Friday, February 12, 2016

TGIF?...Not Really



Yesterday's post about anticipating cold weather and how it's been a mild winter in Vermont wasn't taken as tongue in cheek by everyone as expected. Then again, people don't always (if ever) get my sense of humor. It's a little odd the things I find funny. Anyway, yesterday's post was supposed to be a bit fun.

While today is Friday, I'm not looking forward to the weekend. It will be another lonely weekend. I do not plan on leaving my warm cozy apartment this weekend. I definitely don't plan to walk to church Sunday morning in -12 degree temperatures. As I'm writing this the wind chill outside is -17 degrees and the actual temperature is a whopping 0. When this blog piece posts, it is supposed to be -3. I do have to go outside tomorrow, and honestly, I don't mind. However, with the temperature predicted to be dangerously low with wind chills of (now they are predicting) -20 to -30, I think I'll stay in. Maybe I will do some house cleaning, or maybe I'll just stay in my warm bed and read. Our friend Susan has given me a list of books to read, and I might as well get to reading them.

What are your plans for the weekend? Is this arctic blast supposed to reach you? When I told a friend of mine what the wind chill was last night, she happily said that it was 70 degrees where she was in Louisiana. Her other comment was "Holy shit, that's cold." I'd still rather be cold than hot, and besides, I like winter fashions over summer fashions.


PS Speaking of winter fashions, I have yet to buy the requisite Vermont flannel shirt that seems to be the uniform here. I'm just not a flannel kind of guy.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Winter...Finally?


Before I moved to Vermont, my new coworkers kept asking me during the interview if I realized how cold it would be up here. My response was that, "I hate the heat of the South."  It's true. I have always hated Christmases when you can wear short sleeve shirts and shorts. I've always hated summers when you walk outside and the humidity causes you to instantly break out into a sweat. I hated having seasons that instead of being called Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall should have been named after salsa: Hot, Medium, and Mild.

So when I moved to Vermont, I bought all the winter gear necessary. It got the winter clothes, boots, and coats. I got the snow tires and winter windshield wiper blades. I got winterized. Then, the promised winter never seemed to come. Imagine my surprise when the majority of this "winter" seemed a lot like Alabama but with a bit more snow. Yes we've had weeks where it did not get above freezing, whereas Alabama would be in the 30s and 40s most of the time, rarely getting below freezing. There's one major difference I've noticed though. Alabama gets a lot more wind and rain in the winter than Vermont has gotten this year. When it is cold, windy, and rainy, it gets to your bones and it's hard to get warm. However, in Vermont there hasn't been as much wind and snow just doesn't feel as cold as those damp "winter" days of Alabama.

I realize that this is highly unusual for Vermont. The ski resorts are really struggling. I've heard that the maple syrup season is not going to be as good this year. Last night here was a news story about the poor snowshoe rabbit who turns white each winter and with the lack of snow now thinks it's camouflaged but sticks out like a sore thumb for predators to swoop in and feast on. 

This week, things have begun to change. Apparently, we are finally getting the weather we should have had in November or December. Since Sunday we have gotten snow each day and the temperature continues to plummet.  The news says we will be lucky to reach 0 degrees this weekend with lows between -20 and -10 degrees. The predictions I have seen are slightly better for the highs but it's supposed to be windy so the wind chill will drop that quite a bit.  This is what my forecast looks like:


It finally looks like winter is supposed to look, at least this weekend does. Then, it's expected to warm up again next week. This weekend is apparently just temporary, but it's nice to see snow forecasted for each day. I'm sure I'm the only one (besides the ski resorts, ice fishermen, and maple sugar producers) who feels cheated by this mild Vermont winter. I still can't convince my family that it's just not that cold up here. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Porn Phenomenon



Josh McDowell, a well-known evangelist and apologist, commissioned a new study to expose what he calls the “pervasiveness of pornography in the church and among Christians” and to his disbelief, the statistics proved what he had already feared – “pornography has infiltrated the church, especially among young adults.”
“Of young adults 18-24 years old, 76 percent actively – and these are Christians – actively seek out porn,” McDowell lamented to OneNewsNow.
Here are some additional key findings from the church commissioned study titled: “THE PORN PHENOMENON: A COMPREHENSIVE, GROUNDBREAKING NEW SURVEY ON AMERICANS, THE CHURCH, AND PORNOGRAPHY: Impact of Internet Pornography on American Population and the Church.”
  • 21% of youth pastors and 14% of pastors admit they currently struggle with using porn.
  • About 12% of Youth Pastors and 5% of Pastors say there are addicted to porn
  • 87% of pastors who use porn feel a great sense of shame about it
  • 55% of pastors who use porn say they live in constant fear of being discovered
OneNewsNow reports on McDowell’s one man crusade to turn the tide on all those young Christian’s addicted to playing with themselves.
McDowell tells OneNewsNow young people have a cavalier attitude towards porn.

