Blessings in the ordinary and mundane

What are some of the most ordinary, mundane tasks that you perform on a regular basis? Have you ever thought about the fact that there are blessings hidden in every one of them?

I hadn’t either until I was doing my Bible study homework yesterday. Our ladies group has recently started doing Priscilla Shirer’s study, Gideon: Your Weakness, God’s Strength. In yesterday’s lesson, she asked us to list five ordinary tasks that we perform every day. That was the easy part. Later in the lesson she had us look back at the list and beside each task, write down what it indicates about God’s faithfulness and kindness to us.

Referring to the fact that Gideon had wheat to thresh despite the hardships and oppression that he and his people were facing (Judges 6:1-11), she wrote:

“Gideon’s story reveals that even your most mundane duty has a twinkle in the favour of God, for if He removed His blessings completely from you – taking away your home, your family, your work, your possessions – the need for many of your daily tasks would disappear. Don’t despise the very things that signify your seat under the umbrella of God’s goodness each day.”

What an eye opener this simple exercise was for me! One of the tasks that I wrote down was brushing my teeth. Is there anything more ordinary or mundane than that? What could possibly be the hidden blessing? Then I thought about the fact that I have access to unlimited clean, healthy water. I am not in danger of contracting a water borne disease every time I brush my teeth! Globally, approximately twice the population of the United States, or some 6.63 million people, do not have access to clean, safe water! 1.6 million people die every year from diarrheal diseases, including cholera, due to their lack of safe water and basic sanitation. Many more are plagued by tropical diseases and intestinal parasites.

Getting dressed is another routine task that we all engage in, so what’s the hidden blessing? I have a closet full of clothes to choose from and the financial resources to buy more if I ‘need’ them, while there are many who have nothing but the rags on their back. I can even blog about my wardrobe! (Come back tomorrow for the second instalment of my new Fashion Friday! feature.)

Cleaning the bathrooms is one of my least favourite household tasks, but when I consider that approximately 1/3 of the world’s population doesn’t even have a toilet to clean, I know how blessed I am! Astonishingly, more people worldwide have a cell phone than a toilet! Almost one billion people still defecate in the open, a practice that leads to the spread of disease and the contamination of drinking water sources. I don’t mind using an outhouse when I’m camping, but after living and travelling in parts of the world where I rejoiced when I found a western toilet to use instead of a “squatty potty”, I’m pretty thankful to be blessed with toilets to clean!

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. There are hidden blessings in all our humdrum, routine tasks if only we have the eyes to see them!

What are some of your least favourite tasks? What are the blessings hidden in them?

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Introducing Fashion Friday!

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One of the things that I’ve enjoyed about blogging has been following and getting to know a number of other bloggers with interests as varied as my own. Along the way, I’ve started reading several fashion blogs and learned a lot about my own personal style. As a result, I’ve decided to add a weekly fashion feature to my own blog! For the foreseeable future, every Friday will be Fashion Friday here on Following Augustine. In between, I will continue to write about a wide variety of other topics.

I’ve recruited my husband as photographer and you’ll be seeing lots of pictures of me in upcoming weeks, but I want this to be much more than just a “look what I’m wearing today” feature. I hope that together we can explore the topic of personal appearance and how what we wear affects our daily lives. I look forward to examining a wide variety of topics related to how we dress and how we present ourselves. You can expect posts on everything from fabulous footwear to dressing on a budget, and packing a suitcase to purging your closet. I also intend to do a bit of investigating and share what I learn about some of my favourite clothing retailers. I want this to be an interactive feature, so I will be encouraging you, my readers, to participate by sharing your insights, ideas and questions in the comment section.

I have no desire to look or dress like fashion icon, Iris Apfel, and I don’t imagine that you do either, but you must admit that she has injected fun and flair into her own personal fashion and, at 94 years of age, she has definitely played a part in making growing old cool! I may not want to dress like she does, but Apfel, who first made her name as an interior designer, would be just fine with that. In her own words, “People should try to personalize their own outfits. It gives them a chance to be a bit creative and then they don’t look like everyone else. I think the biggest fashion faux pas these days is looking into the mirror and seeing somebody else.”

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Watch the behind the scenes video of Apfel’s recent photo shoot for the Financial Times How To Spend It fashion special, here, to hear more of her personal take on style.

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So, how do you find your own personal style?

Please join me here on Fashion Fridays as we explore questions like one this together!

Threads of Hope

I’m wearing a simple thread bracelet today that was handmade in the Philippines.

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In early 2003, Christian missionary Alex Kuhlow and his wife Chris, while visiting the beautiful beaches of Puerto Galera on the island of Mindoro, became aware of a heartbreaking reality. Many impoverished families flocked to the popular vacation destination to sell woven baskets or colourful bracelets and anklets to the well-to-do tourists, but some of them, realizing that they still couldn’t generate enough income to live on, were making the desperate choice to sell their children into prostitution. Moved by their circumstances and wanting to help, Alex ordered $100 worth of bracelets to be picked up on his next visit. That became the beginning of a non-profit organization called Threads of Hope that now provides a steady income to over 250 families who were previously at risk! In addition to providing life-sustaining income and protecting their children from exploitation, selling their beautiful hand-made bracelets and other products including necklaces, keychains, bookmarks and headbands, fosters a new sense of hope and brings dignity to these families.

Through the sale of simple bracelets like mine, Threads of Hope has also been able to purchase land and build a ministry centre that accommodates 1000 people for church and other activities. A full-sized basketball court provides a recreational outlet for the community and pineapples planted on the remaining property bring more income into the community at harvest time.

Last night our church hosted a visiting missionary from the Philippines who, in addition to her regular responsibilities at a Christian international school in Manila, has partnered with Threads of Hope to spread awareness of their ministry and help raise support through the sale of their products. The bundle of colourful bracelets that she brought with her were quickly gobbled up. One public school teacher in our congregation bought enough for every child in her class!

