Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lent: Found

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Blessing #37 - The trash pile at Kara Kara Spa
Today was a strange day for me, for many reasons upon which I'm choosing not to expound.  The result was, however, that I spent the day very high strung.

I taught my first round of Saturday classes at a school other than my normal one, and I enjoyed it.  I'll be posting more about that probably sometime this week.  I'm doing a revamped Superheroes study with them, and, if it continues to go this well, it will end up on my lessons plans blog.  My uncle draws a comic strip that I've always admired, and, as such, he also instilled in me quite the enjoyment of superheroes.  They're not as high up there as Harry Potter, but they're higher than most people would expect.  (My favorite is Batman, but, as I told my kids, Wolverine is my boyfriend.)

After teaching, I met up with Adam Thomas to be part of the cast for his next two videos.  They're going to be pretty amusing, and helpful for my classroom, even though we're using different textbooks.  The joy of a national curriculum is that all the kids learn the same things before the school year is over, so I can still use Adam's materials.

For the final scene that we shot, we needed to be around a dumpster, so I showed everyone where I salvage newspapers to line my rabbit's litter box.  As we were walking up, we see a guy very clearly getting ready to throw away his guitar.  I held my breath, looked at Adam, considered the fact that he was able to bring his guitar with him, and said, "MINE."  He said, "Okay."  My whole body tensed for the split second it looked like the guy was going to smash the guitar, but he was participating in what could only have been a date to the trash center, so he refrained.  As a result, I got this:

There's a little bit of damage to the neck and fretboard, and it's missing the 9v battery cover, but they all seem extremely fixable.  It even had new strings on it, so I'm figured the guy must have over-tightened the strings, putting the neck and fretboard under too much stress, thus causing the damage, which he tried to repair by screwing te fretboard to the neck, and that did not work out too well.

However you look at it, I'm excited.  It felt good to have a guitar in my hands again.

What do you miss doing the most?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lent: South Africa

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Blessing #36 - Working Late

When was the last time you said hello to a stranger?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lent: Too tired to type

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Blessings #33-35: Sweet Potatoes (or Ketchup), Poop, and Laughter

What every day, seemingly mundane things are your most thankful for today?

****Addition on 3/30:****

This is the first page of the book I read, entitled "Poo, Poo."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lent: Munchkins

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Blessing #32 - People who fight for the same goal
I've had the pleasure of working with my fifth graders on understanding the U.N., why it started, and what it aims to do.  I haven't gone into the details and such, but we've talked about the basic concept - very basic, as their lesson is simply, "Hello, I'm __________.  I'm from ________________.  This is ________.  (S)He is from ___________."

Nonetheless, it's made me remember how grateful I am for the thinkers and movers behind the U.N., who believe that we don't have to be slaves to our country borders and are radical enough to think that we can act out of non-selfish motives.  That's a number among which I wouldn't mind being counted.

That being said, here's the final product of the 5th graders' model U.N. project.  I hope you enjoy!

Who are you, where are you from, and for what do you fight?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lent: Expression

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Blessing #31 - Creativity
This week's Community Art Project was based on Exodus 7-12, the 10 Plagues on Egypt.  I got it in my head that I wanted the death of the first-born.  I'm not entirely sure that what I turned in was what they were looking for, but I have this idea of that particular plague extending past the edges of the Israelites' time in Egypt.  Let me show you what I mean:

The first first-born to be called up for death at his parent's hand was Isaac, and, therein, we have the beginning of a pattern: The potential for a child to be the atonement for sin.  At the last minute, G-d stopped Abraham and provided a ram, a foreshadowing of the replacement to come for our own death sentences.

Of course, the next major showing is the death of Pharaoh's son, because of Pharaoh's stubborn heart.  Our stubborn choices don't only affect ourselves, they can lead to the downfall of others around us, too.  G-d warns us that He has our best interests at heart, but we don't listen.  We never listen.

The next isn't pictured, but it is the story of Jephthah foolishly and arrogantly promising G-d that he will sacrifice the first thing that runs out the door to meet him upon his return from war.  Of course, that thing ended up being his young daughter.  I believe that this is a prime example of how we shouldn't try to prove our piety to G-d.  In reality, that proof does nothing to serve G-d; it only serve our own egos.  Jephthah had to learn this the hard way.

The last death that I can think of off-hand is that of Christ.  Throughout the entire Old Testament, He is alluded to as the Sacrificial Lamb to cleanse us of our sins - from the ram that save Isaac, to the cross-shaped markings the Israelites left on their doors to redeem their first-borns, to the words of Christ Himself.

It's awe-inspiring to me to see these patterns unfold throughout the Bible, and so I attempted to capture them into a single drawing under the header "Death of the First-Born."  I hope that in looking at it, you can find some reassurance that your plan for salvation was in place since the dawn of time.

What is your favorite theme in Scripture?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Terrible News.

Another reposting from The Korean on the issue of the repatriation of the North Korean defectors:

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Terrible news. Mr. Joo Seong-Ha, through Dong-A Ilbo, reports that China, in a clear violation of international law, sent back all 31 North Korean defectors to North Korea. According to sources, North Korea had been arresting and interrogating the defectors' families even before this repatriation -- presumably because China relayed to North Korea the identity of these defectors. Even the families of those who helped these defectors escape out of North Korea are being arrested and interrogated.

The families of those 31 who are in South Korea are wrecked with grief and guilt. One 45-year-old woman met her 70-year-old mother in China for exactly two days before leading her mother to the group in the hopes that her mother would be able to come to South Korea. One high school-aged boy, whose mother died while escaping from North Korea, had a younger sister in that group of 31 that was sent back to North Korea.

This repatriation by China is an unusually aggressive move. So far, when North Korea defectors were arrested in China, the Chinese police would hold the defectors for as long as 6 months before sending them back to North Korea so as to wait for the public reaction to quiet down. This time, however, China repatriated these defectors at the height of the international furor at the issue. (Korean president Lee Myeong-Bak formally requested China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs not to repatriate these defectors only a week ago.) Significantly, according to sources within the Chinese police, these defectors were not even listed on the usual database, kept by the Chinese police, of North Korean defectors who were sent back to North Korea. This indicates that North Korean Security Bureau [보위부] came to China to directly take these defectors back.

The fight is not over. There are still more lives to be saved -- approximately 300 North Korean defectors who are being held in a Chinese prison as of now. Among them is a mother with a baby who is less than a month old. Also, there may still be the slightest chance of still saving the lives of the 31 people. Several NGOs in South Korea have the names and pictures of the 31 who were sent back, such that the way they were treated in North Korean prison can be tracked and exposed to the world. Although it is not likely, there is a tiny, tiny chance that continued international pressure may yet save their lives.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at
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I can't stand it.  I hate that this is happening... happened.  I hate that the only question that rattles around in my head is, "WHY DON'T PEOPLE CARE?"  I'm sure people care.  It's just hard to see it.

Lent: Tired

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Blessing #30 - Homer's Odyssey xx. 17-18
It's been one of those days when I just want to throw in the towel.  I try not to write about them, because, hey, let's be honest, no one wants to read about them.  But here we are.  I'm exhausted.  I can only breathe out of one nostril (which is probably contributing to my exhaustion).  I have a splitting headache.  My esophagus is so weak from coughing all the time that I choke (literally choke) if the air is too damp... and it rained non-stop yesterday.  I'm incredibly lonely, and I'm feeling unwanted here.  That's what kind of day today has been.

But that's not the ending to the story, and I know it.  Today is not the low part of my life, and I know it. 

You see, I have a measuring rod - the worst part of my life, the part that I look back on and say, "I honestly don't know how I made it through that."  Because that happened, I can look at today and say, "That's  not that bad."  I am incredibly thankful for that measuring rod.  I can't begin to explain how much.  G-d knows my heart, and He knows what I need.  I think, right now, He and I can agree that I need massive amounts of sleep.  As for feeling unwanted, that doesn't really matter.  I'm hear because this is where G-d wants me to be, and I dare say that my feeling unwanted is proof of that.  If it was easy, it would mean that Satan wasn't working against me, which would indicate that I wasn't that much of a threat.

So I won't give up.

Besides, monks spend plenty of time in seclusion, and I like them a lot.  I hear they get a lot of good from it.  I'm going to invest some quality time into my bed now, and perhaps tranquilize my rabbit so she will cut out her racket.  

Love you all.

Today's question isn't philosophical or theological: What's your best home remedy, especially for congestion?... aside from Neti Pot.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Lent: Talking point

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Blessing #29 - My public school education.
I know, it's not for everyone, but, just like I don't try to shove public school down your throats, I'd appreciate it if you didn't try to shove homeschooling down mine.  The correct answer depends on the child, and, trust me, homeschooling would have been an awful choice for me.  I know because we tried it briefly.

My high school made the news recently.  It's pretty embarrassing, actually, but I'm still grateful for it.  I was exposed to so many things that I wouldn't have been otherwise there.  I got the opportunity to learn how other people and other cultures think and function.  I learned how to question why I (or my parents) believed.  I learned how to stand on my own two feet.  Education-wise, I learned all the key material, but not much more, but that's okay  I still did very well in my class and SATs, so I'm not worried about it.  I'm just very glad my parents made the choices they did.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lent: Short

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Blessing #27 & 28 (I promised there'd be a double post eventually) - 11:11 and Sleep
I still make a wish every time I see 11:11, although I try to make it more of a prayer, though.  It makes my spirit feel young and still connected to my high school friends who taught me about it.  You should try it sometimes.

Sleep, I think, speaks for itself, and I'm going to go partake in it now.


What silly thing from your childhood do you hold on to?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lent: 1,300-1,400g

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Blessing #26 - Memories
Isn't it funny how our minds retain things?  We don't realize certain things are important when they're happening, but somehow our brains do, and they capture them.

Like the first time I saw Kyle.  (It's his birthday, by the way.)

The first time I saw him was in The Hub.  He didn't see me.  No, he was surrounded by his friends, saying his goodbyes.  He had clearly just had brain surgery.  I had known something major was going on, because his friends had asked me to pray.  I just didn't have any idea how major it was at the time, so I just leaned against a wall and watched him.  I watched him smile and laugh.  I watched that scar bob back and forth as he'd throw his head back in a laugh or shake around as he vehemently disagreed with someone.  The whole time, I managed to avoid putting it together; I stayed on the idea that he had had brain surgery and never moved to the obvious WHY.

Brain cancer was, of course, the reason.

But he is better now, as I've told you before.  He is at Home.

But I'm grateful for the memories that my brain managed to etch into itself, even when I didn't realize they needed to be memories.  G-d is so amazing how he made our brains to do so many things independently of our cognizant control.

What is it that you remember, but didn't realize you would want to at the time?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lent: Despite allergies

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Blessing #25: Spring
Enough said - I'll let my favorite springtime pictures do the rest of my speaking for me.  (No, they're not of me, and they're not recent, but I took them!)

