Saturday, July 28, 2012

on being unfairly accused

Well well, how timely my last post was. Such is life -- we can be going along our happy way and then we meet someone who sees fit to intrude and steal our peace. This afternoon I got a taste of this -- I was the fortunate recipient of an accusation which I'd never expected.

I'd often read in my devotions, and heard pastors preach on, false accusations. While like most people I've certainly had people think unfairly of me, I'd always managed to shrug it off. After all, we can't expect all the people to like us all the time. It was easy to do that, because those people and situations were usually far divided from me by time or space, or both.

Today, however, a lady accused me of something that was so inaccurate, so off the mark, that in the immediate, I was speechless. Without going into too much detail, I guessed that she had been misinformed, and had jumped to her own mistaken conclusions. The other person in question had clearly not been honest with her, and had probably even pushed the blame to me, with the upshot being that she essentially accused me of something I hadn't done.

Obviously, the primary vexation that arises from being unfairly accused is the unpleasant feeling that someone thinks badly of us. The fact is, what she accused me of, or what she thought (thinks) of me, should have been said to the other person instead. But she is in a relationship of trust and faith with that individual, and as often happens, we would rather think ill of an outsider than a close friend.

The fact is, that other person had been purely an acquaintance to me for over a year, no more important to me than any other person I would meet in that same transient, intermittent context; and I never gave them more thought than, say, the server at McDonald's. They were simply someone I'd meet briefly out of obligation, and wouldn't think about once they were out of sight.

However, for whatever reason, that person suddenly saw fit to tell me certain things some weeks ago, which I'd never had the foggiest clue about before. Well, I told them plainly, and more than once, that there was no point saying such things, that nothing good could come of them, and the sooner they forgot about them the better.

And so, I am not upset with that lady; it isn't her fault if she had been lied to, if she had been left to misconstrue from random bits and pieces of information taken out of context. But certainly I am not happy with the other person, who deceived and misled her, for their own selfish ends.

But, in much the same way as I held my tongue when replying to her, I will not react to that other person in "wrath and indignation". I know in my spirit that no good will come of doing so. It is, ultimately, not very hard for me to just forget about the person, as mentioned above; I have actually not seen or spoken to them at all for weeks now -- since the day of their silly "revelation" in fact -- I hardly spoke or saw them even prior to that anyway. Sadly, I suppose this lady does not know or believe that.

Which just makes me sigh.
Now I understand what those people mentioned in devotions and sermons felt when they were unfairly accused, and thought mistakenly of. My own husband knows all the details of this piece of folly -- he is my best friend, and I tell him everything; yes, even people's silly "revelations" -- and he just shrugs and says, "O well, what can you do. Just let it go. In the end, it's between them".

I know this is true, and I thank God He led me to say and do the right thing, but I still feel troubled. The fact is, even at the time of "the revelation", I'd felt led to pray for them, and I did do so, several times in fact. Now I feel compelled to do so again, and to also pray for peace and the renewal of hearts.

With sadness, I told my girlfriend at church about what had happened, and she sent me this excellent article by Pastor Ray Pritchard, entitled When You Are Unfairly Accused. Perhaps if you've ever been in a similar situation, it will help you too. Or perhaps it will in the future.

"Sometimes our motives will be questioned. Sometimes our words will be twisted. Sometimes we will be ostracized for our views. Sometimes we will be deliberately misquoted. Sometimes we will be the victims of a whispering campaign where we can’t even pin down the things said against us. The point to remember here is that these things will happen from time to time...

"Check out Ephesians 4:2. 'Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other' Did you get that? 'Patiently put up with each other'. The NASB says 'showing tolerance for each other'...

"It’s possible that in our haste to defend ourselves, we will talk too much, too soon, and with too much emotion. There are times when we need to speak the truth, but in those moments we must speak the truth in love. State the facts, lay out the truth as you see it, don’t presume to judge another person’s heart (even if they are unfairly judging yours), and don’t say anything in a heated moment that you will regret later.

"Sometimes the Lord uses these very painful times to move us on to new ministries and new areas of service... I don’t think we can always see in advance what God may be doing in these times of trouble. Speak the truth in love and leave the results in God’s hands.

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" (Prov 4:23). We desperately need that reminder when we are under attack... How do we do that? Here are a few suggestions...

