Friday, June 28, 2013

Everything pales

I've been happy this week.  I've been incredibly happy this week - more happy than I remember being for this long in my life, including the trip to Disney World when I was on Codeine the whole time (although, as I'm allergic to the stuff and it makes it nearly impossible for me to create long-term memories, I could just not be able to remember how happy I was then).  I've got a couple guesses as to what the root cause of this could be, but, to be honest, they're just that: guesses.  They're not even theories - educated guesses - they're just guesses, so I don't even feel like they're worth sharing.  The point is that I'm really happy.

This morning, as I was happily walking to school, grinning from ear to ear, I was thinking to myself about how I really don't know anything at all, and that was pretty cool.  Think about it.  Maybe I get upset because thus and such isn't going to happen... well, I mean... I don't know that.  I can't know that.  Even if I got a time machine and went to the future, I wouldn't know what was going to happen, because, hey - I can always do something different from whatever I did to make that future happen.

But then I realized that I do know something. I love G-d, and that's pretty cool. But what blew me away was that I also know that G-d loves me.  When I realized that, everything around me literally paled; it all faded into the background.  Really, the only thing that truly matters is that G-d loves me and I love Him.

It sounds cliche until you really get it, and then it feels like your mind just exploded.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The G-word

And the L-word.  And B-word.  And the T-word.

I think it's odd the LGBT culture incites such explosions within the Church, that homosexuality and everything else we associate with it is one of the leading hot topics in Christianity.  To be honest, I'm actually blown away by the number of things that we could substitute for that cleanly that would not affect the point of what I'm about to say.

The topic of homosexuality reportedly only crossed Jesus' lips a debatable one or two times.  Now, I know this is the start of an argument with which you're probably familiar, but I'm not going down that road.  What I mean to say is this:

I'm not saying Jesus does or doesn't approve of LGBT people.  I'm saying that Jesus had other things He wanted us to deal with before we ever began that debate.

When you think about how many times Jesus mentions orphans or children, how many times He mentions feeding the hungry, how many times He mentions caring for widows and the elderly, how many times He mentions lust, how many times He mentions selflessness... Suddenly, we realize that there is an entirely different picture in play.

Have you ever noticed how our favorite pass times involve pointing out what we deem to be flaws in others?  It's a lot easier than turning inward and working on ourselves.  In fact, in my own way, I'm doing it right now.  We love to say our piece.  We hate it when that piece is aimed at us.  But that doesn't mean it's right.

1 Corinthians 12:12-26 : Unity and Diversity in the Body

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now, imagine this:
Picture a Church where each member of the body delved into the scriptures, focusing solely on the message G-d had for him or her that day, and, rather than going and talking about the amazing "word G-d had given" that day, put it into practice and let the word speak for itself.  Can you imagine how this Church would change the world?  Can you imagine how the Church would unite?

I think we're missing a critical part of G-d by being so focused on slashing fallacies out of our brothers and sisters.  Very few are called to be surgeons, and those who are never approach a person with a sword to do their work.  The rest of us are called to wait anxiously in the waiting room, praying and pacing, hoping and supporting each other in body, the patient in spirit.  Before we open our mouths, perhaps we should ask ourselves: What role have I been called to play?  What role am I trying to play with my words?

I see no record of Christ calling us to focus more on what other people are doing wrong than what we are doing wrong.  We're called to be constantly improving ourselves, constantly growing closer to Him, constantly focusing on Him.  If we start nit picking at someone else's life, we divert our attention; we're no longer gazing solely at G-d, we're staring intensely at another person.  How much do we sabotage ourselves in the name of "helping" others?

