“Fear is the enemy of hope.” Dave Ramsey

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“Buyer’s remorse (or buyer’s regret) is the sense of regret after having made a purchase. It is frequently associated with the purchase of an expensive item such as a car or house. It may stem from fear of making the wrong choice, guilt over extravagance, or a suspicion of having been overly influenced by the seller.”

I did something I have not done in over 12 years. I bought a relatively (2015) new car. New to me, anyway. And I have been having such stomach pains over the cost of a new car. However, I have to say that it was so reasonably priced, and I know without a doubt, we got a great deal (we went through our credit union to an Avis used car sale). We comp’d and Blue Book’d the cars and feel we got a lot of bang for our buck. It is just the process of going into debt freaks me out these days. You should have seen me as we negotiated payments and the date of payments…I literally had to bend over and take deep breaths!

We were caught in the whole “housing crash” catastrophe a few years ago and have been scrabbling our way out of that. It is nice the bank feels we are an admirable risk and that our credit is amazing, but the burden of debt is a scary thing. Every month, our money flies out the door. It barely says hello to our bank account before it’s gone again, on its way to whomever we owe. As is the case all over this country, I know. I feel you, I truly do!

(Luke 14:28) “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?”

We did. We sat down. We could have sat longer, perhaps, but we also met with our banker, who assured us we can handle this debt. The process will be good, because that concept of being frugal will now be foremost in our minds. We worked hard to regain our finances and want to be sure we plan for our future and make smart choices. We are going to be doing a personal finance course with our youngest son from Dave Ramsey, and we plan to share with our son all the details of personal finance. I sure wish that Dave Ramsey would have done this when I was a kid!!!

fear-is-the-enemy-of-hope-quote-1The reason we chose this program is because Dave Ramsey bases everything on Biblical Principles and I think that is just so important. And it will be valuable as our youngest makes his way in the world. And it will also be a great refresher for my husband and myself. You can never learn enough!

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Romans 13: 1-7 tells us: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. …”

This year’s presidential election is certainly controversial. There is just so much we could delve into, but for this post I want to look at money. At debt. At how we are sinking, as a country, under the mounds of our debt. There is a site online called “The National Debt Clock: Real Time” and you can look at it by clicking here: http://www.usdebtclock.org/index.html  This debt clock is in real time and watching it makes your head just spin. The numbers are rolling past and it seems surreal. First of all, I have to start counting those commas. Wow. We are sinking fast. And just as I am under the onus of debt and my stomach roils when I think about it, why does our government not do the same? I cannot spend what I do not have. It is the law. I cannot take money from someone else’s bank account to pay for whatever it is I want. But the government does just that. If we are truly more than $19 BILLION dollars in debt and counting, how can we give money to other countries? How do we pay salaries? How does the government function? If their income cannot keep up with their debt, money becomes almost meaningless. In the back of my mind, I think maybe anarchy will take over and the world’s debts will all be washed because there will be nothing worth anything (as in the devalued dollar) and we will be relegated to trading. Why do you think on more conservative channels you see all those ads, encouraging you to buy gold? Ever think about that?

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him. (Mark 12:17)

I gladly pay what it takes to keep a roof over my head and food on the table. If there is extra, I gladly share with those in need. Gladly. My government, however, takes far more than they can wisely use and squanders so very much of our money.

From Wikileaks it says, “The amount of retirement income Members of Congress receive from taxpayers is determined by a formula that takes into account the years served and the average pay for the top three years in terms of payment. For example, a member elected before 1984 and thus qualifying under the CSRS plan, who worked for 22 years and who had a top three-year average salary of $154,267 would be eligible for a pension payment of $84,847 per year. A member elected after 1984 would have been enrolled under the FERS plan, and their pension payment under similar conditions ($154,267 top three-year average salary, but with only 20 years of service, rather than the 22 in the CSRS example) would be $52,451.

In 2002, the average pension payment ranged from $41,000 to $55,000.[4] As of November 2014, senior Members of Congress who have been in office for at least 32 years can earn about $139,000 a year.”

First of all, I believe term limits should be instituted. I cannot believe that gentlemen (or lady) legislators, chosen from amongst their peers, can serve for more than 20 years when terms are supposed to be 2-4 years. Why do they get re-elected time after time?? Having worked with elected officials, their point is that it takes 1-2 years just to learn how things are done and then another 2-4 years to get anything accomplished within a structured process such as congress. To that, I responded, “Learn faster. That is what the rest of the employees working under you have to do. We have to learn our jobs within our probationary period or we do not get to keep our jobs.” It was not well-received. I kept having problems because I thought elected officials worked for ME, the tax payer. They do not look at it like that. Trust me.

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This election is so pivotal for our country. There are so many arenas of power that will be affected by who is elected. Especially those running for Congress. And our next President is going to shape the world for the next 20 years in appointments and decisions made. It is frightening. I am afraid for my grandchildren. We need to keep in our minds how we balance all the powers we give to those we elect. That entire “Checks and Balances” theory our country was built around. Remember why our Founding Fathers all left England in the first place – their rights were being taken away. They sought freedom from tyranny and subjugation. And if you do not think we have that again, because of our embedded Congress and Supreme Court system (let alone our state, county, boroughs, and cities) then you need to really educate yourself on the realities of life in America in 2016.

So what I am doing? Well, I am reading and learning. I had never before sat down and read the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. The Federal Constitution, and our State Constitution. Guess what? Our rights are being trampled upon. Our rights are being given to foreign authorities (read: UN) and our land is being watched over by foreign watchdog agencies (read: UN). We are being legislated in vaccinations, which is just symptomatic of so many issues of governmental overreach. (I believe in informed consent and the ability to choose for my family and my children’s particular health issues which vaccinations we get and when we get them. Don’t get me going on the annual month of September and the process of vaccination shedding in our schools!). We are being legislated in 1st and 2nd Amendment Rights…and I can assure you that many of them will disappear depending on who is elected. We are not being asked, nor are we voting on these overreaching changes; they are being legislated. The Federal Department of Education is legislating from Washington what we teach kids out in the bush in the most remote parts of American culture. It is insane. It abrogates State’s Rights!!! We need to stop sitting by and allowing that Debt Clock to keep ticking away and meanwhile nothing is done about it by anyone in our government. We need to stop sitting at home and not being involved. We need to vote!!! We need to educate ourselves on what exactly it is that we (a) have the right to, and (b) can rally to protect. A friend shared a scene from a cartoon movie called, “A Bug’s Life,” where the grasshopper is lecturing his fellow grasshoppers about how the “ants don’t know how strong they are…” and it went on to say that if they realized it and all banded together, they would beat the grasshoppers. Well, we are the ants my friends. We need to stand up to the grasshoppers in this world and just say, “Enough is enough,” and take America back!

