Friday, January 30, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Above 2: The Crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
At first, we were busy working on our lessons as the "somethings" got louder and softer. Then, the waves of sound from the "somethings" kept getting louder and louder and louder.
Our minds kept wandering outside, wondering what was going on out there. And the sound ... WOW ... it was very loud, and was getting progressively louder.Finally, in order to satisfy our curiousity, we decided to venture out to the front porch for a moment to see what was happening.
It was ABSOLUTELY SPECTACULAR !!
(And we spent more than a moment in awe of it all !)
In the sky was what resembled a tremendous swarm of "somethings", flying this way and that, moving much like a swarm of bee's traveling as a unified body ... there were absolutely MANY "somethings" ... but the "somethings" were much too large to be bees or insects.
Next we noticed that there were also many other smaller "swarms" crowded together up above, sounding off from nearly every tree top.
Apparently convinced that we were not going to harm them, the swarms of "somethings" began to descend to the ground, a few at a time.
It was then we knew for sure ... the swarms ... the "somethings" ... were actually Flocks of Robins .... many many many MANY Robin RedBreasts.
We watched as they descended and began hopping (have you ever noticed their characteristic "hopping" ?) all over the yard, chirping and pecking. It seemed as if they were greeting one another over a meal (a buffet, obviously) after a long period of separation, genuinely pleased to see one another. Or perhaps they were greeting those who also survived the long dangerous journey just completed ?!?! Their behavior reminded us of so many "spring greetings" described so well in Thornton Burgess's Bird Book stories. ( http://www.amazon.com/Burgess-Children-Dover-Science-Books/dp/0486428400/ref=pd_bbs_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1233065578&sr=8-2 )
We did not count them, but it definately seemed that there were hundreds and hundreds of Robins in our yard (and in the sky directly above it).
It was quite a sight to behold, indeed !
Several days have passed since the "somethings" arrived. The Robins are still here, or many of them at least, and so it seems safe to say that we have officially witnessed one of the first signs ...
Spring Is Coming .... soon !
** We tried taking many photos of the Robins here at Beck's Bounty, but our photos were all very blurry and fuzzy. We obviously have not yet gotten proficient with the new camera. And so, we borrowed the above photos from other more-gifted photographers, found with a Goggle image search. **
Friday, January 23, 2009
Cherub 5 is progressing ...
inch by inch,
word by word ...
page by page.
BOOK BY BOOK !!
Thursday, January 22, 2009
5 Medium baking potatoes
8 Slices bacon (we use turkey bacon, however pork bacon gives more bacon flavor)
1 Cup sweet onions -- chopped
2/3 Cup all-purpose flour
6 Cups chicken broth
2 Cups half and half
1/4 Cup fresh parsley -- chopped
1 1/2 Teaspoons garlic -- minced
1 1/2 Teaspoons dried basil
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/2 Teaspoon hot sauce
1 3/4 Cups shredded cheddar cheese -- divided
1 Cup green onions, sliced -- divided
1/4 Cup fresh parsley -- chopped
Wash potatoes; prick several times with a fork. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour or until done; let cool. Peel potatoes, and slice crosswise.
Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp; remove bacon, reserving drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon, and set aside.
Cook onion in drippings, stirring constantly, until tender; add flour, stirring well. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add chicken broth; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Stir in potato, half-and-half, and next 6 ingredients. Bring to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes (do not boil). Stir in 1 cup cheese and 1/4 cup green onions. Cook until cheese melts, stirring often. Again freeze at this point.
Ladle soup into individual soup bowls. Top evenly with crumbled bacon. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 3/4 cup cheese, 3/4 cup green onions, and parsley.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
And today, as we watched the Inauguration, our whole family humbly prayed together ....
* * *
* * *
Monday, January 19, 2009
I loved the way the snow weas sticking
to the bark on the upper branches.
Friday, January 16, 2009
According to The Weather Channel and our outdoor thermometer, it is currently 9 degrees ....
.... and with the windchill (according to TWC), it feels like 3 degrees.
Today's high is supposed to be 20 degrees (before the windchill, of course) .... with a 9 degree low again tonight.
But tomorrow .... ahhhh tomorrow .... is supposed to be balmy at 40 degrees. We just might need some shorts, and to get the pool up and going, to survive the heat wave. HA !
The woodstove is burning on high, as is the fireplace. And thanks to all of our hard work last fall, (winterizing, caulking, and weather-stripping) the house is quite toasty ! And thanks to the Beck Men, we have plenty of firewood.
So today we are just going to hang out inside after we finish with school. It'll be another great day to try out some more of the new board games we received at Christmas.
