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


The Winning Combination

Thank you so much to everyone who helped to make this anniversary week at One Bright Corner a blast! Of course, we all loved hearing from the creative, challenging, and consummate guest writers--so thank you, Sarah, Jasmine, and Mama! And then to you--our readers, our followers, and our commenters--thank you! As you know, we wanted to give away two gifts as a token of our appreciation. So this morning, we put everyone's entries on bits of paper, folded them up, and stirred them around in a purple-flowered teapot. Then Jonah, our seven year-old brother who is pretending to be Apolo Ohno today with a bandana around his head (he can't quite grow a soul patch yet), drew two names out of the pot.

So, to clarify, Noah has won the 4-month 8-issue subscription to World magazine, and Lucia has won the $10 gift certificate to Amazon! Please comment on this post, both of you, with your physical mailing address and email address. We will not publish your comment or give out your information. You have until midnight PST, Tuesday, March 2nd to claim your prize.

Thanks to everyone who entered and followed--and remember--it's not the darkness of your corner, but the brightness of your light that matters!


The Unregrettable Scrapbook, Part Two

Guest Post by Mama
Part Two of our mother Jennifer's heart-to-heart post! You can find Part One here.

I have several Bibles that have been passed down to me. Not just any Bibles, but ones that are very special to me. Most represent the faith of those who have gone before me, and some, the faith of those who are going on ahead of me. I have my great-grandfather’s Bible. I never knew my great-grandfather, but I know he went to church and was a Christian, thus laying a foundation on Jesus for his future descendants. I also have his daughter’s Bible, who was my grandmother. On the other side of my family, I also have my grandmother’s Bible. She was a lovely Christian woman who was very influential in my mother’s life as well as my own. She loved the Lord with all of her heart, soul, mind and strength and is with the Lord now. The seeds that she sowed and the vision the Lord gave her are being lived out in some of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren today. I also have my grandfather’s Bible, who only came to know the Lord a year before he died. Nonetheless, he is a part of that great cloud of witnesses who have gone on before me, who through his faith in the last year of his life began to lay a Godly foundation for his future descendants. In addition, I have my mother’s Bible. I can remember my mom in her bathrobe every morning, getting up and reading this Bible at 6 am. That made a huge impression on me. My mother had a huge influence on my life with me coming to know the Lord and witnessing her daily walk out her love for Christ in the midst of her daily trials of having an abusive alcoholic husband. My dad was not a good picture of a Christian, and with the things I grew up with I did not have a secure, loving home outside of my relationship with my mom. My mom died when I was 21, but her Bible still brings me comfort, even after all these years. It’s written in, underlined, and well used.

As I look back, I can see God’s hand in my heritage. I remember the generation of my grandmother and my mother: they lived wholeheartedly for the Lord. But I can also see seeds that were planted and baby steps that were taken in the generations before them. Though I don’t know from personal observation, I can see the results of my great-grandparents’ love for God. God honored that, and the next generation took it further, even though there was stuff in my childhood (like an alcoholic father) that I wish I didn’t grow up with.

Then there are my children’s Bibles. As I look them…I have hope…a new generation…these are the Bibles of my children, carrying on the legacy that the Lord has passed down to us. I look around my circle of friends and see 2nd and 3rd generation Christians of young men and women who are carrying on with their own families the vision that their parents gave them. That is exciting to me! They don’t have “baggage” that they need to get over. What a freeing feeling that with each generation the vision gets stronger and better and clearer than it was in the generation before.

So, I challenge you to begin to have a generational vision long before I did. By doing so, by thinking of your descendants while in your youth, you will be purposing to make choices that are God’s best for your life. And in doing so you will be a part of carrying on the Godly vision that God gave the generations before you. That torch has been passed for perhaps several generations, or maybe just one or two—regardless of how long it has been going, the important thing is to keep carrying it, keep it lit and pass it on to the next person. So that they too will remember the vision of their grandfathers.

Begin to build memories that you will be proud to share in your golden years. Then, when you look back, you can say “I have few regrets, but great memories!”

Instead of being like the man in Ecclesiastes who didn't want to live with his past, we can prayerfully say with Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7: I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.

What do you want to fill your scrapbook with?


The Unregrettable Scrapbook, Part One

Mama and Papa 26 years ago today!

Guest Post by Mama
Otherwise known as "Jennifer," Mama is an amazing, wise, Godly woman and a wonderful mother. We are thrilled to "introduce" her to you through her own writing and Godly insight. Coincidentally, today happens to be her and Papa's 26th Wedding Anniversary--thank you both for your example of a God-honoring marriage!
Because this is a two-part message, we have decided to postpone the giveaway until Saturday. This means that you have until midnight PST on Friday to enter to win an Amazon gift certificate or a World magazine subscription, so go leave a comment!