Stay in the Word.
Repeat the promises of God.
Listen to Christian music.
Sing a lot -- out loud.
Hang out with positive people.
Ask your friends to hold you accountable for how you respond.
Pray that Christ might be magnified in your life.
Keep an eye out for 'God sightings'.
Stay busy serving others.
Practice daily repentance.
Give thanks that God is working in ways you can't imagine through these attacks.
Pray for those who have unfairly accused you.

"I don't believe in "miracle prayers" that allow you to say a few words and then wash away the deep pain of life. But I do believe in forgiving again and again and again...

"Put your life and reputation in God’s hands. It's easier to do this when life is going well and everyone loves you and you have no problems, no worries, and everything is right in your world. It's a lot harder to put your life in God's hands when you feel the pressure of constant criticism. But that's when we most need God's help. And if we feel like we can't trust the Lord when we are unfairly accused, we need to ponder these words:

"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth. When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted himself to Him who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:21-23)...

"You find out what you really believe when others mistreat you. Sometimes the real test of your faith is what you don't do. Sometimes you'll be a better Christian by not saying anything at all" (extracted from When You Are Unfairly Accused, by Pastor Ray Pritchard. Read the entire article here).

And I'm sorry, I don't have a nice picture for this post. I'm just too tired.

Friday, July 27, 2012

on oblivion, patience and love

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Jesus Washing Peter's Feet, by Ford Madox Brown

Right until fairly recently, I had the unfortunate habit of muttering, whenever I was out with the kids: "This is a test". I would feel compelled to say this almost every single time, because, without fail, we would encounter all sorts of people out in the big wide world, with their quirky behaviours and singular characteristics.

Now clearly I don't mean quirky like
cute or endearing, or even unconventional or interesting. I mean quirky like strange, boorish, inconsiderate and just plain rude. When people need "courtesy campaigns" and even a "kindness movement", what does that tell you. But of course, ungracious, thoughtless behaviour can be found the world over -- perhaps it's just more noticeable when it's crowded.

So, whenever we'd go out, I'd feel "tested" -- I'd literally feel like God was checking on whether I was displaying the "fruits of the Spirit". Depending on which translation you read, these include forbearance, kindness, longsuffering, gentleness, peace and -- of course! -- love.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, "Love endures long and is patient and kind... it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]... Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person...".

Well -- truth be told! -- anyone who mutters "This is a test" is not displaying the fruits of the Spirit at that particular moment. For in the course of any given day involving living people, I will encounter individuals who


- push their way through to whatever it is without saying something like "excuse me"
- hit my kids with their bags without pausing to apologise, or even just pausing
- yak at the tops of their voices to each other or their cellphones
- saunter slowly in a row, taking up the entire passageway
- smoke while walking, or in non-smoking areas
- repeatedly kick the back of my seat throughout an entire movie
- taunt my dog by letting their dog poo right outside my gate
- and the list goes on (care to add anything?)

These are people who more than live out Camus' quote, "To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others". I would literally feel my patience atomising. Sometimes, when my daughter would turn to me, rubbing her head, I'd say, eyebrow cocked, "Yes, I know. The lady meant to say 'excuse me'". And my eyes would follow the culprit's retreating, self-absorbed figure, perfectly embodying that phrase, "If looks could kill". I know they're not evil people; they're often not even half bad; mostly, they're just... oblivious. And more and more I was feeling the Holy Spirit convict me, for murderous thoughts are surely not in keeping with being a victorious Christian.

"Be merciful (sympathetic, tender, responsive, and compassionate) even as your Father is [all these]" (Luke 6:36).

Then, just the other day, I reached the checkout counter at the supermarket at the same time as this other lady. I had a basket with two things in it. The lady was pushing a trolley containing enough stuff to feed a small regiment. And what does she do? She pushes ahead of me, and looks at me very fixedly while slowly putting out her items one by one. I don't know how I managed to stand there for so long, waiting to pay for two boxes of salad, without killing something. I could hear the Holy Spirit telling, nay, urging, me to let it go, but I just stood there, fuming. And so of course, the Holy Spirit convicted me.

That night I prayed about it, and lo and behold -- what do I find in my Bible reading the next morning?

"I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

"To show that you are the children of your Father Who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and makes the rain fall upon the upright and the wrongdoers [alike].

"For if you love those who love you, what reward can you have? Do not even the tax collectors do that?

"And if you greet only your brethren, what more than others are you doing? Do not even the Gentiles (the heathen) do that?

"You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt 5:44-48, ital mine).

