Thursday, October 29, 2009

Festivals and Fall

It is my absolute favorite time of the year! Fall!
I took these pictures a few weeks ago, and I've been remiss in forgetting to post them. Hartslog Day is an annual festival held in October (something about a man named Hart, owning a log - I don't know exactly). What I do know is that it is pretty much everything a fun fall festival (alliteration is a gift, folks) should be.
Here is the street scene at 7:30 in the morning. We beat the crowds. We found a parking space. We hit the ground shopping. Kind of like Veni, Vidi, Vici but lots of women with big purses and tote bags instead of Roman soldiers with swords.

It wouldn't be Hartlog Day without a stop at the traditional pumpkin totem pole, created by students at the local elementary school.
I think this one was my favorite. Moooooo. Or is it a dalmatian? I love the face whatever it is.

Or maybe the scuba diver? With a strawberry on his head? Laying a Steelers egg?
Now, time for the parade. With a marching band, fire princesses, classic cars, boy scouts and . . .
Shriners. I love the costumes. Especially the shoes.
After some serious socializing, shopping and Shriners (again with the alliteration), it was time to wander through the food vendors. The smells, oh the smells.
This was my selection. Hot sausage with peppers and onions. It was sooooo good. It was also 9:30 in the morning. Sausage is a breakfast food, right?
This was my mom and my daughter's choice. I had a few bites, too. Funnel cake is a fair and festival staple.
Happy Fall!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mountains and Valleys

The mountain and valley analogy is used often in the Christian walk. I've come to believe there is a very real reason for that, just because it is so very apt. I wonder who first came up with it.
I live in a mountain and valley landscape. Ridges run parallel to one another, with broad valleys coming to narrow ends between them. Some mountains have narrow grades, subtly taking you up and up. More often though, they spring up, wall-like from the ground, creating a sharp contrast in the terrain.
Spiritual mountain tops seem to be where we want to be as Christians. Time spent on the peak is time spent in tune with God, doing His will and getting ever so small glimpses into His plan. The top feels great. The top is, well, the top.
Spiritual valleys are not our goal. God sometimes seems farther away when we're there. We wonder what He is planning. We gaze at the mountain tops and yearn to go back. Sometimes we grow frustrated and try to climb up out of the valley under our own power. Worse, we resign ourselves to the valley as if we are being punished somehow.
The mountain tops where I live have spectacular views. In some places, it seems like you can see God's creation spread before you for miles.
The valleys have a lot to offer, though. Rich farmland support crops and livestock. Rain runs down from mountains to feed streams, creeks and rivers. Occasionally, fog envelops the lowland, blocking out the sun making it hard to see where you are going.
The spiritual valleys have a lot in common with the real thing. Valleys in our faith are a place to rest and recharge. God will provide us with what we need as we journey through. We just need to remember to trust in Him as we navigate through the inevitable fog that rolls in, confusing us and making us believe that God is so very far away.
I'm trying to reshape my thinking. Time spent in the spiritual valley is not wasted. It is not punishment. Valleys serve a purpose. Moses, Davis and Elijah all spent time high up on the mountain top as well as down in the valley.
Just my thought for the day.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fanny Crosby - Christian Heritage

I'm quickly realizing that I'm running out of month, and I just couldn't forget about Fanny!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Truth in Labeling

Has anyone ever tried to tell you what you are? Ever feel labeled? I have, and I'm certain I'm in good company.
Sometimes labels are for categorization. Like stay at home mother, working mother (and I mean working outside the home, ALL mothers are working mothers) or single mother. These labels describe, but don't really define. Wife, mother, daughter, grand-daughter, niece and sister are all descriptions I accept gladly.
During my childhood and teenage years, labels were stuck on me that I hated, like fat, loser, stupid and ugly. Labels like those burn when applied and if you accept them, they are incredibly difficult to remove by yourself.
Two of my high school teachers however, knew the secret to scraping those labels off. One was a substitute English teacher, only there for a short time. In the free time at the end of the class, party invitations were given out by one of the "popular" girls. Over half of the class received invitations, and obviously, I did not. As the bell rang, the teacher asked me to see her after class. After everyone was gone, she told me that I was a true lady and that she was impressed with how I carried myself. Me? In ripped jeans, t-shirt and old sneakers? A lady? Some of those hated labels fell off right there and then as I accepted a shiny new badge that proclaimed that I was a lady.
The second teacher was my high school French teacher. She told me I was beautiful when I felt so far from it. She was generous with her encouragement and her compliments.
I doubt these two ladies even remember these incidents, but I do! And I am determined to do for others what they did for me. Will you join me? There are a lot of mis-labeled people out there!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Germaphobia. It's not just a hobby anymore!

