Peace is a Blueberry

Aggravated by the lack of inspiration, I finally placed my fingers on the keys of the computer and thought, Just whatever! First thing that comes to mind about blueberries, write it down! You don’t have all day. Then my thoughts were drowned by the wave of words coming from the other room’s TV:

“The world is as angry as it gets…” said President Donald Trump. “…The world is an angry place.”

I write my message today with that in mind. Lately, there is nothing but turmoil, threats of war and loud voices of unhappy people. How can any of us have peace with so much anger?

Well, peace is ours if we believe in Jesus, because peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit, but it’s not peace as the world sees it. In the world’s eyes, peace is a unified circle: everyone sees the same vision, has the same mindset, and shares the same commonalities. To the world, maybe peace is people speaking the same words, feeling the same way, or else minding their own business, submitting or being silenced.

But Jesus Christ admitted he wasn’t bringing peace to the earth. The contrary to that, his teachings tore families apart, brought strife and caused trouble. Ever since the 1st century, the church has been experiencing tumult and genocide. (Did you know that last year alone, 90,000 Christians were killed – one study shows – for their faith?) Christ’s message brings strife, due to the epic battle of wills: for example, a Jew might hear the gospel and become a Christian, creating a problem for his family who remains Jewish, because they do not believe Jesus is the Messiah. Likewise, a Muslim hears the gospel, leaves his religion, and risks the death penalty for being an infidel, so he is hunted, wanted, and forced to run away.

Strife happens in the Christian’s life, because others will react negatively to the idea of “walking with God”. Even so, Christ’s peace can come to you, and be in you, when you understand that God loves you, sacrificed his son to save you, you are his, and so you have no fear of the afterlife. Heaven is yours. This world is not yours. This world belongs to those who walk the path set out before them. Heaven is for those who seek to find the path set out by God, the lamp holders, the pearl merchants, the crucified ones. Ponder on that. If heaven is yours, death cannot harm you, therefore absolutely nothing else is able to harm you either, because no matter how much pain you endure, or how much hate you feel from those who own the world, your soul has purpose.

I must note that when Jesus said he would bring division, he was not condoning violence. God wants us to be peaceful. Otherwise, peace would not be a fruit of the Spirit; Jesus simply means that the gospel will be met with dispute since it “divides soul and spirit” and “judges the thought and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Since nobody wants to hear the Word of God except the ones who want to know God, we should prepare for the worst and hope for the best. In fact, check it out.  Jesus told his disciples how to tell their stories to others, and it’s as straightforward as it gets:

And if the home is indeed trustworthy, let your blessing of peace rest upon it; if not, keep your blessing to yourself. If someone is inhospitable to you or refuses to listen to your testimony, leave that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.” Matthew 10:13-14 (VOICE)

Be peaceful, but be ready for war. Christians face the same challenges today, like they did when first developing the church.

So how is peace like a blueberry? Easy. Fresh blueberries are said by nutritionists to suppress the appetite and help a person feel less hungry. They are blue, rich in fiber and antioxidants, and give the taster a cool, underlying satisfaction, which cannot be duplicated by any other fruit. Even candied blueberries and artificial ones, or ones that are not fresh cannot always duplicate the same taste as a fresh blueberry.

It’s similar with peace. The Spirit’s peace is inward, ethereal, and impossible to receive without faith. Like blueberries with hunger, peace suppresses fear, anger, doubt, and lust. It cools the mind and proves to be a healthy antioxidant for the soul. Consume it as much as possible, and you will find yourself calm, even in the storm.

My personal story with peace: there was one time when I was trying to stop myself from sinning. Much of the time, I sin and have to repent, but this particular time, I actually had the self-control to stop myself from doing the wrong thing. Afterwards, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy and peace, even as my sinful nature was still screaming inside to sin. The two sides were at war. One side said, “DO IT!” The other side said, “You can keep beating this.” After I pushed myself entirely away from the sin, the next day, an almost out-of-body peace overtook me and cooled my mind. For once, no regret! The feeling of overcoming was extraordinary, and I yearn for it to happen again.

Unfortunately, some days sin is too strong and overtakes the will, and peace is forfeit, but the key is to yearn for it, learn from it, and keep inventing ways to have it. The underlying taste of peace keeps us aware of Christ’s love, which is unfailing, and peace is a reminder that nothing in this earthly life can phase you.

 

“May you have more and more of His loving-favor and peace as you come to know God and our Lord Jesus Christ better.

