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

2.25.2014

♥ Thinking about February ♥


February generally gains its glory in chocolate and hearts, leap years, and something called a “Super bowl” {whatever that is}. Around here, it memorialized itself in snow, a conference, two get-aways, concerts, and definitely an ample dose of chocolate and hearts!



You’ve already heard about the Piano Guys’ concert, which started the month off in a rousing fashion. That same week, we were covered in 10” of white, fluffy snow that lasted five days. While the East Coast, the Midwest, eastern Washington, and…OK, everywhere but the South…chuckles at the Northwest’s inept greenness when it comes to living with snow, suffice it to say that this was “The Big Snow of ‘14” and shut down the entire area. 

Micah and Mikaela in the snow!


Lauren and Papa teaching at the Creation Conference

 We continued as planned, however, with a local Creation Conference, largely helping in the children’s program, which Melanie directed for the third time. Despite the snow and an understandably smaller group of attendees, it was a great weekend. A symphony concert happened in there too—though it was postponed several days because the weather was so bad {if you’re not a southerner, please refer to the previous paragraph before mocking our snow squeamishness}.

Susanna and Papa acting in a Star Trek-themed play

 Now I may not have seen a football game in my life, but the Olympics are our Super bowl. Our obsession means that every free night for the 17 days of games, we troop over to Ron and Sandi’s house and have a grand party. We don’t just watch the games, though. We act as though we are sitting in the stands, as though our cheers, shouts, and nail biting are actually helping the cause of the athletes. Bodie Miller, the skier, has grown up! And Noelle Pikus-Pace, the skeleton racer, made us laugh and cry at the same time when she jumped into the stands to kiss her babies and her husband after her silver medal winning race. The good sportsmanship of Shawn White was wonderful to see, and I’ve completely changed my mind for the better about Evgeni Plushenko, the Russian figure skater. But don’t get me started about the US men’s hockey team. “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” says Thumper and my mom, so I’ll keep quiet.
Papa, Lauren, Susanna, and Melanie
 Meanwhile, we went skiing for a few days at Mt. Bachelor, along with our awesome cousin Cody. He, Micah, and Susanna looked like the boarders and skiers competing for gold, but the rest of us were just happy to enjoy the occasional black diamond, going fast, and getting a foot of air every so often.

Jonah!

February has also been a month of waiting as Joel completed a 2.5-week research project for a potential job at the beginning of the month. We hope and pray every single day that this will be the employment God has for him, but we’re also so grateful for all that God has taught us and worked in us during this time of waiting! Regardless of the outcome, it will be for our good.

On the spur of the moment, Mama took her daughters to a women’s retreat last weekend, where we savored the rich fellowship of friends old and new and soaked in the Truth that Mrs. Nancy Campbell was teaching: life is a battle—but through God, there is victory in that battle!

Today marks 30 years of marriage for my dear parents—happy anniversary Mama and Papa! And wait! The month isn’t over yet! Do you think there’s still room for more adventures in February? What are you looking forward to? And what filled your February?



2.18.2014

The Traitor Within



This is the storyline novels are made of: Ultimate sacrifice for one’s country.  A life motivated by the need to restore the once-respected family name that your alcoholic father tarnished.  True love and bitter loss.  Military genius and heroism.  Secret letters with codes written in invisible ink made from onions.  The ultimate betrayal.  The greatest ignominy.

Only the book I just finished reading was no novel. 

Instead, it was the true story of the man who, in the American War for Independence, was one of the greatest American heroes.
This was the man who realized that if the patriots were to be victorious they needed cannons, thought outside the box, and captured Fort Ticonderoga in order to obtain the needed cannons.
This was the man who, while recovering from a battle wound, could think of nothing else but the next move the Americans needed to make and planned an invasion of Canada.  He led 1200 volunteers through hundreds of miles of impossible wilderness, enduring flash floods, early snow, inaccurate maps, desperate famine, and painful deaths with a stamina and courage almost unmatched in history.  When that campaign ultimately failed, he was the last to embark on a boat headed to safety, selflessly sending all his men to safety first.
This was the man who, against the orders of superiors, dashed out into a losing battle and changed the tide for the American patriots, securing victory in that battle and campaign, and by domino effect, the aid of France which ultimately turned the tide in the entire war against the British Empire.

