Sunday, December 30, 2012

Overcoming

In the work of sanctification, we must overcome as Christ overcame, as the Bible puts it. He overcame in three areas: Appetite (commanding stones to be bread when he was wearied with hunger), Presumption (presuming upon God to save Him if He threw Himself down), and Worship (worshipping Satan to gain back the kingdoms of the world).

Appetite is the hardest to overcome, but we can be of good cheer--Christ has overcome the world.

Here is what Sister White has to say about appetite:
“Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? for ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” When men take any course which needlessly expends their vitality or beclouds their intellect, they sin against God; they do not glorify Him in their body and spirit, which are His. – {CD 118.2}

Yet despite the insult which man has offered Him, God’s love is still extended to the race; and He permits light to shine, enabling man to see that in order to live a perfect life he must obey the natural laws which govern his being. How important, then, that man should walk in this light, exercising all his powers, both of body and mind, to the glory of God! – {CD 118.3}

We are in a world that is opposed to righteousness, or purity of character, and especially to growth in grace. Wherever we look, we see defilement and corruption, deformity and sin. How opposed is all this to the work that must be accomplished in us just previous to receiving the gift of immortality! God’s elect must stand untainted amid the corruptions teeming around them in these last days. Their bodies must be made holy, their spirits pure. If this work is to be accomplished, it must be undertaken at once, earnestly and understandingly. The Spirit of God should have perfect control, influencing every action.... – {CD 118.4}

Men have polluted the soul temple, and God calls upon them to awake, and to strive with all their might to win back their God-given manhood. Nothing but the grace of God can convict and convert the heart; from Him alone can the slaves of custom obtain power to break the shackles that bind them. It is impossible for a man to present his body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, while continuing to indulge habits that are depriving him of physical, mental, and moral vigor. Again the apostle says, “Be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”—[Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 7-11] Counsels on Health, 19-23, 1890 – {CD 119.1}

Next is the area of presumption. People don't often list this as one of the areas that they are struggling in, by perhaps that is because they are being presumptuous.

Here is Mrs. White again:
The sin of presumption lies close beside the virtue of perfect faith and confidence in God. Satan flattered himself that he could take advantage of the humanity of Christ to urge Him over the line of trust to presumption. Upon this point many souls are wrecked. Satan tried to deceive Christ through flattery. He admitted that He was right in the wilderness in His faith and confidence that God was His Father under the most trying circumstances. He then urged Christ to give him one more proof of His entire dependence upon God, one more evidence of His faith that He was the Son of God, by casting Himself from the Temple. He told Christ that if He was indeed the Son of God He had nothing to fear, for angels were at hand to uphold Him. Satan gave evidence that he understood the Scriptures by the use he made of them. – {Con 48.2}

The Redeemer of the world wavered not from His integrity, and showed that He had perfect faith in His Father’s promised care. He would not put the faithfulness and love of His Father to a needless trial, although He was in the hands of an enemy and placed in a position of extreme difficulty and peril. He would not at Satan’s suggestion tempt God by presumptuously experimenting on His providence. Satan had brought in Scripture which seemed appropriate for the occasion, hoping to accomplish his designs by making the application to our Saviour at this special time. – {Con 48.3}

Christ knew that God could indeed bear Him up if He had required Him to throw Himself from the Temple. But to do this unbidden, and to experiment upon His Father’s protecting care and love because dared by Satan to do so would not show His strength of faith. Satan was well aware that if Christ could be prevailed upon, unbidden by His Father, to fling Himself from the Temple to prove His claim to His heavenly Father’s protecting care, He would in the very act show the weakness of His human nature. – {Con 49.1}

Christ came off victor in the second temptation. He manifested perfect confidence and trust in His Father during His severe conflict with the powerful foe. Our Redeemer, in the victory here gained, has left man a perfect pattern, showing him that his only safety is in firm trust and unwavering confidence in God in all trials and perils. He refused to presume upon the mercy of His Father by placing Himself in peril that would make it necessary for His heavenly Father to display His power to save Him from danger. This would be forcing providence on His own account, and He would not then leave for His people a perfect example of faith and firm trust in God. – {Con 49.2}

Satan’s object in tempting Christ was to lead Him to daring presumption, and to show human weakness that would not make Him a perfect pattern for His people. He thought that should Christ fail to bear the test of his temptations there could be no redemption for the race, and his power over them would be complete. – {Con 49.3}

And lastly there is Worship, which Revelation says will be the final test of time.

This is what Ellen White had to say:
The time is upon us when the miracle-working power of the arch deceiver will be more decidedly revealed. And his deceptions will increase in their delusive attraction, so that they will perplex, and if possible, deceive, the very elect. The prince of darkness with his evil angels is working upon the Christian world, inducing those who profess the name of Christ to stand under the banner of darkness, to make war with those who keep the commandments of God, and have the faith of Jesus. An apostate church will unite with the powers of earth and hell to place upon the forehead or in the hand, the mark of the beast, and prevail upon the children of God to worship the beast and his image. They will seek to compel them to renounce their allegiance to God’s law, and yield homage to the papacy. Then will come the times which will try men’s souls; for the confederacy of apostasy will demand that the loyal subjects of God shall renounce the law of Jehovah, and repudiate the truth of his word. Then will the gold be separated from the dross, and it will be made apparent who are the godly, who are loyal and true, and who are the disloyal, the dross and the tinsel. What clouds of chaff will then be borne away by the fan of God! Where now our eyes can discover only rich floors of wheat, will be chaff blown away with the fan of God. Every one who is not centered in Christ will fail to stand the test and ordeal of that day. While those who are clothed with Christ’s righteousness will stand firm to truth and duty, those who have trusted in their own righteousness will be ranged under the black banner of the prince of darkness. Then it will be seen whether the choice is for Christ or Belial. Those who have been self-distrustful, who have been so circumstanced that they have not dared to face stigma and reproach, will at last openly declare themselves for Christ and his law; while many who have appeared to be flourishing trees, but who have borne no fruit, will go with the multitude to do evil, and will receive the mark of apostasy in the forehead or in the hand. – {RH November 8, 1892 Par. 7}

These are the final and biggest tests that we must overcome, but are we preparing in the little areas of life? Are we denying fleshly perverted appetites and habits? Are we following the counsels given in regards to health and dress reform? Have we surrendered all areas of our lives to God, or are we presuming that He'll surely save us even if we're still cherishing sin? Have we made God the only object of our worship and praise? Have we kept His Sabbath day holy? Our actions speak louder than our words.

