About Melody Monk

One of my many titles is "writer". I blog because I am. I love to help people and employ innovative ideas that improve everyday life! Two life sayings have stalked me for years; one is "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.". Another is "Live simply so others may simply live." I am married to Mr. Fix-It. He enjoys repairing anything broken. Thus, we make a good team. We share a passion for God, our beautiful family, learning, gardening, helping others. We love to exchange ideas.

The Ringing Cedars

I read this series of books as a direct result of reading Lost and Found in Russia. The first book Anastasia , The Ringing Cedar Series series and the surrounding phenomenon is mentioned on page 255.  Susan Richards friends tell her of eco-villages that were springing up all over Russia as a result. The first book came out in Russia in 1996.

Now, I must admit that one of our friends who is a Russian professor said the books were absolute rubbish and could not believe we would waste our time reading them. Yet, there seems to be an entire movement based on the concepts in this book – from schools in Russia to settlements in various provinces in Canada and states in the U.S., even a group in Florida. I say, you have to read the books for yourself and make up your own mind as to whether they have any value or not.

I cannot even tell you if they are fact or fiction.  The editor himself does not answer that question. He simply shares how the books changed his life and the odd and miraculous events surrounding their publication. The editor, Leonid Sharashkin (who sounds exactly like Bartok the Magnificent in the Anastasia cartoon) can be seen giving lectures about his experience with the books on youtube.

There were definitely some statements that intrigued us on our quest for truth.  In the very first chapter Vladimir Megre, a businessman using ships to start commerce along the River Ob, meets two old men who approach him about buying a cedar tree.  The translation bothers me because what they are really talking about are old pine trees, but… the statement is made that , “God created the cedar (pine) to store cosmic energy…”

Okay, simple enough, but remember I had recently finished studying Answers in Genesis, so presuming that God created everything for a purpose is not that big of a stretch. They go on to tell of the tree’s healing properties and how important it is for a ringing cedar to be cut and dispersed to people to give them the healing properties it has been gathering and storing during its 150 year lifetime.

Granted you can laugh at this tale, or you can google the health benefits of pine nuts, pine needle tea and pine oil and decide for yourself. When Megre discovers the benefits of pine oil he asks the question, “What kind of unknown forces are trying so earnestly to erase our forebears’ knowledge from our own memories?” (p. 19) He is incensed to find out that this cedar (pine) oil is being sold in foreign packaging for outrageous prices. Anyway, it’s food for thought. We continued to read.

Megre meets Anastasia in chapter 2. She is a bizarre woman who lives in the Siberian Taiga without a house, or much clothing or basically anything – and thrives. Compared to the way any of us live today – and Megre is included – that is just weird and when he asks her in a condescending way if she is just a beast of the forest she challenges his concept that the only thing that distinguishes man from all other creatures is his possession of manufactured objects. She assures him that she has everything she needs in the nature surrounding her. There is the insinuation that she is perhaps superior to him (us) by the very fact that she has no need of any manufactured products.

Watch a couple episodes of Hoarders and you might question whether it really is more civilized to own more stuff. I know that I am being influenced by the minimalist movement and a personal love of tiny houses. I don’t want to believe that minimalism and tiny homes were purposefully introduced to lead me to acquiesce to Agenda 21. (I admit I read Glen Beck’s scary book – and not the actual document.) I wouldn’t even believe that our wonderful representatives in government or the UN would do anything remotely like the fiction in Beck’s book if I hadn’t taken a trip to the Georgia Guidestones (which I thought was fiction!!) or listen to testimony about Codex Alimentarius!

But back to minimalism and tiny homes – I actually feel lighter and more in control of my life with less stuff to cart around, store or maintain. I want to believe that some altruistic soul with a design gene invented the idea of tiny homes to save people from the thirty-year mortgage trap!

Back to ringing cedars (pines)! Anastasia then leads Megre through a re-education in living close to nature. Her relationship with animals seems like pure fantasy, but of plants she says, “Everything – but everything – on the Earth, every blade of grass, every little bug, has been created for Man, and everything has its individual appointed task to perform in the service of Man. The multitude of medicinal plants are a confirmation of this. But people in your world know very little about how to benefit from the opportunities they are presented with – about how to take full advantage of them.” (p. 75)

In the course of reading these books, I also noticed that our local area was having a conference on wild edibles.  In my research I also stumbled across several websites that promoted the idea that God often lets weeds spring up in our very front or back lawn which address the very diseases we suffer from. So, I started looking around our yard.

My husband suffers from psoriasis (it disappears when we eat totally raw foods) – but our yard seems to grow an abundance of Aloe Vera plants. Aloe is quite soothing to the skin. Coincidence? We actually have an abundance of weeds, but more research is needed for us to have a clue if they have any useful purpose. It’s a process!

Did you ever hear that saying, “We can all count the seeds in an apple, but only God knows the number of apples in a seed.”? Anastasia has some pretty crazy sounding advice about seeds. She says we should hold the seeds we are about to plant in our mouths for nine minutes before planting them. We should also be standing barefoot on the patch of earth where we intend to plant. After spitting them out of our mouths, we should hold them in the palms of our hands and blow gently on them. “Then the wee little seed will know everything about you.” (p. 78) In addition, if we hold our palms open and present the seed to the sky, the celestial bodies will convey some sort of information will will confirm to the seed when it should activate.

This may sound strange until you start to think about what we have learned in recent years about DNA. According to Anastasia through perspiration from one’s feet comes substances containing information about bodily diseases. This information is taken in by the seedlings.

