Go South to the Desert Road

by Grace

You know how sometimes you read through your Bible, perusing a familiar book you’ve read a dozen times before, and suddenly you stop — you stare — and you think, “Who put that there? It wasn’t there last time I read this. Or at least I didn’t see it quite this way…”

In my journey through Acts with my Bible Study Fellowship group, I’ve discovered and rediscovered many stories, incidents, and snippets of wisdom. So far, my favorite has been a little story of a man named Philip and an Ethiopian servant.

When people talk about their favorite Bible characters, Philip isn’t someone who comes up a lot. He didn’t kill any giants, he didn’t have super strength, he didn’t part the Red Sea — but he did something that, for many of us, is even harder.

He obeyed.

Philip was a deacon of the early apostolic church, and was one of their early missionaries, often referred to as “Philip the Evangelist.” After leaving Jerusalem, he stepped out in faith to preach the good news of Christ in Samaria, where an enormous revival followed his teachings. So great was the work he did there that Peter and John themselves came to Samaria from Jerusalem to see exactly what was happening, and to encourage him in his task. Things were going amazingly for this guy.

Then one day, in the middle of all this, God spoke to Philip, saying “Go south to the road — the desert road — that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” That was it. No explanations, nothing. Just leave your great, grand, fruitful work in Samaria, leave Peter, leave John, and go down to a quiet, dusty, hot desert road and stand there. No further instructions, just go.

And you know what? Philip went.

He walked down the road as God had commanded, and along the way he met an Ethiopian servant who was reading the book of Isaiah, perplexed as to its meaning. Philip explained to him who Christ was, the man believed and was baptized, and then God miraculously swept Philip away, and the Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing.

If you were Philip, would you have obeyed the call? Would you follow such a crazy command, leave the obvious work for something as mundane as standing in the sun on a desert road? I don’t know if I would.

But God knows the plans He has for each person. He cared about the Ethiopian, and wanted Philip to go out of his way to minister to the man. He has work for you and I as well. Next time He asks me to do something crazy, I want to remember Philip, and follow his example.

Tetris

by Grace

Have you ever played the video game Tetris?  The game where there are seven different sized blocks falling, and you have to maneuver them so that they fit together, perfectly, and when you have a solid line it disappears?

I’ve been playing it since I was about three years old, first on the family computer, then my iPod, and now on my phone.  I have a special fondness for the game — maybe it has something to do with being slightly OCD.  I like to get things to fit together nicely.

But until last week, I never reached the end of the game.

To tell the truth, I didn’t even know it had an end, because I could never get past level eleven.  I didn’t play it all the time — just when waiting at the chiropractor, or in the bathroom, or on a road trip late at night.  Still, you’d think that since I’d been playing for eighteen years, I would have gotten to the end before now.

But I didn’t.  Because there was a problem with the way I played.

With each level of the game, the pieces fall faster and faster, making it harder and harder to tell where to put them.  Actually, the first level is rather slow.  The blocks move along the screen, one pixel at a time, at their own sweet pace.  Fortunately, there is an option to speed up a piece once you’ve rotated and moved it so that it will fall into the right place.

So, for the first few levels, I’d do just that.  Get them where I want them quickly and decisively, and then hurtle them down as quickly as they’ll go.  Of course, I’d stop once I got to level six or seven.  They started falling too fast at that point.

But try as I might, I never got past level eleven.

Recently, at long last, I figured out what I was doing wrong.  In speeding up the early levels, I was making it impossible for myself to think fast enough to move on to the lightning-paced levels beyond.  Once I left the blocks to fall at the pace the programmers chose for them, I was able to increase speed gradually, building my skills from the ground level up.

Before I realized it, I was on level fifteen, moving pieces by instinct, so quickly that I hardly had time to think about where they should go.  And when I cleared the last required row, I received a “game over” screen, and a notification of my new high score.

To learn to speed up, I had to learn to slow down.

Life can be the same way sometimes.  I think this step is going too slowly, and if I can just speed it up and get through it quickly, then I can move on to the next phase.  But that doesn’t work.

Each step comes after another.  Every level in the game of life has something to teach us, and speeding them up will only make us fail later on.  But embracing each stage as it comes gives us room to build on what we’ve learned, and take it one step further.

White Background

White Background

by Patience

 

I love white backgrounds, but unfortunately I don’t have a studio or a seamless white background like the pros.
 

I had Levi sit on a piece of foam core: about 24″x30″, and literally the edges of the photo are the edges of my makeshift white background.  The trick was just not showing any edges, so it looks like my resources are a lot bigger than they really are.
I used two light souces. 
 
