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Family is a dichotomy of love and hate – especially true in the relationships of siblings.  Both emotions are steered by the conditions of their lives as they grow up.  There were six of us children, growing up as “army brats”.  That meant that every two years we moved to a new state.  As a result, we became each others best friends because we had to depend one-on-the-other to be the constant in our lives during our formative years.

Then as we grew up we drifted into forming individual lives, only coming together as a family unit on holidays.  That is until life began to bring us back to those feelings from our childhood when we were the only ones who recognized and who truly understood what the others were feeling.  It is those very feelings that cause us to join in God’s word in Isaiah 40:1 “‘Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ says your God”  bringing forth the unconditional comfort of family.

Today, my guest blogger is my oldest brother, Bill.  When we were kids, he let me stay up late and watch The Twilight Zone with him on Friday nights, followed by those scary Godzilla movies on Saturday mornings, and laughed with me while watching Bugs Bunny cartoons, enabling me to face fear with the knowledge that better times always come.   When I was only nine and weighed 75 pounds, a bully at school stomped my foot, causing me to cry.  The next day at school, Bill walked up to the bully, stomped the bully’s foot and said, “Don’t ever do that to my sister again!”  And the bully never did, nor any other bully because words do get around.

Bill is the one who, when I was home with a very bad case of the flu, signed me up for cheerleader tryouts; not something I had even considered.  He then became my campaign manager by again signing me up to run for student council – also not on my “bucket list”.  He helped me write the words to my campaign speeches and encouraged me to reach all the way to my toenails and to pull up the courage to share them in front of the student body (I was very shy).  Imagine my surprise when I succeeded at both and both are two of my best high school memories.

He is the one, as I struggled with the decision to go to college after getting married said, “Just try it.  Take one class, make it your favorite subject – and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to go back.  You just need to know what it’s like.”  As usual, he knew me better than I knew myself.  Not only did I graduate cum laude from his favorite – The University of Alabama, I went on to obtain my Masters Degree.

He is the one who is calm in the storms of our lives as siblings today – all with words of peace, faith and hope, – and a whole lot of prayer.  I want to share the words of this man who backs them up with actions, making a difference.

 

BillWords by Bill Brewer

“I guess, just about everyone has heard the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I, for one, have never embraced this saying, because words do have meanings and they do have consequences.

What if you had printer in your home and as you went through each day each word you spoke was printed from the printer, page by page? What would be there for you read when you got home? Would you share it with everyone or just shred it?

Then, what if for one day each word that you spoke would travel across the screen of all television sets in your hometown? Could you then go out and walk in public with your head held high? Or would you hide and only come out when it was dark?

In a spiritual way, each word we speak appears on the screen of God’s television. When each of us talk to people we meet each day, we should always strive to use words that God would approve of.  Always remember that a word of kindness and encouragement, especially to a child, could give hope to a person that had none before, or give that child the needed encouragement to excel.

A single kind word or act to someone close to you, or even to a stranger, could show them that someone cares. So as you start each day ask yourself. “What will my printer say about me today?” But more importantly, when the day ends, we need to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus say about the words we spoke today?”

Bill, husband to Kathy, father to two daughters and grandfather to five grandchildren, brother, friend, veteran, refers to himself as “Just a God loving country boy.”

And so he is.

 

Golf and the Imperfect Player

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Today is July 8, 2015. Wednesday, a most serendipitous day as it turns out.

I was supposed to play golf this glorious morning. But I woke up with a stomach bug which can’t be ignored on a golf course. My partner to-be was one of my favorite golfing friends – rats!

So, I stayed home. As so often happens, there was something I needed to do on this day and it was not to play golf.

Wednesdays has always been my blog posting day. However, writers are creative people and that is why we find the most creative ways to avoid writing. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, so I got my writing partner, Teddie, and we clicked on my blog.

“Time to update this,” I said to Teddie.

He responded by licking my chin and snuggling closer to the keyboard in hopes that I would scratch his ear instead of playing with the dreaded machine.

