasted a lot of time doing nothing or had no real purpose for getting out of bed. I did take up managing a mobile home park part time a few years back to have a purpose but that wasn't it. Although I was a par time believer on again and off again and occasionally attended a church, I was not getting some strong messages or I wasn't listening to that still silent voice.

A little while later I was at a nature preserve doing photography work when all of a sudden I felt like I was struck by a lightning bolt out of the sky. It wasn't that stormy of a day but it sure felt like it. All of a sudden I vividly recalled certain passages from the scriptures , the feeling of elation and peace fell upon me. It was something I never experienced before. When I came to my senses, I was down on my knees and the Geese nearby looked at me dumb founded. I looked up at the sky and all that I could say was "My God what did you do? ". Then I began to hear the still silent voices that I ignored before through the years. No I wasn't struck by lightning but I think the Lord struck me up side my head with a base ball bat to get my attention.

It was then that I felt compelled to start daily prayers, reading the scriptures, devoured numerous books on theology and Christianity, and began to generate a better understanding of scriptures that I never had before. After nearly two years of study, the wife and I were ready to take the next step and joined a church in order to have fellowship and serve the Lord. I started up a blog site to reach out to others that may or may not have a home church in order to spread the "Good News" covering topics of the Scriptures, miracles, the Holy Spirit, and the Spiritual gifts. We joined several classes in learning about the church doctrine,did some volunteer work, and made new friends.

At a recent Encounter ( mini revival , my term), I was really feeling blessed by the Holy Spirit while singing the Revelation Song. I didn't realize I moved up to the front near the altar while singing and rejoicing in the Lord. All of a sudden with in the large group of people at the altar, the head of the Encounter gathering came over to me whom I had never officially met before and began praying and laying of hands on my shoulder. I was surprised but then realized where I was. A warm feeling came over me and I felt revitalized as she prayed and I broke down praising god and began praying feverishly. I don't really know what I said in my prayers but she turned to me and said "you are not retired, you are re fired up". All I said was "Yes I am. Thanks" ( I think) and then she was gone back into the crowd of others praying.

I had been pondering my retirement fearing I was too old at 65 now to become active in ministering or pursuing an evangelist vocation other that what I was doing on the Internet. Was she divinely sent to seek me out and pass on encouragement from the Lord that you are never too old to serve? Is this the message I was seeking from the Lord? Why did she say that to me? I never mentioned retirement to her or her associates.

Considering God works in strange ways, I can only feel that message was divine. Now I know. You too can experience the same divine guidance by only accepting Jesus as your saviour and confess your sins. God is a loving forgiving God that wants you to share His love for you. Just don't take decades to understand that like I did. I wasted so much of my life refusing to serve and believe. I was lucky. He got my attention before it was too late. I dedicated my life to serve him and He has been a beacon of light in a dark world leading and guiding me. Life in the flesh is too short to waste it and face eternal damnation. As you read the scriptures, God is always a loving God that wants you to be saved in His grace. Every day He calls out to you to become one of His children in faith. He is also patient and forgiving. He has many gifts to offer you through the Holy Spirit and to witness the miracles of His healing powers. He is always and will for eternity be your pillar of strength if only you believe and serve only Him.

Can you make that choice today? Can you get down on your knees and pray with your heart for salvation in Jesus name? Time is running short. I can assure you if and when you pray to the Lord for salvation, You will be lifted out of darkness and forgiven of your sins. You will walk in the light of the Lord forever by only believing in this life and you will never taste the death of the flesh as your spirit will be lifted up into heaven to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

It is your call.

Are we taking care of our veterans when they return from combat?


I read today about a report that the secretary of defense is due to present to congress by March 2010 that will outline ways to improve the tracking of combat experience among service members that are typically in support roles. The goal of this is to update the DD-214 military forms, discharge papers, for military personnel so that service members who have seen combat are not being denied benefits for combat-related ailments when they return.

The biggest issue that prompted this action is that women service members are not having their combat experiences noted and are then being denied care by providers who assume they have not been in combat situations. The associated press has an interesting article today that ran in several newspapers about the unique struggles women are encountering when they are returning from combat.

