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Archive for October, 2012

Halloween is, at the very least, an odd celebration. Children dress up (that is not odd), go to the homes of strangers (children are generally taught to not speak to strangers), and say trick-or-treat (threatening their neighbors) as a means of getting free candy (back to the ‘stranger danger’ point from earlier, then add on the taking candy from strangers which we do not want little children to do).

I am very aware of the pagan, and even satanic background to this celebration, in the past as well as today. I am also aware that the day (and night) can become a night of mischief and illegal activities. In one of the homes we once lived, I would pray for rain, so as to hinder the throwing of firecrackers over houses.

But, my childhood memories of Halloween center around my grandmother, who I remember spending that night with many times as a kid.

She was a woman who was active in her neighborhood, her church and her family, and she saw Halloween night as an opportunity to see how much the children in the neighborhood had grown since the Halloween before. No trick-or-treat-er was given a smidgen of candy until they had revealed their name, and where they lived. And if they were not from her neighborhood, they got less candy! Plus, once she shut the door, she would grumble about the “nerve of those outsiders, coming to take all our candy from the mouths of the local children.” Ah Gram,  she had an opinion about older trick-or-treat-ers too.

My Gram made the night a fun one for me. I would help her pack the little paper bags full of candy, and get together her penny collection for the kids who would come to the door with the orange UNICEF boxes.

While I was doing this, Gram would be rifling through her costumes, to choose a mask to wear, as she greeted kids at the door. It didn’t matter what mask she wore, it would be accompanied by the same whiny, high pitched fake voice. My personal favorite mask was one of Casper the Ghost. It was similar to the one to the left, distinct enough to know who it was, but friendly looking.

And that is what Halloween was, for me, as a child. People carved pumpkins to look like … jack-o-lanterns, rang the doorbells of the neighbors they knew so well, shared a few sweet candies, and acted silly. All was done in a friendly, jovial manner.

As I see the houses decorated today with lights, sound and tombstones, see the costumes that are more ghostly than friendly, and hear of the illegal and immoral acts of the ‘season’ I miss what I experienced as a child, but am thankful for a neighborhood where the night is still jovial, and many of the trick-or-treat-ers have rung my doorbell before, asking if someone in our home could come out to play.

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A while back while in the hairstylist’s chair, this song enters my consciousness. And throughout my being I felt that inner … sigh. That sigh that says, “I heard every word, I felt every emotion, I just experienced the cry of my own heart through the words of a stranger.

I wrote recently about my flawed ability to persevere, and how I have a three year lifespan of interest in just about anything from my job, to hobbies, to even my relationship with my hubby, and it is in that, my relationship with my hubby, that the words of the song in the hairstylist’s chair, spoke to me.

It does not make me proud to admit that my hubby has heard from my lips, statements like:

“I’m done.”
“I cannot keep doing this.”
“I don’t see a future for us.”

And those are just the statements that I am willing to share in writing. Perseverance is not my strength! But, commitment is my strength, and I am thankful for that.

When we married, over twenty-three years ago, I know I expected this marriage thing to be easy, after all we loved each other, and that is all it takes, right? Well about six or seven years into our marriage, when neither of us were as quick or willing to apologize, kiss and make up, as when we were first married, easy was not how I would have described marriage.

There have been failures on the part of both of us. We have had seasons of frustration, boredom, annoyance, anger and apathy with and for each other. There have been times when each of us have failed the other in our initial vows to the other.

Now, twenty-three years later, I know that we had not even touched the tip of the iceberg of what love is when we were married. Now, I know that love is not a feeling, it is a state of being and doing, even when it is ugly, messy, uncomfortable and inconvenient. In the words of someone I heard back when we were first married, “marriage is about bad smells and bad noises,” and if I might add to it, bad attitudes and bad behaviors.

But, it is not all bad …

In our years of marriage, we have had seasons of great joy, great happiness, beautiful memories, mutual love and support of each other. My hubby is my best friend in this world, he knows me like no other, and there is no other who I want to share my darkest nights, or brightest days with. It is with him that I feel a sense of completion that is other-worldly. It is with him that I feel the most real me.

So, as I sat in that hairstylist chair, with the following song penetrating my mind and heart, the statement that came to mind so very clearly was:

“I won’t give up on us”

“God knows we’re worth it.”

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It had been a day week. One in which I was tired, cranky, depressed and hopeless. It was … a week.

