A Dog’s View of the Italian Spinone Hunting Dog Convention written by Majestic’s Alabaster Upland Ace a.k.a Ace
Do you ever have one of those days when something you do doesn’t turn out quite the way you expected? Yeah, I have those kinds of days too. In fact, that happened to me awhile back. Here’s the story.
I made the mistake of turning on the evening news while we were about to eat dinner one night. Here I was looking for some uplifting Olympic sports coverage, but the newscaster wasn’t portraying a positive message of hopes fulfilled and perseverance and courage being rewarded. In fact, listening to him almost felt like a punishment. If I didn’t think our country was headed down the wrong path before, I was convinced Doomsdays was right around the corner. I was getting depressed just listening to him.
Now, you need to understand that we don’t normally watch television during suppertime, except recently during the Olympics when I set aside the rule about eating anywhere other than the kitchen or dining room, and we picnicked in the living room where we have a better view of the television. I thought this would be a fun way to cheer on our athletes, discuss with our children how hard work pays off, and engage in some creative family time, especially since we’d experienced temperatures below zero for three weeks straight and no one wanted to venture outside, unless venturing was absolutely necessary. So, for a few days, I relaxed my controlling tendencies and turned a blind eye to the crumbs cascading down upon the carpet while we picnicked in the living room and watched mogul athletes blow out their knees and rattle their brains, I mean, race down the hill, skiing over troughs in the bump field in their fast-paced attempt to claim a gold, silver, or bronze medal. I figure rules were made to be broken, and I have two able-bodied boys capable of vacuuming up after themselves.
I’d gone all out on preparing our meal ~ a fresh salad, homemade buns, bison burgers with cheddar cheese, crispy bacon and Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce ~ and we’d said grace, and were ready to dig in. So while we were sprawled out on a blanket eating, I figured tonight would be the ideal time to work in an object lesson on something my husband, Kevin, and I had been trying to model for our kids: shining our lights for Jesus. I turned off the TV and said, “How about this: let’s quit listening to someone talk about everyone’s problems and instead talk about what a great God we have and encourage each other to be the brightest bulb on the tree.”
I looked both boys in the eye and set to work setting the record straight. “Not all news needs to be bad news. There are a lot of people in the world shining their lights for Jesus. Can you give me a few examples?”
We discussed that for a few minutes, and then I asked for an example or two of when our lights dim and don’t shine very brightly. My youngest son, Soren, said, “I can give you some examples of when your light doesn’t shine, mom.”
Hmmmm. Not exactly the answer I was looking for, but ...
“Okay,” I said, trying to keep my voice light and my attitude upbeat. “Let me have it. When is my light dimmer than it should be?”
“Your light dimmed last week, mom.”
I swallowed a bite of my burger, but it lodged like a painful lump in my throat. “It did?”
“Yeah, but the other day yours wasn’t just dim. It completely burned out,” Graham said, making a face at me.
Not to be outdone, Soren leaned toward me and chimed in, “I think your candle actually disappeared.”
Ouch. Oh, really? My candle had disappeared? Where had it gone? Was that even possible? And here I was, trying to set a good example.
I looked at my husband, Kevin, who looked back at me, shrugged and said, “They’re right. You asked.”
I should probably also mention here that ever since we began telling our two boys about God, reading them Bible stories, rejoicing with them when they invited Jesus into their hearts, helping them memorize Bible verses for AWANA and Sunday school, and teaching them about prayer, the Ten Commandments and The Beatitudes, we’ve had problems. In our attempt to be Godly parents, you name it, we’ve had to do it: being accountable for our actions, watching our tongues, avoiding gossip, loving our neighbors, holding on to our temper, and displaying the patience of Job. The list goes on and on. Probably nothing more than what most other Christian parents go through, but still. Apparently I’d failed and been caught red-handed and empty-handed, to boot.
Setting aside my half-eaten meal, I realized I wasn’t hungry anymore. In fact, I’d completely lost my appetite.
