Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My "Secondly" Blog Post

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! I can't tell you how mine went, because I'm writing this post ahead of time, so I won't have to worry about it the week after Christmas. But I'm sure it was splendid.

If you've been reading my recent blog posts, you know the title for this one came from a post where I started a list of things I was going to talk about, and never made it past "firstly."

My "secondly" thing happened to be about New Years, so I decided to wait until after Christmas to write about it. After all, I'm the one who complains when stores start putting up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.

New Years resolutions are the topic of many newspapers, magazines, and blogs this time of year. We all like the feeling of a fresh new start, a chance to change for the better, and begin anew. Never mind that most people forget about their resolutions by the time February is winding down.

Are you like that?

Do you consider your word something to be given seriously, and kept faithfully - even if you've only given your word to yourself? What does a commitment mean, if it's not kept?

Well, it's easy to scold, but I admit it can be hard to stick with something. That's why I think of these things in terms of "goals," not resolutions (for the most part). To have a goal is motivating. To make a promise to yourself or to God and not keep it is much more serious. So I had goals.

I flopped on one item myself, last year. I wanted to study Spanish five days a week. I made it through February, then started getting pretty sketchy.

But I made it with other items. By the end of this month, I will have read Proverbs through once every month for this year (that was a resolution). And I published a book I had been working on since I was 16. That was a goal.

I had a few other goals, but I try to keep it basic. For the most part, I keep things pretty realistic. This isn't a time to dream of what I'd do if I suddenly had 3 extra hours in my day, unlimited funds, and the brain of a genius. This is a time to figure out what God is calling me to pursue this year, and what I can reasonably accomplish if I work hard. Now is the time to figure that out, before the heat of battle makes me tired, nervous, or discouraged. When that time comes, I'll have my goals staring me in the face saying, "You figured this out before hand; you counted the cost. You can do this! You know you can, with God's help! It's not impossible!"

I like to have categories in which to divide my goals; intellectual, spiritual, and physical. Reading through the Bible in one year would be a spiritual and intellectual goal. Working out three times a week would be a physical goal.

These are all examples of positive goals. Not positive in the sense of "good" (though they are good!), but positive in the sense that they require you to take action to fulfill them. They are offensive rather than defensive.

To stretch yourself a little bit this year, I encourage you to try some negative goals in all three areas. You don't just want to add good things to your life; you want to remove those things which are harmful.

So what needs to go? Maybe your goal is to de-clutter your life and get rid of all those items that you really don't need. Maybe you want to stop a bad habit. Is there a certain sin you need to work on and pray against until it is thoroughly conquered? Maybe you want to get rid of certain harmful foods in your diet. Maybe you want to stop being a procrastinator.

So get yourself a blank piece of paper (Or Word Document, if you're on the computer more than you're off). At the top of the page, write "Goals for 2012", and below that make three columns.

Now stop and think. And pray. Envision the past year, and look forward into this one. What do you see that you want to stop? Where do you see God's hand of blessing? What needs to continue?

In the first column, list (let's keep it simple) five things you want to change/stop. Opposite them, in the middle column, write what you want to replace them with. If you're not a morning person, and want to change that, your goal sheet might look like this; "Stop sleeping until 9:00am" "Wake up at 7:00 every weekday morning." In the third column, write the steps that will make it happen; "Set alarm 15 minutes earlier, every third day, until I am getting up at 7:00 regularly."

Put the paper somewhere you'll see it often. Inside the front cover of your Bible? On the wall in your bedroom? At your desk?

I find that goals need to be a mixture of positive and negative to be the most motivating, because our human nature wants to be both offensive and defensive, depending on our mood.

New Year Resolutions aren't a "must." For years I didn't do them. I thought they were only for people who wanted to lose weight. But now I love challenging myself so much that I do month goals as well.

In the Bible, there were many times the nation of Israel took the time to read through God's law and dedicate themselves anew to following it. That ought to be a part of any New Year's goal-setting plan. Of course, the reason Israel did it many times is because they kept failing. And I'll fail, too. But that doesn't need to stop me from trying again. The struggle itself helps you gain strength.

What are some of your goals for the New Year? Are you remembering to consider all areas - Spiritual, Intellectual, and Physical? What do you think of positive and negative goal setting?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Christmas Story

Unexpected Gain

Sometimes we must lose to gain.

I was like that. I lost much – and gained more. And it all started when Jesus was born.

I am deeply moved every time I hear someone describe our Lord’s birth. You must understand that, until I was saved, I knew very little about Him. But when I heard about His birth, and where He was born …well, I’ll never forget what I felt.

You see, I own an inn. Or, I did until 5 years ago, when my second son officially became the owner. There was really very little to give him, with business being the way it is, but what is left, he owns. Maybe taxes will go down. Maybe cows will learn to fly.

I remember when, 40 years ago now, all the filthy government mismanagement really began to hurt our income. No one could afford to travel, and when we did have guests, we lost most of our profit to taxes. I thought we would sink.

Until a new census required everyone to travel. Now that tax I liked. We made more money in two weeks than we made the rest of that year. For 14 days straight, every room was full. I concentrated on using our opportunity to the utmost. And that, today, is what I regret.

Thinking back, I remember that, halfway through the first week, we started turning away many people every day. We had two or three rooms that might have held a few more occupants, but I was saving those spaces in the event a rich man was desperate and willing to pay double. You learn tricks like that when you’re in business as long as I was.

Soon there were only two spaces left. The first went to a poor man. He had walked for miles and could pay only half price. I wanted to help him, but I was sure that if I gave him the space, ten very rich, very desperate men would walk in right behind him. I almost said no, but then Caleb entered the inn.

“Look – he’s watching,” my mind whispered. “If you turn this man away, Caleb will tell the town how harsh and greedy you are.” On the other hand, if I had pity, Caleb would note that, too. And being favored by a man as rich as Caleb was a good thing.

So the poor man got a room. I blush now to think how much effort I poured into making the religious crowd see me as something I was not.

Ten minutes later, a young couple showed up. Maybe they had in-laws with them – my memory is blurry now. But I remember the couple. They could pay full price – but no more. I wasn’t about to lose my last space for regular price. Not on a night like that. Not when dozens of people would pay double. It was the one time government was benefitting me, and I intended to profit from the situation. Caleb was gone now. This was my business.

So I turned them away. And tried not to remember that we were Bethlehem’s only inn.

I heard later that our neighbors took them in. Many people were opening their homes and renting rooms for a small fee that month. Apparently our neighbor’s house was already packed, but they let this couple and the group they were with use the stable. They stayed there while waiting their turn to register for the census. All government projects take awhile.

