Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A New Grave on Ash Wednesday

"for dust you are
and to dust you will return"
-- God

A new grave is being dug halfway up the mountain. I thought the dirty little graveyard, which we pass on the way up to the seminary, was abandoned. The dogs roam there, and trash is scattered among the round cement graves.

But this morning a well-dressed woman stood there alone, looking. She was dressed in black and white, the colors of mourning. And this afternoon, on my way down again, there was a pile of gravel, and fresh cement and brickwork. We humans like to make our graves as permanent as possible, don't we?

And here we Christians are, marked with a cross of ashes. Our liturgical practice insists on this annual gritty reminder: Death is our destiny, every one of us. And an equally gritty hope. That our cemeteries will in fact be abandoned. Not to trash and dogs, but because the resurrected have no need of etched granite markings.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


"There he was
transfigured before them."

Transfiguration Sunday, altar parament,
Tao Fung Shan Center

A Baptism on the Mountain

"This is my son, whom I love." -- God, as quoted in the Gospel of Mark 9:7, the appointed text for Transfiguration Sunday

A baptism tonight, up on the hill. A young father from the mainland of China, who received the holy claim of God on his life, through water, and the Word. Now he joins his Elder Brother, Jesus, as the Beloved.

I've heard it said that it is easier to be baptized here in Hong Kong. There are rumors of lost jobs in mainland China, after a baptism. There are rumors that sometimes, there are repercussions. In some places in the world, baptism into Christ is frowned upon. Some families think there should be no higher allegiance, than to the family. Some communities and places of employment think there should be no higher allegiance, than to the community, or the job. Some nations think there should be no higher allegiance, than to the nation.

It can be a very bold step, to receive the love of God in our lives, that unshakable claim of being, first, and last, and forever, Beloved.

"And He was transfigured before them." -- Mark 9:2b

Friday, February 20, 2009

Giant rat caught in China

Then God called for the earth to bring forth all sorts of living creatures:
........insects, reptiles, mammals;
................animals of every kind, tame and wild.
That is what happened;
........God made the wild animals of every kind to fill the earth,
................every kind of herd and flock,
........and every creature that runs or jumps or crawls on land.
................God saw
that this was a good thing. -- Genesis 1 Laughingbird translation

Giant rat caught in China
Click on this link to check out the full rat story from the British newspaper: Telegraph

Ok all, this was NOT in Hong Kong, but close enough that it certainly caught MY attention. I had to look up the Fujian province (where it was caught) on a map and it is NOT THAT FAR AWAY!!!

If I see one here, I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Our shipment arrives!!

"Be warned, my son...
Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body."
(old wise man Ecclesiastes chapter 12)

SIX Precious Boxes
Our shipment arrived this past week! SIX boxes of the most precious things we own:
--100% cotton sheets (the difference between cotton & polyester is huge in a tropical climate)
-- Towels & washcloths (as the weather warms up we are taking a LOT of showers)
-- Sandals
-- Jeans (and other pants that Dr. Wayne now fits into for the first time in years. Pre-arrival worries about teaching has had a marvelously trimming effect on him. Wish I had a similar challenge :)
-- more t-shirts
-- our green & gold Go Packers! miniature wooden go-cart that somebody very special made for us (hello out there & thanks again, Dick Bahr)
-- youngest son's X-Box (He's able to play "X-Box Live" from here in Hong Kong and life is worth living again)
-- 3 pots, 1 big heavy duty frying pan
-- pictures of the boys left behind (eldest son just turned 21 this week. Did he miss his Mom & Dad on his 21st birthday? Are you kidding? Free beer on tap in Madison on his birthday... I don't think he missed Mom & Dad. He did, however, report that he made it to his 8 a.m. class the next morning, so that's very good, right?? We've raised him well, right???)

ok, and now for the other

Thirty-two Boxes of Books

What were we thinking?

And where are my spices? My mother's afghans? The pictures for our walls? Our forks, spoons & knives, for heaven's sake?

