Category Archives: RANDOM THOUGHTS

Charity begins

I really believe that Americans are some of the most generous people in the world.  I also believe that Americans are some of the most selfish people in the world.  And I most certainly include myself in these statements.  I know, it’s confusing.

As a whole, when a crisis occurs, as in the 9/11 tragedy, America pulled together.  We were united in our desire to help our neighbors, loved ones, friends, and strangers.  We willingly emptied our pockets and our hearts to help those who were so closely affected by the terrorist attacks on our nation.  It was a beautiful thing to watch perfect strangers reach out to each other in a way our nation has not done before.  Sometimes it was done through organizations like American Red Cross, but in many cases it was just one person offering a helping hand to another.  It was endearing and noble, and selfless.  It was charity in perfection.

Recently we received the first of many Christmas giving catalogs.  We like to support organizations that are helping to feed, clothe, and train people out of poverty.  I often have tears in my eyes and a huge lump in my throat as I look through these catalogs.  Not just because of the moving photos and heart-warming success stories, but because I look around my own house and see nothing but excess.   We’re not rich by any American standard.  We’re solidly middle-class.  We work hard for what we have, and we have more than we’ll ever need really.  And yet I often find myself using sentences like, “I need a new pair of shoes,” or “I need to get my hair colored,” or “I need some mums to plant in the yard for fall.”  Of course these really aren’t ‘needs’, just wants.  But in our American mindset these are often treated as needs.  As a whole, and yes, this is a very broad statement, we are a needy, selfish bunch of people who live in excess rather than necessity.

The reason I get teary eyed looking at these charity catalogs is because I see people who can truly live and thrive with the most meager and humble of possessions.  The gift of a single goat to a family in Guatemala can change their life monumentally.  It seems like such a trivial thing to us, and yet these are people who can build a business out of one animal.  They can feed their family.  They can help others.  It’s just a single goat, not world peace.  But that’s the key.  They don’t need world peace to make a difference.  And neither do we.  It just takes one person, doing something for someone else to make that difference.

I’m sure I don’t have to say it, but the holidays are fast approaching.  Kids are already starting to get those Christmas catalogs too.  The ones filled with toys and games and gadgets.  Already phrases like, “I need a cell phone,” or “I need a new PS3,” or “I need a new Macbook” are starting to fly around.  And the sad thing is, they really believe they ‘need’ these things too.  Just like I believe I need mums for the yard or another pair of shoes.

But what we really need is to develop a sense of charity.  We need to look around us and be more sensitive to the guy standing on the street corner holding a sign asking for help.  We need to realize that shelters in our community are filled with people who truly have no place to go.  That families are being torn apart by violence, drugs, alcohol, and abuses of other kinds.  These are our neighbors, our loved ones, our friends, and even strangers.  And sure, there are people out there who are playing the system.  There are genuine crooks, scammers, and bums who want to take advantage of the compassion of others.  And that’s okay.  Some day they’ll have to answer for their actions, whether it’s here or in eternity.  But we have to not worry about being ripped off.  We have to stop expecting the worst of people.  We need to train ourselves out of the mindset of “I need…” and start thinking more along the lines of “how can I help?”  It starts with us.  Not with Governments.  Not with foundations.  Not even with churches.  Just us.  If we want to change the world we have to start doing it ourselves.  Charity needs to begin in the heart.  It needs to begin now.

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Doesn’t that just figure!

In an effort to continue on our path of self-sufficiency and healthier eating, I ordered a nut grinding machine.  I love natural peanut butter, but to purchase it in the grocery store is dreadfully expensive.  How does that work exactly?  Process it less, add fewer ingredients, and charge more.  Seems like a great gimmick to me.  So I searched online for an economical, home grinding machine, and I found one.  Only one.  It had a few reviews, which were all favorable and seemed to indicate that this machine would be perfect for our needs.  So I ordered it.  That was this spring!

A couple of weeks passed and I didn’t receive the order.  I checked our bank account and the money hadn’t come out yet either, so I sent an email to customer service requesting an update on my order.  I received a prompt reply that went something like this:

Dear Customer,

Thank you for your recent order.  Unfortunately, this item is temporarily out of stock.  We do not have an estimated restock date from the manufacturer at this time.  Your account will be charged when this item is ready for shipment.  Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you.  Have a nice life.

Okay, I didn’t end with “Have a nice life,” but it might as well have.  Basically, what that response told me was you ordered something that no longer exists, so don’t hold out any hope of ever receiving it.  After all, how many people do you know who grind their own nut butters?

This past week Kroger was having one of their 10 for $10 sales, and peanut butter was included in that.  So we decided it was time to stock up since our nut grinder was obviously not going to come through for us.  And stock up we did.  We now have 20 jars of peanut butter in our pantry.  Did I mention that we’re suckers for a good deal?!  But who doesn’t use peanut butter?  It’s not like it has a short shelf life.  It’s practically as indestructible as Twinkies are.

On Monday morning I sat down at my computer with my coffee in hand and pulled up my email.  And wouldn’t ya know it!  Smack dab in the middle of my list of emails was a notification from the nut grinder place.  My order is getting ready to ship.  Well, doesn’t that just figure.  Maybe I can give jars of peanut butter away as stocking stuffers this year…

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What does this look like?

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”  James 5:16 (NKJV)

In the modern-day world, I just don’t understand what the effectual fervent prayer looks like.  In Christian circles we like to talk about being in an attitude of prayer during the day, but is that what effectual fervent prayer means?  I feel I’m in that kind of attitude most of the day.
And if so, why then are my prayers not being answered?  Even the ones I’ve been praying about for years.  I’d certainly classify those as fervent prayers.

“Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.”  James 5:17 (NKJV)

How is it that Elijah prayed and no rain fell for over three years, and then he prayed again and rain fell?  Just like that – nothing else to it – just a simple prayer.  Since becoming a Christian, I’ve prayed for rain before, and the rain never came.  Why is it that God chooses to answer the prayers of some and not others?  Sam tells me that it has something to do with the motivation of the prayer, and the righteousness of the man.  This makes me wonder just how differently from Elijah my Christian motivation and my righteousness are before God.  Sometimes I wish I could see myself through God’s eyes so I could know what areas are keeping me from being the Elijah kind of righteous.   I want that kind of righteousness in my life.  Truly.

“Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”  James 4:17 (NLT)

I wonder if this is why I don’t see myself through God’s eyes?  I wonder if this is what keeps my prayers from being answered in the Elijah kind of way?  If I take a good, hard, long look at myself I can see that I choose to sin every day.  Most of the time it’s not even consciously.  I can really relate to Paul’s words – I can’t stop myself from doing things I don’t want to do, and I can’t seem to do the things I do want to. What a spiritual quandary this flesh puts me in.  Some day I hope to master my flesh in total surrender to God – there’s another quandary for you – I am perfected only through surrender.  Sheesh, and some people say Christianity is a crutch…seems to me that giving up control is a whole lot harder than doing things on your own.   Well those are my random thoughts for the day.  What are yours?

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Reading is FUNdamental

Did you know that 50% of American adults are unable to read and comprehend an 8th grade level book? (1)

Or how about this: 46% of American adults cannot understand the label on their prescriptions. (2)  That’s a scary thought….