Apparently, back in July 2009, Senator Murray introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 that required the Pentagon to begin studying ways to note on military records when service members who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been in combat situations. This action was motivated by the concern that many women are not having their combat experience noted and are therefor being denied needed services. The issue is that technically the Defense Department bars women from serving in assignments where the primary mission is to engage in direct ground combat. But because of the nature of the conflict in the middle east where there are no clear front lines, women end up in the middle of the action, in roles such as military police officers, pilots, drivers and gunners on convoys. Yahoo reported today that, in addition to the 120-plus deaths, more than 650 women have been wounded in the ongoing war.

It breaks my heart to think of any veteran who has served our country being denied the healthcare he or she needs as a result of injuries sustained while serving our country.

Do you, or anyone you know, have experiences with receiving the health care services needed upon returning from combat? Were those experiences good or bad?



Saturday, December 12, 2009

What I like about being about being older


My two younger sons think I'm ancient.

Just last night at the dinner table they were talking about people who are "as old as forty" as if these people were beyond the age of life enjoyment. Then they suddenly looked at me and started laughing, one of them said "sucks for you mom" (I'm 49 yrs old). Since we live in a culture that seems to practically worship youth, it's easy for the boys to think this way. Plus there's that invincible feeling that comes with youth, coupled with that experiencing things for the first time rush.

Today I find myself thinking about the fact that I'm happier than I've ever been in my life. So I decided to take a few moments and list out some of what I like about being older:

I'm more secure in who I am
I've noticed that from about age forty on, I've become more content with who I am. There's this feeling of self acceptance that I didn't experience when I was in my 20s and 30s. I was still trying to prove myself during those times of my life. Of course this can't be totally chalked up to age since there are many factors that account for this, but I do think years and experience play a major role.

Material things have less allure than ever
It's not like I've ever been a particularly materialistic person, but I find that the older I get the less and less I care about stuff.

It's easier for me to not be so hard on people
This is most likely because I've had so many years of messing up myself that I hardly feel qualified to be pointing any fingers at anyone else. Jesus once said that one who has been forgiven much loves much .

Making decisions and taking care of things is easier
Simply because I have a larger experience base, and more knowledge to draw from, when making decisions and dealing with people.

I'm more relaxed in my approach to life
I've seen good times come and go. I've been through the crisis in relationships and out the other side; so I have more confidence that I can do that again. I've had opportunity upon opportunity upon opportunity to see God come through for me, so it's easier to rest in the fact that I can always count on Him.

What about you? If you're over age 40 - what do you like about it? If you're younger, how do you feel about getting older?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The house of my soul is too small

Here's a prayer that a friend of mine named Patrick, from over at the A Year of Living Dangerously group on Face Book, shared with me. It's from "The Confessions" by St Augustine. This prayer has captivated my thoughts today, may it bless you as well:

"The house of my soul is too small for you to enter: make it more spacious by your coming. It lies in ruins: rebuild it. Some things are to be found there which will offend your gaze; I confess this to be so and know it well. But who will clean my house? To whom but yourself can I cry, "Cleanse me of my hidden sins, O Lord, and for those encurred through others, pardon your servant"? I believe, and so I will speak. You know everything, Lord. Have I not laid my own transgressions bare before you to my own condemnation, my God, and have not you forgiven the wickedness of my heart? I do not argue my case against you, for you are truth itself; nor do I wish to deceive myself, lest my iniquity be caught in its own lies. No, I do not argue the case with you, because if you, Lord, keep score of our iniquities, then who, Lord, can bear it?"

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow Musings

I am a native southern Californian.

The only times I've not lived in southern California were for brief time periods. I'm an experienced driver; on dry roads.

Not long ago we moved to a small, mountain town where we actually experience all the seasons. Driving in the snow has really been something for me. Sometimes I get scared because I can feel my tires slipping. Last year we were blessed to be able to purchase a 4yr old 4WD truck from someone who wanted a new car. I'm finding that 4WD makes things a lot easier when trying to navigate down steep, white with snow (with ice patches beneath) road. But I still sometimes hesitate, and avoid driving all together if possible, when it's really snowing hard.

Yesterday was a stormy day. So I'd asked my teen age son if, instead of me picking him up after school & practice, he could stay the night at the home of a close friend of his who attends the same school and lives down the hill.

Today was sunny so I decided to go ahead and venture out on the snow. The roads around where I live were white, the pine trees were laden with snow sparkling in the sun; it really brought to life the phrase "winter wonderland". And to think, if I'd not finally made myself face my fear and venture out into the snow, I'd have missed all the beauty I was encountering as I navigated the truck along the snowy streets.