On the second evening, the woman had a child. That’s all I remember about it. I’m sure there were noises, and lights in the wee hours of the morning; but I was running an inn. My wife remembers a group of temple shepherds coming to the door, asking permission to search our stable, but I was busy then, too. I know now that it was not ours, but our neighbor’s stable, that held what they sought.

Those busy weeks were soon over, and life returned to normal. I paid little notice when that couple left the stable and rented a tiny house in our town. A few months later, I hired the man to repair our worn-out front door – now that he was a useful neighbor, I wanted him. He did good work, I paid him, and we occasionally greeted one another in the street after that.

Many more months passed. My own wife gave me a boy – my first born son. He came into the world in a warm room, above the inn. He grew fast, and filled my heart with pride and love, with every coo and gurgle.

Then that awful night came. Only a few hours before sunrise, dozens of riders and terrible snorting horses came thundering down our peaceful streets. I looked out of the window with groggy vision while my wife tried to calm our crying Nathan.

They were pounding on the door, breaking in before I could answer. And then – my heart aches as I remember – they grabbed our little boy. His pudgy hands flailed the air. His big dark eyes tore my heart. The men said something about our king demanding the death of Bethlehem’s children. My wife was shrieking and sobbing as they held her back. I was halfway across the room before I was knocked to the floor. They held me there until it was over. The knife they used killed more than my son; it destroyed my heart.

Life didn’t matter after that. Why should I struggle to live, in a country where leaders could take what was dearest to me, and tear it apart? I did not live. I only existed. I grew old. Other children came, but I loved with fear, expecting to lose. And God? I no longer cared about pleasing Him. If He could let such gruesome wickedness go by unpunished, He could overlook my petty faults. Of this I was sure. He obviously did not hate evil as much as I had thought.

It was 30 years later that I finally understood. We had traveled to Jerusalem for the customary Passover feast, and as we left the city, we walked by the hill of the skull – Jerusalem’s place of execution. We saw the agony of the three men dying on that hill, and looked the other way. We were close enough to hear the gasping breath, and the dying moans. I heard the man on the center cross say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” and I did not know what to think.

That was the scene God used to bring me to salvation a few months later. Philip visited Bethlehem and told us about Jesus. At first I scoffed, but then I heard that Jesus was the man who forgave while dying. And this Jesus was God’s Son. Images of my infant boy’s lifeless form, and a man’s destroyed body on a cross, mixed in my mind, and I felt pain. So God, too, had a Son who was killed by soldiers. And both the Son and the Father had willed it to be so. For me.

How could this be? Were my sins truly so awful that they demanded such a price? Perhaps God hated evil more than I thought. Did God really love me so much, that He would pay that painful price?

That day, I saw how awful my sins are, and that day they were paid for by the blood of Christ Jesus.

“You know, He was born here, in Bethlehem,” Philip told me later.

My brows raised. The Messiah? Born here?

“It was during a census, thirty-some years ago – I guess you are old enough to remember it.”

Yes, I did.

“His mother tells me she gave birth in a stable,” Philip said.

My tongue thickened and stuck to the roof of my mouth. “Tell me about it,” I croaked.

Can I describe how I felt when I learned how He was born? It did not take long to put the pieces together. To think – God entered the world in my neighbor’s stable, and it could have been my inn! Did ever a man lose so great an opportunity for so small a thing? I might have held Him in my very arms! My grandchildren envy me because I can say I saw Christ in the flesh, but O how much more I might have had! When I sit and ponder how my selfishness put the Son of God in a dirty stable on the night of His birth, I am even more thankful for those words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

To be forgiven by the Almighty is more than I can understand. I still miss my son. But I doubt I would have listened to Philip had I never known such loss. Such is the wisdom of God.

He took my son, so He could give me His.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Is it just me, or does blogsphere get really quiet this time of year? Everybody is busy doing things like spending time with family or shopping, and blogging gets put on the back burner - along with little things like cleaning one's bedroom and keeping up with emails.

But I digress. My bedroom looks much better this actual moment. Never mind that a few days ago I had to kick (Ahem. I mean nudge) bags, clothes, and books out of the way to get from the door to my bed. I have reasons. Where else can you store presents except your bedroom? And if you're going to have bags and boxes everywhere, why bother to pick up laundry or put books back on the bookshelf?

My logic is warped, I'm afraid.

But I've reformed. My bedroom is half-way decent again. The emails.....um, different story. But I'm working on it.

Now, what did I get online to write about? .....Oh yes.

First, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, just on the grounds that I may not speak to you again until after New Years. ...But, then again, you never know. It might be just the writers that are absent from blogsphere. If you prove to me that the readers haven't gone anywhere, I might be tempted to do another post before 2012 rolls around.

Secondly, ...

Well, before I get to the secondly thing, let's talk about Christmas some more. Because I like Christmas. And 'cause the secondly thing is really more about New Years, and 2012 scares me a bit at this moment.

So, Merry Christmas again.

I know not every Christian celebrates Christmas - I have several friends who don't. And those who do, celebrate it in very different ways. That doesn't bother me. Everybody has their viewpoints on it.

I know Christ probably wasn't born on Dec. 25th. I think there is a good bit of evidence to suggest that the wise men gave him gifts on December 25th (see this video to know why), but birthday? Nah, probably not. And I know that, traditionally, years ago, December 25th was a pagan celebration. (Please note; Christmas was not the pagan holiday; but the pagan holiday fell on December 25th. I have no idea what it was called. )

Does it bother me that the pagan holiday and the celebration of Christ's birth are on the same day? Maybe a little. But it makes me think of a story I heard about Patrick, missionary to Ireland. In his days there were still druids in Ireland, and they had a special day dedicated to the worship of their gods. A special part of the ceremony was the lighting of a gigantic bonfire on a high hill. No one was allowed to light their own fires that night until the large one was lit. The land lay in darkness.

Patrick saw the spiritual darkness of the land. He decided that he and his small band of Christians were going to light a fire in honor of the God they served - before the druids lit theirs. And they would do it on a high hill near the one the druids occupied - in open, direct defiance to the pagan gods.

So, on the night when no other fires were supposed to be lit, even before the druids lit their own fire, a bonfire raged opposite their hill. "Who had dared to light that fire?" the druids asked. The man of God, Patrick," came the answer. "He defies our gods."

I feel the same way about Christmas - the fact that I want to worship my God on a day pagans want to honor theirs doesn't bother me a bit. I know Christmas isn't a Biblically-commanded holiday, and I have no problem with those who don't celebrate it. But I know Christ was born, and I like to celebrate that fact.

So now that I've gone off on a bit of a rabbit trail.....

