Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Wonder of Plants!

Plants– they're everywhere, but have you ever really looked at them? From the humble dandelion to the mighty oak, these amazing living things surround us, happily minding their own business. Without plants, our world would be less colorful. Without plants, our world would be more boring. Without plants, we would be… dead!
After our year's study in botany, my appreciation of plants have grown exponentially. Who knew that plants were so complicated? (Well, a botanist knows, but I surely didn't!) Did you know that…
-to ensure pollination, bees go in search of pollen from only one kind of flower at a time?                                           -ferns and mosses send out sperm from their male part to swim to the egg in the female part?                                   -some flowers have ultraviolet patterns on their petals to show bees (that see in ultraviolet) where to go for food? These are called nectar guides. (to see some examples of these flowers, go to this website:

God's care is revealed in how plants continue to flourish and grow despite the many obstacles that can impede reproduction. And God's beauty is shown when we see the many varieties of plants that are in our world. He could have made one kind of tree and one kind of fruit and one kind of flower, but we have thousands and thousands!

And as the perfect end to our study, we took a trip to the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens. They have plants from all over the world, beautifully arranged in little nooks and along paths. It was easy to imagine that you were somewhere other than Berkeley, California! The kids brought along their homemade botany journals and sketched the interesting plants they saw, and we brought a picnic lunch and enjoyed in on the lawn in the middle of the gardens.

The gardens were so big that we couldn't walk it all in three hours. We definitely plan another trip this summer, and if you are in the area, I recommend that you do too!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Love and Obedience

Suddenly, it became clear.

As my son stomped off to his room with a gruff "Fine!" I knew what Jesus meant by "If you love me, keep my commands" (John 14:15 NIV).

My son was obeying me. Some would say that was a win for the parent. But he didn't do it out of love; he did it out of fear of punishment, and as a parent, this pierced me. If it wasn't for two reasons (#1: he could hurt himself; #2: he could hurt someone else), I would rather than he didn't obey unless he wanted to.

So all those years when I obeyed God out of obligation– when I begrudgingly gave tithe, when I mechanically sang songs and sat through sermons, when I guiltily read my "chapter for the day"– did that pierce my Father's heart too? I was a young Christian then. I thought doing certain actions made me a "good" Christian. I thought doing the actions earned me favor with God.

Remember the story of Jesus and the rich young man?

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"

"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments."

"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"

Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. 
~Matthew 19:16-22

I was like that young man. I obeyed the rules, but I didn't give God my whole heart. I still loved certain things more than I loved him. There was still a benefit to obeying God, regardless of my heart's condition (review #1 and #2 above), but what a greater joy I found in obeying Him out of love!

But Samuel replied: "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams." ~I Samuel 15:22 NIV

This is what I am learning now. I have come a long way! And I know that my son is learning too. He has much maturing to do. I hope someday to hear him say, "Sure, Mom! I would love to do that!" Then I will know that he understands me, trusts me, and loves me, and my heart will be full of joy.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Concerning Social Media

(and those are only the ones I know!)

More and more, people are trying to connect with the help of technology. It seems that every time I turn around, there is yet another new idea for the Internet or the phone. And we like social media, because it's fairly safe. We can make a comment without engaging in a whole conversation. We can unfriend people. We can do it from our bedrooms and feel like we are still interacting with the world. Through the many photos, comments, videos, and "check-in" points, we feel like we know our friends (and even strangers) on a deeper level.

I am not here to debate whether or not social media is damaging to real-life interaction, but because it is not going away, this is a topic that needs to be addressed. A whole generation is now growing up with it as a regular part of life.  If we said that social media will have only a positive effect on people, we would be very naive. I see the current obsession with social media as a cry for attention and recognition from a world that longs for true love. We want to be known.

A few days ago, a family member was showing me the Instagram photos on her phone. With a simple touch of her finger, she could see glimpses of other people's lives. She could know what they were doing that day. And she could feel connected to them, wherever they are.

Part of me felt the old twinge of being the outsider. I don't have a cell phone, so I don't have Instagram. I also don't text, which is the primary form of communication for most of my friends. If my home phone rings, I usually assume that it is AT&T trying once again to get me to sign up for their TV service. The more people use new technology to communicate, the more isolated I feel.

But I am making a choice that I know is for my own good. If I have Instagram and know that people are posting photos every day, I would only want to be on my phone all the time. And I know that I don't need more distractions in my life. The few precious minutes of free time I have should be devoted to being in the Word, practicing my cello, enjoying my family, praying, or reaching out to people with a phone call or letter. (And actually, one of the results of my feeling isolated is that I am more intentional now about connecting!)

Also, seeing other people's photos often stirs up envy in my heart, or sometimes, apathy. After seeing so many photos of beautiful sunsets, I no longer feel the wonder and awe of seeing a beautiful sunset. And, I know that I can easily fall into the trap of living vicariously from the comfort of my home, instead of going out and seeking God's adventure for me.

Social media can be a great tool for staying connected, but it can also be isolation and shallowness in the guise of real relationship. So if you are thinking about signing up for a new app (or removing an old one), ask yourself these questions:

- Does this help me better connect with my friends, acquaintances, and family members on a deeper level, or will it be the extent of my relationship with that person?

- Will this only contribute to the "white noise"?

- Do I feel grumpy, lethargic, or discontent after seeing or reading something on social media?

- Does this help me worship God, or does it desensitize me to His wonder and beauty?

- Does this draw my attention to the world, or cause me to miss out on what is around me?

- Am I relying on safety and comfort more than God?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Living in Truth

"Just do it."

Nike's well-known slogan has been around since 1988. I still remember my fifth-grade classmates talking about it at lunch because it was the hot topic of the time. And so my generation grew up with these words in its ear. No fear, no hesitation, no regrets… live life to the fullest.

But how true is that, really? People are all about catchy slogans these days– ways to summarize a philosophy in a few words– but are these words to live by?

I know that my young self didn't think twice about the truth behind the words I heard on television and on the radio. I heard them day in and day out and accepted them blindly. They sounded like good advice, and all things considered, not a bad way to live life.

Now as an adult, I see how many of the simple-sounding statements are contrary to God's Truth. And so, as a parent, I teach my children to think about the words before accepting them.

One example comes from the movie Zootopia. When the country rabbit first reaches the city, a song is playing in the background.

"Oh oh oh oh oh- try everything! Oh oh oh oh oh- try everything!"

Of course, in the movie, the upbeat song is serving as the background to a scene in which the main character is experiencing many new and exciting things. But out of context (because memorable hit songs are always taken out of context), what are the words saying? Try everything?

When my children heard this, they started questioning it.

"Try everything? Like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute? Or juggling chain saws? Or drinking poison?"

They erupted in laughter as they came up with more and more ridiculous scenarios, but I knew that they understood– trying everything is not always a good idea. There are times when a person should use caution, or even say an outright "No!" And I was encouraged by the fact that my children had learned to stop and think about the words rather than mindlessly repeating them just because they are accompanied by a musical hook and danceable beat.

Read through these following popular sayings and song lyrics and check yourself. How many of these do you agree with? What does God's Word say about them? And lastly, how can you talk to your children about them?

"All you need is love."

"You deserve it."

"If you believe it, you can achieve it."

"Let it go, let it go, can't hold it back anymore,
Let it go, let it go, turn away and slam the door."

"The more you buy, the more you save."

"Be true to yourself."

"What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger."