Saturday, December 20, 2014

Keep Doing Something

I wrote this post about three hours after my house caught fire.
 

Today, my husband put some of the final touches on the restoration that we've been wading through since July. It is nice to live in a house that was once whole, was gutted (in spots) as a result of the fire that ate away part of the structure, and is restored to much nicer condition than it was six months ago when this all started.

My motivation for writing that post was three-fold.

1. I needed to get my mind off of my "loss" and move it to a more productive place. Yes, my house was charred on the outside. Yes, I had a flood in my attic, my bedroom, and my daughter's bedroom.

And I was still alive and had breath left in me with which I could turn my "disaster" into praise, giving glory to God.

2. I had been thinking about the people who are mad at God for allowing bad things to happen.  I needed to work through what my response should be to those people and to the bad things that happen.

3. Matthew West's song "Do Something" was wildly popular on Christian radio at that time and I kept hearing it.  I couldn't hear it without, well, doing something.

So here I am, sitting in a restored house, still subject to the ups and downs of this fallen world, but turning my joys and sorrows back to the Creator of it all.

The winner of the charity donation is:

...comment #4, Cheree Moore's choice, Crossnore School. In Cheree's words, "We have friends that work with a Residential Charter School for kids in foster care called the Crossnore School. The school has recently implemented a new home for kids that graduate from high school and go on college but don't have support systems."


$50 donated to Crossnore School
As promised, I have also donated to Amazima Ministries, the organization started by Katie Davis. She is doing an amazing work in Uganda.
 
$50 donated to Amazima Ministries

I'm sharing this with you so that you know what happened with my previous challenge, and to encourage you to keep doing "somethings" that change the lives of fellow citizens of earth.

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  Mt 25:40




Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gifts

A friend reminded me that the best gifts don't usually cost a whole lot...

My hubby and I were out shopping with the kids when we decided to stop at an inexpensive sit-down restaurant for dinner. (This is a very rare treat for our family.) Hubby and the kids stood around waiting for a table and eventually ordered dinner while I finished up the shopping at one last store.


When dinner finally arrived, the waiter placed a steaming, cheesy bowl of French Onion soup in front of me. I love it but never order it when eating out, because it's so frivolously expensive. My husband ("He Who Does Not Like To Spend Money") knew how much I loved it and just ordered it anyway.


I keep thinking about that small gift; it cost less than $5.00, but it means so much.


It means that he cares enough about me to listen. 

It means that he cares enough about me to remember. 
It means that he cares enough about me to surprise me with the unexpected. 

This is just a small part of how he shows me he loves me. And that is the best gift... Not the soup, but the love.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

We three Kings on Bethlehem's Plain... (Otherwise entitled: And now for something completely different)

We've all seen the scene...  Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, angels, shepherds, Magi.  Sometimes it's made of plastic, sometimes it's wooden.  Sometimes it's Lego and has cameos by Anakin Skywalker and a Geonosian warrior.


Last night, the church ladies had a rousing discussion about the nativity story. I brought the discussion to the kids this morning, and now I sit down to bring it to you.

The subject: The events surrounding Jesus's birth.

The question: “Where did the Magi visit Jesus?”

Most people know by now that we have no idea if there were three Magi or eight or two. We also know that the Magi were not actually included in the biblical picture of the manger scene, the one with a feeding trough and amazed shepherds.

But where do the Magi fit in? Where did they finally find Jesus?

We dissected Matthew 2 and Luke 2 to see what the time-line of events actually said. I was surprised to discover something new, despite many readings, over the last thirty-cough years, of these two accounts of Jesus's birth.

1. Day 1 - Jesus is born in Bethlehem - Matthew 2:1 “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea...


2. Day 8 – Joseph, Mary, and Jesus go to Jerusalem for purification rites. - Luke 2:22 “When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord...”

3. Day 33 to 41-ish – Joseph, Mary, and Jesus leave Jerusalem and go to Nazareth. - Luke 2:39 “When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.