The book I just finished reading, The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery (which I highly recommend as an easy but fascinating and page-turning read!), concluded with this profound statement on the man himself:

“If Arnold had died from his wounds at the Battle of Saratoga, we would think of him today as one of the all-time great American heroes.  Aside from Washington, we’d say, he did more to win our Revolution than anyone.  We’d celebrate his life as one of the best action stories we have—Washington never did anything half as exciting as the march to Quebec or the Battle of Valcour Island.  Sure, we’d say Arnold was unstable, tormented, a loose cannon.  But he’d be our loose cannon.  We don’t say any of that, and it’s all Arnold’s fault.  But still, it’s all true.” 

Benedict Arnold’s epic life proved that he was brilliant, brave, and heroic.  But he was also stubborn, volatile, and craved one thing more than anything else: recognition. 
Praise and promotion was the coin with which he traded. 
Applause was the language he understood. 
Honor was the motivation behind the man.

When he didn’t get it, he was willing to betray his friends, his family name, his cause, his life, and his country, and he somehow convinced himself that he was justified in so doing. 
As one who is very much driven by encouragement, praise, and pleasing others, I can easily relate to Benedict Arnold’s disgruntlement when America passed him over for admittedly deserved promotion in the army.  But I can’t help but reflect on the irony of his life’s legacy.

If Benedict Arnold had died in his greatest achievement on the battlefield, he would have died a hero’s death. 
If he had served quietly and humbly, regardless of political enemies and lack of acknowledgement, he would have lived a hero’s life. 
But in following his greatest achievements with the greatest of betrayals, he lived and died only one thing in the minds of all Americans: a traitor of reprehensible proportions.

Thus it is true that the quiet, humble service in between the podiums and the trophies and the battlefields is the most telling, the most illuminating, and the most defining moment of all. 
For an ordinary hero unrecognized and unknown is still a hero. 
But a self-infatuated hero unrecognized and unknown is already a traitor.  



Photo Credit: Carl Jones

2.11.2014

Soundwaves



As a music teacher, I’ve taught 4-year-olds, 76-year-olds, and everyone in between! But the vast majority of my students are little people whose legs dangle from the piano bench and beside whom I have to kneel in order to adjust their violin posture. They find universal satisfaction in placing their stickers in the oddest spots on the page; they don’t ask why the first sharp is F, they just take my word for it until they’ve advanced enough to understand the why; and they have energy in everything they’re doing, whether it’s 20 bow circles or “Pirates of the Caribbean.”



However, they’re all different in what they like to play. Romantic music, hymn arrangements, pop, and—oh yes—classical. Whether they know it or not, my students are getting classical training and my goal is to condition them to love classical music as much as I do.



Whenever I go to a concert, whether an Oregon Symphony concert at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, or a Seattle Symphony concert at Benaroya Hall, or a local concert in my own town, I am a 20-something swimming in a sea of white hair. I love the white hair—but the absence of youth saddens me. What will this concert hall look like in 20 years, I wonder? Will it be empty? Is a 500 year art form truly on its way out?




Then, my students started talking…about middle-aged dads who play classical music (with a healthy dose of popular music like the aforementioned “Pirates”). And my younger siblings started talking about them and playing them. And Disneyland was featuring them. And what choice did I have but to become enthralled by The Piano Guys, made famous by none other than YouTube?



It’s a fascinating time we live in. A time when the musical elite proclaims the intelligence of modern classical music and decries the taste of the masses. A time when the most popular form of instrumental music—soundtracks—is somehow “less than.” I believe the dissonant ugliness of modern classical music is already doomed, and furthermore that soundtracks are the opera music of our age: grand, glorious creativity, telling a story! Does it get better than that?



At the Arlene Schnitzer concert hall once again, I found myself surrounded by a crowd the likes of which I had never seen in a high-brow concert hall. Ever. Families with small children, 20-something couples, white haired gentlemen and ladies, and a generous showing of teenagers. I was at a Piano Guys concert, watching live performances of their own original compositions on acoustic instruments, watching videos (YouTube!) on giant screens of them performing on location, and watching live performances juxtaposed with video in the background.



