Thursday, June 30, 2011

on meditation and the Gospel of John

(Yep, that's baby B meditating. Unfortunately no pictures of me doing so!)

Increasingly through my devotions over the past few days, I've felt myself being led to meditate more on the Word of God. And by that I mean really
read the Word of God -- really meditate -- not just skim through the words without any real thought or understanding.

Psalm 1:2-3 says, "But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night.

And he shall be like a tree firmly planted [and tended] by the streams of water, ready to bring forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not fade or wither; and everything he does shall prosper [and come to maturity]".

And Psalm 119:15, "I will meditate on Your precepts and have respect to Your ways [the paths of life marked out by Your law]".


So I've decided to really meditate on the Word in a committed way as part of my dedicated prayer times. Of course I do think of God's Word randomly throughout my day, but obviously that is not meditating. So while praying this morning, I considered what it was in my walk with God on which I should concentrate. And the answer came quite simply: "Jesus Christ".


I realised that when I pray, I largely address myself to "dear Lord", or "heavenly Father", and often just, "Father". I noticed that I don't say Jesus' name a great deal, except when I'm asking something, like "I ask all this in Jesus' name" (I think I do that because when I'm asking something, my feeling of unworthiness really comes to the fore).

And so I talked to God about this. I realised that sometimes I have this tendency to actually start "reasoning" about Jesus, even while praying. I definitely do believe that Jesus is the son of God, that He is in fact God -- but therein's the mystery right? I believe this, but it really is a conviction in my heart, a knowledge in my spirit. It can't be head knowledge, because really, one just can't wrap one's head around this.

How is Jesus the son of God, and also God? And let's not forget the Holy Spirit of course. One God in three Persons, with each of these Persons being distinct and separate from the others, while at the same time being completely united. The Holy Trinity is one of the great mysteries, and I think you only "get" it through God-given revelation, through the God-given gift of faith. And then it's up to you to keep growing it, like a seed.

I am "more than a conqueror" through Christ remember? Christ lives in me! I want to be living a victorious Christian life -- a truly bold, joyful, peaceful, positive life.


And so, I realised that I need to know Jesus more.
I picked up my Bible and sort of flipped through it in a vague way, wondering where to start, when I felt led to read the Gospel of John.

I know from previous reading that this Gospel is quite different from the other three Gospels. But reading it again this morning, with the consciousness of really meditating, really reading, with new eyes as it were, the words really had a greater depth of meaning and revelation for me than ever before.

The very beginning of this Gospel gives one so much food for thought:


"IN THE beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself.

He was present originally with God.


All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him was not even one thing made that has come into being.


In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men.
And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it]" (John 1:1-5).

Then verses 12-18: "... to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the authority (power, privilege, right) to become the children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name...


... For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received [all had a share and we were all supplied with] one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift.


... No man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son, or the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known]".


Wow.
There's a lot to meditate on, and that's just the first chapter. I've prayed for the discipline to keep to this meditation, and would like to share my readings of this Gospel with you as I go along. Perhaps you shall feel led to really read something in the Bible too, with new eyes and understanding.

"My son, attend to my words; consent and submit to my sayings. Let them not depart from your sight; keep them in the center of your heart. For they are life to those who find them, healing and health to all their flesh" (Prov 4:20-22).

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

lookie-look

I've decided to have this new feature thing in my blog! It's sort of for when I want to share something right there and then, rather than wait to put it in a "Loving Today" montage (which takes a fair bit of work, let me tell you). It's like how, when you're walking along the street, you see something that just catches your eye and you go, "Hey look!"

And I'd like to keep it more for "undiscovered" talent and clever, inventive artistry, not those who've sold 10 million reprints of things.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

more than conquerors

The past couple of Sundays I'd been feeling like I just couldn't go to church. Not that I didn't want to, but I was so tired and sleepy the night before, I'd thought I simply wouldn't be able to get up in time (8am). So I'd not even bother setting my alarm.

Yet somehow God would get me up, and exactly on time too. The previous Sunday morning Kip suddenly barked, which she never does (she sleeps in my room), and I woke up to find it was exactly the time I should get up. Then this morning, I just opened my eyes, and found I was actually early -- I still had five minutes to loll about in bed.