That line -- "for He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and makes the rain fall upon the upright and the wrongdoers [alike]" -- especially struck me. The apostle John wrote, "For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life". Yep, the world -- that includes that guy exhaling a cloud of poisonous smoke at the bus stop. And yep, that includes people who cut you off in traffic, shove you on the train, and exult at making you wait forever in a grocery line.

The apostle Peter wrote, "if you bear patiently with suffering [which results] when you do right and that is undeserved, it is acceptable and pleasing to God.

"For even to this were you called [it is inseparable from your vocation]. For Christ also suffered for you, leaving you [His personal] example, so that you should follow in His footsteps.

"He was guilty of no sin, neither was deceit (guile) ever found on His lips.

"When He was reviled and insulted, He did not revile or offer insult in return; [when] He was abused and suffered, He made no threats [of vengeance]; but He trusted [Himself and everything] to Him Who judges fairly".

"Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind)" (Eph 4:31).

And -- little aside here -- let's not forget the kids who witness our "indignation and wrath"; I am reminded of a quote by Zig Ziglar which I very recently mentioned to a dear friend: "Lectures often confuse our kids, but the example we set is crystal clear"!

"Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper]" (Col 3:12, ital mine). This is behaviour we must "put on"; it does not always come naturally, but is something we must consciously, habitually do.

So now, whenever I encounter... quirky... individuals, I pray for God's grace to consciously put on right behaviour; I remind myself that God loves this person as much as He loves me or anyone else, that He makes His sun to rise upon this person too.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

it's love

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My dear friend in Minnesota sent Ro her very own American Girl doll. Naturally, they have the same taste in cartoons.

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I have to admit, she's a beauty. And yep, Ro named her Alex.

Monday, July 16, 2012

on the opposite of love

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A resident of the green belt (photo courtesy of Pasir Ris Greenbelt).


Hate is not the opposite of love; apathy is - Rollo May

OK. Today I just want to VENT. I am UPSET. I can't believe the apathy, the insensitivity, the callous indifference, the sheer dullness of some people.

I don't know, maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm being naive, or idealistic, or whatever you want to call it -- but I really believe, cliched as it may sound, that we all can make a difference.

Yesterday I gave hard copies of the petition to several family members to help get signatures at their schools and workplaces. Well, my daughter comes home with ONE signature -- her form teacher's (thank you, caring, enlightened soul!). I ask her, didn't you see any of your other teachers today? And she says, "Yes, I did, but none of them wanted to sign".

I ask, "You mean you explained to them what this was, and they just said, 'No' outright?" And my daughter nodded, sighing as she put the petition back in her folder. "I don't know why people are like that," she said. "I don't know why they don't care". And in that instant, I just felt so... SAD.

HOW could these people set such a lousy example to a child?? HOW could they even become teachers?? And then, as if to add insult to injury, my aunt calls and tells me that she had brought her petition to work, and NO ONE wanted to sign.

"Most people are just leery when they see this sort of thing," she said. "They don't have the courage to be activists, and generally they just don't care. They think that as long as it's not literally in their backyard, it doesn't matter. They don't see the bigger picture and they can't be bothered to try".

And all I'm thinking is, But they know you! It's not like you're one of those strangers who go knocking at people's doors asking you to invest in some weirdo project. Those teachers see my daughter every day -- were they worried she was trying to collect their details for her Mom's devious schemes or something? When you realise that even teachers -- our future's educators -- can be so uncaring/passive/cowardly, you just shudder at where this world is heading.

Honestly, I am on the verge of tears. At the basic level, there's the issue itself -- the extensive, indiscriminate deforestation, and the killing of countless species of flora and fauna. But at the next level, there are these... these... people. I understand now why my girlfriend, the one in the Green Belt committee, said she had had "so many such encounters, and was so taken aback and disappointed".

What is the problem, people?? Do we get that our carbon footprint is rising at a frightening rate? Do we get the importance of trees to our very existence? Read this if you need to learn more. An excellent point in this article, by the way, is Trees help stop inner city violence.

"A scientific study by the Human-Environment Research Lab has demonstrated that contact with nature may actually help reduce the incidence of aggression and violence in inner-city neighborhoods. According to this study, levels of aggression were significantly lower among people who had some kind of nature outside of their apartments versus those who didn’t.

