Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

7.31.2009

No (,) God

The article caught my eye, not because I knew the actor it was referring to, but because of the wretched misery that was contained in the short title: “I don’t believe in God.”
That was it. This actor set himself up as a god and said, “No, no, no!” when asked if he believed there was a God. He went on to say, “I’m probably 20% atheist and 80% agnostic. I don’t think anyone really knows. You’ll either find out or not when you get there, and then there’s no point thinking about it.[i]” (Atheism blatantly denies that there is a God, while agnosticism says that it is impossible to even know if certain things about theology, the afterlife, and ultimate reality are true.)
Such apathy shocks me.
You have probably also heard of bestselling books like The God Delusion and God is not Great, the titles of which are enough to make my fingers stiffen on my keyboard. Psalm 14:1-2 says, ‘The fool has said in his heart, “[There is] no God." They are corrupt…. The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.’
The question is, when He looks down what does He see?
According to surveys by the Barna Group, the percentage of atheists and agnostics in each generation stays virtually the same. Thus, the generation of those 61 and older contains about 6% atheists/agnostics, close to what it was fifteen years ago. My generation, on the other hand, is 19% atheist/agnostic[ii]. We will live our lives with these people for maybe seventy or eighty years, brushing shoulders with them, making small talk, perhaps never seeing the same “man on the street” twice, and probably never giving them a second thought.
What was I saying about apathy?
According to the Barna Group, less than half of one percent of those in my generation (18-23) have a biblical worldview[iii]. While we idle, however, those who reduce our great God to a delusion are united in viewing Christianity as a threat. “Most atheists and agnostics (56%) agree with the idea that radical Christianity is just as threatening in America as is radical Islam.[iv]
Perhaps our sin is greater even than those who turn their back on God. We know the truth—we know the greatness of our God, and we know the consequences for those who reject Him. And yet, what do we do?
David Kinnaman, who directed the survey I have been referencing, said, “There are nearly 130 million American adults who describe themselves as Christians, but who are Christian in name only; their behavior includes little related to experiencing and expressing their alleged faith in Christ." Check out the poll on the sidebar--not everyone has voted yet, but the results are very interesting. Furthermore, what would our answer be if asked if we had witnessed even more recently? Last week? Yesterday? My own answer would show indifference, to my shame.
Here is our challenge and the promise to those who reject God. Here is the antidote to our apathy:
‘“You are My witnesses,” says the Lord, and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior….Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one. Those who make an image, all of them are useless….I have sworn by Myself…that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath….To Him men shall come, and all shall be ashamed who are incensed against Him….Though one cries out to [gold], yet it cannot answer nor save him out of his trouble. Remember this, and be men, take courage.'
(Isaiah 43:10-11, 44:8b-9a, 45:23-24, 46:7b-8a)




[i] http://www.thefoxnation.com/entertainment/2009/07/23/brad-pitt-i-dont-believe-god
[ii] http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/102-atheists-and-agnostics-take-aim-at-christians
[iii] http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/21-transformation/252-barna-survey-examines-changes-in-worldview-among-christians-over-the-past-13-years [iv] http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/102-atheists-and-agnostics-take-aim-at-christians

7.28.2009

Running

This morning, I slammed my hand on my alarm and rolled out of bed. Still half asleep, I pulled on nylon shorts and an Old Navy t-shirt. I brushed my hair back into a ponytail and located my MP3 player. Meeting Lauren downstairs—we were the only two awake in a still, cool, dim house—I pulled socks on, shoved my feet into shoes, and tied them. Together we stretched in kneeling, upside-down, and I’m-just-about-to-fall positions. Then the long walk down the driveway in the already-hot air. We placed earbuds to ears, carefully aligned our feet with the mailbox—our start and finish line—and with eyes on her watch, Lauren gave the countdown: 3…2…1…GO!
And so I run, reminded again on this beautiful morning of why I run. With my legs moving automatically, and my breathing coming steadily, I feel the hymn “This is My Father’s World” rising in my soul. I am on a mountaintop, and life is good.
Halfway! I turn around, prepared to rerun what I just ran. The rest of the way stretches out before me, because I can unfortunately visualize every inch of the familiar road. What lies ahead is a battle with no room for complacency. My calves are burning, and my lungs seem to have suddenly shrunk like a wool sweater in the dryer. I have a mind game to deal with as taxing as any chess match, debate session, or persuasive essay. It is me—my spirit, soul, mind, and will—against me—my flesh!
Soon, I have managed to eat up the distance until I reach the neighbor’s house that stands in for the ¼-mile marker. A quarter of a mile left. And all uphill. With the sun out and shining cheerfully. This fight is grueling as I push every step of the way. I am fighting gravity, resistance, friction, and myself. I am stretching out my legs, opening my mouth, panting, and craning my neck to the sky. I am on fire, with sweat streaming down my body, and my mouth tasting like blood. I am running…running…running…for my home: the prize! Are you?