What's your favorite season and why?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lent: Reminder

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Blessing #24 - The kindness of strangers.
Today is the day that my allergies kick my butt sinus-pressure-wise, unless I dope up on medications, which I hate doing, but I had to teach, so I chose the medicine route.  Unfortunately, this induced zombie-Anne on the bus this morning, meaning that I realized what the thud was as I was getting off the bus just a little too late.  Yes, the sound that attracted the attention of everyone on the bus except me was my phone tumbling off of my lap and onto the bus stairs.  I realized it just as the bus pulled away from the stop.

Fittingly, this is a picture of my head teacher and me,
on a bus, celebrating 빼빼로 Day (11/11).
I got to school as quickly as I could in my mouth-breathing state, and my head teacher made some phone calls for me to try and locate my phone.  Amazingly, no one had swiped it, nor had they stepped on it.  The bus driver kindly searched the bus for it, and, finding it, told us what time to expect him back at the stop and promised to deliver it to me.

So, at 9:40am, I found myself anxiously waiting at the bus stop where I figured he'd show up.  Unfortunately, I forgot to account for route reversal, so I had to dash into the street as the bus driver pulled up, holding my phone out the window (sometimes it pays to be a minority).  He was quite the congenial guy, chuckling at me and the handful of chocolates I shoved at him.  I'm sure he got a good laugh at me almost getting hit by a car on my way back to the sidewalk, too.  I hope he and his wife enjoyed the story over dinner.  I know my friend and I did as he stopped by to help me with the art project I'm currently working on.  (It's due on Wednesday, but that site may get an unfinished version.  We'll see.)

As for me and my phone - we're reunited, unscathed.  I'm grateful.  I like my iPhone and its ability to connect me to the US for minimal costs.  In fact, for about $60/year, I can buy a US number through Skype, which, thanks to its iPhone app, connects straight to my phone.  Anyone who can call Tennessee for free can reach me in Korea for free.  It's pretty awesome.

My cute phone, after it lost one of its feet.  I removed the other.  They're both in my purse now, waiting for me to get adventurous with some superglue.
But I digress.  Today there were a whole lot of strangers who could have made my life pretty annoying without any real consequence to themselves, but they chose not to.  How often would you see that happen in the States?  I think that's something we should work on, and a definite part of groupthink that we could afford to adopt.

When was the last time someone you didn't know did something nice for you?  When was the last time you paid it forward?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lent: Patterns

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Blessing #23 - Knowing my body.
Every year before spring and fall, my allergies kick up.  I'm pretty sure it has to do with leaf birth and death.  However frustrating it may be, though, it's sure as the sunrise.  So, even though I'm hacking and wheezing now, it's nice to know pretty confidently that, assuming I don't let anything drain into my ears, I'll be over this in a couple days.  Just like clockwork, the mucus glob broke open today, with some help from an early dose of an antihistamine and a steaming hot shower as the medicine wore off.  Now that I can get it all to drain outside my body, all I have to do is keep blowing my nose and I should be good.  :)  It's nice being able to know that.  It's nice being able to self-diagnose.

So, here's my suggestion for how to get to know your body better:  Start by fasting from as many synthetics as you can for a couple weeks.  Drink water and milk only (although, with what they do to American milk, you may be better off with not drinking milk).  Feel free to drink juice if you juice it yourself.  Cut out milk and white chocolate.  A little dark chocolate a day is actually good for you, so get the darkest percentage you can and nibble daily.  Load up on fruits and veggies, cut back on carbs and meats.  After a couple weeks of this, your body will stop craving all those processed things you've addicted it to and start craving what it needs.  Then, just give it what you're craving.

Next: Stop medicating so much.  Seriously, lay off.  Got a headache?  Drink a lot of water and employ pressure points, rather than aspirin.  Stomach upset?  Eat some ginger or yogurt (or take ginger or acidopholis pills)  to calm it.  Every time we feel a little pain, we jump to numb it, but, here's the thing:  Pain is your body's way of telling you that something's wrong.  If you numb it, you can't tell if it's getting better or worse, and you certainly can't figure out where it's coming from.  You're not fixing it; you're making it worse.

If you do those two things, you'll be well on your way to knowing your body (something that people ask me how to do quite frequently).  Then, maybe, you'll start noticing your patterns, too.

If you have any questions about this stuff, fire away; I'd be happy to answer.

Until then, I'll leave you with this question:

Did G-d give us pain to help us learn to understand our bodies or did He give us medicine to learn to deal with the pain?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lent: The Family I Chose

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I know.  I missed a day.  I, however, have been sick, and it was all I could do to exercise my rabbit before falling asleep after work yesterday.  Perhaps I will do a double post in the coming days to make up for it.

Blessing #22 - The children I sponsor through Compassion International.  (You knew it had to happen at some point.)
I just finished up writing letters to my Compassion kids.  My cousin Becky always gets so excited about doing this.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't, to be honest.  Tonight, I'm so tired, that I wasn't thrilled about the aspect of all the work that was going to go into it, but I love the results.  I love forming relationships with these kids, and I love learning from their hearts for people and G-d.  Trust me, I'm pretty sure that I get more from them than they do from me.

I've debated for a long time whether I should show you my kids or not.  On one hand, I'm thrilled to know them, and I want everyone to know them too.  On the other, I'm afraid that people will be focused on the number of them, and that's not the point.  Yes, it's a semi-shocking number.  But, since I've decided to show you their precious faces, I want you to know that I sponsor the number of kids that G-d tells me to sponsor: no more, no less.  That is how I believe all people should operate.  I also think you should know that not all of these are financial sponsorships.  Some of them are only "correspondent sponsorships," which means that someone else is paying the money, but, for whatever reason, they were not sending letters.  I believe that the letters are crucial, because it is through the letters that the children actually feel loved, and that may be even more important than the financial sponsorship in breaking the cycle of poverty.  So, I volunteered to fill that gap.

