Monday, November 29, 2010

Fanning The Flames

Our Annual Ladies Retreat is coming up in January and we're really looking forward to this time of coming apart from the world and having fellowship with the sistren (as Bro. McCracken would say ~heee~).  Beneth Jones will be our guest speaker again (we refuse to ask anyone else!) and we're not only looking forward to hearing her speak, we're looking forward to finding out what the Lord has laid on her heart regarding our theme for this year; Fanning The Flames.  She has always brought an amazing series of lessons and so I have a feeling this year will be both a mental and spiritual challenge to our Ladies (as always).  Anyway, thinking on our theme, and fire and flames and their mention in the Bible, I came up with a few thoughts of my own.

Fire, like most things, has two sides.  Fire creates warmth, a feeling of safety and it brings light.

Fire also rages, runs wild and destroys.

God used fire in the Old Testament in judgement, such as in Numbers 11, but it was also used as a cleansing fire, such as in Isaiah 6 and a purifying fire as in Zechariah 13.  God's fire is a controlled fire, even when it was used in judgement.  He didn't fling it about randomly, destroying everything in His path; only those who deserved this judgement died (refer once again to Numbers 11).

Man's fires are not controlled when we try to be the ones in charge.  When King Nebuchadnezzar threw the three Hebrews into the fiery furnace, he commanded that it be heated seven times hotter than it had ever been.  It was a fire that was out of control and the heat alone killed Nebuchadnezzar's men when they threw the Hebrews into the flames.  But God can control even a man-made fire and His children didn't even break a sweat in those flames.

Arsonists start fires due to a little understood inner compulsion, although some start fires for pay, such as for insurance fraud. Mostly, compulsive arsonists simply love fire, love to see the beauty of the dancing flames as they consume whatever fuel is available.  And some arson fires are due to a much darker reason.  Whatever the reason behind it, all arson fires will eventually flare out of control, destroying more than ever imagined, unless those brave men and women we know as fire fighters are able to bring it under control and kill it. 

However, fire that is controlled can be used to create beauty.  Rings, necklaces, artwork, automobiles, planes, ships.  Properly controlled, fire is of great use.  God can control the flame of our spiritual fire, if we let Him.  Under our control, the flames can either flare out of control, creating a false sense of self-righteousness, or they can dim and burn down to bare embers of laziness and complacency. 

When God controls the fire, He can fan the flame to the right temperature to refine our lives to a thing of beauty, like a Master Jeweler refining silver.

A silversmith was once asked how he knew when the silver was heated to the right temperature to be able to create something. His smiling reply was "when I can see my image in it."

Who fans our spiritual flames?

Who heats us as silver to be refined and molded?

Who's image do we want to reflect?

Do we want our fire to be used to create?  Or destroy?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Where Are The Tears?

That title has been rolling around in my head for the last several days and, tonight, it came to fruition.  Sometimes, it takes a few tries to get the wording right. Sometimes it just flows from the pen. This was a little of both.  I know Veteran's Day was November 11th, but here's a (belated) reminder that we owe them our thanks, our gratitude and even our tears....

Where Are The Tears?

Where are the tears for the fallen in war?
For those who have journeyed thru Death's darkened door?

Where the reminders of valor? Unsung.
For those who departed with life left undone?

Where do you stand for the red, white and blue?
The banner defended by others who knew;

     Knew they could die for taking a stand,
     Knew they'd be hated, protecting this land,
     Knew that their choice could be met with disgust
     But knew, to save others, the choice was a must.

Where are the tears? Where is the pride?
Where is the faith to stand at their side?

Where is the gratitude, down thru the years,
For lives that were sacrificed. Where are the tears?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Learnng How Not To Be A Victim: The Rest Of The Story

Phew! Computer internet is finally working again! Sorry about that, everyone. We've changed from Brighthouse to AT&T and, for whatever reason, most of last week I either wasn't able to get on-line or I was able to get on for VERY short periods of time..... as in, open up, log in, click on a site, freeze up, control/alt/delete/task manager/shut down program (no, do NOT send a message to AOL) and try to get on again only to repeat the WHOLE THING OVER AGAIN!!!
Why, no.... I'm not AT ALL FRUSTRATED by the whole thing. Why do you ask?  0.0

Anyway, here is the rest of my e-mailed interview with Mr. Richard Ray and I'm sure, should anyone be brave enough to ask the scary man a question, he'd be glad to answer (nah, he's not THAT scary! he used to pretend to catch the invisible bullets with his teeth whenever we shot at him with our invisible guns. ~~ What... we were in college!)

(Part II)

I had surgery a couple months ago but I've been released by my doctor to do whatever I feel I can do, physical activity-wise. However, I'm finding there are things I FEEL I can do and things I CAN do. If I wanted to join one of your classes and told you this, how would this be handled?

First I would want to know your limitations. Assuming they are within reason, I would encourage you to start learning at a moderate pace and use common sense when it comes to rest or restriction, and that you must notify me immediately if you feel any ill effects during class. Learning martial arts or self-defense is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself, and you will see better results.

Have you - or anyone you know personally - taught someone with a physical disability? What would your advice be to someone with a disability of any type who still wanted to take martial arts?

Yes. I have taught students in wheelchairs, a student with only one arm, students who are visually impaired, and quite a few with “bad knees”. Seek out an instructor who understands your challenges and has the patience to adapt his curriculum to your needs. Seek a multi-faceted art – one that could offer several solutions to a given situation.
If your typical Josephine Average ended up in a situation where she were attacked - in spite of taking every precaution she can - what will she bring to the situation from taking self defense or a martial arts class, other the obvious "I know how to hit, now" mentality most people think of?

Mental strength is at least as important as physical strength, and possibly more important. Practicing regularly in class develops mental and physical responses. The aggressor often is planning that the victim will be paralyzed by fear the first few moments of confrontation; when this does not happen, his plan falls apart and he must form a new plan – while he is being hit.

I asked about an age limit for kids, what about adults? I'm asking from the point of view of a 42 year old woman who's thinking "I don't heal as easily as my 22 year old self." There's also the "Everyone's SO much younger than me! This is embarrassing." factor.

