Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Fighting against Morality Wars

I would first of all like to remind my readers that in our society, we no longer desire people's heads when unpopular ideas are given.

And since I have refreshed your minds on this important fact, I present what may be controversial and uncomfortable to some of my readers.

I'm sitting in my chair, stirred, grieved, and shaken by what I've just read in my current read: Searching For God Knows What, by Donald Miller. I know he's controversial, and I can't support everything he says, and I think he should be read alongside A.W.Tozer or somebody in his league, but he makes three staggering points in this book, and for those, I can recommend the book. I may do a more thorough book review later, but what I'm squirming under today is his serving up of morality wars.

He talks about his radio interview with a conservative host, where he is asked to comment on the homosexuals taking over America. After some initial confusion about what the host was talking about, here's his response.

"Here's my position: As a Christian, I believe Jesus wants us to reach out to those who are lost, and yes, immoral-immoral just like you and I are immoral; and declaring war against them and stirring up your listeners to the point of anger, and giving them the feeling that their country, their families, and their lifestyles are being threatened is only hurting what Jesus is trying to do. This isn't rocket science. If you declare war on somebody, you have to either handcuff or kill them. That's the only way to win. But if you want them to be forgiven by Christ, if you want them to live eternally with Jesus, than you have to love them. The choice is yours and my suspicion is you will be held responsible by God, a Judge who will know your motives. So go ahead and declare war in the name of a conservative agenda. That's what militant Muslims are doing in the Middle East, and we don't want that here."

I again want to remind you that about that head thing.

I guess I got weary and frustrated by the conservatives who are waging morality wars in our culture, stoking peoples emotions, working people up, trying to show their right-ness. And who are doing nothing about some of the problems they are warring over. For example: Planned Parenthood and those videos.

It's so easy to sit back and sign the Defund Planned Parenthood Petitions and feel self-righteous and angry in a Godly-kind of way. But what if those of us who are grieved and heartbroken about these precious little lives would get involved in our communities and do the very think that PP is doing in a very sick and depraved way, offer help and support to ladies who think they have no other option? What if we would get out there with compassion and help the homeless and the lady struggling with another unwanted pregnancy? And better yet, what if the Community of Christ Followers would reach out to those committing these heinous acts of murdering babies, and share the message of Good News and Redemption? Which would be the most effective? After all, what did Jesus do? Set up scroll petitions for Defunding the Debauched Tax Collectors? Work His followers all up about how unfair and wicked they were? Sitting down and eating with them with redemption in mind shouldn't have even been in an option by our standards today.

Miller also talks about the "us versus" them mentality, overflowing in war rhetoric. He suggests that this war rhetoric is not the methodology that came out of Jesus' mouth nor that of His followers. And he finally quotes: "If we are preaching a morality battle without Christ, and using war rhetoric to communicate a battle mentality, we are fighting on Satan's side. This battle we are in is a battle against the principalities of darkness, not against people who are different from us. In war you shoot the enemy, not the hostage."

We misunderstand the hostage for the enemy in many situations today. And sometimes the line is blurred between the two. I'm not here to judge between them. All I'm saying is pity, and desire for reconciliation with their Maker should be greater than anger in most situations.

I'm not undermining the fact that sin is sin. I know that. Jesus knew that. But yet his approach to sinners was so vastly different than what I see today. His desire was relationships and in these He would insert Truth, and people would have to make a decision. Some chose Him, others chose themselves, but they all had the privilege of knowing Him, and eating at His table,and sharing His life.

Is that asking too much of us?

Vicki, hanging onto her head

Monday, August 17, 2015

On Why I'm Not a Writer

I heard the pleading in their voices, and saw the deep longing in their eyes, "Please update your blog," they begged.

Over-exaggerated to be sure, but some of you have been strongly hinting. So here's new reading for you and it's titled, 'Why I'm Not a Writer.'

Sure, I can string words together and make pretty, funny little sentences. I can make you laugh or cry, or stir some other emotion in you. And,

Funny Pictures Of The Day – 92 Pics
image via Pinterest

As a two year old, I enjoyed concepts and words that were much bigger than I. There is a tape recording of me asking my mom to babysit my child while I go to the hospital to have a C-section.

I've always liked words and the art of putting them together to make beautiful things. Of evoking emotion and creating mind pictures.

But that doesn't make me a writer. 

I don't really enjoy writing, and only write when I can't help myself, which is about twice a year. I don't even journal consistently. 

I spent part of a week at Faith Builders in PA and when I was there, I felt a little spark. I quickly ran for my notebook and pen and started an allegorical piece about a campground. I felt a thrill as I chose and re-chose words to fit the narrative. The thrill of new ideas and old words coming together on paper to create something new. Maybe there's hope.

