Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Christ, our savior, is born! Peace and blessings to you all on this holy day. May we remember the true meaning of the season as we fellowship together. Much love to y'all!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Left-lane slowpokes drive you crazy?

The words 'move over' -- even if readable in the rearview mirror -- may not mean much to them, but a ticket might. Some states are cracking down.

By: Christopher Solomon

Courtesy of: MSN Money

In these days of longer commutes and simmering tempers, nothing seems to set off already-testy motorists like the left-lane camper -- the guy or gal who drives in the passing lane and bars faster drivers from easily passing. Web sites have cropped up to educate other drivers, or to vent. There's a (somewhat painful) YouTube song called "Keep Right."

Even bigwigs get frustrated. Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell, weary of having his limo slowed down by such left-lane pokies, ordered an aide to have the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission install signs a few years ago reading "Keep Right, Pass Left. It's the Law."

And now some states are cracking down on left-lane campers, both to keep traffic moving and to tamp down the road rage that goes from zero-to-60 faster than ever before. That's not just a pretext. Last year, a driver was arrested on Interstate 79 outside Pittsburgh after allegedly brandishing a semiautomatic pistol at a driver who was on his tail. You could get a ticket Some states didn't allow left-lane lingering but didn't enforce the law. Now they are. At the start of the summer, the Washington State Patrol began pulling people over for violating the state's left-lane law, which prohibits "impeding the flow of other traffic."

"This a real big hot-button topic for the public at large right now," says Trooper Cliff Pratt. "We've had a lot of complaints" from drivers who've had to deal with left-lane campers. So far authorities have been gentle with the $124 ticket; the drivers stopped were given verbal warnings. Last year, news outlets reported that Oklahoma was bolstering enforcement of its left-lane law as well.

"We deal with it weekly," Lt. George Brown, supervisor of public affairs for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, said of left-lane drivers going too slowly. He's issued more warnings than tickets. Insurers haven't gotten aggressive yet, either, but this kind of ticket has the potential to raise rates. "Any moving violation that applies points to a driver's record could affect that driver's car insurance rates," says Susan Gallik Rouser, a spokeswoman for Progressive. "And because left-lane driving would be considered as such an infraction, we would take that into account when renewing a driver's policy."

What's the law in your state? The laws vary widely, according to John Carr, who works for a software company in the Boston area and who compiled a list of the rules in each state after taking an interest in the issue:

A few states -- for instance, Kentucky, Maine Massachusetts and New Jersey -- permit use of the left lane only for passing or turning left.

  • Georgia, Colorado and Louisiana follow the Uniform Vehicle Code, requiring drivers to keep right if they're going slower than the speed of traffic.

  • Wyoming prohibits blocking the far left lane of a highway "for a prolonged period," though it adds that the traffic should be "at a lawful rate of speed."

  • In Arkansas and South Dakota, vehicles don't have to stay right.

  • In Alaska, Maryland, North Carolina and Ohio, vehicles can drive in the left lane so long as they're moving at the speed limit.

  • Florida is trying to join in: Lawmakers reintroduced a Road Rage Reduction Act this year, requiring motorists to stay out of the left lane on interstate highways except when passing. It passed the Legislature in 2005 but was vetoed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush, who questioned whether it was based on sound research.

It's no wonder drivers can be confused, and often frustrated. One of those exasperated drivers in your rearview mirror might be Eli Dozier. "That's one of my biggest pet peeves in the world, is when people stay in the left lane. They're not passing, they've got people behind them, trying to go around, and they just cruise," says Dozier, 31 and a stay-at-home dad. "It's probably the most uncourteous thing you can do," he says, adding that it's "obviously" unsafe. "I'm a fast driver," Dozier allows. "But if I'm not passing, I don't use that left lane at all."

So what's a frustrated motorist to do? Dozier heard in a chat room about some windshield decals that said "Slower Traffic," with an arrow pointing to the right-hand lane, printed backward in large letters for reading in a rearview mirror. "And so I immediately ordered one. I jumped on it." He loves the thing. "Most people, it's just inattentiveness" that keeps them in the passing lane, Dozier says. "Most people, when you pass them, they'll give you a wave. They're thankful" for the reminder.

At least, he says, women tend to be. Men sometimes take Dozier's sticker as an affront and will retaliate by slowing down, he says. There have been some middle fingers, some choice words. And then, Dozier says, "I have been known to show them how good the back of my car looks." At very close range. Which only exacerbates the situation.

Overall, though, both he and his wife are delighted with the results, he says. They recently bought her a Dodge Ram 1500 with a quad cab, and they've ordered a decal like his for it.
Pennsylvania authorities also find that reminders do work. "Anecdotally," says Carl DeFebo of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority, "you do see a lot less people . . . enjoying the weather" in the passing lane since 25 signs went up on the turnpike in 2003 and 2004. It probably helps that "sometimes our police will actually enforce this," DeFebo adds, handing out warnings or tickets that add up to $108.

The creator of those stickers, J.A. Tosti, is also director and founder of Left Lane Drivers of America. "What we're seeking to do is raise awareness," he explains. A frustrating experience was a "Eureka!" moment for Tosti. "One day I was driving one of the local freeways in the area here -- we're not far from Portland (Ore.) -- and I got behind a guy who was going slow in the left lane," says Tosti. "And I got to thinking, boy, it sure would be nice if I could reach out and tap this guy on the shoulder and ask him to move over. And that's when the light bulb went off."

Tosti went home and designed a see-through decal for windshields that says "REVO EVOM." Seen in a rearview mirror, it reads "MOVE OVER."

"It's been a labor of love," says Tosti, who didn't disclose how many $29 stickers he's sold. He would like to sell more to law-enforcement agencies. Tosti said aggression only aggravates other drivers. For him, response to the decal on his car has always been positive and pleasant -- in large part because he is a patient, nontailgating driver. "It's amazing how effective it is," he says. "On one trip from Portland to Seattle, I felt at times like I was sweeping the left lane with a broom."

A faster, more courteous -- and well-swept -- highway? Sounds like something most folks could live with. Defending the driving But not everyone agrees with those who tell them to get out of the way. "The left lane is for passing . . . not a license to speed till you kill someone," wrote a contributor to Motor Trend's blog. "Grow up. If I'm in the left lane doing 65 while the speed limit's 80, I'll move over. But if I'm doing the speed limit, and someone decides he's Mario Andretti . . . he/she can go around me and break the law further up the highway."

Washington state law says, "It is a traffic infraction to drive continuously in the left lane of a multilane roadway when it impedes the flow of other traffic." "I think there is some misunderstanding," Pratt says. "A lot of people think that if they're going at or near the speed limit that they don't have to get out of the lane." And the left-lane driving debate goes on.

The Advent Conspiracy

This year, Black Friday—the day after Thanksgiving that traditionally kicks off the season of holiday spending—was especially dark. Early that day, a crowd of bargain hunters trampled an employee to death as they rushed into a New York Wal-Mart at 5 a.m. Three others, including a 28-year-old pregnant woman, also suffered from minor injuries. As reports about the incident continued to surface throughout the day, many were asking, "Is this what Christmas has become?"

If the more than 800 churches worldwide who are participating in Advent Conspiracy are to be believed, the answer to that question is a resounding no. Advent Conspiracy is a movement that started in 2006 as a way to reclaim the Christmas season. "There's been a significant drift from the worship of Jesus," says Greg Holder, the pastor of Windsor Crossing in St. Louis, Mo., and one of the creators of Advent Conspiracy. "We've seen anxiety and frustration consume entire communities as people start believing the lie that celebrating Christmas is about hyper consumerism."

Holder, along with Chris Seay, the pastor of Ecclesia in Houston, Texas and Rick McKinley, pastor of Imago Dei in Portland, Ore., launched Advent Conspiracy as a way to lead their congregations into meaningful worship during Christmastime. They put the focus squarely on worship and service instead of gifts and established four guiding principles: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More and Love All.

