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The Bra and the Mousetrap

"...I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ - Mathew 25:40

Dear Readers,

     This past Saturday, a group of ladies in my Discipleship Class had been given the opportunity to serve those less fortunate at a transition home for women.  The organization helps women who have been in prison or have come from other difficult circumstances. They help prepare them to reenter society and become productive citizens.  As a class, we've been praying for the Lord to bring us out of our boxes.  We wanted Him to provide us with new and uncomfortable situations...so that we could grow and learn to be Jesus to anybody and everybody, no matter what the situation or surroundings may be.  He answered on this Saturday in a mighty way!

     Upon entering the building, the coordinator immediately burst into tears and asked us to pray for her.  She was clearly overwhelmed with the many aspects of running such a place.  The volunteer-to-need ratio was clearly unbalanced.  On top of that, her paying job as a realtor, is taking a big hit in this economy.  In short, you could see the weight of the world on her shoulders.  We, of course, counted it a privilege to pray for this woman right there on the spot.  We thanked the Lord for the wonderful work that she was doing and asked the Lord to fortify her efforts with His strength and to bless her with volunteers to take some of the load off of her.

     There had been some miscommunication about our coming.  We had thought we would be doing some cleaning inside the home, but the lady didn't know we were coming and had nothing for us to do inside the home.  However, the building next door, had been stuffed roof-to-ceiling with donated clothes, toys, and household goods.  She asked if we could sort through and divide the things into catagories (girls clothes, boys clothes, ect.)  Because we thought we'd be cleaning indoors, most of us dressed lightly.  As it turned out, the building they had us work in was $1700 past due on the electric bill and therefore no electricity, water, and more importantly, no heat!  With the tempretures being in the 30's, this was a bone-chilling task.

     But to work we went!  It was the biggest mess that we had ever seen.  Most of us were freezing and it was miserable.  It struck me how small a town Goldsboro is...we were just a few short miles from our church...and yet, we were in a neighborhood that was worlds apart from anything we know.  Alarms and sirens were blaring throughout the day.  

     Because I like to be warm (y'all know about my personal relationship to my electric blanket), I grumbled both inwardly and verbally about how cold it was.  Even after 6 years of living in Alaska, I don't think I have ever been this cold.  Of course, in Alaska, one prepares by having parkas, gloves, scarves, ect.  You don't really think about artic survival in downtown G'Boro, North Carolina.  Eventually, I stopped my whining (OK, I just lessened it a bit) and remembered what I had asked my Lord and Savior for!  I wanted Him to make me uncomfortable...to get me out of my box!  He did just that!  I said a special prayer that night for all the people who are homeless and have to sleep in that cold.  I prayed for those whom were without power due to the snow & ice storms.  And I thanked God for my warm home, which is far from a mansion, but has heat and a warm bathtub.  Had I ever thanked Him for those things before?  I couldn't remember, so I say not.

     So, as we worked and worked, sorting pants and dresses and shoes and jackets...we were very saddened by some of the donations.  Dolls with no heads, clothes that smelled, were torn, and were stained beyond repair.  Board games and puzzles with missing pieces.  Garbage bags that looked like someone just emptied a dumpster in.  On two seperate occassions, we found school portraits of beautiful little girls wadded up and thrown in.  How sad that someone didn't treasure those pictures enough to keep them.  We pulled out used and unwashed undergarments, for Pete's sake!  Disgusting beyond words! The moment that really stung my heart was when I was digging through one bag and I pulled this old nasty bra from the bag and attached to it was this sticky black tray...which I was informed was a mousetrap!  Ewww!  I screamed and threw the bra across the room.  We had a good laugh about it...mostly about my uptown girl reaction and my reluctance to stick my hand back in the bag, lest the mouse be in there somewhere (Praise God, the mouse must've gotten away!)  ...but after I calmed down, I really was sad.

     Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of nice things, even some brand new clothes...but we threw away as much as we kept.  It really got me to thinking about how we view people who are less fortunate or struggling.  Do we not value them enough to give them our best?  Or do we think so little of them that we use their situation to dump our trash on them?  Do we think they are so degraded that they will take anything and everything?  What Momma wants to give her little girl a doll with a missing arm or her son a firetruck with missing wheels or a puzzle with missing pieces?  Not being able to provide for your family, I would think, would be a very low place to be emotionally.  To have to ask organizations like this one for help, I would imagine, would take a great dose of pride swallowing and humbling.  Why do people think that their trash is good enough for those who have less?  Does it make them feel like they've helped?  Would you feel charitable after giving someone your shoes with the soles detached on the bottom?  

     I would just ask you to think a little more the next time you go through your daughter's closet or your son's toy box.  If you wouldn't wrap it up and give it to your child again, please don't think it's good enough for those children on the otherside of town.  If Jesus came to the door and was cold, would you offer him that nice jacket hanging in the hall closet or would you go in the attic and dig out that threadbare coat with the big hole in it?  

     You might not think that it's the same thing, but according to Matthew 25:40, it is exactly the same thing.  "...when you did it to one of the least of these...you were doing it to me."

     Don't stop donating!  There are people out there that could use the shoes that no longer go with your wardrobe.  There is a little girl who has always wanted a Barbie doll and your daughter has more than she can count.  Don't stop giving...but stop and think about what you are giving.  And while you're at it, why not ask God to bless the hands that will receive the things you've boxed or bagged up.

     One other point...Some might say that these people are in the situations that they are in, by their own choices.  That's true for many of them.  Some feel entitled, some have made choices that landed them in jail, some just don't have any direction in their lives.  But there are also those that have just had the world hit them smack in the face.  Some of them had a home 2 months ago and now have nothing.  ...It's not up to us to make that distinction or pass judgement.  That would be stealing the glory from God.  

     "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:7  

     All of God's people can benefit from your gifts that are given in love.  And the truth is that none of us are entitled to the gift that Jesus gave to us...but because He loved us and valued us, He gave the ultimate gift.  Pay it forward!

Thankful for you,

Belinda-Marie


     


 

Pets in Heaven?


Dear Readers,

"Mamma?  Will Frasier go to heaven?"  ...Perhaps the most dreaded question to parents of animal-loving families!  Christian parents, in particular, I think, have a difficult time with this one.  I know I do. 

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you'll know that we've been having some major behavioral issues with our cat, Dr. Frasier Crane.  He's been eliminating outside the box.  We've ruled out medical issues and we've tried changing brands of litter, adding more litterboxes, bought very expensive pheromone sprays, ect.  We're just about out of options and of course, this can't continue.  We are going to take him to the vet one more time to try and find some way to correct this issue.  ...but unless a miracle happens, we have begun to realize that Frasier may have to go.  We hope to find him a new home, but there aren't a lot of people lining up the door ready to adopt a cat with elimination issues.  So, we may have to euthanize him.  ...so that's the scenario.

I had a little talk with Brady to prepare him for what might happen...and then came the expected, "Do animals go to heaven?"  When Steven asked this question many years ago, I said, "Of course they do!"  I mean, why go there, if you can step around it?  ...As I've matured as a parent, I've learned that it's better to be honest with our kids.  They become better individuals if they learn the art of discussion and to seek answers through a biblical scope...and so without taking my 6 year-old down a long theological roller coaster, I just answered, "Honey, I don't know.  I have a peace that our pets will be in heaven, but I do not know for sure.  The Bible doesn't say."

OK, OK!  All you Chuck Colson's out there...just hear me out before you jump on me.  I have many many wonderful friends, to include Pastors/Chaplains, who have clearly far better theological knowledge in their little pinkies, than I will ever have, and they are of the firm belief that animals are soul-less and therefore will not be in Heaven.  I strive through Bible Study to stock my storehouse with all the Zhodiates, I can get in there...but let's face it...I'm a remedial Christian at best.  I'm why they came out with the NIV.  I have the Gospel engraved in my heart and ready to share at any given opportunity, and I (most of the time) have a fervor to serve the Lord...but I will never be able to disect the scriptures the way that some do.  Anyway, I know that there are firm believers that animals are not people and therefore will not be in heaven.  I respect that view, but until I see a definite "Thou Shall Not Be Fido in Heaven" in the Word of God, I say it's not a settled issue. 

