Marching To The Beat Of A Different Reality

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Are You Using New Year's Resolutions To Pacify Behaviors and Issues Better Addressed During the Year?


And so we begin today knowing that tomorrow looms etherially on the horizon as the start of a new year waiting to greet us at the midnight chime of the clock.

For centuries, human beings have made the "new year" a holiday to itself. The age old renderings of 'baby New Year' assure us that we humans, we mere mortals, can redirect our lives at that point in time and begin again anew for yet another year.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

We Don't Need Your Corporatist Or Progressive Education - The MIDDLE'S Here To Play!


Joy Pullmann at the Federalist wrote a GREAT piece today on why Michelle Rhee should NOT be named as theSecretary of EducationI loved it so much, I'm doubling down on it. 

No, neither Rhee nor anyone else of her 'ilk' should be appointed as head of DOE. 

In case you don't know - or are somehow new to education policy (or heck - just governance in the United States) - there is no middle ground anymore. NONE. Yes, there is supposed to be a gradient of governance that tends to rest somewhere near the middle of the ideological spectrum (ideally) in EVERY area of our lives the government has usurped, yet - particularly in education - what you really have is this: 

Friday, November 11, 2016

The 2016 Election; A Victory for Middle American Values?



The election is over.  Trump has won.  Celebrities are running for the hills, rioting and protests have broken out in major population centers across the country, and I heard from a friend watching, that a talking head at Good Morning America (the Thursday after the election) felt the need to explain the vote as a reality not a nightmare.

Trump, trumped Clinton - there's no way around that. With the media projecting Hilary as the winner most of last year and throughout the night - even after he took Florida - it was clear by Wednesday morning that the media, liberal America and the celebrity class were shocked beyond reason at the result of this election.  I'm not surprised - their total inability to understand the thought processes and lives of middle America represent a majority of reasons for the outcome of this election.

Monday, November 7, 2016

To Whom Should We Really Pledge Our Allegiance?



This morning I read with interest yet another article about someone not observing the Pledge of Allegiance and it hit me - why not before I know not, but this morning it hit me - 'allegiance'. 

That's a tricky word, 'allegiance'. 

As a Christian, I owe my 'allegiance' to my father God - not to a flag, as that could be considered idol worship - so I went out to the internet and CAREFULLY found a website (meaning I didn't use Wikipedia or a government or other institution) that had information on the Pledge. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Being the 'Bad Guy'


It's easy to feel like the "bad guy" today. 

Not only am I the mother of two teens and a 'pre'-teen - a situation which often necessitates starting off statements with words like, "Do not..." or "Let's not..." or the very popular, "No..." - but even more often, when trolling Facebook or reading the news, I find I have an opinion opposite that of 'public' opinion. 

Because I'm opinionated and state my take on the truth of numerous subjects, and Facebook declares subjects only likable if they receive some kind of acknowledgement, I can feel like the "bad guy" many times a day! It can get so frustrating and discouraging that many times a week I feel my mental health would be significantly improved if I deleted my Facebook account and unplugged from the World - like our family has from commercial television.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

It is NOT the Government's Duty To Provide People With ANYTHING But Liberty



I read the saddest, but most realistic post from what I can only assume – from the pictures on his Facebook page visible to the public – is a millennial-aged guy.  Here are the most important excerpts of that post:

“It’s the government’s duty to provide people with the chance for the pursuit of happiness.  We have this tendency to differentiate between what is a Christian’s individual duty to society and what is a government’s duty.  But, the trust is that it is the duty of both to promote the general welfare of society.”

“Hand-outs are the job of both the Christian and the government.”

I Can't Support Jen Hatmaker's Method of Ministry



A recent blog by Matt Walsh on the Blaze has been making the rounds. I have not previously followed Jen Hatmaker - I'm gonna say that right up front. In fact, I've only heard her name through friends of mine she inspires.

I did use to follow Beth Moore religiously (sorry - couldn't help it), having completed over a dozen or so of her Bible study courses. It's interesting to me that at the moment, Moore is getting the beat down over comments she made to the effect that the election shouldn't make us so angry (GASP) and that we should TRUST GOD, and quit finding such fault with each other over our particular political choices everything will work out the way it is supposed to (again GASP). Basically, her thesis concluded with the notion that God doesn't need our help to run the globe for him. We should do what we can (our civic duty), but not in anger or malice or in ruination of friendships and family relationships that may never be mended.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Jesus Was Neither A Pacifist, Nor A Peacenik and Christians Aren't Called To Be Either


"But woe unto you, scribes, and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay the tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgement, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." Matthew 23:23. 

Matthew 23 records Jesus using the phrase, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!..." no less than SEVEN times (:13, :14, :15, :23, :25, :27 and :29). Prior to that, Matthew (21:12-13) records Jesus entering the Temple and turning over the tables of the money changers and sellers of doves and casting them out, because they had made it a "den of thieves".

The Section on Democracy From C.S. Lewis', "Screwtape Proposes A Toast"


Recently I finished reading C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters.  So influential a book has this been for me, I have rather made it my heart's desire to make sure everyone read it.

Toward this end, I found a link to a PDF copy of Screwtape Proposes a Toast - a "Satirical Epistolary Short Story" written by C.S. Lewis for the Saturday Evening Post, December 19th, 1959. 