“Of 13- to 24-year-olds, 96 percent would say that when they talk to someone about porn – their friends, which most of them are Christians now – they do it in either a neutral, positive or encouraging way,” he says.

McDowell is putting together what he calls the most comprehensive conference for Christian leaders about Internet pornography. Called “Set Free Summit,” it will take place in April in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Source: The Daily Grind, February 5, 2016


Read more: http://2anothercountry.blogspot.com/2016/02/church-funded-study-finds-76-of-young.html#ixzz3zOufwhQs

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
What is more appropriate for the week before Valentine's Day than this beautiful love sonnet.  It's one of my favorite poems and was first published by Elizabeth Barrett Browning in her book Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850).  Most critics agree that Barrett Browning wrote the sonnets, not as an abstract literary exercise, but as a personal declaration of love to her husband, Robert Browning (who was also an important Victorian poet). Perhaps the intimate origin of the sonnets is what led Barrett Browning to create an imaginary foreign origin for them. But whatever the original motives behind their composition and presentation, many of the sonnets immediately became famous, establishing Barrett Browning as an important poet through the 19th and 20th centuries. Phrases from Barrett Browning's sonnets, especially "How do I love thee?," have entered everyday conversation, becoming standard figures of speech even for people who have never read her poetry.

I wanted to post this poem for all those I love, including my wonderful readers.  I think my favorite part of this poem is "if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death."  How wonderful is that line.  We know all things will be greater in heaven than on earth, so to be able to love better after death implies to me that the love in life is as great a love as can be imagined.  Only in heaven could it be greater.  That's a powerful statement of love.  I have family and friends whom I love with all of my heart, and I hope one day I will find love in a romantic way.  If you have found that kind of love, I admire you and am jealous.  If you haven't, then I hope you too will find it someday.

For those like me who are single on Valentine's Day, it can seem so lonely, but there is one thing I have learned over the years: you must love yourself.  Before you can truly love someone else, you have to first love yourself.  If there are things about yourself you don't love, you will never allow yourself to be loved in the way we all deserve to be loved.  So love yourself, and allow yourself to be loved, too. To ultimately answer Browning's question, "How do I love thee?" I must love myself first so I can love you more.

Monday, February 8, 2016

T.G.I.M



Yes, that does stand for Thank God It's Monday.  When I was teaching, I dreaded Mondays. I dreaded Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays as well. I'm probably one of the very few who ever say this, but I'm glad for Monday to be here. While I used to look forward to my weekends to be away from the students and school bullshit, I now dread the weekends. They are so lonely. After I moved to Vermont, I rarely see anyone on the weekends. I'd much rather be at work and surrounded by people than be here alone.

Besides the loneliness, Sundays seem to be the hardest because it's the day of the week that my friend died on and I often can't stop thinking about it. I used to be happy on Sundays but now I'm just sad all day, but emails and blog comments are what I look for most because they make my day and make it a little better. I miss my friend, and some days, and especially Sundays, are almost unbearable at times. I wish I could just skip the weekend all together. I worked at the museum Saturday, and being away from my apartment really helped but then I dreaded Sunday.

I think that thinking about my friend who passed away more on the weekends when I'm so lonely is why my Sunday posts always mention my friend these days. I can't help it because it's all that's on my mind when I think of Sunday. I know there is nothing I can do about it, but I wish with all my might that I could go back to that day and change what happened.

It doesn't help that I don't have a church to go to. I'd planned to go to one of the three churches on the same block that I live on, but I overslept for the Methodist and Episcopal services and I thought the United Church had 11 am services, but it turned out to be at 10 am when the other services were. This may sound strange but while I love church, I don't like to go when it means going alone.

