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July 2007

June 2007

Rudeness

I guess it is a little bit of culture shock. 

In my return to the U.S. and to the Western lifestyle I have been somewhat stunned at the way in which we treat each other.  I am shocked at how rude we are to one another. 

However, here in Hawaii I have found that every interaction I have had with the local Hawaiian people has been lovely. They have been kind, patient, helpful and pleasant.  Maybe it is all in the context of tourism and good customer service but regardless, it is wonderful.

The tourists here in Hawaii are another story.  The self-centeredness and rudeness seems to ooze from their very pores.  The impatient-"I'm gonna get mine," attitude is unsettling.  I am afraid that it is so unsettling because it looks a lot like......me.

This past year of living in South Korea has left me with a different look at how people can and should treat one another. The Korean people are rather stoic.  They don't smile often but when they do it is warm and heartfelt.  Their service to others is selfless and impeccable.  As they drive streets packed with cars in what I would consider wild driving conditions--there is nary a hint of road rage.  It is amazing--thousands of people living together in the area of one city block and they do so respectfully.....even lovingly.

I know that the South Korean culture and behavior is greatly affected by Confucianism and Buddhism-respect for elders and one another, with a strong focus upon social harmony.  As I look at the lives of the Koreans and their interactions with one another, I see something that has a hint of truth in it--a hint of Jesus.    

I am going to stop before I ramble into comparative criticism.  I can't speak for the Korean people, the Hawaiian locals, or even for the mainland dwelling American citizen-even though I am one (sort of).  I can only speak for myself.  I am first and foremost a Christian, and when I speak (or live), I speak up for Jesus.  What am I saying?  What should I be saying? 

What should I be saying and doing when things don't go my way?  When the service is poor?  When the conditions are less than perfect?  When.....?

The Apostle Paul offers some suggestions.

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:16-18 

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves."  Philippians 2:3

Reminder to myself:  Paul's admonitions apply to friends, family, spouses, kids, in-laws, out-laws and fellow church members too.


Castles In the Sand

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Why do I do what I do?  Where do I put my energies-and why?

In the book of Mark, Jesus asks, "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?"

Last week I visited Korea Nazarene University in Cheonan, South Korea.  While I was there I met a man named Hamanda from Tanzania, Africa.  Hamanda was finishing up a theology degree at KNU and was looking into attending my alma mater, Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho.  He wants to pursue a Masters Degree in Social Work.

I inquired as to why Hamanda wanted to get a Masters Degree in Social Work.  I wondered what type of career plan he had in mind.  His answer left me stunned.  Through tears he shared with me that he wanted to get the advanced degree and to return to Tanzania.  He explained to me that there are thousands of orphaned children in Tanzania whose parents have abandoned them or have died of Aids.  Hamanda wants to help the orphans of Tanzania.  He explained to me that with a Masters Degree in Social Work he will be able to work within the governmental system of Tanzania to bring about help for the thousands of needy children in his homeland.

Wow.  Why do I do what I do?

"What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?"

I am praying for Hamanda and I am praying for myself-that I might have a heart like Hamanda's.


Body Language

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This is a sign that is posted on an eyeglasses shop near our school here in Daejeon, South Korea.  The sign is both comical and meaningful to me.  I have to laugh at the misspellings and the funny phrases but I also greatly appreciate the sincere attempt by the shop owner to convey to me, a "foreigner," his desire and commitment to serve me as a customer.

I love the phrase at the bottom of the sign, "But we can body language!"

I have lived here, "as a foreigner" in South Korea for nearly a year now and at times find that I am still very much a tourist rather than a resident--especially when it comes to communicating with the Korean people.  I am ashamed to admit that at times in communication with the native Koreans I find myself speaking English "loudly," "slowly" and "clearly"--thinking that the increased volume and enhanced clarity will help them understand what I am saying.  It doesn't work, so I resort to something that does work--body language.

I wonder if there is a message within all this for Christians and the Church as we live out our lives in this world.  There is no greater message for humankind than the love, grace, mercy, hope and relationship found in Jesus Christ.  How do we, as Christians, go about communicating this "Good News?" 

How loudly and clearly and adamantly do we need to proclaim the "Truth" for it to be communicated?  How many Ten Commandments signs in our front yards will it take?  How many W.W.J.D. bracelets must we wear?   What will it take for our "words" to be heard and understood?  Maybe we need more "body language."