Think warm thoughts !!
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Atlas Shrugged can be purchased from Amazon or can likely be borrowed from your local library.
The Wall Street Journal wrote a great review of Atlas Shrugged that might inspire you to get this book and read it. It is a BIG book, and not the easiest to read, but is well worth the effort given the current state of things, and the promises and plans being made for our future.
To quote the article just a bit ... "the moral of the story is simply this: Politicians invariably respond to crises -- that in most cases they themselves created -- by spawning new government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to create more programs . . . and the downward spiral repeats itself until the productive sectors of the economy collapse under the collective weight of taxes and other burdens imposed in the name of fairness, equality and do-goodism." The article says so much more than this, but I do not want to give away the whole book before you've had a chance to read it.
I read this book in my early 20's at the recommendation of my father, and intend to read it again this winter with my oldest children (they are going to be using study guides of course for help) . It definately made me think .... and impacted my own political "thoughts" regarding all things government for ever after.
I only wish it were required reading for all government officials .... it might be "just the thing" given the current state of things and the plans being formulated. These are difficult times indeed ....
DISCLAIMER: Ms. Rand is not the type of person that I would consider a "role model", nor do I subscribe to all of her "ideas". Personally, I am able to overlook those issues, and focus instead on the contribution she made in the writing of this particular book. You may be able to do the same ... or not. I recommend some research first to decide.
by J. Michael Smith
One of the issues American families could face this year is the ramifications from a treaty called the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
You may ask, "How could a treaty directly affect internal decision-making by American families?" We generally think of treaties as agreements affecting international relations between countries. The U.N., however, has initiated treaties that not only affect international relations, but also the domestic relations of member nations as well. These treaties, sometimes called "conventions," require member nations that ratify the treaty to implement the requirements as binding law or rules.
On Nov. 20, 1989, the U.N. adopted the CRC and submitted it for ratification to the member nations. It has been ratified by 193 nations—the United States is one of the few countries that has not ratified it.
The ratification process requires a two-thirds vote by the U.S. Senate. On Feb. 16, 1995, Madeleine Albright, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., signed the CRC on behalf of the United States. The CRC, however, has never been sent to the Senate for ratification because there is insufficient support to pass it.
Due to the recent election, however, there are rumblings from Capitol Hill that there will be an effort to seek ratification of the CRC during the next congressional cycle. Hillary Rodham Clinton is a strong supporter of the treaty, and as secretary of state, would have direct control over the submission of treaties to the Senate.
Why should passage of the CRC be of concern? It likely would have a negative impact on domestic law and practice in the United States. Article VI of our Constitution makes treaties—and remember, conventions are viewed as treaties—"the supreme law of the land." The CRC would be treated as superior to laws in every state regarding the parent-child relationship. This would include issues regarding education, health care, family discipline, the child's role in family decision-making, and a host of other subjects.
Article 43 of the CRC establishes an international committee on the rights of the child to examine compliance by member nations. This committee, which sits in Geneva, has final authority concerning interpretation of the language contained in the CRC.
Two central principles of the CRC clearly are contrary to current U.S. laws related to parent-child relationships. The CRC provides that in all matters relating to children, whether private or public, or in courts, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. Additionally, nations should ensure that children are capable of expressing their views freely in all matters affecting them, giving due weight to the age and maturity of the child.
This is contrary to traditional American law, which provides that absent proof of harm, courts and social workers simply do not have the authority to intervene in parent-child relationships and decision-making. The importance of this tradition and practice is that the government may not substitute its judgment for that of the parent until there is proof of harm to the child sufficient to justify governmental intervention. It is clear that in two very important areas of the parent-child relationship, religion and education, there will be potential for tremendous conflict.
The international committee in Geneva, in reviewing the laws of practice of countries that have ratified the CRC, has expressed its concern that parents could homeschool without the view of the child being considered; that parents could remove their children from sex-education classes without the view of the child being considered; that parents were legally permitted to use corporal punishment; and that children didn't have access to reproductive health information without parental knowledge.
The bottom line is the CRC would drastically weaken the United States' sovereignty over family life, which would have a substantial impact on every American family. For more information on the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, visit www.parentalrights.org/learn.
Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association.
He may be contacted at (540)338-5600; or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, January 09, 2009
How to turn your compost pile with ease ..... use a tractor with a scooper. Our compost pile has been "building" for nearly 2 years now, and was in need of being turned. And in all of 2 seconds, it was stirred well and turned ... and we didn't even break a sweat. HA !
