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 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'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.