Friday, August 21, 2009

A Worthy Pursuit

I've had a friend on my mind for weeks, someone who moved out of state a couple of years back. I'm glad I had only a snail mail address for her, because it gave me an opportunity to write a "real" letter and try out my new fountain pen (pictured).

Julie, my Twitter friend, has inspired me to try my hand- literally! at writing with a fountain pen. I remember writing birth announcements with a fountain pen, some 15+ years ago, with not-very-satisfactory results. Blotting, spotting, and blobs were the result. I am sure the fact that I had a cheap fountain pen contributed to that problem.

I still cannot afford a really nice fountain pen, but on a whim I picked up this Pilot Plumix at Target. The pen is lightweight and the angular barrel feels nice in my hand. It has a blue ink cartridge and a fine nib. The cost was about $6.00 and my test drive tells me it's much improved over my last experience!

There's something satisfying about hearing the gentle scratching sound of a fountain pen. It's fun, too, to add a few flourishes to the gentle art of writing.

Some might say handwriting is a lost art, but I don't think so. My Mom has the world's BEST handwriting, and my own children carry on the tradition by taking pride in their handwriting. Three of my children have used the excellent Getty-Dubay Italic handwriting system and their manuscripts look so much alike that I can hardly tell them apart! My other child has chosen to do a more traditional form of cursive because she likes the curlicues and rounded shape.

I used to be ashamed of my handwriting, but at the time I was teaching my kids to write I picked up an adult handwriting workbook, also by Getty-Dubay, called Write Now. It took me several months and some concentrated effort, but I radically changed my handwriting. I've deviated from the italic system a bit by adding my own "extras" and borrowing the best from what I have admired in others. And that is as it should be~ there is nothing more personal than the style of your handwriting.

What are your thoughts on handwriting? Do you consider it a worthy pursuit?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Guest Post: Fear

Fear: A Guest post by my daughter, Melody

What is it about that tasteless, invisible, intangible thing called fear, that, so often, has the power to hold us down with a grip like a vise? Why is it that we give in and give way, oftentimes at the most crucial moment, all because of that strange sensation? The dictionary defines "Fear" as "a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid."

In my short experience of walking with the Lord, I've come to realize that fear can be one of our greatest opponents. If our adversary, the devil, can get us to be afraid, he can often get us to put down our weapon and turn-tail without a fight. If he can get us to miss out on the benefits of God's blessings, all because of the fear in our hearts, he's able to control us and remain victorious.
It seems that, so often, and especially in the church, God's people are restrained by something. Many are so afraid of what other people think of them, that they would never ever even dream of standing up and raising their hands, speaking out in a prayer meeting publicly, or walking up to the front to receive prayer. Why is this? Why do so many worry about what others think of them? Why do they remain in their little shells every Sunday morning, listen to the message like any good Christian, and then walk right back out into the world again, unchanged? Why are they so afraid to let the Spirit of God work in their hearts and change them?

I think the answer is that they haven't completely surrendered to God, and also, that they have not been perfected in love. I John 4:17-18 says: "Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have BOLDNESS in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is NO FEAR in love; but perfect love CASTS OUT FEAR, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love."

When we are surrendered to Him, He has ALL of us. TOTAL control of us. We have given up our rights to Him, and now He is the one calling the shots. But if we aren't totally surrendered to Him, we're holding part of ourselves back. We're basically telling God, "OK, God, you can have so much of me, but I'm keeping the rest, because it feels more comfortable that way."

Wait a minute. I didn't think Jesus came to the earth so we could be more "comfortable". I thought He came to "turn up the heat", so to speak. To test us and refine us, and see which of us are true followers of Him, and willing to give up EVERYTHING, even those people and things that we hold dear, for Him. In Matthew 10:34-39, Jesus says: "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household'. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it."

See, God's Word is 'sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit...', (Hebrews 4:12. Whether we like it or not, God's Word divides. It can divide families, marriages, and even our own soul and spirit.

So WHY, then, do most churches today attempt to remain "comfortable"? Why do many of them never experience divisions? The answer is simple. The church is NOT USING THE SWORD, the Word of God. The church is lukewarm. It's afraid to "offend" anyone by using the God's Word in its entirety, as it God intended it to be used, so instead, the church either, a): leaves out the parts of the Bible that might be "offensive", or, b): substitutes other materials for God's Word. We need to PRAY that the church would WAKE UP. There is NOTHING we have to be afraid of! Why do we always worry about what mere men think of us? The men who stand in the pulpits should NOT BE AFRAID TO CALL SIN WHAT IT IS: SIN.

As followers of Christ, we can boldly proclaim: "The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" (Psalm 118:6). We have NOTHING to fear, when we put our trust in Him! It's when we put our trust in man, that we start to have problems. Psalm 118:8 tells us that "It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man." Proverbs 29:25 is also an important verse: "The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe."
And look what you get when you put 2 Timothy 1:7 and Hebrews 13:6 together: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" "So we may boldly say: 'The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?'"

AMEN. Let's stop being fearful, let's open up God's Word, open up to God's Spirit, and allow Him to work through us. And above all, let's NOT allow the Sword of the Spirit, (His Word) to get dusty and rusty. Let's continue using it, till the day Christ comes back for His bride!!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Use-Up-the-Squash! Recipe

Does your refrigerator bin overflow with crookneck and/or zucchini squash this time of year?
Mine does. Here is one more way to use it up, a great dish for a church supper.

Cheesy Squash Casserole

6 cups yellow crookneck or zucchini squash, or a combination of both-peeled & sliced into coins
1 green bell pepper, cut into rings
1 vidalia onion, sliced thin
1 small jar of fire-roasted red peppers, drained
1 can evaporated milk
2 c. grated American or cheddar cheese
bacon crumbles to taste
1/2 t. lemon pepper
1/2 t. salt
Ritz cracker crumbs

Boil the squash, bell pepper, and onion slices 2 minutes and then drain. To assemble, layer the cooked vegetables in a greased casserole dish, topping each layer with grated cheese, bacon crumbles, fire-roasted peppers, and the evaporated milk. Sprinkle the seasonings between layers. Top final layer with cheese and Ritz cracker crumbs. Bake @ 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Serves 6

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

To Every Generation

Mighty Pillars by spudart

"LORD, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations....
Thou Dost turn man back into dust,
And dost say, "Return, O children of men."
For a thousand years in Thy sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or as a watch in the night." from Psalm 90

My summer reading of the epic Chesapeake has set me thinking in terms of generations. Author James Michener casts a large net, drawing me into the multi-generational sagas of three families, deftly identifying the ideas that shaped each generation. No generation is exempt from wrestling with at least one big idea: expansion, slavery, education, rights, religious freedom, etc. What Michener manages to convey is that the essence of a big idea may be conceived in one generation, incubated in the next, and brought to fruition several generations later.

Last year our family watched a documentary about genetics and DNA that conveyed a parallel thought: what I do with my body matters, because I'm passing my DNA on to future generations. Similarly, in my reading of Chesapeake, I'm seeing that the ideas I embrace, the ideas that drive me-- will have no less an impact on my descendants than the DNA I bequeath to them.

Another thread to my thoughts on generations has come from my devotional reading of scripture. King David had a great desire to build a temple for his God, but was told clearly by the prophet Nathan that this was a project for his son, Solomon. So David dreamed and laid in store building materials and began a different type of building. He built the temple in the imagination of his son, Solomon. When Solomon grasped the torch from his father, he carried out the construction project with great passion. And though he got the credit for its completion, David's fingerprints are unmistakeably visible on each post and pillar.

The pillars of the temple were personified and given human names: Jachin, meaning stability and Boaz, symbolic of strength. Stability and strength were the dividends that Solomon's generation realized and they were only made possible because David was a man of war and a man of foresight.

As the autumn season of my life unfolds, it's prudent to take inventory and to ask myself
  • What are the big ideas that drive me?
  • How am I positioning the next generation to carry on truly important work?
  • Am I building the imaginations of youth?
  • What can I lay in store for the next generation so that they might finish what I cannot?
Long before Solomon named the pillars of the temple, his father David wrote these words:

"That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth;
That our daughters may be as pillars,
Sculptured in palace style; " ~ from Psalm 144:12