Saturday, March 28, 2009

A trip to the Factory

This is how discovery happens in China: a storefront catches your eye out of the bus window, you call up a friend, and you go exploring. Sometimes it's nothing, a flop. Sometimes's magic.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

our YARP for Jon and Laura

A dear friend from my Kingsport youth group, Jon Ross, was diagnosed with liver cancer earlier this year. In high school Jon had struggled with an auto-immune disease that attacked his liver. During that time, our Father revealed Jon's incredible artistic talents to everyone, and Jon began a path of using his painting skills to reveal the Father and JC to everyone. He now travels the country to different groups painting The Message. You can see his work here and here.

The amazing part of this story is that when Jon was diagnosed with cancer, he had been married for less than 6 months to a beautiful wife, Laura. This awesome young lady donated half of her own liver to her new husband in a transplant that took place earlier this month. Both Jon and Laura have been through surgery and painful recovery, but the news seems to be really positive that Jon is going to recover after such a long time of bad health. We are all waiting anxiously to hear that their time of pain has passed and that their days of healing and happiness have arrived. You can keep up with their story at their CaringBridge website here.

Anyway, Jon and Laura, we've been Lifting you Up over here in China. Every Sunday I attend the International Christian Fellowship--an approved worship service for all holders of non-Chinese passports. Wuhan is filled with brothers and sisters from India, all parts of Africa, some Europeans and some Americans. As strangers in this land we come together each week in a really lovely time of fellowship. We've been YARPing (spell the capitalized word backwards and you'll catch the meaning) for you during the height of the transplant news--the first part is a YARP right after the transplant--though I think the speaker misunderstood that we needed to YARP for the new liver and not the cancer...but our DAD understood anyway, I'm sure. The second YARP is our rejoicing that Laura's liver 'made it over the hump' and our continued YARP for healing for you both. We've all been inspired by Laura's selflessness and love and by Jon's patient strength. Anyway--in many tongues you have both been lifted to Him who can heal all things. We love you.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Shared with me by The Great Julie. They are fabulous. As is she. ~LucyP

Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two other sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.

The door had been forced, as forced as the dialogue during the interview portion of Family Fortunes.

His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a tumble dryer.

She caught your eye like one of those pointy-hook latches that used to dangle from doors and would fly up whenever you banged the door open again.

The little boat gently drifted across the pond, exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.

Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the centre.

Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.

The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left York at 6.36pm travelling at 55mph, the other from Peterborough at 4.19pm at a speed of 35mph.

The politician was gone but unnoticed, like the full stop after the Dr. on a Dr Pepper can.

John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

The thunder was ominous-sounding, much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play.

The red brick wall was the colour of a brick-red crayon.

Even in his last years, Grandpa had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long it had rusted shut.

Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

The plan was simple, like my brother Phil. But, unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

Her artistic sense was exquisitely refined, like someone who can tell butter from "I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter".

She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

It came down the stairs looking very much like something no one had ever seen before.

The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a lamppost.

The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free cash point.

The dandelion swayed in the gentle breeze like an oscillating electric fan set on medium.

It was a working class tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with their power tools.

He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a bin lorry reversing.

She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.

Her voice had that tense, grating quality, like a first-generation thermal paper fax machine that needed a band tightened.

It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Two Little Nothings

Two anecdotes for the day:

1. A student shared a "joke" with me today:

God was talking to a Chinese, a Brazilman, and an American and asked them, "Who do you want to live with most?"
The American replied, "A dog."
The Brazilman replied, "A football."
The Chinese replied, "My family."


2. All day I've been trapped by an undefinable nostalgia--something tugging at the corners of my memory at every turn of the walk to and from class. At first I just thought I was melancholy with the lack of sun...but that didn't quite hit it...until finally I realized that it had something to do with the smell of the air. I'm sure I looked a little silly walking to class sniffing here and there...but I knew it reminded me of something....something familiar to my childhood...something that was once a part of my life on a daily basis. I was sure of it. It finally hit me:

The air smelled like cross-stitch.

All those days of patient stitching when I was a kid--copying my mom and pretending to be a finishing-school student of the Colonial era (like Felicity from the American Girls)--all those trips to the embroidery aisle of the craft store, choosing among 36 varieties of green threads. The prick of a needle. The cramped fingers. Choosing patterns with mom. It all came rushing back to me in an instant. I don't know if it's the embroidery floss or the hole-y fabric or both--but there was an obvious cross-stitch smell...and for some reason, it filled the air of Wuhan today. It made me miss my mom.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Alive again

Revival: one of the greatest of graces. Every morning a new start, refinding our footing, reclaiming our path--in the great humility of the Journey that we all share.

It's been a rough couple of weeks. After weeks of warmth in Southeast Asia, the return to mostly-unheated rooms of my apartment was pretty difficult. We returned to Wuhan in the midst of a dead-to-life rainy season--only 3 days of non-rain out of 15 before I quit counting. I say non-rain because they weren't necessarily sunny; just absent of rain. And then came a vicious head cold that nearly did me in. I'll be the first to confess that I'm a wimp when it comes to winter and colds/flus anyway. All of it combined with personal frustrations to create a perfect storm of homesickness and winter blues!

In addition, after 22 years of living in the American Eastern and Central time zones--my body seems to keep trying to return to them with a pattern of nighttime insomnia and daytime narcolepsy here in China. Although I've lived over here for a year and a half, I keep finding myself in weird sleeping patterns where I stay up all night long and then barely make it through the day without crashing into an 8-hour "nap"....and the cycle continues! Now that DST has switched in the US, I'm exactly 12 hours ahead of Eastern time--so when I'm pulling these unnecessary all nighters, I'm essentially just returning to Eastern time schedules!

