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

6.26.2012

Have You Heard the Latest?

A friend and I met for coffee, and as we sat down with our steaming mugs in hand, I could tell that something was wrong. First of all, her once-beautiful hair was now boy-short; her eyes had lost their sparkle and looked dull and sad; she sported one of those stick-on rhinestones meant to look like a nose piercing (I hope it wasn't real!), and her shirt was waaaaay lower than I would wear. So we chit-chatted for awhile--she caught me up on all the latest news, good and bad, about our mutual friends. Eventually, I questioned whether her parents supported her in all these...changes. At this point, she flew off the handle, and with a face ten shades darker than it was five seconds ago, she told me off and left the shop. The whole situation saddens me, because I’m really not sure when I’ll see her again, or who she is turning out to be. Pray for her with me, won’t you?

So that scenario never happened (any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental, and, I promise, I love meeting friends for coffee!), but it sure got you to click through your feed, didn’t it? Funny how a little dirt on someone will pique a person’s interest. Of course, a little dirt on myself would do the same thing, but why would I share dirt on myself? Gossip. I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately. There’s no better way to inject a bit of adrenaline into a lagging conversation than to share a tasty tidbit on someone else. The best prayer requests come from back-fence talk, and we always appreciate a warning through the grapevine. Much better to learn from other people’s mistakes, so we prattle those mistakes as a tutorial in what not to do. 

So Maybe I Lied...

If you’re reading the latest celebrity news, listening to Dr. Laura, watching reality T.V., blogging about someone else’s troubles, snooping for details in a conversation, or buzzing the details to someone else, chances are, you’re gossiping. 

The Sin of Gossip

Yenta, that nosy matchmaker on Fiddler on the Roof, doesn’t seem so horrible, but she is actually committing serious offenses. Sharing the scuttlebutt is intrinsically opaque and dishonest (Psalms 101:5-8)—who is there to factcheck or verify your statements? Have you considered that the next generation—your children—learn the skill by watching you and practicing in the great family tradition of slander (I Peter 1:18)? So watch yourself! Gossip brings anger and distress (II Peter 2:7), and secondhand accounts are corrupt, vain, and contentious (Ephesians 2:3). Furthermore, we undermine the unity of the Church and our testimony in Christ when we choose to expand the grapevine (Colossians 3:8-10).
Sometime when I was in my early teens, a new family started attending our church. My friendship with them was only weeks-old, but somehow I thought I observed attitudes and conduct between them that caused me to assume that the husband was not a Christian. I was idling away the minutes in conversation with a friend, when I discovered that she also knew this family—and had known them for awhile.
“Well, you know he’s unsaved, right?” I commented, anxious to discuss this interesting development.
My friend’s look of choking shock brought me to my senses faster than a douse of cold water. “Really?” she asked breathlessly.
Horrified, I realized what I had just done, and the import of my words. “Oh, no. Never mind,” I hastily backtracked. “I don’t know them very well. I guess he is a Christian. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
I came to realize later, from my own observations and the father’s testimony, that he was indeed saved, and I shudder to think of how far the rumor I almost started could have gone. What damage to a worthy man’s reputation could I have caused? What division in the body of Christ? And what irreperable harm to his own soul and well-being?
There’s a reason which trumps all others as to why gossip should never be a part of our conversation.

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another (James 4:10-12)?”

When you gossip, you are playing God.

Make a Change

Don’t be like Verbena (housekeeper on The Parent Trap) who is famously quoted in our family for her quips “It's none of my nevermind. I don't say a word,” and “I'm not saying a word. Not one single word,” when she so obviously did make the hearsay her nevermind and said many, many words. Let the gossip stop with you. Don’t share something hurtful, damaging, private, or sensitive with someone else, unless you’re absolutely assured that it involves the person (usually, this means that you’re sharing with an authority over you or him).