Before they played Vivaldi melded with the Bourne soundtrack, Steven Sharp Nelson asked, “Who likes classical music?” The audience of several thousand cheered with contagious enthusiasm and energy, and I knew—John Williams isn’t going away, but neither are Handel, Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart. In the hands of creative, innovative performers, music teachers, and music students, a beautiful sunrise is dawning in classical music.



Photo Credit: fusion-of-horizons

2.04.2014

The Media Wants YOU



The most important thing you should know about the secular media is that they want you.  They have agenda and mission.  They have an ax to grind and the greatest of grinders with which to accomplish it.  They have elite creativity, unlimited researchers, and exhaustive number-crunchers dedicated to our personal cravings.  Moreover, all these armaments the creators of books, movies, music, and websites pool to purchase one thing: you. 

Michael Landon Jr. said, “Unfortunately, with the [movie] studios and the gatekeepers, there’s no restraint. Their target audience is our children. So even if you look at the demographics of people who go to see movies at theaters it’s very young, it’s teens that’s the main marketplace. On television, they’re also the main target audience because the people that are buying product time are no longer interested in the actual buyers, the consumers of the product, their attention is now on future customers….I actually think that [Hollywood is] targeting our children, who by a certain inherent nature want to see these things. See, you put sexualized material in front of the teenager and it’s very difficult for them at that age to not want to look. You put graphic violence in front of them and it’s hard for them not to get involved.[i]

This is not about putting eight claws and a fire-breathing mouth on the Big Bad Media.  I watch movies, read books, listen to music, and use the internet.  Sometimes wisely, but often foolishly.  I’m confident you realize the capability of the media for both good and bad.  Likewise, you should also understand mainstream media’s agenda, while not using them as a scapegoat for all society’s problems. 

So let’s go beyond the convenient scapegoat.  If the media’s target is you, then why not start with you?

  1. Is your heart craving what the media provides?

Mine does.  All too often.  The storyline just sounds too sweet to be missed, and if the main character is blatantly living in sin, well, I can just fast forward most of those parts.  But the story is alluring, the soundtrack bewitching, and the actors enthralling.  So I take the heaping dish of glamor with the side of sin to live vicariously through the movie for 90 minutes and satisfy cravings like:
  •  Needing someone to appreciate me 
  • Desiring to be loved 
  • Pushing aside stressful, pressing issues 
  • Wanting success 
  • Yearning for glamorous opportunities
  1. How are you satiating those cravings?

If you turn on the television or crack open that book or stalk that website with those cravings urging, they will only be worse when the television turns off or the book ends or the website stalls.  I have wasted many hours on useless specimens of these media, and walked away afterward disgusted with myself at the waste and determined to do better in the future.  But if the cravings are not filled, they will continue to eat away at you until a gaping cavity appears. 
  1. Will you allow yourself to be purchased?

If you are a Christian, you are already bought with a price.  There are many who would like nothing better than to buy your soul with their entertainment.  And you should know that “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.” {2 Peter 2:19}  Do you really want to be a slave of the latest rising star or Hollywood executive or author who pushes Christ to the gutter and themselves to the heavens?  If you are overcome by a media addiction, that is what will happen!

Do you know that using the media to fulfill desires meant to be filled only by God is like using a piece of scotch tape on a shattered dam?   
  • Only He provides your worth.
  • Only  He unconditionally loves. 
  • Only He gives grace to keep your head above water. 
  • Only He defines success. 
  • Only He chooses your situation for His perfect, wise purposes. 
The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in imperfect, sinful you because Christ who fulfilled the law lives in you.  I wish I could copy and paste the entire book of Colossians here, and specifically chapter two!  If you don’t have time to read it right now, suffice it to say: you are complete in Christ (2:10)  If you died with Him, you were buried with Him, raised from the dead with Christ, and are made alive with Him.  (2:11-13) 

This is why I am not a slave to the media or anyone else.  I am not up for purchase—I are sold out and all in, because Christ lives in this body. 

If you skimmed all of that, read this: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” {Colossians 3:1-3}

Yes—cravings, Hollywood, whitewashed sin, and slave owners will exist, as long as this fleshly body does.
But yes, yes, yes—the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, God the Father, freedom, and grace endure, beyond infinity. 




[i] http://www.faithtalks.com/posts/michael-landon-jr/
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Photo Credit: Stuart Richards



Blog Widget by LinkWithin