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


Simple Steps to Achieving Laugh Lines

Photo Credit
I was four or five, and tickled pink to be going to the birthday party of a friend—the most grandiose occasion of the month. Strangely, I don’t remember any of the highlights—the cake, the games, or the party favors. What I do remember with vivid sweetness is observing my friend’s mother. I was crinkling my forehead as I tried to put my finger on just what it was that made her seem so…stupendous…and…radiant as I observed her navigating the mass of knee-high children. The epiphany suddenly came to me while I watched her: her smile never left her face, and it wasn’t just any smile—it was a genuine, eye-sparkling smile.

Several years later, I was engrossed in watching another person, this time a father at my church. Naïvely, I asked my mother, “Why does he have all those lines around his eyes? Is it because he is always smiling?”
I was perplexed when Mama laughed in return. I was even more befuddled when she turned to the man’s wife and said, “Lauren wants to know if your husband has those lines around his eyes because he is always smiling!” 
The woman also laughed at this, firmly cementing my confusion concerning grown-ups’ unpredictable responses.
“I think you are right,” was all she said.
Despite the laughs, I decided that when I was his age, I wanted those lines that showed to all the world that you were the kind of person who always smiled.

Those laugh-lines of honor are not gained through just any smile, though. They are certainly not achieved by those smiles wherein your facial muscles twitch the edges of your lips up into a curve that just shows the whites of your teeth, then immediately slackens into a straight-lipped expression. They are not gained through essential expressions, sassy smirks, or brief beams.

Laugh lines come from hard core smiles—eye-lighting expressions, giddy grins, and boundless beams which meld lips, eyes, and heart into one. Smiles that appear for no reason other than a bubbling over of a joyful heart. Smiles that appear—not for the show of it and for others to see, as our smiles so often tend to do—but simply because you cannot help it and must express your jubilation somehow.

When I was five, I somehow knew that I wanted to be like that ever-smiling woman, and when I was nine, I realized that I wanted people to be able to say of me, “She is always smiling!” You know these sort of people as well, I am sure—the people who just seem to radiate ecstasy, whose countenance is always beaming, and whose words are always an encouraging balm to match the smile. Wouldn’t this be a wonderful legacy on a tombstone? “Here lies so-and-so, beloved mother, daughter, friend. She always smiled.”

I don’t discount tears, for their salty sorrow only makes the joy that comes in the morning all the more sweet. But Psalm 32:11 commands,

“Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.”

I love the imagery of Isaiah 12:3, which says,

“Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.”

Our sustenance for our spiritual life is to be accessed in no other way than with joy. A smile is the obvious expression of that joy. 

Photo Credit
I have resolutely set my mind to the fact that I am not going to be a seventy-year old patron of Botox, erasing with a prick those hard-earned laugh lines that tell everyone just what kind of person I am, just what kind of life I’ve lived. Those blank, wrinkle-free faces project a stoic person who lived their lives without laughing giddily or smiling unconsciously when the sun rose in the morning. 

Count me out. I’m smiling today!

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


The Calling

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Part One

As inhabitants of the 21st century, we stand on the shoulders of more than 40 million martyrs who have given their lives for God[1]. One such martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, lived only seventy years ago, and his legacy to the world continues to this day in the story of his life, his sermons, his letters, and his many books. Imagine now that you are comfortably seated next to a close friend of Dietrich's--perhaps Kathe van Horn, his beloved childhood governess--who tells you the tales of his early years as you browse a scrapbook of his life.
"Ahh, this is Dietrich with his twin sister, Sabine. He could be a mischevious one, that boy, though he looks quite angelic in the picture. But he had a heart of gold and loved Sabine like no other." She pauses and laughs, recollecting a particular episode. "I remember a time--they must have been about six, when there was a dragonfly flitting about. Paula Bonhoeffer told me later that he said to her, 'Look, Mother! There is a creature over the water! But don't be afraid, I will protect you!'"

"Are these the Bonhoeffer children?" You ask.

