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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

It’s high time I brought Truth Tuesdays back! For those of you who don’t know what Truth Tuesday is, it’s basically my way of staying accountable to myself to make sure that I’m in the word in a regular way. For a while I was pretty good about posting every Tuesday about any fresh enjoyment or nourishment I had received in my time with the Lord in the word. Then summer came along…and school started…and life got busy, and even though it’s not like I haven’t been reading the Bible or enjoying the Lord, I have to admit it hasn’t been that regular and because I haven’t been posting, it’s hard for me to recall all the truth I have enjoyed in the past few months. I find sometimes when it comes to what God shows me in the word, it’s those things that I share with others that really stick with me in the long run. When I just keep my enjoyment to myself, it becomes fleeting and hard to recall. So since I’m not so bold to go around speaking it to people (although I’m really praying that the Lord would change that), I’ll use this space instead as my way to share the word so that more of it will stick with me. Hopefully, some of you out there will enjoy these posts as well.

In a lot of Truth Tuesday posts I had written about what I’ve gotten out of my slow reading of the Life-study of Genesis. Well, I’m happy to report that I finally finished it, all 120 messages! Woohoo! Now I’m in the Life-study of Exodus, which has 185 messages, so with my current schedule, it’ll probably take me about a year to finish. It’ll be slow going, but I guess when it comes to being constituted with the truth, the tortoise wins the race. So expect to hear a lot about Exodus from me on Tuesdays.

One small point I’ve enjoyed so far in my reading is concerning God speaking to Moses out of the burning bush in Exodus chapter 3. While Moses was in the wilderness, God appeared to him “in a flame of fire out of the midst of the thornbush” (v.2) Why is this so significant? In Genesis we see that the thorn bush was a sign of man being under the curse. God cursed the ground with thorns because of man’s fall. And the flame of fire in Genesis guarded the tree of life; it was an excluding flame which kept sinful man away from God’s holiness. In Genesis 3, the thorn bush representing fallen man and the flame of fire representing the holy God were diametrically opposed to one another.

But in Exodus 3 the situation is altogether different. These two diametrically opposed things actually come together. Moses saw the flame burning in the midst of the thorn bush. Hallelujah! The thorn bush becomes the vessel for the flame and even becomes one with the fire. That means that even though we’re fallen and cursed, God through His redemption still found the way to dwell in us and become one with us. The very flame that once excluded us from coming to God can now visit us and dwell within us. We Christians are cursed thorn bushes like everyone else, but the difference is that we have a flame burning within.

And not only did Moses see a thorn bush burning, but he also saw that “the thornbush was not consumed” (Exo. 3:2). The thorn bush was burning, but it was not burned up. That means when God comes into us, He doesn’t consume us. God was reassuring Moses…yes, I’m calling and sending you, but don’t depend on yourself to be the fuel for what needs to be done. The fire doesn’t need you to be the fuel, it just needs you to be the vessel in which it can burn. Sometimes Many times in my Christian life, I feel burnt out and why is that? Probably because I’m relying on my thornbushy self to do everything. Let’s face it, thorn bushes are just kindling, they’ll burn up in seconds. Our natural life can never be the fuel for what God has called us to do; only He Himself can be the fuel. This simple picture in Exodus shows us the paradox of the Christian life – a thorn bush burning yet not consumed. I pray that this would really become our experience. May we common thorn bushes allow the God of glory to burn more brightly in us this week!

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About a month or so ago I received a free sample copy of a small book from Bibles for America entitled “A Life of Forbearance but without Anxiety” written by Witness Lee. They asked me if I would read it and review it before its release in May. I replied that I would be happy to since I’ve always received tremendous help from the writings of Witness Lee and his co-worker, Watchman Nee. This book, or more like booklet, is short (consisting of only 7 chapters) and is actually taken from some spoken messages Lee gave on the book of Philippians. For the past month this little booklet has been everywhere with me – on my nightstand, in my gym bag, in the diaper bag. I’ve enjoyed reading through it, praying over it, and quoting it to friends.

