Tuesday, December 22, 2009



doing the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over

and again

I'm beginning to pay attention to the beauty of repetition. If you knit one stitch and it's a knot. But if you do that 50,000 times and purl some too, you end up with art that you can wear or warm yourself with.

If you play a sour chord once, it's a mistake. But do it a couple times over eight measures and it's jazz.

The sun rises every single day, rain or shine, heart breaking or soaring, in failure or triumph.

Humans may not be very skilled at consistency, but we certainly need it more than we let on.
I think we have a couple of different reasons for undervaluing repetition, such as:

~"the definition of an idiot is someone who does the same thing over again and expects different results." (Einstein? someone smart)

we fear destructive ruts. as well we should.
Addiction exists, and that in itself can make the thought of any repetition frightening.

~Our hearts restlessly look for new things, and our minds need to feast on new concepts, ideas, hopes, dreams

but I still haven't found what I'm looking for.
(U2... and the whole human race. Even if we search after God, we are still in the shadowlands and long for Jesus and His Kingdom to fully come.)
we all long.

I guess more than anything, patterns are powerful. They can destroy or transform a life and the world--for the patterns of our lives always intertwine, either in painful knots or in something truly lovely.

Growing up is a process of realizing that there are powerful patterns in place--call them laws or grace or music--and something does hold the stars apart and the planets in harmony.
At first, we children don't quite trust the pattern of days and months, and Christmas may never EVER EVER come. If a parent leaves the room they may not ever come back.

And so we cry.

As we grow older we (at least presume to) get a handle on time and days, and can focus our energies on breaking OUT of the pattern in which we find ourselves. Then, upon success, we try to figure out how the heck one creates a new pattern!

Maybe eventually we come full circle, realizing that the patterns of life are constantly being created, and nothing is for certain.
Sometimes Christmas won't come for your loved one that died in the fall. Sometimes parents don't come back.

Then living consciously becomes what it always has been-- a gift that requires oceans of courage and grace and love--
none of it our own.

sometimes in the dead of winter we need more of it--love--grace--God--to sustain even the simple ongoing patterns of life.

even if Jesus was born in the summer, I'm glad that Christmas is in the bleak midwinter.

in the bleak midwinter
frosty winds made moan
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone
snow had fallen,

snow on snow
snow on snow.
In the bleak midwinter

long ago.

what can I give him,
poor as I am
if I were a shepard, I would give a lamb.
if I were a wise man I would do my part
yet what can I give him: give my heart.

(In the Bleak Midwinter)

Monday, November 23, 2009

sea glass

i try to be honest
try to be kind
and honestly leave
when i know that it's time

i know that it's time

~the weepies ("hideaway")

I don't think I do well with self-inflicted transitions. I could blame it on my childhood (what can't you blame on your childhood?), but I think it's hard for everyone to step out into a change that is not required.

Right now I'm wading into something new. The final details are slowly coming into reality like sea glass bobbing in on the last night tide.

I miss the ocean, can you tell?

One vacation in Heng Chun (south Taiwanese city) we were on one of our almost daily beach excursions, complete with swan floatie and sunscreen (I hope. Oh I hope). I fought past the surf and dog paddled, safe within my inner tube. After I had drifted and gotten tired I turned around and started kicking my way to the beach.
Halfway there the waves picked up and I, already recklessly holding the tube from the outside, slipped

into green saltiness.

I held my breath and opened my eyes, looking up at the sun wafting through increasingly darker shades of green-gray. Saw the black circle of my inner tube.

The next half second I was up, up--spluttering, eyes itching, clawing at the tube. Dad and some other people were nearby and helped me get back to the beach, where I recovered in the shade and rubbed my stinging eyes. I didn't go back in for a whole half hour.


I think I'm still rubbing the salt out of my eyes. Feeling rough sand, a million colors, reassuringly under my feet but still battling the suck of the waves--pulling the sand from under me even as I walk the last few feet to sun-baked sand.

I just hope that I'll take sufficient courage to start what I've already begun and turn away from what I have already left.

Friday, November 20, 2009

call or family and the red white and blue (several)

I have been living in the United States for 5 years and 5 months. And have not been overseas for 3 years.

it's been a long, long.... long time. (Beatles)

When I moved to California for college, I was afraid that I would get stuck in the U.S. and never live overseas again. Now I'm not really afraid, but am still wary of it. Part of me thinks that if I don't move overseas soon, I won't actually live there. And I don't want to get to the point where I'm okay with that.

I appreciate the U.S. very much. Especially its value on creativity and the arts, hobbies... garage sales... chatty people... free summer concerts... fireworks in July... and lots more.

above all--
glorious beauty. Almost every single day I look outside and think, "Wow, I get to live here."
It's the loveliest place I've ever lived, as far as space and mountain and a clear blue dream of a sky (last phrase borrowed from e. e. cummings, I think) are concerned.

