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

11.30.2010

Mikaela Meets the Queen of England

I am in London.

With my "Mum."

Preparing to attend the World and Royal Premiere of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader tonight in the presence of Liam Neeson and all the rest of the movie's stars. In the presence of Her Majest the Queen of England and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. At the Odeon and Empire Cinemas in Leicester Square, London. That's England's London.

It all started five weeks ago when I stumbled across an email from Focus on the Family proclaiming their exciting new contest--write an essay on your favorite character from The Chronicles of Narnia and why you would like to attend the London premiere, and you might get a chance to do just that! After procrastinating all week, I finally sat down and wrote the 200 word essay in less than one hour, sent it off:

"Edmund: traitorous, narcissistic wretch. I despised Edmund when I read through the Chronicles of Narnia while still under four feet tall. Reading through the books again, however, with an increased stature and propensity for introspection, I found myself in Edmund: hopeless sinner and selfish brute, indebted to another for a second chance. “Aslan” gave both Edmund and I undeserved mercy and forgiveness, and because Edmund made me face my egotism, realize the enormity of my sin, and glimpse the pricelessness of my rebirth, he is my favorite character from Narnia.


"From my halting recitations of the series, to my still-fascinated perusal amid papers and finals, Narnia has always been magical to me. And so I sit here, dreaming of traveling to a place otherwise unfeasible, of experiencing an evening I never dared to imagine—the London premiere of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I am back in the position Edmund and I know so well—undeserving and helpless. Yet I hope. For to go to the premier would be the most extraordinary experience of my life, and the chance to immerse myself in the world of a redeemed Edmund once again would be the most magical thing of all."


And then Lauren came into my room just one and a half short weeks ago to have me listen to a voicemail from Focus on the Family--my essay was chosen as one of the 24 finalists! On the improbable probability that I might win, Mama and I spent the next two days frantically gathering our passport documents and traveling to Seattle to get our passports expedited (if I won, I would be allowed to take one guest, and I invited Mama to come along).

After that, all there was to do was pray. This I did earnestly, as I pleaded with God: "Please, Father, I want to glorify You. If my winning will bring glory to You, then I pray that I will win, and that I will not take the glory for myself. But if my losing will bring the most glory to You, then I pray that I will be content and satisfied with that. I do so want to win--but I want Your glory more. Help me to rest in You." My siblings even fasted and prayed for me! It was on our travels home from the beach trip on Sunday, November 21 that Mama called to give me the news that I had won--the six girls in the car instantly commenced screams, squeals, and laughter. I never settled down that night. I jumped, danced, laughed, screamed, hugged, talked, thanked and praised God, and just wondered at the absolute impossibility of it all. Out of over 8,000 entries, mine was chosen.

I don't even want to know what that particular bathroom fixture on the left is.

Focus on the Family gave me a movie poster, collection of their audio dramatization of The Chronicles of Narnia, $30 gift card to see the movie in the States (it comes out on December 10, everyone, so go see it!), airfare to and from England, hotel accomodations at the luxurious Grosvenor House (where all the movie crew and cast are staying) for three nights, VIP passes to the World and Royal Premiere of The Voyage of The Dawn Treader, and a stipend for food and transportation while we're here.






We arrived in Heathrow fully intending to make use of the all-important "Tube," only to discover that the Tube was on strike. Thankfully, that was for yesterday only, so it should be fully functioning today. We walked around Hyde Park in the dark yesterday, enjoying the "Winter Wonderland Carnival" that had set up shop there (why can't American carnivals be so charming?) and risking life and limb to cross the three lanes of traffic on Park Lane, gratefully finding on the way back that they have "Pedestrian Subways" here--underground crossings that safely take you to the other side of the road.


That's me in front of a Veteran's Memorial.

On asking directions to our hotel, we received astonished responses. "That is a very expensive hotel!" The bus worker informed us. "Very few people in England or all of Europe can afford that!" When we arrived at the Grosvenor House, we discovered that in addition to our room, we were provided with a 120 pound credit in the hotel every day we stay. So we dined in style last night, enjoying artistic salads, wild mushrooms, new potatoes, and lobster.

