Sunday, August 31, 2008

ways we've adapted

I've just come back from being out and realized that there are many ways in which we have fully adapted to life here in the Motherland.  Here are just a few:

1.  I prefer squatty potties over Western ones.  Cleaner...really, they are. 
 Just don't look down :)

2.  I eat my bread with the paper wrapped on the bottom of it.

3.  My husband wears a wife beater.  Only inside, don't worry.  The next step is to wear it out to dinner and role it way up his chest to keep cool.  

4.  I'd rather use chopsticks.  It makes me slow down and enjoy the food.

5.  I put vinegar on everything.  But I don't yet drink it as a chaser after eating cloves of garlic. 
6.  Our family has been known to do an occasional winter time snot rocket.  Sounds gross, I  know, but when it's dirty and just works.  

7.  We can only express certain emotions in Chinese.

8.  A meal doesn't feel totally complete without rice.

9.  We feel uncomfortable wearing our outside shoes in our home.  Reinforced by the aforementioned habit #6.

10.  The China national anthem runs through our heads at random times in the day.  Especially during the Olympics.

These are just a few.  And I'll admit, I'm solo on a few of these.  Brad would want to me let everyone know that he has kept his pride on a few of these.  But he HAS fully bought into the snot rocket thing.  

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Can you recite the Great Commission?

Try reciting the Great Commission from memory (Mt 28:19-20).

Most people (including us) typically omit one key phrase in it. (Probably 90% of the Christians we ask get it wrong). If you do, it radically alters the meaning and has leads churches astray, giving a false understanding of "discipleship". In verse 28:20, Jesus says that we are to teach them to obey all that I have commanded you." By contrast, let me quote one of the largest churches in America. On their website I literally cut and pasted this quote in their mission statement referencing the Great Commission: To "Teach them...all things" is "Discipleship." Notice the omission! Someone may say...this is just semantics. Wrong--think about these sentences, "Teach the workers to follow all the different kinds of procedures" or "Teach them to drive all the company vehicles" If we omit the key phrases, "to follow" and "to drive", we get different meanings. We don't want our nuclear scientists to merely know about the procedures but how to ENACT them. We don't merely want to know about the various kinds of cars. We want to drive them!

Consequently, in the churches, people miss this phrase and change (not simply reduce) "discipleship" to something it's not. This is what the Pharisees may have called discipleship...learning a lot and judging maturity by knowing "all the commands". Unfortunately for them and for us, Jesus says in John 15:14 and 14:15 that if we don't obey then we are neither his friends nor his disciples. Tough word. How many of us would stay at a church that emphasized this the way Jesus did, or actually quoted the Great Commission accurately? Many people would call such preaching "legalistic". If so, then Jesus has a "legalism" problem. Perhaps we then too need this problem.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"I Never Could Have Made It"

Two things (among many) that I've never understood: (1) The phrase "I never could have made it without...." (most of the time, this is an exaggeration. They would indeed have kept living. (2) The well loved verse in Hebrews 4:15, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." I know I'm the odd one perhaps, but these have befuddled me for years.

Until I have watch people around me whom I loved experience severe hardship. Here's my attempt to help us understand how such a truth from Scripture helps to explain the common phrase, "I never could have made it..."

When we suffer, we feel alone, like no one else can understand. After all, no one can truly experience another's pain firsthand. In one respect, we must all face our own sufferings alone. Yet, we also all know that we're not perfect, strong enough, smart enough, or whatever to master life's trials. We know we're still like lost children sometimes mystified by the "big world". This is when we can easily despair. IF no one has been where I'm at, felt what I've felt, then maybe I will fail, maybe I will die, maybe I will... Therefore, knowing that someone understands --EVEN IF they can't take way our problems--does help. At least we know someone else has made it through or is with you working through it. You're not alone. Therefore, there's a trace of hope. There's someone else who cares about us because they've experienced this part of life with us.

