Monday, May 31, 2010

Honoring Soldiers

On this Memorial Day, I am struck as never before with the call to duty, honor and country our soldiers fulfill daily.  There is a quote on my son's Facebook page which says, "A Veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America for an amount of 'up to and including my life.' That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it." --Author Unknown

But aside from "the ultimate sacrifice," there are sacrifices made each and every day which should be honored as well.  Sacrifices of time to see children take their first steps or watch their sports activities, holidays missed and shared only through pictures, and simple pleasures like air conditioning and clean sheets.  Sacrifices by the families who struggle with loneliness, have to bear the full burden of parenting and calming children's fears while dealing with their own, and take on extra responsibilities for everything from garbage to car repair.  Sacrifices of mental health and twisted knees which may never heal. 
This past weekend, forts all around the country held special services to honor those who died this past year.  Fort Carson had 53 names added to their memorial wall.  That's 53 soldiers just from Fort Carson.  Beyond that, we have literally thousands of families who are separated by deployments from this area alone.  Our own family is separated with a son in Iraq today and more deployments loom in the future.
By all means, honor those who died for this country.  But honor those who are living for it, too.
Until next time,

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Prayers

Eph. 6:19

"...that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel."


Thursday, May 27, 2010

More Righteous Than I

Gen. 38

This is one of those chapters where a PhD in Ancient History would really help.  It's the story of Judah and Tamar.'s not a love story.  Judah's rebellion against his family takes him away from home into the land of the evil Canaanites where he marries Shua and has three sons by her.  The oldest son marries Tamar, but because of his extreme wickedness, the Lord puts him to death.  In keeping with the customs of the age, Tamar is then married to the second son who is now responsible to give her children who will, when Judah dies, inherit the lion's share of the family wealth.  This second son doesn't want to be cut out of the will, so he spills his semen on the ground whenever he lays with Tamar.  For this deceipt, the Lord puts this second son to death as well.

Judah tells Tamar to go live as a widow in her father's house and, when son number three is old enough, he will send for her again so the youngest boy can marry her and fulfill the duty of giving her a son and heir.  Except Judah fails to ever send for her.  After a long time, long enough for Judah to recover from his grief over the loss of two sons and for the youngest son to grow up, Judah heads to town for the sheep shearing.  On the way he stops for a little hanky panky with a roadside prostitute.  Except the prostitute is really Tamar in disguise.  She has grown tired of waiting for Judah to do the right thing and has taken matters into her own hands. 

But Tamar is no dummy.  She knows she could be burned  to death for prostitution (although Judah doesn't seem to fear this same punishment even though he is paying for a prostitute himself...but I digress).  She demands a pledge of payment for her services in the form of Judah's personal seal and cord until he can send the promised goat.  When Judah hears Tamar is pregnant, his righteous indignation kicks in and he calls for her death.  As she is being brought out to be burned (think dragged brutally), Tamar sends Judah, her accuser, his seal and cord back saying, "I'm pregnant by the man who owns these.  Any chance you recognize them, my dear father-in-law?"

Ooops!  Judah can't deny it on two counts.  First, it is HIS personal seal and cord.  There would be no mistaking it.  He has used it to conduct legal transactions for years.  It is the equivalent of a signature on a of a kind.  Second, Judah sent a friend to retrieve the seal and cord.  This guy hauled a goat all over the city asking about the prostitute and he would bear witness to Judah's involvement.  Talk about being caught with your hand in the cookie jar.  In response, Judah says, "She is more righteous than I."

Huh?  How is it "righteous" to dress like a prostitute and have sexual relations with your father-in-law?  This is where that PhD comes in.  Tamar, as the wife of Judah's first born, is entitled by law to being the mother of the heir apparent.  It is a legally recognized position of status and was purchased with her dowry.  Without an heir, however, and living as a widow in her father's house, she is not getting what her family paid for.  She is also left unprotected in a world where there were no Social Security benefits or retirement funds.  The men worked until they died, and the women were protected and cared for by the men in the family - husbands, sons, and grandsons.  By forcing the issue, Tamar has simply taken what was within her legal rights. 