I'm excited that Christmas is only a few days away, aren't you? Some people chose to do things simply. Some become very elaborate. Our family does very little outside the home (parties, events, etc.), but we do love to make the home celebration a big'un. Decorating, Christmas Bible reading, getting up early on Christmas morning, a big meal, gifts, music, singing, candlelight....

I do love the tradition of gift-giving. Picking out things to make my loved ones smile is such a joy. I wonder if God the Father felt a lot of joy when unto us a Son was given.

I guess He did. His will was being worked out, and His plan was being accomplished. As a human, I would have been serious and pensive about my son being born with the purpose of giving his life for sinners, but God loved us so much....I bet He even smiled that night. The angels must have marveled.

I must move on the the secondly thing before I run out of blogging time. But now that it comes right down to it, I don't feel like writing about New Years quite yet.

I have two posts to write before the New Years. The "Secondly" one...and a short Christmas story that I wrote and want to share with you. I'll try to get that up before Christmas. If you want to read it, that is.

I hope you are having a wonderful week. This is my "holiday week." I'm allowing myself to spend time doing just stuff the workaholic in me always screams at; like sitting and browsing gardening books for hours and hours, or taking time to have a tea party with my younger sister (I know - I should do that more often!), or writing a blog post. I'm also spending lovely long hours in the kitchen, which makes me very happy. :)

I must go for now. Hope to talk to you soon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Vision Forum Sale!

I know that many of you are Vision Forum fans, so I'm happy to share some good news with you!

This week, Vision Forum is having a HUGE sale. Almost everything on their website is at least 20% off. Yes, a TON of stuff is on sale!

But the BEST part (in my humble opinion) is that shipping is a flat FIVE DOLLARS for ANY order. No matter what you buy, how much you get, or how heavy it is. Five dollars flat. And that's important, because anytime I get a good sale online, the shipping always gets me. Ugh. But five dollars? I'd pay that for the smallest order, so why not take advantage of being able to get LOTS of items for only 5 dollars?

Now, surely there's something Vision Forum has that you can use for Christmas gifts. Do y
Linkou have G.A. Henty fans in your household? Little girls who love doll clothes? History buffs? Adventurous boys who love hats and knives and spyware? Go take a look!

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that if you go shop by clicking on this link, I will earn a small percentage of what you spend. But I still think it's a great sale. I mean, if you're going to get gifts anyway....why not get them now? :) :) :)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Advice for the unmarried

"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil." Proverbs 4:23-27

What do those verses mean to you?

Do you know what I think? I think God put those verse there especially for unmarried people. I think it's His solution to the crusade of crushes, flirting, daydreaming, castle-building, and discontentment that runs rampant in even our Christian circles. And even in our own lives, sometimes.

I mean - think about it: it's all there.

Vs. 23 - Guard your heart. Use diligence. Why? Because that's where your life source is. That's where who you are stems from. And you want it to be pure and good and focused solely on Christ.

Vs. 24 - Don't speak boldly and flirtatiously. In fact, don't say anything that could be counted as unfitting to a disciple of Christ. Put such things far away from you. Let it be completely out of character for you to be boisterous and loud and giggly and attention-grabbing.

Vs. 25 - Let your eyes be focused on one thing, and one thing only: Jesus. Let Him be your life and your goal, and your source of happiness. Keep your vision fixed on where He is, and where He wants you to be. Remember eternity. Look at life through His eyes, through His perspective. Don't get distracted.

Vs. 26 - Think about where you're going. Think about who you are. Don't wander into situations that you will regret later. Don't let life just happen to you; you have a purpose and a calling. Follow it. Follow Him. Let your habits and your life be rooted in godliness and obedience. Seek after wisdom with all your heart. Walk with your eyes open.

Vs 27 - Don't give in to temptation. Don't get distracted. When you wander off the path, forsake the byways quickly. Run from sin like you would a poisonous snake. Embrace truth, and walk with the knowledge that the path God has set for you - and His timing and His plan - is the absolute best.

See what I mean?

It's all there.

Nice of our Heavenly Father to put it so concisely, wasn't it?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sewing Project: My Banquet Dress

Back in September, I had the privilege of being part of a banquet for our local pregnancy center. The event was quite posh, and all the ladies involved wanted to be sure we dressed our best. I used the occasion as an excuse to make a dress I've been planning for awhile. I had the fabric, and the general idea of what I wanted.

I was quite pleased with the result. Mom says it's her favorite out of everything I've ever made - and she isn't hard to please, but that still means something.

So here's how the design process went...

First, I dreamed. Then I selected my base pattern. It wasn't this one exactly, but very similar:

The dress had the same lines; princess seams, flared near the knee, knee-length (though I made mine a few inches longer), built-in sleeves, etc.

I had the fabric already; a shimmery navy. I bought the whole bolt (5 yds.) at WalMart, for $5.00. It's so cheap they don't even tell you what it's made of, but it feels like good quality stuff.

I cut the pattern out exactly as called for. (Gasp!!!!) I've discovered which size I am, and - sure enough - this dress fit perfectly right "out of the box" at the size I cut it. (I know, I'm so terribly blessed. I can cut a pattern at one size, and not have to alter it! I should use patterns more often.)

So, this is what it looked like after I sewed the main seams:

Please ignore the mess of my sewing shelves and table. I always have a dozen projects going on at once.

I liked the basic lines, but this look just didn't quite "cut it" for me. I wanted something more.

So I added a sheer shimmery layer on top, and a pleated waistband (which took forever to make, but was so worth it).

And the end result?

Much better.

This dress fits me like a dream, covers everything no matter how I move, and makes me feel like a princess. I LOVE it. It was worth the 10 hours it took to make.

It was worth the $15.00 I spent on materials, too. :) :) :):) :) :)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Generational sins

Today I keep thinking of a saying my Pastor repeats quite often.

"What you do in moderation, your children will do in excess."

I caught myself doing a vain thing, and excused myself by saying, "It's all in moderation."

Then that saying came back to haunt me.

"What you do in moderation, your children will do in excess."

Do I want my (Lord willing) future children to copy me in everything?

Um...gulp...no. Most things, yes. Everything? No. I shiver at the thought. They can copy my strengths all they like, but I hope they don't inherit my weaknesses.

But, "What you do in moderation, your children will do in excess."

So...do I want my vanity to become full-blown arrogance and pride in my children? No.

Do I want my private longings to become open selfishness in my children? No!

Do I want my stingy giving to become greed?

Do I want my "independence" to become rebellion in my children?

Will "indulgences" become addiction to entertainment?

Will sarcasm become cutting words?