"The impact of the physical environment on human aggression has been well-established -- crowding, high temperatures, and noise have all been linked to violent behavior. Some scientists believe that it’s because people living under these conditions suffer from something called chronic mental fatigue, which can make them inattentive, irritable, and impulsive -- all of which can be linked to aggressive behavior. Exposure to green spaces, it has been shown, can mitigate the harmful effects of chronic mental fatigue, reducing aggressive behavior in the process"

But hey, never mind the overwhelming evidence we already have here of "chronic mental fatigue" and "aggressive behaviour" which we encounter every day on public transport, in the office, at the mall, etc etc. I just care about trees and wildlife! They are actual, living beings!

Who gave us the right to just bulldoze our way through the homes of other species, without caring what they feel, or where they will go? I've never forgotten the words on my PETA Christmas cards back when I was in university: Be kind to your fellow earthlings. I believe we have a moral responsibility to protect those who are at our mercy.

On a whim, I typed "Why people don't care about saving the planet" in the Google search box. And up came this excellent article by Zachary Shahan, the editor of Planetsave.com, entitled Why People Don’t Care.

"There are a number of reasons for it, but one big one is that there isn’t the societal demand for such action. People don’t care that much.

"Sure, if you ask people “Is the environment important?” or “Do you care if endangered species such as tigers and polar bears go extinct?” they will say “Yes.” Or if you ask them “Should the government do more to to protect the environment?” they will say “Yes.” But that doesn’t get into the depth of their caring.

"How many people are going to vote their political representatives out of office because of their environmental record? How many people contact or communicate with their governmental officials even once a year to push for solutions to our environmental problems? How many people are even aware of the environmental issues their political leaders could be helping to address?

"Here are a few issues we cover on Planetsave quite regularly that have strong scientific backing:

  • we are seeing catastrophic “natural” disasters killing or severely harming the lives of millions and millions of people more and more these days;
  • we are on the verge of a huge food crisis;
  • we are on the verge of a huge water crisis.
"All of these problems (plus many more related to them) are largely due to environmentally-irresponsible human actions and systems. Of course, these issues concern the basic needs of humans, what we need to live on Earth.

"So, if you care about human livability on our planet, they are very important to you. (And who doesn’t care about human livability on our planet?)

"Objectively, if you try to think about what’s more important, in the long term, not many things come to mind... But if you actually just skip that problem and look at what people spend their time on or say they care about in an open-ended question, you get the subjective answer.

"People spend their time on entertainment and, when asked what societal issues they care about, they say (most commonly), 'the economy'.

"Of course, our economy and the global economy as a whole are screwed in the long term if our food, water, & climatic systems fail. So, I guess the issue is just that people don’t get this (meaning, we need better education on this matter… from those who do) or they get the idea but have some faint hope that some genius or geniuses will solve these problems for us somehow. Or…

"People are afraid to care, [or are] too easily hurt to care. Perhaps it just comes down to this simple matter: it is difficult to care and tackle these problems. I think this is actually not true. I think people live a happier, more enjoyable life when they open up to these issues and work on solutions to them.

"But getting past the hurdle of fear, fear of the problems and fear that the solutions won’t be great enough to solve the problems, is a huge step.

"Finding creative, mind-opening ways of helping others get passed that hurdle is one of the challenges and needs of those of us on the forefront of an environmentally-friendly and sustainable societal shift" (find this article here; italics mine).

Thank you for letting me vent. And thank you to everyone who does care, and wrote to me telling me that they had signed and shared. You are surely the saving graces of a planet filled with callous-hearted people.

I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is Mine (Ps 50:11)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

please help

This video shows beautiful green parrots in the trees of the green belt.

I received an email from a good friend about the rampant, indiscriminate deforestation that's happening in her neighbourhood; in the name of progress and development, the area's abundant flora and fauna are in imminent danger of being completely decimated.

I am in fact very familiar with this area -- it was a popular place for families to come picnic and camp when I was a child -- and I know how rich the biodiversity there is (was). It is, for example, home to the White-bellied Sea Eagle, as well as several endangered species like the Changeable Hawk-eagle, and the critically endangered Oriental Pied Hornbill.

Over the past few years though, what was once lush forest has been taken over by a literal slew of condominiums (you'd never believe how many condominiums they've managed to pack together like sardines); there's just this pocket of forest left, the "green belt" my friend is working to save.