1) The flash unit on my mom’s SLR. I just pointed it directly up at the white ceiling of the room, so it would bounce down as nice, even light. 
2) Mini blinds!  they may not be the nicest looking blinds, but they are awesome for diffusing window light, and getting just the right amount of light in your photo, at the exact angle you want it. 
 
In this photo, he’s placed, directly next to the window, and I had the blinds mostly closed, but a little bit open, letting more soft, diffused light into my photo.

Even with careful light placement, without a big professional get-up, my white background is never going to be pure white, it usually turns out as a medium-light gray.  So how do I get it to look really white?

I use a tool on my photo editing software.  I use a free program called GIMP.  I use a section called levels, and it’s used for making color, and brightness adjustments to your photo.  In this photo, I picked the white eyedropper in the lower right hand corner, and clicked on a few of the spots that were supposed to be white in my photo, and voila! A perfectly white background.  Now all you have to do is make minor color adjustments, and you have a profesional looking white backround!

 

Remind Me Later

by Grace

I type happily away on my computer, writing my current novel, engrossed in a scene of drama, betrayal, fear, doubt, and growing tension — all ready to swallow my character up in a maw of darkness, or give way in a moment of light.  The story climax approaches — the stakes are beyond the stratosphere — he’s giving in — he’s — he’s –

Then suddenly the vision is lost, and my eyes are filled with a large gray box with blue borders reading, “Your computer may be in danger!  An update is ready for McDonald anti-virus protection.  Would you like to receive updates now?”

Underneath are three options:

Receive Updates!

Remind Me Later

Never Remind Me

I don’t want to receive updates!  For one thing, it will take seven hours and twenty-three minutes for the thing to download, and then it will have to restart my computer, and then I will constantly be receiving notifications about DANGEROUS sites and programs that I already trust completely.  For another thing, my internet is turned off right now, so I couldn’t receive them even if I wanted to.

I really would rather not be reminded later either.  I don’t want the updates, and the box always manages to pop up at the most inopportune times.  Why do they think it’s a good idea to remind me later anyway?  “Oh, right!  Updates!  Thank goodness you reminded me, I had forgotten all about that!”

In a bold moment, I allow my cursor to hover over the Never Remind Me button.  This cycle has been going on for months!  Every week, the box pops up at me!  It’s time to end my misery with one courageous click!  Time to step out in the faith that I will NEVER want to receive updates, and breathe the free, sweet air unfettered by weekly reminders that I neither want nor need — I must end my bondage!

But in the moment of decision, I shrink yet again, hating myself for my cowardice.  It’s just this:  that word “never.”  If it said “Don’t remind me for a really long time” or “Give me a break from reminders for about three months” I would do it in a heartbeat.  But “never”?  Um…. that’s an awfully long time.  What if I want updates someday?  How will I ever remember that my computer might be in DANGER without being reminded?  Will the fatal click doom me to a future of a computer so laced with viruses that I cry in agony, “Why didn’t I receive updates when I had the chance?  Curse the day in which I determined to never be reminded!”

This vision, be it prophetic or pathetic, stops me every time.  Never… that’s just not wise.  After all you never can tell when you might decide you do need those updates.

Cowed into submission once again, I meekly click the safest option, just as I have done week after week after week after week.

Remind Me Later.

Course Review – The Human Body: How We Fail, How We Heal

by Grace
About the beginning of this year, I discovered The Teaching Company.  They are a company that creates college-level DVD and CD courses on hundreds of topics, featuring the top professors in the country.  I currently own eight of their courses, and am definitely planning to buy more once I am finished with these.

However, I would have liked to find conservative reviews of these courses before I bought them, but none seemed to be available.  So I thought that it might be helpful if I reviewed the courses that I have taken, for anyone who is thinking of purchasing any.  This is my first attempt at doing so, and if you are interested in seeing more course reviews, do let me know!

My first course was entitled The Human Body: How We Fail, How We Heal.  This will not be a surprise to those who know me well, as all my friends are well aware of my odd penchant for medical and anatomical details.  I worked my way through it in about a month’s time, and learned so much that I just might have to go through it again at some point to really take it all in.

The course is laid out in a very organized fashion, building from an understanding of the cells themselves, then moving through the basic responses of our bodies, and from there on to different types of diseases and the way our bodies handle them.  The final lecture wraps it all up with a lesson on wound healing, which brings together the knowledge gained in the previous lessons in a helpful and illuminating way.  Despite the intense pace and wealth of detail, I found the information easy to follow.

The professor was professional, easy to listen to, and good at explaining things.  The visual aids were well-chosen and very helpful, and the quality of the sound and video was excellent.