The last few years the Lord has prompted me over and over to get back into scrapbooking and preserving our family’s memories and photographs so that we might enjoy them for many years to come. As I sit and scrapbook and go through photos, a flood of memories come rushing at me. Precious memories of precious days that we can never get back.

Good memories are wonderful to think about. But what about the not-so-good memories? What about regrets? Do you have any regrets of your past? I do! Boy, if I could go back to when I was a teenager and make some different choices, how much easier the years that would follow would be.

“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, Before the difficult days come, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them (Ecclesiastes 12:1).”

We find here a man that lived most of his life foolishly and was left to live the rest of his days in regret. This verse has always caused me to fear; how often have we heard someone say: "Oh, how I wish I had done things differently? Oh, if only I could go back and tell that teenage self of mine ‘I’m going to wish many years from now that I made choices that were pleasing to the Lord. I must choose God’s best for my youth.’”

But for God’s grace, all of us will wish we had done this, so let’s start now! And what a perfect opportunity for those of you who are yet young and in your youth. Your lives are just beginning… a new beginning, a fresh start….

So how can you remove regret from your future? How can you say in 20 or 30 ears “Praise the Lord—His hand was upon me in my youth! He directed me to a path of obedience as I grew into the man or woman of God He wanted me to be.

Picture yourself with your children one day. What kind of memories do you want to be able to pass on to them? One of the things the Lord has taught my husband and I over the years is to have a generational thinking. What we do now will affect our children and even our children’s children and further. I would like to challenge each of you, many of whom are young and are yet to have children, to begin to have a generational focus. Begin to let the Lord bend your thinking and your vision to the idea that the things you do while you are young will affect your future. The choices that you make now, whether good or bad, will have an affect on many generations. They will affect your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren. Don’t drop the ball…carry that baton from your parents, so that you can one day pass it along to your children and then they can pass it along to theirs. It’s easy to get side tracked or lose your zeal, getting lost in the stress of everyday life. But future generations are depending on you!


The Giving of a Heart

Guest Post by Jasmine Baucham
I don't believe there can be anybody here who doesn't revel in Jasmine's blog, Joyfully at Home--if you somehow have never made it over there, you must check it out (and that's an order)! In honor of our blogoversary, Jasmine has written a wonderful post for us celebrating the beauties of Valentine's Day and giving a new twist on it for us single young women. Although we're posting it a few weeks after Valentine's Day itself, it's still February, and I know you will enjoy this delightful article as much as I did!

February brings the dawn of what was always one of my favorite days as a little girl: Valentine’s Day. Never having had a proper valentine, I still loved to watch men frantically buying flowers, chocolates, and the little gifts that come in velvet boxes for their loved ones. I fantasized about my own velvet-box-gift: a ring of white gold –a sapphire snug between two diamonds –a promise. Oh, yes –even as a little girl, I was a hopeless romantic.

Something we hear a lot about on Valentine’s Day, though, and any day when love is mentioned, is our heart. Whether we’re talking about the chubby cherub with the bow and arrow or saying things like, “You’ve stolen my heart!” or “You have the key to my heart!” or “You hold my heart!” or “The heart wants what it wants!” or, unfortunately “You broke my heart!” the heart we’re usually thinking of isn’t the fist-sized organ in the left side of our chest that pumps blood through our veins. We’re talking about an idea: the seat of our emotions, the core of our desires, the emotional influence over our will.

Although the “giving of a heart” to the man of our dreams is, indeed, a romantic notion, heartache is also a stinging reality. There’s a reason why Cupid’s arrows are so deadly –unlike his fellow mythical figure Artemis, his arrows are not painless: they sting just like a real arrow in the heart would. And when we’ve had our hearts broken –our hopes disappointed –some of us would swear we feel a gaping pain similar to an arrow shot right through the heart. It’s crippling –it’s devastating –it’s bitter –it’s damaging. It’s a pain that –if carried into a relationship afterwards, no matter how strong the relationship is –can hobble us.
As Christian young women, a phrase we so often hear is to guard our hearts! But how do we guard them? Where can we put them? So often, we hear young women saying that their father’s hold their hearts until marriage: what does that mean? Does a dad hold our hearts the same way our husbands do? Do our husbands hold our hearts the same way God does? What about our moms? Do they hold our hearts, too?
Romance is a slippery concept to grasp in the Bible. Although there are many principles about purity and accountability, you will not find the word courtship in Scripture. What you will find, though, is a verse that has helped me in my understanding of guarding my heart:
My son, give me your heart,
And let your eyes observe my ways.
~Proverbs 23:26