The Cherubs spent hours and hours (literally !) scraping the 1980's border from the walls of our family room with 1" putty knives. It was the only tool that worked ! This "quality" (in materials, not in "beauty") border was put up with INDUSTRIAL strength adhesive -- left untouched by sanding, steel wool, countless brands of wallpaper stripper, and steam. But finally .... the Cherubs won .... after experimenting and finding that Murphy's Oil Soap mixed with HOT water would soften the border edges just enough to get under them with the putty knives. So, they removed the whole border wall by wall, scraping it off bit by bit in this manner. Then, we spent many more hours applying spackle and then sanding ... and sanding .... and sanding.
The awful border and a close up of the awful Country Blue walls (circa late 1980's).
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
The ones we have already completed are pink, and our yet-to-do's are gold.
1. Identify 20 birds living near by; learn their habits.
2. Listen and identify 12 bird calls.
3. Measure the massive Oaks; approximate their age.
4. Mark out, by biblical measurements, the perimeter of Noah's Ark.
5. Do bark rubbings of trees.
6. Visit Bald River Falls.
7. Visit Indian Boundary.
8. Watch kayakers on the Ocoee River.
9. Swim at Fort Loudoun.
10. Attend an official "tour" of Fort Loudoun.
11. Climb the tallest tree on the farm; how high can you go ?
12. Visit a Ranger Station in the Smokies.
13. Drive on the Cherohala Skyway across the mountains into NC.
14. Pick wild blackberries.
15. Identify local butterflies and moths.
16. Pick strawberries.
17. Visit a local Organic Dairy farm.
18. Plant a vegetable garden.
19. Plant hummingbird and butterfly "friendly" gardens.
20. Grow birdhouse gourds to make birdhouses (drying now, then will make the houses)
21. Watch pond edges for baby turtles hatching.
22. Track muskrats habits around and in the pond.
23. Make a tree swing using a tire and some heavy rope.
24. Build bluebird houses and install.
25. Milk a cow "by hand".
26. Pick and identify wildflowers.
27. Hatch butterflies in captivity for release.
28. Raise tadpoles in an aquarium for release.
29. Hike to the big lake. (many times)
30. Identify "lizards" in the woodpile.
31. Have a bonfire (many times)
32. Make a compost pile.
33. Build a fort in a tree.
34. Build a fort around a tree base.
35. Go rock climbing.
36. Go white water rafting.
37. Go kayaking.
39. Visit Cades Cove.
40. Visit Ruby Falls.
41. Ride the Incline Railway (almost went into labor early with Cherub 4 !)
42. Go to the Zoo.
43. Go on a dinner cruise on the River.
44. Go skiing.
45. Go sledding.
46. Have a snowball fight.
47. Build a snow fort.
48. Make a snow angel.
49. Go snow boarding.
50. Raise animals for food (we have raised chickens)
51. Butcher an animal for food (fiesty roosters)
52. Adopt a stray animal. (too many cats, and Daisy the golden)
53. Make maple syrup.
54. Go boating on Lake Oconee (GA).
55. Go jet skiing.
56. Play on an island at Lake Oconee.
57. Build sandcastles.
58. Visit the Atlantic Ocean.
59. Watch baby goslings (Canadian Geese) take their first swim.
60. Find and identify fossils.
61. Skip rocks.
62. Learn to fish.
63. Learn to clean and cook fresh fish.
64. See the sun rise in each of the 4 seasons.
65. Learn the major cloud formations.
66. Find 10 Constellations in the night sky.
67. Collect acorns.
68. Collect pecans; prepare them; bake with them.
69. Ride a horse.
70. See dolphins in the wild.
71. Go whale watching.
72. See seals in the wild.
73. See a moose in the wild.
74. Watch a spider spin a web.
75. Watch a spider for a full season (Orb Weaver).
76.See the Continental Divide.
77. Learn to canoe.
78. See the Grand Canyon.
79. Build a raft or boat to float on a river (and have it NOT sink).
80. Find a beaver's dam.
81. Catch lightening bugs.
82. Raise and release ducks.
83. Visit Yellowstone.
84. Follow a rainbow to the end. (many failed attempts)
85. Admire the Dogwoods in full bloom.
86. Visit Washington D.C. when the Cherry trees are in full bloom.
87. Peddle boat in the Baltimore Harbor.
88. Visit Mystic Seaport.
89. Witness the Northern Lights.
90. Visit Williamsburg, VA.
91. Walk on the Battlefield, Devil's Den, and other landmarks in Gettsyburg, PA.
92. Visit Jamestown, VA.
93. Visit a "real" Farmer's Market.
94. Try water-skiing, wake boarding, and knee boarding.
95. Go tubing on the lake.
96. Drive across the country, Atlantic to Pacific.
97. Hike 1/4 of the Appalachian Trail.
98. Wildflower Pilgrimage in the Smokies.
99. Volunteer to help with tracking and identification in the Smokies.
Now it's your turn. be sure to leave a link in the comments when you post your "99 Outdoors Sorts Of Things" so we can add your link to our blog.