And of course there are things that make me itch for a long plane ride to the equator or just to somewhere far, far away.
But I don't really want to get into all that here, and really things don't bother me as much anymore, unless I'm already grumpy. Only one thing I will mention--it always really bothers me that on U.S. holidays, flags invade pretty much every local church, and the global flags are taken down from outside the World Prayer Center, replaced by the red white and blue (U.S.'s, not Taiwan's. Just in case anyone was wondering which red white and blue flag I was talking about). hehehe.

the church does not cease to be a house of prayer for all nations on Veteran's Day.
Now, don't get me wrong. I truly and deeply appreciate what the U.S.'s armed forces do for this nation, and have had the privilege of seeing more firsthand this year what that entails. I truly respect and support them.

But the church is the CHURCH---catholic { = world-wide}, global, united.
It is not the American church. Why take down flags that, for many, are a rare reminder that there is life outside this great nation?

(yes, the church is local--by all means, pray for your military in church, but do not forget that we are more than what we see.) There, hopefully that covers offenses.

As far as travel goes, God has been tiding me over with little international surprises, such as~

On Wednesday two women came into Wisdom Tea House, and one of them chatted with Tom about possibly adding a vegan dish, other than salad, so that her husband could visit. She was very polite, and the accent was so familiar that at first I didn't even notice it until slowly it dawned that....

"Ma'am, have you ever been to Singapore?"

"Yes, I grew up there!"

She was Singaporean, and had moved away in '98, just when we had moved there! And had lived in Jurong, and also missed chicken rice. Her Swedish husband had picked up some Singlish from her, and actually dropped an, "Ok, lah!" in a business meeting!

She said I was very Singaporean, which was very nice of her (my Singlish isn't great). :)

I excitedly told Mary Anne, the cook (who's Irish and prophetic and just an awesome lady) and Stevie, one of the dishwashers, but realized I couldn't explain how rare or deep the two minute connection was.

Last Sunday I went to New Life and was early for the prayer meeting but too late for the evening service, so I slipped into the last 40 minutes or so of a Perspectives class (class about missions, international ministry). The speaker grew up in Nigeria and was involved in World Outreach, I think.

I appreciated what he was saying, and after he mentioned that his grandparents had also been in Nigeria, and his father grew up mostly in boarding school in Africa and eventually going back there as a missionary---I determined to try to talk with him after the session.

I asked him (Tom??) if he knew Ruth Van Reken, who wrote, "Letters Never Sent" (re boarding school in Africa, child of missionaries and a missionary) and co-wrote "Third Culture Kids" with David Pollock. She was my group leader and counselor for my re-entry seminar right before college, with other missionary kids. I love her.

And he did!! He had gone to an international school in Nigeria with her sister. And "Letters Never Sent" rips him up, too.

I had a burning question that I had to ask him: "Do you think we are called first to our families (called to be a godly wife, mother, husband, etc.), or to the mission field (career)?"
He translated it to be the classic "family or call" dilemma, although I think that family roles are callings, too.

Joe said that his grandparents would have definitely said, "call first." And his father would have admitted that there was a terrific price to pay (he was the one who barely saw his parents, in boarding school). His father and mother moved back to the U.S. when their kids were in high school specifically to ensure that they transitioned and that they were connected as a family.

And he himself? He didn't really give me a straight answer, but just that he had 'reservations' about the 'call first' mentality.

This question means a lot to me.

Used to assume that you had to 'hate your father and mother' and take up your cross.
Then I realized (loophole?) no, you're called to be your children's parent as much as you're called to any nation.
Now I'm questioning whether that is truly Biblical, or if I'm twisting the gospel into something less offensive.

AND I've decided that if I ultimately decide that we are supposed to put ministry first, I will never ever have kids. If family comes first, then of course I would love to have kids. If not, I'll work in a school or orphanage or something. :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

knives and policemen

Well it's been a while since I wrote a Taiwan story... my excuse is six, count 'em, six, part-time jobs.  I couldn't believe it when I added them all up! 

~Piano/voice teaching at my apartment
~same at a studio downtown (don't get as much $, but get a regular paycheck instead of juggling parent's schedules and cheques)
~Wisdom Tea House
~Substitute (music at Mann)
~Accompanist for D11 (again, Mann)
~Mary Kay.

AND  I just found out that I get to play/sing at the Wall, an IHOP branch that just started!!
(unpaid) :)

I really love this schedule.  Every day is different and sometimes it's a juggling act, but I love the variety and it just feels like a vacation after the M.A.T. (Mother of All Trials).  hehehe

OK Taiwan stories (thank you whoever reads this for persevering!)

It was a dark and stormy night.

We were just finishing up dinner which was normal, complete with random bites from our moody cat.  After being continually strangled by the little mei mei and enduring bloody complications from being neutered, she would nightly slink in between the dining room chairs and lash out at the most convenient ankle.

