SOFT PLAQUE VS. TARTAR

free_macro_white_teeth_with_dental_floss_and_red_lipstick_creative_commons_509495525

Found on Wikimedia under Creative Commons license. Photographer, D. Sharon Pruitt Owner of Pink Sherbet Photography Official Website, www.pinksherbet.com Contact Email, pink@pinksherbet.com

File this in the category “They didn’t know they were teaching me something spiritual.”

My dental hygienist today explained to me that if you do not brush and floss, within 24 hours soft plaque will harden…

Into TARTAR.

Ew. No one wants tartar. It’s just gross. And it only takes 24 hours to happen.

24 HOURS!!!!!

In fact, it’s worse than she said. According to this website, it only takes 12 hours for soft plaque to develop…Guess that’s why they say to brush and floss twice a day.

It made me think about sin as I sat under the hot lights with torture devices, I mean, dental tools assailing my mouth.

Does God give us the law, then sit “upstairs” gleefully waiting to zap us with lightning bolts at the slightest infraction? Of course not. Any more than the hygienist wants to deliver a soft—or hard—lecture on flossing. Not that I would know. Ahem.

The law is there, like toothbrushes and dental floss and those dental torture devices, to keep our sin from hardening. Hygienists know what ultimately happens when plaque hardens; they don’t want that for us. God knows what happens when sin hardens our heart; He doesn’t want that for us.

Because hardening is what sin does. I think of when Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and it took plagues (spelled surprisingly close to plaque, just saying) for the Israelites to be released (Starting in Exodus 9). On the other hand, I think of Cyrus of Persia, who listened when God stirred his heart, and God’s people were released from exile and returned to rebuild the temple…with funds from Cyrus (Ezra 6).

I think of David, who committed adultery and murder in a kind of sin two-for-one. Yet, when confronted, he repented so deeply we have Psalm 51 to show us the softness of his heart for God. On the other hand, I think of Jonah, who refused to listen when sent to Ninevah and ended up in the belly of a whale, followed by a trip to Ninevah where he preached to the Ninevites with a pretty hard heart. (They repented, anyway–the story is told in the eponymous Old Testament book.)

Yes, with Jesus, our sins are forgiven. (But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgiveus our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:9)

Yes, guilt comes from Satan, who is called The Accuser, while conviction, or conscience if you prefer, comes from the Holy Spirit.(And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. John 16:8–Jesus speaking about the Holy Spirit.)  It’s important to note from the Greek-Hebrew Study Bible that in the Hebrew “convict”–clenchos–means to expose, to rebuke, to show fault, rather than “find guilty” as in the sense of a modern-day court or a judgemental lightning bolt.

Yes, God, through the Holy Spirit, still uses the law to show us where we are going wrong so we can come to him in repentance before the soft plaque of sin turns to hardened tartar in our hearts.

Blessings,

Voni

THE DAY I WAS RUDE

Sorry to say this is a true story.

Leah (preteen) and I were at a fast food restaurant, settling into a booth with our food for some mama-daughter time. Another customer walked in.

He had a large beard, down to his belly button. It was braided into a couple dozen small braids. Then the small braids were braided together into several medium braids. Then the medium braids were all caught together by the tails and bound with an elastic into a front-facing upside-down ponytail of sorts. Is that what you call it?

And there were beads.

I gulped and took a bite, looking away. In my peripheral vision, I saw Leah’s eyes widen as she noticed him.

I deliberately looked out the window. She looked down at her food.

I gave this muffled snort. She covered her mouth.

That’s when it happened.

Our eyes met.

We burst into laughter.

We couldn’t stop.

In a very strong parenting move, I finally stopped laughing long enough to whisper, “You know, we’re being very rude.” She nodded sagely, and then we start laughing again.

I just hope the fellow didn’t know we were laughing at his appearance. I don’t think he could have, but, well, I hope not anyway. I don’t normally laugh at anybody’s appearance. God made you the way He made you, you know?

And if the man did sense we were laughing at him:

I’m sorry. Truly, really, I am.

Word of warning: Don’t wear long, braided beards in front of me.

Blessings,  Voni

P.S. Sorry…no pictures. I’m not THAT rude.

