Thursday, November 30, 2006

Human Sexuality & Faith

Can Faith & sexuality co-exist? For many, they do not, or barely do. Fact: many Christians are quite uncomfortable with their own sexuality. From early on, we are taught directly or indirectly that the body is sinful and evil, and sex is a big NO-NO. Many people in the faith I was raised in ascribe to a statement given to young wives by EGW that says it is sinful to deliberately stir up passion in the husband. She refers to arousal as being "lower passions", "base passions" and "inflamed animal passions". This negative attitude is very degrading to the very gift God created in us. EGW does not have much to say about 'Song of Solomon' and rightfully so- she was writing from a prudish Victorian culture. She had 4 children, so somewhere along the way she & James "connected". I cannot tell you how many tearful young wives from a similar background have confided in me that they hate sex and wish they could be married without it. I wonder how many people have lived without this enjoyment because of their prophet worship? A relative of mine reduced her husband to a desperate & frustrated man because, she was told by some health lecturer that couples are only supposed to have sex on the quarter moon. The husband died of Prostate Cancer in his early 50's. Studies show that men who have regular sexual activity have lower risk for PC.

Due to several instances of sexual abuse when I was under 16, I was absolutely terrified of my body and it's functions. Couple that with the writings of EGW and I was a real prude. I didn't date much because guys knew I wouldn't "put out"- I have no apologies about that. I was a virgin when my husband took me in marriage- as was he, but it took us 7 yrs before we were able to relax and embrace the gift of sex. We are meant for hard work, prayer AND pleasure. As Christians, it is considered honorable to work HARD. However, pleasure of any kind- is often taboo. Here are reasons why I believe God ordains healthy sexuality:

1.) The Skin- This is the biggest sensory organ of your body. We have billions of tiny little sensory receptors in the skin- it is meant to be touched and responds favorably to warmth. There are certain areas on the body referred to as errogenous zones. When these areas are stimulated, a sexual response occurs. These zones vary in all people, but common places are the lips, neck, chest, ears, wrist, inside of the upper arm, buttocks and inner thighs. A light touch to these areas can causes an enhanced awareness and an increase in blood flow to the genitals. Now, this is a natural response and not something for which to feel ashamed. Why would God design the skin in such a way if it were never to experience the pleasure of being touched? Babies in Neonatal Intensive Care Units have better survival rates when they are touched. As infants & toddlers we are held, kissed, cuddled and everyone is fine with that. However, there is an understood NO TOUCH policy for the age range of about 8 up. Parents stop touching & holding their children because they are too big to hold in the lap and for fear of being accused of molestation. This is a very confusing time for the young person who is awkward and insecure about his/her body. They need the affirmation of healthy touch- yet they are deprived. Many people in this age group rarely receive hugs, kisses or even pats on the back regularly. Is it any wonder they turn to boyfriends & girlfriends to fulfill their need for touch? WAKE UP parents and don't starve your teens for touch- they may act like they don't need it, but they do. The elderly also suffer- especially if they live away from family or have lost a spouse. Dr's actually recommend they have a small pet to care for- not only to keep them company, but to lay in their lap.

2.) Endorphins- When a couple engages in healthy sexual behavior and an orgasm is achieved, there are many benefits. Natural stress-relieving hormones called 'Endorphins' are released. These cause feelings of happiness, contentment, relaxation, sleepyness and security. Blood pressure is lowered and tension dissipates. There is no better feeling than falling asleep in the arms of your lover after intercourse.

3.) Most all of the biggies mentioned in the Bible were sexually active. Jacob, Abraham, David & Solomon even had more than one wife (gasp) and many children. Now I'm not reccomending more than one spouse here, but history shows these guys fully embraced their sexuality. Solomon and one of his wives actually write a book about their love life together. To our knowledge, New Testament writer, Paul was celibate as was Elijah, and mighty Daniel was likely a eunoch. (altered male- poor guy) However, Paul wholeheartedly endorses married couples to engage in regular doses of intercourse- only abstaining for short periods of time and with mutual consent.

I developed earlier than many of my peers- which brought a lot of uninvited "attention" and harassment. I felt embarassed and ashamed of my body most of my life- even starving myself and throwing up for many years to reduce the curviness of my shape. The uglier I looked, the safer and more "holy" I felt. Only in the past 5 yrs have I begun to accept myself & feel beautiful. (PS. Feeling beautiful starts on the inside) People have noticed that I seem more confidant. I do not have the words to adequately describe the awakening I am undergoing, but I feel like I am finally coming alive in so many ways. This is God's gift to me and it's amazing and terrifying at the same time. I'm no sexpert, but here's a little tongue-in-cheek Trailady advice to enhance sexuality- for what it's worth:

Wives, we shouldn't think for a moment that we can wear frumpy clothes and let ourselves go and still keep our men happy. Men are very visual, they are designed to appreciate beauty- why set him up to be lusting after other women? Taking care of ourselves and fixing up a little to enhance our assets is no sin. It shows that we value ourselves and our relationships. Long flannel nightgowns and shapeless jumper dresses- though comfortable are nothing to look at. Limp hair and pasty pale complexions are not attractive on anyone. Your smile is likely your most attactive feature. Whining, nagging and yelling are real turn-offs- men would rather work long hours at the office or go eat with the guys than come home to a grouch. If we act like sex is a chore- just another marital obligation our men feel rejected and unappreciated- whether they voice it or not. You see, God gave men a desire to make us feel good and we shouldn't deprive them of that. Make his favorite foods, learn to do things he enjoys, give him some genuine compliments and hang out with him as a friend- you might be amazed at his response. Cry on his shoulder once in a while, it makes him feel strong.

Husbands, don't think for a moment that you are justified in letting yourselves go either. Women like something good to look at too. A healthy relationship means being relaxed around each other but not GROSS. Just because she married you doesn't mean you can be rude & disgusting. She is your princess- if you treat her like that, romancing her, she will be more inclined to remain so. Women have a stronger sense of smell. To maximize attraction, bathe regularly, smell sweet, wash your hands before you touch her, keep breath sweet. Don't fart, pick your nose, stink up the bathroom while she's doing her hair, dig at your feet, crotch or rear end around her. She really doesn't want to share these unpleasantries with you! Help her out around the house, put the seat down and show an interest in her outside the bedroom. If you're trying to get her in the mood, watch your P's & Q's in this regard. Don't dive right in and grab her- take your time. Rub her shoulders, kiss her neck, whisper in her ear, play with her hair- talk to her. Women love to converse- great conversation is good foreplay! If she's had a bad day and she's really not in the mood, respect that and try some other time. If you want her to dress nice and look sharp, you should do the same for her. Don't hold a double standard, expecting her to be a fit little beauty queen for you while your gut unapologetically hangs over your belt. (Women carry the babies- what's your excuse?) When she's scared, hurt or sad, take her in your big strong arms and be her shelter. She will reward you well...

Be patient with one another. Sex is like fine art- takes a lot of time, work and creativity, but it's worth it.
There are foods that are bad for you, but you don't stop eating. Sex can be abused, but that doesn't mean we must avoid it. Reclaim it! Believers it is okay to embrace our sexuality to invest ourselves emotionally, spiritually AND physically in our spouses. Have fun! ;o)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Good Ol' Fashioned Business!

