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

2.26.2011

Almost in Real Life

We enjoyed ourselves immensely while making this video for you all and are so excited for you to watch it!  Now, start loading the video while you read these three disclaimers:

    1.    It is long.  Very long.  Amazingly long.  We didn't realize we had such a talent for endlessly jabbering to a camera until we tried it yesterday.  But we were answering your wonderful questions, and talking to our delightful readers, and we're obviously good at talking on and on, so... You don't have watch all of it.  You don't have to watch any of it, although we certainly hope you do.  In fact, let's make it simple and we'll just leave the choice up to you! 

   2.     We were extremely on top of the video yesterday, and quite proud of ourselves for our efficiency.  Until we struck the brick wall of actually saving the video and uploading it.  (And I quote: "Youtube says it's going to take 10 hours to upload!!")  And that, you see, is clearly why the video did not go up yesterday. 

   3.    We've never attempted anything like this before (unless chattering as a three year old in front of your Daddy's video camera counts!), so bear that kindly in mind as you watch this our first foray into this medium of communication. 

With those disclaimers, hopefully your video is all buffered and ready to go, so enjoy!


&
                          

2.24.2011

Gentlewoman

Guest Post by Kelly
Last, but not least, our final guest poster this week is a godly young woman who has been an immense encouragement and challenge to me.  Though several states separate us and our meetings and chats are too few and far between, she is the most genuinely joyful woman, with an endearing southern accent and a bubbly smile for all she meets.  Kelly and her sister's blog was one of the first Mikaela and I read, so I am so excited for you all to read what the Lord laid upon her heart to share today! 

Happy 2nd Anniversary One Bright Corner!!

I would like to express my gratefulness to Lauren and Mikaela for their faithful service in writing such an uplifting and excellent blog. Through this blog, many lives have been and will be impacted for our Lord and His ways. Just as it is on my own blog, the entries posted are usually a reflection of the lessons the Lord is teaching us in each of our lives.
In fact, speaking of the lessons the Lord is teaching us, that’s just what I would like to talk with you about today! Not too long ago, I was blessed to hear a sermon which really impacted my life and provided me with a lot of challenging thoughts to ponder over. These truths made a difference in my life and I pray they might make a difference in your life as well!

My insights are based on a sermon given by Dr. Joseph Norvell the day after Christmas. He began by reminding us of God’s gentle working in our lives. Psalm 18:35 “Thy gentleness has made me great.” I am assuming that we already understand that God is great in mercy and lovingkindness. (Jeremiah 31:3 "The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." ) There are so many other verses that refer to His mercy and lovingkindness, they would hardly fit on this blog if I listed them all! (-:

God desires that we should respond to His gentle leading in our lives. His ultimate goal is to conform each of us to the image of His son. (Romans 8:29) (That’s right! It’s the verse right after the one we all quote so often. Why not add it to your memory?)

As we grow in our relationship with our Lord, and respond to His gentle leading, we will find these are more often a part of our lives.

Christ will help us to:

  1. Make no attempt to cause others to think better of ourselves.
  2. Make no attempt to cause others to think less of someone else.  After all, love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
  3.  Feel no attempt to always have to be right or even to win an argument!
(How about that? You don’t have to win! Shortly after hearing this sermon, we walked into a restaurant and noticed a sign on the wall right by our booth that read “The man who wins all his arguments may lose most of his friends." :-)

I hope you understand what I am explaining here. These things have to do with standing on Christ’s righteousness, not hanging onto your own. (Romans 3:10 "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.") Here is one more.

     4.    Christ is working in our lives, when we make no attempt to set ourselves above others, but instead serve the other person.

Doesn’t this remind you of our Lord on so many occasions? (John 13: 12-14 for just one example.) (Phil. 2:1-11, Matt.23:11, 1 Peter 4:10, Gal. 5:13, Mark 10:45 for serving others.)

One final thought. Don’t be surprised if when yielding to the Lord’s working in your life, you feel a battle between the flesh and the spirit. Remember, you don’t have to rely on your own strength to change yourself! (Or, as we say in Texas, “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps!!” :- ) Aren’t we grateful that God is the one, who by His mighty power and strength changes each of us? (Philippians 2:13 "For it is God who works in you, both to will and to do, of His good pleasure.")

God’s blessings on each of you as you respond to the gentle working of God in your life!

Photo Credit: Tangent~Artifact

2.23.2011

Apron Strings

Guest Post by Hiedie

Let me introduce you to an amazing woman, who also happens to be my aunt. She is the stay-at-home mother of three absolutely wonderful children. She is a very talented writer and helped to mold our writing as we grew up--getting Aunt Hiedie's approval of our musings on paper was the highest compliment we could hope for. Understandably, she does not have much time for blogging, so please enjoy this rare opportunity to learn from her in the online world! (Aren't we blessed? We get to learn from her all the time in the real world!)


