April 24, 2012

Getting Blind Sided

Fifteen or so years ago, Susan Ashton came out with an album that I love called "Distant Call."  One of the songs on it that particularly resonated with me is called "Blind Side."

Clear to the left, clear to the right
Without a sound it came around
Hit me on the blind side
Look to the front, look to the back
Down for the count I'll tell you how
It hit me on the blind side.
And though I could see
The truth staring right at me
Well I did not ready myself
For the blind side

That is sometimes how I feel about sin, especially the habitual sins that have worn a groove in our souls because they are our "go to" sins.  I have a list of those sins.  The one I am battling right now is food related--letting food be my comforter and my escape hatch.  Another one that I have been battling for a while is perfectionism, which is a very pretty word for a very ugly sin--pride.  These sins feel like security blankets--"blankies."  However, when God gives me a glimpse of them, I see them for what they really are--spiked chains dragging me away from Him, leaving wounds that only He can heal in me and in others.  Then I start taking them off, usually needing His help and definitely needing His grace, wondering how they grew back from the last time I laid them at His feet.

Last week, I was in the middle of a different battle.  This battle had blindsided me because I thought I God had won the last battle sufficiently enough that it had received a death blow.  It turns out that it was only mostly dead.  But God was good.  I cried out to Him and He helped me through it.  He didn't take me out of it and He didn't give me the power to overcome it, but the grace of Jesus covers it and there is where we have ultimate victory.  Maybe this particular war is in it's death throes but I will still have skirmishes until I get to be with Jesus in heaven.

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.  1 Timothy 1:16-17

April 17, 2012

Happy Tax Day

Today is the day that taxes are due.  Hopefully everyone knows this because for the past three months, you have seen somebody, usually a man, dressed up in a cheap Statue of Liberty costume waving a sign inviting you to let them do your income taxes (for a small fee) every five miles.  If you live in a state where you DON'T see this, consider yourself lucky. All I know is that this tax preparation company is in both Arizona and Illinois.

It has been four weeks since we sent in all the correct paperwork to Illinois clarifying my husband's employment status three years ago, when he was laid off and NOT working.  We have yet to receive any acknowledgement from the Illinois Department of Incompetency Unemployment  Office regarding the status of our Federal Income Tax refund, which they confiscated in a misunderstanding initiated by my husband's former employer nearly three years ago.  I wonder if they moved and didn't leave a forwarding address?

Pardon the snark, but there have been several items in the news that make it clear American's trust in the government is horribly misplaced.  This is just a string in a long line of offences that seems to cross political parties.  The "Great Society Program" was supposed to eliminate poverty and it hasn't.  The Social Security program was supposed to take care of retirees and yet, it is facing bankruptcy, no matter how much politicians try to torture the numbers to make them say something different.  How many different laws have been passed since the Stock Market collapse of 1920 to prevent economic disasters and skulldudgery?  The problem with all of these programs is not that the idea is bad, but that they were developed and administered by imperfect human beings.  So I did a little research on the cabinet positions, when they were established, under what President, they were established and how much money they are asking from taxpayers for fiscal year 2013.

Year Est. as Cabinet Pos. President 2013 Requested Budget (in millions)
Dept. of Treasury* 1789 Washington $13
Dept. of Interior 1849 Polk, J. $174
Dept. of Commerce 1903 Roosevelt, T. $7,500
Dept. of Labor 1913 Wilson $17,000
Dept. of Energy 1977 Carter $27,000
Dept. of Justice* 1789 Washington $27,100
Dept. of Housing/Urban Dev. 1965 Johnson, L. $44,000
Secretary of State 1789 Washington $51,600
Dept of Homeland Security 2003 Bush, G.W. $59,000
Dept. of Education 1979 Carter $69,800
Dept. of Transportation 1966 Johnson, L. $74,000
Dept. of Veterans Affairs 1988 Reagan $140,300
Dept. of Ag. 1862 Cleveland $155,000
Dept. of Defense* 1947 Roosevelt, F. (1) $613,900
Dept. of Health & Human Serv. 1953 Eisenhower $940,000
Total Cabinet Level Expenses


To get this information, I merely googled "2013 Budget for the __________".  Some departments presented their information up front and then justified their existence, some spent pages upon pages justifying their existence before presenting their information.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development was the worst.  Here are just a few notes to explain data that may appear mystifying:
1.  The Department of Defense as it exists, was established in 1947 to combine the different branches of the armed forces.  George Washington had a Secretary of the War and John Adams added a Secretary of the Navy, since he had been in charge of developing the Navy during the Revolutionary War.
2.  Washington had an Attorney General, not a Department of Justice.
3.  The Department of Veterans Affairs became a cabinet position under Reagan, though something like it operated since 1811.
4.  Lincoln established the Department of Agriculture, but it didn't become a cabinet position until Grover Cleveland's presidency.
5. The Department of Health and Human Services has undergone many organizational changes.  It used to have the Department of Education under its wing until that Department became a separate entity under Carter's administration.  HHS has the FDA, the Welfare system, Medicare/Medicaid, Centers for Disease Control and National Institute of Health, among other agencies.  This is why it's budget is bigger the the DoD.