Of course, I don't think I need to explain to even a half-intelligent human being the importance of saving trees. In the most fundamental of terms, we
need plants to survive. Trees provide oxygen (we do need that people!), improve air quality, help control climate, conserve water, and of course, house wildlife. But beyond all that -- as if it wasn't compelling enough! -- I believe we have a spiritual need for nature. Trees provide the peace, serenity and beauty that we so badly need -- as individuals, and as a society. We must preserve this, not only for us, but for our children and all future generations.

So, my friend is involved in the Greenbelt Committee that is working to save the area. They have arranged to meet with their MP to make their plea, and show, through their petition, the overwhelming support they have for their worthy cause. As it says in their brochure: "The first order of business is to sign the petition form... The more people come on board, the stronger the case for saving the woodlands and the animal and bird sanctuary it houses.

"Our MP needs to know that each and every one of us truly cares. So pass the word around and encourage others to be part of this important green initiative.

"By signing the petition, you are taking the first step in saving these woodlands for our future generations. Regardless of the final outcome, we need to know that we, at the very least, did try our best!"

In this day and age of so-called environmental awareness, it is a deplorable tragedy that this destruction is being allowed to happen. Please take a moment -- wherever you are in the world -- to sign this petition and share it with your family and friends, because this touches every single one of us.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Name Day

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A personalized friendship bracelet handwoven just for you and your besties! Each bracelet is one-of-a-kind, and can have a name or special word (no profanity please :) spelt out in translucent alphabet beads. In the shop now, or just email me.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

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Aren't these orchids beautiful? How "fearfully and wonderfully made"! These pictures were taken during B's class excursion; see more botanical wonders here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012

go ahead and say it

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"Tom Hiddleston? Yes, please".

Thursday, July 5, 2012

on keeping Kip

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Some people saw Becky's post on Kipper the dog, and wrote me asking how I kept Kip white -- basically, what her maintenance was like. People who see her out on her walks usually ask me the same thing, so I thought I'd write a post just about that. Perhaps it might be helpful to you if you have a Westie too, or a white dog, or a thick-coated dog, or just a dog. Maybe even a white cat, or a thick-coated cat, or just a cat.

Now I certainly don't pretend to be a Westie expert or anything, and this is going to be very cursory; I'm just glad that Kip is really quite easy to care for. Every dog is susceptible to health issues, with some diseases being more common in certain breeds than others. Westies are reportedly more prone to a variety of health problems, including white-shaker syndrome, hypoadrenocorticism, luxated patella and dry eye. But perhaps the number one concern Westie owners have is skin and allergy problems.

Westies are notorious for these, and they are probably the largest contributing factor to the breed's being given up or abandoned. Of course, all dogs are subject to dermatitis, yeast infections and allergies, but Westies are apparently one of the more susceptible breeds. If your Westie has any of these issues, chances are you've had to deal with him or her scratching and licking themselves like crazy, which usually results in other problems, like fur stains, fur loss, lesions and rough, crusty, stinky skin.

Most of these skin problems are hereditary in nature and generally require long-term medical care. Of course, these things aren't usually apparent in a little puppy, which is why it's super important to be sure you thoroughly research the breed before bringing it home, and be clear that you're prepared to deal with whatever crops up.

Kip was just barely three months old when we adopted her, and I wanted to be sure from the get-go that I did whatever I could to give her a healthy start. So first -- her diet. Skin problems can be caused by food allergies, so it's really important to pay attention to the ingredient list on your dog food. A dog can react to any ingredient really, but there are some things you especially want to avoid, including wheat, corn, soy, meat by-products, and artificial preservatives (like BHA and BHT). The protein source should be the first ingredient and should be named (for example, chicken) (though chicken -- and pork and beef -- are often implicated in food allergies).

Getting a high-quality dog food -- i.e. not the cheap stuff you find in the supermarket -- goes a long way to helping with this. Don't think you're saving by skimping; a poor quality diet can have very negative repercussions on your dog's health and cost you way more in the long run. If your Westie thrives on it, then stick to it -- don't keep changing around. I feed Kip dog food from a brand called Wellness, and I pretty strictly refrain from giving her doggy treats. If I do want to give her a treat, say as a reward, I might give her a tiny bit of cat kibble, or something healthy, like a small piece of carrot or apple. But I don't do this much.

Next -- grooming. I give Kip a bath about once a fortnight, because we live in a very hot, humid environment. I imagine if you live in a colder, drier climate, you should bathe your Westie a lot less (unless he or she has a skin problem which requires more frequent baths with a medicated shampoo). Bathing too often will remove the natural oils from their coats, and make them susceptible to dry skin and other skin problems.

