Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Up onto Jesus' shoulders in Vietnam

Our last day of 2013 started on the beach in Vung Tau, Vietnam, where we are taking a grace-filled (dare I admit desperately needed?)  family vacation.

Vung Tau is home to the largest statue of Jesus in the world, at 32 meters it is six meters higher than the one in Rio (Brazil).

We had try to climb up the statue  two days ago, walking up the small mountain only to discover the stairway within the statue is closed for two hours in the middle of the day, exactly when we had arrived, of course.

So today was the day. Again we went by the smaller Biblical statues lower on the mountain... depicting some of the happiest prophets I've ever seen. I'm sure I've never seen a Moses with a big grin on his face before, although it mirrors something I once saw in Jerusalem, at the Wailing Wall, where grey-bearded orthodox Jews had gathered to dance their joy in commemoration of Shavuot, the giving of the Ten Commandments.

There's also one of the jolliest depictions of the preaching of the Beatitudes I've ever seen. And why not? Jesus was talking about deep happiness, blessedness, joy. Maybe a bird or two and lambs and a batch of kids did frolic, to hear about God's topsy-turvy hand-out of blessings to the poor, the sad, and those reaching out to taste a better world.

And then we came to the foot of Jesus: Note the scale of things... those are people peering out over the top of his shoulders!
It was a bit of a squeeze to walk up the last 133 steps. We were glad we were the only Western-sized tourists that day - we definitely would have been in trouble otherwise.

And at the top we were rewarded by a view of Jesus with Asian eyes, and the sense of seeing things from the perspective of resting on His shoulders. Hmmm. Not a bad way to look back upon the year that was, 2013, and ahead to the year starting up in a few hours, 2014.

Jesus according to Matthew 11:28-30

The Message (MSG)
28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Happy New Year everybody!!!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Peace on Earth -- reporting from Vietnam

“True peace is not a balancing of opposing forces. It’s not a lovely facade which conceals conflicts and divisions...
Peace calls for daily commitment." 
 -- Pope Francis, Christmas Day 2013

As an American visiting Vietnam as a tourist, Pope Francis' words ring in my ears as our family tours first  the Cu Chi Tunnels (said to be over 200 km long) by which the Vietnamese evaded American military, and where now children - beautifully incongruously - scamper over tanks.

Life went on, underground, with systems for cooking, sewing, medical care, and the devising
of weapons to kill the "American enemy"... some of whom were neighbors to Wayne and I, growing up as American kids in the 1960's

At an entrance to the tunnel system, portions of which
have been enlarged so Western-sized tourists can enter.
 We then went to the War Remnants Museum, which grimly reminded us of the millions killed in the war and the on-going aftereffects of land mines and chemicals used on Vietnamese soil, causing human mutilation and birth defects.

Wayne and I are of an age where we well remember neighbors and church families sending off young men to fight what some at the time thought was a noble war for freedom, what others believed was a horrible mistake, what all knew was a war fought, like every war, at the terrible cost of God-beloved human lives.

 May the One we name the "Prince of Peace" make Christians the first and the foremost to embrace that "daily commitment" for peace in the New Year 2014.

So then let us pursue the things which make for peace 
and the building up of one another.
Romans 14:19

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013 from Hong Kong!

We celebrated the last of the Advent Sundays in a tent sheltering us from the rain. 
The church provides a welcome respite from the Hong Kong crowds... and you thought Christmas
shopping crowds were bad in your hometown??  (These are not, of course, Christmas
shoppers but just the normal Sunday afternoon crowds at the metro station!)

But we've also been surrounded by voices of peace & joy from all over the world this Christmas, as we've celebrated Christ's birth with professors and students...

 from Hong Kong,
from Cambodia

 from Germany

from Myanmar

and Wayne and I have our house full of men... our "boys" have beat the Midwestern and East coast storms and have landed safely in Hong Kong.

Merry Christmas from Hong Kong!  With love and joy in our Savior's birth,

Christa & Wayne

"The angel said, 'Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. 
This is what you’re to look for: 
a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.'
13-14 At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises..."

Luke chapter 2