Monday, December 28, 2009

Lemony Snicket and A Series of Unfortunate Events

I enjoy the mystery surrounding Mr. Lemony Snicket: the fact that the pictures of the author are always blurry or that they hide his face in some way. One always glimpses him from a distance or in part, but the whole is never to be revealed. We all enjoy a little mystery. It keeps us guessing.

His 13 well-loved and admired books chronicling the lives of the three Baudelaire orphans: Violet, Klaus and baby sister Sunny, lead readers on an imaginative and unfortunate journey that one is often tempted to put down for fear of arriving at a morose and regretful ending.  The author encourages the reader to put the book down various times, and to not even to continue to read it, if one will be disappointed or put out by unhappy endings, for each story is about all the bad things that happen to these children, beginning with the untimely death of their wealthy parents.

There are consistent themes that I have found to appear in his books. One is that grown-ups do not listen to what children have to say and are easily duped by the bad guy. Another is that families stick together through it all and that despite the awfulness of life, we should never give up on fighting the good fight.

He is vaguely described at the back of each book, in the description of the author:
"Lemony Snicket was born in a mall town where the inhabitants were suspicious and prone to riot. He now lives in the city. During his spare time he gathers evidence and is considered something of an expert by leading authorities."
His books are dedicated in beloved ways to "Beatrice." I've only read two of his books and have yet to begin the third, but I just know that Beatrice was a special woman and that Lemony must miss her and mourns her still. By way of example,

Book the First: The Bad Beginning
"To Beatrice--- darling, dearest, dead.

Book the Second: The Reptile Room
"For Beatrice--- My love for you shall live forever. You, however, did not."

Book the Third: The Wide Window
"For Beatrice--- I would much prefer if you were alive and well."

His books introduce children to different popular phrases, cliches and vocabulary, which are then defined and used in the author's writings to enhance the vocabulary of the reader, in an entertaining and interesting fashion. The man, is quite witty.

Mr. Snicket's website holds many treasures including video clips, games, book excerpts, and information on the author and illustrator.

If I could pick a handful of people, with whom I could enjoy a cup of tea and an intimate chat, this author would make the list. This entry is dedicated to you Lemony. Wherever and whomever you are. Thanks for putting pen to paper. Enjoy your time on Bela's yacht and keep gazing at your faded photograph of Beatrice. I'm sure you miss her still, like I miss my loved one.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A How-to "Thank You" Note

Before your presents can be thoroughly enjoyed, thanks should be given to the giver. And I'm not just talking about the initial, vocal "thank you!" that one exclaims upon opening one's gifts. I'm talking about the snail mail labor of love that you thoughfully write, stamp and post after the festivities are over.

I am so thankful that I was taught to write thank you cards to people when they give me gifts. Sure, when you were little, it wasn't always FUN to write the notes when you'd rather be playing with the gifts, but a little delayed gratification didn't hurt.

Check out this link on how to write a good thank you note that will be appreciated by whoever receives it!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Prize-Winning Fruit

Why do I feel slightly more wise this morning? Is it because I'm drinking coffee from my Houghton Class of '99 coffee mug? Nope. I think it's because I'm spending some time in the Word this morning.

Do you ever think about what it takes to raise prize winning fruit? You must start with good seed, fertile soil, and take extra special care of your plants so that they can produce that blue ribbon fruit. But how does the Gardner do it?

In my Bible this afternoon, I read about Jesus teaching his disciples about the Vine and the Branches and it led me to understand more about how God shapes us as we remain in Jesus and allow him to nourish us.

Jesus Teaches about the Vine and the Branches
John 15:1-17 NIV

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cutsoff every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."
Jesus is our vine and we grow as part of him, as his branches. Father God is our gardener. Gardners care for plants. God sees us as an extension of his Son Jesus and he's not only watching to see that we bear fruit he's working to see that we do.

God wants us to draw our nourishment and our strength from Jesus. The Bible says we can't bear fruit unless we remain in the vine (v.4). But, even if we are bearing fruit we still get cut back. He is still going to take his shears to us. And the shears he uses are sharp. Have you ever tried to cut something with a dull knife? If you had, you'd discover that you usually don't get a clean cut. Dull tools make your work harder and if you use them, what you're cutting gets crushed, torn or damaged. Praise the Lord that his tools are sharp! The Bible says God prunes us. Now, Father God the Gardener prunes his branches to direct their growth.

I did some research to find out the reasons why gardeners prune. Here's what one internet site told me:

Any overgrown, or struggling plant will benefit from a little pruning. Even a healthy plant benefits by a trimming from time to time. It doesn't matter whether it's a tree or a shrub, a bush, flowers, or your vegetable plants. They all benefit by pruning and trimming.

With few exceptions, plants can be pruned anytime during the year. Pruning makes your plant look better and feel better too! It allows the plants "support system" to send vital energy and nutrients a smaller area and to newer, more vigorous growth. The result.......a lusher, healthier, and better looking plant!

There are several reasons to prune plants:

To remove dead , weak, or unsightly branches.
To re-invigorate plant leaves and branches grow faster.
To reshape the plant into a more desirable shape.
To produce denser, bushier appearance.
To thin out growth, providing more air circulation and light.
To limit plant size.
Let's examine these reasons to prune.

