Monday, July 14, 2014

Status Report - July 2014

Blog status reports are usually written at the beginning of the month, but seeing as I seem to have dropped any semblance of regular blog posting for quite some time now, I figure halfway through July isn’t a bad time to pop in for a status report, since so much in my world has changed recently. So, this will be the July 2014 Status Report - ‘Just Moved’ version. my new computer area off the kitchen in my new house in Ohio. Yes, we’ve moved again. Army life, you know. This time we’re only here for a year, so we get to do all this fun again next summer. Woo and hoo.

Reading.The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. It's one I had heard of but never read before, but someone in a book group I belong to on Facebook mentioned reading it and loving it,  so I'm trying it. Like it so far. I also just finished a series by Terri Blackstock that I LOVED. (Last Light, Night Light, True Light, and Dawn's Light). I'm not usually all that fond of Christian fiction, but I really liked this series. I want to read more by that author.

Thankful....most of the unpacking is finished, and we actually got rid of a lot this time around. Goodwill and the half-price bookstore have seen a great deal of my husband over the past two weeks. I’m proud of him for letting go of so many books and things! This move was one of the most difficult yet, since we had the stuff I and the kids lived with last year in the cavelike apartment in Kentucky after we sold the house, the stuff that was in storage for a year after moving from that larger house to a small apartment, and the stuff my husband lived with in his ‘van down by the river’ for his year of Army-Baylor school in Texas all coming here together at once. But we’ve purged better this time than we ever have before, so next move should be a little easier, at least as far as ‘stuff’ goes. have my husband home again, even though that meant we had to uproot and move for a year. It is so right to be together as a family again. Last year was HARD for all of us. Glad it’s behind us. 

Sad, but excited...for my kids who will start new schools here in this city this fall. It’s going to be quite an adventure, that’s for sure, and I’m especially sensitive to how hard it is for my high school son to have to uproot not once, but twice during high school - this summer and next. But all three kids are facing this with remarkable grace. God has truly blessed us in how He is working in their lives, and it’s a joy to watch.

Out of my comfort zone.....with living in this city in the greater Cleveland area. I’m not a city girl at all, but with my husband doing a one year stint on loan from the Army to Cleveland Clinic, we didn’t want a huge commute for him, so we’re learning how to live the city life.  Driving makes me nervous. It’s not really that bad except for the crazy intersections and weird no turn signs. Seriously, there’s one intersection that says no right turn, no left turn, and straight is a confusing road to find. We laugh about that one all the time. “You can’t go left, you can’t go right, and there doesn’t seem to be a straight. Where do I GO???” And the honking. Seriously, people. Honking does not make the light change faster and it doesn’t make the car in front of me go faster, either. Give the guy time to move his foot from the brake to the gas pedal when the light turns. And my husband has introduced us to this thing called riding the train into the city. There’s a station within walking distance of our house. I don’t so much like it, but I’ll do it if he’s with me. And the garage behind our house? We joke that I may be stuck in the house all year because I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to back out of it. It’s a long, narrow driveway, and I’m not the best parker or backer. We’ve also decided our little city state here is a socialist state. If there’s a rule to be made, they’ve thought of it and made it. Don’t, Don’t, Don’t everywhere you look. Wowza. But there is a lot good, too. We live in the top half of this really cool old house, and our neighbor is a nice lady. Good to have a good neighbor if you have to share a creaky old house. This is the first time I’ve ever lived in a house with no central AC. I grew up in Florida, y’all.  But it hasn’t been all that bad. It’s only a year, and we plan on making the best of it, finding lots of neat things to do - the symphony is supposed to be one of the very best, museums, restaurants, shopping, and lots more. They say it snows a lot here in the winter. Oh boy.....

Listing....some of the hard things about moving:
  • Getting over my culture shock and learning my way around
  • Finding a new church. We’ve visited two, but we are pretty much in agreement about where we want to go, I think. When I first heard we were moving to Cleveland, there was one church I really wanted to go to, and now that we’ve visited another good church too, it’s really neat that as my husband and I talked and prayed, though both are good options, the one we really wanted to go to seems to be the one we both are sensing a real peace about going to, even though it’s quite a drive from our house. I have listened to the pastor there for years on podcast and learned so much, that it will be a joy to be able to attend this church for a year with our children.
  • Losing sentimental things along the way. This is kind of a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but as we were emptying a dresser for my husband to use, I realized that a stack of cards I had kept that friends had sent after each miscarriage has gone missing. I know it’s just cards, but they have meaning to me, and I hate to lose them. I’m sure they were in that drawer, but I’m hoping maybe somewhere along the way I put them somewhere else and we will come across them. I don’t rehash those sad memories all the time, but those cards were special to me in the acknowledgement that the loss of those children and the grief we have over them is real and valid, and the kind words shared by my friends at those times are things I treasured.
  • New things. I’ve never been very good with change. I’m getting better, but this one has been harder than some.

Thinking....this may end up being kind of a lonely year, but I want to be constructive with it and do some writing. We drove past a Panera today, and I reallly, really, really miss my special girl friends from Kentucky and our marathon lunches there. You know who you are, and you’re special ladies. I miss y’all, and I’m thankful we were in Kentucky at the same time. 

Thankful...for God’s amazing grace. I know that He is with us, wherever we can go. I know that He has placed our family together and placed us here for this season, and what I want most to do is seek to glorify Him and grow closer to Him throughout this year, and the years to come. And I’m thankful we do have a solid, gospel-preaching, Bible teaching church with which to join ourselves.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Alternative Medicine, Some Thoughts After a Book I Just Finished Reading

As I write this post, I am aware that several of my friends and probably family think I am over thinking this topic, or that I am alarmist or legalistic about it. No one’s said much to me directly, but I know there are people who this think way when I often voice the concerns I have with many practices that would fall under the umbrella of alternative medicine or exercise that are linked to New Thought/New Age/Contemplative/Mindfulness/Vital Energy types of thinking. I assure you, however, my intentions in posting and bringing it up so often are not from a legalistic mindset. I am genuinely concerned that there is a danger involved in these practices that many people who consider themselves to be theologically conservative and evangelical and biblical just do not see or have not adequately investigated. My plea is that if you are interested and involved in yoga, chiropractic, mindfulness or contemplative meditation, alternative medicine of various stripes, holistic worldview - medicine/food/etc., homeopathy, reiki, certain types of massage therapy, and anything that is presented as ‘spiritual’ but not ‘religious’, please at least investigate the worldview and assumptions that the practitioners are bringing with them as you participate in them. 

Just because something is said to be ‘spiritual’ but not ‘religious’ does NOT mean that it is not, in fact, religious. And it does not mean that it is necessarily wholesome or innocent or harmless. Just because wording is changed from ‘spiritual’ sounding or ‘religious’ sounding terms to make it seem more scientifically bent, does not necessarily mean that the practitioner isn’t influenced spiritually in a way that would and should disturb a Christian participant. As the author of the book I am going to recommend below argues, participating in alternative medicine and activities that are based on certain worldviews and assumptions can change your thinking and religious understandings and attitudes in subtle ways that you might not even recognize for a long time. I do not believe I am just being alarmist or over thinking things. Truly I’m not. 

Christianity is a thinking faith. Think with me for a moment - if a practitioner is taught to seek ‘spiritual guidance’ as they manipulate energy or prescribe activities and ‘medicines’ that IS religious. Not everything that is spiritual comes from a good source. What are you opening yourself up to? Do you know? What spirit guides is that provider contacting and bringing with them? Do you know what the terms being used in your exercise/meditation/holistic medicine, etc. program really mean? Not how you interpret their meaning through your lens, but what is actually meant? If the root is questionable or from a worldview that is not biblical, can the fruit be something you really want yourself open to? 