Now, without any further adue, I'd like to introduce you to my sponsor kids, the family I got to choose:
This is Abel.  He is 8 years old.  He is the latest addition to my family.

This is Enock.  He just turned 13.  Please pray for his sister; she returned from the fields one day, having lost her ability to talk.  No one can figure out why.

This is Estefany.  She is 8 years old, although you'd never be able to guess it from that sassy picture.  Her father passed away before I started sponsoring her; I can't imagine how hard that must be for her family.

This is Juan.  He will be 14 soon.  He isn't incredibly verbose, but he sends me wonderful drawings, usually of Bible characters.

This is Moumita.  She is 8 years old.  It's incredibly hard to get a visa to go to her country.

This is Natthida (Taeng).  She will be 12 soon.  She is the only one of my current Compassion Kids that I've gotten to meet.

This is Raquel.   She should be 17 or 18 now, if my memory is correct.  She left Compassion's program shortly after I met her in 2009 so that she could pursue a job.  I was able to write her a couple of letters at an address she provided before they started bouncing back to me.  It's so frustrating not knowing how she's doing.  But I work hard to entrust her to G-d, and I know I will see her again one day.
So, yes, that is my family.  Are you ready to add to yours?

Do you sponsor any kids (through any program)?  You should tell me about them.

I can't not offer my response.

In the last few hours, Jason Russell made the news again, apparently having had a mental breakdown. Please educate yourselves on the situation and stay up to date. I've been seeing a lot of frustrating comments about it on Facebook, so I would like to offer my response for anyone interested:
I'd like you to think about all of this for a second. Let's assume the worst of Jason Russell. Let's assume that he wants to make Kony famous to make a bunch of money and encourage Kony's cause. Doing something like this would turn the American public against him, just like it seems to have done for you. How would that help these assumed intentions? It can't. These actions can only hurt his cause. Therefore, we can only logically assume that they were a non-lucid (or insane) act. 
That being said, this was the official statement offered by Invisible Children:"Jason Russell was unfortunately hospitalized yesterday suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition. He is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better. The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday. Jason’s passion and his work have done so much to help so many, and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue. We will always love and support Jason, and we ask that you give his entire family privacy during this difficult time." 
Finally, I'd like to say that even if you feel that Jason Russell is disgusting or a pig, I don't think it's something you should be broadcasting. As followers of Christ, it's our responsibilities to be acting in a loving manner toward all people. We are all sinners, and we all have our short-comings. So, even if he was acting entirely lucidly, these comments aren't something that I think should be posted about him.
Although I will admit that I have had my own struggles with wether or not I will be buying Kony 2012 merchandise, I will not waiver on my decision to fight for the freedom of ALL people.  In this case, that means fighting for the rights of the African people whom Joseph Kony is threatening, enslaving, mutilating, and killing.

I want you to make the same choice too, but I don't want you to make it because I'm suggesting it.  I want you to educate yourselves.  Nothing is worse than a bunch of people doing something simply because they're told to.  If you do that, you're no better off than the children whom Kony has brainwashed, and then I'll need to be fighting for your freedom too.  No, go out and read the critiques and the supporting articles.  Watch the Kony 2012 film and, especially watch the original Invisible Children film.

As for me, I'll be busy praying for Russell, praying for the children in Africa (many of whom are, at this moment, waking up in houses stuffed to overflowing with young children in an attempt to protect them from Kony), and even praying for Kony himself.  I will of course, also be busily preparing for April 20.

I hope you will join me in doing all of these things, regardless of how you feel about Russell or Invisible Children, because, the fact remains that Joseph Kony is out there, terrorizing and destroying lives, and he's doing it relatively secretly.  This cannot be allowed to continue.  The world must be awakened to what is happening.  We CANNOT allow this to persist.

For a while, I thought, "There's nothing I can do.  Eventually, Kony will die, and, hopefully, the LRA will with him."  But, if we believe this, we have learned nothing from the deaths of men like Osama bin Laden and Kim Jong Il.  Kony's death will not end the LRA, nor will it protect Africa's children.  Violence cannot bring about peace, just like darkness cannot bring about light.  It can only be through the trial and jailing of Joseph Kony that we can BEGIN to restore these people to life.

I know that's quite a sentence to just leave dangling, but it's explanation is another story for another time, my friends.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lent: Proverbs 16:31

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Blessing #22 - Grandma
Grandma and me at my senior recital in 2011
I spent the better part of yesterday thinking about how much I wanted my grandmother's advice.  Originally, I decided to take the issue to her, because I thought she would be the one most likely to tell me what I wanted to hear.  In the end, her advice turned out to be very different from what I expected, but I think that what she actually had to say was much better than what I was thinking she would say.  I'm really glad I called her.

We put so little value on the older generations these days.  Why is that?  How does that make any sense?  Sure, maybe the Internet doesn't come intuitively to many of their members, but since when does the ability to use the Internet count as anything that actually contributes to society?  If anything, the amount of time we spend on the Internet is breaking down society.   Maybe it's because Grandma was always the one sneaking me chocolate pudding just before dinner, but I know I had a hard time thinking of her as an outlet to contribute to my "adult-size-problems" - you know... those problems that are bigger than being able to get past the water temple in Zelda (The one for NES of course... and yes, Grandma DOES know how to solve that problem.  My Grandma is even cooler than Julian Smith's.)

