Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Voice Magazine


Looking for a great magazine full of insightful articles? Check out The Voice. I just received mine yesterday and right in the front of it is an article from my blog. My daughter, Alea, after seeing my name in print, repeatedly told me how cool I was. "Swwwweeeeeeet Mom! You are sooooooo cool!"

It is a free magazine published bimonthly out of the UK.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Gifts No Longer Accepted


Have you noticed that in this day in age in the United States you can't just give a small gift to someone out of the kindness of your heart? Recently, while at a doctor's office, Kasi, who loves to share and give, tried giving the doctor a small something. The doctor said that their policy does not permit them to accept gratuities. This is not the first time we have run into this either.

Last summer, our washing machine needed repair. It was hot. Our repair man was a big guy. After watching him get up and down off the floor working on our washing machine, sweating and breathing heavy, Alea brought him a glass of water. He refused, stating the same policy. (I did wonder in my highly sarcastic mind if he would refuse the gratuity of a payout from our homeowners policy if he had a heart attack while working on my machine)

It really makes me wonder what our society is coming to, when out of fear of lawsuits and unfair treatment, people are not permitted to accept a kindness from another. Where do you have to look to see and learn about unconditional love? What lesson are my children learning when their kindnesses are repeatedly refused? Will they keep trying to issue them, or just quit trying?

This problem seems to be limited mostly to the United States. In other parts of the world tokens of kindness are accepted regularly, and a barter system is still in place. But we are all living in fear of being sued. We are a litigating country. People hungry for money and the 'American dream' will sue for anything. For them, winning a lawsuit is akin to winning the lottery.

And what about the barter system? This country was founded on the barter system. People without money could often purchase goods and services in exchange for goods or services they could provide. A sick child could receive medical care in exchange for food, or sewing, or some such thing. Money, although useful, was not entirely necessary. We have almost eliminated that from our society. We have made is so you must always have money. No money - no service! Which, of course, means you never have enough money. So people work longer hours, and take on more jobs.

What kind of society will eventually emerge if small kindnesses are eliminated entirely? If behavior is learned, people will never learn to be kind to others. Apathy will replace sympathy. We see stories in the news of people being in peril, and others just standing by and watching, unwilling to step in and lend a hand. We are feeding that type of behavior. In time, will unconditional love only exist for mothers and their babies. Or will that too begin to fade?

You hear all too often, 'you can't get something for nothing'. We, the skeptics, are always looking for the attached strings. Has it always been that way? Or is that something we have learned recently? A behavior that we have learned in response to all these policies?

In order to truly grow as a society, not in size, but to experience real positive growth, we need to reestablish a sense of community. And this will never happen unless we begin teaching our children, and ourselves, that kindness is a good and acceptable thing. And that there is more to life than money.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas To You All!




That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. Luke 2:8-20 NLT
Have a blessed Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Yummy Works of Art

If you like cupcakes (of course you do), you need to check out http://lecupcake.blogspot.com/. You will find there some of the most beautiful pieces of sweet art you have ever seen. For those of you easily impressed, here is a picture of my first cake made with gum paste decorations. This is from last spring. Maybe I'll get back to playing with it again one of these days. Then again, making soap is much less fattening!


Is Vengeance Mine?

I overheard a conversation the other day that really bothered me. Two guys were talking about vengeance. One said he thought it should be like the Bible says ~ an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. He stated that if someone hung someone, they should be hung. If they tortured someone to death, they should be tortured to death. He said that that was the only way someone would learn their lesson. It never ceases to amaze me how people can pick a few words out of the Bible out of context and quote it as complete truth. And they then fail to recognize what the Bible says that contradicts their belief. Here is what I found in relation to vengeance:

38 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Matt 5:38-39 (ESV)


43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Matt 5:43-47 (ESV)


18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Lev 19:17-18 (ESV)


Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20 To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head."
Romans 12:17-20 (ESV)


Now, why would God tell us to not repay violence with violence? Does he want us to be a doormat? Does he want us to suffer at the hands of our enemies without defending ourselves? Does he not understand how cruel people can be to each other?

The truth is that God knows that more fire only feeds a fire. When I was in college I completed an internship at Boys Republic in Chino, CA. Boys Republic is a treatment 'community' for boys with emotional and behavioral problems. At the time, many of the boys were gang members. When the director first interviewed me, he asked me several situational questions. One was how would I react if faced with a boy that was very aggressive and confrontational toward me. Remember, I was 21 (and looked about 15), and 4'10". My mind was thinking about the quickest way to defend myself against some wild teenage boy who towered over me. The correct answer, he told me, was to take on a relaxed nonchalant stance, maybe leaning against a wall, and to speak quietly. Hmmm, not my first reaction. The truth was that they would simmer down if not confronted. They were looking for a fight. They were looking for someone to fight with. If you didn't feed their fire, it would extinguish itself.

I have since gone on to work as a correctional officer at a medium security men's prison, and to work with teenage boys with behavioral problems in a public high school setting. I had a problem once at the prison with a man exposing himself to me during a block check. I calmly stepped outside the door and told him to get dressed and step out for roll call. He tried getting real defensive, and trying to egg me on. I just quietly told him that I was not making an issue of it, and would he please get dressed and come into the hall before an issue was made. He got dressed and came out. I never had another problem with him. He would quietly (without looking me in the eye) always say "good morning CO". And that was the end of that. No pepper spray or strong arming necessary.

I was given a boy to work with at the high school who was constantly agitated. Other staff protested saying that he needed a man to control him, not some short, weak woman. They said they were concerned for my safety. (they didn't know I had beat up a bully in my younger days ;D) Another boy would get angry at the way people would tease him, and strike out. We had a walk and talk policy. We would walk the track and talk. I never had a problem with either the men at the prison, or the boys at the high school. I was not a threat. I was calming. I was non-confrontational. It was a more effective way. I didn't know at the time that it worked because it was God's plan. They learned a new way to react to situations. They also learned that it takes two to battle.

Vengeance never diffuses anger. You may be able to get a person to surrender and submit, but even though their arms aren't flailing, their mind is turning. They are planning how to rise up against you. That is why countries controlled by a dictatorship are always full of civil uprising. Anger, control, confrontation, violence - they all feed aggression. And it never ends at an eye for an eye. It is always - 'they took one eye, I will take two'! Look at gang warfare. One gang shoots a member of another gang. They retaliate by shooting a family member of a member of the first gang. They retaliate by killing an entire family of the other gang. It never stops, and it continues to escalate. That's how family feuds get started. That is how wars begin.

All people learn by example. We can start by setting an example of peace and forgiveness. My prayer is for a world where there is truly peace on earth and good will toward ALL men.

Have a wonderful Christmas! And please remember the king at the center of the celebration!


14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke 2:14 (KJV)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

My Babies are Growing Up at Lightening Speed!

Go Forth and Create Smiles!