In conclusion:
I speak these words to all who love and fear God. People who stand prepared to do the works of righteousness will not be deceived by the allurements of the enemy. The angels of God are by their side restraining them if they will be restrained. Their actions will be guided by an exalted sense of right. They will be enabled to distinguish between right and wrong, between truth—exalted truth—and error. Those who enter the kingdom of heaven will be those who have reached the highest standard of moral obligation, those who have not sought to hide the truth or to deceive, those by whom God has been exalted and His Word defended, those by whom principle has not been misapplied to vindicate the wiles of Satan.—Letter 188, 1905. – {CTr 198.5}

Thursday, December 20, 2012

English Research Paper

One of the classes that I took this semester was Critical Thinking and Writing, in other words: English Composition II. Throughout the weeks of this course, I worked on developing one strong research paper in a subject area that would pertain to the field I hope to enter. I'm hoping to major in Education, so I chose the topic of religion in public schools. This 2,243 word document earned a grade of 89% or B+.
 
Religion’s Role in Public Education
 
The current conditions of today’s public school classrooms are not religiously inclined. Those with religious convictions often feel suppressed and “hushed.” For instance, Kafer (2002) told a story about a girl who was not allowed to pray with her friends for her school lunch (p. 41). Rather than seeing this act as a free expression of religion, her teachers apparently felt that this simple prayer would have been an infringement on the rights of others. Another example is given by Aspy and Aspy’s (1993) story of a little girl who drew a cross when asked to draw an illustration of Easter. “Allegedly, the teacher refused to accept the child's drawing on the grounds that it was unfit for the classroom” (para. 35). Yet, religion is quelled not only by teachers, but also by students who ridicule their fellow classmates for their religious beliefs and practices. As a teacher of high school social studies, Henderson (2012) came in contact with a Sikh student who felt pressured to cut his hair against his religious convictions in order to avoid ridicule from other classmates (para. 3). Overall, public school classrooms do not offer students much freedom to unashamedly adhere to religious principles or to ask questions and express opinions regarding religious topics.
 
However, public schools have not always had this attitude. In the past centuries, their views have changed slowly yet drastically. Passe and Willox (2009) pointed out that early American schools taught Protestant religion (p. 103). They went on to say that schools now give “multi-cultural” education, but usually side-step the religious aspects of the differing cultures (p. 104). Something seems to have slowly changed in the world’s way of thinking, creating a controversy that has been going on for years. However, to truly understand this issue, one has to know what is meant by religion. Spiro (1989) defined religion as “’[a]ny coherent framework for resolving issues of fundamental ethical and metaphysical significance’” (as cited in Aspy & Aspy, 1991, para. 3).  In this context, it can be defined as all religious worldviews, beliefs, and practices, including but not exclusive to Christianity.  Religious freedom, then, is the right to follow the convictions of one’s own conscience—regardless of one’s worldview. However, this freedom is subject to the wellbeing of others and to the laws of the land.
 
There seems to be two extreme opposite views to the question of religion in public schools. A few feel that religion should be an integrated part of the classroom, taught and required for students and teachers. Interestingly enough, the particular religion that these people promote is usually Christianity. Boston (2007) quoted one public school principal who, as a Christian, disliked the fact that freedom of expression included Buddhism, Judaism, and all other religions. “’The issue for us is about freedom of expression of Christianity,’” the principal asserted (as cited in Boston, 2007, p. 8). On the other hand, some rule that religion should be taken out of the classroom altogether. Larue (1998) expressed that “religious speculation” should be kept apart from “modern scientific investigation” in the public school classroom (para. 11). The majority of public schools seems to support the latter opinion and stays away from the subject of religion altogether. However, religion should be taught about, openly discussed, and allowed to be upheld by teachers and students alike. This practice will cause students to become more open minded, create a warm and accepting class atmosphere, and compel students to think analytically about their own and others’ opinions.
 
First and foremost, students can become more impartial toward the ideas of others through learning about religion. It is easy for young students to get the idea that their own opinions and lifestyles are the only standard. Learning about the different religious ideas around them can help students to realize that there is more in the world beyond their own limited spectrum. Rosenblith and Bailey (2007) said that the viewpoints and the cognitive capacities of students can be broadened from instruction in religion, resulting in “increased knowledge, understanding, and respect” (p. 99). It is interesting to note that knowledge must come before respect. Rosenblith and Bailey used the fall of the Twin Towers on September 11th, 2001, to illustrate this point. The attitudes of the American people toward the Muslims that arose from this incident proved Americans’ unfamiliarity with Islam (p. 99). Accordingly, Passe and Willox (2009) stated the following: “The issue of religious knowledge reached the forefront after 9/11, when Americans began to recognize how little they knew about Islam” (p. 104). Rosenblith and Bailey pointed out that after this event, people were suddenly stereotypically labeling all Muslims as “fundamentalists and terrorists.” They concluded by saying, “[R]eligious studies has the potential to eliminate harmful stereotypes and replace them with accurate information about religious groups” (p. 99-100). A better understanding of world religions would be the key to a higher esteem for people who practice those religions.
 
