It has been over a year since I wrote on this blog. My thoughts have turned to it occasionally, but not enough to overcome writer’s block, I guess! Then when I have ideas, it tends to be late at night. As a grad student (I graduated in May) and now as a wife (we got married in December, 2011), I tend to be more busy at night. Here’s my first foray back to my blog.

 
First…
The first words Scripture records a man to have said were poetic, marvelous and marveling, when Adam saw a lovely creature in front of him and said, 
 
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh!”
 
The Scripture writer affirms this poetry, saying “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” My husband and I have experienced that wonder in our honeymoon year, the joy of physical union along with the more simple joys of working together and serving each other. We feel foolishly happy sometimes to be so satisfied in marriage!
 

But there is another joy that came as a result of our marriage. An essential part of marriage is procreation, which the Catholics describe as “co-creation,” husband and wife cooperating with God to bring forth something from nearly nothing, an eternal soul in a sacred body, valuable for all eternity. And it strikes me that in describing this mystery one could almost use the same language as Adam used for his wife. Inside me is bone of our bones, flesh of our flesh. A unique combination of my husband’s DNA, unique out of the 200-500 million other sperm that entered me, was joined to a unique combination of my DNA, released in a single egg. That was just the beginning of the wonder of fetal development, the scientific term for what David the psalmist beautifully describes as “[God] knitted me together in me mother’s womb.”

The next collection of my thoughts will tie the poetry of Psalm 139 to the things I am thinking about with this 38 week old baby inside me. We don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl, but so I don’t have to call the baby “it” I’ll say “he.” In two to three weeks we’ll meet this little person and we’ll know!

 

Meditations on who is in there and what is next

As I write, I can feel the baby pushing his or her foot out my side.   I can feel deep in my abdomen his head, and I imagine it covered with dark hair  – it is weird to think of a little hairy ball sitting there inside me! But since both papa and I have lots of dark hair and I know I was born with hair, I’m pretty sure baby will have some too. Little ear, eyes, nose, everything there. Smooth, small little genitals, which will seem to have been made only to pee and poop, but still expressing nascent masculinity or femininity. Tiny organs fit to grow, change, and last seventy years or more. Buds of teeth not yet apparent. In a little girl’s ovaries the very eggs that could become children of her own one day. “You formed my inward parts.”

He is inside me, intimate and close, and yet I am separated from him by the water and caul and my flesh and skin. I don’t know this person yet, really, haven’t even met him! I can feel him move and hiccup, but I don’t truly know what else the baby does. I know he drinks water, sucks his thumb, sees light dimly through my skin, and listens to voices, sounds, and music. But I don’t know when he does these things. It is a secret from me, the very one who carries him. I can’t see him apart from ultrasound technology, but moment-by-moment God does. “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance.”

His brain is already working, feeling, learning. Hormones are already acting. How mysterious it is to wonder what an unborn child can know and think. But God knows even the brainwaves, the wordless thoughts of an unborn child. “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! … you discern my thoughts from afar. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.”

I can imagine or hope about my child’s future, but He already knows all the days of this child. I can bear, deliver, raise and teach this child, but he or she will have his own free will and become his own person. In small ways throughout childhood and big ways through young adulthood I will experience the joy and sometimes grief of my child growing into an identity apart from me. One who seems now to be “bone of my bone” will become very much his own. I don’t know what blessings or perhaps tragedies will befall this dear one. But God knows and foreordains the days of my child’s life, and though it doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen to him, it is still a comfort to know the Good Shepherd is in control. “In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

This little one inside me is already no angel. He will seem to be one for several months, but somewhere in the first year, before he can even talk, he will cry, or hit, or demand in some way and I will know “this little one has a sin nature after all!” As he grows older he will experience the grief of his own sin, whether or not he acknowledges it. I can pray and hope that he will believe in the Lord Jesus, but I can’t know that he will.  What a comfort it is that his Creator will pursue him all the days of his life. “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”

May it be that this child will early know the comfort of seeking the Lord, and baring his heart to the Lord, even as the Lord already sees it. May I as a mother and Avinash as a father seek the Lord as we embark on the new adventure of parenthood. Lord may it be that we will know the joy of calling our child “brother” or “sister” and worshiping God in eternity. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

Posted by: Phoebe | May 24, 2011

Steadfast Love

It is today two months since Avinash surprised me by asking me to marry him. I could hardly wait to hear the words out of his mouth before I said yes! In the last few months I have begun to see how deep and strong his love is for me, and am humbled and astonished as I realize it. Last August as I left home for the Big Texas City, I remember being so blessed by the love of my family and friends that I wrote in the front of my new planner “It is a great grace to be loved.”  I didn’t know what kind of love awaited me in the place I would move to! In Avinash, I’m tasting that grace more and more, and mixed up in an inexplicable way is God’s grace and God’s love.

