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



Setting a Price

Lauren and I have been in the market for violins since last October, hunting and searching for two perfect specimens in our price range. At a shop last week, considering one prospect, Lauren asked, as one always does in such situations, if the price was negotiable.

"No, it's not," began the owner. "You see, it's a new instrument, and you'll rarely find new instruments with much wiggle room in their price." At this point, he lapsed into a monologue too long for this post to contain about the economic strategies of pricing instruments. He ended by saying, "So when the maker is still alive, he sets the value of the instrument by how much he charges the shop. If he lowers his selling price to any shop or any customer, then he has undermined his own integrity, because no one can trust the value of his creations anymore."

Setting a Precedent: True Love

Hosea was on the receiving end of his wife's unfaithfulness. He had every right in man's eyes to be bitter, angry, and vengeful. She did not come to him on her hands and knees begging for forgiveness, offering great gifts. No--he found her at a slave auction, helpless, hopeless, and undesirable. And yet he paid fifteen shekels of silver and one and one-half homers of barley to buy her back and redeem her to himself. Some say he paid everything he had, judging by the motley assortment of money and food he scraped together. In the eyes of many, she had no value. Hosea gave Gomer her value when he paid his livelihood for her.
"It Is Finished"

Seeing the Paradigm: Undeserved Value

And so I realized. Just as the violin maker sets the value for his violins--just as Hosea gave value to Gomer, so Jesus gave value to you and me. It was the most unfair trade in the history of commerce. Jesus would give His life for my life? Jesus would give His life for your life? All the times I have wronged Him, all the times I have betrayed Him, all the times I have used Him--I should be the one paying Him, and yet what do I have? I was but a slave, my hands shackled by my sin.  
Jesus redeemed you and me with His life. He gave everything He had at a price too extraordinary to comprehend. In so doing, He gave us a name, a hope, a future--value. He gave what was priceless for what was undesirable. Because my Savior gave His life for me and rose again on the third day and lives in heaven, I have value, and so do you.

Take time to soberly reflect Jesus' pain on Good Friday, to solemnly mourn Jesus' death on Saturday--and to joyfully celebrate on Sunday the resurrection of our Lord and Savior! We love because He first loved us. We have nothing worth giving, and yet because Jesus set our value so much higher than we ever would, we can be confident that we can have a place in His kingdom and in heaven--if we but ask and believe.

Photo Credit: Clearly Ambiguous
Photo Credit: Christopher JL


Pastor in Dreadlocks

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“Mom, who’s Pilate?” “He’s the big shot.  Be quiet”
“I can’t see!”
“What do those words on the screen say?”
“Oh…oh…I am thirsty.  I am really thirsty!”
I was at an Easter play, trying desperately to get “in the mood”, but with the running commentary going on behind me, I might as well have been in Costco watching The Passion of the Christ on their big screen TV displays while people around me munched Polish sausages. 
I was getting fed up. 
This mom was obviously not in control of her kid, and he was being such a distraction—I seriously contemplated turning around with a hissed, “Shh!”  And I almost did it, too, but something or Someone held me back, and I decided simply to put up with the bother.  But as the play unfolded, I couldn’t help but realize that the little boy’s inquisitive questions were growing more and more pointed. 