As I sat down in front of my technology to try to clean up my email inbox, I was sighing with my lungs, and calculating how many hours until I could go to bed with my mind. The thought of crawling under the warm and safe blankets of my bed was the most appealing future I could desire. All I really wanted to do was hide and sleep.

I noticed a blogger friend had a new post, so I opened it up. She wrote about being a writer, and the question, did she want to be a writer or did she want to have written. Basically, she was asking herself, am I a writer yet (to which I, one of her avid readers, would say, “honey, you ARE a writer”). I could relate to her question, about writing, and about other aspects of my life.

Then I noticed the following video also in my inbox:

Perseverence

“Now we know another thing that won’t work. That’s progress!”
Thomas Edison

My hubby would tell you (accurately) that my lifespan of interest in pretty much anything is three years … tops! Perseverance is not my gift. Thankfully commitment is something that I am gifted for, and it covers a multitude of my non-persevering flaws.

I need to remember the value of persevering, of keeping on in what I am doing, even when it might seem that I am failing miserably. I need to remember that adrenaline highs are not to be expected at all times, and that sometimes our perceived lows are the times when we are learning to maturely just keep going, because if we stop, we might miss the highest height of our experience yet!

Our persevering is a model of integrity, of commitment, of faith in “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion (until the day of Christ Jesus” Philippians 1:6).

I really like how Hebrews 12:1-3, especially here from The Message, nails it so well”

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

And so I will persevere, I will keep on, focusing not on the race, but the finish line.

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The guest post for today comes out of a response to inappropriate, thoughtless and wrongly used words. The response, on the other hand, was appropriate, intelligent and wise.

During one of the recent American Presidential debates, conservative American colonist Ann Coulter tweeted the following, “I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.” 

I am pretty sure that Ms. Coulter regrets the wording and insinuation of her tweet, nonetheless, she, a professional person of words and their meanings, should have known better!

The best response to her tweet was by John Franklin Stephens, whose response is well thought out, wise and very gracious. Mr. Stephens is a Special Olympics athlete with Down syndrome. He knows something of the word ‘retard’ and can speak to the power of that word from a place of very intimate knowledge and experience.

To me, his most powerful statement is, “no one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.” Amen to that!

Oh, and since the election is so soon, and I don’t want to be held responsible for swaying the American public to vote one way or the other (with my readership of … five 😉 ), the American liberals also have a special needs skeleton in their closet. Back in 2009 President Obama, when on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, joked about his bowling score of 129 “was like the Special Olympics or something.”

Obama did apologize to Timothy Shriver, Special Olympics Chairman.

Apologies are good, but it is better to think BEFORE we speak, because out of our lips are often the words of our heart.

And, as Mr. Shriver said after the presidential apology, “I think it’s important to see that words hurt and words do matter. And these words that in some respect can be seem as humiliating or a put-down to people with special needs do cause pain and they do result in stereotypes.”

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Welcome back to The Weight Loss DiaBLOG! It has now been four months since I started and I am feeling great! Partly because I AM feeling great, and partly because I lost another 5 pounds! That means I’ve lost 19 pounds … about the weight of all of the pics on this post today.

Well lifestyle changing, healthier-getting friends, how is it going for you? I hope that for the Canadians among us, you enjoyed your Thanksgiving feasts (because it is rare that there is only one feast over any holiday). And now, just around the corner is that candy-fest more popularly known as Halloween.
Halloween always takes me off guard. The day arrives and I have no inclination at all to overdo it. Then the bags of candy get opened and poured into a big bowl, to have easily available to hand out to the kiddies, so I try just one … By the end of two hours I am bartering preschoolers at my front door to get the specific candies and chips that I love the most! And by the time I lay my head on my pillow I am on a drug-like candy trip.
We could call next Wednesday, the Halloween Hurdle (hoping to avoid the need of a girdle). A day to expect struggle with temptation.
Segueing onto other things ….

Although the weight is coming off, I am still not into a habit of exercise, and I really do desire to make regular physical activity (other than sitting up and pushing up to get out of bed) part of my lifestyle. So, for the next month, my goal in this area is small, but firm, walk twenty minutes, three times a week, and sit ups/crunches five times a week. I know that once it becomes a habit, I will be hooked, and will make it happen … I just need to get the habit started!

