Monday, December 2, 2013

(belated) Thanksgiving post

So I know I'm late to the Thanksgiving blog party. This is partly because we started celebrating a week before the holiday and partly because by the time the actual day rolled around we were so busy with guests visiting from out-of-country that I almost forgot all about it.

Almost, but not quite.

Friendsgiving #1 with med school classmates

Friendsgiving #2 with our mentor couple and med school friends
 (not pictured: MAK's School-wide Thanksgiving Feast)

This year I've decided that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. As much as it is a sentimental holiday, it's not nearly as fraught with emotional nostalgia as Christmas can be. Thanksgiving is all about gathering with loved ones over meal and giving thanks. That's it. It's not nearly as overwrought of a holiday as Christmas is, with all its trappings and trimmings. (Don't get me wrong. As complicated as my relationship with Christmas is, I do love it taken in its pure form... Perhaps I will appreciate Christmas more one day when I'm not in charge of putting on a Christmas concert every year.) Thanksgiving is an act of worship to the generous Giver of all Good--as we fill our stomachs, we feel our hearts and souls fill with the goodness and grace of God Himself.

All that to say, there are so many things I am thankful for this past year. First and foremost, I am thankful for the opportunity to be here in Taiwan. I am thankful for being in Taiwan. Coming from where I was several months ago, this says a lot. I was struggling with depression and paralyzing discouragement as to my purpose and place in being here. I was fighting wanting to stay in America with my family and friends. Through it all God has been unfolding an awe-inspiring Master plan that I still don't understand quite yet, but I know it's pretty big and it fits me just right. All I know now is that the little pieces He has given me have been like shining tokens indicating another step in the right direction:
  1. Life Transformation Group: My accountability group with two amazing sisters. We read through the Bible together, share our struggles and victories, and pray with each other. What I appreciate most about these sisters is that even though we are all in different stages of our walk with God, we can all encourage and walk with each other in our journey together. It is through our meetings that God taught me the discipline of listening prayer, which became the turning point of my depression.
  2. Redemptive Gifts: We went through the characteristics of the different redemptive gifts in a couple staff meetings at school. God made it very clear the gifting He has given me and prompted me to delve deeper...there's still a lot I have to grow in, but I am so thankful for the crack in the door God opened for me to slowly inch through.
  3. Mentor couple friends: An American missionary couple has joined us at our church. The husband lectures for KMU's dentistry school and the wife is a teacher, so we find several things in common. They have been wonderful friends and mentors to us as they share their lives and experiences with us, knowing especially how to relate to us in our current life stage. 
  4. Experiencing community in a new way: Working at MAK gives me a taste of a real sense of supportive, life-giving community. Being able to be part of celebrations, worship circles, and testimony nights have been good for my heart, as well as taking the time to share life together. It gives me a real sense of hope for restoration where once there has been brokenness.
  5. Taiwan Xi En: Precious babies. As helpless as they are, they bring such a heart-and-soul restoration and rejuvenation whenever I spend time with them.
  6. God at work: Through various opportunities, B and I have had the chance to be a small part of God working in the lives and hearts of people we've been privileged to come to know. While Taiwan is very dark and spiritually bound, the Spirit still moves and breathes in and through us, and I'm beginning to see that even though it takes much time and patience for His labors to come to full fruition, it is such a joy and honor to join Him in part of that labor.
  7. Living cross-culturally: Sometimes hearing about happenings back in the States remind me that living abroad has its good points. (Ex: I forgot all about Black Friday until someone's FB status reminded me why I forgot about it. How can we be truly thankful for what we have one day and then recklessly indulge in uninhibited consumerism the next?) Learning about national and global issues (social, spiritual, moral) is different when one lives overseas. There's just a different perspective that comes from being on the outside. I'm beginning to appreciate that now.

In addition, I am super thankful for the new addition to our family, my beautiful and smart niece! She brings me so much joy and happiness even if I can only look at photos and watch videos of her latest antics. Still, she smiles at me when we video chat, so I am happy!
her face!

