Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Boy and Butterfly

The Boy and Butterfly

Behold how eager this our little boy
Is for this Butterfly, as if all joy,
All profits, honours, yea, and lasting pleasures.
Were wrapt up in her, or the richest treasures.
Found in her, would be bundled up together,
When all her all is lighter than a feather.
He halloos, runs, and cries out, Here, boys, here,
Nor doth he brambles or the nettles fear.
He stumbles at the mole-hills, up he gets,
And runs again, as one bereft of wits;
And all this labour and this large outcry,
Is only for a silly butterfly

This little boy an emblem is of those
Whose hearts are wholly at the world’s dispose,
The butterfly doth represent to me,
The world’s best things at best but fading be.
All are but painted nothings and false joys,
Like this poor butterfly to these our boys.
His running through the nettles, thorns, and briars,
To gratify his boyish fond desires;
His tumbling over mole-hills to attain
His end, namely, his butterfly to gain;
Doth plainly show what hazards some men run.
To get what will be lost as soon as won.
Men seem in choice, than children far more wise,
Because they run not after butterflies;
When yet, alas! For what are empty toys,
They follow children, like to beardless boys.

-- John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress

"The Bank's About Out of Cash. Ma'am"

Our family has been closely following the happenings on Wall Street and in Congress over the past few days. It's not like we personally have much to loose in a financial crisis like this... except maybe a stable country and happy neighbors. That would be a bigger deal that some of the investments and stocks people are gnashing their teeth about.

I've been wondering just where this is going to go, knowing that whatever happens, God is in control. I also can't tell you how many times I've breathed a sigh of relief that my parents have been happy to go without over the years to remain debt-free and instill in all of their kids the principle of only buying what you can pay for! The peace of mind certainly pays off!

For years, I've known that our government and our financial system is only living on borrowed time. We have a lot of "money" but in reality, most of it is only worth the paper it's printed on.

Today that reality hit a little close to home. I stopped by our local small-town bank to cash a couple of (small) checks. As I attempted a left turn into the bank parking lot, I realized that the cars at the drive-up were all the way out onto the street waiting in line. So, I waited in line for a long time, not thinking much of it. When I finally pulled up to the window, I saw that my favorite teller, an old family friend was working. I smiled a pleasant hello. Her usual cheery greeting was only a sigh and a, "What do you need today?"

I assumed she was just tired, and trying to think of something friendly and sympathetic to say, remarked, "You must be overworked today! I can't believe the line-up you have here! The cars are still all the way out onto the street!"

Another sigh. "Yeah," she replied. "___ told me to just go ahead and close this window down after a few more cars. We're gonna run out of money here."

I laughed at what I thought was a joke. "Yeah, tell them to go home, 'cause the bank's out of money, huh?"

"No laugh," she retorted. "I was serious. We've had so much money taken out today that I AM going to run out of cash if I get even a few more checks. I really meant that." And then she raised her eyebrows and motioned towards the pickup pulling away, "I just cashed a BIG check for somebody who's getting his money out. Bigger than I ever do normally."

As I drove away, I shook my head. "The bank's running out of money...The bank's running out of money..." It sounded like something out of a history book.

And then I reminded myself... maybe this will be in my childrens' history book some day.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Praying for the "Want To"

God's free and sovereign heart-changing work is our only hope. Therefore we must pray for a new heart. We must pray for the "want to [do what's right]" - "Incline my heart unto your testimonies" (Psalm 119: 36)... He has promised to do it: "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes." (Ezekiel 36: 27)
"Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help [us want to do what we ought to do] in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

- John Piper, The Godward Life

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Family Camp and Dishpan Cookies

Our family has been bustling around, preparing for our church's annual Family Camp happening next week. We're in charge of Registration, so some of us spend an inordinate amount of time filling out spreadsheets and marking people's names on our little map of all the cabins and re-figuring the total amount of adults and children coming.

Family Camp is a great time to re-connect with friends who we only get to see once a year and to hear great sermons/messages every morning and night that are encouraging, inspiring, and quite frequently, uncomfortable and convicting. It's a reminder to "break up the fallow ground" in our lives... Its also a time to remember that we are as surrendered and holy as we want to be. Keith Daniel, our guest speaker from South Africa always reminds us of that. Our problem isn't usually that we don't know what God wants of us and our lives - our problem is that so often we aren't willing and broken and yielded to live every day the way He has called us to!

If you family happens to be interested in coming to Family Camp this year (Oct. 2-5), you can contact us at: mbcfamcamp {at} gmail.com. There are people coming from Texas, Arkansas, Nebraska, Montana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, but there's still room for more!