The girls and I have been hanging with the veterans this week at the VA Hospital. My dad had cataract surgery Monday morning, an MRI late Monday, and two appointments on Tuesday. I took a huge bag of goodies to keep them occupied (my back hurts to prove it!). We sailed through Monday with the girls crocheting, coloring, doing workbooks and Mad Libs, chatting with elderly veterans, and playing peek-a-boo with patients and staff from the door of the waiting room. They were true troopers. They never got wild. And when I tried to scold them for the peek-a-boo, I was informed that they were brightening the place, and the smiles with legs that passed by proved the point.

Tuesday, we returned to find that my dad had two spread out appointments instead of the one quick in-and-out checkup we were expected. Instead of getting frustrated, I quickly realized that we were where God wanted us to be for the time. Apparently, there were some folks in need of Christmas cheer and Alea and Kasi were just the ones to deliver it. They sat in the waiting rooms and chit chatted with all the folks growing weary of waiting. They joked and smiled with the staff. One doctor told me how wonderful it was to see children. They just don't see children at the VA. One nurse came up and asked me if they were the children she saw Monday in building 2. I had people coming up left and right who had seen them Monday and told me how great it was to have them back. Alea made a comment about how they had televisions on in every waiting room, and that all that was on was News and Weather, and that there were just a bunch of magazines about Diabetes (with eye roll). So, apparently, they needed a change of scenery.

Why don't we go places more often that we aren't expected at? Take some kids to the VA or a nursing home. Ask to be put on the visitor list of someone in prison who doesn't receive visitors. Head to the local shelter with some snacks and magazines. Do something unexpected! Go forth and create some smiles!

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Night of Ladies Fellowship!



Last night was Festival of Tables. This is an evening of ladies fellowship that we do at our church every December. Several women sign up to decorate a table - often with a theme. Such a great opportunity to exercise our creative muscles. With the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, it is really nice to sit down to a wonderful meal, at a beautiful table, and be served by a few of the guys we love - dressed in bow ties. We talked, we ate, and we made new friends. I highly recommend it.

As Christians, one of the things we are commanded to do is to serve one another. It was one of the last things Jesus did for his disciples before being arrested. He got on his knees and washed their feet. But we also need to do the next thing he did that night. We need to communion and fellowship with others. Both are necessary. Both are good.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Welcome One! Welcome All!


I saw this sign the other day in the parking lot of a local church. It disturbed me. Maybe you have seen others like it. One was posted at the entrance of the parking lot, and one at the exit. I photographed the one at the exit so I would be ready to cut a trail in my minivan with my girls should the church campus police come after me for trespassing on private property.

The message disturbs me. You are welcome at this church to learn about Jesus Christ, and come to know him if (1) you 'belong', or (2) you are invited by someone who does 'belong'. It screams to me riff-raff and ragamuffins need not apply. Lost people need not apply. Sinners need not apply. Travelers and business people away from your churches, stay out of ours. What ever happened to reaching the people? What ever happened to going out amongst the people? What ever happened to the notion that God is the creator and owner of ALL? Has that changed? Or have people lost their focus on the reality of scripture? Have they focused so clearly on their highlighted verses that they forgot the other verses in their Bibles exist?

So many churches claim to exist to reach the lost and bring them to know and accept Christ as their personal savior. But what message are they sending to the lost? How inviting are they making themselves? It really produces an 'us versus them' mentality. Not only in the people outside the church building walls but within the minds of those people sitting in the seats. Do our churches exist to serve the lost or the saved? It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous but the sinners to repentance. Luke 5:31-32 How will they get 'healthy' if we don't welcome them in to meet the doctor?

My Bible tells me that All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2Timothy 3:16-17 That means that the Bible is not just a history lesson. It's not just a nifty bunch of Bible stories and songs. It is an instruction manual. It is there to show us which way to travel and to set us straight when we start to stray from the path God intended for us. And it gives us several instructions on how to treat one another (not just within the walls of our church buildings). It tells us to :

Love your neighbor as yourself. If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. Galatians 5:14-15

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Romans 12:16

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12:30

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35

Therefore let us stop passing judgement on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. Romans 14:13

I didn't discover any verses about setting up a church 'country club' with only those with a membership allowed to enter. Please let me know of any you find. I did find this:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. And the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go out and visit you?'

The King will reply, ' I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' Matthew 25:31-45

I think back to when my husband and I started exploring the life of Jesus Christ, and looking at Christianity. My husband had a mohawk. I wonder if this church, or many others like it would have invited us in to explore and learn about Jesus. I think of all the churches that encourage a members only attitude. I remember the words of Shane Claiborne who claimed to have given up Christianity to follow Jesus Christ. I understand how he became disillusioned by the church system and turned his focus on Jesus Christ, the man.

So many people have been hurt by the Church, hurt by Christians. Yes, alot of churches have open arms, waiting to welcome in outsiders. But we should continue to be disturbed until that is the norm, not the exception. And we must always remember, we are the Church! We are her arms. We are her feet. We are the tools necessary to change her.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Something to Ponder

My Internet has been down since last week, and my brain has been active thinking of all the things I wanted to share with you once it (the Internet connection...not my brain =D) came back up. First off, for those of you out doing any form of shopping during this holly, jolly time of year, who may have encountered some folks lacking in the joy of the Christmas season, I have a few reminders to help you overcome your discouragement.

ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN
(a guide for Global Leadership)

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.

These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don't hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don't take things that aren't yours.

Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Flush.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.

Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

[Source: "ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN" by Robert Fulghum. See his web site at http://www.robertfulghum.com/ ]

**I know it is easy to say 'I get it. But I sure wish they would'. Children and adults alike learn by the example we set. Grumbling and complaining are contagious. Spread kindness and joy, even when it pains you, and it will make a difference - one person at a time.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A Different Christmas Carol



I am not a person to pass on every forward that enters my in box. But a few are set apart. This one gives up something to think about and people to pray for.

Whether or not you agree with the choices our government is making for our armed services, please always try to encourage and support the men and women who serve.


A Different Christmas Carol


The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,

I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."
"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.

No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ' Pearl on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."

"My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ' Nam ',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile."

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
"I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..

Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."
"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."

"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.

For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

Origins of this poem can be found at:

20th Century Education


I have run into several of my kids from the high school recently. One young man called me the other day to talk after a friend passed away, and I saw one yesterday at the store. One new young mother came up to me a few months ago eager to show off her new daughter. Seeing these kids and having them come to me to share their concerns and joys really lifts me up. It has been 2 1/2 years since I quit working outside the home so I could home school my girls. And I really miss my other kids!

God sent me to work at the high school. (Seems my psych degree and work history at a juvenile placement facility and as a correctional officer at a medium security prison perfectly qualified me for high school work) I believe that was the final thing he did in convincing me to home school. See, I worked with some awesome kids. There were even some incredible teachers, and a wonderful principal at the school I worked at. But the kids I worked with had learning disabilities and behavioral problems. And there is this nifty little rule in place that says that the school system must accommodate ALL disabilities. Sounds great, but in the school system's attempt to be accommodating, they bind and gag their staff and then instruct them to teach effectively. They use the term 'disability' to cover any and every deviance in an attempt to placate some parents of out-of-control teens.