This doesn't cover Presidential expenses or other expenses authorized by Congress.  That is another $1.5 Billion dollars.  So that is how part of your tax money is being spent.  Happy Tax Day!

April 13, 2012

Second Session of Game On!: Exercise

KT has organized a second session of the Game On! program and this time, we formed teams.  I am on her team with another lady.  I am down ten pounds, 20% of what I need to lose.  I have traveled this road before only to gain it all back after losing my focus.  This time it is not going to happen.  I have a feeling that several people in Minnesota are planning on playing several more games.  I probably need about five or six more game (28 days each) to get down to my ideal weight.

Before I started the first session, my exercise involved walking the dog, leisurely.  I had tried yoga at a downtown Mesa studio and enjoyed it, but the kids' schedules got in the way.  I never felt like I had the time to exercise because I had in my mind that I had to work out long and hard.  And then, sometimes after exercising several weeks, I would have problems of getting too tired because I was working too hard.  One of the major components of the Game On! program is exercising six times a week for at least 20 minutes a day.  Food is worth 30 points a day, but you can mess up a meal and only be out six points.  Exercise is worth 20 points and is an all or nothing deal.  So missing exercise will impact your points in a big way.  You do get one day off of exercise, meaning that you get the points for not doing the exercise.  So I had to figure out a way to exercise six days a week.  First of all, knowing that I only had to work out for twenty minutes was a big mental breakthrough.  I can definitely find twenty minutes in my schedule.  

The website for Game On! has some ideas for exercises.  One of them was the Hi Intensity Interval training.  They used running as an example, but I have also used it for riding my bicycle.  It involves doing something at a high pace and then at a lower pace.  Most of the time, I strap on running shoes and alternate between walking and running around the neighborhood.  The first month, I would walk for a minute and run for a minute.  I had a route that took about 25 minutes to complete with the last few minutes reserved as a cool down period.  I used it bicycling, too, cycling at a 15-18 mph pace for a minute or two and then slowing down to a 12-14 mph pace.  That is a little harder because, as a former bicycling enthusiast, I feel the need to get my gear on and I usually have to check the tires and such.  So running and walking are my more typical work out.

I also like yoga as a low impact exercise.  It stretches and strengthens at the same time.  But once again, I can't afford, time-wise to go to a class.  So I started checking out digital videos from my public library.  My other SIL, Kristi, who is an avid yoga practicer, told me about a website, www.yogadownloads.com for different videos.  They have a lot of 20 minute classes that can be downloaded as audio files for free. I had just enough experience from attending a class to feel comfortable.  I will usually do this twice a week.

The last exercise I do once a week is also on the Game On! site, called the High Intensity training.  It is almost pure strength training and is better if you just read the program here.  It once again involves strapping on shoes.  When I first started, I could barely finish the first repetition of exercises and my whole body screamed at me for days whenever I moved.  Now, it whimpers a little bit.  I make sure to stretch out well after each repetition.  This also takes me the longest time.

Sometimes, I am tired and so instead of yoga or anything involving the words "hi intensity", I make sure to walk my dog twenty minutes at a 15 min-mile pace.  Because he wants to sniff at things, mark his territory and sometimes leave a deposit for me to clean up, my official pace is less than that, but all that matters is the twenty minutes and brisk pace.  

This week has been hard.  It was getting in the 90's in mid-afternoon here and that means the bedrooms, which are upstairs, got pretty warm, too.  I hadn't been sleeping well.  Fortunately, a cool front came through bringing highs back into the lower 80's (Thank you God!), delaying the inevitable for a while longer. However, I have kept on so that I don't let my team mates down and feel stronger for it.

"But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
1 Corinthians 15:57

April 10, 2012

Lenten Lessons

I have read the Bible from cover to cover at least three times and I am starting my fourth.  I have read other books of the Bible in depth at least once.  Every Easter, I read through one of the gospels. I am not saying this to brag, but to demonstrate the reason I read it so much:  each time I read the Bible, I read something that hasn't caught my attention in the past.

