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Artificial Sweeteners - Splenda & Equal

Image by Bukowsky18 via Flickr

Sitting outside at what passes for a sidewalk cafe setting in my little neck of the woods the other day having iced tea with a friend, I was struck by the amount of sweeteners there are in the world now.

My friend takes sugar in her iced tea and when the young women who served us brought out the container full of sweetener packets, I was reminded of just how many choices we all have when it comes to making what could be bitter just that much sweeter.

In the little white rectangle sugar packet holder there were the typical white packets filled with honest-to-goodness real sugar, along with the packets of artificial sweeteners that not too long ago in the grand scheme of things didn’t even exist. Those packets weren’t plain white, no, they were the color of Easter eggs, light blue, pink and yellow. They carried with them the promise that if you used them, you wouldn’t have to deal with pesky calories because they were calorie free, adding sweetness without the worry.

The little yellow packet’s really caught my eye, because it reminded me of a conversation I had with one of my son’s friends about, believe it or not, Splenda. And, lest you think it was a conversation about the evils of artificial sweetener, it wasn’t, it was about always being prepared.

He was telling me a story about his grandmother, and how his entire family had gone out to eat but the restaurant didn’t have his grandmother’s preferred sweetener of Splenda so she just took a little yellow packet out of her purse to use in her iced tea.

Slightly amused by his retelling of the story, I asked him if his grandmother always carried Splenda in her purse.

‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘And, she’s not the only one. All her friends carry it too, just in case. So, they know they have it when they need it.’

Then he smiled and shook his head, saying, ‘Yeah, when someone at the table asks for Splenda all of them dig in their purses and out comes all these packets of Splenda.’

It’s quite a picture isn’t it? The thought of a group of grandmothers all pulling out their Easter egg yellow Splenda packets at the same time, just because someone wants to sweeten their iced tea or coffee.

It’s the very picture of being prepared, which is just how we should be with the LORD and His word. We should always have it somewhere on our person, just in case we, or someone else, needs it.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, ….”

1 Peter 3:15

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A day-old chick

Image via Wikipedia

Although there a lot of people around the area where I live who raise chickens, usually for their eggs, I’m not really a chicken fan. I’m not sure why, but the birds have never appealed to me, but all the changed for about an hour when I was younger.

My parents were looking into buying a chicken farm, and moving us all out to start a new life in a different state. Although their plans ultimately didn’t come to much, we did visit a farm that mass produced chickens so they, and by extension I, could see how the farms were actually run.

It was a far cry from the picture most of us have of chickens running around a farmyard, scratching away for their food and sleeping outside or in their chicken coup. This farm was amazing in its organization, its knowledge of chickens and just the overall way it was run, raising chickens from the time they were hatched in the hatching buildings to the time they were loaded onto the trucks to be taken away.

What I remember most about this farm was one of the buildings we went into which was where newly hatched chickens lived. Now, there were several of these buildings for this age of chick, and when we stepped inside and the door closed behind us – because not one chicken could be allowed to get out – there in the dim light with its close, warm and humid air was a sea of little yellow balls all chirping away.

The sound rose up from the thousands of chicks – I couldn’t even see the end of the building it was so large – in what could only be called a symphony of peeps. They all blended together and wove themselves into one great big sound that filled the place.

Yet, after a moment, I heard a little cheep that didn’t fit in with the rest. It came from the far end of the building and its quality was more piercing than the rest. It rose lightly above the concert of peeps and floated towards me. I was a teenager at the time, and I looked at the adults who were busily engaged in conversation about the technical details of the building and realized they didn’t even notice it.

As I stood waiting for my parents to finish their conversation, the little cheep started to move towards me. First, it was on my far left, then as its little owner doggedly made its way through the crowd it veered right, all the while getting a little louder and a little louder as it zigzagged this way and that through the throng of cottony yellow.

Then I couldn’t hear it for a moment or two and strained my ears wondered where it went, when all of sudden that distinctive cheep came from my foot. I looked down and there was its owner, all three inches of baby chick perched on the strap of my sandal cheeping away excitedly and looking up at me as if he belonged to me.

“He sure likes you,” the manager of the farm said as he looked at the little chick before going on to comment that he’d never seen anything quite like it.

Until recently I’d forgotten that experience of mine, but as I thought about it, I began to think about prayer and the sheer numbers of prayers that go to the LORD everyday in a cloud of praise, worship and request. Yet, just like I knew the cheep of that chick through the cloud of peeps, the LORD knows our voice among the multitude when we make our way towards Him and perch on His sandal cheeping away to Him because we are His and He is ours and no crowd of others will ever get in the way of that.

“Because He has turned His ear to me, I will cry out to Him as long as I live.”

