How does your garden grow?

It was a busy weekend and I apologize to anyone who came by the blog on Monday looking for the new items I was going to add to my store since I said on Thursday that I was going to feature them.

I'll have to wait one more day so hopefully they'll be up tomorrow.

Meanwhile, did you have a nice Memorial Day? We did. The weekend was busy with my parents visiting from out of state and then on Monday, after they had gone home and had taken two of the boys with them for the annual Camp GrammiePapa extravaganza, we had a chance to collapse for a little while. We've been burning the candle at both ends for the last few weeks and it was time for a rest.

Rest for us, many times, means piddling around the house - doing laundry, working on crafts or orders, pulling weeds and eating leftovers. It was a beautiful day; I even got a chance to  make a pitcher of mint tea.

I've posted about our garden in previous writing. This year, everything is growing really well and our mint is going out of its mind so I'm looking for things to do with it. Any suggestions?

At our house, we also have a wildflower bed. Mike was out yesterday pulling weeds in it and since there are so many varieties of flowers, he was having trouble determining which was a weed and which wasn't. He was sharing this frustration with me as I was hanging dishtowels on the clothesline. "Well," I responded, "if it pulls out easily it's a weed."

This was probably not helpful, but it's true. I learned the difference from mistakenly pulling a real squash plant versus pulling a weed that had disguised itself as such. It was a bummer. I tried to replant the squash but to no avail. It died.

As Mike and I were talking, a thought crossed my mind that I've thought in the past when gardening. Weeds in a garden are like any sins that take root in our life. They often look beautiful. They are lush, full and green and often look like the good things that God has planted in our lives; however, they are fakes and will squeeze the life out of the plant it disguises itself as if it is not uprooted. Weeds often uproot easily because their roots are shallow so there is not much depth to them as a plant. Yes, they are destructive, but with a little effort, God can rid us of them. All it takes is a little patience, a watchful eye and a discerning spirit. We ask God, the master gardener, to remove the weeds from our lives because he can distinguish what is growing in our hearts.

From a gardener's perspective, it is easy to see the destruction a weed can cause, but from our own perspective it can often be difficult to discern sinful attitudes taking root in the soul. For instance, I used to grow peas in my vegetable garden. At first we would cultivate the rows, slightly burying the plants so that the weeds would get snuffed out. We cultivated because it was really difficult in the first stages to tell the difference between the real plants and the weeds and, like with my squash plant, I really didn't want to pull my healthy pea shoots out. Then, once the pea plants were more established, we quit cultivating and had to actually pull the weeds. When I first started doing this, I was amazed at how the weeds could disguise themselves, but with practice I learned to tell the difference. When I was right, I was rewarded with an easy pull.

It's like that in our hearts. For example, perhaps God has planted a wonderful talent in us. He carefully cultivates that talent and watches it grow into a healthy plant. Then one day he looks into our hearts and he sees a similar plant growing next to his healthy plants. It may be the sin of pride or selfishness growing right next to what he has established. Since he's in the garden, we have obviously given him permission to be there so he begins to weed out the plants that will choke out the good growth in our lives. In the end, God will hopefully have something good with which to nourish himself and to share with others.

Eventually, as we listen to the Holy Spirit, we'll also be able to tell when the right plants are not growing in our hearts. At this point, we can ask God to pull them. Our quickness will keep our hearts healthy, green and lush.

In the end, we hope to have beautiful wildflowers and back in the day we had tasty peas. In our hearts, we hope that the fruits of the spirit flourish: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

How does your garden grow?


God and Art Series: Mother follows her heart home

Having a child can change one's priorities. This was true for Gali,  of El Dorado, California. After the birth of her third child, Gali decided that she needed to own her time. To do this, Gali, which means "my wave" in Hebrew, now makes her own line of jewelry and sells them in her shop on Etsy. Her shop, called NAMI,  means "wave" in Japanese.

"I was born in Israel, raised in California and moved back to Israel to finish high school and serve the two- year mandatory army service. After 24 years in Israel, in 2009, my family and I have moved to California," Gali says. "I have an MBA in business and spent many years in managing positions. In 2006, after the birth of my third child and the need to own my time, I started studying silversmithing and opened up Nami."

Gali, who was inspired by a tremendous love for her three children, wanted to keep them close by. "My first designs were boy and girl figures," she says. "In order to make them my own, I stamped each of their names on the back of the charm and all three hang on a silver chain close to my heart. The full Nami collection reflects what I feel jewelry should express when you wear it.