Don’t allow someone else to gossip to you either. I was just talking to a dear, wise old lady in our church about this problem with gossiping. She agreed with me that there is something so very tempting to our curiousity to hear the “latest” report. So I asked her how she has succeeded in graciously asking others to not gossip to her.
“Well, Mikaela,” she said, “You have to be brave—you have to be really brave. I’ve had to do that with a few friends of mine, and it’s not easy.” But she also pointed out that those friends never gossiped to her again—and hopefully, they were convicted by her example! I’ve been on both sides of this. I’ve maligned others, sinning against them and the people to whom I’m talking; moreover, I’ve listened to the tales of friends, enjoying the mystery and the scandal of it.
This is serious business, folks. By ignoring the issue, you are calling your own relationship with God into question: “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion [is] vain (James 1:26).” Just by purposing to change your conversation habits, you may cause the unsaved to turn to the Lord. “Having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation (I Peter 2:12).”
I hope that those of you with whom I interact will keep me accountable and stop me before I exhibit someone’s dirty laundry (and, by implication, my own). And I hope that all of you will have a serious conversation about this with your own friends and family, committing each other to honest and honorable conversation.



Photo Credit: Taylor Dawn Fortune

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

6.19.2012

Treasure Trove

I heaved the old door open and stepped in, shaking the rain droplets from my hair, grateful for the shelter.  My eyes roved around the uninspiring, cold expanse of concrete-floored room, and came up with one common denominator: junk.  “But who knows,”  I thought.  “Perhaps a treasure is buried here somewhere.” 

I read the story of a life in the trinkets lined up on those tables.  Those teacups missing their partner saucers—did a three year old boy accidentally jostle the china cabinet?  Perhaps he was consoled by a heartbroken Mama with the words, “It’s alright, sweetie, Mama knows you didn’t do it on purpose.” 
 
That ghastly avocado green Kitchen Aid mixer—probably the pride of this woman’s life, perhaps a gift from a husband who knew just how much she wanted one and in exactly which trendy shade. 

There were sweet trinkets and odd ones, but my hands were still empty.  Unfinished crochet and a host of filled sewing bobbins filled a table.  The movies, they told a tale, and I found myself disappointed in a few of them.  “Did she really watch that?”  I wondered. 

My shoulders were inching towards a shrug of defeat—no treasures to be found—when I saw them. 


Books.

And these told a tale between the lines well worth telling. 

There was a vintage Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and a well-worn Green Eggs and Ham.  I would have loved coming to this Grandma’s house! 

A stack of beautiful hardbacks caught my eye.  The top one, Through the Gate, bore a faded but precious painting of a little girl and boy on the front.  I flipped through it, and my heart began to race as that old book smell wafted to my nose and the yellowed pages yielded up their whimsicality.


Hailing from 1937, with tales such as “Cinderella,” “The Nutcracker and Sugardolly Stories,” “The Selfish Giant,” and “Snow-White and Rose-Red,” I knew I had found my treasure.  The only difficulty: How to pick between that one and Through Fairy Halls, Halls of Fame,  From the Tower Window, and oh so many others in the same series, "My Book House"?



 Some were filled with innocent folk legends, others with ancient tales, and still others with selections from literature and childhood biographies of authors, all designed to entice the wee ones. 
My delight could not be contained.  I instantly noticed the striking resemblance to books I grew up with and that my father had grown up with, books that we somehow managed to get rid of in a fit of purging.  I began to pile my arms high.



And then I spotted another treasure.

My Book About God’s World, the front cover read, and the only text in this darling picture book is selections from the King James Bible.   
Well, almost.  Inside the cover, scripted in blue ink, was written, "Merry Christmas, Bridget.  1962."





The watercolor paintings are dear, and the words even more endearing.  I really didn’t have a choice—it was calling to come home with me, and I could already imagine reading it to my own children someday. 

And so I stacked my treasures in my arms and surveyed the room strewn with the collections of a lifetime.  Some of the possessions purveyed revealed the well-lived life of a busy, industrious woman.  Others revealed human foibles and sadness, but these well-loved books, they told a tale worth telling.  I made my move towards the cash register. 
   

“I’ll take these, please,” I said.  They will receive a place of honor on my bookshelf, and someday I hope they’ll tell the kind of tales I want told about me after I die. 




6.15.2012

A Change of Pace

BlackBox study-aid book

While it is not true that it rains 365 days of the year in Washington state, it is true that we Washingtonians feel the distinct urge to live outside during the three most gorgeous months of the year--June, July, and August.  (Thus the hike/bike ride slated to happen tomorrow.)