As I was driving along I thought about how my driving on snow is a picture of how I sometimes live.

I get comfortable. I get used to doing things in familiar ways. Then something happens where I have the opportunity to do something new - but it's out of my comfort zone. I can choose not to do it because of fear - but then I'll miss out on the beauty and the blessing.

I'm reminded of what Jesus said in Mark 5:24B-26 (MSG):

Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

It's not comfortable for me to let God lead. I almost always naturally run from suffering. Self-help comes as naturally to me as breathing. I like to get what I want when I want it - not sacrifice. This way of living comes easily to me, but does not bring the results I desire.

Only when I chose to let go and let God lead, to embrace suffering that comes my way, to lean on Him, and sacrifice for God and others, can I experience the real beauty and joy in life.

Has God been showing you anything lately about moving out of your comfort zone?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Terrific Tuesday with Denise from Free to be Me

Today's Terrific Tuesday guest is Denise, who writes at Free to be Me. One of the things I've really enjoyed about the "blogosphere" is that I've had the opportunity to meet other Believers who I never would have come in contact with in daily life. Denise is one of those people I've been blessed to meet; she's a woman who has a heart for God and who encourages me in my faith.

Here's what God's been speaking to Denise's heart lately:

Do you sometimes wonder who you are?

Well, in order to answer that question, you have to know whose you are.

You are a child of God. You were put on earth, not by accident, by for a purpose. You are deeply loved by God, and accepted by Him. He has a plan for your life, and because He put you here, you are significant. So, on those days when you are feeling down, and thinking that you do not matter, think again. Or, if someone says, or does something, that makes you feel like you do not matter, just shrug it off. Say to yourself, I do matter. I matter to the Creator of this world, my Father. In your Fathers eyes, you are of great significance, never doubt that for one second. Blessings to you all, and much love.

Denise, warrior of Jesus

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Can we be too comfortable?


The fact the God often uses shaking up our lives, to get our attention and produce growth in us, was one of the themes in the sermon at church today. It's really got me thinking.

One of the texts was taken from Ezekiel 16:49-50 (NASB):

49"Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.
50"Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me Therefore I removed them when I saw it.
It's so easy for me to look at this text and see America. As a culture, we tend to experience great abundance and think we are so much smarter than the rest of the world. The dominant American culture is way "too smart for God". I recently had a post here about Christians who are suffering for their faith in other nations, yet we do nothing for them. Todd Nettleton, with Voice of the Martyrs, quotes secretary of State Hillary Clinton as saying "We wouldn't be holding China accountable on the issue of religious freedom, or human rights issues. There were more important things like trade and global warming and those types of things."

It's so easy for me to point fingers at other people when I read this Bible passage - but what about me?

I certainly enjoy a life of vast abundance compared to the rest of the world. Do I always recognize that every good thing that I have is a gift from God? That the abundance I experience really, in the big scheme of things, has very little to do with my hard work and deserving-ness? Do I have a heart that seeks God and allows Him to open my eyes to see the needs of those around me? Do I see loving and giving to people as part of loving God?

That's how I want to be. But I am most definitely a work in progress and have a LONG way to go.

Lately it seems as if one major, unexpected, unplanned for, expense after another has come my way. I continue to thank God that we've had the money for each thing that has come up. When my 17 yr old son and I were out running errands yesterday together, I went to the ATM to obtain cash. As I came back to the car, it was very cold and windy and I rushed to make it back into the vehicle. I was just about to close the door to my car when I saw a man out of the corner of my eye, in a wheel chair coming my way. I figured he'd be asking for money and I've got to be honest with you - it entered my mind to pretend I did not see him and just go my way. It entered my mind that perhaps he really didn't need to be in a wheel chair. But, fortunately, I remembered that who am I to question these things, that's God's job.

So I looked him in the eyes and gave him that opening to ask for money. When he finished I reached into my wallet, and, again I've got to confess how I can be, I almost just gave him a dollar. But, I felt impressed to give him more money, so I did. My son was watching me so as we drove away I commented that how can I, who have been so blessed, not give to someone who asks? My son had been watching the man way more closely than I, and he commented that the man didn't even have legs that went all the way down (I'd been looking him in the eye so I'd missed this).

Do you ever struggle with becoming too comfortable?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Does Christmas HAVE to be "too commercial"?