"Nami Charms are all hand made, originally designed and carved from wax. The wax model is molded into a silver charm which then requires additional work such as filing, punching and polishing to give it a finishing touch. Each charm is made of high quality .925 Sterling Silver. Most of my charms and jump rings are 16 to 20 gauge so they have a nice thickness to them and are secure on the jewelry. I also use the 11mm high quality lobster clasp (not the regular round ones). Added elements such as turquoise stones, pearls and gold fill are used in some models. Most of the charms can be personalized by stamping names, dates or initials to give them a personal touch, making them a one of a kind masterpiece," Gali says.

Gali's work can be found on NamiCharms (Etsy), Nami (ArtFire), NamiCharms.com, NamiCharms (Facebook), and twitter.com/#!/Namicharms

"I hope my jewelry makes you feel as special as you are," she says.
In her work, Gali loves to make special pieces that mean something to the one receiving them. "I am the only hand that stamps the special words that my customers request straight from the heart," she says. "I love hearing those special stories like that of a women who had adopted her sister's daughter after her sister died from cancer. Before her death, her sister would leave notes around the house for her daughter with inspirational sayings and words of love. The daughter had kept all these notes and her aunt had me stamp one of those notes on a silver disk as a present for her niece's 18th birthday. The aunt even scanned a picture of the note to show me. I get stories like this all the time and it makes what I do feel so much more special. I love being given the opportunity to make something that will touch someone's life."

Gali also loves being able to have the flexibility to be there for her three kids who are 17, 14 and 6. "I hope to continue touching people's hearts while being at home for my family," she says. "I think everything in life has a time and a place. I gave up a lot to pursue this career and the freedom to own my own time but I gained so much more. I followed my heart and that motherly instinct that told me that I needed to be there, for my then newborn baby and the rest just fell in to place."




The thing about time


Have you noticed that there isn't much to go around - especially if you're doing something fun?

On the other hand, time seems to drag when you're doing something that is not fun.

With that, I haven't said anything that hasn't been thought or said in any office or school room in America. Yet, time is one of our greatest commodities, and we don't know how much time we have.

The other day I was having a great time in my work room crafting some new boxes that I'm going to feature on Monday. I've changed the size because now I can make them on my new Sizzix Big Shot Pro Die Cutting machine. I love this new toy. Time flies when I'm using it.

When I was done with my work downstairs I went upstairs and noticed that it was 7 p.m. I couldn't believe it. In fact, I griped about it to my son. And then I pouted a bit because the weekend was over.

Have you ever noticed how quickly weekends fly by?

I've griped plenty about that.

Well, now I will try to stop, because I realized that I was being a bit greedy. Here I am with a great work room, supplies, 24 hours in a day and I'm griping because the hours I spent having a good time and actually being productive flew by. I should have been grateful for the hours and that there was still time to do other things before I had to go to bed.

Is it possible to actually be greedy about time? Does this sound preposterous?

The other night I was reading a selection from "The Dark Night of the Soul," written back in the mid-1500s by St. John of the Cross.  He noted that it is actually possible to be greedy for spiritual things - to want more than God is willing to give at the time, and to be impatient with God for not giving us what we want when we want it. We can be greedy for the good feelings we have when we spend time with God  -- so much so that we get angry or worry that we did something wrong when they do not occur. We can be so greedy that we actually begin to practice spirituality for ourselves and not for God's sake.

That's pretty weighty, I thought. Yet I've felt that way, and like St. John says, the best thing for me was to go through was a time of darkness, of unfeeling, so that God could wipe the greediness from my heart. Have you ever gone through that? Perhaps the most significant modern examples of this is in Mother Theresa, who describes her 'dark night of the soul' in "Come Be My Light."

And so we go back to time. I am not the only one who complains about it. I am not the only one who longs for more. After all, it is difficult to watch time pass - to watch a loved one grow old and know that the end is imminent, to watch the kids grow up and leave, to watch the dog get gray and realize that he won't be around forever. It's difficult to let vacation time go. None of us really wants to go back to work. It's difficult to watch people move and realize that we will not have as much time with them as we originally thought.