We are already experiencing some trials in our life together, but thankfully they only strengthening our relationship and causing us to become more sure in our love for each other. Despite them we are full of the optimistic “happy-ever-after” hopes of a couple in love. Yet sometimes we realize that the trials of today may not be the only ones we will face in life together. As I was thinking of the hardships that some couples face, I was reminded of two beautiful examples.

Robertson McQuilkin was the president of  Columbia International University in 1990 when he had to make a decision. His wife Muriel had Alzheimer’s. She was only happy and peaceful when he was the one taking care of her (already a testimony to their trusting bond), but he could not give her full attention if he worked at the university. McQuilkin decided to resign, and he cared for Muriel for the rest of her life, nearly ten years more.

What is especially beautiful is that McQuilkin did not regard his sacrifice as a burden. He was happy to release his status as a university president and become small and unimportant to serve his wife. He delighted in her sweet spirit despite her lack of ability to interact with him as she had in the past. When she died, he wrote, “For 55 years Muriel was flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone. So it’s like a ripping of my flesh and deeper—my very bones,” … “But there is also profound gratitude. For ten years I’ve delighted in recalling happy memories. I still do. No regrets. I’m grateful.” (Their story can be read here.)

In our generation is the story of Ian and Larissa. They are two strong believers, whose love story moved through the wonderful and simple progression of friendship and dating. In September of 2006 they were on the brink of engagement, when Ian was in a car accident which resulted in severe brain trauma. (Larissa tells the story on Carolyn McCulley’s blog.) Larissa chose to stay with Ian and become his primary caregiver. Ian still is confined to a wheelchair and is only able to communicate in a limited way, though he has regained some speech.

It is easy to glorify Larisssa for her sacrificial love, which she probably would not want us to do. She says on their blog that she sees Christ in Ian, that even when he was first in the hospital and totally unable to speak or signal, he communicated love to her. She sees God’s faithfulness through Ian’s faithfulness, and feels honored by his love. As they were preparing for marriage, this is what Larissa said:

Marriage is a huge decision. Every couple pursuing marriage must count the costs of a lifetime commitment. For some couples the cost can be as big as giving up a career to move to a new place, or as “small” as giving up holiday traditions to make new ones with in-laws.

The cost of our marriage seems more extreme. And it’s not a “picture perfect” wedding that it sometimes feels like the rest of the world has or will have. Ian has a brain injury. Steve [Ian's father] died from cancer. We have very little financial means. It’s a possibility we won’t be able to have children. The list of the “costs” goes on for awhile.

But all of these costs could happen in every single marriage. It’s just that we know them in advance. There are no guarantees that anyone will ever be spared of these hardships and “costs.” What’s guaranteed is that we will have troubles.

So, I guess that logically brings us to why would we get married? Well, as simple as it is, because we love each other. And we enjoy each other. And we believe that Ian was created to be my husband and me to be his helper. Our marriage will look way different than we imagined four years ago. But it must mean something that I can’t look at Ian without smiling. And that he has struggled every day for three years to get better–for me.

I’m blessed to know other marriages that also show this selfless love, often shown through health problems, though of course there are many kinds of hardships couples must face. Their examples of faithfulness give me confidence. Your faithfulness now, dearest, gives me confidence. Above our hopes of a peaceful life, we believe that no matter whatever is in the unknown, the grace of God’s love mediated and mingled with our own can sustain us.

Posted by: Phoebe | December 1, 2010

Life Goes Fast

I feel a bit sorry that I have neglected my blog so over the past few months! These are not profound, just some personal thoughts as I think how fast my life is going. In some ways this is a Thanksgiving post.