After the framework of increased knowledge of others’ views has begun to be built, then respect will begin to rise from that foundation. Jackson (2004) felt that learning about religion in school would teach students to “’interpret, reflect upon, and gain insights from different worldviews’” (as cited by Valk, 2007, p. 282). When young scholars realize that they can find the common ground between themselves and those of other views, they will be able to value and, as quoted above, “gain insight” from other religious viewpoints, rather than turning their backs completely on the adherents solely because they do not agree with them on certain points. The goal, then, is not to change students’ mindsets, but to help them to appreciate the mindsets of those around them. As Henderson (2012) remarked, “We can and should remain vigilant in protecting religious freedom, which includes … the need to make sure that people of all faiths, or no faith at all, are respected in our public schools” (para. 4). So it is clear that studying religious worldviews can give students better comprehension of, less partiality toward, and greater respect for those worldviews.
 
Secondly, the open-minded study and discussion of religion can create a friendly setting for students. Kafer (2002) affirmed that “[c]reating a space for religious expression … can improve the school environment” (p. 47). Instead of causing arguments, tension, and hostility, as one might expect, Hunter (2000) contended that in spite of students’ cherished and varied opinions, allowing a broad education which includes religion would nonetheless inspire them to collaborate with each other (as cited in Valk, 2007, p. 281). When children feel that their opinions and views can be voiced without being ridiculed, they will be less likely to scorn the ideas of others; they will feel understood and will subsequently try to understand those who hold different opinions than they do. Thus, a classroom where religion is allowed will have a warm, friendly atmosphere as children will learn to look beyond the disagreements and will cultivate, in Kafer’s words, “greater appreciation for the diverse religious heritage” of fellow classmates (p. 48).

Learning to work with fellow classmates will prepare children for the adult reality of working side-by-side with many diverse-minded co-workers, employers, in-laws, and others. In an introduction to an article written by Rosenblith and Bailey (2007), it was stated that since schoolchildren are part of a comprehensive society and government, they must acquire abilities, means, and information to operate on this “religiously diverse” planet, regardless if including discussion of religion in the classroom could be controversial (p. 93). Along the same line, the National Council for the Social Studies Curriculum Standards (n.d.) stated, "’Knowledge about religions … is absolutely necessary for understanding and living in a world of diversity’" (as cited in Kafer, 2002, p. 43). The public schools are excellent training grounds to begin this preparation. Accordingly, Valk (2007) voiced that instructing individuals to surpass personal independence and strive for dedication to others and mutual objectives is the true purpose of schooling (p. 279). What better place to educate young minds in the lessons of self-forgetfulness and commitment to group goals than in the public school classroom, which is open to, as Lynn (n.d.) pointed out, students whose religious and ethical backgrounds are diverse (as cited in Boston, 2007, p. 10). Children will learn to not let differences create dissension through the study of the varieties of religious worldviews.
 
Lastly, learning about religion will teach students to carefully analyze their own and others’ opinions. As Noddings (n.d.) said, allowing classroom discussions about religious topics will actually help students “’gather evidence, assess argument, discriminate among authorities, construct counterarguments, and challenge claims’” (as cited in Rosenblith & Bailey, 2007, p. 100). It would be well to notice the use of the word analyze in the former sentence. Most are more familiar with the phrase critical thinking than analytical thinking. While critical thinking can give the connotation of faultfinding, judgmental thinking, analytical thinking involves positive, rather than negative, evaluations and investigations. In other words, rather than ridiculing those who hold different religious views, students will learn to make their own personal assessments based on the facts and knowledge they gain.
 
However, this analytical thinking does not have to entail the sacrifice of the individual’s values and the acceptance of another’s way of thinking. On the contrary, human beings must learn to think and reason for themselves. Valk (2007) conceded this point by saying that rather than causing children to be confused about what to think, learning about other “religious and secular” views motivates students to strengthen their own mentalities and to know their own priorities (p. 283, emphasis added). When students’ religious opinions are allowed to be discussed and studied in school, the results will include not only a gain in knowledge, but also an increased ability to formulate carefully-considered beliefs rather than blindly-accepted views.
 
One of the most common arguments against allowing religious discussion in public schools is that to do so would be illegal. Aspy and Aspy (1991) noted the complications involving “the doctrine of separation of church and state” by saying, “Currently, there is evidence to support the contention that our rulings have caused teachers nearly to cease to discuss religion with their students” (para. 2). As government schools, public schools are also subject to the government’s laws. The United States Department of Education (2003) stated in a guide on public school prayer that the First Amendment is interpreted as not only restraining the government from initiating religion but also from interfering with or prohibiting private “religious expression and activities” (para. 9). This stipulation bans teachers from leading their classrooms in prayer to begin the school day, but also does not allow a teacher to restrict a student’s personal prayer. The American Civil Liberties Union (2003) explained more clearly that if students do not disrupt the class or try to compel others to pray with them, they have a right to pray at any time (p. 2). The American Civil Liberties Union also explained that while it is unconstitutional for public schools to teach religion, they may teach about how religion has affected the different subjects of study. The main point is that they cannot “promote religious beliefs or practices as part of the curriculum” (p. 1). Thus it is clear that public schools are allowed to teach about and hold impartial discussions about various aspects of religion in the classroom.
 
