Thursday, March 25, 2010

On Bearing Fruits

For about three years, we lived in a small home on Pokok Palma lane. One of the redeeming qualities about this nothing-to-brag-about-house was the big mango tree in the front yard. Every year during mango season, it would be laden with fruits. The branches were heavy with clusters of sweet and sour goodness, waiting to be harvested. The tree would be covered with specks of yellow and green, and here was the best part -- our tree was uncommonly worm-less. Every fruit was a good fruit.

Surely, this is the image we should see when we read in Genesis, "be fruitful and multiple" (Genesis 1:26-30). Often, we think of this as the mandate to procreate, as in producing children "to fill the earth." However, having one or two or even twelve children is nothing compare to how nature bears fruit.

There are days when I wallow in discouragement and self-pity. It happens most consistently when I am looking for the wrong kind of fruits. You know, the worldly kind. The kind that comes with a grade, human praise, a degree, promotion, money, etc.

Last Saturday, as I was doing the dishes, I had an epiphany. I realized that right then, I was bearing a fruit. By performing this mundane task of applying soap and rinsing the plates, while obediently wearing my yellow gloves upon Hans' request to protect my dry hands--I was bearing a fruit, unto the glory of my Father in heaven. A tiny fruit, yes. An unappreciated fruit, perhaps. A fruit, nonetheless.

Vacuuming. Cleaning the stove top. Scrubbing the toilet. Fruits.
A thank you note. Another fruit.
Doing homework. Yet another.
Getting enough rest. Fruit.
A walk with Emeth to see the ducks and squirrels. Several fruits.
Homemade yogurt that saved the milk. And another.
Discipline. Discipline. Discipline. A slow growing, but essential fruit.
An email. Fruit.
Keeping my body tone in preparation for the delivery. Fruit.
Peeling grapefruits. Making dumplings. Baking that cake. Fruits!

We bear fruits when we obediently and faithfully carry out the tasks that God has set for us. Each task should bring about joy, contentment, and gratitude.

Many of these fruits do pass away and go unappreciated. Some will fall to the ground and be forgotten. Others will be eaten by squirrels rather than kings. But so what? The idea is for our branches to be laden, heavy with clusters of sweetness. Hopefully, by being a fruitful tree, we give glory to our creator and draw others to him.

Even as I am typing this, a friend is fading because of cancer. Very soon, her five-year-old daughter will not be able to see her for a while. Do I have any excuse to remain idle?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Let there be light

From our bedtime reading:

Dad: Do you know how God created everything?

Emeth: *nods*

Dad: Simply by speaking words.
God says, "Let there be--"

Emeth: *sneeze*

Dad: *staring at the book* Saliva.

Emeth: *sneeze*

Dad: And more saliva.

You really have to be there to truly appreciate the sight. The splatter of drool on the pages is quite necessary for the full effect. And Emeth's giggles after each sneeze to top it off.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

On Vampires and Desires (Part 2)

The second discussion took on quite a different tone. By then, I realized the girls' infatuation with the series was no laughing matter. I was very grateful for Hans' stabling and non-giggling presence next to me that Sunday morning.

There is in each of us desires. Certain yearnings are more forceful and obvious than others, such as our need for intimacy and our desire to be wanted, to be attractive. And then, there are others that are more subtle--things that we may not even realize. These desires are not inherently evil. Our crooked hearts do, however, often turn toward the wrong direction in search of their fulfillment.

Vampires, as depicted in the Twilight series, are repeatedly described as being like gods and goddesses--even the evil, human-blood-drinker kind. They are Beautiful. Powerful. Immortal. When human beings are transformed into vampires, their senses and "gifts" intensify and are made even cooler. They are supernatural, surpassing humanity in every way.

Stephanie Meyers' vampires is strangely comparable to, though a much less descriptive and imaginative version of, C.S. Lewis' solid people in The Great Divorce. Human beings, on the other hand, are like the weak and non-substantial ghosts.

Throughout the story, ever so predictably, Bella wants to be a vampire. So that she can be with Edward. So that she can be beautiful next to Edward. Why would anyone want to remain a plain, non-sparkling human when you can be a godlike vampire?!

Even Emeth recognizes the picture on the cover of Twilight--"Apple!" he declares.

Now, what does an apple have to do with vampires?
When you eat of it, you will become like God. (Genesis 3:4-5)
The lie is not very original, is it? In fact, it is the oldest one in the book.

Give into your desires. Being your own god is really much better than being a creature. Take the bite (pun intended). And your dreams will come true. And you will live happily ever after (the title of the last chapter of the saga).

As at the first, the lie is not completely devoid of truth. We can become like God. We are created in his image. We are created to be beautiful, powerful, and immortal. We can become like God--by obeying our Creator-King-Father. We become like God by worshiping him.

Even sadder still, when Satan tempted Eve and promised a God-like existence.She had forgotten a fundamental truth -- that she was already like God. Her Maker created her in his image. So, she betrayed the One who loved her for absolutely nothing.

The world hungrily devours the Twilight series. They are hungry for love, beauty, power, and immortality. Yet, they are eating jello (grosser things come to mind, but let me spare you) which does absolutely nothing.

Jesus is the Bread of Life. He alone fulfills.

Link to Part I

Thursday, March 4, 2010

On Vampires and Desires (Part 1)

I spent two Sunday School lessons on vampires. The girls were thrilled. They were actually excited to be there. Go figure.

I promised my Sunday School girls I would read Twilight and give them a treatment of my response. Everyone, every single one, of my girls read the book, except for Hui--who just moved here from China.

I started by giving them a character analysis. Keeping my face straight while describing Edwards Cullen, the vampire, was quite a task. I lost it when I got to the part about his "set of perfect, ultrawhite teeth." We then talked about the highly volatile nature of the relationship between the Bella and Edward.

The girls accused me of over-reading. They said, and I am going to quote them word for word: "We don't read this the way we read the Bible, okay?" I replied by asking them whether they really wanted me to quiz them on the characters in the Bible. Needless to say, they regretted saying anything.

I was intentionally scrupulous. I wanted them to see how much goes by unobserved--the underlying assumptions that create the story that they liked so much. The unobserved is often the most dangerous. These have a way of leading our hearts astray without our knowing.

I actually found the series quite fascinating as a case study for human desires, particularly of the female kind. We know that it sells. We know that girls and women of a spectrum of ages love it. It sells because the story resonates with what we want to daydream about.

We desire to be desired. And this story provides a god-like, dazzling vampire who lusts after an ordinary and clumsy human girl--for her thoughts, her touch, her scent, her blood. We want to be loved, to be protected. We want to be in the story.

Link to Part II