This is why I separate kids and adults, among other reasons. I also designed a curriculum which is fairly easy for the typical “Josephine Average” to understand and practice. The curriculum gradually gets more challenging but is always built on the previous accomplishments.

What should someone look for in a class? In an instructor? What should they walk away from?

First decide why you want to study martial arts. Then do some research – the internet makes this thousands of times easier than 20 years ago. Find out which styles suit your purpose and physical limitations (if any). Be prepared to drive up to an hour for the right class for you – don’t join a school because it’s the closest or the cheapest.
My description of the ideal instructor would be a cross between a bank president and a drill instructor. He should be professional at all times, disciplined, intelligent, have your best interest in mind but willing to push you farther than you think you can go. He will be strict and unforgiving regarding sloppy attitude or technique, but encouraging and positive if he senses you are foundering. He will use negative feedback sparingly but will not hesitate when it is necessary. He will not ask you to do something that he cannot do or has not done himself. He will not deliberately embarrass you in class but he will not allow foolishness either.

There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence; the ideal instructor will always be seen as confident by deserving people.

Walk away from schools that promote students on attendance alone, schools that require immediate long term contracts (one year or more), classes where the students are sloppy, lazy, or undisciplined, instructors who are overly friendly or overly harsh, schools that require tournament competition in order to be promoted (if your goal is self-defense), be wary of schools/instructors who “guarantee” anything. I make one guarantee to my students: I will teach you to the best of my ability. Everything else is up to you.

I personally disapprove of schools which allow students to call instructors by their first name, delegate the title “sensei” or “master” to any black belt student, use music and “positive thinking” as a primary motivation for students, push long term contracts, allow the student to choose the color and type of uniform, and generally treat the training program as if it were any other after school activity or hobby.

Any final advice you'd like to give?

There are several more modern phenomena that warrant discussion:

Aerobic kickboxing classes like Tae Bo©, etc., are excellent for cardio vascular training, but do not confuse this with self-defense. My personal observation is that most of these classes are taught by cardio instructors who have little or no knowledge of self-defense.

MMA, or Mixed Martial Arts is extremely popular now. It is without a doubt, a workout with actual self-defense skills being taught. However, the emphasis is still brutal competition, and may not be suitable for “Josephine Average” or even “Joe Average”. In general, I disapprove of this type of training for children – it is much too brutal and lacks the inherent discipline of traditional martial arts.

You may also find schools/clubs which do not teach traditional martial arts; instead they emphasize self-defense only. They should be analyzed individually. They may be a scam (any instructor who says you can make a black belt master putty in your hands in just a few short lessons is lying), or they may be just right for you. Krav Maga, an Israeli Defense Force based style of self-defense, is quite popular now. While I have no first hand knowledge of KM, I understand there are at least five major “divisions” or organizations promoting this system. Some may be the real deal, some may be a watered down, unauthorized version of the original combat system. Do your homework.

Last piece of advice – physical skills take physical practice from an accomplished instructor. Do not buy video tapes or DVDs and think that watching them will give you all the knowledge you need. Watching videos no more prepares you for self defense than X-Box 360 prepares you for NASCAR (yes, I have teens in my home).

I could watch a baby being born on the Discovery channel – do you want me to deliver your next baby?

Monday, September 27, 2010


Just a quick note to let anyone following me know my computer at home is currently down. I'm jumping on at work to let you know this, but I don't think trying to do an entire blog entry here is a good idea (they get testy, y'know?).  As soon as it's working again, I'll finish what I started with "How Not To Be A Victim."


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Self Defense: Learning Not To Be A Victim

I struggled a little over which blog to post this on, but this one is my slightly more serious of the two and this can be a serious subject, so I chose this one.
Self Defense, what is it about?
Being a victim, how do you avoid that?
This isn't about never being a victim, this is about learning to do everything you can to avoid becoming a victim, about learning what you can to minimize what happens if you are attacked. And, no, this isn't just for women, although I seem to focus my questions on the female perspective (well... I am female, after all!). Men can end up in situations where they become victims, too. We just don't talk about it because, well, they're men!  Men should automatically be able to take care of themselves. Right?
Wrong! There are some very evil people in this world and they go out of their way to come up with ways, plans, and means to victimize others and they don't care if the victim is male or female (though it seems women are more victimized, but maybe because it's more often in the news).  Sometimes, it's psychological, sometimes it's emotional, but the one most people end up facing is physical and that's the discussion we'll be having today.  I've had some jobs where the managers brought in police officers to give us advice on personal safety when, say, walking from a building (work, grocery, doctors' office, etc.) to your car in the parking lot.  Some of it is (to me) fairly obvious and common sensical; don't be digging in your purse for your keys as you walk, have them already in your hand (keep a couple of them between your fingers and the rest fisted in your hand, this provides a pretty good make-shift weapon), be aware of your surroundings, keep your head up and be alert, the idea being a mugger or other attacker is less likely to go after someone who's alert and aware. Whenever possible, if you're walking from an office to your car at night for example, go with a co-worker or ask a security guard to escort you and make sure your car starts before leaving you.
These are some common sense things we can all do to lessen our chances of  becoming victims, but that doesn't mean it can't happen. So. What will you do should it happen to you?  Well, I've got a few ideas. I've got friends who were in the military and have pointed out that, a) no matter how muscular an attacker may be, his throat is never protected by said muscle. It's vulnerable to a sharp blow of any kind and strength, the gag reflex alone could make him loosen his grip. Of course, that's assuming you're lucky enough to be facing said attacker.
And, b) knees and the instep are vulnerable to a good kick or stomp. But, again, that's dependent on several factors. Not the least of which is that you can keep your head and think about how to react to an attack in a way that will help you escape.  And that's where the problem comes in.  Most of us don't spend time thinking about how we're going to react if we're attacked by a mugger or, God forbid, a rapist.  We think about what we're going to do for lunch at work the next day, brown bag it or buy?  We think about how we're going to deal with traffic and which is likely the best route to whatever our destination is.  If we have a husband and kids, and happen to be that busiest of women, a stay at home mom, we're thinking about what our kids need to eat, when we need to pick up our husbands' dry cleaning and whether or not it's worth driving that extra 15 miles for a sale (it usually is!). We're not spending any of that time thinking about "By the way, what if, while I'm at that sale that's an extra 15 miles away, I'm attacked by someone intent on dragging me into a dark alley? What should I do?"
Well, here's a suggestion, take a class in self defense. Yes, learn to fight! Taking self defense classes ~ or even learning martial arts ~ is not about learning how to be violent, it's about learning how NOT to be a victim.  There is a difference. And it teaches your body muscle memory. What you learn in a class will translate into an actual confrontation automatically, whether that's how to avoid it or how to deflect it. Your mind and body have already learned in a safe, classroom situation what to do and how to do it. In that not-so-safe real world situation, the reaction of personal safety is automatic and unthinking and it takes an attacker completely by surprise because he was expecting a frightened, frozen victim and not a fighting, ferocious defender!
And, what about your children, if you're a parent?  What do you teach them about what to do if someone should want to grab them? This actually happened to me when I was about 12, at a time when it was somewhat safer for kids... someone wanted to get me close enough to grab and pull into his car... thank God my parents had talked to me about what to do, run away. But, what if he'd decided to chase me down instead of driving away as fast as I was running away from him?  What would I have done?  At 12, I had no knowledge of how to defend myself except to kick and scream and maybe try to bite.  That might have been enough.  I'll never know, and thank God that I didn't have to find out. 
But, what if I had? 
What if your kids have to?
What will they do?
What if you do?
What will you do?
Martial arts, and even self defense classes, teach you how to avoid, deflect or confront that violence (even a kid, to some degree, and that will be covered further into this particular lesson).  But, the only thing most of us know about martial arts is what we learned from Mr. Miyagi in "Karate Kid" or Jackie Chan in anything that's come out in the last five years!  There's more to martial arts than comedy or "breath in through nose, out through mouth!"  Fortunately, I not only have known a few people in the martial arts community over the years, I recently got reacquainted with one I hadn't seen since college and he agreed to be my "expert" and let me interview him about martial arts (didn't know what he was getting into! haHA!)  Good news/bad news: Good news is, I asked a LOT of questions and he (poor man) took the time to answer them all. Bad news, I asked a LOT of questions and he (poor, poor man) answered them all so there's a LOT of information and I'm going to have to break this into at least two blogs since I have NO  intention of editing out any portions of his answer. 