We've stood in queue lines, educated ourselves on pence and pounds, learned how to dial an English phone number, and laughed with our waiter as we tried to discern his accent ("The potatoes are odd...ODD...H-OH-D." "Oh? Hard? Heart? HOT! Oh! Hot!"), used a lift, and generally "sorted" things out, despite the snow that is falling fast and furious outside. ;-)


Mama and I chose to extend our trip from the three days Focus on the Family is paying for to eight days--we arrived here yesterday (losing an entire day in travel because of the eight hour time difference!) and will leave next Monday. I can't wait to take in all the classic English landmarks I never imagined I'd actually see!


To God alone be the glory!


11.27.2010

Jaunt to the Beach

Last Friday morning, November 19, Mikaela and I met four friends in a Starbucks parking lot and embarked on a grand adventure. Our destination: the beach.
Our goal: have a fabulous time deepening friendships, fellowshipping at all times of the day and early morning, and drinking in the magnificent glory of the ocean.
Left column: Lauren, Mikaela, and Betsy.  Middle column: Sarah (top) and Katelyn.  Right column: Kaytra.
Our first predicament confronted us in the form of fitting six girls in one minivan.  Somehow, we managed to do so, but we had not an inch of space to spare!  We were soon on our way, and our car rang with laughter, Christmas music, and chatting.  We meandered our way down the coast, stopping to shop and being literally forced off the road by the first breathtaking view of the beach that appeared before us.  Could anyone drive by this without stopping?
Photo stop over with, we tentatively maneuvered down the road on which our rented cottage lay, eyeing the rundown houses we prayed were not ours, and holding our breath when we saw a particularly extravagent one. Ours turned out to be completely adorable, and was never loved so much by any of its previous occupants, I am sure. We exclaimed over everything from the adorable gingerbread to the charming gabled rooms to the eccentric but somehow completely loveable leopard print carpet that covered every inch of the cozy house. With a hot tub and plenty of sleeping space, the only fault we could find with our temporary home was the fact that it only contained one mirror!

Before the sun went down, we dashed down to the beach (which means we walked a block!), and snapped photo after photo of the beautiful sights that met our eyes. Even the chilly November day could not dampen our excitement!

That evening, we enjoyed a delicious supper, a dip in the scalding hot tub, an introduction (for Mikaela and I)to the newest Sense and Sensibility movie, and a rousing game of Split Second.

The next morning, however, we had determined to be dedicated, conscientous, and healthy by going for a morning run on the beach. What we weren't counting on was a high tide that covered the entire sandy beach, leaving high and dry only rocky hills that were too rough to run on.  A few hundred feet of jogging in knee-high water was all it took to convince us to turn back.  There was nothing else for it but to laugh, shrug our shoulders, and splash each other a bit before we headed back to our cottage to dry off and begin our day.
We had a precious time together of singing favorite hymns and studying a chapter of the Psalms.  It was so good to talk deeply with like-minded girls of the wonders of God's Word!  We could hardly tear ourselves away to commence the rest of our day, but by the time we did it was time for us to have a picnic on the beach! 
The rest of the day was filled with blissful photo-snapping, shopping, and marveling at the beautiful, rain-free weather God had given us! 

The sunset finally brought us back to our cottage, hungry and ready for an exciting evening in!  Mikaela and I were the chefs for the night, and we inflicted on the girls the experience of our "mystery" dinner.  Every part of the menu (pizza, salad, cookies, and soda) was numbered, and we gave the girls the blind choice of any three menu items from 1-11 for the first course.  Some found themselves presented with napkins and salad dressing, but nothing else to eat! 
We had a lot of fun, and they were good sports despite our mistakes which hilariously resulted in three of them being without a salad for almost the entire meal.
Notice the leopard print carpet in the picture below? (-:
The next morning dawned rainy and foggy, and we hurried to be out of our cottage by the check-out time.  Laundry, vacuuming, and dish-washing were all accomplished in record time, and we had another wonderful time of Bible study before we closed the door on our little cottage. 
But our adventures were only beginning, because while we were preparing to leave Seaside, someone noticed that one of our tires was exceptionally low on air.  We soon solved the problem with a visit to a gas station and were on our way to get lunch when everyone's phones summarily began to ring.  All our parents were calling to inform us that snow was beginning to build up back home, and with us still having to drive over an hour on a two-lane highway and down an infamously steep hill, they were becoming quite concerned.  We skedaddled back to the van, only to have our light bulb moment: the tire had been low because a charming little nail had dug itself deep within the rubber and the tire was now protesting with nasty hissing noises.  We stared at each other in disbelief before deciding that six cold girls trooping into the Napa auto parts store might do the trick.  Nope.  But the helpful Napa guy directed us back the direction we had just come from to a place that could fix the tire, since he wasn't offering.  Here we are, doing--what else in such a situation?--laughing and taking pictures under the stern glare of a mounted buck while waiting for our tire to be fixed!
The Lord was watching out for us during the entire escapade, for we were soon on the road with our tire in one piece (!) and six pairs of eyes on the lookout for snow.  The frosty white trees were beautiful, but not much snow appeared on the highway while we were driving home, for which we were intensely grateful!
And all too soon, our beach weekend ended--just before dusk, with snow gathering on the ground, and six tired but happy girls hugging each other good-bye. 
"Haystack Rock"

