Friday, October 31, 2008

October 31

We don't "do" Halloween, so I don't have any of those kind of shots, but it was a busy, busy, busy day.

Our morning was sort of typical.

Then, we went on a field trip with some other homeschoolers to the Balsam Mountain Preserve.

Then, a wedding.

Then, the reception.

Then, home.

I am whupped.

But, I learned a lot today. I like days when I learn alot. Maybe it is the teacher in me, but it always feels refreshing and energizing when I see/do/hear something I've never seen/done/heard before.

Lessons I learned:

1. When a naturalist/biologist says, "Let's go for a nature walk," it will definitely have a big downhill walk. To return, you must be ready for a big uphill walk.

2. Ferrets, when dropped from low heights (is that an oxymoron?), bounce.

3. Owls spitting out pellets and cats coughing up hairballs look very similar.

4. Halloween is not a good time to go Wal-Mart.

5. Each and every wedding is different.

6. Sleepy 3 years olds are not the best photography assistants available.

7. Never try to use new equipment in a high stress situation.

8. Sharing large quantities of candy is not natural for a 6 year old.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

When Season Collide

It snowed yesterday. I mean SNOWED. Not flurry. Not "blowing stuff." It flat out snowed.

When Bernard left for work, he came in and told me. Or at least I think he did. :) When Kristi woke up, invariably about half and hour before I want to, I told her to look out the window. She's three. I figured it would take her a good 15 minutes to figure out which window she wanted to look out, and another 15 to figure out what she was looking for.

Approximately 13 seconds later, she squeals, "MAMA!!!! IT SNOWED!!!!!! Can we go outside?"

(Note to self -- Do NOT try this any more).

About 15 minutes later, I hear Travis get up, and about 15 minutes 30 seconds later I hear, "MAN! MOM!!!! Can I snowboard????"

We get up, eat breakfast, get dressed, do something resembling schoolwork and then this ---

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Generation Valentine

My paternal grandmother (Mimaw Valentine) loved some very specific things in life. Jesus Christ, General Hospital, baking, her grandkids, Atlanta Braves baseball and Tuscola High School football. If she were still alive, she would be 88 years old, have 5 children, 14 grandchildren, and 22 great-grandchildren.

Today, we got together with several of them.

Front row -- Colten, 13; Brayden,13; Corey,13.

Second row -- Kristi, 3; Olivia, 6; Brooks, 6; Travis, 6; Jared, 8

Third row -- Katy, 10; Chase, 10; Grant, 10; Sawyer, 8

Nice looking bunch, eh what? And well-behaved, too.

Well, mostly.

Okay. Maybe not. :)

Others from today --

My cousin, and her 6 yo daughter.

Regular Season Champs

Travis's team finished first in their division for the regular season. Actually, all three teams are undefeated and if they win this coming Saturday will play in the league championship (the "superbowl"). Travis was a bit put out that I hadn't taken more pictures of him (I've taken close to 8000 shots, and had about 10 good ones of Trav), so Saturday, I promised to get some.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


If I could go back one week, would I do anything different?

If I could go back one week, and change this week, would I?

I can only trust God that His will is good and perfect. Despite the pain and heartbreak this week has brought our family, and despite the tremendous loss and void left, I have to trust Him.

A life ended at 22 is beyond understanding.

Just when I think the tears are gone, I find out I'm wrong. Just when I think I am about to come to grips with it, the surreal feeling of this week slaps me in the face.

Even after the funeral, when we were at the community center eating, I kept looking for you and wondering where you were. Then, I remembered.

You are loved, and you will be missed more than you would have ever dreamed -- by many more people than you ever thought possible.

We love you.

And, I trust I will see you again. Until then, rest in the peace of His arms.

2/28/1986 - 10/13/2008

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Birthday on the Parkway

For my birthday (number 38), we went on a picnic on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The leaves have started to turn, and should be really vibrant in about a week.