This piece was included as an epilogue to the bound version of The Screwtape Letters, and was even more powerful than the book because of the inclusion of the ways in which public education and Democracy would be rendered completely useless by the devils machinations and the human's lack of brilliance in, not only not recognizing these, but falling for them utterly. 

I'm including the section on Democracy below. It is lengthy, and all I can do is lead a horse to water so to speak, but if you choose to read it, you will forever be better for the time you spent to do so. On to Lewis; From Screwtape Proposes a Toast:

Let me recall to your minds what the human situation was in the latter half of the nineteenth century — the period at which I ceased to be a practising Tempter and was rewarded with an administrative post. The great movement toward liberty and equality among men had by then borne solid fruits and grown mature. Slavery had been abolished. The American War of Independence had been won. The French Revolution had succeeded. In that movement there had originally been many elements which were in our favour. Much Atheism, much Anticlericalism, much envy and thirst for revenge, even some (rather absurd) attempts to revive Paganism, were mixed in it. It was not easy to determine what our own attitude should be. On the one hand it was a bitter blow to us — it still is — that any sort of men who had been hungry should be fed or any who had long worn chains should have them struck off. But on the other hand, there was in the movement so much rejection of faith, so much materialism, secularism, and hatred, that we felt we were bound to encourage it. 

But by the latter part of the century the situation was much simpler, and also much more ominous. In the English sector (where I saw most of my front-line service) a horrible thing had happened. The Enemy, with His usual sleight of hand, had largely appropriated this progressive or liberalizing movement and perverted it to His own ends. Very little of its old anti-Christianity remained. The dangerous phenomenon called Christian Socialism was rampant. Factory owners of the good old type who grew rich on sweated labor, instead of being assassinated by their workpeople — we could have used that — were being frowned upon by their own class. The rich were increasingly giving up their powers, not in the face of revolution and compulsion, but in obedience to their own consciences. As for the poor who benefited by this, they were behaving in a most disappointing fashion. Instead of using their new liberties — as we reasonably hoped and expected — for massacre, rape, and looting, or even for perpetual intoxication, they were perversely engaged in becoming cleaner, more orderly, more thrifty, better educated, and even more virtuous. Believe me, gentledevils, the threat of something like a really healthy state of society seemed then perfectly serious. 

Thanks to Our Father Below, the threat was averted. Our counterattack was on two levels. On the deepest level our leaders contrived to call into full life an element which had been implicit in the movement from its earliest days. Hidden in the heart of this striving for Liberty there was also a deep hatred of personal freedom. That invaluable man Rousseau first revealed it. In his perfect democracy, only the state religion is permitted, slavery is restored, and the individual is told that he has really willed (though he didn't know it) whatever the Government tells him to do. From that starting point, via Hegel (another indispensable propagandist on our side), we easily contrived both the Nazi and the Communist state. Even in England we were pretty successful. I heard the other day that in that country a man could not, without a permit, cut down his own tree with his own axe, make it into planks with his own saw, and use the planks to build a toolshed in his own garden. 

Such was our counterattack on one level. You, who are mere beginners, will not be entrusted with work of that kind. You will be attached as Tempters to private persons. Against them, or through them, our counterattack takes a different form. 

Democracy is the word with which you must lead them by the nose. The good work which our philological experts have already done in the corruption of human language makes it unnecessary to warn you that they should never be allowed to give this word a clear and definable meaning. They won't. It will never occur to them that democracy is properly the name of a political system, even a system of voting, and that this has only the most remote and tenuous connection with what you are trying to sell them. Nor of course must they ever be allowed to raise Aristotle's question: whether “democratic behaviour” means the behaviour that democracies like or the behaviour that will preserve a democracy. For if they did, it could hardly fail to occur to them that these need not be the same. 

You are to use the word purely as an incantation; if you like, purely for its selling power. It is a name they venerate. And of course it is connected with the political ideal that men should be equally treated. You then make a stealthy transition in their minds from this political ideal to a factual belief that all men are equal. Especially the man you are working on. As a result you can use the word democracy to sanction in his thought the most degrading (and also the least enjoyable) of human feelings. You can get him to practise, not only without shame but with a positive glow of self-approval, conduct which, if undefended by the magic word, would be universally derided. 

The feeling I mean is of course that which prompts a man to say, I'm as good as you. 

The first and most obvious advantage is that you thus induce him to enthrone at the centre of his life a good, solid, resounding lie. I don't mean merely that his statement is false in fact, that he is no more equal to everyone he meets in kindness, honesty, and good sense than in height or waist measurement. I mean that he does not believe it himself. No man who says I'm as good as you believes it. He would not say it if he did. The St. Bernard never says it to the toy dog, nor the scholar to the dunce, nor the employable to the bum, nor the pretty woman to the plain. The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior. What it expresses is precisely the itching, smarting, writhing awareness of an inferiority which the patient refuses to accept. 

And therefore resents. Yes, and therefore resents every kind of superiority in others; denigrates it; wishes its annihilation. Presently he suspects every mere difference of being a claim to superiority. No one must be different from himself in voice, clothes, manners, recreations, choice of food: “Here is someone who speaks English rather more clearly and euphoniously than I — it must be a vile, upstage, lah-di-dah affectation. Here's a fellow who says he doesn't like hot dogs — thinks himself too good for them, no doubt. Here's a man who hasn't turned on the jukebox — he's one of those goddamn highbrows and is doing it to show off. If they were honest-to-God all-right Joes they'd be like me. They've no business to be different. It's undemocratic.” 