Here's what I DO know for sure:
  1. I am the way, the truth and the life: no man come to the Father, but by Me. - John 14:6 ...The Bible makes if very clear that the majority of the people will not make it into heaven (Matthew 7:13-14).  Therefore, it is eternally important that one gets right with God or you will not be seeing your dog or anything else of a pleasant nature in the afterlife.  Seeing your pet, of course, should not be your motivation for seeking salvation, but in the context of this bloggarticle, I use that as a possible benefit of eternal life in heaven.  Jesus Christ is the one and only "Man's Best Friend."
  2. It's not going to matter if Roofus is there or not.  We are going to be so filled with the Glory of God that joy will be the only emotion that we will ever feel again.  (Revelations 21:4) Oh, Jesus...Come Quickly!!!!
  3. Animals are not people and do not have immortal souls!  God called them good, He called us VERY GOOD.  A clear distinction!  So, animals will not be ressurected in the spiritual realm, as Christ believing humans will be. (Ecclesiastes 3 does mention "spirit" of the animal, but I'm pretty sure it's not the same thing.  I don't know.)
That being said, in particularly point #3, does no soul = no heaven?  I don't believe that.  God took such care in creating this earth.  He loves His creation.  "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" - Mathew 6:26  Again, we see here a clear distinction between animal and man.  We are not in kinship with our pets.  We outrank them, so-to-speak.  However, the passage also indicates a caring of the animals from God.  He does value them.  He provided animals as a source of food (sorry PETA, God has OK'd the cheeseburger! Psalm 104:14)  , but he also provided them for our pleasure, our earthy joy.  Anybody with five senses can clearly see that dogs and cats have individual personality.  They are not just furry drones walking around.  God took great care to make sure that no two dogs or two cats are the same.  Anyone who happens to lack a sense (sight, hearing, or any other impairment) and has had the blessing of an Assistance Dog, can testify to animal's intelligence.  They have the ability to think & act on some level.  Inferior to man, but intelligence is present (although some of those who make our news today, have me wondering exactly who is the smarter of the two.)

There are many other scriptures that might indicate that God has acknowledement and provisional relationship to animals.  Psalm 104 is a great pictorial account of animals interacting with God and He with His creation.  Psalm 148 says all of creation Praises the Lord and animals are included in that (vs 10.) 

OK, so I'm 99% positive that God has surrounded Himself in His Kingdom with the things He took delight in to create.  Trees, flowers, streams, and animals.  But the question remains:
 "Do our animals, our pets, go to be with God when their life on earth is over?"  I like to think so and it gives me peace to let them go when the time comes.  Again, I don't have any place in scripture to take you to that affirms this, so it just comes from a sense of knowing.  I pray, as with all situations, that the Holy Spirit will guide my thoughts, actions, and understanding...and so I'm going to believe that it's so.  if I'm right, Praise the Lord!  If I got it wrong, I ask forgiveness if I ever mislead anyone with my reasoning...and I still Praise the Lord!  To balance that, I affirm (I hope) that the Christians who do not believe that animals go to heaven, also seek that same guidance from the Holy Spirit.  I am not claiming, at all, to be more spiritually connected than anyone else!  Please know that!!!  I'm just sharing my thought process.