(I'm not certain on the timing here, but it was within the second month. Mary had to stay for her own purification rites, according to the Law as found in Leviticus 12:1-4)

4. Anywhere from six months to two years later - The Magi arrive in to Jerusalem and enquire of Herod as to the whereabouts of the new king. - Matthew 2:1-3 “Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.



5. Herod enquires of his gurus, those who studied the Law and the Prophets, and determines that the king was born in Bethlehem. He tells the Magi to head that way and then come back. - Matthew 2:8, 9 “He sent them to Bethlehem... After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.” It does NOT say that they went to Bethlehem, just that the teachers of the Law told Herod that prophecy said the child would be born there. The Magi, very wise men, indeed, followed the star, not Herod's advice.

 6. The Magi followed the star to “the house” where Jesus lived. - Matthew 2:10-11 “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” Last that we heard, Jesus had moved to Nazareth. (See Point #3)

7. After the visit from the Magi, an angel warns Joseph of the danger to his son, and told him to flee to Egypt, which he did. Matthew 2:14 “So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt.

8. Joseph is told he that can return to Israel and is warned to stay away from Archelaus, Herod's son, so he settles in Nazareth. Matthew 2:23 “...he went and lived in a town called Nazareth.

If I'm reading this correctly, the Magi left Jerusalem, maybe headed south because that's what Herod told them to do, and then, following the star, did an about-face and headed to Nazareth, where Jesus was living. What do you think? Am I missing something? Mis-reading the two accounts? Where did the Magi visit Jesus?

I'll tell you this:

Last night, the ladies and I decided that it didn't really matter where the Magi visited Jesus. He was born, the Magi went well out of their way to worship him, and we should do the same. That is the theme of the story of the Magi.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Great is Thy Faithfulness - Let it Snow!

Early this morning I opened the fridge to get cream for my coffee when I noticed the carton of Egg Nog, the first of the season, purchased just two days ago. "We should open that tonight," I thought to myself.

I pulled my sweater tighter around my torso to get rid of the snowy chill creeping into the house when I heard a THUD against the window. I saw two Red-Cheeked Faces gleaming up at me just as the third Red-Cheeked Face yelled through the door, "Mom, you have to come to the window. There's something for you to see."

Before he finished the words, the first two threw their first snowballs of the season, right at the window. I made faces at the throwers, staying there long enough for their target practice to be successful, then went back to pouring my coffee.

I sipped the hot liquid, letting it warm me as I listened to the giggles of glee from my children on this, the morning of the season's first snow fall.

Although I would usually cringe at the cold and mess, today I am reveling in the joy that change brings and the reminder of God's covenant with Noah, "As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease."

While I've been playing Christmas music for the last week or so, you might find me humming this verse of the beloved hymn "Great is Thy Faithfulness" today:


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Honest Mom Files

Can we all agree that there is a point at which we can stop pretending to be interested in every little thing that our children want to show or tell us?

Yesterday, in a moment of exhaustion, I told my 12 year old that "Now is NOT the time to show me your K'Nex crossbow's many stages of production. I love that you're excited about building it and I think it's great that you are finding new ways to make it stronger, but I'm busy and I don't want to look at it a gazillion times this afternoon."

That may not be a direct quote. But I'm pretty I said the word "gazillion."

Just now my youngest walked into the kitchen while my hands were busily scrubbing away food crud from the day. "Mom, I got to level 16 and I've only been playing for 45 minutes. And on Super Mario Something-Bros I got mumbling and more mumbling with random numbers that don't mean anything."

When I realized that he was, in fact, speaking English, and that he expected me to respond in kind, I stopped him short. "Are you talking about video games?"

"Yuh."

" I don't want to hear about video games right now."

"Oh.  Okay." And he was gone.

(To be clear, I love my kids, spend every waking moment with them, and never really thought about this until I started homeschooling.  I may be going slightly insane, but it's worth it to see how my kids are changing as a result of all this time together.)