Now, this useful phenomenon is in itself by no means new. Under the name of Envy it has been known to humans for thousands of years. But hitherto they always regarded it as the most odious, and also the most comical, of vices. Those who were aware of feeling it felt it with shame; those who were not gave it no quarter in others. The delightful novelty of the present situation is that you can sanction it — make it respectable and even laudable — by the incantatory use of the word democratic. 

Under the influence of this incantation those who are in any or every way inferior can labour more wholeheartedly and successfully than ever before to pull down everyone else to their own level. But that is not all. Under the same influence, those who come, or could come, nearer to a full humanity, actually draw back from fear of being undemocratic. I am credibly informed that young humans now sometimes suppress an incipient taste for classical music or good literature because it might prevent their Being Like Folks; that people who would really wish to be — and are offered the Grace which would enable them to be — honest, chaste, or temperate refuse it. To accept might make them Different, might offend against the Way of Life, take them out of Togetherness, impair their Integration with the Group. They might (horror of horrors!) become individuals. 

All is summed up in the prayer which a young female human is said to have uttered recently: “O God, make me a normal twentieth century girl!” Thanks to our labours, this will mean increasingly: “Make me a minx, a moron, and a parasite.” 

Meanwhile, as a delightful by-product, the few (fewer every day)who will not be made Normal or Regular and Like Folks and Integrated increasingly become in reality the prigs and cranks which the rabble would in any case have believed them to be. For suspicion often creates what it expects. (“Since, whatever I do, the neighbors are going to think me a witch, or a Communist agent, I might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, and become one in reality.”) As a result we now have an intelligentsia which, though very small, is very useful to the cause of Hell. 
But that is a mere by-product. What I want to fix your attention on is the vast, overall movement towards the discrediting, and finally the elimination, of every kind of human excellence — moral, cultural, social, or intellectual. And is it not pretty to notice how “democracy” (in the incantatory sense) is now doing for us the work that was once done by the most ancient Dictatorships, and by the same methods? 
You remember how one of the Greek Dictators (they called them “tyrants” then) sent an envoy to another Dictator to ask his advice about the principles of government. The second Dictator led the envoy into a field of grain, and there he snicked off with his cane the top of every stalk that rose an inch or so above the general level. The moral was plain. Allow no preeminence among your subjects. Let no man live who is wiser or better or more famous or even handsomer than the mass. Cut them all down to a level: all slaves, all ciphers, all nobodies. All equals. Thus Tyrants could practise, in a sense, “democracy.” But now “democracy” can do the same work without any tyranny other than her own. No one need now go through the field with a cane. The little stalks will now of themselves bite the tops off the big ones. The big ones are beginning to bite off their own in their desire to Be Like Stalks. 

I have said that to secure the damnation of these little souls, these creatures that have almost ceased to be individual, is a laborious and tricky work. But if proper pains and skill are expended, you can be fairly confident of the result. The great sinners seem easier to catch. But then they are incalculable. After you have played them for seventy years, the Enemy may snatch them from your claws in the seventy-first. They are capable, you see, of real repentance. They are conscious of real guilt. They are, if things take the wrong turn, as ready to defy the social pressures around them for the Enemy's sake as they were to defy them for ours. It is in some ways more troublesome to track and swat an evasive wasp than to shoot, at close range, a wild elephant. But the elephant is more troublesome if you miss. 

My own experience, as I have said, was mainly on the English sector, and I still get more news from it than from any other. It may be said that what I am now going to say will not apply so fully to the sectors in which some of you may be operating. But you can make the necessary adjustments when you get there. Some application it will almost certainly have. If it has too little, you must labor to make the country you are dealing with more like what England already is. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Screwtape and the Matter of False Christianity



Recently, I wrote a post defending the practice of eschewing church. 

Though, as I try to do for each devotional post I write, I cited scripture throughout so as not to lean too heavily on my own opinion, yet it was, unsurprisingly ill-received. 

Since penning that post, I have come to the near end of C.S. Lewis', The Screwtape Letters.

If you read the book - and I highly recommend you do - and do not find yourself convicted by something written on nearly every page, I'm concerned you need more time for soul-searching.  His writing was dreadfully expedient at hitting the matter of false Christianity - and other issues such as attending church for reasons other than study of the Bible and becoming more educated about how to obediently follow our Father - dead in the head. 

In order to whet your appetite for reading this very short missive, I will give a few takeaways that stood out in stark relief in my mind. 

First, for those unfamiliar with the book, let me set the scene.  Screwtape is a minion of the devil, writing to an underling, Wormwood, in the process of tempting a soul (his "patient") from heaven.  We never hear from the underling but in the running commentary of his master, who advises Wormwood on the best way to win over the soul with whom he has been charged, from the Enemy (Jesus). 

Clive Staples Lewis died the year after I was born, in 1963.  He had been an atheist for many years and had lived through WWII in England.  It will be clear to anyone reading this work that Lewis was nothing short of a prophet.  Not only does he attack head on the problems of the time, but enumerates and describes with crystal clarity how these problems will continue to infect and grow inside human society like a cancer.  

He is wrong in none of his projections and the hindsight afforded today's readers - should they be thinking people at all - might go so far as to render them mortally wounded by his words.  

At one point, Screwtape says, "Talk to him about "moderation in all things".  If you can at once get him to the point of thinking that "religion is all very well up to a point", you can feel good about his soul.  A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all - and more amusing." 