Grandma heard me out; she listened to everything I had to say.  When I talked myself out, she immediately said, "Anne, you need to be remembering to pray about this.  Just keep taking it to G-d."  Then she made some observations, upon which I expanded more.  She closed by saying some things to me that I never expected to hear from her.  They certainly weren't anything bad - they were things that were very reassuring to hear - they were just unexpected.  It just goes to show that if you value someone's opinion on things that you're doing in your life, you should probably be transparent with them about why you're doing those things.

When was the last time you sought advice from someone who had successfully lived through any problem you could bring to them?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lent: "I will redeem you..."

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Blessing #21 - The freedom to read the Word in community

I've lately had the pleasure of joining in on the planning meetings for the worship services of the International Church that meets on KNU's campus.  I'm helping plan a Passover Seder for them, and in extension some of their Holy Week services.  The whole experience has been extremely moving.  

I've really been enjoying how the planning meetings are run as small worship services: with directed prayer, hymns, scripture reading, and kinesthetic reflection... THEN the planning meeting.  These past two weeks, the reflection time has been focused on art projects.  We're supplied with paper and marking supplies (pencils, pens, pastels, etc.) and told to draw whatever reflects what we're focused on in the scripture passage.

This week was Exodus 6:1-13:
1 Then the L-RD said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.”
 2 G-d also said to Moses, “I am the L-RD. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as G-d Almighty, but by my name the L-RD I did not make myself fully known to them. 4 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. 5 Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.
 6 “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the L-RD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your G-d. Then you will know that I am the L-RD your G-d, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the L-RD.’”
9 Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor.
10 Then the L-RD said to Moses, 11 “Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his country.”
12 But Moses said to the L-RD, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?”
13 Now the L-RD spoke to Moses and Aaron about the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he commanded them to bring the Israelites out of Egypt.
I was particularly struck by verse six.  Let me repeat it for you:
“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the L-RD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.'"
For my reflection, I drew this (All my years of doodling in math class paid off on one thing - I gained the ability to draw hands.):
You can find reflections for all of the verses here, and last week's reflections for Exodus 5 here.
I can't get over how meaningful this particular passage is.  It's stuffed full of promises to which we should be clinging.  G-d has freed us from our slavery and makes our opressor tremble at His power.  Embrace your freedom!  Embrace His protection of you!  He is your Abba Father, and He loves you so very much.

This process of artistic prayer has been incredibly good for me, so I'm thinking I want to start doing this regularly, even though I won't be with this group constantly.  It's been nice communing with G-d creatively.  I bought and was given some art supplies, so maybe you'll be seeing more of this soon.  I hope you'll try it at least one time.  It's good to try different ways of being with G-d, just like we like to mix up our activities with our other friends too.

Which verse in this passage is standing out to you?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lent: Not as basic as you'd think

***Don't forget to sign the petition (and this one too!) to save refugees from North Korea!***

Blessing #20 - Four walls and a roof over my head.
My kitchen - I'm loving not having to share it.

My sleeping area

Those boxes have now been reunited with their owner, that couch has taken their place, and a tiny table has been moved in.

If only I could keep it this clean.  The bunny insisted on not using her just litter box, but also the areas surrounding it, soooo I put cardboard down... not that it helped anything.

Mi casa es su casa.  En realidad.

What not-so-basic thing are you most grateful for?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lent: Dear World,

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Blessing #19 - An ever shrinking world
Today was the first day that I reached every continent on the planet... assuming you don't count Antartica, and, as penguins aren't generally known to read, I don't.
Dear World,
I don't know if you remember me or not, but I'm the little girl who promised to give you everything.  I'm just all grown up now.

Dear World,
I sometimes think that you'd rather I fell through the cracks or invested in a good roll of duct tape for my mouth.  Maybe I need to practice those things a little more, but I only speak out because I care.

Dear World,
In the time it took to bring about anyone on this earth who had given any thought to me (sans G-d, of course), you had pretty much managed to destroy yourself.  Maybe we should both work on some duct tape?

Dear World,
Yes, I did just drop the G-word, but the fact is, I think I'm leading a much more effective life when I'm pursing something higher than myself rather than something I can fit in my jeans' pocket.

Dear World,
I miss you, even when I'm out within you; I miss you so much.  Wherever I am, I'm thinking of the other places I'd like to also be.  Each country is magnificent.  I hope to be able to breathe in each one of those national treasures of wealth, knowledge, and tradition.

Dear World,
Each country is magnificent, but how much more magnificent would we be if we started working together for a change?

Dear World,
I'm only saying this because I love you.  I will continue to speak out, trying to form you into the best you can be.  If that angers you, then so be it.  I only hope that some of what I'm saying will sink in.  Really, I do love you.  Certainly I love you as a whole, but I am working to love each and every one of your inhabitants as well.

Dear World,
Never stop fighting for justice.  Never let mandates go unsearched.  Never turn a blind eye to your brothers and sisters.

All my love,
Anne Nicole Royster

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lent: The Teacher

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Blessing #18 - Dr. Nathan R. Kerr
There is not a day that goes by without Nate Kerr having some influence on my life.  It's not like I'm thinking every day, "Oh, Nate Kerr taught me that," but, every now and then I stop to reflect, and I realize how much he has shaped my world view.  Today, it was twice that I had that moment - where I realized that I never would have been saying that things that I was saying if it wasn't for my four years of tutelage under him.

