Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Lessons In Friendship

Friendship is a beautiful word, and one I've longed to see deeply in my life ever since I was a young child.  I watched Anne of Green Gables, yearning for the kind of "kindred spirit" that Anne had in Diana, or vice versa, since I was mainly more like Diana.  I was the shy, self-conscious one, with a seemingly smaller brain than my intellectual siblings, but with a love for camaraderie and imagination.  My shyness kept friendship to a minimum--probably because I didn't feel sure of myself, or able to express myself without nervousness and stumbling, and that somewhat continues until today.  Perhaps because I was the "baby," the one to be ignored or scowled at because I would tag along, bumbling through things, distracting.  I felt this keenly, though I knew, most of the time, that I was loved.  But being left out, even just occasionally, can be hard for a sensitive person who loves family time.  I'm sure that sometimes it was for my own protection, such as when my family was building a tree fort when I was five or so--we even have a photo of me by the side of the fort, crying.  Words and actions are important--saying "I don't want you to get hurt" is much better than saying "you'd just get in the way." (I'm not sure how my family put it to me, but I'm pretty sure that's how I felt in those type of situations--that I was a nuisance.) That's a lesson for another day, I suppose.

Today I'm focusing on friendship, but now you know some of my background, and partly why it's hard for me.

However, I'm certainly not without blame.  Proverbs 18:24 says: "A man who has friends must himself be friendly . . . "

I was not very friendly, very much looking out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4)--an unsaved person is not at all good at this.  But even now, as a Christian, I struggle with this . . . selfishness, and perhaps self-pity, is ingrained.

That is one of the lessons I've been thinking about, trying to achieve: be interested, truly interested, in others.  Even if they're talking about a plain piece of wood, or any boring subject you can think of--if it interests them, it should (if it's not a bad subject/gossip) be of vital importance to us.  ("Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. -Philippians 2:4)

Another lesson is not to nurture jealousy.  This can be a real joy-killer, and leads to bitterness, anger, and perhaps distance or the end of a friendship.  There are many Bible verses about jealousy.

Another lesson is to empathize with your friends, both in sorrow and in joy.  Romans 12:15 says: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep."  If you don't truly put yourself in your friends' shoes, they can sense this, and won't have your true care, concern, or excitement.  I don't mean to say that we should put on a front, but that we should try our best to understand and show our care, whether it be with a sincere smile, hug, note, gift, deeper conversation, or what-have-you.  This goes along with being interested in others, and not being jealous.

I have felt jealous, hurt, and bitter, at times, when I felt left out of my friends' lives.  I didn't receive what I thought I should--the recognition, thanks, position, etc.  This stems from pride.  I'm thinking I'm more important than I really am, more wonderful, when I am but dust and ashes, terribly sinful.  Even if I happen to be forgotten for something I should have received thanks for, I have to put myself in my friends' shoes, and realize they can't always remember everything.  They may not have realized how much something cost us in effort, time, or money.  They may not realize that we were hurt, or longing for something, or how important it is to us. We (or me, especially, with my quietness) may not have expressed much of an interest.  Can our friends read our minds?  Perhaps if they have known us for all our lives, they can often anticipate our reactions or desires (I have a dear sister like this, and ironically her name is Ann), but if it's a friend of shorter standing, one cannot expect such special capabilities.

Parts of being a friend are serving, laying our lives down for the other, listening, being humble, thinking the best, loving--I Corinthians 13 springs to mind.  The very definition of friendship in Merriam Webster has to do with helping the other person.  Do we expect to do all the "getting" in friendship, or do we expect to give of ourselves?  "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself." -Philippians 2:3

And when other friendships falter, there is the precious end of the verse I quoted from earlier (Proverbs 18:24): "A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

. . . How amazing is that, when God knows all our sins (infinitely magnified in His holy sight)?  He pities us as a dear Father. ("As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him." -Psalm 103:13) 

But more than that, we can call Him friend, as that verse in Proverbs states, as well as this verse: "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you." - John 15:15

When we focus on this--believe this--it makes so much difference.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Polycarp Movie Review

Friends of ours offered to let us borrow Polycarp, and we gladly accepted.

The movie, while using a very limited budget, was more thought-provoking and effective than most high-budget, secular-made movies.

The story revolved around a young girl named Anna, a former slave.  She is bought by the kind-hearted and God-fearing Polycarp, who gives her freedom.  Anna becomes the charge of a couple, and she starts to feel like family among them all.  Germanicus is a young man who, like a brother, works along-side Anna.  Anna hears new and startling doctrines, of one God, not many.  She asks questions of her new family, and they answer with patience and joy.

But not all is joyous.  The Roman government is trying to quell the Christians.  And on the day of testing, will Polycarp stand for the truth of Jesus?  Will Germanicus?  And how will the persecution of Christians affect Anna? . . .