For those who look to Christ, this is a great comfort. One man has experience what we have faced and made it through by the grace and power of God. This is why we can sing everyday with psalmist, "This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Ps. 118:24).

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Olympic asterisks

People have asked how we got tickets and if they were expensive:

We got the tickets about a year ago from an American company.  We went into a lottery with millions of others.  The tickets ranged from $10-$20.  China didn't want lots of empty seats, so they made it really cheap to go.  

And with closing ceremonies tonight, this will probably be our last Olympic post.  Sad it's ending, but glad that our country will be able to breath again.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

One Family, One Dream

So here's a brief post on our Olympic's  extravaganza. First of all, 2 wonderful friends volunteered to manage the kid zoo while we were gone. They are both caring and brave. We boarded the train and arrived fairly late into Beijing the night before the competition.

Tired, we headed to Starbucks for the 'breakfast of champions.' As you can tell from the picture above, we had to leave early to get to the Water Cube in time. So almost 3 hours before it started, we headed out for a LONG journey to the Cube. It was pouring down rain. I have never seen that many security check-points in my life. But we made it.

The fam made some t-shirts for the event. The kids were only cheering for China, so we made the shirts and explained to them that we could cheer for BOTH countries. After they talked with Laura on the phone and made the t-shirts, they were really excited to cheer for America. Here's we are inside the Water Cube sporting the threads. We even had people take pictures of us in our shirts, albeit with some runny poster paint, from the rain.

Here's the gang right after she finished semi's. She dove wonderfully and was 6th after semi's. Her arm was hurting, but she performed wonderfully. We were some of the only Americans in the crowd, but we made sure to make ourselves known.

We had tickets for the semi-finals, but no way to watch the finals. But this man here (Laura's husband) hooked us up with some diving association lady who sold us some finals tickets!!! So in between matches, we went to a sponsor's area. Each Olympics, they have a selected sponsor that provides a place for the family and friends of the athletes to go and hang out, eat, check email, get massages and meet other families. Ya, it was really boring : ). Especially if boring is defined as watching events in hi def, while eating a lot of delicious free food, getting free massages, watching the girls volleyball win and then one hour later, sitting next to them. I even used the bathroom 3 times because the trash can next to the toilet opened automatically. After screaming of surprise the first time (and being in the men's bathroom by accident), I figured the place out and we had a blast.

The picture below is one of those immature jr. high pictures that you take of someone, but are actually taking the picture of the people in the background. It's the girl's volleyball team and their families behind our table. One little boy's hat said "Go Mom!"

I just couldn't resist her.

We hung with the family all day until her finals at 8 pm. They are all wonderful. And Brad was on cloud 9 after the massage lady asked if he was an athlete. From then on, everything became a competition between he and Eriek--including breakfast. I've never heard french toast referred to as "how's your sissy french toast, man?" We were almost late after our taxi driver got lost. I'm not sure how he had no idea where the Water Cube was, but he didn't have a clue. I asked tons of cops to help get her parents through the insane security line quicker and just got a "no way" from all of them. Something we've learned in China is that you just have to be patient and keep asking. You'll finally get what you need. So I found a compassionate volunteer who let them skip the line and were ushered to a personal security area. We got there with about 30 minutes to spare.

We had a blast watching her. She did great. It was emotional for everyone, as we watched her count down her last 5 dives of her career. As you probably saw on tv, you could javelin throw those tiny little Chinese divers across the water cube. The bronze medal winner is about 62 pounds. Selah's about 50 pounds....but she's SIX.

Here's we are outside the water cube, after her finals.

The bird's nest and torch. It was minutes after this picture that we got a phone call from our friend inside the nest to tell us about the American flubs on the 4 x 100.

The area is beautiful. Beijing did a fantastic job.