These are the top things I am thankful for this year! I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving where God has shown you His blessings abundantly overflowing to you all! <3

Sunday, November 17, 2013

E's stories

E is my cello student in third grade. It all started when he went off on a long story about something that happened in his (very full) life (he's lived in three or four very different countries already), like how he broke his shin or something. Now he can't wait to tell me a story every time we finish our lesson for the day, and he asks if I want to hear a "real" or a "fake" one. These are two of the "fake"stories, recorded from my memory to the best of my ability (I've taken the liberty to title them myself)...

1. Music solves all conflicts
"Once upon a time there was a group of hamsters, and they all played instruments, like cello, and violin, and flute, and saxophone. Two of the hamsters, the one who played violin and the one that played cello, were brother and sister. One day they were all playing music, and suddenly they saw a cat. The hamsters ran away but then they ran into the leader of the cats, and then they were all surrounded by cats. The leader cat had some hamsters in his mouth! The hamster that played the cello used the strings from his cello to attack the cat and let the cat open his mouth and let all the hamsters free. Then the cats decided they wanted to play instruments, too, so they all played music together."

2. Playing music cooler than any other job
"So there were these cats. They had a band, with instruments like...violin, cello, drums, guitar...anyway, one day they were playing, and they saw another cat in a tree nearby. They asked the cat to come join them and he said "no." But the cat that played the cello said, "you have to come and play this cello, I'm leaving." So the cat in the tree came down and played the cello, and he really liked it, so he stayed. They played music together and lived happily ever after."
"What happened to the one who gave up the cello?" I asked.
'Well, he left because he really didn't like it. He got an office job."

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Supreme Hero

From Richard Foster's "Celebration of Discipline" (the chapter on confession):
Jesus knew that by His vicarious suffering He could actually absorb all the evil of humanity and so heal it, forgive it, redeem it.
This is why Jesus refused the customary painkiller when it was offered Him. He wanted to be completely alert for this greatest work of redemption. In a deep and mysterious way He was preparing to take on the collective sin of the human race. Since Jesus lives in the eternal now, this work was not just for those around Him, but He took in all the violence, all the fear, all the sin of all the past, all the present, and all the future. This was His highest and most holy work, the work that makes confession and the forgiveness of sins possible.
Some seem to think that when Jesus shouted 'My God, my God, why has Thou forsaken Me?' it was a moment of weakness (Mark 15:34). Not at all. This was His moment of greatest triumph. Jesus, who had walked in constant communion with the Father, now became so totally identified with humankind that He was the actual embodiment of sin. As Paul writes, 'He made Him to be sin who knew no sin' (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus succeeded in taking into Himself all the dark powers of this present evil age and defeated every one of them by the light of His presence. He accomplished such a total identification with the sin of the race that He experienced the abandonment of God. Only in that way could He redeem sin. It was indeed His moment of greatest triumph.
Having accomplished this greatest of all His works, Jesus then took refreshment. 'It is finished,' He announced. That is, this great work of redemption was completed. He could feel the last dregs of the misery of humankind flow through Him and into the care of the Father. The last twinges of evil, hostility, anger, and fear drained out of Him, and He was able to turn again into the light of God's presence. 'It is finished.' The task is complete. Soon after, He was free to give up His spirit to the Father.
 When I read this this morning, all I could say was wow. Wow. Amazing. In light of the latest superhero movie I watched last night, the imagery is especially penetrating. We all love a good Righteousness vs. Evil story, latent with tension and conflict but with Virtue, a little battle-scarred and war-weary, emerging triumphant in the end. And yet superhero movies always fall short: evil is never fully destroyed, and even heroes have their weaknesses. How wonderful it is to find the final resolution here in the pages of Scripture, pointing right through to the last Amen in Revelations that Jesus is the One and Only who has Overcome, who destroyed evil by actually taking it into Himself and conquering all. What a great mystery hidden in the heart of God! Jesus IS the SUPREME HERO because His work is finished, once and for all. Though evil still crawls to skirmish with Righteousness, and though Satan heaves his final shuddering breaths to overthrow what remains of his dominion, the final Victory and the everlasting Yes is already set in motion.

Jesus wins. Love conquers all. Stunning.

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
Rev. 5:12

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


The highway lends itself to its name--suspended high above the slow crawl of street traffic, I see the setting sun cast its glow across the cityscape as I make my way home. I check the car's clock, but I already know what time it is -- it's the golden hour: the magical hour when the soft fading light draws out otherwise unperceived shades and hues, making any subject come alive.

