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

3.29.2011

Cloud in a Bowl


I existed for the last 20 years of my life as an innocent tea party addict, who gleefully made "Mock Devonshire Cream" for every great event by combining sour cream with cream and sugar and vanilla, and whipping the concoction to create a thick, slightly sour, delicious topping for scones. Then I went to England.


And I met clotted cream. (Cue picture from the archives.)



Clotted cream, oh my sweet, darling clotted cream. Where were you all my life? (Excuse me while I go compose a love song to clotted cream.) Mock Devonshire Cream may be an appopriate substitute for creme fraiche, but it has nothing on clotted cream. And so, with the sweet, carmelized, airy taste of clotted cream still melting in our memories, Mama came to me one day with a passel of internet recipes and a question. "Do you want to make clotted cream?"


The first try...not so good. I baked the cream at 180 degrees F for six hours...and twelve hours...and eighteen hours, and by that time, I had evaporated milk more than anything. Then I tried the stovetop method, and just as I was about to get discouraged, I got wise and began to peruse only UK sites. They, after all, know their clotted cream. The method is now perfected, my friends, and I hope you will try your hand at this luscious nectar.


Start out with unpasteurized, unhomogenized fresh cream (some people have had success using cream that was pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized, so it is worth a try if you don't have a source for straight-from-the-udder cream).



You'll need five cups.


Now, pour it into a heavy-duty large saucepan or casserole dish--the cream should be no more than three inches deep. Cook this uncovered on the stove on the lowest heat setting, and do not, under any circumstances, allow the cream to boil. Or simmer. (This picture was taken after four hours of cooking.)


You are, however, looking for a thick skin to develop on the top, and small bubbles to form on the edges. Once this has happened (I cooked mine for six hours), take it off the heat, cover it, and let it cool down for four to six hours, preferably in a cool but not cold place (that is, a cellar, cool pantry, or garage). Carefully spoon off the crust and skin on the top and heap into a dish. My five cups of cream yielded about 3/4 cup of clotted cream (the amount in the dish shown in the first picture). Let this solidify in the refrigerator for another six to twelve hours, and then enjoy your clotted cream! You can use the remaining unclotted cream in your baking or cooking.


I had cream tea the Cornish way--jam first, then cream on a scone or biscuit and accompanied by a cup of Yorkshire black tea. The Devons swear by cream first, then jam. Clotted cream also goes by clouted cream (a clout is a thin fabric, and clouted cream refers to the crust that forms on the cream when it has clotted), clabbered cream, or Devonshire cream. My version turned out neither as sweet nor as smooth as the English clotted cream, but I blame this on the cow and not the cook.


"Its orient tinge, like spring-time morn,

Or baby-buttercups newly-born;

Its balmy perfume, delicate pulp,

One longs to swallow it all at a gulp,

Sure man had ne'er such gifts or theme

As your melt-in-mouthy Devonshire cream."


A eulogy on a can of cream sent from a lady in Exeter.

—William Barry Peacock, Manchester, 1853


And do you know the origin of clotted cream according to legend? Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who lived amongst the branches of a Dartmoor oak, dreaming of the pisky [A Westcountry pixie] prince she loved. She longed for the day of her wedding, which by tradition, required a bath in cream. Sadly, there was an evil woman who took up residence at the foot of the princess's tree; she conspired to have the princess marry her crude miner son. Knowing of the required cream bath, the old hag soured the couple's milk and made their wedding impossible. The pisky was not to be thwarted, however; he made an extraordinary cream treated with both fire and water that resisted the woman's devices. At last, the princess was able to bathe in the cream and marry her prince. The couple passed on their secret to the moor maidens, and everyone lived happily ever after with the secret of clotted cream safely entrusted to them.

Clotted cream (n): cloud in a bowl. Epitomy of lovely. Tastes of whipped cream and butter blended together with a carmelized sweetness and the intensity of rich cream. A bite of heaven.

Sources:





3.25.2011

No Auditions For Role Modeling

I remember the moment of climax in the battle for modesty in my life. I must have been around fourteen or fifteen, and, believe it or not, I wanted to dress like “all the other girls” around me. I was confused as to what modest standards were, and my wise mother took me aside and we had long wonderful talks on the subject. “What are the godly older girls around you wearing?” she asked at one point in the conversation. My oh-so-on-top-of-it sin nature immediately searched through my acquaintances filed under “godly role models” and I named a few whose attire supported my desire.