7.27.2009

Keep them drums rollin'!

Well, N.B. apparently must be on a blog fast for now, because I never heard back from N.B. after we did our contest and drew that name. Unfortunately for him or her, but fortunately for someone else, we had to redraw. So I mixed the names up and had Jonah pull out another slip of paper.
This time, it was Jacqueline! Yay! I hope you enjoy the gift certificate to Sacred Audio, Jacqueline, and Mikaela is e-mailing it to you right now!
Thanks again to all of our followers!

7.24.2009

Hurricane World

We were on a seven year old’s dream vacation. Waking up at six a.m. to collect shells, running on the beach all day, building sand castles you could sleep in, digging to China, and being lulled to sleep with a cup of hot cocoa were all on my agenda when we went to the beach with some friends over a decade (-: ago.
One stormy night, my mother had promised a walk to all of us kids. The weather outside was really quite atrocious from a grown-up’s perspective, but to our minds it was perfect beach-strolling conditions. Our friends’ dad decided to come along as well, so he grabbed a jacket and we all headed down the sidewalk to the beach. When we finally made it to the beach, my comrades and I made some wonderful discoveries. 1) It was terribly windy 2) We weighed about 70 pounds each and 3) If we “let ourselves go” the wind actually blew us down the beach! This of course was much better than any hot cocoa, and we screamed with delight as the wind swirled around us and forced us backwards. That is the seven year old’s perspective, but being 18 now, it might be interesting to also look at it from the grown-up’s point of view. 1) These are 80 mile an hour winds! 2) These kids aren’t strong and could get blown away!! 3) There our kids go like the nannies on Mary Poppins!!! Wait—come back! And with those words our fun ended. We had to plant our feet down on the ground, but even then we sort of drifted backwards. “We’re going home NOW!” one of the parents yelled above the wind, and so we began to struggle forward. Our heads bent against the blowing sand, our progress was slow but steady. However, as soon as we stopped to take a rest or look around, we began to drift backwards again. When we finally arrived back at the house, we were exhausted and sandy, but we took our hot cocoa and lay down in front of the fire, and, boy, did we have a story to tell!
I can’t help remembering that story when I think about the world and our perpetual battle against its sin. We headed out to the battlefield of life as baby Christians—tiny, weak, and naïve. In many areas we remain still tiny, weak, and naïve. How often we even revel in some of the world’s neon pleasures and allow ourselves to be blown in whatever direction the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2) would blow us! Hebrews 10:32 says, “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings.” It is only when our loving Father calls out to us that we stop, our ears tingle, and we breathlessly resume our journey towards that loving voice. At first we pause, wanting to change but unsure of what to do, and the wind still batters and blows us back. It is only when we begin the struggle through the temptations and cruelties ahead that we can actually resist going backwards.
Know this: if you are stalled in your Christian walk, you are backsliding. These winds that we face, they are not light breezes. They are not even 80 mile an hour gales. No—we face hurricanes and typhoons, the strength of which is unfathomable. Ungodly friends, sinful books, secret sins, and lustful thoughts all make up this force that seeks to blow us down. We are helpless in our feeble struggle up the beach unless we do it through Christ who strengthens us. “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.(Heb. 2:18)” And when we finally reach heaven, where crowns instead of hot cocoa await, we can at last see our Lord and bask in the warmth of His glory, and, boy, will we have stories to tell! So bend your head against the temptation, keep your eyes on Jesus, and join me in this struggle against Hurricane World!

Note: Picture from http://redgreenandblue.org/2009/01/17/massachusetts-oks-10-wind-power-requirement/

7.21.2009

Family Camp

Last Friday through Sunday was Heritage Bible Church's 2nd Annual Family Camp on Loomis Lake (about ten minutes from the Pacific Ocean). Friday evening started off with singing around the campfire and a rather zany special music
courtesy of our family.

S'mores were then enjoyed by all...

...including our speaker, Dr. Murphy (at right trying to control his blazing marshmellow)! Of course, music was a large part of the whole weekend, and we often found it difficult to stop singing once we got started!

l-r: Joel, Mikaela, Lauren, and Joshua accompany the singing on Saturday.