Teaching a student how to retain their
weapon when attacked
Richard Ray has been practicing and teaching martial arts for over 25 years. He has owned or operated half a dozen schools and has taught thousands of students of all ages and abilities. He currently holds a sixth degree black belt in karate, a fifth degree black belt in kenpo, and a kyosei menkyo (instructor certificate) in kenjutsu.
 Mr. Ray is a former police officer, a current licensed Personal Protection Officer (bodyguard), and a tactical firearms instructor. He has conducted operations and training in the US, Mexico, and South America. He currently teaches martial arts privately, civilian firearms courses, and is a subject matter expert on training private security and executive protection specialists.

In your opinion, is there a difference between "self defense" and "martial arts"? If so, give me a synopsis of what that would be.

In our culture, “martial arts” generally refers to a cataloged system of offensive and/or defensive movements with some kind of reward to mark achievement (the most recognizable of these rewards is a black belt). The vast majority of schools or clubs teach martial arts as self-defense or as a sport, although you may find a few who teach traditional movements as a cultural exercise, a philosophy, or for health benefits.

By strict definition, “martial arts” means “war arts”. Technically, war and self-defense are two very different concepts; war is “kill or be killed” and self-defense is using enough force to stop an aggressor but no more.

So, the answer to your question is yes, there is a difference, but I am splitting hairs. For the purpose of this discussion, the only difference would be whether or not the “martial arts” school emphasizes sport techniques or actual confrontation techniques.

Many women are going to look at the "fighting" in martial arts and say "Oh, I could never hurt someone" or "I think fighting is wrong" or even "something like this just encourages violence." What is your response to this type of thinking?

“I could never hurt someone" – Really? Imagine for a moment that someone attempts to kidnap your child…the difference will not be in what you believe, but in what you are capable of doing.

“I think fighting is wrong” – I have yet to meet a victim of violence, woman or man, who believed this. When people say this, I think they mean, “lashing out physically from anger or frustration is wrong”. I would agree with that statement.

"…something like this just encourages violence." - Since Cain killed Abel, violence has existed on Earth. Abel did nothing to provoke Cain, yet Cain became jealous and killed him. Violence does not go away because one abhors it; pretending otherwise will certainly condemn this person to being a victim. Given that violence exists and that we cannot make it go away, the question is, how will we deal with it? You have three choices: avoid it, deflect it, or confront it.

Granted, violence is not always the best answer, but it is the final answer to aggressive confrontation. Ask David, as he set out to confront Goliath

How about children? Do you recommend an age limit for how young they start martial arts or is it more of an emotional maturity?

Mr. Ray's student performs
a round house kick

To be sure, emotional maturity is important. Equally important are the quality of the instructor and the involvement of the parents. Children are never too young to learn discipline, respect, and manners; however, there are certain self-defense moves that are best taught as children mature, and some only suitable for adults. Parents must monitor the actions of their kids, encourage them to follow the principles of the martial arts, and conference with the instructor should there be any indication of poor behavior.

I have taught kids as young as four years old, but I prefer them to be at least five years old, and even then they should be in a separate class from older kids, and have an age-specific curriculum.

I can hear some mother somewhere saying "Not MY son! I don't want him to turn into a brute who settles things with his fists!" Your response to that?

See above paragraph about Cain and Abel – tell me truly, if Abel was your son, would you prefer to watch him be killed, or would you prefer he stand up for his right to life and well being? Many people, including me, started learning martial arts out of fear – there was no desire to be a brawler or bully. Living in fear cripples your life and your ability to enjoy it. Also it is important to understand: the more your aggressor understands your willingness to confront violence, the more likely it is that you can avoid or deflect it.

I once heard of a woman who stated girls "learning to fight" (as in learning martial arts) turned them into "she-hulk-wanna-be's with something to prove." Do you think that's what happens?

