Archive for April, 2009

April 30, 2009

only one chance : isaiah 26:8

by Bethany

To what extent can Congress formulate the exercise of virtually any legislative power as an exercise of its power over the purse thus defeating any arrow in the Executive’s quiver?

 

Can you answer that question? I can’t. But, in theory, I should be able to by Friday. That’s when I have my Constitutional Law and Foreign Affairs final – my first of three in my last round of law school finals ever!

 

I will not miss law school exams. First, they’re tough and frustrating because there’s never a “right” answer. Second, they are long (Friday’s exam is 8 hours). Finally, for any given course, the exam is the entire grade – no mid-terms, no class participation grade, no papers. Everything I’ve learned over the past semester comes down to that one test – so, I have to make it count!

 

The best thing about finals, on the other hand, is that I know exactly when they are going to take place, which means that I can prepare. So, rather than cramming everything into my pea brain over the past few days, I’ve been (somewhat) diligent to read the materials as they’ve been assigned.

  

Similar to a law school exam, we are know that one thing in life is going to happen: death (… and taxes, of course!).  But, unlike a law school exam, we don’t know when it will be.  The fact that we don’t know the timing, however, doesn’t meant that we don’t have to prepare – rather, because there is no option of cramming, we need to spend time preparing every day.

 

How do we do this? There are many ways! One of the ways that I prepare each morning is by telling myself: “Bethany, you only have one task today: to know God and enjoy Him. Everything that comes before you today is secondary to that task.” And then I remind myself of Isaiah 26:8:  

 Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and your renown are the desire of our hearts.

 How do you prepare?

April 28, 2009

the making of a great story : revelation 21:1-5

by Bethany

Have you ever stayed up all night to finish a good movie or book? I have. Most recently, I stayed up all night to watch an old season of “24.” I sat on the edge of my seat, strategizing about how it would turn out and, as each episode ended, I was powerless to stop watching the next one. By far, the most suspenseful moments were when Jack Bauer – the hero himself - was in peril. Even though I knew that he would live (after all, Jack is the lead character in subsequent seasons), I still wondered: Will that bomb explode before he deactivates it? Can he beat those 30 armed soldiers even though he’s unarmed and strapped to a chair? The answer was always yes. And, the strange thing was, I could have answered that even before watching the first episode.
 
So, why did I start watching it if I already knew the ending? And why, if I knew the ending, was I on the edge of my seat for hours in suspense? It’s because the sweetness of Jack’s victory is in direct proportion to his struggles. Who wants to a hear a story where Bryce and Katherine have 2.5 children, vacation at the Hamptons, succeed professionally, and retire in Florida? No one. There needs to be some struggle, some hopeless moment. That is the essential ingredient in every great story.
 
Our lives are made up of the stuff that makes great stories. Whether we cannot get pregnant, or whether we were laid off, or whether we are single indefinitely - we  long for something more and don’t know how things are going to change. And, as we wonder how it all ends, we’re on the edge of our seats . . . or are we?
 
God longs for us to sit on the edge of our seats, anticipating when he will act. To whet our appetites, he tells us of our victory in Christ and our status as co-heirs with him if we participate in his sufferings. In Revelation 21:1-5, John writes,

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth … the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold I make all things new.”

These promises – that God will dwell with us, that the former things will pass away, that God himself will wipe away our tears – are far sweeter because we have experienced mourning, crying, and pain. His promise that he will make all things “new” only brings comfort if the “old” way was hard. The sweetness of our destiny is magnified by the bitterness of our lives. In fact, Jesus himself died, remained three days in the grave, and then – when all seemed lost – he rose again. The hopeless suspense of those three days in the grave is the reason that we say with enthusiasm, “He is risen! He is risen indeed!”

God has made the entire world, including our lives, filled with the stuff of great stories.  So, when you live your life, remember that the end of the story has already been written – all things will be made new. And, as you wait on the end to come, I pray that you sit on your seats in anxious anticipation – knowing that all of today’s struggles serve to make the end so much sweeter!

April 27, 2009

a red wine stain : revelation 7:14

by Bethany

Last April, I bought a new love-seat – a white one. I knew that I was taking a risk in buying white furniture, but it seemed like a reasonable risk since I don’t yet have any children or pets. And, until last week, I was right.

Last Tuesday, I hosted my fellowship group for dinner at my Upper West Side apartment - a space that can seem quite small with eight women cramped inside. While sharing stories from the past week, I placed my half-full glass of red wine on the floor beside my white couch. As one of the women was shimmying by the couch, she didn’t see the glass and knocked it over in such a way that the wine splattered across the side of my white couch.