Last week, my son got spectacularly sick. High fever, vomiting, headache, general misery, he had all of the bases covered. The illness went on for four days, while I worried myself silly. Thus the Faith vs. Worry post. I was so thankful when he felt better and went back to school on Friday, and spent the weekend feeling great. Yesterday, in the afternoon, I got a call from the school notifying me that he was sick - again. As I type this, he is still sick, just as sick as he was last week. And I am again worrying myself silly. Why is that?
Apart from doing my part to give the hand sanitizer companies the best financial year ever, I've got to admit I'm having a really hard time with this. I spent the weekend breathing a sigh of relief that no one else in the family had gotten sick and had hoped that we were in the clear. Reality hit with a vengeance when the second wave took hold.
I'll try to get back here soon!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Stepping Heavenward

I just finished the book Stepping Heavenward, and I can well imagine picking it up again and re-reading it. It is definitely a keeper. This book was written in 1869 by Elizabeth Prentiss, who must have been an absolute giant in faith.
The story is told through the journal of Katy Mortimer, beginning on the occasion of her sixteenth birthday. Teenage Katy tells us of her exasperation with her mother, frustration with her friends and confusion with religion. Some bumps on the road of life lead her to her family pastor, who assures her of Christ's love and sets her feet on a quest to grow closer to God. Throughout the book, Katy often laments that the path to righteousness is uphill and it is so easy to lose you footing and slide back down. I cannot tell you how much that description hit home with me.
On the whole, I would have to say that while the book is not an easy read, it is not a hard one either. The writing is conversational, maybe a bit old-timey, but not so much as other books from that time period. For instance, much as I love Jane Austen, I struggle with some of her wording and miss out on some of the subtle humor in her books. Ditto for Louisa May Alcott. This book was different. Even though it was written in a completely different time period, a time that we tend to think life was simpler, many of her struggles are the same ones we deal with today. I most highly recommend this book!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This Time Its Personal

The title of this post is definitely meant to be tongue-in-cheek.
First thing this morning, I came upon this blog post at Stuff Christians Like
Then, even though I felt convicted by what I read before going to work, I allowed myself to fall into the same pervasive attitude problem I've been struggling with for over a week now. Thoroughly disgusted with myself, I took my lunch break at a local cafe with a good book for company. Stepping Heavenward is a work of fiction, loosely based on the life of the author. It is a story told in journal format following a girl into womanhood as she strives to live a more Godly life. Hmmmm. I picked it up, assuming it would be an edifying read of perfect people living perfect lives, enjoyable, but not real. This is most definitely not the case. The heroine, Katy, is far from perfect. She is confused about her feelings about God, confused about her relationship with her mother and confused about life in general. But gradually, she learns to seek Him. I'm not even halfway through the book, and there have already been several "Wow" moments, the kind that send shivers down your spine because it hit you where you live. The clincher - this book was written in 1869. Amazing.
Today, whether I knew it at the time or not, God chose the reading list. And I am so glad!
I'll finish my "review" of Stepping Heavenward once I finish the book. The Screwtape Letters is in the mail as well, so that one may very well follow. This one mentioned on Chrysalis sounds good as well. I'm looking for more reading material for the winter season, so please leave suggestions for me in the comments.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Faith vs. Worry

Faith and Worry are like Fire and Water.
A lot of Worry can overwhelm your Faith,
just like a lot of Water can put out your Fire.
Enough Faith, though, can eliminate the Worry,
like a strong Fire can evaporate the Water.
It is just as difficult for Fire and Water to coexist
as it is Faith and Worry.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hymn History - It Is Well With My Soul

It is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, 'tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Horatio Spafford was the man who had everything. He was a prominent Chicago attorney who was active in real estate as well. He had wealth, a beautiful wife named Anna, five lovely children and a deep faith in God. However, their blissful life was to be short-lived.
In 1870, the couple lost their only son to scarlet fever at the age of four. The devastating Great Chicago Fire of 1871 wiped out the majority of the Spafford's real estate investments and greatly injured the family's finances. Determined, they continued their charitable work - much needed in a city with 90,000 people made homeless. They were simply grateful that their home and their family had been spared in the fire.
At the invitation of longtime friend and evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, the family was invited to visit England, where Moody was setting off a revival. Anna was still reeling from the recent loss of her son and the exhaustion that followed the great fire. It was decided that the family would accept their friend's invitation and set sail for a holiday in Europe and then assist Moody in England. Horatio was detained by business at the last moment, but decided to send Anna and the girls, Annie, age 11; Maggie, age 9; Bessie, age 5 and Tanetta, age 2 off as planned, intending to join them in Europe soon. It was not to be.
On November 22, 1873, their ship, the Ville du Havre collided with another ship and sunk, killing 226 people - including all four of the Spafford children. Only Anna survived. She very famously sent a telegram to her husband, "Saved Alone - What shall I do?". Horatio set out for Wales, where Anna was waiting. As the ship he was traveling on passed over the spot where the Ville du Havre went down, he began to write the now famous hymn, It is Well With My Soul.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Christian Heritage - Isaac Watts