No. I have never witnessed this in over 25 years of training thousands of students of all ages. I have, however, seen young girls and women transform from victims with low self-esteem into strong, confident women who know that they do not have to be a victim any longer. These women radiate feminine strength and beauty; most people they meet do not know why, but they can sense it.

I suspect that women who make the “she-hulk wanna-bes” statements are using that as an excuse; I suspect that truly, they wish they had the knowledge and ability to be self-reliant, as my students have.

You once said "kids should eventually train with adults, once they have the skills to deal with kids their own size." I know what's going through the "not-my-kids" Mom's mind, so can you be more specific about what you mean by "deal with kids their own size."

Perhaps I should have said, “… bullies or attackers their own size.” And to be clear, the context of that statement was specifically about learning self-defense. Why would a child need to learn self-defense? Because of bullies or aggressors their own age/size, or adult predators. It is not reasonable to think that a six year old can physically fight off an adult male. However, he may be able to out smart him, draw the attention of other adults, and it lays a foundation for future training as an adult. If your goal is for your child to avoid or escape adult predators, they should practice with trained adult participants.

Sticking with kids a moment, do you have an opinion on when kids should start learning to handle (as in use) weapons?

Mr. Ray teaching kenjutsu
(Japanese sword) to students
  There is no need for kids to learn weapons for self-defense. However, traditional martial arts weapons practice can teach coordination, strength, speed, timing, and focus. Kids should not train with sharp weapons and should always be supervised when handling practice weapons. Usually by the teens, they are mature enough to learn weapons.

(end of part 1 of interview... part 2 in a few days)

Friday, August 20, 2010

September Is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Several posts back, I did one about cervical cancer and it's link with the STD HPV.  Well, there's another cancer women can get that can be easily missed by your gynecologist. That's because there's no real test for it and having a "good" female exam doesn't catch it.  Getting a colonoscopy done doesn't catch it.  Having your gyno catch/find uterine or ovarian polyps and saying "We'll just watch them to see what happens" also doesn't "catch" this cancer.  It's ovarian cancer and it's even more of a killer in women than other types of cancer precisely because there's no specific test for it.  You have to be on top of your game, and pay attention to your body and what it's telling you, to even know that "something's not right" and force... yes, force your doctor or gyno to take steps to check. This is not a cancer to mess with or take lightly or even think that, because you're young, you won't get it.  Cancer is  no respector of age.
My cousin is a survivor of two types of cancer; leukemia and a type of cancer that caused doctors to have to remove her tongue and replace it with tissue and skin grafts from her arm. They told her she would never be able to speak clearly again, it would just be a lump of flesh in her mouth. Today, the only thing she can't do with the "lump of flesh in her mouth" is stick her tongue out at you. She speaks quite clearly, thank you very much! She's only about nine or ten years older than me.
A friend of mine got tested for a specific gene, called the BRCA2 (or Breast Cancer 2) gene, and found she has it. This gene will guarantee you're going to get breast cancer and, I've learned, most likely ovarian cancer.  Because of this, and several other events that occured, she opted to have a double mastectomy and hystorectomy followed by reconstructive surgery.  She's right around my age. 
Yeah, but I'm way younger than you. I won't get cancer!
I know of a young man in a sister church down in San Diego who is only in his teens.  He got cancer and had to go through chemotherapy. Praise God, he's in remission.  But, remission doesn't mean he's cured. It means, for now, he's beaten cancer. But he's got to have regular check ups to ensure, if it does return, they catch it in time to treat him again.  He doesn't know if or when it will happen.  He just prays and relies on God.
I recently met another woman who has been through ovarian cancer. Her name is Diana Jewell and she's a pretty amazing woman in quite a number of respects.  She has... well, let's call it "started a movement" to get women to understand and love their gray hair. You can learn all about her and her "movement" here.  But she wrote an article about her ovarian cancer and has agreed to let me share it with you.  So, from her own lips (or fingers... whichever), here is Diana's story.

It’s time to remind you again. Last year’s article (which stayed up the whole year) did "get through" to some. But not as many as I had hoped. Time to try a different tactic. One that is personal.

But, first, why be aware at all? Well, for one thing, if you are aware of the symptoms of this deadly disease, you stand a better chance of early diagnosis. If you are aware, you can convince a friend, mother or sister that maybe the persistent bloating she feels isn’t "normal." If you are aware, you can help spread the word. Ovarian cancer doesn’t strike many women in the grand scheme of things. Only about 22,000 women in the US and 60,000 in Europe each year. What are your chances, really?

Had I been aware of Ovarian cancer, I would not have thought mine were very high. I didn’t know the symptoms, never gave a thought to the disease at all. I remember going to a luncheon once where Liz Tilberis, the former editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar, was speaking. She was fighting the disease at the time. I remember listening sympathetically, but feeling very relieved that I had just had a "good" gynecologic exam. Liz later lost her battle with the disease.

Flash forward a few years. My book, Going Gray, Looking Great! had just hit the bookstores. I was preparing for my first personal appearance. It promised to be an exciting summer ahead. A few months earlier, I again had a "good" gynecologic check-up. Then, out of nowhere, I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. It was "as stage 1 as you could get," I was told, and a radical hysterectomy would fix me up just fine. I had it done, and 10 days later was on my feet in front of an audience, describing the glories of going gray. The appearance proved popular, and they asked me to come back. I knew I couldn’t. The day before, I was informed that the lab results came back showing I had another primary cancer: ovarian. My first thought was that my ovaries had already been removed, no big deal, right? Wrong. Cells can remain.

I suppose the days following any cancer diagnosis are a blur for everybody. I remember overhearing one friend ask another, "Does she know how serious this is?" The second friend made a "Shhhhh" gesture and shook her head "no." That made me determined to find out. I spent the weekend cruising the internet. My husband and I will always refer to that as "the weekend from hell." Suddenly, I knew too much.

The doctors told me this was a fortuitous discovery. Because Ovarian cancer has a habit of hiding until it is too late. I didn’t feel very fortuitous. I didn’t feel very fortuitous when they said I would need more surgery (a "staging" operation) and then chemo. I didn’t feel very fortuitous when I walked into the chemo suite for the first time, and a woman looked at me and said "You look like you’ve been invited to a party you don’t want to attend." She was right. I kept thinking, I can’t be here, this can’t be happening. There was no family history. No long lost relative who ever had this. I felt fine. Why did I have it? There was only one answer: Because I did.

