Category Archives: Culture

Pumpkin Seeds Roasting…

It felt so good staying home tonight, gutting pumpkins with hubby and doctoring up the seeds with the girlies. Acappella singing “This Little Light of Mine” in the background and chicken stir-fry sizzling in the skillet.

My theory on Halloween is that it’s not worth losing friends over. Every year I’ve struggled with not wanting my girls to feel like they’re “missing out”, and you know what? They aren’t. Halloween is a big deal to my in-laws. We used to participate, dressing the girls up as princesses, ballerinas, ladybugs… and my middle daughter dressed as “Mary Had A Little Lamb” for about three years in a row. (Hey, it was a fantastic costume hand-sewn by yours truly! And middle’s a puny lil thing, youngest is growing into middle’s shirts and jammies, etc)

Clarification: When I say “participate”, I mean we’d go to Grandma’s with frosted pumpkin cookies for everyone and show off our cutenesses and then make a couple more special stops, dropping off more cookies as we made our short trip back home.

Last year we went to a church-sponsored Fall Festival. That felt even more like “Halloween” than dressing up and making the family rounds. Not for us. So my youngest had no idea what Halloween was about. We had dental appointments in town today, and of course, ran into some adults dressed…weirdly. She has now had an education about October 31st.

My oldest tried to prepare youngest for some cousins stopping by that would be dressed as witches. Oldest said very seriously, “they’ll be dressed like little old ladies in black, sweetie”…hee hee. Sigh.

I realize my viewpoints on dressing children as witches is antiquated and borderline offensive to most who see it as harmless. I *try* to give the benefit of the doubt, but knowing that the Wiccan religion is alive and well, and that there are actual colleges of witchcraft, well, seeing little ones treat it lightly kind of makes me sad. I know they’re only doing it in fun. Deuteronomy 18:10-12 and Exodus 22:18 show us God’s view of witchcraft. Why emulate something He condemns, even in fun?

So back to tonight. We bought candy at the Christian book store…strawberry cremes with scripture verses printed on the packaging, and we stamped crosses and verses on white treat bags before filling them with a variety of candies. When you live out in the country as we do, you don’t get many trick or treaters, and the ones you do get are usually family.

We had two! They brought us treats as well, which was the best of them! In case my oldest sister is reading this, thanks for the dirt cups…the worms were a real hit with 3 year old! After supper, she was happily digging in and said, matter-of-factly, “Is this out of Aunt K’s garden?”

And for the record, the pumpkin seeds we roasted were nasty. Definitely not as yummy as last years. Not sure what I messed up…

But all in all, still a very nice evening!

What is Your Calling?

I’m so often conflicted by needs that arise around me. Who isn’t, right? There are dozens of worthwhile causes that tug at my heart and conscience.

Church Steeple in Country FieldI’m blessed to be a part of a true body of believers at church. We have a gazillion committees to ensure that all goes off without a hitch. It’s very awesome to be a part of a healthy and active whole.

But I’ve always struggled with the feeling that I’m either doing too much or not enough. Too much, meaning that my family is feeling neglected, or not enough, meaning I love volunteering for everything until it all collides at once and I wonder, yet again, why did I sign up for this?

In all honesty, my calling is as wife and mother, first and foremost. After God and family, my calling is homeschooling. I really don’t believe the church should rely heavily upon young mothers. Period.

Yes, people believe stay-at-home moms have much time on their hands, or they like to believe this. I’m not saying people at my church believe this, it’s just a fact of life that when most people work outside the home, they have little time or energy to devote to extra stuff. Especially when they’ve got kids enrolled in little league, soccer, music lessons and high schoolers with hectic schedules of their own.

It all boils down to: everyone is busy. Maybe we’re all too busy on our own agendas and not the Lord’s? Or maybe the church has its hands too full with programs to notice that the workers are stretched thin. That said, I’m so thankful for the ladies on the education committee at my church…they truly have their hearts set on serving and desire the children in our church to be getting real teaching, not fluff.

Back to my dilemma. Because there are so many committees at my church, and so many willing women and men, you’d think every job would be covered and then some. But new opportunities continually spring up like leaks in a hundred year old farmhouse during a thunderstorm. These are worthwhile activities. With so many hands already full, I feel guilty keeping to home and hearth.

Bottom Line: My husband likes me keeping to home and hearth.