Before giving Kip her bath, I comb her fur out. I do it before her bath because if I don't, the water will make any mats or knots ten times worse. But I do comb her regularly, so tangles aren't really an issue. Combing lets the skin breathe, and helps keep the Westie's undercoat clean.

Regular grooming also reduces shedding and will bring any palpable health problems to your attention. If need be, I trim her fur with a little scissors. And every few months, I shave her down with a dog clipper. Kip is not a show dog, so I spare her the rigours of being hand-stripped. Keeping her fur trim helps her stay cool, and her skin healthy, and clipping her myself saves a lot of money (can you believe these grooming people want to charge a couple of hundred bucks a pop?)!

Then, I clean her ears. I do this with soft cotton buds and baby oil. Yep, good old Johnson's baby oil (and I learnt this from the vet, so please don't be writing me going, "Baby oil?? Cotton buds??"). I saturate the cotton bud, and very gently clean inside. I also trim the fur in the ears so that they can "air" better. A damp, dirty ear predisposes it to nasty things like yeast and bacteria.

Finally, I give her her bath. Be sure to use a dog -- not human! -- shampoo. I use an oatmeal shampoo on Kip, because oatmeal is mild and helps soothe and relieve itchy skin (Kip doesn't really have itchy skin, but it's still nice to soothe it anyway right?). I know some people add liquid bluing to whiten white dogs (others use chalk), but I prefer keeping the stuff I use on Kip to a minimum.

I bathe her in the shower, and scrub her down very matter-of-factly, so she doesn't take it into her head to be difficult. I make very sure to avoid getting water in her ears by keeping the water below ear level. And I -- like every average dog owner -- make a point to brush her teeth. Remember, gum infections can migrate to other parts of the body and cause serious problems!

Then -- and this is important for Westies -- I dry her
thoroughly, first with two towels, then with a hair-dryer. You know they're pretty dry when they do that body-shaking thing and you don't feel any water sprinkles. I pay particular attention to potentially moist-y parts, like the armpits, groin, and between the toes (if you see a blackish discolouration on the skin, then you might have a fungal or yeast issue -- have the vet look at it). Then, after blow-drying, I do what my vet recommended -- I sit her out in the sun for five to ten minutes. This really helps with dampness and yeast.

Now, besides showing up dirt really easily, being white also means that Westies are often plagued with paw and beard stains. These stains are sort of an orangey-reddish-brown, and are generally caused by saliva. Some Westies have it so bad, their entire muzzle and paws look orange. It would be good to find out the root cause of your Westie's excessive licking -- it could be anything from yeast, bacteria and allergies, to plain boredom. I make sure to keep Kip's paws as dry as possible, and trim the paw pad hair short.

With regard to parasites, I use Revolution on Kip once a month. Revolution is a broad-spectrum parasiticide that protects pets from heartworms, fleas, and other harmful parasites. It is theoretically prescription-only, but I've seen it being sold at certain pet stores. Just be sure that the parasiticide you choose is FDA and vet-approved; avoid using the cheaper spot-on pesticides, whose safety has been questioned.

Having such an intense abhorrence of ticks and other such entities, I also keep Kip on pavements and off grassy areas where other dogs have been. I know she's on Revolution, but still... better safe than sorry. It's bad enough the dog next door has ticks. Besides, any dog who goes into grass risks stepping on someone else's poo and pee -- I just really don't feel like having that in my bedroom. That's why I am still the number one proponent of the doggy pee tray.

And that's about it. As far as practical maintenance goes. As I'd written over a year ago: "Having worked in an animal shelter, I've known too many people who give up their dogs because they didn't know what they were getting into, they didn't give the animals the time, love and dedication they need and deserve.

"I've said it so many times to so many people -- do your research thoroughly before ever bringing an animal home. A dog can live 14, 15 years -- that's a LONG commitment. Be absolutely sure you can commit to that. Ask yourself what will happen to the dog if you guys move, go on holiday, go abroad to study, to work, get married, have kids. These life decisions must include your canine family member. Remember too, that as your pet ages, he or she will develop health issues that affect all elderly beings, and that will require a lot from you as well.

"And for goodness' sakes, neuter your pet!