I know, I know, you love your chiropractor, he’s even a professing Christian. I know, I know, your yoga program is just exercise, you aren’t buying into the spiritual stuff. I know, I know, your ‘natural’ homeopathic medicine works for you. Please, at least do some homework and look into the root of these things. Please at least give this serious, considered investigation. 

I recently listened to an episode of Thinking in Public with Albert Mohler titled, “Are we all syncretists now? - A conversation about evangelical Christianity and alternative medicine with historian Candy Gunther Brown.”  Because the topic deals with something I am increasingly interested and concerned about, I got the book they discussed, The Healing Gods: Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Christian America by Candy Gunther Brown, for my Kindle and have just finished reading it. Dr. Brown, to the best of my knowledge, is not an evangelical writing from the inside. She is a professor of religious studies writing this from the outside looking in at evangelicals, and she makes a good observation about how astonishing it is that evangelical Christians seem to unquestioningly accept alternative medicine. She also makes a good argument that providers of these forms of medical help and exercise should have an ethical obligation to be upfront with the nature of their interventions so people can make an informed decision about using them. Often providers obscure the religious nature or the worldview assumptions underlying the treatments/programs in order to make them seem more acceptable for people who might otherwise not participate. 

I found this book important, fascinating, and disturbing on some levels, and I highly recommend it to my friends who may use or are thinking about investigating alternative medicine, mindfulness meditation, contemplative spirituality, yoga, holistic medicine, homeopathy, chiropractic, and other complementary and alternative medicine/stress relief/ exercise, etc. Please at least be informed about it. 

I really do not believe I’m being alarmist or legalistic. I’m just saying do your homework and be aware that just because something is called ‘spiritual’ doesn’t mean it isn’t ‘religious,’ and the religious ideas you’re opening yourself to may not be something you want. Just because someone ‘in the know’ assures you it is compatible with Christianity is NO guarantee it is something that it is wise for a serious Christian to join with.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Zombie Apocalypse, Anyone?

This sign is prominently displayed at the front of the radiology clinic waiting room right by the TV, but looking around the waiting room, every single person had his or her head buried in their own little cell phone world, fingers swiping. Does it bother anyone that our generation is incapable of sitting still with our own thoughts at all, not even for a short moment? That the minute we sit down anywhere for even a second we must have the stupid smart phone out and lose ourselves in that insulated little zombie world of the tiny screen? Does it even phase anyone how rude it is to pull out that dumb phone and show the top of your head to the person sitting across the table from you at a restaurant? Does anyone else feel a profound sadness when you're out somewhere and you see a family or a group of friends tecnhnically together, but effectually separate, not conversing with each other and barely even acknowledging each other, as they all hover over their individual little screens?

For all the talk about a zombie apocalypse, I think the time for fearing it is gone - we are already zombies. 

And the irony of the fact that I took this picture and am writing this post  with my phone is not lost on me. But at least I waited until I was home alone. :-\

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spring Joys

I think Spring is finally springing here in our town. I went away to Texas for a week during spring break and came back to beautiful white pear trees, daffodils and green grass. Ahhhhh. And allergies, sore throat, stuffy nose, dizzy head, stuffy sinuses. But that kind of goes with the territory, I guess.

Here are some things I love about Spring, in no particular order:

Birds singing in the morning. LOVE the birds. I didn't realize how much I'd missed them in the early morning until I heard them the other day when I was walking my dog in the dark hour before sunrise. There was a robin sitting on the corner of the roof just chirping and singing and I loved it. It's just such a HAPPY sound.

Green grass. It's amazing what a luscious, welcome sight green grass is after all the brown, brown, brown and white, white, white of the dead grass and snow. Every spring I'm amazed how quickly the grass greens up when the weather starts warming.

Daffodils and tulips. How I love the simple joy of seeing those cheerful flowers blooming. I drove by my old house yesterday just to see if any of the bulbs I've planted the past few years bloomed this spring. I'd forgotten just how happy those daffodils looked. It was lovely. I am thankful our house sold when it did since we have to move away this summer, but I do miss my yard and flowers and my warm, sunny back deck.