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. felt that peaceful conflict was a viable thing. Nearing the end of his life, he was becoming frustrated and was angry more progress was not being made, but the way in which he conducted himself has left a resonating presence for those of us who listen. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love can do that.” That is one of his most famous quotes and after the events of this week, I sure wish more Americans knew it by heart. Today it was released that more than 70% of the people arrested in Charlotte were from out of state. They were bussed in to cause a problem. Some reports are saying the areas in which they demonstrated were chosen because it made “good press.” If you do not think the stage is being manipulated, you need to think again. Public opinion is worth millions in an election. The money spent trying to sway voters is almost insane. Check out the weekly expenditures of the two major players and you would wish you could only earn that much in a lifetime.

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“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We need to get America back. How? Well, we need to hit our knees, first of all, and pray for our entire country. We are literally bleeding these days. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) We need to pray for those seeking office. We need to pray for discernment, to be honest with ourselves about who is the best person to be the “Leader of the Free World” and who will have the best interests of all the people on their heart. I did not agree with my party’s decision as to who they chose as the presidential candidate. I did not. But I have researched this option and feel that I can no longer just sit by and throw my vote into the wind and hope it lands in the best place. No. I have chosen to educate myself about the issues and I have chosen to support my candidate. I have chosen to become involved at the local level. I attend meetings. I have learned, from a potential Congressmen sitting down and having a cup of coffee with me, his plans for my country and for my state. I have signs in my yard. My husband and I are volunteering at the local congressional election offices. We are trying to ensure a positive outcome for our state and our country. We can no longer assume someone else will take on our debt, our responsibility as citizens. We cannot sit idly by and allow less than half the eligible voters choose the next President. It could potentially cost us our freedoms, and our country. This is not melodrama, this is reality.

Therefore this is what the LORD says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. (Jeremiah 15:19)

We need strong leadership we can trust. We need to return to character and morals, and being forthright and honest. In all things, in all arenas, at all times. Please vote. Please be a part of the solution, and not the problem. Uphold your country and celebrate our freedom. Let us bring back what we have allowed to be taken from us. So many areas of our lives are a mess. We are sinking, but we can be saved. We really can. We just need to act now, and on November 8th, our national Election Day. Please vote!

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“If not us, then who? If not now, when?”

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This week has been fraught with issues dealing with honesty, character, integrity. For me, character truly counts. There are people who constantly feed you lines. I saw a “meme” that says, “Being honest never hurts anyone; being a liar only hurts you.” Boy, I wish that were emblazoned on the buildings of our government, and in our schools, and sadly enough, even in our churches.

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One of the definitions of integrity is choosing thoughts and actions based on values, rather than on personal, material gain. Another says it like this, “Wisdom is knowing the right path to take; integrity is taking it.” And I am reflecting on that based on this past week in my little world. I have watched our news stories and the strings that are followed by people on TV and in social media. Amid all the 9/11 remembrances we had, we somehow lost our focus from remembering those who had suffered and died, and instead we focused on football games and football players. Before someone jumps all over me, let me get this out there – I am against the players standing with fists raised or banding their arms together, or even sitting during our national anthem. I am sorry. I love having free speech and I exercise that on my blog. I will defend the athletes’ right to raise their fist during the song commemorating the freedoms hard won, which allows them to do that. I will. But I do not have to agree with it, nor do I have to like it. Personally, I get angry when men do not remove their hats, or people talk through it, or walk while the colors are being presented. We are not teaching our children to have respect for anything or anyone, other than themselves and their momentary glories. The whole “participation trophy” mentality of the millennial generation. It sickens me. We are entitled to nothing. We must earn everything.

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Our country has been going downhill for years, now. I refused to participate in leagues that gave trophies to all the kids when our kids were young. If they won something, that was given the attention and reward that was merited. The recent disrespect of our National Anthem and our flag by NFL teams and players, as well as some high school football teams, is demonstrative of this whole entitlement attitude. So many mouthpieces out there, cluttering up the airways. And the disrespect to our veterans, and to all those who lost their lives, especially on the anniversary of 9/11, made my family turn off the TV and ignore football. You have no idea how hard that is. We are a football family. We have shirts, blankets, jerseys…we support our teams. My daughter-in-law made me a blanket that has both of my teams on it – one on each side – so I can wrap it around myself while watching whichever of my teams is playing, while wearing a matching jersey! Turning off the TV was more difficult than I thought it would be. I ended up online, earning all these virtual tanks of fish by playing this silly aquarium game, and then feeding them and decorating the tanks on my Kindle Fire! Talk about desperate for entertainment – I then moved on to Angry Birds Rio, Angry Birds 2, Angry Birds Star Wars…it was sad. My husband rolled his eyes at me more than once, and he even went outside to stack firewood…he was desperate, too!

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And the fact that in amongst all this angst I was feeling about the NFL, I was asked to go to the office of someone running for political office. I had read his bio and read up on who he is as a man. But politics is messy and I was hesitant. It is so hard to explain what happened in that office. It was like this huge light bulb went off in my head. It was sort of like, “Oh. This is what it is like to walk and talk with like-minded people. Wow. It is so peaceful. It is so uplifting. I like this. A lot.” And I cannot get that out of my mind. Especially when faced with so much anger in the world. So much angst over behaviors. I lead with showing memes about honesty and speaking about integrity…then I went off on a seeming tangent to football players and disrespect. It is all intertwined. These players are entertainers. They hold no sway over me. In fact, in a roundabout way, they work for me. They provide me with entertainment. What happens if we all stop going to games? If we all turn off our TV on Sundays? What happens if we just say, “No!” and actually mean it? Their profession withers and dies. Sports figures, entertainment figures work for us. We can choose to put them out of a job. That is where our money and efforts come in to play. They do not function without someone giving them their hard-earned wages. Some movie stars think that because they played a character in a movie, they are now experts on that subject. I laugh at that. I read an article about the ice caps. It does not make me an expert on the issue of global warming. But for some people, one article does that. They go through life using a “cliff notes” approach. And they are asked to speak before Congress. (*Fist slap on forehead*). When you do not have to work for the result, the information floats in and out of your head at the speed of the next article you read or movie you choose to act in. They are entitled to their opinions. Agreed. But when did theirs become more important than mine? When did we allow the minority to hold sway over the majority?