I have to confess, I love hymns. I love choruses as well, but hymns will always have a very special place in my heart.

I found this short video fascinating in it's narrative about Isaac Watts, and I hope that you enjoy it too!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Marriage Monday

The year 2000 found my family living in a run-down, single-wide trailer. My job at the time had left me depressed and depleted, leaving little energy at the end of the day to spare for my husband and children, who were only one and three at the time. The stress had gotten so bad at work that my hair was falling out. In desperation, I turned in my two week notice and frantically began looking for other work. It was mid-January, the weather was frigid and money was in short supply. To say we were struggling would not be an exaggeration. My husband startled me awake one morning after he noticed that our home was so cold that we could see our breath. Panicked, we rushed to the children's' room to check on them. They were fine, if a bit confused as to why mom and dad were waking them up so abruptly. The furnace had shut off sometime during the night, and since our oil tank was perpetually low, we assumed that the oil had run out. While my husband called for an emergency delivery, I bundled my daughter and my son up in the car and headed for my parents' house nearby. More oil did not fix the problem. The furnace was irreparably broken and it was decided that the trailer was too old to warrant replacing it with a new one (we did not own the trailer). Within two hours, we were left without a place of our own to live and I sat crying on the floor in my mother's kitchen, in complete disbelief that this had happened to us.
We moved temporarily to my parents' house, while we looked for a job for me, a place to live and some reassurance that God had not forgotten about us. I'm sure that, in anger, I lashed out at my husband. He, on the other hand, was regretting our decision for me to leave my job without having a new one in place. Both of us felt powerless and hopeless.
And then God made it obvious that he had been there all along.
You see, in talking with a co-worker while I was still employed, I had discussed the dismal condition of our home and how much I wished that we could make things better for our family. The co-worker had just moved into a new house and out of the house his family had rented. He very kindly wrote down the phone number of his former landlord for me and I promptly deposited it into the depths of my purse - TWO MONTHS BEFORE THE FURNACE DIED. During that time, I never once thought about that little scrap of paper. I spent hours scouring the newspaper, looking for apartments and jobs. Nothing worked out. Two apartment visits were disastrous. While looking for a pen, I came across that phone number and, even though we were positive we could not afford it, I called the landlord. Turns out, he was my father's former supervisor and was only too happy to show us the house. House! It was beautiful, and perfect for us. The kind landlord waived the security deposit and arranged it so we could move in immediately. We lived there for two years until we bought a home of our own.
Oh, and the job? God had that covered, too. I received a call for an interview while we were in the midst of moving. I was hired on the spot and I've been there ever since.
So sorry about the long post, but since the theme this month was about rough patches in marriage, this was what came to mind. As for suggestions to get through it - apply prayer directly to the problem. Repeat as needed!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Christian Heritage - Amy Carmichael

"You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving."
Amy Beatrice Carmichael

