Wednesday, June 17, 2020

My Thoughts in Troubled Times

I love living in the country where things seem to be a bit more peaceful than they are in the cities of this country. Out here, we can roam the grounds without worrying about wearing masks. It's not that COVID-19 can't someday reach us, but we can breathe. Albeit, that breathing may include smelling animals that city folks might find offensive.

Here in the country, we were quarantined like everyone else. In fact, we were quarantined a LOT, because we live in Michigan, the land of excessive rules and quarantines. Every single time another "extension" came down from the governor, it felt as if the sky were falling. People were losing hope, and that can never be a good thing.

You see, we need people.  In a place where it's okay to tell people that the powers-that-be are only doing this "for the health and well-being" of the masses, it's very hard to believe that a healthy person being forced to keep away from other people is for their own good. Especially when the health and well-being of people seems to include allowing abortions to continue all throughout the quarantine.

And that makes me sad and angry at the same time. 

Who was there to fight for the unborn? Who cared about their lives? And how can we believe lawmakers who say they care about human life while they continue to snuff out the lives of the most vulnerable?

We must continue to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

Today, fighting for rights is popular. People are fighting for equal rights and some are fighting for special rights above and beyond equal rights. Others are fighting to abolish anyone who doesn't look like them.

This, too, makes me angry and sad at the same time.

I want to say, "Shame on you" to those who have made me look at people a new way, bringing on fear rather than respect.

I have thought little about race in my lifetime because I don't believe that God made races. He made two people, Adam and Eve, from which all the rest of mankind came. What color were Adam and Eve? I don't care. All I ever believed was that God made us all brothers and sisters with varying skin colors. All of them are just gorgeous to Him who made us. When he looks at us, he doesn't see black, white, red, yellow, brown, whatever. He sees us as we are inside; He sees our spirits. 

So, when I hear that "_______ lives matter" (fill in the blank with whatever you wish), I still believe that all lives matter to God the Creator. He loves us enough to have sent His Son to die for ALL of mankind, not just one color or "race". The problem is, we don't get that forgiveness of sin and promise of eternal life unless we receive it as His good and perfect gift. We have to really want that gift and repent of the past.

A final thought on recent matters is my thoughts on the police. My son is a county deputy. This hits me deeply and causes me to lose sleep. We have close friends in police departments. We have family other than my son working for the police. NONE of them would hurt anyone if they could help it at all. They don't deserve the hatred.

A land without order is no land at all. Remember that when the chaos gets out of control. And also remember that you can always lift your eyes to heaven and repent of the past, gaining a future brighter than your wildest dreams.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Why I Love Sheep

My daughter has four goats and a rabbit. I have two sheep. My husband has numerous ducks, pheasants, and quail. I won't even begin trying to explain why I think that sheep are better than all of those birds, but I would like to share with you my reasons for loving, and wanting, sheep rather than goats.

Sheep and goats are both mentioned often in the Bible. The goats tend to get a bad rap and maybe that's because they are so mischievous. The goats in our household can take flying leaps and get out of their stall in the barn - and that stall has fencing and a gate that is five feet tall! Now, I'm not talking about standard sized goats but rather little ones, La Mancha and Nigerian Dwarf goats. Both of these are very small and look like babies all of the time. Dottie especially jumps very high. She gets out of the pen and then jumps up on whatever she can to reach the shelving in the barn on which she struts her stuff and makes fun of the other goats who aren't quite as agile as she is.

Like sheep, goats in the Bible are mentioned often as being used for food. They chew the cud and have split hooves, so they are a clean animal (kosher). We have not eaten goat and I have no idea what it tastes like. I can assure you that my daughter will never eat them. She doesn't eat rabbit either.

Sheep can be super loving. I know my girls are. When I try to pet the goats, they wiggle until they can escape and get into mayhem. The sheep, on the other hand, stand still and allow me to pet away. If I stop, one of them will either nibble gently on my hand or even head butt me to get my attention. They appear to crave a loving touch.

