words :: books :: ideas

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Face It

Andrée Seu is perhaps my favorite columnist at WORLD Magazine. A couple of weeks ago, she wrote an article about faces:
I have been thinking about faces. When I walk the dog, a face is the first thingand in most cases the only thinga person will see of me. If I get to thinking about the number of people who are lost, and the shortness of the time, I feel sad about all those ships passing without a gospel word.
And yet the face does pour forth speech . . .
Reading this article stimulated me to consider what my face is saying. Do I wear an angry countenance? Is pride revealed in my face? Is mine a face that bears witness against me? Or is my face cheerful? Am I illustrating a sharp countenance?
I want my face to be like that of Moses. "When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God" (Exodus 34:29, ESV). His face shone so brightly that the people were afraid; he had to wear a veil.
I want my face to show that I too have been communing with God.
I want my face shine.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Feeding Five Thousand

I am officially excited. This afternoon I paid the final installment of the bill for my trip to Italy and Greece.

Throughout the past weeks, I have been reminded of the miracle Jesus worked feeding a crowd of five thousand with five meager loaves of bread. Those people did not go away hungry; there were plenty of leftovers (Matthew 16:9-10). Similarly, God miraculously provided enough funds for me to go on this trip, complete with leftovers [souvenirs, anyone?].

"In God We Trust" reads every dollar and cent that I paid, echoing my thoughts. He truly is trustworthy and faithful.
Blessed be the LORD,
Because He has heard the voice
of my supplications!
The LORD is my strength
and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him,
and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly
And with my song I will praise
- Psalm 28:6-7

Friday, November 09, 2007

Rake Balancing

The two large trees that obscure our house from the street produce many, many leaves. In the fall, these leaves invariably fall to the ground [maybe that's why it's called fall?]. Every few days throughout this season, these leaves must be raked into piles before being 'vacuumed' by the lawnmower to compost.
Personally, I don't particularly enjoy raking. It's all right, but I'd rather walk around balancing the rake upside-down on my hand.
Whenever I do this, I'm reminded of Colossians 3:2, "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth."
When I stare at the handle of the rake, resting in my palm, I can keep it balanced for about three seconds. When, however, I watch the tongs of the rake wobbling slightly in the air, I can dance around adjusting the position of my hand to keep the rake upright much longer. With comparative ease, I make it hop from hand to hand or finger to finger.
As long as I keep my eyes heavenward, the rake stays balanced, but when my eyes drop to myself, the rake crashes to the ground.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The House of the Proud

Pride goes before before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall.
- Proverbs 16:18
The LORD will destroy the house of the proud . . .
- Proverbs 15:25

Need anything else be said?

photo courtesy my brother.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Frankenstein and Mr. Hyde

The first lecture from my first year at Worldview Academy is also the one that I remember the best. Jeff Baldwin spoke on The Deadliest Monster, contrasting the worldviews portrayed in Frankenstein and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Both Shelley and Stevenson indirectly answer the question, "What is the nature of man?" The former depicts man as being basically good. She blames society for the wrong actions of Frankenstein's monster. Stevenson, however, shows that man is inherently sinful and that the individual is responsible for his deeds.
I recently realized that I have subscribed to the thinking of Frankenstein.
When I do something wrong, I tend to rationalize (as Mr. Harris would say: "rational lies") and make excuses for my behavior. I'm not feeling very good. I have a headache. I'm working on a project.
I try to blame society [a.k.a. siblings]. You were in my way. You were being too loud.
I even apologize with disclaimers. I'm sorry for [fill in blank], I am just having a bad day. I shouldn't have done that, it's just [insert excuse of choice here].
This way of thinking is wrong. Instead of attempting to shift blame upon others, I need to admit my guilt.
I need to change my thoughts from Frankenstein to Dr. Jekyll.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sword Making

My dad held my machete as he told the church congregation about how a sword is made.
The steel is heated incredibly hot--hotter than it will ever be again. Then it is submerged, plunged, baptized in water or oil. This makes it hard. It will still need to be beaten, heated, and machined. But it will never be heated that hot again.
Without this process, it would fail when most needed.
One year ago today, I--like a sword--was baptized.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

You Take Away and Give

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
"Lord, blessed be Your name"
Those are lines from my favorite worship song. In my life recently, it has been a little bit different though. “You take away and give” seem to read the lyrics to the song of my life.