Somehow I want to make excuses for myself, but I want my children to be perfect. Looking at things from the perspective of several generations makes everything more serious. I can understand why people say that when you become a parent, all of the sudden you grow up. When you realize that the health of your child's soul depends a great deal on you,...it makes a difference.

Lord, grant me grace to live in such a way that I can say, "Follow me as I follow Christ!"

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sugar Report

Okay - here is a summary of my two weeks without sugar, and then I promise I'll get off the sugar soapbox. For awhile.

I didn't go 2 weeks without eating refined sugar.

You know, of course, that I was allowing myself 1 meal each week to eat whatever I liked. I did that on Friday night for both weeks. I had pizza and ice cream, and one week I had a sip of Joe Beans' Iced Mocha as well. Mmmm!

Those were my permissible flumps. (Don't you like that word? I just made it up!)

I had a few other Cheat Moments.

#1 - The homemade chocolate cheesecake at a friend's party last Saturday. I held out through the cookies. And the chocolate raspberry truffles. And the pizza sauce for dipping the Stromboli. But when they sliced the cheesecake....I said "who cares?" and ate a small (very rich!) piece. Oh, It. Was. That. Good.

#2 - I ate a few dried dates that had sugar on them. (Honestly - who in the world thinks they need to sweeten dried dates, of all things? As if they weren't sweet enough?)

#3 - I almost gave in yesterday when Mom served fudge pie for Sunday dinner dessert. The only thing that kept me strong was knowing I'd have to blog about my naughtiness. (I knew there was something to the accountability theory!)

So, what did I observe, and what did I learn?

Well, I'm not sure which was hardest to abstain from; the known sweets (chocolate, ice cream, etc.) or the "hidden sugar" (bread, cereal, crackers, mayo, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, etc.) I certainly craved the desserts more, but the "regular food" was hardest to avoid. I was hard pressed to find food that I could eat.

And that surprised me a little bit.

For example, let's say you, like me, are "good about sugar." You don't drink soda, you don't munch candy bars, you dislike Pop Tarts, and love most any veggie. Great. Let's create a example menu and see what the sugar content is.

Breakfast: Granola
Lunch: Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
Supper: Lasagna, Salad, and Rolls (let's say you're good and you skip dessert)

Sounds okay, right?

That's what I thought before these past two weeks. But I can't argue with the math.

The math says that (depending on what brands and how many helpings you have), this menu supplies you with - are you ready? - 52 grams of refined sugar.

100 grams sugar = 20 tsp. sugar

So, 52 grams is about 10 tsp. .....

That's almost 1/4 cup of sugar.

Picture a quarter cup of sugar dumped onto the table. Now pick that up and ingest it.

And we thought we were "good with sugar"?

Enough with the depressing news.

Anyway - so my eyes were opened to the way sugar has invaded my diet. But I also learned that skipping dessert is possible.

And I learned all sorts of ways to sweeten food naturally. ...But I'm kinda sick of raisins. :) :) :)

All in all, I'm glad I did these two weeks. I feel good about it.

How will I eat tomorrow?

Well, my tongue craves some old-fashioned granola and chocolate, but my mind feels a little sick at the thought of what that means for my body. One TBS of sugar sounds like a TON. I think I view sugar in a whole different light now. Hopefully that lasts for awhile. I will definitely be looking into ways to limit my sugar, but I don't think I'll go cold-turkey. At least not yet.

How do you think a sugar fast would affect you if you did one?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


This post struck home with me. Something about it moved my heart.

I had to share it.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I'm happy about my shopping ...

So I must tell you about it!

Usually, I hate shoe shopping.

Gasp! Breathes there a girl who can say those four words and mean it?

Hello, folks, and my name is Amber.

Yes, I usually despise shoe shopping.

Not that I hate shoes. No, no. Don't believe that for a minute. I used to think I'd escaped the fatal feminine sickness of shoe-love, but I no longer labor under that delusion. I am now quite aware of my weakness for shoes. All the boxes are neatly stacked in the bottom of my closet. I won't say how many.

I do try to control myself. I don't want to be consumed with a love of fashion - there are too many more important things to think about! But I like pretty things, and when I can afford new pretty shoes without stealing funds from worthier causes, I like to get them.

So why do I hate shoe shopping?

It's a remnant of my past, I guess. Memories of spending hours as a young girl, wandering shoe store aisles with Mom, going from store to store, vainly searching for the perfect shoe. ...Melting in tears when I can't find it.

I'm very picky, you see. Very conservative (or shy) in my tastes. I remember one shoe-shopping trip where Mom could not accompany me, and Dad had to take me. When I came home, I told her, "Now I know Daddy is patient."

Anyway. I have bad associations with shoe-shopping. Shoe-shopping means tears, and a lot of wasted gas.

I'm also a cheap-skate. And shoes are not cheap. So I hated that part of it, too.

That explains why I ripped a hole in the bottom of my trusty black ballet flats back in September, and didn't go shopping for a new pair until this week. And I wore that old pair multiple times each week throughout this month. With a pea-size hole in the sole. Yes, I'm that cheap. And lazy. And that afraid of shoe shopping.

That couldn't last forever. I needed a pair of black flats. And a brown pair, as well, since the button on my old brown flats was hanging on by a few threads, and I regularly pulled the sole lining out when I removed my feet from the shoes. I literally remember wearing those shoes when I took the test for my driver's license...quite a few years ago.

Proof positive: I was afraid of shoe shopping.

But I knew I wasn't being frivolous this time. I needed shoes. ...So I began to get excited.

And God was with me in a special way on these trips. (Yes, I made two trips!) The first time, I spotted an exact copy (different brand)of my old pair of black flats. Right away. An identical brown pair was close by. On sale; buy two, get each one for $10.

A sign. It was meant to be.

I grabbed the boxes, bought them for $20, and took them home. Record time for a shoe shopping trip.

Just when I thought I might get excited about shoe shopping. I buy an exact copy of my old pair of shoes. How exciting.

Only problem was, one pair didn't fit. Exact same shoes - the brown ones fitted, the black ones didn't. Stubborn. Must have been related to that old pair.

So I went back today to exchange them. This time I was going to live a little. Find a different black flat style.

I walked into Show Show, and not only did I find a nice black flat, but I noticed a lot of sales going on. And I realized I wanted to have some fun. So I did. I tried shoes on I never would have tried on before, strutted the aisle (it was empty!) in front of the mirror, played dress up, and shed not one tear.

I came home with 3 pairs of shoes. Plus the brown ones at home.

I don't have photos, but I looked online for similar pictures:
#1 - Brown flats:

They look exactly like this, but are a different brand.
(Incidentally, my hated old black flats looked just like this, too.)