Mornings sunny and warm enough to sit on my little back porch before the sun goes over the building and leaves our back yard in shadow for the rest of the day. I've been having a lovely morning today sitting in a rocking chair on the back porch enjoying a cup of Irish Breakfast tea and reading my Bible. How I've missed sunny, warm weather.

The newness of watching the trees and flowers and grass come back to life. That never gets old. What a beautiful reminder of God's mercies, which are new every morning.

Getting to wear my capris again.

Celebrating Easter. Thinking about our Savior's great love and mercy and grace.

Talking with my little girl about how every season has it's joys when she asks me which one is my favorite. I honestly couldn't say any of them were my favorite. I love Summer with it's warmth and freedom; I love, love, love Fall when the weather cools and the air turns crisp and the leaves turn glorious colors, and camp fires and the indefinable something in the air as I walk the neighborhood and enjoy the scarecrows and corn decorations and everything that goes with Fall (ok, maybe I'm a little partial to Fall) - having grown up in Florida where we didn't really have a true Fall, I never get tired of that season; I like the first snow and the anticipation of Christmas, but I will say that winter is the one season that I do feel seems to drag on toward the end, especially in February, that longest of all short months, it's the one that I probably tire of quickest because of its overabundance of gray and dismal and COLD days, even though I'll never get over the joy of watching snow fall (Florida girl again); and back to Spring, which seems ever so much more of a relief after the harshness of winter. Florida girl again, but I didn't really appreciate the absolute joy of Spring and the anticipation of waiting for it until I experienced the real winter of the Midwest. Florida, for all the complaining about the few 'cold' days we had each year, does not experience WINTER.

And of course I mustn't forget walks with my little girl and her beautiful weed bouquets. She thinks they are beautiful flowers, and I'm not going to try to convince her otherwise today.

Happy Spring!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I'm Thinking Our Family is Going to Sit These Movies Out

There is always so much buzz when a movie that seems positive to the Christian worldview comes along. There are several out or coming out recently that I wish I could have supported, but I've come to the conclusion that as for me and my house, we're going to pass on them. I'm really not trying to make anyone angry or to be a jerk, but I find myself perplexed, and at the risk of being thought a curmudgeon or worse, I'm sharing this post. I always feel like I'm so out of step with pretty much, well, everyone, and I almost didn't even post this, but here are three movies that I'm hearing from lots of people that they are just awesome and we just have to see them but that I am not planning to see or take my kids to see. I'm not dictating to anyone else what you should or shouldn't do regarding watching these, so see them and like them or not if you wish, but please at least be discerning about them and understand what some concerns with them are, and at least understand why I can't join you and why I'm not joining in with the celebration of them on Facebook and elsewhere. The first two fall into the category of I wish they had been something I could have supported but I just really can't and don't, the third falls into the category of I thought the book was concerning and disturbing, so I sure am not going to support the movie.

1. Son of God….based on the miniseries that I also couldn't, in good conscience, watch. Putting aside for a moment that I am squeamish about Passion Plays and movies like this anyway ever since many years ago I had to start sitting out of certain choir Easter productions because for months afterward I would see the actor who portrayed Jesus in my head when I prayed and that just was not something I wanted and because there were always things I found problematic in our portrayals which is probably something for another post and beyond what I want to delve into here, there are even graver reasons I don't want to watch this one. I'm linking to some reviews, and they spell out why I don't want to see this thing. Please, why is God's Word not enough for us? Why do we feel we need a movie? Why are we not satisfied that God gave us the information He wanted us to have in the way He wanted us to have it through His word? I felt the same way about The Passion of the Christ, and I chose not to see that one, either. Even though at the time we were being told we'd never really understand the crucifixion if we didn't. Really? And I sure don't want to fill my head with an anemic portrayal of Jesus that misses the mark of the gospel, so I sat this one out.