These seven chapters unpack the last chapter of the book of Philippians, especially two verses (4:5-6) in which the apostle Paul tells us to “let our forbearance be known to all men” and “in nothing be anxious.” Lee makes it wonderfully clear from the Word that not only is it possible and normal for us as believers to live a life full of forbearance without anxiety, but even more, that it is God’s charge to us. He states very simply but profoundly that anxiety is the totality of human life, whether it’s anxiety related to our marriage, families, children, jobs, etc., and no human being is exempt from it. But just as anxiety is the totality of the human life, forbearance is the totality of the Christian life. What is forbearance? It’s simply Christ in us as an all-fitting virtue and to live a life of forbearance is to live Christ as the one who is reasonable and suitable in every situation. So while God might assign certain circumstances, and even sufferings to us, He never assigns anxiety to us. If we realize that those circumstances and sufferings are for our perfecting and transformation, and if we would come to the Lord in everything, as Paul encouraged us to do, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, then it is fully possible for us to live a human life as a Christian without anxiety. How marvelous is that?

I think anyone would receive help and encouragement from this book, whether you’re a new believer or have been a Christian for a long time. Let’s face it, we all deal with anxiety though it may be in different degrees. Lee’s words are a reminder from God’s word that an anxious life is not the kind of life we’ve been called to. I love how the chapters are peppered with real life examples and experiences that we can all relate to and is full of practical help for our daily life.

The book will be available starting May 5th. Go here to order a copy for yourself and maybe one for a friend! You won’t regret it!

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Happy new year, my friends! Sorry I’ve been pretty silent on this blog in the last couple of weeks. We’ve been down in So Cal staying with Larry’s parents and I just got lazy. But now we’re back home and I’m slowly starting to ease back into the swing of things, which I hope will mean that you’ll hear from me at least twice a week again.

So a few things from our recent winter vacay…

  • We attended the semi-annual training, a week long Bible conference, this time covering Genesis chapters 12-24. It was awesome and faith infusing. I hope to share some highlights with you in next week’s Truth Tuesday post.

 

  • We explored some more museums in LA, the La Brea Tar Pits and the Natural History Museum. CC loved both and could not stop talking about saber tooth cats, mastodons and of course dinosaurs. The charge for admission is the same at both museums, but the Natural History museum is waaayyy bigger and in my opinion, more bang for the buck. You can get a combo ticket that gets you into both (and you don’t have to go to both on the same day, just within two weeks time), which is probably what we should have done.

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  • So you know how I often complain about CC’s eating…or more like his not eating? My mother in law suggested that we take him to see her Chinese doctor, who’s a combination of a chiropractor and a chi gung master. I’m usually pretty skeptical about these kind of things, but I thought, “Hey, if it doesn’t hurt, why not?” So she made an appointment for him and we all went along. The guy put CC on the massage table, showed us how part of his spine was not aligned (which I couldn’t really see), gave him some gentle adjustments, did some special massages on his back and hands which were supposed to stimulate his appetite and told us he was cured. We were instructed to do those same massages on him once a week. For the next few days CC ate like a ravenous wolf, all without any prompting. I’m not saying I’m a believer now, but I’d happily do little finger dances and pinches up his spine once a week if it means there will be less battles at the dinner table.

 

  • On our winter break I started this book with CC – Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It was recommended to me by a friend, so I picked up a copy at Barnes and Nobles before we left for So Cal. My background and training is in teaching ESL, but surprisingly enough, I’ve never had any experience or exposure to teaching phonics. This book is broken down into 100 short lessons and you’re supposed to do one a day. The great thing is that it actually scripts out everything you’re supposed to say to the child word for word, so anyone can use it, even if you have no background in teaching. It really is amazing. Each lesson only takes us about 10 minutes and by Lesson 7, CC was already sounding out three letter words all by himself. I totally wished I had started this with him earlier.

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  • We had a pretty uneventful New Year’s Eve. While Larry’s parents went out to party, we had dinner at a mediocre Japanese restaurant, came home to do laundry and pack, and then put the kids to bed. Larry and I did however each spend some time to pray personally and then together to freshly consecrate ourselves and our family to the Lord. For us, it was the best way to end the year. I was in bed and asleep by 11. 🙂

Hope you all had a wonderful end to 2013, whatever that means for you, and I’m excited and looking forward to a new year which I hope will be full of more pearls of wisdom to share with you all!

 

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Heart Failure

I have a confession for you all. I have serious heart problems. My psychological heart that is. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reading a lot of verses and ministry portions in my morning time with the Lord concerning dealing with our heart, and each time I feel like I get more of a glimpse of my real condition. And let me tell you, what I see isn’t pretty. This is what I’ve been diagnosed with – my heart is hard, wicked, deceitful, bitter, evil, impure – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In most cases, such a condition is terminal, and the Bible says it’s actually incurable, but I’m happy that I know the best heart specialist in town. He actually specializes in terminal and incurable cases.