Matthew 25:31 says that when Jesus judges the nations, He will separate the goats from the sheep. He will place the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. Jesus Himself is seated at the right hand of God. There are MANY verses attesting to that. You can find references to them on this page. In Biblical days, sitting at the right hand of someone very important and influential was the best thing ever. The sheep (believers in Jesus) get that honor.

Believers are called sheep many times in the Bible. Ever wonder why? I think it's because sheep are vulnerable and, most times, very trusting. They go with the shepherd but sometimes they wander off and can't seem to find their way back home. In that respect, I think they are oblivious to the dangers of the world.

The Bible says that Jesus (the ultimate shepherd) will leave 99 sheep in order to go find and bring back the one who is lost. (Matthew 18:12, Luke 15:4) Sheep are vulnerable to wolves and other predators. Up here in the north, we have wolves, coyotes, and bears. There have also been cougar sightings. My sheep could find themselves in danger if I don't provide adequate protection for them.

Which leaves me to feel a bit overwhelmed all of a sudden. What if I lay down on the job and just once, one little time, I let my guard down and one of those predators takes one of the sheep?

Yikes! I am so very thankful that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, never lets down His guard. He will never lead us down the wrong path and neither will he allow Satan to devour us. When we, like sheep, put our faith and trust in Him, He does His part and keeps us safe (our souls).

I don't know about you, but that's comforting to me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Let Us Not be Idle

The majority of us are in a "lockdown" state, meaning that we are supposed to stay home and away from others who are not in our own households. Right now, things might seem bleak and it can be difficult to look on the sunny side.

But believe me, there is a bright side. For me, the ability to stay home for a few weeks is something I have actually been craving. Do I want that at the expense of people being very ill? NO! I wish I could stay home just because we had enough money to make do without me working an outside job. Freelance writing has never brought in enough money to allow that. The years that I stayed home while homeschooling our children were very lean - too lean.

These days, I don't homeschool anymore as our youngest child graduated last May. We have started a home business (actually a farm) and we are living the homestead life while still working day jobs.

For the next three weeks, I am off work from the library. Hmmm, how to make the best use of my time? Will I become bored? 

The other day, I made homemade three bean soup with the canned goods I put up last fall. Black beans, navy beans, and cranberry (pinto) beans with celery, canned tomatoes, carrots, a quart of vegetable broth (also home canned), artichokes (ok, from the store - can't grow those up north too well), dehydrated kale crumbled in, black pepper, onion, and a bay leaf. That's all.

Yesterday, I baked a keto blueberry bread (cake) with almond flour for my husband following the diet. I also baked a gluten-free rye type bread (using caraway seeds, not rye flour) for me. Wowsa! That gluten-free bread is just like the expensive stuff I was buying for $5.99 a loaf at the store! I did not use the olives it called for, and I did not have superfine rice flour; just used the regular. I also subbed out oat flour for the sorghum flour. 

I made a large batch of sweet potato pancakes on Sunday to have on hand for quick breakfasts. 

Today, I made a vegan, gluten free batch of brownies for myself. Nobody else will touch them (because they have a vegan fear). I love the brownies because they are full of fiber, something we all need and probably don't get enough of.

Also today, I planted a 72 cell tray of plant starts - tomatoes, tomatillos, celery, watermelon, a golden melon, bee balm (lemon), and some Pampas and purple fountain grasses for Jeff's bird pens. In the coming weeks, I will begin other plant starts. If all goes to plan and we actually get a warm spring, I will be ready to get some things straight into the garden.

Keeping busy while confined to your own property can be challenging if you aren't used to it. But the alternative is anxiety and a breakdown of mental and spiritual health. It's important to stay positive even in times such as these. 

If you have a prayer request, feel free to leave me a comment. I have found that praying for others is one of the biggest stress relievers for me. Remember that God is ultimately in control. Nothing surprises Him and nothing can overcome Him.

Wishing you health and happiness - and productivity 🙋

Friday, March 06, 2020

Kindness - and Prayer

Kindness seems to be a trend these days. Facebook has different kindness groups on the roster, one of them in my county. I joined the group to see what they have to say and what they are doing.  Encouraging people to be kind at a time when our political climate is something other than that is a great thing.

However, I think there is always the danger of sharing your random acts of kindness on a social media page and then slapping yourself on the back for it.

So, how can we encourage people to spread kindness without it becoming a self-serving, egotistical project?

I'm not sure, but I think praying would help. In fact, I think prayer is crucial to any endeavor we decide to undertake, whether it be random acts of kindness or anything else. 

Because being kind doesn't get one to heaven. That's right. Only by God's saving work on the Cross can one reach an eternal life with Him. Jesus gave His all when He allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross and laden with every sin that had been or ever would be committed. And we receive that grace by admitting that we are sinners and that we cannot save ourselves. We must believe in Jesus Christ and that He died in our place and then rose from the dead to live forever. And we must confess our sins to God and ask for forgiveness - then turn away from sin. 

It's called REPENTANCE. And it's what gets us to heaven.

I want to share with you something I began doing in December when something happened in our immediate family that caused me such great concern that I could not sleep. Anxiety had me in its grip. 

I decided I needed something to take my mind off of myself and my problems. When I perused Facebook, I realized that so many people need Jesus, whether they know it or not. So I committed myself to praying for two Facebook friends each day until I had exhausted my friends list. To date, I still have two full pages of friends for which to pray.

When I pray for these friends, I let them know right away that I am praying for them throughout the day. I can't tell you what a difference it is making in some peoples' lives. I have received specific prayer requests for some. Others have messaged me to tell me that on their day they were going through difficult times and that prayer made the difference for them. Others have replied that they had been waiting for their special day. And the list goes on.

As I reach the end of this commitment in the next month or two, can I encourage you to take up where I have left off? I would really love to see this praying thing continue and spread through Facebook. People need prayer. To date, NOBODY, even those who are the furthest from Christianity (and admit that) have refused to let me pray for them. I think that, deep inside, people have a deep rooted need for the spiritual, specifically for the living God. 

If you will commit to printing off your friends list and praying for your Facebook (or any other social media) friends, please share in the comment section on this post. In this world, at this time in history, prayer is more critical than ever.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Book Review and Giveaway: Parable of the Brown Girl by Khristi Lauren Adams

Parable of the Brown Girl: The Sacred Lives of Girls of Color is a brand spanking new book by Khristi Lauren Adams. This is not a fictional book based upon a parable. Rather, it is a book that looks at real life girls whose personal stories teach us a lesson. The author, Khristi Lauren Adams is a chaplain and teacher who knows the subject well because she herself is a "brown girl".

February is Black History Month, a month that celebrates black women. I like that Adams uses the word brown to describe black skin color. After all, aren't we all some shade of brown - from the lightest person in the world to the darkest?

I have enjoyed reading Parable of the Brown Girl. Through the girls' stories, I felt the same thought hit me over and over. Women are the same inside. We all want to be loved. We all want to be accepted. We all want to know that we aren't the only ones dealing with "stuff" in our lives.

Adams does a great job of letting the reader know that listening to each other is key. God is using the brown girls of this world to make a difference. Let's listen to their voices and help them to know that they are a vital part of God's great story.

GIVEAWAY: I have a copy of Parable of the Brown Girl to give away to a Following31 reader. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post and be sure to include your email address so I can let you know if you win. I will randomly choose a winner on February 29.

In the meantime, be sure to check out the book with clever videos on YouTube. #parableofthebrowngirl

Monday, January 27, 2020

Garbage In - Garbage Out

Remember that old saying, "Garbage in, garbage out"? Essentially, it means that what you put into your body is what, eventually, comes out. The saying also applies to the mind. What you watch or read (or listen to) eventually manifests itself somehow. For a select few, it has resulted in people addicted to violent gaming committing violent real-life crimes.