And you know, each time I was SO glad God kicked me in the butt and made me go. I really needed today's message. We had a visiting pastor, a very well-spoken, humourous man, and his sermon was entitled More than conquerors.

The line comes, of course, from that wonderful verse in Romans 8 that reads, "... amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us" (v38).

Romans 8 as a whole is a beautiful chapter, rich in teaching, hope and encouragement; do take time to read and meditate on it in its entirety:

"THEREFORE, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus, who live [and] walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit...

... Now the mind of the flesh [which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit] is death [death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter]. But the mind of the [Holy] Spirit is life and [soul] peace [both now and forever]...

... But if Christ lives in you, [then although] your [natural] body is dead by reason of sin and guilt, the spirit is alive because of [the] righteousness [that He imputes to you]. And if the Spirit of Him Who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, [then] He Who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also restore to life your mortal (short-lived, perishable) bodies through His Spirit Who dwells in you...

... For [the Spirit which] you have now received [is] not a spirit of slavery to put you once more in bondage to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption [the Spirit producing sonship] in [the bliss of] which we cry, Abba (Father)! Father!...

... the [Holy] Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance...

... We are assured and know that God being a partner in their labour] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose...

... What then shall we say to [all] this? If God is for us, who [can be] against us? [Who can be our foe, if God is on our side?] He who did not withhold or spare [even] His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also with Him freely and graciously give us all [other] things?...

... Who shall ever separate us from Christ's love? Shall suffering and affliction and tribulation? Or calamity and distress? Or persecution or hunger or destitution or peril or sword?...

... Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us. For I am persuaded beyond doubt (am sure) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers, Nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (v1-39).

I cannot of course repeat the worthy pastor's sermon, or do it any real justice. It is enough to say that it spoke to me so profoundly, that I kept repeating in my heart, "Thank you God, thank you God, thank you God".

For I had been going through a bit of a challenge, and had been crying out to Him the past few nights, and each time He would remind me -- or try to remind me -- of how faithful He has always been to deliver me, and that I am more than a conqueror through Christ. I just needed to wait on Him, in faith, and with a good, positive attitude.

Needless to say though, my attitude had been far from good, or even acceptable. I was aware of it, and the feelings of guilt and condemnation just added to my depression. So how wonderful, how uplifting, to hear the Word today: "[There is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus"!

And to know that, as the pastor put it, I had Jesus helping me to "complete my prayers". For indeed, I was starting to worry about the quality of my prayers -- I had sunk to such a state that all I could do was cry out to God to help me, and even that wasn't very articulately done. I was praying the sort of prayers that he described so well as "praying to our own hurt".

But o, how wonderful to be reminded that "if God is for us, who [can be] against us?". God loves us, sinners though we are! God loves me!

It was an uncanny thing to hear him say that it was no coincidence that any of us was there in church that morning, listening to that particular message. Neither, I'm sure, was it a coincidence that my different devotionals for the day highlighted God's love for us, and the blessed victories that are ours when we keep seeking Him, turning to Him in all our circumstances, and waiting on Him.

One devotional quoted Isaiah 30:18: "And therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]!"

Another quoted Psalm 40:1: "I waited patiently and expectantly for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry".

Aren't they lovely? I declare in my prayers continually, that God IS my heavenly Father, my rock and my salvation, my faithful deliverer, my healer and the lifter of my head.

He gives us "beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit" (Isa 61:3). So don't don't don't bow to negativity, fear, worry, whatever -- remember that God has already given you the victory. Wait on Him, trust in Him, and know that you will be fine, whatever it is -- we are more than conquerors.

Or, as that worthy pastor said more prosaically, quoting a line he uses frequently in his daily conversations: "In the end, it will be ok".