Let me give an example. I was given charge of a teenage boy whose mother insisted he was bipolar. Numerous psychiatrists had not yet determined that, but mom was insistent. He gets upset with a teacher who asks him to participate in class, puts his head down, and starts playing with a lighter (not supposed to have lighters in high school!), trying to light papers on fire and fling them into the trash can. I try to quietly take him to the hall, and confiscate the lighter, and tell him to show his teacher the respect of listening instead of being distracting. (Always take a kid aside quietly- never make a scene or embarrass them in front of other kids - you lose them.) He tells me (very loudly....with swearing) that the next time he will light the whole school on fire. I try escorting him to the office while he storms off from me, loudly swearing at me down the hallway, disrupting every classroom on the way. I probably had about three hundred witnesses. After his talk with the vice principal, (did I mention I was instructed to wait outside?), he is given a warning to try to control his anger and a smile......and I am informed/reminded that he is bipolar, have bipolar slowly and patiently explained to me, and am instructed that he is not acting out - it is his 'disability' speaking, and told that we must work around his 'disability'.

He was quite quickly shown that I have no authority, and that he can do whatever he wants! I am given the same speech by one of the other teachers, the whole time wondering why they are speaking so slooooowwwly to me. Do I appear slow?

I must share my response. I was a little rude. I instructed the powers-that-be that I did not come to the school with a degree in education, but one in psychology - neuropsychology to be exact. And that I had studied bipolar disorder pretty extensively - even knew folks with it. And that that kid was not, in my opinion, bipolar. He was defiant, disrespectful, and had no respect for authority, and had never been held accountable for his actions, but he was NOT disabled. And then I told them that we were crippling him by allowing him to get away with it, and we were robbing him of an education. He was going to be shocked the first time he ran into trouble with the law, threw up his hands and said 'but wait, I have a disability!' and they told him to shut up and threw him in the slammer.

And, by the way, what about the other kids? What about the kids whose classes were disrupted? What about the kids in his class, unable to learn, because of all the drama constantly going on around them? What about the kids he threatens, because they happen to be in his path when he is throwing a temper tantrum?

So, like I was saying....I still miss my kids. But the bureaucracy of the public school system, in an effort to be politically correct, and in an effort to give everyone an equal education, places enough restrictions on the educators that they are not able to effectively teach as they desire. Equal education now means average, not excellent, education. Some kids, thankfully, still manage to excel. But it is often a result of their own perseverance, and alot of time and effort from their parents. And it is not because the teachers are incompetent. I met some incredible, gifted teachers. But most teachers, given time, will grow weary of trying to teach bound and gagged.

I think God wanted me to see the system. He wanted me to realize that my own children could possibly be those other kids, incapable of learning to the best of their ability, because the teacher has to accommodate the needs of other kids first. Or maybe my children could develop into the defiant, disrespectful kid, their education being put on hold while their behaviors ignored. And I am so thankful, because I know I am not the best teacher, or the best mom. But there is one thing that homeschooling allows me to do. It allows me to teach my children, without the worries and distractions of dealing with the bureaucracy of the school system, free to flail my unbound hands, and speak from my ungagged mouth.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Remembrance of Heroes



I don't know why I chose today. It isn't a special day. I was just thinking about my Uncle Terry and his copilot who died when their helicopter 'Pegasus' crashed into the Klamath River not quite a year and a half ago. They were fighting the wildfires near the California / Oregon border.

Terry 'Jake' Jacobs
born 2~18~48

and

Andrei Pantchenko
born 4~20~68

Both died on 8~04~06

Please pray for all the brave folks fighting these fires that have been ravaging our beautiful countryside. They have saved many lives and many have given their lives for the privilege of doing so. And please continue to pray for the safety of the firefighters to come.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I Won Something!!

Some of you know that I am forming a soap-making addiction. Hey, I've had worse addictions! But I digress. Anne-Marie and her Soap Queen blog is one of my daily reads. She shares all sorts of bath and body product how-to's and what-not's. If you love to craft, make stuff, learn new things, pamper yourself or others, or just plain meet fun people, you need to check her out.

She had a surprise drawing from commenters to give away some fabulous essential oils and perfume oil blends. And the winner is.......koinoniacommunity! I won! I won! I won!

Thanks, Anne-Marie, for lifting my spirits!

http://soap-queen.blogspot.com/

Looking for ingredients to make your own goodies? She can help you there too. Follow her link to Bramble Berry!

Jesus ~ Lover of My Soul

When you think of Jesus what do you think of? Do you think of a baby in a manger? Do you think of a man, the son of God, suffering and dying on a cross? Or do you think of the many Bible stories you have heard through the years, telling of his life? Do you see him as a child, a boy, and a man, suffering the same challenges and pitfalls we all go through in daily living? Do you believe he came to pay the ultimate price for YOUR sins? Do you believe he knows you personally?

Here we are not far into Advent, and it really has my mind reeling. I have to admit, this is our first year celebrating Advent. Normally we go through the rush, rush, rush, leading up to Christmas, and the clean up and rest leading away from Christmas. But we have made a vow to stop and make time for things important to us as a family, and things important to God. And we are making the time to talk about Jesus' life every day, and delve into who he was, and who he is.

I see Jesus sitting in Heaven chatting with God, living the life. God is talking to him about the sin in the world, and the sin sacrifices. He tells Jesus about his idea to send him into the world to live as a man. He wants Jesus to teach the people about Him, to suffer as they do, and then tells Jesus he will be mocked, beaten, and killed to atone for all the sins yet to come.....ever! The final blood sacrifice. And Jesus says he will do it.

I think back to all the times I have said 'if I had any idea I was going to have to go through this, I would never have done that'. I don't like to suffer. I sure don't do it voluntarily. Can you even imagine agreeing to suffer for people you don't even know? People who will mock you, spit on you, beat you, then kill you? People who don't even believe in you? People like me, not so many years ago, who believed the story of Jesus was just that....a story?

Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? It is. Yet it is not. See, we as people are not capable of thinking that way. Only someone from God, who is without sin, can think entirely of the ultimate goal, without his mind being clouded with selfish thoughts. We are always, no matter how righteous and serving, going to think about our suffering, our sacrifice, what we want to do.

I also see Jesus as a person. I see him as a boy going through growing pains, suffering through a cold, a cut finger, wanting his mommy, and friends who won't share a plaything. I see him as a man, hungry and tired, or laughing with his friends. I see him telling people about God, knowing what he is going to suffer, and knowing their thoughts, feeling their mocking words and rejection.
All of this, and I think of what he wants from me in return for his suffering. He has promised to wash away all my sins, and grant me eternal life. What is the price? Of course there is a catch. Nothing is free, right? The fee is faith.

