10.16.2014

My Life As a Painting

I'm telling you, that guest post giveaway did not disappoint! Today, I'm excited to share this post from winner, Julia Frey. I hope you love it as much as I do. Welcome, Julia!
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My Life As a Painting

One of my most favourite places in the world is The National Gallery in London. I try to make a quick stop there as often as my life allows. Although it contains an astoundingly large collection of European art I am always drawn to the Impressionists. Every time I walk up to that section I get so overcome with emotion that I am sure everyone else can see my visible goosebumps. There is something special about the Impressionists that sets them apart in my mind and in the world of art.
For one thing, the paintings don’t look realistic. Early Impressionists faced criticism not only because the paintings looked blurry, childlike, unskilled and undignified but also because they seemed to be interested in the sort of common, almost mundane subjects that were beneath the attention of traditional painters. Like many others I particularly love their depiction of light: soft, dreamy, and life-giving. But rather than recognizing the incredible beauty of this new style the majority of early onlookers described their work as a BIG MESS. 
When at age 14 I first learned about the Impressionist movement, I also learned that to appreciate paintings done in that style, you have to step back, quiet your soul and allow the painting speak to you. From the first time I’d done that I became a committed fan.
Monet's Impression, sunrise
Ever so often I feel that my life is very much like a blurry, moody and prosaic impressionist painting, with the only thing that is clear being the Light always present within it. I am often the poor soul standing too close to a Monet in the National Gallery, unable to discern beauty and purpose in the chaos. I am peering impatiently in the present, struggling to work out what is the purpose and meaning of it all while demanding the Artist to explain himself and bring things into focus. 
A few years back I was living through time of chaos and uncertainty, one of those wonderful times where what could go wrong, did. The beauty in it all was not easily found. Although in my better moments I could catch glimpses of something special, all too often they ended up buried in the mess. 
My family had moved to a new country, the rules of which seemed unfamiliar and harsh. We came as missionaries and even as I type the word I wince because all kinds of misconceptions that are built into it through the centuries of Christendom. Our world is changing which should impact how we do missions - especially in Europe - but we were learning quickly and painfully that not everyone back home was “in sync” with that idea. 
To make matters worse, while my husband fit in nicely by a sheer virtue of being a man I was desperately searching for my place. In the end I had to walk away empty-handed. 
Disappointment was one ugly word that hung over my life. Frustration and bitterness were starting to fester, mixed in with normal life things like paying rent in one of the world’s most outrageously expensive cities. You might guess why, with the ‘big mess’ my life appeared to be, I doubted everything. 
What shook me out of that funk was a quick stop at the National Gallery, an “aha moment” that clarity was not at all what the Impressionist artists set out to achieve. Their goal was to jolt you, make you think and stir you. 
 All I had to do was to step back from the action, allow my soul to rest quietly with Jesus and suddenly I was able to perceive his faithful and loving hand at work, even in the midst of my mess. I still didn’t see his purpose but I was able to trust him again. 
If you are in a similar place, studying your life far too closely in an attempt to figure out what is in front of you, try to remember the cardinal rules of enjoying art:
1. Step away from the painting.
2. Quiet your soul.
3. Allow it to move you.
After all, the meaning of our life is not in the fine details but in the overall impression we leave on the people around us, and in the beauty that the Father draws out from the greatest chaos of our own lives.
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About Julia: 

"Moving to England as a missionary along with my husband Brad and our two children didn’t seem like a big life changing event. After all, I’ve called Russia, US, Philippines, Canada and now UK my home for the last 15 years, so adjusting to a new culture was going to be a breeze, right? But different countries present different challenges and opportunities and through my blog I share bits of mine cooked into delicious food on my blog Vikalinka, at least whenever I have free time away from my day job as an English teacher.”







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Do the details of your life ever distract you from the big picture? 

10.08.2014

Did You Say *Shorts*?