My eyes narrow to focus, trying to take it all in. The sun is setting in a sea of concrete and steel--buildings; buildings upon buildings. Smokestacks puff, neighbor to apartment blocks and high-rises in various states of construction and disrepair. Shacks perched upon warehouses, both manufactured from the same metal of shipping containers. The scene takes me back (or forward) to movies on post-21st century times: overcrowded, overbuilt, overpopulated.

The bend shifts on the overpass and in front of me I see the waves that lap into this mechanical ocean--vehicles lined up in streaming floods, each a pod encasing an individual, each individual as a drop, drop upon drop to expand the swelling masses. These are the people that fill the buildings I drive by each day.

My picture from this hour could be from anywhere -- any densely populated city outside of the pristine prestige of the West. But it could even be from a future America, one of these days.

Each day the stream trickles into rivers, rivers into oceans. People on routine, people with business, people with somewhere to go, something to do, someone to be. What is it all for? The futility of human existence apart from God pulls at me like a haunted dream.

Back on the ground, I wait at an intersection with a rusty red Daihatsu, its large and minute parts rattling with every rotation of the engine. Beside me, a shiny white new Benz impatiently creeps forward, willing the light to turn green. The juxtaposition is discordant. Many would say the white car far outweighs the red in worth. But in the end, in golden hour's glow, I see it's all the same.

Last week I was again on the highway on the eve of super typhoon Usagi. In the near distance I spied some shiny objects floating at the same level as the thoroughfare; about 25-30 stories high. Closer inspection revealed them to be balloons: bright, shiny, festive red. They did not appear to be attached to anything--yet free as they were, they remained suspended in the still, heavy air. Caught in the atmosphere too dense for upwards travel, they smothered.

Daily pressures, confused plans, and distracting spiritual powers can envelope and paralyze. One day a storm will come of supernatural proportions, and all that is unclear or untrue will be laid bare. Until then I ask for unfettered purpose that will keep my direction continuing upwards... into the life-giving glow of the golden Sun.

Wake up, wake up, the sun cannot wait for long
Reach out, reach out before it fades away
You will find the warmth when you surrender
Smile into the fear and let it play

You wanna run away, run away
And you say that it can't be so
You wanna look away, look away
But you stay 'cause it's all so close
When you stand up and hold out your hand
In the face what I don't understand
My reason to be brave
Brave||Josh Groban

Monday, August 19, 2013

You make it beautiful

"We are family here."

These are words my friend spoke as we gathered in her home--they were there to welcome us back to the island, and we were grateful for the warm hospitality that greeted us. In a circle of friends to find little inhibition and no need for adhering to politeness or manners, there was a glimpse of home-away-from-home: a place to rest and feel safe.

"It is a sacrifice."

These were words spoken of our return. It was hard to come back this time. We were tearing ourselves away from familiar comforts, family ties, our new baby niece, close friendships. Nearly overwhelmed with a sense of loss (and perhaps lost-ness), I wondered what was worth it all and clung to the memories we had made with our friends made here.

He fills the empty places.

There is no grime that He cannot wash clean; there is no brokenness that He cannot heal; there is no ugliness that He cannot transform to beauty. I know this because I see it in the lives of my brothers and sisters; I know because this, too, has been my life.

A group of us gathered in a home the other night to hear testimony of God's pursuing love, covenant faithfulness, and transforming power. The night felt raw and tears were shed and I wondered what it is about God that makes us cry -- are these tears of joy or of longing?

There are many things that I fear for the future, but it all comes down to a lack of faith in a faithful God. My heart is weak and my knees wobbly but one by one I pray to take back the Truths for all the lies I have bought. As He lifts the scales from my eyes, I will see the dead bones take on life, and it will not be a sacrifice to be here, but a privilege.

It is a privilege.

Hold on to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons, they fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

"Home," Phillip Phillips

Sunday, August 11, 2013

a long journey

Photo Credit*

 From where I sit at the window, the broken, weather-beaten corrugated tin over our neighbor's porch flaps in the hot summer breeze. There is a sad melancholy to it. Snapshots of decay and ruin surround me here, affront my senses wherever I go. There is a desolation in my heart. Here there is little assurance that this is the good life; instead all is struggle--buildings struggle against disrepair, cars struggle against rust, atmosphere struggles against dust and smog. Even human existence is a struggle. People struggle to survive, to get ahead, to win, or at least look like it. To have "enough." And the eternal tragedy is that there is never enough. It is never enough.