This incident is a turning point in the life of Judah.  He and his household later become pillars of Jewish faith; his tribe being one of the two left when God divides the Kingdom in punishment for their unrighteousness.  Jesus comes from the tribe of Judah and is, in fact, a direct decendent of Tamar's son, Perez. what?  What lesson can we learn from Tamar?  Why does God include this story in the Bible?  It isn't just so we have a little insight into the geneology of Christ.  I think it's God's way of cheering on a woman who refused to be treated disrespectfully.  In a time when sex wasn't about love but about progeny and inheritance, Tamar found a way to get what was rightfully hers - a place of honor as the heir's mother.  When the men in her life failed her (because what was her father doing about Judah's lack of honor), she forged her own justice.  God isn't impressed with sissy women.  It took tremendous courage for Tamar to stand up in what amounted to a court of law and say, "I am right." 

God bless women like that.

Until next time,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Welcome Little One

Being around so many young people, I am dusting off my baby stamps for lots of expectant mothers.  This card was inspired by Peet's blog, and all products are CTMH (although the bear has been retired for many years) except for the Fiskar's punch to create the side border.  Also inspired by Peet is the hand stitching.  I used my paper piercing guide to create the holes and then just hand embroidered the straight stitch.

Babies are a precious gift.  Welcome Baby Stephens!

Until next time,

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Love in a Movie

Every once a great while, Hollywood gets it right when it comes to love.  One of my all-time favorite quotables comes from "Sleepless in Seattle" when Rosie O'Donnell's character tells Meg Ryan, "You don't want to be in love, you want to be in love in a movie."

The problem is family life is so messed up in real life, the only exposure some kids have to "true love" is love in a movie.  Here are some Hollywood myths contrasted with a little truth:
  1. Love is a feeling - Love is a verb
  2. You can't help who you fall in love with - Oh yes you can...and you'd better.  You may not be able to help who catches your attention and fires up the libido, but you most certainly can counter "falling in love" with cold, hard facts about basic compatibility issues, family backgrounds, how many children do you want and who is going to be the primary caregiver, religious beliefs, etc. 
  3. Having sex proves someone loves you and/or that you love them - Having sex means you have basic physical attraction and the proper plumbing.
  4. Sex is no big deal and you need to have multiple partners before you settle down - Having sex is a very, very big deal.  Sex joins your soul with your partner's for life and when the relationship ends, you are left with less of yourself.  Scientific studies have also proved that the more partners you have, the less enjoyment you feel physically, thus the constant prowl for a greater thrill with the next person. 
  5. There is one person for everyone and, if this person isn't fulfilling your needs, he/she obviously isn't "the one" - Any two people who share common values and commitment can love each other (see #1)
  6. You will "just know" when the right one comes along - See #2 about cold, hard facts.  To be absolutely truthful, there was an element of "just knowing" when I met my husband, but I also sat down and made a pros and cons chart about his character and all the things I needed in a spouse.
There are a million more, all of which need to be countered with truth, but who will tell our children?  You, through the power of your example supplemented with Biblical truth, or the movies?

Until next time,

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Reaping What You Sow

Gen. 37

This is the chapter which begins the story of Joseph, Jacob's first-born son by Rachel.  The years of bitter rivalry between Leah and Rachel, Jacob's overt favoritism of all things Rachel, and some shabby parenting are about to bear fruit.

What has always struck me about this chapter is Joseph's complete lack of tact.  He is a tattle tale, has no modesty when it comes to being his father's favorite, and can't wait to tell his brother's (not once but twice) how he will be the ruler over all.  Joseph is almost the youngest of all Jacob's sons, and he is lording it over men twice his age every single day with the special tunic and by telling his dreams.  Obviously, both Rachel and Jacob have encouraged Joseph to think of himself as extra special and he is something of a spoiled brat.

I don't imagine the brothers skipped straight to murder when it came to dealing with Joseph.  They have undoubtedly cut Joseph down to size with words and fists and have ganged up on him to play pranks both harmless and mean.  Through it all, Joseph has run to Mommy and Daddy telling tales assured he would be coddled and petted.  The brothers finally decide to murder Joseph by leaving him to die in an abandoned well, but when they see a caravan approaching, sell Joseph into slavery instead.  No sense leaving Joseph to die when they can ease their consciences and make money at the same time.