The day after her competition, their family and we all went to eat at a Tex-Mex place in town. We almost lost credibility when we told them there's a great Tex-Mex place called "Pete's". I guess that's not very Tex-Mex sounding-maybe Pedro's?? Anyway, and then we told them that they have great breakfasts. "Tex-Mex for Beijing?" But they were gracious and played along and ended up having a wonderful meal. We cannot believe we got to do so much amazing stuff. And we got a great chance to get to know everyone so much better. It was a nice break for us and a blessing to get to be a part of the Olympics.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

At the Sponsor's Center

We're here!! We are sitting right now at this Bank of America sponsor's thing. It's a place where the friends and families of athletes come to eat and hang out. It's amazing. I screamed in the bathroom because the trash can was automatic. I sat down and lo and behold, the trash can lid opened. There's free food, internet, massages, cokes, cheese and people speaking English.

It's this strange twilight zone. I know I'm in China, but my surroundings tell me otherwise.

And we just got tickets to FINALS!!! We are pumped. Laura's excited and ready to go. It's been pouring rain all morning, but we're hoping to walk around the complex in a little bit.

Off to the Games

We’re in Bei Jing and about to leave to watch Laura dive in the 10 M woman’s semifinals.  We are beyond excited.  We should be able to see her family today and hopefully her tomorrow.  



Jia You, Laura!! 



Saturday, August 16, 2008

Delighting in God's Demands (Part 2)

Ok, here's the explanation. (You can look below to see the 2 poems)

As you may know, anytime we move past superficial conversation, we are always eager to talk about joy, "Christian Hedonism", in the Christian life. Most people unfortunately think that joy is like icing on the nice but still extra thing. Unfortunately, these people miss the many commands of God to delight in Him, even pouring wrath upon Israel because they "did not serve he Lord you God with joyfulness and gladness of heart" (Deut. 28:47).

What is also missed though is that joy is not merely the root that causes us to obey, but joy in Christ is also the fruit of obedience. It is the "bait" per say. How many of us would obey more if we saw how clear Scripture is on this point? If we are serious about having joyful, happy lives, would we not obey more? We are SO WRONG when we think obedience is a kill-joy. How many regrets do we all have for the various sins of our past and present? Anyways, I have been asking the Lord for some explicit Scripture on this point. Here's the text that inspired the poems:

2 Corinthians 1:24, 2:9, "Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for by faith you stand...For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything."

Notice the parallels. Paul's work among them, which obviously includes his writing to them, was for their joy. YET, ask the question, "How does Paul see this task of making them joyful people?" Paul equates their joy with standing firm, that is, by being obedient in everything.
In other words, Paul says, "I want them to be joyful Christians. Therefore, I need to do everything I can to make them wholly obedient Christians."

What an enticement! This is instructive both to us and for our work with others. We think financial security, people pleasing, or not feeling so tired will make us happy. Yet, Paul shows us an example of one who said "our bodies had no rest" (2 Cor. 7:5) yet we are "always rejoicing" (6:10). Are these the words we live by and offer to others? (We admit, we have rarely been so faithful and bold as to seek obedience as the only way to joy).

Friday, August 15, 2008

China vs. Japan soccer

At 9 pm tonite, we'll get to go to our first every Olympic games!!  We are beyond excited.  So, baby sitter is in place and we're ready for a great, and really late, night.  It's China vs. Japan-which is an enormous match-up.  The Chinese really do hate the Japanese.  I didn't know much about it until moving here, but it's intense.  It's a long history lesson, but basically, the Japanese invaded China and commited tons of atrocities.  And still today have yet to acknowledge they happened. 

I mean, they will boycott Japanese made products, beat anyone who wears a japan flag, we even had a friend suggest to her classmates to learn Japanese so they could offend them better.  It's nuts.  So I'm sure it will be an intense match-up.  

Details to come...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

To Delight in God's Demands

Today, these 2 poems. Tomorrow (or soon), the explanation.

To Delight in God’s Demands

To delight in God’s demands

To obey with empty hands

Giving all we have

Owing all that He

May give what He commands

This is the joy we find

Not of the worldly kind

Taking what we must

All that we will lose

To this we were yet blind

Until Christ demanded all

Though stricken from the fall

Worthless in ourselves

Adding but our sin

Yet grace answered His call

Jesus died for every nation

That He would be our adulation

Not as water nor of bread

Neither friends nor comfort do

Let us join the celebration

Obey For Joy

How is joy a root?