Things are coming together really well for the most part. (Maybe Jennifer, who's planning all of the meals and organizing the kitchen work doesn't think so! She has a lot to do!)

As we prepare for Family Camp, our house has been filled with the smell of baking cookies for several days! With 150 or more people to feed snacks to each day, and homemade cookies as the mainstay of snack time, that's a lot of cookies to bake!

Speaking of cookies, I need to go make a few more batches right now. Here's one of my favorite cookie recipes when baking for a crowd:

Dishpan Cookies
2 c. butter, softened
2 c. brown or raw sugar
2 c. granulated or raw sugar
Cream the butter and sugar till smooth. Add:
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix well, and then stir in:
4 1/2 c. flour (I've been using a combination of oat, wheat, and white flour)
2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
5 c. rice crispy cereal or crushed cornflakes
2 c. flaked coconut
1 - 12 oz. pkg. chocolate chips
3 c. quick oats
Stir, till well combined. (Add more quick oats and/or rice crispies if the dough is too soft or the cookies spread all over the pan when cooked)
Preheat oven to 325. Drop rounded teaspoons onto greased cookie sheets. Bake 9-12 minutes till lightly browned on the bottom, still soft on top. Take out a bit early for chewy cookies. Makes 8-10 dozen. These freeze really well!

Blog Followers

I'm always curious as to who is reading my blog... From time to time people who see me in person somewhere will mention something they read or saw on my blog. Often, I look astonished and say, "You read my blog?! I had no idea that you were reading the stuff I write!"
Sometimes I'm embarrassed. Sometimes I'm flattered.

Whatever the case, I'm always curious as to just who all is reading my blog. As I told Jemima the other day, "When I post something and my blog gets 200 hits in the next day or two and nobody leaves a single comment, it certainly leaves me wondering what everyone is thinking and who read it!"

I love Blogger's new feature of allowing blog readers to become public "followers", helping me to know who at least a few of my readers are. And it's a handy way for me to keep up with the blogs that I try to read... I log in to my Blogger account, and - presto! - all of the latest posts from everyone's blogs are right there!

I'd love to see you become a blog follower... I'll know who you are that way! Just click on "Follow this blog" in the top left hand corner of my blog!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Trip North, Part V: Goodbye Mr. & Mrs. Bjorlie!

The cousins see to it that each cousin is sent off with a properly decorated car and a memorable goodbye!

Liz and Nate are scrambling to finish wrapping the car in plastic wrap!

A wet, bubbly goodbye! At least the rain had stopped!

A Trip North, Part IV: Andrea's Wedding

JohnMark and Andrea planned an outdoor wedding... and as Hurricane Ike slammed into the Gulf Coast, rain poured down all day almost 2,000 miles north. JohnMark and Andrea didn't seem to mind the change of plans too much, as the umbrellas came out and the wedding moved into a huge picnic shelter. "After all," as Andrea said, "We're getting married, and that's about all that matters to me!"

The rain didn't keep the crowds away! Here sit the aunts and uncles and cousins, waiting anxiously for the first glimpse of the bride (tucked away in a trailer at the back of the picnic shelter)!

John Mark and Andrea wrote their own vows.

John Mark and Andrea's congregational wedding hymn couldn't have been more fitting.
Together we all sang “ How Good Is the God We Adore.”

How good is the God we adore,
Our faithful, unchangeable Friend;
Whose love is as great as His pow'r,
And knows neither measure nor end.

'Tis Jesus the First and the Last,
Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home:
We'll praise Him for all that is past,
And trust Him for all that's to come.
- Joseph Hart, 1712-1759

When two Norwegians get married, they just have to have a Norwegian wedding cake, right?! Thanks to Aunt Laila, they did!

A Trip North, Part III: Cousin Fun!


A late night goodbye at Uncle Jim's

A moonlit walk along the railroad tracks with the cousins

Girl cousins!

Joanna and our dear Grandma Else!

A Trip North, Part II: Luis & Kelli's Wedding

And a few more Luis and Kelli photos...
The church they chose was a photographer's dream, and Ruth thoroughly enjoyed putting her camera to good use!

A Trip North in Photos, Part I: Luis & Kelli's Wedding

Here's the promised photos from our recent trip to visit my Dad's side of the family in North Dakota. But before I get started posting pictures from Cousin Andrea's wedding which happened a week ago, I've got to post a few from her older sister, Kelli's wedding that happened in July. I've been intending to put Kelli's wedding pictures up ever since we ventured North for her wedding in July... but time just got away from me.

