"In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." ~Matthew 5:16 (ESV)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Woman's Place

I read an interesting quote from Edna Ferber the other day that really struck a chord:

"Being an old maid is like death by drowning, a really delightful sensation once you cease to struggle."

Owing to the stigma that many churches continue to place on single women, and owing also to the influence of so many well-meaning people that think a woman cannot serve God without being married, I used to live in terror of remaining single. Somehow my entire self worth depended upon a ring decorating the third finger of my left hand. Then one day I started to question why I would willingly subject myself to such an archaic way of thinking. Why fight against (and exhaust myself over) what was clearly God's will? Why not glory in my singleness and accept it as a gift from God?

In today's world, young Christian women have a harder time than ever knowing their place. We have the non-Christian world telling us just to live as we please and not to worry about rules, morals, or other people, which we know is the wrong way, but which can also entice us in a weak moment. Then we have eighty different versions of how we should live coming at us from the Christian world. Some pastors say we shouldn't even be allowed to teach Sunday school because of our gender, whereas others tell us even the pulpit isn't off limits. Some people tell us we aren't fulfilling our destiny unless we marry and bear a "quiver-full" of home-schooled children. Some say we should go to college, others that we shouldn't. Some say we should only live either at home with our parents (and under their authority) or with a husband (and under his authority). Some ways of thinking seek to liberate us, others, seemingly, to enslave us. Few people seem to agree about a single Christian woman's place in the world.

This lack of clear direction embittered and frustrated me for years. Why is it so clear what a Christian man's place in the world is, but so murky for a Christian woman? My best guess is, it's yet another plot of the enemy's. By causing confusion, he can snatch young women away from the embrace of a loving God, and thrust them into an abyss. By leaving them unsure of which way to follow, he can mislead them into the wrong way, or even no way at all. It's a pretty clever idea (Yes, I called Satan clever. Do not underestimate our enemy.)

A short while after coming to Korea, I found myself realizing just how wonderful life can be when you cease to struggle. Now that I have completely given up on the idea of marriage, I can enjoy the benefits of being single. I don't need a man to "give me the world" - God already did! I don't need a man to "complete me" - again, God already did! If He wants me married, than He can send the guy at the right time, and I will be happy to oblige. In the meantime, I am serving God and loving my life, without the burden of obsessing over that naked third finger.

Friday, October 24, 2008

No Rest for the Weary

For the second day in a row, I have a migraine. No idea what brought them on, but teaching while medicated has left me a bit impatient, and a lot of cute little kids have been doing homework because of it. Once again, I'm so tired I could cry, and once again, I can't sleep because my head feels like a watermelon being slowly crushed by an elephant.

The thoughts that come into my mind when I'm up with a migraine vary from poignant, to humorous, to downright disturbing. I think the pain medication loosens up a few valves in my brain too much, or something along that line. I guess I really shouldn't complain. Back in high school and college, I would often get six of these things in one week, so getting them a few times a month is nothing to whine about. There I go ending a sentence with a preposition again...see what lack of sleep does to a person? And who made that grammar rule anyway - as much as I love and celebrate grammar, I have always hated the "no ending a sentence in a preposition" rule.

Living alone gives one a lot of time to think. Being kept up all night by a ravaging migraine gives one even more time, although some of the thoughts are a bit less than sensible. For instance, the idea of curing my migraine by unscrewing my head with a can opener was far from logical. I think that one goes in the "disturbing" file. I probably should file all of the "head removal" schemes in that file, actually. Although, the way the pain keeps making my eyes tear up, the idea of using knitting needles to sever my spinal cord is starting to sound more and more attractive...(relax, everyone, it's just the pain talking).