Yesterday the heater repair guy was here working on plans with my husband John to upgrade our heating system. We bought this home 3yrs ago and, prior to our purchase, it has been a vacation home. So we've been blessed to be able to upgrade tons of stuff in it, constantly.

One of the fun things about that is that we're always meeting new guys who do various kinds of work. I liked this guy; he was short and bit on the round side (as a fellow round-ish person, living in a world that seems to push toward extreme thinness, he automatically has an in with me if he doesn't blow it). I liked how he made sure to work it into the conversation that he was a Believer and, if we weren't already, we too could become Believers. Since John & I appreciated that, we all talked a bit. At one point this guy mentioned how he can't stand how commercial Christmas has become. I was polite but I just couldn't relate.

In our household Christmas is not commercial. I started thinking about what Christmas is about in our house... it truly is about celebrating the fact that Jesus, God in the flesh, came to the planet earth and was born into a human body. It's about taking time out to appreciate His great gift to us and to make the choice to be givers to others.

There are lots of different things our family does at Christmas time to create an atmosphere and help us keep our focus on Christ and giving.

A few posts back I talked about Operation Christmas Child and World Vision giving opportunities being one way that we make giving a focus during our holidays. Another thing we've done for several years to help keep our focus on Christ during this season is an advent wreath.

When the boys were young we did more hands on things during the advent wreath such as you can see over at Cross Point Church's Advent wreath devotional guide, or Michelle's Jessie Tree. Now that they are older, we've found a less activity oriented approach to work better. So I put together an advent devotional that's all written out, scriptures included, that we can read through together the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas as well as on Christmas day. Since I was raised Baptist, I missed out on all the fun, liturgical church activities such as an advent wreath. So I had to do some research to figure it all out. When I was putting this together I found some information provided online by Mark Roberts about advent wreaths very helpful.

Have you ever had that gross stuff they sell at grocery stores in the dairy section called "egg nog"? Well my kids adore that stuff. The only time we have it is when we're doing the advent wreath. That, and lighting candles, has helped make the event more entertaining for them. The main thing is that the advent wreath helps us keep foremost in our minds what the whole advent, Christmas, season is about for us.

What about you, what are some things you do to keep Christmas from becoming commercial for you?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lessons from my Kids

Are you a parent?

If you are, you know that you learn a lot from your children. If your children have not yet become teens, let me assure you that plenty of lessons are still to come.

Sunday I sat in church, reflecting on several frustrating encounters with my 17 yr old son during the morning. As I sat there, it felt like the Holy Spirit whispered to me that He's using my son to teach me.

Since then, thoughts about some of the lessons I've learned from my sons, have been mulling around in the back of my mind. Here's a list of just a few of the things my kids have taught me:

God's great love for me
As soon as I had children, my understanding of God's love for me expanded. There's nothing I wouldn't do for my children; and to think that God calls me His child...

How to not be such a people pleaser
Growing up the way I did, people pleasing comes as naturally to me as breathing. But, as the mother of 3 sons who are currently ages 21, 17 & 15, I've come to know via experience that no one can be as critical or all knowing as a teenage boy. Honestly, it's amazing the number of subjects that they've come to be masters regarding (at least in their own minds) or the amount of critical feedback and advice these teens can provide to their parents on every topic that comes along. I've had to really dig my heels in and tell myself the truth repeatedly; that the only one I need to please is God. That I've got to do what is right before Him to the best of my ability, and then just let it go. A much healthier way to live than running around trying to please everybody.

That I need to PRAY
The older my sons get, the less I can do for them; the more I need to entrust their lives into the hands of God. My oldest son will graduate this May from West Point. He has a high enough rank in his class that he can choose just about any job he wants - so what does he do? Not only does he branch infantry, but this brilliant math major also decides that he want so be an air borne ranger - great Devon, is there anything more dangerous you could possibly choose?! So I pray for him; I thank God that he is a young man who wants to serve and protect, and I pray God's wisdom and protection over him. My 17yr old is at a place in his life where he is a Christian and his faith does affect his daily life in that he lives out Christian values and morality, but he's not interested in spiritual matters. He only attends church because I require it, he doesn't open the Word or have times of prayer daily, His life is not centered around living for God. So I pray for Him; I pray that God would draw him to Himself, that God would create a thirst in this son for God, that the Holy Spirit would cause a love for God to grow within his heart.

