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

5.31.2011

Smoking Alone, In Front of the Whole World

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It was an early morning detour to Wal-Mart on our way to church--Mama picking up an item needed at church, and the rest of us waiting in the car. We watched the harried fathers, the tired shift workers, and the exuberant teenagers walk and talk and shop. And then someone caught sight of an employee, far away from the hubbub of the entrance, smoking in solitude. Banned from the rest of the world by recent legislation, the smoker had to find a secluded spot in which to legally puff her cigarette.

The law...what an interesting thing! The pros, the cons, the vagueness and specificity of it all. And the misery of being addicted to such a thing--of having to walk far, far away from the places people gather in order to satisfy a habit; of knowing that every puff endangers your children, spouse, family, and friends (not to mention yourself); of perfuming the air and clothes and furnishings every day with the aroma of smoke; of spending hundreds of dollars just to keep up with the habit; and of being so addicted, that even a strong desire to quit is not sufficient. (I have friends right now who are struggling to kick their smoking habit, so I have the greatest respect and sympathy for those who are fighting their addiction.)

Suddenly, though, Papa said the most shocking thing. "Smoking is just a sin you can easily spot." And, most unexpectedly, it was as if all of us could have been standing on that corner, puffing on our "cigarette"--a sign proclaiming our weakness, our addictions, and our sins. It doesn't seem so bad, those sins we can do quietly and privately without proclaiming them in a busy parking lot. To God, however, the evidences linger--the smoky stench, the raspy voice, the blackened gut, the waste of valuable resources, and the influence and harm we impart to everyone around us.

"You have set our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance....
The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,
Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow;
For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
Who knows the power of Your anger?
For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.
So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom."
~Psalm 90:8, 10-12
Ultimately, however, the smoking analogy breaks down, because it is not the act of smoking or of enjoying the stolen sweets that is sin--it is the breaking of God's Law and the rebellion against a holy, just God that is the sin. Whether we are sinning on a stage in front of millions, or sinning in a dark closet corner, we are sinning before God. Galatians 5:19-21 speaks of the terrible consequences of sin:

"Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
Just as the smoking isolates someone here in Washington State from the rest of the public, so sin isolates us from God--He is just, pure, and righteous, and He cannot stand the stench of sin in His presence. Begin with the fear of the Lord, and learn to tremble at the thought of daring to stand in opposition to Him. If you have never given your life to God, this is your moment and the day of your salvation. Submit to God, the Master of your life and allow Him to uproot those sins.

And if you are a Christian, dressed in dainty florals and pretty pinks on the outside, but with blackened lungs and desperate cravings on the inside, recognize the odiousness of your sin to God, and stop taking advantage of grace.

"Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace."
~ Romans 6:12-14









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

5.27.2011

My Apologia for Blogging


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 The blogging community is so vibrant, encouraging, and inspiring that it is hard for me to remember that it was birthed in my lifetime. Blogging has been around for only seventeen years (when it began, my four year old self was content with publishing my stories by selling them to family members for a nickel apiece!), and the term “weblog” only entered my realm of knowledge perhaps five years ago. (“Oh—weblog, blog, web-log, blog! How cute!”) And there are still numerous people I know who have no idea what a blog is.

Therein lies the subject of my recent contemplation: If blogging is only seventeen years old, who is to say that in another seventeen years, this wave will not pass? Who is to say that blogging is not just a fad, a trend that will soon disappear just like many other trends over the years? In fact, no one can say that, and so I recently began contemplating if my purpose for blogging was deep enough that, in the unlikely chance that blogging might disappear completely in twenty years, I would have no regrets on the hundreds of hours I have put into pounding out words for my blog. If tomorrow suddenly no one read my blog anymore and I only received comments from spammers, would I regret ever entering blogland? No.  No regrets because I do not blog for any purpose that would be altered by the passing of a trend.
Instead: 


I blog to leave a record for future generations.

The other day, Mikaela thought out loud, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could read the blog of a girl living in Washington from fifty years ago?” Granted, there are journals, but blogging is just another form of leaving a record for my descendants. No historian will be able to revise my history: from this blog I want to make it clear that I love the Lord with all of my heart!

What a blessing for my children and children’s children to be able to visit my blogs that I have written as a young adult and read of what God did in my life, how I dealt with my problems, and what I thought of the changes swirling around me.  At the same time, what a solemn challenge to me that everything I write on this blog has the potential to linger in the corners of the internet for decades to come!