“Hey, did you notice that one of the crosses is bigger than the others?  Why is that?”
“What—they can’t kill Jesus!  He’s God!”
“What does that sign on Jesus’ cross say?” 
Before I knew it, it was intermission, and a man strode across the stage, microphone in hand.  I did a double take when I saw him, but had to do a triple take when he introduced himself, “I’m the new lead pastor here at this church,” said the man with dreadlocks. 
Dreadlocks! I thought.  On a pastor?  Never mind that they were the tidiest dreadlocks I had ever seen, pulled back tightly against his head, or that dreadlocks aren't exactly a salvation issue—I was horrified!  And in that moment I was not on the side of the Jesus I had been worshipping just moments ago.  I was on the side of the Pharisees whose addiction to their own self-righteousness drove nails through the hands of the Son of God.  I was steeped in self-righteousness and dripping judgment. 
And then the Holy Spirit said, But this pastor with dreadlocks looks no different than that handsome man with the flowing curly hair whom you just saw playing Jesus!
Truth flooded my heart and washed the self-righteousness away.  I was humbled at the thought of my own hypocrisy, but God was not quite done yet. 
At the very end of the play, an actor gave the salvation message and invited the audience to pray the sinner’s prayer.  I was expecting that it would turn out like every other Christian event I’ve attended which has followed that format, in which peer pressure results in everyone praying but no one truly meaning it. 
But then the actor surprised me.  He told us that if anyone had just prayed that prayer and become a Christian, he wanted them to do a courageous thing: stand and declare to the world what the Lord had done in them.  He explained the reasons for this stand, and then gave the signal.  Across the dark room, courageous people rose, their new Helper giving their legs strength.  Not hundreds, but at least fifteen or twenty people stood.  Suddenly, a movement right behind me caught the corner of my eye, and the man rose who had been sitting next to the distracting, chatty little boy. 
Tears came to my eyes again as I realized that if I had shushed that boy, it would have been as if I was saying in front of that unsaved man, “Be quiet!  I’m a follower of Jesus and I want to hear what He has to say.”  My judgment on that little boy was founded on selfishness, and who knows but that the Holy Spirit used the boy’s innocent questions to strike conviction in that man’s heart? 
At home after the play, though it was almost midnight I just couldn’t resist.  I googled the pastor with the dreadlocks.  And what I found was that he was a man passionate for the Gospel.  So passionate, in fact, that he goes out on the streets of Portland to reach the unreached, dreadlocks definitely making that approach simpler than if he were a clean-cut do-gooder in a suit coat.  If you disagree, you don’t know Portland. 
This is not either a defense or condemnation of dreadlocks or of chatting during plays for that matter.  This blog is not the place for that.  However, it is a condemnation of my reaction to those two things.  It is a challenge to understand that I never know how or by whom the Holy Spirit is going to work, and for me to get in the way of that with my own self-righteousness-steeped, judgment-dripping self is a move too dangerous to risk. 

"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."  ~John 7:24 

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


If I Could Bless You

"Mikaela, I heard the most amazing song at the conference in Texas!" Mama told me shortly after she had flown home. I couldn't have been more than twelve, and I don't remember anything she relayed to me about the content of the conference - except the amazing song she had heard. She ordered the music and a CD of it right away, and our family heard "The Blessing Song" by Dennis Jernigan for the first time.

May the Lord answer you in the day of your trouble;

May the name of the Lord be your strong mighty tower.

May He grant you your heart's deepest dreams and desires;

May He answer you each time you call.
happy blue magnoliaday

Several years later, the young people of my church learned this song. We practiced and prepared. We knew the words, the melodies, the harmonies. Nevertheless, the spirit of the song I didn't understand until we were there on stage singing for 100 people. And suddenly, I was overwhelmed as I sang out a blessing with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to my brothers and sisters in Christ. There was nary a dry eye in the church - and the Holy Spirit was moving....
I had the privilege of guest posting over at Sarah's blog, The Lord's Lass, so hurry on over there to read the rest of this post!  