Friday, June 24, 2011

loving today

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bonjour Hep Cat

There's a new Hep Cat pin in the shop now, this time with a nifty speech bubble pin!
Hep Cat wears his navy scarf and star medal of hepness! He comes with his own speech bubble pin that says "Today is a beautiful day" in French. Wear them together or wear them separately -- their expression and sentiment are perfect for every day (emulate picture above)!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

under the sea

B loves books like Under The Sea by Fiona Patchett (thank you Usborne Publishing!). I'm glad she enjoys such books, because besides the fact that they're really educational, they also provide her with informative gems which she'd mention in passing, and I'd be like, "Really? Wow".

Like this evening, she mentioned that there are jellyfish that have tentacles as long as a soccer field! And I was like, "Really? Wow".

And she also told me that some giant squid are as long as a whale. Like, "Really? Wow"! I mean, can you just imagine that? How awesome God's creatures are!

While I am on this topic, I am reminded of my lovely Constellation Oarfish painting by the brilliant Michelle Knowlen of Eggman Studios. Isn't he a beauty!

The real oarfish is as awe-inspiring as the jellyfish and the squid. They are apparently the longest bony fish alive, measuring up to 56 feet in length! They have about 400 dorsal fin rays, with the first 10 to 12 rays being elongated and forming a lovely trailing crest.

It seems that oarfish are rarely seen alive in their natural habitat, being deepwater fish; mostly they are found washed ashore or dying at the sea's surface (sad). The poor oarfish in this video is apparently the only time the fish has been filmed alive:



p.s. B informed me that sperm whales eat giant squid. Of course I immediately thought of that age-old depiction of squid and whale locked in ferocious mortal combat. Wikipedia tells me this is more fantastical than true, but this site suggests differently (this site also seems to offer loads of other intriguing tidbits!).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

accessorise!

R wearing her apple necklace, similar to a batch of custom-order necklaces I'd been working on over the past month and a half.

The pink-and-orange cord necklace -- with a frosty vintage mushroom pendant -- was among the batch. I was told I should make some up for the shop, and I think I just might!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

on creatures great and small

Animal rights and welfare mean a very very great deal to me. I don't think I have words enough to describe how much. As such, I will support animal welfare groups, and the work they do, however I can.

You may have read my earlier post about my own dog Kip, as well as the wonderful book, One at a Time -- A Week in an American Animal Shelter by Diane Leigh and Marilee Geyer. If not, please take a moment to do so.

I am feeling very compelled at the moment to write about this because just within the past day alone I've read and seen a lot of news on animal abuse that is very upsetting. First, I received my regular newsletter from the local SPCA, which I always open with a sort of dread, because the pictures are graphic and the news is largely sad.

As expected, this latest issue was no different -- reports of badly neglected pets (thank God for the people who report these cases!), a slew of rabbits and hamsters abandoned in public places (some found dumped in a rubbish chute), a cat killed by hanging...

I will not expound the horrific implications of a society where people abuse animals, and where others are indifferent to the cruelty. A study conducted by Northeastern University and the Massachusetts SPCA found that people who abuse animals are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against humans.

Dr Howard Koplewicz, director of the Child Study Centre at New York University, said, "When ever I read about someone committing a horrible crime against an animal and getting off with a slap on the wrist because "it was just a cat", I become sick with dread because I know that as despicable as the acts may be that they’ve already committed, these people aren’t finished yet. They are just getting warmed up".

We cannot ignore what it means when people feel power or gratification in hurting and abusing any living being that cannot defend itself. Nor can we ignore what it means when people respond to these acts with uncaring, heartless indifference.

The SPCA newsletter also reminded me of another issue which had greatly disturbed me -- the importation of 25 wild bottlenose dolphins for Resorts World Sentosa, a leisure and gaming resort on Sentosa Island. Global Animal has an excellent article on this here.

Earlier, I'd signed an online petition urging the Resort to release the captive dolphins. The petition can be found here; please take a moment to help.

The SPCA newsletter states that it "objects strongly to the planned importation of dolphins by Resorts World Sentosa for its Marine Life Park. These animals were caught in the wild and are being forced to adapt to a lifestyle which is not natural. In the process, they have no doubt suffered immensely, being highly sensitive and intelligent creatures.

