Monday, October 25, 2010

Count it all joy!

A huge thanks to visual preacher Amber Bergeson for this shot of Wayne & me and our neighbor, a visiting pastor/scholar from Germany, Dr. Wolfhart Schlichting.  We had all gone to church together  and we always walk past this fountain on our way home from Union Church on Sunday mornings. So this time, with our friend Wolfhart (whom Wayne likes to call "Braveheart" because he keeps on taking vast new challenges in his life, such as coming to Hong Kong to teach at the age of 70),  we clambered into the spray!

Yesterday Youngest Son (who has a week off from school) and I took the cable car to visit the Big Buddha, on Lantau Island. 

It's a challenge to do a day trip with a 17 year old, even a relatively nice 17 year old. He absolutely forbade me from posting any of the pictures I took of him... but if you look very very carefully you can see him in the red shirt, walking way ahead of me as if he doesn't know me, at the bottom of the walkway to the Big Buddha.

At today's chapel service at LTS, the international students led us in worship and one of them told us that, "one sentence of praise is worth an hour of prayer."  I'm not sure how authoritative that statement is.... but I like it!  How often we dwell on the negative and what all we need help with, side-stepping the beauties and joys God strews on our path.

May we never become what St. Teresa of Avila referred to when she said, "Lord preserve us from sour, vinegary Christians!"

May we not be the kind of religious communities that paste this kind of sign over all our hearts and minds

but instead, cultivate a sense of joy & praise in the midst of all things.

(I've been waiting for a while to use THIS particular photo of my beloved husband!)

"Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds... "
      -- St. James, brother of Jesus

"Be joyful always" -- St. Paul, messenger of Jesus

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Worship Wars, St. Francis and me... in Hong Kong

  The wise man built his house upon the rock, house upon the rock, house upon the rock... the wise man built his house upon the rock, and the rain came tumbling down!
I  found out last night that one of the professors at the seminary (a fellow Westerner) was furious that I used a children's song (with gestures yet) at the seminary chapel service last week.
What a shame.  I know at least some of the students loved it.  There was a direct Biblical link -- St. Paul telling us not to be ashamed of giving your all in service of the Gospel. I used the song as a way to tell about the children of Hong Kong and China who are awaiting the pastors and church leaders and families trained and strengthened through this seminary, to share the ROCK of Jesus' life and teachings with them...   And I had a pretty good illustration in St. Francis of Assisi who consistently got in trouble with the church hierarchy for his choice in happy music, spontaneous handstands, and jokes, to the point of the early Franciscans being nicknamed the "jugglers of God." 

 "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."  -- Jesus, quoted in Matthew 18:3-4


Friday, October 15, 2010

The World is Her Oyster... or is it?

There's a wonderful English expression, "the world is her oyster" , which means that you are free and confident and adventurous enough to open up that which the world offers, and to find the pearls awaiting you.

I first just wanted to show you some pictures I took today of a couple of the beautiful children of our students at the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Hong Kong.

This little girl, for example, who is totally loved by her parents, and there's her brother, absorbed in learning new things about the world around him and the Slinky (made in the USA and sold in China :) which really does still walk down steps just the way it used to when I was a kid.

The third photo is of our newest father-to-be, whose first child is expected in the next few weeks.  We are teaching him the culinary secrets of Wisconsin brats (also made in the USA and sold in grocery stores here in Hong Kong :)

But I also need to tell you about some of the children in my classes at the Primary School this week.  It was a tough day.  Teachers were obviously stressed.  The first grade class with a high number of special needs kids was especially demanding.  I saw a couple of sharp pencils go flying through the air.  The songs I had chosen for them seemed too wild, and they danced around, rather than singing with the song.  (I am not a trained special ed teacher.  Make that, I am not a trained teacher, period!) One  boy, a 4th grader, was sobbing uncontrollably in the hallway. Several of the 6th graders, who have reportedly gone through 6 years of daily English lessons, did not seem capable of answering the most basic English questions during our small group time.

What breaks my heart is that there are a number of obviously bright children, eager and willing to learn... but how will they? Children of wealthier families are attending English & Mandarin-speaking schools, hiring private tutors,  and going to music and science camps.  

Meanwhile, I suspect, but I do not know, that some of the most difficult children in the Primary School do not have regular medical care, they do not have loving fathers in their home, they do not have the kind of  support and care that tells them they can grow up and do anything, become anything.  The world is not their oyster.

As Christians, how do we live the breaking in of a new power, which says that all children are precious, and the pearl of great price is not auctioned off for the smartest, richest, savviest bidder, but something hidden and secret, and yet available to us when we look for it, track it down, pry it open, claim it.   For all God's children, not just the wealthy and "advantaged" ones.

What do you think? How do you make a difference in educational opportunities for children where you live?

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls..."
    --- Jesus, quoted in Matthew 13:45

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Multi-media Worship

We got to worship with the Nepalese Church again on Sunday.  Wayne preached, one of his students translated, and the singing and praying transported us to another world.  Since we don't understand the Nepalese language, we didn't know if they were praying "in tongues" or just praying, but there was a distinct whoooosh of the Spirit.   

Singing and praying and preaching was followed by dancing and jamming (the congregation includes a number of recovering drug addicts who are pretty great musicians, too bad yours truly didn't recharge my camera battery)... and delicious Nepalese food which even the kid (yes, our 17 year old was along for the occasion) enjoyed immensely.
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us
so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
                                                       -- Psalm 67:1-3