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Not sure how much everyone has been following the republican primaries. Politics has become my guilty indulgence, although to be honest I get most of my news from Colbert Report, NPR, and Time Magazine (because flight miles paid for it). I have no problem letting the world know I have always previously voted Republican, primarily because of the whole abortion issue, which technically makes me a one issue voter but I thought that issue was pretty important. However, from the limited research I’ve been doing so far I have become terribly uncomfortable with the thought of casting my vote for anyone that the Republican Party has put forward as a viable option for candidacy. Maybe I’m sounding terribly cynical but I know to get this far in the political process you are already pretty corrupt, probably rich and self-entitled (yes, that goes for both democrats and republicans). It’s just that as I’ve been reading through the gospels again I can’t reconcile most republican policies with the way I desire to live my life. I’m having a hard time envisioning casting my vote for people who want to strip away safety nets for the least of these, people who regularly disregard good stewardship of the environment and people who, in my opinion, are at times proponents of hate speech towards immigrants, illegal and otherwise.

As for the abortion issue, I’ve also been researching and found that the actual numbers of unborn children killed are usually lower during Democrats reigns because there are usually larger social safety nets and better access to information and yes birth control. I wonder, do I care more for the principle of no abortion or more for the lost lives that abortions represent. And if it is the principle, isn’t that principle rendered meaningless if I am willing to sacrifice thousands of lives in order to obtain that principle? 

Not trying to stir up a huge political debate just wondering if there really is an effective way to live out one’s principles as a Christian in the process of democracy. What do you all think? Is voting even an important aspect of living a Godly life?

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I know I haven’t posted in forever and to be really cheap about it. I wrote this for the Mops Newsletter so if you read that this will be a repeat. My creative stores have been minimal lately. I guess that’s what pregnancy does to you (or at least to me.) For those of you who haven’t read it, enjoy: 

I have a confession to make. I can’t remember the last time I mopped my floors. I know I’ve done it in the eighteen months we’ve been living in our house. I can picture filling the bucket, adding vinegar and Borax, squeezing out the mop; I’m just a little hazy on the last date that this all occurred. I sweep my floors every day, after almost every meal- under the kid’s chairs, around the counter. It’s just lately that I’ve been closing my eyes to the grime building up in the corners, the dried splatter of tomato sauce near the stove. When did we last eat spaghetti? I finally realize my denial had gone on long enough. The Cheerio under my son’s chair, which I have been attempting to sweep up for the last week, is firmly cemented to the tile floor. And company is coming in less than three hours. A wipe with a damp paper towel has done no good, neither has an attempt to directly pry it up with the dust pan. So I fill my bucket (lemon juice, Borax, vinegar, hot water), grab a rag, and get onto my knees to scrub. It strikes me then how often I do this in my spiritual life- how often I close my eyes and ears and heart to the real problems in my soul, preferring the quick sweep of a muttered prayer or a chapter of the Bible read, instead of the true soul-delving it takes to stand before God. As I scrub on my hands and knees, I’m convicted about how rarely I allow the Holy Spirit to scrub out my soul, letting the spirit-version of cemented Cheerios and grime in the corners build up so quickly in my life. It sometimes takes company to make me realize how truly in need I am of a good soul scrubbing. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” I think that, just as sometimes it takes company to open our eyes to the mess of our house, we need to be talking to and praying with other people, making sure that we are getting our eyes opened to the mess that can so easily form in our soul. It’s so hard sometimes with all our duties as moms to really make the time to meditate on God’s Word, asking him to scrub the cemented bits of sin from our souls. But like my Cheerios, the longer we wait, the harder they become to remove. Now my floors are shiny and I have just enough time for some soul scrubbing before company comes.

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This post is the result of an ongoing conversation my husband and I have been having for awhile. I think its something really applicable to everyone. It involves some introspection so don’t be afraid to take your time and really mull over the implications.

The question of Are You White Trash? Take my quiz, add up your score as you go and find out :).

1. You bleach your hair. (1 pt)

2. You have been out in public without a bra (for woman) or without a shirt (for men). (3 pts)

3. You didn’t graduate from highschool. (5 pts)

4. You drink beer from a can on a regular basis. (3 pts)

5. You have inter-racial/ethnic children (1 pt per child)

6. Your not sure of the paternity of your child (for women) not sure your the father of a child (for men). (7 pts)

7. You think the defining characteristic for attractiveness in woman is large breasts. (3 pts)

8. You have ever drank or given some one else to drink soda in a sippy cup. (3 pts)

9. You frequently buy your clothes and your food from the same store. (3 pts)

10. Your child who can walk has been out in a store barefooted. (3 pts)

11. The most elaborate meal you’ve ever cooked heavily relied on the microwave. (3 pts).

12. Your car is 10 or more years old but it has a great stereo system. (3pts)

13. Anyone your related to is called Bubba. (5 pts)

14. You like to eat/ drink: white bread, orange or grape soda, those icepops that come in plastic tubes, Doritos, cool whip, cheese in a can, spam or jello (1 pts per item)