#2 - Fun plaid shoe (summer shoe on sale):

This isn't really close...the plaid is like this, but the style is different.
Picture a ballet flat in these colors...sorta. More of a "sailor shoe" than a ballet flat.

#3 - Needed black flats:

Something like this, only with a ribbon ruffle on the toe,
and polka-dots inside (Don't you love those little touches only you see?
My pair is TONS cuter:

#4 - And, last but not least, my personal favorite. A pair of red heels. I've secretly wanted one for years, but I'm not a heels girl. Too uncomfortable, and I don't like the "swing" they add to your walk. But these are supportive, comfortable, and even my mother agrees they aren't so high that they add any swing. I love them. Wish I had an actual picture. Imagine:

Something styled like this:
With colors like this, in patent leather:

(Now you know I'm lazy when it comes to taking pictures and uploading them.)

Best of all?

Remember how I said I'm cheap?

I'm rejoicing.

I got 4 pairs of shoes.

Normal cost: $82.96

Way beyond my price range for an impulsive shopping spree.

Guess what I paid after sales?


For 4 pairs of shoes.

That's less than $10.00 a pair, in case you didn't do the math.

Yes Ma'am. I'm happy.

P.S. I forgot to add: I came home and had a party and threw the old black flats in the trash, and got rid of the old brown flats, and gave away two more pairs of shoes - so I got 4, and got rid of 4! Pretty good for a girl who likes shoes, huh?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Two Flavors

So....yesterday night was hard.

Supper was green beans, rice, and slow cooker chicken. It was yummy! The chicken was especially good, and I enjoyed a whole leg, which is a lot for me. I usually have just a bite or two of meat with my meal. (Yeah, I know that's pitiful.) I knew I didn't need to save room for dessert, so I filled up. I even had seconds on rice, which is another unusual occurrence for me. (I've developed a habit of skimping on the good food so I have plenty of room for a big dessert. One reason I knew I needed to do this "sugar fast." ...This look even worse in print.)

At the end of the meal, my tummy was full, but my tongue wasn't. I roamed the kitchen like a crazy girl, looking for something sweet I could eat. I'm so accustomed to that sweetness to finish off a meal! I finally settled for a dried fig.

Here's a list of foods to help satisfy that sweet ache:
Dried figs or prunes
Dried fruit, if there's no sugar added (hard to find, with some brands)
Blueberries, 'specially good if they're frozen
Nuts can help, too, though they aren't sweet

I've come to a definite conclusion. Americans are programed to enjoy only two taste sensations; sweetness and saltiness.

Think about it - almost every food we eat has sugar added, from pizza sauce to bread. The foods that aren't sugar-enhanced are the savory type, and they all have salt added. Canned veggies, soups, lunch meat, chips, etc., all taste strongly of salt, but unless you're used to eating those foods without salt, you don't notice that flavor. The flavor you expect from canned beets, for instance, comes mainly from the salt in the can. We think that's "beet taste," but if you cook up a garden beet and eat it, then take a bite of canned beets, you immediately notice that you aren't tasting true "beet" from the can. You're tasting salt. Our tongues automatically expect to taste either sugar or salt in every mouthful of food we eat. We don't even notice it any more. We think salt or sugar equals flavor.

Even if salt and sugar wasn't so disastrous for your health, wouldn't this still be a sad state of affairs? There are MILLIONS of flavors in the world - why mask them with the two we've been programmed to like best? These other flavors are milder, and with a tongue accustomed to the strong bite of salt and the pervasiveness of sugar, it's hard to pick up any deep taste, but once you avoid sugar and salt for awhile, I've been told you taste everything else much better.

Wouldn't it be worth it to avoid two flavors for the sake of experiencing zillions of others in their place?

...Not that I'm ready to give up salt and sugar entirely. I think some in moderation is enjoyable. But I am hoping that through my "experiment" these two weeks I will be able to enjoy some richer flavor in the foods I eat.

What do you think? Are we over-salted-and-sweeted?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sweet Overkill

The USDA reports that the average American consumes anywhere between 150 to 170 pounds of refined sugars (this includes glucose, fructose, and sucrose) in one year.

That's a lot of sugar.

What does 150-170 pounds look like? Imagine 30 to 34 five-pound bags of sugar lined up next to each other on a counter. Now imagine eating all of that sugar. To break it down even more, eating 150-170 pounds of sugar in one year is also equivalent to consuming 1/4 to 1/2 pounds of sugar each day.

1/4 pound of sugar is equivalent to 30 teaspoons and 1/2 pound of sugar is equivalent to 60 teaspoons.

Studies have shown that consuming 75 to 100 grams of simple sugars (about 20 teaspoons of sugar - the amount found in two-and-a-half average 12 ounce cans of soda) can suppress the body's immune responses considerably. These sugars are known to create a 40 to 50% percent drop in the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria and germs within the body. The immune-suppressing effect of sugar starts less than thirty minutes after ingestion and may last for five hours. By consuming 150 to 170 pounds of simple sugars each year, a person may have up to 80,000 hours of immune suppression!

(These facts were taken from: http://EzineArticles.com/2252026)

No wonder we are a sick society. And this isn't even taking into consideration that other effects of sugar - it's the leading cause of dental problems, and we all know what sugar can do to children's attention spans. There are studies that show that sugar feeds cancer cells, and causes heart problems.

Enough already.

I've always known sugar is bad for you. Refined sugar, that is. I know we need a little sugar in our bodies - it actually feeds the brain, I've been told. But that's natural sugar - the kind found in fruits, honey, and molasses. Refined sugars (white sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.) is not at all necessary. Your body survives much better without it.

As I said, I've known that for ages. I've tried to watch how much refined sugar I eat, and I thought I did pretty good. At 6 or 7 years old, I was famous in Sunday school for refusing any candy offered me. (Yes - you can say it...."health nut!")

Lately, however, I've gotten sloppy. My trouble with low blood sugar flared up again this year, and it just seems too easy to eat a few chocolate chips mid-morning, or nibble a piece of chocolate before bed. I've always loved ice cream. Chocolate chip cookies? Mmmmm! And my real weakness is "real food" that is chocked-full of sugar. Sweet potato casserole. Quick breads. Especially quick breads. Pumpkin bread, banana bread - you name it, I'll eat it 'til the cows come home.

And don't forget granola. That stuff could be served breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I wouldn't complain.

All that has lots of sugar. It's addictive. Sugar is addictive. And yet it's so bad for you.

Wow. Now why does that sentence remind me of sin?

I can't snap my fingers and remove all the sin in my life, but I can try to do something about this sugar thing. I've become motivated to see if I can go for two weeks without putting any refined sugar in my body.