1/3 of all high school graduates will never read another book the rest of their life; and 42% of college graduates will never read another book after college. (3)

80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year. (3)

70% of American adults have not been in a bookstore within the last 5 years. (3)

57% of new books purchased are not read to completion. (3)

Of those people surveyed who do read, 53% read fiction, and 43% read non-fiction.   The most popular fiction category is mystery and suspense, which accounts for 19% of all fiction read.  (4)

This one was a shocker for me.  A successful fiction book only sells 5,000 copies, and a successful non-fiction book only sells 7,500 copies.  (5)

Each day in the U.S. people spend 4 hours watching television, 3 hours listening to the radio, and only 15 minutes reading magazine articles.  (6)

There are about 120,000 new books published each year, however of that number 70% of them never make a profit or even enough to cover their advance. (7)

The point I’m trying to make here is that most American’s do not read.  I find that so sad.  And not that I’m a great connoisseur of the written word myself, but merely the fact that we have allowed ourselves to become so uneducated.  For me, the biggest shocker was the statistic that points to America’s obsession with television.  I don’t know what year that statistic was generated, but I suspect the internet would rival at least the amount of time people spend listening to the radio.  Frankly, I fail to see the appeal in television.  We canceled our cable service about nine months ago, and I haven’t even for a second missed it – we didn’t watch it when we were paying for it either.  I find television to be frustrating – too many ridiculous commercials.

As you might have noticed, I’ve added a Bookshelf to my blog – it’s in the right hand column just past my Blogroll.  As I’ve already said, I’m not a great reader.  For me it goes in spurts.  If I find a good book I can’t put it down.  If I find a bad book I won’t ever pick it back up again.  I am primarily a fiction reader – I adore brain candy.  I prefer two types of fiction: mystery and suspense, and Christian romance – more specifically, Amish romance.  I’m a huge sucker for Beverly Lewis and have read all of her books.  In the mystery and suspense category my three favorite authors are Agatha Christie (specifically, Hercule Poiroit and Miss. Marple mysteries), Tim Downs (I can’t get enough of the Bug Man novels), and Patricia Cornwall, although Ms. Cornwall tends to get a bit potty mouthed for my taste at times.  I’ve had to stop reading more than one of her books because the language just got too graphic for me.

But as you might notice from my Bookshelf, it’s not just fiction on the list.  I am also reading Crazy Love, Radical (by David Platt – not the Saul Olinsky book), and Lies Women Believe.  So far, these have turned out to be excellent Christian living and devotional books.  The first two take a fresh look at authentic Christianity; well fresh isn’t quite the right word as the truth they’re touting are actually old – first century kinda truths, but far beyond the bounds and comforts of our modern day Christianity.  And Lies Women Believe has been a profound read into the mind and heart of the very deception and Deceiver who seeks to destroy Christian women everywhere.  I think I’m going to be using this as one of my fall Bible study books for my ladies group.

But enough about me, what about you?  Are you a reader?  If so, what kinds of books do  you like?  Do you have a favorite author or series you just can’t put down?  If you’re not a reader, why is that?  I’m terribly curious.

(1) Jonathan Kozal, Illiterate America  (2) American Medical Association  (3) The Jenkins Group Inc. & Para Publishing  (4) Publishers Weekly  (5) The Author’s Guild  (6) Veronis, Suhler and Associates  (7) Bookwire & Jenkins Group Inc.

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What’s it saying about you?

Yesterday I mowed the grass.  I really like this task as it gives me nearly two solid hours to myself to really just think about stuff (oh yeah, and to sweat and sunburn).  Sometimes having that much time alone is a good thing, and sometimes, well, it’s not so good.  However, yesterday it was one of those days that I was feeling a bit introspective.  So keep in mind, this post is directed at me as much as it’s directed at anyone else……

I’m a Facebook user.  My beloved would probably classify me as a Facebook “junkie”.  He’s probably right, but the first step to recovery is always denial, right?!  Besides, I can stop anytime I want to!  He doesn’t understand the appeal that Facebook has for most people.  He has an account, but he rarely uses it.  He thinks of it as a “networking and marketing tool” for his various blogs, books, and the farm.  I however see it as one of my few social outlets.  It’s so sad, to be only virtually sociable….but that’s a post for another day.

What is your Facebook profile saying about you?