Some things I saw today --

The cute kids

And finally, oh my goodness. I won't say a lot, for fear of embarrassing myself (or him), but mmmmaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnn. Look at this--

(No, it isn't a religious experience [though I may be having one]; he is catching a football).

The day in Football

I love it when I catch something like this --

These are the "big guys." They look even bigger through a telephoto when they are coming straight at you --

Yep, they are praying. Two of the other coaches are kneeled down in front of them (Trav is #66) --

This little guy was not enjoying life. On the right is #47, JT. On the left is Travis. Between the two of them, that is over 200 pounds of little boy squashing the guy in the middle.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Soccer Game

I'm trying to diversify.

Actually, I had to pick up my daughter who was there with my mom. I watched (re: took pictures) for a few minutes. I probably could have done better if I had walked down the hill to the field. As it was, I was shooting from about 50 yards away.

Monday, October 06, 2008

When "TO BE" means "TO SHOW"

(A couple of warnings -- this is LONG. AND, I am no theologian and I've never been to seminary. Following are my thoughts. I do not claim to have all the answers. If anything, thinking through this has caused me to ask more questions.)

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:2

A lot has been written about Christians being in the world, but not of the world. Many sermons have been preached on it. Ultimately, Christians have even fought over what it means.

So, what does it mean???

Is it how we look? Does it refer to our hairstyle/length? Tattoos? Make-up? or piercings?

Is it what we wear? Skirts or pants? Coat and tie? Christian t-shirts?

Is it what we use for entertainment? Movies? TV? Music? Food and drink?

On the one hand, it is very advantageous to have a list of what is "of" the world for us to avoid. It gives a tangible measurement of Christianity. For many, it gives a sense of safety and security of knowing what is the right thing to do. It also makes it easy to help brand new, baby Christians begin their walk with Christ.

Unfortunately, the disadvantages are more serious, and seem more abundant. Isolationism/Separatism, judgmental condemnation, unbiblical doctrines and traditions, and a lost focus all seem to be a result of clearly defining what is in the world and what is not. Is there a middle ground?

For many, isolating or separating themselves from the world indicates to the world "I am a Christian; I do not participate of the things in this world." They also cringe at cultural relevancy of any kind, and may claim that Christians do not, and should not, be culturally relevant. Obviously, because the Bible was written at time vastly different from now, it does not directly, explicitly address what we are to do in many situations. However, I think we can look at Jesus and the early Christians for some guidance.

As far as I can tell, Jesus dressed and looked like the men of his time, and participated in social events as well (weddings, dinners, etc). He did isolate Himself from those around Him, though, and I think that bears noting as well. He removed himself from society during a 40-day fast before facing Satan. He retreated to the Garden of Gethsemane just before His crucifixion.

So, while it does seem there are times to be part of society and times to be separate from, I think it is undeniable that for our faith to grow, we need to have an intensely private time with the Father as well. We are to be "contemporary" n that we live in this world -- we mingle with, interact with, and work with those around us, building relationships. However, we must still "withdraw" and seek God's face when we can put aside the distractions of the world and focus on Him.

By establishing a clearly defined "line" between the Christian and non-Christian, it becomes dangerously easy to fall into judgmental condemnation. Jesus didn't come to condemn the world, so why do we try to?

Jesus loved people -- all people. We tend to reject entire groups of people based on their sin. We rank sins as bad, badder, and baddest (sic). We establish our benchmarks and if people fall short, they are obviously not Christians, or if they have accepted Christ, they are immature in their faith, or back-slidden. To me, this is completely un-Biblical and even antithetical to what Christ taught and practiced. Jesus is our ONLY benchmark, and compared to him, we ALL fall miserably short. Thus, our very need for a Savior is established.

To establish a list of standards of what it means to be Christians forgets about the heart involved. There are no words I can put together to convince someone they are lost, or even sinning. There is nothing I can do to force true change in someone's life. That has to come within. Likewise, I cannot change a person's behavior or attitude -- that is a Jesus job, and I would be well served to remember that and let him do it.