What people usually mean when they say the phrase “give your father your heart until marriage” isn’t so much akin to casting aside all romantic feelings and giving the reins to those feelings to your dad as much as it means trusting your father (and, I would argue, your mother) in matters of the heart… as we ought to trust their guidance in all matters. We are functional human beings with independent feelings and desires –unless we have a supernatural gift (1 Corinthians 7), teenage girls are not going to have utterly platonic thoughts. But while thoughts of romance are natural, they can also be damaging when they are not zealously guarded in a quest for emotional and physical purity.

Consider the Proverbs –they are a wonderful example of the kind of heart-giving we’re talking about here. Turning our eyes to our parents and observing their ways –making our heart’s desire to honor them, and to learn every biblical principle we can from their words and actions. Proverbs 31:10-31, some of the most beloved words about biblical womanhood ever spoken, were the words of a mother advising her son about seeking a wife.

This Valentine’s Day, if you’re a single woman like me without a real valentine to speak of, I offer this challenge: turn matters of the heart over to your parents. If you’re struggling with discontentment, share that with them; if you’re struggling with romantic inclinations, share that with them; if you’re perfectly content, praise God with them! Their wisdom is invaluable in matters of the heart!
Above all, though, if you have been blessed with parents who seek Christ, and who seek to help you protect your heart from enemies both foreign and domestic –praise God for them. And look forward with anxious anticipation to the day when the three of you will sit down and talk about the young man who will open that velvet box to reveal the sapphire (or diamond, if you’d rather) that represents the promise that he will cherish you, and walk alongside you as you strive to glorify the ultimate Holder of our hearts –the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 22:37).


Pictures of Praise

A Guest Post by Sarah
We met while still in our mother's wombs (so the story goes), and have been friends ever since. You can find Sarah blogging regularly over at her site, Princess Prints. Enjoy this post and learn a lot--I know I did! (And don't forget to go to yesterday's post and enter our giveaways!)

Service. If I were to ask you what picture just flashed across your mind, what would you say? A black-dressed, ruffled-apron bedecked maid, dusting a grand house? A silver service? Or a loved one who is ‘in the service’? But what picture – of this exact same word – would you see if I were to quote Romans 12:1?

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,
that you present your bodies a living sacrifice,
holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

You would probably visualize our great heroes of the faith. Hudson Taylor, David Livingstone, your grandpa, your sister – people who willingly gave up all comforts and security to lead a life of danger and – more often than not – grief and pain. Yes, we view service to God in a very different light from everyday service, but the question presents itself: What is the real difference between the two?

Webster’s dictionary defines service as either the “condition of a slave” or the “employment as a servant.” In the United States, where we know and believe that “all men are created equal,” this “everyday meaning” is used with certain presuppositions. In the first place, we assume that, although the role of inferiority may be assumed for wages or forced by those who exploit their fellow man for personal gain, the server and the one being served are inherently of equal value, importance, and ability. Secondly, we infer that service is for the betterment or benefit of the one being served. While this definition – and the accompanying assumptions – is quite accurate when referring to the service one man gives to another, it presents several misconceptions when trying to wrap our brains around the meaning of “service to God.”

Of course, as Christians, we would not dare to presume that we are on equal footing with the God of the universe – that assumption is quite obviously dismissed when defining godly service. In addition, we know that God needs no help or assistance from us, His creation (Psalm 50:12). But if our service to God is not at all helpful or necessary for Him, what is it for? And what does Paul mean when he speaks of our “reasonable service”? According to Strong’s concordance, the Greek word used for service in Romans 12:1 signifies the “ministrations of God, i.e. worship.”

Yes, worship.
To live for God, to present our bodies as a “living sacrifice”, is the most reasonable and logical way to worship God. All of a sudden, a life of service holds no drudgery. For, to serve God as a slave, while “reasonable” in view of who He is and who we are, usually sparks feelings of being trapped in servitude – it brings to our minds the poor tailors and weavers, farmers and scullery maids of centuries past who were doomed to live, work, and die in the service of aristocracy – servitude which seems unjust because we can do nothing to change it, and have no chance to better ourselves. It is from this mindset that the mentality of the extreme sacrifice and self-denial of those “serving God” is born. Don’t get me wrong, to serve God, to experience the blissful worship of Him by living lives dedicated to Him, does require us to say “no” to many comforts and enjoyments the world has to offer us. But when we compare these passing indulgences to the everlasting joy found in praising and serving – worshiping – the Savior, there should be, there is, no true comparison. It’s like asking a Little if he would rather have a plate of mud, or a thick slice of chocolate cake. “You can only have one or the other,” you say, but he will hardly view going straight for the cake as self-sacrificing, simply because he had to give up the dirt to get it. On the contrary, he will wonder why we even discussed eating such nastiness (even if yesterday, when there was nothing better around, he had mouthfuls of it).