I do not mean to sound like a salesperson (and I guess I am not since there is no cost to this) but I really do love the myfitnesspal app. and website. There is never a sense that a food is BAD, or can never be eaten. Instead I am made aware of the cost of all foods. For instance, peanuts in their shells … something I do not eat often, but would choose over chips any day, and love to nibble on them while sitting by the pool (NOT something I am doing in November). If I were to eat them pre-myfitnesspal, I would have eaten about two cups (or more) at one sitting. Now I know that just one cup of peanuts IN their shells has 320 calories! 14 carbs! and 23 grams of fat! So, do I stop eating them? No, but I choose when to eat them, and how much, and I ask myself, “do I really want them?” I feel like I am becoming a more intelligent eater, and that is a good thing!
Well folks, I hope that you are having successes as you pursue a healthier lifestyle. I hope you are feeling better, sleeping better and feeling the joy of pants buttoning up without having to do acrobatics to get dressed. And remember, one pound is more significant than you think … just look at the picture below!

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Monday morning in staff devotions, a teacher shared a story called Serpent, by Joan McCarthy (from a publication called Pro Rege, December, 1997), and I loved it! Then, two days later that same teacher read it again, this time in devotion time to his class, and I loved it more!

Today, I want to share the story with you, enjoy …

Serpent sinuously slips unseen and smiling through the grass with eyes narrowed to cruel slits. It has heard the cry of pain and rejoices.

“That cry echoes across the universe. it trumpets my victory. “Scream Eve, scream,” it hisses. “Today something new will be added to creation. Adam, the namer, will have to provide a name for the cessation of life.”

On its belly it slithers silently to a low tree and peers at the woman who lies curled beneath the branches. Fear and pain are on her dirt streaked face, and sweat gives a sheen to her skin in the light of early dawn. She moans. Serpent tingles with delighted anticipation and moves up the trunk of the tree and on to a branch to watch with eager, glittering eyes.

“You chose to know good and evil, ” it lisps. “My gift to you, Eve. Know evil. Know pain in your once perfect body. Feel the coming of the end. God has cursed us, but your screams are my laughter in God’s face.”

Eve’s body jerks at the sound. She recoils in recognition and struggles to push herself away, but the tree trunk blocks her. “Not you. Not now, ” she whispers through clenched teeth. Her whole body begins to tremble before Serpent’s icy stare.

“Yes, woman, it is I, the one you accused.” Serpent brings its head within inches of her face. “But why are you fearful? I sought only to make you wise. This suffering is the Maker’s doing. It was the Maker who denied you eternal life and drove you from Eden.” Serpent draws back, lays its head on the branch and coolly regards Eve. Remember the Maker’s words, ‘you shall surely die.’ What do you think is happening to you now woman, you mere afterthought of a jealous God?”

Eve’s eyes widen with terror and she screams for Adam. Serpent sneers. “Ah, yes, Adam, the crown of creation, over there crouching behind that tree. He is not in pain. His body is not swollen and deformed, but yours ….” Serpent averts its eyes in revulsion. “Adam blamed you, you know,” it says turning back to her. “Now see what has befallen you while he goes free. Perhaps, the Maker is destroying you and will create a fresh, new Eve for Adam, one that will once again delight his eyes. You will be returned to dust and the breath that quickened you will blow, lost forever.”

Serpent draws its face close to hers. “Call on me. I have the power to deliver you from your pain.”

Eve stares, her eyes wide with bewilderment that changes to horror. She tries to move toward Adam. In a louder voice Serpent addresses her once again. “So you not know what awaits you? See the fear in the eyes of Adam. He shall not help you. His manhood melts before your cries. He hears his own mortality in them and knows terror for the first time. He will run as far as he can from you and your groaning. You shall face your end alone.”

Serpent draws back to watch with a satisfied smirk as Eve’s body convulses once again. Her hands tear at the swollen belly. But, this time, no sound escapes her lips.

As the pain ebbs, her eyes seek the man. Seeing him, indeed, gathering himself to flee, she calls out with all her strength, “Adam, stay. Be man for this woman.”

Adam hesitates and turns his head to look back at her. She extends a trembling hand to him. “Do not fear my pain, Adam. It is mine alone. you too will have pain that will be your own. Comfort me now as you shall desire to be comforted.”

Serpent drops his coils from the branch and slips to Adam’s side. “Flee, Firstmade. Save yourself. She has no comfort left to give you. If you stay, you will see her end and taste your own. Turn while you can. You never needed her to do great things. She was only a gift, a helper for your great deeds, a pleasurable amusement. She has ceased to be helpful or amusing.”