“He gives us everything we need for life and for holy living. He gives it through His great power. As we come to know Him better, we learn that He called us to share His own shining-greatness and perfect life. Through His shining-greatness and perfect life, He has given us promises. These promises are of great worth and no amount of money can buy them. Through these promises you can have God’s own life in you now that you have gotten away from the sinful things of the world which came from wrong desires of the flesh.”

2 Peter 1:2-4 (NLV)

 

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America

“It is a land as dark as midnight,

a land of gloom and confusion,

where even the light is dark as midnight.”

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“The Bible tells us, ‘how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.’

“We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. There should be no fear – we are protected, and we will always be protected.

“We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we are protected by God.”


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“A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions. It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag. And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.”

“So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again. Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams, will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.”

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Joy is a Mandarin Orange

Joy and happiness are the same thing, right?

According to “The Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus” joy is happiness that is felt with “…success, good fortune, or a sense of well-being.” Synonyms are bliss, felicity, and gladness.

But the joy of the Spirit doesn’t really fall under that definition. It’s an underlying emotion. It’s not dependent on success or good fortune, but on our faith in God.  When blessed with this specific fruit of the Spirit, joy is never-ending and has no limit.

When I was a child, canned mandarin oranges were one of my favorite snacks.  My family didn’t get them too often; but when we did, I felt my parents’ love for me.  The joy I felt wasn’t in the fact that mandarins are a Chinese symbol of good fortune, or that they’re a Christmas tradition for many people. It was simply because I enjoyed the soft juicy bite, the sweet watery flavor; and I knew that when my parents served it, they did it because they loved me.

Joy is felt when a person is secure in love.  If we feel safe and cared for, then we may be able to feel the underlying feeling of God’s joy.  And we should feel secure, because God does loves us. If we let Him, he’ll help us feel safe enough to witness this fruity gift of joy.

The fruit of the Spirit known in Greek as chara, or joy, can be compared to the mandarin orange.  Do you know the difference between a mandarin and a tangerine?  Many people wouldn’t be able to answer that question, and in the same way many people can’t tell the difference between happiness and joy.  They think joy is happiness: when you’ve just had success in your work or school or relationship, you’re joyful.

But the Bible tells us about 7 different styles of joy, and none of them comes with a promotion at work.

Pure Joy can be felt in the midst of trials.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 (NIV)

We can feel joy during rough times in our life, because we know that God loves us. He loves us enough to work with us and mature us into more pleasurable fruit. If our faith were never tested, then it would not grow. Our faith would stay small and weak. We would never be able to blossom into the potential God has planned for us.

Glorious Joy can be felt with the foresight of your reward in Heaven.

“…and so we look forward to possessing the rich blessings that God keeps for his people… Be glad about this, even though it may now be necessary for you to be sad for a while because of the many kinds of trials you suffer. Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine. Even gold, which can be destroyed, is tested by fire; and so your faith, which is much more precious than gold, must also be tested, so that it may endure… So you rejoice with a great and glorious joy which words cannot express, because you are receiving the salvation of your souls, which is the purpose of your faith in him.” 1 Peter 1:4-9 (GNT)

Our pure joy will turn to glorious and inexpressible joy as we realize that God loves us so much: He is making us more precious than gold, and He is storing treasures up for us in Heaven.  No matter what troubles we face here on earth, we have been promised to be richly rewarded in the end. God looks forward to the day He can call us home to receive the blessings which He is saving for us.  He wants us to joyfully look forward to that day, too.

Enduring Joy can be felt when faith is made complete with Jesus Christ.

“We must never stop looking to Jesus. He is the leader of our faith, and He is the one who makes our faith complete. He suffered death on a cross. But he accepted the shame of the cross as if it were nothing because of the joy he could see waiting for him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne. Think about Jesus. He patiently endured the angry insults that sinful people were shouting at him. Think about him so that you won’t get discouraged and stop trying.” Hebrews 12:2-3 (ERV)

It’s almost impossible to cling to joy when terrible things are happening.  But as long as we don’t stop thinking about God’s love for us, it won’t be impossible to hold onto our spiritual gift of joy.

Remember, Jesus Christ asked His Father to let the cup of death pass from Him; He wasn’t happy with the course of actions His life was about to take.  Even if you feel that you have no joy, if you keep your eyes on Jesus and remember what he did so that you could have everlasting life, your joy will endure the trials. It may not take the form of happiness or bliss; instead it will come in the form of peace and hope.