Psalm 116:2

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The other day I wanted to ask my son a question.
Instead of just doing the thing that the experts tell you that you should do, which would be to try to find him and look at him full in the face in order to communicate with him more effectively, I did what most parents do. I yelled my question from where I was in the office to wherever he was in the house thinking he would hear me.
“Here I am,” yelled my son from the other room after I’d called him for the umpteenth millionth time. In exasperation after there was no response to my question, I needed to know if he was even within earshot. I needed to know if he was there. So, I said, very loudly mind you, “Where are you?”
Now I don’t want to give you the wrong idea that we live in a large house where it is easy to not hear someone. No, my son and I live in a two bedroom, two bath home that is very small. In fact, I often refer to it affectionately as my little shoebox. So, the fact that I had to find out where he was in it was somewhat comical considering I usually know where my cat is at all times.
But my son, he’s a different story altogether. He’s always moving around, seemingly never in the same place for more than a second or two. In my mind, he never seems close by at all, but whenever he yells back “Here I am”(this little scenario happens more frequently than I would like to admit) inevitably he is much closer than I ever expect. Usually just around the corner.
Isn’t this usually how it feels with God? He always seems like He’s moving around, and fast too, like we just can’t get a grip on where He is only to find that He’s been right in the mix, next to us the whole time saying “Here I Am”.
“Therefore My people will know My name; therefore they will know on that day that I am He who says: Here I am.”     Isaiah 52:6

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For those of you who have children, and even those of you that don’t, you have probably figured out by now that kids say weird stuff.

I’m sure most of us are aware of the old Bill Cosby TV show, “Kids Say the Darndest Things”, but I’m not talking about the cute things that some children say. Like at the age of 3 seeing a picture of their mother when she was pregnant with them and blurting out “Mommy ate me!”  No,  I’m talking about the just plain no-other-word-for-it-weird stuff they say.

My son, who is 12-year’s old as some of you already know, has always said weird stuff. It’s not so much the content that’s a little different, it’s the phraseology. I’d like to think that his somewhat archaic way of phrasing things is because of my own job as a wordsmith. But I have to be honest with myself, I deal in the vernacular of the bland, while what rolls out of his mouth seems to come straight out of the Middle Ages.

The other day we were yet again sitting in our big blue beast of a truck, going from here to there, which is where a lot of our conversations take place, when he started on a talking jag.

As we where driving down the same road for what felt like the 10th time that day, he started angling. Now, by angling I mean that he was angling for something, which all children at any age do at some point. Because quite frankly, they always want something.

This time, he was starting his Christmas angling early.  I imagine it was in order to give me time to save up for the one and only gift he will get, but it was when he started to tell me what he wanted from his father that my ears pricked up at his phrasing. Until that point he sounded like a typical pre-teenger. But, then somehow mixed in with the normal teenager wording was a sentence that made him sound like a Catholic monk straight out of the Medieval period.

He was talking about Halo 5, I think that’s the number but not being up on these things it could have been Halo whatever number and I wouldn’t have a clue. We don’t have game systems in our house, on my basic premise that it turns your grey matter to mush, but my son does have them at his father’s house. So, it’s from that source that his games come.

So, I’m asking him about the game, what it’s about, why he wants, etc. etc. etc. when Mr. Medieval steps in.

“I can see it in my eyes,” he says to me when he’s explaining asking his dad for it.

See it in his eyes? That draws a picture doesn’t it? Not see it with his eyes. Not see it in his mind’s eye. Not see it in the future. Not see it in his imagination. No, he could see it in his eyes. He himself could see it in his own eyes, and, I got the feeling that if I could have looked into his eyes at that moment, I would have seen it too.

Now, it all sounds a bit strange, but he phrases things like this more often than not. So, I have had some time to reflect on this phraseology that he uses.

That night I asked him what he meant by ‘seeing it in his eyes’ and he said he see’s it like he hopes it will be, even though he knows it hasn’t happened yet.

And isn’t this what God does with us? He see’s us in His eyes the way we will be.  The way we are in Him.  Not the way we see ourselves. And one of the most amazing things about Him is He has the ability to make that picture a reality.

“Guard me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.”

Psalm 17:8

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We all live somewhere, usually a house, an apartment or some other place that shelters and protects us.

I always think one of the most interesting thing about visiting another country is seeing how people there live and where they worship. So, when I went to Rome it was no different.  I, and a million other tourists, went to the seat of the Catholic Church, the church dedicated to Peter, Jesus’ most contentious disciple.

As I slowly walked into St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican (you just can’t help but walk in slowly, it’s massive), the first thing that came to my mind was a question.  ‘Where are you God?’

The place was amazing, I craned my neck upwards to see the ceiling which was inlaid with Incan gold and other precious materials that only money and political power can buy.

The building was so large that the far end seemed like a million football fields away and when you went up to the balcony, that lined the interior of the dome, the people below looked like ants.

But, it was that first impression that has laid itself on my heart because no matter how amazing the building was, God was not there. Why? Because He doesn’t inhabit a building, He inhabits the hearts and praise  of His people.

“And thou art holy, thou that dwellest amid the praises of Israel.” (Darby Bible Translation)

Psalm 22:3

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