Our culture likes to ask, “What would Jesus do?” Well, prayer is always right on in any situation. Jesus had a work to do, and He did it. What work has God given you to do? What is your calling?

Holly at Seeking Faithfulness made a profound statement the other day. She said,

“Instead of making a shallow difference in the lives of many, I pray to make a monumental difference in the lives of a few.”

What is your calling?

The Church’s Influence on Modesty

My experiences with modesty over the years have had their upswings and down.

If you’d asked me about modesty in my early married years, I would have defined it differently than I do now. Back then I didn’t see anything wrong with wearing tight jeans, etc. I figured if my husband liked me in them, what was the problem, right?

Remembering how blasé I was keeps me humble. After all, I was 18-21 years old, a Christian, active in church, etc. Sure, I didn’t wear my tight jeans to church, but some of my blouses dipped a bit lower than they should have, and I had at least two long skirts with slits that weren’t quite innocent. At all.

When I was 19, my husband and I started attending a church where most all of the women wore dresses. Conservative, matronly dresses. *Smile* Or at least they seemed so to me.

So I started teeter-tottering on the age old “what to wear to church” question. I did my best to conform to the standards of those around me.

Fast forward several years. We left the above church in order to attend one that my dad had recently accepted a position in as Associate Pastor. Because of something I misconstrued at the first church as a strike against modesty, I spent three years wearing only dresses/skirts in public. Anywhere in public. I admit it was mostly a pride thing at that point, though I’ve always loved the femininity of dressing in long flowing materials.

After this three years of “dresses only”, my dad and mom moved out of state to a different church, and hubby and I moved back to our original church. And dress codes there had changed with the times.

I began slacking off (to me) on Sunday mornings, eventually joining the “dressing down” crowd at church, and wearing mostly slacks.

However, my little girls loved dresses and would ask me each week why I didn’t wear my dresses to church anymore. Well, for one thing, a lot of my straight skirts didn’t fit so well back then after having just given birth to baby #3. But they really wanted their mommy back in dresses. And that among other things propelled me to make a stand on one side or the other of this seeming Divide.

Also, I realized after all these years of feeling pulled to dress “appropriately” on Sunday mornings, I finally saw it as a way, in obedience to God, to stand up to the culture. To be “in this world but not of it”.

I look at it this way. It’s too easy to reason away the choices we make in dress. I’ve worn skorts that look like mini-skirts because I’ve thought it was “more modest” than wearing shorts. It’s even easier to reason this way when everyone you appreciate and look up to is doing the same thing.

So I decided almost two years ago that I’d always wear skirts/dresses on Sunday morning. I still wear jeans or Capris for helping in AWANA, and for other evening church functions. I have no problem with the vast majority of modest Christians out there today that wear pants and shorts to church services.

But my line in the sand has been drawn, and at this point, there’s no crossing back over. That said, I think everyone has to come to this decision on their own. It’s intensely personal, and the best way to get across your point, is, in my opinion, by following your convictions and letting your actions speak for themselves.

Most everyone is pretty hip at our church now, and I’m the one in danger of feeling dowdy wearing skirts and dresses each Sunday morning. Especially in a church full of beautiful young chicks all slender and svelte and wearing the latest fashions.

But finally I know I’m doing it for the right reason. I may go back to wearing dresses/skirts even to evening church events, if I’m so convicted.

Only God knows. And that’s all that matters to me.

For more submissions on modesty, visit Rebecca, this month’s hostess for the modesty blog carnival, at Between My Peers

Real Living

By now you know I highly value simplicity…I cherish the dailiness of life-happenings, those moments that busy life and our fast-paced culture so often steal without much notice on our part. If we do notice, we shrug and keep spiraling along, feeling we have little choice in the matter.

I love our shaded corner of country life…and I don’t mind admitting that I protect it fiercely. Sometimes you just can’t cut the grass each weekend, and sometimes you’ve got to let the dust settle inside. Or say no to 4H, as we’re contemplating doing.

These things just can’t compare to:

Lazy summer afternoons spent outside reading together in the hammock or alongside the sandbox while little sister happily builds bucket-castles and moats. Hiking the back hill to the very tip-top of our world and picnicking on the flat slab of limestone there. Pointing out meadowlarks and mosquito hawks, grazing horses at the nearby pond, the small town’s water tower ten miles away…on the way home collecting the perfect rocks for our garden, and wildflowers to press. We upend a rock, capture a baby skink and admire his neon blue tail.