“Yes,” my mother consented, “But what about this girl and this girl and this girl?” She proceeded to name several young ladies whom I highly respected and whom I had to admit I had never seen in anything less than modest. We eventually finished our important discussion, I talked to my father on the subject, and I now look back at that time as the moment when I truly took on convictions concerning modesty for myself because I realized that was what God wanted me to do.

But I also look back on that experience and think about those young ladies that I looked up to, and I wonder if they knew to what extent I was willing to go to emulate them? I wonder if they knew that I was using them to rationalize my desire for “looser” standards of modesty? The fact remains that this desire was my sin nature, and I alone was to blame--I should have been strong enough in my convictions not to be swayed by what others were doing.  But I was, and my mother knew that.  All those young ladies that my mother and I discussed were my role models, whether they chose the role or not, and they had a serious impact on that time in my life, whether they knew it or not.

I cannot, of course, reflect upon those that were and still are role models to me without reflecting upon those who look to me as their role model. When I recall my detailed mental files on the state of modesty in each of my role models as a teenager, I get worried. And I shudder at the thought that any of the girls I know might use me in a discussion with their mother: “But Lauren does that!”

It makes me contemplate the “weaker brother” concept all the more: would not younger girls--baby Christians--be weaker sisters? Romans 14:12-13 expresses my state of mind perfectly:
So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.
One of my favorite verses is I Timothy 4:12:
Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
Being a role model is not a role that we audition for or even choose. Instead, we all are role models (even if unwilling or unknowing ones) to our siblings, to those who read our blogs, to the bright-eyed little girls at church. There is no way that we can abandon this responsibility--we will either be bad, careless role models, or we will be purposeful, virtuous ones.  On the flip side of the coin, we all have role models as well—whether we choose them well or slip into them because the rest of the world bows down to their whims is up to us.

Girls look up to us. They note what we do or do not wear. They note how we talk about the Lord, how we interact with young men, and how we treat our parents. If for no other reason than the fact that young ones in the Lord are observing, we cannot afford not to walk circumspectly in all that we do. Their eyes are upon us, and we live righteously not for a show of our great maturity, but so that if they indeed choose to follow in our footsteps, they will find that our tiny footsteps are planted firmly within the unblurred outlines of the footsteps of Jesus—the entire journey through.


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

3.22.2011

Pay It Forward

Photo Credit: Courtney Dirks
This weekend, our friends invited us to participate in their second film festival--a celebration of complete amateurs gaining an appreciation for the art of filmmaking. ;-) (If you missed our first short film, you can see it here: When the Rain Comes.) This time, we had a very comfortable alotment of one whole weekend in which to create our film (last summer, we had a mere 12 hours). We received the word on Saturday morning: kindness. Brainstorming, planning, and decision-making took up our day, as well as the Saturday chores, sewing classes, and a baby shower. By Saturday night, we had the concept, the roles, and the scenes sketched out: we were ready to shoot!

Sunday afternoon we filmed, and we had lots of opportunities to practice kindness to each other! There is nothing like working under a deadline with six different opinions, ideas, strengths, and weaknesses to challenge one's expression of kindness and gentleness to others. While filming, however, we were blessed to have an audience in a young boy who couldn't have been more than ten. God provided me an opportunity to witness to him and present the Gospel to him (he knew about Jesus, but he didn't think he had sinned--nope, never lied...nope, never stole a cookie...but when I asked if he had ever disobeyed his parents, he had to admit that, yes, he had). This was definitely the highlight of the weekend for me. Please pray for Jacob!

Monday was editing--Melanie was our editor extraordinaire, and let me tell you--those people don't get enough credit! Everything was finished up and tied with a beautiful bow (figuratively speaking) by the time we arrived at our friend's house for a fun evening of pizza and movies. Ours won "Best Application of Biblical Principles," and we received a symbolic bag of lifesavers for our efforts.

So, without further ado, please enjoy Pay It Forward. We are by no means skilled at this craft, but we sure enjoyed trying our hand at it!



3.18.2011

As American as Apple Pie

 Tuesday was many things.  It was a day so grey and cloudy that we never could tell if the sun even rose that morning. 