Some of the acting in this movie was not the very best, but Polycarp's (or rather, Garry Nation's) was good, as were Germanicus's (Dusty Martin's, who played on Courageous) and Anna's (Eliyah Hurt), most of the time.  In any case, I was moved to tears many times.  How would my faith hold up under fire?

It is made for the entire family to watch, with nothing graphic, though the themes are somewhat deep and possibly scary.  Based on the real lives of Polycarp and Germanicus, your family should find this film inspiring.

Bravo, young filmmakers, Joe and Jerica Henline!  They had a lot of help, of course, as you can see in the behind the scenes documentary, but they are still impressively gifted.  Most of all, the message shines through in this movie, the message of courage among fear, faith beyond failure, and the love of God, which casts out fear.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Help the West Ladies Build a New Homestead!

Our sweet friends, the Wests (of Homestead Blessings), are in need right now....They have to move and build a place to live within a few months, and they'd really appreciate donations, as well as prayer!  The sooner the goal is met, the better, so they can start and complete their house!  Please consider donating and sharing the link. :)

Also, read more about this on their blog.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ollie Chandler Collection - Review of Three Books in One

I thought had posted this before, because I finished reading them a few months ago....

The first book, Deadline, starts out a little slow, even though there's one cataclysmic event near the beginning. The story is about a reporter named Jake and his two best friends--one a liberal atheist/agnostic, another a conservative Christian. Jake feels like he's somewhere in the middle. Some of the writing is a bit wordy and lecture-like, but it has much to recommend itself, raising good thoughts about heaven (imagined but not anti-biblical that I know of--hell may be a different story), the sanctity of life, repentance, and making amends with family members. There are some sensitive/mature issues such as adultery and HIV, so it's not a children's book. There are also two or so times that someone apparently uses the Lord's name in vain. Overall quite good, though.

Here's one quote I liked:

"In the darkness, men can shine flashlights on a sundial and make it tell any time they want. But only the sun tells the true time. The flashlights are the changing and fleeting opinions of men. The sun is the eternal Word of God."

Here starts the review of the second book,
Dominion. What would you do if your sister and niece were murdered in a drive-by shooting? This book explores pride, revenge, fatherhood, gangs, abortion, racial prejudice and stereotypes, forgiveness, and God's justice through a broad view of eternity. I think I liked it better than the first in the series, as I've often been interested in cultures and "races" (I believe there's really only one race, as the author does), and it helped me see both sides of the issues blacks and whites (and others) have today, without excusing either side's wrongs. I didn't always like the way Clarence and Ollie ferreted out information, and I'm not sure about all the pastor's conclusions about biblical men's lineage, but I liked the whole story.

Quotes I liked:

"Now, what all this prosperity teaching shows me is that many people today care less about God than they do the benefit package. My daddy always said, 'He that serves God for money will serve the devil for better wages.'"

"I say when we tell God he has to take away this illness or handicap or financial hardship, we may be tellin' him to remove the very things he put into our lives to conform us to the image of Christ!"

"If these were animals or subhuman, they couldn't breed together. You can only have children with your own kind, and though there are many kinds of animals, there's only one kind of human. The fact that blacks bore the children of whites proved they were the same kind. And therefore equal."

"It takes two parents to raise a child. It takes a village to get out of the way and quit trying to take over Dad and Mom's child-raising authority and responsibility."

"She thought further, wondering what would happen if but one Wilberforce rose up in American politics today. What would happen if one representative or one senator would introduce over and over again measures and reminders of the reality that unborn babies were being killed by the millions? What if only one man or woman would pull out pictures of the unborn from under his congressional chair, would endure the ridicule and opposition, would tirelessly stand for justice, would speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, refusing to be silent? What if just one person, relentless, would live out his convictions not for the applause of his colleagues nor the approval of his generation but for the audience of One?"

"Deprived of joy, they reduce life to the pursuit of pleasures. But without Elyon [God] there are no pleasures. The pursuit of pleasures without the giver of pleasure can never end in heaven, only hell. Refusing to anchor their lives in the bright sacred mysteries, they turn instead to the dark evil mysteries. Denying Elyon, they turn to the demon Moloch, for man is made to worship, and if he will not worship the true, he will worship the false. Hence a generation that prides itself on uplifting peace and caring for the earth and rising above barbarity daily offers its children in sacrifice to Moloch."

"Bitterness never relieves suffering, it only causes it. I used to pray for the overseers and masters who beat me. I knew they wasn't beyond God's grace because I wasn't. One of the slaves, ol' Elmo, he used to say the massas didn't deserve forgiveness. I said, ''Course they doesn't deserve forgiveness, Elmo. No man does. If you deserved forgiveness, you wouldn't need it.'"