Take for example, the story of my sunglasses.

When my sister was updating her sunglasses a few years ago, she gave me her old pair. The left arm may have been disconnected then, or it may have been shortly after that they broke. They still worked though. The arm would fit back in its spot; I just had to be careful with them.

Last Thursday, my mom and I went to a meeting in another town. Knowing the sun would be shining brightly into my eyes on the drive, I wore my sunglasses. As I stepped out of the car at our destination, I considered putting them in my bag. Instead, I left them on the front seat. I was not the next person to ride up front. The sky now being dark, I did not ask for the sunglasses to be passed to me.

When we got home, I found the major part of my sunglasses, but could not find the detached arm. Fruitlessly, I searched around the seat, under the floor mat, and everywhere I thought the arm could be. Being my only companion at this time, I asked God if He could help me find it. It seems like God is always answering my prayers and helping me find things.

“Aha!” I thought as I felt between the seats and pulled out a thin object. “I knew You’d help me, God!” I was disappointed to discover that it was only a misplaced pen. Finally, I went inside without the missing piece.

I hunted around some the next day, but could not find it. I was sure that the arm had fallen out of the car 20 miles away. I resigned myself to the fact that I would never see the left sunglasses arm again. I had thought that God was going to repeat His pattern of giving something back to me, but He was not. I decided that this was a good opportunity to follow Job’s example and bless God not only when things are going my way, but when they are not going my way.

Lacking a substitute, I continued to wear the dismantled sunglasses. They still stayed on my head, though they rested at an awkward angle and were slightly uncomfortable.

On Saturday—two days after loosing my sunglasses arm—my sister invited me out to the curb in front of our house where we ate ice cream and reclined in the grass. I then noticed a skinny black object on the running board of my mom’s car, which was parked in front of me. It was the missing sunglasses arm. I could have cried. God gave it back to me.

This is not the only time that a situation like this has happened to me. Repeatedly, God has been taking away things that I want (or even things that I didn’t know that I want—like sunglasses arms), and withholding them until I submit my will to Him. Then He gives it back to me.

Only when I fully submit my desire to God does He give back what He has taken away. It does not work for me to say, “Okay, I submit,” then demand that He give it to me. Once I die to myself, and truly tell God that He can have it—not expecting it back—He has been giving it to me.

I do not know if He will ever do it again. God may decide to take things from me, and never give them back. I have to ask myself, “Will I stilllike Jobbe able to bless God, even if He doesn’t give me what I desire?”

Monday, August 13, 2007


Come and see the works of God;
He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men.
-Psalm 66:5
I am continually amazed by the awesome works of God. He blesses me so abundantly.
I am learning that when I trust God, He is faithful to provide for me.
Next March I am going to travel to Italy and Greece with my Classical Literature teacher. When I learned of the opportunity, I was excited to go, but daunted by the large bill that I will have to pay for the trip. Somehow though, the funds are appearing. I have approximately half the money needed.
This is not the first time that God has provided for me financially. In 2006, my mom decided that she wanted my brother and me to attend Worldview Academy. Through diligent work and the generosity of others, we had more than enough to pay the tuition--in about two weeks.
God is displaying Psalm 34:8-10 in my life:
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints!
There is no want to those who fear Him.
The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Singing with Understanding

Isn't is great when you've read a passage dozens of times, and then you notice a new aspect of it?
Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
Sing praises with understanding.
- Psalm 47:6-7 (emphasis added)
We are told to sing. But don't just sing meaningless words. Sing with understanding.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Delight of Another