The bleakness within is a raw and palpable sense that this is not my home. But isn't this an abiding truth? That we are actually sojourners far from home, and Jesus is the One Who has come to find us, and then take us Home one day? Perhaps until now the reality has never been clearer to me.

The challenge to me is this: to take the broken bread, the cup, and give thanks.

“Something always comes to fill the empty places. And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me. This, this, makes me full, and I ‘magnify Him with thanksgiving,’ and God enters the world. What will a life magnify? The world’s stress cracks, the grubbiness of a day, all that is wholly wrong and terribly busted? Or God? Never is God’s omnipotence and omniscience diminutive. God is not in need of magnifying by us so small, but the reverse. It’s our lives that are little and we have falsely inflated self, and in thanks we decrease and the world returns right. I say thanks and I swell with Him, and I swell the world and He stirs me, joy all afoot.”
--Ann Voskamp, "One Thousand Gifts"
  I need to know that God is here. God has gifted all these to me and more, and He Himself is more than Enough.

“...He takes the empty hands and draws me close to the thrum of Love. You may suffer loss but in Me is anything ever lost, really? Isn’t everything that belongs to Christ also yours? Do I not own the cattle on a thousand hills; everything? Aren’t then all provisions, in Christ also yours? If you haven’t lost Christ, child, nothing is ever lost. Remember, ‘through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’ [Acts 14:22], and in ‘sharing in [My Son’s] sufferings, becoming like Him in His death’ you come ‘to know Christ and the power of His resurrection’ [Phil 3:10]”
--"One Thousand Gifts"

Jehovah-Shammah, Fill the empty places.

Friday, May 31, 2013

things I've learned from [teaching] a 5 year old

  • Stick to your guns. Make decisions carefully, but once decided, commit to that decision.
  • That being said, listen for what is trying to be said. A 5-year old is a person, too. Perhaps not the most articulate or rational, but there are ideas and thoughts there, and they should be affirmed.
  • Don't be afraid to say you're sorry, you were wrong.
  • Model the character you desire to instill. Character trumps book smarts.
  • Sometimes bad attitudes and uncooperative behavior comes from a deep-rooted fear of failure.
  • But in those times, the external assurance of another imparted through praise and encouragement is the best motivator and the best cultivator self-confidence.
  • Learn by doing.
  • Sometimes homemade play-dough is a little too messy for more refined tastes.
  • When in doubt, make cookies.
  • Spelling by "sounding out" is doubly hard when the only other English that is used to being heard is pronounced with a foreign accent.
  • In an educational culture of serious book-study, imagination and hands-on can be an unequaled mollification.

Friday, May 10, 2013

What I miss about America

Today I woke up and it felt different. I wasn't sure what it was, but there was a happiness of being alive, of making plans, of having work and rest. I chalked it up to being Friday.

But then I looked out the window and something made me catch my breath for a nanosecond. The sky.

It was blue.

You don't even understand. I have not seen the blue sky in what seems like over a year. In spite of living in the sunny south, the sky is almost always shrouded in a thick gauze of smog. Just the other day I realized how I had almost forgotten what a blue sky looks like until I saw this picture in my newsfeed, an instagram from an acquaintance (in the US of A).

"This must be what it's like when the sky smiles," was the caption. Something within my heart was stirred.

To me, this instagram captures a sense of the hidden yearning that resides in my heart as a pilgrim in a foreign land. Before I moved I considered myself pretty transient to my surroundings; dependent on my culture-crossing upbringing, a knack for adapting, and thirst for adventure. But I've come to realize in time that there are things inbred into me that I never would have recognized before. An indelible mark impressed upon me -- that where I grew up has become a part of me that I cannot deny.

And as much as I would (or would not) be loathe to admit it.... I do miss America.

I miss crystal blue, sapphire skies
I miss purple twilight when the sun just goes down and the lightning bugs come out
I miss sitting on the deck with the big backyard in the cool evening breeze
I miss chic shopping centers
I miss wide, smooth roads, free of scooters
I miss the cherry blossoms blooming in the spring
I miss barbecues
I miss ethnic food
I miss seeing the stars
I miss open landscapes
I miss big houses
I miss seeing farmland and livestock grazing
I miss long summer days when the sun sets at 9
I miss thunderstorms
I really, really miss stepping outside and breathing in clean, fresh air, air that is not laden with exhaust or sewer smells.