"Breaks this old man's heart what happened that day. No excuse for it. But it wasn't the spirit of Jesus you saw, it was the spirit of the devil, and he can get admitted to any college."

The last book, Deception, is more mystery than the others, and with many twists and turns, keeping me guessing most of the way through. It was sometimes almost dizzying, but good. There are also some funny quotes, such as this one: 'His hair went everywhere--Einstein with a perm in a wind tunnel.'

But besides the good plot and humor, there are threads of important themes about God, sin, and family (not 100% of which I agreed with, such as the free will). Here's one good quote for an example of explaining suffering in the world: '"Would you ever have been able to see courage without danger? Or heroism without desperate situations? Compassion without suffering? Justice without injustice? Sacrifice without a need?"'

This is an engaging and enjoyable read.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Movie Night - Beyond the Mask Review

I had been wanting to see Beyond the Mask for quite some time.  Finally my family agreed to go with me, all except Mom.  Matthew and Andrew weren't too excited about it (especially Matthew), thinking the quality would not be that great.

We invited the Lees and others to go with us, but they didn't buy tickets in time...or so we thought.

We had bought tickets for the 5:00 hour, so we made our journey to Franklin early enough to get there in time.  But . . . when we got there, the ticket seller said that there was no 5:00 showing--it had been cancelled.  We had heard nothing of that, though I had noticed the button to buy tickets for that time had disappeared a day or two ago. I thought that the tickets had merely been sold out.  The lady said we could get our tickets switched to the 8:00 time, or that she'd give us a pass to go to that showing.  So, we really got a night showing for the afternoon rate.  But we had several hours to kill.

First we ate at Chick-Fil-A, though we had eaten a sandwich or something light before coming.  Our appetites had revived sufficiently to eat again. ;)

After that, we spotted a chocolate shop (called Paul's Chocolate Gallery) and we went in, curious.  Chocolate is never a bad idea, right?  The little shop had chocolate sculptures and a baby grand piano on one side, a glass case full of chocolate candies on the other.  We looked them over, noting flavors from orange cream to maple to peanut-butter.  The prices were more than I would usually pay for an inch-and-a-half square of chocolate: around $2.49 each.  Matthew or Andrew said jokingly, "She should get a discount for playing the piano."

"Actually, you do get a free piece of chocolate for playing a song," the young lady behind the counter said.

Ah!  Oh!  :)  I sat down at the piano (whose autographs were on the piano? didn't even read them), and played my Chopin waltz.  I messed up in the middle, but skipped by the parts I couldn't remember there, and finished.

The young lady liked it, and asked how long I'd been playing.

I picked for my free piece of chocolate the same as Andrew's--something with raspberry.  Mmm, it was quite good!  Matthew asked the young lady her favorite flavor, and she said the Balsamic one.  He tried this, and liked it.  Not as sickening sweet as some, but it didn't taste like balsamic vinegar, he said.

Annie played Greensleeves and got a free piece of chocolate. Not sure of the flavor.

The lady said we could have a second piece for free, too!  I thought I was supposed to play another song, so I made up an arrangement of Amazing Grace, and nabbed a second chocolate, this time pomegranate, which had a drizzle of reddish stripes on top.

Matthew plunked a few random notes on the piano and asked if he could have a free chocolate, too.

"No, that doesn't count," the young lady said with a smile.

She stepped out from behind the counter and talked with us more personally, about our family, piano playing, and even church.  Perhaps she was a Christian, as Annie thought.  We asked a little about the lady's work and the owner of the shop, too.

Eventually we headed out. Andrew and Matthew wanted to do some shopping; Matthew wanted to buy clothes at a thrift store, since he was a bit lacking in jeans and shirts.  So we remembered the nice thrift store called "Our Thrift Store," found it on the GPS, and went there.  The store was closed.  But we had noticed a goodwill on the way there, so we headed back to that.

I thought this whole adventure was maybe even better than a movie--free chocolate, spending time with siblings, and impromptu shopping.

Annie and I browsed the clothing, but most of it was a bit pricey--even half off about $4.00 each.  So we went back to the books and bought a few of those.  Annie also found me a nice white purse for $5.00.  I wasn't sure I wanted to buy it for that price, as there were a couple of stains on it, but I'm glad now that I did.  The stains are small and hardly noticed.  The bag looks quite classy, with silver rivets and rings.  Yes, it's cheap and hard faux-leather, but oh well.

Now we hustled back to the theater, as the time was almost upon us.

We sat through dozens of ads and previews (thankfully none bad), plugging our ears often because the sound was so loud.

The sound of the movie wasn't much better--Matthew even stuck in an ear-plug he happened to have in his pocket.