Lately I have had an attraction to aprons, retro fashioned fabrics, full and waist styles and especially those whispering frill and femininity, yes even the ruffled. Whether hand sewn for sale at a church bazaar or hanging on the rack at my local grocery store, these kitchen garments beckon me to glance at their price tags. There is something about wrapping a simple piece of cotton tightly around my torso that just makes me happier. Recently while reading a piece by Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley (founder of the Methodist church and a writer of many of our beautiful hymns - respectively) my affinity for this simple kitchen wrap gained monumental importance.

Learning that Mrs. Wesley would flip her apron up and over her head so that her children knew not to bother her because she was in prayer, for an hour no less, brought me a chuckle. What a clever mothering tip, as if she were turning over a shop sign to display whether she was “opened” or “closed.” I began to daydream about aprons of many meanings, of course my family would understand each color or fabric’s representation as I flipped it up over my own head: Mom needs a time-out; Mom needs to dry her tears; Mom needs to seek God for some advice; Mom needs a nap; Mom thinks Dad’s not romantic enough; Mom thinks Dad is super dreamy; and sadly but true, the apron I would likely don the most would be Mom needs Chocolate or coffee or both! My apron drawer - no my apron cupboard - would overflow with aprons each bearing its own special meaning. Well, I can only dream; however, I do know how grateful I am to experience such a vast array of emotions as a woman choosing to follow God’s plan for her family.

Staying at home with my 11 and 5 year old daughters and my 5 month old son is one of my greatest joys, if not the greatest. It’s difficult for me to remember the time when I was a working woman not even interested in having children, let alone staying home all day with them. Starting a family at 30 and working until I was 38, I experienced the whole super-woman I can have it all adoration from society. Thankfully my Lord was there to wake me up, reminding me I was gaining approval yet still feeling unsettled. But how could this be? We were taking lovely vacations, wearing great clothes and moving on to bigger and better, or were we? Ironically as we attempted to keep up with the Jones’s, God placed our family in a conservative neighborhood where we felt surrounded by families who had made the decision to make God and family the priority; wives were submitting, women were staying at home, and relationships were working. Surrounded by such mentors and role models, together we made the most difficult decision I have ever had to make; I would turn in a letter of resignation after 14 years of working outside of the home. My supervisor was so shocked he refused to accept that I wanted to leave a field where I had achieved so much success, stating he would grant a year’s leave instead, certain I would reevaluate and return to the profession. Laughing I told him that would not be happening – this move would be permanent (it took 3 more meetings before I convinced him of this).

Well that was 4 years ago and I thank God every day for allowing me the pleasure of running a household. Certainly our family has its share of struggles - we sometimes feel emotionally or physically drained, worry about the bills, get cranky and selfish - but joy always comes, for we know God honors the choice we have made for our family. True joy did not always come, it seemed to be accompanied by worry and fear before we let go of our plan for our family and followed God’s course. The struggles really can be heavy but faith has made the burden light.

The peace we have felt as we put our faith in God to lead and provide for our family far surpasses any monetary gains or false pride I accrued as a working mom. I believe God placed me in the workforce for so many years only to lead me down this path of complete fulfillment and contentment. Too many women my age believe they have missed out on some aspect of their lives and head back to school, seek hobbies outside of the home or even walk away from their marriages; I am grateful God showed me that what is out there is not what I desire. I can adore and appreciate my role as a woman whose heart is to serve God, her husband and her family. Tied to my apron strings – yes, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

2.22.2011

We're All Below the Poverty Line

Guest Post By Ruthie H.
I am thrilled to introduce Ruthie to you through her guest post here on One Bright Corner.  She is a firebrand for the Lord, and a dear friend whom I have known for fifteen years.  (Wow, it's really been that long?)  Her life and words are continually an encouragement to me, and this blog post comes special delivery from Uganda, where she has been serving since last January.  Please give her a warm welcome and enjoy her unique perspective in this insightful post! 


Are the poor in the “corner” you are to “brighten”?

If so, are you effectively sharing God’s love and light with them? As I have spent the last year working on an island in southern Uganda, this second question has often been on my mind.

Before we gauge our effectiveness we must ask, “Who are the poor?”
Perhaps the word “poor” stirs up images of Africa’s countless orphans, Latin America’s slum dwellers, the homeless in America’s largest cities, or the single-parent family living near you.

Recently I was humbled to learn that I, you, and indeed the entire world are “poor,” and that the definition of “poverty” is much broader than just a “lack of basic needs.”

Could it really be that the people of the island, who I am serving, are suffering not only from a lack of money, clean water, education and healthcare? But that the root of their destitution is much deeper?

Few books have really affected me in a transformational way. But, one that has captured my attention and excited me with its look at Biblical truths is When Helping Hurts – How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself, co-authored by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.

Indeed the Bible holds the key for a true understanding of poverty and its alleviation. Clearly the destitute are very close to God’s heart since the words “poor” and “needy” occur 276 and 83 times, respectively, in the Bible. Repeatedly God commands His people to care for the less fortunate. But, how do we go about this?