11.23.2010

One Nation Under God

Magna Carta, Reissue of 1225, in Case in National Archives Rotunda, 1965

Does the Constitution follow God's Law? Is the Bill of Rights lawful? What about the Prohibition—was that lawful? The environmental regulations? Fair working laws? And how about the most recent quandary—TSA’s screenings which digitally disrobe you in the airport, or their intimate pat downs? All of these things are legal, but are they lawful?

You must begin with a basic presupposition: the government does not have the authority to punish all sins. This is because all crimes are sins—but not all sins are crimes. Certainly, we are not able to go back to the theistic government of ancient Israel, but God is still the lawmaker, and His law book—the Ten Commandments—provides the basis for determining unlawful “crimes.” The Constitution, you see, is based very much on the laws of God, as is the Bill of Rights. The Prohibition is a difficult subject in that, at the very least, the manner in which the law was carried out was unlawful. And yes—every other example I presented is also not under the government’s jurisdiction. The government has no authority or hope of regulating its citizens into perfection. When it attempts to litigate every sin, it produces infringement of basic freedoms and liberty.

The real problem, however, goes back to our understanding of God. We have failed to live each and every day with the reality of God’s Judgment. We have forgotten that everyone will receive his just reward—not from the government, but from God.

“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you….Behold, the Judge is standing at the door (James 5:1-6, 9b)!”


By looking to the government to protect us from immorality, drugs, alcohol, irresponsibility, and unethical behavior, we have created an idol and worshipped it. And yet this government which we are so willing to worship is the very antithesis of God—it condones immorality, divorce, debt, and the murder of society’s most helpless. We have become willing to give up our rights to privacy, modesty, free speech, and entrepreneurism because we are afraid to trust in God’s ultimate sovereignty and judgment. It is time that we take our trust from the instable, immoral, and unlawful reaches of the ever-expanding government and place it back where it belongs—our Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent God.

As citizens of both an earthly and a heavenly country, we must therefore live in faith. Punishing those sins which are crimes and trusting God for His ultimate judgment of man, we will be released from the immense burden of taking God’s job on our shoulders. It is not man’s responsibility to seek vengeance. “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The LORD will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:30-31).”



Note: Please do not presume that I am advocating a revolt, revolution, or rebellion. I firmly believe that government is from the Lord, and it is my desire that we remember this and keep government in its proper place—subordinate to God.


Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The inspiration for this post was taken from "There's 'illegal,' and there's unlawful, and in a righteous society, they would be the same." I have not perused the blog beyond this article, so use discretion.

Photo Credit

11.19.2010

Your Fingerprint on the Future


In eighty years, it is more than likely that you and I will both be dead. For that matter, in two hundred years, all that will remain of us will be a tombstone and a pile of dust in a coffin, if that. Most of our names will be forgotten, except in the eternal remembrance of a dusty old family tree. Blogs may not exist. Telephones may be as extinct as the telegraph now is.

Most people have a difficult time imagining their lives ten years from now, and they would simply laugh at the idea of planning for eighty years into the future. The Barna Group conducted a fascinating survey last year of teenagers, asking, “What do you expect will happen in your life by age 25?” You can view the complete results here, and you will find the numbers intriguing.  93% predict that they will definitely or probably have a college degree, but only 39% will definitely have a close relationship with God. 81% hope to have a great-paying job, and 71% plan on travelling to other countries, yet only 58% definitely or probably plan to be married. In the most ironic twist, 24% of teens are definite that by age 25 they will have a job that makes a difference. But only 7% plan on serving the poor regularly and only 9% are definitely planning on having children before age 25!  For the young people of today, any planning ahead is centered on careers and prosperity, and the idea of making a difference in one's own family is a foreign thought. 