There is no question Joseph turns into a shining example of character later on, but while he may have had some outstanding basic qualities, he also needed to be brought down to size and, since Rachel and Jacob were failing as parents, God saw fit to tear him away from them and make him a slave to teach Joseph humility, tact, and few other necessary lessons.

As the parent of two grown children, I must admit failing to completely grow my children up before they left home.  My husband and I tried to balance protection from and exposure to the world, to teach them right from wrong both directly and through natural consequences, and how to walk straight in a culture gone crooked.  But we didn't finish the job.  Over the past several years, God has taken over and taught our children many of the lessons we did not, either because we lacked the time or because it was a blindspot for us as parents.  Thankfully, God is not only a better parent but also more interested in developing men and women of character than eartly fathers and mothers.  If your children are nearing their time to leave home, or have already left, it is time to "let go and let God" be their parent, knowing He will finish perfecting them and make up whatever we lacked.

Until next time,

Monday, May 17, 2010

Flip Flap Scrapbooking

CTMH has come out with product they call Flip Flaps.  I love these things.  It's a great way to add extra narration or photos.

Until next time,

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Prayers

2 Cor. 13:7-9

"Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong...For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.  We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong, and our prayer is for your perfection."

Until next time,

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hello Hero

Using the CPS Sketch 166, I created a card to send to a friend deployed in Iraq.  I wanted it to be as flat as possible for mailing purposes but couldn't quite let it go without embellishing a bit.

All products are from CTMH, although the paper has been retired for some time now. 

Until next time,

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Servant and the Queen

Gen. 36

I almost skipped this chapter entirely because my eyes glaze over whenever I read geneologies.  Yet, as you have probably noticed by now, my brain pauses at each mention of women in the Bible.  And vs. 39 gives us a whole string of them, "When Baal-Hanan son of Acbor died, Hadad succeeded him as king. His city was named Pau, and his wife's name was Mehetabel daughter of Matred, the daughter of Me-Zahab."

Aside from this list of names, there is nothing else we know about these women.  We do know something about Hadad.  He is listed as the last of the kings of Edom (the new name given to Esau), and the Bible wants us to realize the Edomites had kings before Isreal's (Jacob's) decendents did.  As part of God's discipline of King Solomon (only the third King of Isreal and the last to rule over the entire nation), Hadad becomes a thorn in Solomon's side.  Hadad has escaped to Egypt but begs the Pharaoh to allow him to return...just so he can pester Solomon.  (See I Kings 11:14-28)

What does this have to do with the women mention here?  I have no idea.  However, I can make some educated guesses.  Given the string of women's names, Mehetabel likely came from a long line of royalty; her mother, Matred, and grandmother, Me-Zahab, were probably queens and well known at the time.  But unlike the servant, Deborah, from the last chapter, God gives us no insight into their lives.  They are just names...ghosts of a different era.  God doesn't tell us if Mehetabel was for or against Hadad's desire for revenge.  What we do know is Edom's royal line appears to end with Hadad.  Either Mehetabel bore no children, or she bore no children of consequence.

I find it interesting God honors Deborah the servant in chapter 35 and mentions three queens in a row in chapter 36 at what appears to be the end of their royal line in a man who leaves the comfort of Egypt just so he can buzz annoyingly at King Solomon.  Reading between the lines (again, that means don't put ANY theological weight behind this comment), I think Mehetabel and Hadad wanted to be rulers of their own land badly enough to give up the luxury of Egypt.   Their pride was pricked by being in exile.

And yet, the royal Edomite line ends here. 

Mehetabel might have been the most powerful queen of Edom, but it all came to naught.  God does not honor her, gives us nothing to remember her character, only a casual mention as if to say, "She came from royal heights and fell to nothingness."

I would much rather be the servant, Deborah, than the queen, Mehetabel...and I think that's God's point.

Luke 1:52 - "He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble."
James 4:6 - "...God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
James 4:10 - "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."

Until next time,

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Buttons and Bows

The 365 card blog is having a challenge today to use four buttons and four bows.   I wanted to try to use my buttons and bows independent of each other...and I almost made it.

All products are by CTMH except the buttons,white and teal ribbons, and I did the dry embossing by just running a stylus down my cutting board.  I used "Key to My Heart" paper and the "Soul Mates" stamp set.

