Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hate enough to love

Weeks ago, I had a nightmare where the government was forcing parents to kill their children. All parents were given an orange bottle of pills, and we were to administer the drug to our children. In the dream, I saw girls in pink dresses, their arms wrapped around their tummies, laying on the floor. Little boys were disappearing. My sons were crying, holding unto my legs.

Perhaps the most unsettling of all, there was no sound. Even the children's cries were silent.

I woke up disturbed. In the dream, I had refused to give the drug to my children, but I went about life in the usual way. Why did I not take my children and flee? Why was there no riot? Why was I not doing something to save the other children? Why did I not care enough—to fight?

I woke up, and see that my world is not all that different. Mine, too, is a violent world. Here, too, children are being slaughtered.

I woke up, and see that I am as I was in my dream. I do not care enough.

Some of our close friends are fighting for the lives of children. A few committed themselves to be foster parents. We have a brave number of friends who adopted children. There are those who are advocates and helpers of refugees in their communities. Others are voices for the unborn in high places. Another friend is a counselor to battered women. I long for their sense of urgency, their fierce compassion.

Rosaria Butterfield saved me from some kind of folly when she said, we are to "love the sinner, and hate our own sin." I don't love my neighbor because I don't hate my own sin. I am not revolted by my self-centered, this-worldly priorities. I am, in fact, quite comfortable with my lack of love for my neighbors. I find excuses to guard my space, my time, and my reputation. I cast blame. I console myself by imagining how righteous I am in other ways.

I had several bouts of hives this summer. My entire body, from toe to scalp, was covered in red, swollen patches. The itch, and the pain from my own scratching, nearly drove me mad. My reflection in the mirror was revolting.

I must hate my selfishness the way I hated my hives. I need to pray as David prayed, "My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness, I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning." His prayer of repentance in the following psalm is so unexpected, so different from my own: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

The fight to love life must begin in my heart. I don't love my neighbors enough because I don't hate my sin enough. I don't hate my sin enough because I don't love my Lord enough.

my sin crucified you to a tree.
My heart is foul, harden, and foolish.
Help me know how fleeting I am,
Give me hate enough
to love.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Learning notes: It takes a village

Things we did

There are countless ways a homeschooling parent can feel inadequate. The feeling of incompetence can be quite uncomfortable. This has been one of those uncomfortable weeks.

For our language study, we are reading Longfellow's poem, Paul Revere's Ride. Being Malaysian, Boston Tea Party and Declaration of Independence are subjects completely out of my depth. Also, I know so very little about horses. 

Things we cherished

I found a ranch that offered riding classes to children. It was only about ten minutes away and I thought, "Why not?" So I called them to arrange a visit, asking simply whether we could come and watch the horses.

When we arrived, Ellen, a 14-year-old young lady, was receiving her riding lesson. The boys and I were awestruck by the sheer power and height of these creatures. Ellen's mom, Kate, offered to take us on a tour around the ranch while she waited for her daughter to be done with her lesson. I told her she was a homeschool mom's dream come true.

Kate was patient with the boys, understanding their initial fears. She took us to the stables and showed us all the nooks and crannies that might amuse us. She taught us about all the gears Ellen needed to ride a horse. We met Elva, the farrier who was trimming and balancing the horses' hoofs. He gave each boy a horseshoe and taught us about horses' hoofs.

Things we pondered

Education really does take a village. I am inadequate to teach, but I am not on my own.

The children are learning—from and because of—the kindness and sacrifices of people, people, and more people. I am moved by the generosity we have received from strangers. The boys (and their mother) have had countless of educators at zoos, botanical gardens, butterfly conservatory, museums, grocery stores, and libraries. And most importantly, we have you — our friends and family. Thank you for reading, drawing, listening, playing, sharing meals, and sitting on the floor with us.

Thank you for teaching us, and learning with us. We are so grateful for you.

A horse on his treadmill

Elva the farrier.

What he thought of us humans.

What he thought of my camera.


The boys making horse faces.

Strawberry eating her favorite food.

The triceratops got to try on the horseshoe, "so she would not get lost."

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Dust, not donuts

As I child, I often wondered what God meant by "you shall surely die." Adam and Eve were walking and talking after they ate the fruit. Did God mean they would die a slow death? Or that they lost their "eternal" life? What was this death?

I had a song stuck in my head."Life without Jesus is like a donut. There is a hole in the middle of your heart." I learned it as a child in Sunday school.