I rubbed my cheek against his furry head, hoping for inspiration. The Sparklers Blog site’s new look cried out for some refreshing blogs to go with it. After all, how long before my Facebook friends get weary of reading my same old words?

I put Teddie down, as I paced in my small office, tossing a golf ball back and forth in my hands, matching the cadence of my steps. My writing partner doubled my paces with his four paws, following my steps, turns and stops with great precision. I thought about doing the laundry Shuddering, I sat back down and Teddie curled up at my feet. “What’s wrong with me?” I asked Teddie. He cocked his head, his black eyes looking deeply into my blue ones before snorting and curling up for yet another nap.

It takes persistence to write and send my words out to the world. “Same old words,” I thought. “Hitting golf balls is much more fun because, at the end of the day, it’s is all about competing with yourself. That makes it the game for me.

When I first began to play, I missed the ball more than I hit it. Oh the times I hit the ground behind the ball, feeling the shuddering jolt from wrist to shoulder, with the golf ball still in place, or worse dribbling on the ground in front of me. Initially I would cut my eyes around to see if anyone saw it, relieved when no one seemed to be looking in my direction.

So, I took lessons, practiced, practiced, practiced and practiced some more until I finally learned to play the game. Imagine my surprise when, as I played and began to keep score, I wanted a better score than the one before. I began to analyze, not what I did right, but what I did wrong. What made me miss that ball? What made the ball go in the opposite direction from where I aimed it? What made me miss that putt?
I had the best game of my life recently and was so very anxious to go “show off “my improvements at the ladies Wednesday league play. Instead, here I sit writing my first blog on my new, improved blog site while dodging puppy kisses when I asked Teddie why it had been so long since my last blog.

Why did I avoid writing my blog? Why did I look for things like pulling weeds, Facebooking, or internet shopping (but not buying). Analyzing the whys of this I realized perhaps I was afraid of sharing my own opinions… .

No, my feelings… .

No, my heart.

That’s it, heart. My heart is shielded by my desire to be better than I was before this moment. When I stop to think about that, I realize that being better doesn’t mean being someone you are not. Just like I’ll never be on the LPGA tour, I’ll never be a perfect person. Just as the persistence with my golf game allowed me to learn the self-improvement of the game, God’s grace allows me to be forgiven and to just be who I am as I strive to be the best me. My words are free to be shared because they come from the faith in my heart. This sparkle was for me today; yet I am hopeful that this sparkle from my imperfect heart, will bring just a bit of light to someone else.

How good is that?

I kissed Teddie’s head and felt that spark of God’s Grace!

Squeeze Life Out of Every Second Because You Never Know When the Clock Will Stop Ticking! by Pastor Mic Barnett

Pastor Mic Barnett“You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).
I love the fall season with its brilliant colors, crisp air and the smell of football in the air. I feel so much more alive, getting up on these early mornings and walking out to the truck, the cool air hitting my face. I then travel to work through Horns Valley and Chandlers Springs into Clay County in beautiful central Alabama. It is twenty or so miles of pristine, brightly colored rolling hills and deep valleys. Many mornings, heading East, I can see the beautiful red and orange colors of the sun trying to peek through the dense fog as I drive in and out of valleys into the countryside. I have lived all over the world but this little piece of paradise is special and tranquil. Some mornings I just want to keep driving and not stop at work because of the beauty God paints for me each morning. So majestic and powerful are the colors that it sometimes blinds me with its beauty and takes my breath away. I know many who cannot see and I am amazed that God would bless me to have the sight to be able to see His beauty.

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 1 Corinthians 2:9

I don’t know if it is me getting a little long in the tooth or getting wiser, I try, but often fail, to enjoy each day as if it is my last. I notice the things and the people around me more than when I was younger and running a hundred miles an hour. I call it “living in the moment”. Let me explain my change in thinking.