Eve rises on one arm. “So not listen to the words of the cunning one. Serpent twists truth. I have always been with you. The Maker did not start over with me. He drew me from you-as you have said, ‘bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.’ All we have left of the Maker’s image is each other-together we bear that image in its completeness. I do not believe the Maker will destroy part of it. We must not let this evil one tempt us to shatter it and doom us to wander incomplete and alone. That will be worse than pain.”

Adam stops. Slowly the terror leaves his eyes. Serpent rises up before him. “Take care. She deceives you once again. you are the important one.”

But Adam pays him no heed. With his eyes fixed on Eve’s, he goes to her. He cradles he in his arms. With gentleness he wipes her brow and holds her through her pain.

Hissing in disgust Serpent tries to insinuate himself between them. “Fool, fool, save yourself.”

Suddenly Eve gives a great cry and Serpent sees her drew something from her own body. Its eyes widen in horror. Eve has not died. She has brought forth a new creature, small and wet and shining in the growing light.

Then the new one opens his mouth and begins to cry. The gleam returns to Serpent’s eyes. “This is not a new creation. It too feels pain. It is just one of them. I will coil around the door of his heart and have my way with this one too. I can wait.”

But the crying hushes. Adam, his face full of wonder as he tries to name what he has seen, has broken a large leaf from a nearby tree and brought it to Eve. She covers the man child with it and cradles him to her body.

All that can be seen is the kicking of tiny heels. A smile of triumph flickers across Serpent’s face and then suddenly dies. A shiver runs along its body, and it quickly lowers it head and slides silently away through the dust.

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I have to say I love a good conspiracy theory! I truly believe it shows great creativity of mind to think that the way things are may not be how they could be.

There are many conspiracy theories, but my favorite is probably that JFK, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis are all together, alive, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Maybe Princess Diana is there too!

A conspiracy does not have to be about famous people, or about deaths (or, presumed deaths). A conspiracy is simply a plan to do something out of the norm, strange, unique. For instance, our kids are constantly conspiring to get their dad to say yes to a cat (I, of course, would NEVER be in on that sort of conspiracy 😉 ).

There is a conspiracy that comes up each year about this time. It is a conspiracy to do something different, very different!

Just two short months from now is Christmas Eve, and you don’t have to celebrate it to know that it exists. From now on, every time you go to the mall, the grocery store, listen to the news, or open a newspaper Christmas will be the topic of the day. The only thing is it is not the Christ Mass (communion to celebrate the birth of Christ) that the day (or season) was originally about.

Christmas, as society celebrates it, has little to do with the babe born to the virgin girl, as sacrificial offering for the redemption of our sins. It has more to do with buying, busyness, baking and booze (I love alliteration). This is so far from the celebration mass for the babe in a manger! This is so far from anything that God himself would want for His children.

Advent is the season of anticipation, the season of waiting and preparing for the Messiah. It is a season which culminates in worship.

The following video is one I seek to watch, and inspire myself each Christmas season (for the past five or six). I encourage you, and me, to do Christmas differently … for the sake of ourselves, our families and others (who are so much more needy) around the world.

The Advent Conspiracy works with two organizations:

International Justice Mission in its efforts to bring rescue to victims of slavery (including sexual exploitation), prosecute the perpetrators (under the laws of that local country) and to change the justice system worldwide to protect individuals.

Living Water International seeks to get clean water to some of the 884 million people worldwide who do not have safe drinking water. This absence of clean, safe water means disease and death for so many. Something we take for granted, is so easily available to us, is gold to much of the world.

Consumerism does not equal:
Happiness
Memories
Meaning

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Today our first born turns twenty! Seriously, I am too young to have a twenty year old!

As her birthday was approaching, my mind has been occupied with thoughts of what to ‘get’ her for her special day. She is on the East Coast, and I on the West, and so whatever I was to get had to be light (and therefore cheap) to send in the mail.

I also was thinking about how we often give the gifts to others, that we wish to be given to us. So, I pondered what my daughter has given me over the years, and that was the key to one of her gifts. Every year she makes a CD of music I love (or music she thinks I should love) for me, and it is simply a perfect gift for me. I love the mystery of hearing what songs she chooses for me, and it is the gift that keeps on giving all year long.

And so, this is my CD to her.

The first song I can remember sharing with you would be Jesus Loves Me. It is the song that each of you kids learned, and hearing that innocent, joyful singing of such profound truth is what I pray is permanently imprinted into your mind, and onto your heart.

Thanks also to Robert Munch, and his book by the same name as the song; love you forever . It was a book that we shared snuggling in bed in the mornings, over mac and cheese, at lunchtime, or at the end of the day, with the scent of Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo drifting through the air.