But the cat's a whole other blog.

Dad got a phone call from one of our missionary colleagues who worked with gang members and drug addicts, and was a single woman to boot.  She said that it was Xin Gao (made up name...hopefully I didn't swear) again; he had been threatening her, and she knew he carried a knife.  

Tonight he seemed dangerous, and could she come over so that we could decide if he could be reasoned with?

Of course.

We kids were almost done with the nightly shower lineup when our missionary friend and Xin Gao arrived; we went out to the living room to say hello, and I remember being surprised that he looked very normal.  My parents didn't tell us anything about violence or his knife, but I sensed tension and had overheard a bit of the phone conversation.  Which of course I didn't tell my littler siblings.

After the brief introduction, Mom herded us down our little hallway into our bedroom and shut the door.  After some time, voices rose slightly in volume, and our missionary friend was instructed to go into our parent's bedroom.  Part of the tense situation was that Xin Gao wanted to her to stay in the discussion, and possibly wanted to have a closer relationship than was appropriate (but this is speculation).

Almost immediately after she went into my parent's room, Xin Gao's voice climbed to a new intensity, and soon he was shouting, with Dad almost yelling back just in order to be heard.
I started sobbing.

I understood enough Chinese to be scared, and was listening more than my brother and sister, whom Mom was avidly trying to distract.  

Then Xin Gao started repeating, "I want to see [the missionary's name], I'm going to talk to her," and loud footsteps started down the short hallway.

Mom, serene and smiling, stood up and stood against our door.  (our room was adjacent to our parents room, where the other missionary was).  I had been crying with my head in her lap but then grew very quiet, wondering if she would be thrown into the wall: our door didn't lock.

After a few seconds and after crossing half of our short hallway, Dad managed to convince Xin Gao that he must come back to the living room and sit.

I don't remember anything right after that; I think I was just exhausted of being terrified. 
After we had been in bed, awake, for an hour, I went to the bathroom and saw Taiwanese policemen, their uniforms garishly out of place in our apartment, standing in our living room.  Several had already taken Xin Gao away.

I didn't grow up in a really dangerous place like some missionary kids who've had to flee from war zones or anything, so I've had to milk this story for all it's worth. :)

Time for teaching piano.

Friday, November 6, 2009


My favorite section of The Economist is the weekly obituary.  The article never seems morbid but is instead a tribute to unfailingly remarkable lives.

 The  Oct. 10-16th magazine, which I just read today, detailed the life of Marek Edelman, the last military commander of the Warsaw ghetto uprising.  I'm pretty sure you can find the article online somewhere, but to summarize, this man kept faith in horrible conditions, with thousands dying from hunger, disease, and more being deported to death camps.  He escaped from the ghetto uprising by crawling through tunnels full of dirty water (reminds me of "Shawshank Redemption") only to take part in another Warsaw rebellion.  It lasted 63 days before Nazi forces broke through and soon razed the city. 

There's more... but what really caught my eye was that he had written a book describing the "ecstatic moments of happiness, when terrified and lonely people were thrown together" in the Warsaw ghetto. (quoting the article, not necessarily his book, 91).

This seems to fly in the face of other books imagining humanity's response to horrific conditions (e.g. "The Plague," Camus, or "Lord of the Flies," Golding).  In those books, the majority of people succumbed to apathy and/or animal instincts.  
Just makes me wonder how much of Edelman's book is written on very selective memories, or if the ghetto did somehow bring out the great things in people. 

My favorite quote of the article seemed to be also taken, although not directly, from Edelman's book:

"Man was naturally a beast, but love could overwhelm him, and love could also be taught."

Perhaps that's the only way to teach love-- to overwhelm someone with it.

A bit more:
Edelman refused to talk about the ghetto uprising for decades, did not embrace heroism, and also did not express hatred for Nazis.  He was a Polish Jew who experienced anti-Semitism all his life. 
He was a cardiologist and a chain smoker.  Somehow that seems to fit his life experience.

"Someone who had known so much death bore all the more responsibility for life."
~marek edelman

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Over the Rhine

I had the chance to see "Over the Rhine" last night.   It was perfect.  Artsy, intimate and crowded venue, great opening band, and of course, the jazzy/folk/blues "Over the Rhine."  They are a couple (with a few others for a full band) with the husband playing the piano and bass and guitar and background vocals, and the wife singing and playing the acoustic guitar and piano.  She has a voice you can live in.

         There's something about career musicians that have been doing their thing for a couple of decades-- if they have stayed truly musicians, then there's always (I've observed, at least) a loose-handed way about them.  Kind of a careless manner and a lazy grace in the way they talk about themselves and music.  Then it begins---and even when they're not playing, emotion and blood sweat and tears pours from their fingers... you see why they have to do this.

I used to think about all the different careers, and concluded that the arts were a form of prostitution.  You must sell yourself for all to see and hear and use as they will. 