However, it appears that many schools are not taking full advantage of the freedom of religion that is granted to them. When Nord (1994), the vice president of the National Council on Religion and Public Education, did an analysis of public school textbooks, he found that even subjects such as science and economics that have religious history and influence were “conspicuously silent on the subject of religion” (para. 6). Not only are textbooks silent, but teachers and students also refrain from religious conversation. Aspy and Aspy (1991), in a 25-year study of around 200,000 hours of education, discovered that “[n]one of the classes involved in that enormous sample contained a single discussion that could be classified as relating directly to religious matters” (para. 8). This silence in such an important area limits the comprehensiveness of students’ education. Kafer (2002) said that “[a]n understanding of the role of religion in history, art, and current events is necessary for a wellrounded [sic] education” (p. 48). Public educators should become familiar with the current legal stipulations around religious education, and, while still abiding within the laws of each state, they should allow the cultivation of religious awareness to benefit their classrooms.
 
Religion is an essential part of the public school classroom. If schools will only make the most of the opportunities they have for studying and discussing religious topics, they will find that its presence will provide a better learning atmosphere for students as well as teachers. However, if public schools continue to ignore and even repress—failing to give students the religious history and background of certain topics—they will be showing hostility, and not neutrality, toward religion. Nord (1994) put it this way: “Consider this analogy: Would ignoring African-Americans or women in history texts show hostility, or be merely neutral?” (para. 11). Similarly, Aspy and Aspy (1991) stated, “If neutrality in religion is truly to be achieved in public schools, then more emphasis must be placed on providing nonbiased instruction on comparative religions and other similar topics” (para. 1). America’s schools should give religion a more prominent role in the public school classroom.
 
References
 
American Civil Liberties Union. (2003, July). Your right to religious freedom. Ask Sybil Liberty.
Retrieved October 4, 2012, from http://www.aclu.org/religion-belief/your-right-religious-freedom. This webpage talks more about specific case scenarios and the answers questions that could arise from those situations regarding religious freedom in school. The American Civil Liberties Union is a United States’ organization that promotes the legal rights of the American people.
Aspy, D. N., & Aspy, C. B. (1991). Religion in public schools. Counseling & Values, 36(1), 55.
Retrieved November 25th, 2012, from Academic Search Premier. The Aspys evaluate the position taken by Spiro (1989) that religious discussion and education should take place in public school. C. Aspy is the Associate Professor of Family & Preventive Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and D. Aspy is a consultant on education in Oklahoma as well as the founder and director of the Center for the Systematic Study of Values and Virtues.
Aspy, C. B., & Aspy, D. N. (1993). Why religion should be an integral part of public school.
Counseling & Values, 37(3), 149. Retrieved October 31st, 2012, from Academic Search Premier. The Aspys state their views that religion should be put back into public education for historical and psychological reasons. C. Aspy is the Associate Professor of Family & Preventive Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and D. Aspy is a consultant on education in Oklahoma as well as the founder and director of the Center for the Systematic Study of Values and Virtues.
Boston, R. (2009), Prayers, preaching & public schools: Religious right activists use wide variety
of tactics to evangelize in the classroom. Church & State, 62, 7-10. Retrieved December 5th, 2012, from Academic Search Premier. Boston gives many examples of ways that public school leaders will try to promote their own religion in their school. Boston is the Assistant Director of Communications of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a group that promotes the constitutional separation of church and state.
Henderson, S. (2012). Respecting all Faiths. ACLU. Retrieved October 4, 2012, from
http://www.aclu.org/blog/religion-belief/respecting-all-faiths-our-public-schools. Henderson’s plea is that all faiths should be respected in the public school classroom. He is an Education professor at Fuman University and has also taught high school social studies.
Kafer, K. (2002). How to teach religion in public school. In T. Head (Ed.), Religion and Education
(pp. 41-48). Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press. This author feels that religion should be taught about more in public school. Kafer is an analyst of senior education policies at the Heritage Foundation and has also served as Republican congressmen McIntosh’s and Schaffer’s aide.
Larue, G. A. (1998). Science, Religion and Public School Education. Humanist, 58(3), 41-42.
Retrieved September 13th, 2012, from Proquest Research Library. Larue believes that religion should be kept completely separate from science in public school where young minds are being molded. He is a biblical history and archaeology scholar and professor at Southern California University. He is also the Scientific Investigation of Religion committee’s chair.
Nord, W. A. (1994). Religion, the First Amendment, and public education. BYU Journal Of Public
Law, 8(2), 439. doi: 10.1080/01416200701479661. Nord feels that religion is being suppressed in public school, and to teach about it in class is a constitutional privilege that would reestablish balance and neutrality. He is National Council on Religion and Public Education’s vice president.
Passe, J., & Willox, L. (2009). Teaching religion in America's public schools: A necessary
disruption. Social Studies, 100(3), 102-106. Retrieved October 11th, 2012, from Academic Search Premier. These authors take the position that teaching about religion in school, no matter the difficulties, is vital to maintain the religious acceptance that has been a part of our country’s democratic republic for centuries. Passe is a professor in the Department of Reading and Elementary Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Willox is a graduate student in the Department of Culture, Curriculum, and Change at the same university.
Rosenblith, S., & Bailey, B. (2007). Comprehensive religious studies in public education:
Educating for a religiously literate society. Educational Studies, 42(2), 93-111. doi: 10.1080/00131940701513151. These women say that public schools need to prepare religiously literate students by using a curriculum that involves studying religious subjects that will boost their knowledge of all religions and help them to thinking critically about each. Rosenblith is department chair of teacher education at Clemson University, and Bailey is professor of education at the same school.
United States Department of Education. (2003, February). Guidance on constitutionally
protected prayer in public elementary and secondary schools. USDE. Retrieved October 4, 2012, from http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/religionandschools/prayer_guidance.html. This source gives guidelines for the constitutionality and the legality of school prayer. The Department of Education is a branch of the U.S. federal government.
Valk, J. (2007). Plural public schooling: Religion, worldviews and moral education. British Journal
Of Religious Education, 29(3), 273-285. doi: 10.1080/01416200701479661. Valk believes that in a society with many different perspectives, public schools should increase students' understandings of worldviews in general, while deepening their own in particular. He is Associate Professor of Worldview Studies at Renaissance College University.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Peculiar People

 
How would you have reacted if you had seen someone like this in the grocery store? Would you have stared? Would you have laughed? Would you have pointed and whispered to your companion? Perhaps you would have taken out your phone and quickly snapped a picture while this person's back was turned. If you had caught their eye in passing would you have smiled and nodded, or would you have quickly looked away in embarrassment?
 