I blog because fellowship with fellow Christian warriors is crucial.

So many of you have encouraged and convicted me through your challenging comments and posts! Shaking hands with those next to me in the battle and meeting my fellow warriors as we charge the enemy together is a blessing too rich to describe, and a blessing that carries value beyond this present moment. Scripture speaks of this blessing as well:

“As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. (Proverbs 27:17)”
Feelings of isolation and loneliness in today’s pagan world are common, but not necessary. I live in one of the most liberal and spiritually dark states in America, but when my eye ranges over the Christians I am lined up next to in battle, discouragement and isolation are far from my mind. I blog to declare God’s greatness as far as my voice will carry and to encourage you to arm yourselves for the battle. But in doing so, God has used many of you to sharpen me as well.


I blog because writing always has been and always will be vital for winning the culture war.

Voltaire knew this when he said, “To hold a pen is to be at war.” And Rudyard Kipling said, “Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind.” Good writing can change the world, and when I nurture this skill I am no longer a twenty year old girl opining on my day for all to read. Instead, I am a warrior for Christ, sharpening my sword for the battle and perfecting my skills of war.
Bill Stout said, “Whether or not you write well, write bravely.” To write bravely is my goal, and I refuse to surrender the battle of the word to the humanists and atheists of my day. The godless are stealthily gaining in muscle and skill and sheer numbers, and if I have the opportunity to write and stand against them, I will do so. It does not matter if blogging drifts away on the tide and disappears altogether, because I pray that my words that I have written will remain an obstacle to Satan’s forces. It does not matter if my blog disappears altogether someday, because I pray that God will use the words I write today to bear eternal fruit.

I blog to wield a sword, and even if the day should come when One Bright Corner no longer exists, I will always write, be it on paper or keyboard, and by God's grace I will write bravely.


Technical Note:
If you have been having trouble commenting on posts this week, as I have been, my brilliant sister Mikaela has solved the problem!  Read on if you care to...
If you are running Internet Explorer, click on "Tools" then "Internet Options."  From there, click the "privacy" tab, and then "sites."  Type in http://www.blogger.com/ and click "allow" and then do the same with http://www.blogspot.com/   This allows cookies on these sites.  I love all your comments and have experienced frustration of my own in attempting to comment on others' blogs this week, so hopefully this may help a few people! 


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

5.24.2011

Everyday Fab Hair

Several weeks ago, Ryan, my eleven year-old cousin, commented on my hair.

"Mom," she said, "that's the style I want for my prom."

I laughed and told her that she could come down to my house when the time comes, and I would do her hair for her.

"Yeah, well, not all of us can have fab hair everyday," she said with a grin.

My dear--you can have fabulous hair everyday! So, in honor of your twelfth birthday this week, I'm going to show you exactly how I did my hair that day (though the offer is still good for you to come down here for a hair-styling session).


Start out with damp, shoulder-length or longer hair--the less layers, the easier your job is. Part your hair on the top of your head the way you like it (I did a side part, but a center part works great too). Take your fingers and loosely divide your hair in the back, pulling equal amounts to both sides. You don't need  perfect part for the back, and irregularity helps to hide the part! Brush everything out as smooth as possible, and use gel if necessary to get everything to lay down neatly.

 Now take a small section at the top of your head and divide it into two pieces.
 Pull the section closest to your face over the other section. Pull tight (as shown in picture below). Now add a small section of hair to the piece closest to your face (much like a french braid technique) and cross it over the other section. Pull tight. Continue doing this all the way down. You can stop in the middle or go further to the side to get an off-centered, side-swept look.

Once you have finished the first side, pin it up securely (or get a helping hand to hold it for you), and move on to the other side. Again, you're dividing the hair into two sections and pulling the piece closest to your face over the other piece. Pull the top piece up and the bottom piece down to tighten the twist and then pick up more hair to add to the piece closest to your face. Check out this YouTube video for a live example of the process.


 When you finish, hold your twist tightly while undoing the other side. Bring them together, being careful to keep the crown of your head smooth, and secure with a ponytail holder. Now, you can stop here, curl the ponytail, wrap a piece of hair around the elastic and pin with a bobbypin to hide the ponytail holder, braid the hair, or put the hair up into a bun (the option I went for). With accessories, different partings, and creative finishes, the possibilities are almost endless for this hair style.