I still think that's true, but instead of prostitution I think it's more true to say: you either sell something or sell yourself.  

And if you're really blessed, you either give something or give yourself.

If you're in business you sell something.  You could extend this to teachers, engineers, etc (sell/give ideas, knowledge, technology).  Of course, this gets fuzzy because you do give yourself as an educator and as all of those jobs--your time and energy and talents.


But in the arts when you're specifically creating something-- you are selling your lifeblood.  your heart, your soul.

         That's why for the time being anyway, I'm a closet songwriter who shares with a very limited audience.  Not because I have an ethical dilemma with selling/giving songs to everybody, but I don't want to yet.  It's a cowardice that I'm fine with for now.

         The switch between selling and giving is interesting, because if you're a professional artist, for example, you're selling yourself.... but can do so in a posture of giving.    I think that quite a few artists who originally were givers became merely salespeople... manufacturing their trade just for the money, without letting creation affect them.  That's horrific.

         But the ones that I most admire---and I sensed this in "Over the Rhine"--are the ones that bear the scars of continual creation, the stretch marks and the pain of birthing something new into creation.  It costs them.

If it's any good, it's a part of them.  And whether they get paid or not (I hope they do, always) , their creation is a gift.


One of my favorite songs is one they opened with, and has a verse that goes:

I don’t wanna waste your time

With music you don’t need

Why should I autograph the book

That you won’t even read

I’ve got a different scar for every song

And blood left still to bleed

But I don’t wanna waste your time

With music you don’t need"

         This touches on other things--the connection between musician and audience, and really the connection of all humankind, and how music is not possessed but experienced and entered into.... but that's too much for this blog now.  I'll end with another of their songs.  When I first heard it, I realized with a lovely shock what it was about, but then forgot about it and got to realize again when they performed it last night.

the Trumpet Child

The trumpet child will blow his horn

Will blast the sky till it’s reborn

With Gabriel’s power and Satchmo’s grace

He will surprise the human race


The trumpet he will use to blow

Is being fashioned out of fire

The mouthpiece is a glowing coal

The bell a burst of wild desire


The trumpet child will riff on love

Thelonious notes from up above

He’ll improvise a kingdom come

Accompanied by a different drum


The trumpet child will banquet here

Until the lost are truly found

A thousand days, a thousand years

Nobody knows for sure how long


The rich forget about their gold

The meek and mild are strangely bold

A lion lies beside a lamb

And licks a murderer’s outstretched hand

The trumpet child will lift a glass

His bride now leaning in at last

His final aim to fill with joy

The earth that man all but destroyed

(piano ending... theme, jazz improv...theme)  Satchmo is a nickname for Louis Armstrong ('satchel mouth'--great for playing the cornet). Thelonious Monk was an amazing jazz pianist.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

sulfur baths and dark mountains

Taiwan story of the week!

When my family lived in Taipei, Taiwan we would go up into the lush, tropical mountains for mini-vacations.  I can't remember the name of the place...guo lian, I think.  
Anyhow, we'd borrow the OMF van and drive a few hours outside the city until the air smelled green and all the trees were heavy with mist.  There was a resort that had warm, smelly sulfur water for all its running water, and had a man-made river of sulfur water curving through its grounds.
We always seemed to go on an outrageously rainy weekend, and so most of our time was spent in the pouring rain which was actually chilly up in the mountains.  The first time we arrived, my parents unloaded all of our stuff and wondered what they could do with three little kids cooped up in a room with just tatami mats and a sulfur bath.
But I really wanted to go play outside on the playground, and so after putting on raincoats, we all ventured out into the wet.  You haven't really lived until you've experienced a tropical rainstorm: 'torrential' just doesn't cut it.

Our raincoats were clad in vain, but I had a great time riding the flying fox and playing on all but the most slippery play equipment.  When our lips were decidedly blue, we all filed back and cooked beans and hot dogs (but I remember ramen noodles, I think.  at any rate, Dad had brought a bunsen burner) and waited our turn for the sulfur bath.

Now I've heard many times that sulfur smells like rotting eggs, but to me it just smells very strongly.  It has a smell so earthy that is repulsive only until you let yourself get used to it.  Anyhow, all the sulfur water was very warm, even the outside river through the resort. 
We would wear our swimsuits, put on sweatpants and a sweater, walk through the rain, and then quickly strip our warm clothes and jump into the steaming sulfur water.

We must have gone to the sulfur resort quite a few times, and only one time was it sunny.  That visit we made use of the trails for the first time, and discovered a beautiful hidden waterfall with rainbows in the spray.

But all those times with the rain made the mountains look like a classic Chinese watercolor picture.  My parents have a scroll with dark mountains and misty trees and the illusion of rain, and that captures something of the mountain vacations.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

snowy thoughts about life (and trumpets!)