"Yes--they're all there but Susanne, the youngest. There's Dietrich with his mother's golden hair, second from the left. Such bright children they were. No surprise, too, considering their parents. Karl Bonhoeffer was the preeminent psychiatrist and neurologist in Germany. Mrs. Bonhoeffer came from a long line of impressive ancestors: an aunt who served as a lady-in-waiting to the Crown Princess Victoria, her father a chaplain to Kaiser Wilhelm II, her grandfather a famous theologian appointed to a post by Goethe, and another grandfather was an artist and a count. Mrs. Bonhoeffer's mother took piano lessons from Liszt and Clara Schumann, and passed her love of music on to her daughter. Mrs. Bonhoeffer was a wonderful Christian lady, she was--she taught all of the children at home until about 1913, when they moved into Berlin."

Kathe sighs a bit at the next picture. "There's Dietrich on the left there. How World War I changed them all. They lost Walter to that war, and the country lost its dignity. It was a hard time for them all. Nevertheless, they got through it, for sure. They had no choice! I always said those children seemed destined to build upon their ancestors’ greatness: in their beautiful home, first in Breslau, then in Berlin; in their careful cultivation of humility and unpretentiousness; in their love for music and fine arts; and in Mr. Bonhoeffer's demand for clear, logical, controlled thinking and dialogue. Every child was exposed to the best Germany had to offer in friends, travel, education, and culture. They were bound to be remarkable."

You wonder, "Was Dietrich very different from the others?"

Kathe chuckles. "Not really. But he certainly distinguished himself when he announced his intentions to be a theologian! It was a dangerous thing to make public in a family that would question his every motive, pick apart his qualifications, and challenge his choice."

“It was very rare for a young man of this academic elite to decide in favor of the study of theology. The study of theology, and the profession of theologian, were not highly respected in those circles. In a society whose ranks were still clearly discernable, the university theologians stood rather apart, academically and socially[2].”
Kathe continued, "In only three years, Karl-Friedrich, one of Dietrich’s three older brothers, was appointed to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, where he worked as a physicist with the likes of Albert Enstein and succeeded in splitting the atom. This genius, who received invitations from all over the world to study and work, was especially displeased with his brother’s choice of the humble profession of theology.

"But once Dietrich had decided a thing, it was decided—he probably had mulled over the idea for many years before daring to announce it to his family. In fact, one time he said, 'From the time I was thirteen years old it was clear to me that I would study theology. Only music caused me to waver during the past two years[3].' He was certainly an accomplished pianist--could have made a career of concertizing and teaching if he had wanted to."

"Wasn't he handsome in his college days?" Kathe asks, looking at the next picture with some sadness. "He spent a year at Tübingen, and the rest of his time at Berlin University. He achieved his doctorate at the age of 21! I never could have done that...but of course, I was inordinately proud of him, and kept up on his comings and goings as best I could.  

"I remember one summer--1924, I think--Dietrich and his brother Klaus spent in Rome. My but they had stories to tell when they came back! He was especially intrigued by the Catholic church, I remember him telling me. Now, mind you, he wasn't about to become Catholic. But he was honest enough to point out what the Catholics were doing right and bold enough to point out their error.

“It is hard to overestimate the importance of the Catholic church’s value for European culture and for the whole world….With admirable power, it has understood how to maintain unity in diversity, to gain the love and respect of the masses, and to foster a strong sense of community….But it is exactly because of this greatness that we have serious reservations. Has this world [of the Catholic church] really remained the church of Christ?...Has it not blocked the only path to salvation? Yet no one can ever obstruct the way to God. The church still has the Bible, and as as long as she has it we can still believe in the holy Christian church[4].” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"Did he begin to teach after he graduated?" You ask.

"Well, not yet. He was too young even to qualify! But he was a busy one, that boy," Kathe continued. "He ministered to a German congregation in Barcelona, Spain, qualified for lecturing at Berlin University, and then traveled to America. It was there that his life changed forever. He came back from America a much different Dietrich than when he left. While he was in New York, he studied at the Union Theological Seminary, but that certainly didn't impress him."