Note: I choose to believe that I'm not complaining, just sharing. hehehe.

But now the sun has returned with crisp spring-like weather for two days in a row! And I stayed awake for 24+ hours on two different occasions to kick myself back into a Chinese time pattern of sleep--so I've been waking up in the mornings and getting sleepy in the evenings like a normal human being once again! And it's all been so lovely that I feel a little silly for the despair that I slipped briefly into!

It's so funny the mundane things of life that get us down. Rain, cold, mildly imperfect health, long boring nights...if this is the worst I have to complain about I am among the first to recognize that I'm incredibly lucky. I'm really thankful that I have such good friends in the US who were really there for me when I was down, and really glad that I have the gift of sweet and awesome students who lift my spirits no matter the weather.

So now's a time for fresh starts. I'm back to nearly full lung capacity and clear sinuses, I'm sleeping when I should and even though the forecast calls for more rain, it's not going to last forever. I'm excited about another week in China. :)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Jonahs that aren't

I’ve been thinking about Jonahs a lot lately. Well, not necessarily Jonahs perhaps—these we might just call “those lost at sea,” or “victims of a whale attack” or something like that. Those who, after G__ has put all cards on the table saying, “You should REALLY follow My will!” still don’t get it, still don’t repent, and die in the belly of a whale.

Or even worse, those who are in the boat as the storm rips through the planks and sails, as the lots are drawn and a crowd gathers to toss overboard the one who has angered the L__D, use powers of persuasion or deception or manipulation to stay aboard, clinging to the mast as the waters claim the boat and everyone in it—all the time saying, “It’s not my fault, it’s not my fault, it’s not my fault.”

It took Jonah three days to give up. I imagine him reciting all the things he should have said to the oarsmen and fellow travelers—the perfect pr phrase to help them understand that he had nothing to do with storms, with disobedience or with greater callings. I imagine him cursing them as murderers. Murderers! I imagine him kicking and screaming and moaning and causing terrible indigestion for that big fish.

I imagine that if someone asked him on day one why he was there—he would have no clue. He is a victim of malice, of stupidity or ignorance, of unintelligent seamen believing in myths and fairy tales. On day two—he would have more understanding, but it’s all because of a disease that he struggles with. He can’t help it—it’s a psychological imbalance—he really should be on meds but he doesn’t like the way they keep him up at night…

And sometime during day three he gave up, gave in, sighed and said, “Ok.” And “Yes L__D.” And “Forgive me.”

Jonah's story--would G_d have done it all if Jonah wouldn't have eventually yielded? When we read the story--I am struck by all the lives hanging in the balance of Jonah's pride. There were the people on the boat and a whole massive city of Nineveh. How long would the storm have lasted? How long would the whale's digestion remain on hold? If we believe in free will, then we must believe that Jonah could have remained angry, petulant and unrepentant. We must believe that those boatpeople could have been persuaded by his savvy insight of the scientific nature of storms at sea, trying to convince themselves of his wisdom even as the water aboard reached higher and higher. Ultimately the book of Jonah is one that shows G_d's will winning out against all odds--but what if it hadn't?

I don't know--maybe He wouldn't have reached out to someone like that in the first place. Maybe He knew that Jonah needed an extreme lesson in obediance and understanding simultaneously with the Ninevites needing a prophet to speed their repentance, and so He decided to pair the needs together and let them fix each other.

But I wonder today if there are Jonahs out there who would rather be eaten by a big fish than let go of their pride. I suspect that there are. And I suspect that there are real lives brought down by their faithlessness and disobediance. And so today I Ask "thy will on earth as it is in heaven" with all the more urgency. Amen.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Just an interesting thought...

I was listening to a podcast that I've grown to really enjoy, 'Speaking of Faith' with Krista Tippett (you can subscribe for free on iTunes if interested), and this caught my interest--especially given the economic climate that has descended upon us. It's from the podcast titled "The Buddha in the World."

Adam Smith, the economist and social theorist, is best known for his work on unregulated, free market enterprise in Wealth of Nations (1776). However, before he published that well known work, he wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759). The podcast referenced a passage from that piece (emphasis mine):

The poor man's son, whom heaven in its anger has visited with ambition, when he begins to look around him, admires the condition of the rich. … It appears in his fancy like the life of some superior rank of beings, and, in order to arrive at it, he devotes himself for ever to the pursuit of wealth and greatness. … Through the whole of his life he pursues the idea of a certain artificial and elegant repose which he may never arrive at, for which he sacrifices a real tranquillity that is at all times in his power, and which, if in the extremity of old age he should at last attain to it, he will find to be in no respect preferable to that humble security and contentment which he had abandoned for it. … Power and riches appear then to be, what they are, enormous and operose machines contrived to produce a few trifling conveniencies to the body, consisting of springs the most nice and delicate, which must be kept in order with the most anxious attention, and which in spite of all our care are ready every moment to burst into pieces, and to crush in their ruins their unfortunate possessor. They are immense fabrics, which it requires the labour of a life to raise, which threaten every moment to overwhelm the person that dwells in them, and which while they stand, though they may save him from some smaller inconveniencies, can protect him from none of the severer inclemencies of the season. They keep off the summer shower, not the winter storm, but leave him always as much, and sometimes more exposed than before, to anxiety, to fear, and to sorrow; to diseases, to danger, and to death.

This is from the guy who later advocated the free market economy to the world.