It's snowing furiously outside.  I'll have to go back out tonight to accompany a choir/orchestra concert, and am hoping I get all the page turns right and remember to pause after a certain introduction.  But overall, it should be pretty stress-free and fun.  

Just wanted to jot down a new thought:  what if I don't have to make use of every opportunity that comes my way?  What if some are purely for enriching my life and can be left undeveloped?

This seems rather obvious, but as I often sorely need the obvious restated, I'll plunge ahead.

I had the opportunity of substitute teaching for a friend, the band teacher where I interned for choir.  It was strange going back to the school again, and I was very nervous about subbing. 

But after a few brief moments of panic, I found the music folders and things unfolded well.  I remembered more students than I thought I would, and they were all cooperative (mostly.  very mostly).  We went through different songs while I conducted and tried to bring people in.  It was near their concert, and so other than keeping the percussion and everybody else together and changing tempos, they didn't need much help.  

I just felt lucky to be able to be a part of it.  
That day as I was talking to a friend, she mentioned that I had taken those music ed. technique classes in college, and would I take a band teacher position.
My first reaction was, "are you CRAZY?"  

But then, I think I could do it.  It wouldn't be very pretty at first, and would take a ton of work.  But in, say, a beginning program, it could work.

That night I went to Revival Town (hooray! It's pretty much my favorite time of week), and it was a wonderful time of worship and had a real emphasis on God's love, and living fundamentally from an identity of God's beloved.  Which is what God has been emphasizing to me for years and years and years, and which is a posture I so often slip out of.  
It always bugs me when people say, "Well, God is a God of love, but He's also a God of justice."

When did those become mutually exclusive?  

Where is justice without love?   Love is the thesis, the structure in which all resides.

ANYHOW  I was thinking, during the prayer meeting, about how I was filled today by middle school band music.  Who would have thought?  

My next thought was, "What do I do with that?"  What should I do with that?

And I felt that maybe God, or maybe just me, thought, "Why should I have to do anything with it?  What if I never direct band again, and don't have to worry about remembering if a trumpet is a P5 above or below C?  What if that was just something to bless me, for my joy?"

and I liked that idea.

GOD never wastes anything, but I don't think I have to worry about using all the little bits of my life to their fullest advantage.  God can work them in.

peace be still.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

boys and girls debating

This morning I had a delightful breakfast/brunch with a few girls from a church small group.  It was great to chat and learn how to make potato pancakes and where to buy the best cheapest orange juice, among other things.  There was also some deeper conversation as the coffee kicked in, from Hudson Taylor and Amy Carmichael to Corrie Ten Boom.

Which led into a rather intense discussion about whether or not God allows/makes suffering happen.  One of the girls believed that since Christ came, God doesn't allow suffering, and Joni Erikson (sp?) Tada, for example, wasn't believing God for healing, and things along that vein.  I think part of the difference in belief was just semantics, because we all believed that God was all-powerful and good.


I just noticed how dramatically different it is to talk about an issue with a group of men than it is with a group of women.
Stereotype warning stereotype warning: I know this does not hold true with all men and all women.  I know plenty of exceptions on both sides.  But lately I've been discussing/debating more with guys than with a group of girls.  AND this is what I've noticed--

Women do everything in their power to keep the relationship in tact, thereby keeping the difference in opinion light and always lightening their viewpoint by saying something like, "but that's just me....I've found this to be true...it seems like it would be...." etc.

Women also use a lot of personal life examples, and so turn the debate into a bonding session. "When I was a girl....I have a friend that.... just last year this happened, and it really...." etc.

If it's getting a bit too heavy, they're more than willing to back off and affirm the relationship and restate points of commonality, usually ending with a hug and a "I'm so glad we talked."

And typically after the discussion, there's a post-debate debriefing with members from both sides (separately).  This sounds like gossip, but I think it's usually just an individual relationship-check-up to make sure that all the girls involved still love each other.

I've also had quite a few girlfriends who simply would not debate.  They were uncomfortable with the idea.  (and of course, had lots who LOVED to debate).  generally, generally, generally.

The MEN, on the other hand, seem to state logical arguments concretely, don't apologize or equivocate their opinion, and are overall very frank.

They rarely include emotions in the reasons for thinking/believing a certain way, and don't often use personal examples unless they are quite objective and created to back up their point.

They don't have to agree with the person at the end, and don't often change their point of view... things may be added to it, but they rarely change their basic stance.

All this probably falls under the point of, "well, of course," or maybe I've made somebody flaming mad, but it's just interesting.  

I'm used to debating with guys and have always enjoyed debates more than a lot of girls, so I've consciously had to adjust to the girl-way of debating and be less hard-lined than I might be with men.

Friday, October 16, 2009

cry baby cry

I don't know what God is doing in me and it's frustrating.