According to the Bible, “poverty” lies in our brokenness. We are broken? Yes, we are. Ever since that day when Adam and Eve rebelled against God and sin was ushered into the world, all of humankind has been kept captive in a perpetual state of brokenness.

During our lives, we experience brokenness in four fundamental relationships, ordained by God since creation and considered - “the building blocks for all of life.[i]

But, with Adam and Eve’s rebellion, “The Genesis account records that all four of Adam and Eve’s relationships immediately became distorted: their relationship with God was damaged, as their intimacy with Him was replaced with fear; their relationship with self was marred, as Adam and Eve developed a sense of shame; their relationship with others was broken, as Adam quickly blamed Eve for their sin; and their relationship with the rest of creation became distorted, as God cursed the ground and the childbearing process.[ii]

When these “building blocks” are in proper place “people are able to fulfill their calling of glorifying God by working and supporting themselves and their families with the fruit of that work.” But, when these “blocks” are askew, people are unable to be and to do what God created them for as they struggle in a world that is not running as it was meant to. Individuals, families and communities are plagued by brokenness, but so are the world’s systems – political, economic, religious and social. They can’t help but be imperfect, when it is broken people who are running them.

So, in a world staggering under thousands of years of damaged relationships and systems, is there hope? Yes, there is, and again we go back to the Bible for the cure.

The same Creator God who spoke this incredible world into existence, and who established these vital relationships, has also been working since the millisecond after the fall, to redeem, to sustain, and to reconcile His creation. His Son Jesus Christ came to earth for this very purpose.

“He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.” – Colossians 1:15-20 (emphasis mine)

As the ultimate reconciler, Christ not only reunites us with our Heavenly Father, through the forgiveness of sins, but He is also sustaining and reconciling all of creation. Brokenness has affected every inch of our world and Christ is working to make each and every thing new. This process will continue until He establishes a new heaven and a new earth – places marked by perfection, unity and harmony.

If we are born-again Christians, having personally experienced Christ’s reconciling power, then we have an incredible opportunity to be part of His mission of reconciliation.

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-20

When we realize all of humanity is broken, it levels the playing field. As a Western Christian I am not “superior” because of my money, technology or ideas, and I cannot “rescue” the materially poor. I must humbly see my own destitution and need for continued personal reconciliation.

Understanding poverty stems from damaged relationships should cause ministry to be based on building those relationships, and not on implementing methods or programs. Additionally, since poverty cannot be alleviated by only meeting physical needs, which does not bring lasting change, we must serve in a holistic manner, also ministering to the individual’s relational, emotional and spiritual needs.

“Poverty alleviation is the ministry of reconciliation: moving people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.[iv]

As Christ has been reconciling the world since the fall, it means He has already been active in the very areas we want to reach with the gospel of reconciliation. In joining Christ’s work, we come alongside the poor, and encourage reconciliation, as well as proper stewardship of the resources and abilities God has already planted in an individual’s life, and in these communities.

We are to work together, ourselves alongside the materially-poor and non-poor, to fulfill our incredible calling – to glorify God in every area and relationship of our lives.















[i]“When Helping Hurts,” by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, pg. 57
[ii]“When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, pg. 61
[iii]“When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, pg. 57
Picture Credit: Evan Lavine

2.21.2011

Our Corner Turns Two

Well, if you've clicked on this post instead of--heaven forbid!--skimming these first sentences in your feed, then you've noticed the most obvious excitement for this week: our brand, spanking-new blog design! Ara from My Designer Girl created all of this for us, though, sadly she shut down her business at the beginning of this month. (We're hoping the two are not related. ;)

All is not lost, though, because she's offering a giveaway for you guys! Ara will provide the "Surprise Designal"--what we chose for our blog--which includes a new, custom-designed header, background paper, and installation--plus three to eight surprise extras of her choice. Did you notice our new tabs, our post dividers, our sidebar titles, our blog button, our new signatures, and more? So many cool details--we can't wait to see who wins this and what Ara comes up for you!

Also, we put ourselves to work and came up with something we're quite proud of--a piece of jewelry that is not only artistic and beautiful, but also will be a reminder to brighten your corner! We're giving away two of these charms, with love. (Due to some unfortunate and unforseen setbacks. the official photos of these delightful charms will have to wait until a bit later this week. However, they look something {and only something!} like this photo.)

So, how to enter? We will have three separate winners; you cannot win more than one item; and one entry will give you a chance to win any one of these three prizes. For the first entry, you must be a follower of our blog and leave a comment on this post with a question for us or a suggestion for a future blog post. After this entry, there's also some extra credit! You can gain an extra entry by
  • Putting our new blog button (you'll find the code on the sidebar!) on your blog
  • Following Ara on her personal blog, Shilah
  • Announcing the giveaway on your blog
For each extra entry, please leave a separate comment telling us that you did it! (Do not include all your entries in one comment, as this will make our job more difficult when we sift through all the entries.) Your comments must be entered by midnight PST, Monday, February 28, and we'll announce the winners in Tuesday's post on March 1.