With these life events taking place, we realize that time is in limited quantity and there's not much we can do about it. That is, except enjoy it; we need to embrace every minute - even the not-so-fun minutes. Yes, even those moments can add up into something meaningful if we pay attention. Even tragedy, through time, can be resolved. Although we may never completely heal, we can still find meaning in life and trust God for the rest.


Christian news organizations skew truth

This just in from Crosswalk Religion News:

Unborn Children Counted for White House Tours

Unborn children receive security clearances at the White House, even if they have no protection elsewhere in D.C., Baptist Press reports. In an email newsletter sent May 7 to members of Congress and other recipients, the White House Visitors Office outlined the process of registering unborn babies for tours. "We have received a number of calls regarding how to enter security information for a baby that has not yet been born," wrote Ellie Schafer, director of the Visitors Office. "Crazy as it may sound, you MUST include the baby in the overall count of guests in the tour. It's an easy process." The email went on to describe the process of entering the unborn child's security information, and stated that "once the baby is born, you should send an email to the [Visitors Office] with the tour request ID number, the baby's given name, their actual birthday and gender." Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee said it was "ironic that President Obama's staff recognizes the existence of unborn babies for purposes of providing security within the White House -- yet there is no indication that President Obama has any problem with the fact that throughout the District of Columbia, abortion is now legal for any reason up to the moment of birth. Notably, the newsletter provides no guidance on what the staff should do if an unborn baby is first registered for security purposes, but then aborted."

When I got this, I forwarded it to my husband who thought it sounded ridiculous. He checked it out on Google and found an article from PolitiFact. I admit, because I do not agree with the Obama administration on most points, I was duped into thinking that this was another point of hypocrisy.

I encourage you to read the full article at the PolitiFact hyperlink, but what happened in a nutshell was that Baptist Press printed a press release from the National Right to Life organization without checking out the facts. This press release was not a news article. The facts were pathetically misconstrued to push National Right to Life's agenda, which even though I am a pro-lifer, I find that practice repulsive. Both news organizations - Crosswalk and Baptist Press - should have checked out the facts rather than furthering outright lies printed by a supposed Christian organization.

I was actually going to blog on another subject today, but I thought this was too important to pass up. In fact, it reminded me of the passage in Romans 3 that reads:

"But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.)  Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 'If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?' Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—'Let us do evil that good may result'?Their condemnation is just!"

Isn't there enough negative stuff going on in the world that people can print? Why resort to lies? Was the news in the pro-life world a little too boring? Did they feel like this was a good way to raise funds? That is shameful!

When I worked in the journalism field, I had a deep sense that my words were extremely important. I felt that anything I wrote could skew public reaction either negatively or positively so I needed to by very careful, especially in news articles (There is a place for opinion - it's called the Opinion Page and it must be labeled as such so there is no confusion). In this light I just tried to print the truth. There were times even, when I had to push my personal opinion aside in order to print what had happened so that I didn't skew the truth. That's what a real journalist must do and that's what Crosswalk and Baptist Press failed to do.

I believe that as Christians we should do much better and not give the world a chance to mock Christ. Don't you?


God and Art Series: Artist's work illustrates new creation

Becca Koopmans
As any mother knows, staying home with small children can be a challenge and, like any challenge in life, this experience can bring out the good in people. It can also bring out the little things that need work as well. Becca Koopmans, owner of WearLoveNow on Etsy, found this to be true and it later helped serve as a foundation for her store in which she sells upcycled clothing.

Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, Becca grew up in  Michigan, in a family with five kids that was "close-knit and loving."

"My heritage includes generations of educators, readers, musicians and creative minds," Becca says. "One grandpa caned chairs, the other grandpa painted and toyed with inventions. My mom and both grandmas sewed. One grandma was an accomplished musician and my aunt made rugs, painted, dabbled with pottery and other manual art forms. My dad was always exploring business ventures as a natural entrepreneur.

"We gravitated toward an evangelical church when I was in junior high school and at 13 I realized God’s salvation for me in Jesus and began a life of following him," she says. "I had deeply rooted image issues that would later come into play with my pursuit of ‘wearing love.' Meanwhile, I invested in music seriously through college and took watercolor painting classes and pottery wheel classes at different stages of life. After college at Wheaton, I taught fourth grade for a few years then went back to get my master of arts in educational ministries. I worked with kids in camp settings, churches, wrote curriculum and was even able to be a part of Tyndale House Publishing for a bit before getting married to my dear husband Stan and moving to Wisconsin where we now live."

