Saturday, April 30, 2016

Soccer at Sac-Republic

Today we did some things we have not done before:  

1. We have not been to see a live soccer game.  Our local soccer soccer team The Sacramento republic is gaining popularity that we must have to experience this team before they become a national sensation.  And we did!  Thanks to Tim!

2. We have not been on a social date with the Wolframs (Gary and Karen).  Karen and Gary are our church friends.  They are very nice people, very dedicated to the Lord.  Gary plays bass and guitar in the worship team while Karen heads the Welcoming committee.  But even if we work together on a regular basis, we have not done things together outside of the church.  We hope to have more opportunities to get to know them better in the future.

3. We have not been seated among the cheering quad of a totally fanatic team.  We are not soccer followers.  And we knew very little about watching soccer - how much more on knowing about fans.  Well, we got seats next to the cheering squad.  In here drums beat throughout the game; fans sang cheering songs (I didn't understand) throughout the game;  fans waved their Sac-Republic scarves at the right time (we were obviously out of place because we didn't have scarves nor clappers);

4. We have not seen a soccer field being watered just minutes before the game started.  Well there are many things that we do not know about soccer but we unanimously thought that watering the field before the game starts would be a negative.  So we watched the irrigation technician water the whole field in sections.  But in my head, the question reverberated over and over again, "Why water the field just before the game?" Thanks to the Internet, you can find answers to almost any question. So it appears that there are two reasons for this: Firstly, if the field is built on sandy soil, water is used to increase the shear strength of the ground.  We all can imagine that wet beach-sand is always firmer than the dry beach-sand.  The players can have a better footing when the soil underneath the turf if the soil is firmer.  Secondly, they water the field right before the game starts because the moist leaves help the ball glide smoothly on the turf.  We should have known this before - but we didn't.  Now we know. :)

Overall, it was a good day.  Not great because our team did not even score at all.  The opposing team were way better - they scored 1.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Wife of Noble Character: What Motivates Her?

Wife of Noble Character - The picture of the ideal wife or virtuous woman as described in the book of Proverbs.  It is a familiar part of the bible; some have the whole paragraph memorized. Some (myself included), however, use the same verses to draw a caricature of the proverbial wife because it seems so difficult or even impossible to be like her.  I've read the verses over and over again but today I noticed something new.  A revelation that probably demonstrates the reason for Christ to parallel his relationship to the Church to that of a husband to his wife.

We can draw several lessons from the woman described in these passages. However, I will focus on the logical reasons behind her joyful yet busy lifestyle.  She is hardworking and bold -- someone you might consider avant-garde, humanitarian, entrepreneurial,  but there is no mention of any motive for personal ambitions or exaltation.  So what then makes this mysterious woman the way she is? What motivates her to pursue such noble attributes?

In my attempt to bring this woman's enigmatic life to light, I came up with the following deductions based on what the bible verses mentioned above.  (I strongly recommend to read  Proverbs 31:10-31 before reading the rest of this article)

1.  Her driving force is her husband's confidence. 
"Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value." (v. 11)
Everything starts the moment he decides to have her as his wife.  He chooses to love her and commits to spend his life with her.  Once the wedding is over, the wife becomes part of her husband.  and in our society, she carries his name.  From the very beginning her husband values her and believes in her.  This wife has her husband behind her.  She relies on his full confidence as a backbone in her domestic affairs.  

2.  The result she expects is good reputation for her husband.
"Her husband is respected in at the city gate, where he takes the seat among the elders of the land." (v. 23) 
If there is one real motivation in this passage, it is that her husband's reputation, shown here in the way her husband is respected among his colleagues. Through her active role she does shine forth, but the ultimate glory is that her husband gets a better reputation from her active role. through the reflection of the praises that her husband gets at the city gates.  Like the moon gets its glow from the reflected light from the sun, so this wife get the praises only when her husband gets the glory first.

3.  Her reward is the admiration of her family. 
"Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her." (v. 28)
Her best reward does not come from personal gratification or accolade from the outside world but it comes from her own family.  Easy as it may seem, this is a difficult thing to achieve considering the familiarity involved.

4.  Her continued faithfulness builds a good name for her husband.
"Let her works bring her praise at the city gates." (v. 31)
She brings good reputation to her husband and as a result her husband praises her. She isn't doing a good job in order to be praised, but the natural result of her good character and industrious nature is the praise that comes at the city gates.  Her husband will be there to hear about it and at the same time takes pride on the commendable nature of his wife.  She is valuable to him and she believes she has his full confidence.

So there you go.  It's very simple.  Why then can't we all be Mrs. Noble Character?  Maybe it is Mr. Noble Character's fault?  No. The choice and belief is hers and she acts on them.  This is the hard part.  It is hard because the world constantly provides her with numerous reasons to change her priorities away from her true reward - her husband.