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life."

16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
John 3:14-18 (ESV)

Faith! Belief! That is the only fee he requires. People ask all the time if you believe in Santa. But do you believe in Jesus? Do you truly believe?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

freerice.com


Sounded too good to be true....BUT......
I checked this out at snopes.com. It is real! The friend that sent me an email about it got her info from a Willow Creek affiliated newsletter. Check it out folks. You increase your vocabulary while donating food to the needy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ho Ho Ho! or Bah! Humbug!


Okay, here is a touchy subject. **Warning**If you have children around you may want to read this later. It contains some spoilers! What do you tell your kids about Santa? How old do you believe kids should be before you start changing the story?

From early on as a mommy, I had trouble with Santa. I felt very uncomfortable with the whole idea of Santa. I didn't know how to broach the subject with my daughters about Santa. I didn't know how to respond to their questions. I even agonized over the whole 'wrapping paper recognition' thing.

Why so much anxiety over something people have done for AGES? First of all, I am a B rated liar. You remember the B rated horror movies, like 'The Gourmet Zombie Chef From Hell"? The effects were so unrealistic, they were comical. The story was so pitiful, it was amusing. That is the kind of liar I am. Infants can see through my facade. When my dear hubby is telling the girls a tall tale, they come and check with me, because I am on 'the trust list' (aka. can't lie list).

Then God blesses me with a natural defense attorney as a first-born. Here is a play by play from one of our discussions.

"Mommy, can I have some candy?"

"No. It's almost supper time."

I catch her with a piece of gum.

"Didn't I tell you you couldn't have any candy?"

"No. I asked if I could have any candy. You said no. You didn't actually say, Alea, you can't have any candy....and ACTUALLY, this is gum."

She was doing this at the age of five!!!!

So......you see my predicament. She will see through my lies for sure! I am so going to get busted, and not be able to lie my way out of it. Anyways, I am really struggling with the whole idea of encouraging my girls to be truthful, and to assure them that there is nothing they ever need to keep from us.....yet they learn best by the example we set, and we felt we were setting an example of lies. True, it was a harmless lie. Even a fun lie. But...it was a lie.

Then came the final straw. Alea told us that she prayed to Santa about what she wanted for Christmas. SHE WAS PRAYING TO SANTA!! Now, not only am I worried about being caught in a lie, or encouraging lies, our children are confusing God with Santa!!! It is time to nip it in the bud.

So we make the decision to tell them about Santa. We talk about legends and myths. We tell them that some people choose to play that legends are real because it is fun. We tell them that some people choose to use their imaginations and creativity to make Santa seem alive, and that is fine. But we have chosen not to.

We told them that we had made a vow of honesty to them, and that we had broken it. We were well meaning, but we had broken our vow, and we told them we were sorry. We told them that we never wanted them to doubt the truth in our words ever again. We also told them that we never wanted them to doubt the truth of Jesus Christ, or lose focus of him as the reason for Christmas.

We told them that other parents had fun playing the part, and to please not spoil their fun. We instructed them to never be rude when people asked them well-intended questions about Santa, such as "what did Santa bring you for Christmas?", but to politely answer them as if they believed.

It was not a popular decision with many family and friends. We were told that we were ruining the 'spirit of Christmas', and taking away our girls childhood. People even accused us of taking away our children's gifts. They still get gifts. No more - no less. They just know where they came from. And they know that when we celebrate Christmas, we are celebrating the birth of the coolest baby to ever have lived.

The following letter was given to us by some dear Christian friends of ours. We used it. It raised an interesting point, and my girls understood it. Of course, Alea argued at first... but that's another story.


Dear *******,

In first grade you’ve learned some interesting things about Santa Claus. You’ve learned that he has different names in different countries, and that he does different things in each. This variety of Santas has confused you, so I think it’s time to tell you the truth about who Santa Claus really is.

You see, Santa is real. It’s just that you don’t know him by his real name-mom and dad. Yes, it’s your father and mother who shower you with presents each year at Christmas time.

Why? Because we are joyfully celebrating Christ’s birthday the same way the three Wise Men did. Just as they brought gifts to the newborn Jesus, we give gifts to a child that we’re happy has been born, and that we love very much.

Why do we say someone else does it? I’m not sure. Maybe because we want to share with you the feeling of being loved by someone you haven’t actually seen. Like being loved by God. We don’t see God, but we do see what God does for us out of love. God gives us many gifts: our families, our homes, and our entire world.

We want to share the feeling of being loved no matter who you are or what you do, as God loves you. I know we sometimes say, “Be good if you want Santa to come,” when we want you to behave. But as you’ve already figured out, Santa-or rather, we-come anyway. And God does, too. God may not like what we do sometimes, but God always loves us.

I think it’s important that you know Santa is real, and that mom and dad are Santa. Because I don’t want you to be told Santa isn’t real, and have your wonder about if God is real.

Dad and mom become Santa every Christmas for a good reason. Because we want to share the love that God gave us when God shared the greatest gift of all-his son, Jesus

We love you,

Mom & Dad

Monday, November 26, 2007

Having Trouble Sleeping...Again!

Having trouble sleeping again and came across this. And I promise I didn't have any coffee after lunch today! Those of you that know me....is this me?!

You Are a Soy Latte

Yeah, you've got a bit of that healthy hippie thing going on
But you're more Kate Hudson urban bohemian than Phish groupie
You're worldly and well traveled.. and you know where to get the best coffee in town.
All your experience makes you a compassionate person - and a caring girlfriend.


Oooooh! I can't wait 'til morning so I can brew a cup!!!!

Autumn in My Backyard!

Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?

I couldn't resist. I often wonder if I overcomplicate things. Apparently not! Journalists and newscasters try to simplify stories so that anyone can understand them. My blog is written on an elementary level! Share it with your children!!

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Miracles are all around us!


Ever seen a miracle? I mean, we read about them in the Bible. We read about them in magazines and books. We see stories about them in the movies. But have you ever seen or touched a miracle? If so, how did it impact you? Did you believe it was a miracle of God or merely a coincidence?

Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered
Psalms 105:5 (ESV)

Miracles are mentioned frequently in the Bible. They are manifest by God. They are performed by Christ. They are performed by the disciples. The working of miracles is even mentioned as a spiritual gift. They leave people in awe. They strengthen belief. They create faith.

We often pray for a miracle. God, they say there is no hope, but you are a God of miracles.....God, show them a miracle.....God, soften his hard heart - work a miracle.... But, do we really go into our prayers with the expectation of having them answered? Do we expect to witness a miracle? I think we are full of doubt. But I don't think it is doubt in God's ability to perform a miracle. I think it is that we doubt God is willing to perform a miracle on our behalf.