Peaceful Joy can be felt when you put your trust in God.

“I pray that the God who gives hope will fill you with much joy and peace as you trust in him. Then you will have more and more hope, and it will flow out of you by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (ERV)

As we keep our minds set on Christ, we will be able to trust in God.  We will see God working in Jesus’ life, and in His followers’ lives, and we will begin to understand God’s love for us as we see Him working in our own lives. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. Whoever puts his trust in God’s Son will not be lost but will have life that lasts forever.” (John 3:16, NLV) With trust comes hope, and with hope comes peaceful joy.

Glad Joy can be felt in deliverance.

“And Mordecai went forth from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, with a crown of gold and with a robe of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan shouted and rejoiced.

The Jews had light [a dawn of new hope] and gladness and joy and honor.

And in every province and in every city, wherever the king’s command and his decree came, the Jews had gladness and joy, a feast and a holiday. And many from among the peoples of the land [submitted themselves to Jewish rite and] became Jews, for the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them.” Esther 8:15-17 (AMPC)

God is a loving Father, and will always bring an end to your suffering.  As 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “…God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.” (GNT) In the escape that God provides us, glad joy can be felt. We can rejoice in the fact that God has protected us and strengthened us, and given the ability to endure the hardship.

Comforting Joy can be felt when we see others being encouraged in God’s Word.

“I always thank God when I am praying for you, dear Philemon, because I keep hearing of your love and trust in the Lord Jesus and in his people. And I pray that as you share your faith with others it will grip their lives too, as they see the wealth of good things in you that come from Christ Jesus. I myself have gained much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because your kindness has so often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.” Philemon 8:4-7 (TLB)

As we grow in faith and our joy becomes more perfect in God’s sight, we will learn how to feel encouraged by the edification and uplifting of other Christians. Our joy will not simply be for ourselves anymore; we will take joy in seeing other people’s joy of the spirit, too.

Complete Joy can be felt in fellowship.

“I have much to write you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” 2 John 1:12 (NIV)

Telling our stories to other Christians and listening to their own experiences, showing kindness and exchanging words of encouragement, and sharing God’s blessings with each other will give us a joy that is complete. When we are suffering, our Christian brothers and sisters can help us with our burdens; when we are joyful, they can boast with us in God’s blessings; when they are being tested, we can give them encouragement and remind them of God’s love for them.  For as Galatians 6:2-5 says: “Help each other with your troubles. When you do this, you are obeying the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to do this, you are only fooling yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Just look at your own work to see if you have done anything to be proud of. You must each accept the responsibilities that are yours.” Galatians 2-5 (ERV)

“But you, dear friends, use your most holy faith to build yourselves up even stronger. Pray with the help of the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves safe in God’s love, as you wait for the Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy to give you eternal life.

“Help those who have doubts. Rescue those who are living in danger of hell’s fire. There are others you should treat with mercy, but be very careful that their filthy lives don’t rub off on you.

“God is strong and can keep you from falling. He can bring you before his glory without any wrong in you and give you great joy.” Jude 1:20-24 (ERV)

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Star Quest, Short Story by Kat Andrews

The night was too black; it brooded without stars.  The Huntsman could sense the ominous veil of darkness that crept its way into the land; for the gentle creatures of the forest now hunted instead of hid.  Without Queen Cassiopeia’s hopefulness, no one could keep the gloom and potent evil from tender hearts.

Huntsman wondered if he was the only one troubled by the coming darkness. He knew he must find the Queen quickly, so his search began at the place where the darkness was the most substantial—the Libra corral—where the horses fought each other like raging beasts.  Huntsman quickly made his way to the Libra.  A beautiful white stallion raced around the corral.  Huntsman cautiously watched as the majestic stallion circled the corral.  As the stallion slowed to a stop he bore his teeth at another, a silent horse in the dark. The horse had a beautiful ebony coat, as dark as the night sky.  Any movement she would make would bring a glimmer of light to her coat, a flicker like small stars falling from the sky.  Her wings were majestic when she spread them out to full length; but at the moment, she held them close to her sides; tense, but controlled, as someone calmed her. The man was tall and strong.  He wore a gray tunic and shorts, and a sword on his back.  Huntsman recognized him as Hercules, a great hero.  They had met before, but he was unsure about whether Herc would remember him.  Last he had heard Herc had left the land.  Now that Herc was back, Huntsman was sure that Herc would help.

Huntsman watched as Herc caressed his beautiful steed gently and talked soothing words to her.  Huntsman smiled, pleased to see that he could show compassion in the face of danger.