So what is the difference between serving God and serving man? In a word, EVERYTHING! While one requires us to assume a position lower than that which we hold, the other requires us to aspire to the position of service (John 1:27). While one necessitates some sort of reimbursement for the labor given, the other is the rich payment of grace, a privilege granted and joy experienced. That is the difference.

If I were to ask you what picture the word service brought to mind, what would you say? Cleaning house, slavery, or the ‘great, great joy’ of praising an awesome Creator and Savior with every thought, action, and word? What does service mean to you?


Shiny As A New Dime

Don't worry...don't start sweating uncontrollably...don't retype the address to try in vain to find that blog with the pink background! I'm speaking to myself here, to remedy the disorientation I'm feeling after logging onto the same blog with the same background for 365 days, but I'd love to hear what you all think of everything--after you get over your shock, of course. Notice the beautiful header, designed by Julia. Thank you, Julia! Also, check out the new pages and poll while you're looking around! After over five hours of blog makeover work, I'm way past feeling any inhibitions about bragging! (-;
Now, let the fun begin! For our anniversary week, we promised a giveaway, and here both of our giveaways are!

First, we are giving away to our much-loved readers a $10 Amazon gift certificate. I don't know about you, but I'm always coveting beautiful books from Amazon, music downloads, and pretty much everything else, considering they have pretty much everything! (-:

The second giveaway, and the one I'm the most excited about, is a four month, 8 issue subscription to World magazine, a Christian news magazine that I routinely devour immediately upon receiving! They proclaim: "In confusing, chaotic days like these, World magazine's uniquely hard-hitting, truth-telling, Christian worldview journalism stands in stark contrast to other news organizations." I can't wait for one of you to be introduced to this fabulous magazine (which I cannot imagine not receiving) or, if you already receive it, you may choose a friend to send it to.
So here are the nitty-gritty rules:
1. You must be a follower.
2. Once you are a follower (or if you are already a follower) you must comment on this post with an idea for something you would like to see us write about. This comment will enter you in both giveaways. Please comment only once for this entry!
3. You must live within in the US to win the World magazine subscription. If you already subscribe and win, you may pick a friend to receive the subscription.
4. For one extra entry, post about the giveaway on your blog, then comment here and leave a link to your post. This will give you one extra entry for each giveaway.
5. The contest will be closed midnight, PST, Thursday, February 25th, 2010, after which time we will draw two separate winners--one for each giveaway. We will announce the winners on Friday.
So there it is--our kick-off to a week of fun and a sign of our appreciation for you faithful frequenters!
Next up? Guest post, so stay tuned!

Edit: The giveaway has been extended until midnight, PST, Friday. We will announce the winners on Saturday.


Follow the Leader

A shriek in response to an e-mail usually means
a) You are terribly excited about the contents of the e-mail.
b) You are terribly worried by the contents of the e-mail.
c) You just opened up an e-mail with a lethal virus that exploded your computer and sent shrapnel flying.
My shriek was due to a combination of a and b, and I still don’t know whether I should be more excited or worried.
I’ll explain.
Every month or so, the musicians in our community gather on a Saturday morning for a meeting of the Chamber Music Society. We divide into two or three groups and have two hours to work a quartet, trio, or the like up to par. We then come back together and perform for each other. This is always a delightful experience, and I am usually in the first or second violin part, sawing away and letting others do the leading. This time, I examined the line-up beforehand and discovered that I was to be a first violin, along with the concertmaster of our symphony. I would definitely have to get some practice in before Saturday, I decided.

And that was when I got this e-mail, which elicited the aforementioned shriek! The concertmaster’s short and sweet note said: “Hey Lauren, I hope you’re practicing because I just remembered I’ll be out of town on Saturday.”