“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Genesus 12:1)

I moved to a new place, a Big Texas City this year. It was my first step away from the home and family I had lived with for 22 years. I was sad to say goodbye, shedding some tears with my dear friends and family. Partly it was through realizing that, though I would always love and know them, I wouldn’t be around to enjoy their presence. My community and friends at home would change over the next months and I would not be there with them to experience those changes. Life goes so fast.

…Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25)

I also worried — would I have enough money for rent, for tuition? Would I get a job? Now looking back, I feel foolish for having worried so much, (even a couple times almost to tears), for I’ve seen how God is providing for me. I need to reassess my finances now, but I don’t want to worry. Doesn’t he watch the sparrows and clothe the lily? Life goes fast; I must live well, but not worry about each day!

So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. (Romans 11:5)

In my new place, the Big Texas City, there were brothers and sisters in Jesus, and fellow music lovers. My roommate and I were clearly placed together by God, and have enjoyed life together. Before I knew it, I felt loved and rich in friends. That’s not something to take for granted! I know sometimes it is a lot harder for people to find community. I found a place so quickly partly because I am in a university, where I am able to interact with the same people daily. Partly it is due the warm, welcoming, and international spirit of this BTC. But mostly it is because God has given us the gift of the body of Christ, and there are some of his people almost everywhere on the earth. I feel so grateful. I have been given so much, and I know much is expected of me!

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Sooner than I would have imagined a young man expressed his interest in me. I was expecting him to talk to me from the signs he gave, and even hoping he would, but to my surprise, at first when we talked I had hesitations. It was not for any reason relating to his character, but because I felt I could almost see the future with this man, leading possibly to marriage. All of a sudden I felt that life was going too fast! The freedom and opportunities of singleness might be gone sooner than I had expected. I expected to have more time to wait! But God is faithful, and blessing our relationship. It’s the right time.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might… (Ecclesiastes 9:1)

I am wrapping up the first of four semesters of my master’s degree in piano, and feel like I just started yesterday. I want to enjoy my opportunity to have music as such a priority, because I know my priorities may change. In the next year I also want to minister as a single girl while I can. I want to do my work with all my might. It is strange to think that marriage and motherhood may be in my future in just the next few years. Life will go fast then too, just in a different way. Time is short; I want to pray for God’s purpose with the finite days of my life.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

Posted by: Phoebe | October 2, 2010

Crying

this is a guest post written by my brother Samuel


Have you ever cried because you have something that others don’t have?

Have you ever cried because you know someone -

who’s wonderful -

who others don’t know?

Have you ever wanted to die so someone else doesn’t have to?

Have you ever cried?

Everyone cries, but why?

It hurts to cry.

Have you ever cried because others do have what you have,

And don’t act like they know it,

Don’t share it?

Have you ever cried because you have what is wonderful,

And don’t act like you know it,

Don’t share it?

I’ve cried.

What in hell do you think Jesus died for?

Why do you think Jesus cried before he died for us?

I cry.

Do you?

Photo by Ada Panich

Posted by: Phoebe | July 14, 2010

BSC: Task 3: Romans 12:9-13

I’m behind with the Tasks. This should be a study in letting go of my perfectionism! For my notes, I know I don’t have to write epistles, but somehow I do anyway. I should set myself small goals. However, I’ve also started Task 4 and have plans to talk to a dear friend for Task 5.

Task 3 was to memorize Romans 12:9-13. It is a list of commands from Paul. I’ve quoted it to my sister to test myself; let’s see if I can write it from memory. If Paul was modern, maybe he would have written it in a bullet list. ;-) I’m memorizing in the ESV translation, but put NASB here in parenthesis.

* Let love be genuine (without hypocrisy)
* Abhor evil; cling to what is good

* Love one another with brotherly affection (be devoted to one another in brotherly love)
* Outdo one another in showing honor (give preference to one another in honor)

* Do not be slothful in zeal (not lagging behind in diligence)
* be fervent in spirit
* serve the Lord

* Rejoice in hope
* be patient in tribulation (persevering in tribulation)
* be constant in prayer (devoted to prayer)

* Contribute to the needs of the saints
* and seek to show hospitality. (practicing hospitality)

This list is so rich. I feel like I should do a word-study on each word.