A little over 10 years ago, I had my first stroke. I woke up that morning assuming it would be like any other day. While taking a shower, I realized it might not. I was having a problem standing up straight. I went on to work, made an appointment to see my doctor (wife wouldn’t stop bugging me about getting an appointment) and went about my daily business. When the doctor said, “You have had a stroke and I will be admitting you into the hospital immediately” I was stunned. This could not be happening to me. I’m in great shape. This is supposed to happen to someone else!

As I lay in that hospital bed that night with my wife, Dot, sleeping in a chair beside my bed, I looked at her for a long time, appreciating her for all she had done for me over the years and forgiving me for all the wrong I had done. I asked myself, “Does she know how much I appreciate her and love her?”

What if I had another stroke before she woke up and I didn’t get a chance to tell her? I reached over and touched her arm and quietly said, “I love you with all my heart and appreciate everything you do. I just wanted you to know.”
I felt a huge weight roll off my shoulders. I then started to evaluate my whole life and wondered if I had done everything I was put on this earth to do. I realized then that many opportunities to touch other people and to truly appreciate this thing called life had passed me by. I had been too busy living life to truly LIVE life. From that time on I’d like to think I am different and I do cherish people and the years, months, days and every second God has given me as a gift.

I guess since that day God has given me a new perspective. I take time now to enjoy everything and everyone that crosses my path. I say, “I love you” a lot more than before and I do things now that it might not look cool but I do it anyway. I’ll get down in the dirt with my grand-kids and not care how dirty I get. I laugh hard now not caring how I sound. Most of my hair has waved good bye over the years, but that doesn’t bother me either. God has a wonderful way of talking to us, if we will only listen.

At one time, having male pattern baldness really bothered me, having that round spot on the back of my head reached down deep into my vanity but then something happened that stopped it from mattering. One day our second grandchild, a beautiful little girl of six months, was sitting on my shoulders and I noticed she had put her hands right in that bald spot. I moved her hands to see what she would do and she put them right back in that spot. They were a perfect fit! I almost cried. The Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “Now do you know why you have that spot? It is so your grandkids have a place to put their small hands when they are on your shoulders.” Wow! My male pattern baldness doesn’t bother me any longer needless to say.

Living with the certain knowledge that your life is fragile and limited is different than just living. Things here are passing away. You’ve got to hold on to what will stand. Savor what matters. Showing love to your fellow man will last forever.
A few years ago I tried this principle out. It was Christmas time, Dot and I were in the toy section of a local WalMart. Talk about a mess; toys were everywhere!

A young clerk was on her hands and knees frantically trying to pick up and re-organize her department. No sooner than she’d clean up one area, kids would come through and mess it up again. From the other end of the aisle, I saw her just sit on the floor with her shoulders slumped over. She was in deep despair.

I knew then why I was there. It wasn’t just to shop for gifts, but to uplift someone. I walked down the aisle and said, “Miss, thank you for keeping this section organized because if you did not, no one could find anything. Merry Christmas.”
The young lady looked up at me and said, “Thank you. Merry Christmas to you, too.” Her face had changed from a deep scowl to a smile, all because of a few kind words that didn’t cost me time nor money. Kindness and love are amazing aren’t they? They are a great tool against sadness and depression.

Life Is Short. Eternity Is Long. Live Like It.

Surely God means for our minutes on earth to count for something significant.
You will exist forever. How long doesn’t matter. How you live does! Time is precious.

Psalm 31:19 Oh how great is your goodness, which you have laid up for them that fear you…

Squeeze Life out of Every Second by making those seconds count!

Circle of Love – An Adoption Story

Circle of Love – An Adoption Story.

Driven to Distraction

I am excited, once again, to have Pastor Mic as a guest blogger.  He’s a regular man, walking his faith, and telling his truth.  His blog, Driven to Distraction, is a good old fashioned reminder that God loves us enough to do what any good parent does, provide caution when needed.  After reading his blog my epiphany is that God is not a rock star.  We don’t need that “backstage pass” to get to know Him.  We don’t have to wait for death to give us a better life.  He is with us, this day, this moment, right where we are.  His sparkles of grace are all around us!