"Two dolphins died in October last year whilst in a holding pen at Langkawi Island, Malaysia. This news only served to confirm that the whole process severely compromises the dolphins' welfare. Subjecting them to a life in captivity is unnecessary and cruel. Conditions can never come close to their natural environment...

"... As much as Resorts World claims that the well-being of all animals at its [Park] is a top priority, the example it has set by capturing wild dolphins for the public's entertainment, and compromising their welfare, contradicts its aim of educating and conserving the species". More here.

And now, I've just learned of this site. I totally support and applaud the efforts of everyone behind this campaign, but seeing the stark pictures only reminded me of how much terrible suffering there is behind the pet shop trade.

People who ooh and aah over all the cute little puppies in the window conveniently forget, or don't even know about, the appalling horrors of puppy mills. Please take the time to learn more.

And please, the next time you're thinking of bringing home a pet, rescue and give an abandoned animal a chance at a happy life -- adopt, don't buy.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
From All Things Bright and Beautiful, by Mrs Cecil F. Alexander

fear not

From my devotional this morning, perhaps it is God's word for you too:

"... thus says the Lord, He Who created you... Fear not, for I have redeemed you [ransomed you by paying a price instead of leaving you captives]; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you" (Isa 43:1-2).

Hang in there, don't lose heart!

Friday, June 17, 2011

ok.

At almost $300, your dollies can look forward to "the perfect home for the modern family". The Emerson House, from Brinca Dada, has everything the "perfect home" should have -- including six rooms, two fireplaces, floor-to-ceiling windows, sliding glass doors, and recessed LED lights (powered, by the way, by solar panels).

And check out the furniture ($199 please):

I do have to admit a kinda awestruck attraction to Bennett House. This place includes a two-storey living room, elevator and rooftop pool. Wow.

Hm... would these "toys" help give kids the right perception of home? Success? The value of money? (Would they even play with this?) (Would you even dream of letting them?)

And as an aside, after all that for the houses, the people are kinda.......

interesting.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mona Lisa Smile and loving today

So, I finally sat through Mona Lisa Smile on the movie channel. What kept me watching certainly wasn't the storyline (sort of predictable, girl version of Dead Poets Society), and definitely not Julia Roberts, but it was the cinematography -- and the clothes!

50s fashion is always gorgeous of course (though I'm more of a 40s girl myself), and the clothes in the movie were lush and feminine and lovely. See!

Which inspired this "Loving Today" collection of vintage goodies from the 50s. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

loving today

on the mild banana

Andy Warhol banana bag by Loop NYC

Bananas have such a great reputation for being quick and easy nutritious snacks, don’t they. I mean, unlike apples or oranges, all you have to do is peel one -- you don’t even have to wash it! (Or do you – well, I don’t).

Bananas are an excellent source of potassium and iron, which are of great benefit to the health of your heart, kidneys, blood, bones and nervous system. Bananas are also a great source of natural energy and fibre, and contain trytophan, a chemical that helps the body produce serotonin.

Which is why I’d always grab a banana when I’m in a rush -- whether it’s rushing out the door, or rushing to get something in my stomach so it won’t be completely empty when I take a Panadol.

But I started to notice a little trend with my banana consumption -- within an hour or so of eating one, I’d start to feel “funny”. Basically, indigestion. Well! I couldn’t quite believe that the apparently mild-mannered banana could be the cause of this, but after some observation, I finally realised there was a definite link.

On looking up bananas and indigestion, I learned that sensitive digestive tracts can have difficulty breaking down the starches in bananas, unripe ones in particular. Banana starches that don’t get digested start breaking down and decomposing, releasing gasses that build up in the intestines and cause indigestion. It’s best to stick with bananas that are fully ripened, because then the starches are converted into digestable sugars.

NB: Bananas are actually considered great antacids, so I guess the main thing is to make sure they’re really ripe before eating them.

Incidentally, I also learned that you can try rubbing the inside of a banana peel on mosquito bites; this apparently helps reduce the itching and swelling -- handy when you’re in a rush, eating a banana, and walking through a mosquito-infested place.

on Internet sharing, and screaming

(Photograph is copyright AP Herald Sun)

You know, it’s really amazing how the Internet connects people around the world, and makes the sharing of information and ideas possible and so easy (though honestly, I sometimes do think too much information is not a good thing, and ignorance certainly can be bliss).