In an equally shocking turn of events, Tuesday was also a rainy and blustery day.  But the rain could not restrain us, and the bluster could not fluster us.  In fact, the weather only made us puff up with that much more patriotism for our state, because Tuesday was also "Homeschool Day at the Capitol," and everyone knows that going to the Washington state Capitol when it is not raining is akin to going to Buckingham Palace when the Queen is not in.  There is just something missing!

But the excitement does not end there!  Tuesday was also "Apple Pie Day" in which hundreds of homeschoolers across the state added dashes of love and cups of gratefulness in with their pinches of cinammon and mounds of freshly peeled and cut apples. 



These pies were paired with thank you notes and information on our WA state homeschool conference, which we were then privileged to help hand deliver with a smile and a fork to our senators, representatives, Governor, and Lieutenant Governor.  What fun it was to walk through cubicles and hand out homemade apple pies, leaving smiles and happiness in our wake. 
Below, Susanna and Micah prepare to deliver another pan of scrumptiousness!


Mikaela and Micah--Pie Delivery Team Extraordinaire!




After we had traipsed all across the Capitol campus and discovered just how heavy apple pies can be, we slipped in for the last part of the introductory session for the homeschoolers.  We were updated on the issues currently being battled at the Capitol and had the opportunity to ask questions and receive vital answers from a wonderful husband and wife team who devotes six months of their life every year to making sure that homeschool rights are protected in Olympia. 

Spending the day with dear friends was one of the highlights!


You cannot resist that face! 


In the rotunda, sitting on cold marble steps, we heard from a Representative who is actually a homeschooling father and devoted Christian!  Of course, he is not our representative, but he was an inspiring speaker nonetheless! 


We heard from a white-haired legislator whose grandchildren are being homeschooled, from a legislator who public-schooled his children, but whose nieces and nephews are being homeschooled, and from a legislator who joked that the flaky sound system didn't bother him because he grew up in a family of ten children!  Four or five representatives and senators spoke in all, and we prayed for each and every one, with men laying their hands on these public servants and asking the Lord to bless them with wisdom and integrity.  That was a special time! 


Our hands were clapping and our feet were tapping along with this great homeschooled sibling fiddle trio!  Old Joe Clark, Cripple Creek, and Bile 'em Cabbage combined with the musicians' infectious smiles meant that you couldn't help but love their music!  Several friends leaned over and whispered to me incredulously, "How can her fingers move so fast?" 


Don't we fit right in in the grand Reception room? 




Over a hundred years ago, it was decided that we needed a state seal.  And rather than pay an expensive designer to create one, our savvy leaders got together and decided to hold a contest.  A pair of equally savvy local jewelers decided to enter the contest, and hearkened back to their kindergarten days to do so.  I can see them now, haphazardly tracing an inkwell onto a sheet of paper, glancing around for a slightly smaller circular object, and reaching into their pockets for a silver dollar, which they traced just inside the inkwell circle.  I can imagine them scribbling, "The Seal of the State of Washington 1889" in between the circles, grabbing a handy stamp of GW, plopping it right in the middle, and then nodding in satisfaction at their brilliant design.  This is now our illustrious state seal that is emblazoned on flags, floors, and yes, even the bathroom door handle! 


 Left to right: Jonah, Lauren, Micah, Susanna, Melanie, Mikaela


Our day at the Capitol was busy, but wonderful, and though I've gone to the Homeschool Day at the Capitol several times, it was wonderful to see my younger siblings getting excited about this hub of government in our state.  We discovered new nooks and crannies (who knew that half the representatives don't get marble halled offices, but instead are relegated to a trailer park of mobile homes?), greeted old friends, had a lively discussion with an aide to our senator, and drove home through the driving rain exhausted, but quite happy. 


Note: All photos taken by Mama or Mikaela.

3.15.2011

Unhand the Feather Duster!



It was a beautiful summer day, and a friend and I were standing on her driveway, talking. Her family was the topic, and she was asking if Lauren and I could visit an ill family member, to talk, play, and pass the time. I told her I would have to think about this, my brain scanning through the mental schedule I keep on file at all times, looking for a spare afternoon or morning.

“Well, and of course, we would pay you,” she added.

I was shocked, and then instantly protested, but she protested back, and the conversation ended futilely. Ultimately, she won the question of payment, though, and I found myself visiting this person regularly, looking at pictures, playing games, singing songs, and telling stories. And then receiving money. Being paid for something I would have loved to do gratis, as they say in Latin (if they really do say anything in Latin these days).