If the principles "spend less" and "give more" seem contradictory, that's because U.S. culture's understanding of giving is a little off. Consumerism allows people to create the illusion of giving without having to sacrifice anything personal. The three pastors encouraged their congregations to forgo much of their gift buying and spending on commercial items, and instead to give gifts of presence, creativity and time.

It isn't that most gifts are wrong, just misguided. "We're not Scrooges," Holder says. "We're not against gifts. We want people to pull back on giving meaningless gifts."

The money that would’ve been spent on presents was pooled and used to provide clean water for communities in third world countries. According to Jeanne McKinley, Rick McKinley's wife and the director of Advent Conspiracy at Imago Dei, the decision to connect Advent Conspiracy with water was deliberate, contrasting the desperate need for water in many places to the comfortable lifestyles of those in the U.S. "Water is a starting point. It's the most basic need that all of us have," she says. "If we meet that need then we can go forward in relationship with the people receiving clean water."

The first year, five churches participated; by the second year, it spread to include not only hundreds of churches but also high schools, college groups and businesses. Holder considers Advent Conspiracy a common ground where people from all corners of the Christian tradition can meet. "This is a way for the body of Christ to unite,” he says. “It's not just one type of church jumping on board with this. Young, old, liturgical, contemporary, non-denominational, mainline—they're all in. We spend a lot of time talking about our differences, but this is a chance to remind ourselves we are the body of Christ."

One such church, Jacob's Well in Kansas City, Mo., decided to join in 2007. The pastor at Jacob’s Well, Tim Keel, liked that it was a practical extension of the concepts in the book of James, which his congregation studied that fall.

Keel knew his congregation would be willing participants in Advent Conspiracy, but he wasn't prepared for how enthusiastic their response would truly be. As children grasped the core concepts of Advent Conspiracy they asked for money to give to the water collection instead of gifts. Families attended gift-making workshops to learn how to make unique presents for one another. Artists from the Jacob's Well community donated their talents and time to make the season creatively stimulating and truly worshipful.

"I was thinking we'd dig one well," Keel says. "When we had the money to dig four, it was significant. I was surprised by how people took ownership of it, not just as something they were doing in our church, but inviting other people from their lives to participate as well."

As more churches and groups continue to climb on board, Advent Conspiracy will remain decentralized, acting not as an organization but as a resource. It isn't the desire of Advent Conspiracy to dictate how people are celebrating Christmas and donating their money, but to enable congregations to encourage and support each other as they recover the advent season.
"Ultimately, it would be amazing for the Church to stand together and see the water crisis solved because that's how we wanted to spend our Christmas," Jeanne McKinley says. "But for us, the Jesus component is the most important part. Beyond the giving and spending less, more than anything, we want people to engage in worship more fully at Christmas."

Author: Shanna Dipaolo
Courtesy of: Relevant Magazine

Friday, December 05, 2008

He Still Opens Doors

My very good friend, Rachel, sent me this because (as she says), "Joel says it better than me."

Lately I've been feeling more and more frustrated with my mortgage mess and current life situation. I continue to feel like when things don't go as I'd like them that God doesn't care about me anymore when I know deep down that I truly must rely fully on Him and stop trying to control my life as if it is mine to control. Although I know that everything works out according to His plan, it is hard for me to maintain patience and understanding that it will be alright. This scripture couldn't have come at a better time.

Courtesy of Joel Osteen:

Today's Scripture -
“I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close” (Revelation 3:8, NLT).

God is ready to present you with new opportunities. He wants to open new doors before you. It doesn’t matter what’s happening in the world around you, in the economy, the housing industry, or with job reports; God’s Word still remains true. He rewards the people who seek after Him. He’s not the least bit concerned about how He’s going to supply your needs. There is no recession in heaven. He has His eye on you, and He still opens doors that no one can shut! In an instant, He can bring the right people into your life, the right opportunities, and the right resources to take you to a new level.

But in order to go to a higher level, you have to have a higher way of thinking. You can’t stay focused on what’s happening in the natural nor allow worry and fear to fill your thoughts. Remember, God’s ways are higher than our ways. He is working on your behalf behind the scenes in the supernatural realm. Choose to keep an attitude of faith and expectancy. As you do, you’ll move forward through the open doors of blessing God has prepared for you.

A Prayer for Today

Father in heaven, I bless Your holy name. Thank You for opening doors for me that no one can close. Fill me with Your peace and joy today as I wait on You. In Jesus’ Name Amen.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

World AIDS Day

Courtesy of Relevant Magazine:

The global HIV/AIDS pandemic rarely leaves much room for optimism. A brief look at the numbers is staggering, and even daunting. There are currently 33 million people worldwide living with HIV or AIDS, most of them in developing countries. Of that 33 million, 2 million are children under the age of 15. Last year, there were 2.7 million new cases of HIV. Another 2 million people died from the virus in 2007. In the United States alone, there were 56,000 new cases of HIV last year.

With a problem as massive as HIV/AIDS, it’s easy to become shocked into a state of inaction. The issue seems too difficult to handle, and not knowing where to start, we don’t start at all. Today, however, is a day to take action. It is a day to remember those directly affected by this pandemic. December 1 is international World AIDS Day. The purpose of World AIDS Day is to bring public awareness to the spread of the disease throughout the world. Moreover, it’s about respect and solidarity for the millions of people living with HIV/AIDS. Across the globe today, governments are showing solidarity for those living with the virus. President Bush announced today that the U.S. met its 2008 goal of providing treatment for 2 million people by the end of the year. In China, a country where discrimination against those living with the disease can be common, President Hu Jintao visited AIDS and HIV patients to show the country’s support for those living with the disease. In South Africa, the country most afflicted with the disease, a moment of silence was observed for AIDS sufferers, and the country celebrated new strategies in their fight against the virus.

2008 marks the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. In the past 20 years, much has been accomplished in the global fight against AIDS. New medications have allowed people to lead significantly longer (or even normal) life spans. The U.S. has tripled its commitment to fighting AIDS in Africa with the president pledging billion to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Great advances have been made in prevention education in developing nations. There is indeed reason for optimism. However, with the problem of AIDS growing globally, there is still much work to be done.

The time to get involved in the fight against AIDS and HIV is now. As the Church, it is a moral imperative that we show love and compassion to those living with AIDS. HIV and AIDS are often branded with a severe social stigma. People living with the disease are practically deemed untouchable. It is especially important, then, that Christians show the mercy and compassion to reject these stigmas. In the time of Christ, those stricken with leprosy carried this kind of stigma. As ceremonially unclean people, they were shunned from the community. Yet Jesus spent time with those who others would have seen as outcasts. He did this not out of pity, but out of love.

In addition to showing empathy, it is also incumbent upon us to offer practical help to people stricken with AIDS. One way we can do this is by becoming involved with World AIDS Day. The World AIDS Campaign , who coordinates World AIDS Day, offers opportunities to join the global fight against AIDS. One such avenue is the Leadership Pledge. This downloadable document serves as a petition to urge world governments to live up to their promises in battling the AIDS pandemic. Also, the pledge sheets are used in exhibitions during WAC events to raise public awareness about the global crisis. The WAC also provides people with tools to start their own local campaigns against AIDS. By providing position papers and marketing materials, grassroots organizations can be armed with the knowledge and practical resources they need to fight AIDS and HIV on a community level. This means individual churches can form their own viable AIDS ministries. This year, as we reflect on those around the world suffering with AIDS and HIV, take action. Consider utilizing the tools provided by the WAC to begin an AIDS outreach in your own community.

AIDS and HIV are indeed a daunting and overwhelming issue, but the battle is not hopeless. As long as governments continue to fund research, medications and prevention education, we can see the spread of AIDS halted. But in order to ensure that global governments follow through on their commitments to fight the pandemic, it will take a public willing to hold them accountable. It will take a church that does not stand by in apathy. It will take individuals willing to love those who have been deemed outcasts by society. Most of all, it will take a steadfast commitment. We as individuals must no longer tolerate the stranglehold AIDS and HIV have on the globe. Let this World AIDS Day be more than a reminder that causes empathy. Let it spur action.