As relates to relationships, I’m struck by the intensity of the words. Jesus wants me to be devoted to others, show honor to others eagerly and perpetually. He wants me to be zealous, praying constantly for others. Paul is a good example of what he’s preaching. His love for the people in the churches he planted overflows out of each biblical letter he wrote.

Simply, this challenged me that I should try harder to build my relationships. Try hard sounds like a burden, but Paul is not hesitant in telling me to do just that. In Galatians he says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10 ESV)

I pray that the Lord will work on me and that I will become like Paul, rejoicing in serving others because of my anchored hope in Jesus.

Posted by: Phoebe | July 12, 2010

BSC: Task 2: Observations from the essays

I finished reading Scott Croft’s “Biblical Dating” series, per Task 2 instructions. It is excellent! I think he has a great balance of truth and grace. (PDF here)

by Renoir

I found “Navigating the Early Stages of a Relationship” (p. 20 of the pdf) particularly interesting. I agree with the value of a young man being forthright about clarifying his interest in an intentional way. He should show that his desire is “simply committing to get to know her a little better in an intentional way in order to evaluate whether the two of you should then consider marriage to one another.” That is reassuring to a young lady in many ways. She knows he has a plan to guide their relationship. She also knows that “agreeing to date is not agreeing to marry.” There is a clear intention toward marriage, but there should not be the pressure of undue expectations. I have appreciated seeing young men initiate in this way. I agree with Croft that it’s good for a girl to avoid an “unequivocal no” without thought and trying to know the person as a friend before shutting that door. Then Croft goes on to give other counsel and warnings about the early stages, particularly about avoiding premature intimacy.

Then in the next article, “Growing in Intimacy” Croft recommends a “define the relationship” talk to sort out whether the relationship is progressing toward marriage, whether it should, and whether both parties feel sure that they are ready for a new level of intention. This is ideally the point where either party with hesitations will break it off. If they have been careful about avoiding premature intimacy in the previous couple months of the relationship then, while a cessation of dating will be disappointing, it should not be extremely painful, like a mini-divorce. I have seen sad break-ups among my friends, even when they have had the best intentions throughout the relationship. I sometimes wonder that if there had been an evaluation like this two or three months rather than nine or twelve months into the relationship, if it would have been less difficult for both people.

The next couple of articles are good too. Some will take issue with “From Hi to I Do in a Year” but I think the principles are sound. Then the final article, “Settling.” This one is hardest to read. We want to find someone we admire, are attracted to, feel honored to marry. What does it look like to consider someone who may not initally inspire those feelings in us, but who would actually be a Godly partner? One difficult quote: “I don’t mean that such an approach [looking for a spouse based primarily on my own "list" and attraction] involves malice or the intent to hurt anyone. I simply mean that such an approach is self-centered. It conceives of finding a spouse from the standpoint of what will be most enjoyable for me based on my tastes and desires. What will I receive from marriage to this or that person?” Croft then goes on to give the biblical teaching on this subject. It is based on the idea that marriage is meant for mutual service and sacrifice to God, infinitely rewarding, but with a broader purpose than self-fulfillment. Ministry, not perpetual honeymoon, should be our vision. It is challenging, but good to hear. I can only hope for discernment and that the Holy Spirit will guide me and my friends in this in the future.

Posted by: Phoebe | July 10, 2010

Quote 3: Seed-planting evangelism

This quote is from Holy Ground: Walking With Jesus as a Former Catholic by Chris Castaldo. In the words of reviewer Louis Markos, Castaldo shows “a teachable spirit, and an open mind and heart.” In the first part of the book he explains Catholicism for an evangelical audience, an explanation as multi-faceted as the faith itself is multi-faceted. He does this by explaining his own faith-story of growing up nominally Catholic, to losing his faith as a young man, to becoming an evangelical Protestant. He gives snapshot explanations of the history of the Roman Catholic Church to help us understand the context of today’s faith. He gives an explanation of the theological commonalities and differences between Catholics and Protestants, with a tone overall that is respectful of the Catholic faith. Most interesting to me, he uses biographical sketches of three people, two Catholics and Luther, to illustrate the divergent ways people of sincere faith have responded to challenges to Catholicism. These ways parallel the forms of Catholicism we see in our friends today, including traditional Catholics, evangelical Catholics, and cultural Catholics. 