Part of the problem is lack of material. Or lack of the right kind of material.

The material I have would raise a firestorm and I'm thinking the fire probably wouldn't be worth it.

But since you insist on knowing, they would be along these lines:

Why Multi-Level Marketing Products Work

The Truth About Multi-Level Marketing Products

Why Mennonite Men are More Interesting Conversationalists than their Female Counterparts, and How This Problem Could Be Helped

Singlehood- and the role of the Unmarried in our Churches

Why Apple is Better than Android.

Just kidding about that last one. 

You see what I mean? I have enough ammunition to fuel a sewing circle. 

Maybe when I grow up, I'll be a writer and write on worthy topics with such passion I can't help myself. Until then, you will probably see me only occasionally on here.

Peace~ Vicki

Thursday, June 18, 2015

:: Little House ~ Big Dreams ::

For a few months now, my sister Kelly and I have been praying and thinking deep thoughts about our future. We sensed something was on the horizon, but didn't know what. The story is long and bizarre, but I can simplify it in one sentence: We are renting a house.

It should probably read: WE ARE RENTING A HOUSE!!!!!! Those are the truer emotions about it :)  Our landlords are good friends of ours- an older couple, and I know they will take good care of us and we hope to return the favor.

We are so excited about all the possibilities contained in the walls of this home. We envision it full of laughter and guests and yummy foods and ministry. We've already had a great deal of company in the nearly 3 weeks we've been here,and decided we need to pace ourselves a bit. We both love to host so that works out well. 

We want this place to be restful and inviting. A place for our local girl friends to come and hang out and talk about life. A place for church families to drop off the children for a date night out. A sanctuary for others involved in ministry who need a breather or a bit of encouragement. We have big dreams for this place!

This was in the works for a couple months before we moved in, so you can imagine where Kelly and I were early Saturday mornings :) We got a great deal of stuff from yard sales and flea markets, which was wonderful, cause we really like to be frugal like that :) Saves more money for jaunts around the world (she's flying to Australia on Sunday).

So I present:: Our Nest::

The dining room is lovely and has lots of natural light. Funny thing is, we rarely eat in there. We usually eat in the living room. The table and chairs cost us a whopping $25 at a yard sale and we were thrilled!

The living room is a sanctuary, and we spend a great deal of time in there. It also has beautiful, big windows that let in lots of light.  

We joked that we wouldn't feel at home until our books were unpacked so that was one of the first things we did. We are both avid readers and our books make our home feel complete. 

Kelly's room. Obviously these are works in progress but we love them. The hardwood floors throughout the house are gorgeous!

My room. I naturally gravitate toward blues and grays and love the cool, restfulness it portrays.

 The bathroom initially was our least favorite room in the house, but our shower curtain made it all better. Is it weird to like a shower curtain so much? :) 

And last but not least: the kitchen.

The space is perfect for two people and I like how everything is an arms length away. We are having so much fun cooking and washing dishes and just all the domestic things that ladies get to do. It's a bit of a learning curve though, because we both work full time, so we're trying to find quick, economical and nutritious ways of eating and it's kinda hard! I'm not interested in eating out of cans and boxes for convenience, but it's taking a bit to remember to get meat out and prep ahead of time when we can. For dinner tonight I made breakfast pizza and that was yummy and quick. 

This part of the house is not being used too much because of the high heat and humidity, but during the spring and fall, you will likely find us out on this screened in porch a good bit.

That concludes it. It's not perfect, but it's perfect for us. And we are excited about our future here in town.


Most of the photo credits go to Kelly. She captures beautifully with the lens.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Revisiting the Bookshelf

It feels strange, this coming back to my blog after such a long time and after so much has happened and so much life has been lived. It feels like there isn't much to say at times, or when there is, I don't have the where-with-all to write, and so it sits quietly. Of course, when I do have the occasional brilliant thought (ha), it is when I'm up to my elbows in dishwater, or in the sandwich line or somewhere else that I can't get it written down. And then when I re-visit the same thought later on, turns out it wasn't so brilliant after all ;)

Spring is here! I bought a fluffy bunch of hydrangeas this morning to celebrate. Greenery is returning, along with fresh energy and the assurance that God hasn't forgotten us in our winter brownness and deadness.