Author: Sam Hamilton

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving for real

Courtesy of Relevant Magazine:

Thanksgiving is upon us once again. The time of year when we get together with family and friends, eat ourselves into a mild coma and fall asleep on the couch watching plasticine announcers make asinine comments about enormous cartoon-character balloons, or look on in horror as John Madden greedily devours this year’s turducken. Without a doubt, it is the pinnacle of the American experience. Certainly, though, the time-honored holiday has to signify more than an excuse to gorge ourselves on pies and various starches. After the hectic madness of each year, and before the brutal onslaught of the Christmas rush, Thanksgiving at least offers us the opportunity to sit back and consider the things in our lives for which we have to be grateful.

But thankfulness isn’t easy for a lot of us these days. With the economy spiraling out of control, many people are more worried about their jobs and houses than finding the perfect place-setting for their family gathering. Some of us have had a downright horrible year. Thankfulness can be a very difficult attitude when we’ve faced a lot of life’s trials. Health issues, relationship troubles, family dramas—all of these things can make it hard to put ourselves in a very thankful mood, and Thanksgiving day becomes nothing more than another salute to gastronomical excess. The very moniker of the holiday is ignored.

Sometimes, in the midst of a complicated world, we can be tempted to cast a wistful eye to the origins of the holiday. Modern society seems so much more complicated than the idyllic days of the first Thanksgiving. The celebrants of the first Thanksgiving had none of the woes forced upon us by industrialization and the information age. Their woes were, of course, far worse. Though there is dispute about where the first Thanksgiving was celebrated (most scholars say it was St. Augustine, Fla., in 1565 rather than Plymouth, Mass., in 1621) one thing is certain: Disease, hunger and a grueling physical environment were all realities in the days of the first Thanksgiving celebrations. They gave thanks in the midst of circumstances it is hard for us to imagine in modern day America. Fully half of the settlers in Plymouth died the first winter. Governor William Bradford’s young wife died before the ship even landed, by falling overboard. We give thanks because we got our turkey on special at Safeway, and Uncle Carl miraculously didn’t embarrass us this year. They gave thanks for not dying in the previous calendar year. Pretty heavy stuff.

It puts a lot of things in perspective to think of those few, first brave pioneers from Europe. While their motives and methods of colonizing North America are often questionable in the light of history, their courage and fortitude are not. Certainly, they knew hardships few of us could comprehend. Yet, in the midst of it all, they set aside time to honor and thank God for His provision.

It is hard to give thanks to God when we don’t see His goodness. Sometimes the providence of the Almighty seems much more an abstract concept than a reality. Yet, thankfulness should be a part of the very fabric of our beings, in spite of circumstance. The apostle Paul was an absolute model of this attitude. Few people had the laundry list of grievances that Paul did: shipwrecked, stoned, beaten, imprisoned. Yet his attitude throughout his writings is one of constant thanksgiving, even while in chains. He tells the church at Thessalonica:

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Thankfulness in all circumstances is not intended to massage God’s ego. Rather, thankfulness is an attitude that ultimately benefits us. When we give thanks to God in the midst of hardships, we are reminded of certain incontrovertible truths: God is good, God is gracious and God has our best interests at heart. By keeping these truths in mind, our faith becomes stronger. We begin to have the resolve to trust God, and the outgrowth of that is a new sense of peace when trouble arrives. Moreover, it’s a tremendous example to the rest of the world. To give thanks and praise to God when things are going tremendously well in our lives doesn’t prove a lot to people outside the community of faith. But to show that same thankfulness when our world is falling apart, that’s an attitude that speaks multiplied volumes.

Thanksgiving should not be limited to one day a year, but let’s start there. Let’s resolve to spend this holiday in a true condition of thankfulness. Perhaps this year hasn’t lived up to your expectations. Perhaps it’s been your worst year. Maybe Thanksgiving is actually going to be a tremendously lonely time for you. In spite of all this, give thanks. Thank God for the fact that He gave you life, and that He intends to give it to you more abundantly. That may not always resemble what we have in mind, but it will always be what’s best.

Author: Fred Burrows

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Please ... Save The Loop!

Down by my family home is a stretch of land affectionately named "the loop". Developers have come in many many many times and tried to buy up the land to build houses or strip malls or something whereby destroying the Florida's natural beauty. Taking a drive through this stretch of road takes you back to a simpler time. It is unspoiled natural wild beautiful Florida.
Now ... I am a conservative by nature and although some would see that as a "highest bidder" mentality ... I beg to differ. Teddy Roosevelt was a great conservative and a great conservationist. I feel that although progress is a wonderful thing ... there are some things that should be preserved. The loop is one of those things (read this article).
Around Volusia and Flagler Counties you will see signs that say "save the loop" ... please, not only check out the links and pictures I've provided but, take a drive and see for yourself.

Flagler Beach and Hammock Beach

Flagler Beach

Hammock Beach looking toward ocean across golf course

the sun as seen through my sunglasses

cool palm tree

my shadow

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

afternoon thoughts ... and opinions please ...

Hey y'all ... I know I've been slacking lately with the postings of articles I've enjoyed instead of actually writing something myself ... sorry. Please forgive me. Okay, thanks.

Moving on. I have a dilemma. I have a man in my life who likes me but obviously not enough to step up to the plate. He keeps saying things that lead me to believe he's interested but he never actually makes a move. Once every few months it seems ... if timing is right ... he'll take me on a date and we'll talk and things will be good. Then I'll go home (and not sleep with him because I'm trying to be a good girl here) and I will talk to him again for another day or so ... and then not again for sometimes a few weeks to a month or more. In between I've had three separate relationships. I mean, come on. He's currently working on his MBA and is busy with his job, etc. but I feel like if he really wanted to secure me he would have done so by now. So, I'm feeling like a back up plan. I confronted him about it last night. Saying that obviously he's not interested because he's lacking romantic gestures, etc. and he gave me a song and dance about what's really important in a relationship and how he's busy yada yada yada.

So, my question is: Do I just not answer his calls anymore and cut him out of my life? I mean, should I make it very clear that we are just to remain friends? Or should I give him some sort of ultimatum about this situation we've got going? I mean, I have a soft spot for him and would like to possibly give the relationship a chance but if he's too busy then obviously I need to really look elsewhere. So, please, give me your opinions. Thanks y'all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Compassion International

I had to remove the widget that was posted on this page as it is no longer displaying the picture correctly. I want to write about Compassion International as it is near and dear to my heart but I do not have the time to devote to this subject at this very moment. I promise you will read all about it in an upcoming post.

Sinners in the hands of a gracious God

Courtesy of Relevant Magazine:

The Westboro Baptist Church announced last week that they would picket the funeral of President-elect Barack Obama’s grandmother. A solemn family memorial for a woman who will never get to see her grandson sworn in as the nation’s president will be beset by people waving angry and vulgar signs, spewing hate.

Sadly, the placard-waving street preacher is not an uncommon sight in America. They stand on corners, yelling at wide-eyed and innocent girls for being tawdry Jezebels. Shouting through bullhorns and brandishing angry and esoteric signs, they paint a grim picture of hell as the destination of everyone who happens to pass by.

Theirs is a brutal and atavistic god. A dark, old-world titan of blood and fire. It is a pagan deity born from the smallness of man. Such a god has its genesis in our own insecurities. Our own pride and hesitancy to accept unmitigated grace, believing on some level that there must be some Puritanical way we can earn it. This god doesn’t know grace. It demands perfection, knowing full well it will never get it—because that’s the game. It doesn’t want perfection. It wants to laugh at failure and then grind the accused to a paste between its stone molars.

Very few Christians identify with this kind of gospel, and most of us have a visceral reaction when we see the street-corner shouter, condemning strangers to hell. It seems more bad news than good. I often wonder, though, if on some bent level we can learn something from this. Surely, this message sacrifices the true message of the cross to revel in judgment. But how often do we try to be the counterpoint to that grotesque display, only to end up sacrificing the forth-telling of the Gospel at all? And how often do we cling to grace as a cheap catch-all to validate our own broken behavior?