“Remember the morning dad was out of town and the dog broke into the chicken coop and the chickens scattered and it was dark outside and really cold?” Soren asked. “It was before you went to work. You couldn’t find all the chickens and had to leave one outside until you got home. You got mad and yelled, and I think you said a word you’re not supposed to say, and then –”
And then I held up my hand like a police officer stemming the tide of traffic and said, “Yeah, I get your point.” This conversation was going downhill faster than an Olympic ski jumper speeding to get the gold.
Mind you, I’m still young enough to have decent mental recall, but apparently, my son Soren has a better memory than I do. I didn’t remember yelling or saying something I wasn’t supposed to.
“See?” Looking me straight in the eye, he went to work setting the record straight. “Your candle didn’t just burn out, mom. No one could even see it.”
By this time in our conversation, I was regretting bringing up the topic of shining our lights for Jesus. What I had intended as an object lesson for my boys ended up being an object lesson for me. Not only was I no longer hungry, but I’d developed a stomachache too. And I’d even made a fresh batch of chocolate mint ice cream for dessert.
“The devil snuffed out your light, and you told us never to let him do that.”
Leaving fret and worry in his stead, the enemy of my soul had stolen my candle, blown a fetid breath, extinguished my flame, and ate the wax and the wick until there was nothing left. This was not to be taken lightly, and I needed to confront the situation head on.
“Boys, you’re right,” I agreed, quiet and subdued. “And I’m sorry. I blew it, didn’t I?”
Graham held up an index finger and sent a puff of air at his fingertip. “Actually, the devil blew it, mom.”
We had a good laugh, and I applauded my boys for keeping me accountable. The rest of our meal went well, and I ate ice cream, after all.
My sons’ observations were a good reminder for me that a dim light does not pierce the darkness, and an extinguished candle does not light my way. When I allow the devil to yank my pull chain, my darkened light bulb is not a lamp for my feet to guide me on the path to righteousness, nor does letting him have the upper hand set a good example for others, as my children so eloquently pointed out to me.
Gotta run. I need to break open a book of matches, trim my wick and light another candle.
One of my priorities in caring for my family is serving healthy, homemade meals. When I began working full-time outside the home, meal planning inevitably became my biggest challenge. I didn’t know how I was going to accomplish that until I met the Proverbs 31 Woman.
In order to manage my time more effectively, I took lessons from her. After all, she is a God-fearing woman who takes her responsibilities as seriously as I do. This wife of noble character had several servants helping manage her household, so I decided to employ a few reliable servants of my own: a grain grinder, a bread machine, and a slow cooker. Not only do they work hard, they save me TIME, they save me MONEY, and they don’t call in sick! You can’t beat a deal like that, and I’ve never regretted “hiring” them. Let me give you a list of their duties:
· Grain Grinder
o Grind hard red or white wheat breads and dough
o Grind soft white for cookies, cakes, crackers,
tortillas and pancakes
o Grind yellow or white popcorn for cornbread
and multigrain pancakes
· Bread Machine
o Mix yeast dough for buns and pizza crust
o Mix dough for crackers and tortillas
o Bake loaves of yeast bread
o Bakes loaves of sweet bread
o Bakes meatloaf
· Slow Cooker
o Cook ground meat to use in recipes
o Cook beef bones or a whole chicken for broth
to make soup
o Cook soup, stews, and chowders
o Bake potatoes
Each month, I grind grain to last several weeks. I store the flour in the freezer to keep it fresh.
Several times weekly, my bread machine bakes or mixes dough for upcoming meals. It also bakes sweet breads, cooks jam, makes sour dough starter, and bakes meatloaf.
Twice monthly, I cook several pounds of ground meat in my slow cooker. After the meat is cooked, I break it apart with a potato masher and mix in seasonings for tacos, chili, burritos, spaghetti or sloppy joes.
In addition, I use my slow cooker to bake large quantities of potatoes which is a great time saver. This allows me to have enough cooked potatoes on hand for cutting up and frying to serve with pancakes and sausage, or to top with butter and sour cream when we have a pot roast or meatloaf. They’re also a great lunch option when topped with chili and cheese.