15.  You own acid washed any thing. (3 pts)

16. You have vinyl chairs and a boom box in your front yard. (5 pts)

17. You have a tramp stamp, tribal tattoo or ankle tattoo in color. (3 pts)

18. You have children by more than one person (5 pts)

19. You have ever dipped. (3 pts)

20. Your perfect day would be McDonalds for breakfast on your way to great adventure then waffle house at the end of the day. (7 pts)

21. You have decorated your car with something other than a bumper sticker. (ie antlers, wreath, balls, etc.) (3 pts for each item)

22. You have set large pieces of furniture on fire. (3pts)

23. You have spent: over $200 on fireworks at one time (3 pts)

     over $500  (5 pts)

    over $1,000 (7 pts)

24. You have actually been able to watch a whole nascar race (3 pts)

 in person (5 pts)

25 You’ve been to a monster truck rally (5 pts.)

0-10 You are exceedingly classy. You ooze sophistication from your pores. You probably took part in lacrosse or rowing in school. Be careful, unless you are insanely nice, people probably think you’re judging them. Or that you’re European.

11-21 You have the perfect amount of white trash in you. Enough for you to enjoy the cheaper things in life but you don’t come across as uneducated. Keep the balance. Everyone needs to go to a parking lot carnival in the summer and enjoy funnel cake.

22-32 You’ve gone a little to far towards the dark side though that may be due to foolish mistakes made in youth. With a little effort you can purge yourself of the trashier things in your life. There is still hope.

33-43 You are toeing a dangerous line. It doesn’t matter how much money you make or how educated you are people probably have been making assumptions about you for a while. You need to quickly re-evaluate you life and make some major changes.

44+ You are full on white trash. Embrace it, there’s not much else you can do. You are AMERICA.

What do you think? Am I missing anything important?

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And so it ends. It’s hard to separate my own personal feelings of 13+ years of investment with these books and movies and the actual final movie. Suffice to say if you have not seen all the movies you will be very lost and some of the most stirring scenes will not translate. That being said: if you liked the Deathly Hallows book … you will love the movie. 

I have never seen a movie more accurately depict a book in my life. Yes, of course a few things are cut out to save time, but by and large the entire feel of the book (along with all of my favorite and least favorite scenes) are present and executed almost perfectly.

The major disappointment of the film, as well as a huge distraction at times, was its presentation in 3D. At some of the most exciting points of the film, it felt like you were in a kitschy, wanna be, Disney ride but those moments thankfully past quickly leaving you to enjoy a story where revelations come almost too quick to register.

Snape’s (Alan Rickman) journey and the revelation of who his character is, is probably the most moving and powerful in the movie, except for the fact that loved characters are dropping like flies by the films end, so even if Snape’s story doesn’t move you, you won’t leave the theater with a dry eye.

My favorite scene in the book, the epic battle to defend Hogwarts, was so well done, with a perfect mix of sweeping action and broad shots and individual hand to hand combat. I would willingly pay to see the movie again just for those scenes. Prof. McGonagal (Maggie Smith) takes a central role at that point and all I can say is “it’s about time.”

The action and revelations don’t leave much time for interplay between the favorite trio, but after 7 movies, it’s not really needed. If there’s any way to leave before the 19 years later scene (which even in the book felt forced) run out of the theater. The ending scenes before that are so fulfilling that the tacked on scene at the end, with bad CGI and a terrible haircut for Ginny, take some of the grandeur away. 

However, to quote Ron Weasley and Rupert Grint (who answered questions after the movie) the film in one word is “brilliant!”

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Okay so there’s this horrible song that’s on the radio every time I turn it on. Some saccharine drivel about how you’re perfect and beautiful and able to be a movie star and the president and the best person out there. My first impression when hearing it was “oh no, turn it off, if my daughter hears it she’ll like it and she’ll have even worse taste in music than she does now.” My second thought was “stop being judgmental it has a good message.” My third thought has been formulating itself into this post.

So its graduation season. I call it that because the combination of being a youth leader and having a big, close family means we run a marathon of graduations and graduation parties in the months of May and June (highschool, middleschool, preschool, homeschool, public school, etc.) And inevitably one of the speakers (and it’s not always the students) at the graduation makes a speech about following your dreams, reaching for the stars, being/finding the answer to life, achieving success. I’m not one hundred percent against that (except when I have to sit through it in the hot sun for three hours) You want kids to feel competent and empowered and willing to try new things. You want that for yourself as well. But at the same time there’s this reality that in all likelihood you or your kid will never be a movie star, rock star, pro athlete, or president. Which by reflexive definition means they and you are failures.