Immediately, the team assembled – some went out to secure reinforcements (Shout Gel), some stayed to apply club soda, and some stayed to offer moral support. We managed to get it wet enough so that it appeared that our effort had been successful. But, I woke up the next morning to find that the stain was still there – only it was purple rather than red!

Thankfully, when I decided to get a white loveseat, I bought the kind with a slipcover. So, I threw the slipcover in a plastic bag and charted off to my neighborhood drycleaners. When I arrived, I placed the soiled piece on the counter in front of the clerk. She kindly scolded me for having tried to get out the stain myself and said, “You made it harder for us to get out the original stain. Now, it is even deeper inside the fabric.” 

As I walked through the Park that morning, I reflected on how much the experience mirrored the gospel – the stained white couch was like sinful ol’ me and God was like the drycleaners. In Revelation 7:14, John writes,

He said, “[The ones in white robes] are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

I have spots that I cannot remove; in fact, all my efforts only turn them from red to purple! But, the blood of Jesus - his death and resurrection – have cleansed me so that my heavenly robe will be a spotless white. Now, what’s even more interesting, is that there are (at least) two significant differences between the drycleaners and Jesus that highlight even more aspects of the gospel: (1) the clerk said that I made the stain “harder” to get out - but  Jesus considered it “joy” to endure the cross because he knew it meant that he would have a relationship with me, and (2) the drycleaners uses typical cleansing products to remove stains – but Jesus used his blood to clean our stains!

What else can you see in this picture of the gospel?

April 26, 2009

the mystery of adoption : ephesians 3:6

by Bethany

I visited an orphanage for the first time when I was only 12 years old. As a child myself, I held my dad’s hand while we met orphans who craved affection and care. I wondered: Who gives them a goodnight kiss like my mom and dad give me? When they have a fever, who gives them a cold towel for their forehead?

Twenty years later, I can now answer these questions for at least one orphan: my nephew Khai. Two weeks ago, my brother and sister-in-law travelled to Vietnam to adopt their new son. When they received him, they discovered that he had bronchitis, that he was only breathing at 94%, and that he had scabies.  Immediately, they sought out a doctor in Vietnam, made an appointment with a specialist in the United States, and booked earlier flights to return. Yesterday morning, they arrived home with Khai in their arms to meet his whole family, including his new sister Isabelle.

my nephew Khai and my sister-in-law LeanneMy Sister-in-Law and Khai

Now, as members of one family, my nephew Khai and my niece Isabelle are heirs together in the inheritance of our family’s wealth, love, and care – regardless of their birth status. The mystery of the gospel is the same – the natural born children are joined together with the adopted children in one family under Jesus Christ for all those who believe. As much as my brother and sister-in-law longed to act quickly to bind Khai’s wounds, our new father is lavish in his care over us. As Paul writes in Ephesians 3:6,

This mystery is that, through the gospel, the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

To read more about Khai’s adoption process, visit: onebeautifulmess.blogspot.com.

April 6, 2009

the purpose of this blog

by Bethany

This blog aims to show how various personalities and minds approach the Word and, through it, come to know God. Therefore, each posting on this blog will be anchored to a particular verse or a passage of the Bible and how that verse or passage has impacted the author’s life or thinking. In addition, there will be many authors from various cities all over the country, so that a diversity of writing styles and life approaches can be represented. Through this, we hope that you will be inspired to “play” in the Word and find joy in coming to know God through it. [Note: If you would like to be a contributing author, please send a writing sample of no more than 350 words.]

Stay tuned: daily postings will begin in September.

April 6, 2009

the meaning of 843 acres

by Bethany

843 acres is the size of Central Park – an area that constitutes less than 6% of the entire island of Manhattan. Despite its small bite out of the Big Apple, however, the Park has a huge impact on the lives of New Yorkers. As soon as the winter weather gives even the slightest spring smile, New Yorkers crowd the Park – to run the loop, get painted faces, stroll with baby carriages, toss footballs, and have picnics. After spending winters trapped inside matchbox apartments and having no private backyards in which to play, New Yorkers come alive every spring in the vast expanse of Central Park.

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Similarly, the Word is life-restoring for Christians. Confronted with uncertain and confusing circumstances in our lives, we get trapped inside small-minded thinking. The Word, however, sets us free. Despite its small size, the Bible’s impact on our lives far exceeds that of any other book on our shelves. In it, we can run about in joy, explore meaningful truths, and delight in God’s promises. Although our circumstances can seem claustrophobic, the Word breathes new life into those who abide in it.

Thus, as the Park is to the City, so the Word is to Life.

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