This is a barrier I have encountered many times. People think that my time is too valuable to be given unpaid, or that they are devaluing my services by not compensating, or that they can only prove their gratitude monetarily. It’s enough to inspire me to hide behind a curtain in all that I do. “Pay no attention to the man [woman] behind the curtain!” I could loudly proclaim via an electronic apparatus.

These earthly rewards—these dollars and cents and banking accounts—they are transitory. They do me no good in the eternal scheme of things. It is the heavenly riches and the eternal rewards that are best. Matthew 16:27 says,


“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and
then He will reward each according to his works.”

I am apt to feel as though my friends and family are cheating me of something so much more valuable when they insist on paying me. Indeed, it is almost as if they are devaluing my services.

I would much rather hear the words of Ruth 2:12 than receive payment:


“The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of
Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”

Does this mean I never charge for babysitting, music teaching, performances, or what-have-you? Of course not! But God presents people to whom I am commanded to minister for His glory and not my own. These people I desire to minister to without payment, without recompense, without reward. It is really not such a selfless desire, for I have God as my exceedingly great reward (Genesis 15:1), and I have glorifying Him as my goal.

Some people cannot bring themselves to accept help without offering something in return. As I contemplate this, and wish with all my heart that they would just allow me to help, I think about all those times as a pudgy toddler when I announced, “I can do it by mys-ef!” Or as a teenager when I struggled through math problems knowing full well that Papa could explain the mystery in 5 minutes. And how about now, when I don’t lean on a friend with a problem, or go to my parents for accountability, or ask my siblings to cover a chore for me. When I allow someone to help me, knowing that I am incapable of returning the favor, the scale has suddenly tilted, and I am indebted to another person.

What an uncomfortable feeling! The knowledge that someone has come to my aid in a way I could never have done leaves me feeling helpless and humbled. And it reminds me of my own salvation on a much smaller degree, when I placed myself irretrievably and enormously in God's debt.

This pride that keeps people from accepting help is a tragic thing. Can you imagine all the blessings we are cheating from others by not leaning on them? Can you imagine all the evidences of God’s sovereignty we are hiding by keeping our needs bottled up inside? Can you fathom all the opportunities for good that could have come if you had answered the “how-are-you” question honestly for once? Can you conceive of the treasure of being served and serving? This is the way the Church is supposed to work, after all.

"For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of
the body of Christ....from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what
every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part
does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love
(Ephesians 4:12, 16)."


Brightening your corner is as much about opening the door to other cleaners as it is about wielding the feather duster yourself. Both are equally important. Let us swallow our pride and accept and offer help, for it is a beautiful thing to do both equally.





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

3.11.2011

There Never Were Such Devoted Sisters

My violin teacher once asked me, “Do you girls ever fight?” Mikaela and I looked at each other sideways and considered. “Well… no, not really. Every once in a while, I guess.” He squinted his eyes in disbelief, and a few weeks later he asked the same question again, as if he had been cogitating on it the entire time: “So you really don’t fight?”

A lot of people ask that, so Ruthie’s question that she submitted here a few weeks ago is a good one: “How have you two maintained such a great relationship, i.e. what advice you would you give to other pairs or sets of sisters?” Besides instantly thinking of the “Sisters” song from White Christmas (hence the title of this post!), several other things came to mind. Mikaela and I have always been the best of friends. No peculiar twin languages here, but we definitely have a special connection many people probably don’t. Besides that, we have two other sisters—the Little Women foursome if there ever was one—and although we have our struggles, I count my sisters as my dearest friends. Here are a few candid truths that have helped me to be able to say that. 

You’re Different—Understand and Embrace It!

No sisters are going to be exactly alike, not even identical twins! Mikaela and I do have different approaches and personalities, and we have had to learn to work together in a way that capitalizes on each of our strengths, rather than getting annoyed by what the other person is or is not. This really came to the forefront several years ago when Mikaela and I did a piano recital to support our Caring Pregnancy Center. There were churches and pianos to research, posters to be made and distributed, e-mails to be sent, a reception to be worried about, advertisements to be made, and the list went on and on.