That mentality: Success = money, fame, power or extraordinary talent. Those are the only roads to success. With out these things, your life is a failure and sometimes completely empty. This causes us to dis-value children, the elderly, anyone handicapped mentally or physically. And it is insidious. I hear it creep into the conversations of everyone, even sweet, loving people. I’ve heard it in church, “oh he’s really smart, put him in charge.” “Look how much money they earn and they always tithe.” Yes it’s cloaked in christian lingo but it still the standard of the world. Valuing the money, talent and power over everything that really makes life worth living.

 I’ve heard people when arguing against abortion of the handicapped point to an individual who has overcome some disability and written a book or won a race and say “See, look what they can do.” As if a right to live should be based on achieving more than those around us. I’m not faulting these people, the weight of pushing against what this world values is overwhelming and everyone, everyone slips into it. Those who fight it very often can sound somewhat pitiful. “My son with down syndrome has taught me unconditional love” “My elderly cancer ridden mother has taught me peace,” “My friend who can’t walk showed me how to have joy and delight in simple things.” Often these words come across as sounding like a consolation prize and I’m not sure if it’s something wrong with my ears or the speakers mouth. And yet as we train ourselves to listen closer we hear “love, joy, peace.” The value of life. 

Rather than attempting to strive for the world’s standards of success, (is it really fair to tell a kid whose mentally handicapped they can be president?, or some one with no talent for singing they can win American idol?) Isn’t it so much more important to value an individual for what they were created to be? Instead of striving for the unattainable, embrace the unseen potential that God has promised to everyone. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” We each have a work, created for us when the foundations of the earth were being laid.

I may not like my calling. I sometimes want something more glamorous, more epic, easy to say “this is what I’m doing for God.” Yet what if I’m just called to be a good mother? What if all I’m supposed to do is share my faith, my life with the mom on the park bench. What if making that meal, vacuuming the floor is my spiritual act of worship? What if doing it joyfully and contentedly is the top of my potential? My first reaction is “that sucks!” But maybe, just maybe, doing it well, is the most glorious, sacrificial act that I can attempt. Maybe doing it successfully just once will stain my life backwards and forwards in brilliant colors of Christ’s eternal love. What will follow is never ending echos through time and into eternity affecting even people I have never met. That is epic, that is valuable, that is worth the fight.

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The other thing is to engage in things that “spur our affection for Christ.” The beautiful thing about Christianity is that almost anything can do that when the Holy Spirit indwells us. I know people who are spurred by affection for Christ by gardening, by making music, art, cleaning, baking. In fact, one of my favorite things about working in youth group is being present for a moment when you just get to see it “click” for a teenager. All of the sudden their affections for Christ are stirred by that song or verse or painting or person or act of service. And it’s as if the whole world of who this Christ is and what he can do with us opens and reveals an image of the world more beautiful and more compelling than any movie or book or speaker has ever been able to convey.

For me personally, mentally engaging with other individuals, especially those with different beliefs than me, spurs my affections. Reading their works, or (when I’m lucky) engaging them in conversation. I was blessed to be raised in a family where reading your bible daily was a thing you just did and memorizing scripture was something we frequently engaged in. Only now do I realize how lucky (blessed) I am to have parents who valued that. When I went to (a non- Christian) college my faith was not shaken but engaged and enlivened by sharing and talking with those who not only didn’t share my beliefs but had actually never really heard them articulated. However, I know for some Christians this can leave them angry or confused. It doesn’t stir their affections. And that’s fine, in fact it’s wonderful, because they can engage in something else. The only thing we must guard against here is looking at someone engaging in act that stirs their affections and judging them as wasting their time for not engaging in the truly important stuff. 

So this wellspring of life, this core of our being needs to be kept or watched over by pro-actively engaging in the Christ life. Because guarding our hearts is hard work. We “are born to trouble as sparks fly upward” and our hearts are “bent on doing evil.” The whole history of the Old Testament is how we as a people forget God the minute we can. And there in lies a funny contradiction. We are commanded to guard our hearts and yet we cannot guard our hearts without the presence of the Holy Spirit working in us. So with this command comes a promise: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7.

Once again it comes down to the person-hood of Jesus. It is not about what we do or don’t do. It’s not about reading our bible’s, not watching R-rated movies, it’s not about gardening or art, or poetry. It is about a person. A who, who is the answer to everything. We are commanded to guard our hearts and then we are promised the guard who does the work. Like everything else in scriptures, God demands the impossible of us, and nothing less, and then turns around and “cheats” if you will, by giving us himself who does the impossible through us. It’s beautiful and terrifying all at the same time.

