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November 2007
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December 2007

Together

Dscf1854_2 As a kid, one of my favorite things to do at Christmas time was to take an evening drive with the family and look at the Christmas lights and decorations on the neighborhood houses in our town.  I remember how the car windows would fog up with condensation and I remember how we would inch along with the rest of the traffic, taking a long look at the really “good” displays.

Now I have a family of my own.  During the years that we lived in the United States we would load up the car and take a tour of the Christmas lights of the city.  We knew where the really good subdivisions were and we “oohed” and “aahed” our way through the neighborhoods with the hundreds of other cars.  In the days preceding Christmas my daughters would ask, “When are we going to go see the lights?”  I loved driving them through the subdivisions, hearing them comment on the beautiful decorations and watching them doodle pictures on the fogged up side windows of the car.

These days we live in a large city in South Korea.  We don’t have a car, we get around by taxi and subway and there are no subdivisions to drive through.  The city is full of tall twenty story apartment buildings and there are very few Christmas lights on display as they would pale in comparison to the lights and signs of the stores, shops and businesses in the urban environment.

However, we have found one place where there are lots of cool Christmas lights.  The downtown area of the city has an elaborate display of decorations and these combined with the thousands of people walking throughout the shopping area make it a very festive place to visit during the Christmas Season.  Last year we enjoyed the lights of downtown and we looked forward to seeing them again this year.

As I reflect on my childhood memories of driving around and seeing the lights I realize that I can’t remember what a single light display looked like.  As I think about my experience of taking my own children around the neighborhoods to look at the lights of Christmas I realize that it wasn’t about the lights—it was about the experience of being together.

When Jesus, the light of the world came upon the scene that first Christmas, the angel announced His coming by stating “peace on earth, goodwill to men.”  Something very special happened on that evening in history.  God came near to be together with us.  God reached out to you and me with His son, Jesus Christ, to restore us unto Himself—so that we could be together with Him.  The glitz, glamour and flashing lights of life fade quickly from our memories but the warmth of relationship creates a lasting impression.

Last night, my wife, my two daughters and I walked arm in arm through the spectacular Christmas lights, sounds and crowds of South Korea.  I loved it.  It was a great memory most of all because we were….together.   


New Friends

Tonight we had our all school staff Christmas party at the King's Buffet in Daejeon, South Korea.  It was a great party.  The atmosphere was festive and the food was delicious.  The best part of the evening for Dina and I was the chance to make some new friends

As we entered the dining area we were inclined to sit with our western "friends," the ones we know well, that understand our cultural perspective and that speak and understand our same language fluently.  But tonight we sat with some of the Korean staff members.  At first it was a bit awkward.  They were nervous about being around westerners and hesitant to speak to us in their choppy second language of English and we were just as nervous as we were the only non-Koreans at the table.  We know very little of the Korean language and oftentimes struggle to understand their attempts at English because of their strong Korean accent.

Throughout the evening and over the meal the questions began to go back and forth between us.  Each of us wanting to understand the other and to be understood by the other.  The answers and misunderstandings between us led to laughter and more questions.  We all were appreciative of our Dscf1845differences and surprised at our similarities.

It was an amazing time.  At some point in the evening the awkward first moments of the meal gave way to warmth, laughter and conversation.  In the midst of the Koreans mispronouncing words in English, and Dina and I dropping food and mishandling our chopsticks something wonderful happened......a friendship began.

The Christmas dinner at the King's Buffet was a great gift, but a temporary gift--we will be hungry again tomorrow.  The time we spent getting to know Jung Min, Mr. Seo, Mr. Cho, Mr. Yoon and Ms. Shin was a most precious gift of Christmas that will grow and satisfy throughout the years of our lives.

It was a great party.


Christmas Gifts

Dscf1754_2 Sometimes I think gifts at Christmas get a bad rap (pardon the phonemic pun--get it...wrap?)  There is always a lot of talk about gifts at Christmas and how they are related to materialism, greed, credit card debt and extravagance.  While at times (most of the time) this may be true about gifts at Christmas, it is not always true.  Sometimes gifts are nice.

Last Sunday we made another trip to the Village of Peace Orphanage with a group of people from our Dscf1757church here in Daejeon, South Korea.  This time we were able to choose a couple of the names of the kids at the orphanage and buy an age appropriate gift for them. In the pictures of my wife and this little guy it is quickly apparent how he feels about the gift we got him for Christmas.