Throughout the weekend, Dr. Murphy spoke on God and Jesus, with sessions titled such things as "God Is..." and "Jesus Is..." and "He Is Worthy." The deeper understanding of God that I gained through this weekend was even more precious because of my recent study on God's glory (see "The Glory of God: How it Changes Your Life"). We learned about His attributes, which are infinite. Knowing that God is sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal life, perfect, and unchangeable should change the way we interact with others, eat, sleep, entertain ourselves, spend our time, worship, live, love, pray, talk, and die. God is everything: I am nothing. Yet, somehow, He has allowed me to live because of and for Him, and what a privilege it is!

Dirt was the main attraction for the younger set (that's Jonah, Caleb, and Christiana l-r). I even caught Jonah instructing a younger, less-experienced dirt-player in the art: "Aidan," he said, "there's certain dirt for certain things!"


As the rest of us tried to avoid dirt, we had good, old-fashioned fun on Saturday with 1 1/2 hours of team games. As you can see by the two pictures above, Susanna is neither competitive nor determined. ;-)




Top left: Lauren, Christiana, and Mikaela; Top Right: Micah jumping off the dock; Bottom: Jonathan, Abbie, and Joel.


Of course, meals had to be prepared and cleaned up. Everyone did it in great spirits, and I don't think dishwashing has ever been so fun!

The night owls (and even some of the not-so-night-owls like me) stayed up into the late hours of the night lobbying for their favorite word in Bible Apples to Apples, or slamming down cards just in the nick of time in Dutch Blitz, or even learning how to play the card version of Monopoly. Friendly comaraderie, competition, and creativity reigned.




Sunday was a very special day in the life of my sister Melanie as she chose to take the next step of obedience in her Christian walk. She was baptized on Sunday, July 19th as a symbolism of Jesus' burial and resurrection, her new life in Christ, and her willingness to identify with Jesus. Because baptism is not the means of salvation, but rather a public testimony of salvation, Melanie shared with everyone that she had indeed been saved and was prepared to take this step.

She emerged smiling and triumphant as everyone on the shore began to sing "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus" with smiles and a few tears.

Sunday afternoon provided time to play a blistering game of soccer, pack up, clean the facility, and then get three final games of volleyball in before leaving for another year. I left family camp with a renewed commitment to glorify my great God and with strengthened friendships with many precious brothers and sisters in Christ.
l-r: Susanna, Susanna, Esther, and Abbie

Back Row: Mr. Murphy, Lauren, Melanie, Papa, Mama, Mikaela
Front Row: Mrs.Murphy, Micah, Susanna, and Jonah
All pictures are courtesy of Mama except for pictures #1, 19, and 21, which are courtesy of Jonathan.

7.20.2009

Drumroll Please...

As a thank you to all twenty of our faithful followers, Mikaela announced last week that we would do a drawing today from those followers for a $5 gift certificate to SacredAudio.com. Well, the day has arrived, so you no longer need to hold your breath in anticipation!
I wrote every follower's name on a piece of paper, folded them up, and had Jonah (age 7) draw. He squeezed his eyes shut and pulled out...N.B.!
Congratulations! N.B., you have one week to comment on this post with your e-mail address. I will not post your comment--I will only use the e-mail address to send you the certificate. If I don't hear from you in one week, we will redraw.
Thank you again to everyone!

7.17.2009

The Art of Pierogi-Making

I love learning about my heritage! I have also enjoyed seeing the heritage of all of you as you voted on our poll (see the results to the side). My heritage is primarily German, Polish, and Scottish, but I love the Polish traditions. For as long as I can remember, I have learned them from my German "Bobcha" (Great-grandma), who is really more like a Pole because she married a Polish man, lived in Poland for years, and now can't speak German--only Polish. I have memories of when I was six and she and Grandma came over to our house on a mission--to make pierogi. You must understand the seriousness of such an endeavor before I actually tell you what a pierogi is. Your pierogi must be just the right size. The dough must be just the right thickness, and the filling perfect. Most importantly, your pierogi must never disintegrate during boiling. If it should do this, your only hope is to slink quietly away and destroy the evidence. If you are so brave as to bring your pierogi to a family gathering, you must be prepared for examination and criticism of every facet of your pierogi. I cannot tell you precisely where tradition crosses over to obsession, but I think our family must be getting close.
So what are pierogies?
Technically, pierogi are the most delicious food ever invented. As for the details, it might be called a dumpling, made out of a noodle-like dough and shaped in a semi-circle. You stuff it with any number of fillings, our family's personal favorite being saurkraut and bacon. It is then boiled and often fried, and topped with butter (lots!) and salt and pepper. It is a Slavic food, with Belarusians, Russians, Ukranians, Poles, Slovaks, Lithuanians, and Latvians all enjoying it as part of their heritage. However, it is the same idea as the Italian ravioli or the Chinese wonton. Making pierogies is a long process, which I will share with you in this slideshow!