I hope you would have smiled and nodded, because that person was me! Yes, you heard me right, and no, I have not gone crazy. I was merely completing a Psychology experiment to see how people react to the violation of a very prominent social norm: dress!
 
 
On Wednesday December 12th, I donned as close as I could find to 1800’s clothing (complete with ankle boots, shawl, and sunbonnet) and browsed up and down the aisles of Walmart.
 
Clothing is a very unconsciously important, unwritten social norm in our society today. People identify you by your clothing. For example, just the site of a white prayer cap and cape dress identifies a woman as a Mennonite. Black felt hats, overgrown beards, black capes and shawls and black bonnets spell Amish to anyone who sees them. Flowing silk skirts and long, full head coverings usually identify the Muslim women in a crowd. If someone is not part of one of these groups, the typical social norm is usually jeans, a tee-shirt, and tennis shoes. Professional people wear dress suits, and some wear stylish dresses, skirts, and high-heels. However, prairie dresses, shawls, ankle boots, and sunbonnets are a thing of the past, and to be dressed in this way really does go against the currents norms for clothing.
 
As I browsed around the store, “window shopping” and reading labels, I slyly watched people’s reactions to my clothing out of the corner of my eye. There were three reactions. The most common was for people to look me up and down, then immediately pretend to ignore me while catching occasional glances at my odd attire when they thought I wasn’t looking. I had expected this reaction, but I had not expected people to actually laugh at me! One woman coughed out a restrained laughed after she had passed me, and two young ladies actually laughed right to my face: “Oh my G**, really?” they laughed aloud, then began snickering and whispering to each other. In light of this reaction, it was very refreshing to have one older gentleman look me in the eye with a smile and a nod. I actually found it rather amusing when the man behind the checkout counter become extremely nervous at my peculiar-looking presence. He stared and his hands shook as he rung up my purchase! All in all, I cannot say that this was a fun experience. Quite the contrary, I felt very odd and out of place, causing me to withdraw into my shell instead of reaching out with smiles and nods like I often do. My strange appearance coupled with my apparent shyness then caused people to react to me the way they did.
 
Even though this experiment was far from fun, it was very eye-opening. I felt first-hand what people of religious groups such as Amish and Muslims must feel. The stares, ignoring, and laughs hurt—and the only thing that had changed about me was my clothing! Underneath I was still the same person who often walks through Walmart without feeling self-conscious! I did find it very interesting that my clothing did change the way I myself acted, however. Because I felt strange, I acted very reserved and withdrawn, which could have been one of the causes for people’s reactions to me. Truly, my eyes have been opened to how others feel who, usually for religious reasons, violate the social norm of dress. Underneath their clothes they are just regular people like you and me, and yet people shun them, stare at them, whisper behind their backs, laugh at them, and even take pictures of them. This treatment causes them to act withdrawn and shy instead of warm and friendly, which in turn increases people’s reactions to them.
 
This experiment came a little closer to home to me than it might have to others. You see, as a conservative Christian I have always tried to dress modestly in skirts and dresses—usually modern-day, however, minus the shawl and bonnet! Yet, as the world daily declines in morality, the “normal” dress becomes increasingly revealing and inappropriate. If we as Christians want to keep pure and modest, I think we will need to get more and more used to violating the social norm of dress (not with 1800's clothing though) in order to follow Godly standards!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Question and Answer


Today’s psychological question is as follows:

How has social networking changed the way people meet their “need to belong”? How has it benefitted us? How is it harming us?

As a homeschooler, I don't go to public school every day and meet my friends face to face. In fact, a lot of my really good friends live out of state, and at least one of them lives out of country. Chatting and emailing are two of the quickest ways to keep in touch with them. Facebook and Google+ are fun ways to keep updated on what they are up to every day. Ok, I want some confessions from you all: How many of you actually call your friends (and I don't mean a quick call to tell them that you'll meet them next weekend to go shopping) to have nice, long friendly chats with them? Probably some of you do. But how about this one: How many of you still sit down and write personal letters (and I'm talking about with a pen and real paper, mailing it with the USPS) to your friends or relatives? I do still write an occasional "snail mail" letter, and I even fall back on the "old fashioned" phone call every now and then, but I'll admit that all the social networks out there make it a whole lot faster to keep in touch with my distant (and close) friends.
 
But the question remains as to whether these social networks are actually making us more social or less social.... Have you ever been so glued to your computer (iPod, phone, etc.) on some social connection that you haven't noticed what was going on around you in your house (school, library, church?, etc.)? Come on, 'fess up! It's happened to me! Have you ever been so engrossed in communicating with the friends that are not with you that you have neglected to socialize with your family, the friends right around you, or (here's the convicting one) perhaps even God? 
 