In the fall we splash our four-wheeler down the creek bed, wade around catching salamanders, making miniature rock ledged pools to store them in…an old quart jar becomes home a few minnows…we watch them grow. One day we’ll catch a tadpole and bring him home. Can’t go home without rock-skipping lessons from daddy. We decide it’s time to burn the brush pile and as the flames flicker down we get out the marshmallows and hot dogs…

Winter means Swiss Miss hot chocolate every single day and afternoon tea parties. Pulling out the sleeper sofa, piling it with pillows and blankets and firing the fireplace. Movies and popcorn and Horse-o-poly. Snow ice cream with caramel sauce and peanuts. Making shadow animals on the walls. Playing fox and geese in the three inch snowfall, bodies sweating, noses and fingers burning with cold. Back porch swamped with drying boots, gloves, coveralls, hats and scarves. Kitchen full of red cheeks, huge smiles, and contagious giggles. Kettle whistling on the stove top. Cherry pie cooling on the counter.

Spring scents the air with lilacs and honeysuckle. Farm babies wobble into our hearts, neighbors burn pastures all around us. Fishing poles come out on damp evenings after rainy days. Crickets and toads beckon to us as we trudge our way to the pond, knee-deep bluestem tickling our calves, tackle box banging against my thigh. Night shadows, watercolor sunsets, bug spray. Catching fireflies. Falling into bed bone-tired and gloriously happy.

I’m not envious when I hear my friends going on about all the sports their kids participate in. How cell phones and DVDs enhance their many hours in the car. Busy living the American Dream.

Real life, real noise, time to soak it in. To be silly or serious. That is wealth, that is freedom. To me.

Got a Blueprint?

Dh and I were watching a Jack Johnson dvd that the “surfin’ cowboy” loaned us last week. One of Jack’s songs, “Symbol In My Driveway” really provoked my attention. I wasn’t sure of the exact lyrics so I looked them up online here

The lines that arrested me:

“I’ve got a lightbulb full of anger and I can switch it on and off

 Situations that can be so bright I can’t believe how pathetic we can be

I’ve got a perfect set of blueprints, I’m gonna build somebody else

Might cost a little more than money but what’s man without his wealth?”

Whew. The song has a whole different attack, but the lines above are what I’m exploring.

“Gonna build somebody else”… Trying in the flesh, aching to be good, to do good…all on our own apart from Christ.

Filthy rags. Immaturity. Reliance on self, on everyone around us, on money for happiness and getting angry when we or someone else lets us down once again. When the money buying our happiness runs out…and the chips fall, what then of that perfect blueprint?

There is only one perfect blueprint, it’s in the Bible.

So what’s your blueprint? Are you trying to build a castle in the sand?

Or one on the rock?

Desperate Poverty

Several years ago, I read Revolution in World Missions by K.P. Yohannan. Amazing book, and a free one at that. Currently, I’m reading Rich Christians In An Age of Hunger by Ronald J. Sider. Both books include the following: an itemized list of the “luxuries” most of us would have to give up if we were to live the life of the world’s desperately poor.

The following was written by prominent economist, Robert L. Heilbroner: 

“We begin by invading the house of our imaginary American family to strip it of its furniture. Everything goes: beds, chairs, tables, television set, lamps. We will leave the family with a few old blankets, a kitchen table, a wooden chair. Along with the bureaus go the clothes. Each member of the family may keep in his “wardrobe” his oldest suit or dress, a shirt or blouse. We will permit a pair of shoes for the head of the family, but none for the wife or children.

We will move to the kitchen. The appliances have already been taken out, so we turn to the cupboards…The box of matches may stay, a small bag of flour, some sugar, and salt. A few moldy potatoes, already in the garbage can, must be hastily rescued, for they will provide much of tonight’s meal. We will leave a handful of onions, and a dish of dried beans. All the rest we take away: the meat, the fresh vegetables, the canned goods, the crackers, the candy.