Philosophy for Theology I, October 2009
I want to share some of the parameters of my world view, as shaped by Nate Kerr:
  1. "[G-d] is so high among the highest, and I am low among the lowest, a mean thing." (Augustine)  G-d is beyond our intellectual capacity.  Understanding of Him can only be brought by divine revelation, but there will always be mystery (and lots of it) surrounding Him.  It takes extreme amounts of faith in our science-driven world to accept that.
  2. We are much more connected to those other than ourselves than we can possibly know.  The human experience is one of joined-ness, and, as such, all human life is sacred.  It is not our place to take it.  Those who do so must first be ordained by G-d.  
  3. The world doesn't like those who think outside the presented norms.  The world especially doesn't like those who are correct in thinking outside the presented norms.  This doesn't mean that you should conform; it simply means that you need to re-enter The Cave in the full awareness of what you are doing.
  4. It's harder to receive a good thing when you were expecting a bad one than it is to receive a bad thing when you were expecting a good one.
  5. Love never fails.
I certainly have more, but I think those are my Top Five.  What are yours?

The Unthinkable

This time I am quoting from an update posted on one of the petitions that I have been encouraging everyone to sign.  Refer back to my earlier post if you don't know what's going on with North Korea and China.

*                  *                  *

The news [is] reporting that China has repatriated the 30 Refugees. 
It seems China has done fear that if this issue get[s] more attention, it will have to face with harsher consequences.
In other words, they want to silence us.

However... we will continue to Cry Out for the thirty who are, as we speak, most likely being tortured.
We will cry out because that is the only thing we can do.
We will continue to be voice for the other several hundred North Koreans in China who are in prison waiting to be deported.
We will continue to raise awareness for the several tens of thousands of North Koreans who have escaped to China in search for food and freedom. Dear China, Please help us save our friends..

Friends of the Thirty One.. Continue your plea and hollering through all mediums so that something like this never happens again...

*                  *                  *

It's interesting to me how little response this plea has gotten.  I don't know if it's because of other things being on people's minds or if it can be attributed to the lack of gain for America to intercede.  No one has called for America to arm up and march into North Korea and China.  The call has simply been for an outcry from the world, yet the world has remained silent.  We face quite the quandary: Should we speak out and risk upsetting China, America's financial backer?  Or should we stay quiet and try to ignore the fact that people are dying for trying to get a better life?

I think this goes to show a lot about debt.  While you have it, you are a slave to the whims of those to whom you are indebted.  I can only offer one solution in moving forward: we must cut our spending as a nation.  We must fight for our freedom so that we won't have to be scared to speak out on behalf of what is right.

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you: If you had had the opportunity to save your son, daughter, mother, father, brother, sister from torture and death, would you have taken it?

We are all connected in this world, and it's time we started realizing it.

***Sign the petition (and this one too!) to save refugees from North Korea!***

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lent: Zero

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Blessing #17 - Intercession
It's like I was saying to Tyson (yes, that's still the one with the changed name) the other day, "Sometimes, there are days when you just can't find what to be thankful for.  On those days, I thank G-d for being G-d, and I let the Spirit intercede where necessary."  He agreed.  Sometimes, that's all we've got.

I learned what I believe to be the truce spirit of intercession when I spent some time at the Abbey of Gethsemani.  I got to visit with a group at my school.  One night, I woke up with an upset stomach and couldn't shake it enough to get some sleep, so I started wandering around.  I heard a noise in the hall and followed it, realizing that it was about time for an early morning service that I had read about to start.

It was maybe two in the morning, but not one of those monks looked to me like he'd rather be somewhere else, although I certainly decided that I would about halfway though.  But then, they got to the prayer portion of the service.  They talked about how they prayed at that time, because it seemed possible to them that no one else in America would be praying at that time, and they didn't want that.  They prayed for so many things - the war, the government, individual members' concerns, and they prayed for our group, noting the name of our school and adding in blessings and their desires to see us grow spiritually.

They didn't even know our names.  We had spent our time observing their general vow of silence (which was rarely broken, except for things like service).  They didn't know us, but they prayed intercessions for us.

I like thinking of that night when I think of intercessions and the Spirit interceding for us when we don't know what to pray.  G-d is so good to us.

What moment shaped your faith the most?

Lent: We

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Blessing #16 - The communion of Saints
I've spent a lot of time talking to my friends from various walks in my life today, and it's made me realize how much I value them.  Many of them, I can't recount because of privacy things, but they've been helping me work through so many things going on in my head.  I'm so thankful for the body of Christ - past, present, and future.  This is an ambiguous post, I know, but my thoughts are so confusing that ambiguity is the best I can offer.

Where are you ambiguous about in your life right now?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lent: Filled with Hope

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Blessing #15 - Being known
I logged into my Facebook account just now to find this waiting for me:

My friend Alex had just gotten on her Facebook to find it blown up with talk about Kony 2012, and, of everyone I've talked to, she's the only one who seems to remember my rants, my tears, my passionate outcries against Joseph Kony.  And so she sent me this note and video of a clip shown on ABC news.

It's just like Alex to know and remember.  It's part of what makes her so special to me.  Not only did she care enough about me to listen to something that was bothering me at the time, she committed it to memory and now is making efforts to share in my joy that all the work that we've put in up to this point is finally coming to fruition.  And she's right - I am filled with hope.  I can hardly stay in one place right now, I'm so anxious to see this end.  I'm like a child waiting for Christmas, except I'm waiting for the freedom of my brothers and sisters who have been taken by the LRA.

Soon.  So very soon.

Have you ever realized that someone knows you?  What was that like for you?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lent: Joseph Kony

***Don't forget to sign the petition (and this one too!) to save refugees from North Korea!***

Blessing #14: Shared Dreams
Warning:  This post is not rated G or PG, as it discusses incredibly graphic violence.  The video at the end has a much more user-friendly rating.

Joseph Kony.