But on the rare day that the skies do reveal itself, and the air disperses itself to a purity so clear that the distant city skyline can be seen, a palpable sense of grace is bestowed. An awakening that yes, there is a joy to simply being alive.

And indeed the sky smiled on us today.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


I have a nephew.
My cousin gave birth to Obi in the winter last year, and I was able to visit him and his mother in the postpartum ward, peering at his little pink face, all wrapped in a towel, through the glass that partitioned the sleeping babies from visitors.

I've had the pleasure of visiting Obi a few times since his birth. He has completely stolen my heart with his giggles, snuggles, and smiles. And I know I'm not the only one. Obi has grown to a handsome, fun-loving, joy-filled, dashing little boy. All things loveable and loving, he is quick to give out smiles and hugs, charming all who meet him with his symmetric dimples and perfect little teeth. He lives a flourishing life with loving parents, a skilled nanny, doting grandparents, and adoring aunts and uncles. In Chinese we call his name 亮亮, which expresses the shining, bright light which has pierced all of our hearts when he came into the world.

Obi has albinism.

When the quavers of the initial shock rippled its way throughout our extended family, we all reached out as best we could to hold up our loved ones through the process when things in your family don't go as you've planned. Then the storm passed and gave way to the clear, sunny skies of Obi's smiles and giggles, and I thought all was well, as could be well. Everyone loved Obi, and his dedicated parents were committed to do whatever would be best for him.

But it doesn't stop there. This past weekend I went to visit my grandma and on more than one occasion the mention of Obi would bring about this reaction: "好可惜" -- what a pity, with a sigh or a slight shake of the head. The first time I heard it, I could only give a sympathetic smile while I inwardly rebelled. Then I heard it again and again, and the more I heard it, the more unhappy I became.

In our world, the hold of each culture's ideals is strong. We wish for health, security, success. But things happen outside our control because we are finite beings, and those who do not measure up to those ideals are either marginalized, pitied, or a blend of both. And yes, when we see such an energetic, happy, handsome baby as Obi and think about the struggles he may face in the future, of course we have feelings of pity for him. But Obi cannot be defined by his difficulties, just as we are not.

The words "可惜" are used when milk is spilled, or when a bunch of green vegetables is left to wither away for more than a week in the chiller compartment of the fridge, or when a useful piece of dishware is broken. They are used when a good coupon expires, or when a congenial couple breaks up. It's a pity. What a pity.

To me, in these words, there is a sense of waste. The milk, the veggies, the dish, the savings, the chemistry -- something good is gone. There is something shameful in it; the full potential that was left unreached. But if we use these words on a yet ungrown child, the words cast a barrier in front of him -- they assume he can never reach his full effectiveness. That he will never experience life fully. In a sense, he will never be fully human.

I want to refute these words and the ideas behind them. Obi is not one to be pitied. There is nothing shameful about his condition. He is a precious, precious being, and God willing, he will grow and mature and reach his full potential -- not the predetermined ideals set by society, but develop into the person that he alone can be and do the things that he alone can do as an individual. Who is to say he will not or cannot be a great person?

 To me, he already is.

I write this as much for myself as for all out there who encounter special needs in their lives. As much as I am for advocacy, intervention, and integration, there can only be so much that parents, educators, and specialists can do. Without love and acceptance from family, friends, and community, it will only be so much harder, in spite of the technology, the therapy, the research. We cannot turn a blind eye just because they are different from us. This is why I am so glad that our school has chosen to partner with ministries such as Taiwan Sunshine and the special needs school in Ren Wu district, connecting our students with other students who may not look, act, or communicate the same way that they do, but reaching out to discover the same joys and graces that God bestows upon us in this world.

So let it not be a pity. Let them be empowered.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

taking back JOY

The day I walked into our first home together I knew there would be a lot of work to do. Exhausted from two days of traveling, my shoulders slumped even more when I saw the piles of dust, the splintering wood, the cracking tiles. But we were newly married, and with that newly married glow in my mind I pictured the pioneer girl who, with her grit and pluck, managed to make a home out of a wilderness. So I rolled up my metaphorical sleeves and set to work.

