Thursday, June 24, 2010

Taking a Break from the Regular Scheduled Programming

So why do people keep on watching? The answer, by now, should be perfectly obvious: we love television because television brings us a world in which television does not exist. In fact, deep in their hearts, this is what the spuds crave most: a rich, new, participatory life. ~Barbara Ehrenreich

Do you remember that a few days ago I wrote a post about how I crave simplicity in Here Am I? Well, I felt compelled to simplify and so....

No more television service until further notice. That's right! I had our satellite service turned off...again. I think the last time was two years ago for about three months while we financially recuperated. I put in for all of the 180 days of suspension they allow, but I will most likely have it turned on again in about two to three months. There is just so much to do and so much daylight to do it in right now that I now longer need the distraction and temptation of unproductive entertainment. In truth, we really do not watch much television and when we do, we shouldn't watch as much as we do...and when I say "we" I mean mostly "me"!

Sadly, I am the one likely to go through the majority of the withdraws, but I need to get out and do, not sit watching others do. I used to have this rule that I would not watch TV unless I was also doing something productive, like cross-stitching, crocheting, hand stitching or whatever. In truth, we have plenty of movies on DVD as well as the ability to watch some of the newer episodes online, and these episodes will be repeated again about the time we will again have it back on.

This will save us $60 a month during the months when our electrical bills are the highest because of air conditioning, so it is a good thing...and that is what I will keep telling myself over and over, as I deal with the urge to turn on the box for the next few days.

~ My Lord, thank you for simplicity. When we do turn the TV service back on, please help me to use it more as a tool for education than for entertainment, and to make wise and productive use of the time I watch the movies we have on DVD until then. ~

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Prayful Fasting for My Church

Prayer is where the action is. ~John Wesley

Isn't that a simple, yet powerful, quote? I have never heard it before, but it is definitely a new favorite.

I have felt called to fast for my church this week. I am sacrificing excess fat on the altar, so to speak, hoping to please my Lord, so He will bless my church. A few people have left, really very few, but with a such a small church, a family or two is many. Of the remaining people, some are struggling with personal finances. Now our church is running in the red monthly as well.

We all have been praying lately about our church and prayers are being answered. One couple had decided to close their business at the end of the month, but they received an offer to buy it from out of the blue. Although it will not wipe out their debt, it certainly helps more than just closing and receiving nothing would have.

This reminds me of the time when my husband lost his job 2½ years ago. I felt guilty, because I believe I should be content in all circumstances, and yet I also felt desperate to fast and pray about our situation. My Lord answered. Not only did He tell me that my husband would be hired, but He told me who would hire him. On the last week of his severance pay, he was called to interview for a job, one for which he had not applied, and he was offered the job that day.

Should I not feel as desperate to fast and pray about the situation with my church? Yet, the Lord had to bring this before for a few weeks before I actually decided it was the thing to do.

Before you get the wrong impression, because it probably seems to others that I fast often, fasting is not something I always look forward to doing. I am well acquainted with benefits: hearing my Lord clearly, feeling closer to my Lord, having prayers answered, and even the physical benefits of cleansing, detoxification, and losing unneeded weight. There is the downside of fasting: low energy, still making meals for my daughter, socially awkward, the craving to just eat, and then there are the many people who just don't get why anyone would do it. It is not a religious requirement and we are living in the Age of Grace, so why should I do something I don't have to do, even though Jesus Himself fasted. At times, even to me, it seems like a thankless duty, an unnoticed chore, an unnecessary custom, and even an empty ritual...until that moment when I fully surrender to my Lord and then it is the most wonderful blessing, worth every moment of sustaining from food and an experience I cannot really relate to another who has not done it.

This morning I awoke seeing a vision of money raining down from heaven over our church and I now a certain for what I am to be praying. I am to be praying for the finances of the people currently within our church: for the jobless to be offered jobs, for those with jobs to have security, for those who are struggling to be offered the opportunity to better their situation, and for those who are prospering to prosper even more. All this I shall do, as my Lord has made it clear.

Sometimes when I feel called to fast, I am not really clear about what I am to be praying before I begin. At times, I am given that knowledge after I have begun it and even as I am ending it. At some point, there is that moment of surrender to my Lord.

This morning I have had that moment...with a promise of more to come.

~ My Lord, please hear my prayer. Bless all in my church, so that they can give generously a portion back to You. May we make all things ready for those You have prepared to come to our church, so we do not grow in numbers only but in our spiritual walk with You even more. Let it be, my Lord. ~

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fishing Rodeo at Cave Spring

The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope. ~John Buchan

My husband flew back home from Texas Friday night too late to eat out, especially since we had plans for leaving early Saturday morning for the children's fishing rodeo at Cave Spring. We have gone to this event for a few years that is always the day before Father's Day even though the Princess has yet to catch a fish there—still she loves it!

The rodeo has the younger children fish first for 45 minutes and then there is a 15 minute break before the next group. There are four groupings of ages: 3 and 4; 5 and 6; 7, 8, and 9; and 10, 11, and 12.

It sounds like a fair arrangement, but it is really sad when you see that the adults are the ones who take the fun out of it. People were advised for only one parent to be inside the roped off area for each child and they could cast out for the child, but then the child was to do the fishing, mostly. The first groups being so young, of course, have to be helped a great deal more, but when the children don't even touch the pole...? There was a five fish limit and one, obviously, well-experienced fisherman had his limit in a few minutes and left with his wife and his three or four year old, who look as clueless as to why they were leaving as to why they where there in the first place. Although the only one to snag his limit for the day, he was not the only culprit to break the rules, so most of the bigger and easier fish to catch were cleared out in the first two hours. We had a very tasty, eye-catching bait that the trout attacked well, but what was left in the third hour was small enough and my daughter a bit inexperienced enough that the fish were fed but not caught.

This year our pastor came to the event with his six-year-old grandson. His grandson caught a small fish which they threw back in. He did not catch another and was rather disappointed. Later on we met up again at the stream where we waded a bit and let the children play. Eventually, my husband and the children decided to rebuild the small dam. At some point, my daughter slipped coming down the bank and assured us she was all right even as the mud thickly covered her bottom. Not to worry, as Mama was prepared for such things with an extra set of clothes.

As things were winding down, the Princess suddenly was in tears...and we later found out she had found a snail shell, which was flipped out of her hand by the pastor's grandson, just being a typical boy. The Princess, as you may recall, has a thing for snails, since they were her first pets, but the children all thought they were just the shells. Another boy collected six shells just to give to her. When she showed them to me, I showed her that the shells were occupied by living snails that needed to be in the water to survive, so she happily put them back quickly. However, that was not the end of it.... It being that age old struggle between boys and girls just because they are of differing genders.

Clouds were rolling in and it looked as if we would get our regular scheduled afternoon rain as has been common for the last two weeks. As we called to them to come out of the water and get ready to go, the pastor's grandson and my daughter argued intensely. As we were drying them off, both were snapping at each other as if we were not there. Just when we thought we had them calmed down, one would say something and the other would go back into the argument. It was like trying to stop two cats from tearing at each other without being scratched yourself, accept it was only in words. It actually got to the point it was just funny, especially when the boy called her "Mister Nine-Year-Old" several times with that I just dare you to say something else back to me attitude. The last time our pastor said, "That's Miss Nine-Year-Old." Sarcasm always gets me and with that one I really had to hold in my laughters, as the Princes would say, and I was busy enough right then putting my hand over the Princess' mouth to stop her from saying anything back...again.

The pastor took his grandson to the car to dry off some more. After the quarrelsome duo were apart for a few minutes, we talked briefly with the Princess about how she was the older of the two, although they were nearly the same size, we suggested that she should go over to apologize, which she did and then he did as well. Today they were happy to see each other in church. Sigh...things with children are so simple!

Back to Cave Spring
Cave Spring is a very small town with a population of about a thousand people and is known for being the location of the Georgia School for the Deaf. It is just about everything I could possibly want in a small town: friendly people, a gazebo on the square, family owned and operated restaurants and other business, antique shops, a bank, a public library, churches, even two shops on the square selling fudge (with a little recent history of some rivalry), a stream of cool, clear water (when I say "cool" I actually mean brrrr!), and a park within a block of downtown. In that park is an Bed and Breakfast Inn, a swimming pool (in the shape of Georgia, no less), a pond stocked with rainbow trout that is allowed to be fished only for the annual children's rodeo, and a rather small cave that was carved out by a cold water spring.

It is this spring for which the town is named. It is cold, clear, mineral water that has been tested for its purity and it has a temperature of around 56 degrees as does the cave itself. For just one dollar, a person can tour the cave, but if you would like a drink of the cool water...that is free! In fact, people bring empty jugs to fill with it as it flows out to the pond. This spring is the town's water supply, but has to be chlorinated by law...sadly. However, residents also come to get the water as provided by nature without the chemical additive and some people claim they believe that is why they are thriving in their eighties and nineties.

Cave Spring is just a bit more than an hour from our home (in the opposite direction of all the other things we do an hour from our home, of course) and we try to go there at least once a year, but we did not make it at all last year. I love stopping by to sample fudge and, on our way out of town with a $5 budget, we stopped in choosing Amaretto Chocolate and a smaller piece of Creamsicle--both yummy!--but I was looking forward to the Key-Lime that they did not have this time. Oh, well! It was still a lovely day. I love sitting under the shade of the trees in the park and wading in the creek on a hot summer day. I love talking with the townsfolk and hearing their stories. I love going to the shops; we did not do that this trip, but there will be another. I just love Cave Spring. It seems I always leave a piece of my heart there with each visit.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for one more lovely memory for all of us. If I may ask for a special blessing for the town of Cave Spring, then I would also ask that we can visit it again soon. ~

Friday, June 18, 2010

Here Am I

If I look at all the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will. ~Mother Teresa

Isn't this a serene picture of a simple life? No phones, no cars, no technology, no Internet...gasp! Just a young lady walking in an unkempt field to a small church. In my heart, I am always craving that simplicity. A part of me wants to turn away from technology, just turn it all off...but then I would have missed out on meeting some amazing people in other parts of the world and developing friendships with them. Here am I, again, recognizing that so familiar conflict within me that is unending.

No doubt some of my online friends have been wondering why I have not posted lately. It is kind of ironic that the more things I am doing about which I could write are also the things that take me away from it.

Right now, even as my fingers are typing the thoughts in my mind, I feel torn between the many, many things I want to do (including this blog)...and then there are those everyday chores that I also must do, like feeding and educating my child, vacuuming floors blanketed with the fur of shedding pets, and attending to bathrooms that need a bath, and so on. I am thankful the Princess is capable of helping so much with meal preparation and housework these days. We are still doing lessons during the summer as we are preparing for testing, but she also needs time to just play with her friends... don't I also need the same?

The things I want to do? A very, very, very looooong list. I want to do and am doing the website for our church. (Yes, even churches use this technology that both serves and enslaves us.) It was mostly talking about doing it before, toying around with how it should be done, and where it would be stored. You see, at this time our church has no budget for a website and yet a high percentage of people look online for churches, which means that a website is often the first impression they have of a church. We have a domain name and website that was done by someone who had never done one before so it has a simple but outdated appearance. I have not built an entire website since 2003 and so much has changed with technology. We have decided to use the small but free storage provided by our ISP for the front page with links to free Blogger blogs for each ministry and the pastor's newsletter blog. More on all that is to come.

I just want to say that having set up two separate Blogger accounts has been a bit more challenging for me, as I forget in which one I am logged. Also, Google, the Blogger owner and manager, seems to fight with me and its cookies when I try to log out of one and into the other. I will get use to it all in time, I suppose.

(I just realized that Blogger change the "Preview" mode. Oh, I like this one much better. You can actually see how it is laid out with the backgrounds! Very cool!)

The church website has my priority right now, so the rest of my want-to-do's are mostly on hold, but I am still around and surprisingly I am feeling rather well lately. I had been fighting varying levels of the doldrums for several months, it seems. Although I am not doing the major projects in my home, I am cutting everything in just bite-size pieces and doing things here and there. I am rather surprised that I find myself smiling when look several days later at these little touches. I now realized I had created a terrible rut for myself, not to have been doing this all along. Even while there is so much still to do, I am seeing forward momentum and it has been keeping me motivated and inspired...and happy.

~ My Lord, please bless the website project, so it has the pleasing appearance and functionality necessary to attract new members to our church. Also, keep me motivated to finish it quickly. ~

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Frankenfood Fears

The industry's not stupid. The industry knows that if those foods are labeled "genetically engineered," the public will shy away and won't take them.
~Jeremy Rifkin

For over twelve years, I have been writing articles for a local newspaper published by a well known health food store in my area (and I am still surprised my writings get published). I don't write much on health topics here because I have this outlet with its deadline and editor, however there are many issues about health that are quite near and dear to my heart. This is one of them.

One of the things I have warned against is the introduction of synthesized or imitation foods that are not found in nature or those that are natural but extracted so such higher dosages, which would never be found in nature, are put into process foods. For instance, the new sweeteners often called sugar alcohols, which is a very deceiving term, that do not get absorbed well during digestion. Some are found in edible produce in nature, but these amounts are small and just one of the various ingredients making up the fruits from nature's kitchen. For some, like me, in high amounts needed to replace sugar, these sugar alcohols cause abdominal discomfort to diarrhea, sometimes just thirty minutes after ingestion. I understand many people do not have this kind of reaction, but I wonder how overloaded the digestion system is with other toxins that they would not. You see, we eat more organic and fresh foods than most people and we also detoxify using various methods on a regular basis, so I tend to see our reaction as the reaction that everyone should be having.

I believe that nature provides delicate balance in edible foods, one that we cannot imitate and remain healthy. I often feel so sorry for indoor pets who are usually fed exactly the same thing every day, infused, supposedly, with all the nutrients they would need...? Are we really so arrogant to think we could eat the same food, labeled to be nutritionally balanced, every day and not become insufficient in some nutrients? People and animals need variety!

Now we have something far more frightening on the horizon—actually it is not on the horizon, it is already in our food chain and we are the laboratory rats.

This is an article I wrote in May 2008:

The Frightening Phenomenon

While watching the movie Phenomenon some years ago, I was gripped by a tender moment when one character, George Malley, philosophically explained his impending death to two children: He took an apple and said, “...if we take a bite of it like becomes part of us forever....”

The philosophy of an eaten apple becoming part of us is both wondrous and...really quite frightening! In reality, the apple will be digested, so the body will use it for fuel and to heal at the cellular level (without going into greater technicalities), and some of the less digestible parts will pass out of the body. This is the natural process of all foods we eat. The question is whether the foods work with this natural process or work against it. Let’s set aside the fact that the pesticides sprayed on the plants become a part of the apples that will become a part of us or that the artificial hydrogenation processing of natural oils creates trans fats that also become a very undesirable part of us (plague in the arteries)—there is something even scarier!

Tampering with Nature’s Blueprint
There are several impressive scientific names involved: genetically modified (GM), genetically modified organism (GMO), genetically engineered (GE), green biotechnology, agricultural biotechnology, transgenic crop plants, and—my personal favorite, although not one of the scientific names—frankenfood. I have heard about all these things for years, but it just seemed too much like science fiction than real science. However, recently I watched a documentary on how they do this slicing of DNA, and use a machine that acts like a "gene gun" to literally shoot DNA fragments into the cell nucleus. These fragments can combine with the plant's own genome with the use of “promoters” that some argue could also promote undesirable dormant genes. (This is no longer sci-fi; this is reality!)

The really disturbing part—well, there were two things, actually, that are equally disturbing! First, DNA fragment selected may not be of a similar plant or even any plant. It seems that scientists can use any DNA fragment from any source producing recombinant DNA. Think about that for a moment. Vegans could be eating plants altered with animal DNA. Those who follow religious dietary laws could be eating DNA fragments of prohibited foods. We could be eating foods that even have been altered with human DNA one day!

Second, the enthusiastic scientist interviewed on the documentary believed that she could isolate DNA fragments, add them to a plant, and get the precise results she wanted without any concerns about potential side effects in the short or long term!

Does this sound incredibly presumptuous or is it just me? If there is anything we have learned in the recent years, with FDA recalls of medications, is that long term side effects on human beings never really seem to be discovered in the confines of medical science labs; the real test for long term side effects occurs when they have been released to the general public and have been in use for at least a few years, even then specific medical problems may not be linked to the source for many more years or decades.

Science Reining Nature?
Scientists in favor of genetic engineering claim it is a “natural extension of traditional breeding,” the main difference being that it allows access to a broader range of genes even from unlike organisms to produce desirable results. The skeptics argue that extracting the specific gene is highly precise, but the insertion of the gene is uncontrolled and highly unpredictable. Should the desired result be achieved, we still don’t know what affects it will have on the animals and humans eating the foods. In addition, inserted genetic material is still subject to genetic nature, such as the natural occurring genetic drift evident in each generation that is also rather unpredictable.

You may have heard of the StarLink corn controversy eight years ago. StarLink corn was genetically engineered with a particular strain of Bt pesticide, called the Cry9C protein. It was produced and purified from a bacterial host in hopes that the corn plant would be resistant to the European corn borer, a very destructive pest. Although the FDA banned StarLink for direct human consumption, Cry9C was approved for livestock feed. However, in the year 2000, Cry9C was also found in taco shells by an independent laboratory. Although recalled, even today some measure of Cry9C is still found in corn products made for human consumption. Corn readily cross-pollinates as do some other plants. This may be why organic farmers continue to report problems with "genetic trespass" from genetically modified crops—a poignant reminder that nature will not be contained or restrained!

Going Where No Gene Slice Has Gone Before
In our enthusiasm to improve one thing “for the good of mankind,” science and technology often takes a great leap forward into a new frontier, but it often costs us in ways we cannot foresee. About 100 years ago, a seemingly innocence process for altering natural vegetable oils was thought to be harmless, but now we know that trans fats build up contributing to arterial plague and heart disease: Trans fats become part of us. People once thought that pesticides were harmless and, at first, farmers did not even wear any protective gear during application, but now we know that these chemicals cause a wide range of diseases, including cancer: Pesticides become part of us.

Presently, we are on that familiar threshold of another technology, one that we may be even more helpless to hold in check, beckoned for its promises in food production improvements. How can we possibly foresee what we are risking before transgenetic foods become a part of us?

Before it was speculation, but now there is scientific proof:
Genetically Modified Soy Linked to Sterility, Infant Mortality

Please, please, please try to buy only foods with the "No GMO" labeling.

~ My Lord, people are so amazingly skilled but sometimes we are so excited about what we can do, we forget to ask if we should do it. Please let Your Will and Truth be known in all areas of our lives. ~