I was terrified of chemo. I had to get psychological counseling to even take it. I asked my doctor how long I would have if I didn’t have it. He replied, "Not long at all because I will personally kill you. I can do nothing for 80% of the women who get this disease. You, at least, have a chance."

And those are the facts. Most women are diagnosed at stage 3 when prognosis is poor. Yes, there are survivors among this group, but they are the exceptions. And as remissions turn into recurrences, they are in treatment again and again. This is an aggressive and persistent cancer, already moving on to the next stage at the time of diagnosis.

I made wonderful friends during my time in treatment. Vibrant, active, fun women. We laughed, we giggled, we ate M&Ms together. We talked about fashion and beauty, about great shoes and good handbags. They wanted to know more about going gray (after their hair came back), about hairstyles and cosmetics. My summer of "personal appearances" had turned into tutorials in the chemo suite. We had fun, in spite of the needles planted firmly in our veins delivering the highest toxic chemicals known to man, and we never talked about being sick at all. Sadly, not one of these beautiful, vital women is alive today.

I am sharing this story now because I want you to listen. To think about the symptoms below, really think about them, and if you have any nagging doubts whatsoever, get to a doctor. Life changes when you are diagnosed. To this day, I am tested every 4 months, more frequently if there is any question. It is always stressful. There is always the possibility I will go out of remission. And that’s the only word they use with this disease. They never say "cured." Sometimes I laugh to myself at the inventive phrases my oncologist uses: "virtually cured," "for all intents and purposes." It doesn’t really make me breathe easier, but given the alternative, I’ll take it! And be eternally grateful for the fortuitous discovery.

But should it have to be fortuitous? No. You have the power. You have the instincts. You can prevent a late-stage diagnosis from happening to you.

Ovarian cancer has been called "the silent killer" because there are no symptoms. But there are. A woman knows her own body, knows when things aren’t right. Symptoms can be vague, things we all experience from time to time. We ignore them. Doctors ignore them. But if they persist over a two-week period, the smartest thing you’ll ever do is to have them checked out.
  • Pressure or pain in your abdomen or pelvis
  • Swelling, bloating, gastrointestinal upset
  • Frequent urination in the absence of an infection
  • Persistent indigestion, gas or nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Increased abdominal girth or clothes fitting tighter around your waist
  • A persistent lack of energy  
  • Lower back pain

If you have even one of these symptoms (that’s all I had), and it becomes persistent, see your gynecologist for an internal exam and request a transvaginal ultrasound, a very simple test that can be done in-office. Ask for a blood test called a ca-125 that measures the level of an antigen, a protein molecule, that may be produced in excess when ovarian cancer cells are present. This is not a foolproof test, but if your ca-125 is well outside the normal range of 0-35, it's a very good indicator. A pap test will tell you nothing; it is for cervical cancer only. There currently are no reliable screening tests for Ovarian cancer.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Support Systems (or Trust His Heart)

A little while ago a friend asked me to be her friend/family member that put down my thoughts about her son, Carson. Carson was born with Spina Bifida, but he's one of the happiest little boys I've ever met. Especially, it turns out, if there is a fireworks show going on. That boy LOVES bright lights!
Anyway, here's what I wrote for her. I'll include the link to the blog at the end. If you know a family with a child who has Spina Bifida, or any Special Needs child, this is a wonderful sight that shares not only the ups and downs of raising a Special Needs child, but the pure joy as well as loving encouragement.

Family/Friend for Karen
I've known three families in my life with a Special Needs child. The 1st wasn't as sobering or frightening as the other two, but he had needs none the less: Luke was born with his left eye missing. He has the lid and socket, but no eye. I remember his mother's testimony to us when the dr. leaned over and solicitously (if somewhat piously) said "Now, we don't know why things like this happen," and she laughed joyously and said "Because God wants them to!" Kind of set the poor man back.

Then I have a second cousin with Down's Syndrome. His parents, God bless 'em, never treated Jimmie Lee any different than any of their other kids. Jimmie Lee has grown up in a loving home, loved for who he is and is loving in return. His parents never questioned God or asked why, at least not in public ... tho' I'm sure "why" is a question that God is asked frequently by many people in many situations. The point is, they chose to trust and thank God, instead.

But I'd never met anyone who God had given the gift of Spina Bifida to, until it was a family in our church. Karen and Bob and the gift of Carson. Why do I say "the gift of Spina Bifida"? Because, as the song says, "God is too wise to be mistaken, God is too good to be unkind; when you don't understand, when you can't see His plan, when you can't trace His hand trust His heart." All children are a gift from God and some children God uses in a unique way to show His loving plan to others. Hence, a gift. Karen, Bob and Carson have the joy of being a unique part of God's plan.

God wants us to tell others about His love, but why would a person with a physical disability listen to someone like me, who is whole and healthy in body and mind (tho' my sister might argue the "whole in mind" part!)? Why would parents of a Special Needs child listen to a parent whose children are healthy when they try to tell them God loves them? But, they'll listen to parents who, themselves, have a Special Needs child. They'll listen one day when Carson, wearing braces and using a walker, tells them God loves them, no matter what, and is never wrong, no matter what.

When I heard that Carson had Spina Bifida, my first reaction was "I've heard of this, but I don't know what it is!" Karen didn't mind explaining to the ladies Sunday school, tho' I'm sure it was difficult as she was still trying to deal with it herself. But, Karen is nothing if not kind and generous of heart. So we learned about it right along with her. And, when Carson was born, our preacher simply requested we ladies restrain ourselves from trying to hold Carson until his parents ok'd it (he had immediate back surgery after birth). Carson's first months of life pretty much involved lots of kisses, cooing and women hovering over him. I'm sure he was a bit confused by it all. Once they were sure his back was fine, Carson began to be passed from church member to church member to be loved on. And, while it may have worried his Mom a bit to watch him move out of her arms, she allowed us to share in the joy of this precious Gift from God. No one has made any fuss about Carson’s being “different”, he’s just Carson. A gift from God to be loved and enjoyed.