Now, forget age 25—envision 2090 and 2210. If the Lord tarries, there will be ten year olds, twenty year olds, and thirty year olds who will hardly know your name, and could care less what countries you visited and what numbers were scribbled on your paycheck. But these are people who will have your same nose, your same talent for curling their tongues, and your same fatal flaws. These are people whose goals and strengths and weaknesses and very lives hang on your choices today: you are bequeathing to them an inheritance, whether you like it or not.  Think back to 1930, and the great-grandparents who were working and sleeping and living then. You may not know it, but it is more than likely—in fact, it is almost certain—that they fought the very same battles you are fighting today. Don’t you wonder if they won? Don’t you wonder if they never could gain victory over that one weakness, and if it is the same one you now wrestle with today? Wouldn’t it change how you live your life if you knew that someone who lived eighty years ago prayed for you specifically to follow Christ?

I’m here to tell you that multi-generational thinking is not just for conferences and parents and grandparents. It is the most incalculably short-sighted folly for young people to become so absorbed in their own lives that they cannot see past their fleeting goals for age 25.  It is the most immeasurably shameful delusion for young people to really believe that having a vision for the future is fulfilled in their well-laid plans for education and travel. 

Having vision for the future is not a command of God that we do not have to fulfill until we get married. Singleness, youth, childlessness, and busyness are not exemptions from investing yourself in future generations. Deuteronomy 4:9 is an all-encompassing, no holds barred kind of command: “Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself[present], lest you forget the things your eyes have seen[past], and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren[future].”  Seeing with multi-generational eyes means seeing just a little more like our God who is unbound by time sees.  Why else would He constantly reiterate that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob unless He views His people from within the framework of the previous and future generations?   If God thinks multi-generationally, how can we continue thinking only in decades?  We have no excuse. 

There is no possible excuse because a thirteen year old can already start praying for the spouse that God has planned for her.
And if you’re fourteen, you have no excuse because you can diligently pursue serious quiet time every day, knowing that one day you will have little children looking up at you with shining eyes, waiting for your answers to their most difficult questions. 
If you’re fifteen, you can pour yourself into obeying your father and his vision for the next generations.
If you’re sixteen, you can keep a journal and record your own pitfalls and stumblings—and how the Lord has worked in your life.
If you’re eighteen and newly graduated from high school, you can live with decisiveness, working every minute for God’s kingdom, not defaulting to college because it’s the thing to do.
If you’re twenty and still single, you can follow God with all your heart and soul, because the choice between right and wrong that you make today will have repercussions for centuries.
If you're twenty-seven, you can intercede before the throne of God for your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren. 
If you’re forty and have no children, you can still find children in every church and on every street whose lives are just waiting for investment, prayer, and vision in order to blossom.

In short, if you are breathing and you are a Christian, know that having a successful vision for the children of your children to love the Lord Jesus does not start when those children are born: it started when you were born. The future generations must live worthy of their inheritance, but you must live to bequeath a worthy one. 

Picture Credit: CameliaTWU
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

11.16.2010

Always Winter and Never Christmas


For millions of children, Christmas is but a fantasy--like a cozy storefront window they must be content to adore from the frigid sidewalk. Samaritan's Purse, however, has given us an incredible opportunity to not only bless these children with a shoebox full of presents and love, but to experience the blessings of giving and of emulating the Wise Men who gave the first sacrificial gifts to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.




This weekend, we shopped and looked and laughed and talked and bought and wrapped and laughed and talked as we filled a shoebox full of goodies for a five to nine year-old girl and one for a ten to fourteen year-old boy. What fun it was to spend time together as siblings, and what a delight it was to drop off our boxes at the designated church and hear that our middle-sized community had mustered 1100 boxes last year, and was aiming for 3000 this year.





"Operation Christmas Child," as Samaritan's Purse has dubbed their enormous project, is hoping to send out more than 8 million shoeboxes to children all over the globe this year. Their stated mission is "To demonstrate God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ."



All you have to do is fill a cardboard or plastic shoebox with everything to delight a child's spirit (check with the website for prohibited items and suggestions), print out a label for your box, and enclose $7 to cover the shipping (this year, you can now pay the $7 online and print out a handy barcode which they will use to track your box and let you know where it ends up!). Go online to find a local drop off point--many churches participate in this. Please hurry, though, because this week only is National Collection Week.