The movie started out quite exciting and intense.  And it kept my attention all the way through. Here's my review I submitted to

"This is a good movie for kids and adults (though some of the violence may be too intense for young children), including lots of action, romance, and a little history. I enjoyed it and thought it was well done for an independent film. The acting was very good, not distracting as in some Christian movies. The script and costuming was quite good. The romance was a little modern and more intimate than I expected for a Christian movie, but overall not too bad. It may have just been the theater, but the sound was so loud we had to plug our ears at times (my brother wore an earplug in one ear). Of course, the graphics were not as good as a Hollywood film, but that's to be expected. I liked the theme of forgiveness not being earned, and it was put in there effortlessly. It kept me riveted; I'd count it a success in the main!"

Yes, the romance was the main thing I didn't like too much.  There were some good points about it, such as the lady seeking advice and approval from God, her mother, and her uncle (her father is dead).  But she does kiss the man before marriage.  And I was disappointed to see that in a conservative Christian movie.  They could have faked it, too, not shown their lips, but I think it did (I looked away a bit), and if the actors were indeed not married to each other, that would not be good.

Overall it was fun.

The guys picked apart all the fallacies or cliches on the way home, including not-perfect graphics.  But for a low-budget film, who can expect something totally amazing?  The guys actually did enjoy it more than they thought they would, so that's a success, too.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Goals for 2015 - Halfway Checkup

More than half of the year has gone by already, so I figured it was time to check to see how I'm doing at my goals, and perhaps adjust them slightly.

Here are my goals I wrote at the beginning of the year and my updates to them in italics:

1. Finish writing/editing my children's story.  (Ah...I did some editing on it, but probably have not finished.)
2. At least attempt a few illustrations for said children's story!  (I haven't really tried this; one of my friends has offered to illustrate it, but we'll see if it works out.)
3. Write more notes (or speak words) of encouragement to people, both Christians and non-Christians, telling of God's grace and salvation. (Haven't really done more of this, sadly.)
4. Spend less time on facebook, unless doing something to help others! (Say, no more than one hour a day. Every bit adds up.) (Again, I'm not doing so well at this, though I think I might be doing pretty well some days.)
5. Polish (and preferably notate) at least three music compositions.  (Well, I started working on one, but do want to finish!)
6. Try at least one new craft or recipe (I probably will try many new ones).  (Hmm. Yes, I've tried a new recipe or two, I believe, but no new crafts, really.  Soon, hopefully!)
7. Drink more water; eat less. (I have sometimes done better at this, but need to renew my efforts.)
8. Exercise (walk, cycle, etc.) at least twice a week. (Ooh, ouch. I should be doing this!)
9. Organize clothes and keep in better organization. (It's hard to keep it that way, but I have organized a few times.)
10. Polish/learn these piano pieces: (Haven't done much on these, yet, though a little on the Brahms. I may not do the Mozart.)
  • Brahms' waltzes (selected)
  • Sonata in C Major (Facile) by Mozart
  • Lullaby by H. Kjerulf
11. Completely memorize these pieces (I have most of them--especially the first one--memorized):
  • Waltz in C# minor by Chopin (I still blank out on the middle, sometimes.)
  • Allemande from French Suite No. 4 by Bach (Still working on this. It's coming.)
12. Memorize at least one psalm (psalm 34) and at least five NT Bible verses. (Still working on this--need to renew my efforts.)
13. Buy a music keyboard and other tools for future music studio (Lord willing)!
14. Go over/relearn all Major and minor (natural, harmonic, & melodic) scales, arpeggios, and inversions (I, IV, V, MmVII). (I may not do this this year, after all.)
15. Learn about cadences and key transitions on piano (from youtube, etc.) (I might still do this.)
16. Read as many of the books I borrowed from my brother and sister-in-law as possible. (I read one so far.)
17. Finish reading at least half of the books I'm currently reading (some are more like reference books, so they don't have to be read this year). (Still not there.)
18. Spend more time in prayer. (I definitely still need to work on this!)

Marie Durand - Book Review

Marie DurandMarie Durand by Simonetta Carr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a beautiful book, with illustrations ranging from paintings to photographs of various places and things, making it extra interesting for children and adults.

It is written matter-of-factually, yet occasionally with imagination.  The main theme of this historical piece is to remain strong in the Lord, not falsifying things (denying the Lord) in order to gain an easy life.  Marie Durand is indeed a woman worthy of note and emulation.

I like the extra "Did you know?" tidbits at the end of the book, as well as the letter written by Marie herself.  That is perhaps the most touching and inspiring of all, for her trust in God is obvious, as well as her encouragement and humility, and it's amazing to be able to read her very words.

My thanks go to Cross Focused Reviews for my complimentary copy.  I was not required to give a positive review; all thoughts are my own.