Is it possible for a seed to read your DNA or for the Earth in your garden to analyze toxins coming out of your feet?

Has anyone read about essential oils, and how you can put them on the soles of your feet to help prevent or heal certain illnesses? Have you ever heard about Shu-Li patches which are designed to stay on your feet overnight to draw out toxins? Have you ever read a Farmer’s Almanac and noticed how certain plants should be planted on the waning or waxing of the moon? Ever wonder about any of this?

What did our grandparents know that we have lost touch with because we have invented something that works faster and/or better?  We certainly don’t turn to natural remedies as much as our ancestors did. In fairness we do tend to live longer than previous generations, but some of the medications advertised on television have such a long list of possible side effects that I wonder if added longevity is always worth the risk.

It certainly gives us a lot to consider.  In my next post I’ll talk more about the Ringing Cedar Series. There are nine books in all – and that series led further along the rabbit trail.

 

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Lost and Found in Russia

I think it was more than my high school teacher, Mr. Sullivan’s, influence that turned me into a Slavophile.  I don’t have any Russian roots that I have ever discovered. My ancestors all seem to originate in the United Kingdom.  There is even a story in my family that it was a flip of a coin that decided whether my great grandfather would leave Nelson, England and move to the United States or Australia. Even my husband’s ancestors come from the UK. In other circumstances we might have met on that continent. So, why we both met on the Russian language floor at the University of Colorado implies a much larger plan than we could have birthed on our own.

Our faith walk has always included things Russian. My aunt sent me books on the persecuted Russian Christians while I was studying the language in college. We read books like:

God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew

Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand

The Siberian Seven by John Pollock

The Persecutor by Sergei Kourdakov

Since my husband and I are both drawn to all things Russian, it was not that unusual to receive  a book from a friend in Colorado. Her accompanying note said that she had read the book in great confusion, reread it, and still had some confusion. “But, I thought it might mean something to you.”

The book is called Lost and Found in Russia, Lives in a Post-Soviet Landscape by Susan Richards. We had been familiar with the name, Susan Richards through our Russian studies at university. She is a British journalist with a solid reputation. She did her doctoral work on Alexander Solzhenitsyn and won an award for her first book, Epics of Everyday Life: Encounters in a Changing Russia. She founded a website called Open Democracy and has written extensively on the former Soviet Union and current day Russia, its politics and people. So, it was with a sense of expectant curiosity that we read the book. What surprised us was the way it dovetailed  with our current foray into raw foods, vibrations and electromagnetic energy.

In a portion of the book, Susan Richards relates visiting her old friend Vera, who had left her previous life to join a group of Old Believers living on the slopes of the Sayan Mountains by Lake Toberkul. The fact that most jumped out to us about this was the mention that the group was vegan in their diet. Although Russia does not make the list of Blue zones talked about by Dan Buettner, there are some places in the country where people live longer.

Mountainous regions around the world appear to increase longevity. The climate and quality of the air in altitudes between 2,200 and 3,600 meters above sea level seem to be a health benefit. The very act of walking in these steep regions could increase longevity. Russian media reported the death of Magomed Labazanov in Fall 2012. He had been interviewed earlier in the year on his 122nd birthday. He lived in the village of Serebryakovka in the Kizlyar district of Dagestan. He credited his longevity to dancing traditional dances, abstaining from alcohol and tobacco and eating locally produced food.

The health benefits of a vegan diet were consistent with what we were reading about and discovering with our personal Genesis 1:29 experiment. We had heard about the Daniel Diet  as a good way to start a new year, an alternative to fasting. The movie Forks over Knives came out in 2011 and it seemed that many people started conversations about this topic. One of the blue zones is Loma Linda, California which has a large population of Seventh Day Adventists who eat a basically vegan diet. Here it was coming up, dating from the 1990’s in the former Soviet Union!

So, it seems that food is even more important than the paper plate chart we made in grade school would indicate! I have read that physicians have only one class in nutrition during all their years of medical training despite taking the Hippocratic oath by the man who coined the phrase, Let food be thy medicine, and medicine by thy food.  And raw food, according to Kirlian photography has something very special. Even if it only photographs water content in foods, it still makes sense that we would want to eat freshe food with more water content rather than dried out food. This trail of research will inevitably connect you with the work of Masuro Emoto. He has a theory that thoughts can produce some kind of wave or frequency effect on water crystals. His experiments are quite fascinating.

In addition to the food connection, another section of the book was also captivating. Susan Richards describes a visit to Professor Kaznacheev’s laboratory. She entitles this section of the book, Touching the Cosmos. “His laboratory contained a device they had developed that allowed ordinary people like me to understand what it meant to be in touch with the cosmos. The device reduced the magnetic field which covers the earth’s surface, he explained.” (p.153 Lost and Found in Russia)  Basically, this factual journalist appears to have had a type of out-of-body experience.

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?  Nikola Tesla is often quoted as saying, “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”

So, if everything vibrates, what are my vibrations? I would love to believe that I give off a good vibe!

An interesting tidbit that came up during this rabbit trail excursion was very personal. My husband and I have had this little thing that we do.  We often sign cards to each other with the number 500. This started when we were in college. We had one of those silly in love discussions that went:

 I love you.

I love you more.

I love you a million.

I love you a billion.

I love you to infinity.

Yes, you get the drift. Even we felt silly at the time. So, we made an agreement, “Let’s just say that 500 is the biggest number that will ever exist. We will always love each other 500!” And it has been that way ever since. So, imagine our surprise when we started reading about vibrations and found this chart.

https://perceptiontrainers.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/map-of-consciousness.gif

Did you check out the measurement beside love? The vibration of love is 500! Coincidence? I think not. Is God trying to tell us something? Time to go do more study.

