Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Necessity of Clothing (A Song)

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

-Augustus M. Toplady, Rock of Ages

Here are the links to the series:
Part 1: In the Garden
Part 2: Shame
Part 3: Sackcloth
Part 4: Bridal garment
Part 5: Christ
Applications: Take Two

Monday, October 19, 2009

Weep I did not

{the story of Emeth's birth}

Let me be the first to admit that I am not one who can stand much physical discomfort. When I first expressed my desire for a natural birth, Hans was a little worried. One finds oneself willing to make exceptions, no matter how difficult, for the object of one's affections. We wanted to give our little person a good beginning, at least to the best of our knowledge and capabilities. This is why love is a powerful thing. It changes people. And it has since transformed me into a morning person. But I digress.

My feats of endurance are fine but few. Emeth's birth and my three climbs up Mount Kinabalu are among my cherished occasions of growth. However distinct the experiences were in kind, in many ways my memories of them parallel. They were endeavors of great hope, with promises of sunrises and new life. They were sweet yet marvelous, compelling in their reminders of my humanness, weak and messy, and my need for other human beings.

My water broke around midnight, on the first day of April, 2008.

Hans was my champion in shining armor, my confidant, and my doula that night. He held my hand, with the other hand putting counter-pressure on my lower back as each contraction progress. He paced me, watched the monitor, reported the lengths and strength of my contractions. I took at least three steaming hot showers; they relieved me tremendously. As the pain peaked, I was unable to stand and we had exhausted all hymns. It was Hans who asked me to recite for him a psalm in hebrew. Psalm 137 was the only one I knew by heart. Thus, in my delirious state, I sat by the waters of Babylon and chanted, though weep I did not.

Hans adds this part: A little before 9 a.m., we were starting to wonder how much longer this was going to go on, and how much worse it could get. Just as we were thinking this, the nurse came in, told us we were ready to give birth, and that the worst was over. Which it was. This period was more painful than the birth itself, which was a relief in comparison.

At 9:41 a.m., I gave one last push. Hans missed Emeth's arrival because I was holding him ever so tightly around his neck.

I've always thought people were lying when they say you will feel no pain once the baby is out. I thought this was an unrealistic, yet another romanticized hollywood myth about the noble feelings of motherhood (which I found I disturbingly lacked throughout my pregnancy). My friends, mothers-to-be, I can attest now there is at least some truth to this. And it is not because I was so "overcome with joy."

I was joyful, in many senses, but my first meeting with Emeth was a little awkward. I stared at him and said, "Hi Emeth" about a dozen times. I didn't know what else to say. Albeit I have given birth only once, I can assure you I felt no pain. In fact, I was walking and enjoyed my fourth shower that morning within two hours after the delivery. It is true that the recovery for the next few months was uncomfortable, but not awful.

Lastly, below is a copy of our birth plan (minus a few details for confidentiality) for the purpose of giving you a rough idea some things to consider. For the most part, our birth was what we hoped for. I did have an IV with antibiotic but I was still able to move about and take showers.

We would also like to add that we did take many hours of birthing classes with an extremely dedicated and competent instructor. These hours were extremely beneficial to us and suited to the way we learn as a couple.

Secondly, we are indebted to two nurses that night. Advocates of natural birth themselves, they believed us and were confident that we were committed to our decisions. They allowed us the space to labor with minimal supervision. Though the doctors gave several suggestions of drugs, the nurses respected our birth plan and were protective of our desired birth.

For all these things and so much more, we are thankful.

A Proposed Birth Plan

To the OB/GYN and the Family Birthing Center:

We are grateful for your help and care. As we look forward to the birth of our son, we would like to share with you a few decisions we have considered with respect to our delivery and recovery. We have made our decisions to the best of our understanding in the hope of a healthy and uncomplicated delivery for mother and child through natural childbirth.