This means that come tomorrow morning I will be the only first violin against a slew of second violins (one of whom has now been recruited to back me up), and I get to lead the whole miscellaneous group of musicians—young and old. Guess what I’m doing today? (-:
The necessary ingredient in leading a group of musicians is confidence—you have to play it correctly and not jump over to join in someone else’s mistake just because it sounded right. But you also have to be humble. I’ve seen plenty of cocky, overbearing, critical section leaders whom everyone rolls their eyes at as soon as the leader’s back is turned. This shove to leadership has also given me plenty of incentive to prepare. When I’m just another violin in the group, I might look at the music for ten minutes. This time, I’ve spent ten times that, for I simply have to be able to play it perfectly. (Maybe that was the concertmaster's shrewd plan all along...)

The plain truth is that if I don’t lead the group, I’m following. If I don’t influence, I’m being influenced. Following is often not a bad thing, but there are those times when it’s a cop-out, and we all know exactly when those times are. It’s when following is what we resort to so we don’t have to spend three hours practicing. It’s when we fall back on following so we don’t have to shoulder responsibility for getting a quartet ready in two hours. It’s when we are influenced because we haven’t even put in the time to know in what direction to influence others. It’s when we do something wrong simply because we don’t know what’s right.

Being prepared to be a leader doesn’t mean you have to hold a position of leadership like concertmaster, elder, mother, or teacher. Furthermore, our leadership should never usurp the God-given positions of leadership. In Judges 4, Barak wasn’t a general, but that didn’t stop God from wanting him to lead the army! Barak, however, hadn’t prepared himself to lead and, just like me, he shrieked. “And Barak said to her, ‘If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!’ (Judges 4:8)”

Moses shrieked too. He was just a lowly shepherd with a past from which he was trying to escape. He thought of every excuse in the book before he finally got to the heart of the matter: “Then Moses said to the LORD, ‘O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ (Exodus 4:10)” Thankfully, God never asks of us what He has not equipped us to do: “So the LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.’ (Ex. 4:11-12)”

When George Washington was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, he wrote to his wife that the "whole army raised for the defense of the American Cause shall be put under my care….You may believe me my dear…when I assure you in the most solemn manner, that, so far from seeking this appointment, I have used every endeavor in my power to avoid it." So even George Washington “shrieked”!

It’s a good thing for all of us then that I Corinthians 1:26-29 is in the Bible: “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.”

We may just be the lowly soldier, not the leader of wars. We may just be the humble, sinful shepherd, not the ambassador. We may just be the farmer, not the Commander-in Chief of the army. We may just be the violinist in the back, not the leader. We may just be the daughter at home, not the “Mother of Christianity,” but we need to prepare to be these people. We need to be content where we are, but ready every moment for the position God may call us to step into. Humility is good, but are we disguising our fear and laziness as humility? Too often, fear is the only thing keeping the shriek in our mouth while laziness glues our feet to the floor. Yes, for most of our lives we are called to follow, but the most pivotal times in history have required the humblest of people to become leaders. The future of Christianity will hang on our response to God’s call in our own lives: will we skulk in the back, shrieking and refusing to allow God to put us at the head of an army, or will we put our hand in His, our faith in His strength, and say with Mary, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word (Luke 1:38)”?

Picture Credit


Tea for Twenty

It's a Valentine's Day Tea!

And it was all Susanna's idea.

The tea was for the ladies of our church. So we cleaned, cooked, decorated, and then cleaned some more (because by the time you've made it through that list, the house is dirty again).

And by Saturday morning, everything was ready! The table was set...the house was decorated...

The scones-lemoncurd-mockdevonshirecream-fruit-cucumbersandwiches-eggsaladsandwiches-pb&jsandwiches-oliveandfetasandwiches-truffles-hightealemoncookies-browniecherrymoussebites-chocolatecoveredstrawberries-rasberrytea-pepperminttea-englishbreakfasttea were done!

And then, we taught everyone how to make our decorations for us--tissue paper roses!

It has been our experience that people smile
way too much at these sorts of events, so we
played the "smile" game--"it" is the only one allowed to smile, trying to trap everyone else into smiling without touching them. Let me tell you--getting a group of women and girls to hold back their smiles, giggles, and outright laughter is only slightly easier than damming the Columbia River.

Then of course, it was time to serve and eat the scones-lemoncurd-mockdevonshirecream-fruit-cucumbersandwiches-eggsaladsandwiches-pb&jsandwiches-oliveandfetasandwiches-truffles-hightealemoncookies-browniecherrymoussebites-chocolatecoveredstrawberries-rasberrytea-pepperminttea-englishbreakfasttea (all in their proper courses, naturally).

Only nursing infant boys were allowed, and Melanie got to hold Nathan--at his first tea party!