For 3 years of my early life we lived in the small midwestern town of Holiday, Missouri. Population was 133- including Mama, my brother Will and I. After living near the east coast, it was like stepping back in time. Things moved more slowly. People had that friendly, hospitable spirit. Our town had a small rural school grades 1-8, 4 churches, Callison's Feed Store and Harry Smith's Gas & Grocery. People there still gathered for 8th grade graduations and school talent shows. There was a population of about 30 kids ages 16 & under who could ride bikes and run around without fear of being kidnapped by some crazy pervert.

There were lots of stay-home Moms in Holiday who looked out their windows from time to time just to make sure we weren't getting into trouble. There were lots of things I loved about living in a small town. My teachers and neighbors were wonderful! I remember the sound of the old trains passing through twice a day, their whistles sounding like watchmen saying, "All is well". The highlight of the town was Harry Smith's store. You see, he had a big glass counter under which he kept all manner of treats. I can still picture Harry in my mind, snowy-white hair combed-over, black military issue glasses, baggy overalls and steel-toe boots. When you stepped inside his little shop, you were greeted by the smell of beef-jerky and sweet pipe. He loved children and did business the old fashioned way. Harry trusted people and cared more about them than about making a buck. I know he probably didn't make much profit on his business, but everyone adored him. Occasionally, we would get enough snow for him to get his old mare and bobsled out and he would come around on Sunday afternoons after church giving rides. It was wonderful! Harry was a small man, barely over 5 feet tall, but to us he was a giant of a man with a heart of gold! His associate/clerk's name was Roy Snodgrass. (Boy- did we have fun with that!) Roy was also a kind man who allowed us to laugh WITH him about his name. Roy would slip extra candy into our little paper sacks every other time we bought something. He would occasionally give us free soda in the summer time just for stopping in to say "howdy". I remember we were low on food more than once. I would go over to Harry's before Mama got paid and walk out with Hamburger buns, milk, eggs, pancake & cornbread mix, beans and butter, because he knew our word was good. He kept a little yellow paper tablet behind the counter and would write our names on it and what we owed. There were several times that Mama sent me over- money in hand to pay our debt and he would look at his tablet, wink at me and say, "Well, I can't find your name on my list here- just call it even". God bless him!! Harry and Roy are both gone now. Their little store no longer has a gas pump because of new regulations. The door was opened when we visited several years ago, but there was no candy counter and the building was run down. The grocery part of the store was empty, except for some pop machines, pool tables and pinball machines. There were calendars of naked women on the wall and a bunch of men sitting around smoking. I was sorry I even bothered to stop by- so different, it made me sad.

In days gone by, a person wearing a change belt would run out to pump your gas and wash your windshield- yes, I'm old enough to remember that- it was dying out when I was a kid. If you pumped the fuel yourself, you paid AFTER you filled up. Waiters and waitresses would look you in the eye and chit-chat a little to earn their tips- they didn't just EXPECT you to tip because they brought food and set it before you.
This past week, I've come to realize that I really miss doing business the old fashioned way. There is something special about someone recognizing you when you walk through the door, greeting you by name and giving you their trust. So many people today are dishonest, many proprietors feel they can trust no one. It's a crying shame. You can hardly write a check anywhere these days because of so many bouncers who are either completely bad with Math, too lazy to check their account or just plain dishonest.

I have found 2 places locally where business is still done on the honor system. The local feed store and Cici's pizza. The feed store allows handshake credit for return customers. I was on break from the YMCA one afternoon and quite hungry. I was meeting my family at Cici's pizza buffet. (They are the best thing going for a family- all you can eat for $4.99 pr. adult and as little as 2.99 pr. child. Great pizza too AND they'll custom make you any kind of pizza you want.) Anyway, I walked into Cici's ahead of my family who were running late-as-usual. I had no cash on me- my break was slipping away while I sat in the foyer waiting for my family. The manager saw me stressing there, asked if he could help me, then when I told him I was on break but had to wait on my family, he said, "I've seen you guys here several times. Please, go ahead and get your food- your husband can just pay for you when he gets here". I felt warm inside- feels good to be treated like a human being! They will have our business for years to come because of that one simple act of trust and kindness.

I've noticed while working Customer Service at the YMCA, people are thrilled when we remember their names & faces. Often, we will wave our regulars on by without making them check in. They really like it when we do that- makes them feel special. It used to be- the customer was valued, their complaints were patiently heard and you worked hard to make things right and keep them happy. Every so often I pay Harry's kindness forward and give free punches on fitness cards or extra credit toward the free t-shirts. (Shhhh, don't tell anyone) It makes me feel good inside and the customer feels valued. Harry knew that if you invest a little in your clients, they will invest a lot in your business. There is something really great about business the ol' fashioned way and I wish there was more of it...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Access Denied?

"Behold an angel of God stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone all around them, and they were terrified. And the angel said, "Do not be afraid, for I bring unto you Good News of great joy that is to be for ALL people. For there is born unto you this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ, the Lord.... Suddenly there was a great host of angels praising God and singing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward ALL mankind.." Luke 2:9-14

As I was reading this seasonally appropriate passage, it really struck me. There is a 3 letter word that has changed my life-view forever. A-L-L. I've seen this word before. Jesus said, "If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw ALL men unto Me". The Good News of great joy- the Messiah was born to be the sacrifice for the sins of all ethnic groups and genders. This Message was not well received by those who had attained "perfection" and felt they pleased God by keeping a list of rules. The Good News of Salvation was and is for everyone- all people- whosoever will believe and receive it.

I'm forced to ask myself "Have I handled this Good News as God would want me to?" Admittedly, I'm a recovering Pharisee. You see, there was a time when I was quite narrow- wanted everything to be a certain way. The music and sermons, the company and food all had to suit my tastes. My very life showed that I preferred the Kingdom of Heaven to be a members-only, high-society club for shiny, happy, flawless people. But if I had my way, what hope then would remain for the poor, the outcasts, the slave, the abused, abandoned, neglected and sorrowful? Who would lift the helpless and brokenhearted?? The church signs mentioned in my previous post bottle Christianity up in a neat, tidy little package meant only for a select few who join the club. They do not represent Good News, but condemnation. I'm sure any one of the churches who posted the offending signs would say, "We certainly welcome anyone who enters our doors". But do they really??
Over the course of the next year, I have determined to visit several regional churches in disguise and see how I am received. I will go as a whore, a dirty homeless woman, perhaps a drunk or an uneducated hillbilly with bad teeth, an Aids victim, etc. I will not be disruptive in any way to their services, but I am curious to see how I will be received. I will write a report on each church I visit and how it goes... You see, I find that being greeted cheerfully by the appointed greeter(s) on duty and being welcomed are two different things in churchland.

In the New Testament, several scenarios are presented in order to paint a clearer picture of what God expects from those who claim to be His:

Scenario 1:
Scripture says that "good, Christian" people will come to Jesus expecting to gain entrance to Heaven. Jesus will then say, "I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was naked and you did not clothe me, and in prison but you did not visit Me." Then they will say, "But Lord, when did we ever see You like this and not help You?" To which He replies, "Whatsoever you have done unto the least of these, you have done unto Me".
I once read this passage thinking only of literal food, water, clothing for the poor and visits to the state Penitentiary. Most Christians have performed these charitable acts at one time or another. However, looking through my new spiritual glasses, I see that Jesus is actually saying something even more profound here... He is actually showing them how they failed to proclaim the Good News in their everyday lives. You see, for the hungry, Jesus is the Bread of Life, for the thirsty, Jesus is the Living Water, for those who are spiritually naked, He offers a robe of righteousness and the many who are imprisoned by their sins- are to be cared for.