In another, Screwtape tells Wormwood that it's relatively easy to turn virtues into vices. "You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his own talents and character.  Some talents, I gather, he really has.  Fix in his mind the idea that Humility consists in trying to believe those talents to be less valuable than he believes them to be. No doubt they are in fact less valuable than he believes, but that is not the point.  The great thing is to make him value an opinion for some quality other than truth, thus introducing an element of dishonestly and make-believe into the heart of what otherwise threatens to become a virtue.  By this method thousands of humans have been brought to think that Humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools.  
And since what they are trying to believe, may in some cases, be manifest nonsense, they cannot succeed in believing it and we have every chance of keeping their minds endlessly revolving on themselves in an effort to achieve the impossible." 
About how many things today do we value opinion over truth?  How often do we tell ourselves a lie about our behavior because exposing it could mean we'd have to deal with it and that would be too painful or too hard and would require quiet introspection that might cut into our TV or computer time?  How often are we falling into the very pitfalls Wormwood is luring us because we are simply not thinking about what we are doing - not examining why we are going to church, or why we have to argue with another who compliments us on our actions, or even our appearance in a day? 

After reading this book, I was able to identify so many things to watch for in my own Christian walk - things I not only need to work on and improve - but things I needed to learn to recognize.  We're all here on Earth for such a very short time.  We Christians need to get our behaviors and attitudes in order while we have time so we may take a room in our Master's House. 

Please get The Screwtape Letters and read every word. If you're TRULY honest with yourself, it won't be the happiest of reads, but if you allow them, Lewis' words will make your life richer and more fulfilling without question.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Church Attendance Is Not A Necessity For Christians


Look out - I'm about to make an argument against attending church. 

I know how unreasonable this might sound, but it's a topic with which I've been struggling lately, so I've got some definite thoughts bubbling up to share here. 

Recently, studies have shown that many kids raised in church leave the church - and the Christian faith - as they begin college.  Some of that is normal age-specific identity search, but much of it is the combined force of the churches they attended not providing them with solid Biblical knowledge and good study in Christian apologetics while, at the same time, not receiving - or seeing - any real practice in Ten Commandment Christian tenets in their own homes during the week.  

There is no surer truth than that Christianity - like most things - is a 'get out of it what you put into it' kind of a deal. The more you practice your faith, the better you become at practicing it.  If we don't practice our Christianity at home, going to church once a Sunday - or even more often - won't do a thing to woo our children to the faith, or keep them strong in its practice.  

There is much about 'church' in the new testament - especially from Paul.  In fact, when I searched the specific word 'together' in my electronic Bible, I find too many references to count.  Many of these passages describe assemblages of people brought together for the purpose of hearing a message or receiving news of some kind.  

For believers in Jesus' time, meeting together was an absolute necessity.  The Romans had no interest in the Christian faith, and in fact, persecuted practitioners of a faith that was brand new to them and undertaken without the benefit of the written instruction we have in the Bible.  Meeting together with other believers solidified faith (Romans 1:12), provided community prayer for one another and the apostles (2 Corinthians 1:1), gave comfort to those in need (Colossians 2:2) and allowed individuals to "provoke [one another] unto love and good works" (Hebrews 10:24-25) in a world exceedingly hostile to their way of life. 

Today, Christians all over America - as has been the case for Christians in numerous other countries for centuries - are feeling a sense of persecution for their faith, yet what is one of the largest responses to this situation from the great bodies of believers meeting together in buildings called churches?  Acceptance, and in some cases, beyond acceptance into proponency.  How many churches (bodies of believers) speak out against abortion or the normalizing of sins such as homosexuality, adultery or alcoholism, as society continues to press on with these practices? 

No church is perfect. Every church is comprised of a body of sinners.  However, if the pastor and other believers within the church don't actively either rebuke sin or work heartily at striving to be better at the practice of Christianity, what is the point of attending that church? 

Almost a decade ago, I removed my children from public education - not even so much because of a need to provide a more religious education - but because I thought school was doing a terrible job at the overall job of educating my children and because I realized I was letting an institution do a job the Bible tells me is mine.  Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go...".  Diagramming that sentence makes clear that the unwritten subject is YOU.  You are to train up your children.  Unfortunately, a relatively few Christian parents harbor the same notion.  Why?  How many actively read their Bibles?  How many are either taught this practice or the importance of this practice? 

I'm beginning to believe, that in the same way public schools alleviate the need - and desire - of parents to instruct their own children, churches can take away the need and desire of individuals to study the Bible.  Read about the beginnings of this country where, though there were churches for corporate worship, families read and studied the Bible more often on their own.  How much more Christian in nature was this particular country for it's first hundred or so years than today based on that practice?  

For many, as with homeschooling, home 'churching' is becoming an ever growing population segment.  At home Bible study allows a family to study tenets and practices of Christianity and the Bible as specifically effects their families' immediate needs and situations. In addition, tithing directly to a non-profit organization such as the Salvation Army provides a way to assist others, while helping those in need in our direct communities force us to 'get our hands dirty' in the same manner as Jesus.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating for the removal or abandonment of churches at all, but I am asserting that church is not an absolute necessity for everyone or even the continuation of the Christian faith.  

In fact, I would go so far as to argue that leaving a 'dead' church - even if that means worshiping at home - is absolute necessity. 