In the last part of the book, Castaldo gives evangelical Protestants guidance on how to lovingly and respectfully interact with their Catholic brothers. Should we evangelize Catholics? I remember once having a Baptist minister approach me outside my house. He asked the “if you died tonight do you know where you would go” question, and when I responded with my affirmation that I knew I would go to heaven through faith in Jesus, he probingly checked my faith out. It felt uncomfortable having someone grill me on if I really was a true Christian and I have not forgotten what it felt like to be on the defensive side of agressive evangelism. I hope that memory will continue to serve as a reminder to me to be authentic and gentle in the way I evangelize my friends, so they don’t feel I’m pushing my beliefs on them or judging if their beliefs chalk up against the truth. 

 In the chapter “How to Relate To Catholics with Grace and Truth.” Castaldo gives a great definition of what evangelism should be. If another evangelical or a Catholic approached me, not knowing my like-minded faith and seeking to evangelize me, I would want to be approached in this way. Indeed it is a definition that applies to true believers, as we should continually “share gospel love and truth” even with people who are already fellow believers.  The definition is “Evangelism is the activity in which the entire church prayerfully and intentionally relies on God in sharing gospel love and truth, in order to bring people one step closer to Jesus Christ.” (p. 169) Castaldo goes on to unpack each word of this definition. It is his comments on the last phrase, “one step closer to Christ” that particularly struck me. They gave me another insight into how to be respectful and loving in evangelism. 

From the book: 

One step closer to Christ. Of all the points I’ve made so far, this is the one I am most passionate about. Sometimes we define evangelism by a particular method … we think of evangelism as a full-blown gospel presentation that begins by explaining the human problem of sin and culminates in an invitation for one to receive Christ.
I don’t know about you, but most of my gospel encounters don’t allow for a full-orbed sermon. In a crusade, the goal of the evangelist is to clearly present the entire message and urge someone to make a decision…. However, if you define all evangelism that way, what happens when you have only two minutes to talk to a colleague beside the water cooler during break? How do you witness to the checkout person in the supermarket, or to a family member who knows what you believe and is utterly disinterested in hearing any more sermons? The answer is—you don’t. you don’t say a thing. We can’t share in that kind of way without alienating people; therefore, we don’t share at all. The outcome is the same as hiding our lamps beneath the proverbial table. What we need to learn is how to gradually plant seeds of gospel truth that help people incrementally move one step closer to Christ. Therefore, instead of defining evangelism strictly as a comprehensive presentation of the “full delmonte” (everything there is to say about salvation) culminating in a Billy Graham-like invitation, we need to view the incremental efforts of seed planting, which we perform in the course of natural relationships, as not only a legitimate form of evangelism but also a critical method among our Catholic loved ones.

  

  

I felt convicted by this quote of the times I have alienated others by putting a sermon on them, giving the full delmonte when I should have listened to their thoughts and sowed mine one at a time. That gentle sowing is a skill, it’s true, but Jesus, the expert in reaching people, can teach us how. It’s exciting to look at evangelism this way. When we do we begin to see all the opportunities around us. 

Posted by: Phoebe | July 9, 2010

BSC: Task 2: Thoughts on biblical dating

The second task was not what I expected. I thought I would be going out and doing something, but instead I’m told to go read Boundless! It’s a very good series, the series on “Biblical Dating” by Scott Croft and though I have read it before it won’t hurt me to read it again. I’ll may post a more specific response to it later. Nevertheless, I hope that the future tasks will have a broader spiritual nature.

I don’t really like to talk about dating or courtship on facebook or my blog. When we discuss heated issues on the internet the discussion easily turns into hypotheticals that are not edifying. It is so easy to have a set-in-stone opinion about these things, but cyberworld is not the real world, which is filled with the variables of character and personality. It also seems odd for me to state opinions stringently when I have little experience. Nevertheless I have opinions and I can say I agree with almost everything Scott Croft and Boundless writers say.