Deep thoughts keep sneaking in here, too. Thoughts like what I want out of life, why certain things motivate me the way they do, and whether or not public opinion is sufficient reason to give up on a lifelong dream (I have concluded that it isn't). This time of year makes me reminisce a lot, and there's no time like a migraine for talking a waltz through an orchard of memories. In my case, that also includes several detours through murky swamps of memories, dark, haunted forests of memories, and even a few graveyards of memories. I could wind up pretty depressed from one of those journeys, but the power of Christ keeps showing me the glittering side of the coin. Through the agony of the blinding pain in my neck and head, I keep feeling this victorious surge of joy.

I looked at a picture earlier of me back in high school (that would be one of the swamps). It made me start reflecting on the different types of pain, which I guess is only natural in my state. I had pain then, too, only it was a darker, deeper kind. I had sleepless nights as well, and they were also because of the pain. I guess you can't come from where I came without going through at least a few years of bitterness so intense that it colors the way you view every moment of the day. Because of that, I was robbed of my teenage years and of what should have been such a carefree time. No, I'm not passing out blame to the people I went to school with; they are not to blame. One person, and one person alone is to blame. The girl I used to be is to blame. She made the decisions, she earned the consequences, and she chose to let bitterness fill every centimeter of her mind. I'm not her anymore, praise God.

I do regret that high school can never be a happy memory to relive, but I can rejoice at how far I've come, and that He has been there for every moment and with every step. I wish I had known as much about loving people then as I do now. I wish I could have seen my classmates through the eyes I have now. Maybe I would have been accepted. Maybe I could have...well, I guess we'll never know. I only hope that now I can spread enough happiness and sunlight to atone for the unhappiness that I spread in the past. "We can never go back to Manderly..." Du Maurier penned those words with regret, but I'm viewing them now with relief and gratitude.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Tonight I had a startling revelation: I am content. When I was at my cell group, my friends asked what specific needs I have that they can pray for. I couldn't think of anything! It took awhile, but I finally came up with, "Well, I guess you could pray that I get a little better at time management." I'm not writing this to brag, but to show how God can change our perception.

I live in a tiny Korean studio apartment. I do not have a dryer - my clothes hang to dry! I don't have an oven either. My cooking is done on a little two-burner gas stove. My kitchen sink has a stubborn clog that I can't seem to fix on my own. I don't own a car, I don't have a bathtub (my entire bathroom converts into a shower), and I don't have a Wii. I have a very small wardrobe. I have very few pairs of shoes. I'm content.

According to Hollywood and commercials on TV, I need a closet full of stylish clothes, a killer body (don't have that either), perfect skin, hundreds of shoes, the latest appliances, and of course, a sleek car that does everything from telling me where to go, to burping me. According to the media, I should be miserable right now. I don't have nearly enough money, jewelry, or licquer to fit their definition of happiness. I know a lot of people who would agree that all these things are necessary for one to be happy.

Notice how everyone is striving to be happy, but few give any thought to being content. Happiness is fleeting, and it gets harder and harder to attain with the more things you acquire, since enough is never enough. Contentedness, on the other hand, means finding joy in what you already have, and realizing that your needs are met. It is living without constantly thinking about wants. Sure they exist (I really want pretzils, but can't find them anywhere in Korea), but the wants are not what drives you when you strive for contentment.

I don't ever want to be rich. I am already far richer than I deserve to be, and I am perfectly content. God looks after me, and all my needs are met. I don't need a house, a car, or designer labels on my clothing. I just need Him - and He's right here.

You know the best thing about contentendness? It breeds true happiness.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Appropriate Comments

It's a shame that I even need to post on this subject, but since a few individuals seem to have no censor in their brains telling them what is and is not appropriate, I am going to take the time to do so.

First of all, I welcome constructive comments, comments with honest questions, supportive comments, and comments that build on something I have written. Comments are welcome here!

