Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How many is a billion?

Probably not a good idea to start with a disclaimer, but being a person who understands words, not numbers, I thought this quite startling. I hope I don't lose any of my 1. foreign, 2. liberal 3. women 4. political followers! I can't give credit to the source because I received it from my accountant. For what it's worth:

The next time you hear a politician use the word 'billion' in a casual manner, think about whether you want the 'politicians' spending YOUR tax money.

 A billion is a difficult number to comprehend, but one advertising agency did a good job of putting that figure into some perspective in one of it's releases.

 A. A billion seconds ago it was 1959.
 B. A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.
 C.A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.
 D.A billion days ago no-one walked on the earth on two feet.
 E. A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate our government is spending.

While this thought is still fresh in our brain, let's take a look at New Orleans. It's amazing what you can learn with some simple division.
 Louisiana Senator, Mary Landrieu (D)  is presently asking Congress for 250 BILLION DOLLARS to rebuild New Orleans.  Interesting number. What does it mean?

A. Well, If you are one of the 484,674 residents of New Orleans (every man, woman, and child) You each get $516,528. 
 B. Or... If you have one of the 188,251 homes in New Orleans, your home gets $1,329,787.
C. Or... If you are a family of four, your family gets $2,066,012. 

 Washington, D. C. HELLO! Are all your calculators broken??
 Building Permit Tax, CDL License Tax, Cigarette Tax, Corporate Income Tax ,Dog License Tax, Federal Income Tax (Fed), Federal Unemployment Tax (FU TA), Fishing License Tax, Food License Tax, Fuel Permit Tax, Gasoline Tax, Hunting License Tax, Inheritance Tax, Inventory Tax, IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax), IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax), Liquor Tax, Luxury Tax ,Marriage License Tax, Medicare Tax, Property Tax, Real Estate Tax, Service charge taxes, Social Security Tax, Road Usage Tax (Truckers), Sales Tax, Recreational Vehicle Tax, School Tax, State Income Tax, State Unemployment Tax (SUTA), Telephone Federal Excise Tax, Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax, Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax, Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax, Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax, Telephone State and Local Tax, Telephone Usage Charge Tax, Utility Tax, Vehicle License Registration Tax, Vehicle Sales Tax, Watercraft Registration Tax, Well Permit Tax, Workers Compensation Tax

(And to think, we left British Rule to avoid so many taxes)

 Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago.....And our nation was the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national debt. We had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.

What happened? Can you spell 'POLITICIANS!' 
 And I still have to press '1' for English.  


Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Dare (Part Two)

If God had a Fed Ex employer mentality, He’d have fired me long ago for failure to deliver His packages. Gracious God that He is, He has given me yet another look at what a miracle-bearing messenger should do.

A book by Bruce Wilkinson, You Were Born for This, provided some key reminders for a lesson on Miracle-Delivery 101. Dr. Wilkinson contends we were born to be conveyors of God’s love, but that we often fail to do so out of fear or lack of expectation.

This isn’t a book review, but two points that hit home for me were 1. I go about my day without a sense of expectation of seeing God work or of being a part of His purpose. 2. The thought that He might put me in a situation that involves a risk of faith, a situation in which I might have to say or do something I’m unsure of thus incurring someone’s derision, drives a shaft of fear in me reminiscent of a thumb-sucking toddler left with a babysitter for the first time.

I realized my biggest fear is that I would say the wrong thing, or give some terrible advice or be totally inadequate. The point Dr. Wilkinson brought out that triggered a release for me was that It Wasn’t About Me! If God arranged an intersection of my life with someone in need of something from Him, then He would provide it—whether a word of wisdom from my mouth or a twenty dollar bill from my pocket—whatever; He just wants me to be the messenger.

In my mind’s eye, I saw the image of culvert clogged with twigs and debris suddenly swept away allowing the torrent of water to flow through to the other side.
So, I woke up on the second morning of my first major writers conference with the desire to be a miracle-bearer that day. I was giddy with the feeling I was exactly where I was supposed to be in life, and decided to skip the morning sessions and spend time with God. As the morning sun broke the mist that had hung over our retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I remembered there was a prayer garden somewhere out in the woods. I decided to find it (in spite of the warnings about bears).