No, we did not pack these things. What did we pack? Boxes and boxes of books. Bibles. Books about the Bible. Books about philosophy, psychology, pastoral care, Christian education, marriage & family counseling, sermon-writing, and yes some Shakespeare and various novels thrown in for good measure.

But why did we bring so many books? Why did we bring 32 boxes of books? And where will all these books go? Not in Dr. Wayne's miniscule office up the hill at the seminary, I don't think they will all fit up there.

So they sit in our hall way. And little by little we plan to give them away, or sell them for cheap, or... read them again. Some of them.

Remember those disciples who just left it all behind when they went to follow Jesus?

I'm thinking they were pretty smart.

Thanks to all of you for supporting us even in our bouts of madness. Thanks to all of you who kept your mouths shut as you watched us packing up all our boxes and boxes of books... and even helped us carry them! Thanks to all of you who will just laugh with us.

I'm going to go out & buy some spoons tomorrow.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. (Ecclesiastes 9:7)

Hope you all had a happy Valentine's Day! Our's was pretty uneventful, but we had another fun & funny time at a restaurant here (endeavoring to follow the words of the wise old preacher of Ecclesiastes, posted above)

We went out with a Swedish couple who are also new to Hong Kong, and we had a similar experience as we had had our first week here, with five different waiters & waitresses coming over to our table, only to have each in turn utterly confounded by our English. We tried to get cold water, not even ice water, we didn't expect that, just cold or even room temperature water to drink, but the closest we could come was hot water with lemon. Well, that did the job of quenching our thirst,too.

We ended up doing a pretty good job of ordering this time... carefully avoiding the options such as "fried baby pig feet", "pickled lettuce" and "oyster dish with strawberry" (I am not making this up) to get several pretty tasty dishes, including what we would call a "sweet & sour" shrimp dish (they called it something totally different) that was really scrumptious. The wait staff were incredibly kind to us, really trying to please us. Once again, we had additional help from some Chinese folks at a nearby table who were
English speakers.

We did not order dessert, as the last time Wayne had done that at a fish restaurant (when he was out with colleagues) he ended up with something like sweet whipped fish cream that was pretty terrible.

Meanwhile, back at home, my Mom turned 85 on Valentine's Day. Happy Birthday Mutti!

with love to all our faithful readers :)


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Climbing up to meet God

photo: today's chapel flower arrangement: Epiphany of the Trinity

In order to get to ten o’clock chapel I should leave at nine thirty-five but once again it was more like nine forty-one before I slammed the crooked screen door at the bottom of the hill in order to hustle up Tao Fung Shan Road.

Twenty minutes later I’m a hot and humid mess, grabbing a hymn book, heart beating, listening, surprise, to a Chinese rendition of “How Great Thou Art”. This has never been one of my favorite hymns… maybe I’ve sung it about a hundred times too often at American funerals… but with at least half the congregation singing in Cantonese, the song takes on exotic new possibilities.

The Swedish professor who just arrived in Hong Kong is preaching on one of the stories of Jesus’ healings -- how Jesus’ shoes are too big for us to fill, yet by “keeping the mind of Christ Jesus” we get to be part of it, this God business of healing the world. The message goes straight to my heart.

Half an hour and the little service is over. My palms have left sweaty prints on the hymnbook, but my breath has calmed.

And I’m thinking, maybe those old Christians weren’t so wrong when they built churches on the top of hills, or at least on the top of tiers of steps There’s something about a thumping heart, damp clothes, deep breaths, that makes you aware of your need for the infinite, in a way that “accessible” gymnasium-shaped level floor buildings can never begin to achieve.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Biking to Tai Po Part 2

1. Led by John LeMond the fearless professor of World Religions at LTS (and one of the leaders at the Tao Fung Shan Center) our first order of business is to choose bikes at one of the many bike kiosks located near the bike path. As loyal followers of this blog already know, finding the right bike... and bike seat, is a fairly serious bit of work. Professor LeMond does not let us down.

2.The ride commences, we are paired up so no one is left behind. This is not to be taken for granted, as we have seen alot of adults on wobbly bikes with training wheels around here! What is a normal part of growing up in the Midwestern part of the U.S. can be a mark of affluence in other parts of the world.