We played Valentine's Day Bingo as Lauren read the story of St. Valentine. We chatted, sipped tea, laughed, sipped tea, cried--and sipped tea. Without planning it, we managed to hear every married woman's unique proposal story, whether on a Sunday afternoon walk, in her beau's grandmother's kitchen, over a picnic lunch, in an unfinished house, beneath three trees at the park, or in the yard outside of her house. Then I read The Princess and the Kiss a wonderful tale that encouraged all the young ladies hoping for a future proposal story to protect their kiss and their purity for one worthy man.

Good idea, Susanna!


Ten Seconds

I’ll just come right out and admit it, whispering my secret into the blogosphere—our family loves the Olympics. Four years ago, we watched through our fingers in horror as Lindsey Jacobellis did a broadcast-on-international-television illustration of “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)” She was in a decisive first place, grabbed her snowboard to show off, fell, and managed to barely finish with the silver. It made for a great sermon illustration for my dad.

Two years ago, Michael Phelps transfixed us as he swum victory lap after victory lap, making it look incredibly easy to leave the world-class competition in his wake. Our family grinned at each other every time our flag was raised, our anthem filled the stadium, and he received another gold medal.

This year will be no different. We’ve scoped out where to watch the games online, made plans with some friends to watch it at their house one night, and we’re already getting excited about the familiar faces that we get to see back on the snow and ice. The Flying Tomato, anyone? How about our own Washingtonian, Apolo Ohno? And can you believe Lindsay Vohn just injured herself again? Ask me to list what Winter Olympic sports I like, and I’ll start slow and build up: figure skating…ski jumping…snowboard cross, skiingspeedskatingsnowboardhalfpipe…did I miss anything? Oh yeah, curling…I could care less about that one, I’ll admit! (-:

What floors me, though, is how much of their lives these athletes devote to that elusive chance of standing on the podium with gold around their neck. Cross country skiers train twice a day, six days a week for an average of 700 hours yearly! That equals almost one solid month of 24-hour a day training! Alpine skiers practice up to twice a day with each session lasting between two to four hours. My dutiful runs every week suddenly seem paltry in comparison!
Jesse Owens, African-American athlete from the 1936 Summer Olympics, put it best: A lifetime of training for just ten seconds.

Ten seconds. That is the way of the earthly athlete, but how does the investment compare with the return? Eric Liddell's life shows a far better return: We can have a just a lifetime of training for an eternity of reward.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul references the Greek games, which included the Olympics, saying:
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

An Olympian rises at an early hour, eats only specific foods, trains in his sport, exercises, trains some more, and goes to bed at an early time. There are many legitimate things he could do which are not necessarily bad, but they simply have no place in his single-minded program of winning. The gold medalist shuns anything that could possibly distract or deter him, for he knows that the difference between winnin and losing may come down to a hair-breadth of a second or a percentage of a point.

Olympian Sebastian Coe expressed the devastation of losing in this way: "To anyone who has started out on a long campaign believing that the gold medal was destined for him, the feeling when, all of a sudden, the medal has gone somewhere else is quite indescribable."

These athletes have devoted their entire lives to these fleeting next few weeks, and then, in a year or two, once they are past their “peak” of competitive sports, they will start their lives over, disappear from the Wheaties boxes, and begin a new career. So I ask myself: if they give so much for a temporary crown, why would we not do it for an eternal one? Why would we not train twice a day, seven days a week, 700 hours a year for our eternal crown? Which is the more valuable?
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Heb. 12:1)"

It requires rigid self-control, single-mindedness, and determination to push through the injuries and discouragement. It requires discipline to ignore those things which are good and seek after the best. Seeking this eternal crown requires concentration, focus, self-denial, and, thankfully for Vancouver, there is no snow necessary.


Sour is Sweet

There comes a time in everyone's life when suddenly the status quo is no longer satisfactory. The tame has become mundane, ordinary is boring, and manufactured is artificial. Meet Gushy (Sarah informed me that all starters must be named), the answer to all these problems--a bubbling spring of wild yeast and lactobacilli. I carefully babied Gushy for seven days before his beautiful sour aroma, fierce flavor, and effective leavening power was concentrated enough for the supreme test: a sourdough boule.

What, you too have reached a midlife crisis concerning all things bread? Set down that wimpy white wonder mess and pick up an apron, because this, my friends, is an epiphany.