Remember how we're asking for questions or suggestions in your entry comment? We did this last year, too, and we got so many great ideas that kept us busy through over the past year. However, we're not just planning on blogging through these ideas this year. We're also planning on uploading a video on Friday with answers to some of the questions you might pose! As much as we try to open up through our writing, there's just nothing quite like seeing someone with their personality and idiosyncracies. Here's hoping we won't scare you off!

We hope that you enjoy our new design, our giveaways, and our special guest posts this week. Honestly, we're doing all this for you, because without our readers, our followers, and most importantly, our commenters, we would not have persisted in blogging for two years. If you've been lurking for awhile now without introducing yourself, now's your chance! Your insights, encouragements, friendships, and "just-wanted-to-let-you-know-I'm-reading-comments" mean so much to us and make us excited to blog every Tuesday and Friday. This week is our big "thank you" to you--thank you, thank you, thank you! To God be the glory!

&



THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED

2.18.2011

The Vast Car Conspiracy

Frankly, I don’t believe it’s even possible that the women who lived before the 20th century could have developed the virtues of patience and humility and not hyperventilating. You see, they lived before the era of cars. Furthermore, Henry Ford’s invention of the automobile—I believe it was just a vast conspiracy to teach women these particular qualities.
I know, because I drive that sort of car.

In all fairness, yes, it’s our family van, but please don’t ask me what make it is—I don’t know these things. All I know is that its quirks are a little too bizarre to be accounted for any other way than via conspiracy theory.  A conspiracy makes so much more sense than a bad radiator, don't you think? 

The windshield wipers, you see, just happen to require this special touch that involves sitting in the van for an extra sixty seconds (when you’re already sixty seconds late, mind you) and turning the dial to just the right setting, then…bam! toggling it to off just as the wipers reach a 90 degree angle with the hood of the car. It’s harder than parallel parking, and it is for my patience.

And there’s this other thing. Sometimes, you’ll be driving along on one of those beautiful sunny days (we do have them occasionally!), feeling quite superior in the freshly-washed minivan, wearing a snazzy outfit, smiling benevolently at all you see. And suddenly—the windshield wipers start a-swiping. Back and forth, back and forth, in a maniacal frenzy as I duplicate the frenzy trying to stop them. Everyone around looks up at the sky, wondering if that strange green minivan chortling down the road with wipers going at full speed is trying to forecast the weather or something. This is for my humility.

It’s also possible that, one day when I’m driving this car, the turn signals will suddenly cease to exist. And it’s a very good possibility also that when I go to roll down the windows to blushingly duplicate said signals with my arms—the windows won’t roll down. And the radio won’t turn on. And…and…and. This is the not hyperventilating part. But it’s also the learning to laugh at the little inconveniences part.

I have many more tales I could regale you with of the little green van with the mind of its own (personally, I think it must be seeking revenge for all the times I’ve hit the curb while parking). And frankly, I don’t really mind its quirks anymore. It makes life interesting…you never know what to expect when you get in the car…and it’s become the running joke among our family to discover a new quirk in Mr. GreenJeans.

James 1:2-4 has also gained in meaning:“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Mr. GreenJeans is definitely in the “various trials” business, which puts me square in the “testing of my faith” business, which means that no longer are all my adventures due to a vast conspiracy, but a vast Providence. 

Therefore, even though I am somewhat of a perfectionist (which translates: I get irritated easily with my own faults and the faults of others and other things that are out of my control.) Anyways…perfectionist…I’ve come to appreciate life in this imperfect environment with cars whose power steering will go out just to make you pray harder and dishwashers that stop working just to make you have a hymn-singing session while you handwash eight people’s dishes and computers that shut down right in the middle of the typing of a school essay just to make you praise God even in having to rewrite the essay. I’ve come to appreciate it so much that I, in fact, feel truly sorry for the ladies who lived one hundred years ago who had no such vast Providence orchestrated to perfect their character. (They had massacres and fires and crop failures and childbirth with no one around for miles, though, so I suppose that makes up for it. I’d personally take Mr. GreenJeans any day.) And I furthermore feel truly sorry for the ladies who are billionaires and can simply buy a new model, a new dishwasher, a new computer. It would be awfully hard to learn character that way. So, out of the goodness of my heart, if there are any billionaires reading, I’m sure my dad wouldn’t mind graciously leasing out Mr. GreenJeans as a bonafide, guaranteed character builder. After all, having to stop along side the road every ten minutes on a hot summer day with the heat at full blast and the hood still steaming is guaranteed to build something in you.


P.S. As Mikaela mentioned before, check back on Monday! The week’s festivities may include (but trust me, are not limited to!) posts every day, some amazing guest posters whom I hope you’ll welcome enthusiastically, several fabulous giveaways, and a special surprise at the end of the week wherein Mikaela and I will get to meet some of you for the first time…I can’t wait!