One thing I like is the careful and clear way Scott Croft clarifies his working definitions for “biblical dating” and “modern dating.” It made me think of this verse:

“Three things are too wonderful for me;
four I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a serpent on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a maiden.”
- Proverbs 30:18-19

As it came to my mind, the phrase “the way of a man with a maiden” is a phrase in scripture that parallels the meaning of “dating” or “courtship.” And indeed, that “way” is wonderful to puzzle about. We can’t really understand or pin down how it works. Indeed, in my observation sometimes the young men aren’t sure how it is supposed to work! But when the mating dance (in whatever form it takes) does lead to Godly and fruitful marriage, it is wholly the work of our Designer and loving Father. We don’t understand it, but we like to try to figure out how it works, and which forms of the “way of a man with a maiden” are Godly and good.

In regards to our efforts to decipher which “way” is the “right way” I think of a musical analogy. When a musician learns a piece of music, he must develop opinions of the proper way to play it. He must decide what tempo he wants it, how short or long to hold notes and how separated or connected. He must think about how loud or soft each note should be and which timbre to bring into it. There are thousands of ways to play any one piece and he must think about as many of them as possible and make decisions. Some aspects of his interpretation are innate, caused by his personality, and he plays the piece that way involuntarily. But he must think about many other things to form his own interpretation. Artists on recordings, previous experience, and books on style will influence him. Above all his teacher, who knows the student’s personality and is qualified to teach by many years of personal study, has the authority to guide the student to a good interpretation.

Sometimes we wonder “is there one right way to interpret this piece?” The answer is first that there are wrong ways to interpret it. There are ways that are stylistically appropriate to the composer’s period and though a musician may purposefully and thoughtfully choose to disregard them in order to create a modern interpretation, he must understand the original style. There are also rules on how to be musically and aesthetically appropriate, and disregarding these is wrong. There may not be one correct way, but there are correct ways.

If we do not try to figure out the Godly way to pursue love and marriage we are like immature musicians who do not know how to seek a good interpretation. In our interactions with others we may transgress actual principles in God’s laws. Or we may fall into behaviors that are not wholly wrong, but not right either, ones that distort the Author’s original purpose for our lives. To avoid this, it is imperative to submit to God’s word and seek to apply principles for Godly living. To think about “the way of a man with a maiden” as appropriate to our lives and culture we should indeed read books and listen to teaching on the topic. But finally we should listen carefully to wise people in our lives, those who have a right to speak authoritatively by their biblical knowledge, personal experience, and love and care for us as individuals. They will be able to give us wisdom that is more directly applicable to our lives than the wisdom impersonal sources give us. They may be able to help us apply broad biblical principles in specific ways that we would not have discerned.

There is a right and good way for each of us, and if we wait for him our Father in heaven will guide us. Like a good teacher, he may present us choices and decisions, but in the end he will show us clearly what his will is. Sometimes we will make mistakes, but with an attitude of prayer and obedience we can learn his way. God will lead us to the truth. He will show us his way, even the way to seek marriage. His sovereign will brings us life, no matter what course he has planned for us.

Posted by: Phoebe | July 9, 2010

Boundless Summer Challenge: Task 1

Boundless.org, one of my favorite websites, is hosting a “summer challenge” in which they will assign a new task each day for spiritual growth and service to God. (http://bit.ly/SummerChallenge) I have been on the fence about starting the challenge. On the one hand, I am interested in something that may pull me out of summer sloth (i.e. spending way too much time online) and till the soil of my soul for new growth in the next couple months. On the other, I am afraid of failure. How often have I resolved to read my bible for x number of days and fallen short? Rightly or wrongly, now I avoid such binding promises. I want to be motivated by positive desire, not negative guilt.

But after praying and thinking about it today, I do want to do the challenge. If my moving over the next couple months overwhelms me, I hereby give myself the permission to quit without guilt! But my hope is that I will want to do this, that these short-term goals of spiritual growth will bring long-term fruit.

Thursday was the first day, and the assignment was to pray for 20 minutes, post this note, and invite 3 friends to join with me. I haven’t invited anyone yet. If you read this and want to do the challenge, please consider yourself invited!