How fucked up is it that I hate the weekends now. At least it goes to show just how much I love my job and the people I work with on a daily basis.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Testing of Your Faith



We know that all things work together for good1 for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NRSV)

In the above verse, other translations read God causes all things to work together for good. I mention this because John, Susan, Alan and others have all stressed to me this belief. As you read the scriptures carefully, it says that God causes all things to work for our good, not that He causes all things.  It’s a very good distinction to make, and one that can be a hard concept to understand.  We look around the world and we thank God for all the good things that happen to us, but then we blame God for all the bad things that happen as well, but the above verse shows that God is working for the good of mankind and the bad things are beyond what he controls.  Sometimes, He lets nature take its course.  

In my grief, I have forgotten a passage from my favorite book of the bible, James.  In James 1:2-4, James writes  “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”  This is a scripture that is hard for many to swallow.  We should rejoice in our sorrows? We should find joy in our trials?  Death is a part of life, and at some point we will all face the sorrow that goes with the death of someone we love. All of you know that I am still struggling with my friend’s death, but it is getting better each day. I believe that by having a crisis of faith over my friend’s death, I have grown stronger in my faith.  I find great comfort in speaking to my friends who are ministers. Great ministers have a presence of calm about them.  God has called them to the profession of ministry and is able to work through them to help people find peace and love in His Word. 

God created us because He loves us. God never intended for tragedy and prejudice, wars and hatred, lust and greed, jealousy and pride. God meant for Earth to be a paradise, a place where there would be no death, but mankind did not always follow God’s Word, and the world suffers pain because of sin. Physical death is just the death of the body, but the spirit lives on. If your spirit is separated from God for eternity, it will be lost forever.

God has provided a rescue in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul states, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.”

God is not angry with you. In John 3:16, the Bible says that He loves everyone. However, because we live in an imperfect world, we all deal with good and bad. God is aware of everything that happens and has the ability to take what was intended for evil and use for good. The evil in this world does not render God powerless. It is quite the opposite. He promises to be with us – and, if we live life in relationship with Him – to guide us into a life of peace and freedom from fear. Jesus states in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

It often feels like difficult circumstances are directed at us or someone we love. We live in an imperfect world, and the Bible says that it rains on the just and the unjust. We all live through painful and uncomfortable things. Who are we trusting when those things happen to us or someone we love? Are we self-reliant or do we rely on God? If we reach out to God in time of need, then we are accessing the One who created the universe. The Bible says that He is waiting for our response. He has already made the invitation through His Son Jesus. Why you? Because He loves you. He wants you to look to Him so He can rescue you and bring you peace. Romans 5:8 says, “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” John 11:1-44 talks about the death of Jesus’s friend Lazarus. John 11:35 states that “Jesus wept.” Two words that are so incredibly powerful: Jesus wept. Jesus though had an advantage over us, he could bring back to life his friend, but we must take consolation that our loved ones have also come back to life and are waiting for us in heaven.

We still ask ourselves, what good can come out of this? There are no easy answers, just simple ones: growth and glory. We grow because when life hurts, we pay attention and we find out what is real and whom we can trust. In the Bible, in James 1:1- 4 tells us when we face trials, we can see it as a positive thing in our life because ultimately we are going to grow from it. That’s hard to realize when our pain is all we can see and feel. But, after you’ve experienced life as a follower of Jesus, and you’ve experienced His faithfulness, then you know it’s true.

When life is difficult, we look to God and find out that He has grace. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Bible tells us that His grace is sufficient for you, for his power is made perfect in our weakness. First, we must give our situation and life to God; this is the hardest part, because we feel more secure of we think we are in control of things. Once we give these things over to Him, He is going to give us the ability to stand up and endure. This is what I did when I lost my job and God guided me in the right direction.  I must trust God in this tragedy as well.  It is hard to admit weakness. That is what it takes to act in humility and allow God to take control of your situation. Acknowledge to God that He needs to bear your burdens because you can’t anymore. Jesus longs for you to come to Him and know Him personally. In 1 Peter 5:7 Paul tells us to “cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” In Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus tells us to come to Him “all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

I want to end today with a beautiful hymn that speaks to what I am talking about today:

Softly and Tenderly

By Will L. Thompson, pub.1880

 

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,

Calling for you and for me;

See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,

Watching for you and for me.

 

Refrain:

Come home, come home,

You who are weary, come home;

Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,

Calling, O sinner, come home!

 

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,

Pleading for you and for me?

Why should we linger and heed not His mercies,

Mercies for you and for me?

 

Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,

Passing from you and from me;

Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,

Coming for you and for me.

 

Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised,

Promised for you and for me!

Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon,

Pardon for you and for me.