Becca found that while staying at home with small children was challenging, it was also very rewarding. "I have loved all of the different positions and jobs that God has entrusted to me, but my most challenging and rewarding one has been a stay-at-home mom of four awesome kiddos: Liesel,12, Steven, 9, Schyler, 9, and Mari,7," she says. "In the years of their infancy and toddling, getting a shower and dressed in the morning was such a feat for me. As I attempted to look put together on the outside, in my wardrobe of jeans and Ts, I felt naked and exposed on the inside with my heart’s scantily-clothed patience and limited love. I found that the invisible garments of my soul often looked and smelled like my dirty running socks days later in the pile in our closet … unappealing and stinky. So, began my quest of a healthy heart — true to both my faith and love of fashion. The more I grew to express my style in my wardrobe on the outside, the more I cooperated to be clothed by God on the inside with grace, compassion, humility and love."

It was during this stage in her life that Colossians 3:14 became real to Becca: "regardless of what else you put on, WEAR LOVE."

"Our youngest daughter has some neurological issues and medical needs. My presence at home became critical for many reasons and so I became more isolated in my life when I was anticipating more social and ministry-oriented options in my days," Becca says. "This caused me to get on my knees and listen. The combination of my heart’s passion to wear love and help women with image issues, along with my ideas to create clothing from recycled pieces … making the old new again, resulted in Wear Love Now. I tested the market waters with some friends and then some invitational open houses and soon realized that people loved the biblical concept, the unique upcycled clothes and the compassionate giving to a world-wide relief ministry."

With every purchase from her shop, Becca donates ten percent to Samaritan's Purse, a world-wide relief organization dedicated to helping those who suffer by providing medicine, food and other assistance while sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. One ministry of Samaritan's Purse, Operation Christmas Child, provides a shoebox full of gifts to children all over the world, including those in the United States, who may not receive a Christmas gift. They also hear the gospel as well. Becca's children are involved in this aspect of Samaritan's Purse.

"Samaritan’s Purse was our relief organization choice because our kids have been very involved in their seasonal Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes," Becca says. "As a family we all were brokenhearted by watching some African accounts of desperate famine and drought. We knew Samaritan’s Purse was a presence there and in many other places needing help. It is exciting to hear my kids’ enthusiasm for Wear Love Now’s sales … they realize each time someone orders an item, we get to give money to Samaritan’s Purse and offer God’s healing help where we can’t go."

Selling her clothing on Etsy has helped Becca not feel so isolated and it has helped her minister to others while caring for her family. "I joined the Etsy network a few months ago and I am so very glad I did. It has been such an encouraging venue for Wear Love Now," she says. "I feel that my life and ministry are no longer in isolation as I care for my family, but rather is now world-wide in some literal and figurative ways. My hope is to continue to offer people creative, one of a kind clothing that is salvaged and has a purpose — much like each one of us is in Christ — one of a kind and a new creation with great purpose."

Who Uhuru helps ...

In a previous post I talked about a friend of mine who has a ministry called Compassion for Africa. Dr. Joe Gorman sent this e-mail along with these beautiful pictures on Mother's Day.

"I can’t help but think of Faustina, a mother in northern Ghana (a picture of Faustina and one of her daughters is at right). I met Faustina and her family this last summer and was so impressed with her joy and love for God and others. Just a couple months ago Faustina almost died from either severe malaria or drinking dirty water (a picture of her with a bottle of clean water and a bottle of dirty lake water that is drunk by most people in northern Ghana is below). Life is very fragile in Africa.

"Because of your prayers and gifts, Compassion for Africa was able to send a little more than $500 to our friend Pastor and District Superintendent Frank Mills to give to Pastor Matthias (Faustina’s husband) for her medical care and medicine. After several weeks of treatment, Faustina is now doing well and seems to be completely recovered. Thank God we were able save this twenty-four-year-old mother of two young children.
"At Compassion for Africa, we seek to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ to everyone, but especially to mothers and women, not just in words, but in very practical ways that include:
  • Offering emergency medical care to women like Faustina ($500)

  • Providing a pair of pigs ($50) so that girls can develop a sustainable business that will help them pay for schooling at least through high school
    Matthias and Faustina
  • Giving sewing machines and training to widows so that they can provide food, shelter, and education for their children ($200)
  • Digging wells so that entire communities can enjoy clean water and know the living water of Christ ($3,000)."