Answers in Genesis' review
"Writing Checks to Mel Gibson"
"Son of God Will Show Crucifixion, Not the Cross"
Movie Review: 'Son of God' Is Most Certainly Not The Son of God

2. God's Not Dead…..When I saw the trailer months ago, I so much hoped this would be one I could support, though I have to confess that even then I didn't hold my breath and didn't join the band wagon of linking to the trailer, since I couldn't endorse something like this without knowing more about it. Now that I've read some reviews, I'm glad I waited. I'm not saying it's wrong to go see it if you want to, but I am saying I think we will pass and just sit it out, and the more reviews I read, the stronger I am in that decision. I don't think I will be taking my kids to it right away. I guess with this one, I might not put my foot down and say they can't see it, but I don't believe we'll go out of our way to, either, and we'd have to have some discussions about what they see. Wish they had done better. I really, really do.

God's Not Dead Review: A 'feel-good' movie that sadly did not make us feel good at all!
God's Not Dead Movie Review (Answers in Genesis)
God's Not Dead…But Christian Films are on Life Support - Movie Review
God's Not Dead but Christian Screen Writing Is

3. Heaven is For Real…..No. Just no. Not going to this one and really do not understand why this book is all over our Christian bookstore in various formats. I'm sharing reviews of the book, which should be enough reason to know why we will not even attempt the movie. (And for good measure I'm also sharing a review of a similar journey to Heaven book that I did read and was very concerned at how popular it had become also).

Heaven is For Real - Book review by Tim Challies
90 Minutes in Heaven - Book review by Tim Challies
Heaven Tourism
Books I recommend: Heaven Tourism - Tim Challies

This blog is, obviously, me sharing my opinions. I'm not looking for an argument or a fight, but I'm just sharing what I honestly think here. I really do think that movies like these can actually be more detrimental to the sharing and understanding of our faith than others that are more obviously not biblical, like, say, the awful Noah movie that is coming out soon. We aren't going to that one, either, emphatically not, but at least the director is honest enough to say it's not even meant to be biblical in its portrayal. I'm more concerned, however, with movies that intend to be 'Christian' but which do not present the gospel correctly. In my opinion, that is more damaging than watching a secular movie that we don't expect to get spiritual things right. So, that's why I shared this. Like it or not, this is where I've come to in my thinking on these movies. It's not that I want to be hyper critical. I really don't. I would love to like and support movies that are done well from a Christian perspective. Really, I would. Problem is, I just can't with these. It's the same problem I have with a lot, not all, but a lot of Christian fiction I've come across. It's often hard to do Christian fiction well. I understand that. But I have qualms about these movies and that's just how it is. Do with them whatever you will.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Helpful Cleaning Tip

We have shiny black appliances in our kitchen, and one of my frustrations with them is that no matter how often and well I wipe them down, they always have streaks, which drives me a little batty because no matter how clean the kitchen is, it doesn’t LOOK clean if it’s all streaky. I have found something that does a very nice job of cleaning and taking care of the streaks, and it’s not a store-bought cleaner.

A few years ago a friend spoke at our MOPS group and shared some homemade cleaners she uses that are not as harsh as store bought cleaners can be. In the long run, it’s cheaper, too. Now, before I go further, I’m not weird about essential oils and homeopathic stuff or anything. There’s nothing spiritual or mystical or redemptive about essential oils and so-called natural cleaners, etc.  But I do like to look for cheaper ways to clean, and I have found that vinegar and lavender have antiseptic and antibacterial properties, plus I like the way lavender smells, so I think this cleaner is a safe way to go if you’re interested in saving a little money and making your own cleaner. Anyway, to take care of my kitchen counters and appliances I use the all-purpose cleaner she taught us to make, and if done properly, it leaves my kitchen clean, fresh, and shiny. I just spray some of this cleaner on the appliances and counters, scrub with a clean sponge ( you do know to clean your sponges or they become little germ spreaders, right?), then go over it once more with rinsed sponge, then use a clean dry towel to wipe away any excess cleaner. When you use the towel, make sure to put a little elbow grease into your wiping and when it dries, the appliances are clean and shiny, no more streaks. If you see a streak or two, just go back over with dry towel and it takes care of it. I love it. 