Do you have any idea how hard that can be in America? That not only means no chocolate or ice cream, but also no spaghetti sauce, salad dressings, store-bought bread, or granola!

Of course, there's still plenty left to choose from. God's a creative Creator, and He made plenty of "real" food that is delicious. It will be hard, but I fully believe it's possible. That's why I'm going to do it.

Two weeks. Cold Turkey. Nit-picky. Starting today.

Now for the big question - will you join me?

I'd love some accountability. And some companionship. Somebody to say "keep going!" and to tell me I'm not crazy.

Maybe cold turkey is a little much for you - but what about making a smaller commitment for these two weeks? Maybe you'll skip dessert every day. Or drink your coffee black. Anything to show us you're challenging yourself!

If you decide to do a challenge for these two weeks (Oct. 18- Nov. 1), please post a comment and tell us what it is.

If you want to join the same challenge I'm doing, let me tell you the rules I'm giving myself:

1 - The obvious; no refined sugars. This means I read the labels on everything, and if it contains any unnatural sugars, it's a no-no. I have a feeling I'll be eating a lot of from-scratch foods for awhile. :)
2 - You can "cheat" on one meal each week. (Don't you love making up your own rules?) I already know which meal I'm going to "cheat" on; Friday nights. It's our family pizza night, and I'd hate to miss out on that!
3 - Don't starve yourself. Be sure to fill up on good foods.

So what can we eat? Lots! Oatmeal sweetened with molasses and raisins, homemade bread made with honey, vegetables, baked potatoes, cheese, sour cream, apples, oranges, bananas, beans, noodles with herbs and butter, carrots, grilled chicken, meatloaf, fried potatoes, tuna-cheese-butter-and-lettuce sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, ...and much more!

If you discover a "hidden" source of sugar, that some of us might over look (like ketchup or BBQ sauce) post a comment to remind us! And be sure to post a comment if you join the challenge.

If you feel like it, post about the challenge on your own blog, to keep up your spirits.

On of the best parts about this challenge, I think, will be the new recipes we come up with. I've created one already! I had it for breakfast this morning. Shall I share?

Oven-baked French Toast

- 4 homemade rolls
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1/2 cup or so of milk
- lots of cinnamon
- 2 TBS molasses
- 1 TBS honey
- 1 TBS water

Slice the rolls into 1/4" slices. Layer in a 9x9 glass baking dish. Combine eggs, milk, and cinnamon. Pour over bread. Mix molasses, honey, and water. Drizzle evenly over bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until eggs set. Don't over bake.

This was delicious as-is; sorta like cinnamon french bread on the bottom, and gingerbread cookies softened in milk on the top, but next time I might add a TBS of melted butter to the molasses mixture, and pour it all in the bottom of the dish before I add the bread, eggs, and milk.

I'm also sprouting 1 1/2 cups of navy beans for a recipe later in the week. Start today if you want to try it! Sprouting is easy. ...but this post is long enough, so I won't give detailed instructions. Just google it. :)

Anyway....I am holding my breath for comments! Remember, if you meet this challenge, you've just escaped 3 1/2 POUNDS of sugar (or 420 tsp.) that would have been in your body if you ate the normal 1/4 pound a day.

Let's do it, folks!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I see the moon

One thing I love about night falling earlier this time of year is the chance I get to see the moon and stars whenever I come home from an evening outing. I routinely stand in the driveway and star-gaze for a few minutes before I can manage to break away and go indoors.

A few nights ago I was captivated once again by a nearly-full moon in a clear sky. I stood there in the driveway gazing up, gravel hurting my feet through the thin soles of my shoes, and the cool night air touching my arms. I could almost feel a cold-ish warmth from the moon, if you know what I mean. I wonder if a person's cheeks can moon-burn? Though I have seen it hundreds of times, I never get over the sheer amount of light the moon can reflect.

Nearly every time I see a full moon, I think about the science behind it. The moon is a ball of rock, dust, earth, and craters. No light source of its own. I know, in my head, that it reflects the sun, but that's so hard to imagine, in a dark sky. The sun is far away, on the other side of the world. How can it be causing this yellow glow I see?

I wondered, the other night, how the moon manages to reflect anything. It's dirt, after all. Grey, dusty, dirty dirt. How does dirt glow like that?

And then I couldn't help but think of myself.

I know the Great God. The King of kings. His glory far surpasses any earthly glow and beauty, even as glorious as the sun is. And I am made to reflect Him, in a dark sky. I am not a star - I don't have my own light source. I am a moon; a humble circular mass of grey rock and dirt. And I can't figure out how dirt is supposed to reflect light, but somehow it happens.

No credit to the moon, of course. It doesn't do anything. I mean, it sits there - or hangs there, rather. And it does have to be in line with the sun to catch its light. But really, all that glow comes entirely from the sun.

Of course, sometimes earth casts a shadow on the moon. When that happens, less of the surface of the moon is lit by the sun. A crescent moon doesn't even compare to the glowing radiance of a full moon.

A full moon is beautiful. The sun lends its stunning rays to this humble object, and manages to makes the dirt beautiful, while at the same time teaching the observer something about the nature of the sun itself. Even though the sun is hidden. Even though the sky is dark.

I think I'll stop here. I won't continue to explain for you the obvious parallel to be seen between the moon and ourselves. You'll see it - and feel it - all for yourself, if you will just go outside the next time there's a full moon to be seen, and stand there for awhile looking at it.

Beautiful dust. Because of a glorious Son.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"How to Cook Chinese/Japanese/ Filipino food at home"

To be honest, I don't know which this recipe is. The rice bit is (with minor adjustments by me) from my aunt , who is Filipino, but the rest is just what I thought smelled good and looked oriental. And it tastes FANTASTIC, if I may say so myself. A friend of mine saw this dish once and thought I had ordered it from a Japanese restaurant. And it must be sorta kinda authentic, since part of it came from my aunt, right?

I've never had restaurant-style oriental food (only dishes made by people from those countries - lucky me!), so I don't know if this tastes like what you would buy in a Japanese or Chinese restaurant. Make it yourself and tell me.

This recipe below makes one serving. Multiply it according to how many people you need to feed. Of course, like most cooking, it's very flexible. Add a little extra rice to make it stretch. Skimp on an egg or two if you don't have enough. And so on and so forth.

So...Here we go: (And, once again, I apologize for how wordy my recipes are. Can't help it!)