There are a few issues that one should be aware of, however.  Most obvious and problematic is the constant taking-for-granted of the theory of evolution.  Nearly every lesson contained at least one reference to Darwinism, including at least one explanation of the idea that “phylogeny recapitulates ontogeny” (the long-discarded theory that a child goes through evolutionary stages in the womb).  In a couple of lectures the professor states his belief that we need to get out and force everyone to be immunized against certain diseases, so we can wipe the diseases out.  I personally hold to the view that such a decision must be up to individuals, not the government or the medical community.

More mild concerns, especially for children, would be his occasional mention of “personally” transmitted diseases (which he handled in a professional, inoffensive manner at all times), a handful of visual aides which depict nudity (simple drawings intended only to illustrate, still, I covered parts of the screen), and some visual aides during the lesson on worms that could be disturbing to some (these are among the only photographs shown).  The word “hell” is used as an expletive once or twice.

Overall, I recommend this course to the mature student who wishes to learn more about the wonderful ways our bodies are designed to heal themselves.  Ironically, even though the course was full of evolutionary assumptions, I left it feeling more in awe of the Creator’s work than ever.  I truly don’t understand how any medical doctor can deny the presence of Design, imprinted so clearly on every aspect of our bodies.

Tale as Old as Time

by Grace

 

A hideous beast falls in love with a beautiful young girl.  Such is the essence of the “beauty and the beast” story type.  Whether it’s an actual beast, a giant gorilla, a hunchback, a wild jungle man, or a masked mystery who haunts an opera house, the idea remains the same: the ugly and unlovable develops a passion and longing for the lovely and pure.

Each story is slightly different.  Sometimes, as in the classic Beauty and the Beast, the girl learns to love the monster for his heart, not his appearance, and they live happily ever after.  Other times, like in Tarzan, the beauty falls in love with the beast, but cannot bring herself to share her life with him, leaving him lonely and brokenhearted.  Still other stories, such as King Kong or The Hunchback of Notre Dame feature a girl who is repulsed by the beast.  All different, yet all the same.

Why do we love this story so much?  Why does it continue to attract us in its various forms?  And why is it that we sympathize with the beast so strongly?  What part of us is drawn to this tale as old as time?

I noticed as I was thinking over this topic that the oldest and greatest story in the history of the universe is actually the opposite.  Rather than a beast who loves and sacrifices himself for a beauty, a Beauty, perfect, flawless, without blemish or spot, descended from His throne to sacrifice Himself for the beast whom He loved more than anything — us.  We are the beast.

Thus, we relate to the beasts in the stories.  At first glance, I thought that our love for the tales might be related to pride.  We want to believe that we are truly beautiful underneath our blemished, ugly exterior, that our hearts are good rather than “desperately wicked and deceitful above all things” as the prophet Jeremiah tells us.  We want to think that there is something in us that would be drawn to the beauty, something innately good.

But a friend encouraged me to look deeper, by pointing out the redemption of the beast in most of the stories.  Tarzan is wild, hopeless, a true animal without any ethics or understanding of love, until his beauty enters the jungle.  The Beast too is wild, animal and completely selfish until Beauty finds her way into his castle, and her lovely spirit calls out love in his heart.  Quasimodo changes from a cowardly kidnapper to a man who is willing to lay down his life for Esmeralda, while Erik, the Phantom, goes from a selfish, monstrous ogre, to being willing to give up the woman he loves when he knows that he is not best for her.

Perhaps then, these famous tales present a stronger resemblance to our own story than one might expect.  As the beast, we need to see that a beauty can love us, despite what we are.  And the love of the one true Beauty is the only thing that can redeem us from our ugly past, the only thing that can call forth true, though still flawed, love.  They are a reflection, if a vastly imperfect one, of our own story.

Thus, we shall doubtless continue to read and write beauty and the beast narratives, no matter how many we’ve experienced before.  They give us hope, by pointing us to our Beauty, who loved us despite our beastly character, and whose love and purity cannot help but create beauty in all of us, if we only keep our eyes on His glorious light.

Disclaimer:  I have not read/seen all the stories mentioned in this article, and thus cannot recommend them — and I doubt I would recommend most even if I had read them.

Book Review – A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning

by Grace

I’d heard so much about these books that I decided to pick up the first one for a few dollars at a book fair last week.  Despite having seen the film a few years ago, I was unsure about the series.  What actually decided me was an article on novel writing by Lemony Snicket that was so well-written and so funny that it left me wanting to see more of his writing.