Today, Carson has worked up to having to wear braces. I'm sure it's not easy, having to do these things to your child, put him in casts, put him through surgery, put him through pokings and proddings other kids don't have to face and then sticking him in braces. But, while willing to share and answer any questions put to them, Karen and Bob never complain. They make it look easy (which I'm sure it's not) and they smile all the time. And they set a wonderful example by thanking God continually for their precious gift.

I ask myself every now and then, how would I handle it if God gave me the gift of a Special Needs child? I have to admit, I don't know, He hasn't asked that of me. I pray it would be with the trust in Him I see in Karen and Bob. A trust, peace and joy they will transmit to their own Gift.

They choose to "trust His heart"

Go here to follow the Spina Bifida Kids blog

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Veteran

It bothers me.

I bothers me that, when I thank a Veteran, he is surprised.  Or that he cries.  Not because I thanked him, but because anyone thanked him. 

He didn't join the military to gain honors or acclaim.  Most of them joined out of a sense of duty, a desire to do what they considered the right thing and the choice to do whatever they could to contribute to the continuing freedom of what they considered a great nation.

When I see a Veteran, I shake his hand, tell him how much I appreciate his service and even ask what branch he was in or where he served.  They don't tell me much (it's mostly in passing, after all) but they proudly proclaim their branch of the military and unit they served in.  

Most of the time, they smile in gratitude for my gratitude.  Once in awhile, tears will fill their eyes that someone my age will make the effort to even show gratitude for what they did with something as simple as a handshake, a smile, and a quiet "thank you".   Sometimes, if family is nearby, tears will fill their eyes, too.  Because someone was grateful to an unsung hero.
They don't want a parade. 

They don't desire fame.

They don't need ceremonies.

They deserve respect for sacrifices made.

They deserve honor for services rendered.

They deserve a long line of grateful people shaking their hand and saying a quiet "thank you" until it's no longer a surprise.

If you see a Veteran (they ususally wear a baseball hat or a windbreaker or something else with the name of their unit or ship, something will give them away) stop and shake his hand.  Ask him where he served, what unit he was with, and thank him for that service.  If you can, pay for his meal. You can do this anonymously, I have, and what's a few dollars more for someone who offered his life for yours?  Just ask the waitress for his ticket and tell her to only let him know it's from a grateful citizen.  He'll be thrilled and it will make your day to have given a little gratitude to such a quiet, brave man.

They all went to hell and back for us. 

Appreciate them while we still have them.

Thank them while we still have the time.

"In Old Glory's depths I see
     The lives all spent on me and thee.
Bravest men, beloved sons,
     Immortalized.... Forgotten ones.

Those Warriors of forgotten days,
     Men of deepest mem'ries haze,
Once fought for us across the sea
     To keep their love'd country free.

Some say they went because they must,
     Some say because of wander-lust.
But, most of all, the Warrior went
     To save us from tyrannic bent.

The colors that Old Glory shows,
     Vibrant hues with which it glows,
Blue and white, they stand to me
     As Freedom's own, sweet purity.

The color, tho', that shines most bright,
     And wraps itself around the sight,
Stands for the bloody price they paid.
     Their lives, for Freedom, gladly trade."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

~ How To Be A Liberated Woman ~

I will have you all know that I am a Liberated Woman and I am proud of that fact!  Before you begin beating me and gnashing on me with your teeth, let me explain. 

A lot of women today equate the word "liberated" with "free-to-do-what-I-want!"  Free to work how I choose.  Free to live how I want, for good or bad.  Free to be rude to men and denegrate them.  Free to denegrate and mock other women who choose to hold men in respect.

I have an old saying to quote for those particular women: "Your freedom ends where mine begins!"

The problem with that particular type of "liberation" is that most of those women are insecure in and of themselves (tho' I'm sure they are denying it vociferously right now).  If she wasn't, if she were truly secure with who and what she is, she wouldn't need to run others down.  In order to feel better about herself, she has to mock the beliefs of others. The only way she can lift her beliefs out of the mud is to trample the beliefs of others into it and she will not listen to the other persons reasons for their beliefs although she expects you to listen to (and be convinced by) hers!

She sees a man behaving in a polite manner  - i.e. holding a door or offering a woman his seat on a bus - and she sees it either as his questioning a woman's ability to take care of herself or that he's just a weak-willed, brow-beaten pathtic fool.  But don't dare let that man not hold a door for her or ignore the fact she's standing on the bus.  With this type of "liberated woman", a guy just can't win.

These type of women remind me of an illustration Preacher uses from time to time:
There's a yappy little dog (you see the resemblence already, don't you!) penned up in a yard surrounded by a tall, chain-link fence.  Along the sidewalk comes a big old dog who could eat the little dog in one chomp and have room left over for a three course meal.  Little Dog begins yapping and snarling, following Big Dog all the way along the fence as he passes Little Dog's yard, ignoring the little yapper the whole way.  The reason he ignores him is because he can't get to him.  There's a fence in the way.  A fence that liberates Little Dog to be the snarly, yappy little terror that he is.  If there were no fence, or the fence were to suddenly disappear, Little Dog would be dead!  Ieyeeeee don't think that's the kind of liberation he wants! (liberated from life!) That fence lets him snap and snarl.
He's safe.
He's protected.
He's liberated.

These so-called liberated women snap and snarl and yap at the rest of us women, telling us how limited we are behind our fences of respect and kindness.  But, these "liberated women" are the ones who are limited and fenced in.  They are limited in the respect they receive from others.  Perhaps the accomplishments they achieve are admired and respected, but if they snapped and snarled at others as they achieved them, the respect is limited only to the achievement.  What respect they do receive is from others of their kind but, again, it's limited.  Let one of them say anything the least bit out of line with their perceived beliefs and she's no longer "one of them" or she's not truly a "liberated woman!"