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In the next couple of months, we will choose the direction this country will go in. And it is frightening. We saw played over and over again on social media and in the news, the story about Ms. Clinton passing out. Whatever your take on her politics, we should all be afraid of her declining health. Have you ever looked at photos of presidents taking their oath of office, and compared them to the day they leave office? Being the leader of the free world demands everything from our President. I do not think she is capable of leading our country. I am just concerned about her ability to physically sustain the office of President, leaving the character discussion for another time. Aside from all of that, it is incumbent upon us, the voters in the USA, to actually vote. We have the power to elect this woman to the highest office in the free world, or not. We can just say, “No.” Statistically speaking, roughly 50-60% of eligible voters elected this governing body who currently rule over our country- the president, congress, etc – into office. That means that another roughly 50% of eligible voters stayed home. Why???? Do you want all those others to choose your next president for you? Do you want to allow the USA to sink further into the miasma of lies, lack of integrity, and character? Do you want to affect a change by the actions you take? Do you want to take a stand for honesty and truth, and character and integrity? Not raising your fist or sitting out on the sidelines while the National Anthem plays, but making a real difference in our nation? You can do that, with a simple action. Sitting down, linking arms, raising your fist – those are advertisements, not actions for change. That is simply sharing your over-inflated opinion in a very visible way. It’s like an advertisement and not making a change. It’s making people angry and causing people to disrespect the game, and to actually tune more and more of those people out. I think it is sort of back-firing.

Proverbs 28:6 – “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.”

There is just such a huge lack of integrity in public office these days. Our athletes, our actors…very few show integrity and character, but most are very wealthy. Some are stellar, don’t get me wrong, and are wonderful people, doing wonderful things with their fame and fortune. But those are the ones who see very little press coverage, and so the role models for our culture are those who are taking it down by their loud and corrupt actions. I have spoken before about clothing and modesty, lack of character and honesty…there is just so much trash on the TV (and in the movies) and that is what our families are exposed to (should we allow it into our homes to begin with) and is what our modern world is eating up. It is what they base their decision making on.

Romans 12:2 tell us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Also, in Galatians 1:10 it says, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” John E. Lewis said, “If not us, then who?
If not now, then when?” vote

Participate. Find a candidate you can get behind 100%. Knock on doors, man the phones, pass out fliers, put signs in your yard or on your car (or both). Wear buttons on your shirt. Be a part of the solution. If no one tells our athletes, our actors, our politicians that what they are doing is wrong, or that what they do offends our sense of right and wrong, and goes against our character, they will keep on doing it. And more and more people will think it is okay to behave that way, to think that way, to vote that way, and work to coerce others to follow them, too. We need to teach that character truly counts; that integrity is the way to act – in all forums, at all times, in everything we do. We need to ensure our youth know and believe that truth always wins out. We can begin to take this country back. We can begin to re-instill the values our founding fathers fought long and hard to give to us in this amazing place we call home. I enjoyed so much meeting people in my community who think like I do. We do not all live next door to one another. We do not attend the same churches. We do not have the same educational levels. We are not of the same race. But it was life-giving and uplifting to hear others mirror what is in my heart. It made me realize that pockets of us are out there, trying to make a change and a difference in the direction in which our nation is going. We believe that right is right and wrong is wrong, and no amount of “political spin” can change that. The sheep can smell the wolf, in all its fake fur. So go out, commune with others who are like-minded. Let’s get a ground-swell going in our neighborhoods and bring this country back to what we knew when we were young, and know it can be, again.

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“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” Psalm 33:12

“They began to go away, one by one…”

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Many years ago, my then-teen-aged son admonished me for making snap judgements about a girl he was seeing. I did not think she dressed very well. She looked, to me, to be “easy,” to put it in words from my generation. And I have never forgotten that conversation. He will be 31 next month, he’s been married for 10 years this week, has a wonderful wife and two kids. And that admonition came to the forefront recently. Judging a book by its cover!

“But Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with His finger. When they continued to question Him, He straightened up and said to them, ‘Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.’” John 8:7

I have always loved that passage. Christ taught us in that moment that we are not all how we seem. If we take a moment to explore that passage, I think it is interesting to note that the Pharisees were trying to trip up Jesus, and he caught them at their own game, reflecting their accusations back on them!

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There is a saying that goes, “Remember that when you point at someone with one finger, three more are pointing back at you.” And lately, more than ever, I have noticed judging. From me, yes, and towards me, yes.

“When they continued to question Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” And again He bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard this, they began to go away one by one, beginning with the older ones, until only Jesus was left, with the woman standing there.…” (John 8:8-10)

I find it interesting that when the “pebble meets the pavement” there is not much left. When people yell and shout, most often they are the ones with dirty hands. When I criticized the young woman my son was seeing, I now realize I was seeing me in her. When I was young, having parents from England and New Zealand made my teen years interesting. “Dungarees are for farm workers. You will not wear those kind of pants.” They were talking about jeans. Took me until my junior year to be allowed to wear them. I recall days of pants worn so low, I had to be careful my backside did not hang out (hip huggers! LOL!) and how my parents would not allow me to wear that style of pant with crop tops. At the time I thought they were being stuffy Brits, not used to American culture. But they were concerned for the image I was putting out there. And I just did not get it.

Image. Perceptions. All this relates for me, to the issue of tattoos. As I said in a previous post, I was considering getting one for my 60th birthday present to myself. And I got one! I will show you a photo later in this post. It did not hurt. It is healing nicely and looks amazing. But not everyone is pleased by my choice. I had someone tell me that I have “defiled the temple of the Lord.” This person was so upset, they could not continue our chat, getting off the phone with “I love you” and such, but still quite upset. Another person close to me said, “Welcome to the world of the stigma of having a tattoo.” And that really got me thinking. And since I now have one, I see tattoos everywhere. And I am noticing the stigma.