Day 1
In a nonreactive container, combine the following:
1/2 cup 80 degree water
Generous 3/4 cup whole rye flour
1/8 teaspoon molasses
Mix all the ingredients thoroughly, set plastic wrap directly over the mixture, wrap with a towel, and allow it to rest (ferment) for 24 hours at 80 degrees. I used a heating pad set on low to keep the starter at the perfect level.

Day 2
Discard half the starter, and to the remainder add:
1/2 cup 80 degree water
3/4 cup whole rye flour
Mix thoroughly, cover, and allow the mixture to ferment for 24 hours at 80 degrees. This is known as feeding the starter.

Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, and Day 6
Feed the starter twice a day, with at least 8 hours between feedings. Discard half the starter, and to the remainder add:
1/2 cup 80 degree water
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Mix thoroughly, cover, and allow the mixture to ferment for at least 8 hours at 80 degrees before the next feeding. If you miss a feeding, don't fret, just pick up the schedule and continue as if nothing happened.

Day 7, or as soon as your starter is established
Stir the mixture well. Pour off and discard all but 4 ounces ( about 1/2 cup) of your starter, place it in a 2- to 4-quart nonreactive, wide-mouthed container, and add:
1 cup 80 degree water
Scant 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Stir until the mixture is free of lumps. Scrape the walls of the container clean, cover, and allow the starter to ferment for 6 to 8 hours.

At this point the starter should be active, with bubbles breaking on the surface. Touch it, and you will find that gluten has developed; it should beel somewhat elastic. It is ready to be used, or placed on one of the two maintenance schedules that follow.

Care and Feeding of an Established Starter: Two Methods

On the Countertop
This is the ideal maintenance method. Feed the starter once a day as follows: Stir the starter well and pour off all but 4 ounces (about 1/2 cup). Add 8 ounces of water and 8 ounces of flour, mix until smooth, and cover.

If you plan to use the starter the next day, feed it twice, with a minimum of 6 hours between feedings. The last feeding should be 6 to 8 hours before you want to use is.

In the Refrigerator
Once a week, take the starter out of the fridge, stir well, and pour off all but 1/2 cup ( 4 ounces). Add 8 ounces of water and 8 ounces of flour, mix until smooth, and cover. Allow the starter to work at room temperature for at least 2 hours before putting it back in the refrigerator.

Three days before you're planning to bake, you'll need to raise the activity of your starter. take the starter out of the refrigerator in the morning, feed it as usual, and let it ferment for 24 hours at room temperature. The next day feed it twice, once int he morning, then again about 12 hours later. On the third morning, feed the starter early and allow it to ferment until it's ripe, about 6 hours. It should then be ready to use in your recipe. Pour off what you will need for the recipe and feed the remaining starter with 8 ounces of flour and 8 ounces of water. Mix until smooth, and allow the starter to work for at least 2 hours at room temperature before putting it back in the refrigerator.

My favorite cookbook of all time--The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion--and Gushy, my favorite (and only) starter of all time did not let me down. Together, they yielded an airy, complex, flavorful, crusty sourdough that was unlike any bread I've ever baked (and I've baked a lot of bread)! Gushy is still happily bubbling away, and I look forward to adding him to whole wheat bread, waffles, and many more future delicacies.

Bon App├ętit!


The Doctrine of the Grateful Dead

Let me guess. You’ve never heard of the Doctrine of Ethos? Before you resort to Google, let me explain. This is not some new declaration Peggy Post put together because of the complete lack of ethics in today’s society, nor is it some new environmental propaganda. In fact, it hearkens back to ancient times, but I didn’t know about it until just a few months ago.

From a young age I have believed that there is a difference between good music and bad music. This difference has less to do with whether the song is performed with perfect pitch or is screeched than whether the song honors God. As I have grown older, my understanding and opinion on this controversial but important topic has grown as well. Therefore, there are certain kinds of music that I will not listen to, because I believe that they are not God-honoring.

And then I discovered the Doctrine of Ethos.
It was formulated before electric guitars and rock music were even a twinkle in the Beatles’ eyes—the Doctrine of Ethos is over 2,000 years old, and it is life-changing.

The Doctrine of Ethos is the Greek belief that music could be either moral or immoral and that it has a powerful affect on behavior. Aristotle’s writings on this subject reveal that“Music…imitates the passions or states of the soul, such as gentleness, anger courage, temperance, and their opposites. Music that imitates a certain passion arouses that same passion in the listener. Habitual listening to music that rouses ignoble passions distorts a person’s character. In short, the wrong kind of music makes the wrong kind of person, and the right kind tends to make the right kind of person.[i]

Plato took the idea even further and insisted that music must be included in education in order to produce a balanced person. He even recommended that men who were being trained in leadership must avoid songs of weakness and indolence, for such music would tend to influence them in that direction.