 Meanwhile, some news items from Crosswalk came in that I would like to share. Please pray with me that God would protect these persecuted Christians. Also pray for their persecutors, as Jesus says to do in the Sermon on the Mount.

"But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," Matthew 5:44.

Coptic Christians Fear Rise of Islamists on Eve of Presidential Elections


A year ago, Christians in Egypt hoped the revolution would bring them equal rights. Instead, things are worse than ever before. With the country's first post-Mubarak elections set to begin May 23, many Christians fear the next president will turn Egypt into an even more restrictive Islamic government that will have no room for their community of at least 8.5 million, the Washington Post reports. Under Mubarak, Christians were treated like second-class citizens -- forced to get special permissions to build churches and subjected to hate crimes that went unpunished -- but now, with the race shaping up to a choice between Islamists and former members of Mubarak's government, most Christians are rallying behind the latter, despite past persecution. In addition to an increase in attacks on churches, Egyptian Christians have been terrified by other acts of aggression -- such as a a recent incident of Muslims slicing off a Christian man's ear -- and crackdowns on Christian protests by the military. "It scares me that maybe we could become Iran," said Amir Dous, a Coptic Christian.

'Ethnic Cleansing' of Christians in Sudan Continues


Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, sought by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in Darfur, has vowed to rid the Nuba Mountains of Christians and those he claims are agents of the West, Compass Direct News reports. On April 20 he ordered the Sudanese military to rid South Kordofan state's Nuba Mountains of everyone who opposes his Islamic rule, and the past several weeks he has repeatedly declared jihad against the ethnic Nuba peoples, many of which are Christians. State-owned TV and radio play songs urging Muslims to "fight the infidels" in the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile state and South Sudan and "cleanse the land" of their presence -- increasing the fears of ethnic South Sudanese Christians trapped in the hostile north. Humanitarian agencies consider the Islamic government's targeting of civilians in the Nuba Mountains an "ethnic cleansing" against non-Arab peoples in the multi-ethnic state, with the added incentive of ridding the area of Christians. Additionally, as military conflict escalated between Sudan and South Sudan last month, Bashir vowed to liberate South Sudan from what he described as "insects." Muslim leaders in Sudan, said to have ties with hard-line Muslim Salafists, have asserted that there should no longer be room for churches and Christians following South Sudan's secession on July 9, 2011.

Eritrea Protest Vigil Marks 10th Anniversary of Church Closures 

(10 points if you know where Eritrea is)

Representatives of seven organizations from the UK and Ireland will take part in a protest vigil outside the Eritrean embassy in London today to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Eritrean government's closure of every church except those belonging to the Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran denominations and the beginning of an era of mass detentions of Eritrean Christians, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports. The vigil will be followed by an evening of prayer for the thousands of Eritrean Christians currently being held without charge or trial in inhumane conditions in detention centers throughout the country. Eritrea is one of the world's most repressive regimes, often likened to North Korea. The regime demands total allegiance, and Christians are perceived as a threat to national unity. On May 15, 2002, all denominations except Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran were banned, and the government began its mass arrests of Christians, particularly singling out evangelical and charismatic churches

Two Pastors Set on Fire, Burned to Death in Kenya


Last Tuesday, May 8, two pastors were burned to death in Mombasa, Kenya, Mission Network News reports. Yesterday, police arrested five suspects who may have instigated the crime, and they will be arraigned in court once investigations are complete. The two pastors, Benjamin Juma of Nyali Baptist Church and Jackson Kioko of Melchidizek Church, were planning to hold an evangelistic outreach in the Jomvu area of Mombasa, but while they were planning, a crowd gathered and suddenly accused them of being thieves. Without waiting for any confirmation of the supposed crimes, members of the crowd set the two pastors on fire. By the time the pastors' friends and families heard about what was happening, it was too late. New widow Mrs. Juma described the scene: "I don't know what they used, whether it was petrol or whatever else it might have been, but [after the fire] you could not see a thing [body parts] -- there were just charcoal-like bits [left]!" Although the majority of Kenyans adhere to some form of Christianity, Christians in the country have recently been under increased persecution and serious attacks, including bombings.

God and Art Series - Faith carries artist through tough times

Do you need a personalized gift for a loved one, a couple, a teacher or another special person?