To play it safe, I have things set up so that I can moderate all comments. This means that any distasteful, argumentative, negative, obscene, or completely mystifying comments can and will be deleted for the benefit of all. So, when people send me comments that fall into the previously-mentioned categories, they are wasting their time. Those comments are deleted, and are seen only by me. I repeat, NO ONE ELSE ever reads those comments. No one is offended, no arguments are started, no faith is shattered. I read them once (not even all the way through if they are obscene), roll my eyes, possibly reflect on the low intellect of the sender (it's funner how the people who send the most obscene comments are always such lousy spellers - and don't even get me started on their grammar!), and then gleefully delete them.

When I receive comments advertising another religion, such as Islam, I also delete them, and they are never seen. This is not the place for that. I do not post about Christianity on your blogs (to whomever decided to post those comments); please show me the same respect. Also, please consider investing in an English class if you wish to continue your chosen blog-invasion "ministry." Your writing was so poor that I could make little sense of it and was left with the conclusion that you are not a native speaker, and have not had the benefit of a decent teacher.

With my lecture now completed, I would like to also say "God bless" to everyone else, and I hope this blog is able to encourage you in some way.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Sorry about the long delay in posting; I have had a lot going on, so I have been focused on keeping the other blog up to date.

Today our missionary pastor spoke on the subject of simplicity. Since this is an area that I've made vast strides in over the past year, I felt compelled to post on it.

Simplicity is an important Christian discipline. If you read Matthew 6:19-34, it is patently obvious that God wants our focus on Him, not on material items. When we spend our time obsessing over the acquisition of more and more belongings, we neglect the more important and essential things in life. Namely, our relationship with God. If God is not the center of your life, material items will be. Such is the case with an alarming number of people (sometimes myself, I admit).

God does not insist that we all live in poverty, nor does he demand that we cease all planning and just float through life with no cares at all. There is no sin in becoming wealthy; it just opens the doors for more problems and temptations. Once you start acquiring things, you soon learn that it is never enough. You can never be completely satisfied. I came to realize this a few years ago, and realized it even more when I was preparing to leave for Korea.

Since I had to fly on an airplane to get to Korea, I was very limited in what I could bring. Suddenly, for the first time in my life, I had to weigh and decide what objects were truly necessary for daily life and what could be left behind. Assessing my possessions in this manner made me realize how many things I owned, and many of them were really pointless. Clothes that I never wore, books I never read, gadgets that I only used for a brief while - all these things were crowding my bedroom and closet, and, in fact, my life. I didn't need any of them, and I soon became dismayed and even a bit repulsed by just how much unnecessary junk I had. I started throwing things out or giving them away. It was liberating! I felt freer and freer with the more things I gave up. I made the decision then to never again let myself become so burdened by the need for senseless acquisition.

Esther, our missionary pastor, made some excellent points today about simplicity. She pointed out that when we turn our focus and concern away from possessions, we free ourselves from worry, fear, and stress. In addition, we open the door for the freedom to give, without expecting or requiring anything in return. This is the lifestyle I want for myself. I want to be a lily of the field, unencumbered by constant worry over things the world tries to tell me I need. Every culture in the world is consumer-driven today, and they are all sick. If we emulate these twisted cultures, we, too, will become sick. Is this what you want for your life?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Finally Found a Better Church

I've been really bummed at missing out on having a supportive group of Christian friends here in Korea, as well as missing good, thought-provoking church services. Well, my prayers have been answered. Thanks to a friend, I've discovered Sooyoungro Presbyterian church in Busan. I'm currently attending a weekend retreat that they're having here in Gyeongju and it's fantastic. I've decided to start attending the church, even though it will mean traveling an hour by bus to get there every Sunday. Still, it's far less inconvenience than hiding in a catacomb for church, so I'm not complaining!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Jesus and the Leper

I'd like to share another of my favorite places in the Bible, which I was re-reading tonight. It's Luke 5:12-13:

"While he [Jesus] was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, 'Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.' And Jesus stretched out his had and touched him, saying 'I will, be clean.' And immediately the leprosy left him. (ESV)

Now obviously, it's great that this man was healed of his leprosy, but that's not the reason I love these two verses so much. Allow me to share a little background on the subject of leprosy:

Leprosy referred to several different, usually incurable, skin diseases. People with leprosy were considered "unclean" and, in many cases, people actually thought the leprosy was a judgement for some grievous sin. That may seem like a far-fetched conclusion to reach, but remember that Miriam, Moses's sister, was struck with leprosy as a judgement for opposing him (which meant she was, in effect, opposing God who had chosen Moses) - you can read about this in Numbers, chapter 12. There were also other instances of leprosy being a punishment, so it wasn't that unreasonable for people to reach that conclusion about all lepers.