I found this idea fascinating. How could the pagan Plato and Aristotle realize that some music is inherently wrong in the days when all they had was the lute and aulos? How could they come to this conclusion when Americans today so diametrically disagree? It boggles my mind, but modern science only supports their doctrine, as demonstrated by many of the popular “Mozart Effect” and “Hard rock makes killer mice” studies. Plato and Aristotle were onto something.
As fascinating as it is, I also have to realize that our sin nature and sinful choices lead to wrong behavior, and simply listening to good music can in no way get a person to heaven! However, does music affect behavior in positive and negative ways? Absolutely!
(My violin teacher agreed with me, proclaimed the beauty of classical music, and in the same breath told me of a “Grateful Dead” concert he just went to. I’m still working on him! :-)

While Plato and Aristotle were certainly not “all-wise” and were in many ways immoral, they make a powerful point, and one that is supported by God Himself. Scripture speaks of fallen music: “Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, and the sound of your stringed instruments….How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son off the morning! (Is. 14:11b-12)” Or what about Ecclesiastes 7:5? “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than for a man to hear the song of fools.” Psalm 40:3, on the other hand, says, “He has put a new song in my mouth—praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord.”

The Greeks’ insightful understanding of music led them to coin the saying, “Let me make the songs of a nation and I care not who makes its laws.” We have mistakenly dismissed music as entertainment, but the Greeks knew that music was communicating its own doctrine. We give music power over our emotions, but we disagree with the Greeks that it is only a small step from there for music to affect our behavior. We label music “amoral” but still God holds us accountable for the music to which we listen.

It only takes a glance at the top ten list of songs to know exactly the state of our nation.

[i] Grout, Donald Jay. A History of Western Music. p. 6


Shop Around the Corner

Lauren and I reached the seven-foot tall ebony-colored door and tugged at it to no avail until Mama came and rescued us, opening the door and letting us inside. Our world changed.

Outside, dozens of cars raced by, honking, revving, sputtering, and clattering. Inside, however, as the heavy wooden door swung shut behind us, sweet strains of violin music came from a back room, along with the twanging of strings resistant to tuning and the occasional striking of a tuning fork to hear the perfect 440 A. Smells of wood, leather, and varnish faintly perfumed the air. And the sights! Oh—the sights! Tall, panes of glass filled the front wall and looked out onto Portland, allowing great shafts of sunlight to filter inside, illuminating rosin dust floating in the air. Violins and violas lined every single wall, hanging unceremoniously from their scrolls near the ceiling. Beneath them sat gigantic replicas—cellos, squatting on the floor and looking fat and sassy. The rows upon rows of polished wood and gorgeous curves awed my six year-old mind.
Look! A tiny violin no bigger than a Christmas tree ornament!
Look! A pink music stand!
Look! A violin taken apart so I can see inside!
LOOK! A violin made entirely out of shiny, silver metal!

And as someone helped us into a small side room and brought us two or three or four or five tiny violins made for someone just my size, I watched in awe as my soon-to-be violin teacher coaxed beautiful music out of the instruments. We found the perfect violin, with the perfect bow, the perfect case, the perfect shoulder rest, and the perfect rosin for the perfect price. We got to meet with and talk to the man whose name was on the sign out front: “Schuback Violin Shop.” I could have busted a button walking out of that shop with my miniature case firmly grasped in my chubby hand—and I was hooked. Oh, was I hooked.

Through the years, every time I got taller, we had two places to go—the doctor and Schuback—but Schuback was a lot more fun! Now I knew what those gigantic violins were. I knew what the random wooden parts strewn throughout the room were. And I knew what a good violin sounded like. I could carefully discern between tone differences, picking out my favorite—but when all else failed, Mr. Schuback was there to consult with.

When I was thirteen, though, the fun had to end. I had reached the full size, and would not be getting a new violin for awhile—if ever. That day, tugging on the wooden door, and walking in with all the confidence of a wanna-be professional, took a long time. Just like when I was six, nothing but the “perfect” one passed muster. And I walked out of there with my violin—my perfect violin, that has been with me through thick and thin for six years.

Schuback moved his shop after that, but we haven’t lost touch. There’s three other budding string musicians beneath me, you see. And just last week, we walked into his new shop in search of the perfect full size violin for Susanna and the perfect ¾ size cello for Micah. This time, I was the violin teacher testing instruments out for my student. And we found just what we were looking for.
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