Another passage that confirms my view on this is the commission Jesus gives to Peter. He (Jesus) says, "Peter, do you love Me?" Peter says, "Yes, Lord, You know I love You." Jesus says, "Feed my sheep". Now in scripture- anytime something is repeated, it is for emphasis. Jesus asks Peter this question and gives the commission, not once, but 3 times. Was He literally talking about sheep? No, He meant people. Was He talking about literal food? No, He meant feed their spirits with the Bread of Life- the Good News!

Scenario 2:
Again, people are wanting to join in the great wedding feast of the Lamb. They come before the Lord and say, "Allow us entrance for we have done wonderful works and have even cast out demons in Your name." Jesus will then say to them, "Go away from me, for I never knew you". Why? Because, they are coming with pride, expecting their good works to get them in the door. Christ saying, "I never knew you" is a literal statement. These people were so busy out-performing each other that they didn't actually get to know Jesus. They come to the door as strangers expecting to gain access based upon their own merit- not His.

Throughout scripture, I do not see access being denied or rebukes being given to those who are admittedly sinners in need of a Savior. Jesus consistantly rebukes those who are self-decieved and think they are better than others. Apparently, there is more danger in saying we are good, than there is in confessing we are sinners.
However, be careful who you confess to. Most churches are little more than clubhouses for self-congratulators. Confess any real (taboo) sins, and you just might find them a little less-than-friendly. However, people who mean well, but deny access to the Good News, keeping it from those deemed less-than-desirable, will find themselves barred from Heaven. A very serious thought...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Re-thinking The Signs...

Every other time I pass certain churches in my area, the signs out front have some foreboding messages on them. Used to be I would have nodded my head in agreement with all of the statements without thinking them through, but these days I'm in the groove of examining what I believe and why. I'm still learning & growing, but I'm actually somewhat disturbed at some of the signs I've seen. I have listed some of them below and explain why I differ in thought from them:

1) "Jesus is Coming! Get Right or Get Left Behind!!"

This is the same tactic used car salesmen use "Buy now, before it's too late". God does not want a hasty or half-hearted decision. I DO believe in the soon return of Jesus Christ, however, how exactly do I "get right"? Well, if you ask any of the members of the local 'True Church of God- Pentecostal' who sponsored the sign, they would tell me that I must speak in tongues, keep my hair long, never wear a stitch of make-up, show up for every service, never wear jewelry and my man must grow a beard. I have sat through their chaotic meetings- the speaker shouts fire & brimstone into the microphone until he has no voice left by which to speak. I have seen them babbling & trembling while the women jump around exposing their panties to everyone. During their prayer meetings they come together to "tisk-tisk" about their lost family members and shake their heads about the world and all it's failings. If this is what blesses them- more power to them, but is this what it means to "get right"? My Bible tells me that salvation isn't based on my day to day performance- it's based on the steadfast righteousness of Christ. This sign makes it all about US and what WE do.

2) "Where do you choose to spend eternity? Smoking or non-smoking??"

I've actually seen this on more than one church sign. This saying is offensive to me simply because it trivializes the destinations of Heaven & Hell. The ones who came up with it no doubt thought they were quite clever, but it rubs me the wrong way- as I'm sure it does many others. The question of eternity is not as casual as asking someone where they would like to sit. Also making a decision for Christ is not as easy as just deciding in which section they would like to dine. This is a life and an eternity we're talking here. For many, choosing to follow Jesus could mean the loss of a spouse, a job or even to be shunned by family. This should not be treated so lightly. This sign uses a little tinge of fear tactic. For one, I don't believe in an eternally burning Hell. I do not believe a loving, merciful God will burn people forever for the sins of one short lifetime and delight in their torment. It is the worst fear tactic ever and God does not draw by fear but by loving-kindness.

3) "To belong to Christ, you must be faithful to Him every moment and in every situation"

This one really SCREAMS legalism! Who among us are faithful every moment and in every situation?? This holds an impossibly high standard over people's heads. Don't know about you, but I fail and misrepresent my Lord on a daily basis. Saddest thing is those who posted this sign obviously believe they have reached such a level in their religious experience so that they can post this for everyone else. Scripture tells me I belong to Jesus Christ because He purchased me with His righteous blood. Where in the Bible is the text that says in order to be His, we must be sinless??

4) "The Seventh-day is the Sabbath, for the Lord thy God never changed it"

This is a very argumentative statement to put on a church sign in the middle of the Sunday-keeping Bible belt. It reeks of arrogance and is confrontational to the Sunday church just across the street. More flies are won to honey than to vinegar. Sabbath is more than just a day. Jesus is LORD of the Sabbath. Because of His work to save us on the Cross He IS my Sabbath rest. I am no longer striving- He has won the battle for me. The fight of faith Paul speaks of is not that of gritting our teeth to be perfect in the flesh. The real fight of faith is believing everyday that God is big enough to forgive, cleanse & save me. It means clinging to the rest His sacrifice gave me. Jesus didn't change the Law- He fulfilled it. Maybe we need to examine what that means on a little deeper level instead of always taking it at face value and being teachers of the law? I'm totally okay with people worshipping on the Seventh-day, but unless we begin to glorify Christ as Lord and Savior- of what benefit is it?

5) "Born American- Baptist by choice- Thank God!"

Saw this interesting sign around July 4, it so humbly says, "We Baptist are the best there ever was, don't you wish you could be one too?"

6) "The mice play while the cat's away, but Azlan the Lion is returning soon. Vengeance is mine sayeth The Lord!"

How poetic. Doesn't that just make you feel all warm & fuzzy inside? It was SO inspiring I felt impressed to pull over, read my Bible, pray and confess my every fault that very instant. (Okay, I apologize for the sarcasm, but this is a laughable sign.) This one was posted around the time the 'Narnia' film was released.

7) "There IS a lake of fire- it's very real. Come on in and find out how to avoid it"

This one clearly says, "Be afraid, be very, very scared. God can hardly wait to throw you into Hell, but because we're such nice people, we'll do you a favor and tell you the secret formula for talking Him out of it."

8) "The day is coming when sinners will tremble at the wrath of an angry God."

Wow- isn't that inspiring? Is this something we are supposed to be happy about?

9) "Save America from Aids and the Gay Movement. God hates fags."

Okay, this one really leaves me wondering why we don't post "God hates liars", "God hates gossips", "God hates hypocrites" or "God hates gluttons"? These are also listed as behaviors that God disapproves of- it seems homosexuality is the "biggie" that gets picked on. I do not support the gay lifestyle, but neither do I support the anti-gay hate movements. Truth is, God doesn't hate anyone. He hates sin. Why? Because it breaks us down and leaves us empty. Pastor Fred Phelps pickets the funerals of homosexuals who have died of aids. He and his hatemongers hold anti-gay signs and taunt the family & friends of the deceased. I've seen footage of him shouting horrible things- telling mourners the one they loved is now being tormented in Hell. I must ask, is THIS what Jesus would do?? Where in scripture do we find Christ harassing people like this? Don't think so! If we're going to post signs like the one above, perhaps we should also consider: "Save America from fast food. God hates cholesterol." (Heart disease & high cholesterol kill more people than Aids does).