Photo Credit: Harold Lloyd


Wrestling 101

Jacob wrestled the angel
When you think of God revealing His will, what instances come to mind? Do you think of Jesus sweating drops of blood as He pleaded with God? Do you think of that time when you fasted and earnestly prayed? Maybe when Mary was going about her own business and the Lord gave her a purpose to her life for which she would have never dared to seek? Do you remember the time when God so clearly shut the door to something you so desperately wanted to do?
Knowing and seeking God--it's both incredibly passive and absolutely active. It is something done to us and something we must do.
Take Jacob, for instance. The guy innocently sets up camp and prepares his rocky bed, only to have his slumber interrupted by the most extraordinary vision of his life {Genesis 28:10-22}. What did he do to learn God's heart in such an extraordinary way? As far as I can tell, absolutely nothing.
God does not need us to ask in order to reveal Himself--but He does want us to ask.
"Sow for yourselves righteousness;
Reap in mercy;
Break up your fallow ground,
For [it is] time to seek the LORD,
Till He comes and rains righteousness on you." 
Hosea 10:12 
This word for seek does not mean "whisper a prayer in the morning, whisper a prayer at noon...." Instead, it comes from a word which literally means to trample with the feet or thresh [1]. A person who is seeking the Lord will earnestly inquire, constantly investigate, and seriously care. He will strive to harvest every bit of fruitful wisdom he can from God--and find that the fruit overflows and the harvest never ends.
God may come to you at the most unexpected times, but if you haven't heard from Him lately, perhaps you haven't sought Him. Perhaps you have grown numb to the gnawing of your famished stomach; perhaps you just need to sign up for some wrestling classes.
Good old Jacob. Two more times, Scripture records that he hears from God--and both times, he sought God like a man possessed.
"He took his brother by the heel in the womb, And in his strength he struggled with God. Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed; He wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him [in] Bethel, And there He spoke to us-- That is, the LORD God of hosts. The LORD [is] His memorable name. So you, by [the help of] your God, return; Observe mercy and justice, And wait on your God continually."  Hosea 12:3-6
Have you wrestled with God and prevailed? Have you plumbed His endless depths and struck bottom? Have you studied His heart until you know its landscape by heart? Have you experienced Bethel and then gone back and asked for a second Bethel {Genesis 35:1-15}? We have not because we ask not. Seek His face with desperation, boldness, perseverance, and humility, and you will find Him.

Photo Credit: Tim and Selena Middleton
Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for darash (Strong's 1875)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2013. 11 Mar 2013. < http:// strongs=H1875 >
New King James Version, © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.


Living on Mystery

el buscador
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When I was perhaps ten, I went through a phase in which I inhaled mystery books.  I voraciously read as it was, but for some reason, the mystery genre was the bee’s knees for that time in my life.  I sprawled on my stomach on my pink carpet and read and read.  I didn’t stop until I was certain who was the culprit behind the cat-stealing or the candle-waving in the window or any other such innocent mystery. 
Mikaela and I even wrote an entire mystery book, at least one hundred pages long, which involved two twin girls and a mysterious chopping sound in the woods.  At the end of every chapter, we inserted several questions to give the opportunity for the reader to put together the clues and solve the mystery. 
Pure genius.
And perhaps all that infatuation with mystery now explains why I was scared spitless to venture out after dark to close up the chicken coop.  Hmmmm…
But it also illustrates a very real point that humans thrive on mystery.  I was struck with this insight on Sunday while playing a favorite hymn at church.  The final verse of the hymn says,
"I know not when my Lord may come,
At night or noonday fair,
Nor if I'll walk the vale with Him,
Or meet Him in the air."
I have no idea if I will die or if I will get to be raptured to Heaven with the rest of the believers.  I have no clue if I will get married or whom I will marry.  I’m in the dark about what color the sky will be tomorrow or if we’ll have an unseasonably late snowfall. 
But that's just the fun of it.  Don't those mysteries give you a zest for life as you wait to see what God does tomorrow? 
God did give us confidence in Him, and He clued us in to the important things that we need to know.  Colossians 1:25b-27 says,