 

Now we have stripped the house: the bathroom has been dismantled, the running water shut off, the electric wires taken out. Next we take away the house. The family can move to the toolshed…

 

Communications must go next. No more newspapers, magazines, books—not that they are missed, since we must take away our family’s literacy as well. Instead, in our shantytown we will allow one radio…

 

Now government services must go. No more postman, no more firemen. There is a school, but it is three miles away and consists of two classrooms…There are, of course no hospitals or doctors nearby. The nearest clinic is ten miles away and tended by a midwife. It can be reached by bicycle, provided that the family has a bicycle, which is unlikely…

 

Finally, money. We will allow our family a cash hoard of $5.00. This will prevent our breadwinner from experiencing the tragedy of an Iranian peasant who went blind because he could not raise the $3.94, which he mistakenly thought he needed to receive admission to a hospital where he could have been cured.”

Order a free copy of Revolution in World Missions today, and be inspired at the vision that God gave K.P. Yohannan, the founder of Gospel for Asia. Yohannan is unique in his approach to missions, believing rightly, that though money, medicine and food are needed and a blessing to the world’s poor, what they truly need is the message of Christ. For instance, if India turned to God, their “sacred” cattle and grain would no longer be consumed at the altar of Hinduism.

Sider’s Rich Christians book, on the other hand, is full of scripture on how dear to the Lord’s heart are the world’s poor, and that it’s a responsibility many of us ignore. Despite Sider’s liberal stand on world population, he makes many good points. I’ll leave you with one.

“The clearest statement about Jesus’ identification with the poor is in Matthew 25:35-36, 40: ‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…I was naked and you gave me clothing…Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’

What does it mean to feed and clothe the Creator of all things? We cannot know. We can only look on the poor and oppressed with new eyes and resolve to heal their hurts and help end their oppression.

If Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24:40 is startling, its parallel is terrifying. ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me’ (v. 45)

What does that mean in a world where millions die each year while rich Christians live in affluence?

What does it mean to see the Lord of the universe lying by the roadside starving and walk by on the other side? We cannot know. We can only pledge, in fear and trembling, not to kill him again.”

Homeschoolers and Fourth Amendment Rights

You can read all about my personal take on it at MInTheGap. Even if you don’t homeschool, you should be up on your fourth amendment rights. Child Protective Services can be pretty aggressive from what I hear, threatening to take your children from an anonymous tip alone.

Imagine a ticked off neighbor out for revenge. Now imagine her anonymous tip resulting in a humiliating strip search of all your children for bruises. Uh-uh. Go read my article.

Homeschoolers and Fourth Amendment Rights. Use ’em or lose ’em.

Blogging Anonymity

My name isn’t really Mary.

(haha)

Seriously, did you realize how easy it is to find addresses and phone numbers on the internet? Google someone’s first and last name, their state if you know it, and often you can find a few leads that give you their private information.

Thankfully, my first and last name aren’t all that unique.

Here are my rules of thumb, because first and foremost, I want to protect my family:

  • I won’t mention real names, other than my own
  • I stick to regions (mid-west) rather than naming my home state
  • I’m pretty careful what I say about my extended family, and my marriage (who knows who might ever get their eyes on this blog!)

We can be proactive and still be “found”. A while back, when surfing blogs, I happened upon one with a little counter in the sidebar that said, “Welcome, visitor from ______,_ _!” I about gasped when I saw my little po-dunk town and state displayed after being on that site less than a minute!

I don’t know if you’ve ever visited MySpace.com. (I don’t recommend it!) But you can type in your zip code and whatever mile radius you wish and find blogs of people in that area. Yeah.

So here are my questions for you:

  1. Do your friends and family know you blog? (in-laws, church family, etc)
  2. If you put forth your real names/locations, please share what made you comfortable to do so. (I’d really like to know, maybe I’m just paranoid!)
  3. Same thing with pictures. Is it really safe to put those out there? So many people block out their children’s faces, etc, while others lay it all out for the world to behold. (And I love pictures!)

I’d love input from all the viewpoints. I’m sure there are areas in which I could be more careful, and perhaps more carefree.

Personally, I like the freedom of anonymity. I can share my strong opinions and not worry about some leftist extremist making a midnight housecall with revenge in mind!

And Mary is my real name. Really.

(This new blog is too hip for me. It won’t let me capitalize when I bullet or number things! Way too cutesy, if you ask me…)

Alternatives to the Flu Vaccine

Please don’t get the flu vaccine.

