Monday, January 5, 2009

Astronaut Farmer

God threw one of those surprise gifts at my family the other day. We rented a few movies the other day. I just happened to pick up a movie without even reading the case. I just felt like I should get it. It was called the "Astronaut Farmer", and starred Billy Bob Thorton. Really, it wasn't something that I would normally feel drawn to. But I picked it out anyways. What a gift!

It is a story about a man who decides to build a rocket in his barn to launch into space, and the effect his project has on his family, friends, and neighbors. It is about a family that dreams together, and the people that try to shoot down their dream. See, this family hears about how their dream can not and will not work. They hear about the foolishness of their ideas. The hear about how this dream is going to tear them apart.

But this story is about how they stick together, and support each other, and continue their dream together...even through hardships. It is about the foolishness of the critics. It is about how dreaming and working together doesn't tear them apart...but how it brings them closer together.

Once again, God's timing is perfect. We have heard of the foolishness of building a community based on sharing and fellowship. We have heard it will not work. But we are continuing to dream together...and we are finding ourselves being drawn closer together as a result. Check it out and keep dreaming. Gotta go...I have a rocket to build!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hugs from Jesus

I have to share a little story. It is about my hug this week from Jesus. Have you ever had one? That is what I call it when Jesus does little things just to show us that he is active in our personal lives. They show me that not only does he have his hands in my life, but that my choices are within his will for me. Even if you don't believe in Jesus, you will enjoy this story. But I warn will give you goose bumps. You will see why in the end.

It all started Tuesday when I had a morning free of children. I decided to use the time to hit some after Christmas sales for some jeans for Kasi. She is hard to buy for. Very few places carry slims, and if they do, they aren't slim enough. But I found them! Great price-more than half off...they had plenty of slims...I was on cloud nine. I even located a plaid skirt for Alea and fuzzy socks for me, all at a fabulous discount. I headed out of the mall in the early afternoon with a ten and three ones still in my pocket. I was dreaming about where I could grab a quick bite to eat before heading home since I had been in such an excited rush in the morning that I had only had a cup of coffee.

I pulled into the line at the stop light and saw a guy standing in the median holding a sign. I see folks lining this intersection all the time asking for money, but this man struck me as how ordinary he was. He wasn't dirty or unkempt or wearing rags. He wasn't holding out a bucket and eyeing the drivers with hungry eyes. He looked completely average and his eyes were downcast and his sign simply said "homeless please help". No lies here. Just a simple plea. So I grabbed my three ones and resolved to stop and give them to him when I rolled through the intersection. Within seconds, my mind went to the scripture in Matthew 25. You ought to read it.

Matthew 25:40 "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.'

Matthew 25:45 "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.'

And I thought about the song "The Twenty First Time", and wondered...what if he's Jesus?

So I put away my three ones and pulled out my ten. As the light changed and I approached this man, I resolved to stop and place the money in his hand. I don't think anything is a more valuable gift than human contact, and all too often we are willing to give to people, but are not willing to touch them. I wanted to touch his hand and let him know that I viewed him as a man - my equal. So I rolled to a stop and squeezed the money into the man's hand and spoke to him. I didn't say anything inspirational or scriptural. I just looked him in the eye, spoke ordinary words, and travelled on.

And I stopped at Taco Bell and picked up a chalupa and an ice water with the money I had left and drove home. I didn't say anything about it to anyone but my husband. I only told him to explain why I came home with no money...and why I had eaten at Taco Bell. After all, these are things that require explanation.

You would think the story ends there. But there is no explanation about my hug from Jesus. That didn't happen until today. So hang in there. It is coming.

I went grocery shopping with my girls today. I was finishing a completely unremarkable shopping experience when I spotted something incredible and remarkable near the checkout lane. Razor blades on sale!!!! $2.50 off!!!! And me with a coupon for them!!!! If you choose to shave your legs with a quality razor you realize that they must craft the blades out of diamonds because you can only afford them if you find an incredible sale. I was facing a savings of four fifty with the sale price plus my coupon. So I purchased them - happy dancing on the inside as I checked out.

Now I have learned by experience to check my receipt before I leave the store. So I carefully scanned my receipt and quickly spotted a problem. My inspection showed that my razor blades had only been discounted a little over a dollar and not the two fifty that I had seen on the shelf tag. So I went to check the shelf again. There was a clerk changing the prices with her little pricing gun and replacing the shelf tag with a new, less discounted, tag. I explained that I had expected more of a savings. I thought it had been marked with a savings of $2.50. She showed me the tag that had just been removed. It seems that I caught her right in the middle of changing the prices. So the cashier took the old tag and was going to make the adjustment for me.

"Will cash be okay, ma'am?", he asked me. "Sure", I say, anticipating a dollar and change. I'm thinking what else are my options? He handing me my money. I glanced down briefly and in a shocked voice asked,"Um, excuse me. You gave me a ten." He told me that was right. Their store policy when something scans incorrectly is to give you back the original price of the item. So here I stood holding $10.12.

I was pretty chipper then but didn't think any more about it until I spoke to my husband. He asked the question that stopped me in my tracks and caused me to sit down. "How much money did you give to that man the other day", he asked? Ten dollars. And it hit me. Ten dollars! Jesus had given me back my ten! And with an extra twelve cents to boot. Not because I needed the money. Not because he wanted to repay me for my giving. He doesn't do things that way.