I have enjoyed the long winter evenings and have gotten a good bit of reading done. Nothing completes a day like a chapter of a good book, or a few favorite lines from somewhere.  Here's evidence:
These books have to be among my favorites, which might explain why I revisit them so often. I bought Freckles at our local thrift store for $.25. I may or may not have happy danced in the aisle and totally turned the rest of the bookshelves up-side-down in case the person who gave away such a find may have given more of the same sort. A little exaggerated maybe,but I was supremely happy for a few hours. Gene Stratton-Porter writes with such soul, and such feeling and her books are some of the few that make me cry. For example:

Doesn't it do something to you? Mother-hunger. Something most of us never feel because we never experience its absence. The themes of these books are so true, and so pure and honorable without being priggish or stuffy. Real manhood and womanhood are celebrated in their wholesomeness and unaffectedness. That last word isn't actually a word but it wants to be there so it stays.

The next two books are good reads as well. I blogged before about these, but I want to bring attention to them again. When Jesus Came To Harvard is heavier reading, and I had to consult the dictionary numerous times, and there is some theology that I am not sure about, but it is still worth reading. The author taught an undergraduate class on the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, and the book is about his experiences in class as they walked through Jesus' teachings and revisited His life.

 My book is all marked up with question marks and high-lighted lines, and even a grammatical goof :) 

I highly recommend the other book to anyone who is interested in apologetics or rubs shoulders with people from other religious worldviews. It is the story of a young atheist lady who met two happy, friendly Bowheads (these girls wore the ridiculously large hair bows of the 80's). This is her story of living without God and her unexpected encounter with His Presence, and how it changed her. It is engaging, interesting, educational and extremely well written. Be my guest and read it, please?!

And to be honest now, and to talk about a book that I wasn't so fond of, meet:

This is an extremely popular book. A poll from last year showed that it was the second favorite book of American readers, just behind the Bible. It was set in the South, back in the Civil War, and I frequently see memorabilia or references about this. When my sisters and I were in Charleston, our historic carriage tour took us past a Rhett Butler home. A few years ago, part of our vacation rental was decorated with Rhett and Scarlett. Clearly, this is a popular, well-loved story. I picked up the book one evening and read most of it that night. In literary terms, it has some value. The fact that Scarlett (the main character) was a southern belle and was not beautiful, but was loved for her keen mind and spunk, is noteworthy. And I understand its value with the civil war backdrop and the excellence of the writing. The plot, however left me both sad, and a bit mad. 
Basically, Scarlett is in love with a man (Ashley Wilkes) who is to marry his cousin Melanie (because that's how the Wilkes' did). In retaliation and to get his attention, Scarlett marries Melanie's brother, and shortly thereafter becomes a widow as he is killed in war. She then marries two more men, the second of which is Rhett Butler, a fiery, determined man, in whom she meets her intellectual match. Through all of this she makes Melanie's life terrible because she still is in love with Ashley Melanie is nothing but kind and sweet in return and on Melanie's deathbed, Scarlett realizes she really isn't in love with Ashley after all, but her very own husband, Rhett. By this time though, Rhett has grown tired of her whims and isn't sure if he still wants her. And the story more or less ends there.

Some observations:
I see enough heartbreak across the headlines each morning to make me feel heavy, without reading a fictional work of the same sort. Scarlett intentionally wreaked havoc with many hearts, nearly wrecked another marriage, and wasn't happy in her own. She wanted everything she couldn't have, and carelessly trampled others in her quests for love. Why do Americans appreciate this? Why is she so popular? Melanie should be the hero for her selflessness and love to a lady who was bent on undoing her.

There is some racial slang and epitaphs that I can not approve and do not wish to read.

Scarlett bore 3 children, none of which she loved or wanted. She was disappointed to learn she was pregnant. I can't celebrate even the fictional life of someone so self-centered and whose value of children is so low.

I could write more, but this was more on my throw-across-the-room-into-the-trashcan pile than- to- be read again.

That is my honest and candid review. I would love to hear your thoughts on this book, even if they are totally different, or on any others. I would also love to hear suggestions on what to read after this book comes:

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story

And finally, a parting shot of my favorite pencils. I think maybe Freckles was originally written in something similar? :)

Catch y'all later.... like maybe 9 months :)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Christian and The Arts

photo from google

I am incredibly blessed to be a part of a living, thriving body of believers. I often marvel at God's blessings to me in this, and can't be thankful enough that I get to be part of it.

Part of what I love so much about my brothers and sisters is the perspectives and the gifts they bring to the brotherhood. Today we were blessed to hear about church history from a man who knows and enjoys his stuff and delivers it in an interesting and informed way.

He went into some detail today about monasticism and the role that played in church history. I must admit to a certain fascination with the subject and one of my very favorite books deals extensively with this subject.

There is a certain beauty in the starkness and the austerity of that lifestyle. Sadly, a lot of these stories didn't end well, with corruption becoming prevalent in the monasteries. 