“There is no theology here,” he said. “They talk a blue streak without the slightest substantive foundation and with no evidence of any criteria. The students…are completely clueless…they are unfamiliar with even the most basic questions. They become intoxicated with liberal and humanistic phrases, laugh at the fundamentalists, and yet basically are not even up to their level[5].”

"What did he think of the churches?"

Kathe pauses to recollect. "Honey, he had the same opinion of American churches as he did of the university...until he happened upon the black churches, that is. He felt right at home there with Dr. Adam Clayton Powell Sr., the pastor of one of those churches. Rich doctrine and a passionate and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ--that man had it all. Suddenly, Bonhoeffer, the stoic theologian who steadfastly defended Biblical doctrine and held to a Biblical worldview had to face a hard truth: 'I know that at that time I turned the doctrine of Jesus Christ into something of personal advantage for myself[6],' he once said. In fact, I don't know but that he was saved after his time there in America."

You question, "Did he get some sight-seeing in while he was in the States?"

"Did he?" Kathe laughs long and hard. "He had so many escapades he wrote us about. Driving all the way to Florida and then taking a boat to Cuba. Trying to learn to drive--he must have failed that driver's test test three times! Finally, he and some friends took a cross-country trip to Mexico so they could see the Catholic situation there."

"Eventually, though, he came back to us. That picture is of him in 1932 with his boys--his confirmation class that he taught and loved. I also remember, not long after he returned, a sermon he preached that caused quite an uproar. It was during a sermon on the German patriotic day of Reformation Sunday, and Bonhoeffer delivered a scathing challenge to the church on Revelation 2:4-5."

“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.”
"Bonhoeffer condemned the congregation for their festivites when the church itself was in such dire straits. '"We do not see that this Church is no longer the Church of Luther," he said. He called it "unpardonable frivolity and arrogance" for them to blithely appropriate Luther’s famous words, "Here I stand, I can do no other," for their own ends—as if these words applied to them and the Lutheran church of their day….He seemed to want to warn everyone to wake up and stop playing church[7].'"

Kathe stopped, unwilling to go on. Perhaps it was because she knew that on that day in 1932, with the Nazi party already looming as the second largest political party in Germany, Bonhoeffer already sensed the impending terror descending upon the church and Christians of Germany. While he may not have been ready, he was certainly prepared—He had God on his side, and that was enough.

[1] Long, Justin. More Martyrs Now Than Then? Examining the Real Situation of Martyrdom, John Mark Ministries, 
[2] Gerhard von Rad in I Knew Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Zimmerman, Wolf-Dieter, and Ronald G. Smith, editors, translated by Kathe G. Smith (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), 177.
[3] The Young Bonhoeffer: 1918-1927, vol. 9, Dietrich Bohoeffer Works, translated and edited Hans Pfeifer et al. (New York: Fortress Press, 2002), 60.

[4] The Young Bonhoeffer: 1918-1927, vol. 9, Dietrich Bohoeffer Works, translated and edited Hans Pfeifer et al. (New York: Fortress Press, 2002), 528-529.
[5] Barcelona, Berlin, New York: 1928-1931, vol. 10, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, edited Clifford J. Green, translated Douglas W. Stott (New York: Fortress Press, 2008), 265-66.
[6] Bonhoeffer, A Testament to Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, revised edition, editors Geffrey B. Kelly and F. Burton Nelson (New York: Harper One, 1995), 384.
[7] Metaxas, Eric. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy: A Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reich. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010, 122.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Photograph Credits:


What's Wrong With This Picture?

Photo Credit
The room is empty, so let’s take a peek around. The bed is unmade and rumpled; a half-drunk mug of coffee sits on the dresser. There’s a stack of books on the nightstand, all excellent volumes. A biography, a manual on macrame, a textbook—at the bottom of the stack is a Bible. The alarm clock next to the books is set to an early hour. A calendar with a spray of pink roses on it hangs from the wall. Half the dates are furiously circled in red pen, and most days have several scrawlings in the tiny squares.