But the days went by and we settled, as the dust that settles, no matter how it was wiped away. The buckets under the leaky sinks amassed dirty water. The old pipes smelled--we covered the drains and turned our heads away, just as we squinted away the bad paint job on the walls, blinked at the eroding grout, blind-eyed the splintering doors. Just two years, at most. And then we could move on.

But try as I might, no amount of wiping, bucket-emptying, head-turning, or eye-squinting made all those things go away. Slowly, imperceptibly, a corrosiveness seeped into my being. An attitude of the temporary. To endure, stick through, put up with this present existence until Happy Ever After. A subconscious resignation to a gnawing discontent.

Oh discontent. How you have been the downfall of humanity! In the silent void, the restlessness takes on a cancerous unhappiness.

I read a blog post of another lady who discovered, from the mouth of her little son, a perceptible loss of joy in her heart after a monumental relocation of her family -- the transition had been hard on her; what she didn't realize is that it wasn't just an internal struggle. Her quiet, inward distress was affecting her children. What got to me was that aside from the message coming from the voice of a 9 year old son, I felt it was exactly what I was going through as well. Someone alongside me asking me with tears in their wide-open, wondering eyes where my joy went.

I asked myself. I am tired, discouraged, worn down by mundane toil; a solitary, isolated path on an endless mountain-pile of to-dos. My present is a schedule book and an eternal list. In this world, friends are far and heartfelt communication rare.
And this is how a heart is worn, tattered to thanklessness.

So now I challenge myself.
Remember who I am: loved and cherished by an Almighty God.

Be present -- not in the book or the list, but in the grains of sweetness that give life its special meaning.

Be open -- not to critical thoughts or internal judgments, but to receive the daily graces of a Good Father.

Be near -- not to the world and its mindless bustle, but to my God: my Savior, Redeemer, Healer, Provider, Friend.

Be thankful -- not just for work to earn daily bread, but for every little thing He sends to remind me of His goodness, His grace, His favor.

Today, it is...
...the spring rain. God knows to send refreshing to cool a parched and thirsty soul.
...the graciousness of others, who yield themselves in order to smooth the way for me.
...the ability to, at a moment's notice, send a heartfelt message to someone oceans away.

Will you, also, be challenged with me? What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

cry wolf

One morning on an unsuspecting early March day we got a phone call from our parents about our church. The news just blazing the Chinese Christian community was that a widespread cult from China (dubbed 東方閃電派, Eastern Lightning) had infiltrated into the neighboring island, and churches around the country were quietly going down, one by one. Anyone who had ever heard or been somewhat exposed to anything about the cult warned us: Stay far away. Far, far away.What we heard was alarming, unsettling, and hit relatively close to home for us.

As most of you may know, the church we have been attending and even committed some time to serving here is called New Songs church. What we didn't know was that the Eastern Lightning cult was re-branding and calling themselves by the same name in Taiwan. The big question for us became whether or not we had unwittingly inducted ourselves into a cult.

We took a little break for a while. We (mostly B) did the research -- we asked questions, we asked non-affiliated pastors in the area, we stepped back and evaluated. What jarred me the most during that time was that we had begun to feel just a little bit settled at New Songs; begun to establish some relationships and throw out some tiny roots. A familiar feeling of betrayal would creep around the thought that the friendly faces we had encountered were hiding something false and dangerous; it was simply inconceivable to me.

One thing we discussed was the theology of New Songs -- what we had witnessed and heard in our short time of attendance. Although the pastor had been on leave for a several weeks due to heart problems, what we had heard was nothing short of the Gospel: Christ the Son of God and Savior, the Bible as the infallible, inspired Word of God, the Holy Spirit's convicting work to bring about repentance and change. It would have been such an irony if the leadership actually had devious, underhanded motives to use the Truth to draw people in, then turn the tables and trap them when they least expected it. But how paradoxical would that be?

On Easter Sunday we went back. That morning no sermon was preached, but one by one, testimony after testimony was shared of the power of the Resurrection of Jesus -- in the nitty gritty, daily moments of life, in the broad picture of God's perfect plan, in the very personal and spiritual part of our beings. That Sunday also marked a new beginning for the pastor after his two-month hiatus. He was back with renewed energy and redoubled vision: falling in love with the Word of God all over again. Bible study. Discipleship.