The boy in the picture speaks Korean and we don't, but we didn't have to hear a word to understand how he felt about the little 10,000 won ($10.00) plane we bought him.  It was so fun to see him smile and play with the toy airplane.  It truly is better to give than to receive,....but the hug he gave us was nice too.


Dance!

Dscf1623 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”      Luke 2:13-14 (KJV)

Tuesday in our campus chapel we spent the hour singing carols, listening to a student read aloud the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2, and gazing upon a live still scene of the Nativity.

As the story was read, the characters of the Nativity entered stage right—first Mary and the baby Jesus, then Joseph, then the angel and the shepherds, and finally the wise men.  The characters were students.  They were student leaders—who love God—and who weren’t afraid to stand before a crowd of their peers (most of whom are not Christians) and play a part in honoring and presenting the real meaning of Christmas.

The live still scene wasn’t that spectacular and actually the students looked kind on funny in the long robes.  At times the students grinned in embarrassment…but despite what they felt, they did it.  They played the part, humbly, sincerely and willingly.Dscf1622

No one made fun of them and no one mocked them.  The hour was a time of reflection, singing, warmth, respite, safety and peace for all in attendance. 

When it comes to the Christmas story, the mocking, the teasing, the scoffing, the embarrassment and the pain all come later.  It all happens to Jesus on the cross as he bears the cross for you and for me.  He bore the sin and the shame so we wouldn’t have to.  Because of Jesus, today we can consider the scene at the manger and know of a place of warmth, respite, safety, peace, hope and love.

I so enjoyed the Christmas chapel service.  With my eyes fixed upon the Nativity scene I sang the carols through a lump in my throat.  The last song of the service was a “peppy” version of “Angels We Have Heard On High.”  As I gazed at the scene before me my eyes welled with tears and then….......I lost it. 

I lost it because the angel started to dance.  She knew it was the last song, the program was nearly over, her smile brightened and she danced--and I loved it.

With Christmas comes the reminder that the time of fear is over.  In Jesus, it is time to dance!

Dscf1624Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”


20 Years!

1262606_img_bright Today we are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary!

“Time flies when you are having fun.”  It is hard to believe that it has been twenty years since we gathered with friends and family on that cold December day at the Fairview Church of the Nazarene in Nampa, Idaho.

Thanks to all of you for your friendship, love andRoberts_pics_july__2007_039_zoom support over the years.  (Sorry about the blurred wedding picture.)  We are so thankful for God’s many blessings to us over our time together.  What a joy our two daughters, Becca and Sarah, are to us.

Each day of our life together has been wonderful.  To God be the glory.

p.s.

Dear Dina,

Twenty years ago I married the girl of my dreams.  Words cannot express the privilege it has been for me to share the last twenty years of my life with you.  I thank God for you.  You truly are a dream come true.  I love you.

Yours always,
Ryan


What is your life?

Hay "You live your life like you live your day."

I am not sure where this quote came from.  I think it might have been from the author, John Fischer, but I am not sure. 

I like this quote.

When I read it my mind goes to two things:  My Granddad and to verses 13-15 in James chapter 4.

As a kid I was fortunate to live near my Granddad and to spend most of my growing up years helping him out around the small farm that he owned and maintained in Southern Idaho.  Working or playing, I loved spending time with my Granddad and I always felt that he loved spending time with me.

Every day that I spent with my Granddad I knew that we were going to work hard and play hard.  I knew that we were going to laugh together and I knew that I was going to learn something new.  Every day that I spent with my Granddad I saw him act lovingly towards someone else:  his wife, a sibling, his parent, his child, a neighbor, a friend, his grandchildren and always me.  Granddad was quick to share a smile, give a hug, playfully pinch your backside or drape his arm around your neck on the long walk back to the house after a hard day of work on the farm.

Granddad is gone now.   The fields of hay have long since turned to houses and yards and my childhood memories of the farm have turned into middle aged reminiscence.  I suspect that there are very few people left in this world that remember my Granddad and his days here on earth.  But I do.  I remember his days.  I remember his life.

About life James writes: “Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

Each of us have so many plans of who we are going to be and what we are going to achieve and all the while our days of striving become us.  Our lives are but a vapor and James reminds us of this so that we will rightly value and live our days.  He knows that our days are in reality our lives.