I followed the signs to a woodland grotto. A plank bridge covered a small stream; shafts of sunlight and songs of birds complemented my spot for a God encounter. I was so full of the nearness of the Lord, I asked him to send someone who needed a touch from Him. But knowing everyone else was at the workshops (where all good students should have been) and seeing the remoteness of the place, I realized my request was unlikely to be answered.
Just as I was about to leave, I saw a woman coming toward me. She was upset. We met on the bridge in the middle of the woods. There was no getting around it; in spite of my feeling of inadequacy God had set up a divine appointment.

We talked, cried, laughed, prayed and parted wiser in the knowledge of the Living One Who Sees Us. I skipped all the way back to the conference center.

I want more of my days to be like that –to be lived in the expectation of being God’s Fed Ex messenger. How about you? Do you dare to believe God wants to use you today to deliver a miracle?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Dare (Part One)

Many of our responses revolve around three sets of three words: I love you; I hate you; I dare you. A fourth set would solve a lot of problems initiated by the previous three: I believe you.

My husband is one of those persons who, with eyes glittering in delight, steps as close to an edge as possible, pushes buttons and flicks switches to see what they do (once shutting our friends' detached garage door as the startled kids scrambled away), and tests warnings to see if they are justified. He likes a dare.

One time when we were snorkeling off the coast of Australia, I watched him dive down and stick his hand in the open mouth of a giant clam. He wanted to see how fast it closed. He kept his fingers that time, but it was when he dared the trigger fish that he almost lost his pointer tip. We bought an outrageously beautiful  picasso trigger fish for our salt water tank. It was a mighty fish, strong and feisty. At night, it popped up a stiff fin on its back and locked itself into a parking place in the rocks. We knew it had powerful jaws and sharp teeth, and preyed on other fish, but Bob wanted to see if it would attack his finger if he dangled it in the tank.

No sooner had his finger broken the surface of the water when the fish surged. We heard the loud snap of its jaws as Bob pulled his hand back milliseconds before it became fish food. Lest you think I'm married to a delayed delinquent, Bob's propensity to take a dare has a positive side: He dares to believe God, and he encourages me to do also.

I've been hanging out with God for quite a while now, certainly long enough to think I believed Him. But long-term relationships can settle into routine expectations, can get tainted with ennui, and lose their fervor. God's been stirring us up lately, nudging us into a deeper level of knowing, daring us to believe He is exactly who He says He is, and that we are exactly who He says we are--His beloved.

Sometimes a book will provide the impetus to jar lose some bit of unbelief and put us back on track. Bruce Wilkinson's You Were Born for This was an inspiration for me to stop worrying about what I wasn't and start believing what God was.

On Friday, I'll share a simple story (do hope I haven't already) of a moment at a writers conference when, inspired by that book's message,  I dared to believe.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Southern Snake, Northern Woman”

A recent encounter with a small snake in the pool (I'll leave it to you to decide how I handled it) reminded me of an article I wrote when we first moved here:
The tie-dyed shirt with the starburst centered over my navel was probably the give-away. I wasn’t totally in step with the Movement. Although I wanted to subscribe to the idea women could do whatever men could, in the depths of my being I suspected my weakness. Years later, I shamelessly admitted it. When it came to finding and removing scary things, I’d call my husband, Bob.
When we moved to the South a few years ago, I was particularly nervous about encountering a southern snake. But after several months, the only snake I saw was at the zoo.
Consequently, I was not overly concerned about the notice the Terminix technician left after a routine inspection. I opened it and read: No sign of termite activity. Saw snake enter vent in crawlspace.
The cold blood pulsing through my veins rivaled that of my adversary.
 I considered sending in the intrepid puppy, but I knew if anything happened to her my daughter would be unforgiving. And since I was approaching the age my children would start having a say about my future, I needed to make sure their most recent memories were favorable.
Other snake-hunting tactics seemed equally implausible. I could hardly imagine enticing it with a mouse tied to a string, a glue-pad, or worse, a pronged stick which I’d have to pin around its slithery neck.
 I didn’t even want to open the basement door. No, there was only one option.
Turning to Bob I asked, “What are we going to do?” knowing full well the answer did not include the plural “we.”
Bob looked into the eyes of the woman he promised to love, honor, and cherish. Too kind to say, “Who are you kidding?” he heaved a deep sigh and smiled. Although hunting snakes in a crawlspace rated alongside chasing bats out of a bedroom, he squared his shoulders and said, “I’ll go in.”
Eager to help, I stomped around upstairs, but to no avail. Ten minutes later, Bob emerged empty-handed and closed the door.
It’s been several months since we last saw a mouse around here—an observation that fuels the disquieting suspicion that I still have a houseguest. But I refuse to live in fear. Granted, I still squint at corners when I enter a room, but I am becoming a Southern woman who can handle such things.
“Besides,” I tell Bob, “I know what to do now if I see one in the house.”
“What?’ he asks.
“Throw a blanket over it,” I respond smugly.
He is curious. “And then what?”
I smile.
“Call you.”