 

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Answers in Genesis/Raw Food

Just to be clear, I am recording a journey. Since it is a long journey, I am recording it in segments. I am not saying that a segment is the destination. This is simply the winding rabbit hole trail that I have followed and am still currently exploring.  I believe God uses our likes and dislikes, personal history and natural propensities and personality to direct our paths.

When, as I mentioned in a previous blog, I could not accept a certain theological stance taught by a newly-hired pastor at one of our supporting churches, it did  motivate me to read and study more. I think we are ever on the quest for truth.

Our church in Florida, serendipitously (and I use that word personally believing that God is behind all coincidental and serendipitous events) offered a seminar called Answers in Genesis. The seminar was interesting. It covered a lot of the Ken Ham material, but what really stuck out to me had nothing to do with the old earth/new earth debate. (I’ll cover how that topic had its own rabbit trail in a later blog). During this seminar, however, Genesis 1:29 was where my attention was captivated.

Genesis 1:29 “Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” It crossed my mind that Eve never had to wear an apron or sweat over a hot stove. She was never a helper who was relegated to the kitchen, or any particular room of a house. They lived in a garden where everything was provided.  They had a perfect climate and could sleep out under the magnificent stars. There was never any need to sweep or vacuum, skin or chop food. It was never assumed that she would cook for Adam, or be responsible for his laundry. In fact, she may have never cooked! I thought at the time, “How cool is that!”

Now, I admit, cooking has never been my first love.  I am capable, however, and I have cooked countless meals that managed to nourish four children to adulthood. Fortunately, their father was no stranger to the kitchen and was particularly fond of making breakfast. So, I was never relegated to the kitchen either. I cooked family favorites and my few attempts at gourmet creativity were wolfed down in ten minutes by kids who were more into sports than culinary delights. The Genesis verse simply made me think more deeply about food; what it was meant to be, what it has become and how cultures around the world interpret the timing and components of our diets.

You know how it is when questions just start pouring through your mind. Why do we eat three meals a day? Why in the U.S. is the biggest meal usually in the evening whereas in Europe it is at noon?  Why do some countries have a siesta after meals? Why should anyone eat at 8:00 AM, 12:00 noon or 5:00 PM if they are not hungry at those times? Which country has the healthiest diet?

A subsequent question arose, “What if we just took Genesis 1:29 literally?”  So, we decided to try it. My husband and I went on a totally raw food diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. I became totally enamored with the idea that God has made this whole diet thing really simple. I stumbled upon God’s Pharmacy: the original Chassidic version on you-tube and nearly cried with gratitude that God would actually make vegetables resemble the body parts their nutrients benefit the most! How God that is!

We started reading about the raw food movement and where blue zones exist around the world.  Blue zones simply refer to places marked on the world map where people live into their one hundreds. Many of them eat very basic diets or very natural, locally sourced foods. Some books, websites and movies we enjoyed at the time were as follows:

https://www.bluezonesproject.com

The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner

https://www.therawfoodworld.com/

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

Rawmazing, by Susan Powers

Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 people by Jennifer Cornbleet

Food, Inc.

Supersize Me

Forks over Knives

Hungry For Change

Food Matters

Honestly, there are countless more that we came into contact with, and you will certainly find them if you start your own research.

Locally, we attended a seminar by Ken Rohla called Fresh and Alive.  We met with several raw food enthusiasts. It was very educational and we also experienced personal health benefits from our study. We each lost thirty pounds. My husband’s psoriasis cleared up for the first time in his life. When we had blood work done, all our levels were perfect. We experienced first hand the truth of Genesis 1:29.

It also made logical sense; Shouldn’t living people eat living foods? Kirlian photography (there always seems to be some Russian clue in our searches) showed how food loses its energetic value over time (rotting), being cooked or microwaved. Muslim students we hosted one year refused to use a microwave. Their grandmothers had warned them against it.

We remembered that we never owned a microwave in Russia when we lived there. Snopes.com says that it is false that Russia banned microwaves in 1976 due to health concerns for their citizens, but they certainly weren’t popular when we lived there in the early 1990’s.   In many places we read the statement, “Humans are the only animals on the planet who destroy the nutritional value of their food before eating it.”

We had challenges trying to follow a Genesis 1:29 diet. Our church had a Wednesday night gathering that advertised itself as the best buffet in town. People brought pizza, KFC, D&D, tacos, casseroles, you name it; it was there. We have some amazing cooks in the church who make things taste delicious, but the recipes contain many ingredients far removed from a Genesis 1:29 approach.  We had to bring our own raw food. The pastor once jokingly asked, “So, how are the fruit and nut folks doing?”

Friends didn’t know how to socialize with us anymore. So much of our cultural fellowship revolves around food. The majority of celebrations involve, not only food, but very specific, cooked foods. Can you celebrate a birthday without cake? Is it Thanksgiving without turkey? What does one eat if there are no hamburgers or hot-dogs on the Fourth of July? Going against the norm was not seen as – well – normal! Our church friends did not hesitate to remind us that God said we could eat meat. Jesus ate fish. God told Peter to “kill and eat”.

Our immediate family was amazingly supportive. Our kids are great.  Having lived abroad and experienced different cultures, they are all about trying new things. One daughter-in-law learned how to make raw lasagna, which is not a simple process. Everyone bought juicers. Our family celebrations were open to adaptation and included many raw choices. Another daughter-in-law whose favorite foods were admittedly mac’n cheese and toaster pastries attended an entire weekend seminar to learn how to prepare whole foods for her family. Our hunting, meat-eating son-in-law who loves to cook, added vegan recipes to his repertoire!