Use bobbypins to smooth out any unruly and bumpy strands, and to secure loose parts of the twist so your fabulous hair doesn't come out halfway through the day. Spray the whole thing and smooth down your fly-aways, and your look is complete.

Happy Birthday, Ryan! Your siblings are so blessed to have you as their wonderful big sister, and I am always encouraged by your sweetness to them and your pleasant spirit. How glad I am to have you as part of the family! I hope you will continue to seek God this year, and follow the command of I Timothy 6:11-12: "But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses."

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

5.20.2011

Late Night Chat

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Rambly post alert: I’m curled up in the comfy chair I stole from our office, with the flush of my first semi-tan of the year on my skin, my eyes barely cracked open, my room looking like the aftermath of a tornado, my voice a cracking mess. This week has been a doozy! But today is Friday (at least, I think it is) and I write blog posts on Fridays. That I know.

I also know that it is one of my favorite days of the week because it is the day after my college assignments are due, and it is the day I get to cozy up to a computer keyboard and type for the sheer love of it. And so I do now, not because I must satisfy some bizarre first-born perfectionist requirement that I not miss a day of blogging, but because I love it and want to chat with you about my week!
Yesterday, I took my final exam of the semester. That in itself is enough to launch me into the Hallelujah Chorus, but then when I realize that I took my final exam in my final Bible course, I begin to hopelessly wonder what song could possibly express more elation than the Hallelujah Chorus! The end of college is finally in sight, and with just a few more music classes to go, I am pressing onward, eager to be done. Sentimentality nearly overcome me at ten to midnight last night when I was ready to press “send” on my last assignment, but then I remembered the craziness of today and recovered my pragmatism.

Today we had a mammoth garage sale involving nine families and grossing $867! Conversations in the sun, a run to Starbucks, time spent loving on babies, and quick mental math at the cash register all added up to a wonderful, albeit exhausting day! It was a lot of fun, although I somehow managed to spend away both Mikaela’s and my earnings and she came home with the grand total of 60 cents!

My final event of the week comes on Sunday, when Mikaela and I are performing in a piano recital with four other pianists to benefit a local Christian organization that ministers to the needy in our community. I am thrilled to be a part of it! Tomorrow I will be compulsively practicing and trying to figure out just what I am going to wear, and then on Sunday I will be wondering why in the world I decided to put myself through the trauma of performance! But talk to me on Monday, and all will be well, and I will be overjoyed. I’ll be telling my students at our practice recital, “See! I did it, so you can, too! And it wasn’t that bad, really. Just don’t compulsively practice the day before!”

My window is dark and my few hours of sleep and Starbucks frapuccino wore off hours ago, so I am going to wish you all a wonderful night! And no need to worry about my pinkish skin from the sun today, by the way—it is supposed to rain tomorrow, so I can breathe a sigh of relief and put worries of skin cancer behind me. From the strength of the sun today one might have thought it was spring already!  Can you imagine?

5.17.2011

Living God's Word and Loving it: Part II

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Read Part I here, if you haven't already.

If I think that scanning one or two chapters of Psalms in 5.6 minutes, bowing my head to pray, and then scampering off to my duties is sufficient, then I am in trouble. Yet how easy it is to think that I am being “Christian” by completing this task, or that I am pleasing God by doing this. Ultimately, it all comes down to Psalm 51:17:
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
         A broken and a contrite heart—
         These, O God, You will not despise.”
 Be Honest
Someone asked John Piper if it was hypocritical to force oneself to read Scripture, and he answered, “There is a difference between hypocrisy and doing what you don’t feel like doing and being honest with God and others that that is not the case….honesty is doing what you don’t feel like doing and being broken about it….there are many times when I am very eager to read the Bible and many times when my heart is going to some new computer program….when I am in that condition, I think it is right to make myself do what I ought to do…confess that that is sin…and ask God while I am reading it to give me joy in it! What I am opposed to is by discipline and will power doing what you ought to do…and thinking that—all by itself—is a virtue, without any joy. That is not a good situation to be in.”