One thing is certain: God’s grace is limitless. He loves us through our faults, forgives us any sin and never desires to see us cut off from His Kingdom. However, at what point do we use this to justify sin? When do we decide we will no longer languish in the same pitfalls over and over, and get down to the hard work of being more like Jesus?

The natural reaction would be to assume that we should tone down our rhetoric on grace and throw in some good, old-fashioned Jonathan Edwards brimstone. I think if anything, it’s not that we emphasize grace too much, it’s that we don’t take it seriously enough. You see, grace of this magnitude should inevitably motivate us toward the one who issues it. Not in the sense that we believe we can somehow pay God back for what He’s done. That’s impossible. Infinite grace can’t be repaid. Rather, we should be compelled to be molded into Christ’s image because grace is so beautiful as to lure us toward its author. It just so happens that, as we chase after this desire, it makes us more like God and less given to filling our lives with garbage. Grace is so stunningly gorgeous that the delights the world has to offer seem ugly and trivial by comparison. If people really understood the lavish depths of grace, the true breadth of God’s love for us, all the sinful acts the sign-wavers condemn would begin to lose their appeal.

This is why the street preachers rarely succeed in truly drawing people to Christ. At best, they make people over in their own perverted image. I once heard an evangelist defend hate-filled condemnation by saying that people don’t understand they need a savior until they understand the depth of their sin. I couldn’t disagree more. Perhaps some people do come to God as a result of recognizing their own depravity. But I tend to think that the beauty of God’s grace can draw people in of its own accord.

Certainly, rebuke has its place. After all, we see Paul engage in it a number of times. But that rebuke is, first of all, always born of prior relationship. Paul didn’t shout judgment upon people who had the unhappy coincidence of wandering by. He formed a deep, loving relationship with the churches he admonished. Secondly, true rebuke is not a slap in the face for screwing up. It’s a reminder that people have sacrificed something of greater fulfillment for something of paltry value. It points people back to grace and helps them recall how extravagantly good it is compared to the pursuits of the flesh. The crazy thing is this: The pursuits of the flesh also include trying to pridefully repay God for our own salvation.

I recall hearing a pastor say once, “If Paul could see the Church today, he wouldn’t even think we were Christians.” In the context of the message, he was insinuating that we had become too worldly to qualify for the term. I agree with the statement, but for entirely different reasons. I wonder sometimes if Paul would scratch his head in bewilderment at much of the modern Church, and then speak lovingly to us, saying:

“You foolish Galatians! Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort?” (Galatians 3:1, 3)

Our human effort always comes up short. When we view grace cheaply, it leads to our desires being drawn away to ultimately unfulfilling pursuits. It leads to arrogantly assuming we can accomplish holiness through our own strength, and we find ourselves repeatedly falling short.
And, if we’re not careful, it leads to waving signs and shouting at people.

Author: Adam Smith

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

another great article ...

America Chooses Obama

Well, here we are on the other side. A watershed moment. An historic election. And we, the American people, have made our choice.

Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States, and the nation’s first black president. And in elections across the country, Democrats won their seats in the Senate. When Obama takes office in January, he will do so with a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress.

“The American people have spoken, and spoken clearly,” McCain told his supporters in Arizona after the results came in.But what about you? Those of you who took our RELEVANT poll yesterday favored McCain: 47 percent of you voted for the Arizona Senator and 33 percent of you for Obama. So, are you disappointed? Will you hang your heads today? Do you fear for our nation’s future? I’m not so sure.

So many of us—members of the widely contested “young evangelical voters”—were divided about this election. Not just as a group, but even in our own hearts. I know which candidate I chose, but it wasn’t an easy decision. And, to be honest, I didn’t really care who won. I agreed with both. I disagreed with both.

What I’m wondering now is where do we go from here?

While the electoral vote and popular vote strongly favored Obama, our country is still largely divided. This was a hard-fought, personal and passionate race. There are wounds on both sides. Can Obama and the Democratic congress heal those wounds? Can we help?

Yes and yes.

Obama ran as a unifier. He condemned our party divisions and championed cooperation across party lines. Many of the Democrats who won seats in the Senate ran with similar platforms. If Obama and the Congress majority maintain that position and “reach across the aisle” in the years to come, that will certainly go a long way in healing our wounds and unifying our country. Karl Rove has already expressed his own wish that the Republicans would do the same, "I hope we will support [Obama] when we agree with him, persuade him when we think his mind is open, and oppose him when we think he is wrong."

Whether unity happens in Washington or not, the question still returns to us: what can we do to help? As Francis Schaeffer so famously put it, “How shall we then live?” Now that the election is over and Obama and the Democrats have so clearly won, how shall we then live? I believe that we, the young Christian voters, can uniquely answer this question. I believe, in fact, that this is the very question we are so primed to answer. Because this election and its profound life issues has galvanized us to true action.

Yes, we voted. But it’s more than that. Through this election, we’ve become aware of the major social issues of our day. And now we want to do something about them. We recognize an election will not change everything. We do not rest our hopes for change on a political party or candidate. We vote, we hope, but we don’t stop there. Tomorrow and the next day and the next and in January when Obama takes office, we get up and we continue our sojourn to follow Jesus. We live our votes for life, for justice, for peace, for equality.

We comfort our friend who tells us she’s considering abortion. Then we gently tell her why we believe life in the womb is precious. We help her find alternative options … and we stick by her side all through the pregnancy and birth and after. She is not a statistic or a faceless evil to us.

We love beyond racial, gender and sexual lines. We reject stereotypes. We embrace individuals. We work for reconciliation.We do not talk about “that side of town,” we live there and work there and mentor there. We are a part of educational reform, and ESL, and rehabilitation.

We recycle. We reduce our imprint. We consciously make our purchases, recognizing the global implications. We strive to “live simply that others may simply live” (Ghandi).

We personally pray for our soldiers in Iraq, for the citizens of Iraq, for our leaders who are making tough decisions that affect millions of lives. We really do pray, and we believe our prayers matter.

We continue to work hard in the jobs God has given us, saving our money and stewarding our resources. We tithe. We donate. We volunteer.

We continually challenge each other to deepen our understanding of whole life ethics and Jesus’ call to follow Him.

I believe this is who we are. I believe this is who you are. I believe we can be the change we’ve voted for—no matter who we voted for.

Posted by: Roxanne Wieman

Courtesy of the Waendel Journal ...

This article summarizes my feelings rather well. I have referenced Tony in a previous post and if you haven't checked out his blog, please do. I highly recommend reading what he has to say. Whether or not you agree with him, he is quite intelligent and well written. ~Caron

Obama victory signals the Age of Virtue

Congratulations to President-Elect Barack Obama. So many had barely dared to believe this would come to pass. But it has and the winner of the election is not just the man who will occupy the White House from mid January. No, for the real winner is the politics of virtue over the politics of substance, because many of the people who voted for Barack Obama did so not because of policy or ideology but because of symbolism. Oprah Winfrey was quite candid about this when she said after the result was announced that:

"For every time that Barack has spoken about Red states and Blue states we have all understood that he meant black people and white people and red people and yellow people and the United States of America. I think for the first time we are going to experience that in a way that we could only have hoped for."

It underlined that race was the central theme of this election. Yes, this was the choice of the American people and it was their sole right to make that choice, but that does not make the rationale for that choice satisfactory. But before I explain my concerns I want to note that whether or not the reasons for Obama's success are satisfactory, his victory is historic, is understandable and it changes the status quo in American society.

Such is the terrible history of racial discrimination and segregation the United States, people felt the need to make a statement, to do something symbolic to demonstrate beyond doubt that a black person is an equal member of society and can rise without barrier to the top job in the nation. Because of this Obama's election was an end in itself with race as a major determining factor.

For many white people Obama's success allows them purge the collective guilt that has been heaped upon them for decades, for the racially driven crimes of the past. For many black people the victory is akin to compensation for the awful suffering of years gone by and something many believe validates them as equals, boosting their self respect and self confidence.

These should have been just happy by-products of an Obama victory, but sadly too many people have made these the primary drivers of the victory. Because of this there has been a disturbing lack of scrutiny of the Democrat agenda. It seems that only when the euphoria of this election night has subsided will people start to critically examine what Obama stands for and what he wants to do. Everyone is familiar with Obama's promise of 'change' but no one can be sure what that will look like or what effects this 'change' will have on people's lives, prosperity and prospects.