There were very strict guidelines for dealing with leprosy. Chapter 13 of Leviticus is about nothing but laws concerning leprosy! It was a very serious matter. According to Leviticus 13, a person with leprosy, by law, had to live a life of isolation, outside of the city walls. Leviticus 13:45-46 commands, "The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, 'Unclean, unclean.' He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp." (ESV)

A person was not supposed to be anywhere near a leper, let alone touch one. The laws concerning clean and unclean were strict and unyielding. There was no mercy where leprosy was concerned. And certainly, leprosy was disgusting. In addition, since this leper had to live away from society, he probably didn't have the best hygiene habits. So, let's look at the situation in Luke 5 once more:

Here is the immaculate Son of God, confronted by a dirty, ceremonially unclean man with a disgusting, repulsive skin disease. In all likelihood, this man smelled horrible. Jesus could easily have healed him from a distance. Instead, he actually touched the man! And that's not even the part that moves me the most about this story. Did you notice any pause or any conditions given by Jesus? Did he say, "Sure I'll make you clean, but first give me money?" Did he tell the man to join a church? Did he insist that the man come back when he had shaved and put on the right clothes? No. A desperate man fell on his face and begged for help, and Jesus simply said yes, and helped him.

I look upon these two verses as a wonderful illustration of salvation. We come before God ragged, filthy, unclean, and completely disgusting. We have no merits, and absolutely nothing to recommend us. No social connections, no advanced education, nothing to give Him but us, as undesirable as we are. We place ourselves completely in His power, laying down our lives at His feet. Many of us literally do fall on our faces in this moment. Without eloquence, in sheer desperation, we beg the only One who can rescue us to have mercy and save us. And He, with no hesitation, says yes. He stretches out His hand, now scarred by His love, and touches us, as vile as we are. In one instant, we are made clean and whole.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wormwood and Mercy

I was reading the third chapter of Lamentations tonight (I have no idea why), and it felt almost as if I wrote it myself! Verses 6-9, especially, remind me of my early teenage years, before I was saved:

"he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago. He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has made my chains heavy; though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones; he has made my paths crooked." (ESV)

And verses 14-15 tell exactly how I often felt after those horrible years were over:

"I have become the laughingstock of all peoples, the object of their taunts all day long. He has filled me with bitterness; he has sated me with wormwood." (ESV)

It may sound strange, but reading those verses is really comforting to me. Not only does it remind me of what God has rescued me from, it also reminds me that I'm not the only person to go through all that. Jeremiah went through it all and more, centuries before I was even born. I really wish I had reread all this a year ago when my brother-in-law was battling cancer and I was battling doubt and feelings of worthlessness. Too bad I turned from God first before turning back to Him.

The best part, though, is what comes later in the chapter. If I were the sort of person who went in for tattoos, I would have verses 19 through 24 tattooed backwards across my forehead, so that I would see them every time I looked in a mirror:

"Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him." (ESV)

The scars of the past never leave us. In my case, some of them will always be literally visible on my body. But, the mercy and love of God never leaves us either. And every time I look at my scars, I get another tangible evidence of His amazing grace.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

And Can It Be

I used to hate hymns, mostly because people usually sing them in such a stiff, mechanical fashion, giving absolutely no thought to what the words mean. It wasn't until I was about twenty-one that I finally started liking hymns. I'll admit, I still think some of them are drier than crusty cat litter, but some hymns can capture my exact feelings in ways ordinary words fail to.