Despite healthy results and all the family support, I confess we have not continued to eat only raw. In the beginning we invited friends over for raw cheesecake and spiralized zucchini noodles with marinara sauce, but we also served coffee. We made a lot of unusual salads with various dressings which we added to lean chicken or fish dinners. We succeeded in persuading some of our more adventurous friends to meet us at hard-to-find raw food restaurants. Road trips were difficult. Visiting old friends, we felt it was only right to accept whatever was offered in hospitality and love.

The real kicker is living with our parents when they snowbird to our house in Florida. We love our parents and get along great, but Mom is a great cook who whips up all our childhood comfort foods with ease. Dad gamely tried one juice with cilantro in it and became vehemently and vocally opposed to the whole raw food idea. Medications he takes don’t allow him to consume too many greens, or indulge in grapefruit. His false teeth that easily handle tender prime rib, struggle  to chew hard raw vegetables.Even though his health care practitioners advise him to eat at home and not go to restaurants, he is not motivated by any stretch to go raw!

It remains a psychological battle. Food is a vastly emotional subject. Veganism can be seen as a religion in itself and taking the Bible literally (even the one verse) opens up all kinds of heated discussion. We have tried our best to explain honestly what had prompted us to become vegetarian/vegan/raw vegan or “whatever it is you two are into now”.

Unless we want to change our entire circle of extended family and friends, our lifestyle is just considered weird and incomprehensible by people we love and with whom we still wish to maintain relationship.

So, at home – alone – we fluctuate. Some days we eat raw. Some days we revert to old comfort foods. If we entertain we bow to the tastes of our guests. We have thrown out the microwave. (Don’t tell Dad.) We do still use a juicer and a dehydrator.; though not as often as we think we should. We eat meat sparingly. We do cook some vegetables. We are suspicious that our health as a nation is being compromised by all the fast, processed and GMO foods. Yet, sometimes we still find ourselves in a drive-thru line to try that new thing an ad or someone recommended. Fortunately, that happens less and less.

How does this relate to a spiritual journey? Well, the Genesis verse led to study of raw food. Looking at raw food through kirlian photography led to to some other interesting science which linked to water (our bodies are a high percentage of water) and the work of Masaru Emoto. This led to a questions about vibration and electromagnetic energy. Then someone from one of our supporting churches out in Colorado sent us a book  called Lost and Found in Russia by Susan Richards. Remember that God has often used something Russian to pique our interest. In my next blog I’ll try to detail how that book connected past questions to future questions and led us further down the rabbit hole.

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The search is on.

You may not want to read my story. I was living a quiet and pleasant life. My husband and I made a strategic decision that I would not work outside the home. We value the fact that there is always someone in our extended family who can be available if needed.

My days are spent shuttling one set of grandchildren to preschool, tidying our house and then running over to tidy my son’s home after he and his wife have run out the door to work and deliver their children to school. I enjoy plenty of free time, but can also respond to that occasional errand or emergency that inevitably occurs when everyone else is at work.

I enjoy the freedom to be a blessing to myself and others. For example, when another son and his family got stranded with two hours until a tow truck was available, I drove over to rescue them from a long wait in the southern heat.  When a grandchild was sick at school, I picked him up and stayed with him until his mom got home from work. When a neighbor needed a ride to the doctor, I could help out. So, in this season of life my job title is basically, Available.

This job description gives me a lot of extra time to read, to focus on my health by exercising more and to test the limits of my creativity. I started taking piano lessons, tried out for and landed a role in a local play and still find time to read, sew and write.

This was all well and good until I started using my free time to investigate some theological questions that piqued my curiosity. Some of my findings challenge the facts I have previously learned. Not rushing out the door to work each morning has given me time to not only ask questions, but to research possible answers. Once I started this process however, I had no idea how deep the rabbit hole would go, or what I should do if I ever reach an end.

Sometimes I would love to discuss this research with a few more people, but that is a bit like stepping out on the high dive board at the pool. Scary. If you belly flop from that high it is really going to hurt. My husband and a couple others are willing to dialogue with me, but the sheer volume of material is hard to digest without hours of free time.

I am well aware that not all books, authors, websites or YouTube videos are reliable sources of information. Conflicting data makes me question whether our original sources of information were as reliable as we presume. Sometimes my searching for truth has led me into areas considered conspiracy theory and can sound pretty wild and crazy.  Then again, the book of Revelation can sound pretty wild and crazy. The rabbit hole is very deep and certain parts of the trail appear to connect to many others.

I am going to record my wandering around the maze in this blog.  At times I think I have been going in the right direction only to realize I have looped back or reached a dead end. I pray for guidance and then follow path of synchronicity, allowing current events, my interests or curiosity to lead the way. One verse I have always loved from the Bible is Proverbs 3:6 “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy paths.” I am trusting God that I will eventually get to my destination and learn whatever I am supposed to learn along the way.

Since I believe that everything happens for a reason, I enjoy when people recommend books, or when I happen to be somewhere and something catches my eye. Russian themes tend to pop up frequently, since that was my major in college. People may make an interesting remark on a Facebook feed that I happen to catch. My grandchildren will often spout out bits of wisdom or spark a trail of questions.  And I remember the verses from Mark 10:14-16 “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” So, yes, sometimes I let the children lead.

It is my hope that the end of the journey will lead me into the arms of a loving Father.