Have a great day !
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Life moves fast. If we don’t take the time to chronicle the providences of God, we forget them. If we don’t take the time to say thank you to those who have invested in our lives, we actually cultivate a spirit of ingratitude in our own hearts. If we don’t stop and make sure that we have a spirit of forgiveness toward others, we grow bitter, we lose the capacity to move victoriously into the future, and our prayers are hindered.
Here is a little practice that I was taught and would like to share with you. As you start a new year, I would encourage you to do the following things.
I. Outline and Chronicle the Many Providences of God
Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. (Hab. 2:2)
First, using simple bullet points, outline the key events for every week of every month of the year. Take the time to do the research which will help jog your memory and allow you to make an accurate record. I find that reviewing bills, blogs, journals, newspaper headlines, letters, and even organizing my photographs chronologically are enormously helpful tools. Those individuals who were faithful to journal or keep a diary will have little problem reconstructing key events. Give yourself a good week to reconstruct your own outline of the year. Also, by making this a family project, you will not only build your list with greater speed and precision, but (in the hands of a loving patriarch) the very act of chronicling the providences of God in your life is a blessed tool for family discipleship.
Every family will have a different set of priorities directing what they should record. In addition to recording the key events and providences of the year chronologically, I try to take the time with my family to record some of the following information on separate bullet lists:
Where did I/we travel?
What were the titles and key texts of sermons I preached?
What books/articles did I write?
What significant household projects did we accomplish in 2008?
What were the most important meetings of the year?
What special friendships were made this year?
Which children lost teeth, and how many?
Who grew in physical stature, and how much did they grow?
Who learned to read this year?
What diet and physical exercise regimen did I maintain to honor “my temple”?
What books did I read? Did we read as a family? Did my children read?
What Scriptures did my family memorize?
What loved ones died this year?
What were the great personal/ministry/national tragedies and losses of the year?
What were the great personal/ministry/national blessings of the year?
What were my most significant failures for the year 2008?
What unresolved conflicts am I bringing into 2008?
What significant spiritual and practical victories did I experience?
In what tangible ways did I communicate gratitude to those who have blessed me and invested in my life?
What are the top ten themes of 2008 for my family?
II. Say ‘Thank You’ to Those Who Have Invested in Your Life
[I] cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers. (Eph. 1:16)
Whatever happened to the man who first opened to you the words of life from the Scripture? Where is the comrade, coach, or instructor who believed in you and helped you to accomplish a great goal? What about the Bible teacher whose careful handling of the Word opened up new vistas of understanding? Where is the friend who stood with you through thick and thin? Most importantly, what have you communicated to the mother who carried you in her womb, loved and nurtured you, or the father who labored to provide for and shepherd you?
When was the last time you responded to their investment in your life with gratitude, blessings, and even money? Jesus reminds us of those ungrateful recipients of blessing who simply went their way without demonstrating gratitude (Luke 17).
As a new year begins, make a list of two types of people:
Write a brief, meaningful letter to each of them. Be specific in your gratitude. Explain what they did for you and why it was important to you. Show them how they were God’s instrument of blessing in your own life. Pray over each letter, asking God to grant you rich insights on the character qualities of each individual and on the way those qualities changed your own life. Where appropriate, include a check or special token of appreciation that reflects your desire to show them, tangibly, that you recognize that you are in their debt. You cannot imagine the joy this will give to someone from your past who may think you have forgotten them. Give generously and without concern for getting a tax deduction. I strongly recommend sending money to your parents. Keep in mind that you will never be able to return their personal and financial investment in your life, except through your testimony of faithfulness, covenant keeping, and honor to the Lord.
Also, your children need to know the people who have blessed their parents. They need to see that Mom and Dad are grateful and generous. Share your letters with them. In our household, we ask our children to write to some of the people who have blessed Mommy and Daddy, because our children are the indirect recipients of these blessings on their parents.
This will take a day or two to complete. You may have twenty letters to write, but you will never regret saying “thank you.”
One last thought: One reason why Christians are often limited in vision, energy, and blessings is that, contrary to the Lord’s command, we are ungrateful, unforgiving, and bitter. Far too many who profess the name of Christ spend more time obsessing on those who have wronged them than rejoicing in those who have blessed them. Letters and tangible expressions of gratitude are not only pleasing to Christ, but an antidote to heart-sickness.