How do we find the line, draw the line, and stay on the sane side of the line that determines what we need to listen to and be interested in?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Coloured People

When you hesitate to post your honest thoughts because of all the disclaimers you think you need to post, it may be a good sign that you shouldn't post your honest thoughts.

I'm going to anyway.

I trust that my readers know me well enough at this point to understand that I am not trying erase history. I want to read and understand the true stories of what people have done to other people in the name of "race" and to totally change the way we talk about "race" now and to totally change how we treat each other.

I realize that I am certainly not the first to broach this discussion and I won't be the last.

Please read with a kind heart, the same heart with which this was written.  If you choose to comment, please comment with a kind heart.  Let's be loving to each other.

~

~

I came across the story of Paulo Serodio and became curious about the term “African-American,” so I looked it up online.

"Online" – the definitive authority on anything and everything.

Specifically, I wanted to know if any American who comes from the continent of Africa can call himself “African-American.”

It turns out that they can't, and, in fact, they shouldn't. The only people who should call themselves “African-American” are those who descend directly from dark-skinned slaves in the United States of America. The reasoning is that the slaves, when taken from their native lands, were stripped of tribal or national identification, allowing them only to identify as “African.” This, apparently, prevented them from banding together and revolting against their slave masters.

So, anyone who comes from the continent of Africa to the USA should not call themselves African-Americans as this is insulting to those who actually descended from African-American slaves. They are, instead to call themselves Nigerian-Americans or Tanzanian-Americans (or country-of-origin-American), to eliminate confusion.

Except that other people of colour say that the slaves were taken from Morocco, and they insist that the descendants of slaves be called Moor, Moorish-American Moslem, or Asiatic.

Still others claim that the slaves brought over from the east are actually descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel and should only be called Hebrew Israelites.

Finally, there are those who say that American-born folks are so different from Africans that they should never call themselves "African-American," because it's offensive and disrespectful to African immigrants.

So, does that clear things up?  All it tells me is that the people that the US government classifies as "African-American" can't agree on whether they should be called "African-American" or not.

But wait, there's more...

White people, typically known as "Caucasian" should continue calling themselves “Caucasian” even though most white people have no idea where Caucasus is. (It's a region in southern Russia, very close to Sochi, the city where the Olympics were recently held.) The term “Caucasian” was given to people of a region, regardless of their skin tone. It was then changed to “Caucasian Race” to describe one of the two known races at the time. (The other was “Mongolian,” obviously.)

At the time, people of the Caucasian Race were considered more attractive (physically, morally, and intellectually) than their Mongolian counterparts. Within this specific "race," the ultimate archetype was found within the German people; it was concluded that they were the most attractive and virtuous people on earth.

And so, World War II happened.

"Caucasian" is now used to describe people both anthropologically and racially; it can refer to their ancestors' region of origin or their skin colour.

~

I have an idea. How about we all just be people... people who live in this country or that country? When we try to define humans by “racial” classifications it gets very confusing. If we want to fix “racial relations,” let's start by treating each other like members of the Human Race. We could pretend that we're all kind of the same and kind of different, regardless of our country of origin or genetic lineage. It should be pretty easy since we are all kind of the same and kind of different. If our governments and schools and employers can stop segregating us on forms and censuses, we may just have a chance to break free of the social construct (man-made myth) that "RACE" defines us. Shouldn't we, instead, consider who the person is underneath the skin?



I have less melanin than some people. I have more melanin than other people. I try my hardest to not let that make a difference in how I treat anyone. I encourage you to do the same.