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A Journey of Faith

My faith journey has taken some unexpected twists and turns in the past seven years. I have been conflicted about how much to put in writing, but finally decided that the process of writing my thoughts out could be therapeutic and beneficial. Perhaps it may even help someone else going through similar confusion. I don’t pretend to have the answers.  I wish we could discuss some of this in the church, at a Bible study, or with other members of our congregations, but most of us have learned the hard way that asking questions that challenge the status quo does not win you sympathy or support. I do believe that God is not shocked, angry or disappointed by questions. He looks upon the heart, and He knows our innermost intention – whether it is simply to know the truth or to cause discention in the body.

In 1978 I was saved as the vocabulary of the era described my experience. I joyously came to a place where I was so grateful for what Jesus had accomplished on the cross that I was deeply moved to follow His example and serve God as He had done, even to death if so required. I witnessed lives of loved ones change profoundly for the better and was overwhelmed by the concepts of love and grace. Neither my gratitude or my desire to serve God has changed. Let me be clear about that.

During the thirty years my husband and I served with three extraordinary mission groups in various cultures, we learned a great many things. These experiences also raised a great many questions. We had the privilege of living outside of our culture and of reading the Scriptures in several different languages.

What you hear often from older people – the ranks of which I have now joined in my sixth decade – is that we have become wise enough to know what we don’t know.  Some of the facts I was taught and vehemently passed on in my own teaching, I have now come to question. Shocker! Perhaps I didn’t know everything I thought I knew! I do remember asking a few of my incessant why questions in one mission meeting and being firmly told to table them for later. My husband was then admonished to control his wife and answers never came as I was quietly shamed back into appropriate submission.

When it comes to matters of theology, religion, belief and faith, the older I get, the more I run into what I might refer to as disillusioned clergy. Quiet conversations with highly educated, caring  people that voice thoughts like, “Have you ever wondered if, why, or how?” Few, however, are willing to speak out publicly. There are many reasons, but most are related to fear. They question the value of rocking the boat. They have invested their entire lives being pastors, professors and teachers and fear losing their livelihood, credibility and reputations. Compound this with the reality that having serious questions about previous teachings does not mean definitive answers have been found to replace them. New theories may be developing, but they could be as flawed as past information. Hosea 4:6 warns us that God’s people perish due to lack of knowledge. I Corinthians 13:12 reminds us that we see dimly and know only in part while we are here on earth. It is definitely safer and easy to stick with the status quo.

Then there is the fear, taught for generations, that we are risking eternal damnation by seeking outside the permitted norms. We are warned that reading certain books, listening to unsanctioned speakers outside our denomination or relying on our feelings could be leading us along a slippery slope. As frightening as that is for oneself, it is even worse to think you might be guilty of leading another astray. It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around our neck. That’s huge; so if you have never had questions of your own, please don’t read any of mine!

No one who is seeking to know God more wants to risk putting even the slightest crack in someone else’s firm foundation – foundations that have been built and fortified for centuries.  What is the point of disturbing another person’s comfortable, padded and long held belief system with questions for which we have not found concrete answers? Sometimes it seems easier and safer to give it up and just rest in the comfortable old understanding because the new information is overwhelming – in volume and potential meaning.

But seekers seek! So, we continue along in silence – reading, questioning, researching and occasionally finding a fellow traveler from amidst the ranks who also says, Yes, I have wondered about that, to which we reply astonished, “You, too?”

It’s very difficult to know with whom it is safe to share or be vulnerable. We don’t really talk to our parents because that would be like challenging what they taught us, which can appear disrespectful.  So, even approaching them gently, acknowledging your desire for their opinion and wisdom, they may have reasons for not entering into a committed dialog. Their eyesight may prohibit reading all the books you have found and their relationship with technology may preclude sharing resources with them. If they are very elderly, health issues may leave them with barely the energy or desire to think any differently than has suited them for the past seventy or eighty years.

We hesitate to dialog with adult children because they may be living happily, confident and comfortable with the standards you passed down. In fact, it seems unfair to challenge the very standards they are in the midst of passing to their own children. The reality is they have little time or perhaps patience to question the rules you confidently and sometimes vehemently enforced upon them. This current generation is  usually so overworked and busy that they barely have time for rest, never mind time for reading or researching anything outside of the requirements of their regular job. Keeping their heads above water requires the attitude, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Peers currently in church work are the most difficult. Certain questions, no matter how carefully worded, are considered inflammatory. Challenges to tradition or traditional understanding are rarely welcome. People who are currently working in the ministry are assumed to have answers to difficult questions. Many have memorized answers as taught rather that doing primary research. This is understandable as the history is long and the topics are vast.

There was a day however, that sticks out in my mind.  A pastor turned to me and said, “I don’t tell anyone Jesus loves them. I think that is inappropriate.” Then, like a lawyer, he made his case through Scripture. He spent the next several years requiring all people associated with the church to read certain books and learn to understand the Scriptures in this way. The movement he represents is growing and it alarms and saddens me.

I could not wrap my mind or my heart around that concept. I just knew in the center of my soul that I could not embrace a theology that led to that conclusion. I am thankful that I was old enough and finally confident enough to embrace I John 2:27 and realize that no man needs be my teacher when I have the Holy Spirit.

So, in retrospect, I am actually thankful for that pastor’s statement because it reignited the seeker in me. I stopped taking the party line for granted and began to seek and learn again. This has led to some amazing revelations and ever more questions. Why questions. How questions. In our current churches are we assisting people to be seekers after God or are we just telling them what they should find?