Then Tony and Frances Celi may have just what you need.
CreationsByFrannie, an Etsy store owned by Frances, specializes in personalized digital print outs that honor family, couples or individuals for any occasion. These prints feature lovely artwork (they have more than 200 backgrounds) and heartfelt poetry in English or Spanish.
"I am self-taught and the only one in my family that does this," Fran says. "I was quite young in my early teens (when I started) and everything comes natural; I am a hands-on person."

 Fran's inspiration comes to her in dreams. "Most people forget their dreams but I don't," she says. "I can wake up in the middle of the night because of dreams and sit down and start doing what I might of dreamed about. I have a room for my craft purchases and I start working. I believe it is a God-given gift and that the good Lord is alongside of me watching what I am doing."

Fran's relationship with the Lord began when she was young, through the influence of her parents. "I was brought up by two devoted Catholics, my mom and my dad - may they both be alongside of Jesus and enjoying his company. I have followed their teaching and have taught my son and adopted daughter. She was adopted from Romania in 1991 at seven months old. We still try to instill into them the meaning of visiting our Lord on Sundays and enjoying the mass, just as my parents did for me."

This faith has carried Fran and Tony - a retired couple who has been married for 38 years - through the tough economic times that many are facing right now. "My husband always encourages me and uses an old expression 'This too shall pass.' I believe with the help of the good Lord Jesus this will happen. People will realize the effort and hard work my husband and I do and I believe everything will turn around," she says.

The couple's goal is to create an exceptional business for their customers. They hope that more people realize that the gifts they sell are "extremely exceptional and personalized."

"If people read some of our work, they will purchase it. The problem that we find on the Internet is that most people will not spend the time to read what we have and it gets passed up sometimes. At a craft show we show them right away on our laptop and they buy it immediately and start purchasing them for the entire family," Fran says.

Even though the couple has found that they are "extremely successful" at craft shows, they are limited in attending them due to Tony's health problems, which include diabetes, drop foot, neuropathy and three herniated discs in his back.

"He wears braces on both of his feet and legs otherwise he falls constantly," Fran says. Because of this they've had to make Creations by Frannie a "strictly home-based business" so that Tony can help.

"The good Lord will help us through this crisis," Fran says. "Because he never has failed us before. We have to leave any future goals with Jesus because we can only do so much. Then it's up to him; I know he is listening."

Here is a small sampling of art work from Creations by Frannie. Stop by her shop and take a look. You'll love it.

Creations by Frannie
Creations by Frannie

Creations by Frannie

Creations by Frannie

Creations by Frannie

Creations by Frannie


From my garden ...

Just thought I'd post some pictures from my garden. Things are looking good with some of the rain we've been getting. The pictures may be a little soft because I was trying new things and not using a tripod, but here they are:

Not all who enjoy the outdoors love to garden ...
This is not my best sports picture but they look like they're having fun, don't they?

Have a great day. The next post will probably be Friday, a continuance of our God and Art Series with Franis Celi, owner of Creations by Frannie. Hope to see you then!


Good thoughts to start the day

I like to read a Psalm every morning because it sets a good stage for the day. Here is one I came across this morning that has a lot of promises in it for people who hope in the Lord and I've put pictures of products from PrayerNotes by Cynthia, an amazing shop on Etsy. Perhaps it might encourage someone out there today:

Psalm 34

Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelek, who drove him away, and he left.

1 I will extol the Lord at all times;

his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the Lord;

let the afflicted hear and rejoice.


3 Glorify the Lord with me;

let us exalt his name together.

4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me;

he delivered me from all my fears.

5 Those who look to him are radiant;

their faces are never covered with shame.

6 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;

he saved him out of all his troubles.

7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,

and he delivers them.

8 Taste and see that the Lord is good;

blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people,

for those who fear him lack nothing.

10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,

but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

11 Come, my children, listen to me;

I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

12 Whoever of you loves life

and desires to see many good days,

13 keep your tongue from evil

and your lips from telling lies.


14 Turn from evil and do good;

seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,

and his ears are attentive to their cry;

 16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,

to blot out their name from the earth.

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;

he delivers them from all their troubles.

18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 The righteous person may have many troubles,

but the Lord delivers him from them all;

20 he protects all his bones,

not one of them will be broken.

21 Evil will slay the wicked;

the foes of the righteous will be condemned.

22 The Lord will rescue his servants;

no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.*

*This verse triggers Romans 8:1: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Have a terrific day!


God and Art Series - Artist uses God's images in her work

In the bustling port of Morehead City, North Carolina, lives an artist who can testify that God is not limited by anything. Writer, crafter and graphic artist Feon Davis, who owns Personal Gifts, an Etsy store, makes pillows and gift boxes, and writes poems that she displays attractively on bookmarks and other media. Feon's heart is in her work and she knows that God ministers through her and to her despite any limitations she suffers from a disability with which she was born.

"This affects some things with my functions," Feon says. "My hobbies include mostly writing; or if I have the components, rebuilding my computer; I design free banners and play games."

Feon, who has been writing poetry since the age of nine, has been featured in several publications. "I am featured on sites such as lovelifepoems.com for one of my love poems. I am in the "Forever Friends" anthology, along with Divine magazine and I have published a poem in Breakwater Newspaper at a community college. Soon I will have article about myself published in in P.E.A.S magazine. These are just few I am published with. Otherwise, I have no award trophy or plaque for poet of the year, which would be nice," she says.

Feon has received awards for her Web site In the Arms of God. Her work can also be found at Address My Love, Hearts, Minds and Souls As OneMiniature MADE and Poetry Gifts. Feon is on Facebook.

Some of the work that can be found in Feon's Etsy shop, Personal Gifts appears throughout this article.

To make her handmade items, Feon uses the images she receives through God. "From there I design it and use my hands make it. My medium is graphic software to design my poem bookmarks. I also laminate the bookmarks. I work with Print Master, Microsoft Word and (Adobe) Acrobat Reader," she says. Feon hand- and machine-sews her pillows. She uses non-toxic glue and non-toxic glitter for her gift boxes.

"I guess what draws me is the creativity that God has given me. I just love creating something - using the images I get and adding on to it. Especially, when it comes to my writing Christian faith-centered poems for encouragement and love poems. Love is of him," Feon says.

The inspiration behind Feon's work comes from her relationship with God, which began at her birth. "He spared me and my mother when I was about to be murdered," she says. "I was being born in the hospital when a woman who was not of the staff of the hospital tried to kill my mother who was about to give birth to me. Both of my parents are Christian folks and they instilled Holy Bible verses to us. I believe God's love throughout the 30 years of my life and how he has ministered his love to my spirit and heart are expressed through my poems. This depends on what he says too. I would wake up to his whispers of words and I had to get up and write his praises."

Feon applies these words to paper, cards, bookmarks or canvas so that others can see it. God ministers to her through this creative process and that translates into her work.

She was also inspired by an "exciting" elementary school art teacher who taught her how to design books using wallpaper, construction paper, paper and paints. She later used the techniques to bind her books of poems that she sells on Etsy.

Feon enjoys receiving "blessful" comments on her writing and hopes to sell all that she has through "God's ministering hand."

"I encourage any and all whether they are born with a disability or not, to not give up and pray even when you have good day and for others. And let God be your guide and listen to and read scripture in the Holy Bible to give you the words to write about his love," Feon says. 


Debating Calvinism

I received an e-mail the other day from Relevant magazine. Relevant is a Christian publication targeting those who are interested in God, life, and progressive culture.  There were two articles that I thought were interesting.

Debating Calvinism: Part 1

Debating Calvinism: Part 2

You might want to read these articles and then give them some thought because this debate deeply affects Protestantism. I've heard about it since I was a teenager, which was a longer time ago than I care to admit sometimes. The debate has actually been going on for hundreds of years.

I've got to tell you, after being a Nazarene - a Wesleyan denomination - all my life, I tend to fall on the Arminian side of the debate, but not without careful thought. As a Wesleyan, I believe that God made us with free will. Why else would a loving God put the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden and then offer Adam and Eve the option of obeying or disobeying? Whether you believe that the Adam and Eve story is a metaphor or real, you've got to wonder -- if you believe in predestination, what would be the point of offering a choice? If God had already decided the fate of Adam and Eve, offering them the choice seems like he was toying with them.

 It would be like me putting out a fresh plate of homemade steaming sugar cookies in front of my husband and telling him not to touch. By his own free will, Mike will decide  whether to make his wife happy, or not. Adam and Eve had that same choice - follow God or go off in a direction he strongly advised against. God put the tree in the garden because he wanted Adam and Eve to follow him by choice. If they chose not to, then he could always come up with plan B ... or C ... or D ... or E ...

