Saturday, January 28, 2012

On winning hearts

When Hans was my gentleman-friend, our long-distance "dates" would at times include lengthy readings from Jonathan Edwards' treatise on Religious Affections. Little did I know, Mr. Edwards would be a most kind and patient teacher. Years later, these readings proved to be most precious during some of the most difficult trials.

Reading long 18th-century treatises over the phone for hours was an uncommon strategy to win a lady's heart (though I don't think that was his intention). Especially when these readings often brought up difficult subjects, which were followed by painful, ego-shattering conversations.

But, win he did. He had my heart.
What he won me with, he won me to.

With his love for the truth, he taught me to love the truth. He cared deeply that I would remain faithful to Christ, and that I would understand God rightly. By this, I knew he cared deeply for me.

Ultimately, the task of parenting is to prepare the boys for our absence. Our days are numbered; our time runs short. The daily battles of my mind and heart can be summed up with one question: What am I teaching my children to love?

I can think of many answers to this question. Some things are more important than others. Right now, teaching them to love carrots, nap time, clean hands, and the dreaded toothbrush strangely occupy much of our time.

There are other things too. Among which is one of utmost importance: love others. Love the King of glory, love each other, and love our neighbors. This is the fountain from which all else will flow: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Vitamin A in carrots and cavity-free teeth shall pass, but love is here to stay.

So in fear and trembling, we place these boys in the way of grace. And we point, and we say, "Look! Look at the cross, on which the King of glory died." With much hope, perhaps what we win them with will be what we win them to.

I have three little sisters of my own. Over the years, a few other girls kindly adopted me and made me their own. Little sisters ask a lot of questions. Sometimes, they ask about boys. I am glad that they ask, because I tend to be quite bossy that way.

I think I've found a new answer to their questions. Or rather, a new way of repeating some old answers. I think this sums it up quite well: What you win them with is what you win them to. And, what they win you with is what they win you to. It's good to know where they are taking you.

Speaking of love, here is a most peculiar proposal from Adoniram Judson to Anne Hesseltine. He wrote this letter asking Mr.Hesseltine for his daughter's hand in marriage. His words make diamond rings look like pebbles on the beach, seriously.
I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteousness, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair.
Mr.Hesseltine handed the letter and the decision to his daughter. She accepted.

What Adoniram won Anne with, he won her to. Together, they sailed beyond their deaths, and unto that golden shore, where their pain and tears are no more.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Snow covers, like grace

I love snow.

I lost my key,

This time, we did not find it. It is still out there, somewhere. Buried in the snow.

It must have fallen out of my pocket when I took the boys' mittens out. There we were, all four of us, kicking and digging around a few square meters. Only two of us were really looking though, I think. Emeth tried his best. And Yohanan cheered us on with his laughs, looking like an astronaut in his red snowsuit.

While we were looking, Emeth prayed with daddy, "Lord, please help us find mommy's key." After an hour of searching, he prayed again, "Thank you, Lord, for helping us."

He did not say, "even though we did not find it." Like I would have.

Grace in the losing,
grace in the looking,
grace in the waiting.

UPDATE: Hans found my key, again. He found it as he systematically brushed the snow off the ground. Grace in the finding.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Take, Eat

Hunger. The first thing babies communicate to mom and dad: "I want food, and you." As the years grow, our hunger grows. Our wants multiply, our appetites become larger and more complex. We discover new kinds of hunger, deeper yearnings of the soul and mind.

We crave to be heard, to be validated, to be seen. We want to be perceived as strong, smart, and bold. We want to be the best -- at something, anything. Women love "how-to" lists. Give us twenty-five ways, in three steps, using one rule to make--something, anything--more delicious, more beautiful, more superior. And oh, and we want to be desirable, and gorgeous too, please.

As Eve was in the beginning, so are we. She was hungry for beauty, and she wanted to be wise. It wasn't enough to be like God, she wanted to be God. She wanted to make her own decisions, determine her own path.

So she took, and she ate.

When my sisters and I were little, a friend of my mother scolded her for the way she dressed her daughters. Why were her daughters not in ankle-length skirts? How could my mom allow her girls to wear pants? How dare her daughters keep their hair short? She tore my mother to shreds with her accusations. My mother was so forbearing, so gentle. Now that I have children of my own, I wonder what I would have done.

There was nothing modest about that friend's promotion of "modesty."

My Sunday school girls often ask me for the nitty-gritty when it comes to dressing modestly: What about a two-piece bathing suit? What if there are only girls around? What about a strapless wedding dress? What about certain brands of clothing?

I am encouraged that they are at least thinking about what they wear, but I resist to give them a yes-or-no answer. I give guidelines, yes, but I refuse to choose their wardrobe because true modesty is not just about clothes. Just as true frugality is not about money, and true fasting is not about food.

What I am most concern about is that we recognize the hunger and the desires that drive us. And we set our eyes on the Feast of Life, where we can find bread and water. Only there, can our hunger be satisfied.

Idolatry is our hunger for anything other than God. Sin is, as it was in the beginning, our sad attempt to stuff our hunger with deadly things.

We crave for people's praise, acceptance, and attention by the way we dress. We do this not only to attract the opposite gender, but also for the approval and envy of our peers. We want to claim a superlative of our own; to be the best -- at something, anything. To be the most daring, most in-shape, most fashion-forward, most expensive, most frugal, most weird. And yes, and even "most godly" and "most modest."

Some try to dodge this whole modesty question all together: "God looks at the heart, so what I wear is not important" or "I don't have a problem with modesty because I don't even care about what I wear."

But clothing is important to God.

Before Adam and Eve left the Garden, he knew his children were ashamed, and fig leafs were not enough. So, an animal was slaughtered and God covered Adam and Eve with its skin.

How Christians cloth ourselves brings glory to God because our clothing points to Christ, our perfect covering. The Lamb of God, who was slaughtered for the sins of the world. The way we dress is a simple act of love for our neighbors, our proclamation that we are Christ's disciples. And our obedience to Christ is a mark of our allegiance, our act of worship.

So, do not live on hungry souls. We fast with joy, knowing that our souls are filled and fed on the Word of God. We shop not on empty stomachs, but on hearts fully satisfied, knowing that our Treasure is great in heaven.

We are invited to the Feast of Life. Come, taste and see that the Lord is good. Be hungry no more.

The King of Glory extends his nail-pierced hands,
"Take, eat, this is my body, which is given for you.
Do this in remembrance of me."


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

Saturday, January 7, 2012

On this restless hunger

The day is done. Night is here. The house is at last quiet.

The squeals and the thumping from the day has ceased. Sounds of two little boys jumping and running around our apartment as I tried to clean the kitchen. Restless. Hungry. Wanting. Waiting. Busy. Distracted.

Motherhood gives me an accurate and honest look at my own heart. Tonight, my heart is like two hungry and restless boys. They even have my nose.

Lord, here I am.
Please calm and quiet my soul.
Teach me
that I may learn to trust you.
Teach me
that I may learn to yearn for your bread and water.
Teach me
that I may learn to be satisfied,
to be still,
to rest.