III. Forgive Those Who Have Wronged You
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21)
In the course of a year, it is possible to build up many offenses and personal grievances at others. Left unaddressed, these grievances fester and grow. They turn the heart black and the body weak. They foster a spirit of vengeance and misguided self-righteousness. The short of it is this: Unforgiveness leads to bitterness. Bitterness curdles the mind and the spirit.
Fresh starts and new years should begin with forgiveness for others. Having a genuine spirit of forgiveness towards those who have wronged us is a mark of biblical Christianity. It is an evidence that we have been redeemed, and that we are praying lawfully: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
Successful Christians are men and women who are free from bitterness. They have learned the principle modeled by our Lord Jesus Christ who, while suffering death at the hands of people he had never wronged, was able to say “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24).
I have a dear preacher friend with a sterling reputation who was once grievously slandered. When asked about the wicked actions of the slanderers, he replied something to this effect:
Oh you don’t understand — I am far, far worse than my detractors realize. They may have gotten a lot of the specific facts wrong, but I am just thankful they don’t know how bad my heart truly is. God have mercy on me a sinner.
This man had victory over bitterness.
My father is another man who always appeared to have victory over bitterness. In fact, from my earliest days to the present, I have watched lesser men “twist the truths [he’s] spoken to make a trap for fools.”
Early in my life when I was still in government schools, I would listen to my own teachers criticize before my class the work my father was doing for the President to dismantle a government agency which was at war with the family. I read untruthful articles and saw derogatory comics on the pages of the Washington Post picturing him as a caveman for his “prehistoric” views. When my father was a leader in the Republican Party in Massachusetts, a gangster repeatedly threatened the life of his family. I remember being a boy and having my father shield me from homosexual picketers and protesters that would follow him and our family around at public locations.
Lets remember to ask the question: Why should any Christian be denied in their lives what past generations of Christians — and our Lord and Savior Himself — patiently endured—whether it is pain, sufferings or trials? To our shame, most of us have been on both sides of that coin. From a son’s perspective, however, it is highly instructive to watch a father act honorably in the midst of conflict. It has been a great blessing in my own life to observe my father nobly respond even in the face of barbs from former allies and friends, once loved and nurtured by him.
Eternally optimistic, Dad would always say: “Never be bitter. Life is too short. Thank God for your blessings. Press on!”
Bitterness comes from being unwilling to forgive. Bitter people are small people. They are unsuccessful people. They are people who cannot move forward. They are people who believe that the personal wrongs against them are so great that they — the offended — are entitled to do to their offenders what they pray the Lord Jesus Christ will never do to them: refuse to forgive.
Here is my recommendation: Think through every grief, minor and major, caused by others to you in the year 2008. Now add to the list any other personal offenses that continue to linger from past years. Write these down as bullets on a sheet of paper.
The first thing you will likely realize is just how many offenses are polluting your thought life and, probably, your spirit. This is a sign of latent bitterness. Bitterness will kill you. It renders you completely ineffective.
Now prayerfully walk through the list — bullet, by bullet. With each offense, remind yourself that the most despicable action taken against you by another utterly (and infinitely) pales in comparison to the least of your offenses against the Lord Jesus Christ.
And yet He has forgiven you.
Before 2008 begins, adopt a spirit of forgiveness towards your insensitive friends as well as your hateful enemies. Forgive your imperfect father for whatever it is you need to forgive him for (and pray to the Lord that your own children someday forgive you for your failures). Quit devoting untold precious hours to commiseration, mental replay of the wrongs done, and thoughts about just how badly you were wronged. Stop blaming everybody but you for your problems. Look to yourself. Once you start chronicling your own sinful attitudes and crimes against God and man, you simply won’t have time to worry about the wrongs done to you. You will stop being bitter, and you will start being thankful.
Wipe the slate clean. “Press on.” Forgive.
As 2008 concludes and 2009 begins, take time to remember and to say “thank you.” Take time to examine yourself for bitterness. Forgive others.
It is appropriate that we do so on the birth of a new year. Remember that God gave man the stars on Day Four in part so that he could order and structure his days based on a clock/calendar system of days, seasons, and years (Genesis 1). He tells us to “remember” acts and to “number” our days. In Scripture, the formal act of remembering providences of God in our life is linked to hope, honor, and generational success (e.g., Psalms 44, 78, etc.). By February 2009, the year 2008 will be a distant memory. Strike now while the iron is hot. The opportunity to remember and to say “thank you” may never come again. And can you afford even one more day in which your prayers are hindered — because you were holding on to offenses and refusing to forgive?