Patience
Be it an infant needing to be fed every 4 hrs throughout the night, or a teen-ager who is certain that the entire universe revolves around him, my children have taught me how to not expect life to happen my way and on my schedule.

What about you, what have you learned from your kids?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Terrific Tuesday with Inge from Dementia for 2

Today's Terrific Tuesday guest is Inge, who writes at Dementia for 2. Inge has blessed me repeatedly in many ways. She is a former Marine (I guess this is not exactly true since I've heard that Once a Marine always a Marine), Mother, God Lover, and a Granddaughter who is actively involved in the life of her Granny. She's got a lot of awesome posts about dealing with a loved one in a nursing home, daily life, and most of all mingled through every one of her posts is her desire to seek God foremost.

Enjoy this Best of Dementia for 2 post...

A Man After God's Own Heart


My favorite book in the bible has to be Psalms. I just love David. I know that all of the Psalms were not written by him, but a majority of them were.

David has been called a lot of things by a lot of people. I often hear people refer to him as a tattle tale and have even done so myself. The more I read the psalms, the more I realize how wrong that description of him really is.

David had an extraordinary life from the beginning. He was the youngest of 8 boys. When Samuel went to anoint the man God had chosen to be king, it was a lesson in the way God thinks for everyone present. Samuel is thinking the firstborn will be named by God. God tells him don't look at his countenance (facial features) or the height of his stature. God further states that He doesn't see as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart. 1Samuel 16:7. I find great comfort in that. To know that God goes beyond the physical and looks at what really matters, your heart hence your true self is a wonderful thing to me.

So the big procession goes on and after the 7th son and still no word from God, Samuel asks Jesse if these are all of his sons. Jesse says no I have one more the youngest who is tending the sheep. so Samuel waits until someone goes and gets David. The thing about tending sheep is this was a lowly job. You were gone sometimes for days. Imagine spending days tending sheep. Keeping them in line, watching for wild animals, not bathing, all that fun stuff.

So here comes David. Smelly, dirty, young, David. David is described as ruddy. Some have said this means he had red hair. I don't know where they got that from. His face was red or rosy. Spending all that time keeping sheep I suppose. Anyway, he walks past all his brothers and is anointed by Samuel then and there. While he doesn't become king for awhile, I can only imagine how the other brothers felt. The Bible doesn't say but you can bet there was envy, anger, bitterness, the works.

Now for the whole tattle tale thing. If you really read the Psalms, you will see a pattern with David. He always starts by praising God. he reminds himself of who God is and what God has done not only for him but, for the Israelites. Then he reminds God of what is going on in his life at the moment. David spent a lot of time in caves running for his life. He reminds God that his enemies are out to get him. He sprinkles more reminders of who God is in these recounts. He ends by praising God. You can see David's despair turn to encouragement in reading his writings.

While some people don't believe in "reminding" God you are instructed to do so in the Word. This is not for God's benefit, He doesn't need it. This is for your benefit. When you remember what God has done for you, you want to thank Him for His mercy, protection, etc. By reminding Him of what is going on in your life, you are petitioning God. I find for myself that when I do this, God also reminds me of things. My own thoughts or actions concerning the particular situation. This often leads to confession which leads to praise.

My son is 25. When he was a teenager, he decided to make some very poor choices concerning his life. This caused me to go almost completely white headed. So now I have become best friends with Miss Clairol. During that time, I spent some time in the Psalms.

Last year my husband and I separated for a year. I grew closer to God than I can ever remember being. Once again I was back in the Psalms.

During these two occasions in my life, I have 2 particular verses that really comfort me from the Psalms. So I am going to end this post with them. I hope they can comfort you as they have comforted me.

Psalm 91:4
He will cover you with His feathers,
and under His wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Psalms 56:8
You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What do you think our response will be?

Since yesterday when I read about the extreme sentences that Pastor Wang Xiaoguang and his wife Yang Rongli received for the trumped up charges, I've been thinking about what, if any, America's response will be to this outrage. I've pondered if we should respond, as a country, to religious persecution in other countries.