The portrait of a busy life is what I place before you, and with that in mind let’s play the game “What’s wrong with this picture?” As a child you found giraffes where lamp posts should have been and bananas where mouths belonged in zany pictures. Giraffes and bananas just don’t belong in those places in our reality. So if our reality is Scripture, where does busyness belong?

It seems that everyone I talk to lately agrees: their lives are not just busy, but crazy-busy. Is it the American way of life? Or is it wrong to be so busy, to want to fill up our short time here on earth with as much as possible? Jesus is our perfect example, is He not? The phrase “Jesus went” appears over and over in the Gospels. He went from one city to another, traveling to approximately 47 different places in three years of ministry! Preaching, healing, discipling, and performing miracles were all part of His schedule.

Does Luke 10:40-42 contradict Jesus’ day-to-day life? 

“But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.’”
Absolutely not. For not only was Jesus’ teaching perfect and inerrant, but His schedule was also a perfect and inerrant one. We do not know much of His schedule for the first thirty years of His life, but we can see that Jesus accomplished much in the three short years of His ministry. And we know that everything He did was perfect, in the perfect order, with perfect balance and priorities.

Was He busy? Our word for “busy” comes from an Old English word meaning, “careful, anxious, busy, occupied.” No, Jesus was not thus busied. Instead, Luke 2:49b says,

“Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” 

Jesus was not busy with His own concerns, but with those of His Father’s. And He always found time for what was important:

“Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. (Luke 6:12)”  

A full schedule is not an unscriptural one. But a schedule full of our own business, and business that crowds out time alone with the Lord needs reevaluating.

What’s wrong with this picture? Every year as I evaluate my schedule I find new things wrong, places out of balance, and things to change. I never get any less busy, but when I am prioritizing what Jesus prioritized, I don’t live a life of “running around like a chicken with her head cut off”-style madness. The room may still be slightly messy, the alarm clock will still be set to an early hour, and books will still be piled up on the nightstand…but the Bible will be squarely on the top of the tower. 

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



September...the month to acclimate into a new schedule and the routine of homeschooling. To have your autumn and enjoy it too. While there has been much acclimating and newness this month, there has been very little schedule and predictability. We have had a fantastic month, but it has been anything but routine and extremely busy.

It began with Lauren and I getting our studios (the fancy music-teacher term for "all of our students and their families") scheduled for the fall. Although we teach some through the summer, there are always those who want to take a break, and we had many new students joining us this year. With the additional hours, though, we knew we needed to find a new place to teach. (Not only does our house not have an out-of-the-way room in which to teach, but for Lauren and I to each teach 8 to 10 hours of lessons would require people coming to our house four days a week!) Thankfully, God used a friend of ours to help us get into a church. So now we are happily teaching all day Tuesday and the afternoons of Thursday (which explains the sometimes-late Tuesday posts. If I can't get something up before nine, then I have to wait until the evening). Everyone is pretty well organized and new music books have been ordered, so now we just have to start thinking about the Christmas program!

Next, Mama got together the school plan for Susanna, Micah, and Jonah, with our input. We are overseeing and teaching all the subjects for all three of them, though being occupied two days a week with music means that Mama is also busy working with them. I am excited to read through the American Adventure series with them (sadly no longer in print), which I read through as a child for fun. These kids are somewhat more reluctant readers, though they're all good at it, so the books have been incorporated into the school schedule for reading and history. 
Written from a Christian perspective, the series follows a fictional family and their descendants from Holland in 1620 to Seattle in 1945, and along the way a lot of valuable American history is learned. If you do decide to check them out, just proceed with discernment, though, because there are a few books we skip or censor, though the vast majority of them are meritable.

Hospitality is something we've been working on this month, and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. What a ministry it is not only to the guests, but also to ourselves! We love getting the house clean, cooking delicious food, getting to know people better, and playing games until the sun goes down. What better way is there to brighten your corner?
We enjoyed getting to know this family!