Huntsman silently walked up behind Herc.  To his satisfaction, Herc stiffened and raised his hand over his shoulder to rest on the sword.  He was pleased to see that Herc was still alert.

Herc jolted around to see who was there and let out a massive sigh of relief.  “Hunter, it’s just you.”

Even as Huntsman felt honored to be recognized, with concern in his voice he spoke, “What’s happening?”

Herc nodded toward the angry herd.  “An immense energy is coming from the corral, but I haven’t figured out what’s causing it.”

Huntsman quietly probed with all of his senses to broaden the search around the corral.  He listened to the hooves of the stallion beating on the battered ground and felt a slight breeze brush at his golden bangs.  With the breeze came a foreboding sensation that filled his heart.  Herc placed a hand on Huntsman’s shoulder and drew his attention to the stallion.  It slowly changed into a white serpent; then disappeared behind a tree.  Huntsman ran after it with his crossbow cocked, but found nothing.  Herc sprang onto the back of Pegasus and raced over as well.

“We’re not alone.”  Huntsman muttered.  Suddenly they felt a presence behind them. Herc leapt from the back of Pegasus and drew his sword.

“No, You are not alone.”  Huntsman turned to see a dark figure made of every evil concept thought up by man.  Around his neck rested the large snake, as white as the man was dark. “She’s here.”

“Who’s here?”  Herc shot out.  “Who are you?”

“I am Shadow King.” He motioned to the center of the corral, where Cassiopeia lay on a stone altar, which hadn’t been there before.  “Cassiopeia is here.  This corral is the balance of good and evil.  It is the gateway from the realm of mortals to my rule, the realm of shadows.  Cassiopeia’s realm is peaceful.  But bringing Cassiopeia here has tipped the sense of balance.  Soon the shadow realm will cover both realms, and I will rule it all.  Balance will only be restored if you defeat me.  But you can’t defeat me until you find me, and find my weakness.” Shadow King smirked as his serpent dropped to the ground.  Huntsman watched as it transformed into a doorway, glowing brightly.  “It’s a will-o’-the-wisp.  It can turn into anything; right now, it’s the exit.  All you’ve got to do is find it.” Walls sprang from the ground, blocking the exit.  The Shadow King slowly began to fade away.

Huntsman stood up.  He looked around and saw that they were in a corridor, and they stood near a break in the hall.  He studied each corridor closely, but they looked identical.  Huntsman started down one path, hoping that it was the right hall to take.  He, Herc and Pegasus quickly followed the corridor, but it seemed they weren’t getting anywhere. He turned to Herc. “Can Pegasus fly over the wall and see what turns to take?”

“No, I don’t think so.  There isn’t enough room in these corridors for her to spread her wings.”  Huntsman saw Herc’s gaze shift down to Huntsman’s belt.  He looked down to see what Herc was looking at, and realized that his buckle had begun to glow softly.  “What’s happening?”

Huntsman’s belt continued to glow brighter.  “My belt glows with the light of the stars.  It hasn’t been glowing because the darkness hid the stars.”  Huntsman looked around.  “Polaris must be around.”

“Who?”

“Polaris is a small light that helps lost travelers find their way.  She leads the travelers to Cassiopeia, who then helps them find their destination.  Maybe she’ll know the way to Cassiopeia.”

A small ball of light descended from above them and began to float around Huntsman.  “Come.  I’ll show you the way.”  She seemed to be telling him.  Polaris began to drift down a hall, and Huntsman followed her, Herc and Pegasus close behind.  He glanced down at his belt, which seemed to feed off of the light’s radiance.  It seemed to be absorbing the light from the little star, and it was shining brightly now.

Finally they came to the end of the hallway, which led to the room Cassiopeia was in.  A large wall blocked their way.  Huntsman examined the wall.  “It’s ice.”  Suddenly Huntsman felt the presence of the Shadow King.

“So, you’ve gotten this far with the help of Polaris.  How did that little fairy get into my domain?”  Shadow King sneered.

“You let her in.  Polaris is a star that is made from Cassiopeia’s hope.  Since you’ve brought Cassiopeia here, you let Polaris in.”

“It doesn’t matter.  You’ve made it this far, but you cannot go any further.  You will not be able to pass the wall in front of you.”  The Shadow King smiled, and added, “I hope you do make it past the wall, though.  I would love to fight you myself.  Prove yourself worthy of your name: Orion, the son of fire.”  He disappeared again.