3. The students (and American professors too, I might add) are all pretty good on their bikes, even the ones who haven't ridden in years.

4. We do need to stop regularly for photo opps. One thing about this part of Asia, people love taking photos... and having their photos taken as well!

5. And yet another photo... of this handsome threesome.

6. We arrive in the "little" suburb of Tai Po. Hong Kong street scenery is busy, busy,busy. You don't know what to focus on first... ok, I don't know what to focus on first...

let's take a closer look then.... Note the Halleluia Music Center located next to Hippo Lounge... the street cleaners with their hygiene masks... a woman ready to clean up after her dog...

7. Across the street a school a school... makes you wonder where's the bad children education centre?

8. Lunch! Everybody is happy, especially Dr. Wayne (taking the photo) who has successfully convinced yet another group in his life that Indian cuisine really is the best way to go.

9. & 10. On the way home, more pictures like the one you've seen earlier: View from the To Lo Harbor. Gorgeous!

SPIRIT-MISSION THOUGHT : Christian mission work (at its imperfect best) is "accompaniment", (maybe healing or teaching or walking or biking) with others on "the way", with the hope, belief, prayer that Jesus just might drop in on us as we are doing so.

QUESTION WHICH COULD HAVE A DEEPER MEANING (or not): How old were you when you learned to ride a bike, where were you, and (most important question) who helped you learn? Leave your (short!) comments below:

Friday, February 6, 2009

Biking to Tai Po

ok so on Friday we took another bike ride, this time with ten students

I'm thinking of what they say is the old fisherman's prayer:

protect me, oh Lord, for my boat is so small and your sea is so wide

maybe I'd add a second part to that prayer:

the bike path is so long, and my butt is so sore

but isn't it gorgeous?

we've been put in a beautiful place, with some incredibly beautiful people, so come back for more photos in a day or two (but I wanted you to see this picture right away.)

with love, Christa

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." Psalm 106:1

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Red Envelopes

I like these little red envelopes for the Chinese (Lunar) New Year.

Banks and grandparents and generous neighbors hand out these special "lai-see packets" here in Hong Kong, and children have learned to be hopeful. Usually inside these special red envelopes you will find:

  • money
  • chocolate coins or other candy
  • best wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year

(Alas, the chocolate coins from the envelopes in the photograph above were eaten too quickly for digital posterity. Sorry.)

I thought it a little ironic that banks are the main distributors of the little envelopes. Yeah, they should be wishing everybody a happy & prosperous new year.

I'm delighted to report that Pastor Wong handed out lai-see packets at church this Sunday! And not just for the children, we adults got them too!

(An aside -- Wayne & I went to our 5th different church in 5 weeks this Sunday and believe it or not, each church we've gone to, we've both said, "We could belong to this church. We like this church!" Those of you who know what basically critical people we are might be amazed at that. And it's not like the churches were all that similar... one was Lutheran, another Taize-style, a Pentecostal-Anglican church, and two "community" type churches. Is it because each church is an international church, with many different cultures represented? At the sharing of the peace this past Sunday, we shook hands with refugees from Africa, "guest worker" domestic servants from the Philippines, corporate executives from the United Kingdom, a retired Christian bishop from Pakistan, a pastor from Hong Kong, and a pastoral assistant from Scotland! All brought together through Christ's body. Pretty amazing.)

Regardless of our age or culture, we were all quite happy to get our lai-see packets, our red envelopes, as kind of a benediction upon leaving the sanctuary.

Along with best wishes, and a chocolate coin (I like this church!) we got a card with a verse of Scripture on it:

My child, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. -- proverbs 3:1-2

When Pastor Wong gave us the benediction, she didn't say "The Lord bless you and keep you", she said,
The Lord bless you and "take care of you".
I liked that. May the Lord bless YOU and take care of YOU this New (Chinese lunar) Year.

And may there be many of the Lord's red envelopes for all of us, from corporate execs to immigrant workers, in this year ahead.


p.s. Click here for
crafts or young family activities with a Chinese New Year theme... you're on your own for adding the spiritual content, but I think you're up for the challenge!