In soil rich and deep

Yet also a fruit

So naturally sweet?

To what is joy a seed

That grows into a bud

Becoming the food we need

Though rising from the mud?

What shall we say to this?

A mystery I pray

The point we sometimes miss

There’s joy when we obey

There’s delight in real obedience

Not mere knowledge of what’s true

This root makes all the difference

For fruit we can not lose.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Red lights?!

Yesterday, the kids and I were out doing some errands. As we were walking home, Selah noticed a line of 3-4 cars behind the stop light. She asked me "mommy, why are all those cars stopped?"

Me: "Because they have a red light."

Selah: "They've never stopped before at the red lights. Why are they obeying the law today?"

Me: "the Olympics."

And then we were in a taxi last night and she got really frustrated because we again stopped at the stop light. She was again confused. We all commented on how strange it felt to be in a stopped taxi. We just haven't stopped at a red light in a while.

I'll have to admidt though, it's a lot slower when they are obeying the laws.

One more funny Olympic transformation of our city. They just built some jails to house people who won't show the police their bags. There are cops in every bus who are checking bags. If you refuse, you spend the rest of the Olympics in jail.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Opening Ceremonies!

20 minutes and counting...

08-08-2008 at 8:00 pm and here we are getting geared up for the opening ceremonies. Jia You, Bei Jing!

Nobody is outside, all is ready.

Friends and Fish Skins

We had a fantastic time with our friends! In the words of Selah "we all wept." as they left. It was so refreshing and encouraging. And only a few small bumps in the trip.

Here's Charis at the Olympic Park. Gettin' ready for 2024.

This woman actually ran with the torch the day or so before. So she's here flaunting the fact that she's way more important than we are and thus got to hold and run with the torch. But hey, at least we got a picture.

Here's the kids getting tossed around in a tradition carrier. This is at the Great Wall in our city. We took our friends and had a blast. One funny thing that happened the first night they were here regards their lodging. We had been trying for 3 months to get them a hotel room. Knowing the Olympics was coming, we kept trying to make a reservation (albeit all in vain.). They just kept saying it was too early. So I made sure they understood that the Olympics was indeed coming and that lots of people usually come into town to watch this thing. They just smiled, nodded and said that it was against the rules to reserve a room this far out-I mean, it was June. Anyway, long story short....we put them in a "hotel" near our apt. I put quotes around hotel, because it was more of an extra room above a local convenience store. We tried to sell it to our friends as a cozy, quaint little bed and breakfast (being above a convenience store would give them great access to all the food their wanted.) Ya, they didn't buy it. But we got them checked in and settled. That night they were at our apt. hanging out and about 9:15...knock...knock...knock. It was our friend from the convenience store. She said the police were searching the rooms and that they needed to stay here until it was worked out. It was our friends first night in our city.

So we waited until about 9:30 and our friend came back. The police said the "hotel" they were at was not big enough or nice enough for them to stay in. So 10 at night, our friends moved to another hotel. The same hotel that couldn't make early reservations. Apparently 10 pm the same night you want to stay was not too early. So our friends checked in and got some sleep.

They met some of our friends, we ate good food (and some cow stomach, fish skins, and fish eggs) and mutually encouraged one another.

So what brave soul will be next to venture to the Motherland?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Risking in Security

"By removing eternal risk, Christ calls his people to continual temporal risk."-JP

For so long I have bought into the lie that I must "earn the right to be heard" and that I must pre-package the good news in a neat and tidy little box, that it has paralyzed me from forging forward. But because I know where my eventual destiny will lead, I should have no fear in risking in this life. Pleasing the people around me will not only never be satisfying, but will also never happen. So each morning, I must remember I am called to risk because in Him I am eternally safe.
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