“We need to find something that we can burn.”  Huntsman touched his sleeves; they weren’t much, but they might burn.  He ripped his sleeves off, and put them into a bundle next to the ice.  He took two pieces of flint from his belt and flicked them together several times to make a small fire.  Then he looked up at Polaris.  “Little star, can you fuel the fire with your gasses, to help melt the ice?”  The small light bobbed once, and drifted down to the fire.  Immediately the fire lit up.  Huntsman turned to Herc.  “We’ll get to the other side soon.”

Herc gazed at Huntsman’s belt, now shining brightly.  “Your belt.  That’s the legendary belt of the three stars, isn’t it?”  Huntsman nodded cautiously.  He could see darkness in Herc’s eyes.  The darkness that had affected all the small forest creatures was now affecting Herc as well.  Huntsman knew that Herc was stronger, but he also knew that he was quicker.  Herc leapt at Huntsman, sword drawn, but Huntsman dodged the attack.  Herc shook his head in dismay.  “You won’t even fight back?  This’ll be too easy.”  Herc swung his sword at Huntsman, and Huntsman swiftly moved out of the way.  Herc swung again, this time cutting Huntsman’s shoulder.  Herc was about to attack again, but Pegasus jumped between them.  Herc’s sword sliced into Pegasus’ wing, causing the horse to rear up and cry in pain.   Herc dropped his sword to the ground.  “I’m so sorry, Peg.  I didn’t mean to.  I wasn’t thinking right.” He gently put his hand on the wound, which trickled blood.  “I’m so sorry.”

Huntsman looked over at the wall that was melted away enough for them to pass.  Huntsman climbed over what was left of the ice wall, and came face to face with Shadow King once again.

Behind Shadow King was a long hallway. “Get Cassiopeia.”  Huntsman ordered Herc.  “Follow that hallway until you get to the end.  I’m sure you’ll find the exit there.”  Herc was about to argue but Huntsman shook his head.  “Go, get Cassiopeia out of here.  You have to.”  Herc hesitated for a moment, then ran over to Cassiopeia and gently picked her up.  Then he pulled himself up on Pegasus, looked back at Huntsman, then raced down the hallway.

“You do know that you led your friends into a trap.”  Shadow King derided.  “The only way to leave my labyrinth is to defeat me.”

“Then what’s…”

“A whole army of shadow warriors.  You’ll never defeat me soon enough to save your friends.”  Shadow King beamed evilly, sure that he had won.  Huntsman looked around in alarm.  Polaris quietly floated to his side.

“Your belt, Orion.  Your belt of the three stars will bring an end to his reign.”  Huntsman gently placed his hand on his belt buckle, now glowing brighter than the brightest star.  The buckle was a decoration, and could easily be twisted off.  Huntsman slowly popped the buckle off into his hand.  He looked down at it, smiled, and shone the light at Shadow King.

“Shadows vanish in the light.  Everyone knows that, Shadow King.”  Shadow King gave a shrill cry as the light shot through him.  The light flashed brightly, blinding Huntsman momentarily.  When he gained his vision again, he saw that he and the others were back in the peaceful Libra corral.

After returning Queen Cassiopeia to the castle, Herc and Huntsman stood at the throne.  “Hercules, I am grateful that you have returned.  You have helped save the land once again.  You are a true hero, and will forever be known in legend for what you have done.  Huntsman,” Huntsman bowed his head slightly.  “You also will be put into legends, but without you, we wouldn’t be alive. You have done so much.  To reward you, I shall make you guardian of the land.”

“Your Highness, I am protector of my own home.  I do not need to be made protector of the entire land.   And I prefer not to be put into the legends.”

“If you don’t want to be honored as guardian of the land, and you don’t want to be legendary, then what do you want?” Cassiopeia questioned.

“Your Highness, I believe that a good name is more desirable than riches.  To be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

“All right.  I’ll make your name great.  Everyone will know the wonderful things that you have done.”

“No, your Highness.  Being a good person is more desirable than having riches and fame.  I don’t wish to be famous, I just want to be a good person, helping whomever I can.”

Queen Cassiopeia nodded in understanding.  “Huntsman, you do know that if you continue to do great deeds, you will no doubt become well-known,” she accentuated.

“Yes, I do realize this.  But I would like everyone to know me for the deeds that I have done, rather than my name alone.”  The Queen nodded again in understanding and smiled at the Huntsman; he knew that, with her gladness, the stars would shine once again.  Eager to gaze at the beautiful stardust sprinkled over the night sky, he bowed and turned to leave the throne room.