Love was the main reason that I originally wanted to serve God on the mission field. When I was confronted with just how much God loves me, I wished everyone could have the opportunity to experience that kind of love. I wanted everyone to know that there is a God and that He loves us. That is Good News. I want to continue to help spread that awesome message.

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Find Your Expertise

Everyone has a gift. In reality everyone has multiple gifts, talents and abilities. Think of all the things that you know how to do. Can you take care of children? Can you cut grass? Have you ever washed dishes? Do you make your bed in the morning? Do you have a system to clean your house quickly? Do you like to cook? Perhaps you collect recipes. Have you ever spoken in front of a group? Are you good at meeting people? Do you dress well? Do you have a knack with make-up or fashion? Can you send emails? Do you know how to use a spreadsheet, a sewing machine or a radial arm saw?

People have started whole businesses from Daycare Centers to service industries to consulting based on those skills.  People write blogs, conduct seminars, make videos, and run crews offering these skills to others. It’s a great system when you think about it. We all have some things we are good at, and other things that we either dislike or just can’t seem to master. So, we pay money to purchase those skills we can’t or don’t want to tackle on our own. Everybody wins.

Funny thing is, we don’t actually need the money part of it. We could just barter like they did in the old days. I’ll cook for you if you clean my house. I’ll watch your kids while you mow my lawn. I’ll fix your car engine if you repair my leaky roof. There is somebody out there who has the skill you lack, or is willing to teach you if you want to learn.

In fact, on youtube, that’s what we are doing. You can find a class on just about anything you want to know. Coding, cooking, canning, candlestick making – it’s all there. What a fun time to live. We can try anything. If we find it isn’t our cup of tea; we can try something else.

Just don’t give up.  There are no limits. There is bound to be something that you will really enjoy. No longer must we stay committed to doing something we hate just to earn a living. There are no gold watches, guaranteed retirements or even reliable social security. So let’s play folks! Next time you think you want or need something, try bartering for it. I’m sure you have something someone else wants or needs! Let’s start doing less of what we dread and doing more of what we love! It will eventually turn the tide!

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Should I Stay or Should I Go – Hurricane Irma

We were here in central Florida during three back-to-back hurricanes Charlie, Francis and Ivan, not to mention the more recent, Matthew. We were very glad that we stayed. A tree branch pierced our roof during Francis and being here enabled us to move the furniture and block the hole, minimizing the damage. If we had evacuated, rain would have been able to pour into our home for the hours or days it may have taken to return.

Preparing for a hurricane is very similar to preparing to go camping. Just plan to glamp in your own home. If you approach preparation as an adventure and protect children from over dramatized news reports, your family will learn to prepare without stress.

We have always encouraged our four children not to panic. A person can be respectful and awed by storms without being afraid. That is probably why all of them naturally gravitated to jobs as first responders. Firefighter, EMT, Paramedic and RN abilities make them the people you want to have in your corner during an emergency.

So here are my top ten suggestions for how to prepare for Hurricane Irma:

  1. Water. If you have a tub, fill it. This is toilet water, to flush the toilet. If you don’t have a tub, grab some containers – 5 gal pail, several gallon jugs, whatever you can find. Before the storm you can buy containers if necessary. Fill them and leave them on the floor by the toilet. You will NOT flush every single time during this camping experience, save the water to flush when necessary. Also, fill drinking/cooking water containers. Some people will want to buy bottled water, but remember that if you drink your household water, you can also just fill containers with this water. A gal per person per day for three to four days worth is recommended. Freeze water in your deep freeze or refrigerator freezer and this will help the appliance stay cool when electricity goes out AND provide more water when it thaws. Remember that stores will reopen after the winds calm down. Life will return to normal and roads will eventually clear.

  2. Light. Solar lights, flashlights, batteries, candles. Whatever you are comfortable using, just have it easily accessible. That’s the key. You don’t want to be asking, “Where is the flashlight?” in the dark. You have plenty of time to check your light sources and place them in a convenient place.

  3. Clear debris. Walk around your house before the bad weather arrives and stow things that could fly – children’s outdoor toys, lawn furniture, your gas grill, trash cans, potted plants, etc. Bring them into the garage, or secure them so they will not become projectiles.

  4. Safe zone. Identify the safest spot in the house – an interior hall, bathroom, or place without windows. If the hurricane comes in the middle of the night when you should be sleeping, drag your mattresses and/or comforters to that spot and have a cozy camp out. Read aloud or play a board game with your kids. Parents should model how to remain calm in a storm.

  5. Shoes. Know where your shoes are. Just like a firefighter keeps his boots ready, you want to know where your shoes are. It is hard to run outside or address an emergency in flip flops.

  6. Food. Storms rarely last longer than 24 hours, so food during the storm is not all that important. Fun foods, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bagged popcorn or cookies can lighten the mood for children. If the electricity goes out, it’s a good time to eat the ice-cream! After the storm, however, more nutritious food will be desired. Think about camping foods for three to four days. If you are prepared to camp at home, this will help you stay off the roads and not add to the public chaos as clearing the storm debris begins. We have a camp stove and several propane tanks that allow us to cook right on the porch. It’s a great time to cook any freezer foods in danger of thawing!

  7. Cash. When the storm is over, stores may open, but restoring electricity takes time and ATM’s and store card readers may not work. Having some cash may help.

  8. Luxuries: These are not necessary for survival, but they help make glamping at home more fun. Wet-wipes- makes life easier and cleaner without using up your water. Books! Fully charged electronics – they might last until the electricity comes back on if you fully charge them beforehand! Games – especially nice with kids. Extra trash bags for when the clean-up starts.