Prayer was good, of course, because the Lord is so good. I sat outside the music building and enjoyed the evening breeze. Ps. 16 and 127 were refreshing. The Lord brought many friends into my mind to pray for. I rested. What a gift and honor prayer is, a gift I so often refuse to enjoy and an honor I often ignore. Thank the Lord for his grace.
Posted by: Phoebe | June 20, 2010

How to Wash Dishes Efficiently by Hand

This Father’s Day, I’d like to explain the method my father has taught me for washing dishes efficiently. He is good at figuring things out and whatever he sets his mind to do. I think he can wash the dishes by hand in about the same time it takes some people to rinse dishes and load a dishwasher. Efficient hand washing also can use less energy, water, and chemicals than a dishwasher, and is less likely to leave a soap residue on the dishes. (There are arguments about hand vs. machine washing. I believe efficient hand washing is best, but it is also possible to wash efficiently with a good machine.) Some think a dishwasher sanitizes things better, but I think thorough washing, rinsing and air drying takes care of anything you need worry about.

My father demonstrated his method to me in detail, explaining that his method is based on the principle of minimum handling. I can’t say I always follow his method perfectly, usually because I am careless or thinking about something else, but if I do I get done a lot faster.

Before we begin, here are a few notes. First, when it is time to rinse just turn on the warm faucet at medium-strength, letting the water run into the dishwater. Never run the faucet without a dish directly under it; it is a waste of water. You can put cold water in a second sink to rinse, but what with changing the rinse water when it gets too soapy, this probably uses about the same amount of water as careful faucet-rinsing. Second, we use washcloths, scrubby things, and our hands for rubbing the dishes. My opinion is that dish brushes only help with cups. Third, we let dishes air-dry in a metal dish-rack. Hand-drying with a towel is a bother, and probably less sanitary.

  1. Stack the plates by the side of the sink, brushing off chunks of food. Rinse or wet only slightly. We are not washing the dishes here. Put other dishes near the sink, roughly organized by type. Wipe out greasy pots and pans and put water in those with cooked-on food. Place silverware and utensils in the sink and fill it about 1/4 or 1/3 full of hot soapy water, 3-4 inches deep.
  2. Wash and rinse the sharp knives and large utensils first, and place them in the same compartment in the dish rack. Then gather up as many of the dinner knives as fit comfortably in the left hand, and quickly rub the blades with the washcloth in the right hand. Turn them all together in your hand to rub the other side. Rinse them all under warm water, letting the water run into the washing sink and using the fingers of your right hand to brush the water around. Place all the knives together, point down in a compartment of the dish rack. That makes them easy to put away later. Do the same with the forks and spoons together.
  3. Wash and rinse the large flat things, cutting boards and frying pans, and place them on the sides of the dish rack. If they don’t stand up, you can wash a bowl or something to hold them in place, or just wash the plates (next step) and see if they hold them up.
  4. Take the entire stack of plates and lower them into the water. Wash all the plates, just the face of the plate, not the back, and lean them on their side in the same sink. That way they are close at hand when it is time to rinse them, reducing distance of motion. When all the plates are washed, turn the faucet on and rinse a plate front and back, running your hand over the surface to spread the water and feel for any remaining food residue. Place that plate in the rack with your right hand, while reaching for the next plate with your left.  Try to keep a plate under the faucet at all times. Finish all the plates. Now might be a good time to change the dishwater, if you are fastidious like me.

    Rinse with one hand, stack with the other.

  5. Next, take all the breakable bowls and cups and place as many as will comfortably fit inside the sink. Wash them around the lip and inside, roughly dividing the clean ones on one side of the sink and the dirty ones on the other. When they are all washed, turn the faucet on and rinse them all as with the plates. Gently shake the water inside the cup to rinse the inside. Place them inside the dish rack around the plates and inside the cutting boards.

    Just changed the water, now breakables.

  6. Now do the same with the plastic cups, and finally with the larger plastic bowls and pitchers, stacking them on top of the plates and bowls. Your stack may be quite impressive by now!

    Now all the plastics.

  7. Finally, wash and rinse the cooking pots one by one, scrubbing as necessary with a metal or plastic scrubby thing. Run your hand over the surface as before to help rinse. Place them on the rack if you can do so securely, or upside down on top of the stove. Let the water out of the sink and wipe down the counter and faucet.
  8. You are finished! Take a picture of your impressive stack! Don’t forget to practice your efficiency and improve your time.

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Thanks, Baba!

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