We cannot forget those YEARS of watching many various musical movies, the most memorable would have to be Follow Your Heart from Thumbelina. Oh how the songs of that movie played over and over in my head, day after day, and week after week. Having just listened to it again, I am reminded that it’s message was and is still a good one!

The preteen years continued with the musicals, but none could compare with Anne of Green Gables to give us “lots of scope for the imagination.” But not every song was from a musical … Oh how I remember the song that gave us all “a funny feeling” by that group called Jump 5, Spinnin’ Around. Your dad even drove you two hours from home to attend a concert … now that’s love (and beautiful memories I am sure)!

Into your teen years, the musicals continued, with The Sound of Music being a favorite, and within it’s soundtrack, what teen girl would not want to sing along to Sixteen Going on Seventeen? I think it was sung as much by me as you!

But your teen years were not only about classic movies! A favorite for years was that James Blunt classic, You’re Beautiful. I, who never win anything, was even so lucky to win two tickets to his concert, and off we went, together (one of my favorite memories of us two). This song, I would say was the theme song for you and I during those later teen years. One of my best memories (of parental embarrassment for the laughter of my child) was standing on our front lawn singing it to you, from the top of my lungs. And, my dear, you know only too well that my public singing should be relegated to large crowds only.

And this would not be complete with the Criminal Minds Theme our TV show still (well, when I can stay awake to watch it). That show has provided the foundation of so many great conversations. And of course, the one we do not share, but when I hear it I think of you (and your best friend), Dancing With The Stars.

The most recent addition to our musical history together relates to this season you are now in, and the adventure you are now on. The message of As It Seems is the same as it was a few weeks ago, maybe with even more significance …

There are so many more, and I’ve included a few at the bottom, you know the stories behind them all. These, my adult daughter, are from the Soundtrack of our life together … I think we make beautiful music.

You’re beautiful, it’s true!

Mom

What a Wonderful World

God So Loved

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

Titanic Theme

The Hockey Song

Gilmore Girls

Just the Way You Are

Human

On the Floor

The Best Day

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My advice:
If you just clicked on this and have no time to read, just scroll down to the bottom, and watch the video … it is just that good!

It had been so long, so very long, since it had happened, since I had even thought those thoughts, and yet, out of the blue there it was again, as if no time had passed.

I had thought that I had turned my back on the past and that it would stay there … but here it was, and I was feeling all that I had felt before.

As I sat in the driver seat of my vehicle, I felt like anything but the driver. I put my head back closed my eyes and moaned, “why does this keep haunting me? when will it go away?”

The ‘it’ was sin. A sin of the past, one that I had acknowledged, repented of, and was forgiven. Yet, here it was again stalking me like some deranged killer, eager to snuff the life from me.

I wondered if this struggle was like the “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7) that Paul had experienced. He referred to it as “a messenger of Satan to torment me” that helped to keep him humble. Well, I am not sure if my sin of the past is keeping me humble, but it certainly drives me to my knees!

For a week or more the guilt of this sin was haunting me. It was there when I went to bed, and when I work up. It was everywhere, and all the time. I was easily able to relate to Romans 7:21-24 “although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;  but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man/woman I am!” I just wanted it to go away!

And then, while driving in my van a couple of weeks later, as so often is the case, the voice of Truth spoke to me, loud and clear. It was through a song I had not heard (or had not needed to hear) before, but the message I received from it, I believe, answered my cry, “who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).

It answers the cry of all of our hearts!

Redeemed
“to restore the honor, worth, or reputation of”
American Heritage Dictionary

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It is Saturday, and I am determined that I get some organizing done. The past couple of weeks have been so full of so many other things that piles of ‘stuff’ were in every room of our home. The head space that these piles were stealing from me was immense. I just had to get my house, and therefore my head, in order.

So, after writing a bit, doing laundry, then a few errands I started to eradicate my piles of ‘stuff.’ The further I progressed through the ordered piles, the more mess I was making. I would take an item off the pile, and place it in another, indicating where it would go … another room, another person, garbage, storage, etc. In no time at all one pile could result in as much as eight new piles. Finally I paused, and wanted to give up.

My cleaning was resulting in more mess!

It’s Saturday is a post by a guest blogger whose blog is called double hockey sticks. I love the story-telling of this lady blogger (whose name I have yet to determine), and how she teaches me, and makes me ponder her words with each post. This particular post will coincide well with my Saturday cleaning experience.

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