I think it would be good for us all to sit back and analyze our priorities. Friends are definitely important! But are they more important that your family--your parents, brothers, and sisters? Would you rather text your friends than talk with your family? Would you rather play an online game with your friends than play with your siblings? Invest in your family, take time to socialize with them, and make them your best friends! And what about your heavenly Father? Can the hours fly by when you're on Facebook (Google+, Twitter, etc.), and yet the minutes drag when you read your Bible? Do you find it easier to text or Skype your friends than pray to your Best Friend? I want to challenge us all (myself included, because I could probably answer "yes" to all these questions at some point or other) to decide who is most important to us. Who comes first? God should! What about second? Our family should. And lastly we shouldn't forget our friends. But let's not spend so much time socializing with them that we become unsociable to those who are most important to us!

 

Monday, November 5, 2012

A New Perspective

Dear reader:

Want to change your whole perspective on life? Then, first, let me ask you what the purpose of your life is.... I hope that all of you will answer that it is to bring glory and honor to God and further the gospel. If this is your answer, then you are absolutely right, for the Bible says "whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31, emphasis added).

Well, then, let me ask you another question: What are the purposes of eating, sleeping, education, marriage, your vocation, and all the other aspects of life? Here is where we find varied answers. Some will say that the purpose of eating to satisfy the stomach's hunger, and others will answer that the purpose of sleeping is for re-energizing the body. Some will say that the purpose of education is a means for obtaining a more advanced job, and still others will inform you that the purpose of your vocation is to earn a living and support yourself. Still others will state that the purpose of marriage is to unite two lovers and raise a family. And in some respects this is all true.

But what is the bigger picture? If we are to do all to the glory of God, wouldn't that include every aspect of life? What if we were to make the purpose of eating, sleeping, education, marriage, our vocations, and so on to be to give glory to God and further the spreading of the gospel? How would be do this? The answer is actually simple: Instead of eating and sleeping for pleasure only, instead engage in the necessary amount that will restore the body's faculties and give you the strength to carry on God's work. And what about education and vocation? Well, gain an education, not with the focus of getting a money-making job, but with the focus of being better equipped to serve the Lord where He has called you. What about friendships and marriage? Instead of socializing with friends or marrying just for your own pleasure, let your friendships be about encouraging one another spiritually, and your marriage be to closer unite you with someone who has the same calling as you do in order to better serve the Lord together.

It gives a  whole new perspective to life, doesn't it!

"Do all to the glory of God."
 
Note: Give yourself a reality check. Examine your life and see if there are any areas that you have the wrong perspective on. Are your purposes for doing all your activities to honor God and reach out to others? Or are you engaging in activities that are merely for your own pleasure and gratification? If so, perhaps you need to change your perspective about the purpose of those activities, or perhaps you need to disengage from activities altogether.... Think about it.... Pray about it....

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Brain is Like...

...telecommunications!



Imagine with me…. First, there is the telephone itself, not to mention the network of telephone poles and wires spreading across the world. There are the electrical signals that transmit calls to the individual phones in each home that ring when a call comes through. Then there are the operators, who monitor and direct the calls that come and go. Now think about the human brain, and how it’s connected to the rest of the body, just like the all the telecommunications are centered at the operator’s office. Let’s look at this analogy more closely, applying the different parts of the brain to the different areas of telecommunications.

The Brainstem: This is the cord that connects and sends signals from the rest of the body to the brain and back again. We can apply this part of the brain to the telephone wires strung on telephone poles (a.k.a. the spinal cord) that connect the telephones to the main operator’s office.

The Medulla: The control center for heartbeat and breathing. It is similar to the electrical signals traveling down the telephone wires (a.k.a. the brainstem) that control in which home the telephone rings (like the rhythmic heartbeat and breathing).

The Thalamus: This is the area on top of the brainstem that directs sensory messages to the cortex and transmits the replies to the cerebellum and medulla. It is very similar to a telephone operator’s switchboard or call forwarding.

The Reticular Formation: This is a nerve network running through the brainstem and thalamus that plays an important role in awakening arousal. It could be compared to the actual startling ring of the telephone that alerts people to answer the phone.

The Cerebellum: This “little brain” resides at the rear of the brainstem. It processes sensory input and coordinates movement output and balance of the body. It is very much like the actual telephone operator, who handles the calls, does the brain work, and coordinates where each call should be forwarded.

Amygdala: These two seemingly insignificant neural clusters have been found to be very importantly linked to our emotions. They can be compared to two important factors that determine the emotional reaction of the person who answers a telephone call. Those two factors are whether the call brings good news or bad news.

Hypothalamus: This part of the brain monitors the state that the body is in and keeps regulates bodily maintenances, such as hunger and thirst and hormonal drives. It could be compared to our drives to use telecommunications—our need to hear from friends, to generate business, to get emergency assistance, and so on.

Hippocampus: An area of the brain associated with memory. It is our brain’s equivalent of a “save” button. It can be compared to our modern telephones’ ability to save recently used phone numbers, use speed dial, and save messages for us to listen to later.

All in all, one can make several interesting associations between the brain and telecommunications. But we must remember that this analogy does not even come close to illustrating the beautiful, complex, and yet orderly designed structure that God created.

Not only that, our brains can think! I’d like to see a telephone try that….

 


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Psychology Class Reflection Essay

Here is my Psychology class's question-of-the-week: Many of us wonder whether or not our dreams have meaning. Read Genesis 40:8, Daniel 2:28, Ecclesiastes 5:7, and Jeremiah 23:25-32. What is the biblical position when it comes to the interpretation of dreams? (250 words)

In the following 833 words, I gave my answer:

While reading through the verses above, one seems to encounter two different Biblical viewpoints regarding dreams and the interpretations thereof. Daniel 2:28 informs us that King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was indeed from God, who was revealing to the king what would erelong come to pass. Furthermore, Genesis 40:8 shows that the interpretations of dreams also belong to God. However, Ecclesiastes 5:7 and Jeremiah 23:25-32 seems to tell us that there is vanity and lies in dreams. How shall we reconcile this seeming contradiction?