Every time I get a friend request (yes, I actually get them, not just send them out!), I check out the person’s profile before I accept them (and sometimes their photos if I’m not sure who they are – its been a LONG time since high school and college mind you).  I read the entire profile page, including the “groups” section.  Do you know, I can read through the bio and feel really good about a person, and then get to their “groups” or their “fan pages” and my stomach almost immediately sours.  Let me give you an example (by the way, this is not a ‘real’ example, although it might feel like some of y’all’s pages)………

BIO:

** I’m a Christian mom (or dad) who homeschools my 17 children – ages 6 months to 25 years.  We live on a farm in the middle of God’s country, and we milk our herd of 30 Jersey’s daily.  I make cheese with the  milk.  My children and I work our one acre garden and sell produce at the local farmer’s market.  We gather eggs from our hen’s each day and we donate about 15 dozen each week to the local food pantry as we want to help give back to our impoverished community.  My husband and I attend our small community church each week where I teach the 4 and 5 year old Sunday School and my husband is an elder in the church.  My life is blessed beyond measure.  I have great friends, a loving family, and I serve an amazing God who has seen fit to not only take care of my every need, but to give me some of the things I long for as well.  Praise the Lord!  **

Now after reading through that, if this were a person who has sent me a ‘friend request’ I’d feel pretty good about accepting them.  That is, until I get to their favorite pages or groups….see if you don’t agree…..

GROUPS: (Yes, I know some of these groups are real Facebook groups)

* If I had it to do all over again, I’d be a lesbian! *

* My daily Bible verse *

* Hope & Change for America *

* Yes, I’ll smile and wave, but deep down I think you’re a dirty rotten two-faced whore. *

* Mafia Wars *

* FarmVille *

* What’s wrong with having a National Healthcare system? *

* Biggest Loser *

* Glory To God Christian Church, Mytown, USA *

* Desperate Housewives *

* Bejeweled Blitz Masters: Learn all the tips and tricks for the highest scores possible *

* Curvy girls are better lovers than skinny girls *

* P.E.T.A. *

See what I mean?  The BIO looks pretty good, and this ‘person’ might genuinely feel blessed by God, but their PAGES/GROUPS speak volumes about who you really are…deep down inside…when you think no one is looking.  Even if they joined these groups because they thought they were funny.  How would I know if that’s the reason?  On the surface all I see is, they belong to these groups, whatever the reason.  Now I realize that it’s not likely that this type of person would be involved with all of these groups, but there are some of these groups that people who claim to be Christian’s are a part of, or other groups that are just as sketch.  Simply put, some of our “favorites” send very mixed messages; if not destroy our witness all together.  Remember, you might be the best Jesus some people ever see.

The internet is cloaked in an overwhelming sense of (false) security.  In and of itself, the net is a-moral (neither bad nor good), however its us that pervert and twist it.  What goes on between our fingertips and the keyboard is who we really are.  On the net, we can spend countless hours surfing websites, browsing for everything from cooking spices and ingredients to sexy lingerie to homeschooling curriculum to plastic surgery to gardening how-tos’ and  videos of people doing Lord knows what.  We can spend our alone time on message boards (anonymously, of course) for married couple’s seeking affairs, or on boards for people who want to know more about farming and livestock.  There are virtually millions of places we can go, but why would we?

The danger of too much internet time (at least for me) is becoming ensnared in the virtual world, and forgetting (or not wanting) to live  in the real world.  Through Facebook and other social networking sites we can find just about anything we want – from support groups to church groups to discount coupon clubs and old flames from high school and college.  There are games and special interest groups and political forums as well.  Pretty much, everything a body could ever want can be found online.  Unfortunately, more and more marriages are being lost to social networking affairs.  People are losing their jobs because they spend all night gaming or chatting and are too tired to go into work the next day.  Others are being caught up in the world of evil-ex bashing or co-worker bashing and forgetting that these are real people too (maybe not nice people, but my mama always told me that if I couldn’t say anything nice about someone I shouldn’t say anything at all.  And she’s been right – taking the high road is always the better option.).