  9. Gas. Again, you can live without gas, but it’s hard to go help someone else if you can’t get there. Top off your car’s tank if possible. We keep a gas can to be used with a generator as well. A generator is not a necessity for hurricane survival. Generators are great if you have a fridge full of food to try and save, someone with medical needs like oxygen, or if you need to run fans to cool frustrated tempers. For the most part, happily surviving without electricity is a learning experience that can benefit everyone. Generations of people grew up in Florida without electricity or AC – and thrived!

  10. Safety instructions:  When you exit your home for the first time after the storm, do so slowly and cautiously. LOOK around, be aware of leaning trees, downed electrical lines and potential dangers. Our older children loved this part of the adventure. They went out with tools and a chainsaw, rescuing people trapped inside their homes, or blocked from leaving their streets. This is when we get to see the best of humanity, people helping people.

We wish everyone a safe experience. If you must evacuate because you live below storm surge predictions or your home is surrounded by dangerous trees, than by all means go and be safe. If you live in an inland, higher elevation area, with newer trees that stand barely taller than your home, you may want to consider staying put and out of the way of those who truly have no other option than to leave. You may have to endure no electricity or AC for a time, but knowing that you let another in a more urgent situation (like the Keys or Miami) exit ahead of you, may turn your sacrifice into a blessing.

 

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Who holds the monopoly on your truth?

What? Whoa? What do you mean Jesus doesn’t love everyone?

Several years ago, I listened as a pastor of a church stated in complete seriousness, “I don’t tell anyone Jesus loves them. I think it is inappropriate.”

I don’t know about you, but my innermost being – Spirit/Heart/Soul – whatever you call that place where you-just-know – screamed out, “THAT IS SO WRONG!”

Over the next couple of years, this pastor led the church through a process of re-evaluating all the missionaries they supported, the materials used to teach both youth and adults and even selected new governing boards. He had books that he recommended and papers for each member to study. Like a lawyer, he walked all who were willing to listen through a carefully crafted systematic theology, proving his case to support the statement he had made to me earlier. It was amazing and frightening. Suffice it to say that we are no longer associated with that church.

I don’t doubt the man’s sincerity. For some time, insecure of my own incomplete theological education and swayed by his utter conviction, I listened. I really wanted to give his intellect and determination the benefit of the doubt. I rationalized his fervor, and subsequent insistent and unloving manner, to a heartfelt urgency to make up for coming into the ministry later in life and a previous career in quality control.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Truth is such an important concept. I realized as I listened and attempted to understand his interpretation of Scripture, that I also come to the Word with my own biases.  The way people think about any topic is a amazing blend of their acquired knowledge, vast or limited in scope, and their experiences, good, bad or non-existent. Each person brings that data into the committee meeting. No wonder there is not consensus!

Trying to comprehend a theology that concludes Jesus loves you to be an inappropriate statement made me wonder anew about the whole subject of theology. Since the first century there are almost 400 recognized theologians. Each one is noted for some thesis, paper or letter left to explain how we should all understand certain Scriptures and where we should stand on certain issues. Needless to say, they do not all agree. Several rose to prominence and then were burned at the stake. Only fifteen were women, leaving such weighty topics to be decided by only half the members of our species.

How can we determine truth?

I only know my answer to how I determine truth. It’s what drew me to attend seminary, attempt a deeper understanding of God and pursue desire to serve Him.  In a word – LOVE. Like much of the world, I had heard John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…” Then people I loved and trusted started showing that love. It was changing their lives, making them kinder, gentler, more peaceful. They explained that Jesus loved us all so much that He died for us. I saw evidence of this truth right before my very eyes. I wanted to be part of sharing that miraculous, life changing power.

I wish everyone could have a chance to experience that kind of love. I also believe they have a free choice to enjoy it and return it or not. If God is a loving Father, he does not force His children to love Him. Love not given freely isn’t real love. I know what I believe is influenced by my relationship with my earthly father, who encouraged me to think for myself and loved me enough to debate, but not force, my opinions and decisions.

For now we see through a glass, darkly.

What frightens me is that anyone can insist that they hold the monopoly on truth. A skilled lawyer can make a case and persuade people by intimidating and overwhelming them with pre-selected data. How sad to teach God’s wonderful love letter to His people as a document with which to judge and bludgeon each other.

I choose to believe there is Good News. There is Love without condition. (I John 4:8) There is Forgiveness for the unrepentant. (Luke 23:34) There is Mercy for the undeserving. (If they deserved it, it would be called justice). There is Grace for the unjust. (Matt 5:45). God is that loving, able and merciful. In fact, God is love.

We already know that we are imperfect people. We don’t need to be reminded of that every day. What if we treated our fellow human beings as if God’s Mercies were really new every morning? What would happen if we focused on what people did right instead of what they did wrong? What if we tried to learn where we agree instead of where we disagree? How much better could our world be if we loved, forgave, encouraged and built one another up instead of judging, chastising and tearing one another down?

 

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Are You In My Tribe?

I was reading another blog post about finding your tribe, those people with whom you resonate, who think and act in a similar manner as you do. First of course, you have to ask yourself, “What resonates with me? What excites me and makes me feel alive?” It takes a bit of introspection.

I love traveling. It’s not the mode of transportation, the airplanes, trains or vehicle that I enjoy. Sometimes that is the worst part! It’s the straining forward in the seat to see what is around the bend. I love that. I’m just curious. It’s getting out to see how other people live, what they eat, how they play, what and how they celebrate. It’s the joy of walking where they walk and seeing from a new perspective. That is so interesting to me.