Last weekend, we took a quick trip to Spokane area to help host a Christian Heritage Homeschool Kick-Off Picnic. We enjoyed meeting many lovely families and had a superb day of fellowship with them. Thus, the picture at the beginning of this post of everyone competing in a relay. Our time spent with the friends hosting the picnic was also a blessing, and we were refreshed by their church and the fun afternoon at their house. Of course, we had to jaunt over to Grandma and Grandpa's house on Lake Coeur d'Alene, and even got some jet skiing in before we headed home on Monday.
l-r: Micah, Jonah, Mikaela, and Papa, with Melanie and Lauren in the background. We were putting our brains together for a trivia quiz!

More quiz takers!

We are back in our symphony again after taking two concerts off. After five years of getting to know all the symphony members, it has been fun to have Sarah and several friends from church join our ranks! We are relishing playing in a group setting again.

So now, one garage sale, two symphony practices, a date (with Jonah), and a funeral later (that is, the summation of the past seven days), I have caught you up on September! We are looking forward to going to a superior science museum on Wednesday, helping a friend move on Saturday, a Polish Festival, a work party, the opening weekend of Courageous, having another family over, a symphony children's concert and community concert, and the Foundations of Life conference over the next few weeks.

Fall is anything but routine, that's for sure!


Man Courting

Photo Credit
There’s an old Ma and Pa Kettle episode of which I have memories as grainy as the video was. But the hilariousness stuck in my head: the family had wormed their way into a predicament in which they described their farm as elaborate and extravagent in correspondence with an important person whom they wanted to impress. Of course, the day came when this person set out to pay them a visit, so the Kettle family found themselves in a dilemma. They scrambled to work on their only option: fix up some impressive facades to give their farm a much-needed facelift. Barn, outbuildings, the works—all outlandishly made of cardboard. They looked strikingly real until they all melted away in the rain that inevitably fell the day the visitor came, and the outrageousness only made the situation all the more hilarious.

I hadn’t thought of that episode in a long time, but last Sunday when I read Ephesians 6:6, I began to meditate on that idea of a façade. In that verse, Paul writes,

“Not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.”

Using Strong’s concordance, the original language conveys the idea, “Not with sight-labor as man-courting, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the spirit.” There are numerous crevices in my life that this verse sheds light on, but the internet specifically leaped into my mind when I heard this verse.

The internet is full, and I mean jam-packed, of cardboard facades. The internet is, by nature, focused on eyeservice and sight-labor since people only see of you what you want them to see, and not what you don’t want them to see. The internet is innately centered around man-pleasing and man-courting as comments, followers, friends, likes, and re-tweets become the number one priority, the judge of our success and worth. We laugh at the foolishness of the Kettles. But when it comes right down to it, strip away all the computer screens, grandiose words, and retouched photos from this vast world wide web, and you’ll be left with people, now empty-handed, all sinners in need of grace, and most of them guilty of eyeservice.

You’ll also quickly discover just how short-lived and temperamental men-pleasing is. The internet is easily training us to care too much what other people think, to purr when we’re petted and hiss when we’re kicked. I have to honestly ask, if our activities on the internet were not focused on men-pleasing, would petting elate us so much or kicking hurt so badly?

“So Lauren, what are you saying? That the internet is evil? That you recently got burned by an internet acquaintance?” None of the above, actually. But the result of all my thinking lately has finalized some conclusions in my mind.

  1. If I am trying to impress people online, then I am literally trying to stamp my image on them. By definition, this is humanism. I must repent of this sin and impress on others only the image of Christ, pressing His words deep into their hearts.
  2. Man-courting is so transient, so shallow, so unsatisfying. Encouragement, edification, and fellowship are all godly motives, but I must take care that my motive does not slide into the realm of currying favor and earning popularity.
  3. If I am a bondservant of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, then my blogging and internet activities have to be in obedience to Him, with the goal of pleasing only Him. What social standing have slaves? None at all, except what the Master gives them. Therefore, if we blog about what God has been teaching us or share a praise to His glory, it is to His glory alone, and the response or lack thereof is in His omnipotent hands. Even if no one reads what I wrote, that matters not a whit if I am writing it as a bondservant of Christ, doing His will from my heart.