In the book of Matthew, Jesus asked “have you not read [the Scriptures]?” six times while He was teaching—He implied that everyone should have been reading and studying Scripture. And of course, there’s Psalm 119 where all but one of the 176 verses mentions the Psalmist's love Scripture. There is no doubt that daily Bible reading should be something all Christians should do. Our motivation, however, must be because of our infantile, weak state and our dependence upon the Word of God.

Then Change
A.W. Tozer said, “The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.”

In Nehemiah 9:3, the Israelites do not stop at reading Scripture:
“And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for one-fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the LORD their God.”

Are you reading with no desire to be transformed? Are you perusing Scripture without recognizing its necessity? Are you not even grieved by your indifference? These are serious problems.
Open the pages of God’s Word with a broken heart, repenting of your disinterest and recognizing your depravity, and then read. Soon, you will pick up the Book written by God Himself, and devour it with a hunger and thirst for righteousness. If you will consider the verses your eyes fall upon and mull over the God’s Word in your heart and apply God’s commands today, then you have no time to lose. You and I—we must run to our Bibles. We must read—today, tomorrow, and the next. How could we survive any other way?


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


Photo taken by Stuck in Customs

Watch John Piper's full response

5.13.2011

God Who Hears Me

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Nearly every religion has prayer, but only followers of Jesus Christ have a living, hearing God to whom we can pray. Nearly every religious person in the world would say they pray, but only children of the one true God receive answers to their prayers, and I am one of them.

Isaiah 46:6-7 and 9 describes the heartbreaking futility of those who pray to false gods, their words dissipating in the wind, unheard:
“They lavish gold out of the bag, And weigh silver on the scales; They hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a god; They prostrate themselves, yes, they worship. They bear it on the shoulder, they carry it And set it in its place, and it stands; From its place it shall not move. Though one cries out to it, yet it cannot answer Nor save him out of his trouble….Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me.”

We have just begun a study on prayer at church, and after listening to the introductory sermon last week, I was moved to share with you at least five specific answers to prayer that I have seen in my lifetime. These are unequivocal, direct answers from the God whom I know without a doubt hears my prayers, and I wanted to shout them from the rooftops, but decided that I would have to settle for shouting them from Blogger instead!

1. The iconic instance of God answering prayer for me happened when I was about five or six years old. We were all arrayed in our Sunday best, had trooped out to our van, buckled up, and were ready for church! Papa put the key in the ignition, and nothing happened. He tried again. Nada. And again and again, but the van simply choked and offered no signs of life. Disappointed silence reigned in that van, and then Papa sighed, “All right, everyone get out. We’re going to have to do church at home today, I guess.” From my seat in the back I piped up, “Papa, why don’t we pray?” To hear Papa tell the story, he was inwardly rolling his eyes at this suggestion, thinking, Of course we can pray, but the car is completely dead! There’s no way it is going to start! But pray we did, and as Papa’s hand moved towards the ignition once more, I waited in anticipation to see what would happen. The van started, and a smile two sizes too big for my face spread across it. God had answered my prayer, and He had performed a faith-building miracle, the lesson of which stays with me to this day!

2. It was only a short time later that Mikaela, Melanie, and I decided we didn’t want to be just the Three Muskateers anymore—we needed another sibling! We started a prayer campaign, and every single night over the course of what seemed like an interminably long time, we prayed faithfully for a “new baby.” I still remember the night we all gathered for family prayer, ready with our request once again, and my parents announced a special surprise: we were going to have a new sibling! Her middle name is “Faith” because of even more miracles that God performed in keeping her healthy and safe despite some issues and a surgery that she had to undergo. After our baby sister was born, our faith grew, and we sisters pow-wowed once again.  We decided that we needed to be very specific this time. Why not pray for a baby brother, specifically? And then when our baby brother came, he needed a playmate, right? And that, of course, is the story of Susanna, Micah, and Jonah!