I sobbed and sobbed at a Furnace prayer meeting, and wasn't sure why.   Was worshiping on the side when someone came up and said that he felt that God was telling me, it's ok to dance, to let your emotions out, no one's judging you, feel free to go in the back.  

And so I went and immediately began crying, and then weeping, all the while venting to God that I was so tired of crying, I didn't want to cry this hard, my mascara will look terrible down my cheeks, etc.  I truly didn't know why I was sobbing, but as the worship got more intense, I cried more.

Just more healing.  I think.... then it moved to a more intercessory song, and I was crying for the nations and for His glory to go forth.  Maybe it's both?  

I don't know.

Afterwards I was utterly exhausted, and still am.  I need to get up the energy to go to bed...prayer and weeping will really take it out of you.  

God what happens spiritually when I cry?
Could it be you're jealous of my tears?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Taiwan thoughts--ghost month

Another Taiwan story-- seven minutes--GO:

Around this time of year, lots of people (Taoists to be official, I think) in Taiwan believe that it's Ghost month.  It's according to the Lunar Calendar, so the time changes each year.

People believe that the during this time, the gates of hades are opened and the ghosts of their ancestors are free to roam the earth and do whatever they please.  Pretty much everyone burns paper money, paper cars, paper everything in order to ensure that when the ghosts visit them, they won't harm them.  



The air is thick with smoke from thousands and millions of hallway fires, all burning paper in cylindrical metal wastebaskets.  Each window is eerily red from the light of idol shelves, and incense slowly wafts out into the night.

Night seems to last a little longer.

One of my Taiwanese friends in school had been a Christian for years, but during ghost month, she crawled into her parents bed because sleeping alone was too scary.  

When she told me this I remember being a bit surprised and then, later (years later?), angry.  How dare satan ravage the little children of an entire wonderful nation with fear of ghosts' vengeance.
How dare fear hold dominion for generations upon generations.
How dare it be that missionaries work and work and see so little profit in the harvest.

Ok 7 minutes is up.  

God be in Taiwan; be within her so that she will not fall; help her at break of day.  There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.  God be in Taiwan.
I've been trying to consistently pray for the nations using a EHC prayer map.  There's also a 10/40 prayer map for those nations in that geographical location, and it provides a persecution ranking, and percentages for those in corruption and poverty.  Lemme tell you, it's the best thing when I feel poor and scared about money.  How can it be that 70% poverty exists anywhere?  Unbelievable statistics.  

The world feels so vast sometimes.  But God You are still there...and you care so you can help me care too, and you are still joyful, so I can still leave the scars of the world with You, too.

Help us hunger and thirst after righteousness... for Your shalom to cover the earth.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Taiwan thoughts--7 minutes!

So a little while ago I said I would try to write something about Taiwan every week.... :)  Well, maybe at least every month.  I just don't want to forget.  Here's a little blurb, and to make it interesting (or at least not as time-consuming as other posts), I'm timing myself for five minutes and will try my very best to not stop typing AT ALL.  The computer version of free-writing.

read set GO:

When we were in our second term in Taiwan (5 years old to 9), we lived in Taipei in the same apartment.  This is particularly significant because it's the longest time I've ever spent in one house/apt.  Most of my memories are of Taipei because of this.

One night we had pizza (special!) and a missionary friend who ministered to people on the streets and recovering from drugs, alcoholism, etc. came over with a friend because they were in the neighborhood.  And actually, I think one of them had to use the bathroom, and there were none that were free and clean nearby.  It's not that Taiwan has bad sanitation, you just generally have to pay for public restrooms.

So I met Eddie, the friend she was with.  He was very kind and chatted with us as we kids got ready for bed.  The next time I heard of him was when he sent us beautiful bells at Christmas to decorate our tree.  I have no idea why he remembered us, but I loved the bells and thought even more of him.

The next time I saw him was in the hospital, and he was covered in purple welts.  He was in the final stages of HIV AIDS and died a few weeks later.  Eddie's whole face was actually blue and purple...I have no idea if that is common for AIDS or if it was just the light or my faulty little girl memory, but I remember looking at his face and trying not to stare as my Dad and he talked in Mandarin.  

Later I asked how he got AIDS, and Dad said that he had led a party lifestyle, and used to be a somewhat famous singer at nightclubs.  Or something like that.  Now it's been so long that I don't really remember his face, I just remember the color of the disease, the bruises, whatever they were.  And when I think of him, the most outstanding quality is a gentle kindness that I intuitively trusted.  and I've always been chary about trust.

We still hang the Eddie's bells.

ok, fine, that was seven minutes.  But yes!  I think I can actually do seven minutes a week.  
We'll see.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

caution, tilting world

Sometimes you're going along your normal daily business and then, suddenly, the world tilts.  

Or, things that have been slowly buried in the crevices of your memory, as hard to unravel as twisted coral, suddenly float to the surface.