Ask yourself with me, “Do my reactions and activities on the internet reveal a heart focused on sight-labor to court the fawning of others, or a heart unreservedly enslaved to the will of  

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


The Holy Spirit, Part II

The Spirit of Truth (that is, the Holy Spirit [see John 16:13]) is very personally involved in the believer's life from drawing the unsaved person to Christ, to opening his eyes to the things of God, to being the proof of his salvation. Yet while we pray to Jesus and worship God, we quickly forget about the third personality of the Trinity.

The Holy Spirit and Our Salvation
Before, during, and after, the Holy Spirit is intimately involved in our salvation. I Corinthians 2:14 shows that an unregenerate person is powerless to understand spiritual things: "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

Although the Holy Spirit is involved before salvation, Acts 2:38 very clearly shows when the Holy Spirit actually indwells a person: "Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" This exhortation from Peter occurred after the Pentecost, so the existing believers already had the Holy Spirit in them.

Stained Glass Window in St. Peter's Basilica

Have you, like me, doubted your salvation and the saving grace of God? The Holy Spirit Himself is the assurance of our salvation. He is a witness in us of our standing before and our relationship with God (I John 5:10). He is the proof that Christ died for us. Moreover, the Spirit of Adoption, as the Holy Spirit is called in Romans 8:15, is the seal of our redemption and the declaration of God's ownership of us to His glory (Ephesians 1:13-14).

The Holy Spirit and Our Prayers
In our daily prayer life, too, the Holy Spirit is involved. While there are many examples of praying to God the Father and God the Son in Scripture, there are none about praying to God the Spirit. Of course, we are talking about the Trinity, and by praying to God the Father, we are praying to God, three in one. Multiple times, moreover, we are commanded to pray in the Spirit (Jude 20, Ephesians 6:18).

Thus, when we pray in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit is actually praying through us. the word for "in" in Jude 20 and Ephesians 6:18 can also be translated "instrumentality," which implies that even though our prayers are weak and human, the Holy Spirit makes Himself available and prays through us. The Spirit makes intercession for us to Christ our Mediator and High Priest before the throne of God. In prayer, then, the Holy Spirit is not only our Helper, but also our power.

"Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." Romans 8:26
Corrie ten Boom once wrote in a letter, "We must be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is no optional command of the Bible, it is absolutely necessary. Those earthly disciples could never have stood up under the persecution of the Jews and Romans had they not waited for Pentecost. Each of us needs our own personal Pentecost, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We will never be able to stand in the tribulation without it.

"When I am weak, then I shall be strong, the Bible says. Betsy and I were prisoners for the Lord, we were so weak, but we got power because the Holy Spirit was on us. That mighty inner strengthening of the Holy Spirit helped us through. No, you will not be strong in yourself when the tribulation comes. Rather, you will be strong in the power of Him who will not forsake you. For seventy-six years I have known the Lord Jesus and not once has He ever left me, or let me down [1]."

Photo Credit: hops_76

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

[1] ten Boom, Corrie. 1974. 



Photo Credit

It’s the forgotten day, September 10th.  I don’t remember where I was, what I did. Who does?  I’m sure I smiled; I probably hugged my baby brother; I likely puckered my forehead over math problems.  But that was September 10th—blissfully faded into a blank, innocent and perfect and forgotten because of its normalcy. 

Ten years ago this Sunday, on September 11th, 2001, I wrote, “Today what rightfully belonged in comic books or scary stories jumped out into the real world.  My world.”  And I still remember Mama flipping radio station after radio station, the static filling my ears while husky voices hesitated, “We aren’t sure about anything yet…”

The fourth plane crashed three minutes after we found out about the first one, yet I had been awake, eating my cereal, when the first planes had crashed. 