Philippians 4:8 says, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

This verse doesn’t just apply to our outward life, but also our inward life (our virtual life, as it were).  I know that there weren’t computers and iPhones in Paul’s day, but it seems that this verse was written specifically for today.  We must always be fixing our thoughts on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise.  It’s hard to do sometimes, especially when we’re feeling lonely, bored, tired, under-appreciated and over-worked, angry with your spouse, or a dozen other feelings that can get us all into trouble.  But if we strive to always honor God, even in our private life, we will find we’re even more blessed than we think.  Besides, keep in mind that Jesus is always right with you – He sees all you do…even when no one else is looking!

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Too much to tell

I haven’t had much time to post on here lately as this time of year I’m usually running around the house like a chicken with my head cut off.  Between the gardening chores, the yard chores, the house chores, the cheese and bread making, and all the church things that are going on right now I barely have fifteen minutes to myself to sit at the computer, not to mention I’m completely zapped for creative juices these days.  It won’t be long though before the seedlings are in the ground, the Spring cleaning has been completed, and we take a break from all our church activities for the summer.  Perhaps then I’ll have more time and energy to devote to witty and interesting posts.

Speaking of cheese though, yesterday I made my first batch of hot pepper cheddar.  I used three Habanero peppers and two ghost peppers.  It smells hot but heavenly.  Hope it tastes as good as it smells, but we won’t know for at least a month.  One of the things I’m learning about cheesemaking is, it’s definitely an exercise in delayed gratification.  There is a ton of waiting involved.  Must dash………the cheese needs to be un-molded before I head out for the day.

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#400 and still random

This is my 400th post since starting this crazy blog.  I really don’t have much to say today but didn’t want to pass this momentous opportunity up to reach number 400.  How was your weekend?  Mine was fast, and emotional, and fun, and inspiring and a bunch of other things that I just can’t seem to put into words at this very moment. I’m feeling rather random today, so I’m just going to jot down what’s on my mind.  Bear with me, or move on – your choice, although we both know that when I’m random there are often things that come out of my mouth that could be deemed as inappropriate and awkward.  You decide…

Random thought #1

On Sunday we met some folks at church who like to grind their own grain.  I’ve been hearing about the “Smith’s” for quite some time now but we could never seem to catch up with them.  Then, last week, out of the blue, Sam got a ‘friend request’ on Facebook from Mrs. Smith.  I told him he had to accept it so we could pick their brains for bread recipes.  He did as he was told – what a good husband I have!  We must get together with these people soon – they’re wonderful, and sweet, and thin, and organic.  I like them very much already and I barely know them.  Oh, and they were more than kind enough to share their secret bread recipe with me.  I’ll be making it this week I suspect.

Random thought #2

We watched Food, Inc. this weekend.  I’ve been trying to get Sam to rent it for a while now, and he was just determined that it was going to be too liberal, too out there, too crunchy for him and he wasn’t going to subject himself to it.  Finally he gave in…actually renting it this weekend was his idea.  We loved it.  And we hated it.  And it was slightly liberal.  And pretty crunchy.  And completely eye-opening.  I’m sure it’ll be one we end up purchasing when it becomes available.  We watched it twice this weekend – we wanted the information to be firmly implanted in our mind.  I don’t agree with everything that was said, but I understand the premise of the arguments and believe consumers need to take a stand against big government and big Agra.  We have a right to know what we’re eating.  Period.  If you haven’t seen it I encourage you to check it out and be prepared to be revolted, saddened, and yet empowered to do something better for yourself and your family.

Random thought #3

We spent a good bit of our weekend transplanting seedlings into growing cups.  This is tedious and time consuming work.  Not to mention boring.  But it needs to be done.  So far we have a couple of orders for East of Eden plants and we need to make sure we’ve got enough of these varieties to fill those orders.  I am ready for gardening.  The weather has been cruddy the past couple of weeks – cold, rainy, windy, overcast and dull.  I need sunshine and green grass and dirt under my fingernails.  That’s the good stuff.