That's what the past few days have been for me; a violent yet gentle wrenching of the old into a new unknown, with unforeseen possibilities and, I'm sure, still unknown challenges and fears.

I had the chance to go (for free!  my bank account rejoiced) to a conference for Christian artists this past Friday, and it was so refreshing.  I sat in a pew and listened to how the world and the church needs the artists, writers, musicians, actors, etc. because theology is far too grand to just let theologians have at it.   (and  I felt they did this while still granting theologians and intellectuals deep respect and purpose)  I don't want to describe the talks and sessions and worship too much, because I don't trust myself to articulately justify what the conference did for me.

But I felt strongly that--- I was with my PEOPLE!  the lovely crazy right-brained people who try to become vulnerable enough and crazy enough to create.  

And while sometimes it feels as if there's so many cross-currents of my life, this stream was wide enough to encompass all that I hope God does with me.  And Madeleine L'Engle always could put her finger on it, and Rob Bell does, too, in "Drops Like Stars." 

The creative masterpiece of living--the irrevocable marriage of creativity and suffering--how Van Gogh said once, "the more I think about it, there is nothing more artistic than loving people."

I can't say it without bordering into cheesiness and I loathe when important things are spoiled with cheesiness.  

So on to the next thing that further put the world on its end-- the Wall!  There is a prayer and worship movement starting here in the Springs.  It's in the same vein as IHOP in Kansas City, and is housed in the Jericho Center, the international hq of Dick Eastman's ministry of evangelism and intercession.  There is a vision for these houses of prayer to cover the globe, and Mike Bickle's (IHOP guy) vision is to be able to hire thousands of singers to worship full-time--paid--like David did.  

They are looking for more musicians (it was funny, they kept calling it: musicians and singers, which would have driven Pat Edwards, a voice teacher, mad.  Singers are musicians too!  Singers and instrumentalists!) to do intercessory worship.  Right now, it's M-F, 6-6pm, with live worship form 8-4pm.  And I feel like I've got to do it...I so want to be part of it.

So I'm trusting God for it; hopefully, they'll contact me (they have my info), and I'll be able to do it for a couple days a week at least.  It's just tricky financially, because unless I get 20 or 30 more private students, I'll have to sub at least 3 times a week as well as teach.  But with my schedule now, I could do this for a time, and then teach my normal afternoon students.

ANYhow.  it's just exciting, because especially as this worship and intercession movement grows around the world, it's something that you could give your life to.  Imagine international worship ministry... it would be incredible.

A closing rather-unrelated note: I LOVE private teaching.  Absolutely love it.  Voice and piano--the lessons are so different, but I love teaching both instrument.  And getting to know kids one on one and just hanging out with them and watching them grow musically...it's delightful.  I would be so blessed if I could do this and worship full-time.  We'll see...God, please somehow take care of the money.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009



It's funny how events pass and you think nothing of them, but then life happens.   And as you look back, you realize that only by those events were you sustained.

I was looking back over my journals--way too irregular--and I saw an entry that I wrote just after last Christmas.  It was when I was in CA visiting Stephanie's church, and I had gone up for prayer after the sermon.  As a rule, I always go up for prayer at her church; I love her church.  It's a place where I consistently feel such tangible love and the presence of God.

Anyhow, three women prayed for me.  The first touched my shoulder and prayed blessing and favor and general wonderful things.  
The second reminded me of a moth (but only the best qualities of a moth) because she had a high, quiet, almost warbling voice and touched my shoulders and back with a series of soft pats.  She didn't stand, she hovered.
And she prayed for wonderful things that I will remember if I look back in my journal--and she sensed that God was doing a great work in me.

The third woman asked if I had been prayed for, and I said, "a little..." because I felt so thirsty and facing insurmountable horribleness.  And she smiled and asked if I wanted more, which I confirmed.  She drew me into a warm hug and rocked me back and forth and prayed over and over, 


Hope for this daughter!

and I was filled.  
I wrote all this down, but remember not thinking much about the 'hope' aspect of it all.  

And then I drove back to Colorado and survived January, February, March, April, May, June, July....  so many times I thought I wouldn't make it.  There was one week that I call the crying week where I just couldn't stop crying.  I mean I'd wake up, cry, make myself stop to wash my face and put on makeup and eat breakfast, cry, drive, make myself stop to walk into school, cry, set up chairs, make myself stop to teach first period.  cry at lunch.  after school.  in the dark on the way home.  especially in the shower.  in the quiet dark frigid night. make myself stop to go to sleep.
It would have been frustrating if I wasn't completely robotic at that point--the tears were the only sign of life.  

But God was there.   

Once on my lunch break I took a walk around the block, and on the way back I felt God wanted to whisper to me.  As I walked on the pavement, I felt like He said, "-I am -with you -I am -with you" in rhythm with my steps.  And on early weekday mornings I just sat and listened to worship music and often didn't even read anything, didn't even pray, but just clung to any scrap of God I could.  And He came... stronger and more real than on weekends, it seemed.  I'll never understand.