It is the latest shining example of the politics of virtue replacing the politics of substance. It confirms that the democratic world has moved into an Age of Virtue. While virtue is not a bad quality to possess, it should never be a substitute or replacement for substance and evidence based decision making and leadership. Too many politicians now clamour to be seen as more virtuous than their opponents.

The most clear and disturbing example of this is the man made global warming frenzy and the war on carbon dioxide. Despite there being only hypotheses and models and projections - all of which have completely failed to accurately predict the current absence of global warming and the attendant drop in global mean temperatures - it is seen as the virtuous thing to do mandate changes that will dramatically reduce the energy that can be generated at a massive economic cost which is being passed on to people who can least afford to pay the price. Obama embodies this orthodoxy and buys into it despite there being no scientific proof that what we are experiencing is anything other than a natural variation. The consensus against the orthodoxy is growing, but it is not considered virtuous to arrest the runaway hype and make decisions based on hard evidence.

Another example of virtue trumping sound decision making is in the field of international relations. There remains a body of people who still believe in trying to negotiate a settlement with those whose stated aim is the destruction of democracy, through violence if necessary and its replacement with a theocratic form of governance. The demands to withdraw western troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, thus making it possible for Islamists to flourish and supplant the weak governments that exist, will not be their final demands. Further demands will follow. Pressure will be maintained over the course of decades as each negotiation ends and new demands are made.

Talk can only achieve so much. It is not true that every difference can be resolved through negotiation. The worst thing that could happen is that the west - taking its lead from an Obama-led America - blinks and demonstrates weakness in the face of pressure. Obama has set an expectation of a weaker approach by America where appeasement is more rather than less likely. Where strength is resented yet respected by our enemies, weakness borne of a desire to be virtuous will be welcomed and accompanied by contempt. All that realists can hope for is that Obama comes to understand the dangers that will be associated with his 'lets all be friends' position and performs one of his regular U-turns. For the sake of America and the west I hope the U-turns come thick and fast as this inexperienced man is counselled that his current path is the route to failure.

Posted by Tony Sharp

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

last word on voting ...

Courtesy of Relevant Magazine:

Politics is a sticky business. Every four years, the American public is given rhetoric from both sides of the spectrum, each painting an idealistic view of a hopeful future, an America that represents the light of the world. Each party claims their platform has a monopoly on attaining this goal. Tomorrow’s presidential election, in particular, has deeply divided Americans.

It’s not just the candidates that give Christians pause. Indeed, the entire political process has become so polarized and vitriolic that some have begun to question its very foundation. Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, authors of Jesus for President, were so disturbed by the way they saw Christians drawing political battle lines that they embarked on a cross-country tour to tell people about a different vision for political engagement."

It started around the last election,” Claiborne says. “To vote or not to vote—that was the question. How do we engage the political conversation? We wanted to think deeply and theologically about it as Christians—how to engage or disengage, or appropriately engage. There was an inherent—and I think, healthy—suspicion about putting all of our hope in one day, or one vote, or one candidate or party.”

The very nature of the campaign process, Haw believes, should give Christians pause. “The current state of voting involves a very serious hurdle that Christians must see as a red flag, which is the whole question of coercion,” he says. “You have this idea of a tug of war going on publicly. It appears very hard for me as a Christian, with the precepts of Jesus and the way He views His enemies and friends, to jump in on one side of the tug of war and then be happy if you’ve pulled your tug of war in one direction and say, ‘We’re glad we beat you other guys.’”

Claiborne and Haw are very clear that they would not unequivocally encourage Christians to abstain from voting, merely to prayerfully consider the best course of action for them and to follow their conviction. “We’re very careful not to say, ‘Don’t vote,’” Claiborne says. “Think very critically. Pray. Study Scripture. Whatever you do, do it with fear and trembling, with our neighbors in mind, with the poor in mind, with kids in Iraq in mind.”

Claiborne feels that Christians who do choose to vote can embody the ideals of both parties. “One of the things I love about Jesus is that He’s never telling people exactly what to do—or if He does, it’s different for two different people,” he says. “There are a lot of different ways people are going to respond. I think one of the mistakes the Religious Right made was telling people exactly what to do.”

Ultimately, how can we chart a new course? How can we see society transformed when we have to be wary of involvement in the system? Claiborne and Haw believe that the importance lies in keeping our perspective. “There are a lot of models in Scripture,” Claiborne says. “There are prophets who are on the margins. There are prophets in the royal court. One of the tricky things is to maintain the peculiarity and the distinctiveness of being a Christian.”

This peculiarity can indeed be difficult to maintain when we thrust ourselves into being active participants in a two-party system, when neither party fully upholds the ethics of Christ. However, Claiborne believes Christians can work within the system as long as they remain unwilling to sacrifice certain principles.“

For those of us working legislatively, we can’t compromise on things like, ‘We’re going to beat our swords into plowshares,’” he says. “That’s what we’re called to, and to bless the poor and meek. If we don’t hear any of these parties saying something that embodies that, then we don’t put our hand in with it. There are a number of ways you can call that. You can work for the Kingdom of God and align yourself with whatever seems to move us closer to that. It’s possible to say we’re also going to interrupt with grace and humility whatever seems to be standing in the way of the reign of God.”

Part of that perspective is not canonizing one candidate while vilifying the other. “You can quote both Republicans and Democrats who have had that triumphalism and messiah complex,” Claiborne says. “We’re ultimately not thinking that this person is our savior or the source of real change for the world.”

In fact, much of Claiborne and Haw’s mission has been to deflate the idea that one candidate or party symbolizes hope for society. What people do with that message, Claiborne believes, is up to them and their convictions. “We’re inviting people to think,” he says. “Some folks go out and organize for one of the candidates. Others say, ‘We’re going to write in Jesus.’ Ultimately, [we hope] whatever they do is seeking first the Kingdom of God and embodying their politics with their lives rather than just trusting in a single candidate or a single politician to change the world for them. We vote every day with our lives. We vote every day with our feet, our hands, our lips and our wallets. Ultimate change does not just happen one day every four years.”

Author: Adam Smith

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Yesterday I had the pleasure of participating in early voting. I went down to my local library during the Florida/Georgia game hoping that I'd be the only one there and everyone else would be off drinking themselves silly while watching the game. I pull into the parking lot and am immediately astounded by how many cars are parked in the lot. There are so many vehicles that about 1/8 are parked on curbs illegally. As luck would have it, a car was backing out of a space as I am pulling in. Praise God I didn't have to be wracked with guilt over parking illegally (I really have a hard time doing that sort of thing ... one of my many idiosyncrasies). I walk in through the doors and am stopped by a coworker ... we exchange pleasantries and I ask how long he waited. "Over an hour," he said. "What!?! Really? Oh goodness! Well, I better get in line," I said. And off I went.

I literally walked all the way to the very back of the library to join the line and while I was walking I was stopped by another coworker ... "Can you believe the turnout? And during FL/GA nonetheless!" I commented. She said, "The line moves fast." I felt encouraged and dutifully took my place in line. She wasn't kidding ... Only about 40 minutes had passed when I finally reached the doors to the conference room. We were stopped by an official at the front who tells us which line to get in at the first stop in the room. As I enter line 1 I am greeted by an elderly lady with Gators gear on ... GO GATORS! She asks me for my identification (no need for an actual voter registration card which is a little worrisome but with the electronic database she's searching, etc. I am actually feeling more confident in the changes than in the old way). She takes my driver's license and asks me to confirm my address, etc. and I sign on an electronic screen. She gives me a printout in the form of a receipt of sorts and tells me I must go to another line to turn in my receipt.