So, you'll have to see both weddings at once. I hope you won't mind! After all, they're sisters. One of them married a Bolivian, and the other married a Norwegian. We love both of the new cousin-in-laws!

Kelli met Luis while living with a missionary family in Bolivia several years ago, never dreaming she would someday marry him. When she came back to the states several years ago, her heart stayed in Bolivia and she hoped that somehow God would allow her to go back there and live. Little did she know that God was preparing a young Bolivian man to be her husband!

We all love Luis - he's a wonderful guy and although Kelli is still more fluent at Spanish than he is at English, he's catching on rapidly and we can talk to him about almost anything now!

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Quick Trip North

We spent the weekend taking a quick trip to North Dakota for a cousin's wedding, leaving Thursday, and driving back home last night.

I have lots of pictures and will try to get them edited for my blog shortly...

We did a family picture session (well, our cousins, Laura and Jessica kindly obliged and did it!) along the railroad tracks at the edge of the farm. I'll post one of the shots here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Paths We Would Not Have Chosen

Still thinking about Natalie...

"Often His call is to follow in paths we would not have chosen."
Amy Carmichael

On Sarah Palin

I have had so many people ask me what I think of Sarah Palin. Although I haven't said much, I have plenty of opinions going in all directions!

I don't intend to tell who you should vote for on the presidential ticket. Honestly, I'm not sure what I will do myself.

But I have read probably close to a hundred articles on her since she appeared on the scene about a week ago. It seems that there are two reactions among the Christian community - either rip her to shreds because "she should be staying home with her babies and being a good mother" or people promoting her as though she is the Messiah and will completely turn our country around and stop every evil practice. I've been sad to see how rashly and harshly some people have responded with their opinions. Blogs have filled up with hundreds, even thousands of comments as people discuss every detail of her life and decide what is God's will for Sarah Palin and what isn't.

I found Douglas Wilson's piece on Sarah Palin to be a breath of fresh air. Not because I necessarily agree with every point he makes, but because he takes a thoughtful approach to the whole matter and doesn't declare to know God's will. He simply gives us all a lot of things to think about. Feel free to leave your thoughts on my blog, but please, let's keep the comments respectful!

You'll find Douglas Wilson's thoughts here.

Bulgarian Pepper and Cheese Casserole

You'll find this recipe perhaps just a bit unusual, but I can assure you that it's delicious! Every member of our family loves it. And those of us who try to watch the grocery bills and be frugal are especially thrilled with it because we've grown most of the ingredients here at home!
Our 600 green pepper plants provide more than we know what to do with, and we're finding that we are having to use our hundreds of pounds of onions as quickly as possible, because it looks like they won't last all winter. Mom has been making cottage cheese almost every day with our extra milk, and we've filled out large freezer with shredded homemade mozzarella cheese. The chickens are laying lots of brown eggs, so there really isn't much to buy when making this! Now, if we just had a mushroom patch... (No, really, I hope we scale the garden back a bit next year!)

Bulgarian Pepper and Cheese Casserole

7 c. minced green peppers (or substitute part chopped celery)
2 1/2 c. sliced mushrooms (we usually omit)
3 c. chopped onions
5-6 T. butter

1 1/2 T. soy sauce
1 t. marjoram
salt to taste

3 c. raw bulghar wheat soaked 15 min. in 3 c. boiling water
3 c. cottage cheese (if we don't have lots of homemade around, sometimes we reduce this amount greatly or substitue with some sour cream/plain yogurt, etc)
1 1/2 c. grated mozzarella
4 beaten eggs

Saute onions in butter til golden. Add peppers and mushrooms. Cook until peppers are just tender. Remove from heat. Add soy sauce, marjoram, and salt to taste to sauteed vegetables. Mix grated cheese with cottage cheese. In a greased 9x13 pan, spread bulghar, then cover with a layer of vegetables. Add mixed cheeses, spreading as evenly as possible. Pour beaten eggs over all and dust with paprika.
(If making ahead to freeze, cover with foil and freeze. To serve, thaw and bake for recommended time.)
Bake at 375 uncovered for 35-40 minutes. Let stand 5-10 min before serving.

This is a great meal to make ahead and keep in the freezer for busy days. It also doesn't require a lot of precise measuring. We usually make up several pans full at once and all of the amounts are approximate! You can also vary the vegetables and cheeses according to what you have on hand.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Man Who Tries

It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deed.

Teddy Roosevelt

Monday, September 8, 2008

Make Me Thy Fuel

From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher,
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier would follow Thee.

From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified,
From all that dims Thy Calvary,
O Lamb of God, deliver me.