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

2.15.2011

Don't Tangle With Character

A few weeks ago, I went to see Tangled in the theater with some friends. It was funny, charming, entertaining, romantic, creative, and beautiful to see. And I came out with those warm fuzzies that most Disney princess movies leave me with; Tangled seemed to be continuing the tradition of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. As a female, I was somewhat bothered by Rapunzel's attitude towards her "mother," despite the fact that the woman she disobeys and runs away from is not actually her mother, but rather her kidnapper. Rapunzel doesn't know this, however, so we discussed the quandrary as we walked out of the theater. Was it right, was it wrong? How will it affect viewers?

Now, I'm not the type to swoon over fake guys set up in fake storylines with fake good looks. I've never "fallen" for an actor, nor have I wished that Cinderella's prince would leave her and come bounding out of the TV screen for me, or that Darcy would come to his senses and end up with a nice, modern, American girl. However, the unfortunate result is that I'm much less critical of masculine characters. I bristle at the feminism portrayed in so many films, and I react to the sorry worldliness of so many of the females in films. I noticed and rejected some of these same attributes in Tangled. However, it didn't even occur to me to think about Flynn Rider (Rapunzel's savior and love).

Until a guy pointed it out to me. Here is a man who is an unremorseful thief, an unashamed traitor to his country, and an excellent liar. He is conceited, selfish, and lazy, but he is also good-looking and seems to have "chemistry" with Rapunzel, so I and the rest of the theater audience (read: little girls) didn't really notice. To be fair, the 100 minutes teach him a lot of life lessons, and he loses the conceit, the selfishness, and the laziness. He learns to love someone other than himself, and he learns the beauty of helping others when there is no benefit to him.

Hmmm.

There is no apology. There is still not much remorse. The implication is that the love of a beautiful woman suddenly transformed him. And what's wrong with that? Almost every Hollywood love story worth its weight in candy hearts and rose petals has the rogue-boy-meets-innocent-girl-and-melts-into-a-good-boy-before-her-angelic-charms. But I have seen this storyline play out in real life too many times to be deceived--very rarely does it work out so well for the innocent girl. Almost always, the innocent girl is the one charmed into thinking that her love transformed this man, only to discover on her honeymoon that he is still a rogue. He has never changed, and he very likely will never change.

And then there's the guy's perspective. Tangled has been billed as a movie for girls and boys--but what are the boys supposed to think after watching the hero steal and fight and lie his way through the first sixty minutes, only to magically change in the final third of the movie? Do we really want men to think that they can spend their prime in dissipation until they finally decide to succumb to that legendary ball and chain? This is certainly not the type of man I am looking for, and Flynn Rider should be the last choice--not the first--for a princess.

Yes, I've turned 160 degrees in my opinion of this latest Disney offering (I'm not to the 180 stage yet, because my eyes are still glittering with the amazing paper lantern scene and my ears are still ringing from the soundtrack). I've never properly analyzed male characters, but now I realize that they are just as abused as all the terrible female characters I've groaned over through the years. Can we have a love story where two flawed, imperfect human beings who nevertheless possess strength and character fall in love not out of their mutual hatred for each other but because of their tandem worldviews and mutual admiration for each other's strengths? Pop some popcorn! I think I hear Little Women calling my name.




P.S. Next week we will be celebrating two years of blogging on One Bright Corner. There are so many exciting things planned, starting on Monday!

Painting by Jean-HonorĂ© Fragonard (1732–1806)

2.11.2011

Jane Doe, Meet Your Sin Nature

“Someone’s shooting up the bank!” A frantic man screams at you as you pull up in front of your local bank. Sure enough, machine gun fire ricochets through the air, and you can just make out a crowd of masked men inside the building.

“It’s okay,” you reassure the hyperventilating man, slinging your cute purse over your shoulder. “I just have to make a quick deposit—I’ll just slip in and be right back.” With that, you bounce off across the parking lot, not a care in the world.

Unless you are secretly Clark Kent just waiting to do your magic in between the two sets of glass doors that lead to the bank, you’re not going to make it out in one piece. You’re going to be riddled with bullet holes, and people will sigh at your funeral that “it didn’t have to be.”

But here, as you may have guessed, is the part where Nathan points his finger at David and says, “You are that man.”

I don’t know about you, but I seem to have a Superman-complex when it comes to temptation. I think that somehow I can go on Youtube when I’m supposed to be accomplishing other things and only watch one necessary video. Three hours later, I emerge filled with machine gun fire. “I guess that wasn’t such a great idea,” I decide.

I subscribe to the fallacy that I can visit my favorite store even though I’m not spending money right now. Mayday in the temptation department!

I somehow continue believe that when my alarm rings in the morning, I can turn it off and lie back down on my pillow “just to wake up.” I’m not sure why it hasn’t clicked yet, since I always end up popping my eyes open an hour later.