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Tattoos were what “merchant marines,” sailors, and military had. It was what bikers and prisoners had. Good girls did not have tattoos. They were a sign of loose morals in all areas of your life. Pierced ears! Wow! Those were only allowed after I was a teenager. And only one piercing per ear, and no dangling earrings. Those were what strippers and dancers wore. Coloring your hair? Well, we could use lemon juice or “Sun In” on our hair, but no dying your hair. Only old ladies dyed their hair, and it usually turned purple. And if you did dye your hair, no one was supposed to know it. And you never had roots (they call it “ombre” now!) because that meant you were not keeping up on your personal hygeine! Tacky!

Smoking is pretty much a social taboo these days. I used to smoke, as did my husband. When we were in high school, there were designated smoking areas! In high school! My husband took up smoking while he was active duty Navy because smokers got breaks! He had to stand in a painted circle by a trash can, but he got a break! I started smoking when I was around 21 or so.  As I melded into the workforce in the late 70s, I smoked because I was so stressed (accounting) and everyone in my office smoked. Later on, after I was married and our oldest kids were still not quite teens, I was smoking a cigarette one time outside our home and a neighbor’s daughter came up to me and said, “You smoke? But you go to Church!” That really made me stop and think about the image I was projecting. I haven’t had a cigarette in almost 20 years, partially because of her comment, which reflected her view of me. “Out of the mouths of babes,” as they say!

We look at styles, fashion, social trends and we see all sorts of things that were not permissible when we were younger, but seem okay now, and visa versa. I am not trying to justify my choices, at all, I am just noticing things because I am now forced to, because of those choices. For example, smoking is certainly one of those things we used to think was okay. Science finally caught up to our habits! Hairstyles…we go around and around with our son. In my youth, hair was long. Sometimes too long. Now it’s all over the map. But how we present ourselves still matters. And it is sad, because we are not often who people see when they look at us. Perceptions are so fascinating and I am as guilty as the next person of prejudging others based on the image they present to me, or their attitude in my presence. I still struggle with weird or too numerous piercings, but that is on me. And now I am seeing this stigma happen towards me. And it is for many reasons, not just my tattoo. Being a part of the aging population (so many people think my youngest son is my grandson because I do not cover my gray hair!!!!). Being overweight. My license plate that announces I am a grandma, and the looks while driving down the road. Preconceived notions are everywhere.

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And I get it about tattoos, I really do. “You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.” This is from Leviticus 19:28.  And it is the quote many Christians will whip out when confronting someone who has tattoos, or recently got one. The chapter quoted was in regards to the process for preparing the dead, “cuts in your body for the dead,” and reflected the pagan rituals around marking one’s skin to show to whom you had an allegiance. People would cut and tattoo themselves at the death of a loved one. Slaves were marked for their masters. They would also tattoo images that would be considered pagan, and the passage is warning those of Israel to not participate any longer in these pagan rituals. The same passage also forbids shaving your beard and other practices that are now commonplace. There are literally dozens of articles discussing this passage on the internet. An apologist, Jimmy Akins, writes, “There is no reason why one cannot color one’s skin, which is what tattooing amounts to. One can apply color to one’s skin by make-up (as is common among women), magic markers (as is common among children), press-on tattoos (as are common in Crackerjack boxes), or with real tattoos. The mere fact that the ink goes into the skin in the latter case does not create a fundamental moral difference.”

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And so what are we to do? Keep on judging one another? Selectively eliminating those we feel do not reflect well upon us from our circles of friends and family? As in pointing our fingers at others, while not seeing the three fingers pointing back at ourselves?  Remember that when the Pharisees were convicting the woman of adultery, that when Christ admonished them with, “Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her” that they all slowly walked away because they all had sins? We all have sins. Some of our sins are visible for all to see and comment on. Gluttony is visible on my body. My sin that I carry around in my grandma jeans and big shirts. And now I am adding a tattoo to that! Ha-Ha! I must be a glutton for punishment. Many Christian theologians caution against permanently marking your body because of the witness to others. It taints their opinion of you and perhaps you are not being the best witness of the faith. Which is interesting, because it is a reflection of our upbringing and prejudices that we have been taught. Trust me, when my oldest son accidentally showed me his first tattoo, I was not happy with it. It was a crown of thorns, and an ugly one. To which he said to me that the crown of thorns was indeed, ugly, because the Crucifixion was ugly. But, it reminded him of his faith, and he liked it. And now, my perceived witness to others is something I am grappling with, every day, now that I have gone ahead and permanently marked my body. I have to keep reiterating that it is permanent, because so many of those who know me are in such shock over this, and keep thinking I am pranking them. I am not pranking anyone. It is real. And here it is…

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When I went to get the tattoo, the tattoo artist had a long and wonderful conversation with both my husband and myself. Don, the tattoo artist, said that people will negatively comment, and some I have known a long time will not understand and be upset with me. He has experienced it for years (he had more tattoos on his body than I had ever seen on a person, in person. Seriously). And when I showed him the photo of my desired tattoo, he delightfully commented, “Oh, it’s a Jerusalem Cross! On my many pilgrimages to Israel, I saw a lot of them.” You could have knocked me over with a feather. Then he said, “Now I’m not a religious guy, but I’ve been to the Holy Land more than once, and if anyone gives you grief, use it as an opportunity to teach. Share with them the meaning of the cross. And quote them Revelations 19:16 – “He has a name written on his cloak and on his thighs, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” If it’s good enough for Jesus Christ when He comes again, I figure a tattoo is okay for me and you, too!”