Once I have handed over my receipt to the lady in the separate group of lines she tells me to have a seat in the waiting area. I immediately notice a few others before me in the original line who are now seated and waiting their turn however I am immediately called up front. I am hoping that there isn't something wrong but she hands me the ballot and off I go. I am wondering at this point why mine was ready before some others who were waiting longer but I walk over and find an empty voting booth and get down to business. I am through the presidential and congressional voting and on to the judges, etc when I hear some girl in the next row say, "All I wanted to do was vote for Obama. Now they makin' me answer all this other shit." I am immediately saddened by the state of America but keep to the task at hand with the hope that at least my vote cancels hers. Who knows what she actually answered for the rest of the questions.

It is crazy just how democratic our voting system is and will remain. Though the general populous doesn't actually take turns sitting in congress, etc. (as did the ancient Greeks) we allow every eligible person the right to vote for their choice of representative - no matter their qualifications to make that decision. The results will be determined on November 4th, a day after my mom and dad's anniversary. I know that right now, statistically, my candidate is not likely to win the presidential election however, I will continue to hold out hope. I know that no matter the outcome ... this will be a year to change history. We will either have our first Mixed-Race President or our first Female Vice President. These next few years we will tackle the issue of health care and determine just who it is that becomes more burdened with taxes. I know that unfortunately the person who robs Peter to pay Paul will always have the support of Paul (George Bernard Shaw).

It is sad that we cannot get back to basics ... a 10% flat tax with no loopholes and a mandate for big business and health insurance companies to become more responsible to the people. I look at a company like Starbucks and how they manage to make a profit and yet still provide health insurance for most of their employees. Could we not tell WalMart that if they don't adopt this practice (as we see it is quite possible) that we will make their lives miserable with penalties? Maybe I am naive. I know for certain that I cannot begin to fathom all the inner workings of the tax code or how to even begin specifics on health care. However I know that something has got to change ... on both sides of the aisle.

Anyway, that's enough ranting for today ... it's time for lunch. ;-)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Don't Panic

Courtesy of Relevant Magazine:

There’s no doubt that the current financial crisis is at the forefront of most people’s minds. Banks are in trouble, homes are being foreclosed on, and the stock market continues to plummet with a savage and single-minded determination. The government has scrambled to stop the bleeding, with both parties tripping over themselves to throw billions of dollars at companies who apparently couldn’t handle their affairs in the first place. Forty-two billion went to investment giant AIG, who promptly and in good faith used some of it to send their executives to a five-star resort. After the press brutally raked them over the coals for their conspicuous consumption, the chastened corporation took their executives on a hunting trip to England.

In the midst of this absolute mess, it’s very easy for the common person to panic. After all, with companies in flames all around us, the corporations that drive our economy grossly mismanaged to the point of catastrophe, can our jobs or livelihoods fall far behind? However, there is a powerful message in all this, if we choose to learn it. Jesus puts it in perspective for us in Matthew 6.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:25-33, TNIV)

Our first reaction to a response like this is to think it trite. After all, we don’t need tired Christian catch-alls right now. We need pragmatism. We need action! I wonder why it is, though, that faith in God’s providence seems impractical to us? In our modern, Western society, it’s easy to look at the words Jesus spoke here and dismiss them as a lot of nice and idealistic talk. Yet, what Jesus is telling us is far more than the necessity of relying on God. He’s pointing out all the things we rely on instead. As Christians, we are supposed to be a set-apart and peculiar people. We seem to have diminished that concept to a list of action-based do’s and don’ts while still accepting part and parcel the world’s attitudes and priorities. How different are we really when it comes to our concerns over money and material desires? Where does our faith run off to when the company we work for starts handing out pink slips? Either the message Jesus spoke here is true both in times of abundance and want, or it is never true at all.

We have a very particular opportunity before us. As the world pulls out its collective hair watching global markets fall farther and farther, we can exhibit a peace and faith that befuddles those around us. We can show the world that we truly believe that God will supply our needs, even when we don’t see it happening. Even when we have misconceptions about what our true needs are. There’s another element to all this. For those of the world who are deeply affected by this economic downturn, we can be a light by helping to supply their needs. Can you imagine the impact it would have on the world if the body of Christ suddenly came to the financial aid of those who have lost their jobs? How many volumes of God’s love could we speak by stepping up to help pay the mortgage of our neighbors facing foreclosure? This global panic could be remembered as a time when Christians put the Gospel in action and reached out to help the downtrodden, or it can be remembered as a time when they panicked along with everyone else. The choice is ours.

Democrat or Republican, we should be able to agree that the answer to our problems is not a government bailout. The answer is a steadfast reliance on God’s provision. Even when everything around us looks grim, and our very livelihoods are threatened, we can rest assured that God is more concerned with our needs than we are. Let us be a people who fundamentally believe the promises Jesus made. Not as a pious platitude, but as a pragmatic reality.

Author: Adam Smith

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

the temps are dropping

YAY! The past few days it has felt more like Virginia than Florida and I, for one, am quite happy about it. I know, I know ... if I like the cold I should move back up north ... or so my friends tell me often. But, I can't. So, I shall enjoy the cold snaps we rarely have and our month of January (also known as winter) where I get to wear all my nice warm coats and boots, etc.

Mom and dad came up this past weekend to help install new track lighting in my kitchen, a new fan in the guest room, and hang a pic on the wall in the dining room. I tell ya ... parents truly come in handy sometimes. ;-)

Lauren moves back home from Arkansas next month (in 10 days to be precise). I couldn't be happier! I can't wait for her to get back into school and get back to focusing on the things she should be concerned about at the age of 20 instead of living the tough life - working all week to barely make ends meet. I'm happy that she's making the smart choice.

Ashley is thoroughly enjoying Los Angeles. She's officially gone to a Hollywood birthday party now and met a few celebs. Too cute! She truly is living the life. Now if only we could figure out how the hell we're going to afford to fly her home for Christmas! $600 is the going rate right now. AHHHHH. I mean, I know it's Christmas and all ... but that is way out of our price range. I think Ashley, Mom, Grandma, Aunt Trish, and Myself are all going to have to go in on this one. Mom is determined to wait it out and fly Ashley in last minute. Which might work. I mean, the last minute fares are quite cheap if you don't care about the times you're flying, etc. Ashley really just wants to come home ... she doesn't care if she has to hop a flight at 4:30 am. It's a good thing because that's just what might happen. ;-)

Well, I'm off to do some reading and head to bed. Didn't win the camera from PioneerWoman. DARN. I have the worst luck. Oh well.

P.S. I went and saw Steven Levitt last night at the University. He gave a lecture on his book, Freakonomics, and was quite funny and poignant. I was afraid I would be bored to tears but he is in person as he is in his book ... good sense of humor and very interesting stories. I highly recommend his book and if you get a chance to see him lecture ... GO. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Stuff Christians Like

Today my post is a shout out to my friends Joel and Erin. Today Joel made a post about a blog called Stuff Christians Like. It's a take on the various blogs like, Stuff White People Like, etc. Anyway, it's fantastic! Please read it ... you will laugh until you cry. I loved the comment about naming churches things that sound like clothing stores. LOL.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My new favorite blog ...

SuzInOz is an expat from Texas living in Australia. She's got great stories and clips of shows I've never had the privilege of knowing until now. Start from the beginning if you have time and catch up ... it's well worth it. Plus, I've included the link to her August 1st post about Australian television and most importantly the video on Personal Space Invading and Ghosting. HILARIOUS! I've also included the link to Rove's website. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I love trees ...

More importantly ...

I love lying underneath trees and taking pictures up through their leaves ...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

More old pics ...

Family trip to Walt Disney World

Just for the heck of it I'm posting more old pics. I'm watching the Skins kick some Rams bootie and feeling nostalgic again today ... so here we go:

Ashley and her bottle

Lauren asleep on the beach

Pet-A-Pet Farm Park

Friday, October 10, 2008

home sick and homesick

Me and my sisters at a pumpkin patch in northern Virginia

I have a freakin cold. It's so annoying ... it's not like the flu or bronchitis or something that makes you really feel awful but it's just enough to completely annoy you. The runny/congested nose, the achy-ness, the fuzzy-headed-ness. Well, when you're sick you get to make up whatever words you'd like ... so there! Speaking of runny/ congested noses ... how the heck is that humanly possible? I'd like someone to please explain to me how you can be so congested that you can barely breathe through your nose yet out of nowhere you can have a stream of ... well you know ... suddenly like a faucet has been turned on? GROSS.