"Again, 15 years is a long commitment -- many people don't even begin to grasp the concept of that when they first pick up a little puppy and fall for those big eyes and lovable face. Really think about whether you honestly have enough time for a dog. For example, you will need PLENTY of time to devote to proper training. If you don't, and the dog becomes a chronic house soiler, barker, furniture destroyer, aggressive biter, etc etc, will you become like those countless owners who get fed up, give up and dump their pet?" (you can read the entire post here).

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mayfair pins

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Apartment and townhouse pins to add an unusual, architectural pop of colour to any outfit or accessory! I made a bunch of these for a custom order -- party favours! -- and found them so well received I decided to put some in the shop.

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These pins are original illustrations on heavyweight paper, mounted on illustration board, and protected by several layers of varnish. Each is hand-drawn and hand-cut, making it a unique work of art. They're rustic and mod and retro and sweet all at the same time. Wear one, or several together to create your own special skyline! Available here, or email me for custom orders.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

on being a Christian

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Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery (Let he who is without sin cast the first stone), by Sebastiano Conca

Well, I suppose almost everyone -- in my corner of the world at least -- is aware by now of the scandal currently rocking a certain local non-denominational church. Its founding pastor and several other key members have been charged with alleged misuse of church funds amounting to millions of dollars, a substantial part of which allegedly financing the pastor's wife's secular music career.

The court case is ongoing, and I certainly don't want to add to the virulent condemnation that's circulating. But it would be dishonest of me to say that I've not had my own... um... thoughts on the subject. Well, alright, the fact is, I feel... aggravated... when things like this happen. We're supposed to be
Christians -- you know, salt of the earth, light of the world, and all that.

Goodness knows I have no right to judge anyone; indeed, Scripture rightly tells us to "be merciful (sympathetic, tender, responsive, and compassionate) even as your Father is [all these]. Judge not [neither pronouncing judgment nor subjecting to censure], and you will not be judged; do not condemn and pronounce guilty, and you will not be condemned and pronounced guilty".

As Christians, we are called to be witnesses for Christ, and I believe the cogency of our witness is shown in how we live our lives. The apostle Paul writes that in everything Christians do, "you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world".

Over a year ago, I shared my thoughts on being effective Christian witnesses. "I'm not so sure about just going up to random people and launching into a whole spiel about how great Christianity is and why you need to be good and save your soul," I'd written. "Honestly, I really think people who aren't seeking God just won't want to stop and listen to you.

"BUT, they might stop and watch you, and they'll see if you live a holy life, if you really are a witness for Christ, if you actually walk the walk...

"Matthew 7:16 says 'You will fully recognise them by their fruits'. Do people recognise us Christians by our fruits, the way we live? Sadly, I don't think that's always so. I think it would be so much better to do as St. Francis of Assisi said:
Preach the gospel always -- if necessary use words" (the entire post is here).

Then horribly, when the news first broke, a friend sent me a video of the pastor's sermon from some years back. "You've got to have an outward lifestyle that matches what you believe and teach others", he said. "Don't just talk the talk, walk the walk! In other words, don't just go around [saying,] 'Hallelujah, I know who I am, I know my authority in Christ...' but now, live it out -- hunger and thirst for righteousness. Don't just go to church [saying] 'I'm a Christian' and then cheat in your taxes, commit adultery, cheat your business partners, lie...".

My agnostic friend had sent it to me with all the sardonicism one can capture in the single word of his email title: "Hm". Well yeah! HM!!! I was hm-ing as much as the next non-Christian sneering at another apparent instance of Christian failure -- the misuse of funds is right up there with other vile "activities" like sexual abuse and hate groups.
I don't wonder that author Anne Rice described Christians as being, among other things, "deservedly infamous" (she had actually become a Christian after being an atheist for much of her adult life).

After publicly "quitting" Christianity on Facebook, she wrote there, "My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following his followers.

"Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become".

Well, when scandals like this happen, it's almost a given that any Christian with non-Christian friends is going to feel at least a little backlash. For example, my agnostic cousin was quick to ask how I knew what my own church does with my tithes. I replied that the church does have a full statement of accounts, independently audited and freely available for members to review. He said they could be doctored. Well, fine then, what else can I say?! The fact remains I am tithing in good faith; our church supports itself and I am happy to contribute to its missions and outreach programs that aid the poor and needy.

The public failings of individual Christians often give rise to the censure of Christians and Christianity as a whole. So today I get sent this long article which first touches on the scandal, then goes on to disparage the crazy Christians who contributed to it, which then leads to an entire denunciation of crazy Christians who do and say crazy things that put off their non-Christian friends. Things like, "You'll go to hell because you're not a Christian", or "If you love me, you'd become a Christian".