We have nothing apart from God and yet he enters our picture and repaints it over into brilliant colors making us more of who we were created to be.The very act of guarding our hearts helps keep our hearts from becoming bent and losing the shape that he created with in us. When we hand over our lives to him, loosen our grip and let go we suddenly become free to be who he has created us to be. It’s part of what he meant when he said if we lose our lives, we’ll gain them. So slowly, I am letting him do the work of peeling my fingers one by one from the life I wanted to have, thought I would have, the desire to be liked, the selfishness of meeting my own needs first, the judgmental thoughts I entertain and all too often encourage, my own sense of entitlement. As they slowly slip from my grasp, as I begin to lose my false, personally created sense of self, I realize that underneath that muck there is a glorious being, a daughter of God, a person I recognize but never knew before his touch, slowly coming to life.

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"Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life." Proverbs 4:23.

Watch Tower

What is this concept of “keeping your heart”? It is something I have wrestled with for a long time. I remember being a senior in youth group when one of our Sunday school teachers taught that we should never watch R-rated movies because that we would exposing ourselves to things we shouldn’t. What followed was a lengthy debate (with me as a primary ring leader, I’m slightly ashamed to say.) I think my Sunday school teacher probably walked away from that lesson thinking I was combative and a bad influence (I was arguing, though probably not so coherently, that a blanket statement of don’t do “this” was legalistic and not really helpful in a way of life that is supposed to be a dynamic relationship with our creator). But the thing is I wasn’t really trying to be combative. I was trying to make sense of this command that is repeated over and over in the scriptures (Deut. 4:9, prov. 4:23, etc.). The problem with the teachings of “guarding your heart” is that so often it is focused on what we shouldn’t be doing: don’t drink, don’t curse, don’t watch r-rated movies, don’t, don’t, don’t. We, as Christians, begin to sound like the Pharisees who berated Jesus: Don’t snap off grain to eat on the sabbath, Don’t eat with prostitutes, Don’t talk to women or Samaritans or sinners, Don’t heal on the sabbath. Except that the dynamic life Christ has called us to is about action! Jesus was so full of life he was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard! 

So how do you “keep your heart with all vigilance”? The word “keep” in Hebrew is “natsar” which is rooted in the word for watchtower or watchmen (interesting side note it’s also where Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown, got its name, as Nazareth is situated on a high hill. Yeah, the one his people tried to throw him off of). It’s not a passive keep as in “I guess I’ll keep this shirt I never wear in the back of my closet” but an active “I am constantly on the look out, testing and weighing the terrain and the people, looking for anything out of order.”

So, how do you tell if something is out of order? Well, you should know the order it supposed to be in first. When a banker is trained how to spot counterfeits, they don’t spend anytime looking at all the possible counterfeits. They actually learn inside and out what real, true money looks like and feels like. That way, if a banker is handed a counterfeit they can compare it to their knowledge of the real thing. 

In the same way we need to know what true teaching is like. We need to know scripture and pray for a spirit of discernment. We need to recognize those who have that spirit and heed their warnings. Christianity was created as a community with Christ as our head, depending on the gifts of others will strengthen the faith. 

We don’t need to live in a spirit of fear, wondering that if we expose ourselves to something, we’ll go off the deep end. (I’m not saying we should do whatever the heck we want and not think about possible consequences, I’m just saying our focus shouldn’t be on the don’ts). We have to be actively engaged the process of knowing God and weighing all things by him.

Stay tuned for a much more personal part 2 … 

Video

seawitchery:

I started out clicking strategically… and by the end was just wildly clicking and dancing in my chair.

biancavirina:

CLICK THE SQUARES.

THE WHOLE WORLD NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT THIS.

THIS THIS THIS THIS!

(via cinders-and-snow)

Source: mandaflewaway
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This is an awesome project by Jonathan Blaustein. He photographs food worth one dollar against a plain white background, sort of stripped of the glamor of advertising … . interesting visual when talking about poverty or hunger.

The Value Of A Dollar

Checkout the whole portfolio here:

http://www.jonathanblaustein.com/Portfolio.cfm?nK=8375

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Father of life and beauty and light

Father of flowering fruit and vine

We are the essence of your creation

enable us to care for all you love

humbly admitting our selfish desires

can quickly destroy your masterpiece

Son of life and beauty and light

Son of our Father who loves this earth

Your blood waters our shalom

enabling life to flow from us 

reconciling all of creation to you

seeds of sadness burst forth 

in glorious new vines of new wine

Spirit of life and beauty and light

Spirit of new days and ways and hope

enable us to walk in this world lightly

scarring neither land nor hearts

with self-serving desires

let us be part of your Shalom.