In the end, there are many ways to establish and walk among a community of believers - those who share your Christian convictions - without the requirement of a specific building or corporate belief system and we should be sensitive to that fact.  As with all things, this is simply a topic to think on for ourselves, while we abstain from condemning others who choose to follow a different path to Christian worship and study than we.  As Paul says in Romans (8:1), There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Anthropomorphizing Earthquakes



Oklahoma just had one of the largest earthquakes in recent record. 

Immediately, I began to see Facebook posts pinning the cause of this quake on fracking. 

First, fracking has never been the issue; injection wells (a separate part of the process) have been implicated in the cause of minor, localized earthquakes, but this in no way describes this 5.6 magnitude event felt as far as Wichita, Kansas and Houston, Texas. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Reason Behind The Power Of Prayer


Wednesday afternoon, my friend Nancy and I talked about the recovery of our mutual friend Molly, who was hit by a sudden, serious illness which caused her to degenerate into a comatose state in shockingly short order.  Desperately ill and near death in the ICU for nearly two weeks, she was finally diagnosed with and treated for a rare blood disease called HLH (Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis).

Monday, August 29, 2016

Heavy Heart Syndrome...



For the last several weeks I have been suffering from 'heavy heart' syndrome. 

A previously-healthy, sweet friend of mine is in the hospital struggling to regain her health, and her family and friends are concerned for her condition. I hear the prayer list at church and so many of our older members are struggling with health problems or dealing with spouses who have memory issues as well as those affecting their overall health, and they are tired and worn out. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Storms Roll In


In place of a sunrise this morning, there was this. 

I thought maybe I wouldn't capture the scene, as it was significantly uglier than what I see so often in its place, but then I thought about how often our days mirror this sky and not the beautiful, untroubled skies I often see. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Importance of Evangelism




This morning as I was doing my farm chores, I chose to fertilize some of my berry bushes with water from the duck pond.

It's been very dry lately and as I gently poured the water over the roots, I noted that more water would run off than soak in to the roots. The more I watered, however, and the more damp the ground got, the more water soaked in.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

To Everything A Season



Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1 that: 
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." 
(The Byrds also told us that, when songs about Jesus used to be commonplace on the radio, but few of us remember that anymore...) 

This year I have 2 children (?!) who will start 9th grade, and one 6th. These are momentous years in the life of a child - and a student - as their success or failure this year can set the tone for future high school/middle school years. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Training Children Is Like Training Tomato Plants!



These are but two rows of my tomato plants. I grow about 12 different varieties. Some are the same from year to year, but others are new and I can't wait to see what the fruit will look and taste like. 

This year, my husband Dave suggested I grow them on a wire trellis system rather than trying to put cages around them because those take up so much room and we have so many plants. I gladly accepted his advice and assistance and we got the plants training along the wires, adding new ones above as the vines grew. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Stop Complaining, Start Counting Blessings


Solomon tells us [Ecclesiastes 3:1 (KJV)] 
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven". 
He then goes on to enumerate all the things for which there are seasons. 

During some of my hard times people would hope to encourage me by reiterating Solomon's words. Sometimes this was comforting, but other times it felt like a slap in the face - like it was kind of a "pull up your big girl pants and quit whining" kind of a thing. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Nature Reflects The Glory Of God

 

I awoke this morning a bit before 5am. The windows are open, not only because the giant white puppies - Great Pyrenees and cattle dog mix - chewed the ignition wire on the air conditioner and we can't turn it on, but because there is nothing like the sounds of the country in the morning. 

With the rain last evening, every toad and frog for miles have come to sit around the pond, each one trilling its own specific song in its own specific timbre specifically to entice a mate. Some are shrill constant tones like crickets, others bleat like lambs, still others croak long, deep, raspy extended tones building to a crescendo that would make any maestro proud. Behind this cacophony come the haunting, questioning calls of the owls bouncing from tree to tree, the echos of which carry into my room on the breeze. Later still come the shrill, lonely cries of the nighthawks hunting down the last moths of the night. 

Beyond that, as the sky becomes colored with the first streaks of orange light, the roosters start to crow, begging the turkeys to chime in lest they become forgotten in the symphony. 

I hope never to witness the day I cease to be amazed at the unbelievable and amazing sounds of nature right outside my window. God's creation is truly wondrous and, to me, a reinforcement of who He is through his works. The compression of human beings into cities must be at least a portion of the reason we are losing our humanity. 

When one is separated from nature, one cannot but be separated from God. Humans are fallen; an imperfect, fallible shell only redeemable through the work and words of Jesus Christ. It's worthless to attempt to find God unadulterated in such creatures. 

Nature is God's perfect work and the truest reflection of our Father on earth. Go outside today. Enjoy and appreciate His handiwork all around you and praise Him for all that He is and has made which, in turn, entertain us through his provision.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Prayer For A New Day


It's 6am. I'm at the top of my driveway looking east after carting the garbage cans to the road. 

After depositing my charge at the blacktop, I stop to take in all that's going on around me. It's impossible not to notice because as the fire in the sky slowly grows, so do the sounds.

There are birds singing to one another all over the pastures around us in trills and cries - some singing as though for performance. It's so quiet I can hear a mosquito buzzing around my head. There's an owl not far off asking me Who? Who? I hear the choppy song of the crickets with the raspy saw of a few katydids still mixed in.  A low hissing and hum in the background reminds me that the tree frogs are still out in force.  One of the roosters bids the morning welcome while another young rooster crows a response in his hysterical kazoo-like voice. 