*Best church sign I ever saw was along highway 81 South to Florida. It had a bright picture of the cross with Jesus hanging limp upon it- arms outstretched and it read,

"The offer still stands"

No statement about which church is the truest & best, no suggestions as to how we should vote, no condemnatory or fear-based theology, just a simple invitation... the older I get, the more simple things appeal to me...

Two great signs for the Lutheran church, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us"

"Christ did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world, through Him might be saved."

Fellow Christians, we have played church for generations and many have yet to fully embrace the incredible love & mercy of God! Long have we feared and misunderstood Him. Long have we lived in denial of our own pride and sinfulness. We've been so busy trying NOT to sin, that we've not focused enough on how to show genuine kindness. We avoid negative actions- they are dispicable to us, but in holding such a focus, we often fail to perform positive actions. We will not have patience with the weak, the slow to understand and reach those who have fallen, until we understand that we are no better. How often we misrepresent Christ in the ways we condemn. I'd love to see more positive church signs. Better yet, I'd like to meet more positive church people...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


I soooo enjoy Thanksgiving. This time of year is my favorite! Wish I could list a long, long string of things I'm thankful for, but this year really wrung us out. The few things I am grateful for are biggies though, so that counts for a lot. Life would be better right now if we could have some SNOW!! I really miss white winters!!!

Blessings for 2006:

1) My man & I are still together. Each year of marriage is an education, a gift and a miracle from God.
2) I have awesome kids! Their hugs, laughter and artwork keep me going when life is awful.
3) My dogs light up my life. Crazy about these canine friends who love me unconditionally.
4) I'm thankful for blogging! Just started out this past year and I'm completely addicted! As hard as 2006 has been on us, financially, spiritually, emotionally and physically, I don't know how I ever would have made it through without this sounding board where I can express my thoughts, memories and spiritual journey. Thank you to those who read & respond.

God Bless You All and Enjoy Your Holiday!!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Things I've Learned in Tennessee ;o)

Possums sleep in the middle of the road with their feet in the air.
Raccoons will test your crop of melons and let you know when they are ripe.

There's a whole lot of stray cats in this state and most of them's black & white.
If it grows, it sticks; if it crawls, it bites.
Onced and twiced are words.
It's not a shopping cart; It's a buggy.
Fire ants consider your flesh a picnic.

Fresh roadkill makes for good eatin'
People actually grow and eat okra.
"Fixinto" is a word.
There is no such thing as "lunch". There is only dinner and then there is supper.
Ice tea/Sweet tea is appropriate for all meals.
Backards and forards means "I know everything about you."
Jeet? is actually a phrase meaning "Did you eat?"
You don't have to wear a watch because it doesn't matter what time it is. You work until you' re done or it's too dark to see.

You don't PUSH buttons, you MASH them.
You know you're from Tennessee if:

You measure distance in minutes.
"...your favorite shirt is orange cause you can wear it to the game on Saturday, huntin' on Sunday, & to work for the highway dept. on Monday and never have to change!"
You've ever had to switch from "Heat" to "A/C" two or more times in 24 hrs.
You use "fix" as a verb. Example: "I'm fixin' to go to tha store "
All the festivals across the state are named after a fruit, vegetable, grain, insect or animal.
You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.
You know what a "DAWG" is.
You carry jumper cables in your car...for your OWN car.
You only own five seasonings: salt, sugar, pepper, Tabasco and ketchup.
The local papers cover national and international news on one page but require 6 pages for local gossip and sports.
You think that the first day of deer season is a national holiday.
You find 100 degrees Fahrenheit "a little warm".
You know there are only two seasons: Winter and Construction
You know whether another Tennessean is from east, middle, or west
Tennessee as soon as they open their mouth.
Going to Wal-Mart is a favorite past time known as "Goin' Wal-Martin" or Goin' to "Wally World".
You describe the first cool snap (below 70 degrees) as good soup-bean weather.
A carbonated soft drink isn't a soda, cola or's a Coke, regardless of brand or flavor. Example: A waitress will ask you "What kinda coke ya want?"
You know what cowtippin' and snipe huntin' are.
Fried catfish is the other white meat.
We don't need no stinkin' Driver's Ed....if mama says we can drive, we can drive.

According to the locals not EVERYONE can be a Tennessean, it's an art form and a gift from God!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Very Funny- NOT!!!!!

I was talked into seeing 'Borat'. Someone paid my way and offered me a ride- I went along thinking I was going to see a legitimate, but comical human-interest documentary made by a man from the Middle East. (I am interested in Middle-eastern culture- thought it would be interesting.) Turns out the joke is on me. I wasted an hour and a half of my time watching a bunch of ignorant garbage produced by some off-color British comedian. Yes, bits of it were funny, but most of it was just plain disgusting!

Now understand, I am pretty down to earth & have a healthy sense of humor. I'm known for pulling pranks and doing the occasional joke on someone- I love to laugh, but this film was just WAY out of line in my opinion. I should have walked out, but kept bearing with it thinking "This is going to get better and have a legitimate point- no movie can be this pointless" but I was wrong. Sacha Cohen has made this film on the sly- apparently many of the people appearing in it had no idea they were even going to be in a movie and are now sueing. I sat embarassed with my eyes covered for much of the film. I was not the only one in the audience who was shocked by the outright disrespect. There is nothing funny about incest, rape or sodomy. Crude and insensitive- upon learning that his wife has been mauled to death by a bear, Borat gives the messenger a high-5. Am I supposed to laugh while some wannabe comedian makes fun of our National Anthem?? The film is an outright insult to people of the Middle East- 'Borat' makes them out to be ignorant, uneducated, immoral and incestuous people. I'm surprised there hasn't been an outcry from the Muslim community over this! Nobody is safe from the tauntings of Mr. Cohen.

He is extremely disrespectful to the United States and crass toward the female gender. There are many cruel and repulsive stereo-types in the film. Some incredibly offensive things about Jews, the mentally impaired and black women are portrayed as being whores. The US isn't perfect, but we certainly aren't all a bunch of racist, perverts, sexists or religious fanatics. 'Borat' makes a circus out of our way of life and we are supposed to pay money to watch him do that? NO THANKS!! My advice? Save yourself some indigestion and pass on seeing this nasty film.

Finding Middle Ground...

As I continue to journey forward, I am excited to find there is revival riding on the wind. I'm hearing it more and more- 'Christ and Him Crucified' and see the amazing results upon the hearts and congregations of those who embrace it. The message is one of rest & gladness- it's not a new idea, rather an old, long neglected message.
Churches are now faced with a choice, to enter God's rest or reject the merits of Jesus Christ, clinging desperately to human obedience & standards- which are frail at best- to earn us favor with God. Many suppose they will march up to the pearly gates present a badge representing their denominational affiliation, church attendance card and resume' of an obedient, sacrificial life, thereby gaining admittance to the kingdom. However, the Kingdom seeks it's members TODAY- not in some future time. The Kingdom message is an undercurrent that builds, balances and assures the soul. It brings us out of the ditches and onto the middle ground.

There are two ditches and I've journeyed in both ruts:

1) I can do whatever I want, whenever I feel like it. If there is a God, He doesn't care what I do or how I live so I will gratify every whim. I can damage my body and destroy relationships any way I see fit- as long as I get what I want out of life.