It is her husband and his good name that motivates this woman to be the wife that she is.  I doubt that if she devoted her efforts in making name, money, or glory for herself that she would be worth writing about to be an influence to the women beyond her generation.  In my own life as a wife, I admit that there are many occasions when my glory is the only motivation to do or dream certain things.  And surely, those are also the times when the burden is most oppressive and unbearable.  On the contrary when I am doing things for my husband's delight and reputation, it is fun and rewarding.  To make the person the I love look good is truly a joy.  I can't explain how long my memory holds on to the words of approval and appreciation I get from my husband - they are engraved in my memory. :)  And when he is proud of what I do for him, there is more rejoicing in my world than when I do things to get recognition from other people.  This is not to disregard the natural desire for compliments from other people but, ideally, it should come as a bonus and not the goal. For it is such a burden to maintain the good opinion of the world to get a recognition that is short-lived.

I have come to understand that the life of a married woman is different from that of someone living alone. Fun fact!  Marriage presents a new form of accountability.  After the wedding self identity begins to be eclipsed by the new union of two people loving each other. Where once there was a lone star, now there are two stars made brighter than ever before because they are reflecting light on each other.  No longer two individuals but a team.

Now if we parallel this union with that of Jesus Christ and his bride - the church, I would say that the church's significance is tied to her desire to bring honor to Jesus Christ.  The church can do all sorts of initiatives but as long as the Church desires a reward other than Christ then it's all futile and insignificant.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Redefining Prayer

“This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
Matthew 6:9-13
If there is an area in my Christian life that I wished was better,  it is my prayer life. There was never a time in my life when I thought that I have prayed enough. There are so many believers within my circle whom I admire so much because they devote themselves to prayer in a way that makes me want to copy.   So I pondered about prayer...

Prayer is all about the attitude of the heart.  God is the only audience for our prayers.  Let your prayers be directed to God alone.  Once we consider others around us when we pray, then our focus is divided or even redirected completely to those who are watching or listening.  Jesus recommends praying in private to ensure that only God can hear our prayers.  and he said something to the effect that when our prayers are motivated by an audience apart God alone then we already received our reward (Matthew 6:5-6).

Prayer is a recognition and declaration that God is sovereign and almighty.  When we stop at what we're doing and pray we are positioning ourselves in relation to God. He is God and we are not.  We pray because we admit that we do not understand or control the circumstances that surround our life. Therefore, we pray to the One who knows and the One who holds the control panel.

Prayer is taking on the humble position of humility that says “Everything is in your hands, my Lord God”.  It is not an act of coercing God to agree with us nor influencing his action in our favor.  If we already surrendered our lives to God (to follow Him) then what else is the point of an attempt to micro-manage the Creator of the universe?  The only thing left for us is convince ourselves to align our thoughts with God's. Sometimes God's plan of action is not blissful.  It can mean suffering or pain.  And yes, we tell him how these things don't make sense and it is hurting us. So many psalms were written by King David where he tells God of his sufferings, how he asks God to kill his enemies but in the end he closes his songs with  a refrain - saying that God is his refuge and that He will reward him in the end.

Prayer is a two-way communication with the Lord Almighty.  The things we already know about God are things he revealed to us (Deuteronomy 29:29).  And there are more things he wants to reveal at the right time. The habit of listening allows one to have a better chance to get better at knowing the will and the mind of God. The problem among us, praying people, is we act as if God is mute and we are deaf.   Sometimes we pray with goal of having God agree to the things we’re praying for.  We say so many things, as if he does not know what’s going on.  We take it as our responsibility to inform him how things should work out in our circumstances. But we have it backwards all the time.  Like a butler who is always attentive to everything his master utters, we need to always be on the look out for what our Master reveals to us at every moment.  He knows what's in our minds and he will do what he  plans to do at any given circumstance. Our line when we’re praying should be “Yes , my Lord.” or "As you wish, my Lord." or  "Your will be done, Lord..."  Most of the time we have it backwards, we want God to say to us, "Your will be done."

Prayer is relying on God’s character.  He is loving and merciful and at the same time just and righteous. He cannot separate the two ends of his nature.  We often depend on his mercy but we take it for granted that he is righteous.  In that way our view of God is imbalanced.  God makes his own decisions based on what he sees.  The scary thing is he sees what we do not see and computes what we do not understand.  He sees the motives of heart.  He can decide to be just and merciful anytime he deems necessary for this glory - and yet he also provides the way for his character to remain consistent. He is God and we are not.

I find it interesting that prayer is not about me and my concerns after all.  It is all about our almighty God and my faith in him.  As it is written, "According to your faith it will be done to you." (Matthew 9:29). Paul said to pray without ceasing  (1 Thes. 5:17) - I believe it is indeed important to be reminded consistently of our position with God.  Praying is not telling God to make things happen the way we want, but it is an acknowledgment of God's sovereignty and a recognition of our helplessness and dependence on God's grace.