The breeze is not reminiscent of August. It's cool and calm and wet, and very pleasant. 

The sky is becoming lighter now tinged with more beautiful pinks and reds. Daylight happens all too quickly once the process has begun and the mere presence of the sun itself quiets nature from its earlier state because, once light, predators find the hiding places of those that call aloud. 

Morning is my favorite time of day. For me, God speaks on the breeze and through the call of his creatures, reminding me that I have yet another chance to right yesterday's wrongs.
Lord, thank you for your precious world. Thank you for all its sights and sounds and the way those draw me to you. Help me have listening ears, a tender heart and mind what's important and not the idle curiosities that steal my joy. Thank you for giving me a sound mind to make choices that please you and not the world. Thank you for being merciful and patient and loving, but also for whispering to my conscience when I need to change my thoughts and ways. Thank you for all you are and who you are. Amen.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Late Bloomer



I was a late bloomer. 

Well, that's not quite accurate - I was an early starter, it just took me a really long time to capitalize on life. I was married at 19, had a baby by 20 and divorced when I was 27. I started college at 26 because, as with everything else in my life, I knew pretty much all there was to know, so what could college offer? 

Though I was raised in a Christian household, the concept never really 'took' for me. I flirted with church when my daughter was little, but that quickly went by the wayside and once into my college sojourn in the biological sciences, I was well and often assured of the fact that science was my only God. 

Beyond agnostic, I harshly shunned anyone who attempted to 'save my soul' and simply refused to darken the door of a church. 

One morning, I crawled out of my tent (I was often in the 'field' doing research), only to be captivated by the sunrise. As the sun peered over the horizon, it seemed to fill the entire sky with colors the likes of which I'd never seen before. At that moment, I experienced a feeling that told me I was wrong; science wasn't God, God was God and science was a result of his actions on and within the universe. Unfortunately, the feeling was brief, but that experience stayed with me as a kind of truth I couldn't confront, but couldn't dismiss either. 

Like a seed waiting in the ground for the right time to sprout, it lay dormant, it's mere presence constantly scratching at the edges of my consciousness. One day, several years after I graduated college and David and I settled down in our first little home, the seed began to grow. I began to really think on my place in the world, read devotionals and consider the merits of belief in sincerity. 

It wasn't until I became pregnant with our first son that we began to attend, and then become actively involved in, a church. Even then, it wasn't until the death of our second son (when I was 40) that I found a true relationship with, and understanding of, Jesus Christ and discovered how to order my life around my complete faith in Him as the Son of God. It's funny, but when I look back now, I see the hand of God over so many specific things in my life - even those from before I had any faith at all - that I can see that he called to me for decades before I answered. 

Is Jesus calling you? Don't wait any longer to answer His call!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Beauty of Nature Often Calls Us to God



A light coating of raindrops drip through the trees and cascade to the mat of dead leaves below making snapping sounds as though nature giving itself a round of applause for its effort. What can only be described as a cacophony of bird calls bounce off the canyon walls, amplifying their conversations to Heaven. Frequently, the haunting trill of a lone whippoorwill rises to distinction above the din. 

Very rarely, as though an unwilling participant in the concert, a frog in the river below me emits a noise best described by the sound of a spring in a technicolor cartoon. The rough, strident screams among a murder of nearby crows create discord in the soundtrack while the chilly breeze through the myriad forest branches comes behind to sweep them away. 

These descriptions do not originate as the result of a thoughtless accident, they paint a portrait of the artist Himself painstakingly recording each detail in high relief on a canvas that often defies description, all for the enjoyment and benefit of those human beings He placed into it. Do not ever be deceived by the thoughts of the world. His thoughts and His ways will always exist just out of reach, beyond the cognition afforded our three dimensionally confined brains. 

Just think, once we turn our lives over to the Son, we will live forever in a place that exceeds even the beauty of this earthy realm...who could not desire that?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

We Are The "Fragrance" of Christ To Others


I read this morning's devotion with much conviction. First, it was Friday's study that I'd not made time to read Friday and, second, because it reminded me that it's not just the people we meet on the street to whom we are the Bible. Above all, we are the Bible to our family.
I've never been the projection of long suffering in any real capacity - unless the projector was broken! In fact, it was my father once, I think, who uttered the words, "Wow Jennifer you don't suffer fools, do you?"
Often, I'm scarce on time and long on activities and tend to live a real existence within my family more like that of Drill Sergeant, simply barking orders. Often, the bark has some bite to it and later, when the stress has past, I feel guilty I wasn't more kind in my speech.
Sometimes, the one and only thing someone needs in their day is a kind word kindly said. Oftentimes, the 'fragrance' of our words - our tone of voice - is not the perfume of Christ. I fear that's me way too often!
We often forget that it's not just the world for whom our light of Christ must shine. We must light and season our own homes with the glow and fragrance of Christ.
I'm gonna work on that today - a real test of this practice, as it's monthly shopping day with four kids! 
Lord God, please let me fragrance my speech with your kindness today and every day. Let me remember that you have called me to minister to those in my own home before, even, those of the outside world. Keep my mind on blessing and not cursing, loving and not frustrating. Help me spread the fragrance of your love to all I meet.
Amen.
2 Corinthians 2:14-17 (NKJV)
14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.
15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?
17 For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Miracles Do Happen - They've Happened To Me!