Miracles serve a purpose. Really, don't all the spiritual gifts work toward fulfilling God's purpose? Miracles are all around us. We need to learn to recognize them for what they are. When we see a miracle in progress, we need to stop. We need to think of the implications. God causes miracles to work toward His purpose. When I see a miracle performed in a person's life, I have learned to stop and think about what His purpose is in their life. What does He have in store for their future that a miracle was necessary to propel them there?

Just last week, I saw God work a miracle in the life of a five year old child. I saw people's hearts soften, and saw them make decisions that would impact this child's life forever. I saw them turn 'it isn't possible' into 'it is done'. My favorite part of the story is hearing about how, as these government officials filled out the paper work, they were shaking their heads in wonder, looking confused, and saying 'this never happens'. Never? It was happening. They just didn't know they were being used as an instrument in the working of a miracle.

When I think of this story, I can't help but wonder, what does God have in store for this child? After all, miracles aren't thrown around haphazardly. This child's life required a miracle to propel her toward her purpose - God's purpose.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I missed one of the greatest quotes of all...

You must be the change you want to see in the world.

Mahatma Ghandi

Thursday, November 15, 2007

the Greatest of these is LOVE!

I have found it difficult lately to set my heart to writing. My heart has been aching as I look around me. The things I have seen have elicited so much emotion, but so few words. God has told us that if we forget all else, to remember one word.....Love. God is love. Love God. Love thy neighbor. Love your enemy. God so Loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.... and I see Love all around me. But I see so much hate. I hear negative comments...criticisms...gossip. I see senseless violence. I hear God crying out - I gave this to you. You choose what to do with it. Do something!

I don't think we realize how much power we have. I don't think we realize the strength behind a word or a look. When we were children, we were told that we could do anything - we could change the world. And we believed it. Somewhere along the way, we lost faith in our own power to change things. But the catch is that we continued unconsciously to influence things around us. We thought we couldn't impact our environment....yet we continued to impact our environment. We thought that we couldn't change other people's views and perceptions.....yet we continued to change their views and perceptions, and sometimes tainted our own beliefs along the way.

We have power! And we are not harnessing it. We are not utilizing our power to accomplish a purpose. What would happen if we would actively channel our power of influence toward a purpose? What are we capable of? Can we zap away someones negative attitude with our positive one? Maybe not. Maybe so. But we can plant a seed of hope. Can we show love instead of hate? Compassion instead of anger?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said "Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being." Do we really have the power to help a person attain their potential? Do we have the influence? Anne Frank said "How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment, we can start now, start slowly changing the world! How lovely that everyone, great and small, can make their contribution toward introducing justice straightaway... And you can always, always give something, even if it is only kindness! "

We have the power to teach people about love. God would not have commanded us to show love above all else if it was not possible. Christ said "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Matt 18:3 (KJV) Christ used the illustration of being like children. Do you think that could be because children still have limitless faith? Children still think they can change the world. Why don't we? Have we tried?

We can complain about the world around us. "What is the world coming to?" "These kids today..." But as long as we continue to be 'armchair activists' we are exhibiting the most fearful sort of influence - the influence of indifference. And those children that look to us for guidance, learn something. They learn that a person is doesn't have the power to change the world. And they are wrong!

something to think about.......................

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. Audrey Hepburn

If thou be kind to this people, and please them, and speak good words to them, they will be thy servants for ever. 2 Chron 10:7 (KJV)

I look forward confidently to the day when all who work for a living will be one with no thought to their separateness as Negroes, Jews, Italians or any other distinctions. This will be the day when we bring into full realization the American dream -- a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few; a dream of a land where men will not argue that the color of a man's skin determines the content of his character; a dream of a nation where all our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone, but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity; the dream of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of the human personality. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. Prov 15:1 (KJV)

The unique personality which is the real life in me, I can not gain unless I search for the real life, the spiritual quality, in others. I am myself spiritually dead unless I reach out to the fine quality dormant in others. For it is only with the god enthroned in the innermost shrine of the other, that the god hidden in me, will consent to appear.
"An Ethical Philosophy of Life" Felix Adler


I have expressed my strong interest in the mass of the people; and this is founded, not on their usefulness to the community, so much as on what they are in themselves.... Indeed every man (sic), in every condition, is great. It is only our own diseased sight which makes him little. A man is great as a man, be he where or what he may. The grandeur of his nature turns to insignificance all outward distinctions. William Ellery Channing

Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
Romans 12:9-10 (KJV)

The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people Franklin D. Roosevelt

Kindness is the highest form of intelligence. Negativity is poison and in all things we reap what we sow. when you are negative without tempering such actions or attitudes with kindness, you create an environment ripe for the breeding of resentment and animosity, hurt feelings are the natural outcome. The intelligence comes in when you realize that a kind word or action results in reciprocation, it opens the door to love and contentment. Negativity and criticism may help to develop a thicker skin, but pressed too hard, the skin become stone, and have you ever tried to squeeze blood from a stone *unknown

The words of a man's mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook. Prov 18:4 (KJV)

The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly. Prov 18:8 (KJV)

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. Prov 31:26 (KJV)

I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration; I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:35 (KJV)

I think that this is the first time I am meeting most of you. But to me, whether it is an old friend or new friend, there’s not much difference anyway, because I always believe we are the same; we are all human beings. Of course, there may be differences in our cultural background or way of life, there may be differences in our faith, or we may be of a different color, but we are human beings, consisting of the human body and the human mind. Our physical structure is the same, and our mind and our emotional nature are also the same. Whenever I meet people, I always have the feeling that I am encountering another human being, just like myself. I find it is much easier to communicate with others on that level. If we emphasize specific characteristics, like I am Tibetan or I am Buddhist, then there are differences. But those things are secondary. If we can leave the differences aside, I think we can easily communicate, exchange ideas, and share experiences. Dalai Lama

And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. 34 But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. Lev 19:33-34 (KJV)

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. Psalms 19:14 (KJV) AMEN.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

One Laptop Per Child


http://www.laptopgiving.org/

Looking for the ultimate Christmas gift? Buy one of these computers for your child and one will be given to another child. Note that $200 of the purchase price is tax deductible.
We usually spend very little on our children for Christmas. They are so blessed anyways. But this year we are probably going to spend a little more, and get them a computer to share. As a benefit, we will be giving another child a tool for learning. I want my children to know that I wish to provide for the children of the world in addition to them. I hope that by so doing, I will help nourish a desire in them to provide for the needs of people less fortunate than themselves.
These computers have recently become available to donate. Starting tomorrow, November 12, and through November 26, they will be available to purchase for your personal use. The catch is that they are only available on a buy one, give one basis. What an incredible plan! For less than half the price of a standard laptop, you can purchase two - one to keep, one to give. Please check out their site, and read more about this incredible product. The frequently asked questions section should answer any questions you may have.
What a valuable lesson our children can learn from our purchase decisions. Please consider this organization and others like it, when you are planning your shopping list.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Can You Out-Give God? Wanna try?

My husband raised an interesting point yesterday. He stated that you never hear about people giving their way to financial ruin. Basically, you never hear about people giving so much to others that it financially breaks them. Why is that?