Watch this video for more information (as well as a plug from the adorable Georgie Henley for THE upcoming movie of the year, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader).






Won't you take a few hours out of your week to fill a shoebox and drop it off? I can't think of a better way to brighten your corner!


PS--As I typed this up, the entire house suffered one jarring shake, with my seat lurching up, and my laptop screen bouncing like a sheet of paper. Just a minor (4.2) earthquake with no apparent damages, though it was felt from Seattle to Oregon, but enough to get the day started with a bang!

11.12.2010

Blessed are Those Who Lay Down and Die?

Contemporary society prizes above all other qualities independence, self-assertiveness, and the ability to stand up for what you want and deserve. Numerous are the gurus who proclaim that meekness is a condition that requires psychological help. Take for example the article “How to ditch meekness and walk tall.” The author helpfully begins,

“Are you a meek person? If so, your life may be ruled by others, and it’s time to ditch meekness. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But it’s not. Because meekness is a habitual response to the challenges of life. And it takes time and effort to change ingrained habits. The root of meekness is low self-esteem. When our self-esteem is low, we respond to the challenges of life with doubts and fears….For example, if you were bullied, shut up, abused, or controlled as a child, you may well suffer from meekness. I say 'suffer' because meekness doesn’t make you happy; it leads to an unfulfilled life.”

After all, can you imagine a world that didn’t suffer from the scourge of meekness? It’s a world in which, if someone cuts in line, they are thrown dirty, glaring looks and at the very least receive a sarcastic comment.  It’s a world in which you only need to plant yourself at any customer service desk for a few hours in order to get a feel for how vocally and staunchly otherwise calm people will advocate for themselves if they feel they have been ripped off.

And what if we zoom in closer to home? The chore system in our house works like a well-greased machine most of the time, but if someone is gone, the machine suddenly squeaks to a halt as everyone stands around wondering who in the world could possibly fill in for the extra work. (“Do you think we should we hire a maid to fill in for the day since we couldn’t possibly do chores that weren’t assigned to us?”) Or a sister is playing on the piano, and I march up: “It’s my practice time. Get off.” From giving a ten-point persuasive argument on why we should watch the movie of my choice to making sure that everyone’s schedule revolves around me, the missing quality in all of this is meekness, and a world that doesn’t “suffer” from meekness sounds all too familiar. It is not a world in which I want to live. Standing up for what is right is always good, but standing up for your rights may not always be.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to make sure you aren’t swindled, but I’m asking what would be so very bad about saying when someone cuts in front of you, “Oh here, let me move my things so you have room to set your groceries down.” We have heard the encouragement to give an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but what would be so wrong about turning the other cheek for someone to slap after they slapped the first one? And “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.(Matthew 5:40-42)”

George Washington is heralded as the Father of our Country—the Father of our independence and Yankee gumption, and he led America to victory against impossible odds. And yet he was a man who refused to be made king in the face of cheering and determined throngs; he was a unanimously popular leader who graciously declined to run for president for a third term, so meek and humble was he. In no other person is Matthew 5:5 better exemplified: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

And blessed are the meek, Jesus says, not cursed are those who suffer from the ailment of meekness. Jesus blesses the quality most abhorred by modern society! We have no ballads for those who quietly work behind the scenes, no awards for the one who gives up her own long-awaited desire so that someone else can enjoy the day, no Oscar-winning movies celebrating the meek. The Greeks viewed meekness as condescension, and today we think the word means laying down and dying. It is one of the most untranslatable words of Scripture, but Bible scholar Zodhiates describes prautes, one of the Greek words translated as “meek” in this way:

Prautes, according to Aristotle, is the middle standing between two extremes, getting angry without reason, and not getting angry at all. Therefore, prautes is getting angry at the right time, in the right measure, and for the right reason. . . . [I]t is a condition of mind and heart which demonstrates gentleness, not in weakness, but in power. It is a balance born in strength of character[1].

A meek and quiet spirit is in the sight of God of great price (I Peter 3:4), and rest assured that it will cost you dearly. But when you really stop to think about it, wouldn't you say the inheritance of the earth is worth quite a bit too?

Picture Credit Martian haemoglobin x in paris
1. Zodhiates, Spiros. The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament. Pg. 1209-1210. 
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

11.09.2010

Do You Remember?