Mikaela was feeling the stress, wanted to get everything done right away, and ended up taking over many of the jobs herself. I, on the other hand, was more relaxed about the to-do list, procrastinating, and letting Mikaela take charge of everything. This clash of approaches to doing a task led to Mikaela doing a lot herself. There were definitely moments where we were quite frustrated with each other—me because Mikaela was taking over all of the jobs or wanting me to do things on her timetable, and Mikaela because she was doing all the work and felt like she had to nag me in order for me to accomplish anything.

Finally, the lightbulb came on: we both compromised a bit in how we approached our projects, I tried to take more initiative and leadership, and Mikaela tried to delegate more and be patient with my approach! You and your sister may have no common interests or be ten years apart in age, but if you can learn to look at situations from her perspective, this will help immensely!

You’ll Have Problems—Don’t Let Them Become Arguments!

Just because I say that we rarely fight does not mean that we do not disagree—a few months ago we actually disagreed on a political point for the first time. But a minor problem (Um…you stained that shirt and didn’t even bother to wash it? Do you realize you are making me late for my appointment?) does not have to escalate into a full-blown argument.
Philippians 2:3 says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”
The key here is yielding your rights: Mikaela and I share absolutely everything, we trust each other implicitly, and we strive to live in humility. You might argue, however, that Mikaela and I have an unfair advantage over most people in this department, because we had to learn to survive sharing a very cramped space for the first nine months of our lives. If we could avoid fighting when her foot was in my face and my fist was in her stomach, we can make it through anything, right?


Time and Talk Are Your Secret Weapons!


I can’t tell you the number of times Mikaela and I got in trouble for talking when we should have been sleeping. While we should have chosen more appropriate times for our chats, our tongues have definitely never had trouble wagging at each other! And therein lies an important truth: you are never going to have a good relationship with your sisters if you do not invest in their lives. So plan fun girly things like nail-painting parties and sleepovers and tea parties. But also pour out your hearts when you’re doing the dishes, and ask your sister to pray for you when you’re struggling with a weakness, and have Bible studies together.

Every once in awhile, my sisters and I will be talking and someone will bring up the fact that this cannot last forever. The talking turns to “Someday”, and we all know that “someday” we will be in our own homes, taking care of our families, and not able to have the blessing of seeing each other every day. Sadness inevitably descends on our lighthearted chatting—with a good helping of mushiness to boot! But then we laugh when we imagine our future 3 hour long phone calls and our children sighing, “Mama—it’s Aunt Mikaela—again. Are you going to be on the phone all day long this time?”



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

Picture Credit
1st picture: MixedUpMedia/Mari W
2nd picture: LAC/BAC
3rd picture: LAC/BAC

3.08.2011

Two Doors

A girl drives into the parking lot and pulls into the one available spot, inching forward slowly, and checking her sides while biting her lip in frustration. After backing out again she finally manages to pull in straight, and with a sigh she turns off the wipers, flips off the lights, and twists the key. She grabs her purse and her coat and steps outside, locking the door with the key still in her hand. It is raining. She tugs on her coat, and turns to look at the modest business complex in front of her. She takes a few steps, looking to the left and to the right. She stands there, squinting at the building. And then she jumps back as a car honks at her to get out of the way.

Stopping there, in the middle of an asphalt lake, with water streaming down her body, she contemplates. It’s hard for her to discern if the liquid flowing over her eyelashes and her nose and her mouth and her neck is merely precipitation or if it is also tears.

She has felt trapped these last weeks, like someone has locked her into a chest freezer, and she is alone in the darkness, with the cold turning her heart to ice, and the carbon dioxide air poisoning her to death. Now she could just end it. She could put an end to the pain, the suffering, the darkness, and the cold. Life seems like such a silly choice right now, when that life means being imprisoned in a freezer. Death seems like the logical—the only right thing to do. Spare everyone the embarassment, the anguish, the sacrifice. Just end it, and be done.

She shivers as moisture seeps through her green peacoat and collides with her skin. She brushes back her inky bangs and steps hesitantly forward again. Oh? Did she lock the car? She rushes back to check, grateful for any excuse to prolong the inevitable. But then, she has to stumble back into the middle of the parking lot. Before her are two offices—sharing a wall, even—and one offers her life, and one offers her death. Only she doesn’t look at it quite like that. One offers her responsibility, and one offers her freedom.

Freedom. Freedom from all this. She takes a step to the left.