In the Olivet Discourse Jesus Himself told us that there will be false teachers coming as ravening wolves in sheep's clothing. But He gave us the gauge with which to measure them by: "You will know them by their fruits.

I looked around and saw in each person present the fruit of God's Truth being sown on a personal, consistent, authentic level.

I thought to myself, "There is no wolf in sheep's clothing. Because the True, Good Shepherd is here."

Finally, I understood what He meant.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

against the grain

One thing about living here that I seem to never get used to is the noise that comes with living in close proximity with other human beings. Although our apartment is over 30 years old and quite structurally sound so as to insulate the racket of neighbors coming through the walls and floors, we still hear goings-on around us through open windows and doors. What I never like to hear is our neighbors shouting or screaming at each other. It grates the ears and rubs nerves until they are raw, especially when it happens on a daily basis (one particular family we've dubbed the Screamers, as it seems to run in the family). It amazes me at times when a shouting match has gone on for a particularly lengthy period that I have to fight the urge to shout back at them (my other solution would be to just play these sounds out the window, loud and clear!). But I never do, only because I know it would only exacerbate the problem.

One evening when the whole family was going at it with the little ones screaming themselves hoarse and the adults not doing much better, B suggested that we pray for them. In my head I knew he was right -- so many deeper issues are going on and Satan has been wreaking havoc within this family. But in that moment, it seemed so unnatural; I didn't know them. I didn't know what they were fighting about. They were the ones who were bothering me; I just wanted them to stop.

It wasn't until later (when I could hear myself think again) that I realized what B proposed was so counter-intuitive that I didn't even want to do it. And in fact, most of the things God tells us to do are not inherent to us. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, we have no capacity in ourselves to love our neighbors, to submit to our parents, to cherish our wives, to respect our husbands. But the beauty of the gospel is that because of Christ, we are empowered to do what does not come naturally to us.

A couple weeks ago B and I attended a marriage seminar entitled "Love and Respect" with three other couple friends. Although there was never anything earth-shattering to me about the truths I heard, I knew that given the wisdom I found I now had the responsibility to carry it out in my life. It's easy to think or say "I will do this" but when one gets to the thick of the moment, when the ingrained self-preserving instincts and emotions kick in, the question to me becomes "WILL you?"

Will I be humble? Will I obey the commands of my Savior? Will I stop from barreling down my own path of inborn justice, and turn the other way to the good and the right of my other half, or my neighbor, or even my enemy?

Jesus saves. He heals and He renews. Only because of Him do I know the right thing to do is to pray for my screaming neighbors, to be compassionate to the unlovely of the world, to be respectful to my husband. And only by Him will I be able to push against the grain, to drive diametrically opposite the culture, and live it out in my life.

Monday, March 4, 2013

the un-lovely

I have been waiting and watching for what to blog about -- lately I have been going through a sort of life-inventory and self-evaluation that at times can be a bit trying -- anyone know what I mean?

Both B and I have taken the first steps and "inaugurated" ourselves into service at church. B has already translated for two sermons and I walked out of my shell and played for service. Being teamed with the pastor's son was a blessing, and for a moment there after the singing had ended I could feel the slight tingle of knowing God's presence with me -- not so much in playing well, but in playing with my heart -- a moment of a kind of Shekinah glory, almost.

But what I want to tell here is not that we have been good and praiseworthy, but perhaps to share a struggle and give challenge to myself.

On Saturday we were practicing for worship; inside the church were just the three of us -- B, Pastor's son, and me. We left the church doors open, as we are wont to do, because it leads right into the street for passersby to know we are there and feel free to stop by if they feel so inclined. Well, one lady did stop by, to our surprise and my consternation. She is the lady I have seen on spotty appearances Sunday mornings, the sight of her frightening me because her looks are not like others. Diminutive, hump-backed, toothless, and hobbling, it seemed in her movements unpredictable what she might do next. She came speaking of something but none of us could quite make out her slurred speech, which came out along with not a small amount of spit. She shuffled to each one of us in each point of the room -- even I could not hide behind the piano -- and came so insistently as she shared something that none of us could fully understand. As she stood there next to me I could tell something had disturbed her and I felt ashamed of my own insensitive fears. Swallowing pride and prejudice, I took the example of Pastor's son with his kindly, sympathetic face and listening ear, even though neither of us are very good at comprehending Taiwanese. In the end, she made her last round to each of us and starting with me, began to pray. I do not know what she prayed for, but when I finally realized she was praying as she put her wrinkled hand in mine, I was rebuked. Who knows the faith of this little woman, who claps so loudly and out of rhythm during praise and comes to church although her movements do not come with ease? Surely the world shrinks back or laughs and scorns her each day, and should she not find comfort and solace in the open sanctuary of saints?