I often use my bread machine and slow cooker in tandem. Here’s what a typical time management meal plan looks like:
~ Chili and cornbread
~ Spaghetti with garlic bread
~ Chicken noodle soup and homemade crackers
~ Beef stew with sour dough bread
~ Black bean and beef burritos with homemade
spinach and garlic tortillas
~ Tomato bisque and whole wheat crackers
~ Meatloaf and baked potatoes
Enlisting help allows me to work full-time outside the home, feed my family healthy homemade meals, and hear my husband and sons rise up and called me “blessed!”
In researching the various uses for essential oils, I found something interesting. At least once every two months, half of babies 4-15 months old develop a diaper rash, a common condition causing skin to become irritated, red, scaly, sore and tender. The best method for preventing a rash is keeping your baby dry and clean. Prevention includes avoiding scented products or baby wipes, staying away from plastic diapers or ones that are snug or too small, and allowing your baby to go diaper free for a few minutes to allow their bottoms to air dry. When rashes do occur, however, consider treating them with essential oils.
Oils are good for drawing moisture away from an area, so using essential oils properly help alleviate and clear up diaper rashes on buttocks, genitals, and thighs. Because of their gentle healing properties, chamomile, lavender, sandalwood and tea tree essential oils are four good choices and work well.
One option is mixing 6 drops of lavender essential oil and 2 drops of chamomile essential oil with 2 ounces of vegetable oil. Another option is mixing a few drops of one of these essential oils into a small amount of cornstarch to make homemade baby powder. Apply either the powder or the essential oil mixture with each diaper change to form a barrier between your baby’s skin and any irritants, and watch how quickly the rash heals. Use these as often as you need to. In addition, the homemade baby oil is good as an all-over body massage oil for your young one.
Some people might call it blasphemy, but I’m going to call it being honest. Here goes. There are days when I don’t feel like worshipping God. I’d rather nurse a grudge, throw a pity party, or tell Him just what I think about the circumstances in my life. There, I said it. I’m not proud of my attitude and I’m going to go out on a limb here and venture to say that I bet I’m not alone.
I know this sounds shocking, especially since I’m a Christian, but I don’t always feel like thanking my Creator when the cares of the day and the weariness of life drag me down. It takes everything inside me to thank the One who deserves more praise than I am able to offer. Like laryngitis setting in, I lose my voice to worship. Although there is no diagnosis code listed in the ICD-10, this spiritual condition goes by several names ~ melancholy, loneliness, disappointment, despondency, selfishness, hope deferred, unforgiveness, rejection ~ and causes me to lose the melody in my heart, removing my desire to sing, praise, and worship God. Even though I know He’s a good God, I’m unable to get beyond the symptoms clogging my spirit and unsettling my heart. Yet, this is the perfect time for me, as one of His children, to offer Him my praise, thanksgiving and worship.
Thankfully, I know worship is more than a song I sing in a public setting; it’s a lifestyle, a condition of my heart and about turning my worship into action. Daily worship is life transforming and ushers in healing and hope. When the challenges of life become overwhelming and I’m going through a difficult or discouraging time, worship is hard ~ grueling, even ~ and sometimes seemingly impossible.
You know what? God already knows I won’t always want to praise Him, and has given me an alternative, an “out,” if you will. He calls it a “sacrifice of praise.” The terms "sacrifice" and "praise" sound like opposites. I think of sacrifice as offering something at great cost to myself. Praise sounds joyful as it bubbles from a grateful heart. Some days, my heart overflows and worshipping is easy, and other days I offer a sacrifice of praise, but no matter what, I want to touch the heart of God with my words, attitudes and actions.
Praise doesn’t cost me something and is often my response to some action directly benefitting me. I praise my dog, Pesto, for fetching her ball, sitting, staying, and not jumping on guests in my home; I praise my children for a job well done and handing their homework in on time, and I praise God from the same motivation. When He blesses me, helps me, and protects me and my family, I feel generous. I sing, worship, and talk about how good He is because I can see it. Yet, that kind of praise, even though it’s worthwhile, doesn’t cost me anything and isn’t sacrificial.