The other night, our family watched the movie "Miracles From Heaven" with Jennifer Garner. 

The editing and story were excellent and by the time the daughter experiences her miracle, you're either POSITIVE it was a miracle, or a bit more hardhearted and cynical than I think you probably aught to be - even today! 

It got me reviewing the miracles God has been gracious enough to bestow on my life so far - one really large no-getting-around-it-no-other-explanation type - and several others close enough in that same category so I remember every single solitary thing about them including colors and smells! 

One morning back in August of 1984, when I was 21 and my daughter Bryna just 9-months-old, I put her in her high chair while I cleaned the kitchen. 

To keep her occupied, I gave her a vanilla wafer.  Poor B had no hair or teeth until she was almost a full year old and I never knew what to give her to teethe on, but my Aunt assured me vanilla wafers were the thing.

Quickly she grabbed it and began gumming happily away, so I returned to the task of de-greasing my range top. 

I have no idea how long I'd been working, but when I turned around to check on her, I saw a wide-eyed child with a thin line of blue set out starkly from around dusky lips. At that time, I had only a high school education and, unlike many parents today, no basic training in aiding a choking child. 

Time completely stopped.  I couldn't think.  I'd never had such fear in my entire life.  In sheer panic, I ran back and forth from her high chair to the phone to call for an ambulance nearly four times. 

I remember thinking, “I have to call the ambulance”, but then somehow knowing they would never make it in time I'd run back to her high chair, though I had NO earthly idea what to do. 

After what seemed like hours - but must have only been a minute or so - I stopped in mid panic and, standing in the middle of my kitchen, I screamed, “God, please help me. What do I do?” 

As though in a scene from the Matrix, instructions downloaded into my head.

In an instant, I knew.

I yanked B out of her high chair and threw myself into a kitchen chair.  Thrusting her face down between my knees I thumped her between the shoulder blades as hard as I possibly dared and immediately a half-gummed vanilla wafer flew out of her mouth with such force it hit the kitchen wall 2 feet in front of me. 

I jerked the baby up off my lap to study her face just as she took a huge, startled breath, followed by a MAJOR scream! 

For several minutes we both sat there in the kitchen chair just crying and breathing, with me thanking God with every breath. 

How could a person who knew NOTHING about resuscitating a choking child suddenly not only have the directions, but have the presence of mind to USE them on her own choking child? 

Not only that, but I wasn't even a practicing Christian at that time and I had no real relationship with Jesus Christ!
Psalm 116:4-6 (KJV) says;Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.  Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.  The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low and he helped me.
Were there ever more truthful words?

Miracles are true.  Miracles are real.  Miracles happen all around us even when we don't see their effects.  

There are at least FIVE verses I could find in the Bible quickly that refer to seeking and finding the Lord; Jeremiah 29:13, Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9, John 7:34 and John 7:36.
Jeremiah 29:13 says,And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
I certainly used my whole heart to seek an answer and if I can do it, so can you. That's a promise from our Father, not just me!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Hear With Your Heart



I was an atheist while pursuing my degrees in Biology. 

Because I was studying field Biology and not applied Biology, I had lots and lots of courses with 'field' components - meaning a part of the course included trips into nature to study. I remember one trip west of Altus to study Hispid cotton rats (you know them as 'pack' rats). We literally camped in a cow pasture with cows milling around just outside the perimeter in which we had set up our tents. 

One morning I rose before everyone else and left my tiny one man tent (I still have it! I once weathered a tropical storm in it!) only to discover THE MOST amazing sunrise I had ever witnessed. There were more colors present than a rainbow it seemed and I stood there mesmerized by its glory. To this day I still remember the conversation I had in my head that began with, "This can't be an accident..." Unfortunately, it still took a decade or so beyond that before I became a believer but the first line of Psalm 19:1 describes my reaction fully. 
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. 
As I was striving to hear God's voice over the years, this was an experience that never left my heart. God's handiwork IS a reflection of his glory and even the unsaved know this - He uses nature to help call us - we only need to open our heart and hear with more than our ears.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Band-Aid For the Soul



My husband and I are early risers. We've never gotten up past 7am - unless we're sick - and we're rarely to bed past 10. Weekday mornings Dave is up at 4:30am and I'm up at 5:30. Even on Sunday mornings when we'll be off to church by 9, we're still up at 6, preparing to go out and plant a few things that didn't get in the garden, taking care of animals, fence lines or other chores, before coming in to get ready for church.

As I was making the bed this morning, Matthew 11:28 popped into my head:  

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." 
Every so often it seems like it might be fun to sleep in (of course when I do, I end up feeling like I've wasted my whole day and it's no fun in the end!). At any rate, I was recalling this verse wryly, thinking about the concept of sleeping in instead of getting up and working in the garden. This verse isn't about physical rest, though.

In this verse, Jesus is telling us that though our emotional burdens may be heavy, leaning on him - on the faith that there is more to life than physical labor and emotional turmoil - will give our souls rest; calm, peace.


In fact, the next verses say exactly that:
Matthew 11:29-30: Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
When we feel burdened - when friends have let us down, when we're running out of money before month, when we're caring for an ailing family member, when our children are hurting or far from us - there's rest from the mental weariness emotions can cause. We have only but to call on the name of Jesus and ask him to take our burden away. Just like it helps to talk to an old friend, talking to the one who knows everything about you and your feelings - knowing he's shared the same state of mind while here on earth - is like a bandaid for the soul.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Donald Trump And The Horror That Is Independence Day


These were my musings from last July 4th. As you can see, it became quite melancholy for me, and really couldn't be represented by happy, smiling children holding sparklers in one hand and apple pie in the other.