He gave me that ten just because he wanted to send a hug to let me know that he is here, alive and active in my life, and that he loves me. Because he can! I tell you, you can't outgive God. Try to sometime.

Now wasn't that a fun story?

The Twenty First Time ~ Monk & Neagle

Nowhere to live
Nowhere to fall
He used to have money
But he's wasted it all
His face is a photograph burned in mind
But I pretend not to see him for the twenty-first time

He sleeps under stars, it's all he can afford
His blanket's an old coat he's had since the war
He stands on the corner of Carter and Vine
But I pretend not to see him for the twenty-first time

He may be a drifter who's grown old and gray
But what if it's Jesus and I walk away
I say I'm the body and drink of the wine
But I pretend not to see him for the twenty-first time

She's 29 but she feels 48
She can't raise three kids on minimum wage
She's crying in back of the welfare line
But I pretend not to see her for the twenty-first time

She may be a stranger trying to get through the day
But what if it's Jesus and I walk away
I say I'm the body and drink of the wine
But I pretend not to see her for the twenty-first time

This is a call for a change in my heart
I realize that I've not been doing my part
When I needed a Savior, I found it in Him
He gave to me, now I'll give back to them

Drifter or stranger, daughter or son
I'll look for Jesus in everyone
'Cause I am the body and drink of the wine
And I'm thankful there's more than the twenty-first time

New Year Soap!

I spent my New Year's eve morning without children and decided to make some soap just for me. It is packed with all sorts of goodies in addition to my standard base of palm oil, olive oil, and coconut oil- avocado oil, hemp seed oil, castor oil, jojoba oil...even coconut milk. It is scented with black tea fragrance oil and anise essential oil, so it is one of those scents you either love or hate. I love it! My colors and swirls turned out so much better than I expected, I just had to share. I pray you enjoy the pictures and have a blessed new year!

Did You Know You Vote EVERY Day?

Do you vote? This was a huge issue just a couple of months ago. Everywhere I would turn, I would hear different people saying things like "vote for change", "cast your vote", "voting is a privilege and a responsibility", "vote...let your voice be heard". We all want our voice to be heard. We all want to express our beliefs. But how do we vote in our daily lives?

Do you realize that we vote daily? The choices we make in our daily living tell the world...and our government, what we believe is important. Remember those Nielson boxes they used to put in houses years ago? Maybe they still do. They would hook them up to your television and monitor what you watched. If you watched a program, they counted that as a vote for that program. If it didn't get got cancelled. Wonder how some of those crappy shows stayed on the air? Families with Nielson boxes watched them. Did your favorite show get cancelled? Nielson families, for the most part, didn't watch it.

I live in North Carolina, in an area that at one time was a hub of manufacturing activity. But now, as I drive down the streets of Concord, or Thomasville, or High Point, I see an expanse of empty buildings. The streets are lined with once busy factories, sitting abandoned and overgrown with weeds. In an area that once thrived with textile and furniture manufacturing, families are struggling to find jobs and many are living in fear of hearing the words 'layoff'. Why? Did we stop buying furniture? Did we stop buying towels and clothing? Did we stop buying beds? We had quite a few factories that made socks. Did we all stop wearing socks?

I have heard the complaint that American companies are setting up their factories abroad. They are shipping jobs oversees. But they are not taking the local workers with them. Why? Why would they abandon us? In a nutshell, because we voted for it. I hear protests now..."I didn't vote for that!" But here is the thing. The companies go oversees because they can make a product cheaper. They can pay employees less because they choose areas where the standard of living is low. They don't have the same safety regulations to follow. They don't have unions. They can escape pouring tax money into the local governments, and ours for that matter. They make more of a profit. They come out ahead. And the scary thing is...we buy more of their products. We really do! We don't buy less. We buy less expensive. See, we don't want to go without things, so we choose to buy cheap rather than not buy at all. But in doing so, we show our approval of those companies choices. We cast our vote.

We vote daily. When we choose to view things on the Internet...we cast our vote of approval...even when it is just out of curiosity or just for a peek. What we choose to view in the movies or on television casts a vote of our approval of the content of that program. We choose of what our next set of choices will consist.

When we shop at stores, we cast our vote for that company. When we buy products, we cast a vote of approval for that product. But it goes deeper than that. We approve of the business actions of the manufacturer by choosing to use their products. If they pollute, or do animal testing, or buy products produced by child labor, or finance abortion clinics, or lay off local workers to take their business oversees, we cast a vote of approval for their actions when we buy their products. We even help finance their practices with our money when we purchase their products.

We can change the practices of these businesses by our own buying. We can choose to cast our vote for better business practices. We can choose to cast our vote of disapproval for companies who do not follow a moral compass in their business decisions. We can choose to not buy products at companies that treat their employees poorly, or at companies where the employees treat us poorly. We have the power of our vote.

I know it seems like a huge responsibility. Voting always is. But we have a responsibility to the world we live in, and the people it contains. We can contribute to changing things for the better...or for the worse. Our voice is already being heard. Now let's work to actively choose what is being said. Cast your vote and make a difference.