Sometimes I wonder what I am doing here. But each week at service I see the world's unlovely and come to realize that the unloveable is what's inside my own heart. I only think that the role-reversal of this woman praying for me was in fact as it should have been. I am the one who desperately needs more of Jesus and more of His love. !

Monday, February 18, 2013

Langkawi picture post

B and I took the opportunity of overlapping breaks during CNY and flew to our belated honeymoon! Here are some highlights from our trip!

This was walkway up to the first chalet we stayed at. It was so peaceful!

Sitting area
Huge windows and a huge bed! They recently remodeled so everything was new and shiny. Except the floorboards felt a bit thin and creaky.

I wanted to take this bathroom home ^^
I got sick as we were heading out so the first few days we had to take it easy. We got to order room service and this was a delicious chicken soup that B ordered for me. We definitely felt spoiled!

This is the view from the place we breakfasted.

Our rainforest chalet from the outside

The beach! Envious yet? ;)

After our maids found out we were on honeymoon, we returned to our room with this on the bed =)

B's Nasi Lemak

We had to scope out the local nightmarket. I was excited to see durian even though I had no intention of buying one.

But I did buy durian sticky rice! It was pretty good, but a little overwhelming to eat just by myself since B refused to touch it. :P

B got this to eat. I think this is Nasi Lemak with a lot of chili sauce.

Nightmarket scene.

The next day we took a cable car ride, which they claimed to be the world's steepest.

The pictures don't show clearly how high we went, but I believed it after taking the ride!
A view from the top. We were high up!
The resort had a lion dance in honor of CNY. I tried to duck away into the doorway to the restaurant on the left, but it turned out to be a bad idea because that is right where they were headed!

We decided to try some local food from a food truck.
They set up tables and stools right by the beach!

This is what they were selling. Veggies and noodles in a sauce, accented with some fried crullers. It was pretty good but the sauce got to be a little inundating after a while.

We took a boat ride tour of a mangrove! I didn't really know what a mangrove was before. It's like a thick forest of thin trees that grow where salt water is present.

The scenery was beautiful. We saw a bunch of eagles and the boat captain threw some chicken into the water and got them to swoop down for us to watch.

Horseriding in the jungle and by the beach! So much fun. My horse kept wanting to be in front while B's horse kept wanting to stop and eat things.

Halfway through our trip we moved to a chalet on the water. It was so pretty!

They gave us cake and fruit! (we actually had two sets of this because we stayed in two rooms) :)

A view from our balcony
Monkey family! These monkeys are white-spectacled, since they have white rings around their eyes like glasses.

This is my favorite monkey picture from the week. Look at the baby holding onto the mommy's tummy!
Can you spot the sand crab?
At low tide we found the beach littered with these curious designs of tiny sand balls leading to tiny holes. We discovered the sand crabs poking out of the holes and later learned that the balls are a product of their feeding as they sift through the sand.
Breakfast with freshly squeezed pineapple juice

B learned how to drive on the other side of the car/road.

Public beach Pasir Tengkorak

Black Sands beach, where the sand is not so black anymore

But the black sand we did find looked a lot like 黑芝麻沙 so I wanted to eat it.

Bridge to a Waterfall


Lattes at breakfast

Our last night we had dinner at one of the resort restaurants, Pahn Thai. It was built right on the water

The view was as gorgeous as the food was delicious

A stunning sunset for Valentine's Day

I got a pretty rose which I tried to bring it so carefully back with me, but the customs official said it wasn't allowed back in Taiwan. I was very sad.
B took this amazing picture with his little point-and-shoot. I think it sums up our time at Langkawi pretty well. <3