I can think of a couple of reasons that people head down the path to financial ruin. The most notable of these is consumption of unnecessary stuff. People financially ruin themselves by consumption. They buy. They use. It is gone. They buy more. The television is an advertising tool. It nurtures desire for stuff. Even food. I can be full. Next thing I know a commercial comes on showing a juicy burger, or ......pizza! Suddenly, I DESIRE food. I try to think of something else, but my mind goes back to that image.

It works the same way for stuff. Not just the commercials, but the programs. I can glance at almost any show on television, and say "Oooh, look at that table, door, stained glass window, vase, sofa (you get the picture). That would look great in my house". Speaking of houses, there sure on some neat ones on TV. I think back to when I when I used to watch "Friends". I have never seen an apartment so large...and well decorated! And several of those folks were unemployed!!!

I hate to allow my kids to watch cartoons. Not just because it is senseless rot, but because of the commercials for toys, toys, and more toys. All I hear is "I want", "I gotta have". We buy. We use. It is gone.

Everything God has given us temporarily for our time on earth is small. He has saved the true treasure and riches for us in heaven. He wants first to see what we do with the small things we are entrusted with on earth. That is how he determines what he will entrust us with in heaven. It is a test. What does your score look like?

People that give, give, give just don't buy, buy, buy. They don't fall prey as frequently to the "gotta haves". And that is simply because their desire to give to others is greater that their sense of want. When you look outside yourself to the needs of others, you don't feel the selfish pangs urging you to CONSUME.

I would love to be that kind of person, but I have to confess, I just am not there. I love to give to others, but I frequently catch myself weighing my 'giving' against my 'wanting'. Just this morning I caught myself filling my 'wish list' shopping basket, full of soap making supplies, so when payday hits, I am ready to buy, buy, buy, at the touch of a key. I want to increase my score! I want to be a giver, and not a consumer. I want to try to give my way to financial ruin. After all, I have already figured out how to buy my way to financial ruin.

So, why can't you give your way to financial ruin? Because you can't out-give God. Every time you give with pure intentions, it comes back to you. God will continue to entrust you with more and more of his treasure. But wouldn't it be fun to try?! How would you like to be the first person in history to out-give God? Wanna try?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Quick Quotes of Note

A fresh mind keeps the body fresh. Take in the ideas of the day, drain off those of yesterday. As to the morrow, time enough to consider it when it becomes today. Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. Albert Schweitzer

How well I have learned that there is no fence to sit on between heaven and hell. There is a deep, wide gulf, a chasm, and in that chasm is no place for any man. Johnny Cash

No man ever prayed heartily without learning something. Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve. Albert Schweitzer

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Fire! Fire!

I tried to start an electrical fire this morning! For those curious folks, electrical fire + caffeine does not equal steady hands. My hair dryer has been trying to go out. It has been flickering in and out, but I have been trying to keep it going. I am a little attached to my hair dryer. See, I have what I like to refer to as combination hair - combination curly and straight. So, allowed to follow it's natural form, it resembles a well-used mop. Sheer vanity prohibits me from going out as a mop head. I used to....then I saw the pictures. Ouch!

So.......today I had just finished drying the very front of my hair and, POP, sparks fly from the hair dryer to my arm, the back pops off it, and it shuts off as it flies from my hand to the floor. (as I look on, ready to run for the fire extinguisher) I have a small burn on my arm and the bathroom smells like 'burning'.

You know, I can't help but look back and see the warning signs. Just like our nerves warn our brain with pain when we touch something hot, there were warning signs leading up to the POP! The dryer started flickering on and off (Warning! Danger Ahead!). It even started loosening from the outlet, which, by the way, is not a loose outlet (Stop Now! You can still turn back!). Just like God tries to warn us of danger ahead with an unsettling feeling. The Holy Spirit always gives us a warning sign when we are leading down a dangerous path.

But I did what I so often do when I receive those warnings. I plowed ahead. After all, I know what I'm doing. I'm in control! I can play with fire and not get burned. Right? POP! Flying sparks! Oh! You were talking to me, God? I hear you now!

We have warning signs all around us. Stress, fatigue, headaches, illness, depression. These are all warning signs to Stop! Danger Ahead! What are they danger signs of? That is different for everyone. Often it is trying to accomplish too much in too little time. Other times it is a warning sign of living an unhealthy lifestyle. Sometimes, it is a detour sign from God telling us that he has a clearer path for us that leads toward a life of abundance.

My oldest daughter has had migraines since she was five years old. The cause seems unclear to medical professionals. Their solution is to help her deal with it. They actually told me that she would likely have them for life, but that most women find they start to taper off after menopause. Menopause?! She is eight!! I refuse to accept that. I see it as a warning sign. My God, the great I Am, can do anything!!!!! And we will continue to make small changes in lifestyle to try to lead us toward the path to abundance.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Saturday, November 3, 2007

An Amazing Story!


My family experienced one of the most amazing examples of koinonia last night. I just have to share. Koinonia is a Greek word that translates as participation, social intercourse, benefaction, fellowship, communion, communication, distribution, and sharing. As many of you know, it is my passion. I wish to live my life teaching others of how incredibly rich and blessed their lives can be if they spend their time in communion with others, in fellowship, sharing with people, giving to people. My life is exceedingly, abundantly above anything I could have imagined it to be. I'm not wealthy. But I am blessed. Let me begin my story. See for yourself.

I was approached by a friend at church in September. She informed me that she had been approached by an individual who wanted to provide a 'date night' for my husband and I. I was told that child care would be provided. We were to choose a restaurant and let her know of times that we would be available, and she would get back to us with arrangements.

Last night, at the arranged upon time, we dropped our girls off for a pizza and movie party with friends who agreed to help. All the arrangements were made for us by our contact person. We then proceeded to Carrabas for our 6:15 reservation. I must note that Carrabas does not take reservations, but made a special exception. We were led to a special booth, beautifully decorated especially for us. The table was dressed with a lacy tablecloth and there was a gorgeous bouquet of flowers in a glass vase in the center of the table. Our benefactor had put so much care in providing a romantic environment - from the flickering tea lights to the beautiful napkin rings. And leaning against the vase of flowers was a card addressed to us.

Well, I can't share the details of the card. But know that there were two sets of eyes welling up at that table. And it did reveal our benefactor, who then came out and gave us hugs, took a couple of pictures, told us to enjoy our evening, and disappeared. It was another dear, precious friend of ours, and a complete surprise. We proceeded to enjoy the evening, eating wonderful food, and enjoying amazing service. Many of the staff members came by, telling us they had been dying all day to know the occasion for our special night. They looked at us dumbfounded as we said that we didn't have an occasion. We just have the coolest, most amazing friends ever!

We were told to take the flowers with us. They were ours. And we faced the awkward task of leaving without paying. Our friend had taken care of the details.

