Monday, July 22, 2013

The Best Part of the Mango... Is The Pit?

Several years ago we had a baby shower for our dear friend.  There was lots of food and delicious cake.  Add on a couple of games too.  After a while we sat down and all the ladies were asked to share something about their mom.  I don't remember the exact question, but perhaps something special that she did or that you appreciate about your mom.  People might not realize, but this is actually a difficult question for me.  Most Asian parents kind of love you from afar.  They don't hug or kiss.  They don't offer much praise (wouldn't want you to get a big head).  They provide for you and you're somehow suppose to know that they care and love you.  When I graduated college, it was my aunt who told me my parents were proud of me.  I had not even considered the idea.  So as I pondered the question, I didn't know what to say.  My mom was an immigrant.  She worked 6 days a week, 12 hr days, so I rarely saw her when I was growing up.  But I know I love my mom.  So what do I appreciate?  Here comes the mango story.

Do you know how to cut up a mango?  There is an oval pit and the flesh is on both sides of the pit.  My mom would slice lengthwise across the mango and give the flesh side to me and my sister.  One side for the each of us.  Mom would save the pit for herself.  One day I asked her why she didn't eat the flesh and she said the pit was the best part.  I don't know about you, but I've had the pit.  It may be sweet, but there isn't much to eat there and it is often stringy.  But once I had children of my own, I finally understood.  Just like my mom, I give my children the flesh halves and save the pit for myself.  Why?  Because I want to give them the best part.  My mom didn't have a lot of time to spend with us, but whatever she did, she gave her best to her children.  She gave the best years of her life to support her family.  She worked hard to provide us with meals, a home, and clothing.  And she gave us the best part of the mango because she loved us.  Through her sacrifices I see her love for us.  This is what I will cherish.  

One of the things I struggle to teach my 5 year old is that God is real even when we don't see Him.  My son has to go by my faith and trust that I am telling him the truth.  But we tell him what we believe with our heart, that God sent his Son, Jesus, as our atoning sacrifice.  That God's sacrificial love for us is the source of our love and gratitude for Him.  Behind the mask, I know my mom loves me.  She doesn't always say it with words, but I can tell by her actions.  I know it's hard to believe in a God who seems invisible, but I know He loves me by what he has done.  Because of his daily provisions in my life.  Because of the powerful way He works in the lives of others.  Because of his son, Jesus.

I'll end with a song of worship.  I sang this as an offertory a couple weeks ago.  What a great way to remember the enormity of the grace that we've been given.  It's like an avalanche.

Like An Avalanche - Hillsong United
Click on the link above to hear it on Youtube

Beautiful God
Laying Your majesty aside
You reached out in love to show me life
Lifted from darkness into light

King for a slave
Trading Your righteousness for shame
Despite all my pride and foolish ways
Caught in Your infinite embrace

And I find myself here on my knees again
Caught up in grace like an avalanche
Nothing compares to this love love love
Burning in my heart

Saviour and Friend
Breathing Your life into my heart
Your word is the lamp unto my path
Forever I'm humbled by Your love

And I find myself here on my knees again
Caught up in grace like an avalanche
Nothing compares to this love love love
Burning in my heart

Take my life
Take all that I am
With all that I am I will love You
Take my heart
Take all that I have
Jesus how I adore You

And I find myself here on my knees again
Caught up in grace like an avalanche
Nothing compare to this love love love

Friday, February 15, 2013

Happy 14th Valentine Birthday to Me

Like many teenagers, I felt awkward about myself.  I had the coke bottle glasses, badly permed hair, did poorly in school, and was kind of shy.  I slowly grew out of this phase.  Mom finally got me contacts, I still had bad perms, but I started to do well in school and slowly became more outgoing.  But I think those early years took root in my heart.  I didn't feel like I belonged. I strived to be liked and to feel special.  That's when the world of boys came in. 

For many years boys did not pay attention to me.  I envied the popular girls and how boys seem to hoover over them.  So when I got the slightest attention from a boy, I was thrilled.  But teenage romances don't last long.  And my heart was broken.  And so the cycle continued time and time again.  It happened through high school. I happened again through college.  If I wasn't dating, I felt empty.  When I was in a relationship, it was never enough.  When it was over, there was a void. And every time, I lost a little bit of my heart. 

Then 14 years ago, my friends from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship invited me to a True Love retreat on Valentine's weekend.  I gave every excuse not to go.  In the very end I just stated financial reasons for not going.  Wouldn't you know it, they gave me a scholarship to attend the retreat.  Oh fine.  I struggled with my personal relationships, my self esteem was low, there was a family crisis going on.  I guess a weekend away would be a good distraction.  It turned out to be the best distraction for me.  I attended sessions where I learned of a love that would satisfy my every thirst.  I learned of a love that was unconditional and never failing.  This was love that would never disappoint.  This was love that would not break my heart, but heal it.  It was God's love that I had been waiting for all this time.  And I didn't have to do a thing to earn it.  And although it was still freely given, it came at a high cost to Jesus.  And so it began that weekend, when I invited God into my life.  And so began my spiritual journey, made extra sweet because of the knowledge of God's love for me on that special Valentine's Day.