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I feel good about my tattoo, because it is part of my journey to my faith. Not everyone understands why I would choose to do this at my age, but that is okay. I am a good person. I believe in the Lord, and I try valiantly not to lead a life of sinfulness. Occasionally I will fall. That is the beauty of our faith – it allows us to get back up again and work at becoming better than we were yesterday, more committed to living a life pleasing to the Lord. Each time I put my organic coconut oil and Young Living’s Melrose Essential Oil on my tattoo, I reflect on it. I see the central cross, symbolic of Christ. I see the four crosses in each corner, symbolizing the four Gospels. There are other interpretations, but I love that one the most. And it reminds me that this cross was created when the Church, when our entire Christian faith and very way of life was under attack. It is one of my favorite times in history to read about. The Medieval era was one of growth in learning and architecture, and exploration and discovery, of gallantry and knighthood, damsels in distress, and one of so many saints. Don’t get me wrong, I realize horrors were perpetrated on the innocent, on both sides. But I also see it as a time when the world was galvanized to stay strong in the faith and defend it, to the death. They defended it at home and on foreign soil, against incursions by those who would deny Christ and opt to wipe out His memory and those who would not forsake Christ. They were not looking for converts, but rather were focusing on conquering the western world. And I feel it is still a battle we all need to wage, one person at a time, one family at a time, and one neighborhood at a time, until we take this land, and our faith, back. And so I witness that on my wrist. And I will share all of that when asked why I did this, and why that particular Cross. It’s not for everyone. Not everyone will understand. But between me and the Lord, I am feeling excited, almost giddy, about my new tattoo.

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“…an everlasting dominion…”

permanent marker

Permanence. Like black markers. “That ink is permanent,” laments every mother who has tried to remove it from her walls or upholstery fabrics! Our weight; it fluctuates. We’d like to be permanently young and at the perfect weight. It just doesn’t happen. It takes lots of work and dedication. Looks are not permanent. It is the heart and soul of a person that remains, even until their dying breath. We are who we are, deep inside. And who are we?

 

blue suburban

We are contemplating a new car. I dread the car payments and car insurance, so I am dragging my feet. And I dread driving a different car. I have had my car since 2004. I love this car. It fits me perfectly. People say, “Get a newer model.” Well, I would, except they stopped making it at my model year. Which I never did understand, because I see them everywhere. And my knee-jerk reaction, and preference, is to go for my favorite car ever, my Suburban. I loved – well, thoroughly enjoyed – that car. But it seems silly for an almost-empty-nester, and grandma, to drive such a large vehicle. I can haul my grandkids in it, yes, but not regularly enough to warrant driving that large of a vehicle. But when faced with obtaining something new, I reach for the familiar, the more permanent fixture in my life, because it is well within my comfort zone, and I have deliciously wonderful memories driving that blue Suburban everywhere. I was sad the day I traded it in for the car I have now. I would love to keep my current car, but if I need to replace it, I automatically want to return to my happy car!

Twin Towers Burning

So many things come and go, and in reality, very little is permanent. This weekend we watched a movie about 9/11 and off and on during the entire show, I wept. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I recall how one of the Fire Chiefs they interviewed said that this was a day that was “out of our playbook.” And that “we have no plan to deal with a disaster of this magnitude.” And I remember feeling so helpless as people jumped from the buildings; I cannot imagine the grief of their family members or of those watching it in person. It was a frightening day. I cried all over again, as they said that over 200 people died jumping from those buildings. The Twin Towers were meant to be a permanent landmark to the free market and an icon in New York City. They were a permanent part of who we were, as a people. That day brought our country together. We did not care what color we were, or what sort of career we had, even which building we were fleeing from. We just helped the people next to us. Because, as a country, we had been cocky enough to not plan for an attack of this magnitude on our own soil, we had to rely on one another. And it did this country some good, being taken down to our knees, quite literally.

Ash covered people

As this show went on, my husband and I lamented that the nationalism that we felt during that time is gone. It was not permanent. The social tension is so high right now, and it explodes to the surface at the least stimulation. People are lashing out at one another. People attack and kill one another; we steal from one another and we have no respect for our neighbor, or his property. It is ridiculous how many break-ins we have had over the past year in the little area in which we live. We were chalking it up to teens being bored during the summertime, with its 20-hours of sunlight daily. But now we have learned it is just flat-out crime. People stealing cars out of driveways, 4-wheelers, shovels (I am not kidding), tires, dogs, breaking into cars and stealing ID and money and goods in the cars; destroying things just because they want them. Things that do not belong to them! Race and other factors have not entered into it. They are crimes of convenience. Nothing is sacred to anyone. Anything they want, they just think it is okay to take it. There is no thought of “we’re all in this together.” There is no nationalism, not even pride of neighborhood, home, and hearth. The country is far more divided and violent than it was on September 11th, when those planes struck the Twin Towers.

“And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”  Daniel 7:14

I believe that the Lord is ever in our midst. I do believe He weeps at the horrific ways we talk to one another and treat one another. I do believe He is allowing the evil one a presence in among our people, in order for us to learn. We need experience to teach us some pretty tough lessons. A priest friend once told me, “Do not pray for patience. Because when you do, that is when God will give you situations to learn patience. It cannot be gifted; it has to be learned.”

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, or lose heart when He rebukes you. For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastises everyone He receives as a son.” Hebrews 12:6-7

If you cant fly MLK

Sometimes I wish things would remain static, but I know change comes through movement. I pray that people would gain wisdom and see the error of their ways. In this country, we have so much freedom and we spit in the face of it almost daily. The new controversy over this football player who refuses to stand for our National Anthem annoys me more than I can properly express. Yes, he has the right to express himself. Yes, it is a First Amendment right – something we take seriously in this Land of the Free. But it is also the Home of the Brave. And to not stand, to me, is an insult to those who fought to bring us these freedoms. Beginning with the farmers who would not bow to an imperial presence in our Colonies, to even my son, who served in two arenas of battle in recent years. So many have given all, so that this athlete can make a statement at a football game, even while insulting those who afforded him that right. A comment I read on Facebook today pointed out that he is nothing more than an entertainer. Athletes are entertainers. The corporation that hired him to put on his show at games, they are responsible to the people who watch those shows of athletic prowess. And there are lots and lots of financial supporters who put their dimes in, too; sponsors by the truckload. I would love to see people boycott the corporations that say it is okay to not stand, because they think that “we are a company that believes it is more important to express your personal rights than it is to show allegiance to the very country giving you this right, while you earn all the money we pay you.” Money, by the way, that comes from endorsements, and fans who wear their gear and go to their games to eat $25 hot dogs. If companies can come out in support of gay rights – the whole debacle about Target’s bathroom privileges comes to mind – then companies should be able to say things like, “If you are our employee, please be respectful and show respect in public for our country by standing for the National Anthem.” Period. But I doubt the NFL will require its players to stand for the National Anthem. Perhaps we fans of the game and the entertainment it provides us, should make our opinions known more forcefully, as in boycotting? You can choose to not attend games, not support this particular team, perhaps not purchase that jersey – or not.