To praise God during difficult times is a personal sacrifice, an act of my will to lay everything on an altar before Him and isn’t based on my opinion of His job performance. When I bring a "sacrifice of praise," I’m choosing to believe that even though my life may not be going as I want it to, He is good and trustworthy. Genuine praise continues regardless of my circumstances and in spite of the storms. This way He is honored, and my faith grows deeper.
The "sacrifice of praise" spills over from a humble heart, one purified by fire, and it rises from a spirit choosing to honor God in spite of the pain life is causing. Verses 16 and 17 of Psalm 51 express this best: "You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise."
Whereas overuse of my voice can cause laryngitis, there is no way to overuse my voice to praise God. Continually praising Him will not result in the host of unpleasant physical symptoms associated with laryngitis including hoarseness, voice loss, a raw throat, and a cough. So, it’s time to forget the humidifier and home remedies, the aromatherapy and voice rest, drinking hot tea, and using numbing throat drops, and make an appointment with Jehovah Rapha, the Great Physician and Healer of my broken heart and downtrodden spirit and head for heaven’s holy medicine cabinet ~ my Bible.
I open my Bible and ask, “God, what do You have to say about this?” and find that His advice is better than, “Take two aspirin and call Me in the morning.” He doesn’t hand me a prescription; He asks me to wrap myself in a garment of praise. When I do what He says, He lightens my heart, dispels the darkness surrounding me, and causes all demons to flee.
I don’t need to call a pharmacy, make a doctor’s appointment, or leave my home to drive to the nearest Walgreens or CVS. In exchange for His advice, I am not billed for His services ~ I am blessed with His presence. In exchange for my sacrifice of praise, He shows up and gives me His shekinah glory.
The bottom line is this. In spite of every circumstance I face, I am determined to bless, honor and worship God for He alone is worthy, inhabiting my praises and filling my heart and my home with His glory. No matter how weak my spiritual voice becomes, when I sing praises, I feel better instead of feeling worse, I get stronger instead of weaker, and my sacrifice doesn’t seem so sacrificial anymore. Worshipping becomes a privilege, and I am reminded of Kirk Dearman’s song:
We bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.
And we offer up to You the sacrifices of thanksgiving,
And we offer up to You the sacrifices of joy.
For those of you who have lost your voice and find singing, worshipping, and praising His name difficult, I’m asking God to place the melody back inside your heart, to cause you to find your voice again and sing even when you don’t understand what’s happening around you or why He seems silent. Praise Him today. He’s faithful and a good God.
My friend, Melissa Wiita ~ pastor's wife, singer, and Bible study leader ~ blesses us today with her thoughts on the Beauty of Brokenness.
THE BEAUTY OF BROKENNESS
None of us enjoys going through difficult circumstances in life. If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, you may think you deserve an easier life. If God is good, why would his children have to endure hardship? Well, take heart, my friend, because our great God is actually allowing times of brokenness in our lives, so He may ultimately reveal who He is to us and through us. Let’s take a look . . .
Jesus uses broken nets. In Luke chapter 5, Simon and the other fishermen had been out all night and had caught nothing. Jesus challenges them to put their nets out again, which the disciples reluctantly agree to do. However, this time, the nets are so full they begin to breaking!
Have you ever felt like your nets were empty? Jesus is the one who may be whispering to you in that still small voice, encouraging you to once again ~ throw out that net! The blessings Jesus Christ provides are bigger than your net may hold. All you need to do is trust Christ to fill your net and ultimately mend your net.
Jesus uses broken roofs. In Mark chapter 2, four men are determined to bring a paralytic man to Jesus, believing the man will be healed. Since the area was so crowded, these creative men chose the only way possible to get to Jesus. They removed a portion of the roof in order that the man could be lowered down into the house. This roof had to be broken in order for the man to be healed.
Sometimes God wants to break up our comfortable surroundings in order to use us more effectively.