Before I answer that question, I would like to point out that the above verses make up only a tiny droplet of water in the vast ocean of Biblical references, Old and New Testament, to dreams and those to whom they are sent. I would like to mention the names of Jacob, Joseph, Solomon, Joseph (father of Jesus), and Peter as a few of the many who received divine dreams or visions. Other references to dreams are as follows:

"For God does speak—now one way, now another—though man may not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings" (Job 33:14-16).

"Then He said, 'Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream'" (Numbers 12:6). How much more clearly could this be stated? Not only that, but it is also quoted directly from the Lord Himself!

Last but not least,

"And it shall come to pass in the last days that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh.... Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions" (Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17). It appears that this gift of dreaming God-given dreams was not just an ancient occurrence, but will also be present in the last days of this earth's history.

Now let's turn back to the verses that seem to say that dreams are false and full of vanity. The best explanation of them comes from Matthew 7:22, 23, which says, "Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’" Merely saying that we can cast our demons in the Lord's name, prophesy in His name, or dream dreams sent from Him does not mean anything! If it did, then anyone could claim they had a vision or dream from the Lord.

So what is the criterion for knowing whether a dream has actually come from God? I quote from the book of Deuteronomy, where God is giving His people instructions as to how to adhere to His law: "If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst" (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).

So here is the answer: If someone claims to have had a dream from the Lord, don't just brush them off as a mental case, because we know from God's Word that He does speak to His people through dreams. However, you must carefully examine what the interpretation of that dream is. If it is telling you to go against the words and commandments of God, then you can assuredly know it is not of God--even if that dream makes predictions that come true (Ibid. vrs. 2). Whenever someone tries to entice you to turn away from the Lord, you know that God is not speaking through them or their dreams.

"The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully" (Jeremiah 23:28).

Psychology Class Discussion Forum

My first week's Psychology Discussion Forum's question was as follows:

Some Christians believe that as long as you have the Bible, you don’t need psychology. Based on your reading of the first chapter and viewing the video, explain three ways in which you believe psychology could be helpful in dealing with some of the challenges in one’s life.

My answer? Here it is:

Knowing how the mind works is very important. When we understand our brain work and thought processes, we will be better equipped in the three following ways:

1. Our ability to see Satan's subtle working on our minds, and to resist his disguised temptations. Sin starts in the mind. For example, Christ told us in Matthew 6 that by even lusting after a woman in your heart it's as if you have already comitted adultery with her. Also, Satan often plants seeds of doubt and depression in the mind. So, if by the study of Psychology we can gain a better knowledge of how our thoughts affect our behaviors, we will be better equipt to guard against Satan's tempting suggestions and will know how to see symptoms of depression or doubt before they have fully affected us. "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:2) "Your Word have I hid in my heart that I may not sin against You." (Psalms 119:11)

2. Our ability to better understand and help those of other faiths or opinions, and to lead them to the truth of the Bible. Many times people are held in bondage to error because of their culture, their upbringing, and sometimes just their own preconceived ideas. If Psychology can give us a better understanding of how these things affect people's thinking, then we will know better how to reach them with the truth of God's Word. "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.... For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:3-6)

3. Our ability to gain a deeper knowledge of God and His Word. Psychology can help us to think critically, to examine for ourselves whether things our true. We can apply this to our Bible Study. Comparing Scripture with Scripture, and verse with verse, until we know for ourselves that God's Word is true and reliable. Also, we were made in the image of God. He created us with minds, and if we learn about our minds, it should give us a deeper knowledge of the mind of Christ. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:5)

However, I also feel that we should be wary of worldly Psychology. For, as Paul states in Colossians 2:8, "Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ."

1 Samuel 16:7, Matthew 9:4, and Luke 11:17 all show that the Lord can read the hearts and minds of men. Wouldn't it stand to reason that the God who made us and fashioned our minds and can see our very thoughts would tell us all that we need to know about them in His Word? Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is living and powerful... and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

Human theories and theologies that are not grounded in God's Word will soon pass away and fade from the minds of men, as newer and more exciting "discoveries" override them year after year. But God's Word and the principles found in it, including those pertaining to the workings of the mind, are principles that we can forever trust in, as they will stand tried and true through countless ages. "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever." (Isaiah 40:8)

Now it's your turn. What do you think?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Banana-Zucchini Bread

You know how you get those cravings every now and then? . . . Well, I was really craving some Banana-Zucchini Bread this past week, but just couldn't find the time to make any. We had plenty of zucchini fresh from the garden (you know the kind that get as big as baseball bats!), but I just had too much to do. Well, I finally found the time to bake a batch of Banana-Zucchini Bread, and it turned out very delicious! We've been having it at every meal and loving it! I've posted a couple mouth-watering pictures of it, along with our fresh peaches that just arrived from Washington! Ah, it's a wonderful time of year with fresh fruit and vegetables right on hand!




Tiger Kitty


Here are a couple photos of our family's newest pet--our very first male kitty!

We have not officially named this pussy yet, since we can't decide on a name that everyone likes. So we mostly call him Tiger. He is very sweet, yet also fun-loving and mischievious. Scamper (our other cat) hated him when he first arrived, but now they get along very well and love to play together. He's a wonderful addition to our famiy, and I'm so glad God blessed us with him--whatever his name is! :-)



Monday, August 6, 2012

Update from Cooper (Kestrel)

I just received an email the other day that warmed my heart. It was from the family that adopted Kestrel, whom they've now named Cooper.