Koinonia doesn't just mean fellowship. It means giving. It means sharing. Our friend shared a part of herself when she selflessly provided this incredible evening for us. We have no way of knowing the number of people she touched in the process. Who in the restaurant that night could possibly have heard the story, and been touched by Christ operating through our friend? How about the staff? Do you think our young waitress could tell her children twenty years from now the story of one night long ago, when she was waiting tables? Who was possibly moved to change while witnessing our teary prayer before our meal? Could it have made a difference in our friend, providing for us? I pray that God will bless her a hundred fold. I know it made a difference in our lives. It is yet more evidence of Christ in the world. To quote my husband - this is what life is like when you live in the Kingdom.


Friday, November 2, 2007

What Do You Do With Every 86,400 Seconds?

I think back to when I was in High School. My junior year, we had a young man die while playing a school football game. I don’t remember all the details. What I remember was the thoughts running through my head after it happened. I remember thinking that he would never graduate, never go to college. He was a senior, and his whole final year had been dedicated to preparation for graduation and college. I knew him. He was exhausted. But he was focused on the ‘once I attain this or that, I can rest and have some fun’. He never got the opportunity. I remember thinking, what a waste. He never grasped that which he was reaching for. If he would have known, would he have lived differently? Would he have spent less time studying and filling out applications, and more time visiting with friends and family? I mean, planning for a future is a great plan. But how often do we push the present aside, only looking toward the future?

I have been speaking to so many people lately who feel overwhelmed by their circumstances. They are working long hours at a job they detest. They are running to and from activities. They are studying for a better degree. They are putting in long hours, trying to obtain a promotion. They are trying to make it to PTA meetings, helping kids with homework, cheering for their kid's sport team. They are working two or three jobs to try to pay for a bigger house, accessories for their BlackBerry, a nicer car, a neater vacation, and to pay their medical bills from all their stress-related illnesses. On top of all those responsibilities, they still have the simple tasks of living, like cleaning, laundry, eating, and paying bills. Into the tiny cracks of time they have remaining, they try to cram in 'living'.

Every now and then I feel overwhelmed. Between teaching, driving to and from activities, church, cooking, cleaning, bill paying, grocery shopping, and laundry, it is a wonder we ever have time for each other and friends. But most days I am content with my life. But it has been a difficult road to contentment.

We used to work a lot. I worked long hours. My husband worked long hours. We were barely getting by. Funny things started to happen to us both. My job became unbearable. Things were crumbling at my husband's job. So I took a job for less money, but more time at home. Then, at work, they started throwing more time at me. Christ was just becoming an important part of my life. He started making me VERY uncomfortable where I was working. They started making me work overtime and weekends with no notice, which is kind of hard to do when you have child care to provide for. My husband kept the girls with him at word during the week, but if we both had to work on the weekend, we were in trouble. Just how many people do you know you can find to keep a couple of small children at 5 am on a Saturday? So, I started looking for yet another job. I found one with the school system. Alea was starting Kindergarten, and I could get her on and off the school bus -a major dilemma, since we went to work so early. But the pay was very, very low (15K gross!). My husband told me that he believed God was weaning us off my paycheck.

That was the year God started telling me about home schooling. To add to the pressure from God, my kindergartner was incessantly sick. She even had her scalp split on the playground one day. So we made the choice for me to quit work, and home school our girls, beginning at the end of the school year. As soon as we committed to that choice, Alea stopped getting sick.

It was difficult at first. Although my husband was working long hours, he was making very little over minimum wage. We found consolation in the fact that we still had more time together, and the girls and I were, for the first time, building a relationship. But God is faithful, and less than a year after I quit work, He made it possible for Darrell to make more than the additional 15K I had been earning.

God gives us all the same amount of time every day. None of us get a 26 hour or 30 hour day. But He grants us freedom in what we choose to do with our time. Some of us choose to strive for success. I used to be in that boat. But what I found was that I never attained it. The measuring stick for success kept changing. It seemed to me that once I started climbing the proverbial ladder to success, every time I moved up a rung, another one popped up above me. When I got a raise, I needed a newer car. Once I got a newer car, I needed a better job. It was a never-ending cycle. Instead of being content whatever my circumstances, I was always reaching for other circumstances.

But some people live for contentment, enjoying the moments as they tick by. It may look like they don’t have as much in the way of possessions. They may have a smaller house, and an older car. They may appear to go without what some of us would deem necessities. But I have noticed a look of peace on their faces that I am willing to trade my possessions for.

I am not afraid of hard work. In fact, I think my days are more full of work than they were before. The difference is that I feel fulfilled. I am not striving for something else that eludes my grasp. I no longer find myself thinking about what I can accomplish on my vacation days. I don't long for a better car, nicer clothes (okay maybe I long for nicer clothes :)), or more exotic vacations. My job is not only one of a housekeeper, teacher, and cook. My job is one of a relationship builder. And I am content.

I want every day of my life to include fellowship with my family and friends, and appreciation for something God had placed around me for my enjoyment. I want every day to include more serving, and less receiving or expecting. I want every day to let God know He is my priority. I want every day to let my family know I love and cherish them. I want every day to let my friends know that I appreciate and value them. I want every day to let a stranger know that I notice them, even if just by eye contact and a smile. I want every day to be content with what I have, and as the minutes tick by, not be thinking about what tomorrow‘s journey may bring. After all, today may be my last tomorrow.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:23

"One of the illusions of life is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive hour. Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"There are 86,400 seconds in a day. It's up to you to decide what to do with them." Jim Valvano

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.” Benjamin Franklin

Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. Proverbs 27:1

"To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special." Jim Valvano

“To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle, Every cubic inch of space is a miracle.” Walt Whitman

"What is a thousand years? Time is short for one who thinks, endless for one who yearns." Henri Alain-Fournier

"To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else." Emily Elizabeth Dickinson

"We say that the hour of death cannot be forecast, but when we say this we imagine that hour as placed in an obscure and distant future. It never occurs to us that it has any connection with the day already begun or that death could arrive this same afternoon, this afternoon which is so certain and which has every hour filled in advance." Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Transformation of Halloween

As a little girl, I always dressed up in costume, and celebrated Halloween. There was no thought put into it at all. That is what you did. We lived on a long street that ended in a cul-du-sac, and it would take a couple of hours to travel all the way up and down the street collecting candy, visiting 'haunted houses' and 'magic' shows put on by all our creative neighbors.

When I grew up and had children, I truly looked forward to sharing Halloween with my kids. I mean, you teach and enjoy your kids every day, but there are just a couple of days a year just to have childish fun. Halloween was one.

Then I became a Christian. I didn't want to be a mere 'church attendee' but a true 'Christ follower'. And there are opinions running rampant through church about Halloween. I was informed that Halloween is evil by some. I was told by others that Halloween was fine as long as your kids dressed in 'nice' costumes, not 'evil' ones. I was told by others that Halloween was fine as long as you went to a church event ie. fall festival or trunk or treat. The worst that I was told was that Halloween was not only evil, but that children born on Halloween were evil, children of the devil, with no opportunity for redemption.