Unfortunately, what the non-Christian hearer -- even the one who claims to have read the Bible -- doesn't get, is that these are simply imperfect humans with an imperfect notion of Christianity, who oftentimes didn't even become Christians for the right reasons. They haven't truly sought or experienced God, haven't really taken the time to get to know Him and His Word. And it does take time -- years and years really, perhaps a whole lifetime.

With such an incomplete grasp of Christianity -- especially if they're young -- how can one expect them to be convincing witnesses, to effectively represent the faith in their everyday lives? And so they put off their non-Christian friends with immature, sometimes even inane, words and behaviour (I have never forgotten the Christian girl who told my cousin in college that she didn't believe in dinosaurs because they're not in the Bible).

The fact is, if Christians really lived the Christian life as Christ defined it -- as actual disciples -- our lives in and of themselves would be compelling enough. "A new command I give you," Jesus said. "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34).

Or as the apostle John wrote, "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love" (
1 John 4:7-8).

I am reminded of a wonderful series of sermons delivered by Pastor Andy Stanley aptly entitled Christian. In elaborating on Jesus' "new command" to his early disciples, "[Jesus said], 'I want you to create a community of people that are defined and characterised by that kind of unconditional, generous, compassionate, ridiculous, who-would-do-that kind of love. I want people on the outside to come to the edge, unafraid that you're going to ask them to do something, that you're going to drag them in, that you're going to accuse them of something.

"I want them to be able to look at your community and say, 'Look at how the men treat the women. Look at how the women treat the men. Look at how they treat widows. Look at how they treat sick people. Look at how they even honour children... Look at how they love each other.

"Can you imagine what would happen in our families, in our nation? What would it look like in your world to love people the way that Jesus loves you... Imagine what would happen if we just got this one thing right. [People would look at us and say,] 'I'm not sure I believe, but I'd like to be a part of that', and 'I don't feel coerced; I feel drawn'" (listen to this excellent sermon here).

If censorious non-Christians, who in their youth, or arrogance, or both, were surrounded by Christians whose lives were truly defined by love, who loved not "[merely] in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth (in practice and in sincerity)", I wonder if they would still spout their sarcastic, irreverent questions and cynical, scornful observations.

I don't think you become a Christian because all your profound questions -- "If God is all powerful, why is there suffering?" -- get answered to your satisfaction; or because of what you think having divine connections can do for you; or even because you're afraid to go to hell.

I think you become a Christian because you realise that love and service are what define real life, and a blessed life. The revelation of God, I believe, comes with time and experience; the more you seek God, the more His goodness and faithfulness become apparent in your life.

Well, in the immediate hm-ing that followed the news, I realised that part of the reason there were people who simply presumed the pastor guilty, was the fact that his wife's secular music career was very... well... secular (I mean, it's hard to see her shaking her booty to such intriguing lyrics as "Mix da china wine with di dutty wine", and not... wonder). But I felt very convicted for thinking even vaguely judgmentally, and went to church the following morning with a troubled heart.

And my pastor spoke directly to me without even realising it: "When a brother is down, pray for God's mercy on him. If there's one thing this has shown us, it's that we must pursue more godliness and righteousness in our lives. This has shown us the importance of living godly lives, and always seeking God first. But don't cast the first stone".

on grace

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Poster by REBrickerstudio

This was in my devotional this morning, and I felt compelled in my spirit to share it with you. It's entitled God's Grace Will See You Through.

"Some time ago just before a meeting in which I was teaching on the subject of grace, someone handed my husband a written word from the Lord and asked him to give it to me. I am sure that the person had no idea what direction I would be taking in the meeting, but the message certainly fit in with it.

"I believe the following message is divinely anointed. I encourage you to read it carefully and receive what the Lord wants to speak to you today.

"I want you to face the mountain
so that you can see,
when the mountain is out of the way
all there is left is Me.

"Only I can move the mountain,
only I can push it away,
only I can conquer the problems
that you face today.

"Your only job is to believe, to listen
to My voice,
and when you hear what I command,
obedience is your choice.

"But I will not make it too difficult
for the victory is already Mine,
and I will fill you with My Spirit and through
you My grace will shine.

"Not when you are perfect,
like you think you need to be,
but when your heart is willing to become more
and more like Me".
(from New Day, New You, by Joyce Meyer)

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