Hypothetical scenario -- Jane comes to church for the first time EVER. She has never heard the gospel, she has never heard that Jesus loves her. She is a drug addict, a prostitute, and she gets a new tattoo every chance she can. Her hair is blue, except where it is pink, and she has on a short neon green mini skirt with spaghetti strap shirt. She does, however have an interest in "religion" or spirituality. During the message, the Holy Spirit draws her and she goes forward (or speaks with the pastor) about what salvation is.

She accepts Christ as her savior.

Now what?

Do we let her flounder and figure this Jesus thing on her on?

Do we immediately start in telling her how she should dress and act, and what to do and not to do?

Do we introduce her to Jesus and start helping her learn about HIM, and through the process let Him do the "hard" stuff.

Unfortunately, in my experience, it is usually a combination of the first two. We worry about what the church community thinks about our "standards" (and in reality, never give a passing thought as to what the unsaved think about us), thus, we have to establish quickly what is "acceptable" and what is not.

A third danger of establishing a hard and fast line is that unbiblical practices and traditions are introduced to the church body.

A respected member of the church (possibly "that" pastor that no pastor since can live up to) establishes a "do" and a "don't do" list. As time marches on, the church adopts this stance as "practice." Then, it becomes "policy." Eventually, it is accepted as doctrine and the sacred cow has reached maturity. Try to change it, and you might get your hands cut off, because that is how it has always been done. Challenge the Biblical authenticity of it, and your salvation comes into question.

Now, I am the first to admit that there is beauty in some traditions. I also recognize that there is security in rituals. But, if the traditions don't show Jesus, and the rituals don't lead to growth in a relationship with Christ, they are useless, and even worse, a detriment (or impediment) to reaching those that don't know Christ, and growing our on relationship into what it could be.

I heard a "preacher" say one time, "The message has not changed. Therefore, the delivery should not change either." NEVER before have I wanted to stand up and challenge a statement quite so badly. I mean, seriously, if we need to deliver the message like Jesus did, we wouldn't be sitting in a church building, would we? Or, if we were, it would be an educated man reading to us from a scribe.

How far back do we have to go? I hear people longing for the "good old days" which is usually sometime around the 1940s or 50s. News flash! That "practice" or method that was so good in 1945 was NEW then. It is old now. That NEW thing you think is so unbiblical, because it has never been done before, will be the "good old days" in 40 or 50 years.

Being culturally relevant isn't as important, I think, as recognizing and admitting that culture is relative. Failing to acknowledge this forces you to expect the entire world to minister and evangelize just like that little white church in the woods that you grew up in did.

Finally, by creating "the list," we forget the true focus -- Jesus Christ. We should show nothing by HIM. THIS is what will make us different.

The atheist can be moral; the homosexual can be humane and philanthropic, but only a Christian can show Christ

Of course, if you are still reading, you realize, this brings us back, full-circle, to our original question -- How can we show we are different from the world and avoid being self-righteous legalists?

When Jesus was walking on this earth, how did people know who He was? It wasn't because he wore spiritual clothing (I wonder if Jesus ever had a "God's Gym" robe? <---joke) and a Baptist preacher pouffy comb-over. By historical accounts, he probably "looked" like most other Jewish men of his time.

It wasn't his judgmental condemnation of those who were sinners. In fact, he often "fellowshipped" with sinners and openly loved those caught in sin.

It wasn't because He adhered to all of the religious traditions. In fact, some of his harshest words were to the religious leaders, and he turned traditions upside down.

He was an ageless message delivered in a totally new fashion.

In the end, when it is all boiled down, are we seeking to show Him, or are we really trying to show how good we are? Jesus' concern was for the heart. He looked beyond the external and met the needs on the inside. Unfortunately, many modern Christians use the external to determine whether or not the internal is worth saving, or even able to be saved. So often, we rush ahead of the Holy Spirit and do the job that is not ours to do. In the process, we completely ignore that we are supposed to be loving people, where they are and how they are, and meeting their needs. In doing THIS, I believe we can be different from the rest of the world.