Before labor:
  • We would like to go into labor naturally, and not be induced before 42 week gestation period.
First stage of labor:
  • We are working to avoid medication and will request it as needed
  • We would like to have mobility during labor to encourage the labor process.
  • In order to have the ability to move about, we would prefer intermittent fetal monitoring and to maintain hydration by regularly sipping water, rather than with an IV.
Second stage of labor:
  • We are preparing to avoid an episiotomy and would prefer that the mother’s perineum tear naturally.
  • We would like for the cord to stop pulsing before it is cut, and dad would like to cut the cord.
Third stage of labor:
  • We ask that the mother would not be given Pitosin to deliver the placenta.
After the birth of our child:
  • We plan to breastfeed our child exclusively and prefer no bottles or pacifier.

We are grateful and trust the discretion of our care providers. We look forward to experiencing this important event with you.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Necessity of Clothing (Part 3)


Here in the beginning chapters of Scripture, we witness the perfect justice and mercy of God. For our interest, we will focus only on the covering God provided for Adam and Eve. It is important to note, however, clothing is given in the greater context of the salvation that is promised (Gen 3:15; 22-24).

Their attempt to hide from the God failed miserably. The fig leaves were neither enough nor did they cover well. Their nakedness felt too revealing. They distrust one another. They were fearful and guilty. In gaining their so-called independence, their desire to distinguish for themselves between right and wrong, they no longer felt safe.

Seeing this, Yahweh intervened.

"And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them" (Gen. 3:21).


Clothing is a reminder that we are not who we ought to be.

To give an image, our clothes serves as our sackcloth. A sign of our sorrow, that we have sinned against our Creator. A sign of our grief, that we are no longer the creatures we were created to be.

What we wear is our confession. Confession that we have fallen short of God's glory, God's purpose for us. Confession that we have lost our innocence. Confession that we are under judgment. It is right and good for us to cover ourselves.

The putting on of our sackcloth is a reminder of our need for repentance. A proclamation of our hope for reclaiming glory.

At this point during the Sunday school class, one of the girls exclaimed, and appropriately so, "What am I going to wear for my homecoming dance?!"

My response? "No worries, there is more." =)

Here are the links to the series:
Part 1: In the Garden
Part 2: Shame
Part 4: Bridal garment
Part 5: Christ
Applications: Take Two
Hunger: Modesty is not just about clothes

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Necessity of Clothing (Part 2)

It happened on a Saturday night many years ago. I had just returned from youth group, which consisted of a small fellowship of young people, friends who cared about each other and in the process of being saved by grace. I sat at my desk and eagerly opened a letter from one of my good friends.

I quickly realized this was not a letter I was anticipating. Her gentle words confronted me of my sin. How she found out I had gossiped about her. How it hurt her. How another friend who was involved also knows about this.

Alone in that room I was overwhelmed with shame as though thousands were watching. I was caught and there was nowhere to run.

I spent the night dreading the morning. They were good friends, among my best. Weeping, I wrote two letters asking for undeserved forgiveness. I prepared my self for the worst and accepting the possibility of losing them.

Oh, how I dreaded facing them. I wished to never leave my room again. Things will never be the same. And I was right, things were never the same thereafter.


"Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked." (Genesis 3:7)
Things are now different. Their marriage is different. Their relationship to God is different.

They tried to hide. They tried to cover themselves. But there was no hiding from a God who sees all things. Fig leaves were insufficient. They could not fix it. There was no going back.


It was Easter the next morning. It was the Easter of my heart. I was forgiven by God and reconciled to friends. And they have remained faithful friends to this day.

Yes, things are different, but my life was changed for the better.

Here are the links to the series:
Part 1: In the Garden
Part 3: Sackcloth
Part 4: Bridal garment
Part 5: Christ
Applications: Take Two
Hunger: Modesty is not just about clothes

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Necessity of Clothing (Part 1)

In the Garden.

For our Sunday School class on Beauty, Modesty, and the Wardrobe, we began by laying a Biblical foundation on the topic of clothing. Namely, I wanted to address the question: What is the purpose of clothing in the first place? A strange question, but why wear clothes?

We began in the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed. It is difficult for us as adults to think and understand this concept purely, because our minds have lost its original innocence. Instead of having paintings of naked people from the Renaissance and others such reproductions, I propose the best people to teach us about this "naked and not ashamed" business are little children.