 

Kaleido Blast! 2.0

Hello again. I told you before that I would be comparing the original Kaleido Blast! game to the new one. Well, I’ve gotten a chance to see the new game, and I must say chap, it’s an improvement to the last one.  Here’s a video that shows off just a few of the changes.

I was watching a friend of mine play the game, and it’s a quite different game than it was before.  It’s got safe zones where you can’t get hit; danger zones in which you must defeat the enemies before they defeat you; the shields are different, and the meteors are new. The rules have been placed into a 3 page booklet, instead of the 8 pages that it had before. I do believe the game has stepped up its… game.  I’ve added a few pictures to help you see the differences.

The game is not only different, it’s difficult too. My friend played it many times in one afternoon, battling the arx and trying to win the game.  Her score… I’m sure you’re curious. She won 1 out of 5 times. So as you can imagine, the game is very hard!

After losing for so many times, she decided to give the Kaleido Ray a try. The rules boast that the game will be easier if you initiate the Kaleido Ray at the beginning of the game.  But my friend, bless her heart, she only won 1 out of 5 times again!  Either luck is not her ally or the odds of winning the game don’t change much, from one difficulty level to the next.

The final game she played, she had one Blu-arx left in row I. It was a final showdown, a dual to the end.  She could either roll a color blast and vanquish the arx, or she could roll a black and white blast and be sent back to hyperspace herself. It was such a close game, so exciting! She rolled a red, a green, a yellow and a purple or two before she rolled a blue; unfortunately the hit was against her own pawn. She lost the game!

Love is a Strawberry

There was this time, a few years ago, when my mom was gardening and she saw her new strawberry plant had a tiny fruit on it. It was the teeniest thing, about the size of a Tic Tac. She wanted to taste it so much. Knowing plants, there was a chance no more berries would grow that year, because it was only a baby plant. However, that didn’t stopped Mom from acting in love: instead of enjoying the berry herself, which would have been easy to do being the first to see it, she brought that little fruit inside the house to show it to Kat and me. She cut it into two small specks, giving me one piece, Kat the other.

“Try it!” We did indeed. She wanted to know what it tasted like. Tart and juicy, it was good like unsweetened jam. So good! But the taste wasn’t as good as the love Mom shared by sacrificing the only taste that plant would give us that year.

Of course, next year the strawberry bush grew three berries instead of one. One was an inch big, the other two smaller. Mom let us half the bigger strawberry, she tasted the smaller one, and left the last one for the birds. Still, she was thinking of others besides herself, even the birds.

Some call the love Mom showed us “a mother’s love”. It is the same type of love that agape (a Greek word for “love”) is, which the Bible speaks of in 1 Corinthians 13. However, agape love acts this way for everyone, all kinds of people, no matter what age, gender, color, race, or person they are. If a person acted in agape love, an enemy could be gifted the same way as a family member or friend.

Agape is the love Jesus acted on when He died on the cross to save the world.

Three Scriptures which express agape love:

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9

Someone might say that a person who loves is like a strawberry plant. The love-bearer begins as a baby plant, producing only one berry, or one act of love, but as the plant grows the fruits produce more and more. By starting small, thinking big, and acquiring more knowledge of God, you can fall deeper “in love” with Christ, meaning gain understanding of who he is and how to imitate him, and then the love in your heart will grow more each year. As love grows, you will begin to know how, more each day, Christ would want you to treat others, therefore, you will become a vessel of agape love.

  1. Start small.
  2. Think big.
  3. Learn who Christ is.
  4. Watch love grow!
  5. Slowly begin to love others.

Sure, there will be hardships. It’s not easy to love endlessly. We’re not robots; we’re beings, created to produce thoughts, feelings, and opinions. So yes, it may be that you give a strawberry away and a person doesn’t receive it well – for example, the strawberry (your act of love) is placed on the counter, forgotten, and fuzzes, and is no longer enjoyable – but it didn’t start out ruined; your intention was never for your love to ruin. But it happens, sometimes.

No matter what, continue to love, continue to produce fruits, and even if some of your acts of love are not taken by the receiver the way you want them to be, remember, it’s not your power to keep the love fresh once it’s been given away. Your power is in the production.