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John 8:12King James Version (KJV) 12 “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Football season is here! This means less yard work, summer vacations are over, and that new sixty inch television will be able to display all its HD magic! The important thing to remember is – no distractions.

I drive to work every morning through the beautiful countryside of eastern Alabama with its rolling hills and valley. With that beauty, comes also rain and fog that hovers in the valleys. Many times I have to slow down and use my fog lights so I can see better and to keep me from running off the road into a ditch or over a cliff. This morning was one of those mornings and as I drove I thought “That’s the way the Lord is”. He brightens our path. When the storms of this life rolls in like a thick fog and our lives are filled with rain, He will light our path with His written word or a word of encouragement from another Christian that will illuminate our path with His love, keeping us out of the ditches of this world and taking us safely home.

I just got back from an HR conference in Orange Beach and one of the classes I attended was entitled “Driven to Distraction”. The class was all about how we as drivers are distracted by so many things other than what we are supposed to be doing – driving. The instructor talked about the dangers of not focusing on the road and the vehicles around us. Most of the distractions were obvious such as being on the phone, texting, changing the radio, putting on make- up and passengers. He explained how dangerous it is to be distracted. As I sat there I started thinking about the spiritual aspect of this subject. As Christians, we too are driven to distractions that can take our eyes off the Christian road.

1. TV
2. Facebook
3. Sports
4. Shopping
5. Work
6. Hobbies

I’m not going to elaborate on each one and how it can distract us. I’m sure you can look at each one and KNOW how it can distract us can’t you?

I’m not talking about not doing any of this; everything in moderation. With football season starting, I think you know what I mean!

Making use of the most widely read guide book, the Bible, will help us with avoiding the pitfalls of distractions. It is a “cautionary tale”, it’s purpose to help us “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”(Philippians 3:14).

Did you ever notice how much of life is full of warnings and cautions? You can’t drive anywhere without seeing something that’s a direct warning or caution, or at the very least, a law or a limit with an implied warning.

Speed limits are an example. They’re an implied warning that if you drive over that limit, you can be ticketed, or get yourself hurt, or hurt someone else…. that’s why we have limits.

There are road hazard warnings. The road narrows ahead – move over or you’ll run out of pavement. There are all kinds of warnings in life.

Most products we purchase have labels warning about improper use. I found a great list of these kinds of warnings. Believe it or not, these are all real. Here’s a few:

– A fishing lure, with a warning that reads: harmful if swallowed.

– A warning label found on a baby stroller cautions the user to “Remove child before folding”

– A cardboard car sun-shield that keeps sun off the dashboard warns, “Do not drive with sunshield in place”

We can laugh about these and think who would be foolish enough to need such warnings?

But apparently someone did something goofy enough or some lawyer thinks someone is or will be foolish enough to actually drive with the sunshade in place.

Then of course, we often hear about warnings that go unheeded and the sometimes very serious consequences of these things that aren’t at all funny.

For example, how often have we heard the clear warning: “don’t drink and drive?”
But then how often do you hear or read of a drunk driver who causes an accident that kills someone.

Focusing on warnings or admonitions can help us know the difference when making choices that hurt or help ourselves and others. Cautions and warnings can be our friends. They exist to keep us well. Sometimes they exist to keep us alive.

The same is true of our life in Christ. While we rely completely on the grace of God, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for our eternal destiny, we Christians sometimes do things to mess up our lives on earth.

We can all think of things we’ve done or not done, things we’ve seen others do or not do, things that had at least some short-term negative consequences or often even long-term or life-altering consequences.

The Word of God is first and foremost is a story of how Jesus lived a life worthy of eternal salvation, as it details His plans for our eternal salvation. It is a guide that helps us focus on making us better and in the doing, makes our world better.