I picked up the book again and am re-reading it. It is incredibly well-written, crafted by one who knows how to work words.

After I put the book down and turned out my light, my mind began wandering toward the other end of the spectrum.

The Arts.

As a conservative Anabaptist Christian, I haven't heard much teaching on this subject. We choose to live simply and abandon all for Christ, estranged from the world in mind and thought.

But there are those among us who are Artists of sorts. Gifted with the pen, with a voice, with a quick and keen mind. People who feel things deeply. People who are often misunderstood. And honestly, sometimes I don't know what to do with it all.

It feels frivolous, to care or be concerned with such things when the world is falling apart. When people are being beheaded and bodies are stiff with death from ebola.

And yet, I think God designed us for worship, for expressing our thoughts and feelings to Him beautifully and with care. Yes, it can easily be taken too far and turned into something else. Something called pride. When we use our talents and display them to draw attention to ourselves, to create spaces that cause other people to admire us unduly and cause jealousy (aka social media), that becomes a problem.

When I feel a thrill upon reading a well written line, hear a difficult chord sung beautifully, admire a beautiful painting or hear a brilliant, well-delivered address, I need to realize that God wants me to enjoy it. But He is most pleased when I walk in obedience, when I live well in the ordinary, when my feet get dusty with the common.

He created us with the capacity to enjoy and the need to worship. As individuals we worship differently and uniquely. While He loves the worship of hundreds of perfectly on-pitch voices of talented singers, I think He still thrills to the off-key, but enthusiastic praises of another group. He is praised in the well-written, but also in the writings of the uneducated. He values the childish paintings of a three year old as much as perfect portraits of the talented.

He is adored in the simple, as much as in the talented.

Is it wrong to enjoy the beautiful and the well-done? Absolutely not! But if it is anything more than a natural out -working of a heart turned towards it's Maker, beware.

Madeline L Engle' says it well:

The purpose of the story or music or painting is to further the coming of the Kingdom, to make us aware of our status as Children of God,
and to turn our feet towards HOME.

image also from google

Be blessed, and worship well!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On my bedside table edition II

Hey friends,
So it's mid-September and we're all pretending it's fall. Kelly made delicious pumpkin cookies yesterday, and I had a cup of hot tea this afternoon.

I sweated afterwards and realized I wasn't fooling anyone. I also pulled out my heavy white comforter and fuzzy blue blanket in case it ever decides to get cold.

Today was a wonderful day at home. I did some much-needed organizing and cleaning in my room, cleaned up the kitchen, did some laundry and enjoyed a pan of delicious roasted vegetables for lunch. I don't know how I got to be the ripe old age of 26 and was never educated on the delectableness that is roasted veggies. I thank my friend, Tina, who enlightened me last weekend. My life will never be the same.

Basically you just chop up whatever veggies you have (I did cauliflower and carrots), drizzle them with a goodly amount of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, (I also used garlic powder and seasoned salt) and bake until soft. They retain their form (as opposed to cooking them till soft), plus develop flavors that I know not from whence they come. It's nearly like eating candy, but they are quite healthy, which makes me happy. Do try it!

I decided to do another post on books I've read recently. I enjoyed hearing what you all have been reading when I posted about it here.

This summer has been quite busy, so I haven't read as much as I sometimes do, but I do have a few to show you:

It looks like biographies was my thing recently :) All of these books are true stories, and while I recommend them all, there are parts in Breaking Night and Wings of the Morning, that are a bit graphic. Breaking Night is the story of a young girl who grew up in a very dysfunctional home, with drug addict parents, and her story of overcoming it all and getting on with her own life. This is not a religious book or written in a religious framework. The peek into a life so sad, so devoid of all that a child needs, was heartbreaking, and I had to periodically put it away because it was more than I could handle.

Unbroken did the same thing to me. It took awhile for me to get into the book. The first couple of chapters are not very interesting, but lay a framework for the rest, which is riveting. It is the story of an American fighter pilot who crashed into the ocean, his days of survival on a raft and then his capture by the Japanese  and his life in a Japanese prison during WWII. The themes are resilience, hope, and forgiveness. The graphic description of the horrors he endured was more than I could take at times, and so I just put the book down and came back to it when i felt ready.

I think I talked about my love of Andy Andrews books, and the Heart Mender may be my favorite. It is also a true story from WWII. Two people one German and one American, whose spouses were victims of the war, find themselves thrown together in the most unlikely way possible. I won't spoil it for you any more but do read this book! I was thrilled to find another Andrews book at a thrift store, entitled Island of the Saints. As I eagerly started reading, it seemed way too familiar,too much like the Heart Mender and I finally looked and discovered it is the same story, but with a different name. I will happily send the copy to any interested reader. It's like sending a friend to a friend :) Just comment below if you would like it and I'll try to get your address and get it sent out.