Well, one thing I find vaguely entertaining about the Internet is that I can use it just to see if anyone else in the world had the same thoughts about something that I did. I’d enter the keywords into the magic Google search box -- say, “Bieber hair silly” for example -- and then scan the results to see if anyone else in the whole wide world thought the same thing (usually someone somewhere does) (and in the case of Bieber’s hair, I was definitely not alone).

Recently my husband was watching the women’s tennis finals on TV, and from inside my room I could hear this regular, high-pitched, screaming-type grunting. Now I’ve heard players who grunt, but never anything like this. And at every single stroke? I used to play tennis, but I never felt any urge to grunt myself; perhaps it’s something that separates the pros from the amateurs.

Anyway, the screechy grunting went on with such unfailing rhythm and regularity, that I finally called out, “Who is that??”

And my husband laughingly replied, “Maria Sharapova”.

“Why must she do that??”

“It’s her style,” he explained. “She always does it”.

“Well, after all that, did she win??”

“No”.

Well, this was one of those things which I couldn’t resist looking up on the Net. So I typed in “Maria Sharapova scream”. And wow -- a whole list of thingies came up on the subject, including Youtube videos just of her screaming, and even a ringtone of it.

I also found an interesting article by Matthew Bayley for The Mail, entitled, Grunting girls of tennis told to cut the racket.

“It has long been a source of irritation for opponents and tennis fans alike,” Bayley writes. “Now women players who grunt loudly when hitting the ball have been accused by the referee in charge of Wimbledon of doing it deliberately to win matches.

“Alan Mills claims players such as defending champion Maria Sharapova have been coached to emit ear-piercing shrieks so they put off their opponents…

“… At last year's championship, Russian Miss Sharapova produced the loudest grunts, yells and squeals ever heard on Centre Court.

“The noise the 18-year-old makes when striking the ball has been measured at 100 decibels, equivalent to a small aircraft landing nearby.

“Second in the grunt rankings is Serena Williams, at 88 decibels, followed by her sister Venus (85db), fellow American Lindsay Davenport (84db) and Russian Elena Bovina (81db). By contrast Tim Henman registers 61.6 decibels, while even the noise of a rock band (80db) and a Harley Davidson (85db) would be drowned out by some of the players.

“Miss Sharapova's grunts have prompted complaints. Last year in Birmingham, she apologised after competitors said they could hear her from four courts away”. (From The Mail on Sunday; whole article can be found here)

As for the Net, it’s kinda cool really how one can virtually say to someone on the other side of the world, “I know!! I thought the exact same thing!!”

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

the book depository

OK, I have to admit it -- I am a big, nay, huge, fan of The Book Depository. For those of you who don't know, The Book Depository is the UK's largest online bookseller, purportedly carrying the largest range of titles in the world. Besides the fact that I've managed to find many excellently-priced books there, the real clincher is -- free worldwide shipping. And not only that -- the company even offers periodic special discounts, which certain other, ahem, "big book places" pretty much never do.

*Speaking of which -- send out a
Summer Book Festival postcard and you'll get yourself and your friends a storewide 10% discount!

Now, what I find really cute about them are the bookmarks they always send out with their orders. They're the basic long retangular card kind, but the content on them is just brilliant. I mean, just look -- that black one above on the left? Those are ounce to gram conversions. And the cute little flame things show temperature/gas mark conversions (I bake, and I'm always having to look up those things for our little oven). On the back, cooking measurements. How cute is that?


Some of my recent purchases? Just Grace books for B, and The Bishop of Hell & Other Stories for me (read this people -- it is good).

Sunday, June 12, 2011

loving today

on getting the bigger picture

Let’s say you were standing at Angel Falls, or walking through Yellowstone National Park. Would you marvel at the beauty of God’s creations, praising His power, and thanking Him for letting you partake of His wonderful blessings? Or would you notice the icky bit of dirt on your boot?