But life without Jesus is not like a donut, not even one little bit. Life without Jesus is death. And death is nothing like a donut.

Adam and Eve chose death. The serpent counseled Eve to love herself. She should get to decide what was good and evil. She loved the fruit hanging from the forbidden tree, more than she loved her God. So, she took, and she ate. She then gave it to Adam; he took, and he ate.

Death came immediately. They died the moment they ate the fruit. No, Adam and Eve did not die a slow death. God said, "in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." Their eyes were opened, just as the serpent promised, unto death. They lost not only their eternal life but life—altogether.

Death was never walking beside your God in the Garden again.

Death was choosing to believe a lie, instead of the truth.

Death was seeing the bone of your bones, flesh of your flesh—ashamed.

Death was losing the bold, unhindered trust you once had in your friend.

Death was being afraid of your Father when he called—because you betrayed him.

Death was homelessness.

Death was hunger.

Death was losing both your sons, because your firstborn child killed his brother.

Death was hate, jealousy, pride, shame, fear.

The rest of Genesis echoed this death. And he died, and he died, and he died.

No. Death is not like a donut. The "hole" in our hearts are not holes. Our hearts are aching abysses of desires, universes of emptiness. We rebelled against our Father who made us. We betrayed him to please ourselves. Lost in sin, we are dead souls, shells full of dust.

So, Jesus wept.

Jesus wept as he stood before Lazarus' tomb. He wept not over Lazarus' physical death; he knew that Lazarus would rise again.  Jesus was weeping for death—altogether. He was weeping for his broken people. Mary and the Jews—the flesh of his flesh, and the bones of his bones—were dead in their hate and jealousy and pride and shame and fear.

So, Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and life. I am the door to life. I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die."

Soul, come.
Soul, there is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Choose the harder way

Esther and I met in the rain. She found me under a tree.

Hans and I were newly married, and he was the new minister at our new church. He was playing ultimate frisbee with everyone else, and I did what I always did when I felt insecure — I hid behind a book.

Esther, seventeen at the time, came over in her pale blue t-shirt, with a smile that unveiled her perfect teeth. She said, "Hi, I'm Esther. Which high school do you go to?" I didn't look like the pastor's wife, apparently.

She saved me from sulking that day.

I came across a strange advice from Elisabeth Elliot:
Choose the harder of the two ways. If you have eliminated all other possibilities and there still seem to be two which might please God, choose the more difficult one. "The way is hard, that leads to life," Jesus said, so it is likely that he is asking us to will against our will (A Slow and Certain Light, 115).
She placed this counsel at the very, very end of her book on knowing the will of God. After all is said and done — after we prayed, searched the Scripture, evaluated the motives of our hearts, counted the cost, listened to the counsel of those wiser than ourselves — if both choices seems to be equally good and right, choose the harder way.

But what if the harder way is not God's will? He commands us not to be afraid. God is with us and he is near those whose hearts are bent on knowing and doing his will. Just as he prevented Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, and David from building the temple, he will help us know if this is not the right way. Trust him.

The Lord is always looking at the hearts of his servants. Are we willing to take up staggering tasks for his name's sake? Are we willing to sacrifice, to die to ourselves? The Lord was please with Abraham and David because they were bent on doing hard things—for him, "You did well that it was in your heart" (I Kings 8:18).

"Choose the harder way" has been most helpful in my ordinary, daily deaths to self. Should I wash the dishes or check Facebook? Should I wake up when my alarm rings or sleep for another "five minutes"? After the service on Sunday, do I hang out with my friends or introduce myself to the new person? When provoked, do I speak my mind or sulk or pray for the one provoking me?

Clearly, I am not applying Ms. Elliot's advice quite right. I think she meant it for bigger decisions, when the all the options seem right and faithful. My daily choices are neither big nor are they equally "pleasing to God." The better thing to do is most of the time painfully obvious. The question is whether I would do it.

But—because I am prone to wander, "choose the harder way" pulls me away from my tendency to take the easy route. Ms. Elliot reminds me whom I am following, and why I am doing the things I am doing. I am to follow the pierced feet of my Lord. He chose the steep and the narrow, all the way to Golgotha.

Esther could have just focused on playing frisbee. And our lives would have gone on. And I would have kept pretending like I was reading my book. But the Lord was, and is, gracious. Esther chose to stop playing, and she came over to the lonely person under the tree, in the rain.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.