So, I'm sure you're wondering why I say I am a liberated woman.  Allow me to explain:
  1.  I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour.  I am liberated from my sin.  Romans 6:14 & 18 says "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness."  I am now a servant, not a slave.  I am at liberty to choose to continue my service to God or not.
  2. I Timothy 2:9 says "women adorn themselves in modest apparel,"  Because I choose obedience to this command I am liberated from the lascivious thoughts of sexual predators.  I don't have to worry that the same man who looks at me with interest is only looking at me as a piece of meat, that he's also going to go home and trawl porn sites on the internet.
  3. I demand respect by my behaviour as a lady.  Because I give the same respect to men I demand, I receive it in return.  I am liberated from the lack of respect and crudities they flaunt in front of other women.    - (aside) - I worked for years for a minor league pro-hockey team and, in all that time, only one man I'm aware of professed to be a Christian. But, because I was respectful of and to the players, they reciprocated that respect.  At my request they did their best to curb their swearing in my presence (they didn't for other women) and they kept themselves decently covered at all times when I was around (again, they didn't around other women).  I was liberated from their disrespect because I treated them with respect.  - (back to the lesson) -
  4. I am at liberty to be friends with both women AND men because I don't practice deceit or sprinkle my conversations with sexual innuendo.  I follow Proverbs 18:24 where it says "A [wo]man that hath friends must shew [herself] friendly:"  I am neither "retranslating" or doing a disservice to the Bible by inserting the feminine, here.  We women are extremely emotional creatures.  We need to remember to ask God to reign in our emotions so that we CAN be friendly without it going down the wrong path.  Remember, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13)
  5. Ephesians 6:1-3 says "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth."  Because I have chosen to be obedient to this commandment (and my parents) I have been liberated from God's punishment of a short life.
A lot of people see the requirements God has laid out for Christians as a fence that cuts us off from "fun", at least by their definition of fun (yeah, getting drunk and/or high then puking my guts out is loads of "fun"!)  Any morality that remotely contains religion is a joke to be made fun of and a bond to be broken.  Remember yappy Little Dog?  It was the fence that kept him from being a Big Dog snack.  The fence of God's requirements for my life liberate me to be the woman He wants me to be.
A woman of discretion.
A woman of honesty.
A woman of passion.
A woman of purity.
A woman of respect.

I am a Liberated Woman!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Overcoming Evil

I'm about to touch on.... well... a touchy subject.  And I'm probably going to upset a number of people.  I'd apologize for that, but I can only believe what God teaches in His Word and what He does not teach is "breaking curses" or "binding Satan" and I've certainly never heard of anything remotely related to "Christian curses" in Scripture.

Let my start by saying I was in a Christian bookstore the other day and saw a book that touted the "fact" (I use the word loosely) that it could teach the reader how to "break curses" through prayer.  An excerpt from the back cover of the book stated "Is everything you do a struggle? Does a dark cloud seem to hang over your life? Are you trapped by feelings of abandonment and betrayal? Are you immobilized by severe hopelessness?  Does it seem you're unable to receive the blessing of God in your life?"  It then goes on to explain that these are curses and this book can teach you prayers to break these curses.  The first thing that came to my mind was what God told us in I John 4:4 "...because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world."  This is a very clear statement.  Greater is He (God) that is in me (as a Christian who has accepted the gift of Salvation) than he that is in the world (Satan and/or his minions).  This is not to say that Satan and his minions cannot influence what happens to us and our lives, look what God allowed in the life of Job.  But Satan can NOT do anything to a Christian that God does not allow.

Oh, boy, and now it sounds like I'm saying we should blame God when things go wrong. SO far from what I'm aiming for.  God allows trials and testings in our lives but He doesn't always tell us why.  When Paul prayed for God to remove the thorn in his flesh, God told him no, but that His grace would be sufficient.  God allows trials and testings and, yes, even sufferings in our lives as Christians, but He never leaves us to bear them alone.  He even tells us in I Corinthians 10:13 "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
That ye may be able to bear it.  God doesn't allow these difficulties in our life to break us or so He can be amused.  But, whenever we come through a difficult time, we often find ourselves to be stronger. Stronger in our beliefs, stronger in our character, stronger in our knowledge of what we can do through Christ "who strengtheneth me."  (you... do remember in a previous post I mentioned that the "-eth" means it's happening now, in the present, right?)

Now, let me go back to this book a moment (no, I'm not going to give you it's name!).  Here's the thing, my pastor has done a series of lessons on how to overcome - or defeat - evil.  The only way to overcome evil is with good.  Unfortunately, since Evil hates good, this generates more evil trying to overcome good.  Which means we have to do more good to overcome evil.... and around we go.  Or so it seems.  So, things like this book that purports to be able to teach you prayers to "defeat curses" and evil and so on seems like a reeeeeally good idea. SO easy.  Just read a book or two and learn how to recite "prayers" and BOOM! you're life is all hunkey-dory!  No more dark clouds, no more struggles, no more feelings of oppression or abandonment or betrayal!

Except, we have to look at this "easy book" through the magnifying lens of Scripture.  What does the Bible have to say about this type of thing?  I John 4:1 says "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."  And in II Timothy 4 we find "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."

It is a fallacy, a fable to believe that Satan, or indeed ANYone can place a born again, Bible believing, Christ receiving Christian under a curse.  First, we must examine our own lives to see if the reason we're "living under a cloud" or "unable to receive the blessing of God" is because of unconfessed sin in our lives.  God can't bless us if there is sin we haven't honestly, fully confessed and truely repented of.  In that case, of course there's a cloud over our lives.  Of course we're not receiving the blessing of God.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with anyone placing a curse on us. That's a cheap cop out that allows us to shift the blame.  I believe psychologists refer to it as "guilt transferrence."  If we can blame someone else (i.e. Jane Smith cursed my life and that is why.... fill in the blank) we don't have to work to uncover that sin in our life.  We don't have to work on a relationship with our Lord.  Relationships are difficult and just saying a few "curse-breaking prayers" is easy. Right?

Uh huh.