Orient Rice, Amber-Style

~ minced garlic (the kind you buy in a little jar in its own juice is so convenient! ...But you could chop fresh garlic too. Just be sure to chop tiny.)
~ 2 TBS butter, or a little less. Maybe 1 1/2 TBS
~ 1/2 cup cooked brown rice, one day old (the age is important so that it's not too moist.)
~ 1 egg (home-raised is best!)
~ 2 TBS ground beef, cooked with onions (Is your family like mine, where you cook up a bunch of ground beef with onions at one time, early in the week, and use it throughout the week for spaghetti, sloppy joes, soups, casseroles, etc.? I just grabbed a little bit from the fridge.)
~ 1 tsp. soy sauce (Please do measure this - just 1 tsp. is enough! Ever read the back of the bottle? 1 TBS gives you 38% of your daily salt allowance!)
~ 1 large carrot, scrubbed
~ 1/2 of one large green sweet pepper (fresh from the garden is delightful!)

Are you ready?
: (Note - you will be making two parts for this dish - rice, and fried vegetables to go on top. Make the rice first and keep it warm, or, if you're talented, get the veggies going, and when they're almost done start the rice.)

Rice Directions:
Melt some of the butter (3/4 TBS or less) in a small frying pan. Once it is melted, turn your heat down to simmer and add a small scoop (1/4 tsp. or so, to taste) of minced garlic. Let that saute until the garlic is soft and smells wonderful. Don't let the butter get too brown. Keeping the heat low is key. Think slow cooking.

Add the cooked meat, and toss to coat in butter. Let it heat for a few moments. Turn the heat up to medium. Once it reaches the heat level you would use to cook eggs, continue.

Now, you want to do the next three additions quickly, so have them all ready. Have your rice measured out and ready to dump in, plus 3/4 tsp. of soy sauce and one egg.

Add the egg to the skillet and stir with a wooden spoon. You're making scrambled eggs. As soon as the egg starts to cook, add the rice and soy sauce. Stir continuously as the egg cooks. You want the rice to fry, but you don't want the egg to over-cook and be rubbery. Find that perfect moment of "doneness." And remember, eggs always continue to cook in their own heat once you take them off the stove, so stop a few moments before you think they're done.

Now, set the rice aside, but keep it warm until your veggie topping is ready.

Fried Vegetables Directions:
Chop your carrot and green pepper into 2.5" lengths. Then slice the pieces into strips. The strips should be thin, like a lasagna noodle, and about 1/4" wide. Now melt your remaining butter in a larger fry pan, and saute a small amount of garlic until soft. Turn heat up to medium. Add remaining soy sauce (about 1/4 tsp.) and the carrots. Let the carrots cook for 2-3 minutes, to give them a head start, since they're crisper, and then add the green pepper. Fry until the veggies are soft and limp, and just starting to caramelize around the edges. (Mmmmm!) Remove from heat and serve over the rice.

Try to restrain yourself.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Virginia Earthquake

Saturday, as I sat on top of a mountain (yes, really!), I told two friends that I really needed to write a blog post about "the" earthquake, but that it would be senseless to write so late. I mean, honestly, everything that can be said about it has been said about it, right?

All except my bit of the story.

So, what do you want to hear? An explanation of where I was, what I thought, how I panicked? ...or an explanation of what in the world I was doing sitting on top of a mountain on Saturday?

That one is easy. I climbed up there. All 1.5 miles. Lovely climb. My favorite mountain in the world. It is nothing but bare rocks at the top, so the view is unimaginable unless you've been there.

So we were sitting on rocks at the top of the world discussing blogs and earthquakes.

Just in case you are a reader from another country, or the other side of my country, let me explain: I live in Virginia. On August 28th, an unexpected 5.8 earthquake rattled life all up and down the east coast of America. We felt it.

Everybody has their own story about where they were and what they were doing when the earthquake hit. I doubt we'll ever forget it. It was the first - and maybe the only - earthquake I've ever been in. (Honestly, an earthquake in Virginia?)

Actually, I didn't panic. It took me about 10 seconds to realize that this was not a plane overhead, a train close by, or our friendly neighborhood quarry giving off a long blast. The word "earthquake" hit my mind, and I suddenly knew. It took approximately 2 more seconds for my heart rate to kick into high gear.

My first thought was to warn everyone. "But who would believe me?" Honestly - in the midst of what could have been a emergency situation, for all I knew, I was worried about what people thought of me. I'd rather not analyze this part of my reaction.

My next thought was wonder - how bad was this going to get? And I wondered if I should try to find safety. A doorway was nearby, and I stood in it. The ground was still vibrating, and the loud rumbling continued steadily. A friend of mine stood in the doorway across from me. "Do you know what's going on?" she asked (she's from California).

"It feels like an earthquake!" I replied, trying to sound skeptical in case I was wrong.

"That's exactly what it is!" she replied.

We stood there in silence and waited for something to happen. I thought about the plates miles and miles beneath me, grinding over one another, affecting so many people. God was moving the world - and those atheists couldn't do a thing! I found it quite satisfying to think how frustrated they must be to realize it. Then I realized I was quite helpless - and the concept of my own insignificance in the realm of the universe nearly suffocated me.

I didn't know what to expect. When the noise and shaking just kept going, and going, and going, I began to wonder if something really big was going to happen. Would the building collapse? Would our town become a disaster area? Were people being hurt?

"This is what the end times will be like..." Then a breath of wonder caught in my throat. Could it be?

Then, as suddenly as it started, it stopped. It was over. We were still here.

My pulse was throbbing in my wrist and chest. My legs were having their own private little earthquake. But, strangely enough, the sensation in my mind was one of disappointment.

That's it? I wanted to feel it again, just to know I hadn't dreamed it.

A few minutes later, I realized why I was so disheartened.

It could have been the rapture.

But it wasn't.

I suddenly ached so much to see Jesus that my eyes got misty. "Why don't You come, Lord? When will it be?" There was no regret, no longing to live "a few more" days here. For that glorious moment, all I wanted was Him. And I was sad He hadn't come.

Then I realized what would have happened if that HAD been the rapture. There is so much to do! So many people to reach! So much to say! Reality slapped me.

Facebook came alive moments after the quake. I read the posts, imagining what facebook will look like moments after the rapture. What will they say? Oh, the panic that will surge in their hearts! The hopelessness of it all! My heart aches for them - and yearns to spare them that.

There is much to do, folks. Much to pray for. We've been given a precious gift - time. Time to work, and preach, and implore.

Let's not waste it.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Letter to Someone I Know

Dear Friend,

You are my friend.

You make me sad.

Every time you talk about yourself, it's wrong.

When you talk about your looks, you mock. You can catalog - and will, if asked - each detail of imperfection in your body. You can't give a compliment to someone else without bringing your body into the equation. Their hair is exactly what you always wanted. It must be so much easier for them to find clothes that fit than it is for you.