I would be thrilled if we could set aside this debate in favor of something more productive.  Let's focus on doing the things that Christ made painstakingly clear.  Let's make sure that we ourselves are aligned with Him, before we start trying to mold others into our own images.  Yes, we are called to make disciples, but we are called to make HIS disciples, not our own.  This means that there are going to be times when the people we helped to bring to Christ are going to act in ways that would be different than our inclinations.  We can point this out to them, lovingly, but, in the end, the most we can do for them is point them back to G-d and pray.  The key here is that it all hinges on relationships.  A stranger cannot permeate your  beliefs and opinions, cannot change your actions.  Only a personal, loving relationship can introduce someone to a personal, loving relationship with G-d, which will then induce change.  So, if you truly wanted someone to change and weren't just in it for the sport of bullying people, wouldn't you make a point of seeking out the people with whom you disagreed and attempting to build a relationship with them?  I know Christ did...

Just some thoughts that have been bothering me lately.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. -Matthew 7:3-5

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Kristin is the little ray of sunshine in my week.  She's got a Korean name, too, but she generally goes by her English one, and, as always, I'm quite keen to protect the privacy of the younger people in my life.

I met Kristin through her brother.  He was a student at my school last year.  I met him during sports (read: field) day when he flipped over the handlebars of a bike, landing on another student.  I was the first teacher on the scene.  He was fine, but the next day he tracked me to my classroom.  I thought for sure I was being sued.  But no, he just wanted me to tutor his younger sister.  I agreed, very warily.  You see, I cannot accept money for any job I do here outside of working for the public schools.  To do so gives Korea grounds for my expulsion.  So I made it clear repeatedly: I will not be accepting money for what I was doing.  Her parents were uncomfortable with this, but they found ways to make up for it, mostly by way of food.

Kristin and I started meeting weekly, quickly going well over our allotted hour of study time.  I found myself thoroughly enjoying our time together, especially since she didn't really need much tutoring.  She had gone to an international school in Prague, where she had learned English.  Somehow, she'd managed to retain it, despite living in Korea for the vast majority of her life.  (Don't you wish you could learn languages the way kids do?)

One day, I don't really remember how it came up, we started talking about religion.  She had no idea what I was talking about, despite my attempting to incorporate the Korean words I knew on the topic.  To make my point, I told the story of my religion and my faith in Christ.  Halfway through, she understood what I meant by the word "religion," but, having had the opportunity to witness to her opened, I wasn't about to stop; I continued my story.  At the end, she looked me in the face and said,

"Is it okay for me to love [Jesus] if my family loves [Buddha]?"

I told her it was, and she told me that she wanted to follow Christ.  We prayed, and, from that week on, our English lessons turned into lessons about Christ and His teachings with the help of the Korean-English Bible my church had given me.  The Bible daunted her, but she was eager to learn the stories from me.

To be honest, I didn't expect her decision to stick.  I fervently prayed that her fear of her family finding out wouldn't overwhelm her (as she was terrified).  I found myself on my face, begging G-d to guide me on the right path and keep me from saying something wrong to her.  I asked Him to teach her Himself, and lock her into His love.

Weeks went by, and never once did she waver.  But she was scared.  Oh, she was scared.  So I made a bold move.  I invited her to church.

It was Shrove Tuesday, and the English church was having a pancake supper.  The pastor's daughter was the same age as Kristin, and I thought they would get along.  Figuring I could sell it on the English angle, I asked her parents.  I'm sure my face voiced all of my surprise when they agreed she could go. Even up to the last moment, I kept expecting a call to say she was cancelling, but it never came.  Her father even drove us to the church, promising to pick us up afterward.  I was confused, but I was happy, and even happier when Kristin and the pastor's daughter disappeared to go play computer games together.  Kristin had such a wonderful time that she ran up to her father when he reappeared and told him that she was planning to go to church every week from then on.  He was shocked, but he wasn't discouraging.

Her mom, however, was not in that same boat.  Her mom was clearly uncomfortable with what was happening, but she never showed me anything but the utmost friendliness and respect.  I feel bad about that, but I know that in the grand scheme of things, it's more important for me to make her uncomfortable at this point.