My all-time favorite hymn is "And Can It Be." No one need ever put my testimony to music, for Charles Wesley already did it when he penned the lyrics to this beautiful hymn (I've put my favorite lines in bold):

1. And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Savior's blood!
Died he for me? who caused his pain!
For me? who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

2. 'Tis mystery all: th' Immortal dies!
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
to sound the depths of love divine.
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
let angel minds inquire no more.
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
let angel minds inquire no more.

3. He left his Father's throne above
(so free, so infinite his grace!),
emptied himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam's helpless race.
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
for O my God, it found out me!
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
for O my God, it found out me!

4. Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
fast bound in sin and nature's night;
thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
my chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

5. No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine;
alive in him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach th' eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th' eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.

I think the times when I feel closest to God are when I sit alone, singing hymns like this one. It perfectly captures all those wasted, horrible years before I was saved. I know people like to make fun of the term "saved," and many people try to abuse it, but there's nothing trite about it when I say I was saved. I know what it is to die from sin, because I very nearly did. I have, quite literally, been snatched by God from the salivating jaws of death and Hell. I have felt the breath of Satan on the back of the neck. When I say that I was saved, I mean it with every fiber of my being. I was saved in every sense of the word, and still am.

Point of Grace (a singing group, for those who have not heard of them) sing a beautiful song called "Heal the Wound and Leave the Scar." It makes me tear up when I hear it, because it so perfectly expresses the way God works. He healed all those festering wounds from long ago, but in their place, the scars remain, to never let me forget from whence I came and all that He has done. That song is so perfect, that I just have to share it:

I used to wish that I could rewrite history
I used to dream that each mistake could be erased
That I could just pretend
I never knew the ‘me’ back then

I used to pray that You would take this shame away
Hide all the evidence of who I've been
But it’s the memory of the place You’ve brought me from
That keeps me on my knees even though I’m free

Heal the wound but leave the scar
A reminder of how merciful You are
I am broken, torn apart
Take the pieces of this heart
Heal the wound but leave the scar

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My Favorite Psalm

Many times in the past, whether at school, at college, or at work, I have felt discouraged because it seems like people who don't care about God and don't bother to live right attain the things that I desire most, while I am still waiting on so many of those things. Several years ago, I got really down about all this. I was in high school at the time, and depressed because I felt so ugly compared to all of the other girls. Several girls that I knew well didn't give any thought to modesty, and, quite naturally, they had dates all the time. I felt like something must be wrong with me because I never went on dates. Then one day, as I was sitting in my car crying about it (not my finest moment, I'll admit), God showed me Psalm 37. Since then, I have repeatedly come back to it, and it never fails to encourage me. So, for the benefit of my readers, here is my favorite Psalm (English Standard Version):

1 Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
2 For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.

3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.

7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!

8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9 For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.

12 The wicked plots against the righteous
and gnashes his teeth at him,
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that his day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

16 Better is the little that the righteous has
than the abundance of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.

18 The Lord knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will remain forever;
19 they are not put to shame in evil times;
in the days of famine they have abundance.

20 But the wicked will perish;
the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures;
they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.

21 The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
but the righteous is generous and gives;
22 for those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land,
but those cursed by him shall be cut off.

23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
when he delights in his way;
24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand.

25 I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or his children begging for bread.
26 He is ever lending generously,
and his children become a blessing.

27 Turn away from evil and do good;
so shall you dwell forever.
28 For the Lord loves justice;
he will not forsake his saints.
They are preserved forever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
29 The righteous shall inherit the land
and dwell upon it forever.

30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks justice.
31 The law of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not slip.

32 The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33 The Lord will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

35 I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36 But he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
though I sought him, he could not be found.

37 Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
for there is a future for the man of peace.
38 But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the future of the wicked shall be cut off.

39 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.