Luke 15:20 - But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him

I John 3:16 - This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Where is your Spiritual Traffic Light?

Our son's kindergarten teacher has implemented a new traffic light system.  I guess it's been harder to keep the 20+ kids to pay attention in class lately.  You get a bunch of kids together, they are bound to fool around.

Every student starts the day on a green light.  As kids start fooling around they get warnings.  Repeated warnings move you to the yellow light.  The child is asked to think about how to make good decisions and how to behave better.  Continued misbehavior moves you to the red light where she sends a note or calls home so that the parents can speak with the child at home regarding his/her behavior.  At the beginning of each day each student starts with a clean slate, back on the green light again.

What I like about this concept is that it's not all about policing the kids.  The goal is to get the kids to think about their actions while they are on yellow so that they can learn to make better choices in the future.  Hopefully as time goes on, they won't need warnings and stay on the green light on their own.  And I think it's working.  My son often comes home and gives me a thumbs up saying, "It's a green day!"

I have started adapting this at home too.  Because I'm tired of yelling.  I want him to think about his actions and choose what is better.  I don't want to be the tyrant.  I want to guide him and teach him.  So now we try to stay on the green light at home too.

How about you and me?  It dawned on me that I can use this concept in my spiritual life.  What am I doing daily to stay on the green light?  Are there things in my life, attitudes in my heart, inching me toward the yellow light?  Am I driving with a heavy foot, trying to sneak through the yellow, only to get caught with a ticket running through a red light?  Am I living my life too fast to notice the traffic signal and ending up breaking hard at the crosswalk?

Remember, friends, God gives us the Holy Spirit and scripture to guide us through this life.  He wants what is best for you.  He wants you to grow and make good decisions on your own.  How are we going to hear what God has to say to us?  Spend time reading the scriptures and pray.  Is the Holy Spirit warning you about anything?  Teaching you about anything?

When I was a teenager, I showed my mom my report card.  She was disappointed that one of my grades went from a 96 to a 95.  My goodness.  What can I do to earn her approval?  So I asked my teacher if I could bump my grade up by doing some extra credit work.  And it worked.  I got my 95 bumped up to a 96.  I happily showed my mom who said, "It doesn't matter to me whether you get a 95 or a 96.  I want you to want high grades without me telling you to."

God would love to see us like minded with him.  It's not about earning approval.  Dear friends, God is not suppose to be a tyrant.  He loves us like a parent.  He wants to train us for the better.  He desires us to love what he loves and to live that way too.  And you know what, even if we miss occasionally, it's okay.  Because that ticket you got for going through that spiritual red light, it's been paid for by Jesus.  That sin of pride or greed has been spotted by God, but he forgives those who repents and confess it (I John 1:9).  And lucky us, we get to start on the green light every day.  Because His compassions never fail.  For his mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness (Lam 3:23).

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Slow down and be blessed

There is a church meeting tonight.  I must get dinner on the table ASAP.  Unlike most days, I actually have a plan for dinner.  Chicken is marinated and in the oven.  Rice is cooking.  Brussel sprouts are sliced.  I'm browning the bacon.  Oh yes... that's right.  There is bacon in this dinner.  My dad is watching baby sweet cheeks and my kindergartner is coloring on some big roll of construction paper my husband gave him.  Everything is going perfectly.  So as I'm browning the bacon I wasn't expecting this.

Son: Mommy, you have to come see this.
Me: Sorry, I'm making dinner right now.  I don't want it to burn.
Son: But you have to see this.
Me: Where's daddy?  Maybe daddy can see it.
Son: I can't find him.  Someone has to see it.
Me:  (well... I guess I can humor my son briefly.  Then it's back to the bacon.
                   I turn off the stove.)
       Ok.  Let's hurry up so I can finish cooking dinner.

And then he shows me this

Oh, thank goodness I stopped to give my little guy some attention.  Look at what I could of missed out on.  All he wanted was me.  And all I could think of was dinner.  It should be me showering him with this love.  Instead, I'm the one who feels blessed.  Thank goodness for little children.  

This reminds me of the verse, Matthew 18:3, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." 

Has your life been busy?  When was the last time you spent time with God?  Did you seek his presence?  Did you want to be with Abba, Father?  When was the last time you just drew a big heart for God?  Luckily, our Heavenly Father always has time for us.  He is not too busy.  He is there to meet us just as we are.  Go to him like the little children.  Slow down and be blessed.

You're not a religious person?  God wants to have a relationship with you, like my son wants to have a relationship with me.  It's love.  It's a relationship.  God loves us and is waiting for us to love him back.  So what are you waiting for?