Me and mommy in Hilton Head

And lying in bed all day seems pretty awesome when you're at work but as soon as you're home and you actually have to lie in bed all day ... it's boring as hell. I have a paper for class I could be working on of course. But then of course I'm dealing with the fuzziness of my brain (very scientific terminology here folks). Anyway, to help me cope ... because my family is far away and I really want my mommy ... I'm posting old photos for nostalgia's sake and to brighten my mood. Enjoy!

Me and bunny in the apartment in Fairfax

Me and Great Grandma

baby Ashley Lynn

baby Lauren Kimberly

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Brits take on American politics ...

You may or may not know ... but I love reading what the Brits have to say about American politics. I majored in Political Science and had several courses on world politics including British/Irish politics. It is not necessarily the articles themselves that intrigue me but the comments posted ... on the whole the Brits are way more up on our own politics than our very own people. Sad, but true. Plus, it is interesting to watch them hash it out over something they really have no control over ;-) Take a look ... Plus, several British blogs post some really interesting thoughts on this whole debate. The Waendel Journal is the blog of late that I have found to be most interesting ...

P.S. The Drudge Report usually links to some fantastic stories posted by journalists all around the world ... be sure to check it out.

Have you heard of ACORN?

Hey y'all ...

Have you heard of ACORN? No matter which side of the aisle you are on, this is a serious topic to be discussed. People like myself want to be assured that my vote counts. I want to know that for every legitimate vote there aren't three others from "Mary Poppins" or the like.

My friend over at Cottage on Fox Hollow has posted about this very thing. Please take a moment to see what the deal is and then go out there and search for yourself. It's very real folks. No matter which way you lean, right or left, this is still a serious matter. Please take action. Thank you ...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Trusting God to Provide

I am leading the bible study tomorrow night and for this fall through spring we're studying from the book RememberRepentRestore. This study is a 16 week series focusing on the Old Testament. This should be a good study ... I'm already liking the first chapter, Trusting God to Provide. Life hasn't been easy for me although I know for certain that things could be much worse. I really am blessed and I continually have God's favor though it is so hard to trust that He will provide and that I will be taken care of.

As the description says: "Why is it so easy to turn away from God? After all He’s done, is doing and will continue to do in our lives, we turn our backs on Him every single day! We lie. We cheat. We steal. We think bad thoughts. We’re constantly turning away from what we know is real and just and right, and we follow what’s easy or self-serving or just 'right now.' And no matter how hard we might try to do good, be good and influence other people to do and be the same, there’s just no way to not make mistakes. But here’s the good news: God remains faithful … even when we don’t. He’s the same in the good times and the bad. Despite the divisions, failures, and yearnings that plague our lives today, God never gives up on us."

This study "focuses on a dark time in Israel’s relationship with God that was marked by both military and spiritual failure. But even in the dark God reached out with the promise of hope for those who would follow Him. Each week’s study will uncover a genuine understanding of spiritual growth, and reveal an exciting look into how we all fit into God’s masterful plan. By helping us remember our passion for following God and how to effectively repent of life as usual, this study will restore our longing to follow God’s perfect plan for each of our lives."

Our memory verse for this week is 1 Kings 17:16. The NIV states, "For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah." To better understand this verse I like to look at The Message. Verses 15 and 16 state, "And she went right off and did it, did just as Elijah asked. And it turned out as he said—daily food for her and her family. The jar of meal didn't run out and the bottle of oil didn't become empty: God's promise fulfilled to the letter, exactly as Elijah had delivered it!"

This verse serves as a reminder that God provides for those whom He calls. The question for this week is: How do difficult circumstances affect my trust in God?

I have been thinking a lot lately about being single and turning 30. I know that God has a plan for me and that my life is destined to be everything I've wanted. What is hard is trusting that God truly will provide for me. I continually struggle with the trust issue. Deep down I know that it will all go according to His plan ... I just don't know what that plan is ... and I can't help but worry that maybe His plan won't be my plan. This, of course, is just what the enemy wishes from us. The enemy wants us to be filled with doubt so we grow ever farther away from Christ. I am renewed by the message from Matthew 6:25-34, especially verse 33, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you." Yes, Lord, I will seek you and trust you to provide.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Dear Abby ...

John Prine is coming in concert and though I am not going ... I have had his songs in my head for the past week.

My mother introduced me to him at an early age and though he is mostly inappropriate and humorous he always has meaning and is ultimately quite talented.

I am posting the lyrics to his song, Dear Abby, because I cannot get the song out of my head and therefore I must subject y'all to it as well ;-)

Dear Abby, Dear Abby ...
My feet are too long
My hair's falling out
and my rights are all wrong
My friends they all tell me
that I've no friends at all
Won't you write me a letter,
Won't you give me a call
Signed Bewildered

Bewildered, Bewildered...
You have no complaint
You are what your are
and you ain't what you ain't
So listen up Buster,
and listen up good
Stop wishing for bad luck
and knocking on wood

Dear Abby, Dear Abby...
My fountain pen leaks
My wife hollers at me
and my kids are all freaks
Every side I get up on
is the wrong side of bed
If it weren't so expensive
I'd wish I were dead
Signed Unhappy

Unhappy, Unhappy...
You have no complaint
You are what your are
and you ain't what you ain't
So listen up Buster,
and listen up good
Stop wishing for bad luck
and knocking on wood

Dear Abby, Dear Abby...
You won't believe this
But my stomach makes noises
whenever I kiss
My girlfriend tells me
It's all in my head
But my stomach tells me
to write you instead
Signed Noise-maker

Noise-maker, Noise-maker ...
You have no complaint
You are what your are
and you ain't what you ain't
So listen up Buster,
and listen up good
Stop wishing for bad luck
and knocking on wood

Dear Abby, Dear Abby...
Well I never thought
That me and my girlfriend
would ever get caught
We were sitting in the back seat
just shooting the breeze
With her hair up in curlers
and her pants to her knees
Signed Just Married

Just Married, Just Married...
You have no complaint
You are what your are
and you ain't what you ain't
So listen up Buster,
and listen up good
Stop wishing for bad luck
and knocking on wood

And for your viewing pleasure ... one of his more recent songs that I'm absolutely in love with ...

more random thoughts

So yesterday evening I went to Rachel's (Ray Ray's Cafe) for dinner and a movie. We had honey mustard baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and mixed veggies. Simple but yummy! We watched Made of Honor ... cute ... but not my fav. This morning I got up and met Becky at the beach to walk and talk and then we had breakfast at Shelby's. It was absolutely beautiful this morning! I love being so close to the ocean ... I know I've mentioned that before ... but it truly helps put things in perspective for me. The ocean is a calming sanctuary for me. Anyway, yesterday was my friend Brandy's birthday so tonight we're having dinner at La Napolera and then going ice skating! Tomorrow morning is church ... Pastor Gee is doing a new series that should be quite interesting. Check out the website for more details. Tomorrow night begins the book club meetings. Not sure I really have time for a book club ... but we'll see. Somehow this weekend in between all the goings on I'm supposed to find time to write a paper. Good times ... pray for me y'all ...

BLESSINGS! Until next time ...

Monday, September 29, 2008

random thoughts

Wow. It is so much more interesting to read about other people's lives then it is to write about mine. I guess you never think of your own life as exciting ...

Well, this past weekend I went home to spend some QT with my sis ... she leaves for LA tomorrow. She got the job at NBC (well, Reveille). She's super excited. She's super broke. She better be super good at saving her moolah or she'll be super emailing her sis for help ;-) I can't believe she's going to be so far away from me. It is weird to think that I won't be able to hug her whenever I want ... I mean look at her smiling face (pardon the drunk idiots in the background) ... Okay, don't get me started on missing my baby sister ... next subject ...