In the interest of full-disclosure, I should tell you that God has given me an über-sensitivity to animals.  I have had so many instances in my young life in which people have let me down and hurt me, that there came a time where I completely shut my heart off to pretty much everybody.  I mean, I still had relationships with family and friends, but there was always a barrier.  I closely guarded my heart and just didn't let people in.  I turned to my pets.  I'm an equal-opportunity dog & cat girl...love both species!  They are soft, loving, comforting...they listen...they keep your secrets...and they just love you know matter what.  All of this for the simple exchange of some food and management.  It's the best deal in town, aside from God's Grace, Mercy, and Forgiveness!  ...Over the past 10-12 years, God has really worked in my heart and have allowed me to break the seal where people are concerned.  I now have the capacity to fit as many of you in my heart as I can cram in there!  At times, I still get cautious and it's never an easy process to love someone, but Praise the Lord for His good work in me!  Even at the expense of getting hurt, I understand that life is at it's greatest when I am in true fellowship with people. 

...But for a time, it was the four-legged creatures that kept me receptive and from closing my heart off completely to God.  Although I strayed greatly from the path, at the end of the day with a cat in my lap or a dog at the foot of the bed, I just knew that God was still there and He still loved me and He's anxiously awaiting my return.  Kind of like when I step out to the mailbox and when I get back, my dog Douglas greets me with the same uncontainable joy, than if I had been gone a month.  Dog being the Palindrome of God, I think, is not a coincidence!  ...and no, I'm not equating God to dog or vice-versa, but I do think it's a tiny-tangible-peek at what true love looks like.  I love my dog, I love my cat...hey, I even have a slight heart-tug for my two betta fish.  I am able to have that love, because I was created to love and I Praise Him for that love.

To wrap this up is not possible; not until we get to heaven and see for ourselves.  The question remains unanswered, but I reprise points #1 & #2 above.  The priority is getting to heaven and when we do, Oh Happy Day!  Pets or no pets! 

OK, so I certainly didn't set out to type a 2 hour posting!  Sometimes, the Lord turns the faucet on just enough to quench, and other times He's allows me a full release of thoughts.  I've had a hard couple of days and I think He has just blessed me with medium to make room in the brain bank for something new, while providing a safe deposit box to store these ramblings for later review.  I feel like I should end this with a prayer of thanksgiving to My Lord.

Father, I want to thank You for the blessing us with pets.  You've provided animals throughout this earth, each with it's own purpose.  I don't  have a clue as to why mosquitos are important, but they were important to You.  I thank You for the animals that You have created to provide us nourshing food.  I thank You for those animals that are here to assist us with laborous tasks...as for those many years before technology provided machinary, it was Your animals that helped transport us, plow fields, haul materials, and help build our dwellings.  I thank You for the animals that see for those who can't see, that hear for those that can't hear, and that provide aide to those with seizure disorders & medical issues.  I thank You for our Police, Fire, and Military working dogs, who demonstrate bravery and protection.  I thank You for the beautiful birds and butterflies and all of the animals provided for the sole purpose  of beholding their beauty.  But most of all, I thank You for those animals that you set aside for no other reason, but for loving, caring for, laughter, and just fun!  Our cats and dogs!  I even thank You for the hard times, such as when we have to say goodbye to them.  It teaches us grief and separation  which Jesus experienced in man while on the earth....and it allows us to feel Your touch through the process of healing and loving forward.   I thank You for the short time that You allowed me each of my pets over my lifetime and I thank You for time I have left with my current animals.  Lord, I don't know if my Bart or Maddux are with you now or not.  I hope so, but it's You I long to see!  It's Your glorious face I can't wait to behold.   Thank You!  Thank You!  Thank You!  ...in the precious blood-covered name of Jesus, I come to You.  -Amen

P.S. Father, please forgive those Christian brothers and sisters of mine who hate cats.  Some have a non-preference to cats, which is OK...but I've heard some vile things said about cats from otherwise godly-people.  Somewhere along the line, cats got a bad rap and I don't understand that.  I pray this not in judgement, but in defense of the uniqueness of felines, which You again created and called "good".  Help them to see them as You see them...as "good".  - Amen    
.....prayed in gest, but with sincerity.  :-)

I wish everyone a pleasant week and I will get back to you real soon...hopefully with something that is not so deep. 