In the first chapter of the book of John we see the ultimate and most effective form of communication.

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

Now that's body language--God coming to earth in the flesh.  Jesus is the "Word."  He came to earth as the God-Man, to live, walk, talk, and communicate God's love to the world.  In Jesus, we clearly find the message of forgiveness of sins through the cross and the hope of eternal life through the empty tomb. 

Even though Jesus ascended to heaven, God is still communicating with the world--He is communicating through the Church-through you and me.  God fills each believer with the Holy Spirit and Christ lives within each person that is following Him.  "I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me."

We are to be Jesus to the world.  Theologians call it, "incarnational living." We are to be the "body" of Christ--the hands, feet and heart of Jesus to those around us.  In other words, we are to be the "body language" of Jesus to the world.

The "Word" of God--the Bible, is amazing.  It is the bread of life to those who believe but to others it is like a foreign language.  The world doesn't always understand the Bible passages that we expound upon or the verses that we recite--even though we speak them clearly, shout them loudly, and proclaim them adamantly.  As we hold out the Word of life to others we need to remember that we must "flesh out" its meaning.

The world will read our "body language" long before they will read the Bible.


Dog Days of….Spring?


Here is a picture of a dog that I saw the other day as I was walking home from work.  As you can see from his lolling tongue, he is hot.  I tried to say hi and talk with him but he acted as if I was invisible.  Either he was just too hot or he didn’t speak English, or both.


It has been hot here in South Korea.  It feels like the “Dog Days of Summer” only it is spring here in South Korea. The humidity here in South Korea is……part of the adventure.  We are looking forward to a little bit of dry Idaho heat.

School is out.  I am still working in the office this week.  Dina and the girls are done with work and school and are enjoying a little break.  It is a little break—because they are busy packing and preparing for our departure from South Korea this coming Saturday.

We are stopping over in Hawaii for a few days before we return to Idaho.  (Might as well, it is on the way!)  We are scheduled to arrive in Idaho on the morning of June 22.  We plan to spend the last part of June and the first week or two of July visiting friends and family in Northern Idaho and Montana.  We will spend the last twenty days of July in Boise and are scheduled to fly back to South Korea on the morning of July 30.

….Lord willing.


Good-byes

Encounter 

We were riding through frozen fields ina wagon at dawn. 

A red wing rose in the darkness.

And suddenly a hare ran across the road.

One of us pointed to it with his hand.

That was long ago.  Today neither of them is alive,

Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.

O my love, where are they, where are they going?

The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.

I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.
--Czeslaw Milosz

Sorry it has been so long since I have posted.

The past couple of weeks here at TCIS have been full of good-byes....too many good-byes.  For me, the most challenging part about working in education has always been the end of the year.............the good-byes are the hardest.

Here in South Korea we have been saying good-bye to graduating seniors that are matriculating to universities throughout the world; we have been saying good-bye to other students, Kindergarten through 11th grade, that are either leaving for the summer or are moving to another country and we are saying good-bye to staff members-new friends-that are moving away.

We are learning that movement, change, transition, .... good-byes, are inherent to international schools and education.  Most of the good-byes that we experience in life are temporary-for a time.  We say, "See you next year," or we minimize the separation because people are just moving to a nearby town or state.  Here at TCIS people are moving away to places all over the world.  As people load the buses with their luggage, bags and boxes, and head for the Incheon Airport, we realize that we are likely to never see them again.  Good-byes are hard.  Forever good-byes are the worst.

You know all too well how hard good-byes are.  Temporary good-byes leave us sorrowful.  Forever good-byes leave us.....there are no words.

I think this must have been how the disciples felt when Jesus ascended into heaven and left them.  In Acts 10 it says,

" They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

For some good-byes there are no words.  The disciples just stood there, tearfully looking into the sky.......in wonder.

In Jesus, there are good-byes, for a time, but there are no forever good-byes.  The angels' promise to the disciples that Jesus will return is confirmed in the Apostle John's vision of things to come.  In Revelation 21 it says,

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

In Jesus good-byes are only temporary.  In Him all things will change--there will be no more tears, no more death, no more crying, no more mourning, no more pain......

No more goodbyes........forever.

I'm glad, aren't you?