Oh, by the way, I've noticed lately that I use the ellipsis way too often in my writing (pause) and it is never for for any omitted word, phrase, line, or paragraph from within a quoted passage. It is merely me gathering my thoughts (pause) and thinking (pause). I use the ellipsis when I'm dragging out a thought or I feel like a full stop is just too harsh. Sometimes you have to leave a sentence trailing and the pauses I inserted in that sentence above just don't give the same feel to my thoughts as an ellipsis. I know, I know ... but y'all will have to get over it because:

a) I don't really think anyone reads this blog anyway
b) We all use and abuse the English language as it is with the happy faces, etc.
and c) It's my blog and I'll do what I want :-P

Man, I'm tired ... can you tell? Night y'all!

Monday, September 22, 2008

6 quirky things about myself ...

I've been tagged by Rachel to post 6 quirky things about yourself. Here are the rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Mention the rules on your blog.
3. Tell about six unspectacular quirks of yours.
4. Tag six fellow bloggers by linking them.
5. Leave a comment on each of the six blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.

My personal QUIRKS:

1. Everything has to be in its place. On my coffee table, my bathroom counter, my office desk, etc. I have this OCD need to have everything precisely in its place.
2. I can't stand when people don't take care of themselves ... especially those that go out in public looking like they don't take care of themselves. I realize that people "don't care" and are more about "being comfortable". It's BS and it bothers me. Like my mom always said, "You never know when you're going to meet the President." Take a little pride in your appearance people.
3. I am a lazy procrastinator. If I can put it off I will. Out of sight out of mind. I somehow end up completing things absolutely necessary which fools people into thinking I'm fairly motivated but secretly ... I'm a bum ;-)
4. I have to have the toilet lid down. Always. That is why they invented the darn thing. Put the lid down after every use please. Thank you.
5. Grammar. Please use it appropriately. End of story.
6. Punctuality is important. I had too many times being late to Girl Scouts, birthday parties, etc. that I now have an intense fear of being late. I'm always early ... I usually try to keep it to only 5 min but sometimes if I misjudge the time to get somewhere ... I'll be "un-fashionably early". I guess it's better than being "fashionably late" :-)

I don't know 6 people that blog regularly, so I also am going to break the last two rules and make it 3 people. However, if you read my blog and would like to tag yourself for me, please feel free.

I tag Rachel, Shay, and Sara. Have fun!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

today is a new day

That is my mantra from now on. I will approach every day as a new day. I will not worry so much about things that are out of my control. I will try my best to be as positive as possible.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

hump day

So ... today is "hump" day ... Friday can't come soon enough. I couldn't believe it but on Monday we had about 90 students at any given time waiting in our lobby to see us. And the worst part is that I'm not exaggerating about the number. At one point there were 96 students on the roster! CRAZY! In all my years here I've never seen it that busy. Nothing like a tropical storm to screw up the first week of school.

Okay ... I'm exhausted ... and it's only 12:20 ... I still have soooo much time left in the day. And I have to go home and clean because my sister is coming Thursday evening to spend the weekend with me. Have I mentioned how happy I am that she's back home for a while!?! I miss my family like crazy. It's not fair that everyone has to live so darned far away. But, for now, I will sign off ... get back to work ... etc. I start two graduate classes this semester. One online. One on Thursday evenings. Hopefully these won't be toooooo difficult. I'm so over school right now. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

going great

So, This week so far has been pretty excellent. I had a date on Sunday that has turned out to be pretty awesome ... he's making me Thai on Friday night :-) And I've been having lunches this week with good friends (Rachel even made pork chops last night and we're having them for lunch today). Tonight I'm going to dinner with Renee ... good times! Grandma and Grandpa B come into town Thursday evening and we're going to dinner. I have off work Friday through next Wednesday. Friday morning I'll go to Cracker Barrel with the Grandparents and then maybe catch some rays. Friday night is dinner with the new man. Saturday morning I help Rachel move into her new place. Saturday night Ashley comes into town! I'll be in Flagler until Wednesday spending lots of time with my family! I'm so happy right now ... it's ridiculous ;-) Anyway, I'm happy to be writing to you. This is just a quick post to fill you in on how happy I am right now, did I mention I was happy? Oh, because I am ...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

conversations with students

Now that it is officially intercession here at the university we have a chance to reflect on the happenings over the past few weeks during registration, etc. What I don't understand is how much these students really think that someone should be doing things for them, telling them everything they need, and that they honestly think they shouldn't have to be proactive in any regard. I mean, the most common answer I get from students is, "No one told me." I mean, really? Really? That's your excuse? Well, truly, it's the parents fault and none other. These parents do everything for their students and never allow their children to make their own mistakes or to learn to be self-sufficient. It's pathetic!

I know I'm just ranting at this point, but consider this ... in the 'real world' if you some how don't receive your electric bill in the mail that month, does that mean that your electric bill is no longer due? Would you expect the electric company to call you up and say, "By the way, we haven't received your payment yet, don't forget it's due." NO. And if you call them when you're late and tell them you never received your bill do you think they'll say, "OH, well in that case, you don't need to worry about paying." NO. Seriously. I truly think these kids have no idea what to do with themselves. They just skate through school ... thinking that Mom or Dad will take care of it for them. Well, they'll receive a rude awakening when they get out there and realize that life isn't a bowl of cherries. It's sad. And when I try my darndest to get these kids to become more self-sufficient I'm given attitude.

Am I just old? Was I really that stupid when I was 18 or 20 years old? Have I just forgotten what it was like? I mean, I remember my mom making me go pay for things by myself when I was quite young ... making me talk to people and ask for things, etc all by myself so I would get used to asking questions and becoming more self-sufficient. Sure we all fall short and we all need a little support now and then ... Do these kids really expect things handed to them? Do they really expect to not look up the answer for themselves? It is the one thing that really drives us all crazy in this office. Other than the people who work here that don't take any pride in their work, aren't proactive, don't truly care about the student, that's a post for another day ...

Maybe the point is that it's not just the students. Maybe it's people in general. People today have more conveniences than ever in the past. People today receive information in a second with the world at their fingertips. From microwaves that cook their dinner in 5 minutes to cell phones that put them in touch with someone in no time ... this fast paced world ... has it truly caused us to stop using our brains? Has this world we all live in caused us to lose our ability to think outside the box? Thoughts to ponder ...

I know I could go on and on and on ... hell, I've worked here for over 5 years ... but I'll leave the rest of my ranting for another day. On a much more positive note, during intercession we can wear jeans ... and our call volume and walk-in volume, etc drops off significantly. Hallelujah! Plus, my grandma is coming to visit me on the 14th and my sister comes home from L.A. on the 16th! This is going to be a nice break :-)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Best Day Ever

So ... today is the best day ever! I am going to sit right here and drink my Pinot Noir and tell you all about it ...

I woke up this morning refreshed and before my alarm (which almost never happens). I got out of bed and took my shower and decided to jump right into cleaning (which also almost never happens). I vacuumed, scrubbed my bathroom floor, washed some area rugs ... things that I always seem to put off until I absolutely have to do them ... and decided that since I had some time before church I'd put on CBS Sunday Morning and check my email. In my Gmail I had a friend request waiting for me on Facebook and wouldn't you know it ... my good friend, Colleen, from what seems like ages ago!

I couldn't believe it! She and I were best buds for my sophomore year at UNF. Her father had a heart attack (I think that was it) and she left spring semester to go home and attend FAU. I was devastated ... here I had found my twin soul ... the one who truly got me better than anyone else ... the one who was just as sick and twisted and fun and evil and hilarious as I was ... and she left me. Sure, we tried to keep in touch ... but life gets in the way.

Next thing I know it's been 10 years almost and here we are again ... with a second chance. When I tell you this girl is funny ... she's hilarious! We have the exact same sense of humor ... we liked the same food, drink, music, you name it. It was a blast being her friend! So here I am ... writing back and forth today ... trying to play catch up. I tell you what ... God works in mysterious ways.

Here I am all depressed about my mortgage ... and the lack of funds to cover my said mortgage each month ... and how am I going to refinance when my condo is supposedly worth less than I owe ... and all I can think about today isn't the worries but the memories.

Life is good ... despite all the shit thrown at you ... life is good.