To my understanding, this is the situation :
  • The trial of Linfen house church leaders in Shanxi province, China, was held from 9:00 AM to about 10:00 PM on November 25 (Beijing time), lasting over 12 hours
  • Linfen Fushan Church is a 50,000-member mega house church network in Linfen and the surrounding villages in northeastern China
  • The trial came after a massive raid by police and hired security guards on Fushan Church on September 13. During the pre-dawn raid, reportedly 400 people in police suits raided and destroyed buildings on the Good News Cloth Shoes Factory property, where the Fushan Church is located. The raid was one of the worst crackdowns against a house church in the past decade, according to CAA (China Aid Association) .
  • During the September 13 raid men tore at the building’s foundation with shovels as bulldozers worked to level other buildings on the site. Church members sleeping at the construction site of the new church building were reportedly attacked with bricks and other objects, according to CAA. Several members were seriously injured and were sent to the emergency room.
  • Following the raid, Yang and other church officials attempted to travel to Beijing to protest the destruction of their church to the central government authorities. However, they were arrested and detained during their trip.
  • The case presented to the court as a result of their arrest was tried on November 25. The court's conduct throughout the trial caused many to question if the government had decided upon the verdict and prepared it in advance. There were only two 20 minute breaks for recess, and only four family members of the convicted prisoners were allowed to be present during the trial. Government prosecutors showed over 1000 pages of so-called "evidence materials" related to this case, but the defense lawyers were only allowed to review about 50 pages before the trial to prepare their defense. The six Christian rights defense lawyers, including renowned Attorneys Li Fangping and Zhang Kai, were said to present a satisfactory defense of the innocence of the five church leaders.
  • Pastor Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli's son was able to briefly chat with his parents during one recess time near the bathroom outside the court room. Sister Yang and Pastor Wang encouraged their son to stand firm in his faith in Christ. Yang and Wang have led the Fushan church for more than 30 years.
  • The verdicts were severe and were announced immediately following the trial. Two criminal charges were used-- the crime of "illegally occupying farming land" and "disturbing transportation order by gathering masses." Sister Yang Rongli received 7 years severe sentence for both charges; Pastor Wang 3 yrs for the first charge, brother Yang Xuan, 3 and a half years, and Cui Jiaxing earned 4 and a half years for the first charge; Sister Zhang Huamei was found guilty of the second charge, and sentenced to 4 years in prison.
  • "To punish an innocent house church leader with 7 years imprisonment is the most serious sentence since 2004 when the senior Henan house church leader pastor Zhang Rongliang received a similar length, " said CAA President Bob Fu. "We strongly condemn these unjust sentences, which are based on trumped-up charges. This case clearly shows the serious deteriorating situation of religious persecution in China. We call upon the Obama administration and international community to speak up unequivocally in its concern about this case."

How do you think the Obama administration will respond to this serious situation of religious persecution in China? Do you think America should respond to these type of situations? Who, in your opinion, should be responding to religious persecution?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Chain

When Thanksgiving is over my thoughts turn toward Christmas.

As I was having children, I tried to establish some traditions. In regard to Christmas I wanted to establish traditions that would teach about Jesus' birth and giving; I wanted the holiday to be about more than just Christmas day.

There's one tradition we established when my boys were very young that has continued and upon which all the other Christmas things we do hinges - the Christmas chain. It is just a paper chain made from construction paper with 24 links; each link representing a day in December. Each link has the date and activity we will participate in that day to celebrate the Christmas season written on it.

Links may include things like the advent wreath, school Christmas programs, decorating the house inside, putting lights on outside the house, filling out and putting stamps on Christmas cards, baking cookies, etc. Each morning we break one of the links on the chain together and read what we'll do that day. This was especially popular when my boys were young, they would even fight over who was going to get to do the chain that day. Because it was a part of their childhood, they still enjoy it.

Writing out the chain also forces me to get out the calendar and plan for all the things I want to make sure that we do. Every year some of activities are ones that we do every year and there also new things I'm trying out. The planning also helps me think about ways to highlight the real significance of the season.

What about you, what are some of your family's favorite Christmas traditions?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving


So here I am thinking about Thanksgiving. What hits me most is that I've been so over the top blessed, how could I not adore Thanksgiving?!

These last few days I've been reflecting on God's many gifts to me.

Most of all I can never seem to get past the fact that God left his rightful place in heaven and took on human limitations to come live a perfect life on earth and die on the cross for me, because my sins require payment. I can never cease to be grateful for this great salvation that is mine! I never cease to be grateful that He loves me just how I am and desires relationship with me. For the fact that He has a good plan for my life.