Then, things started to make me realize how entirely in G-d's hands the whole situation was:

  • I bought Kristin a children's Bible story book in Korean.  She read it cover to cover every week without any prompting.
  • I tried to explain simplified versions of things like the Trinity.  She corrected me.
  • I found a pack of tarot cards in her room, and briefly explained what they were and what the Bible says about them.  She asked me to destroy them.
  • Her mom consulted with a fortune teller about the situation.  The fortune teller said "it would be bad for [Kristin] to be allowed to keep her Bible in her room," so the Bible was moved.  The story book, however, was allowed to stay.
I asked G-d for help, and slowly started feeling like I should have her memorizing scripture.  So we made that move, and I couldn't believe the results.  Suddenly, her Bible had moved back into her room. She told me that her dad was helping her to memorize them.  At first, I felt like he was off-put by it, but within a couple weeks, she was telling me how much he liked the assignment.  In fact, he was trying to memorize them too.  I don't know if there's anything to read into that aside from the fact that memorizing English scripture resonates with the way that most Korean people like to learn English (memorizing phrases and conversations), but I'm hopeful, I'm amazed, and I'm excited to be part of this journey.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Vacation's just around the corner.

I'm so excited.

If you think my eyes look glazed and puffy
here, that's because they were... due to the
temper tantrum I'd just had at having to
be in a photo with my brother.
This summer I'm going on vacation to ITALY with none other than my little brother!  It makes me giggle to think that we're voluntarily going on vacation together... Believe it or not, there was a time when I opted to throw guinea pigs at his face in an attempt to get him to leave me alone.  He even ended up with the nickname "Bug," because I needed a name to call him when he was bugging me that my parents wouldn't immediately see through.  The name ended up sticking, though, and I almost exclusively call him that now... not that he really bugs me that much anymore, but you know how these things go.

Anyway, I can't think of anyone I'd rather visit Italy with.  We're so excited, and we're finding it hard to be reasonable in our 10-day itinerary.  Naturally, my love for the pope has caused a demand for Vatican City (and an attempt to meet the man).  Bug's love for science has us traipsing out to see various smart guys' homes.  Our collective love for puns is demanding the eating of pizza at Pisa, but we're looking for more input.

What is a "must-do" in Italy?

Help us plan one most excellent adventure. :)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Dear Tiananmen Square

Dear Tiananmen Square:
We were conceived together, you and I
We shadow each other
We are kindred

You were born out of death, a country torn and divided
While I was still a burgeoning hope, not yet ready for the world
But we were announced to the world at the same time
An accusatory message there, a celebrated one here -
They both were read with tears, though not of the same strain.

Dear Tianamen Square:
We were dedicated to our causes at the same time.
With the diligence of youth we were presented to the world
They lifted their voices, proudly proclaiming,
"Here and now we solemnly promise to see this through
"No matter the cost."

You and I, we didn't know what that meant then.
We didn't know how we would grow.
We only knew that we were in the hands of those who cared so much.

Dear Tianamen Square:
We're really of the same character - stubborn and reckless,
Inciting anger among those who don't understand
Ready to be the face of the fight.
It's only later that we wonder if we meant to do it at all.
If I had known, would I have acted differently?
If you had known, would you have?

Would I have spoken out?  Would I have quieted myself?
Would you have shaken, toppling buildings and cracking roads apart?
Would we have been happy with our courses had we known their outcomes?
I can't be sure.  Can you?

Dear Tianamen Square:
We both know what it is to be under a strict reign.
We both know what it is to rebel against it.
We both know what it is to face consequences we didn't expect.

We are united by our opposites.
My blood was drawn as you drank in that which fell on you.
My skin was pricked as shells rebounded off of you.
I screamed out for my mother, as you heard the screams echoing around you, in you.
And then we breathed the silence:
Me in my temporary comfort and you eternalized as that without it.

Dear Tianamen Square:
We are both unended, unsure, a story left unfinished.
The question lingers:
What happened to him - the man who was so bold?
Did you encourage him in your own stalwart way?
Would you do the same for me, as I endeavor to fill his shoes?

Will you watch over me or are you tired?
Are you still washing away the blood that is deep within you now?
Have you seen the ends of actions?
Have you given into the silence?
Or are you still bold, only waiting?

Tianamen Square timeline and news reports