I also knew a woman who had claimed to be a Christian.  I believe she was saved, but I believe she was misled in a lot of areas.  One of those areas was the belief that she (or anyone) could "bind" Satan by simply using Jesus' name.  As in "Satan, I bind you from [insert problem area] in the name of Jesus Christ!"  Really?  I mean, even Jesus Himself didn't do that when He faced Satan directly after His forty days of fasting.  If you recall, what Jesus did was answer each of Satan's temptations with "It is written..."  He fought Satan's evil with Scripture, not "I bind you in the name of myself!" That would have played right into Satan's hands in tempting His pride.  Pastor has told us the best way to fight Satan is to know our Bible.  Know the Scripture verses that will help you resist the temptations he brings your way.  Just remember, Satan knows the Bible better than you.  You don't think so?  Satan quoted to Jesus from the book of Psalm when tempting His pride, except he twisted it.  Just a little.  Just enough that most of us would have said, "hm, well, okay, I think that's what it says" and let it go at that.  Don't let it go.  KNOW. YOUR. SCRIPTURE.  Or Satan will use the same trick on you he used on Eve.... "Yeah, hath God said....?"

Satan will not be bound until the end of time: Rev. 20:1-3 & 14 "1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.  14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death."

So, from this we learn that Satan will be bound one day by an angel who has authority from God (the key to the bottomless pit) but only for a (relatively) short time, then he will be loosed again until the final judgement when God casts him into the lake of fire.  Satan knows this; as I pointed out, he knows the Scriptures better than you.  That doesn't mean he believes them.  It does mean he will do his best to confuse things and if that means bringing in false teachers and fable fabricators, he will.  If that means planting the idea in someone's head that he can make a boat-load of money writing books that will convince lazy, gullible people who want to be spoon-fed their "christianity" (no, I left it lower case on purpose) that there is "Christian witchcraft" and "Christian cannibalism" out there and only the author has the knowledge and "spiritual power" to teach you what you need to know in order to "be set free!", he will.

But he'll be laughing all the way to the bank.

Friday, January 1, 2010

10 Miles Down A Dirt Road

I work with a woman who used to be married to a man who owned a ranch in Nevada. She had some.... interesting stories about her time out there and invariably started every tale ~ or mentioned it somewhere in the narrative ~ that they lived "60 miles from town and 10 miles down a dirt road."

Now, that is isolated!

While almost every tale was humorous, I was always reminded of the isolation of where she lived. It was well outside of what I would call the stop-by-for-a-visit zone. While I don't know the details of her former marriage, I know she learned nothing from her isolation but to rely solely on herself. It didn't even draw her and her (ex-) husband closer. She is a strong willed woman with a mile-wide stubborn streak who doesn't easily admit to any faults ~ although she believes she does ~ and has certainly never wanted to learn about the love and support of God in her life.

But, her situation ~ isolated in the deserts of Nevada ~ made me think of the lives of men in the Bible that God isolated for periods of time in different ways; Noah and Job who were emotionally isolated; Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were spiritually isolated; John the Baptist and Paul who were physically isolated. These are only a small selection of people in the Bible who were isolated for periods of time, but God was using their isolation as a teaching tool.

Noah and Job's emotional isolation was from people they'd known and loved for most of their lives. People they'd relied on for support, people they could share their problems with and from whom they believed they would receive loving advice. These same people turned their backs, mocked their efforts and told them their problems were their own fault. In Job's case is was even worse because the woman he loved, who had sworn to love him for the rest of her life, turned on him all her grief and bitterness, urging him to curse God and die. Yet, both men refused to believe that God had abandoned them and continued to trust in His goodness.

Daniel and his friends were spiritually isolated when they took an unpopular stand for obedience to the teachings and laws of God in a land of spiritual degeneration. A stand that could have cost them not only their own lives but the life of someone they considered a friend. Yet all four men trusted God to keep His promise to bless them in their obedience to Him.

John the Baptist and Paul each found themselves physically isolated ~ in the desert, I might add ~ from everyone and everything the knew. This was not a permanent isolation, but it was for a long period of time. For most of us, physical isolation from those we love ~ even from other human beings ~ would be extremely difficult. It's even been known to cause severe mental distress in people such as depression, anger, anxiety and panic attacks. Yet, God used this time to teach these men and they allowed themselves to respond properly to that teaching.

God placed these examples in the Bible for us to read about and ~ hopefully ~ learn from. To learn to rely on God for support in every area of our lives ~ emotional, spiritual and physical. These various situations could have worn these men down if they'd turned away from God. When we rely solely on ourselves ~ or even those around us ~ we can find ourselves in a self-inflicted quagmire of confusion. Trying to "follow your heart" ~ or instinct or nose or however you want to phrase it ~ is dangerous. The Bible tells us in Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"

God, however, has clear answers for us in our lives. The problem is sometimes we allow ourselves to get so busy ~ or complacent or lazy ~ we can't (or don't ~ or won't) hear what God has to say. So He has to isolate us. Maybe it's physical isolation, but instead of sending us "60 miles from town and 10 miles down a dirt road" He sends us to a hospital. Pretty hard to run from Him when we're flat on our backs.

Maybe it's spiritual isolation. My sister is blessed in her job, her boss and co-workers are all Christians. Most of us are lucky if one or two of our co-workers are saved. Perhaps God will give you a co-worker (or two) who thinks "all Christians are the worst liars and hypocrites." It's one way to make us take a close, hard look at how we live our lives as Christians. Are we a true example for God? Or do we say one thing and live another. There's an old saying, "Your walk talks so loud, I can't hear what you say." What is our daily walk with God like?

Perhaps it will be emotional isolation. We all have times when we're lonely, feel misunderstood or become depressed. It happens, it's part of the emotional make-up God designed into our psyches. How we handle it decides the outcome of these emotional battles. Do we turn inward? Have a "poor-me" pity party? Or do we turn to God?

In all of these situations of isolation, God wants us to turn to Him. Learn to rely on His strength and love. Spiritually, His Word strengthens our foundations so we can follow His directive in Ephesians 6:13b-14a "...and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore," Physically, we can rely on His strength in our weakness. Physical limits are no limit to Him if we give our physical limits to Him. Emotionally, only He can understand our weepings, our depressions, our fears when they threaten to overwhelm us. He knows our fears, hears our pleadings and weeps with us.

Are you spiritually, physically or emotionally "60 miles out of town and 10 miles down a dirt road?" If so, are you going to whine about the isolation and rely on your own stubbornness or use it to draw closer to God?