I am expecting that in the media, there will be backlash and controversy over this player’s comments and statements, and his refusal to stand. And there will be arguments. And ugliness. And if someone asks everyone to stop…just stop…and pray for one another? Ha-Ha. They would be laughed at. Because this is not about God. And that is where I beg to differ. In a sense, it is about God because this is a Christian country. Yes, some of our founders were not exactly your typical church-goers. But they whole-heartedly believed in keeping God in our country. They prayed. They prayed a lot. God was mentioned by them and through the process of putting together our founding documents. None of it was done without seeking the blessing of God. There are those (who number less than 8% combined, between atheists and agnostics) who profess no religion. There is a hefty 22% who profess no formal religious affiliation at all (although that does not necessarily mean they have no faith). That leaves 70% of the population who believes, and who try to attend Church, and identify as a Christian. 70 %.  Where are they all???? The streets are empty of them; the media certainly is empty of them, for the most part.

house-rostrum

The above is in both the Senate and the House. In God We Trust. We entrusted our country to His providence because it is permanent. It does not change. It is something we can rely on and count on. Always. We do not espouse one practice of religion over another. We do, however, espouse a belief in God. That is not just a pithy statement. We had people who fled the religious persecution of England to establish a country free from that. We have welcomed those who are being persecuted for their faith to come and establish lives in America. We’re an open country like that (ask those who have fled countries that do not allow the practice of their faith. And those countries who persecute women. And those countries who put to death their citizens who disagree with the organizations in power). We do not, however, believe in removing God from all aspects of our public lives. We are not sneaking around, holding meetings in back rooms, but rather, we are bold in our faith. That is a laudable thing. An enviable thing. An attractive thing.

pray for persecuted

There are so many ways to handle persecution. Our country has opened its doors to pretty much anyone who wants to come here. (Something I am not all that happy about. But that is a different subject). There are so many avenues available for those who want to defend the defenseless. We can become pro-life in all its aspects. We can honor those who choose life. We can assist the poor and the shut-in. We can honor our neighbors and our neighborhoods by helping make them a safe refuge. Grab a broom and sweep your streets. Wash graffiti off the walls. Clean up trash. Help the elderly who can no longer care for themselves. Support causes and organizations that go around doing good for others. Sitting down when all others are standing in honor, and creating a furor, sends so many mixed, and wrong messages. “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” That quote from Gandhi is what was morphed into, “Be the change you want to see in others” for bumper stickers. But the message is intact. We need to change ourselves, our tiny neighborhood, in order for the ripples to be felt nationwide and worldwide.

MLK nonviolence

One of our most vocal and loved social thinkers and leaders was Martin Luther King. Jr. (He was an Independent. He did not adhere to either party in politics). He was a deep-thinking man who believed in God and equality for all men. He would be appalled at the violence in this country. He preached kindness and meekness, and love for your fellow man. He believed that love trumped all else. He once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” I truly believe that if we cling to the permanent love of God, and embrace our neighbors as ourselves, we can conquer this ugliness that is pervading our country, and pervading the world. We are in a dark and difficult time and I am scared for my grandchildren. My grandmother apologized to me once, saying, “I am sorry for the mess my generation is leaving you. We had so little, and with the wars we went through, we wanted our children to not “want” for anything. They in turn sought that for you. But we made a tragic error in that we did not teach our children to work for what we gave them. They did not understand sacrifice. And now your generation, even more spoiled, does not either.” And I think she was right. We’re so entitled, we think someone else should take care of it. There is no sense of personal responsibility.

cursive

It’s silly, really, to bring this up, but they are not teaching cursive much anymore. There is no time in the day to do it. Teachers have to prepare kids for all these tests they require using Common Core-styled curriculum. So they allow kids to just print. It’s just an example of the shifting of our culture to being ever more technology-driven, and service-oriented. No one creates, makes, builds much in the USA any  longer. We just service what we buy. And we use the internet for everything else. Subsequently, our next generation will no longer be able to read documents that give you original information, as they are written in cursive. The Declaration of Independence, for example. They’ll have to read it printed online somewhere. Pretty soon, cursive will be the same for future historians as Egyptian hieroglyphics were for the early historians in the 1800s. A mystery to be solved.

And this brings me to my lament about permanence. There is so little. So much is transient these days. How we feel right now rules how we act right now. We do not adopt permanent beliefs about much of anything. Nothing sticks! We do not stand up for anything in a strident, permanent way. How the wind blows is how we vote. We chose this past president, twice, because he was different. We did not stop to think about qualifications for the office of President, we voted with the entertainers who were endorsing him. We went with public sentiment. And boy, have I met so many with regrets for that error! As I stated above, roughly 70% of our population, according to a 2014 census, identified with a particular Church. We are allowing the other 30% who have no belief in God, or who couldn’t care less about faith or God, run this country. I think it is time to reassert our permanent adherence to our collective faith in God. We need to stand for our National Anthem, we need to love our brothers and even our creepy neighbors, and we need to be people of character. We need to say “no” to the Hillarys of this world and deny the naysayers a place at this table. It is time we resolved to learn about this country of ours, learn about the issues and the candidates, and to take America back. I do not want to see another 9/11 happen in order for us to wake up.

MLK INject love

If you are part of this glorious 70%, please take a moment to think and to pray. What is the heritage you are leaving for who is coming after you? Are you leaving a safe and Godly place for others to flourish? What are you doing for your neighbor? I am angry. I am frightened. I am frustrated. And I feel so very helpless and inadequate to the task of taking this country back. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20. As a collective body of voters and citizens, united in faith, we can remedy this situation! Whoever deigns to read this, take a moment to think about this and to pray about this. Determine your activity level, your involvement in making this country better. How can you help? Boycott something! Write a letter. Blog about it. Reach out to friends, family, neighbors. Be kind. Change your little corner of the world. Do something pro-active to ensure God remains permanently at the reigns in this country. Hit your knees and pray for our country and for each and every one of us in it. Be proactive at making sure God is the sovereign of this nation always and forever.