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WordPress & the Forgotten Ham

For anyone who knows me, they will tell you that I’m a meticulous person. It comes in handy sometimes, it’s not always a bad thing, to look at the details, but it can be annoying for my friends. On any given day, you can find me checking Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIN, Deviantart, and so on, for anything new that I need to read or check. New tweets, follows, likes, etc.

But WordPress truly cuts the cake. It broke the mold. It has a bulky interface that makes it difficult to track everything (follows, likes, comments, and email subscriptions), and now I feel a bit sorry that so many comments have gone unread. There’s nothing I can do except write this post saying sorry and asking for all my commenters to come again to sign the guestbook and comment!

What’s the point of having a guestbook if readers are barred from signing it? That’s exactly what I feel happened with my blog. Very sad!

I’ll explain.

I’ve had my blog since August last year. For 5 months, all comments were going to the spam inbox where they awaited moderation, which means if I do not approve them, each one individually, they automatically get deleted after 30 days. Since I didn’t realize this fact, and I didn’t know I had a spam inbox because I didn’t frequent the WP Admin part of my WordPress account, I just now learned that 112 comments got deleted without me ever seeing them!

Now maybe some of them were spam, although some of them were labeled under ham (the word for messages marked as non-spam). I feel a little horrible inside knowing I got over 100 comments that I was never able to read. Surely it would have made my blog experience less lonely, and it would have helped me be more encouraged to write.

As a result of this lesson, I am going to open up commenting on nearly all my past posts, and I ask for you to please try commenting again if you left a comment before that was never seen. Tell us how we’re doing, we’d love to hear from you. Hugs to all the commenters that posted forgotten ham.

Sausage & Cheese Frittata

We recently got a Red Copper™ Square Dance Pan, so this past week we decided to make pancakes to see if they would stick to the pan. We mixed up a batch of Bisquick’s Ultimate Pancakes (using coconut sugar in place of the white sugar that the recipe called for), we put them in the pan, and…. it didn’t stick!   I didn’t even spray the pan with cooking spray first, so it impressed me very much.

redcoppersquaredancefrypan

Of course, a meal of pancakes always feels like it’s missing something important, so Lacy and I decided that we would make a sausage and cheese frittata to go along with our pile of pancakes.  We had tried frittatas before, and although last time we did it the task seemed daunting, this time we knew that the egg dish is very easy and fun to make.

This frittata recipe takes about 45 minutes to fix, and it serves 6 to 8 people.

frittatashot

Ingredients

  • 1 package (12 oz) ground pork sausage
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream (or milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese (or a Mexican blend)

Step 1: Prepare.  Gather all your ingredients together and preheat the oven to 350°.

Step 2: Cook the sausage in your iron skillet or Red Copper™ pan. The meat is finished cooking when there is no more pink showing. Once finished, drain the grease off the meat and then dish the meat out into a bowl. Wipe out the skillet and set the bowl of sausage aside while you prepare the eggs.

Step 3: Mix the eggs, cream, pepper,and salt. In a medium bowl, whip the eggs with a whisk or a fork.  Then mix the cream, the pepper, and the salt into the eggs.

Step 4: Make layers in your skillet. Melt the coconut oil into the bottom of the skillet, then pour half of the egg mixture into the pan. Spoon all of the sausage onto the first layer of egg, and then sprinkle the cheese onto the sausage.  Finish by pouring the rest of the eggs over the cheese.

Step 5: Cook the frittata for 23 minutes at 350°. Put the frittata in the oven and let it cook for 20 to 25 minutes.  This would be a great time to fix the pancakes on the stove top while the frittata is cooking.

Step 6: Remove from oven, serve and enjoy!frittatarecipe

 

Can you feel the Holy Spirit?

I received, as a Christmas gift, a series of devotional books by author Robert Strand titled Nine Fruits of the Spirit. Nine books in all, each one is a small 5.75″ x 5.75″ book, hardback, being a little more than 50 pages in length. In order for me to appreciate my gift to the fullest, I’ll be writing about the fruits of the Spirit for the next 9 weeks, allowing one blog post for each fruit: love (Greek: agape), joy (chara), peace (eirene), patience (makrothumia) kindness (chrestotes), goodness (agathos), faithfulness (pistos), gentleness (praotes), and self-control (enkrateia).