The other extreme says:

2) I will be the strictest, most upright person I can be. I will keep 10 Commandments and numerous other lifestyle restrictions and teach others to do so- especially emphasizing the 4th Command. I will emphasize prophecy and present my church as having superior truths to any other. Any enjoyment I find in this life must be somehow displeasing to God, so I will sacrifice any & every pleasurable thing. I will be wary of forming relationship with anyone who does not think like me for fear of spiritual contamination. I will study and revere EGW as my prophet and make her the example to follow. I will hold her writings as equal in value to the Bible and will pick and choose quotes to use and go around correcting others with her words. I will protect my distinct church culture at all cost and by any means necessary.

BOTH sides are extremely self-focused and neither comprehend the great Love of God. There is a middle ground- a healthy balance. Those resting in Christ and making Him their focus and security will learn how to love. We are only awakened from a lukewarm, Laodicean state by the passionate love of Christ- which warms the heart. By beholding Him, we will be changed into His likeness. According to Corinthians, "Love is not self-seeking, it is not puffed up or conceited, it is not arrogant or rude... It is patient, kind, forgiving, it takes no delight in pointing out wrongs..." Those in the middle ground know their sins are forgiven and can rest in the merits of Jesus. This makes them more relaxed and pleasant to be around because they are no longer under a constant burden of striving for perfection. They are more understanding and accepting of others because they have a realistic view of where they stand before God. These people are attractive because they are humble and do not pride themselves in being the "last remaining guardians of truth". They know how to love and don't hold back in offering help to those in need. They realize it's not a sin to enjoy some material pleasures, but that putting their own wants above the needs of others is neglecting Christian duty. Those in the middle ground have seen the depth of their own sinfulness, they have been broken and realize their great need of a Savior, but they do not wallow in despair. They fully embrace the victory for what Christ has done for them and move forward in faith.

Things are becoming clearer to me in regards to my beliefs. Des Ford once summed it up like this:

False religion majors in law and minors in love.
True religion majors in love and minors in law.

The first majors in what God requires of us.
The second majors in what God has done for us.

One religion puts all stress on Christ as the example to measure up to.
The other puts emphasizes Christ as our substitute and representative.

One is a religion that leads to bondage, despair and death.
The other is a religion that leads to joy, freedom, salvation and life eternal.

Scripture says that we were all born into sin without asking for it- that we inherited a sinful nature. The evil serpent has bitten us all. But the Gospel teaches that we have all been saved by the atoning work of Jesus Christ our Lord who said, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto Me." . See 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. Romans 5:10, Romans 5:18-19.The Good News is that our sins were crucified with Christ- nailed to His cross. Therefore, the Old Covenant Law has no more power to condemn us than to condemn Christ. The moment we believe, Christ's own perfect robe of righteousness is laid upon us and remains ours for all our days- if we continue to look to Him, despite a hundred or a thousand failures on our part.

I think back to the story of the serpents in the wilderness. A host of vipers came into the camp of Israel, biting everyone. All the dying Israelites had to do was look upon the metal serpant Moses held upon the pole and they would be saved. Many failed to perform this simple act of faith and perished because it wasn't scientific or theologically complex enough for them. Are we any different today? To look to Christ and live seems so simple- many feel it is below them. They would rather work hard and perish than accept a free gift. At all stages of our experience we are saved by faith alone, though the faith that saves is never alone. We are not saved by faith PLUS works but by a faith THAT works. This kind of faith does not come from man, but from the Holy Spirit's indwelling.

For the whole piture compare: Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15 and 1 Corinthians 7:19. Even on Judgment Day we will be saved by faith alone- though our actions will testify to the reality of that faith despite our own infinite imperfections.

Come to the middle ground and rest. Look upon the Savior and live. Taste and see that The Lord is good!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Sensitive Soul...

The same open-hearted nature that allows me to share my deepest feelings and convictions, also renders me extremely vulnerable to tears at times. Today, I had a hard cry. It was cleansing- felt very good- after the fact. I'm cold inside, but trying to let go of so many hurts. The absence of any real relationship with either of my birth parents... the strained connections with my siblings... the flash-memories of assault... the canyon that I often feel stands between my man & I... the pain of being misunderstood and mistreatment on the part of the church... the dying hope that any of my/our dreams will ever come true for this family. I laid alone in my bed today and let the hurt come pouring out. Eventually Jay noticed I wasn't around and came in to see what was wrong. He listened. Didn't say much, but that's what I like about him when I'm hurting. I don't need people to tell me what to think, how to feel or how to fix the problem. I simply need someone to hear me. I figure things out on my own eventually...

I am strangely predictable, yet a mystery. I cannot describe the heart in me- except to say that it is largely comprised of scar tissue from many wounds & when a spouse works in ministry, who can you talk to? So here I am posting in this forum, trying to think out loud and make sense of it all. I am tired of struggle. Ready to find joy again. I don't like the role of being needy. I like to be the strong one who helps others. When, oh when will that day come again? I told my husband that I understand why people do dumb things when they are hurting. Life has a way of making us numb inside. I want to feel alive again! Sometimes when people are desperate they do foolish things in hopes that they can feel- something- anything but cold. I think God understands this. Not excusing any bad behavior, but He knows why we do the things we do and offers forgiveness when, in a blind frenzy we mess up. This whole process of sorting out life is quite humbling.

Not sure where I fit in this life or what my purpose is beyond Motherhood and being a wife. Perhaps this is my early mid-life crisis? LOL Jay let me know this past week that although he appreciates my earnings, he prefers me to be at home instead of working. (Actually, I like earning money, but I prefer staying home too. It suits my nature to be here for my family. I love to cook and clean. There is simply too much nonsense to deal with out there and a weary mind cannot handle the stress and all the stupid headgames.) Here's hoping he can find a job that pays enough for me to stay home... then I can get back to what I love most- spending time with my family & critters, homeschooling, writing poems, stories, articles and songs.
No luck so far. We've had several showings of our house now, but no offers. There is one idea that sits on the back-burner of our minds and if nothing else works out for us here, we may pursue it. We'll see...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

An Invitation...

Come, my love and weave with me
a blanket of security
let it rest heavily upon my shoulders
so that I can feel it's warmth
Long has been the starless night
the rains have fallen far too often
Innocence was buried in this red clay
A time of refreshing must come

You have promised many things
so young were we when vows were made
there have been many empty words
failed intentions on your part and mine
Don't make anymore apologies or promises
take me somewhere we can live and breathe
Give me the gift of your words, your time
What is there to fear?

Inside I am a lonely child
filled with pain, but hoping still
Wrap me in your love
whispering secrets in my ear
Share with me the simple marvels of life
let me hear the sound of your laughter
Shake the numbness of your soul
Our days are not meant to be dull

Lead and I will follow you
I want you to be strong
Stand up to the raging wind
Spread your mantle over me
Unlock the treasures of my heart
For there are many I would share
Bask in the warmth of my embrace
Be the man I know you can be.

Take some chances
Pursue our dreams
Be rugged and enduring
Don't hold back
Life will not wait for us
The years are passing by
I know there is a place for us
Under a big, blue sky...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Simple Life...

The longer I live, the more I delight in quiet times and simple things. Oh, I go through phases where I want the big house with the grand piano, the loaded truck, the fancy vacations, but underneath all that whimsical tendancy, what I most enjoy is hiking in the mountains, spending time working with my critters, enjoying a good fire and sitting down to eat with the ones I love.