Then there's all the just plain good stuff in my life: A husband who really knows me and still loves me, 3 healthy sons who I get to be a part of their lives and see them grow in God and grow in their gifts and vision. A home in a beautiful mountain town that most people only get to come to for vacations; I can go out my back door and hike up into the national forest just about every day. Friends who I can always count on and whose company I relish.

I really don't deserve to have it so good.


Then there's the fun traditions part of Thanksgiving day. This year we'll only have 7 at our table; a small year for us (someone else is gonna be blessed by the company of 2 of my sons this year). I really like cooking for people so I've been enjoying the planning, shopping and cooking leading up to Thanksgiving day. It seems that over time we've ended up with a set menu for the most part; the salad I tried one year that my niece liked so much, my husband John's mom's recipe for cranberry relish that he can't get enough of, the vegetable dish that I'm so happy with because it's fresh,colorful, healthy and simple. I've got to say that I detest the entire idea of marshmallows on top of yams - who thought of such a gross idea? So we always have fresh, baked, sweet potatoes with butter.

What about you, what thoughts are foremost in your mind this Thanksgiving? What are some of your Thanksgiving traditions?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Terrific Tuesday with Tony from Tony C Today

Today's Terrific Tuesday guest is Tony, who writes at Tony C Today and at Kingdom Bloggers. Tony's posts have at various times made me laugh, think, and be grateful to our gracious heavenly father.

Enjoy this Best of Tony C Today post...

The one with the cute little umbrella straw please...


I'm not a coffee drinker...

Wait, let me start by saying that I've laid off political and religious subjects this week in respect to Easter. It seemed like the WWJD thing to do. So...

I'm not a coffee drinker. Never have been. But, I live with two females that love the stuff. We could debate if a 13 (soon to be 14) year old should be drinking coffee...but I won't go there. I accept the argument that a cup of coffee can't be any worse than a bottle of soda. Moving on...

So from time to time, I find myself at the local Starbucks, which might as well be eastern Slovenia for me. It's like a completely different world...a make-believe world where people speak a pseudo-foreign language and pretend to be high society...or hip...or something I'm apparently not. Now, I understand the Italian connection with the origin of many coffee drinks coming from Italy, and the implied chicness of the hole fiasco called Starbucks, but what I don't get is the absolutely ridiculous sounding process for ordering.

I'm not Italian illiterate either. Aside for the Learn A Language While You Drive cassette series I played for months before an Italy trip that feel apart the day prior to departure, the Sopranos were a weekly ritual at my house. I know Italian...well...some Italian. I know latte is Italian for milk, I know grande means large. What I don't understand is why a grande iced vanilla latte at Starbucks isn't a large cup of milk with vanilla flavor. What gives?

So, this morning I find myself alone in the drive-thru at Starbucks filled with anxiety. Since I love my wife more than any earthly thing, I'm doing this for her. For me... this is virgin territory. I refuse to order when we go together, making my wife or the teenager do the honors...and..always making fun of the process. I want a frappa mocha latte venti or some other ridiculously sounding fictional concoction. But here I am...ready to order.

Speaker: Welcome to Starbucks. Would you like to try one of our fancy smancy new sandwiches?

I'm frozen. What did she say she wanted?

Just a minute please.

Speaker: Take your time and order when you're ready.

I'm sure the seven hundred and twenty cars behind me want just that...me to take my time. I glance over the menu board looking for some type of trigger word...but it's all so...foreign.

Uh, uh mocha, latte, venti, frappachino, cappachino...before I even realized, I say...out loud...

Frappa mocha latte...uh

Speaker: Excuse me sir?

Nothing would do my heart more good than to break into a speaker rant over why Starbucks had to stop selling the black and white cookie...it's all I ever liked there! But I have loved ones waiting in the balance on me performing this simple task.

Text message! Thank you Jesus! She sent what she wanted in a text message! A few quick clicks...

I'll take a iced vanilla latte venti please.
Not a perfect delivery...wrong indefinite article grammatically...but hey...I'm a rookie.

Speaker: That will be $4.33. Thank you pull forward.

$4.33! For a cup of coffee! I'm I picking this up IN Italy? That's an entire #1 Value Breakfast Meal WITH a large iced tea at Mickie D's.

As I'm pulling forward, I notice the 'Coexist' bumper sticker on the BMW in front of me...nice...this is now the company I keep...very nice.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin