Tuesday, July 31, 2012

We Went to the Homeschool Expo - Part 2

A true great Man will neither trample on a Worm, nor sneak to an Emperor. ~Benjamin Franklin

We went to the Homeschool Expo on Friday and…my daughter came home with a new instrument, my husband came home with a new hobby, and I came home broke having spent way, way, way over (yes, three times over) my homeschool budget and I had not bought the one thing I think I would like to get for this year.

My Husband's New Hobby
My husband ran across a booth where they sold a kit with books and instructions to make a worm farm with totes, as a science project for homeschooling children. I think my husband spent as much or more time at that booth as the violin one, although he did not spend any money there, thankfully. He did want to buy a book, but they did not sell single books, except through their website.

You may wonder what is the attraction about worms for us. I have known that that worm and rabbit farming go together well, just not the details as to why. My husband, however, has done more research and before Saturday's end we had started our worm farm. There were two major things I did not know about worms.

One thing is that red wigglers are eat more and reproduce faster than other varieties of earthworms, but the thicker skinned earthworms last longer as fish bait.

The second is that worm "castings" enrich soil--"castings," isn't that kind of a snobbish term for poop from such a lowly creature as a worm? Anyway, what I did not know is that you can lure the worms to one side of your farming area, pour rain water through the vacant part, let it drain and use that enriched water, also called "worm tea," as a ground fertilizer and on plants as a pest deterrent, particularly for aphids, like the ones that just finished off one of my cucumber plants.

All our banana peels and other rotten organic foods will be given to our worms and there will be no smell! When the number of red wigglers swell, we will redesign the rabbit cage area so that we are farming worms directly under the lower tier of cages so there should be no more bunny waste to clean and also no more smell there as well.

It is an interesting ecological cycle. The worms can be spread into my gardens to help aerate them and their leached castings can fertilize them also so I can grow more food for the rabbits and, in turn, the rabbits cast off food for the worms. Eventually, I am hoping that the rabbits will further offset the food we need for the cats and dog, but we need to expand a bit before we are there. It could be that our animal food budget could be greatly reduced this time next year, but it does require more work, especially in the way of gardening. Still, bales of hay are cheaper than dog and cat food.

The other problem is that our dog had to be switched to a raw food diet to rid her of a Candida problem. German Shepherds just do better with a raw food diet, but it is an expensive diet if one is buying all the meat, as we have mostly been. Increasing the rabbit production could be very helpful in keeping her in the healthiest state and reducing feed costs.

~ My Lord, may this be a solution for us toward being more independent homesteading within the confines of our subdivision and make better use of our property. ~

Monday, July 30, 2012

We Went to the Homeschool Expo - Part 1

Happiness is a thing to be practiced, like the violin.
~John Lubbock

We went to the Homeschool Expo on Friday and…my daughter came home with a new instrument, my husband came home with a new hobby, and I came home broke having spent way, way, way over (yes, three times over) my homeschool budget and I had not bought the one thing I think I would like to get for this year.

The Princess' New Instrument

I was half hoping and half dreading that one certain vendor would be at this year's Expo. I had been first introduced to the vendor at the very first Expo to which we went when the Princess was four. She had just started piano and I felt that although she wanted to play the violin (I even wanted her to play the violin) starting another instrument right then, particularly with a self-teaching program was too much for us both.

The Violin Book® people were in a nice big booth and my daughter was completely mesmerized by every word the husband of the program's creator spoke as she was be fitted for a violin to hold as he demonstrated without any hands to get the shoulder rest adjusted. The program starts out very slowly for even the youngest of beginners with just the correct stance, stage presence, and building the muscles to properly hold the violin and bow. The scope of it reminds me of the piano program with which she started at the age of four, Music for Little Mozarts, but for violin and not as fancy or colorful. It provides a great deal of attention to details and it moves very slowly at the beginning.

She will breeze through some areas because of her seven years of music theory, but the techniques will take practice. The entire package with a ¾ violin with case and necessary accessories, the eight lesson books, plus extras like the Christmas books package and an adjustable shoulder rest was under $600. Not much under, mind you, but we saved on shipping and it makes me feel a bit better to say it that way. We will still have to get a music stand and I am thinking Christmas. I am also thinking how in the world are we going to add this into our very full schedule of lesson plans, so we need to have a sit down talk about things like that.

In the meantime, the child is in four-string heaven. She loves it. She has hugged me several times thanking me. It is going to be worth every penny spent and putting off getting debt-free, I think, I hope.

I also keep thinking of the guitar that has been placed to the wayside, but if I find a self-teaching program for that, maybe she would pick it up also. I found a couple free online, so there is hope that it will also have the dust blown off of it more often now, although tuning is a big challenge for her. Anyway, I am hoping that learning the violin will help develop her ear as she could be better with her ear training.

The Princess has wanted to play four instruments from the beginning: piano, guitar, violin, and flute. The closest thing she has to a flute is a plastic recorder that a friend gave her and I suppose I should find some music for the online as well.

As for me, I like my 12-sting guitar, but a little finger injury from years ago left a deep scar right on the tip of the finger making rather painful and challenging to play and there are times I would like just a 6-sting. I also have a thing for folk instruments with a Celtic sound like the bowed psaltery my husband gave me for Christmas a few years ago and the ocarina I bought myself at the Medieval Fair a few weeks ago. There is something so lovely in the simplicity of playing one note at a time fluttered and bent in the Celtic style. My aunt has been playing the hammered dulcimer and I love Celtic music played with that instrument so much. She even took lessons under Mark Alan Wade, a well-known dulcimer player with six albums so far.

I have more to share on our Homeschool Expo experience, so come back tomorrow!

~ My Lord, thank you for providing so that we could buy this violin for our daughter. She and I both need anointing with Your gift in music. I asked that You continue her interest in these instruments, but also in her own voice. ~

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Endings of Old Things Are Beginnings Of New

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. ~Seneca

As I wrote earlier, our pastor resigned. The church board meeting was on Saturday and we were given another stone. The pastor had a letter of resignation to hand in besides his own. This one from the pastor's brother, a long time member, board member, and our praise and worship leader. I wondered why the pastor had led in the singing the last two weeks and while his brother was present, but I thought he just might have needed a break. The other two women who used to work as a team and traded off weeks leading in singing with him resigned and left in June. I wrote about their departure here.

My husband came home after the meeting asking if I had a moment because we needed to talk. Our pastor is leaving due to battling with depression, which he hid from us, and stated that his brother was planning to leave three years ago just before we considered his brother for pastor, which was even a greater surprise to us all! When I heard about the second letter of resignation, I almost dreaded to hear the rest as I was certain this would be so discouraging that the board would have discussed closing the church. However, they plan to go on.

Later I had this conversation with my daughter while she ate her lunch.

Me: I have some news that is kind of sad. Mr. D has also resigned so we have no one to lead the praise and worship.

The Princess: Daddy could do it.

Me: Daddy is the only one who can run the sound and media systems, besides he is not a strong singer. (Actually, the man has a lovely voice and used to sing in choirs, but gets pulled off the tune easily.)

The Princess: Mr. J could do it.

Me: (stifling a laugh) No, Mr. J does not sing well.

The Princess: Mr. C could do it.

Me: Well, he does well with announcements, but I don't think he is a strong singer either. (I am waiting while she is chewing thinking that there is only one other man in the church left and he would not be the guy either.) You know, you have only thought about the men so far.

The Princess: Miss J cannot do it because she sings too softly and Miss S cannot do it because...well, she sings okay with us in Sunday School but.... I don't know if Miss E could. (Again, we both pause because there is only one woman left, besides me, and she would say she is no singer.)

Me: Actually, the board has thought of someone to ask already.

The Princess: Who?

Me: You! (I don't think I have ever seen the child's eyes open quite so wide before.)

The Princess: I can't do it! I don't like singing in front of people!

Me: You play piano in front of people. (Pause.) Anyway, they did not pick you.

The Princess: (Gasp!) Mama, you could do it!

Me: Yes, I am the one they asked.

Only the very last person of which the child would think, of course!

Things are in transition and apparently God's hand is still upon our shrinking church for a couple, former members, walked in to announce their return. They had to move to Texas with a job three years ago, just before we hired our current pastor. Their house here did not sell, so they rented it but had three bad experiences with that. The housing market is better in Texas so they sold that one to move back here.

We also had new visitor in our evening service, an disabled veteran who has returned from living in Queensland, Australia for twenty-some years. I think he will be returning as he likes that our church is small but he can only come to evening services at this time.

We are lining up guest preachers, I should say Mr. C is because he is doing all the work there and we shall just see how this goes.

Now, here is the odd thing. Weeks ago I thought the Lord told me that two people would come to the church and I thought that meant the next Sunday. By the third Sunday passing with no new people, I decided that I heard just what I wanted to hear and not God, but then came the two this last Sunday and since then I have heard: More come.

Unlike most of the members, when I think of the church I feel this truly uncharacteristic excitement. My first response to being asked about leading the praise and worship was enthusiasm and that is just NOT like me. I am not that strong of a singer and I definitely get nervous singing in front of people, yet I am looking forward to it. So, somethin' is a happenin'! Something strange and usual. Something beyond understanding.

One request: Please pray that people are serving where they should be in our church and that I am anointed with God's Spirit in leading our praise and worship in song...and especially that I will have the voice for it too.

~ My Lord, please prepare me to be worthy of this ministry. ~

Monday, July 23, 2012

Book Review: Tough Guys and Drama Queens

I was really looking forward to reading Tough Guys and Drama Queens: How Not to Get Blindsided by Your Child's Teen Years because I can see that the Princess is a tween drama queen in the making and I was pleasantly surprised that the core of Mark Gregston's philosophy is not just how to handle the turbulent teen years but how parents can better prepare their teens for adulthood. Having worked with teens myself, I am impressed that Mark Gregston, founder of a Christian residential counseling center called Heartlight, has had thirty-eight years of experience with more than 2,500 teens.

The author explains the steps of the parental roles in memorable terms. In the first five years parents try to please their children. In the elementary years, there is a shift to protecting the children. Middle school aged children need parents to provide. The remaining teen years should be about preparing them for adulthood. Unfortunately, many parents get stuck in over-pleasing, over-protecting, and over-providing modes. The result is their teenagers are not prepared to be self-reliant adults and they take on the very traits the parents were hoping to avoid, but were inevitable with their parental approach.

At first, it grated with me that Mark Gregston feels that the parenting approach that worked well with me as a child would not work today with the overexposure to information, the overloading children due to our heightened technology, but then I have to admit that today's culture is significantly different than when I was a teen. There were no such things as cell phones, home computers, and cable TV in my home as I was growing up, much less the Internet, email, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, texting, digital pictures, and video games. Between the pressures of school, activities, homework, chores, peer pressures, social media, and parental expectations to excel, a child could be starving for a loving, peaceful, and restful relationship with his parents, as the author suggests. I have felt strictly curtailing online and gaming activities would alleviate these pressures, but I agreed with the advice in the book that at some point teens need to be encouraged to make their own decisions, so they can learn from their mistakes--and, yes, they will make mistakes--at home with forgiving parents.

I highly recommend this book for parents whether or not you are struggling with your tweens or teens. The book has suggestions on what parenting practices to avoid and what ones work. There are examples of previously ideal teens suddenly turning onto the wrong path and why other teens seem rebellious most of the time. Most importantly, I feel the wisdom contained helps the parent realize in a big picture way that the goal is not to have the "perfect teen," but to allow the teen to be imperfect. Not to buffer the teen from the world, but allow him to test the waters of self-reliance, self-control, and self-discipline by increasingly allowing him to make his own choices and realizing, as hard as it is to allow him to fail or get into trouble, that he will learn from his mistakes more than any lecture.

Tough Guys and Drama Queens: How Not to Get Blindsided by Your Child's Teen Years will be staying on my shelf as a reference book to be reread in the future if only to remind me of the ultimate goal is to launch the teenager into adulthood and to encourage me stay on track with that big picture.

Disclaimer: I was given this book from Booksneeze in exchange for my honest opinion, no other compensation was given.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Speaking of Finances...and Children

Though small was your allowance,
You saved a little store:
And those who save a little
Shall get a plenty more.
~William Makepeace Thackeray

Allowance is usually a topic where people have strong opinions, basically you are either for it or against it and all for justifiable reasons.

I was not raised with an allowance nor was my husband. The first time I had weekly pay was from working a job at twelve years old, in which I also handled money for the gas station my father managed. My husband felt he had to ask his parents for everything so he began mowing lawns when he was ten or so. We both probably thought children who got allowances were spoiled. However, after seeing how many young adults today were making such bad financial decisions and being so far in debt because they lack patience and experience with personal finances, I began to look for a way to train my daughter about managing her own. With where we live and our current lifestyle, it would be difficult for my daughter to begin working a paying job at a young age like we did. A weekly allowance seem to be a good investment:

  1. Firstly, I see allowances as being instrumental in a hands-on educational experience giving children the opportunity to make mistakes with money and learn from them at a young age, while in the security of living at home and under their parents guidance to provide wisdom. My daughter quickly learned to buy only the things she really wants and not to just look to buy something just because she has some money burning in her pocket.
  2. Secondly, I feel her allowance should just be enough to let the child learn about money, not to make her particularly comfortable with the amount being given.
  3. Thirdly, allowance here is not associated with chores unless I am having to do her chores because the Princess does not do them. Then I will charge her for the chore. (This has not yet happened but it is in the rules and the reminder works.) The reasoning behind separation of chores and allowance is that the child might just refuse to any chore unless paid for it and that cannot be an option as she must learn that there are many duties she will have to do for our family and her own for which there is no monetary compensation. Also, she would have to pay someone else to do them if she did not.
  4. Fourthly, if the Princess wants to make extra money, I am open to negotiation for her to do extra chores for pay. If the allowance amount is in the right range, there will be times when she will want something that she needs to make more sooner to get it.
  5. Fifthly, I want my child to learn to not to ask me for money just because I will have it and she has not enough. I think that whole "entitlement" attitude innocently begins or ends at home. It ends in mine. I will give her gifts now and then just because I love her or as rewards for her good attitude during the week or for an extra special job she did, which is rarely in the form of handing her money, but there have been a few times. I want her to learn to be generous so I am generous, but not to the point that she should ever expect it.
  6. Sixthly, raises in allowance do not need to coincide with birthdays. The last raise started as a promised to give her a bonus of 50¢ each week she would stop biting her nails and begin filing and buffing them as needed. I bought her what she needed and showed her how to do it. I also promised if she could keep her nails looking nice for three months, I would raise her allowance by $1 permanently or until she started biting her nails again. She has short (for piano, guitar, and art) but good-looking nails now!
We set the allowance up this way because our child does not receive much money in the way of gifts. We started with just two dollars a week, which was just 80¢ spending money (explained below), at the age of eight--not that that is the best age, that is just when we started. For a time, I gave her more than she is getting even now, so that she could have a budget plan for the expenses of her hamster. At one point, the hamster's plastic cage broke and she had been thrifty enough with her hamster's funds that she was able to pay for the same cage barely used off Craig's List. At ten years old, she handled the deal herself from inspecting the used cage to handing over $15, a bargain since the cage was one of the expensive ones. In fact, the lady tried to just give the cage to her, after realizing it was her own money, but the Princess was determined to pay the lady for it. The Princess was concerned about having enough to pay for his food later, but I knew that she would have enough for it too and assured her of that. Right now, at age eleven, she receives $5.00 per week, but only $2 is spending money.

Since the beginning as I wrote in 2009, Weekly Allowance, we structured it so that she gave 20% as her tithe, so that when she is making money on her own she will be used to giving tithes and to help her understand the difference between gross income and net income for when she gets a job later on. Then we split the remaining 80% in half, one part goes to savings and the other to spending however and whenever she wants. She can even buy candy, but that does not mean she will be allowed to eat the candy whenever she wants. That teaches her that just because she owns something does not mean she can use it to break a rule or a law. (Think teenager with a car.)

For the last couple of weeks we have been shopping back-to-school sales and she has found some things she thinks are pretty, like a spiral notebook with a pink glittery cover, pricier than a basic model. Such upgrades are not necessary for the homeschooling program and not in my budget, so she bought one herself as she likes to make journals. She bought a calico-print, quilted backpack purse that was brand new at Goodwill a couple of weeks ago for around $6. She often buys used books for her own enjoyment too, but I will pay for the educational ones, if I approve of them.

The allowance seems to be working well for what we intended. She is learning to define value in her own eyes; I have seen her really like something, but pass it up when she looked at the price of it, even though she had enough money to buy it. An added plus is that I see on what she thinks is worth spending her money just because it is her money. I advise but let her make up her own mind when we are shopping. So far, I am very pleased.

~ My Lord, thank you for your guidance and may we continue in Your will as we teach our daughter about finances. ~

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Debt Free, Not Yet

Wouldst thou shut up the avenues of ill, Pay every debt as if God wrote the bill. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

We had a plan, Debt Pay-Off Plan A. We planned to be debt free of our credit card debt, which actually is how we paid for the second van so it is like car loan, sometime around Christmas time, maybe even November but possibly as late as January. I never plan on an Income Tax Return, because we usually break about even, but this time around we received much more than expected (a benefit from giving more than 10% as our tithe), so I was very excited about launching Debt Pay-Off Plan B! After some prayer we decided to pay more each month out of those extra funds and then pay the debt off completely in July, this month, in one last lump sum.

I am so thankful we listened to our Lord, because Plan B was to be short-lived. A few weeks ago, my husband could not dodge the rubber flying from a semi-truck ahead of him without causing a real accident. He drove over some of it as some more flew over his mini-van into the radiator and windshield of the vehicle behind him. We do not have collision on the van as it is so old with so many miles on it that the insurance company would total it for something like this and hand us about a thousand dollars if we were lucky.

Either way was a risk about the collision insurance, but we have had that van for four years and by now we would have paid nearly as much as what the insurance would have given us for it totaled. We chose to pay for the repairs, which was a new transmission, because we just could not afford a replacement vehicle right now and otherwise the little van is in good working order. (Since this happened in another state, he had to leave the van and fly to a customer in the north and fly back to pick up the van, which ironically had a lay-over in Atlanta, but I would not see him for another eight hours.)

So, the money I had earmarked for paying off the credit card paid for van repairs instead. The good news is that we have a 0% interest rate until February and if I had paid it off the repairs would have had to be charged with extra fees or at least interest charged.

Now we are back to Debt-Payoff Plan A, but I am optimistic. It looks as though we actually should pay it off in October!

~ My Lord, bless our efforts to get out of debt and begin saving for replacing the siding on our house and other repairs necessary. ~

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What Shall We Do With This Stone?

We can throw stones, complain about them, stumble on them, climb over them, or build with them.
~William Arthur Ward

This morning after the Sunday Service, our pastor announced his resignation effective after the first Sunday in August.

I was surprised, but not as much I thought I should be. Unknown to all of the members, except maybe his brother, the pastor had his house for sale and it sold in six weeks even in our very weak housing market. He and his wife had laid this out as their fleece waiting for a sign and it has been answered. His wife had quit her very stressful job a few months ago and hoped the Lord would provide something else or some direction. Amidst all this, her daughter's family, with her three grandchildren, has been preparing to move to Hawaii, as her military husband is stationed there and they are leaving tomorrow morning. I wondered then if the pastor and his wife might be thinking of moving on as they accepted this position in part because it was closer to their grandchildren, but they gave no indication to any of us until he spoke the words today.

Next Saturday is a church board meeting and I am not even sure if we can even muster up a quorum, but obviously some decisions need to be made. I have been in a church split and a quiet exodus of the seniors. I have been in a new church starting up and one that was dying off, mostly because of close mindedness, with no new members as all the members were elderly. This is the second time as an adult I have been in a church that has a healthy attitude and good doctrine. The first one we left because of a job move and this one is just not outreaching enough to make it grow with the majority of members being middle aged. I do not know why we have been led to struggling churches and taken out of healthier ones, but I believe the Lord has a purpose and He promised that everything works toward the good to those who love Him.

Part of the problem with our current church, which I have discussed recently, is that we have families with a spouse that travels for work. It makes it difficult to fit more in when the only family time is on the weekends and much of Sunday is devoted to church.

I do not know what direction our church will take now. We probably cannot sell the property as it is upside down financially and the market here is even worse for commercial property than for residential, but then we have not tried. We cannot build as we do not have enough in the building fund and the costs goes up as the county creates more stipulations. We were paying the pastor a low full-time wage, but honestly he had a part time job. I mean, there has been less than 25 members the entire time and I do not think we bother our pastor with trivial things.) If we dissolve the church, there are two Nazarene churches that are closer to other members, but too far for us to be much more involved than on Sundays. If we dissolve, that also saddles the district with our mortgage and we would lose the money in the building fund, even if we wanted to start over.

Although I am not loyal to a denomination, I think the Nazarene doctrine is the closest to my personal beliefs so I would like to stay with it, if the Lord wills. On the other hand, I have been thinking, as my daughter is really coming into the tween years, perhaps she in particular needs a church family with children her own age and older, perhaps even some homeschooling families...?

~ My Lord, may Your purpose be revealed so we make proper use of this stone. ~

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Book Review: Living Close to God

Traditional religion still has ways to make life miserable for those who question the status quo. ~Gene Edwards in Living Close to God

Living Close to God (When You're Not Good At It) is a good introductory book for those who want to get past religion and find God. The first part of the book describes the author's journey starting with his own lack of spiritually. Then it engages you to try what he did. Using Psalm 23 as his foundation, he simply asks that you pause, wait, and slow down as you say the words as God would say them to you and you back to Him. It was the beginning of his spiritual awakening. I felt it was powerfully moving also. He suggested taking 30 minutes to go through this exercise; I found I had taken an hour and most of it was in tears.

The author suggests not to spend quantity time with the Lord but highly quality time. This is not to replace prayer, devotions, or scripture reading if these are part of your routine, although I suspect it will enrich them. It is about connecting with God even if you do not have a devotional routine. It is also about giving God a loving hug without asking for anything for just a few moments at a time. Just saying "I love you" in a still and quieted mind a few times a day. It is a spiritual-life changing book.

That said, it was the last chapter, "Getting to Know Christ Can Be Dangerous," that grabbed me because it is both illogical and profoundly true:

"Many believers who have come to a deeper relationship with Christ get into trouble. There are reasons for this.

First, they get into trouble with other Christians, even friends, who no longer understand them.

Second, they get into trouble with the church, because a deeper relationship with Christ conflicts with church as it is practiced in their generation.

Third, they may cause trouble, which in turn means they get into trouble.

Most Christians do not want to accept that growing closer to Christ would put them at odds with the church....It is even possible you might lose friends and become a byword among believers."

In the last part of the book is a seven-session small group study guide and also a seven-week personal guide. Both basically question the reader and reiterate the information. Some may find these parts of the book redundant and some might find them very helpful in supporting the few and very simple principles presented. This book is definitely worthwhile to give you ideas about how and when to take special moments with the Lord and just love Him.

I received this book from WaterBrook Press in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Knock, Knock!

For to which of the angels did He ever say,
“ You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You”?
And again,
“ I will be a Father to Him
And He shall be a Son to Me”? ~Hebrews 1:5

On Monday as I was just getting ready to leave on an errand, a nicely dressed woman and a young girl about the age of my daughter, also nicely dressed, knocked on our front door. The woman seemed nervous and began with her introduction. I was patient up to when she offered to share in a scripture study, and then I asked if she was Jehovah Witness. She smiled brightly and seemed to relax at that point with her affirmation. I offered an apologetic look at her and her daughter as I said that we have a problem as our theologies greatly differ.

She asked in what way, as I knew she would. You see, JWs are the best-trained religious salesmen. I believe they are trained to take every answer as a possible "yes" and that as long as you will keep talking that you will provide them with information that they can use to get their foot into the door of your soul. I have to say that I like it when they take that bait, because I have studied a bit on the differences between their beliefs and my own much over the years.

I decided to go for the same argument I did last time we had JW visitors: the angel argument. The last time I gave the angel argument, another JW woman admitted it immediately and even told me that she used to be Baptist. She was interested my objections and well prepared. Sometimes I go for the Bible translation argument. Then there are the multiple "end of the world" predictions in their own Watch Tower publications that some how are not indexed anymore so newcomers would not stumble onto them and see the false prophecy, but I have the dates and publication references. I remember well the last date as I was turning fifteen years old because I had a friend who was JW and believed it.

I said that we did not agree on who Jesus is and that they believe He is an angel rather than the Son of God. She assured me that she believed that Jesus was God's Son. As an angel, I said. She affirmed that she believed that Jesus was the Son of God, but I noted that she did not deny or affirm that she believed He was an angel.

Observing her nervousness, I thought that maybe she was new to the church, although I know they usually do not send members out without a great deal of training. I said the Jehovah Witnesses believe that Jesus was an angel and if she was new to the church she needed to look it up. She told me she had been with the church for years and knew what she believed. Since my daughter was standing inside the door waiting for me so we could go, I decided that I would again give them an apologetic look and politely say good-bye declining their offering of literature.

I am not sure what the visitor really believes, but Jehovah Witnesses believe that Jesus is the archangel Michael as stated on their own website: Who Is Michael the Archangel?

They also believe that Jesus was a created being, God's first creation, as stated on their website under Who Is Jesus Christ? Where Did He Come From?. They base this on Colossians 1:15 where He is called “the firstborn of all creation,” but it is taken out of context, because the following verses state:

16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through Him and for Him.

If all things both in the heavens and on earth were created by Him, how can He be created since He had to be in existence before other things were created. Well, John 1:1-3 explains that one:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

Now I wish I had taken more time with the lady to further challenge her beliefs, but they just never seem to come by at a convenient time. I would have read from my favorite book of the Bible, Hebrews. In fact, I used to have the first chapter memorized just so I could challenge the Jehovah Witnesses even when I did not have a Bible handy. That chapter addresses any thoughts about Jesus being an angel.

~ My Lord, we try so hard to fit you into our box of limited understanding. I pray that Your Truth always becomes evident in the heart of each person. ~

Monday, July 9, 2012

Have You Hugged Your Lord Today?

The irony is that while God doesn’t need us but still wants us, we desperately need God but don’t really want Him most of the time. ~Francis Chan

We have been told about how important it is to hug our loved ones daily and now we have Christian artists illustrating Jesus hugging children and people, one on one, but have we been taught, encouraged, or shown how to just hug our Lord?

Not prayed.
Not read scripture.
Not do a devotion.

Not ask for anything...
nothing at all for anyone...
absolutely nothing.

Just love Him intensely in a breath...so brief.

Please take a few seconds, minutes if you are so inclined, to love on your Lord without any expectation from Him.

Stop now.
Quiet your mind.
Close your eyes, if you wish.

Take a breath and say "I love You, my Lord."

Did you feel His peace? It always makes me weep.

Did you feel His presence? It always overwhelms with speechlessness.

Did you hear Him speak to you? Did you want to?

Are you wondering why you do not do this more often and how can anyone ever go through an entire day without loving on Him just like this? Will you try to do it at least once again later today and then tomorrow?

~ My Lord, I will quiet my mind and listen in this breath....I love You, my Lord. ~

Friday, July 6, 2012

Façade in Degrade

Loneliness is the first thing which God's eye named, not good. ~John Milton

Today I kissed my husband good-bye not knowing when I will see him next. He usually does not work weekends, but he worked part of last weekend and all the weekend before that...and now this one. He thought about mowing the grass on Wednesday since he was home for Independence Day, but we decided to have a fried chicken and apple pie picnic in the cool of our living room and watch "The Patriot" and then "Independence Day" although we did have to blank out a few scenes on the latter.

I have this personal code: carpe diem (seize the day). I try to do what I can today or in this moment, because those things put off or forgotten and might not get done to pile up upon other undone tasks and most likely will absolutely need to be done at an even less convenient time. I do not always fulfill my ideal, but experience has proven that I suffer the consequences when I do not. So, we came out of the week of the dry heat wave to normal temperatures and humidity with everyday showers and now some of the grass is up to my knees. I would mow it, but my husband is adamant that he does not want me to do it. So there it is. I get to pick off the ticks from our pets and watch the grass grow even higher while my husband works far away with the promise that when he returns, he will cut the grass himself...whenever that will be.

It is really not the grass that is an issue. Our lawn in serious need of mowing is just an visual analogy of what I have been trying to not tell my husband for the last few years...although I have told him; I mean that I do not say it as often as I think it. I cannot count on him, not because he is the lazy sort, but because he is the hardworking sort. Customers request him because he gets the job done right and he is honest. The more trouble the customer is, the more likely it will be he they send to work at the account to not only fix the machine, but make the customer happy. He is good at it--very good at it. He asked his new boss if she could give him a break from all the traveling and start sending out some of the newer guys more as they need the experience. He was certain he would be in town this week because of a medical leave and vacation days being taken by the others working here, but...things change.

Things always seem to change from one day to the next, sometimes even one hour to the next. When my husband mentions he will be in town or will work at home to get his paperwork done, I no longer hold my breath, but rather just roll my eyes. It is not that I do not want to believe it, but I am afraid I will and with that comes an expectation. With every expectation is the possibility of disappointment, but if I do not expect it to happen, there is no disappointment, and the possibility of being pleasantly surprised. Yes, this way I have few disappointments, and I am sad to say also few surprises, but generally this how I keep my marriage on the upside.

Still, there are days, like today, when I am loosing my façade and I am keenly aware of how lonely I am becoming. It may be just a short phase. I have them now and then. Ups and downs. Good days and bad days. It may just be that I expect my husband to be home on weekends and now am dealing with the disappointment I try so hard to avoid. This is all compounded by a tween on test runs of puberty's emotional roller-coaster. This morning started out with me feeling like a lonely wife and frazzled mama. I know other women deal with this also and I am thankful that many women have not had to do so. My aunt and my mother-in-law had husbands that worked close to home especially while they were raising their children. Looking through the eyes of my abused childhood, I saw theirs as model families that I hoped to have for my daughter. The Princess will not have that same kind of family life, but this morning she stopped talking in a disrespectful tone and realized that her parents were upset, without any angry words spoken. She does not fully understand why, probably because these things so rarely seem to bother me, but this is one of those bad days when I am disappointed, when I want things to be different, when I feel helpless to change it, and I am not understanding God's purpose and faltered in my faith of it.

I should share my feelings, talk them out, and my closest friends know I do this too much of the time, but then I feel terribly guilty. I don't want anyone to think that anything is wrong or that my husband is neglectful or that we have marriage problems, because what problems we have are really minor (often the very ones to which I am talking have far worse). Ours are usually from poor communication, which happens more easily when a couple are apart for long periods, and are usually resolve with just a good talk between us. I don't like complaining about or making fun of my husband, like other wives seem to do. I know for a fact that not all men are alike as I have heard some women say. My husband is a better man than I would have chosen for myself. Really! I asked my Lord to choose my husband for me because I had such lousy taste in men. My Lord chose well for us both, of course, but with him came such things as his line of work. It has changed through the years with more and more traveling, but in that there must be purpose, even in how it will shape the Princess. I am certain God has purpose for all of it.

Now my daughter is being loving and gentle, the young lady I know that she wants to be showing the goodness in her heart. It is easier for her to be so when we are not doing any lessons. We are not homeschooling this week as she had Horse Day Camp on Monday, the horse barn on Tuesday, holiday on Wednesday, and errands and piano lessons on Thursday, so today we will be working on reorganizing and cleaning up. She wanted to clean up her room and closet. I wanted to weed gardens and reorganize the homeschool area. So, enough of my whining! It is time. Carpe diem.

~ My Lord, thank you for Your purpose. May I be more willing to accept it so that I can better enjoy my duties and this day.~

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Congratulations, Marjorie7777

I will contact you by email to send this book to you.

I hope you enjoy it!

I hope everyone has a good time in
celebrating our independence this day!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ayn Rand and Her Book

We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force. ~Ayn Rand

Now that I am finally caught up on the book reviews I had made commitments to do too long ago, I have the pleasure of sharing just a few of my thoughts on a book that some have claimed as one of the most influential books of all time, second to the Bible. I finished Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged a few weeks ago and, as I said in this previous post, Who is John Galt?, I found it quite disturbing, even though I found my myself enraptured by it at the same time.

Ayn Rand wrote about a world in the near future without many sci-fi props. It is one of the greatest love stories of all time: the love for an ideal man unknown, the love of one's life-work, the love of personal freedoms, and the love of a country as it should be. It is the destination of a transcontinental political collectivism railroaded into the minds of generations delivering what it should have never promised and could not sustain.

No one can really read this book and not feel the author's anguish. It was very personal.

Ayn Rand was born Alisa Rosenbaum in Russia in 1905. Although non-observant Jews, they were subject to strict anti-Semitic laws, but her pharmacist father was successful in owning his business. At twelve years old, that all changed as Rand witnessed Bolshevik soldiers march in and take her father’s business. Her father would never really work again. No doubt this birthed her ideas on “looting and mooching” from productive businessmen by use of government-supported force and policies. It is also quite pronounced in Rand's book that she valued reason as the highest of man's attributes for she was an atheist. Ayn Rand died in 1982.

A few days ago I watched a documentary called Ayn Rand & the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged and I found tears in my eyes. Those tears were not for how the critics of her day (and even yet today) slammed her ideas, but in how she took ten years to write this one book and yet so many of her readers, fans even, failed to understand the philosophy she so brilliantly portrayed in Atlas Shrugged. Even if you disagree with her objectivism philosophy completely, which has been criticized as rationalized self-interest, how can you not appreciate her valiant effort to make it clearly understood?

Are there flaws in her philosophy? No doubt, just as in any man-made idealism. There was a part that I felt should grate against my beliefs, but even then I could not escape the purity of her concept in the "virtue of selfishness" and the enslavement of guilt. I know, I know. She was an atheist and true atheism is the religion of guiltless selfishness. Still, her logic was amazing and even before I read this book I have wrestled with the ideologies of selfishness and selflessness.

Selfishness is supposed to be unchristian-like, therefore quite undesirable, although perhaps inescapable, but on the extreme opposite side complete selflessness makes it impossible to sustain one's own life. I addressed some of my conflicted thoughts on selfishness about three years ago in my post Selfishly His. Some believe to be truly selfless would be to give everything you have to everyone you can that does not have those things, but then two things would happen: you would eventually have nothing because there is always someone in greater need and eventually you would be in greater need, but then you cannot depend on others to have anything left to give you.

I do not know if selfishness is actually a virtue, but I am not fully convinced that it is all bad either. I have deeply contemplated whether God Himself is selfish in some manner and, if He is, would it not be virtuous? Does that thought disturb you? Does He seek to please us above His own purpose, above His own pleasure? I would not expect this of my Lord. He gives us what we ask when and how it pleases Him to do so. If one person prays for rain and a neighbor prays for a sunny day, would He be likely to please both? He is God and will do whatever He will do because He chooses to do it--who can find fault with that!

How can God enjoy us if He was not for selfishness? For that matter how can one enjoy anything in life without selfishness? When I take a bite of chocolate, how can I enjoy those moments of delicious chocolate melting in my mouth without selfishness knowing that thousands have never tasted chocolate and worse may not have had any food available to eat for the entire day? Just desiring the chocolate I should feel guilty, right? Do you think God feels guilty having a throne in heaven while people still suffer on earth?

Ayn Rand had some things to say against religion causing this guilt factor. She illustrated how people would be convinced by their guilt, if not their own needs, to want government to be the equalizer, penalizing those who prospered to provide for those in need. The more needy or dependent, the more guiltless and noble one's life would be, so the goal would be to own nothing and willingly be paid according to your need rather than the contributions you would make to serve society. This idealism also would not stop at international borders, so there would always be some place in the world with people in greater need...always. Ayn Rand believed in separation of economics and government because she saw that collectivism resulted in all people of wealth being the evil ones and all those in need could, should, and even would have the right to take from them by the way of government. When I hear President Obama speak, I hear this sentiment loud and clear.

To that end, Ayn Rand said it herself when interviewed about the prophecy made in Atlas Shrugged: "Only that I am sorry it is coming true so exactly." And that was 40 years ago!

I rarely look back on my life and wish it went differently, not that it was so good, but that knowing myself I would have made the same choices without the wisdom gained from results of those choices. However, I do wish I had read this book before I graduated high school as I know it would have profoundly altered my perspective and changed the course of my choices as a young adult. My only excuse is that I did not know of Atlas Shrugged then and that is why I am sharing information here on my blog this day, so that those of you who have not yet read it will consider adding it to your reading list soon.

~ My Lord, it is so difficult to watch the dying breaths of this nation. ~

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Book Review: Big Book of History

Big Book of History: A 15 Foot Fold-Out Time-Line from Creation to Modern Computers is a Christian-based child-friendly timeline marking interesting events with colorful illustrations designed for ages 7 to 12. This high quality hard cover measures 14.5 x 9 inches and the inside folded page is made of a very high quality paper similar to the cover of a paperback book.

There are actually four color-coded timelines running parallel to each other: Biblical/Christianity, World Events, Inventions/Technology, and Civilizations/Empires. The snippets of history begins with the God's first day of creation dated 4000 BC and ends with 2010 AD with "President Barack Obama declares the U.S. is no longer a Christian Nation." This fold-out sweeps with broad strokes across history, but is a nice presentation of events that is not too overwhelming for young minds. I recommend it as a wonderful visual supplement to any history curriculum or just to spark interest in historical events.

I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review.