Give me the faith that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay,
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire,
Let me not sink to be a clod:
Make my They fuel, Flame of God.

Amy Carmichael

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Shattered Dreams and the Love of God....

Natalie, June 2008

Many of my readers may also frequent the Young Ladies Christian Fellowship blog and already know about Natalie's story. But for those of you who don't...

Natalie has become a contemporary icon among many Christian girls who have sought to love and honor the Lord and live lives of purity. She's a prolific writer, churning out volumes since her high school days. Her books, Quest for the High Places and "Pearl of Beauty: Becoming Maidens of Purity" have inspired girls everywhere to love the Lord more passionately and to put their lives, futures, and yes, their very hearts into His hands.

As long as I have known Natalie, she has had an unwavering commitment to please her Savior. She has been one of those gentle, tenderhearted, beautiful souls who has always inspired me to love the Lord in the same way she does. She has been the very essence of femininity, delighting in being the woman God created her to be. Natalie's greatest desire beyond loving her Lord has been to be a wife and a mother. She struggled with singleness and wrote about it... and we were all spurred on to love the Lord and rest in Him with the same unwavering trust that Natalie had.

When Prince Charming finally came along and swept Natalie off her feet last year, her friends and family rejoiced with her. Natalie found him to be the man she had always dreamed of (and wondered if he existed) and her dad found him to be the man who he had always prayed for. Such a wonderful, Godly young man...we were all so happy for her. We smiled to ourselves and whispered, "God is good to the soul that waits for Him..."

Natalie was married last October in a beautiful fairy-tale wedding. Her friends wept tears of joy at the beauty of Natalie's life - one who had waited and trusted and had been blessed so richly. I didn't get to be there as I was at my cousin's wedding that day. But I remember sending Natalie a note that expressed what I had felt so deeply in watching her story: "Natalie, your life has been a living example to me of someone who has never wavered in letting God choose HIS best for you..."

Once again, God has chosen his best for Natalie, but not in a way that I would never have imagined.

A few short months after Natalie vowed to love and honor her husband till death, Natalie found herself forced out of her new home and divorced.

Natalie tells her story here:

Part I

Part II

I still have not come to grips with what has happened to this dear girl who I love and respect so much. There are a thousand "Why's?" I could ask.

"How could he?!" seems to be a recurring thought of mine in recent days.

But in spite of Natalie's life and dreams shattered to pieces while we stare at the wreckage and wonder how this could have happened to her, I find that Natalie is still confident of her trust in the One Who she gave her heart to so long ago.

I don't know what God has in mind for Natalie. I found this post of her's (a couple months after finding herself where she never thought she'd be) to express very well what I cannot even begin to imagine.

When young Joni Earekson jumped off a diving board and broke her neck years ago, no one could see any good in it. But God knew.

When the five young missionaries were murdered in Ecuador in the 1950's, God looked cruel and harsh to the world who looked on. But those five men had yielded their very lives to Christ. They had been willing to die so that others might live. And what God did with the loss of those five lives brought thousands and thousands more to eternity. The seemingly senseless death of young Jim Elliot produced a writer (his young widow, Elisabeth Elliot) with a depth and clarity about the love of God that millions of us are grateful for.

Once again, what I said to Natalie rings true, although in a very different light.
"Natalie, your life has been a living example to me of someone who has never wavered in letting God choose HIS best for you..."

I know that God loves her and as crazy as it may seem, she can still trust Him. Beyond that, not much makes sense at this point.

To Love Thee With All of My Heart

Set my heart, O dear Father, On Thee, and Thee only,
Give me a thirst for Thy presence divine.
Lord, keep my focus on loving Thee wholly,
Purge me from earth; Turn my heart after Thine.

A passion for Thee; O Lord,
Set a fire in my soul and a thirst for my God.
Hear Thou my prayer, Lord Thy power impart.
Not just to serve, but to love Thee with all of my heart.

Father fill with Thy Spirit, and fit me for service,
Let love for Christ ev'ry motive inspire,
Teach me to follow in selfless submission,
Be Thou my joy and my soul's one desire.

—Joe Zichterman

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Authenticity and Soul-Nakedness

"In a culture that esteems bearing a bit of leg, some skin, much cleavage, the naked truth is we shun nudity.

I’m not referring to taut leather, flabby flesh, tanned figures—that’s epidermis. But I speak of genuine nakedness, stark bareness: soul exposure.

The curve of our struggles, the paleness of our dreams, the unflattering roll of our insecurities. Stripped exposure terrifies.