It’s in Galatians 5 that Paul explains to us about the fruits, that there is no law against them, and he contrasts them to a list of (as I call it) rotten fruits of the flesh. Here are the rotten fruits:

  “…sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV)

But with the fruits of the Spirit, there is no law:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

Galatians 5:22-26 (NIV)

How, then, should we go throughout life without discussing these important characteristics in length? If there is no law against them, which there’s not, that means we can talk about them and talk more about them, and dwell on them, and never get in trouble doing so! Not just that, but we should dwell on them, so that we can prevent ourselves from acting on the rotten fruits. It’s so easy to fall victim to the lies of sin and think they’re our “blankets” when in reality they are nothing but a lead to nowhere, except death and vanity, because the fruits of God are forever, while sin is temporary and decaying.

“Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
    they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
    in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
    their righteousness endures forever;
    their horn will be lifted high in honor.

The wicked will see and be vexed,
    they will gnash their teeth and waste away;
    the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.”

Psalm 112:6-10 (NIV)

Before we begin the studies, I made a trivia quiz on Playbuzz to give your skills a test. How well can you feel the Holy Spirit? Do you know how to act according to God and what He wants so deeply for your life? Take the quiz to find out how you “rank” in spiritual quality. (It’s just for fun.)

If you get answers wrong on the test, however, remember not to worry, because God does not require from us perfection. We have Jesus to cover our sins and make us perfect in His blood, and we are all different and perceive the fruits uniquely, but the Bible is clear on what we need to do to be godly. Always get counsel from the Word for wisdom and understanding.

Footnote: Feature image is not owned by Autumn Angel Art. It was found on Public Domain Pictures.

Zazzle is Smudgey Business

I’m going to express my feelings on how I was treated by Zazzle. I’m a loyal designer who works to create, promote, and praise products made by them, but how I feel insulted now has me looking elsewhere for business.

smudeshirt

It starts with Christmas: Kat and I bought Jake, our brother, a shirt as a gift. Zazzle, of course, produced it. You might see from the picture above, that a careless employee let a smudge go unnoticed, or ignored, and put my shirt in the post anyway, without caring that it wasn’t perfect. Since I only paid about 50 cents for the shirt – but because I had earnings accumulated from recent sales that weren’t withdrawn – my guess is they had no motive to redo the shirt in the fact the customer “didn’t pay” for the shirt anyway. Untrue! I earned that money, fair and square! I may not have paid full price, but only because I earned money and decided to use it, which means I paid!

Whether they dissed me or it’s just a mistake, the incident made Christmas less impressive, since it was my only gift for Jake. He unwrapped the gift and saw the smudge. Dad pointed to it, everyone was like, “Oh man” and it became a topic of discussion. Later, Jake said, “I wanna complain…I want a full refund! Or else I’ll sue. A refund for $1000!” (He was probably joking, though Jake’s dry humor is derived from the frankest of honesty.)

If I were a customer and nothing else, maybe it would only be a minor issue. Jake washed his shirt and came back to me, showing it to me: “Almost” he said. (The stain was still there, but had slightly faded…) It’s the principle of the matter, though.

To be honest, lately, Zazzle’s changed course, seeming less interested in being fair. Kat and I talked about it and her statement was, “They think the letter Z with a black circle is going to sell their products; their name is what makes them great. They don’t really care about their designers.” And it’s true for more than just the smudgey shirt – each product is expensive, and though designers are lucky to get even a few pennies from a 5% royalty rate, I have a feeling Zazzle makes a fair share since prices soar above market value, and out of customers’ price range.

Therefore, with stingy royalty and less than quality care, I am this close to saying adios. I am at the point where I feel safer buying my own printer, and printing my own shirts, or else ordering Zazzle products and keeping inventory to sell from my own shop online, checking each product to make sure it’s quality when I send it out, but with that, what’s the point of Zazzle?

Coincidentally, last week a representative of Snapmade wrote on my Facebook page and asked I join snapmade.com, a competing marketplace; a bright face only days after I had qualms with Zazzle, and with my family begging for me to find another way to sell products, I thought, ok let’s check it out!

So far, Snapmade has my interest peaked. Price range is more affordable, respect for designers are higher, and their current Facebook likes is 120,831. Nice start! Also, there’s a “Guest Checkout”, which gives customers the easy choice not to register an account. I’ve even used their customer support and it is helpful. The only problem so far is website downtime, and I have yet to order anything, but I will continue to weigh the options.

In the New Year, nearly 5 years with Zazzle, I may be setting up shop elsewhere. I could keep getting ripped off, ignore my pride and integrity, carry on with pennies in my pocket, or I could listen to Albert Einstein’s advice:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I’m no longer willing to go down a sloppy path towards failure and poverty. In 2017, let’s try something new, shall we?