Though the majority of sales are generated through a network of individuals who have been moved with compassion for the economically oppressed of the world, Threads of Hope products can also be purchased individually or in bulk through their website. Customized orders in school or team colours can also be provided. What an easy way to provide protection and support for some of the world’s most vulnerable children!

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International Women’s Day 2016

Yesterday, March 8th, was International Women’s Day. My search for something relevant to write about led me to a headline that caught my interest:

Ditch the sexualized dress codes, Ontario employers told

Compared to many of the issues and abuses such as poverty, female genital mutilation, and child marriage, that women in other parts of the world face,  being required to wear sexy, cleavage-baring outfits or heels to work is definitely a first world problem, but one that I’m happy to see being addressed.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has told that province’s employers to stop demanding that their workers dress provocatively as a condition of employment. Requiring female staff, most often restaurant and night club servers, to adhere to a sexualized dress code that frequently includes tight skirts, low-cut tops and high heels is discriminatory and, according to US research, leaves them vulnerable to a higher than normal rate of sexual harassment.

Those in the industry claim that dressing in a sexualized manner garners greater tips. That may be true, but isn’t that a rather sad statement about our culture? Should a restaurant server have to sell her body to make a living? Personally, I would rather eat at an establishment that builds its reputation on quality food and excellent service and I tip accordingly.

Hooters is, of course, the first to come to mind. It built an empire on its young, attractive and scantily clad waitresses. With their tank tops, short shorts, tights and socks, at least they get to wear comfortable shoes!

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photo:  http://www.hooters.ca

Some employers insist that servers, who are on their feet all day, must wear heels. According to the Earls communication manager, that company recommends wearing heels “to reduce safety hazards.” A heel or wedge is preferred because apparently ballet flats don’t offer enough protection against stepping on glass. That’s a feeble excuse if I ever heard one! She also claims that heels provide more support, but the American Osteopathic Association would disagree. According to their website, “statistics show that high heels are one of the biggest factors leading to foot problems in women, with up to a third suffering permanent problems as a result of prolonged wear. Over time, wearing high heels can shorten the muscles in your calves and in your back, leading to pain and muscle spasms.” I have nothing against women choosing to wear heels, but to require it of someone who is on her feet day in day out puts her long term health in jeopardy.

It was the comments on the articles about this issue that disturbed me most, however. Over and over again, I read responses like this one:

” If women go to Moxie’s or Hooters to work they know they will have to flaunt their equipment. Unbelievable how women would complain knowing full-well going into the job what it’s all about.”

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“This is a free country, Women have the choice to  accept or decline employment at businesses that require revealing uniforms.”

Tell that to the many young women who are working in these places to put themselves through school or feed their children. How many options do many of them have, especially in today’s economy?

Obviously objectifying and exploiting women is still alive and well in our culture.

 

No longer a joke

At first, Donald Trump for president seemed like a joke, but it really isn’t funny anymore!

This isn’t a political blog. In fact, I’ve written over 700 posts and this is the first one to tackle anything truly political, but I simply cannot keep quiet over this one! How is it possible that a xenophobic, chauvinistic and bigoted reality TV star with a track record of multiple business and personal failures has become a serious contender for the presidency of one of the most powerful countries in the world? It would be laughable if it wasn’t so downright scary.

I’ve been told by a family member that comparing Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler is “extremely over the top”, but I’m far from alone in making such a comparison. When Holocaust survivors including 86-year-old Eva Schloss, step-sister of Anne Frank and survivor of Auschwitz, are saying the same thing, maybe someone should sit up and pay attention.

“If Donald Trump became the next president of the US it would be a complete disaster,” Ms Schloss told Newsweek magazine during an interview marking Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27.

Perhaps Yad Veshem, Jerusalem’s Holocaust memorial museum, is still too fresh in my mind, but when I hear the voice of Donald Trump declaring that he will rid America of Muslims, it seems to echo the anti-Jewish sentiments expressed by Hitler and other Nazi leaders long before they achieved the position of power that enabled them to carry out the slaughter of millions of innocent people. With Trump in the White House, is it really inconceivable that something that evil might happen again? Sadly, I don’t think so.

Then there are his absolutely ludicrous claims. Making campaign promises that are easier said than carried out is par for the course at election time, but Trump’s are definitely over the top. For example, he’s going to push China into making North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, disappear!

“I would get China to make that guy disappear in one form or another very quickly,” said Trump in an interview on CBS’s This Morning show on February 10. Really? And just how, exactly, is he going to do that? Has he forgotten, perhaps, that China is the largest foreign holder of US debt? We’re talking 1.2 trillion dollars here, so if push comes to shove, who is going to have the upper hand? If Donald Trump thinks he’s going to force China do anything, he’d better think again!

As a Christian, I find Trump’s public conduct appalling. His vulgar and often demeaning comments are absolutely deplorable, not to mention his flip flopping on issues such as abortion. The fact that he, who once graced the cover of Playboy magazine and who participates in what he has flippantly referred to as “my little wine” and “my little cracker”, but who also states that he does not ask God for forgiveness for his sins, has a growing number of evangelicals amongst his supporters absolutely baffles me.

I’ve heard it said that people are supporting Trump because they don’t have a better option. What an incredibly sad statement. If, amongst the approximately 319 million Americans, they have not been able to come up with any better candidates than this one, that country truly is in a sorry state! Sadly, so is the rest of the world which is why I give a damn. I am not an American. I will not be voting in this election, but if I was, and Trump was truly the best option available, I’d be packing my bags and going somewhere else!

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I invite respectful dialogue in the comments section as I would very much like to know what you think.