"To remove dead, weak, or unsightly branches." If you don't have a pulse, you're nigh on to getting there, or you are spiritually an ugly person, look out! God is coming to garden in your heart.

"To re-invigorate plant growth." If you've been spiritually stagnate and you haven't experienced growth in your life, you better take a good long look in the mirror and think about why that might be. Are you in the Word? Are you praying? Are you in fellowship with other believers? Do you even remember what the vine looks like?

"To reshape the plant into a more desirable shape." You might be growing yourself ugly. You might be shooting out a branch here and another over here and then looking up at God and saying, "How 'bout this Lord?" And God picks up his shears and says, "How about you let me take over and shape you into the image of my Son?"

"To produce denser, bushier appearance." Some people are just throwing shoots off in all directions instead of concentrating on growing strong in a couple of areas. They're spreading themselves too thin. God wants his branches strong so that they can withstand all kinds of weather, so he picks up his shears, and trims us back so that we can grow strong and sturdy in him.

"To thin out growth, providing more circulation and light." Sometimes we're just too darn thick. We are so thick, we're choking ourselves to death. We have too much going on and we're literally killing ourselves. We don't have room to breath, and one thing is pressing on another and nothing is healthy in our lives. God steps in and makes room for that his life-giving light and air to circulate and give us what we need.

"To limit plant size." Finally, God doesn't want us getting to big for our pots or for our flower bed. If we start getting too big for our britches, God prunes us back not just for our own good, but for the good of our neighbors. He doesn't want us to overcrowd, or become malnourished or over-reach our boundaries he has put there for the health of the plant. Wild, untamed plants seem more like weeds than objects of beauty and fruitfulness. God trims us back to limit our size. He knows how big we should be.

If we eventually fail to bear fruit, we get cut off, we are left to wither and then we are thrown into the fire (v.6). I don't know about you, but I think I would rather be cut back than cut off. I'm going to start looking to the vine for nourishment and welcome the Gardner's shears, trusting that what he does in my life is for my growth and benefit. I want to remain in Jesus and trust that the food he provides me with, will help me to bear much fruit, so that one day, the Gardner will see my prize-winning fruit and be proud of me.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It Doesn't Feel Like Christmas

The longer you live, the more opportunities you have to encounter bad things and dark valleys. Things like infertitlity, poverty, joblessness and the deaths of friends and loved ones. On November 27th I lost my Grammy, and yesterday, December 11th an old classmate and team mate from HFL, Brooke and her fiance Tristan were killed in a traffic accident that killed two others and left a third in critical condition. Additionally yesterday, my Dad's best friend from high school took his own life in front of his daughter in the midst of an argument.

I'm working on cold number two in as many weeks, and we're short on money. This year, no Christmas tree, no presents and our computer died taking my entire I-Tunes and most of my photography library with it (back your shizzle up on CD people).

I mentioned that my Grammy passed away. Last night, before I got the news of the traffic fatalities and the suicide, I was trying to listen to a cassette tape recording of my Grammy preaching at a womens' bible study at Penn Yan Bible Church. I really wanted to hear her voice and hear her testimony. One minute into her oration, the tape was eaten by the machine. My husband managed to extract the tape, with minor damage and I called the church and they're trying to locate the master tape to make me a CD copy. I left them my number so that they could call me to let me know if they have any luck finding the tape.

Wednesday night, I gave a message to the Pioneer Girls about God making good things out of bad things. I can't wait to see what he does with the last several months. Bring it on Abba Father!

Friday, December 11, 2009

"Christ" is a Dirty Word in School

The more I look around and the older I get, the more I notice how Christmas is dissipating, dissolving into commercial nothingness, its historical roots passing into history.  Kids don't go to Sunday school anymore so they don't know their Bibles or about Christ's birth or the reason he came to Earth. And we aren't allowed to mention him in schools. "Christ" is a dirty word at school.

We can't have Christmas trees anymore, we have mitten trees and holiday trees, but no mention of Christmas. We can't risk showing favoritism and neglecting other holidays, be they newly made up or traditional. Now we have winter break instead of Christmas vacation. How sad that Christ isn't BEING erased from our schools, he HAS been erased.

And another thing. It's not cool to be "moral" anymore, (tolerant yes, but moral no) because having a sense of morality is akin to being judgemental. The world says, "Anything Goes" as long as we aren't hurting anybody or telling anybody else what to do. You turn a blind eye to me and I probably won't sue you. Because if I do something nasty, and raunchy it's my choice to parade it in front of you (Adam Lambert) and your choice not to watch (it's your fault you weren't expecting it). Don't judge me because of my personal expression and political statement or I'll accuse you of discrimination. No thanks, Adam. I decidedly DON'T like your kind of entertainment.

Having a sense of right and wrong, what some call a moral compass, is frowned upon. Political correctness is a democracy...the mainstream acceptance/tolerance of all things morally abhorant will mean our undoing. The old expression "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything," holds true. 'Nough said. Seasons Greetings? I think not. Merry Christmas!

P.S. Thanks for being tolerant of my post. I appreciate it.