While it is not true that I've been enjoying a life of leisure and bonbons this year, it is true that Mikaela and I are gearing up to finally finish school in September! (Thus the nine hour school days we have been cranking out.  Pray for us!)

While it is not true that I ever forsee abandoning this blog, it is true that Mikaela and I are changing things up a bit.  Just a tiny bit.  (Thus the fact that this will be the last Friday post for the next few months.  Instead, you'll find one of us here every Tuesday this summer, hopefully with content to inspire and refresh.)

Come sunshine, rain, insane tests, one hundred pages of textbook reading, piano pounding, pavement pounding, or sore muscles, I'll see you here on Tuesday! 


Photo Credit: hyoin min

6.12.2012

First Love

Heart

My love for God is selfish, shallow, and without merit.

I continually find myself before the Lord, throwing myself upon His mercy and forgiveness once again. Sins that have come between Him and me—idolatrous choices that take advantage of His grace—these things seem never to end, and the command to be perfect like my Heavenly Father seems impossible.

And when I do love Him, it is with a love that has been tainted by the love of other things.

When I am my most dedicated to God, it is only because I remembered with a start the sacrifice He has made for me.

I am selfish, idolatrous, shallow, fickle, and dishonorable, and out of that soul comes that love—attempting to wrap around an Omnipotent, Perfect, Sovereign God like a centipede spanning a giant California redwood tree. I love God, not because my soul is beautiful and strong and spiritual, but because it isn’t. I love Him for one reason: because He loved me first.

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.” ~ I John 4:10


G.K. Chesterton once said, “love means to love that which is unlovable; or it is no virtue at all.” How embarrassing is it that my love ebbs and flows when it is for the God of Love and Virtue Himself?

“In respect of agapao as used of God, it expresses the deep and constant ‘love’ and interest of a perfect Being towards entirely unworthy objects, producing and fostering a reverential ‘love’ in them towards the Giver, and a practical ‘love’ towards those who are partakers of the same, and a desire to help others to seek the Giver[i].”

That agape love with which God loves me so completely—that is how He commands me to love Him. How could He use the same precious word for His love to describe my love? How could His gift and my shrapnel ever be found side by side in a thesaurus, let alone a dictionary? Me, love God the way He loves me?

The answer is in Luke 7:47. "Therefore I say to you, her sins, which [are] many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, [the same] loves little." I have many sins, but I go to God for forgiveness and love. I am forgiven and loved, and because of that, I love much.

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma (Ephesians 5:1-2).”






Photograph Credit: Seyed Mostafa Zamani

[i] Vine, W. E. "Love (Noun and Verb)", Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Blue Letter Bible. 1940. 24 June, 1996 11 Jun 2012.  http://www.blueletterbible.org/Search/Dictionary/viewTopic.cfm?type=GetTopic&Topic=Love+(Noun+and+Verb)&DictList=9#Vine's

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

6.08.2012

The Inheritance: The Conclusion


Forgotten Fortress


To read Part I, click here.

Nethanel wrapped his fingers around the stone his father dropped into his hand.  He was curious about this ancient connection to his ancestors, but it looked just like any other stone on the ground. 

“Why did our ancestors pass down this stone?” he asked.

His father gazed at the hills on the horizon.  “My father could never tell me that either, except that it is a memento of sorts given to the first lad who settled here with his father—his name was Seth, that much I do know.” 

So it was that, only a few days later, Nethanel found himself marching side by side with his sister, mother, father and six hundred men and their families through the countryside that had been his home for as long as he could remember.  They were on a quest for a new inheritance.  Nethanel hardly knew what to think of such a grand adventure, but he did know that he would miss his beloved home with its beautiful valleys and majestic mountain crags.    

After days of weary marching, the whole company finally pulled up before a strange, closed-in cottage.  The men who had scouted the area before seemed excited, and they eagerly gestured as they stormed the gate.  Nethanel watched with squinted eyes, fearful of what was about to happen.  But to his surprise, before long the men came out peacably enough with another man—a priest, and curious statues.

Nethanel eyed the statues with suspicion, and whispered to his sister, “What are those?”
“I think…aren’t they idols?” she replied with hesitation. 