Responsibility. Duties and jobs and liability. She takes another step to the left. Trust and love and maybe—someday—a chance to get out of this steel box. She wavers. She grabs her drenched hair and pulls it into a ponytail with her fingers and then lets go of the strands again. She takes a step to the right, thinking of the memories, the opportunities, and the love. The love.

She jumps in fright as the left door opens and another girl walks out. The young woman is alive—she is walking. But she doesn’t seem alive. There is nothing in the eyes. Like an incredible 3-D performance-capture creation on a life-size theater screen, she looks the part, but there is no twinkle, no personality, no love—no life.

And then the girl looks to the right again. Perhaps, just perhaps, she should try it. If life doesn’t work out, after all, she can always come back and try the left door. But if she tries the left door now, well, she’ll never know about the right door.

Shivering uncontrollably, as if she is about to have a seizure, she walks through the right door. It is warm and bright, and somewhere, soft music is playing. And a beautiful woman looks up at her from behind the desk—behind her eyes is life and light.

“Honey, can I help you?” the woman asks.

The girl rubs her stomach and looks down at her belly. Life. For the first time in her seventeen years, someone just cracked open the lid, and there is light, life, and love waiting for her outside.


This story is based on an actual crossroads that exists in my state: two offices, one of life, one of death. Two establishments, sharing a common wall: one a pregnancy resource center, the other a Planned Parenthood clinic. One trying to save the lives of babies, one offering the opportunity to kill babies. And last week, the bill which threatened to shut down the office of life through unreasonable and unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination made it to the House floor. Despite our best efforts (Lauren blogged about it here), it passed through the Health and Wellness Committee and the Rules Committee, and we had to realize that our best efforts would not keep the bill from passing in this, the least pro-life state in the nation. And yesterday, the bill was on the House floor, and Washington State could have gone either the way of life or the way of death. God worked yesterday in the House chamber: for the House ruled that HB1366 would go no further in the process. It is dead, praise the Lord! Thank you for your prayers.

Photo Credit: Leandroid

3.04.2011

Firebrands

The sun came up this morning. When I went to bed last night, the darkness was dense and endless. But sometime while I was sleeping, the sun slid up over the horizon and dissolved the blackness that a thousand floodlights could never completely dispel. And the only reason this fact is not jaw-dropping is because we have seen it every single morning. We know that the darkness will be gone within a matter of hours.

But Adam didn’t. When he spotted the sun falling lower and lower, pulling its warmth and life-giving light with it, I wonder if a twinge of concern filled his chest. Undoubtedly, he went to the Creator with it. “Lord, what is happening? I can’t see anything—not my hand in front of my face, not Your creation, not You! Are You still working the bugs out of the system? Because I kind of liked that sun!” And when the sun rose again the next morning, I can only imagine Adam’s delighted laugh and childlike rejoicing. “The sun! It’s back!” That night, a darkness that was impossibly massive and cold fell again, but as Adam lay on his back on the ground, he must have noticed glitters of light materializing above him.  The darkness was not triumphant, after all!

And this is what I have to remind myself every day. The darkness around me is irrelevant. Ancient Rome had pitch black darkness. Sodom and Gomorrah were filled with darkness like coal. Moreover, Jesus may tarry for another millenium and the remnant of believers in the year 2752 may moan about the darkness of their society that is so unlike any other darkness in history.

But God sends impenetrable darkness every single night, along with moon, stars, and finally the sun that penetrate the impenetrable, and therein lies our hope: no darkness is too deep for God’s light. Romans 13:12-14 says,
The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

Candles provide a flicker of light. Lamps offer up light, too, but they aren’t consumed by it, and they can’t light others on fire. A firebrand, though, is different altogether! We are not the firebrands that are dancing and shouting in the streets of Egypt or the kind that are starting riots for their own amusement. We are pieces of ordinary, non-light-giving wood kindled at a fire, the fire of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are consumed by His fire, His light, and materialize all through the darkness, glowing red-hot and lighting the darkest of caves and the blackest of nights until all the world is a wildfire.

We aren’t rebellious, but we are revolutionary.

We aren’t contentious, but we may offend some people. I Corinthians 1:23 says,
But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness.

We aren’t angry, but we are passionate.

We are "blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. (Phil. 2:15)"

Truly, the night is far spent, the day is at hand. Fellow firebrands, join me in lighting the world on fire with the Gospel!