It was unreal to this eleven year old.  I had no idea what the World Trade Center was, much less the Pentagon.  The length of a continent was between me and the disaster, but the fear, anguish, and pain was just as real. 

No one has to remind me to remember September 11th.  I will never forget those who gave their lives that others might live, I will tell my children and my children’s children of the businessmen on Flight 93 who were given the choice of heroism and cowardice and chose heroism, and I will not forget the names of the 2,977 who died that day, with whom any of us could easily have been numbered. 

I will never forget.  I cry whenever I hear an eyewitness account of that day; I cry when I watch a movie about that day; I cry when the names of those 2,977 people scroll across a screen.  But if I remember only to cry, then my remembrance is pointless.  

So this year, on the tenth anniversary, I say from my heart that I remember that day, and I want that remembrance to motivate me to cherish as more precious than anything in this world the September 10ths that I am given.  I never know when the next day may be a September 11th, but I will not live my life in fear of the next day, nor in the boredom of another normal routine.    

Instead, I will love the meaning behind the mundane. 
I will delight in the joy of a smile. 
I will mark the memories of an ordinary day.
I will revel in the love of God.

I will never forget filing into our tiny country church on the West coast on that quiet, late summer evening nearly ten years ago.  It could have been just an ordinary prayer meeting, but it was not.  And during that time God gave me these verses to assure me that even though I could not know what would happen the next day or the day after that, I could know one thing:

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39

I have had nearly 3,650 ordinary days since September 11th, 2001, and I pray that they are not forgotten as September 10th was.  And be there 3,650 more ordinary days in my life, I will take each one as a gift, a precious sign of the love of God.  Because I remember. 


The Holy Spirit, Part I

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

Before Sarah, Lauren, and I left for Utah in June, we knew that we wanted to spend some of our time there in pursuit of God and His Word. Lauren suggested that we study the Holy Spirit, and we all immediately knew He was Who God wanted us to learn about. So we listened to two sermons from Alistair Baggs on the topic before we left, checked out a few books from the library (as well as raided our Dad’s library), and headed off to Utah.

That first morning we sat down, however, I felt very awed and somewhat intimidated by our chosen subject. The Holy Spirit is by far the most ignored part of the Trinity, and the most misunderstood amongst Christians, and yet Scripture has much to say about Him. We started out by writing down four questions we had about the Holy Spirit, and we managed to answer three of them in varying degrees of completion. I think, however, that all three of us came away from the study unsatisfied. We were intrigued by what we had learned, but we were hungry for more, and not at all willing to rest in the feeble knowledge we had gained. That, at least, is my reasoning for delaying a blog post on this topic for as long as I have. And now, finally, I have concluded that I must just share what I have learned this summer, despite my lack of understanding of the Holy Spirit’s interaction with my spirit and my inability to communicate the freedom and awe the Holy Spirit brings to my relationship with God.

The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testament
God is the same yesterday, today, and forever: so, too, is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has always been responsible to indwell humans to reveal God and bring glory to God. With that said, there is a definite difference between the function of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Before the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit’s indwellment was temporary, as seen in the life of Saul (I Samuel 16:14). “That which was sovereignly given could be sovereignly taken away (Lewis Sperry Chafer).” In this present age, however, believers receive the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation (I John 2:20, 27) for the entirety of their lives. The Holy Spirit’s presence is not based on merit, and He does not leave when a believer sins (John 7:37-39, Romans 5:5, etc.).

Nevertheless, Christians can quench the Holy Spirit (I Thessalonians 5:19) through rebellious stubborness and get to the point of being unable to hear or detect the Holy Spirit. What a tragic thing this is! To live life as a sepulchre of a Christian, without the breath of life inside, the testimony of salvation, or the precious conviction of wrongdoing. If you are living in doubt of your salvation, consider whether you have quenched the Holy Spirit, for it is He who is a witness of our salvation (I John 5:10).