Why is it so important for us to know our heart? Because it’s the soil in which Christ grows and it’s the pathway through which His life flows. If our heart is hard or full of rocks and thorns, there is no way Christ can take root, grow, or bear fruit in us (Matt. 13:31-33). Using another analogy, in our regenerated spirit we have a wonderful, pure, perfect source of eternal, divine, incorruptible life, but this life has to flow through something to be expressed. The Bible tells us to guard our heart above all that we guard because out of it flows the springs of life. You can have the purest, cleanest water in a well, but if that water flows through a dirty, filthy hose, what comes out at the end will not be drinkable, in fact it will make you sick. Out of the abundance of our heart we speak, so if our heart is right and proper, what we speak can actually water and build up others. But if it’s not, we not only defile others, but ourselves as well. (Matt. 15:18-19)

I feel like the Lord has really been touching my speaking lately, which is the clearest indication of what is actually in my heart. The other day I lamented to Larry that sometimes I don’t know why I go all ballistic on CC. In my efforts to discipline him, what comes out of my mouth is just filthy water. What I’m telling him may be right, but the tone in which it comes out shows that I have a very sick heart. I had to confess to the Lord that yes, something in me wanted not just to discipline, but to go beyond that, to make him feel bad, to feel shameful, it was words of discipline mixed with anger and maliciousness. When the light shined, I had to agree, yes Lord, this is what is in my heart and I need help. I finally stopped pretending that I was okay and came to the one who knows my case and knows the healing art. That’s when I realized that there’s still hope for me.

Sometimes when the situation is dire, surgery is required. There’s the need to make deep cuts which might not be so pleasant. But even though it may repair the heart, surgery doesn’t maintain the heart in a healthy condition. Only eating right and exercise can do that. That’s where I feel I am right now. The Lord may have performed some emergency laser surgery, but it’s up to me to cooperate by eating what will keep my heart healthy. It’s up to me to get up in the morning to get into the word, to choose not to do things that will just clog up those arteries again. So even though the diagnosis was severe, I think thankfully the prognosis is good. I hear that if I cooperate, this heart specialist has a 100% cure rate.

If you’d like to read more ministry on dealing with the heart, this book is a wonderful resource and rendered me a lot of help.

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My method for picking books at the library is very random. Sometimes if I get a good recommendation, I’ll reserve the book online on the library website and the nice librarians will email me when it’s ready for pick-up. What a great service – so much easier than having to look up the call number and getting it yourself. But I can only do that if I have a specific book in mind, and usually I don’t. Like most people I see at the library, I get books by browsing the shelves. The problem is, it’s kind of hard to browse library shelves when you have a 2 year-old with you.

The minute we get to the library, CC wants to make a beeline for the elevator so that we can go to the childrens’ library which is on the 4th floor. Most of the time he’ll graciously let me make a detour to the hold shelf so that I can pick up any books on hold. But if I try to linger anywhere else, he’ll start to get impatient. Fortunately for me, those nice librarians were smart enough to put the shelves of all the new books right next to the elevator. Ingenius! So my method of book selection is basically to pull off whatever I can from the new books shelf in the 2 minutes I have while waiting for the elevator. And I love that those wonderful nice librarians also feature different new books by putting them in book holders on the side of the shelves so that I can see the cover without having to pull the book out. Love those librarians! Now, if only they could put a coffee bar next to the elevator too.

Last week I brought home my latest book – My Nest Isn’t Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space/ The Amazing Adventures of an Ordinary Woman, by Lisa Scottoline (and her daughter Francesca). The title piqued my interest – you don’t often see the words “ordinary woman” and “amazing adventures” in the same sentence. Turns out, the book’s a compilation of short random vignettes written by this middle aged woman and her daughter. And when I say random, I mean random. My favorite chapter was her telling the story of how a moth once flew into her ear. I laughed so hard, I cried. I don’t remember the last time when a book actually made me laugh out loud.

I also really liked her writing style. She writes in short paragraphs with punctuated sentences.

Like this.

Sometimes they’re not even sentences.

Anyways, that somehow makes me feel like she’s telling me the story over coffee rather than me just reading it.

I finished the book in three sittings, then I went to the library website and reserved three more books written by Lisa Scottoline. I found out that she actually writes mysteries, legal thrillers to be more exact. I don’t typically read mysteries, but if her thrillers are about ordinary women and will make me laugh out loud, I’ll give them a shot. Guess I won’t need to pull random books off the shelf for a while.