These days, as I try to eat cleaner for my body, I am also trying my best to keep the garbage out of the rest of me. In the past, this really wasn't too hard to do. I have lived in a bubble where my social life consisted of church and homeschool group activities - and I am no way sorry for that!

But we own a television and we are hooked up to the internet. I work a job where I am around other people on a daily basis. Yes, I work in a library, but that doesn't mean I don't hear things that I shouldn't. There are a few ladies in our book discussion group who are very liberal in more ways than one and they are extremely loud about it. Yikes.

I can control what I see and hear while I am at home. I can choose to watch on our internet enabled television only that which is good and clean. I can choose to read only the books and other materials that are clean and wholesome. What I cannot often control is what I hear while at work or the grocery store - or anywhere else where the public is involved.

And that's what I struggle with. I cringe when someone swears. I don't enjoy crude jokes. I especially get angry when my Savior is cursed.

I think that the key to receiving garbage that you never wanted anyway and then not allowing it come out of you and harm someone else is to pray every day about it and to surround yourself with that which uplifts Christ as much as you can, like reading your Bible daily. Knowing Scripture by heart is a powerful weapon against the enemy.

Jesus was around vile people while He walked this earth. He did not allow them to corrupt Him. He will not allow the vile people in my life to corrupt me - or you - either.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Following 31 as a Baby Boomer

I will admit it - I am a baby boomer, just having gotten in there at the tail end. I'm getting older and all of my five children have reached age 18 or older. In many ways, getting older is not a whole lot of fun. To be fair, there are some perks. Senior discounts anyone?

What has been popping up on my radar these days has to do with baby boomers and their children, specifically finances. Consumer's Reports has published an interesting article concerning the "gifts" many parents have given their grown children. The majority of these gifts are in the form of cash. The magazine calls this an epidemic.

I know that oftentimes seniors are split between wanting to help their children and wanting them to "just grow up". This is a touchy subject for the many boomers who find themselves in the situation of giving to adult kids who keep holding out their hands for more.

My question is, would you consider it loving to continue to give and give until you have nothing left to give - then find yourself in the position of being penniless and, maybe, find yourself with no resources to sustain you in your retirement? From all that I've read, that seems to be where many boomers are heading or have actually gone in the United States today. And that's sad because, from all people tell me, Social Security isn't all that secure, or lucrative.

Forbes Magazine has also published an article on this "epidemic". The author states that giving to adult kids who fully able to work and earn their own incomes is "unhealthy". She states, "The unhealthy result of too much leads to dependency and to your own possible financial destruction in your later years." 

I am a sucker for the elderly. Put me in a room full of small children and I immediately feel my anxiety rise. I love children, I really do. But I seem to be more at ease with the elderly. Perhaps it's because I know I'm reaching that place sooner than later. Maybe I just love to hear their stories (the very old can tell you things about which you could never imagine!) Whatever the reason, they have a special place in my heart. And my heart breaks for those who have given to their children out of love just to find that their life savings is now depleted. 

Don't even get me started on the tragedy that has befallen so many American veterans who gave and gave, and now find themselves homeless and alone.

My question is, who will step in and take care of these old people who gave so much? Will it be the grown kids who "borrowed" from Mom and Dad? Will it be the Americans who owe their very lives to those homeless vets? 

And what if it happens to me?

As my husband and I make plans for our future retirement years, we talk about this. Our kids are no different than anyone else's. They are not perfect. We are taking steps to provide a home business that will supplement Social Security. We are also taking steps to make sure that our children don't fall into the trap of dependency upon aging parents. And if that means that our kids fall on their faces, it will also mean that they have learned something.

The Proverbs 31 Woman is someone who I think works with her husband to ensure that the children are mature and able to survive this harsh world by relying upon God and not on aging parents. 

"She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue." Proverbs 31:26 (NIV)

I don't think it's ever too early to teach financial responsibility and the value of hard work to our children. Along with that, maybe we need to remind those children of the fifth Commandment, "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." (KJV)