In my Grandma’s kitchen in the farmhouse there hung a plaque that said,

“But one life twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”

James asks, “What is your life?”   In the scripture James infers that a life of meaning is a life of loving God and loving others,

....and you will live that life like you live your day.


Talents

Music The other night I went to our school Christmas concert.  The evening featured the high school band, the middle school band and the high school orchestra.  The music here in South Korea is wonderful.  The musicians here in South Korea are all excellent at what they do.

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The high school band here at our little K-12, 600 student school in Daejeon, South Korea sounds like a university band—in fact, they are much better than my university band of twenty years ago.  The high school orchestra sounds like something off of a professional recording.  The precision and musicality of the students here in South Korea is remarkable.

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As I sat and enjoyed the concert the other night I noticed that the students who were playing their instruments so well on the stage were the same students who produced the incredible pieces of art that don the halls of our school, and they were the same students that sang and acted so well in last month’s school musical and they are the same students who consistently receive academic marks of A’s and B’s in their classes….and the list goes on.Art

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Why is it so?  Are these students (all of them) exceptionally multi-talented? 

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The work ethic here in South Korea is extremely high and the expectations for performance in all areas are rigorous.  Nearly all of the Korean students from ages four and five attend private lessons, tutoring and classes in addition to their regular school experience. Five days a week they leave school and spend a good part of the evening in what are called hogwans.  These after school sessions include training in music, art, sports (like tennis, Tae Kwan Do, soccer), and academics (like English, Writing, Math).  The list goes on.  The result is a high level of performance in multiple areas.

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I know that this high level of performance in multiple areas comes at a cost.  In noting the exceptional talents of the Korean students I am not suggesting that this is the ideal model.  A life of constant striving leaves little time for play, enjoyment and relationship.  That is whole other topic for conversation.

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What I realize in the excellent performance of the Korean students at multiple levels is the human potential.  All human beings are highly talented and highly capable.  Given time, focus and opportunity all people can do amazing things in various areas.

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Talent is not only for the fortunate few.  An easy excuse would be to boil it down to opportunity.  I won’t argue that there are many factors that effect the development of our lives and talents.  But I guess the question I ask myself and you is, “What am I doing with what I have?’ 

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Specifically, “What am I doing with my time?”

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Don’t let comparison with others or failure keep you from doing the thing you have always wanted to do or try or from developing that talent that you know you have inside you.  Aside from all excuses, what are we doing with our lives and talents? 

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The reality is that each life is of immense value to God.  What are you doing with yours?  God is interested….take a look at Matthew 25:14-30.

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Just rambling……


For the Children [of Peace Village Orphanage, South Korea] at Christmas

Dscf1502_santa by Peter Marshall

"Lord Jesus, who didst take little children into Thine arms and laugh and play with them, bless, we pray Thee, all children at this Christmastide.

As with shining eyes and glad hearts they nod their heads so wisely at the stories of the angels, and a baby cradled in the hay at the end of the way of a wandering star, may their faith and expectation be a rebuke to our own faithlessness. Help us to make this season all joy for them, a time that shall make Thee, Lord Jesus, even more real to them.Dscf1477_santa

Watch tenderly over them and keep them safe. Grant that they may grow in health and strength into Christian maturity. May they turn early to Thee, the Friend of children, the Friend of all. We ask in the lovely name of Him who was once a little child."

Amen


Teachable

"Father, for all who bring me suggestion, counsel, warning; for all who help me by voice or by pen; for all who lead me into a larger life I give Thee the praise and glory."                     --J. H. Jowett

Proverbs 9

6 Leave your simple ways and you will live;
       walk in the way of understanding.

7 "Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult;
       whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.

8 Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you;
       rebuke a wise man and he will love you.

9 Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still;
       teach a righteous man and he will add to his
learning.

10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
       and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Dscf0855

In other words: 

"Dear Lord, please help me to have a teachable spirit."

If you look closely in the picture you can see a LARGE hornet's nest on the building.  I saw the insects flying around well before I saw the nest.  Any connection?


Update on Sam

Hospital Earlier I posted here a report about and a prayer request for a friend of mine named Sam.  I want to report that Sam is improving.  He is sitting up, talking, and is scheduled to be moved out of the ICU today.

Just days ago Sam was very close to death.  Thanks for praying. To God be the glory for Sam's recovery.