I also love home, but it’s not an expansive mansion for me. I’m a cottage person, warm, tidy and cozy. I love tiny homes, hobbit holes or weird and exotic havens, filled with family laughing, talking and cuddling!

I love books, all kinds, well, most kinds, fact or fiction. I love to curl up in a comfy nook with a book and a green apple. There I travel to distant realms. I know that if actual travel ever becomes impossibly uncomfortable, I can still go to all the places I dream of in books. I love to read aloud to children and watch their eyes dance.

I love nature. Walking in the rain, strolling in the New England autumn colors, waterfalls, rivers, the oceans and beaches. Who couldn’t just gaze at these things and be mesmerized by the glory! I just can’t do HEAT – I need the shade!

I get restless easily. After I uncurl from my book reading, I need to move. I rearrange furniture, go bike riding, plan a trip, draw out a design for a house or a garden or a chair. Something creative and new. I go visit my grandchildren – that usually takes care of any excess energy I need to burn off!

So, to which Tribe do I belong? I couldn’t find one, so I decide to invent one. I’m calling it the KISS Tribe. That’s the Keep it Super Simple Tribe. It could be Supremely Simple or Seriously Simple – but I think that’s my Tribe.

Two sayings that have always followed me throughout my life are:

1. Live simply so others may simply live.

2. Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

They fit me like a favorite pair of shoes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for entrepreneurial endeavors, earning a comfortable living, affording your dreams and success. Just remember that success isn’t the same for everyone. The businesses we start or jobs we accept won’t look or run the same as others. The material possessions we care about won’t be identical. I have a pair of flip flops that I bought newly married;  they have traveled the world with me and are still going strong. New isn’t always better.

Keeping it simple for me means living life at your own pace. It means enjoying time with family and friends. It means sharing good books and having the time it takes to master new skills.(I have just begun piano lessons and it requires practice!) It means reading when you feel like it or being super active when you feel like it. And, not feeling guilty when you are not doing either!

I have learned from my mistakes and feel like that is my new mission in this season of my life – reminding people to keep things simple. Don’t over complicate your life. In this day and age when people are encouraged to do it all and feel totally stressed out, I am here to say don’t do it all, do every thing you want, one thing at a time. Take your time, breathe, look up and enjoy the process.

So, if you want to join my KISS TRIBE, you are welcome. We can encourage one another to Keep It Super Simple. We can absolve one another from undeserved and unnecessary guilt.  We can remind one another that life does not need to be complicated. We can share the blessings of friendship, family and fun. That’s my kind of tribal success!

Sending my love,

Melody

P.S. There are no requirements to join. If you want in, you’re in! If you want to let me know, you can, but like I said – there’s no requirement!

 

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Don’t Wait – Take Time Now!

My husband and I decided to take a year off. Our decision was prompted and encouraged by the heartbreaking news that several of our classmates went to their heavenly retirement before they were old enough to enjoy their earthly benefits. In addition to those sobering events, several close family members experienced serious illness. What a reminder that life is fragile and tomorrow is not guaranteed!

So, since life is for the living, we threw caution to the wind and decided to go camping. For a year! We didn’t have a huge budget for this. We didn’t own a camper. No matter! We decided to build one.

Here are the photos of our truck camper that cost approximately $350. To be clear, we already owned the truck!  We determined to use what we already had and go as far and as long as the money allowed. The truck already had over 250,000 miles!

Truck camper in process. Making the frame and fitting our exiting top.

Truck camper in process. Making the frame and fitting our existing top.

Making a little side opening for Tom to stretch out his legs!

Making a little side opening for Tom to stretch out his legs! He did have rain and mosquito coverage. Like having your bed in an attic!

Here are the wings that allow us to stand upright when the camper is open!

Here are the wings that allow us to stand upright when the camper is open! Sorry, tilt your head – I have tried everything to get this photo straight but – no go!

Here we are near the Jersey Boardwalk with the camper closed.

Here we are near the Jersey Boardwalk with the camper closed. See the post On the Boardwalk to hear about the side blowing out!

This is on site in NC in the open position!

This is on site in NC in the open position! We had cooking gear, a porta-potty, and even our Ipad to watch movies! Helps to park on a level spot though!

We called it our sabbatical year,  to do whatever we wished and go wherever the mood took us. We were in all the New England states and out as far as Colorado. We got to visit people we love and care about, but seldom see. We even took time off from camping to join friends in Europe for two weeks. (The economics of camping allowed us to afford the flight to Europe!)

We took our time, and when the weather grew too hot for camping, we returned to our home with AC and puttered through some of the projects we had been putting on the back burner. We read books. We hiked. We biked. We swung in the hammock. It was wonderful.

What added confirmation to our crazy plan was how often we ran into people who saw what we were doing and sighed, “I wish we could do that, too!”  We felt it was our mission to tell them, “You can!”

Anyone can. You just make a decision and do it!  It has consequences like every decision in life. Maybe you won’t be adding anything to your IRA or ROTH during that time. Maybe you’ll even have to leave your job. It’s up to you. You do have choices in this life. You can make your own path. Maybe it seems scary. There will be a score of people who will advise you against it and list hundreds of reasons you shouldn’t do whatever crazy plan you dream up. You don’t have to listen to them. We didn’t. We’re still here. We had a blast! There are still jobs to be had, always work to be done.  And we don’t regret not waiting until retirement. In fact, we may even do it again!

Whatever you decide – enjoy it!

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