I have heard too many people in recent years dying with regrets. Most of them were not regrets of wishing for some material things they never got to own. No, the longings were for lost relationships or for loves never known. I do not so much crave things as I crave experiences. I want to make good memories with my kids. I want time to laugh and cuddle again. Yes, I will probably have to work from here on out, but if I could put in half the hours I'm doing now, that would be great. Full-time work is too much to handle and still be a person with enough energy left over to do my household chores and enjoy my family.
Honestly, as stressed as we've been the past 3 years, the tension's been heavy in this house more often than I care to admit. I am now a part of the rat race. Working more than living, really- always in a rush. I have writer's block poetically and musically. In order to write, I must have time to feel, to contemplate things and put my thoughts together. I must be inspired by my surroundings. Right now, there is very little time for that.

I remember a man & his common-law wife whom we be-friended when I was a girl. Dad was always gone trucking, so Mother was lonely and would try and connect with someone- anyone in order to feel human. Bucky & Shonee took us in as friends. They lived a very simple life. He was a burned-out Vietnam vet who looked Scandanavian. She was a Native American woman- beautiful too! She still did things the traditional way. They had a smokehouse and she tanned deerhides. They lived in a little cabin on our mountain. They didn't have a phone, so when we wanted to visit, we would just drive over and they would always invite us in. We sat on log furniture that he had made. Their house smelled of sweet-pipe, leather, coffee and woodstove. They had a dog that looked half wolf and laid by the fire. He was not a friendly dog, but not unfriendly either. He would simply lay his head on his paws and doze. I was still very young when we knew these people, but I remember the cozy feeling of acceptance I had while sitting at their fire eating popcorn and listening to Bucky's wild hunting and war stories. Shonee was quiet- always busy with something and loved to serve. Her dark eyes were shiny and I envied her looks. To me, she was like a deer. Bucky had rigged up 4 big timber posts in the bedroom and had their bed hanging from it. You had to climb steps to get into the swinging bed- which my brother & I enjoyed sitting in. They used to bring us firewood every so often.

We were really strict religious at the time. Had to keep it secret that we visited Bucky & Shonee, but when they offered my Mom coffee, she would gladly accept. For some reason, the church frowns on spending time with non-believers- unless you are actively giving a Bible study. Phooey on that, I say!! To be a Christian doesn't mean we no longer have the disease called "sin", it merely puts us in remission. We need not fear contamination from "sinners", for we ourselves are yet sinners. Okay- so let's not fool ourselves- we still mess up on a daily basis. The difference is that when we make mistakes, we have the hope of being forgiven. To mingle with people of other backgrounds & persuasions is healthy and stimulating to the mind & spirit.

Anyway, I often think back to my 7th year of life. It was the first and last time that I ever felt secure. Bucky & Shonee eventually relocated farther down the mountain where they raised Llama's for wool- which Shonee spun into thread and knit into hats, gloves and sweaters to sell. After that, my parents split and we moved to MO with our Mom. I don't know what ever happened to them... they were their own people- nobody owned them. A dying breed of rugged, independant survivors.

Today, we really are kinda wimpy. We rely on grocery stores for most of our food, power companies for heat & lights, and the entertainment industry for enjoyment. We pay out the nose for this stuff- which means we have to work harder just to keep up! It's easier in some ways, I suppose, but perhaps this is our loss. Why not work hard and be more independant? There's a pride that comes from bringing in your own food, gathering wood for heat, sitting around in the flickering glow of lanterns & firelight and making real life memories. People criticized Bucky for his backward ways, and my Grandpa Campbell was misunderstood for never "getting modern", but nobody owned them and they weren't begging help from anyone. They lived debt free and fed themselves. Grandpa delighted in raising stock, growing things, feeding hummingbirds and listening to the frogs croak from his lawn chair in the cool of the evening. There is more of him in me than I formerly recognized... I just want to live a simple life.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Goings On In My World...

I haven't given an update recently, so here's the latest:

Had another fun singing trip last weekend. There won't be another MofM trip for a while. We had a nice time! I love to do public speaking. Instead of introducing songs, I have been moved to closing out our concerts with a short talk. This is very rewarding for me as I love to share about the love of God for sinners and what Jesus has done for us.
More and more, I am meeting former legalists who want to share their stories with me. Met a man this weekend who, just a few years ago felt the need to bring up the wedding ring issue to me after an MofM concert. (I listened politely as he had shared his views with me, but inside I had that nauseaus "get me out of here" feeling.) Well, he showed up to our concert this past weekend and was eager to tell me he has found grace. He no longer feels the need to go around correcting people and setting their theology straight. I was very touched that he would humble himself in this way and share the changes in his life with me. I am finding more and more that when I am vulnerable and honest about my journey, if I do not hold myself up as the example to follow, then other people feel safe to open up and share their stories with me. I love to listen. Everyone has a story worth hearing!!
The Carrollton, GA church MofM visited last weekend is a case in point for the power of love. They will be the first to admit that 3 yrs ago, they were nasty, fighting, back-biting, nit-picking people. Their new Pastor- a good friend of ours came in preaching love, grace, forgiveness and tolerance. No prophecy, heavy-duty theological or argumentative sermons. (The hard-line, more controlling factions soon decided this message was just too watered down and "touchy-feely" for them, so they left and started their own church- which lasted about a year before the angry divisions among them became so deep they splintered- very sad.) But it's amazing to see and hear of the changes that have come over Carollton! They are warm, welcoming and accepting now. Many of them sat with tears in their eyes during our concert. Gone are the dead, judgemental, expressionless people that used to be there. Hearts of stone are becoming hearts of flesh and it's beautiful to behold! The Pastor and his members just kept going on and on about how wonderful the transformation has been. They have ALL kinds and all ages of people coming to their little church now. Teen mothers, Divorcees, widows, boys with piercings, former drunks, former legalists, etc. It's a place where lonely, hurting people can go to worship, find love and healing. Praise God! There is NO SUCH THING as "cheap grace"! Grace cost God the ultimate price. The love and mercy of God will be our study and celebration for eternity.

We've had 5 showings of our house. So far, no offers. We have a renter in our cottage again. This time a middle-aged, single lady. She's not an active Christian. I have NO idea how long she will stay as she says this may only be a temporary arrangement, but I think she needs love and accceptance- that's something we can give. The rent money- though meager- lifts a little of our financial burden.

The kids are all in growth spurts and WOW do they eat! Can hardly keep them fed. They are loving school. My man is very restless & distracted. I am also quite unsettled inside. We are saying, "God, here we are. Our house is up for sale, our lives are totally on the drawing board again, where do YOU want us- what do You want us to do? Give us a shove in that direction..." There is nothing more we can do, but wait. Something needs to change though- and soon! Life cannot be lived in limbo very long before insanity sets in. ;o)

The puppies are doing well. Housebreaking is coming along. They are the sweetest little things. Ember just loves to be with me. It is such a simple comfort to have an adoring pet curled in my lap. I hope perhaps someday, she will earn her Canine Good Citizen so I can take her to children's wards and nursing homes to bring joy to others as a therapy dog. The hypo-allergenic qualities of the Poodle make them ideal for this type of work. We'll see...