Do you remember that time I spent ninety minutes researching and composing and sending an email to you, and you sent me back a sterilized, automated reply thanking me for the time I took to contact you, time I’ll never get back? Did you even notice the next email, and the next email, and the next email, to which you finally advised your secretary to write a somewhat personal email appreciating my opinions, but notifying me that you weren’t going to take my advice?
Do you remember standing on the House floor, declaring that you knew what was best for the American people? Do you remember turning a deaf ear to our thunderous denials? How could you not remember those infamous town hall meetings, where we warned you—“stay away from my kids!” and “thank you--it's not your right to decide if I keep my current [health] plan or not [1]!”

Do you remember my phone calls; did you ever get the messages your polished secretary promised to record and pass on? Do you know that I tried over and over for hours before I even got through to you on the phone?

Do you remember declaring so arrogantly, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it [2]”?

Do you remember the time I visited with you in person, and pleaded with you face to face? Do you remember how you sat there so diplomatically, with your fingers clasped, your tie perched just so on your neck, with wine bottles and glasses emblazoned on the silk, and your face unreadable?

Do you remember the representative who missed his son’s wedding because he could not risk missing the opportunity to cast his vote against the bill?

Do you remember our signs, our protests, our marches, our vigils, our prayer meetings, our debates on You Tube comment boards, and our passionate facebook, twitter, and blog messages?

Do you remember when you said, “Every single great idea that has marked the 21st century, the 20th century and the 19th century has required government vision and government incentive [3],” and we bellowed back that we wanted less government, not more?

You turned your back on us—you played the parent to us, the children. You chose for us, not with us or because of us. You forgot who your employer was, and you ignored the source of your paycheck. Some people would call this trailblazing—I call it unethical and irresponsible.

And now, you have learned. We are not the children here. We are the employers. We the people know what we want, and we will not allow a bill of goods to be shoved down our throats. If you will not listen, then you will be fired. You who have survived fourteen terms—gone. You who have proudly held the seat Mr. President vacated in 2008—gone. You who have run a campaign in all-blue smurfdom—it's suddenly red, and you're suddenly gone. You who have survived nine terms—gone. You who refused to listen—gone. You who held the most prominent seat in Congress—gone.

We will not sit down, shut up, or scatter. We recognize that good and evil are coalescing into two distinct entities in the United States—and those entities are not based on party lines. Keep the change—we don’t want any part of it. The American people have spoken.


Note: For our international readers (and any Americans who have been in a coma for the last week), the United States recently held its elections, which marked the largest power shift in Congress since 1948.

[2] Pelosi, Nancy. 2010 Legislative Conference for National Association of Counties, March 3, 2010.
[3] Biden, Joe. Fundraising visit to Manhattan, October 26, 2010.

11.05.2010

Goalkeeper

Those journal-keepers out there in the blogosphere will know what I’m talking about when I say I sometimes like to go back and read old journal entries. More often than not, I find myself amused by what events were such overwhelming matters of stern, solemn, and sober concern for a twelve year old. But today when I went back and read that one entry that I knew was there waiting for me, I wasn't amused--I was humbled almost to tears. It was a March, 2006 entry, the last one in a book I had begun four years earlier, in 2002. In this entry I was looking back on the past four years and I was setting my goals for four years in the future—the far-off 2010.

Here’s what I wrote at sixteen:

“I think, after reading over a few of my earlier entries, that I have lost a bit of my passion and desire to continue to progress in my relationship with Jesus. ‘I have progressed, so now I’m there,’ kind of outlook….Four years ago I wrote that I was having trouble loving my siblings; I think that through the Lord only, that has improved. Four years ago I was having ‘trouble’ with my conscience. (-: Now I am a little more receptive to the Holy Spirit.

“This isn’t supposed to be a ‘pat-myself-on-the-back’ session. I want to see where my journey has led me, and now look out over the road ahead and see where it will lead.

“In four years, I want to accept criticism joyfully, not cringingly and stiffly. I desire in four years that I would be better at introducing myself and talking to people that I don’t know. I desire that in four years Jesus would be my heart, my thoughts, my everything, and that everyone who looks at me would know instantly and firmly that I am different. I pray that in four years I would be even closer and tighter a friend to Mikaela, Melanie, Susanna, Micah, Jonah, and to Mama and Papa. In four years I desire that I would be mature in my speech and think before I speak. In four years I pray that I will not be selfish, as I am now.

“‘But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ (Hebrews 10:39, 11:1)

“By the Lord’s grace I will not draw back, but envision in faith.”