Joseph Kony.

I keep writing his name, hoping it will get easier, but it doesn't.

I try to not hate anyone, but I can't guarantee that I don't hate this man.  I've spent so much time debating with Nate Kerr what I should do if I ever met this man face-to-face.  I firmly believe that you cannot bring peace through violence, but it is Joseph Kony who is the question to my logic.  Joseph Kony tests every single thing that I claim as a conviction of morality.  I try to censor myself when I talk about him, as I don't like upsetting people, but I will not be doing that today.  The information I will share with you today is the result of years of research on my own part.

In the 1980's, a rebel force rose up against the Ugandan government.  After near defeat, a voice rose up among the rebels: that of Alice Lakwena, the cousin to the then unknown Joseph Kony.  In many ways, she was equated to Joan of Arc for her people.  But in 2007, after fleeing from more technologically advanced forces, she died while hiding in a refugee camp.

Enter Joseph Kony.

Joseph Kony pulled back together his cousin's troops, and promised to instate a government based on the 10 Commandments, but his own people were scared, and turned on him.  He was furious, and began kidnapping their children to brainwash and enlist in his military actions.  He believed (rightly) that it was a lot easier to teach values, rather than reteach values.

His methods are brutal, but effective.

When a child is captured, his or her first act as a member of The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is to perform a public murder of a prominent member of their community, usually their own parents.  Should their mother be pregnant, it is not unheard of for the child to be forced to slice open his or her mother's belly (while she is alive) and have to eat the unborn child him/herself.  This paves the way for a series of psychological traumas that break down the structures of a healthy human mind.  This way, the LRA can mold this mind to accept unnatural actions as normal.  Secondarily, the child is warned that, even if they could escape, they would have nothing to go back to; their community would not want them after they performed a crime so heinous.  This is, sadly, not untrue.

The child is treated well, briefly, but will soon be beaten within an inch or his or her life (assuming he or she is not deemed dispensable).  If they survive, they are expected to keep quiet and follow the orders of their higher ups, or else they will be beaten again, or, worse, forced to beat and/or kill someone they care about within the LRA.

Girls are treated the same as the boys, until they hit puberty, when they are assigned a husband.  Men are assigned wives, based on their rank.  The highest ranked men get the most beautiful and useful wives.  They also are allowed the most wives.  Wives are also valued by their ranking within the LRA.  They are expected to feed their husbands' sexual appetites on demand, doing anything and everything that he wants.  Wives are expected to have sons and lots of them.  The punishment of wives who fail to meet these expectations is left to the discretion of their husbands.

Children who escape require years of rehabilitation, and, even then, they are rarely welcomed by their communities.  Many of them are so indoctrinated by Joseph Kony (especially those who are born into the LRA) that there is no way to restore them to a healthy mindset.  Joseph Kony has permanently addled them.

But there is a solution.

This is a moment I have craved and yearned after for years.  The time is now.  Watch this video and take action.  It's thirty minutes, but you don't even notice them ticking by.  This may be the most important thing you watch this year.  The end of this horrific plague is drawing near.


Make a difference HERE.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lent: Mysterious

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Blessings #12 & 13 - Kyle Funke and G-d, especially when they're collaborating
Monday night was rough.  I stayed up too late.  I ate too little.  I watched one movie too many.  The movie was called Keith.  It's one of those movies that turns up on Netflix with no listed rating, but the review seems promising, so, even though you're expecting to be disappointed, you watch it anyway.

I was not disappointed.  

The movie was really good, and I would recommend it, although I'd place it in the "A Walk to Remember" category.  Which, of course, got me thinking about Kyle, not that it takes much to do that these days.  One day, I will write his/my story on here, but that day is not today.  I promise it will come, though.  Until then, I'll let you make your assumptions.  They're probably pretty decent.

Last night, after finishing that story, my exhausted, hypoglycemic self broke down, and the tears poured again, as unquenchable as they were a month after Kyle passed.  But, for the first time, I didn't want to cry alone, and so I picked up the phone.  My friend heard me out, and got me laughing/calmed down, encouraged me to write to some of Kyle's friends and/or family and call some of my close friends.  He said that he would be glad to talk to me, but these people knew the circumstances better and would be able to better direct me to things I needed to hear.  I don't think he meant for me to do those things right then, but I did.

I got the lovely Alex on Skype, and we talked, and shopped, and laughed.  I explained the movie, but I didn't need to explain what was on my mind.  That's the thing about good friends - they don't need explanations.  When all was said and done, Alex said to me, "You know, that reminds me of what Tyson [the name is changed, so you know] is going through right now."  Alex knew that that wasn't what I wanted to hear.  I wanted to focus on me and my pain.  But Alex also knows that I can't when there's someone in pain around me.  She told me about Tyson's very own "P.S. I Love You" situation that had abruptly shown up in his life (and, as much as I'd like to give you more details than that, I need to respect Tyson's privacy on this one), but how he was still acting like his normal, cheery self.  She said that there was something about his eyes, though...

I know how the eyes can be the only telling feature.  Not that that was how it played out for me in the immediacy of Kyle's passing, but I ended up there a few days later.

So I wrote to Tyson, and I told him that I was available to listen, as I had a similar situation on my hands, only a bit further in than him.  He wrote back within hours, pouring out the extent of the situation.  You would cry if you read it.  It's painful.  It chips at your heart, but it almost seemed to be helping to heal mine.  Perhaps it was chipping away at the tumor of grief that had nestled itself into my heart.  But, now, I feel like all this hurt, all these sleepless nights are good for something.  And I feel like I have someone who understands my exact position, too.