“The word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

But other things, He purposefully left in mystery because therein lies the joy of life.  He could have made the color of the sky to correspond with the day of the week, or the rapture to fall precisely on a prophesied day.  But once you read the end of the book, the point of reading is lost.  Likewise, although God has revealed the ultimate triumph of the ultimate Protagonist, there are many whos, whats, whens, and wheres that we have yet to discover. 
The problem is, we often view life as one long dreary roll of toilet paper, unrolling predictably to the next perfectly square, routine, white day.  That is a lie.  In truth, God is hand-embroidering each day to His design, and no day is ever quite like another, because no day is just about what you accomplish therein.
Last week I held for the first time a beautiful baby girl who had just breathed her first gaspful of oxygen only days before.  A mystery.  Today I sweated while I endeavored to interpret whether my recipe for chocolate mousse which called for “whip cream” meant “whipped” or “whipping.”  I deduced whipped, correctly solved the mystery, and stand by my opinion on the importance of suffixes.  A mystery.  Tomorrow I teach the same children I taught last week, but I have no idea what stories they have to bring me, what dedication they have to show me, or what character issues they will have to work on.  A wonderful mystery.  As for the next day, I do not even know enough to guess what mysteries God will bring me! 
Although mysteries are far from my current go-to reading genre, I’m now realizing that it would be accurate to say that I still inhale mysteries or that, in point of fact, I quite live on them. 

P.S.--Speaking of mysteries, what do you think of all the mysterious changes going on around here?  We're not quite done tweaking, but are loving the new look!  Also, don't forget to enter our giveaway before you leave!

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


Why You Should Name Your Son Ebenezer

Memory Problems

A Reminder
There I was at Jo-Ann's, swiping my debit card and punching in my pin number. Invalid. I tried again--and again--and just in case, one more time. I tried to reach into the dusty crevices of my brain to resuscitate the numbers. I was sure that I just getting one or two numbers out of order. Alack and alas, though I could remember my seven-digit library number, I could not come up with my four-digit pin number. I ended up scraping together the cash in $1 bills and coins and borrowing a few dollars from Melanie to make up the difference. And then I went home to check the number--and it was not even close to what I had thought it was.
How does my memory work like that? How can I remember the number perfectly fine one day, and then--when I really need it--I think I know it, but I don't! The solution, of course, would be to write it down. Maybe engrave it on a bracelet or stamp it on the bottom of my shoe or encode it on my cell phone. Except for the would-be identity thieves just drooling to get their hands on my bracelet, shoe, or cell phone, this would be a perfect plan.

Stone of Help

With my memory as inconsistent as it is, I need reminders. Like the time I forgot my friend's name--a reminder would have been good. Or the time I forgot what I had prayed for that morning and missed out on the blessing of seeing an answered prayer. Or the time when I forgot what seven times eight is. Wish I had had a multiplication table just then. Or the time I couldn't remember that I was saved. I was scared to death that maybe it was a figment of my imagination. Or the time I was so desperately troubled that I forgot the glory of my God.
That's why I need an Ebenezer--a stone of help. God is my Ebenezer--He is my Help and my Rock (Exodus 3:14-15), but sometimes I forget. Or sometimes, I think I remember, but I've gotten it all muddled in my brain without even realizing it. This is why Abraham named the place where he nearly sacrificed Isaac "Jehovahjireh" (Genesis 22:14) and why Jacob set up stones twice in Bethel (Genesis 28:18 and 31:45). This is why Moses built an altar (Exodus 17:15) and Joshua set up twelve stones (Joshua 4:9) and a stone under an oak tree (Joshua 24:26). Samuel set up a stone in I Samuel 7:12 as his reminder.
So it turns out, I'm in good company. I'm forgetful, fickle, gullible, and temporal. That's why I need to engrave my reminders in stone or write them in my journal or blog them on the internet or share them with my friends or represent them with objects (I have necklaces, books, artwork, etc. that serve this purpose). These are my Ebenezers to remind short-sighted me what my God has done in my life. 

"Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: 'When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, "What [are] these stones?" then you shall let your children know....that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the LORD, that it [is] mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.'" - (Jos 4:21-22, 24

Now if only I could remember my Social Security number...

New King James Version, © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Photo #1 Credit: Andrew Enright
Photo #2 Credit: Hugo Photography
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