Last week I attended Worldview Academy. One of the major concepts that I brought home with me is that of love. According to Dell Cook, whereas lust is "delighting oneself in one’s own delight," love is "delighting oneself in the delight of another."
Love "does not seek its own" (1 Corinthians 13:5).
Lust is selfish. Love is selfless. "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit," writes Paul, "but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:3-4).
As I have been contemplating this definition of love for the past several days, I ask myself: What can I be doing that will delight others? How can I gain delight from their delight?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Anticipating Heaven

The following is an essay I wrote for my British Literature class this spring.

I hear it spoken about, a tingly sensation creeps across my skin; I can feel my eyes gleaming with anticipation. In exactly one year, I will be in Italy, then Greece. To prepare for the trip, I intend to learn all I can about the history, literature, and culture of my destination. I will read the epic poems. I will study the famous artwork. I will question eagerly those who have gone previously. I will re-memorize the funeral oration of my Athenian hero, Pericles. In order to go, however, I must sacrifice. I am willing to perform unpleasant and dreaded tasks, such as cleaning out chicken coops and making phone calls, to earn the funds for the journey. I am even willing to miss delightful and fun activities, such as swing dancing and AWANA Scholarship Camp, to save the money for this trip. I know, though, that the pain I procure, and the enjoyments I forego, will be worth the effort when I step aground the Italian and Grecian soil. In the same way that I anticipate going to Italy and Greece, John Bunyan portrays the characters throughout Pilgrim's Progress in anticipation of Heaven.

First, Bunyan demonstrates the hope of Heaven as the reason for the pilgrimage. Realizing his city’s impending destruction, Christian departs on “the road to Celestial City” (p. 83). To save his life, he must leave behind his wife, children, and friends. Rather than contemplating the abandonment of his home, the protagonist states, “I am longing for a better country—a heavenly one” (p. 66). Christian yearns for his King’s land so strongly that he “fell sick with desire” (p. 203). After Christian’s death, God convicts his wife, Christiana, of her sin and invites her to join her husband. The author displays the importance of the afterworld by describing Christiana in a dream, seeing two evil men who plot to “take her thoughts off of what shall be hereafter” (p. 230). Regardless of the peril, she and her children decide to commence on their pilgrimage. She tells her neighbors,
“I’ve now had placed in my hand the wherewithal to get gain, and I’d be a fool of the greatest size if I should have no heart to take advantage of the opportunity. And as for all these troubles you tell me about—which I’m likely to meet in the Way—they’re so far off from being a discouragement to me that they show me I’m in the right. The bitter must come before the sweet, and that will also make the sweet all the sweeter” (p. 234).

Their longing for Heaven entices the pilgrims to begin their journey.

Retaining an eternal perspective not only prompts the characters to start upon the Way, but also assists the travelers while they still live on the earth. Contemplating Heaven allows the protagonists to restrain themselves from iniquity. While Christian stays at the Palace Beautiful, Prudence questions him about what enables him to defeat his transgression. He replies by telling her about four reflections that help him conquer sin—the final of these being, “when my thoughts are warmed about where I’m going, that will do it” (p. 67). Later, Christian and Hopeful trespass on the Giant Despair’s land. When the giant catches them and imprisons them in his castle’s dungeon, the pilgrims consider committing suicide. Hopeful reminds himself and his companion, however, that suicide constitutes murder, forbidden by God. “[H]ave you forgotten Hell, where murderers most certainly go?” queries Hopeful, “For ‘no murderer has eternal life in him’” (p. 152). As well as helping them fight against sin, a desire for everlasting life in Celestial City encourages the characters to continue the journey. One pilgrim, named Mr. Feeblemind, though an ailing man, clings to the hope given to him. He declares,

“this I’ve resolved to do—to run when I can, to walk when I can’t run, and to crawl when I can’t walk. As to the heart of the matter, I’m steadfast. My way is before me, and my thoughts are beyond the River that has no bridge” (p. 348).