Unplanned is the story of a lady who leaves an abortion clinic and joins her former enemies in an effort to save babies. It is another heartbreaking story of the horror that goes on in those places, but also of the goodness and mercy of the Father, who wants and yearns for those people as well.

Wings of the Morning is also an interesting read. A Cuban fighter pilot flies a daring, secret mission to the U.S where he seeks political asylum, and later secretly returns for his family. It is the kind that has your toes curling and your fingers clenching as he crosses forbidden airspace with moments to spare.

The next stack is my to-read pile:

The Hardest Thing to Do is the sequel to The Hawk and Dove Trilogy, that I raved about in a previous post. I bought the book as soon as it came out but couldn't get into it. I am determined to try again, and read it the whole way through.

I'm also enjoying scribbling and sketching and journaling in these fun notebooks. TJMaxx has a ridiculous paper goods aisle.

I've been meaning to blog about this for awhile, in case it is helpful for anyone out there. I have a binder that I keep a collection of all my favorite writings in:


Whenever I read something interesting, fascinating, though-provoking, or inspiring I cut or print it out and put in there. 

I have handwritten quotes,

A piece from a World or Time magazine:

A number of Slices of Infinity by RZIM

and a poem or two. I love it because they are all contained, and I can easily access them when I need them.

Our thoughts are still frequently in Liberia. We continue to get emails from our friends who are struggling because of the inflated food prices, and whose relatives are sick but have nowhere to take them because health centers have closed.

And I am always looking for updates on Dr. Sacra, the last American doctor with ebola to be flown back to the U.S. In my last post I said that Kent Brantley could be our family doctor from Liberia. Interestingly enough, that is who Dr. Sacra is/was. He was our American doctor over there, and we rested easy, knowing that in a medical emergency, he could take care of us. I am glad he is improving and being well-taken care of in Nebraska. We were hoping he would be flown to Emory, which is a little over an hour from here. Kent and Nancy were flown there and successfully treated. 

That's it for now. What have you all been reading?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A face for Ebola

My heart breaks a couple times a day. Whenever I look at the headlines and remember our friends, my heart just sinks.

Granted, I have more in this personally than the average American, and so what I have to say here comes from my heart, not my head.

Thanks to the media, Liberia is all over the news, and as usual, it's bad news. Ebola. The dreaded disease that is killing thousands. People are living in tremendous fear because of how deadly it is, and because hospitals are shutting down. I saw the story today of a lady who died in childbirth because 4 clinics turned her away.

What makes me the most sad, is how it has once again reduced Liberia to broken down hospitals, unsanitary living conditions, and ignorance. The article on CNN detailing the terrible conditions of one of the main hospitals made me sad and angry all at the same time. I feel maternal and protective and it feels like Liberians have been violated and stripped of their dignity. See, I told you I'm thinking with my heart right now, and not my head :)

I realize that every word is true, but Liberians are more than all that. They are funny, warm, friendly, and creative. They have faces.

They are more than just statistics. More than willfully ignorant people. More than dirt and poverty and broken down buildings. They have names and emotions and personalities. They have faces.

What makes me sadder yet is the attitude that many Americans have displayed about the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to help out with this horrible epidemic. 

Most don't realize that working in the hospitals over there is no walk in the park to start with, and then to stay to help with Ebola? That takes a special kind of person, a Christ-like kind of person, a life-giving person. And when I hear people suggesting that if they would truly be unselfish, they would not have decided to bring Ebola back to the States, well, words fail to adequately describe how I feel.

Articles like this leave me speechless. 

Our definition of inconvenience is the waiter bringing the appetizer late, or worse yet, the wrong entree.
The driver pulling out in front of us as we are running late on the way to work.
Golden Corral's buffet prices going up.
Having to park way out at Wal-Mart on a busy day.

How about this for a new definition:
hauling all your drinking water and any other water for household use in buckets on your head for a mile.
a terrible health care system, where many people die for lack of proper care and equipment
eating once a day because you can't really afford more
relying on public transportation because you couldn't nearly afford your own vehicle.

Honestly, I don't know how this will pan out. I can only pray and cry to the Father to have mercy and stop this epidemic. I'm preparing to hear that some of our friends will have gotten it. This disease is ruthless, painful and most times life-taking.

In the meantime i will remember the better days,
of a colorful people
of beautiful, happy babies
of sandy beaches
of friendly folk

My Liberia.