House serve lord

 

“All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass…”

Symbolism is so much a part of what we do and how we live. We I am scrambling to be sure we have our “spirit wear” all ready for the homecoming game tomorrow. It’s important to show team spirit by wearing our school colors! We clang cow bells painted the right colors and are sure to sit in the booster section, where we can yell without embarrassing our other children! Ha-ha! But we cannot wear colors that are from our opposing team, because that doesn’t show support to our players and cheerleaders. We have to have all the right symbols.

Football

I was recently in a discussion about wearing our wedding rings on the right or left hand. In the west, people wear them on their left hands. People in Eastern European cultures (and Russian Orthodox and other Orthodox Churches) all wear them on the right hand. But in America, it confuses the average person if you wear your wedding set on the right hand with people thinking you are divorced or widowed. The symbol isn’t right; it does not fit into their notion of how things should be. It can unsettle people, seeing the wrong image in the wrong place.

There are logos and symbols all around us. If you give most people quizzes on company logo recognition, they can name many corporations just by seeing their logos. That means their marketing team has been doing their jobs and doing them well!

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There are some images that people enjoy and some that make people uncomfortable. Some images can evoke such strong emotions. If you see something that reminds you of your childhood, it can bring back happy memories, or bring you to tears. Other images are quickly forgotten and we don’t give them another thought.

crucifix-2-flash

When many Christians see a crucifix, the image of Christ hanging the cross, they get very uncomfortable. I have had people say that it is like looking at photos of a murder scene over and over again. I can see that. I can feel that sort of emotion. For most Catholics, the crucifix reminds them of the mercy of God and of His great sacrifice for us. It evokes feelings of safety and comfort. There is a prayer called the Anima Christi that is often prayed while gazing at a crucifix:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Permit me not to be separated from Thee
From the malignant enemy defend me
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come unto Thee
That with thy Saints I may praise Thee
Forever and ever
Amen

It makes looking at that particular symbol not as gruesome as some would think. There are other symbols and ways of representing the Cross of Christ. And I have been pondering these symbols recently. It is easy to have a symbol mean something to you, but when others look upon it, they see something very differently. There are all kinds of crosses out there, and each means something to the culture they are associated with. For many of us in western society, these crosses confuse us, because they are not what we are used to seeing, when we associate them with our faith. This is a wall hanging I have in my home:

images. wall crosses.

I like it because it shows all different ways of looking at crosses. It’s made of metal and 3D. It has engendered many conversations. And some Christians do not have any crosses in their homes, nor do they display paintings or statues. Very few have icons. We are probably the odd-man-out but we have all of it. We have statues, paintings, crosses from all over the world, and icons. We have lots of icons. We have very little secular art, actually.

I have been pondering symbols in other ways, as well. Permanence is something that is not common in the corporate world, although many older companies are very recognized just by their logos!

apple microsoft  pepsi flag2

Each of these logos is very familiar and we all have an opinion about each of them. One of them is not a logo per se, but a symbol. There is a difference. A symbol is a representation, a pictogram, whereas a logo is a trademarked corporate identity that may contain a symbol. Like Apple’s logo with it’s iconic symbol of an apple with a bite out of it, and symbol of our homeland, the American flag.

The cross, of course, cuts through all the corporate hype and is not owned by one corporation or church. It is a universal symbol. For many it evokes comfort and peace, and for others it is a sign of divisiveness. For me, it symbolizes a part of who I am and what I believe. And my faith does not waiver, it does not fade, it does not change. I am a Christian woman. Where I choose to worship, the style of how I worship, may change. Those are externals. But my belief does not change or waiver. So the symbol of my faith, the cross, does not waiver. Which is why I am considering getting a tattoo of a cross for myself, for my birthday. It’s not really for anyone else. It is something that would remind me, each time I look at it, what I believe. But which representation, for me, do I choose? It’s had me up nights, because inking is permanent. Which is why it has also taken me this long to even consider it. And I have pondered this whole issue of logos and symbols, recognition and the emotions they evoke. And I am thinking and praying, and searching my heart. Who knows? Maybe it will be a new purse. I’ll let you know.

Tattoo

 

“And even when I am old and gray….”

“And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come.” Psalm 71:18

Have you ever just felt “blah”? I feel yucky. And in some ways I’m also excited. Life can be so weird sometimes. I don’t think it’s hormones! Ha-Ha. Most of those are asleep these days!

Jans 60th Cake

Yesterday, I turned 60. Now, I don’t think it’s old, or that I am old, in particular. I am feeling sort of cocky about it, actually. Like now perhaps people will somehow treat me as more mature, or wise? Even though I thought it was supposed to happen at 30, then at 40, and then even at 50! I am hopeful it may someday take hold! Ha-Ha!

I think I am depressed because my 90-year-old dad was going to be with me as I celebrated this milestone, but it just did not work out that way. I am relieved and sad, at the same time. I am relieved because he was bringing someone with him I have never met, something I realized after they could not come, had made me very uncomfortable. I am sad because my dad is 90 and this was the first time I would have seen him in 10 years, and he has never met my daughter-in-law or his great-grandchildren. He has only seen our youngest son once or twice. (Our son really has no memory of him, other than he has a beard). So I am sad he is missing out on that. And I am sad I will not have that father-daughter time with him. We have not had time like that in the 32 years I have been married and it would have been nice. And I think I am flat-out bummed because I had not realized how much it meant to me, to have him visit one, last, time, and for my birthday, too.

JerusalemCross

The cross above is called the Jerusalem Cross, or the Crusader’s Cross, or the Templar’s Cross. They might deviate a little, but it is basically this representation. The central cross represents Christ, and the four smaller crosses represent the Four Gospel Writer’s – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There are other descriptions, but this one is the one most historians view as accurate. Historically, in Egypt and Northern Africa, people would have a small, Coptic style cross tattooed on their inner wrist, to symbolize to others that they were Christian, living in a highly Muslim world.

Coptic.colored cross.

Some of the more stylized versions of the Coptic Cross highly resemble the Crusader’s Cross. The smaller versions, usually in black, are tattooed on the wrist area, as a quick way to identify oneself to other Christians in modern times as well as in ancient days. In Coptic tradition, youth often wait until they are at the “age of reason” or their late teens to have their tattoos done. It is still popular in Egypt, even now, and among modern Coptics living in the USA.