Much love in Christ and through Christ,

Belinda-Marie

Fear itself

Dear Readers,

So, I'm driving home today when the gas light pops on.  I had already passed my usual station, but there was one more station before turning onto my road.  I pull into place, get out of my car, pull my jacket tightly as the cold wind had picked up.  As I was swiping my card in the machine and getting ready to engage the pump, this big black man approaches me from behind...

...backing up a few days, in my ladies' Bible study, we've been talking about the Lord bringing us out of our comfort zone.  We have been praying specifically for the Lord to use us in ways that we've not been used before. "Give me the eyes to see these opportunities to be Jesus for somebody today", is something I've prayed everyday this week...

...I could feel my peripheral heartbeat starts to race with anticipation.  Why?  What am I afraid of?  I grew up innercity and have had plenty of exposure to all races and have never experienced a problem.  What could possibly be the difference in this little old North Carolina town?  Maybe there was none.  So what about the stories I read in the local paper?  Do I let the news handcuff me or do I let the Good News be my news?  Maybe I was letting Satan steal the joy of being a joy?   I can say that when I am in line with Jesus, that I have not a racial thought in my heart.  When I let Satan have a hold of the hose, my garden gets soiled with toxic water.  I am helpless to allow the Holy Spirit to use me, because I'm too busy imagining the worst.  The following verse rushes to mind...

The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? - Psalm 27:1

I am happy to say that I turned and smiled and greeted this man with a heartfelt "Good Afternoon".  He told me that he thought my hair was the most beautiful shade of red.  (Which is funny because my hair color was a recent mishap at the salon.)  While our tanks were filling, we had the most delightful conversation about nothing in particular (Tennessee, how long I've been in NC, too bad our recent warm weather has taken a hike, ect.)  As we wound up the fueling process, he told me that I was the first person to smile in his direction all day.  I then said that I can offer a smile, because Jesus cried my tears. 

Did I plant a seed?  I don't know.  For all I know, the man is already a Child of God...I sincerely hope so.  But I was the only person to smile in his direction that day, so I do know that Jesus used me to make a difference today.  The man said so!  And that is what I asked for.  He also rose up in me and calmed the waves of fear that I allowed, if only for a moment, to storm up inside me.

But it was I that found the true blessing.  I had a 3 minute conversation with a lovely gentlemen this afternoon...and he liked my hair...the hair I cried over two days ago!   I got to pray for him on the rest of the drive home.  Maybe he prayed for me too!

Open the Eyes of my heart, Lord.  Open the Eyes of my heart.  I want to see You.  I want to see You.

Belinda-Marie


The Ingredients

Dear Readers,

I guess the first piece of information I would like to share about myself is that I love Jesus Christ!  I am not ashamed to tell the world that I love Him!  He died a brutal death to save me from eternal death because He loves me.  He saved me from a vile existance of my own making and in turn has blessed me with a permanent place in Glory alongside Him, far beyond anything this world could ever offer me.  Although, I fall short in many ways, I strive to live my life in such a way that will bring honor and glory to Him.  And I thank Him for His restorative redemption with each new day...because I mess up a lot!  So, if the name Jesus Christ offends you in anyway, I would advise you to KEEP READING!  Maybe something said through this blog will change your heart and keep you from an eternal life in hell!

He has blessed me with a wonderful husband, whom I don't appreciate nearly enough.  Come Feb. '10, I will have been married 19 years to my highschool sweetheart, James.  We both are from Knoxville, Tennessee and graduates of Central High School.  We met in the R.O.T.C. class.  James has served his nation honorably for 19 years in the United States Air Force...and I've gotten to come along for the wild ride.  We've made homes in Texas, Alaska, Montana, Okinawa, and now we're slow-pacing in North Carolina.

James and I have two sons.  Steven Avery was born to us in Alaska, so we call him our our Nanook.  He is 16 years-old and in his sophomore year at Eastern Wayne High.  He is in to music, ROTC, airplanes, and a girlfriend. 

Brady Aleczander is our Okinawa treasure.  He was born and lived his first 5 years on that tiny island and he considers himself to be Japanese.  That boy will pass up a Happy Meal for a tray of sashimi any day!  He is 6 years-old and is in Transition 1st Grade at Eastern Wayne Elementary.

To round out the family is our Asian-Pacific Jungle Terrier, Douglas...our Tuxedo Feline, Dr. Frasier Crane...& our dueling Betas, Sashimi and Wasabi.

I'm a sports-girl!  I love University of Tennessee Football (I love me some Rocky Top!), which bred a Manning-mutated fanship for the Colts.  I am also a baseball freak!  Atlanta Braves is what I grew up on, so I'm a lifer and anyone with the last name Caray is practically a member of my family...but I will watch baseball anywhere.  I especially love the dirty, dingy, hapless, get killed every season Single A minors.  I root for what's in front of me...right now, I'm a geographical Kinston Indians fan.

I've struggled with weight most of my life and so in Feb. '09, I decided to have weight loss surgery (RNY.)  Best decision I ever made!  Not an easy way out, like some may think.  It's been a hard journey, but one that has brought me a renewed energetic look at life.  I've lost 85 pounds (as of Jan. '10.) and have about 15-20 more before I hit my BMI goal.  I am loving the exercise and the chasing my boys around!!!  I praise God for the opportunity!

I'm a Christian, traditional, moderately-right from center conservative, stay-at-home (but seeking part-time clerical work if anyone has an opening) Mom.  I prefer Elephants to Jackasses, although lately they both stink!  I'm praying for that Common Sense 3rd Party Candidate, whom I know is out there somewhere. 

So why this blog-thingy?  I'm a writer deep in my soul.  Ever since I won the Knox County Public Schools Read-a-Thon in Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades, I've had a deep passion for the written word.  I've kept a journal, in some format, practically all my life (even before Oprah thinks she came up with the idea), and for the last few years God has put it on my heart to open up my life accounts to others.  Why, I'm not sure.  Perhaps to be an example of what not to do...or just because He gets a kick out of my antics and thinks you might too?  I don't pretend to know the Master plan...but I think, I hope, it's to show the good work He's began in me.  The last thing I want to come across as is some perfect Christian Holier-than-thou lady, because I'm not.  My writing will reveal my character flaws, my sometimes sarcastic view of things, my struggles...but I pray that it will also reveal my triumphs, the things that the Lord has picked me up and carried me through.  He began the good work, but He's not finished yet.  I'm enjoying the wonderful molding process, although sometimes painful.  Just feeling the fingers of the Living God kneading and shaping is a comfort to my soul.

Am I any good?  Am I bestseller material?  I don't know?  My friends say I should write a book and I used to think that is what I wanted to do, but as I grow older, I just don't know if that is what God has for me.  I just know that He tells me to write something somewhere.  I think it's safe to say that I'm no Erma Bombeck, but I'm Belinda-Marie and we'll see what happens.

Well, that's about it.  Oh, one more thing...I am very aware of the grammar rules and if I ever get paid to write professionally, I will make that a top priority!  ...but for this blog, I am going to write conversationally and well, I'm a Southern-born girl so you might see a few missed semi-colons or some dangling participles now and then.  Plus, I am queen of typos.  I will try to make to be at least legible.


I will write as the Spirit leads me.  Might be daily, might not.  Might go 2 weeks without hearing a peep, and then might come a day when I post until the web crashes.  It's a random madness that only God understands!

Finally, I welcome your comments...even those of an opposing viewpoint, as long as they are presented in a civil dialogue.  Cursing, name calling, off-color remarks, purposeful distortion, unsubstantiated gossip and crazy accounts without providing a reputable source to back your story will be not be acknowledged and will be removed right away.  (Tall order for some, I know!)  We all have a right to our views and opinions (even wrong ones :-)  and should be able to express it without being targeted.  ...I don't intend for this to be a sounding board for any type of agenda other than sharing the Gospel, but life in America presents some issues and politics and I will write about that from time-to-time.

All Keyed Up,
Belinda-Marie

 


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