3. Right after I got my braces off, I was a diligent wearer of my retainers, the exorbitant expense of which had been duly impressed on my mind. One evening, I was watching a movie with the family, and we were eating a snack. So I carefully took my retainer out, set it on the shelf behind me, and enjoyed the snack. Later that evening, I went back to retrieve my retainer, but it had disappeared! Needless to say, I was quite distraught; I interrogated everyone in the house and hunted high and low like a mad person, but to no avail. Thankfully, I had a spare set to hold me over. The next evening, picture the same scene: I’m watching a movie, remove my retainer, make certain that I carefully set it right in the middle of the shelf behind me, and, lo and behold—it disappeared again. Now, you must understand that I am an obsessive overachiever, and this was simply not acceptable. I was picturing my parents having to pay $400 to buy me new retainers, and I was extremely upset. I searched and searched to no avail, I cried and fretted, and then I prayed. I prayed like I had never prayed before, and the next afternoon, 18 month old Jonah toddled over and grabbed my skirt. He was trying to tell me something, and he was lisping about my teeth. At first I nodded sweetly and went about my business, but he insisted, and all of a sudden it dawned on me. “Yes, Jonah—do you know where my ‘teeth’ are?” His dimpled hand pulled me to our mudroom, where there is an old, unused heater set into the wall, and he pointed and complacently stared at the heater. His tiny hand had reached through the grate…and dropped both sets of my retainers in! I never would have found them, and what are the chances that an 18 month old would remember and be able to communicate where he had stowed the “teeth”? With God in control, I never should have worried!

4. From the moment my fourteen year old self heard about the youth symphony in our community, I really, really, really wanted to play in it. The only obstacle was the several hundred dollars worth of tuition required. I had no idea where I was going to get that kind of money. I had occasional babysitting jobs, but that only amounted to a gross income of a whopping $70 a year. Prayer was the only way to go, so Mikaela and I combined forces and prayed. One day, an aquaintance called asking if we could babysit her children that summer. This meant regular, all-day babysitting jobs throughout the summer for which we would get paid $30 a day. (Somehow, that doesn't seem like so much anymore!) Every day I would go home utterly exhausted from trying to keep the children entertained, the house cleaned, and the squabbles and emergencies to a minimum, but the $30 check in my pocket made it all worth it! At the end of the summer, Mikaela and I emptied our shiny gold box in which we kept our riches and counted it up. We had enough for the Youth Philharmonic, and symphony playing has been in my blood ever since!

5. In this post Mikaela shared that we got to go to the Creation Museum. But what she didn’t share was the fact that that opportunity in itself was a miracle! From the moment we knew we were going to Indianapolis for a class, we were mapping out just how long it would take to get to the Creation Museum from there. We tried every option: Can we rent a car? Can we take a train? Can we take a bus? Can we take a U-haul?  (Seriously.) Can we fly into the Ohio airport, get a taxi, stow our luggage at the front desk of the museum, get another taxi, catch a bus to Indianapolis, and get picked up to go to the campus? We tried finangling every way we could, but nothing was seeming to work! I was praying about it the whole way, and finally the Lord just gave my parents, Mikaela, and I peace about stepping out in faith and purchasing the tickets to the Ohio airport, 2 hours from where our class was, but only minutes from the museum. That whole scenario for getting to the Creation Museum was confused and tangled, and to be honest, we had no idea just how it would work.  There were so many tricky variables involving timing of the museum’s opening and the bus’s departure time that we really had to yield the situation to the Lord. Around the same time that we stepped out in faith and bought the tickets, though, the Lord reminded us of a friend we hadn’t seen in a while who lived somewhere near the museum. We decided that we might as well e-mail her and see if she was interested in meeting us at the museum. Back came the most miraculous e-mail: I had said nothing about our confusing scenario for making it to the museum, yet this friend immediately wrote that she and her mom wanted to pick us up at the airport, take us to the museum, and then drop us off at our bus stop when we were done. Mikaela and I were walking on cloud nine for the rest of the day! God had truly had a plan all along, although we had no inkling of it, and His plan was so, so much better than ours ever could have been!
Psalm 65:5 says,

“By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us, O God of our salvation, You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, And of the far-off seas.”
Those words could easily have been written by me, so true they are of God's power in my life!  And here are some verses from the chapter I praised the Lord with when I found my retainers:
“Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, And I will declare Your greatness….My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD, And all flesh shall bless His holy name Forever and ever. (Psalm 145:6, 21)”
I could go on and on eternally declaring the greatness of the God who hears in my life, but now it's your turn! Since it is a Biblical command to praise God’s awesome acts, I want to hear your testimonies! Post your own list of specific answers to prayer that you have seen, and leave a comment below to share this encouragement with all of us! I can't wait to praise the Lord along with you!