It read:

"Hi Sarah,
I hope you & your family are well! Just wanted to send an updated picture of Cooper! He continues to be such a perfect addition to our family! He lost his two front baby teeth, which was so funny (& cute)! We've given him 1 haircut - which we probably won't do again :-) we certainly are not professionals!! I keep him trimmed around the face, but we'll leave the rest to the groomers!!
Ok, just wanted you to know that he is so loved!"

I just have to say thank you so much for updating me! I really enjoy getting the latest reports! Keep them coming! :-)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pictures of my "News"

My "News":
New:
-Purple shirt
-Purple braces
-Purple sunglasses (Can you tell I like purple?)
-New perm and hairdo (not purple!)

First, the purple shirt and purple braces (look closely!).

Now the new hairdo. Check out the perm!




And last but not least, my new purple sunglasses!

These sunglasses are not prescriptioned. How do I see with them on then? Well, here's what I like best about them: They are made to fit right over my regular glasses! How cool is that?!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New Kitten Pictures

Here are the latest pictures of our three little kittens. They are currently 6 1/2 weeks old, and will be ready to go to new homes around June 30th. Anyone interested? :-)


Dick

Tom

Harry

Harry

Tommy


Monday, June 18, 2012

Puppy Updates

Hello everyone! All the puppies are either at their new homes, or on their way there right now (Phoebe, the last puppy, is flying to Oregon as I type). So far, we have Chickadee, now named Lola Petunia, in Massachusetts; Jay, lengthened to Cooper Jay, in Pennsylvania; Kestrel, renamed Cooper, and Lark, who I believe is still Lark, right here in Minnesota; and lastly Phoebe, soon to be Zeeva, going to Oregon. That's all the puppies in litter 2012! I want to say a big thank you to the new families for giving our babies such excellent homes! I couldn't be happier!

I wanted to post a couple pictures that got sent to me today by the owners of Cooper (Kestrel). Here they are:

Cooper with new playmate Koda and new family!

Cooper with his new "siblings."

Some of you have asked when we're going to have another litter. The question is: We're considering a winter or spring litter. Keep your eye on this blog for updates. Thanks so much everyone! 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Not Completely Alone


Our last puppy, Phoebe (who is spoken for), is left all alone now that all the other puppies have gone to new homes. It will be her turn in a couple of weeks. :-) In the meantime, Phoebe would be feeling very lonely. Except for the fact that she has a few special friends. And here are the pictures of them playing together:












Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"We're All Ready!"

Hello everybody! The puppies are now 9 weeks old and all ready to go to their new families! Two puppies left just today--Jay and Chickadee. But Kestrel, Lark, and Phoebe are still around, and what's more, Larky-boy is STILL AVAILABLE! Here's some highlights of our weekly photo shoot, and, like always, you can view the individual pictures on our Available Pups page. Enjoy!

This week I did all the photos in our van to help the puppies say, "We're ready to go to our new homes!" :-)

I got two group photos that I really liked:
"When you'll gonna come take us home?
We're gettin' tired of waitin'!" :-P


Of course, two puppies make the perfect pose, and I just manage to catch it... only to realize that I forgot to turn on my flash! Well, what else could I do but crank up all the settings in my photo editor, and turn those pictures into really "old", grainy, discolored photos. And, what do you know, these two turned out to be my favorite photos from the whole shoot! :-)

Phoebe

Lark

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Time has Come...

...For the puppies to start going to their new homes and owners. They are 8 weeks old today. It's a bittersweet time. We're very sad to see them go--we love them all so much--but at the same time, we're very happy with the wonderful homes and new families they're going to!

But, for those of you who are thinking that you've missed out on a puppy, I've got good news: You haven't! We still have one puppy available! Lark is the baby of the bunch. He loves to be pampered and petted. He also the curliest, so that's why I call him my teddy bear. :-) See our Available Pups page for updated individual pictures, and enjoy these random ones from our 8-week-old photo shoot:

But first, don't forget the weekly group photo:


Lark, Jay, Kestrel, Phoebe, and Chickadee.


Chickadee-girl! Soon to be Lola Petunia! :-)


Three best friends and a sleepy-head!
Kestrel, Phoebe, and Chickadee.


DeeDee again.


My Larky-boy. Still available!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Seven Weeks

Hello everyone! The puppies are now seven weeks old, and they can start going home with their new owners in just one more week! Are you all excited? I know I'm very happy with all the good homes that these puppies are going to be going to. But for those of you who feel like you're missing out on all the fun, it's not too late yet! We still have one puppy left available: Lark! We've have about four people interested in him right now, but no one has made a definite decision about him, so you can jump on your chance to add a sweet, loving puppy to your family.

Today all the puppies had a bath, got brushed and trimmed around the eyes, and then had their de-worming and their first round of shots! They are now all up-to-date on their shots and de-worming, almost ready for their new homes--just one more week of wait!

After their up-to-dating, we had our weekly photo shoot. Here's this week's group photo:


In the baby buggy! :-)
Jay, Chickadee, Kestrel , Lark, and Phoebe.


If you want to see individual pictures, just go to our Available Pups page on my website. If you have any questions, Contact Us right away! :-)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Six-week-old Pictures

Week six already! I can hardly believe it! In just a few more weeks the puppies will all be in their new homes! Well, here's the six-week-old pictures that you've all been waiting for!


Group picture on the swing!

Eating

Cute li'l' Chickadee

Inquisitive Jay

Teddy-bear Lark

All the puppies love our Border Collie, Shasta!

 Both females are basically spoken for now, and we have someone interested in our male, Jay. So, if any of you are interested in a puppy, you'd better jump on your chance now! :-) Check for more info on our puppy blog at: http://countrysidecavachons.blogspot.com/.