P.S.S. But here’s a link to some pictures from the World Beard and Moustache Championships. Maybe the guy at the restaurant was in training?

Trail Leader or Command Leader?

Rich and I went on a short anniversary trip to Fairbanks this month, enjoying the beauty of the nearby Chena Hot Springs as well. While we were there, we signed up for a tour of Chena Dog Kennel, home to both retired and up-and-coming sled dogs as well as ones who love the trail, but just aren’t fast enough for the elite dog mushers.

chena-dog-kennel

We didn’t tour the kennels too much. We were too busy enjoying the pup he brought indoors for us to play with and peppering him with a million questions. We loved it.

Rich and tour Guide.jpg

(Rich is on the left, our tour guide on the right)

pup-pic-2

It wasn’t even a spiritual conversation. Our tour guide didn’t mean to cut my soul to the quick during our “tour.” But he did.

He shared how there are two types of lead dogs: Command Leaders and Trail Leaders.

lead-dog

Trail Leader dogs know the trail so well they could lead the dog team without the musher. They don’t get lost. They don’t run off. They are trustworthy. They know their job and do it with alacrity and joy.

Command Leader dogs have that same alacrity and joy, but they may or may not know the trail, or they may be entirely off-trail. It doesn’t matter. They listen for their musher’s voice and respond. They can be trusted wherever the musher takes them.

It makes me think of parenting. What parent wants their kid to be one who is just along for the run, pulling their weight? Who even wants their child to be a leader, but one who simply runs the trail correctly? A wise parent wants their child to be Command Leader, attuned to the values and morals they were taught, so that no matter what the trail of life brings them, they can respond with alacrity and joy.

Since when has the trail of life ever been simple and unchanging, anyway?

And what about my spiritual life? Am I a Trail Leader or a Command Leader?

Do I check off all the Christian boxes? Church attendance, check. Read Bible daily, check. Pray before a meal, check. Run the trail as usual, check.

Or do I feel safe when God leads me off the trail into glorious, beautiful, mysterious parts unknown, because I am attuned to His voice?

John 10:27 “My (dogs) listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” — Jesus refers to us as sheep, not dogs, but the point is the same, lol.

Psalm 143:8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. —uh, Who else would we trust but our Creator?

May God lead you off the trail into glorious, beautiful, mysterious parts unknown as you listen to His voice!

Blessings,

Voni

PS. As an aside, life is like dog mushing…a leader is not the one in charge. The Musher is, as in Jesus Christ. Life is also NOT like dog mushing…a leader is not necessarily the one out front. There are many ways to be a leader and impact the world for good other than being out front.

PSS. After our “tour,” which lasted longer than expected as we asked question after question, we were invited to watch them prepare the dogs to take some tourists on a run. To keep the dogs healthy and engaged, they do this on wheeled carts year-round, even without snow. Rich was petting one of the dogs when she was not “chosen”—don’t feel sorry for her; her turn eventually came. The poor, silly thing literally climbed up Rich and began whining. These dogs LOVE to run.

 

 

Book Review: Shades of Chocolate by Cecelia Dowdy

Cecelia Dowdy wrote a Bakery Romance series that, just by its designation, intrigued me. I read the first, Raspberry Kisses, and enjoyed it enough that I was glad to read book two, Shades of Chocolate. (I was offered this book free for purposes of review, but a review was requested, not required, and a “good” review was never mentioned. These are my fair opinions.) Book three just came out mid-summer, Sweet Dreams, and there is a Christmas novella I own, but haven’t read yet; saving it for Christmas. A fourth is soon coming out!

 

Shades Of Chocolate (The Bakery Romance Series Book 2) by [Dowdy, Cecelia]

I love stories in which someone’s dreams and passions and talents are at stake. This series follows the lives of women chasing the dream of owning their own bakeries. (Each is stand-alone, connected by theme more than characters.)

In Shades of Chocolate, Toni runs a bakery inherited from her aunt, who raised her in many ways and taught her to bake. Baking—and the bakery itself—is a deep part of who Toni is. The offerings of Toni’s bakery are all chocolate themed…even the coffee. Here’s the problem. Dowdy does such a fantastic job of making the bakery real, I want to go! Alas, it’s a fictional bakery, and the book doesn’t come with any samples.