You wouldn't believe how many complainers call us at the YMCA. They have a problem, go on about it for 10 mins, then expect our customer service to have it resolved in ten seconds or less. I'm a sympathetic person, but there are limits to how many times you can calmly explain to someone why they owe a bounced check fee before it starts wearing on your nerves. You can tell when people are legit and want resolution and when they just want to gripe at us. This week I saw a T-shirt that cracked me up. It said, "OK, so put on your big girl panties and deal with it"! HA HA, sometimes my co-workers and I feel like saying something to that effect, but we keep smiling and trying to work things out. It's funny to imagine saying that though. LOL

Well, not much else to tell...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Tips for Tennessee Drivers...

In my long career as a license-bearing driver, I have never had an accident or a ticket. (The closest I've come was a night several years ago when a new & powerful allergy medicine caused me to fall asleep at the wheel- I ended up driving in a ditch, nobody was hurt and I was able to wake up and steer out of it with barely a mark to my vehicle- Thank God.)
I've been driving in TN for 7 yrs now and here are some tongue-in-cheek observations and advice I have to offer to the drivers here in the Smoky Mountain State:

1.) Turn signals are best used well BEFORE you make your turn.
2.) Regardless of popular superstitions, you will not gain any good luck by driving with one tire on the yellow line.
3.) Turning your lights on at dusk or in a thick fog is a healthy thing- really!
4.) Before stopping to examine or scoop up roadkill deer, turkey or possum, get off the road and onto the shoulder.
5.) Be considerate. If you want to inch along while checking out the treasures of Bubba & Sissy-lou's yard sale- why not just pull in their driveway and let those of us who have somewhere to go keep driving?
6.) It is NOT illegal to drive the speed limit on Sundays.
7.) By the many puffs of blue & black smoke I have to breathe, I know that many of you pass TN emissions tests because a relative works at the testing center and lets you slide by year after year...
8.) Pick up your trash, don't make the convicts in orange vests do it- their lives are hard enough. Better yet, keep a little trash bag or small can in your car and empty in a convenient garbage bin next time you fill your tank. It's really not hard to do!
9.) Many a forest fire has been started by careless people flicking cigarette butts out the window. Why not use an ashtray instead?????? I really don't have the time to call the fire department and sit by the side of the road monitoring brush fires until they get there.
10.) Last time I checked, passing on the left is still legal in this state. Flipping me off for going the speed limit is not necessary.
11.) You REALLY WON'T get any points for swerving to hit a squirrel, a cat or a dog. (That's just a silly game someone made up)
12.) Speedbumps are supposed to mean you slow down, not speed up and go over them with a YEE-HAW just to test out your suspension!
13.) Recent scientific studies prove that slowing down to a crawl does not help you tune your radio station better, nor does it increase cell phone reception.
14.) On ramps are meant for MERGING with traffic, not stopping until the coast is clear!
15.) When giving directions, use actual street/town names and building numbers as landmarks, not big shiny rocks, or crooked Maple trees. For some reason, it's just easier to navigate that way.

Hope this is helpful, Tennesseans. Remember, when we all drive with courtesy, life is better. :o)

Monday, November 06, 2006


One of the most powerful leaders in the Middle East has been condemned to death by hanging. Many celebrate this verdict as if we just scored a big touchdown. Saddam was a heavy-handed ruler, saddistic in many of his dealings with the people of Iraq. There was torture, murder in the night, people arrested and never heard from again, mass murders of innocent people in retaliation for an attempted assasination plot, etc. Much of this was done to Iraqis without due process. However, and this may sound very un-American of me, I'm not celebrating that this man is going to die. Yes, he made mistakes, yes, his sons were thugs, yes he was defiant, but he is a human being whose life will soon end. This man has been completely stripped of everything he loved. His country, his title, his life of ease, his sons and a future. Now, his very breath will be taken from him. Is this really something to cheer about?

Would any of us want people applauding our deaths? It's sobering for me when any person dies- no matter their crimes- can't help but think about eternity. I cannot say where Saddam's heart is, but no person is completely evil- there is some good in everyone. Saddam was once some woman's precious little boy.
Saddam made mistakes- that's for sure- don't we all? His cruelty was widely felt by the people because he rose to such power, but he is still only flesh and blood.

It is unsettling for me when any jury sentences someone to death. We often sit in judgement over the very criminals we have created through neglect and disadvantage. People can do terrible things when they are desparate for love, shelter and something to eat! Society is structured so there are winners and losers. If you are born on the wrong side of town, it's going to be difficult (not impossible) to change your station in life. Worse yet, the rich tend to get richer by walking on the poor for their own gain. (Sweat-shops in third-world countries being a prime example of this.) Saddam was born to be a leader and he abused that power. However, if we treated him with injustice- we are no better than he.

Who gave us the right to play god over other people's lives? In taking Saddam's life, are we any more just than he was? Murder is murder- whether the act is performed by a hardened criminal or an unsympathetic jury. Both processes require a certain indifference toward the life of another. Don't think for a moment that when a death sentence is decided by group decision there is no longer individual responsibility. Easy for us to say "hang 'em high", but could YOU pull the trapdoor lever? Don't think I could.

Several years ago I saw many folks standing around a prison with signs mocking Ted Bundy on the day of his execution, "Thank God it's FRY-day", "Teds eggs are about to be fried", etc. They were engaging in revelry as if preparing to watch a football game or something. Where is the compassion for the fallen ones? Can we not see beyond our own pain enough to mourn lives that have been sold into darkness?? Easy for me to say- right? Ted Bundy never brutally raped and murdered one of my daughters. True, but I pray if that ever does happen to my family, I will show mercy. Light is stronger than darkness and love more powerful than hatred.
The fact that victims are lost to men with evil intentions is truly devastating, but gives us no right to detest anyone. It is not flesh and blood we wrestle with, but spiritual powers and principalities of darkness. There are forces that seek to control the human mind. We all have a choice. We can give in to the selfishness within us, serving the voices of our lower nature, or through the power of God, we can rise above.

I suppose I wouldn't feel so unsettled about this recent verdict in the Middle East were I able to believe that Saddam got fair treatment. I'm afraid that's not the case and suspect the whole thing was a political circus act. The defense wasn't even heard or given a chance to present any valid information. I'm not saying Saddam is innocent. I believe he performed the atrocities as accused- at the very least it happened on his watch and he didn't stop it or punish the perpetrators. However, even he deserves the right to a fair trial.

The prisoners in Guantanamo Bay deserve to be treated ethically and with due process. How many young men have been held there for over 2 years without any solid evidence? Outrageous! How many mothers, wives and daughters suffer and wait for their men to come home with no hope of ever seeing them again? I love my country, but I believe the US is creating more enemies. Any man who has been held illegally or treated unethically at GITMO will be highly prone to acts of terrorism against the US in the future. Kindness, not cruelty or power wins people over.

If we allow injustice to be dealt to foriegners, it won't be long before injustice is on our own soil and more evident in our courts. Since when do we have the right to hold someone indefinitely without showing just cause? Since when do we have the right to punish prisoners before they have been convicted of a crime before a court and a jury of their peers? Since when does the media become so one-sided? Where along the way did we forget 'Innocent until PROVEN guilty'?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Awesome Weekend!