For, it’s not just a book full of caution and warning. The readings helps us understand how we can live Godly lives for Him and in doing that, escape the consequences of what we’d otherwise have to classify as foolish behavior.

While this world just about guarantees some measure of trouble, illness, or hardship, by walking wholeheartedly with Jesus, by devoting our lives to Him, we can escape or handle the hardships that we have to deal with in life.

There’s no guarantee of total bliss, even with the Lord, but things do go better as we focus: “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV)

—Mic Barnett, Alabama

WHEREVER THE RIVER RUNS: how a forgotten people renewed my hope in the gospel by Kelly Minter

REVIEW AND GIVEAWAY:Whereever the River Runs

I am a lover of books and stories of inspiration and faith. I choose to view the world through rose-colored glasses, content in the happy glow it gives me.

I hate darkness, bugs, snakes and water so dark that you just know no good can come of its deadly flow to nowhere. This describes my perception of the Amazon River as I began reading the novel by Kelly Minter, Wherever the River Runs.
Ms. Minter’s slowly drew me into a book that I didn’t think I wanted to read. Assuming the book was yet another story of well-intentioned volunteers out to change the world one week, one year at a time, I too journeyed as her life was changed more than those she went to help, and in the doing, changed my life.

From the beginning of the story, Ms. Minter tells of how the journey captivated her and her Western-theology perspective, “forever shape the way I spend money, value prayer, consider the poor, view modern-day miracles,” as she quickly asked, “Which way to the jungle?”

And so my own journey began, with each word and each turn of the page as the beautifully written descriptions of the land and the people allowed me to experience, from my porch swing, as the ice melted in my forgotten tea glass, the unexpectedness of people whose lives were more difficult than today’s world finds acceptable, thus our journey to minister to those less fortunate. This one week in the Amazon changed how Ms. Minter, upon her return home, caused discontentment with the security of her own world through revelations from eyes that learned to see those who needed help that were right in front of her as she went about her daily activities.

These experiences allowed her to see that it is not what we do or don’t have, rather it is what we do with what we have; we can begin this day, at this time, right where we are.

Funny how God works… .

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Official Family Christian Blogger

WHY MATH IS IMPORTANT

The new school year has either begun or is about to begin. I remember how excited I would be getting paper, pencils, a dictionary, and crayons. I was not so excited, however, getting calculators, compasses, and rulers for the dreaded math classes, because I refused to enjoy math.

Why?  Well, first I’m a girl and girls aren’t supposed to be good at math.  Although I usually made an A in math because, well, why would you not want an A? I simply saw no value purpose for math.  Sure, basic arithmetic is fine for balancing check books, figuring out percentages of 20% off of those shoes I’ve been lusting after, and perhaps the 10% tithe that the pastor occasionally reminded us about, never specifying if it was pre or post-tax dollars. I realize that math is one of the oldest academic fields, but I just don’t see why there has to be so many other kinds, such as:
algebra
geometry
trigonometry
calculus
linear algebra
combinatorics
differential equations
real analysis
complex analysis
abstract algebra (includes group theory, ring theory, field theory, and module theory)
topology
number theory
logic
probability
statistics
game theory
functional analysis
algebraic geometry
differential geometry
dynamical systems (includes “chaos theory”)
numerical analysis
set theory
category theory
model theory

See my point?

Until today when I attended Ms. Billie’s Watercolor Demonstration Class. This is what I learned:

My mentors Nelle and Lehehia are on the left - they actually think I can paint!  Ms. Billie is on the right.  Stay tuned for my progressive musings as I take her course over he next few weeks!
My mentors Nelle and Leheia are on the left – they actually think I can paint! Ms. Billie is on the right. Stay tuned for my progressive musings as I take her course over he next few weeks!