At the end of the day, we made 256 pierogies, including saurkraut and bacon, mashed potato, and cherry. We also made too many kluski (finger noodles) to count out of the leftover dough. So now our freezer's full, our craving is satisfied, and our pinching is perfected! It was a good day!
Pierogi recipe
Dough:
3 lbs. flour (about 12 cups)
3 eggs
1 TBSP salt
1 tsp. baking powder
3 cups water
Knead and knead to a very thick dough. Cover and let sit about 45 minutes.

Filling:

About 2 gallons saurkraut
2 lbs. bacon
Rinse the saurkraut out until it has only a hint of sourness, and then boil it with water, salt, and four bay leaves for one hour. When this is done, squeeze and squeeze the saurkraut until there is absolutely no liquid left. Mix in the fried bacon and some of the bacon drippings. Add plenty of salt and pepper.
Preparation: Roll out a small portion of the dough very thinly (perhaps 1/8 inch) and cut into circles with a cup. Roll each of these circles a little bit thinner. Put a spoonful of filling in the center, fold the dough over, and seal the edges by pinching them. Put on a floured pan and freeze. To serve, boil water and drop the perogies in. When the float to the top, remove them and either eat them as they are or fry them in butter.
This should make about 90 pierogies.
Enjoy!

7.14.2009

A Real, Live, Breathing, Modern-Day Hero of Faith

Approximately 28 years, 1 month, and 16 days ago a baby boy was born into a family of Apostolic Christians. As he grew up, some people would say that he was unusual. The truth of the matter was, however, that he was quite the same as any other little boy his age; the only difference was his not-quite-the-same manner of using his quite-the-same abilities. As a teenager, he made up to $18,000 a year, starting his IRA at 14 and becoming an investor in real estate at 18. He went after and got his four-year degree in finance in only two years and then proceeded to promptly begin his own business.
At the age of nineteen—now a young man—he knocked on 13,000 doors in his own community of Peoria, Illinois to win a difficult write-in campaign for the school board. By age 23, he was both the “president of the Peoria School Board and an Illinois State Representative, making him the youngest school board president in history and the youngest member of the Illinois Legislature*.”
His story didn’t stop there, though. Still too young to be a member of the Senate, he ran for the US House in 2008 and won, making him—in a title that must be all-too familiar—the youngest Congressman currently in office.
Despite attending church all his life, this man became a Christian only two years ago, after putting it off all his life until “tomorrow.” It was his pastor’s straight talk and—ironically—the Illinois State House’s corruption that drove him to the end of himself. Now, Aaron Schock is a man faced with a corner—a very large corner, but a very dark one. He is, however doing his level best to brighten his corner, and he does with characteristic excellence. In a speech to Congress in January, Mr. Schock said, “Madam Speaker, I rise today to mourn the anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in the case of Roe v. Wade….Throughout my life, women have been able to obtain abortions only to realize after the fact the sadness that comes with any death. I am left to wonder about potential achievements that America could have accomplished had so many of its precious and innocent of citizens been given a chance to reach their potential. The future doctors, scientists, actors, teachers, policemen, coaches and, yes, even politicians that America has missed because nine people decided the definition of human vitality. Creating an almost arbitrary line--above which exists human life, below which equals a mass of tissue….**”
You don’t have to be a budding politician born 28 years, 1 month, and 16 days ago to learn from Aaron Schock. You don’t have to be a young person, but neither do you need to be middle-aged. Whoever you are—wherever you are, reinvigorate your flickering match in Aaron’s courageous flame. Let excellence, fearlessness, capability, and above all, godliness characterize everything you do, and you too will become a person with quite-the-same abilities who uses them in a not-quite-the-same manner.



PS: If you missed our uncharacteristically Mondayish post, scroll down! If you have yet to vote in the poll on the sidebar, get your vote in before it ends! =)

*http://www.aaronschock.com/bio.html

7.13.2009

Twenty Followers!