I have no idea what I'm going to use this for, but I love how it turned out.

Until next time,

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Buried Treasure

Gen. 35

This chapter is full of story snippets...little bits of plot moving in different directions.  Jacob moves the family to Bethel after telling them to get rid of foreign gods, Rachel gives birth to her second son and dies, Jacob renames his son and God officially renames Jacob (Israel), Rueben sleeps with Jacob's "other wife" (Rachel's servant who has born Jacob children) and finally Isaac's death which brings Esau and Jacob together.

But sandwiched in between all of this are two sentences about a woman named Deborah.  "When they were there (Bethel), Rebekah's personal servant Deborah died. They buried her under an oak tree and called it Weeping Oak."  According to my commentary, Deborah is likely the servant who came with Rebekah from her father's household.  It is possible Jacob has met up with his mother again, which is why Deborah is traveling with his household, but as we have no record of when Rebekah actually died, it is possible Deborah has outlived her mistress.  What I find most interesting is God wanted to honor Deborah by giving us her name and burial place, and that it was named "Weeping Oak" implying the deep grief felt by more than just Rebekah.  We know nothing more...just that Deborah was a servant who inspired great love.

I am inspired, too.  I hope for nothing more than to be remembered as a servant of God who loved deeply.  I want to be missed because my life mattered; for those I served to grieve my loss because I was more than an employee but a true friend.  And for the God of the universe to count my life worthy of rememberance.

Until next time,

Monday, May 10, 2010

Creative Inspiration

I have a number of blogs I CASE on a regular basis (Copy And Steal Everything), only a few of which I have listed on my blog.  I have just added two new ones, Kath's Blog and Peet Scrapablum.   These days it takes a lot to really knock my socks off, but these two women are truly artists and their work is amazing.  I hope you will take a minute to link to their sites, but beware.  If you have any appreciation for beautiful things, you will likely find yourself spending a great deal of time oooohhing and aaaaahing.

All materials used were from CTMH except for the ribbon.  The white leaves were cut with my Cricut.  It is based on work from Peet Scrapablum.

Until next time,

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mother's Day

I'm LATE!  My husband reminded me last night that Mother's Day is this Sunday.

I don't know if you can see the flower centers well enough, but I stamped the words from the card background on pink paper, popped the circles over the top, cut them out and glued them on the flowers. 

All supplies are CTMH except the ribbon.

I hope my mom gets this in time for her to know how much she is loved and appreciated.

Until next time,

Saturday, May 1, 2010

At Home

I've been traveling for the past few weeks, visiting my family in Washington and catching up with good friends along the way, but it is always good to come home. 

Home.  It conjures up so many images.  For me, they are good ones.  For others I know, not so good.

I am in the middle of a novel by Angela Hunt called "The Face."  It is about a young woman who was born without a face.  Her mother died right after her birth, and her father (a CIA operative) was killed on a mission two days later.  She is raised by the head of a secret CIA facility located on a remote island in Spain.  She has never been off the island.  Despite not finishing the novel, I am seeing a metaphor develop which mirrors our life here on this earth.  Because of her physical deformity, this highly intelligent woman is stiffled in real life.  She's never eaten at McDonalds but thinks they must have the best burgers on the planet because so many have sold.  Her best friend is a blind man who, because he has no idea about her face, doesn't really know her.  People don't smile at her in greeting, she's never learned to use her face to express emotion, and she's never walked down a street window shopping.

But she's happy where she is.  To her, this life she lives is normal because it's all she has ever known.  Her work as a CIA computer guru is hard, fulfilling, life-saving work.  She's aware there is something more out there, but it's not real to her.   She fears it, even.  Instead, she experiences "real life" through movies.  Lots and lots of movies.

I am challenged on a couple levels.  First, there is the picture of life on earth as the remote island.  Heaven will be so much better:  more colorful, tastier, brighter, happier - just as life in the "real world" is bigger and brighter than one on a small island.  The island, however, is where the work is done...important, life saving work.  Second, and more challenging for me, is the idea I'm missing out on life here and now by being too fearful of rejection.  Is there something I'm missing, something huge and lively and amazing, because of the risk involved, the pain others can inflict with hurtful words, or the messiness of real people vs. movie characters?

Am I "at home" with a shadow of what could be?

Until next time,