Also, if you spray it in your stainless steel sink and use a scrubby sponge, it easily takes care of coffee and tea stains, leaving you with a nice, shiny sink, too.

And it works really well in the bathroom, as well. Fresh, clean bathroom without the harsh smells of store bought cleaners.

Now, I said it’s cheaper, but when you first buy your ingredients it may seem expensive, but when you figure how many bottles of cleaning solution these ingredients will produce in the long run, I think I do end up saving some money. I need to say a word of caution about buying some of the ‘natural’ ingredients, but I’ll save that for the end.

Here’s the recipe for the homemade all-purpose cleaner I’ve been using:

2 Tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp Borax
10 drops lavender essential oil
2 cups hot, filtered water
1/4 cup liquid Castile soap

Mix vinegar with borax in a 32 oz clean spray bottle. Fill with hot, filtered water and shake until all the Borax has dissolved. Add the liquid Castile soap, followed by the essential oil and shake well.

Now, a word about buying liquid Castile soap and essential oils. Unfortunately there is a whole fad market out there that is just plain weird about essential oils and ‘natural’ things that tends to make all kinds of unfounded, and dangerous spiritually, ‘wellness’ claims. Stay away from companies like that. Unfortunately sometimes when you go to buy these things you might end up having to go to new-agey kind of places to find them, so be careful. Especially with the liquid Castile soap. I had to stop making my cleaner for a while because the only liquid Castile soap I could find was the Dr. Bonner’s brand, and I bought it once without looking at what all those words on the bottle were saying. When I got it home and read the strange religious philosophies the company puts all over their bottle, I felt kind of sick. I don’t want my money going to something so overtly new age and just plain spiritually wacky as that, so I had to not buy it. In such cases, I've used other kinds of mild liquid soaps with success. I finally found another brand, and our Walgreens here carries it. It’s even lavender scented. Now, this company may be weird too, I don’t know, but at least they don’t have stuff all over their bottle that I don’t want my kids reading. Yes, it is that important to me. 

This is what I found at Walgreens, and I've been happy with it: 

And that’s my little cleaning tip for the day. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 08, 2014

When a Good Book Ends

Do you ever finish a book and find that you just aren't ready to move on to a new book yet? I am a constant reader. My favorite thing to do when I have a moment of down time is pick up a book and read. In fact, I can't imagine not reading. I must read. So usually when I finish a book I immediately move on to the next one.

However, every once in a while, a book comes along that so involves me emotionally that when I finish it I feel almost bereft, and the thought occurs, "What am I ever going to read now?" I've read two books like that so far this year, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, and the one I just finished, The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson. Some books just leave you needing a little breathing room space before you can jump into another book because the story so grips you you're not ready for it to leave just yet when you turn that last page. You need a little time to think it through and process it, and it feels kind of lonely if you try to go wander the library stacks too soon after in search of something else to read.

How to describe my listless wandering at the library today? Well, suffice to say I left empty handed. It would have helped if our library had had the specific book I went there looking for to replace my latest read, but, alas, they did not. I may have to break down and buy it for my Kindle.

About The Orphan Master's Son. I don't know how accurate the portrayal of North Korea is, but I suspect it probably is fairly accurate. That's not a part of the world we read much about, and this was a powerful story of the harshness and fragility of life under that oppressive regime, but more than that it was a powerful look at people, and love, and sacrifice. To say I like the book seems strange for such an emotionally heart breaking book. I did like it. Very much. Though it wasn't a happy, happy, happy story. But it was satisfying, and in the end, that's what makes a book good to me. Excellent writing with a story that gripped me and will stick with me for a long time.

But sometimes when you finish that kind of book, it's like saying good-bye to people you're not quite ready to leave. And you don't want to settle for something less than that with the next book, if that makes any sense. Or maybe I'm the only one who ever feels this way.

So, what good books are you reading?