The wrinkled smallness of our own souls mortifies and we scramble for a fig leaf to cover the twistedness of our being.

We cling to masks.

Tight and itchy, they protect us, these societal shrouds. Some wear toupees of toughness, others pull on girdles of levity. Or facades of flawlessness, pretenses of perfectionism, screens of superiority...."

Read the rest of Ann Voskamp's excellent post here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Politician's Soul

Since entering the world of politics several years ago, I have become every increasingly aware of finding the lack of something that I treasure greatly...


Sure. Everybody talks about politicians and how you can't believe anything they say.
There are plenty of jokes. I thought I'd heard them all.

But on those days where it was really just me and them, it grew glaringly obvious.

When a friend of mine decided to run for public office, she privately told me, "You know, I've become a different person since I started campaigning. I no longer just say what I really believe and think. I screen it to make it what this person wants to hear. I hardly know who I am anymore, because I'm saying stuff that really isn't me or anything I care about."

Or as I overheard a conversation between two good friends in the Capitol one afternoon:
Person 1: "Did you really mean that?!"
Person 2: (hushed tones) "Of course, I didn't mean any of that. You can ask me about anything I say inside this building as soon as we walk out tonight and I'll tell you if I meant any of it."

Or, as another high-ranking politician who is currently campaigning across our state for statewide office so aptly put it to a colleague (who asked if he could actually deliver on a big promise): "Sometimes you just have to tell people whatever they want to hear, even if you know it's not true."

That same person is someone I once thought to be fairly truthful and ethical. Many, many events showed me not only is he not truthful, but he's a natural at lying through his teeth.

He and I have had a number of uncomfortable conversations over the past year, as I have called him out on several things that he has done. My illusion of him as a "good guy" was shattered long ago, but it's hard to know what to say to my friends who don't know otherwise. It's hard to know what to say to him when approaches me.

I want to be honest and frank with him and tell him exactly what I think of his actions behind the scenes, rather than being a smiling, hand-shaking fake. But something holds me back.

Is it the fact that he is one of the highest governmental officials and one of the most powerful people in our state? Or is it the fact that so many people have warned me not to become his enemy "because he could do a lot to hurt you"? Or is it because I believe that he already knows in his heart of hearts what kind of a person he is and my saying something wouldn't do any good?

These are questions that I have pondered for months. I wrote him a long letter, but then I never mailed it. I still look at it often and wonder if I should revise it and just put it in the mail. Then other days, when I hear something about him through the rumor mill, I am grateful that I haven't sent it yet.

He called me again just last week. At first, when I saw it was him calling, I ignored the call, because I didn't feel prepared to talk with him after all that had transpired between us in recent months. But I answered when he called back later, wanting to know what I thought of him and who I was supporting in the election. I gave him a lot of vague answers, and told him that I didn't know who to trust anymore.

I acted like a politician. I wish I could have just been honest. But I don't think it would have been wise to make him mad by speaking the full truth, and neither does any other wise person that I've asked.

I know some people hate him for his deceitfulness and back-stabbing, but I don't at all. His ways are nauseating, but I wish I could respect him, believe him, trust him, as he again begged me to last week.

I feel compassion for him, knowing that his life is one of pretense and a thick crust that few can penetrate. His friends are probably, as my friend said the other day, "A bunch of fake people like him."

I remember a conversation with him a couple of years ago. I was talking to him about where he went to church. After telling me where, he chuckled and said, "But don't think I go there for any significant reason. Its just more like a community function and a tradition...not because it means anything to me!"

I have to wonder, does he ever think like the Psalmist, "No man cared for my soul?"
Does he wonder if anyone would even care about him if he wasn't powerful and influential? Does he ever wish he could just be real and leave these uncomfortable robes of pretense off? Does he ever wish that he could stop making speeches about things he doesn't mean?

I want the opportunity to appeal to him as someone who genuinely cares about him and his soul. He knows that if anyone knows some of the rotten things he's done, I do. He says that he cares greatly about what I think about him. I don't know if that's true at all or not. But, on some level maybe he wishes someone would just be honest with him. Maybe he wishes someone would just tell him that he can stop pretending and admit that he needs a Source of Truth that is bigger than himself.
I'm sure he's sick of being a smiling, hand-shaking fake.

Maybe he isn't sick enough of himself to repent - to quit - to walk the other direction, straight to the Cross of forgiveness. But maybe he is.

My prayer is that he will find himself sick of the ugliness of his deceitful heart and that he will want something genuinely good - the God of Heaven and Eternity - in his life.

If you think of him, will you join me in praying for his soul?