Talk about lofty goals!  I am humbled to read through goals I set for myself at sixteen and realize there are some issues that, four years later, I am still struggling with. And I thought I was supposed to be perfect by 20!  Part of the problem was forgetfulness.  I wrote my goals down, yes, but I have only looked at them a few times in the four years since. Perhaps it would have been better if I had engraved them on my arm to read every day, or sharpied them on the ceiling above my bed. Satan loves to distract us from reaching God's best in our lives, and busyness is a great distraction!  Carelessness is another part of the problem--letting down my reliance on Christ for an instant allows sin to creep in.  And reading my earnest journal entry written not so very long ago shook up that carelessness and did away with the forgetfulness today. 

Reading through the entry I remembered and realized that I still bristle when I am criticized. I still have sin that keeps Jesus from being my every waking thought, I still say hurtful things, and I still am selfish. But I also realized that, despite my own failings, the Lord has been faithful, and some of the goals have been reached—praise the Lord! I have worked diligently on friendliness with people I have never met before, and I am so blessed to count all of my family as my best friends.

So was my attempt at goal-setting useless? No:

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:12-14)”

Goal-setting is good, even imperative. Without a goal on the soccer field, the game is pointless, and without goals in life, we are apt to be aimless. And that means purposeless: picking out random chapters in the Bible to read each day, getting convicted by the sermons we hear and promising to change, and then promising to change again the next week in a different area with no progress in any area being effected. And a life with goals set merely by the very person with the blind spots (me!) is equally as haphazard. But a life with goals to fulfill that are the result of prayer and crying out to God becomes a life where everything has a point and specific purpose: reading Scripture on humbly accepting criticism becomes a necessity, criticism from others is merely a blessed opportunity from the Lord for my practical application, and that sermon on humility –what providence of God!

And try as I might, just as goal-setting cannot be through my own wisdom, so goal-fulfilling cannot be through my own vim and vigor, as my unmet goals of four years ago can clearly attest. It is only through Christ that I can have any hope of maturing and continuing the sanctification process. Week by week, little by little, I will press on, meeting smaller goals that will lead to the fulfillment of the bigger ones. 

So, I’m off to write a new journal entry. It will look forward to 2014 (yikes!) when I’m a mature 24 (yikes!), and it will contain lots of goals. I’ll be back in four years to let you know how it went.



Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Picture Credit

11.02.2010

Jan Laski

493 years ago, on October 31 in Wittenberg, Germany, Martin Luther nailed his now-famous 95 Theses (protests against the Catholic Church for clerical abuses) on the door of the Castle Church, marking the beginning of a centuries-long movement towards Protestant Christianity based on the glory of God alone, grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, and Christ supreme and alone. Today, over 500 million Christians worship in churches based on the theology and doctrine of the Reformation.

Our church commemorated this important event by holding a Reformation Banquet. Part of the evening's festivites was a presentation from each family on a specific reformer of their choice. We chose to do a little-known reformer by the name of Jan Laski (pronounced Yon Woskee) who nevertheless had a large influence on Europe. For your viewing pleasure, I've uploaded our skit--enjoy!


In Laski's Own Words:
“In brief, to make known to thee also the benefit and kindness of the Lord towards me, I was once a Pharisee of repute, adorned with many titles and dignities, splendidly endowed with many and rich benefices from the days of my boyhood; but now, after I have voluntarily left all this behind through the grace of God, after I have given up my country and my friends, because I saw that I could not live in the midst of them according to Christ’s mind and spirit, now I am in a strange land only a poor servant of my poor Lord Christ, crucified for me, lately here minister of the Church, to make known the doctrine of the Gospel, after the will of Him who, of His compassion, has called me out of the net of the Pharisees into His flock.”

“Thus now restored to myself by God’s grace, I venture, according to my little ability, to serve that Church of Christ which once, in my Pharisaism and ignorance, I hated, and pray God He will, in His mercy, not despise my humble mite beside the brilliant gifts of others, after the example of the widow in the Gospel, but will vouchsafe to make use of it for the edification of His Church.”

Laski died in 1560, leaving his translation of the Polish Scripture for others to finish and his dream of reforming Poland unrealized. His influence on Western Civilization and Christendom, however, was enormous, and can still be seen today.

Want to learn more about Laski? Check out this scholarly book available online and this well-informed article.

For more on the Reformation, check out this resource.

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