His focus—what takes place after death—inspires Mr. Feeblemind, along with the other travelers, to persist.

In addition, throughout the story, the characters face numerous difficulties; however, the pilgrims continue to place their expectation in Heaven and the rest and rewards they will receive in Celestial City. Although they already encountered difficulties on the road, Christian and his companion, Faithful, learn from Evangelist that they will face persecution in the Town of Vanity. Evangelist also reminds them that their faithfulness translates into rewards in Heaven.

“I’m so glad,” said Evangelist, “not that you met with trials, but that you’ve been champions and have continued in the Way to this very day regardless of your many weaknesses . . . . at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up. The Crown is in front of you, and it is one that will last forever. So run that you may win it . . . . Let the Kingdom always be before you, and believe resolutely in things that are invisible. Let nothing on this side of the Other World get inside of you . . .” (p.112).

Once they enter the town, the pilgrims discover the reality that they “must enter into the Kingdom of Heaven through many hardships” (p. 113). When the people of the Vanity Fair realize that Believers walk among them, they abuse the travelers with contemptuous words and actions. In mockery, the townsmen “beat them, then smeared dirt on them and put them into the cage so they might be made a spectacle to everyone of the fair” (p. 121). Christian and Faithful bear their suffering patiently, which incites the people to more rage toward them. Falsely testifying against the pilgrims, the townsmen bring the pair before an unjust judge, who—though not sentencing Christian—condemns Faithful to a torturous demise.

First, they whipped him, then they beat him, then they lanced his flesh with knives. After that, they stoned him with stones, then pricked him with their swords, and last of all, they burnt him to ashes at the stake (p. 127).

Faithful’s death benefits him by allowing him quicker entrance into the “desired Place of Refuge” (p. 59). This suffering and fatality also act evangelistically, provoking Hopeful’s conversion. Hopeful declares to Christian that in Heaven, “you’ll receive a good return for your work” (p. 180). Like a child who enthusiastically devours spinach because he knows pie awaits him when he finishes, the pilgrims willingly suffer trials because they recognize the dessert of Heaven inhabits their future.

Finally, Bunyan depicts the joy of the travelers when their hope lies fulfilled and they reach their heavenly destination. As Christian and Hopeful near their journey’s end, “they rejoiced more than in parts more remote from the Kingdom to which they were headed” (p. 203). Almost each word from their lips speaks of Heaven. Describing the Celestial City, Christian refers to it as “the land that flows with milk and honey” (p. 205). In the Old Testament, this phrase denotes Canaan. Just as God bestowed upon Israel the promised land of Canaan, God provides Believers with a land of promise—Heaven.
The last difficulty surmounted—crossing the River of death—the two men stand upon the border of “the Good Land” where a pair of angels await to escort them to the gate of Celestial City (p. 276). Speaking to the “Shining Ones,” Christian and Hopeful inquire what they will do in Heaven (p. 207). The pilgrims obtain this response from the angels:

“You must receive the comfort of all your toil and have joy for all your sorrows. You must reap what you’ve sown, even the fruit of all your prayers, tears, and sufferings for the King while you were in the Way. In this place you must wear crowns of gold and enjoy the perpetual sight and vision of the Holy One . . . . your eyes shall be delighted with seeing Him, and your ears with hearing the voice of the Mighty One. There you’ll enjoy again your friends who have gone there before you. And there you’ll receive with joy everyone who follows after you into the holy place. Also, there you’ll be clothed with glory and majesty, and put into a carriage that is fit to ride out in with the King of Glory” (p. 207).