Warning: digression ahead.

Recently, whenever we are about to give Emeth his bath, he enjoys running away from us as soon as we take off his clothes. We hear giggles and the thumping of feet as we watch a little naked boy running through the apartment, flinging his arms in the air. His happiness is very evident. The same ritual takes place afterward when we try to put on his clothes.

He is still in the Garden, Hans and I would tell each other, naked and not ashamed.

There are two things further to say:

1. God created, and he saw that the earth and all that was in it as good, good, and very good.
We are God's creation--both body and soul. God created us in his image. Every human being has dignity because we reflect the image of God. It is fitting, therefore, to see our physical bodies as beautiful.

2. Marriage and their relationship to God provides this safe haven.
The mention of their nakedness directly follows the passage on the first marriage (Genesis 2:25). I like to tell the girls, Adam's first words to Eve was a love poem. In this perfect state, their relationship was one of innocence, trust, and openness. Together, they were completely dependent on the Lord, trusting in Him to determine what is right and what is wrong.

Here are the links to the series:
Part 2: Shame
Part 3: Sackcloth
Part 4: Bridal garment
Part 5: Christ
Applications: Take Two
Hunger: Modesty is not just about clothes

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Only Thing that Matters

I was unwise and careless and now, we are paying for the consequences. We installed a window air-conditioning unit and paid $40 per month throughout the summer to the Housing Office. The school requires that the residents removed their window air-conditioning unit by October 1. We removed it on October 2.

The Housing Office notified me today that our delay was unacceptable and that we will have to pay $40 because the unit was still in our window on October 1. I am at fault. I assumed there was a grace period. I assumed that since we we are to take it down by October, we would not be charged for this month. I assumed wrongly. And I was filled with remorse at the thought of paying $40 for my carelessness.

Then, my mind recalls yet another Policy, another set of Rules: "Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your life, with all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself." The only Policy that truly matters, truly good, with a Giver who is truly powerful to punish all who do not obey. Yet, I am infinitely more careless and infinitely more presumptuous when it comes to this Policy.

Praise to our Lord and King that He is a kind and gracious ruler! He knows all my failings, all of the ways I do not obey and am not able to fulfill his requirement. Yet, in his justice, he suffered and died for the penalty that was mine.

The King died in my place. The King forgives me.
Rest, O my soul, put your hope in God.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Commands to Trust and Know

Every Wednesday afternoon, I come home to Hans and Emeth’s smiling faces, eager to tell me all the fun things they did in the three hours I was gone. My class on Proverbs fills me to the brim, my cup overflows!

On the syllabus this week is Proverb 3:1-12—you know, the “trust in the Lord with all your heart” passage. I’ve known that verse for a long time. It provided much comfort and strength during the tumult that was my adolescent years.

What a sumptuous feast it was to read it in the hebrew for the first time. Seeing it with new depths and colors, I was surprised by its nuances and their implications.

1. I had not noticed that these are the words of a father to his son. (yikes! Paying attention to context would have helped)

2. I had not noticed the emphasis on the heart, the happening of one’s innermost person. The heart that is to trust, is also the heart that is to keep the father’s commandments, is also the heart that has steadfast love and faithfulness written upon it.

3. I had not noticed what strong language the father uses. He gives these as a string of commands. In other words, all that comfort I drew from this verse as a teenager should now be nuanced with slight fear and reverence.

For the more linguistic inclined people out there, the verbs are in the jussive and imperative. The imperative is, well, very strong.

4. The passage ends with an exhortation to not reject and despise the Lord's discipline. How sobering.

The following is my rough, literal translation of Proverbs 3:3-7 (the imperatives are italicized, all the negations are in the jussive):

Let steadfast love and truth (emeth!) not forsake you
Bind them on your neck
Write them on the tablet of your heart

and Find grace and good regard in the eyes of God and humankind

Trust Yahweh in all of your heart
and do not depend on your understanding

in all of your ways Know him
and he, he will make straight your paths

Do not be wise in your own eyes
Fear Yahweh and Turn from evil

p/s As I am looking at my notes, the page is now embellished with crayon markings. What joy is found!