Random thought #4

Sam started another batch of wort this weekend.  He’s quickly becoming obsessed with home brewing.  I’m glad too.  Not because we’re drinkers, because we’re really not, although we do enjoy a nice cider once in a while.  His obsession is more to do with the actual science and cooking process of making beer.  This is our second batch of wort and so far it’s turning out much better than the first, which I dumped down the drain because I thought it was ruined and had an afternoon of overzealous cleaning.  Turns out it probably wasn’t ruined.  The learning curve here is pretty broad, and different types of brews will react and ferment differently, so there is no standard “recipe” to follow, which is what we were doing.  Man it smelled good when it was swirling down the drain.  Darn, darn, darn.  All our neighbors are chomping at the bit to be our taste testers…

Random thought #5

My Gram is being moved into a nursing home this week.  So very sad.  But the gal is 90 years old and has lived a pretty darned good life.  She’s healthy as a horse, relatively speaking of course.  But her mind is gone.  I’ve posted on here before about her Alzheimer’s diagnosis last year, and we’ve known that this day was going to come eventually.  It’s tough because my Dad is the one who has to make all the hard decisions regarding her care.  He’s been putting this decision off for many, many months, but unfortunately Gram’s condition is just progressing too rapidly.  Thankfully the home has agreed to place her in assisted living for now, but they’ve been very forthcoming with us about the eminence of moving her into the full-time care Alzheimer’s unit .  That’ll be another sad day for us.  Hopefully after a few weeks she’ll get completely adapted and think this is where she’ll always lived.  We’ll see…

Random thought #6

Construction day 3.  There aren’t many new photos to post up yet, although I suspect this week will be a flurry of activity.  The crew is here this morning pouring the footings.   We had tons of rain on Thursday afternoon and all day Friday that I suspected they wouldn’t be able to do it today, but apparently the rain wasn’t a problem for them.  Good.  The sooner they get the footings poured and cured the sooner they can start framing up the roof and then it’s all downhill from there.  I’m looking forward to getting a move on with this project.

Random thought #7

As most of you know, I’ve declared a sabbatical from Facebook.  I’ve had lots of why questions.  To you, my response is simple…why not? Facebook isn’t reality.  It’s based in reality sure, but its not real relationships.  It’s not real life.  It’s snippets of life.  I have met more people through FB than I have in the real world.  That’s not normal.  Life is about interaction.  It’s about conversations – face to face ones.  I realize our world touts the ease of virtual relationships, but in that is a hidden evil that I don’t even care to discuss.  It’s an evil I am all too familiar with and one you don’t need to know about.

I don’t know about you, but I spend too darned much time on Facebook every day.  A typical day for me would begin around 7:30 a.m. with coffee and at least an hour and a half of Facebook time.  If I managed to pull myself away at that point I’d do some school work or laundry or cleaning or other chores for a few hours and then back onto FB for another hour or two or three.  By 4:00 p.m. I’d have to pull myself away in order to start preparing for dinner.  As soon as dinner was done, I was back on it for the remainder of the evening. Often times Sam and I would be in different parts of our house, each on our computers, not speaking.  He’d be working on his businesses, and I would be Facebooking.  I would venture a guess and say that on the average I was spending 5 to 8 hours a day on Facebook.  Try and tell me that’s healthy….NOT!

I’m sure at some point I’ll get back onto Facebook, but when that time is, I have no idea.  I do know that when I do it, I’m going to make sure I have some precautions in place that will prevent me from spending an exorbitant amount of time on there.  I want to enjoy life – real life.  I want to invite more people over for coffee or lunch or dinner.  I’d love to find some girlfriends who would come over each week for a night of cards or board games or just to hang out and watch a movie.  I want to cook for people, and cook with people.  I want to hang out with people who have common interests.  But in order to do that, I’ve actually got to meet some real people.  So…..anyone want to volunteer to be my real life friend?  I’ll bring cake.

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