While praying about negative thinking this morning, that was the revelation I got. I had a vision of myself as some sort of ecologist or botanist or something, surrounded by, and experiencing, all the indescribable wonder and glory of God’s goodness. But I was busy with my magnifying glass, focusing all my attention on the crap on my boot. And not only that, I was digging at it, and magnifying every aspect of its crappiness.

How often do we do that, I wonder, on any given day, in any given hour? Negative bits are in the world, there’s no denying that, and you could find lots of negative bits to focus on and magnify when you set your mind to it -- trust me, I know. You could even do it the moment you wake up, magnifying that one –- or several, poor you -- negative thing till it consumes you, ruining your day, and blotting out all the wondrous blessings that God has showered you with.

Like some deranged botanist, we focus on our one bit of dirt, studying it under our microscopes until we get ourselves completely stressed out by the sheer magnitude of it. It seems like our bit of dirt is the worst bit of dirt in the whole wide world, and we’re the only ones in the universe who have to suffer and endure the terrible thing. And then we feel justified in indulging in complaining, depression and self-pity.

Many of us do it so routinely, it’s a habit, an addiction almost. It’s almost like we don’t feel at ease unless we find something to be negative about. And the thing is, if we don’t break the habit, we’ll just keep finding new bits of dirt to magnify and fret over.

As I prayed this morning, I realised that that is exactly how I get myself anxious and depressed -- my thinking somehow becomes all small and narrow, as if I did not know, through conviction and experience, God’s immeasurable power, goodness and faithfulness.

When I focus on the negative, I lose perspective, I forget to look around me at the numerous, bountiful blessings I enjoy. Loving family, a roof over our heads, good food, clean water… and that’s just the beginning. Focus on all that, magnify all that, make a conscious decision to change your perspective -- you can overwhelm yourself with how blessed you are!

“Bless (affectionately, gratefully praise) the Lord, O my soul; and all that is [deepest] within me, bless His holy name!

Bless (affectionately, gratefully praise) the Lord, O my soul, and forget not [one of] all His benefits

Who forgives [every one of] all your iniquities, Who heals [each one of] all your diseases,

Who redeems your life from the pit and corruption, Who beautifies, dignifies, and crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercy;

Who satisfies your mouth [your necessity and desire at your personal age and situation] with good so that your youth, renewed, is like the eagle's [strong, overcoming, soaring]!” (Ps 103:1-5, italics mine).

Saturday, June 11, 2011

lookie-look

Has anyone ever tried this thing? It's a Hard & Sugar-Free Cotton Candy Maker by Nostalgia Electrics. According to the website, this cotton candy maker "transforms your favorite hard candies into fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth cotton candy. For a low-calorie treat, sugar free candies can be used. Simply plug in, turn on, pour yummy candies into the center receptacle, and start spinning colorful and tasty treats".

People, they're actually saying you can transform any of your favourite hard candies into fluffy, wispy cotton candy! Just think -- Lifesavers, Jolly Ranchers,
Jargonelle Pear Drops, Humbugs... I mean, honestly, how cool is that? Bring this home, or to your next party, and the kids are going to LOOVE you. If anyone's actually tried this product out, please do let me know!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

on callings, and answering them well

Not too long ago, the “friendship” between a certain individual and I came to a sad, abrupt end. After years of chatting and confiding -- as well as tons of money spent at his establishment -- and even a birthday party at his house, “Henry” suddenly saw fit to tell me, without preface or explanation (by sms, no less, despite the fact that he’d seen and chatted with me just a couple of days before), that he does not give professional advice over the phone.

In other words, if I wanted his help, I’d have to see him and pay for it (please do not think, by the way, that I had been asking anything complicated, or trying to get out of paying for something, or anything like that; what I'd been asking him was along the lines of “would you know any home remedy for constipation?”).

Well, to say I was taken aback would be to put it mildly. When it had just happened, I was so astonished that I told my husband and my mother -- both of whom, thanks to me, had also been his clients -- and they too were surprised, and wondered if he were just joking.