 

 

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Larry and I recently watched a short documentary about C.S. Lewis and I was inspired to read some of his works. (By the way, did you know that J.R.R. Tolkien led him to be saved?) I’ve read the Chronicles of Narnia (and watched the movies), but have never read any of his books for a more grown up audience. Since some consider him THE top Christian apologist, as a Christian, I thought at the least I should be somewhat familiar with what he said. So during one of my weekly trips to the library, I picked up a copy of Til We Have Faces.

Before I jot down my impressions of the book, I must first insert a caveat…or maybe a confession. I’m an avid reader, but mostly what I’ve been reading lately are floofy feel-good novels. Let’s face it…when you spend most of your time chasing a toddler around, cooking and cleaning, and having company over two or three times a week…what you really need at the end of the day is to curl up with a floofy, feel-good, chick novel. But after reading too many of those, I start to feel like a kid who has indulged in too much candy…you’re satiated for a while, but it kind of leaves you craving for something healthier and more substantial.

Just after a couple of pages into Til We Have Faces, I realized how much I’ve missed reading good writing.  I miss reading the kind of stuff you would study in a literature class…the sentences crafted so artfully that you have to go back and read them again and again, the stories that have layer upon layers of meanings. Til We Have Faces is Lewis’ retelling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid from the point of view of Psyche’s half-sister Orual. The first part of the book is Orual’s complaint against “the gods,” and the second part is the answer to her complaint. Although the story told is completely pagan, it’s full of Christian overtones – Lewis really was a genius in being able to do this. Some conjecture that this book was somewhat autobiographical – it was Lewis’ own complaining and railing against God. Orual’s story is similar to the story of Job. She suffers loss, challenges “the gods” and wants to know why, while boasting of her own righteousness. But in the end she sees that she’s not righteous at all, that even her love for others is motivated by self-interest, and that the answer to her question is a person. Pretty profound, huh?

This book had me thinking for days and I was even prompted to read some excerpts to my husband, not something that ordinarily happens with the books I read. Although it’s fine to indulge in candy sometimes…once in a while it’s nice to read something that will stick to your mental bones.

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Confessions of a Book Bulimic

I would consider myself an avid reader, but I can go for pretty long periods of time without ever picking up a book (for pleasure reading, that is…I try to read the Bible everyday). Some people always seem to be reading something. I actually got asked at a job interview one time what I was currently reading. (Good thing I WAS reading something at the time so I didn’t have to rack my brains trying to remember the last book I read.) I realize that instead of just reading consistently, I tend to go through reading binges. There are times when my soul just craves a good juicy story and demands to be satisfied. So during those times, I usually end up trotting down to the library and loading up on books like a hungry person loading her plate at the buffet. Sometimes my picks are good; sometimes they’re not so good. A good pick will keep me entertained and make me feel like I actually learned something at the end. A bad pick is like eating at a mediocre restaurant – you finish it for the sake of finishing, and all you’re left with at the end is regret for wasting your time and money.

I think the reason I have reading binges is because once I start a book, I have the compelling need to finish it as soon as possible. During my single days, that usually meant reading non-stop all day or staying up late into the night. I can’t quite do that now, with a husband and baby to take care of, but I still have this insatiable need to get to the end of the story. Hence the reason for why I can go through long periods of not reading. It usually takes me awhile to recover from my literary gorges; really long if the books were particularly bad.

With that said, I have recently just finished a book and am currently reading another one. The first one was okay — an American historical fiction with Christian undertones. It started out alright, but the story was pretty cheesy and in the end, not so memorable. In fact, I don’t even remember the title anymore. I am, however, enjoying my second pick tremendously – Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper, A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, by Fuchsia Dunlop. It chronicles the story of a British girl who goes to China, determines to eat everything, and then eventually attends a culinary school in Sichuan and ends up writing a Chinese cookbook. Some of the chapters leave me drooling (like her description of dan dan noodles), while other chapters make me want to vomit (like when she describes the slaughtering practices at the Chinese street markets) and vow never to eat Chinese food again. She provides the historical background for her personal experiences, as well as recipes for some of the food she describes. History, food, and humor – three things I love in a good book.

I’m not sure how long this particular binge will last. If it lasts awhile, I will need some good recommendations (I’m a sucker for historical fiction and good non-fiction). Please let me know if you have any!

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