I have community.

I'd like to say that I wish I didn't need that community, but I can't.  I know Kyle would do it all over again, based on the number of people he has brought Christ, simply through his death and unflinching faith in the face of it.  I can't wish for something that would be directly against his wishes, but I do look forward to the day that I see him again.

With whom does G-d collaborate in your life?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lent: May the force be with you!

***Don't forget to sign the petition (and this one too!) to save refugees from North Korea!***

Blessing #11 - Harrison Ford
Believe it or not, I'm not kidding.

Today, I watched a movie that had caught my attention in theaters a while ago (last summer, I think).  The previews looked great: Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, guns, Nevada, explosions... the aliens I was a bit sketchy on (let's face it, they really messed up the last movie they appeared in with Harrison Ford), but I was gung-ho about it, that is, until I saw the title.  I mean, really, who names a movie "Cowboys & Aliens"?  I promised myself right there that I would not be spending any money on that movie.  And I haven't.  It was a borrowed movie that I watched on a whim today.

Nonetheless, I am still thankful for Harrison Ford.  I can distinctly remember every one of his movies that I've seen, who I saw them with, what I thought about them (the movies and the people), why we were watching them, and about how old I was when I saw them.  That's saying something right there.

Harrison Ford has carved out time-markers in my life and made seemingly ordinary days/events incredibly special.  It may be laughable, but I'd count that as a blessing.  :)

What do you consider a blessing that others may think is a joke?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lent: Double Header

Blessing #9 - My students
Yesterday, the new semester started.  I wasn't really looking forward to it, but I even got there early.  I was afraid it was going to set the tone, when, as I was walking in, one of my students recognized me, and we had the following conversation:

Student: 안녕하세요.
Me: Hi!  How are you?
S: I'm bad.
M: Bad?  Why are you bad?
S: ... ... ... You.
M: Me?  Why me?
S: ... ... ... *runs away*

Oh goodness.  But I decided to work on convincing myself that he was attempting to have a sense of humor, while I also tried silencing the rant on respect that was threatening to overtake my brain.  I'm glad I was able to keep both to myself.

I got the pleasure of meeting all of my co-teachers for this semester.  They all speak almost fluent English and are rather nice.  I'm looking forward to working with them.

I got my schedule for this semester: I will be teaching third through sixth grade, and only see each class one day a week.  While I think that is unfortunate for their language-learning, it's nice for me, because my role is now very clearly defined.  It will be very hard to replicate the issues I had last semester, where no one was really sure who was in charge of the class.

I got my new textbooks for this semester:  While I'm still not thrilled with the student textbooks and supplement videos, the language they're learning actually looks like it's pretty good, so I'm feeling a bit better about the book choice, even if it was only coincidental that they will teach the kids language that will challenge them  (The books were only bought because they were a continuation of the third and fourth grade series).

As I was leaving lunch, I looked up to see a line of my 4th graders from last semester (now 5th graders). Their exuberance at seeing me made my heart leap and a smile grow on my face.  I was even more excited to see that one of them was the boy from that morning.  I went over to talk to them.  The first comment that they made was how my hair looked different (It grows astoundingly fast), and, for the first time, I found myself incredibly appreciative of Korea's rather "feminine" men and began trying to plot how they could teach American men to notice such things.  Then, one of my more memorable/excitable/IknowI'mnotsupposedtohavefavoritesbuthekindofisone students  (shown in the picture) looked at my and asked, "불고기가 맛있어요?" ("Is bulgogi delicious?" AKA - "Do you like this special Korean meat that we all like a lot?")  It was loud, so I didn't hear him clearly, which made me sad, because that's a sentence I learned how to answer recently: "네.  맛있어요.  하지만, 저는 알레르기가 있어요." (Yes, it's delicious, but I'm allergic.) But, one of the kids translated before the words processed in my head, so I responded in English, asking them if they knew what an allergy was.  I was impressed to find that they did.  I explained that I'm allergic to meat, and they were properly (although hilariously) horrified.  At that point, I realized how much I'd missed them.  I genuinely like those particular boys as people, and if they never grew up more than they have, I wouldn't be upset with them until they were about 23.  

I'm looking forward to Monday, that's for sure.

Blessing #10 - Music
Today, I went to my church translator's house for lunch with him and his wife.  I got really confused about their intentions, thinking they just wanted me over to practice some violin stuff for Palm Sunday, but, as I will be doing something with the International Church that day, I explained I wouldn't be available, and didn't bring my violin to the lunch.  As it turned out, the wife just wanted to make sure that I had friends in the church who were willing to speak English to me, because she remembered what a blessing it was when her church in America provided her with a small group of Korean-speakers.  Then, they gave me a Korean-English hymnal, which brought tears to my eyes.  I love the hymns, and I have missed them so much.  

The wife is the choir/music director at church, so she's pretty musical.  Nonetheless, I was surprised to see a piano in their home.  She asked me if we could do a couple hymns right then.  I picked the first one, deciding on "The Love of G-d is Greater Far."  She picked the next one, our church favorite: "How Great Thou Art."  This, of course, sent me into a wave of tears, which horrified them, but I pulled myself together, explaining that it was my grandfather's favorite hymn, and, even though he had passed two years ago, I still can hear his voice singing that song.  I haven't been able to sing that song since then, because I miss him so much.  But I wanted to sing it.  He would hate us not singing it.  So we sang it, and I closed my eyes and drank in the sound of his voice in my ear.  And, although I got choked up at points, I sang every last word.

I couldn't stop smiling all day.  My grandfather was with me today.

What are your grandparents' favorite hymns?  When was the last time you sang them?