This year has been no different.  For Bridgetender Homeschool, we have been reading through Matthew for the season of Lent.  And the Easter message on Sunday was from Matthew 28:1-10. Here are some of my notes from our readings:
  • Matthew 1:1-16 is a list of Jesus' lineage.  There are four women in the list--Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheeba.  At least three of these women were Gentiles and one, Bathsheeba, was married to a Gentile before becoming David's wife.  If God lets non-Jews to be part of Jesus' human ancestry, wouldn't that foreshadow His desire to bring people from all nations into His family?
  • In Matthew 4:1-11, Satan tempted Jesus three times.  The first time, he tempted Jesus with physical gratification and Jesus answered the temptation with Scripture. Satan counter-attacked Jesus by mis-using Scripture and Jesus refuted it with properly-applied Scripture.  Satan tempted Jesus with worldly power and Jesus replied with Scripture.  Isn't that a good argument for memorizing scripture?
  • In Matthew 4:13-15, Jesus  moved to Capernaum.  In his lifetime, he had three other places that he called home--Nazareth, Bethlehem (birthplace), and Egypt (refuge).  All four of these homes were prophesied hundreds of years before he was born.  Capernaum is the first place in which he was able to choose where he lived.  
  • Matthew 6 begins with Jesus telling people not to make a spectacle of their faith to get other people's approval.  This commandment is to fulfill the commandment to worship God alone.  Then, when he performs his first miracle as recorded by Matthew, he directs the man he has healed to tell no one, but to go to the priests and offer sacrifices to God for being healed.  He actually walks the talk!
  • Jesus never used manipulations or salesmanship when calling his disciples in Matthew 4:17-22.  He just gives a word to follow him and they do.  Then he shows his disciples what to do by preaching God's word, His good news and healing people.  The Word speaks and does, once again.
  • Many times, the Pharisees try to trap Jesus into doing or saying something that will bring the wrath of Rome on him.  They try and trick him into discrediting God (Matthew 12:1-14; 15:1-9; 16:1-4; 19:1-11; 21:23-27; 22:15-40).  Jesus avoids each and every trap and manages to stump the Pharisee with just a few questions (Matthew 21:23-27; 22:41-46).
  • Anyone who thinks Jesus is meek, mild and loving, without anger has not read Matthew 23.
  • In Matthew 28:1-10, the big, burly, Roman soldiers, the terror of the known world, see one of God's angles and faint like delicate flowers in the desert summer sun.  The women who had followed Jesus while he was living come to finish the burial process, see the angel and maintain enough command of their senses to actually listen to him.  I do not think that this is evidence that "girls rule and boys drool."  Instead, I wonder if the men fainted because what they saw as unbelievers is the wrath of God emanating from the angel, while the women saw God's grace and mercy from their time with Jesus.
It was a great season of Lent and a great Easter weekend.  I hope yours was great, too.  Now we have entered the season of Pentecost, when Jesus' disciples wait for the promised Holy Spirit to annoint them with the same power that Jesus has.  Matt Maher has a great blog about Easter and post-Easter here.

April 6, 2012

Beautiful, Scandalous Night

 This song probably counts as a "Golden Oldie" in the CCM world :-). This version is sung by Sixpence None the Richer and Bebo Norman on the album "City on a Hill:  Gathering."  However, I love the blending of words that seem to be opposites. The song reminds me that nothing is impossible with God. He can blend justice and mercy, power and love, our free will and His sovereignty. He has made a universe so complex that after studying it for thousands of years, scientists are still baffled. And only He can wash us purely clean with the blood of His son, Jesus Christ.  Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.  Phillipians 3:7-9

April 2, 2012

Game On! Competition Results

Last Thursday was the final weigh-in of the Game On! Diet competition initiated by my SIL, KT that started in March. I did not win the grand prize or even the runner up prize, but I did lose 16% of the weight I want to lose, got more consistent sleep, kept my desk and kitchen more organized, started a doable exercise routine that has me hooked on exercise again and had some victories in a long standing battle to overcome my family habit of yelling. I have more energy and have been less grumpy, which means that my family is benefitting from the changes I have been making through the plan. I feel like a winner anyway. The biggest loss of points came in the first week from my choice of bed habit to lose and good habit to gain. One of the problems that God told me was that I was aiming for perfection, an impossible goal to achieve. So I discussed my dilemma with the points keeper about modifying the definition of the goal without actually changing the goal, which brings on a 50 point penalty. The next game starts tomorrow, the day after I return from visiting my food- and dessert-loving family. My brother is a chef extraordinaire and my parents are incredible cooks and professional bakers of cakes, cupcakes and other delectable desserts with a house full of sugary goodness.  I worked out the entire three days I was there and was successful in keeping to the portion sizes and protein/carb/fat ratios until Saturday night, when we ate out at a Memphis BBQ restaurant.  I will see how successful I will be when I get on the scale tomorrow.  If you hear a groan of anguish, you will know that I gained weight.  This time, we are forming teams.  I didn't find anyone in AZ to team with me (insert martyr's sigh), so I will team up with KT and one of her friends (yay!).

My bad habit to drop:  spend no more than 30 minutes each day on the computer in non-work related activities (homeschooling, church, cub scouts)
My good habit to encourage:  spend 5 minutes a day each organizing my desk and my bedroom.

Game On!