The reason I shared all of that, is because I wanted to get a tattoo of a Crusader’s cross, on my wrist, about the size of a nickel, for my 60th Birthday! One friend thinks all tattoos are disgusting and had no interest in hearing my reasons or looking at my ideas…none of it. All tattoos are bad. Period. Other people say to go for it because you are who you are, you have control over what you do with your body, and why not? Others say I’m too old, my skin is too old, etc. Some of my kids think it’s pretty cool and are encouraging me to get one, but I think that is something more popular among the younger set. My parents would freak out if I got a tattoo…in their era only people in prisons or sailors had tattoos! But, even worse than that, I also wanted to add some purple to my gray hair! Ha-Ha! Just because. My hubby says to go for all of it, and just have some fun. It doesn’t bother him.

“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” Proverbs 16:31

I know that sometimes people hit a certain age and have that dreaded “mid-life crisis.” I don’t think this is a crisis, but rather an awakening. This is my last year having a homeschooled child. The journey I began in 1992 with homeschooling our children will be completed, with our last child graduating high school. And I will have my days to myself. And as my husband said, “You need to find something to do or you will go nuts.” I think he is also concerned that I will drive him nuts! Ha-Ha! And to get all that going, while turning 60, I thought a visit with my dad, a tattoo, and some purple highlights would get things off to a roaring start. And then, poof, all the air went out of my balloon!

deflated balloon

And so I am working on the positives from this. There is no visit, so the pressures of hosting people in our home is gone. I can take the rest of this weekend to prepare for the first day of school on Monday. I got a nice haircut, taking off 2 1/2 inches and no one noticed, which means it was a great cut and just looks better. No purple, but hey, the 60 days aren’t over, yet. And no tattoo, but I am not giving up. My sister told me a story of a friend who turned 60 and decided she was going to celebrate for 60 days. And that is my plan. Maybe I don’t have the purple, the tattoo, or the visit, but these 60 days are not over, yet! The Lord gives us what we need, when we need it. He had other plans for my birthday and the ways I will celebrate it.

Gods plan for our life

I will rest in His plans for my life, listening to His gentle whisper as I make my plans, hoping I make them in coordination with His will for my life. God will sustain me, He will carry me, He will rescue me – from myself! God is so good. And there is just so much on the horizon that sometimes I think these first 60 years were preparing me for what lays in front of me. I am excited to begin a new path, embracing new friends and new ideas, still learning and growing and becoming. Things did not work out the way in which I had imagined them for this particular day, but there were so many blessings nonetheless! I had my grandchildren, who practiced with their mom, sing Happy Birthday to me as I blew out my candles, and then we feasted on some pretty amazing cake! I have a future job and career ahead of me, and for the past two days, I have actually seen the sunshine! In Alaska as fall settles in, that is quite something! And so I will move on to tomorrow, smiling and thinking of where I want that purple streak in my hair and what size and color I want that tattoo!

life plans gods plans

“Be still…”

Mirror Lake

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

This quote, by John Lubbock, spoke to me. We have had friends visiting from the “lower 48” this week and I know experiencing some pristine nature is never a waste of time. I have watched them visibly relax. I have seen the wonder on their faces and their joy burst forth when coming face-to-face with bears at the Wildlife Preserve, with watching the salmon jump as they climb to their spawning grounds at our Hatchery. I love sharing the blessing of where we live with people who do not get to experience it as often as we do. This lifestyle is certainly not for everyone, and I would not expect others to embrace where I live just because I do. I know it took me more than 40 years, once I first imagined this place, to actually live here. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7). It is amazing to me how close to God you can feel, immersed in nature.

PalmerAK

I jokingly asked our visitors if they needed some time with asphalt and smog, with all this “nature overload.” And we chatted about how tired they are because of processing all that they are seeing, hearing, breathing, and tasting. It takes a lot out of you to travel to an environment that is so foreign to your daily routine. As we meandered along our coastline and mountains, we all remarked about how brave the early explorers were. We were imagining the native peoples making their home here, and the early explorers and then miners, making their way through these near-impenetrable mountains. There are places here that have never experienced the footfall of man. How remarkable that we live here, in among all the stupendous magnificence of a God who loves us.

Salmon ladder

Occasionally nature needs our help. In this state, we encourage natural activities and assist in raising the live birth numbers of many of our indigenous species. Most people who come here to sports fish would be sorely disappointed if nature was the only provider! Our Fish and Game Department is doing themselves proud with how they are helping our salmon spawn successfully.  There were approximately 6.5 million fish released into the waters of Alaska in 2016. Pretty impressive. We recently learned that an entire herd of Wood Bison, over 130 of them, were released successfully from our Wildlife Conservation Center. Wow! I love walking through our hatcheries, learning the stories of the many fish we have here in Alaska. At the Sealife Center in Seward, they work so hard to rehab the different animals back into the wild. In amongst all this nature, thriving here, you certainly feel humbled.

Aurora August 2016

One of the things that people always want to see is the Aurora Borealis, or the “Northern Lights” when they visit us. In the summertime, that is pretty hard because it doesn’t really get dark enough. Last night we got notices through our news and weather sites that the Aurora possibility was a +6, which is high. We stayed up until 1:30am, and even got up again at 3:30am, but it was either too light or too cloudy where we are. The photo above was taken north of us last night. “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” (Hebrews 9:24). When you see the magnificence in the heavens, where the stars seem to dance, you certainly feel small, humbled, and in awe.

The experience of nature, up close and personal, away from the noise, smells, and interference of thousands of people, can ease your suffering and your pain. It makes your spiritual connection strengthen. I know for me, when I go to Church and can watch the snow dancing on the windows, and the candles are burning brightly, I can feel God. Learning to be still and seek His presence can be difficult in the midst of asphalt, smog, freeways, and social insanity, but it can be done. I found God in the middle of Southern California’s rush hour lifestyle. But I was constantly seeking my peace elsewhere. My prayer is that more and more can experience God in the stillness of His creation. It is truly magnificent, humbling, and breaks open those walls we place around ourselves when we live in a crazy, crowded world. Prayer seems to come naturally, in nature’s wonderland.

Be Still