However, I had replied to his smsed reproof in seriousness, with an apology and a sort of explanation that I had been asking his advice as a friend. But he clearly did not believe in giving advice as a friend, because he merely said, “Apology accepted”. And so that was that. It was not a joke.

My husband shook his head when I’d told him -- doubtless thinking of the money he’d very recently spent there -- and said that people generally don’t answer their “callings” in life for altruistic reasons, and mostly, no one does anything for free or out of the goodness of their hearts. I didn’t entirely agree with this, since I like doing things for free and out of the goodness of my heart, and I know lots of other people who do too.

But I knew where he was coming from, and I was saddened by it. Thankfully, I’ve now reached the point of, like my husband, just shaking my head and shrugging it off. Clearly, I will not be bringing the kids to see Henry anymore, as I’d been loyally doing for years. But I’ve not given up hope in sincerely kind, generous people who answer their callings in life with genuinely big hearts. And I've had to ask myself whether I answer my calling in life with love and grace.

There’s this fellow in my church for instance -- “Charlie” -- who’s a lawyer, who freely gives legal advice whenever he’s asked with a cheerful smile, even on weighty, complex issues that take time and effort to explain. When I think of his warm-heartedness, I am certain that it is God who inspires one with such goodwill, kindness, brotherly love, and the spirit to serve.

I don’t think it’s something that comes naturally to our innately selfish, convenience-loving selves. This whole episode has inspired me to pray that I too will have a genuine spirit to serve, to help others willingly and without hesitation, in whatever calling I have –- mother, wife, daughter, friend.

As Jesus Himself says, “… if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two [miles].

Give to him who keeps on begging from you, and do not turn away from him who would borrow [at interest] from you.

You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy;

But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

To show that you are the children of your Father Who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and makes the rain fall upon the upright and the wrongdoers [alike].

For if you love those who love you, what reward can you have? Do not even the tax collectors do that?

And if you greet only your brethren, what more than others are you doing? Do not even the Gentiles (the heathen) do that?

You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:41-48).

These are principles that would surely better anybody, Christian or not, and the world as a whole. We all have our callings in life -- professional and otherwise -- we've all been given talents; let's be sure to use them positively, graciously, openhandedly, such that God would say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" (Matt 25:21).

Monday, June 6, 2011

loving today

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the station

I wanted to share this lovely poem, written by the late editor and Baptist minister Robert J. Hastings. Let us remind ourselves -- continually -- rejoice today!

TUCKED AWAY in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision in which we see ourselves on a long journey that spans an entire continent. We're traveling by train and, from the windows, we drink in the passing scenes of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at crossings, of cattle grazing in distant pastures, of smoke pouring from power plants, of row upon row upon row of cotton and corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of city skylines and village halls.


But uppermost in our conscious minds is our final destination -- for at a certain hour and on a given day, our train will finally pull into the station with bells ringing, flags waving, and bands playing. And once that day comes, so many wonderful dreams will come true. So restlessly, we pace the aisles and count the miles, peering ahead, waiting, waiting, waiting for the station.

"Yes, when we reach the station, that will be it!" we promise ourselves. "When we're eighteen. . . win that promotion. . . put the last kid through college. . . buy that 450SL Mercedes-Benz. . . have a nest egg for retirement!"

From that day on we will all live happily ever after.

Sooner or later, however, we must realize there is no station in this life, no one earthly place to arrive at once and for all. The journey is the joy. The station is an illusion -- it constantly outdistances us. Yesterday's a memory, tomorrow's a dream. Yesterday belongs to a history, tomorrow belongs to God. Yesterday's a fading sunset, tomorrow's a faint sunrise. Only today is there light enough to love and live.

So, gently close the door on yesterday and throw the key away. It isn't the burdens of today that drive men mad, but rather regret over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.

"Relish the moment" is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24, "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."

So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, swim more rivers, climb more mountains, kiss more babies, count more stars. Laugh more and cry less. Go barefoot oftener. Eat more ice cream. Ride more merry-go-rounds. Watch more sunsets. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.

The Station by Robert J. Hastings, reproduced with permission from The Robert J. Hastings Estate.

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