Completing their arduous journey, the pilgrims finally arrive at “Mount Zion, the Heavenly Jerusalem . . . the Paradise of God” (p. 206). Bunyan concludes his tale of Christian and Hopeful’s expedition by describing the travelers’ elation. “[T]hey had such warm and joyful thoughts about having their own dwelling there with such a company forever and ever. Oh, what tongue or pen can express their glorious joy!” (p. 208). Bunyan, narrating his dream, writes, “I wished myself to be among them” (p. 210). Their eagerness before arriving in the King’s Land causes the men greater rejoicing when they at last attain the object of their desire.

A key theme in his book, John Bunyan illustrates the pilgrims’ hope in Celestial City. The characters’ anticipation for Heaven encourages them to embark on their journey, helps them as they travel, enables them to endure difficulties, and at the end, rewards them with joy. My trials in traveling to Italy and Greece will not be as hard as those encountered by the characters in Pilgrim’s Progress. Neither will my reward be as great. Indeed, these earthly countries may be worthy of anticipation, but they look like a dime beside a silver mine in comparison to the heavenly country.

Psalm 35:28

And my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness
And of Your praise all the day long.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Happy Mother's Day, Mom

“Her children rise up and call her blessed…” (Proverbs 31:28).
Mother’s Day was over two weeks ago, but I appreciate my mom more now than I did then.
On Sunday, May 13, my grandma fell approximately 9 feet from her front porch. She landed on her head and broke her neck, back, and sternum. Miraculously, her spinal cord was not injured, so she will heal without being paralyzed.
Grandma stayed in the hospital for several days. For the past 11 or so days, however, my mom has been living at Grandma’s house to take care of her.
Being the oldest unemployed child, I have had to take over much of the cleaning, cooking, dish washing, and other odd jobs. This time has certainly made me more thankful for my mom [and that I am not a mom yet]. We eat really often. Seven mouths equates to many, many dishes.
“Honor your father and your mother…” (Deuteronomy 5:16). She certainly deserves it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Seeing Christ Through Literature

This year I took an excellent course on British Literature. One of my favorite and first assignments was to read Beowulf. I then had to compare the story with the last days of Jesus. The following is what I discovered.

In this story, one can easily see how Beowulf acts as a type of Christ.
The first parallel between Jesus and Beowulf is found in the similarity of their identities.Whereas Jesus is known as the “Prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:6) and the “Prince of life” (Acts 3:15), Beowulf is “the prince of the Weder-Geats” (text, p. 46). Jesus came from heaven to save the people on earth; Beowulf came from his land of Sweden to save the people of Denmark from Grendel. Neither one was forced to do this, but gave of himself in an act of love.
In Luke 4:28-30, one reads about Jesus facing the threat of death, but escaping. “So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.” Similarly, Beowulf has “survived very many combats, wild attacks” (text, p. 46).