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

5.10.2011

Living God's Word and Loving It: Part I


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I have become complacent, self-sufficient, and proud. Somehow, I have gotten to the place where I believed—unconsciously, but inexusably—that I could live the Christian life without Christ. Who wants to live the “ian” life? The saints in China are not dying for the ian life—they are living and giving for Christ. They have learned to rely upon Him and Him alone. Jack Hayford wisely commented, "The Bible is...as necessary to spiritual life as breath is to natural life. There is nothing more essential to our lives than the Word of God."

Times of Bounty
I have not always been like this, mind you. Scripture has been a top priority in my life, and I have read through the Bible many times. When I look back over my life, periods of intense delight in the Word of God clearly stand out to me. These periods inevitably followed a time of rededication to God, cleansing of all impurities from my life, and wholeheartedly committing to follow God no matter what. Opening the pages of God’s Word with this dedication in my head and on my heart and coming from my lips and ringing in my ears, I would get that tingly feeling in the pit of my stomach and my fingers would shake—my eyes had no trouble following the words, and my mind had no problem focusing on the meaning. There was adrenaline in my system at the very point of contact with the Holy Bible and the Holy Spirit within me guiding my thoughts and understanding.

“I rise before the dawning of the morning,
         And cry for help;
         I hope in Your word.
 My eyes are awake through the night watches,
         That I may meditate on Your word….
Princes persecute me without a cause,
         But my heart stands in awe of Your word.
 I rejoice at Your word
           As one who finds great treasure."
~ Psalm 119: 147-148, 161-162

Times of Leanness
But then there are times like now. Times where I read my Bible (for school, for family devotions, for church), but I do not have a quiet time of just me, my Bible, the Holy Spirit, and God. Times where I look at my Bible in the morning and make the conscious decision not to pick it up. Does this grieve me to confess? Absolutely—it is a sin, and I cannot pretend otherwise.

I have also learned from times like these, however. I have learned that Scripture reading is not for God—it is for me. You who read the Bible for two hours every single day are not automatically more spiritual than I who have been neglecting my Bible reading, or the poor indigenous human who has yet to have Scripture translated into his language. Reading Scripture does not gain us bonus points in some cosmic game or move us up in some heavenly hiearchy. We are not saved because of our diligence in perusing the Bible, but because of God’s grace. Because I have been saved therefore, and because I recognize my sinful state and my utter dependence upon God, I realize that there is only one conceivable possibility for me to make it through today unscathed by the Devil and my own lusts. I must devour Scripture. I must beseech the throne of God. I must be meditating on passages as I brush my hair and as I drive to teach music lessons. I must offer up constant pleas for help to God.

God commanded the future kings of Israel to search out Scripture, and what is good for a king of Israel is certainly good for me!

“Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.” 

~Deuteronomy 17:18-20
This is in answer to a reader's question a few weeks ago, but it is an issue that I believe all Christians deal with at some point in their lives. Read Part Two here!

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


Photo taken by Stuck in Customs

5.06.2011

The Wedding of All Millenia

She was a commoner, a girl just like us. But then she happened to meet and fall in love with the future King of England, and common does not describe her anymore.

Any girl worth her weight in volumes of fairy tales already knows exactly who I am talking about, already has watched the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and already is in love with the fairy tale of Kate and Will.

I, of course, am well worth my weight in volumes of fairy tales, and I blissfully watched the wedding and reveled in the panorama of a fairy tale coming to life. Reveled in the gorgeous music, the wonderfully appropriate Scripture readings, the bride’s beautiful smile, and the stunningly elegant hats. And then, after all the reveling, when paparazzi is back to showing Kate shopping at the grocery store, I wondered why it mattered so much. What is so appealing about this fairy tale that it would set records for the most watched live video event online? Is it the alluring mirage that Kate could be any one of us that makes the royal wedding so tantalizing? Is it the delight of surveying the glamour of every girl’s dream wedding on full display that is so magnetic? Is it the apparently true love of an adorable couple that endears them to us so? Or could it be that watching the royal wedding of an ordinary girl to a handsome prince somehow delights that inner yearning we all have to be a princess?