I have studied my Bible profusely. I have looked into the history and lore surrounding Halloween . With opinions abounding, all I can do is practice discernment. Here is what I have decided for my family. Halloween is not a pagan holiday. True it does not celebrate Christ - neither does Independence Day, or Thanksgiving, or Valentine's Day, or many other holidays. I will never have the significance of Passover. I will never love it like passover. It doesn't serve a purpose. It is fun. It is about imagination.

Everyone loves make-believe. As we grow up so many of us allow our imaginations to atrophy. We get caught up in the cycle of living and providing, that we don't allow our imaginations to exercise. Albert Einstein said that imagination was greater than knowledge. Exercising our imaginations allows us to create and invent. To me, Halloween is an opportunity to exercise that imagination, to have fun, to play.

I used to be concerned about my girls wanting to dress as something that I believed to be 'bad'. You know, it was okay to be Wonder Woman..... but a witch? I dunno! Doesn't that fall into the evil category, right alongside vampires, goblins, zombies?! Then it hit me. I don't believe in those things. They are make believe! Just like fairy princesses, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Winnie the Poo, and Superman! They are scary, but not evil. Some people like to be scared. After all, isn't that the appeal of roller coasters? The adrenaline rush comes from fear and excitement. For now, I don't want my girls to dress scary either. They are just too young. But it is not an issue of good versus evil. Now, if they were to want to dress as the Devil, I would say NO WAY! He is real and he is evil!

I don't think my way is right or wrong for everyone. We have very close friends who don't celebrate Halloween. We still love them-and we respect them as Christians. We have very close friends who dress up and go to 'haunted trails' and 'haunted houses' for a good scare. We still love them - and respect them as Christians. God gave my husband and I only one family to manage during our time here on earth. We can only use our knowledge of the scripture, and our abilities of discernment to make choices for ourselves. Sometimes we are right, and sometimes we are wrong. Our goal is to keep traveling forward on our journey to be Christ-like.

Friday, October 26, 2007

This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land

I sit out on my porch and survey the land around me. I feel a sense of pride over the improvements we have made with our house and land over the 9 years we have lived here. I think of the camping rule - always leave the campsite cleaner than you found it. That is how I see my house. Yes, officially I am a homeowner. But is it really mine? Or is it my campsite? Is it where I am stopping for rest and rejuvenation along my journey?

My daughter often takes a deep breath when we arrive home. She tells me that the air at our home is fresher than other places. It is comforting. It is ours. It is our place for rest and rejuvenation. But is it ours?

God created the heavens and the earth. He created everything we see here today. He created the materials that we use in the construction of our houses. And then...He created us. Not long afterwards, we stepped in and started claiming ownership. But is it ours? Or are we merely the stewards?

We hear so much about being a good steward. Be a good steward of your money. Be a good steward of your resources. Be a good steward of the earth's natural resources. So, what is a steward anyways? Webster defines stewardship as "the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially : the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care". Wikipedia defines stewardship as "personal responsibility for taking care of another person's property or financial affairs. "

So, a steward is someone who MANAGES something that BELONGS TO SOMEONE ELSE. I think it is very important that we grasp that everything in our 'possession' doesn't belong to us. We don't own it. It is not ours. Our house, our land, our computer, even our family, belong to God.

Every night, when we say prayers as a family, I thank God for the family and friends that God has given me to share my time on this earth. As dearly as I love my children, I do not claim ownership of them. It sounds weird, but I assure you that if you really grab hold of the idea that your children are not yours, but merely entrusted to your care by God, it WILL change forever your relationship with them. My husband and I were entrusted to each others care by God himself. Neat huh?! I see it as just another bit of evidence that God loves me dearly.

I think that once people allow this simple fact to sink in, it will really change the way they see things around them. It really starts to chip away at the 'mine versus yours' train of thought. You can really spot people who have begun to grasp this concept. You see them as natural 'givers'. I had a friend come up to me and ask me if I had a digital camera. I said yes, and they said 'is it a really nice one?' Seems they were given one, and found they really didn't need it, so they thought they would pass it along. It was in someone else's possession within minutes. Another friend, enjoying fellowship at the home of another, commented on a big glass jar 'where can I find one like that? I love it.' The hostess said 'right here' and handed it to the admirer.

I see things like this daily! This train of thought is at the root of Koinonia Community. Mi casa es su casa (my house is your house). You have a need? I can help with that. I have a need. Thank you so much for your help.

Acts 2:42-47 NLT

42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper[a]), and to prayer.
43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity[
b]—47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

I believe that if God has entrusted us to manage things for Him, we must be efficient managers. We must make sure that our books stay in the black, so to speak. We must keep a low overhead. What better way to do that then to share resources with other managers?

I was reading a book about debt free church management recently. It spoke of wasted church resources. Apparently many churches go into severe debt for the construction of a building. A building that sits unoccupied for much of it's existence. Think about it - Sunday morning services, maybe Sunday and Wednesday evening. Let's say you have choir or praise team practice on Tuesday evenings for a couple hours, and maybe a Thursday evening men's group and ladies group. Let's say you are a very active church and have a singles group and maybe even something for the youth on Friday nights. Your building would still sit vacant for all of Monday, 20+ hours on Tuesdays, 20+ hours on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, all of Saturday, and maybe 16 hours of Sunday. Some churches try to balance it out by leasing out use of facilities, usually for a minimal donation, to other groups and organizations. Wouldn't it be neat if more than one church could SHARE a facility?!

What about us? How many of us have a truck in our household, just for those instances when we need to haul stuff? How about a lawnmower? We use ours two hours a week (if it doesn't rain) for all but about 4 months of a year. The rest of the time is sits idle, gathering spider webs. How many of us have a garage full of tools, which we need and use, but only occasionally? What if we could pool our resources and have a truck at our disposal, a lawnmower (we could get a better one together), tools, etc. that we could SHARE. We may even, inadvertently create opportunities for fellowship. 'You need the truck to go pick up some lumber? I need some shingles. Why don't we go together.' or 'You are using the tools to work on your car? I need to change my oil. Why don't I help you get finished quicker, and you can help me. And as an added bonus, sharing resources makes us better stewards or this environment we were given to manage - fewer vehicle emissions, fewer items to fill landfills, etc.

It is my desire to be a good steward of everything God entrusts to my care. I don't always make the right choices, but I have found that the better job I do managing, the more he blesses me to manage. Jesus gave us some management training in a few of the parables he delivered to his listeners. See Matthew 25:14-30 to read the Parable of the Talents, Luke 16 to read the Parable of the Shrewd Manager, and Luke 19:11-27 to read the Parable of the Ten Minas. Jesus thought it important to instruct us on the finer points of management. Maybe we should not only store these teachings in our heart, but start putting them into practice. Now, managers, lets go out and change the world!