I know every fact about myself—pet peeves (bad grammar!), foods that merit a “no thank you” helping (green olives!), and my favorite of everything. Yet, somehow, when it comes to knowing my own sin nature and its weaknesses, I hem and haw, and dig up some decent-sounding decoys of temptations so I can sound righteous. I like to shove my greatest weaknesses into the farthest corner of the darkest closet, only thinking about them when spring cleaning comes around. And when that day comes, and for two weeks I refrain from giving into temptation, I feel very self-righteous indeed, but don’t gird myself up for the long haul.

I love how Pastor Matt Chandler discusses this topic in his own life in this video, starting especially at 1:45. So take a look at this (and, by the way, if you are unfamiliar with his story, check it out here—it’s sure to bring tears to your eyes).


Ever since I saw that snippet a few months ago, I have been unable to get his honest admission out of my mind: “I can’t follow sports too closely. I’m just too immature.” He didn’t say “I won’t” or “I choose not to, and no one should because it is frankly a complete waste of time.” He said quite simply, “I can’t.” John says the same thing: “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. (I John 3:9)” The thought had never before occurred to my dense brain to admit that I have certain areas of weakness, certain areas where temptation is so strong and so inhibitive to spiritual growth, that I am simply not capable of even dipping my toe into those things. To realize this and imagine that I can still control how much I give in is to imagine that I can walk into a bank heist to make a quick deposit and come jauntily out again. Foolish in the extreme.

Pastor Chandler also said, “I always want to be really aware of where my affections are, and the effect that things have on my affections.” Just like I get on the scale or look in the mirror, I need to seriously evaluate my affections. What effect did that movie have on my affections? What effect will this trip have on my affections? What effect did that conversation have on my affections?

Every person lives with her sin nature every moment of every day, but rare is the person who actually knows her sin nature’s tactics, tricks, and tastes. After living with my wily sin nature for twenty years, I think that I’m finally ready to meet it, examine it under a microscope, and seek the Lord’s grace in defeating it. Job 13:23 is the cry of my heart, “How many are my iniquities and sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin.” I’m done walking into banks under machine gun fire. I can’t anymore.


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

2.08.2011

Fuel for My Fire

Lauren hit upon the perfect summation of the concept of brightening one's corner this morning--we are firebrands. Some of us are "revolutionary; one who agitates against the current situation; a torch or other burning stick with a flame at one end [1]." Some of us are "flaming or smoldering material such as leaves, pine cones, or glowing charcoal that could start another fire [2]." I hope that you are a firebrand too, whether you are just beginning to smolder with the possibility of starting many a future fire, or whether you are flaming with a revolutionary glow for God. I'm always talking about what I can do and what you can do to brighten our corners. The truth is, however, that none of us can do this alone. We must rely on the fellowship, accountability, and inspiration of other Christians that God has provided; we must depend upon God Himself; and sometimes, we are bolstered from a total stranger or a random event. These things keep me going, renewing my courage to do all I can to brighten this corner God has given me. So what are these things this morning (they change daily, weekly, monthly)? I'm so glad you asked!




Modest, pretty clothing always brightens my day, and I just recently renovated this skirt. I had made it wrap-style five years ago, and while I was still in love with the fabric, I had grown tired of the skirt itself, so I ventured into the world of sewing without a pattern--that's right, ladies and gentlemen, I "winged it" and am completely happy with the results (which said happiness may or may not have involved dancing and spinning like a five year-old to test the essential "twirl factor"). Don't underestimate the power of dressing beautifully and modestly--it will not only make your day infinitely better, but it will also show respect to all you see and may even brighten their day as well!

I'm listening to Handel's Water Music right now. The peaceful yet vibrant, joyful music seeps into my soul and makes me simply blissful. How incredible is it that a man who lived 325 years ago is still illuminating the darkest, dankest crevices of the world?

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,only what’s done for Christ will last. And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,if the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee [3].
Now that's the epitome of a firebrand!


The steaming hot Yorkshire Gold tea I'm sipping right now from a teacup gifted to me by a special someone. Well, how can my morning not be brighter?

The passage I memorized and have been meditating upon has been convicting me greatly--and what better way is there to reach into the ravines of my soul and turn them inside out into mountains for God's glory than to immerse oneself in Scripture? Deuteronomy, in particular, is a powerful book, and Deuteronomy 8:11, 12, 17, and 18 has something for everyone: "Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest--when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them....then you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.' And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day."

These shoes...ah, these shoes. An utterly vainglorious, gratuitous picture of these amazing shoes. Alright, so these certainly don't brighten my corner in the truest, most noble sense of the word. But they make me happy every time I wear them or look at them, so I thought I'd spread their happiness to you!

The sixteen children I'm teaching these week--nine of which are today--brighten my corner immensely. Short or tall; big blue eyes or small, shining brown ones; five or sixteen--it really doesn't matter. The pleasure of passing on the art of playing violin or piano; and the delight of learning to know who they are and what they dream of and think of and do; and the honor of being their sounding board for whether or not twelve year-olds should read Twilight or how to deal with loss--I am teaching these people so much more than music lessons, and the challenge of it all delights me. Ultimately, however, these children are so much more than passive students, because they are my teachers as well, and having sixteen teachers brightens my life extraordinarily!