Nethanel felt a cold rush of shock.  Idols?  Wouldn’t father have something to say about that? He stole a glance at his father, but he was calmly helping load the idols onto a donkey.  Nethanel fingered the stone and pondered, but the presence of those ghoulish statues seemed to bother no one else.  In any case, he soon forgot the dilemma in the excitement of the attack on Laish.

It was a thrilling and decisive victory.  But when the men captured Laish with the edge of the sword and burned it to the ground, Nethanel asked his father, “Why couldn’t we have done that to those strange pagans that had inhabited the valley near where we used to live?”

“Don’t ask useless questions, son,” his father answered shortly.  Again, no one could answer him. 

The leaders of the tribe of Dan set up the idols and told all the people that now the tribe of Dan would be great, that now they would be mighty as they used to be, and when no one said anything different, Nethanel stopped asking questions, and he almost began to believe them. 

He would stare at his stone and wonder again what it was a memento of, but whatever secrets it held, they were lost to him forever.  And on the day the idols were set up in a hallowed place for him and his family to worship, he stopped bothering to remember. 

It was on that day the simple stone became not a reminder to remember, but a reminder that he had forgotten.

“So they set up for themselves Micah’s carved image which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.” Judges 18:31


Epilogue

"The mounds of ruins which mark the site of the city [of Dan] show that it covered a considerable extent of ground. But there remains no record of any noble deed wrought by the degenerate tribe. Their name disappears from the roll-book of the natural and the spiritual Israel." -Manning, Those Holy Fields

The tribe of Dan left just a petty part of their job undone, but that carelessness meant that generations down the line saw nothing wrong with blatant idolatry and covetousness.  Dan would never again be great.  The tribe of Dan would be mentioned only a few more times in Scripture, after the record of their idolatry, but it disappeared completely from the genealogies in I Chronicles, and is not mentioned as one of the tribes sealed by the angel in Revelation 7. 
Ironically, the defeat they chose to accept was in a land in which God had already handed them victory.  So the pattern continues today in our own lives. 



Photo Credit: Brian Auer

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

6.05.2012

Mama and Papa

Graduation Day 2008: Papa, Lauren, Mikaela, and Mama

My mom laughingly tells the story of the days succeeding the birth of Lauren and I. New town, new job (for Papa), no mother to help, few friends, and no days off for Papa...all adding up to a memorable and harried few months caring for two demanding infants. Of course she laughs now, but you can be sure there were many tears at the time!

The anecdote is a wonderful representation of who Mama is even now--resilient in the face of change, steadfast in difficulty, and sweetly giving of herself in service and generosity. She's gorgeous, the most amazing cook and hostess you will ever come across, a coffee connoisseur, a wonderful listener, and an amazing friend.

And last night, when something Lauren and I were in charge of was inadvertently broken, Papa took a look at it and decided he could fix it up to the owner's satisfaction. He toted it home without a sigh. And that's Papa--hardworking and wise, available, patient, and the solver of many, many, many problems. (And did I mention he's outrageously genius, gives a mean haircut, is a scholar of God's Word, is well-spoken, and happens to be the best parallel parker around?)

Blessed am I. So very blessed with two such wonderful parents. Parents who trained me with a love for the Lord Jesus Christ and who live out that love each and every day. Parents who are not perfect, but who have humbly set the example of contrition. Parents who have loved what I love and made me successful in it, but loved God and each other more. Both have made countless and innumerable sacrifices for me and my siblings. Mama chose to stay home and homeschool me that she might disciple me in the ways of the Lord and educated me to equip me for such a time as this. Papa has sacrificed job opportunities and his own interests that he might be able to invest in my siblings and I.

So now, between Mother's Day and Father's Day, I just want to take a moment to say thank you to the two people I most want to be like when I grow up. You're my two most favorite people in the whole world.

In what ways are you thankful for your parents?

6.01.2012

The Inheritance

Stone upon stone upon stoneHe was but a ringlet-headed lad, looking up into his father’s eyes which were adoring the landscape before him.  The lad wriggled his hand comfortably into his father’s. 

“Father, are we staying here for awhile?” 

