Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Be Still, My Soul

by Catharine Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel, 1752

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Game of Thrones

A few weeks ago, I started watching Game of Thrones from HBO. I have really enjoyed it.

The setting takes place in a fictional world where winter and summer alternate sporadically. No one can predict each season's length and sometimes a season will continue for years.

I enjoyed the symbolism built into the story. Winter represents pain, suffering, struggle and fear. The plot begins with the end of a 9-year summer and these dark moods show up in the lives' all of the characters.

The idea of winter/hardship approaching gets hammered home by an old woman who chastises a young boy for his naive optimism-a boy who has only known summer. She warns him, "winter always comes; night always comes..."

Her statement made me think about my home culture and how we try to create a world without hardship-a world without winter. We try very hard to remove all struggle, obstacles and pain from our lives. Shock comes when life overturns our plans or something bad happens that we cannot change.

At times, I have hoped for a struggle-free life. I think this was a pipe dream.

Realizing that winter always comes helps me set my face toward what is ahead. I can focus on who I will be in the midst of that winter instead of hoping hard times won't ever show up.

In my life (and everyone's life), like in Game of Thrones, 'summer' may last for many years, but it will not last forever.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Christian Adoption

I have learned that adoption is not smiled upon in Asian culture.

The culture believes bringing a stranger into your home or family is unhealthy and dangerous. I see the logic behind this belief and recognize that spending limited family resources on on a stranger is somewhat unnatural. If the stranger is physically, mentally or emotionally damaged, this only increases the cost and danger to the family bringing the stranger.

This attitude makes perfect sense. It still shocked me.

My positive perspective toward adoption comes from my culture. I suspect that encouragement of adoption in the West is a direct result of our Christian heritage. Naturalism and humanism cannot support adoption. Adoption pushes against survival of the fittest and the natural value of the family unit above other individuals. All ancient religions bore similar attitudes towards orphans and strangers.

Christianity is the only ancient religion that actively encourages care for orphans. It is the only religion that depicts God bringing outsiders into his family (willingly paying the great cost). It seems that Christianity embedded this idea into Western culture and it largely remains in spite of the growing pluralism within that culture.

Monday, August 22, 2011

ALPHA is almost here...

ALPHA is a bilingual course on Christianity held annually at our church. Every Friday night, over 100 people gather for a meal, some games, a short lecture on the Christian faith, and small discussion groups.

This fall Kalan will be giving the first talk called "Is there more to life than this?" I will be helping out with games and just hanging out with people.

To promote the course, we had a pre-ALPHA concert/bake sale/art market this past Saturday. Kalan slaved away in the kitchen, baking 200 scones for the event! It was a fun afternoon.

Dillon making new friends

Selling cookies with Kelley

Our friends from England, aka the band "Transition"

Four weeks and counting...

A nyone invited
L aughter and learning
P asta and pudding
H elping each other
A sk anything

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ghost Month

Last week Thursday, an announcement came over the loudspeaker in our apartment building.

Since my Chinese skills are still minimal, I asked the guard downstairs to repeat it more slowly. Here's what I understood:

"On Sunday, August 14, there will be a community altar set up on the first floor outside the apartment building doors. Everyone is welcome to use the table and fire to make their sacrifices to the gods, spirits, and ancestors."

Sure enough, on Sunday we found a large table laden with fruits, instant noodle packets, and rice crackers smoking with incense sticks outside our building. Our neighbors went down to throw paper money in the fire pot.

Ghost month has arrived. (For more details, you can look at a previous post here ).

Thank you for your prayers.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Another Cultural Blunder

A story from a couple weeks ago:

I wanted to surprise Maya, the little girl I tutor each week, with a small surprise for her birthday. On my way to our class, I stopped at 7-11 to purchase an envelope to put some candy and small toys in. I bypassed all the normal red envelopes, thinking that those were mainly for Chinese New Year or for gifts of money. When I spotted this white envelope with flowers on it, I thought it would be perfect.

Without a second thought, I put Maya's gift inside and excitedly presented it to her after our tutoring session. She tore open the envelope with a squeal of delight.

However, Maya's mother stood with a hand over her open mouth, eyes wide with shock. Then she started to chuckle nervously.

Confused, I asked, "Is everything okay?"

She went on to explain that the color white signifies death. They are given to families of the deceased at funerals. At any other time, they are very unlucky. "Please, take the gift out of the white envelope!"

I hurriedly took back the white envelope and put the gift inside a red envelope that my friend happened to have on hand. (Red is considered lucky).

This incident reminded me...I still have a lot to learn about Taiwanese culture!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Summer Vacation?

The past month has been busier than usual. My teaching hours doubled at the new school, we helped our dear friends Caty and Dillon settle in Taipei, I started my first counseling class with CCEF (The Christian Counseling Educational Foundation), and we've been adjusting to part-time parenthood with a baby who seems to double in size each week.

Whew. Needless to say, the blog was put on the back burner for a while.

However, things seem to be starting to slow down to a normal pace once again, and I am thankful.

More to come. :)