I feel that I could go on and on. I haven't even touched on specific people. The woman who embraces me in her arms every time I see her and reminds me exuberantly that "We are God's girls!"; and the man who spends hours working to make some upcoming projects of mine excellent with his ideas, inspiration, and skill; and the friends with whom, just this week, I have discussed stimulating topics ranging from cinematic worldview to growing up; and my family; and my church; and the little girl with big eyes who smiled at me last night at the Y. It never ends, does it? Is it any wonder, then, with all these firebrands bolstering and fueling me, that I should strive to brighten my corner? In fact, to waste these resources, to hide my light, to live in egotistical slothfulness would be the terrible sin Deuteronomy 8 talks about. Even though my world is so light-filled, no one but I can brighten my corner. I am a steward of this corner God has given to me, and I will be called to give account one day. So please excuse me, will you? I'm a firebrand--and I have a corner to brighten!



Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
[3] Studd, C.T. Only One Life, 'Twill Soon Be Past.

2.04.2011

Don't Act Your Age

“Act your age!” people chidingly say. It’s meant to be an impetus, a device used to shame someone into acting with more maturity. But I’m turning twenty-one this year and I’ve decided something: I’m not going to act my age. I’m turning twenty-one, but I reject the behavior of the typical twenty-one year old. I reject the box that society wants to group twenty-one year olds and twenty year olds and sixteen year olds in.

In fact, I’m so disillusioned by the whole “tell me your age and I’ll tell you how mature you are and what you should have accomplished by now” mentality that I think we need a new scale of measurement. After all, saying that I am twenty merely means I have been around the sun twenty times, and how irrelevant is that?

Moreover, if we are constantly striving to act our age, then our standard is changing yearly to adjust to the new standard which, by the way, is peer- and society-based. In Lafayette’s day, for instance, I might not have objected so strongly to the standard. Back then, “Act your age!” meant “Go to America and help lead the American army to victory!” In Nathan Hale’s day, “Act your age!” mean “Give up your life and be a noble man to the end!” In Jane Austen’s day, “Act your age!” meant “Finish that book you started about that girl named Lizzie!” And I’m all too afraid that in my day “Act your age!” for anyone between eighteen and twenty-two merely means “Figure out what you want to do someday, and enjoy your youth!”

Is it any wonder that I—and so many of you, I’m sure—am tired of acting my age? Instead, I choose to act like Christ.

His years as a twenty year old aren’t recorded, but we can assume that those years spent between twelve and thirty were not wasted in frivolity or aimless searching for purpose. Those years were filled with guided, purposeful maturing and preparation for future ministry.

So in 2011, the age of the radically immature, I refuse to act my age. I refuse to devote the next years of my life to selfish pursuits. I refuse to learn to disregard my parents’ counsel, and I refuse to view “moving out” of their home as the height of maturity.

I want to buck the fad of age generalization in other ways, too. I want to tell a child, “Eighteen is simply the latest you should graduate from high school—really, you can graduate much earlier and then start the rest of your life!”

I want to encourage my siblings that I gained certain privileges at certain ages, but they may gain them at different ages, since our parents also reject the idea of a magic age entitling them to certain privileges.

And instead of raising my standard just a little bit every time I finish another trip around the sun, I want to raise my standard to the incredibly high level of the Son of God right now. So while you won’t find me acting my age, I pray you will find me acting like Christ.

For your interest and better understanding of our society's low standards of maturity:

At age 12, Albert Einstein taught himself Euclidean geometry and dedicated himself to solving the riddle of the “huge world” and mathematician Carl Witte received his Ph.D.
At age 15, baker’s apprentice Hanson Crockett Gregory invented the first ring doughnuts by knocking the
center out of a fried doughnut and Anne Frank wrote the final entry in her diary.
At age 16, Joseph-Louis Lagrange became a professor of mathematics in Turin.
By age 17, Felix Mendelssohn had already written twelve symphonies
At age 18, Blaise Pascal invented the world’s first calculator
At age 20, Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice, Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to co-found Microsoft, and Lafayette came to America to help win the War for Independence.
At age 21, Thomas Edison created his first invention—an electric vote recorder, and Nathan Hale died.


Picture Credit
Historical Facts Credit

2.01.2011

Why I Believe

"A copy of the Bible translated from Greek to German by religious reformer Martin Luther in 1521 lies open to the New Testament in a dimly lit room in Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, Germany. Luther lived incognito at the castle for nearly a year after he was declared an outlaw by the Roman emperor for refusing to recant his Reformation writings." Picture Credit.


“Over 2,000 times in the Old Testament alone, the Bible asserts that God spoke what is written within its pages. From the beginning (Gen. 1:3) to the end (Mal. 4:3) and continually throughout, this is what Scripture claims[i].” Psalms 12:6-7 says, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” Thus, God’s Word is inerrant—“inerrable: not liable to error[ii].”