The father, a rugged man, smiled radiantly down at his son through his beard.  “Seth, we are indeed.  In fact, your children will grow up here, and your children’s children, and you yourself will live here until you are a very old man, my boy!”
 
Young Seth was wide-eyed at his father’s boisterous elation, and as he picked his way down the mountainside with his father and all his kin, he found words to voice the thought that needled him: “But father, did we buy this land?”
 
The man was reaching down to loosen his sandal, and his eyes crinkled in a gentle smile aimed at Seth. 

“No, we did not.  God has given it to us.  And the Lord drove out from before us all the wicked people who lived here.[1]  We just need to defeat the last of them that yet remain.  Here, Seth,” and the father pulled out from his leather bag a smooth speckled stone.  He placed the cold weight in Seth’s hands.  “This stone is from the river and whenever you look at it I want you to remember the twelve stones that are still stacked there.  I want you to remember and never forget the power of our God to hold back the waters with His hand like he did when we crossed that river on dry land.”

Seth took the stone, and he vowed that he would never forget. 

It was a beautiful day, yet even as the mighty group wound their way down the mountainside, the sunny skies of the verdant valley were being overtaken by a dark cloud.  Hardly had Seth set foot in his new home before the attacks began.  The natives were a fierce and stubborn people, and they were determined that they would not give up their land.  The people of God were bowed in defeat in the very land God had bequeathed them. 

On the day when Seth trudged back up the mountain with his father, he was six inches taller and his father several shades grayer, and there were no smiles on their exhausted faces. 

“Father,” Seth began when they paused in the same plateau from which they had first surveyed their new home.  “I thought you said that God promised!  I thought you said my children, and my children’s children…”  He gripped the stone in the recesses of his pocket, tears gathering behind his eyes. 

“I know,” the father replied wearily.  “I thought so too, son.  But, after all, we still have all of these mountains.  It was just that little valley that we aren’t powerful enough to keep.” 

Seth nodded, even though he understood nothing, and he turned his back on the valley. 
***
The air was electric with excitement!  The spies had returned!  Nethanel raced from the stream, water buckets forgotten, his legs pumping as fast as they could go.  Soon enough, he saw the crowd of his tribe—cousins and distant aunts, and people so far removed he’d forgotten how they were related, and then he spotted his father.  He sidled over to him, and listened to the leader of the five brave men. 

“Men of Dan!” the muscular man began.  “You know that we have not had an inheritance these hundreds of years and have been forced to lie in the mountains like badgers.  I rejoice to tell you that we must arise!  Let us go up against [Laish].  Would you do nothing?[2]

Nethanel listened with bated breath as the men reported the results of their expedition.  It was a strange, wild tale to Nethanel, about a priest who performed duties for idols and yet inquired of God for the spies from the tribe of Dan.  This strange priest had immediately blessed the spies, telling them the presence of the Lord would be with them.  And so the spies had returned, full of urging for them to send off an army of men to take this new territory they so coveted. 

The crowd began to disperse, and Nethanel’s father started striding towards their dwelling.

“Father!”  Nethanel called.  “What are you doing?”
Nethanel’s father glanced down at his son.  “We’re going to go with them, son, to take our new inheritance.” 

“But I thought this was our inheritance!  Must we leave?”

“Nethanel.”  The boy’s father sighed, and bent down on one knee to level with his son.  “It is, but God did not mean for us to stay in these mountains.  We have too many people, and the land is poor.  In the land to which our spies went, we can become strong and mighty once again!  Besides, you heard what the priest said about our mission—God is with us!” 

“Yes, sir,” Nethanel replied, even though his mind was spinning. 

“Just a moment, Nethanel,” and Nethanel’s father stood up and reached into his robe.  Nethanel’s brow furrowed as he watched his father pull out an object. 
“This stone was given to me by your grandfather, and his father gave it to him before that.  It goes back over two hundred years to our ancestors who first settled here.  It is from the Jordan River, and whenever you look at it, I want you to remember your ancestors and remember to be courageous.” 

Nethanel held out his hands, and the stone dropped into them.


Look for Part Two next week!



[1] Joshua 24:18
[2] Judges 18:9
Photo Credit: Andreas-photography
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