No, that July 4th was more representative of the movie Independence Day and all that implies - the death of a society caused by interlopers - not from outer space - but right out from under our own noses. These alien interlopers are the kids our generation - and subsequent ones - raised to care nothing for the country, its Constitution, its customs, its morals; its actions of decency played out on the world stage. These aliens love the concept of Bernie Sanders and his redistribution of wealth plan because they're too ignorant to understand what it means; that once the government hand goes into someone else's pocket, it'll sure as the world go into their own as well.

I found it ironic (notice I did NOT say funny) that just yesterday I opined about the death of Nancy Reagan and the societal values she represented that went with her, when I stumbled upon this post. I also find it ironic that this was written before the rise of Trump and our current fight to pick a Republican presidential nominee.

This post certainly indicated to me beyond all measure of imagination suddenly, that Trump - his longshoreman style of using curse words instead of English vocabulary and short bursts of insults instead of cogent presentation of his own views, blustering instead of educating or explaining, threatening violence or law suits like a petulant child - is simply a mirror of a society grown coarser every year. It's horrifying, true, but I have no idea at this point how to fix it. I fear it is what it is because it's been this way too long.

And now for the original post...

-----------------------------------------

This Independence Day weekend started for me last night. David and I went out to celebrate our wedding anniversary (a week late because neither of us have actually even remembered our anniversary in years). As we were driving to the restaurant, we were listening to the end of Rick Roberts show on KTOK-1000. He was playing excerpts of a "Man On The Street" interview with young people about the importance and history of the holiday. Of all those asked, only one young person - clearly from India by his accent, which is doubly sad - knew why Americans celebrate Independence Day or the significance of July 4th.

The interviewed kids laughed and laughed when confronted with their lack of knowledge and seemed perfectly happy to wallow in the fact of their ignorance. It was hilarious to them that they knew so little about the country in which they lived. This, of course, really put a damper on the evening and it took me awhile to shake it off.

Once we got to the restaurant, I noticed the number of ball caps on men's heads. I remembered how my grandfather used to chastise my husband for wearing a hat inside - a sign of disrespect once upon a time. I saw a family come in and the mother lie down on the bench while waiting to be seated as though she simply couldn't be bothered to sit like an adult.

I observed many, many diners spend more time looking down at their phones than their company. A large proportion of diners were obese - despite the government's attempts to force citizens to stop 'supersizing'. None of these observations helped my mood because all these behaviors are a direct illustration of why life in America is the way it is today; coarse, self-obsessed, easily-entertained, lazy, humanistic....
There was a time, as I began to awaken to what is happening in our country, that I had a very idealistic, unrealistic idea - but fun, nevertheless. I wanted to send every graduating high school senior to Ivory Coast or Nepal or Ghana or North Korea (fill in the blank with whatever 3rd world country you choose). There, they would be forced to live for no less than 2 months - during which they would witness the deaths of hundreds due to poor sanitation and water treatment, where they would see men and women stooping by the side of a rutted dirt road to use the bathroom, where they would watch families do laundry in rivers contaminated with human and animal feces, where living in a shack was everyday life, where children were left on the street to fend for themselves, or die, because their families couldn't care for them, and other activities symbolizing the absolute opposite of how the majority of Americans live today.

Yes, Americans are offended because we don't have access to a cell phone or the internet, yet, thousands of miles away children die from marasmus and kwashiorkor one after the other, day in and day out. Yes, we can be offended by the Confederate flag (yet have instant access to the internet to research exactly what that icon meant and how it was used), meanwhile in North Korea women are serially raped by soldiers who provide no protection at all to its citizens from a government that does what it wants when it wants with no concern at all for the people populating the countryside.

Yes, I will readily admit, my heart is hardening. It's been doing so millimeters at a time for decades now. Maybe it's the realization that Americans are too lost to understand something as globally significant as our Republic - the most free of all the world for hundreds of years. Maybe it's the time and effort I put in at the state legislative level to find that no matter what citizens do, they can't protect their individual liberties from the ignorance of those they elect.

It matters not exactly how it happened I suppose, but I have hit the wall. I'm now absolutely unwilling to see anymore of my personal liberties deliberately snatched away by those whose purpose it is to do so - or by those who are so ignorant of what these entail as to vote to assume them as though they don't exist.

I know I'm not alone in my thoughts, but this dourness of spirit - this ultimate cynicism of anything government and fear of those that revel in their ignorance of our country's heritage - is my cross to bear, certainly. I know I'm not alone in the belief that the inevitable and constant pulling at the fabric of our society in the name of 'equality' will render a tear completely irreparable.

I know I'm not alone in the conviction that there will come a point - divined from historical study of Communist/Socialist countries - where American citizens will be either be pushed down forcibly, or made to stand for their religious convictions, and the individual liberties of their families and friends. It's a sad statement of fact to say, that, while I realize I shouldn't allow my heart to harden against the lost, I also realize that the tougher I am, the easier it will be to survive the times ahead.

This doesn't make me less of a Christian or more of a sinner, just - every day - less willing to be subjugated by those who would attempt to do so on the grounds that their choices - their beliefs - are more important than my own.