When you talk about your brains, you laugh sarcastically. You can't talk about a computer without explaining that you aren't a techy. You can't talk about your hobbies without explaining that you aren't an expert. When someone asks for advice you backpedal out of the conversation as fast as you can.

When you talk about your talents, you awkwardly insist, as fast as you can get the words out, that you have none.

Can't you see? Can't you hear?

So it's all about you, is it?

Beneath the shy laugh, the weak smile, the altered tone of denial, it's so easy for others to catch it:

You are proud. You are suffering. You are wounded. You have seen yourself as what you wish you were, and you guess how others see you. The difference between the two tears you apart. You cannot bear that the difference should be there.

And so you go through life apologizing. Comparing. Trying to show how sorry you are that you aren't what you want to be. Making sure everyone knows that you are aware of how short you fall.

And, that, friend, is exactly what you are. Aware. Self aware. So self-aware.

I feel your pain. I hear the grief in your voice. But it is pride masquerading as pain, and I wouldn't be a friend if I didn't tell you that. Because I've been there too. And it hurts. I know.

But pride is pride. Pride is sin!

Let me whisper to you, with the voice of experience and the heartthrobs of well-wishing;

Let it go

Let the truth be what it is, and put yourself outside of the truth.

We all know how wrong it is to be constantly telling people you're wonderful. It's equally wrong to be constantly telling people you're awful.

Just let it go.

If you are ugly, so be it - God has a purpose for you no one else can match. If you are gorgeous, so be it. You have a purpose and use for your looks that you would do well to find, that you might not waste what you've been given. If you are brainy - use them!

Just be who you are. Reality is not what you imagine you could be, nor what you imagine others see you as. Reality is what is.

Be content. For He Himself has said that He will never leave you.

If He's given you gifts, don't pass the buck.

If He hasn't given you the gifts you want....

...get over it!


Get over it.

You've got other things.


Enjoy those.

Look at Him. At what He has given you.

And enjoy those gifts. Accept them. Admit them. Bask in them. Be verbally grateful for them.

'Cause I see them. Others see them. We'd love to know you see them.

It would make things so much easier on everyone.

Your friend

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Eleven Men

We just finished a week of special meetings at my church. Every night but one we had the pleasure of hearing from a missionary we support, updating us on the work being furthered in their field. Then, after they shared, our guest evangelist preached a message each night. He spoke every night from Matthew 28 - the Great Commission - and his sermons were some of the most practical mission messages I've ever heard. Nothing vague or cliche; he was right to the point, challenging and convicting.

I love mission conferences!

Last night, Friday, was our last meeting, and Dr. Bane did something unusual. He began his message by asking for eleven volunteers from among the men in the congregation.

Our church body is not huge, and not everyone was able to come to the meetings, and not everyone there was a man, and not every man was bold enough to volunteer, so - all in all - it took awhile to get 11 men up front.

Then Dr. Bane asked them to face him, and he spoke to us all.

"This is what Jesus had to work with. After his resurrection. He's down to just the eleven, now, since Judas isn't there. Twelve main leaders among his disciples. And at the top of the mount, he commands them to go into all the world and preach the gospel."

Here Dr. Bane began to pretend he was the Lord, walking back and forth in front of his group of 11, and looking them in the eyes.

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you..."

Dr. Bane looked out at the rest of us. "Can you imagine the conversation as the disciples walked back down that mount? 'We're supposed to reach the whole world? Just the eleven of us? You got any money, brother?' 'No - you?' 'Nope, silver and gold have I none.' 'Well, do you know anybody in high places?' 'I do, but they're all after my head!'"

As Dr. Bane spoke, I sat in my seat and looked at those eleven men.

Eleven men made a smaller group than I thought.

They were so different.

Four grey-haired men. One younger than me. Two bikers. Two very shy men. One very outspoken man. One politician. Two preachers. One builder. One from a medical profession. Some wearing suits. Some wearing polo shirts. Some wearing leather vests. None of them rich. None of them influential in a big way beyond our community.

It gave me a totally new way of looking at the eleven disciples. This is what Jesus had! A unlikely group. A group of very diverse men. A tax collector and a zealot. Fishermen. Farmers, perhaps. One outspoken. Two "sons of thunder." All of them were prone to doubting and bickering amongst themselves.

But when the Holy Spirit gave them boldness and love for God, they were unstoppable. These were the men who preach at Pentecost and 3,000 people were added to the church. These where the men who, as the Romans themselves said, "turned the world upside down."

Sometimes it's good to step back from the mindset of little Bible stories and scripts and tradition, and take a good healthy look at reality.

History wasn't dressed up. It wasn't laid out in neat little scripts for people to act out. It was real life, happening to real people, with a real God making things happen.

Somehow, looking at those eleven men last night, I got excited.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Annoyed...or just making a bad choice?

I've come to the conclusion that there will always be people in your life who rub you the wrong way, or annoy you, or make you uncomfortable. No matter what circles you run in, they will be there.

Because we're all humans, and humans have that nice little characteristic called sinful nature. And so we annoy one another.

But I've also realized that annoyance doesn't come from other people's sinful nature. It comes from mine. Sometimes I get angry when people sin against me, and sometimes I get angry when they haven't done anything wrong. It doesn't really matter whether or not they were in the wrong - I can still be ruffled, see?

It's the same way with the times when I keep my cool. Sometimes people are nice to me and everything's smooth sailing. Other times they are rude, but it doesn't bother me.

The issue is me. Like it or not, I determine my own responses.

But how can one learn to control her responses? Not on my own, that's for sure. The Natural Me goes with whatever emotion springs to the surface at the time. The Natural Me listens to my body, and reacts more snappishly when I'm feeling tired or achey. The Natural Me has only one line of thought, and that's ME. It keeps track of every time my own wishes are crossed, my feelings hurt, my desires thwarted, etc., and reacts with the instincts of self preservation.

But I'm not my own! I've been bought with a price. The Natural Me isn't me anymore. Sure, she lives in the same body I do, but she's an unwelcome guest, a claim jumper, trying to pretend she still owns me. The New Amber is a dulas - a bond slave to Someone she loves very much. And that Someone has given her a new heart, which delights to do His will.

The New Amber has only one line of thought, and that's CHRIST. His wishes. His feelings. His desires. She is in tune with His law and love, and is so content in His affection that human kindness - or lack thereof - is of no consequence. Everything is Him, Him, Him.

Oh how I wish I always could live in that! No - what I mean is how I wish I always would live in that! It's a choice, because Christ has given me the power to live in newness of life. So I can....I just don't.

And that, my dears, is a terrible, awful shame.

Thank the Lord He doesn't alter based on my failures!!!!