While I've never met her in real life, our paths cross with frequency in internet land, so I can't even tell you how happy I was when my little raffle generator randomly chose Diana Trautwein's name as the winner of a guest spot here. When she admitted a little trepidation about writing for you people, "What do they possibly want to hear from a nearly 70-year-old retired pastor-at-mid-life with a passel of grandkids and a creaky body?", I replied, "The world has a lot to learn from a nearly 70-year-old retired pastor-at-mid-life with a passel of grandkids and a creaky body. We're listening!" Welcome, Diane! And thank you.
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Did You Say Shorts?

Getting old is ripe with indignities. Go ahead, ask me how I know. I watch my 93-year-old mom take daily steps further into the haze of dementia, and I fear for the future. And then I realize -- the future is here. Yowza.

In four months, I will be 70 years old. 7-0. I remember struggling a bit with 35, taking a deep breath at 40, sort of reveling in 50 and feeling resolute about 60. But 70?

The word that comes to mind is sobering.

10.02.2014

FREEDOM ISN'T FREE! ...Actually, it's not even a bargain. (Plus a $50 Freedom Culture giveaway!)


If there's one thing Americans love, it's food!

...I mean... freedom, Americans love freedom. 

And if Americans know one thing about freedom, it's that freedom isn't free. Oh, man, we love that slogan -- it's everywhere around here. We declare this truth with our starred and striped bumper stickers and license plate frames, lawn signs, tee shirts, rubber bracelets, phone cases, key chains, and tattoos. Liberty and Justice are our birthright, and we're pretty serious about letting everybody know. 

Our history books, bursting with accounts of wars fought and people lost, have taught us to value our freedom. Our Moms and Dads, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, friends, and neighbors paid for our liberty in the currency of lives and limbs.

Freedom isn't free. This we know. This we understand at a core level.

We even celebrate our beloved independence as a nation every year with fire works and beer and BBQ, to remind us that war is terrible and millions have been maimed and killed by it -- but not just so we would be free to get drunk and light money on fire. They died so we would be both protected by our government and free from its tyranny. The flaming drunk part is just a bonus.

That's just talking about regular old Americans, I haven't even mentioned the Christian Americans. Oh, yes. Christian Americans dig freedom even more than dirty heathen Americans, because we revel in yet another kind of freedom.

I'm talkin'bout Freedom in Christ, baby!

Naturally, "Freedom in Christ" and its variations often proudly accompany the "Freedom isn't Free" thing on Bible covers and bookmarks, refrigerator magnets, hoodies, bumper stickers and ceramic figurines of Jesus holding the lifeless body of a soldier, cop, or firefighter under the shadow of a waving America flag. (Talk about blessed! First we were born into a land of wealth and liberty, and then we were adopted into God's family and gained His inheritance, too.  WHAT?! I KNOW! We are, like, the freest, you guys.)

And it's all because someone was willing to pay the price.

I am free, physically and spiritually, because of the sacrifice of another.

I'm free because someone decided I was worth it.

I'm worth the loss. I'm worth the cost. I'm worth the giving up and the laying down of life.

... I'm just not all that willing to pay it forward. 

9.25.2014

The Very Worst Buyers Guide to Ethical Shopping.

When you talk about making a conscious effort to buy fair trade products from ethically responsible sources, you'll find there are A LOT of people who share that burden and sincerely want to change there consumer habits, but who don't know where to start.

 So today, instead of a nifty little raffle only one person can win, I want to give everyone a comprehensive shopping guide to aid in the search for positive ways to impact the world with purchase power. 

Shopping season nearly is upon us. *shudder*

Christmas is just around the corner, and I bet a few of you have already begun to accumulate the mountain of carefully selected gifts you'll give this year. The normal people rest of us are just gearing up, collecting ideas, making lists, stalking Amazon for the cheapest perfect expression of our obligation to give everyone we're forced to interact with a present for Jesus' birthday love for our family and friends on Christmas. There really could be no better time to share a buyers guide for all you conscientious consumers than right now! 

But there is one teeeeeny tiiiiiny problem.