God's plan is another debate point between the two theologies. Does God plan everything down to the very detail of who will be saved and who won't? Does he predestine some to eternity in heaven no matter what they do here on earth and others to hell no matter what they do? If now you're saying that it's not by works that we are saved, you are correct. It's by grace, which Webster defines as "unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification." So if God offers grace, according to Calvinistic thinking, God chooses who will receive it and who will not. The choice is not up to us.

But then how does God decide? Is it because of someone's family background or because they have blue eyes or because an ancestor had a tight relationship with God? Or maybe God decides to give someone grace because the Almighty thinks that person is cute? How does God decide who will receive grace? And if the recipient make no choice in the matter, is it really grace?

Arminians believe that grace is offered to everyone but that some will receive grace and that others will not by their own choice. The point of difference here is that even though God allows people to choose which way to go, God is always working to draw people to himself. The work that God does before someone is "saved," or comes to know God through Jesus, is called prevenient grace, or the grace that goes before.

Do people have the ability to accept God's grace in their own power? Arminius and Calvin would agree that they do not. Here is an excerpt from a blog post I found on the Society of Evangelical Arminians website on Arminius vs. Calvin on Total Depravity. It shows that the two theologians didn't have much about which to argue. It's a little long, but I think it's important:

Arminius, as did Calvin, championed the cause of the wretchedness of sinners as taught in Scripture. He writes:

In the state of Primitive Innocence, man had a mind endued with a clear understanding of heavenly light and truth concerning God, and his works and will, as far as was sufficient for the salvation of man and the glory of God; he had a heart imbued with "righteousness and true holiness," and with a true and saving love of good; and powers abundantly qualified or furnished perfectly to fulfill the law which God had imposed on him. This admits easily of proof from the description of the image of God, after which man is said to have been created (Gen. 1:26-27), from the law divinely imposed on him, which had a promise and a threat appended to it (Gen 2:17), and lastly from the analogous restoration of the same image in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4:24; Col. 3:10).

But man was not so confirmed in this state of innocence as to be incapable of being moved by the representation presented to him of some good (whether it was of an inferior kind and relating to this [natural] life, or of a superior kind and relating to spiritual life), inordinately and unlawfully to look upon it and to desire it, and of his own spontaneous as well as free motion, and through a preposterous desire for that good, to decline from the obedience which had been prescribed to him. Nay, having turned away from the light of his own mind and his Chief Good, which is God, or, at least, having turned towards that Chief Good not in the manner in which he ought to have done, and besides having turned in mind and heart towards an inferior good, he transgressed the command given to him for life. By this foul deed, he precipitated himself from that noble and elevated condition into a state of the deepest infelicity, which is under the Dominion of Sin. . . .

In this state, the Free Will of man towards the True Good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost: And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace.3

Calvinist R. C. Sproul comments:

The above citation from one of Arminius's works demonstrates how seriously he regards the depths of the fall. He is not satisfied to declare that man's will was merely wounded or weakened. He insists that is was "imprisoned, destroyed, and lost." The language of Augustine, Martin Luther, or John Calvin is scarcely stronger than that of Arminius. . . .
Arminius not only affirms the bondage of the will, but insists that natural man, being dead in sin, exists in a state of moral inability or impotence. What more could an Augustinian or Calvinist hope for from a theologian? Arminius then declares that the only remedy for man's fallen condition is the gracious operation of God's Spirit. The will of man is not free to do any good unless it is made free or liberated by the Son of God through the Spirit of God.4
Both Arminius and Calvin believed in the total depravity of all human beings as maintained in Scripture. And both Arminius and Calvin believed in the total inability of all human beings to do anything towards salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. The major difference between the two concerning their doctrine of depravity appertains to the solution of God in overcoming the effects of the fall. For Calvin, an unconditionally elect person must first be infused with faith in Christ Jesus in order to be justified and regenerated. For Calvin's successor, Theodore Beza, an unconditionally elect person must first be regenerated and then infused with faith in Christ Jesus in order to be justified.
For Arminius (and most of his followers), a person must be graced by the Spirit of God in the overcoming of the depraved nature so that the person may be freed to believe in Christ Jesus. If such is accomplished and not resisted, then the person is justified and regenerated. But sinners must be enabled by the Spirit of God because they are totally and utterly depraved, captured and enslaved by sin, and completely undone.

That's enough for this post. Maybe we can chat about it in the comments? Tell me what you think.