Take a look at that lovely box over there to your right...the one filled with twenty more little boxes, which are each filled with lovely smiling faces! Each one is a testament to a friendship and a gift, regardless of if we have met "in real life" or not. Which is why we always keep our followers box in a prominent position on our sidebar--to thank you for following!

Last week we reached a special-to-us milestone in our baby blog's babysteps--we got our 20th follower (thanks, Jonathan)! However, boring you with an effusive blog post (whoops--already did that--sorry!), upgrading our follower's box from the sidebar to the header (now that would be interesting), or giving you an all-expenses-paid trip to Scotland didn't seem very practical or plausible. Lauren and I, in the interest of finding some way to offer our thanks to the people who patiently tolerate our blog popping up on their dashboard or Google reader every single Tuesday and Friday, hit upon just the thing, though. So, we are giving away a $5 gift certificate to Sacred Audio, a wonderful conservative Christian music site with countless songs, albums, and even sheet music to download and enjoy.
Here's how it will work:
  • All of our current followers are automatically entered (if you are a follower and you don't wish to be entered, please leave a comment below).
  • The drawing will take place next Monday, so if you aren't a follower yet, you have until Monday, July 20th, at 9 o'clock AM (Pacific Standard Time) to follow us and enter!
  • If your name is drawn, we will need your email address to send the e-certificate to you (no need to worry about that yet, though).

Thanks!

Picture taken from http://farm1.static.flickr.com/207/494052425_6542ba0269.jpg.

7.10.2009

The Fellowship of the Unashamed

Click on the image for a larger version.


This was written by a young pastor in Zimbabwe. After he was martyred for his faith in Christ, this letter was found in his desk.

7.07.2009

How Washingtonians Celebrate Independence Day

The Fourth of July dawned hot and dry--two characteristics which are never guaranteed in the Northwest! We headed to Lake Sacagawea to join in our city's Go Fourth! festivities; as you can see by the picture above (only a small sample of the two mile long park centered around a large lake), there were lots of people! The highlight of the morning was the Great Cardboard Boat Regatta, in which 51 boats made entirely of cardboard, paint, tape, and glue were entered. Boats competed in heats for over three hours and provided plenty of entertainment for us, the audience! We ate lunch while we watched the S.S. Minnow, The Floating Outhouse (both in the picture below), rubber duckies, airplanes, cereal boxes, fruit stands, semi-trucks, and many other ingenious creations test their mettle in the waters of Lake Sacajawea. There were tip-overs, slow glug-glugs, and dramatic crashes, all serving to keep us thoroughly entertained!



Jonah enjoying his lunch.

As soon as the races finished, the Southwest Washington Symphony (that includes Lauren and I!) gathered by the dock to give a traditional Fourth of July concert. Although the ninety degree weather kept everyone pretty uncomfortable (we're not used to such heat), we couldn't be anything but energetic as we plowed through Fanfare for the Common Man, Stars and Stripes Forever, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, The Star-Spangled Banner, Armed Forces Salute, When Johnny Comes Marching Home, and many, many others. That was definitely a blast, and got all of us in the patriotic mood!

After many hours in the hot sun, we gratefully headed home to our air-conditioned house and welcomed our good friends for a delightful barbecue, completed with fresh strawberry and apple pie. How much more American can one get? We headed back to the park at 8 o'clock, though, braving the thousands of people in order to enjoy the traditionally spectacular fireworks display. There we are above, waiting for the event to begin.

Still waiting (l-r: Melanie, Mikaela, and Lauren)!





Left: Micah and Mrs. M.
Below: Jonah, ready for
the explosions with his
cool glasses!















I can't quite identify whose limbs are whose, but I can tell you that Susanna, Jonah, and Mr. M are all present in that picture (below) somewhere.

When it grew dark enough, the launching pads began to spark, and an instant hush came over the mass of people. Sitting there, next to dear loved ones, strangers with weird hair, and Hispanics speaking hushed Spanish and wearing American flag shirts; sitting there, watching glorious flashes of light electrify the night sky, calm water reflect that light, and hundreds of trees catch the remains of that light; sitting there, listening to triumphant strains of God Bless America, America the Beautiful, and The Star-Spangled Banner, I must confess I cried...just a little bit. Earlier in the day, we had "watched" the Declaration of Independence via YouTube, and the meaning of the day came rushing at me full force in that moment.
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another...O, thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand between their loved home and the war's desolation!...We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states...Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n rescued land praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation...And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor...Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, and this be our motto - "In God is our trust." And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave, O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


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