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sibling Rivalry

     The Middle East conflict is ever before us. Peace talks in politics and prayers for the peace of Jerusalem in churches. All one has to do is look at a map and wonder: What but the keeping power of God has enabled 6 million Jews surrounded by 400 million Muslim Arabs to survive?

Book Review by Marcia Moston
     Seeds of Turmoil by Bryant Wright is a timely examination of the ever-present conflict in the Middle East. Wright identifies the root of strife as a centuries-old consequence of Abraham’s decision to take matters into his own hands, thus producing two lines, one set on the elimination of the other.

     Following the course of the conflict from the Patriarchs to modern-day, Wright explains the juxtaposed perspectives of the 400 million Arab Muslims and the six million Jews, both of whom claim their ties to the same land are God-given. Humanly speaking, a resolution seems untenable, but Wright reminds his reader of the intervention of a covenant-keeping God.

     Written in a clear, simple manner, Seeds of Turmoil presents an easily understood journey of conflict from both a historical and spiritual perspective. The author does, at times, drift from his historical explanation to contemporary anecdotes and devotional side trips that I found distracting. He also spends a great deal of time paraphrasing long passages of Scripture that I ended up skimming over because I had already gotten his point.

     All in all, this is an informative examination of the current Middle East conflict as well as a reminder that God is, and always was, in control.
     I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Booksneeze.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Running with troops and scaling walls

Most of us like things to work--our cars, appliances, and especially our bodies. When they don't, we often use their malfunctions as excuses for not making a meeting, doing our homework, or stepping out of our comfy corner of the world.

All my body parts are working today, but when they don't, I have a few people who serve as reminders to press on, to fix my focus beyond myself, and to see possibility in place of problem. I know there are many unsung workers dishing out love to the abandoned and abused all over the world, but today, I'd simply like to celebrate two of them. Perhaps you'd like to check out their ministries or follow their blogs and newsletters.

The village of San Andres Sajcajaba is nestled in the highlands of Guatemala. But getting there is not for the faint-of-heart. When we lived there, it took two heart-stopping hours to drive the last twenty miles. The main street into town is paved with stone, which  is rough and uneven at best.

It was here we first met Tim. He was towing a wagon full of squealing kids behind a three-wheeled motorcycle type of vehicle. Later, when he met us at the door of his house in a wheelchair, I was surprised. My stereotype of a "handicapped" person didn't include a hearty, happy man wheeling around  a remote village bringing love, hope and health to abandoned and starving children.

Watching Tim negotiate the rugged terrain, the difficult living conditions made me aware of how much I took for granted about just getting from point A to point B. Yet Tim never complained, never saw an impossibility. And although he believes the Lord will raise him out of that chair one day, he continues to bring hope and the reality of possibilities to so many of the crippled children he works with.

Tim and his wife, Dena, started two ministries for children: The Home of Life in Guatemala and the Home of Life in Costa Rica. Please check them out at

Meanwhile, I have come across another incredible laborer of love in the Sudan--Michele Perry. She lives amidst the bullets and the broken; she herself, having had tens of operations on her leg and hip. Michele is an artist and a lover of the Lord who is willing to go into the brothels and dark places to put a face on love. Her life proclaims, "Jesus brings beauty out of brokenness."

(I'm going to try to link, but since I have to go public with my simple learning tasks, I will also include the address in case the link doesn't work.)