The events leading up to Beowulf’s fight with the dragon also have characteristics analogous to the proceedings in the last days of the Savior.
Like baptism, Beowulf’s fight with Grendel’s mother symbolizes Jesus’ death and resurrection (Elaine Strong Skill, Beowulf Cliff Notes, Syllabus, p. 48). The Geat contends with the she-monster while submerged in the mere. Just as Jesus died at the ninth hour of the day (Mark 15:34), when the ninth hour came, the Scyldings and Beowulf’s companions “despair of seeing their friendly lord” alive again (text, p. 29). Then, when the men do not expect it, Beowulf rises from the water victorious.
Comparable to Jesus, the eleven disciples, and Judas Iscariot, page 44 of the text speaks of thirteen men going up to the dragon’s cave. These men are “The lord of the Geats…with eleven others” and the man who had awakened the dragon’s wrath. Like Peter and the other disciples (Matthew 26:35), Beowulf’s thanes “promised [him] that [they] would requite him for the war-gear, the helms and sharp swords, if need such as this came upon him” (text, p. 48).
Before being betrayed, Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. He is “deeply distressed” and His “soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:37-38). Likewise, Beowulf’s “mind was sad, restless, brooding on death” (text, p. 44). Each of these men expects and tells their friends of their coming deaths. Jesus predicted his death many days beforehand (Matthew 16:21), and Beowulf does so shortly before entering the dragon’s cave (text, p. 46). While Jesus supplicates, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39), the Geat trusts that “Fate, the master of every man, shall decide for us” (text, p. 46). After praying for Himself, Jesus also prays for His followers (John 17:6-19). In this manner, Beowulf “wished good fortune to his hearth-companions” (text, p. 44).
When danger comes, Jesus’ disciples “all forsook Him and fled” (Mark 14:50). Beowulf’s friends do the same. “No whit did his comrades, sons of chieftains, stand about him in a band with valour, but they took to the wood, they hid for their lives” (text, p. 47). Peter, however, pursues Jesus “at a distance” (Mark 14:54). Wiglaf’s “mind was roused to face sorrows,” and he follows his lord as well (text, p. 47).
Once arrested, Jesus is sent to a trial. He “answered nothing, so that Pilate marveled” (Mark 15:5). Beowulf also “boasted not of famous victories” (text, p. 47) but “stood staunchly against his high shield, when the dragon quickly coiled together; he waited in his war-gear” (text, p. 46). Just as Pilate knows that Jesus does not deserve death (Luke 23:4), Wiglaf says of his lord, “he deserves not to suffer affliction” (text, p. 48).

The battles that Beowulf encounters in the story—particularly his fight against the dragon—remind one of the fight between Jesus Christ and Satan—referred to as a dragon in Revelation 12:9.
There can be no friendship between Jesus and Satan, “For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). Neither can Beowulf and the dragon “seek friendship” (p. 46). Hebrews 10:4 states, “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” Only Jesus is able to defeat Satan and take away sins. Beowulf, too, is the only one able to defeat the dragon. “This is not your venture,” he tells his men, “nor is it in any man’s power, except mine alone, to strive with his strength against the monster, to perform heroic deeds” (text, p. 46).
When Mark 15:37 says that “Jesus cried out with a loud voice and breathed His last” one can picture how horribly painful Jesus’ death was. The death of Beowulf also comes in a torturous manner. “His breast laboured with breathing. He who before held sway over the people suffered anguish, ringed round with fire” (text, p. 47). Similar to the soldier piercing Jesus’ side with a spear (John 19:34), the dragon bites Beowulf and he “grew stained with his life-blood; the gore welled out in surges” (text, p. 48). Sadly, the reader realizes that the King will not survive; but then, just as foretold in Genesis 3:15, He strikes the serpent’s head. Beowulf “struck with his battle-sword with mighty strength, so that, urged by the force of hate, it stuck in his head” (text, p. 48).
Jesus—after He has risen—gives Peter the commission to “Feed My sheep” (John 21:15-19). Akin to this, the dying Beowulf gives Wiglaf “his helm bright with gold, his ring and corslet; bade him use them well” (text, p. 51).
Hebrews 2:14-15 declares, “through death [Jesus] destroy[ed] him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release[d] those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Beowulf, though he died, killed the dragon—saving the people. “[I]t was sorrow for the young man to see on the earth the man he loved best, his life closed, lying there helpless. The slayer also lay low, the dread earth-dragon, reft of life, vanquished by violence” (text, p. 51). Not only did Jesus gain victory in His death, He also made the way for His followers to get to the reward of heaven (John 14:6). Beowulf rid the people of the dragon, at the same time procuring a “great store of jewels” (text, p. 49). “Beowulf had paid with his death for the many costly treasures” (text, p. 51).

Many aspects of the Beowulf story relate to the gospel story. Colossians 1:13-14 wonderfully sums up the plot: “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

[all citations labeled "text" are taken from the Dover Thrift Edition of Beowulf.]

Monday, May 14, 2007

What Sort?

". . . what sort of person have you been today?"
-Thomas A Kempis
The Imitation of Christ