About 80% of the flu vaccines out there contain 25 micrograms of mercury per dose. The EPA’s safe limit for mercury is 0.1 mcg/kg. Talk about an overdose. Thimerosal is the mercury based culprit to look for. Phenol and aluminum are also highly toxic. And the new FluMist nasal spray and its sidekick (the same thing in needle form) are full of them.

Plus, one of the world’s leading immunogeneticists–Hugh Fudenberg–says that your chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease is ten times higher if an individual has 5 consecutive shots than if they have one, two or no shots. Is this a proven link between the influenza vaccine and Alzheimers? No. But we need to be aware.

Dr. Mercola has a fascinating article to back me up. Even better, he suggests alternatives, such as avoiding all sugar to help build up your body against the germs we all fear this time of year.

Go to the National Vaccine Information Center to use the Mercury Calculator. Enter your child’s weight and the brand name or manufacturer of the vaccine, and it will let you know if the mercury levels have exceeded the EPA’s standard. I’d call the doctor’s office or health department before vaccinating to get the brand names. Be forewarned.

From the same source (NVIC) you’d read the following:

“Mercury is a known neurotoxin and drug companies removed mercury preservatives from over-the-counter products in the early 1990’s but the FDA has not enforced its 1999 directive regarding vaccines. While mercury has been reduced in many childhood vaccines, some flu vaccines given to pregnant women and infants still contain so much mercury that a person would have to weigh 500 pounds to safely get a flu vaccination according to EPA standards.”

The CDC Web site’s main message: “The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each fall.” And babies 6-23 months are listed as one of the priority groups for flu vaccines.

Consumer advocate Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the NationalVaccine Information Center, has a different perspective.

“Children these days get so many vaccines that they almost always get them together on the same day. Use of the flu vaccine in combination with other childhood vaccines in babies this young amounts to a national medical experiment on American babies. The science should precede the policy and not the other way around.”

Check it out. At the very least, do a search on mercury-laden vaccines and autism. I have three friends who’ve been devastated firsthand by vaccines. That’s a few too many.

Oh, and if by chance, you or a loved one succumbs to the flu, try this simple remedy. Hydrogen peroxide. Half a capful in each ear several times a day. If you need more info, simply click on the link I included above (Hydrogen peroxide).

Musing on Music’s Power part 2

Some great comments on this morning’s “music” post led me to this link for The 107 Theses, “A Call for Reformation of Contemporary Christian Music” by Steve Camp. (Thanks Anna! and all the rest of you who took time to share your thoughts!)

Here’s a little taste from the Steve Camp site, he shares this to build up to the fact that CCM is seriously close to being on the downgrade, if not already slipping:

Charles Hadden Spurgeon spent the final four years of his life at war against the trends of early modernism, which he rightly saw as a threat to Biblical Christianity. Spurgeon wanted to warn his flock about the dangers from moving away from the historic positions [of the truth]. ‘Biblical truth is like the pinnacle of a steep, slippery mountain,’ Spurgeon suggested. ‘One step away, and you find yourself on the down-grade. Once a church or individual Christian get on the downgrade,’ Spurgeon said, ‘momentum takes over. Recovery is unusual and only happens when Christians get on the ‘up-line’ through spiritual revival.’ History has vindicated Spurgeon’s warnings about the down-grade. In the early part of the twentieth century the spreading of ‘false doctrine and worldliness’-theological liberalism and modernism-ravaged denominational Christianity throughout the world. Most of the mainline denominations were violently if not fatally altered by these influences. A hundred years later, we are seeing history repeating itself again… ‘False doctrine and worldliness’-the same two influences Spurgeon attacked-always go hand in hand, with worldliness leading the way. Christians today tend to forget that modernism was not first of all a theological agenda but a methodological one. (John F. MacArthur, Jr. Ashamed of the Gospel (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1993), 21-23, emphasis added.)

And this from the same source:

Os Guinness is “spot on” when saying, “[we have seen a change] from an emphasis on ‘serving God’, to an emphasis on ‘serving the self’ in serving God.” The object of faith is no longer Christ, but our self-esteem; the goal of faith is no longer holiness, but our happiness; and the source of faith is no longer the Scriptures, but our experience. Christian music currently reflects this. We are producing a generation of people that “feel” their God, but do not know their God.

There’s a lot more good thought provoking stuff over there, I encourage you to check it out.