**I know that someone reading this will say that, medically speaking, it is important to know your "race" and report that to your doctor and/or pharmacist, as certain "races" are predisposed to certain problems. I disagree. Ethnicity matters. Ethnicity is "a socially-defined category of people who identify with each other based on common ancestral, social, cultural, or national experience." If you feel that your ethnicity matters, by all means, report that to your doctor.  Let your ethnicity guide your medical treatment, just as the report of a trip to West Africa may guide my medical treatment. But please understand that we define our ethnicity; it does not define us.  It is medically necessary, but not socially necessary.**

~



by Toby McKeehan and George Cocchini

Pardon me, your epidermis is showing, sir
I couldn't help but note your shade of melanin
I tip my hat to the colorful arrangement
Cause I see the beauty in the tones of our skin 

We've gotta come together
And thank the Maker of us all 

We're colored people, and we live in a tainted place
We're colored people, and they call us the human race
We've got a history so full of mistakes
And we are colored people who depend on a Holy Grace 

A piece of canvas is only the beginning for
It takes on character with every loving stroke
This thing of beauty is the passion of an Artist's heart
By God's design, we are a skin kaleidoscope 

We've gotta come together,
Aren't we all human after all? 

Ignorance has wronged some races
And vengeance is the Lord's
If we aspire to share this space
Repentance is the cure 

Well, just a day in the shoes of a color blind man
Should make it easy for you to see
That these diverse tones do more than cover our bones
As a part of our anatomy 

We're colored people, and we live in a tainted place
We're colored people, and they call us the human race
We've got a history so full of mistakes
And we are colored people who depend on a Holy Grace

Monday, November 3, 2014

Stuff

So many thoughts...  Shoeboxes about to be packed, Christmas around the corner, rooms being re-arranged with stuff being moved back in.

Let's start at the beginning.

In July, I found myself yelling words that I had never dreamed I'd be yelling.  "Aaron, our house is on fire!!"

An errant ember, coming to rest on a stack of cardboard, made short work of the side of our house. The fire department came quickly, just in the nick of time, and doused that corner of our house from top to bottom.





We were very thankful for the quick response that left the inside of our house intact, but we were left with a soggy mess.




A team of first-responders came the next day to help minimize the damage done by the water. Drywall, insulation, and ceilings were removed.  Carpet was rolled back.  Furniture was moved to other parts of the house and many non-essentials were packed up and transferred to a storage facility 30 km away.

There were many days when we felt the uneasiness of living in a house that is torn apart with no timetable for reconstruction in sight.






After a while, some of us really started to miss some items that had been packed up and stored.

Our family was finally given a schedule and told to make arrangements for living elsewhere for about five days as work commenced on the interior of the house.  We lived in a hotel for ten days. With very little of our stuff.

Today we are moving our stuff around once more. Our bedrooms have insulation, ceilings, drywall, three coats of paint, baseboards and we'll soon have doors too!



My daughter's main task for the day is to sort through her *stuff.*  As we sat down to start our formal learning for the day, she commented that there was a lot of stuff that she doesn't really need.

Tomorrow we will get the rest of our stuff from storage.  More stuff to weed through.

We decided to forgo the lesson plan and talk about stuff.  What does God have to say about stuff?

1. He asked the rich man to give away his stuff. (Matthew 19)
2. The wise men gave Jesus stuff. (Luke 2)
3. Life is about more than our stuff. (Luke 12:15)
4. Being with people is more important than getting stuff. (2 Corinthians 12:14)
5. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:24)

There are plenty of other verses about stuff...  Go ahead and look for yourself.  One of my favourite *stuff* verses is Acts 2:45 - "They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need."

We chatted more about stuff and Christmas lists and Christmas shoeboxes, and Compassion children whose pictures are on our fridge and decided to see what it was like to give up some stuff...  some comforts that other do not have.  We decided our chairs and couches and tables were not necessary, so for the rest of class, for the rest of the day, for every meal today, we are not going to use them. We are standing or sitting on the floor instead of sitting on chairs - just to get an idea of how reliant we are on stuff.

As our good friend likes to say, "It's all gonna burn."

It's just stuff.  Don't get wrapped up in the stuff that distracts you from serving your God-given purpose.

If you don't know your God-given purpose, ask Him.  He's given some pretty good feedback already.

"Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do,
do all to the glory of God." 
1 Corinthians 10:31


"Let your light so shine among men
that they may see your good deeds
and give glory to your Father in heaven." 
Matthew 5:16

~Soli Deo gloria