Even though it is a childrens’ book, I enjoyed it immensely, reading the entire story inin one sitting.  Perhaps I could almost say because it is a childrens’ book, as that is no doubt why it is so simple and clean.  Adult books, in my experience, lack one or both of these qualities.

I was not disappointed in the humor — the seemingly tragic tale had me giggling out loud multiple times.  You might wonder, as I did, what is so funny about three sweet, kind, smart children who are suddenly orphaned and then subjected to a sequence of terrible adventures?  The short answer is — Lemony Snicket’s writing.  He has a way with words that manages to cast the most bleak situation in a hilarious light.  And the situations he comes up with are so unusual and unique that they are comical in and of themselves.

There is no swearing, no immorality, no disrespect of parents, no violence, or any other objectionable content.  However, there are several things — most of the book, in fact — that might be disturbing to some children.  Count Olaf, the children’s guardian, is the most horrible guardian anyone could ever imagine, poking the children into a dark, bare attic and feeding them on nothing but cold porridge, striking them, and even trying to force a marriage on the oldest girl, Violet.  His associates might be unsettling to some — a man with a hook for a hand, one person who looks like neither a man nor a woman, and so forth.  It would really depend on the person reading, so parents should carefully consider their child before allowing the book.

The family relations are refreshing.  The children have only fond, respectful memories of their parents, and they love each other devotedly.  The two older children are willing to give their freedom, fortune and happiness to save the life of their baby sister.

I didn’t entirely appreciate the way that all the adults in the story (well, all the live ones anyway) were portrayed as either evil or stupid.  As is often the case in modern stories, the children were the only sensible people in the book.  However, the children do take proper steps in their attempt to receive justice — rather than trying to handle the situation themselves, they first go to other adults for help.  Unfortunately, no one listens to them, and they are forced to take things into their own hands.  In the end, their solutions are clever and inventive, and when the thick-headed adults finally realize what’s really going on, they step up and make things right.

To sum up, the book is well-written, enjoyable, and clean, but parents are cautioned to beware of potentially disturbing elements.  I for one, plan on picking up the rest of the series when I get a chance, and am eager to find out the fate of these poor children, and to enjoy more of Lemony Snicket’s delightful style.

Mr. Cool

Mr. Cool

Photography by Patience

 

 

 

 

I Love My Daddy (by Grace)

by Grace
Yesterday, we celebrated Fathers’ Day.  The calendar said that Fathers’ Day was supposed to be the previous Sunday, but Daddy was bogged down by his law school studies that weekend, and it really didn’t seem that it was the best idea to pick a day to honor him with gifts and games when what he needed was quiet and encouragement while he studied for his tests.

So, yesterday it was.  What he requested was that we play games with him, so that’s what the whole family did.  Jeopardy, Family Feud, Wheel of Fortune, Star Trek Scene It — you know, the kind of games where he can show us all how much smarter he is than the rest of us.

And I can’t really argue, because — he is extremely smart!  I can ask him about anything from taxes to the Civil War to music theory and he always knows something about it.  Not only is he smart, but he is wise, with the godly wisdom that I can look up to and feel safe following.

Every evening he takes time to read the Bible to us.  Other times he goes through Rushdoony with me so we can learn together the true meaning of the third commandment, and he always has an answer when we ask him why our family does this or that different than some other families.

He’s kind and sympathetic — I can always groan to him about my little problems and pains, and he understands and commiserates.  And he’s absolutely hilarious (shhh! don’t tell him I said that…).  He loves to tease me about my little obsessions and we joke back and forth at the dinner table, where he’s sure to have me giggling in a matter of minutes.

Through the years he’s taught me so very much, about everything from theology, to finances, to sci-fi TV shows, and he continues to educate me in new ways all the time.

In this day and age, a lot of people don’t seem to think it’s normal for a twenty-one-year-old girl to still admire and want to be around her daddy.  Girls are supposed to be more interested in boyfriends, shopping and college — dads are supposed to be embarrassing.  This seems so sad to me!  I love my Daddy, and I don’t mind saying so.

I know that he’s not perfect — no father is — and since I’m not perfect either, I have my struggles when it comes to trusting and following him sometimes.  But ask me who the greatest guy I’ve ever met is, and I’ll give you the same answer I would have given when I was three.

My Daddy.

Space Walk

Our kids entered a 36-hour video contest this weekend.  They got their assignment at 9:00 on Friday morning and had to turn it in on Saturday.

Here’s the result….a three minute sci-fi spoof.

Let me be clear that there is NO redeeming value to this movie.  If you are looking for depth or a deep, moving experience you won’t find it here.

If you just want three minutes of oddball silliness, you’re in the right place.