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

3.01.2011

Once Dead

It was one of those strange, inexplicable, convoluted internet paths where you later cannot remember or rationalize what exactly you were doing, how you got to what you were doing, or why you were doing it. I had ended up on You Tube, and I was watching some clip. The content of the video was fine—typical of You Tube’s inane offerings—but that wasn’t what kept me from clicking out of the video. No, it was the face, the man on the screen, who kept me riveted. Here he was, acting as happy and carefree as a kindergartner, but his face--his face. In his face, I saw his heart, and it held so much pain.

His form was emaciated. So horrifyingly thin that it was painful to look at him. His hair was big and styled, forming a very peculiar headpiece for a man. His face was pierced many times through with holes, with metal jewelry threaded through the punctures. His voice had that whining feminine tone to it that so many men today have chosen to adopt to proclaim that they are not men. Finally, his clothes—overly stylized and overly feminine—completed the picture.

I noted that the video I was watching was from 2009, and I had some sort of gut feeling that he could not have possibly survived another two years in the path that he had chosen, but I clicked on his channel page anyways, hoping against hope. A shock ran through my system, however, when the page loaded. The wallpaper? “God is Holy.” The videos? Prayer chains, verses to live by, and wishes for a happy birthday to Jesus. This was radical. Anxious to uncover this mystery, I soon found a video entitled “CRISIS.” So I watched. I watched an emaciated, pierced, tattooed man breaking down as he recounted how his mother and he were being forced out of the house his father had built.

Johnny was beside himself from financial troubles, health troubles, and mental troubles—he was nervewracked, stressed, emotional, unstable, and lost. Here he was, humbled, sick, lost, and desperate: it was as though he had been turned inside out, and instead of wearing the mask of a face and skin, he was wearing his heart. Pierced and struggling, sinful and black, ghastly and haggard. Only three days later, however, he posted another video, and suddenly, he was a different man, mellow and full of joy that, try as he might, he could hardly express. His financial crisis had led him to call his pastor, and within twenty-four hours of turning back to God, he providentially had a place to sleep and live.

I only watched a few more of his videos, but in each one, I saw change. I saw him weeping as he took out his piercings because he “didn’t need them anymore.” I saw him rejoicing and dumbfounded that God had completely taken away his addiction to bulimia. I saw him give up his feminine clothes and decorations. And then I watched one of his most recent videos, and my eyes filled with tears. Now before me was a man with neatly clipped hair, a trimmed goatee, a wonderfully healthy body, and a face that held no metallic distractions. I was pulled in straight to his eyes—peaceful, joyful, and full of the love of God. Once again, I didn’t see a face or skin or hair—I saw his heart, and it was beautiful, plump, and pure. “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips (Psalm 63:5).”

This took me back to my own transformation at the age of three. However young that might seem to you, I remember the moment in the back of the car the day after Resurrection Sunday. I remember that I submitted my life to God, that I gave back to Him what He had rightfully owned all along. That I lost what I could not keep, and allowed a new Captain to man the ship. As young as I was, my heart was as destructive, malnourished, rebellious, and black as Johnny’s—it just had not had a chance to manifest itself so vividly on the outside. But that moment that God washed my heart clean and white and pure was as miraculous and as transformative as the scenes I saw on You Tube. And that is why I wept, because Johnny reminded me of myself, both before and after Jesus saved me. His joy and excitement brought back the vivid memory of my three year-old self careening into my aunt and uncle’s house, desperate to tell every single person of the incredible gift I had just been given.

The understanding came later. The commitment, the baptism, the spiritual disciplines—those all came later. But the joy, the freedom, the relief, and the peace--that was instantaneous. So whether you are the "before" image of Johnny and the three year old, or the "after" image, don’t miss your opportunity. Choose you this day Whom you will serve, and then get out there and share the good news with others in obedience. Johnny would have been the last person I would have chosen to walk up to and witness to. Thank goodness God doesn’t work like that, because if He did, I would have been the last person He rescued.


We have drawn the winners of our giveaway! Thank you all for entering and for putting such thought into those great questions. We'll be getting to them throughout the year, so keep watch!

Congratulations, Samantha--you won the blog design from Ara!

Elizabeth and Abby each won a charm.

We'll be getting in touch with you ladies shortly!

Photo Credit: Ex-In Transit

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