Jesus uses broken bread/His broken body. I Corinthians 11:23-24 explains how at the last supper, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and said, “This is My body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” Christ became sin for us and became the sacrifice so we might receive His righteousness.
If Jesus had not sacrificed Himself for us, we would not have the freedom in Him and the hope of Heaven we have today.
No one chooses to be broken, but when Jesus Christ is the one who picks up the pieces and puts them back together, He can completely change the vessel into what He wants it to be. Without Him holding those pieces together, we would be practically useless as this vessel needs a good bonding agent to keep everything in place, in order that we may still have a purpose.
Press on, dear friend. We serve a Mighty God and we can trust Him with our broken pieces! The next time you recognize your brokenness, look to Him – He is the Author and Finisher of our faith, and He has a purpose for all of those broken pieces.
Thank-you, Melissa, for joining us today, sharing your heart, and shining your light for Jesus.
Melissa is married to Brian Wiita, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Proctor, Minnesota.
Photo credits: Stockvault.net
God has prepared a special place
Where we have peace and are always safe
He understands our grief and pain
And what each of us goes through
When our blue skies turn to rain
He says, “I’ll comfort you.”
And when you accept the way I made,
When you believe in the Son I gave
Heaven becomes your home
One day you will be with Me;
Your tears will fade away.
Every time you search for Me,
I will give you My grace.
My love is unconditional,
There are no strings attached.
I have prepared a place for you,
A place no one can match.
When your hand is held in Mine,
You are not alone.
One day you will be with Me because
Heaven is our home.
Our Christmas tree aglow with light,
Silver tinsel to make it bright.
All this adds to the Christmas cheer;
These precious moments, few, yet dear.
Christmas comes but once a year;
Christmas came! and now it's here ~
With candy canes and pretty bows.
Love and laughter and good cheer grow.
Our Christmas tree shines ever bright;
Gifts hidden beneath and out of sight.
They will be opened on Christmas night,
Now nestled under our tree so bright.
Friendship - Four Week Mini Bible Study By Ashley Ferris
About the Book:
Let’s explore the gift of friendship ~ what a devoted friendship looks like, how to handle the waiting period, and how to deepen current, valued friendships.
If you are in a season where you find yourself light on friends, I want this study to be an encouragement that this season will have an expiration date.
If you are in a place where you feel you have many friends, I hope you can use this study to evaluate the depth and purpose of those friendships.
It may spur you to take risks to deepen some already beautiful friendships. It may also help you see that there are some unhealthy ties that may need to be prayed over and potentially ended.
Finally, if you have friendships that are deep, but you tend to pull away when you are confronted, I hope you will see the value that lies before you. I pray that you will endure uncomfortable conversations with deep friends (that you know have your best interests at heart) in order to grow in friendship and as a daughter of the King.
Who better to tell us their story about forgiveness and renewed friendship than Shem and TJ from Stage Wars?
I'm glad to say they've agreed to speak with their play director, Mrs. Dragoon, and explain how their relationship transformed from foe to friendship (well, sort of).
Shhhhh! Let's eavesdrop and listen in!
Setting: Mrs. Dragoon sits at her desk, peering at two theater students. Shem and TK sit opposite her, nervous.
Mrs. Dragoon: Boys, I've called you into my office today because something strange is going on.
Shem: Are we in trouble?
Mrs. Dragoon: (leans forward, eyeing him suspiciously) Have you done something that makes you think you might be in trouble?
Shem: (gulps) Not that I know of.
Mrs. Dragoon: Well, then, no one's in trouble -- yet. (folds her hands)
Shem: (sighs) That's a relief.
TJ: Shembo, you worry too much.
Mrs. Dragoon: Shem-bo? (glances at TJ, then Shem)
TJ: It's his nickname.
Shem: No, it's not! I'm just Shem.
Mrs. Dragoon: Well, then, just Shem, what's going on with you two?
Shem: What do you mean?
Mrs. Dragoon: (drums her fingers on the desk) For a couple of years, you two have avoided each other like the plague. Now, all of a sudden you're Laurel and Hardy?