Went on a singing trip with 'Message of Mercy' this weekend. The Fall colors were amazing! The trip was great. First of all, I love to connect with people and hang out with my friends. Darlene did my hair again-she has the magic touch to make my hair look like that of a princess. We talked and laughed all the way to our first engagement. (Sang at 2 different Adventist facilities) Mt. Pisgah Academy was the first, Fletcher Academy the second. Our sound was terrible Friday night, but the people seemed to enjoy us. We couldn't hear ourselves very well- always intimidating to get up in front of a bunch of teenagers who sit and talk through most of the concert. To my surprise- I met up with a good friend of mine from college, Christ Lebrun. He hasn't changed much, still the friendly guy he always was. Then after the concert I was able to meet a fellow blogger! He came up to me and said, "Hey Trailady, I'm Kev, from "What's Up with Kev". WOW! He was really nice to talk to and we had our picture taken together. Every so often, I meet up with someone from the blogosphere and it's so cool!! :o)
The message was really good that night. A young man spoke. I still hope that perhaps the younger generation of Adventists will help re-direct their church's focus to Christ instead of being so caught up in works & culture.
After the concert, we headed out to stay overnight in the home of my former Pastor in Yakima, WA. Awkward- wasn't sure how it would go, because he was our Pastor for a year before we got onto the Ultra-Conservative kick. I joined in with some very harsh criticisms of Pastor T. and his church at that time. You see, the leaders of our group called his church 'The Whore on the Hill' because of their more Contemporary worship style and open-arms approach to anyone who would come in. I now see they were on track. He knows how to love people. I apologized to him. He gave me a big hug and said, "Don't ever think about it again, I forgive you and I understand that you were in a learning process." He said if they had any idea what we were caught up in out there, they would have tried harder to reach us. Truly, life is- a journey in learning.

Saturday, we sang at the Fletcher church. It went very well- loved the sound system there! Pastor T. preached an awesome sermon about being patient in trials and resting in the love of God. AWESOME! Made me wonder how many great sermons we missed out in Yakima, because we were so busy trying to be perfect people? After first service, I saw a familiar face- our former downstairs neighbor from Texas. Ginny & her family lived below us in our first apartment. I was sad to hear that her husband left her and wanted nothing to do with God or family anymore. They were a great couple! She was really hurting- I listened, cried and hugged her. So much pain in this life! Helps me forget my own struggles when I can reach out to someone else. We promised to keep in touch. After the service, an old friend from high-school days came up and invited me to her home for lunch. It was nice to catch up. We are both friendly and love music, but this lady is opposite of me in many ways. She admittedly has lived a charmed life. Her parents are wealthy, happy, functional, supportive people. (Not perfect, but everything you could want in parents) She says she's had a wonderful life with no major upsets. She's married and has a lovely daughter. I'm happy for her, but I hold my breath too, because I think sooner or later everyone gets their turn at suffering. I hope she will have the strength to handle it when the time comes. It was nice of her to open her home to me. We talked like two school-girls.

Our concert Sat. night went well. I love to speak about the love of God- don't get to do that often enough. After the concert, we went to eat supper at a nice Italian restaurant 'Ianucci's' in Ashville, NC. GREAT food & service. If you are ever passing through- check it out. The salad, bread & pasta are amazing!! I got home at 1:30am last night. My husband was waiting on the couch for me. I was so sleepy, he carried my things, helped me remove my shoes & get ready for bed. So sweet of him.

Today, we have the third showing of our house in a week. Not sure what we will do if/when it sells, but at least we won't be killing ourselves trying to make the mortgage anymore. I'm sitting here in my robe, with Ember curled in my lap and the sounds of my family all around me. Don't know how long this happy feeling will last, but I'm enjoying it...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

No Other Gods- Part III

There are many things I seem willing/able to give up for God- favorite TV shows, foods, music, clothing, hobbies, etc. All of these things that are percieved by the church to be "sinful". However, God has asked me to surrender the idol I loved most- my churchianity. I reached a point where I could no longer distinguish God from church- to me they were one and the same. To vary in thought or practice from the corporate church or it's leaders in any way was to turn my back on God. What fear & bondage I have lived under! It's never easy to place something you love upon the altar of faith. But like Abraham, I want to obey. There is a lesson to be learned here...

I've come to realize I don't have to be inside a building or play dress-up to worship. (Where in scripture does it say we have to put on finery to come before the Lord??) I've had church in jeans- on horseback before. Scripture says I'm a temple of the Living God. Wherever I go- He is there in my heart. I even had church in a dark parking lot the other night. A black woman I barely knew and her family of 7 presented me with some groceries- simply because they heard from someone else that we are struggling. They hugged me, we cried and prayed together- a beautiful thing! They are also outcasts of organized religion. God is using them now more than ever!

Kingdom Seekers- not pew-warmers take time to weep and pray with me in this time of trial. Kingdom Seekers, not church people have brought us food. Kingdom Seekers have reached out to us in this time of uncertainty. There is a pride and security that comes from being identified with a church culture- especially if you have a heart for ministry as I do. Stepping away from that reveals to me just how much my faith was built upon a church and it's lifestyle- not security in Christ Jesus. Honestly, I am undone... but my shattered identity is being rebuilt upon a sure foundation and better promises.

Big church is controlling- one of the most power-hungry forces that exist. It tends to rely heavily on Pastors, Priests and Professors- telling people what to think and spoon-feeding theology. The organized system only ordains those who are careful to preach what they are taught to say. Major speaker/directors allow themselves to become celebs- people hang on their every word. However, I find the Kingdom says we are ALL ministers of the Gospel- men and women, young and old alike. Christ did not pick the most learned, articulate scholars of the Temple school for disciples. He chose common fisherman, tax collectors and whores. He taught them the Gospel and simple Kingdom principles, then sent them out to share the Good News. They were unpolished- had a lot to learn- but still He sent them. When they started getting political, pushing for positions of authority, Jesus was quick to let them know that's not how the Kingdom of Heaven operates. Everything He did refuted the dogmatic religious culture of His time: His simple message, practical garments, the respectful way He treated women, the mercy He showed to sinners, the humility of spirit, non-judgemental attitude and willingness to reach out to anyone who needed Him. His yoke was easy and His burden light. The most powerful thing a Kingdom Seeker can share is a testimony- every believer has one. Don't be afraid to tell your story!

Any good thing can become an idol. In my mind, keeping 10 Commandments was the magical code by which to unlock God's approval and blessing. I had them hanging on the wall as a daily meditation. I was out to be the most upright, Commandment keeper that ever was! The Law and 'The Testimonies' were my whole identity as a believer. I did okay with the letter of the Law and lifestyle changes, but the Spirit of the Law... is where I fell WAY short. I could reasonably control my actions, but not my mind. It became clear that God had my attention, but not my heart. Transfixed upon those tablets of stone, I failed to notice the old rugged cross and the Sinless One who hung upon it for me. God says, "I will take your heart of stone and give you a heart of Flesh". The Commandments are good and have their place, but they have been the heart of the church's Old Covenant- righteousness by works message for generations. A Redeemer is far better. Will Jesus ever take His rightful place at the forefront of our experience? Now is the time to enter God's rest.

When my computer crashed last week, I lost all the information it contained- including a lot of clutter. Now, the hard-drive is reformatted and fresh- ready to hold new information. The system is working better without all that baggage taking up space in the memory. God is doing the same with my heart. Emptying me of every idol and every hindrence- former thoughts, hurts, pre-conceived ideas about what constitutes Truth. He is reformatting my entire life. :o)