Toni and her love interest, Jason, are written in the same way. So real, I’d like to sit and talk with them. At the Shades of Chocolate bakery, of course. Alas, they, too are fictional, but I thoroughly enjoyed my sojourn with them.

But if you think this is just a sweet story where they fall in love over sweet chocolate treats, you are wrong. Their very real pasts wreak havoc, but I won’t offer any spoilers. As a writer, Dowdy is unafraid to look face on at very real, contemporary issues through the medium of her fictional world…without wallowing in those issues as certain books and TV shows and movies do.

She is also unafraid of Christian faith. The characters in this book grapple with faith issues, as do the most committed Christians. (Book one, as well.) So many authors are unable to do that.

So, what do I not like about the book? Well, the writing can be overdone, the dialogue full of the truth of the characters, but unnatural-sounding in places. However, when you are immersed in the setting and characters that seem real, that’s a relatively minor flaw.

Blessings,

Voni

FLASH FICTION: Christmas at Ground Control

Mission_control_center

He tapped the steering wheel in frustration at the slowing traffic.

Astronaut Shelly Fender had been in space for 461 days, fifteen hours, seven minutes—he glanced at his watch—and thirty-four seconds.

They’d miss the window to get her back to earth for Christmas with her little boy if he didn’t get into mission control posthaste. He was the flight director, and today was the last window of opportunity before Christmas.

Just ahead, a cow was walking nonchalantly down the freeway. He screeched his tires to avoid it, swerving a bit before coming to a stop in the shoulder.

Not one cow. A herd.

Ah … an overturned cattle truck up ahead.

Traffic would be a mess for hours. He punched numbers into his phone.

Ten minutes later, he heard a helicopter approaching.

It would be an unconventional commute, but that kid would not miss another Christmas with his mama.

Merry Christmas Blessings,

Voni

Picture credit:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mission_control_center.jpg

The Gathered Waters

The Gathered Waters He Called Sea

Waves_in_pacifica_1

The pounding of the ocean waves, pummeling the shore…

The deafening whoosh of the waterfall…

The rush of the mighty river…

The babbling of the brook…

The stillness of the gentle lake on a summer day…

The laughing splash of the swimming pool…

The “Ahhhh” of a cool draught of water…

The quiet of the trembling drop clinging to the limb…

The plop as it lands on my nose.

Kenhardt

 

Picture credits: 
Waves: “Waves in pacifica 1” by Brocken Inaglory – Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Waves_in_pacifica_1.jpg#/media/File:Waves_in_pacifica_1.jpg
Water Drop: By Lourie Pieterse (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

When God Surprises

The other day, I was out watching the Coast Guard Youth Group playing soccer in the chilly Alaska fall. I looked around as the sunset covered everything with an aura of beauty.

House…House…Mountain!…House…House…

Surprise! It took my breath away. “I will lift my eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help.” Psalm 121.


I remember one day about seven years ago when Rich answered the phone…

Surprise! We’re moving to Alaska! To an island in Alaska!


The other day, we drove past Barometer Mountain…termination dust! Yep, a beautiful, light white dusting of snow on the tip top of the mountain. Surprise!

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1


At a writer’s retreat recently, I came barreling out of my cabin and…

IMG_0723

Surprise!

Look how close she let me get.  She just looked at me and returned to eating. Winter cometh! “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Psalm 42


Then, on a different day, I walked out on the deck of my cabin, and…

IMG_0736

Surprise!

“For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? Psalm 89


The other day, I was driving home from dropping Rich at work, the same old way (not too many roads in our small island town). Then the road curved…

Patty

Surprise!

(Thanks so much Patricia for actually taking time to stop and snap this picture of it.) I keep thinking, If I’m God, I’m like *Boom! I created blue!* But not our Creator! So many shades of blue! –Psalm 89, again–


I know…

Sometimes the surprises aren’t good.

That’s when you remember what God said about his creation: “It is good.” God did not create evil; we did that. We chose that, as human beings, as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. We choose that, as individuals.

God did not create dark.

He created light.

Time after time after time after time in my life, I’ve seen God use those dark moments. I’ve seen His light during those times.

Patty3

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”  Amen!

How has God surprised you lately?

Blessings,

Voni