Just last week, at prayer meeting, we were gathered together to worship and beseech God. I settled on a hymn and requested that we sing it, and the gentleman next to me exclaimed, “I was just looking at that very one!” And later, as we were all still bowed in prayer, but nearing the end of our time together, someone began to sing, and we all followed him. And as we concluded, opening our eyes and looking up at each other, one girl in the circle remarked that she had just been about to begin the very same hymn. These were not coincidences! Rather, they were exciting examples of the Holy Spirit moving each one of us to worship God together with one mind.

I hope that you walk in the Spirit this week!



A Knight of the Nineteenth Century

Photo Credit

Shh...No one alert Mikaela to the existence of this post, all right?  She tends to get a little protective over her favorite books, and contemplating Ebay competition for the ones I'm about to tell you about definitely triggers her, "Let go of the books and no one gets hurt" mode! 

It all started when, as a seven or eight year old voracious reader, I would scan the titles on Mama's bookshelves.  I didn't know what all those pine-green antique books were, but the titles didn't pique the interest of a girl who just then read every mystery book she could get her hands on.  Titles like Miss Lou or Opening a Chestnut Burr didn't exactly sound like nail-biting mysteries. 

As time went on I discovered that my maternal grandmother whom I never met as well as my great-grandmother collected these antique books in a time when collecting meant searching every bookshelf at every antique store you ever saw.  It was Mikaela who first dove into the writings of E.P. Roe, an American minister turned novelist who was also an avid gardener and Civil War veteran.  He wrote, "My object in writing, as in preaching, is to do good, and the question is, Which can I do best?  I think with the pen, and I shall go on writing, no matter what the critics say.1

Every book of his I have ever read I have loved.  His books chronicle believable spiritual growth and change in his characters, digging so truthfully into human nature that you can't help but wonder how he could have written your own thoughts hundreds of years before you were born, or how he could write such a poignant and relevant cultural commentary while living in a different society. 

But this post was not supposed to a "Rave on E.P. Roe in General" post as much as a "Rave on A Knight of the Nineteenth Century In Particular" sort of post.  As soon as I finished this book several weeks ago, it replaced my previous favorite book of his as my current favorite. 

The preface tells it all: 

"He best deserves a knightly crest,
Who slays the evils that infest
His soul within.  If victor here,
He soon will find a wider sphere. 
The world is cold to him who pleads;
The world bows low to knightly deeds."

The opening sentence is as gripping a one as I have ever read, so much so that I had to read it aloud to Mikaela as soon as I began it:

"Egbert Haldane had an enemy who loved him very dearly, and he sincerely returned her affection, as he was in duty bound, since she was his mother.  If, inspired by hate and malice, Mrs. Haldane had brooded over but one question at the cradle of her child, How can I most surely destroy this boy? she could scarcely have set about the task more skilfully and successfully." 

From there E.P. Roe masterfully contrasts nominal Christians with vibrant Christians, weak men held in utter bondage to their sin with men and women who are free in Christ.  If ever a story was written that vividly illustrated the battle of Romans 6, this is it.  I laughed, I nearly cried, and I stayed up late to finish it because I had to know how it ended!

Romance is merely a sidenote in this book, although E.P. Roe had me worried when he introduced a foolish marriage proposal in the very beginning. Therein lies the only point which I dislike about this book--his characters don't wholeheartedly condemn the marriage of a Christian to a non-Christian, although he definitely shows that as a foolish choice which will bring great grief.  Suffice it to say, that was only a brief few sentences and was not a part of a major storyline, but I still felt it worth pointing out. 

A Knight of the Nineteenth Century is now one of my favorite books, and I can't wait to hear your thoughts.  Have you ever read anything by E.P. Roe?  Are you going to try reading this book?  Do you have any current book favorites to share with me?
 Click here to read a free public domain copy of the book. 

1. E.P. Roe: Reminiscences of His Life, by Mary Abigail Roe; page 127. 

Blog Widget by LinkWithin