Amy Beatrice Carmichael was born to a North Ireland family living in a small village called Millisle in 1867. Her family was rather wealthy due to the many flour mills, which filled the small village. Amy lost her father when she was eighteen years old, and the family suffered financial troubles after his death and were forced to move to the city of Belfast. However, God touched Amy's life in her new home and she began serving in city missions. Inspired after hearing Hudson Taylor speak and in spite of suffering health problems due to neuralgia, she began her missionary life in earnest. In 1883, she set out for Japan with the support of the Keswick Convention.
Her initial introduction to missionary life was a disappointment. She was frustrated by the fact that the missionaries, in her opinion, were no different from other men and women of her acquaintance. "..we are here just what we are at home- not one bit better - and the devil is awfully busy . . There are missionary shipwrecks of once fair vessels." Her desire to live a pure life before God and to bring that light to the world separated her from her fellow missionaries in Japan. She left for Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) without notifying a single person from the Keswick Convention. Then, she returned home, shortly after arriving in Ceylon, to care for a sick family friend.
She had such a heart for God, though, that she did not stay home for long. Less than a year after returning home, she returned to the mission field. She felt led to go to India. She found her life's work in serving the children, especially in her work with the temple children. Amy was instrumental in saving these children from becoming temple prostitutes. She went to such great lengths to save these children that she was even known to disguise herself as Indian - making her thankful that God had NOT answered a childhood prayer to change her eye color from brown to blue, her brown eyes made her disguise more believable - so that she could steal the children away and take them to safety. After twelve years of finding these children, she had one hundred thirty children in her care. She named her organization the Dohnavur Fellowship. The Dohnavur Fellowship was unique in the fact that everyone wore Indian dress and the children were given Indian names - unusual for missions of that time period. Amy Carmichael cared for the spiritual and physical needs of God's children and claimed, "...One cannot save and then pitchfork souls into Heaven . . . Souls are more or less securely fashioned to a body . . and as you cannot get souls out and deal with them separately, you have to take them both together."
She lived the rest of her life in India, serving fifty-five years in the mission field without a furlough. Amy passed away in 1951 at Dohnavur at the age of eighty-three and was known to thousands as "Amma" or Mother.

Christian Heritage - Dwight L. Moody

"Faith makes all things possible . . . love makes all things easy.”

Dwight L. Moody

Dwight Lyman Moody (1837—1899) was born into a large family in rural Massachusetts. Dwight’s formal education ended in the fifth grade as he was a poor scholar, who could barely read or write. He left home at the age of 17, seeking employment in Boston, where he was unable to find a job. Eventually he was reluctantly hired by his uncle, a shoe merchant, on the condition that he attend church and Sunday school, where he accepted Christ. Despite his conversion and wish to dedicate his life to serving God, his application for church membership was denied. As to his wish to join the church, his teacher said, " I can truly say, and in saying it I magnify the infinite grace of God as bestowed upon him, that I have seen few persons whose minds were spiritually darker than was his when he came into my Sunday School class; and I think that the committee of the Mount Vernon Church seldom met an applicant for membership more unlikely ever to become a Christian of clear and decided views of Gospel truth, still less to fill any extended sphere of public usefulness." He made several attempts at participating in prayer meetings, and was advised to refrain from public speaking due to his poor grammar and uneducated manner.

So, a year later, he moved to Chicago where he hoped he would find success selling shoes. Instead, he began to hold Sunday school services in an abandoned saloon for Chicago’s poor and within a year he saw an average attendance of 650. His services became so well known that President Lincoln spoke at one of the Sunday school meetings in 1860. The Sunday school evolved into the Illinois Street Church and was pastored by Dwight Moody. The Great Chicago Fire destroyed his church, not to mention his home, but in the midst of the tragedy, he felt called to spread the word of God to the world and traveled to the United Kingdom in 1872, where a great revival was sparked. Upon his return to the United States two years later, he continued his work, preaching the message of salvation across the country. He founded Christian schools for children, a ministry training school for women and what is known today as the Moody Bible Institute.

(unofficial) Christian Heritage Month

When I was a child, I attended church in a large tent. Like a circus tent, only brown - and with folding chairs instead of bleachers. No hymnals, just a projector and a folding screen to put the words to the choruses on. When the weather was fair, we had Sunday school classes outside at a picnic table. It was definitely not a typical church experience. A church building was eventually built, but I think it is fair to say that I grew up feeling a lack of . . . . something.
Last evening as I flipped through channels, I was thrilled to catch the last hour of one of my favorite movies, Bella. (An aside, if you have not seen this movie, I would encourage you to rent it. Such a sweet film.) It was announced that the movie was being played in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. My husband teased me about my favorite movies as he passed through the living room, which made me think about what it is that I like in a movie. I tried to root out the common themes in Bend it Like Beckham, Bella, Bride and Prejudice (just the first three that popped into my head). It is the sense of family and heritage that I love.
Well, that led me to thinking about my own heritage - not genetic, just because I'm the same Irish/Scottish/German Heinz 57 Variety as just about everyone else around here. Interesting, yes, but not enough of any one thing to lay claim to a heritage month or special holiday all my own. However, I do feel a strong sense of my Christian heritage, which is exactly what I felt was lacking during my growing up years. We are all adopted into the family of God, therefore I can claim as family other followers of Christ.
So, my thought is, even though, there very well might actually be a Christian Heritage Month, here on my blog this month, I will be featuring stories about important historical figures in church history. If you have any suggestions, I'd be glad to consider them.