Mrs. Dragoon: Donny and Marie,
Shem: I get it. She means two people who work together like they know what the other person's thinking before they do something. Like Batman and Robin.
TJ: Oh, I get it.
Mrs. Dragoon: So, what's up? Why the big change? Not that I mind,. But, I'm strangely curious about this transformation in you, TJ. Why are you suddenly getting along with Shem? And, Shem, what made you become friends with TJ?
Shem: (squirms in his seat) I, uh, well, it all started when --
TJ: I got sick.
Mrs. Dragoon: You got sick and -- ?
TJ: Shem helped me.
Shem: (nods) That's right.
Mrs. Dragoon: (eyes squinting) Let me get this straight. TJ, you got sick, and Shem came running to your house to help you?
TJ: Not exactly at my house. We weren't at home or school.
Shem: He turned awful green. King of scary
Mrs. Dragoon: And you dropped everything and rescued him? Just like that?
Shem: (shrugs) There wasn't anyone else around. Then we got in a bit of a pickle. And --
TJ: I returned the favor by helping him. So we're even. (grins)
Mrs. Dragoon: (purses her lips) And now you're best friends?
TJ: Best might be stretching it. I tolerate him. He tolerates me.
Shem: (frowns) Actually, we've been getting along a lot better ever since we helped each other and made it back home alive -- I mean, safe and sound. Not sick. That sort of thing. It's hard to explain.
Mrs. Dragoon: Try me.
TJ: Does this have anything to do with our drama grade?
Mrs. Dragoon: No.
TJ: And we're not in trouble?
Mrs. Dragoon: No. But I've seen you laughing together! And look at the way Island of Shalamar came together. It was almost miraculous the way you two worked together in practices those last two weeks and onstage for the performances. I'll never forget it.
Shem: I'm glad we don't hate each other anymore. That was wrong, and I feel badly about it. I kept being jealous of him. And he --
TJ: I was going through rough times. Mad at the world. That's improved a lot, now that I've started being thankful for my grandparents taking me into their home, instead of feeling grumpy at them. They're real nice, and my grandma's a great cook. But you know the situation with my dad, right?
Mrs. Dragoon: I do, and I'm sorry about that, TJ. You've done remarkably well to come to terms with your life and accept your grandparents' love. You're fortunate to have them.
TJ: I know. And a lot of that is because of Shem. He helped me sort through that stuff.
Shem: I did?
TJ: (nods) And since Shem and I are interested in the same things, we've been spending more time hanging out. You know, doing theater, adventures, spinning.
Shem: TJ -- (shakes head discreetly)
Mrs. Dragoon: Spinning?
TJ: It used to make me puke. Spinning on a merry-go-round, going on rides at amusement parks, that sort of thing. Now, I'm practicing spinning on the playground to get used to it. The next time I go for a twirl-til-you-puke sort of ride, there won't be any problems. (laughs confidently)
Mrs. Dragoon: (confused) Huh.
Shem: So, you see, our experiences made us understand each other better and we learned how important friendship is. Hard times make you see things differently, wouldn't you agree, Mrs. Dragoon?
Mrs. Dragoon: I suppose I would. (sighs) And that's it? Sickness and working through some heard times changed your friendship forever?
Shem: (nods) May we go, Mrs. Dragoon? TJ and I have some practicing to do.
Mrs. Dragoon: (waves her hand toward the door) Yes, you may go.
I'll see you in class tomorrow.
Shem and TJ: Bye, Mrs. Dragoon. (exit quickly)
Mrs. Dragoon: Goodbye. (shakes head) Something strange is going on with those two. I can smell it. What's the deal with the spinning? If a merry-go-ride made me sick, you wouldn't catch me on it. I'm going to watch those boys. They're up to something suspicious, and I'm determined to find out what.
Thank-you, Mrs. Dragoon, Shem and TJ for letting us listen in on your conversation regarding forgiveness and friendship. Looking forward to hearing more from you on your blog and in your next book, Stage Woes.