Then one fine July day in the midst of summer classes and final thesis editing, I reread the journal.  HOPE.  
it was the hope of hope that kept me going, I think.  I'm still realizing and processing everything, but now I'm finally moving from the hope of hope to HOPE.
And always love, eternal and everlasting.

It's ironic, I wrote a song about hope last summer and now think it's pretty crappy.  I was entranced by a line from an Emily Dickinson poem that I fell across: "Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul."  

Songs heal me.  Now the song that's 'my song' is the "Never Let Go" by David Crowder Band; I listened to it on repeat for literally a couple of hours today, and God's using it in me.  AND he talks about when hope takes flight, and when hope had flown.   Interesting... maybe there's something to hope and birds, or at least hope and flying.  Maybe it's a seagull--hope floats. :)
hehe.  Ok I should wrap up, this is getting silly.

I just wanted to write about what is happening in my heart.  another song of 'mine' is on the new Desperation Band album, and the bridge is: "Joy will come, believe, Joy will come, Joy will come."

I first heard it in April, I think, and I couldn't sing it yet.  But I heard others sing it out and I didn't choke on the words as much.

When clouds veil sun
and disaster comes
O my soul, O my soul
When waters rise 
and hope takes flight
O my soul, O my soul              O my soul

Ever faithful ever true, you are known, you never let go

you never let go
you never let go
you never let go
you never let go
you never let go
you never let go

when clouds brought rain
and disaster came
O my soul    O my soul
when waters rose
and hope had flown
O my soul    O my soul     O my soul

you never let go

What is this hope I feel It's helping What is this peace beyond 
understanding You fix the broken heart
There's healing in Your wings

Your love comes like the dawn 
and spreads its light over me
You thunder in a whisper
As I tremble you speak to me

And all I have known
Bows low in your throne room
and all I think I need
Melts as you rest in me

Your love cried in the mourning
that turned my heart into coal
You broke the winter
and brought Christmas to my soul...

To songs and healing hearts.  I love that God raises the dead

--and He calls us to hope.  
Eph. 1:18-23

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Taiwan stories

A few months ago I started writing a few memories of Taiwan, but with life and moving and all, I haven't had much discipline to be consistent.  So I'm trying an experiment: each week, I'll post a short story on this blog.  I've got a few typed up, so if I'm busy or don't want to write that week, I'll still have some material. 

I was reading "The Poisonwood Bible" (fabulous novel) earlier this summer and I think that inspired me to remember random things about growing up in Taiwan especially.  I was also reading a lot of Madeleine L'Engle, and she always makes me want to write.  SO hopefully this experiment works, because they might be fun to read and the more I write, the more I remember.  There's a lot.  And they won't come in order, I promise.

Impoverished Feet

Once there was a man with no shoes.  I noticed him abruptly one night as I navigated my body away from a pathetic stray’s aura of fleas to safety, squeezed between my mother’s arm and her side.  I nearly tripped on his feet, large and smeared with dirty grease, with no plastic sandals resting reassuring by.  I looked at his face for a quarter-second and again from the side as I pushed through the lively sidewalk, and then he vanished.

            He was slumped against a street post, eyes closed.  He had a few measly threads of hair, and his skin deeply bore the customary flogging of age, pollution and heat.  A wife beater hung down his ribs, and the bones in his limbs seemed to have consumed every ounce of muscle he presumably had possessed.  These observations I took in without thought, but was horrified by his lack of footwear.  It was to me the epitome of want.

            Shoes were not a source of fashion for me, but filthy streets made their necessity unquestioned.  Being in the world of heat and financial support, the variety of shoes narrowed for a girl.  I had one pair of each of the following: everyday sandals, sneakers, party-shoes, and sometimes galoshes.  The sandals were not often the plastic thongs that were the surpassing currency of footwear, for my flat-footed mother cared for her flat-footed progeny and was continually on the hunt for “more ankle support.”  However, the suede niceties of Western sandal wear fell far short in the tropics.  Even if they were put away during the rainy season and miraculously avoided every unexpected wet deluge, the wearer’s sweat alone would soon warp them into retirement.  Not to mention the orange stripes they tattooed on their owner.

            Mom had recently taken us to get new shoes because ours were both grown and worn out; perhaps this was the errand from which we were returning, for shoes were certainly on my mind.  In contrast, the old man’s fate was strikingly cruel, to be sleeping out in the open with bare feet and no hope for respite in the morning.

This tired grandpa has clung to my memories with a grip that would have far exceeded his physical strength.  A few years later I was ashamed that I did not immediately think of his other signs of destitution, namely his emaciation and homelessness—how silly to fixate on feet.  I am not sure why this brought me shame.  At any rate, he remains my foremost image of poverty.