Although we cannot expect the world to rightly judge spiritual matters or the Bible (I Corinthians 2:14-16), an equitable analysis and reconciliation of Scripture will fail at finding doctrinal error. When a bishop studied 581 Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts containing 280,000,000 letters, he found 900,000 differences, or 1/3 of one percent. “Of those 900,000 variants, 750,000 pertain to spelling…this has to do with vowel points for the purpose of pronunciation which were supposedly added c. AD 600 by…scribes….Thus we are left with only 150,000 variants in 280,000,000 letters or only one variant in 1580 letters, a degree of accuracy of .0006…Most of those variants are found in only a few manuscripts; in fact, most are from just one corrupted copy[iii].”

Thousands of verses invoke the name of God as the source and author for Scripture. “Psalms 19 and 119, plus Proverbs 30:5-6, make powerful statements about God’s Word which set it apart from any other religious instruction ever known in the history of mankind. These passages make the case for the Bible being called “sacred” (2 Tim. 3:15) and “holy” (Rom. 1:2)[iv].” The fact is that God’s name is irrevocably linked to the Bible, as John 1:1 states it unequivocally: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Additionally, God gives His Character to back the authorship of Scripture. “The sacred book which we read, study, obey, and preach deserves to unreservedly be called The Bible or ‘The Book without peer,’ since its author is God and it bears the qualities of total truth and complete trustworthiness as also characterizes its divine source[v].” Because God is perfect, holy, righteous, just, truthful, trustworthy, and omniscient, His Word will be the same. Thus, since He has put His name on Scripture, one can expect it to meet all the criteria of His character. It only makes sense to question a written document “if you don’t have corroboration or there is internal inconsistency[vi].” However, the Bible is well-corroborated, with over forty authors contributing to its pages over a span of 1600 years, across three continents, and in three different languages. Only God Himself and His dependable Character could keep such a diverse collection consistent, and He does!

God also authenticates the authorship of Scripture through His sovereignty. “The Scripture has authority because God has all authority…. God is the basis for the Bible’s authority[vii].” Psalms 22 is only one example of the sovereignty of God in fulfilling Scripture. Written a millennium before the events it describes, about something the author knew nothing about because crucifixion had not yet been invented, this chapter still manages to be an exact description of the events surrounding Christ’s death. Scripture’s track record is excellent, with 2000 prophecies of the 2500 given already fulfilled, and the remaining 500 pertaining to the end times. In fact, “the odds for all these prophecies having been fulfilled by chance without error is less than one in 102000 (that is 1 with 2000 zeros written after it)[viii]!

When it comes right down to it, “the Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents written down by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report to us supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies and claim that their writings are divine rather than human in origin[ix].” A person who rejects the Bible as God’s Word should understand the claims of Scripture, the character of Scripture as it parallels the character of God, and the authority and fulfillment of Scripture.

When weak minds succumb to the preying philosophies of the world which challenge the accuracy of the Scripture, they have lost the entire foundation upon which their faith is based. They have denied the words of Scripture which clearly states, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever (Isaiah 40:8).” By rejecting a part of Scripture—no matter how insignificant or innocent—they have denied God’s Word; they have denied God’s character, defaming Him as an incapable liar; and they have lost the relevancy of God’s Word to life. “The Scriptures are the infallible deposit of the Creator’s revelation breathed manward and every verse germane to the question should be honored (in context), none being altered or swept away as being an ‘unfortunate scribal error.’[x]” When one realizes this, one can finally use God’s Word for its intended purpose: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (II Timothy 3:16).” If one still chooses to deny the sacredness of this text, then he has rejected God Himself. The struggle is no longer over the validity of a book, but over the eternal resting place of a soul: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God (I Corinthians 1:18).”




[i] MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible: New King James Version. Word Publishing, USA, 1997.
[ii] Miller, George A. "WordNet - About Us." WordNet. Princeton University. 2009. http://wordnet.princeton.edu
[iii] Jones, Dr. Floyd. The Chronology of the Old Testament. Floyd Jones Ministries, Green Forest. 2005.
[iv] MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible: New King James Version. Word Publishing, USA, 1997.
[v] MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible: New King James Version. Word Publishing, USA, 1997.
[vi] Baucham, Voddie. Why I Choose to Believe the Bible. Grace Family Baptist Church, June 30, 2005. http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=530914253
[vii] Landis, Don. And God Said. October 30, 2007. http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n4/biblical-authority-god-said
[viii] Ross, Dr. Hugh. Fulfilled Prophecy: Evidence for the Reliability of the Bible. Reasons to Believe, August 22, 2003. http://www.reasons.org/fulfilled-prophecy-evidence-reliability-bible
[ix] Baucham, Voddie. Why I Choose to Believe the Bible. Grace Family Baptist Church, June 30, 2005. http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=530914253
[x] Jones, Dr. Floyd. The Chronology of the Old Testament. Floyd Jones Ministries, Green Forest. 2005.
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