Yet even as I enjoyed the wedding, I was saddened by the thought that, to my knowledge, neither Prince William nor Kate are saved, and most of the ceremony was probably mere routine for them. Therefore, I do condone them as role models or ideals to strive after.  But another thought chased that sad one into my brain. It was the thought of another royal wedding, so like yet so unlike the British one of last week. This royal wedding is even more magnificent, even more jaw-dropping. The unworthy commoner is once again the bride; the noble and loving king, the bridegroom.
The backstory of this royal couple is even more tear-jerking than that of the British royal couple.  As a matter of fact, the bride would not even be alive were it not for her bridegroom, who sacrificed his life for hers. 
Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”
And the smile of that beautiful bride as she walks toward her bridegroom on that wonderful day will put to shame even Kate’s bridal glow.

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)
Just as Kate's eyes were fastened on William as she said, "I do," so,
“The Bride eyes not her garment, but her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory but on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth but on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel’s land."
That will be the wedding of all millenia.  The choir will be even more perfect, the vows even more heartfelt, the audience even more numerous.  Kate had to wait eight years to marry her prince, but this Bride and Bridegroom waited even longer.  And all the royal Prince Williams of the world   cannot compare with Christ the Bridegroom.




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

5.03.2011

Iron Sharpening

The Christian Heritage Family Discipleship and Homeschooling Conference is one of the highlights of my family's year. It involves lots of work and little sleep since we help out as volunteers, but it also includes incredible opportunities to fellowship with likeminded Christians and homeschoolers from not only Washington, but also Canada, Idaho, and Oregon. (I have included lots of links in this post, so take advantage of them and click through to find out more about what I'm talking about!)



 We traveled on Thursday morning to help with set up and get familiar with our jobs.

The Botkin family and Mr. Kevin Swanson were the keynote speakers this year, and Lauren and I worked at the Botkin booth in the vendor hall selling all of their marvelous material! It was wonderful to talk with Anna Sophia and Elizabeth and to meet the rest of the family that was there. If you have not heard of them before, check out their website!

 It was special to get to meet a few more blog readers, too! Thanks so much, Ruth and Eden, for coming up to us. It was so much fun to visit with you, and we look forward to future get-togethers! (And Raquel, Keilah, Tara and Kelly--whom we already knew in real life, but mostly keep up with in the blogosphere--it was great seeing you as well!) Of course there were so many other old and new friends that we got to catch up with. Too many to name here, yet they all brightened our day and encouraged us in so many ways.

 Family Night on Friday evening is always an incredible experience with a selection of unique musical performances and recitations from homeschoolers and graduates. From Czardas on the marimba to seven sisters praising God in acapella harmony to interviews with two families who produced two quality films and won prizes in the 2010 San Antonio Film Festival, I was inspired, uplifted, and entertained.

 Mama worked in registration all weekend with these lovely ladies!

 
The theme of the weekend was "Be Ye Transformed," based on Romans 12:1-2:

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Mr. Swanson and Mr. Botkin as well as the myriad of Godly workshop speakers challenged every part of our lives, from literature to grammar to character to vision to family to government to music. Just as things would begin to look bleak and I wondered if there even was a chance for America, with Christians fast becoming a minority and socialism fast becoming a normality and compromise fast becoming the standard, the Holy Spirit would convict me through these speakers by their courage, their steadfastness, and their character.



Four short chorale sessions gave the young people just enough time to polish four varied and beautiful pieces. It is always such a delight to work with our excellent director and learn from him and the other participants.


 In the final session, we performed a hymn arrangement, a spiritual, a classical piece, and a choral accompaniment to a piano solo. Praising the Lord almost one hundred strong, with each and every young person a homeschooler or homeschool graduate was incredible. Please join with me in praying for each one of these young ladies and men and those around our nation. We must stand strong and without compromise, building on our parents' foundation in humility and honor. If the incredible movement our parents have begun through God's grace is dropped on our watch, then I fear we will have lost our last chance for reform and revival in the church today.
 We got to meet and work with this dear family (minus one who was probably off helping somewhere).

 I always come away from the conference with newfound friends--sisters and brothers in Christ!

 Saturday--the final day of the conference--was Susanna's birthday, and she spent most of the day running around with Melanie and taking care of all the speakers and staff. In the evening, though, we went out for dinner and had a special time together unwinding after a long weekend.

Ah...the conference. I already have next year's event written in my calendar--you must not miss Dr. Voddie Baucham Jr. as keynote speaker next year from April 26-28, 2012. Lord willing, I'll be there too!




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