1. Good paintings begin with a good value plan. Your painting begins by first recognizing shades of black and white in order that those shades may become shades of rich, soft colors that envelop you in the warmth of peace.
2. Have a focal point and paint everything toward that. Everything painted around that focal point is there for the purpose of illuminating the artist message.
3. There are no rules, therefore go ahead and paint outside the lines – in fact you are encouraged to do so. This form of self-discovery allows the freedom to create art without restriction.
4. Always go to the edge of the canvas with lots and lots and lots of color. This seems scary, but by going to the edge comes the realization that we don’t have to jump or fall. We learn that beauty can be brought back from that edge.
5. Allow the paint color to run. Just like life meanders seemingly without purpose, the varying hues and shapes make it a life worth the living.
6. Don’t copy another’s paintings. True artists pull out their own creativity, creating their own joy.
7. Keep your sketch pad accessible at all times and don’t be afraid to use it. While stopping to smell the roses, it is important to memorialize the hues, shapes and flaws of the rose.
8. Take time to step back and look at the focal point using the value plan. Assessing our path along the way serves as a gentle reminder of a purposeful life.
9. Never ever construct without a value plan….of faith, of hope, or of love – all given so generously by God and should be generously received by us.
10. Perspective in watercolor art is a mathematical principle (geometry) and is learned from a square block.

After all, as Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

Aha! Math is an art and that is why math is important.

MY DOG TEDDIE

MY DOG TEDDIE.

Something Actually

All too often we hear a story, we may even be the bearer of the story, followed by looks of astonishment and the declaration, “You can’t make this stuff up!”.

Maybe, just maybe, ya’ can.

According to my Facebook feed and The Today Show, every day seems to be a National “something or the other” Day.
The trend to declare every day as a National Day of Something actually makes me happy. Some, in fact, make me delirious, while others are just a bit odd to me, but each one is meaningful to someone(s).

A few examples of these National Awareness Days …

Food Day: How do you recognize this day? Going without food in order to understand what that feels like; or contributing to the local food bank? To do is to understand don’t you think?

Thankful Day: Is this a day of giving thanks or of receiving thanks? Which has the greater purpose?

Thinking Day: We need a day for this!?! Oops, did I say that out loud?

Poetry Day: How special to take ten minutes to read a message that impacts the heart and the head with a meaning that I think about for the rest of the day, often memorizing those words to repeat them when I need to be reminded of that message. Try it because the next step is addiction to stories, then an ascension to the world of full length novels. Want to try this three step program?

Trivia and Humiliation Day: Observed on the same day – coincidence? As an active trivia team member I think not, but am certainly open to other opinions.

Peanut Butter Day: I observe this on Thankful Day.

Jelly Day: So many choices, how good is that?

Peanut Butter and Jelly Day: NOW we’re talkin’!!

Dance Like a Chicken Day: How do chickens dance? I’ve seen some do the Michael Jackson moon-walk, some do the Texas Two-Step, while others do the yoga standing- on- one- foot- pose. Namaste.

Chocolate Day: Everyone is aware of this. However, there’s more specific chocolate days such as Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day or Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, just to name two. While I realize you may have to wait to Thinking Day to respond, what is your specific chocolate day of choice?

Peculiar People Day: Pretend to be peculiar for a day. What would that look like? Who would you become? Why would you become that person? Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes…that’s all I’m sayin’… .

Be Nasty Day: Ah-ha, now’s our chance! On this day we can get away with doing, saying and acting…well…er…mean? This makes me sad.

Some of the more unique awareness days that I also find interesting are:
Bologna Day, Clean Out the Fridge Day, Use Even If the Seal Is Broken Day, Roof Over Your Head Day as well as Enormous Change At Last Day and Bicarbonate of Soda Day – these last two are celebrated on the same day. Coincidence?

Then there’s the Day of Prayer. I surely hope that this Day raises the awareness of what prayer can do. I pray my way out of bed each morning, pray my thankfulness as my children say “I Love you Mom” before they hang up the phone. Every. Single. Time. I pray for wisdom, for guidance and for strength. So if a Day of Prayer brings awareness of the power of prayer, then Glory be to God.

Play God Day. Who wants to take that on?  God is God, and we are not.

Blessings!

 

 

 

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