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Monday, December 30, 2013

Musically Oblivious

So the first time I realized I was musically oblivious was back in elementary school, when a classmate was doing a survey. She asks me, "What is your favorite kind of music? Rock, jazz, pop, hip hop, R&B..." and wow I had never even heard of some of those!

So I just picked one that sounded like it might be fast, exciting music, and she moved on to ask the next person.

Image source.

There are 3 reasons for my complete lack of knowledge about music genres. You can leave a comment and debate which is the most important, if you want:
  1. I have Asperger's so it turns out I'm oblivious to a lot of things that everyone else considers common sense.
  2. My family didn't listen to music much when I was little. No reason why, we just weren't in the habit of doing it. You know, back before ipods were invented.
  3. Christian culture and contemporary Christian music (CCM).
And here's a fun story: So, back in middle school, I used to go see a counselor every couple weeks, and one time she was talking to me about how I need to talk to people and make friends.

She made me role play a scenario in which I made small talk with a classmate by asking what her favorite radio station was. So, you know, I asked "what's your favorite radio station?" all stiff and hesitant, and when the counselor wanted me to ask some follow-up open-ended questions, I couldn't/wouldn't do it.

Because geez, what an awkward topic to talk about! I would hate it so much if someone asked me what my favorite radio station was. I didn't know any radio stations, besides the news station my parents listened to. If someone asked me- oh goodness, how embarrassing!

It didn't feel like a conversation, but an investigation into whether or not I was hopelessly awkward. If that's what's required in order to have friends, I'll pass.

(Later I found out small talk could be about topics that I actually enjoy talking about. How about that.)

Image source.

Anyway. Like I said, we can debate which of those 3 reasons played the largest part in my musical cluelessness. But since this post is for the #PlanetCCM synchroblog, let's talk about the CCM part.

Christian culture loves to warn people about the evils of "secular music." I heard tons of such warnings, and read disapproving reviews of bands and albums. Christian culture had so many bad things to say that I literally thought that every single "secular" song was about incredibly dirty and evil sex.

So "Christian" music was good, and "secular" music was bad. So I only bought CDs by "Christian" singers/bands- it never even occurred to me to pursue any other music. And that's why I didn't know anything about any genres- the genre for "Christian music" is "Christian music," apparently. That's all I got, and I was quite embarrassed to say so if anyone ever asked what kind of music I liked. Instead I gave evasive answers.

But you know, I always hated how there was so much "secular" music that sounded really cool, and most of the mainstream CCM sounds kinda... boring. And Christian culture knew it! I remember reading the music reviews in Christian magazines that recommended Christian alternatives to popular bands- you know, the music sounded similar but the lyrics were good rather than evil. Because "Christian" is good and "secular" is evil.

I wished I could listen to the "secular" stuff. The next best thing was to judge it- that was all I was allowed to do, according to CCM culture.

Image source.

So I guess stuff changed in college, when I was exposed to more music and could listen to whatever I wanted without anyone judging me. Also I would like to thank DDR and Rock Band- oh man, memories of when we all broke into the chorus of "Livin' On A Prayer" ...

Eventually I learned that it's not true that "Christian" music is all automatically good and "secular" music is all automatically bad. Turns out we can just listen to everything and enjoy it and be critical of the stuff with harmful messages. I don't have to be afraid anymore.

With that said, now I like Beyonce and Rihanna (and Jay Chou if we're talking about Chinese music!), and I'm still a little unclear about what genre is what. Anyway, that's all, please enjoy this song now:



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This post is part of the #PlanetCCM synchroblog, about how contemporary Christian music affected our lives.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Blogaround

Image source.

1. What Incarnation Means to Me: A Follow Up Post (posted December 18) "Because the God of the universe saw the human body as mattering enough that They became one, your body matters."

2. Hobby Lobby is fine with forced abortions and mandatory contraception in China, but balks at voluntary contraception for American women (posted December 18) "Those concerns have never been an issue for Hobby Lobby when it came to doing business with and in China. They only became deeply held convictions recently, when it came to doing business with the insurer covering its workers."

3. If You Put This Sign on a Christian’s Lawn, You’re a Jerk (posted December 19)

4. How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk (posted December 21) Here's a fun quiz about one's particular variety of American English.

5. Disney Characters Without Their Beards. Oh wow.

6. The Manly Side of Christmas (posted December 26) "I've never heard anyone point to Joseph as an icon of biblical manhood."

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Angels and Shepherds Cake


Merry Christmas everyone! I made some cupcake angels and shepherds...

Mix up 1 cake's worth of batter, and make 1 round, 8 cupcakes, and 7 mini cupcakes.

Planning out the design.

And here it is when it's all finished:










"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
Luke 2:14

“在 至 高 之 处 荣 耀 归 与 神 ! 在 地 上 平 安 归 与 他 所 喜 悦 的 人。” 
路加福音 2:14

Merry Christmas! 圣诞快乐!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

I Miss the Jesus Part of Christmas


I'm in China, and Christmas is everywhere.

Storefronts and restaurants with Christmas trees at the entrance. Decorations in the windows. Banners that say "Merry Christmas"- sometimes in English, sometimes in Chinese. Cashiers dressed in Santa outfits.

It's everywhere.


And the Christmas music. Every large store is blaring Christmas music in English. "We wish you a merry Christmas." "Santa Claus is coming to town." "All I want for Christmas is you."

I even heard "Santa baby." Really?

And religious Christmas songs too. But I hear them play "Silent night" and it only emphasizes how much Christmas in China is not about Jesus. Because it's in English. No one understands.

And it feels like no one understands Christmas...


China's only imported the commercialized side of Christmas, and it feels so empty to me. What about God becoming a human? That's quite possibly the most amazing thing that ever happened.

Americans get all worked up about people "trying to take the Christ out of Christmas" but, seriously? In the suburbs of America I can drive down the street every day and see churches with Nativity scenes. China's Christmas never even had a Christ to take out. I seriously wonder what percentage of Chinese even know that in America, Christmas is a religious holiday.

But, I mean, it's okay that a different culture would have a different take on Christmas. I don't want to say "oh this is wrong! My American Christian view of Christmas is the only correct one!"- like, the vast majority of Chinese are not Christians, so of course they're not going to celebrate the religious aspect, which is fine for them. I'm just sad because it's not what I'm used to. I miss the Jesus part of Christmas.


Maybe that's what Advent is supposed to feel like- longing for Jesus to come. Wanting God to meet us. Wanting more than just the external decorations and the "merry Christmas" well wishes.

I'm waiting for him.

I've felt far from God and confused about God for a long time. I don't even know what it would mean to be close to God. But I still believe he's always with me.

I'm waiting for him.

And I'm looking forward to the Christmas Eve service when I come back to America in a few days. ^_^


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This post is part of the #fleshYGod synchroblog, on the topic of the incarnation. You can write your own post and post it before January 6. ^_^

Friday, December 20, 2013

Remember the time I had mono in China? (A tale of reverse culture shock)

"Are you allergic to any medication?"

“我对布洛芬过敏。” ("I'm allergic to ibuprofen.")

That was the first thing the nurse asked me. In English. I answered in Chinese because what, we're speaking English now? What's going on?

The previous 24 hours had been a thrilling adventure through 3 very Chinese hospitals, and now we were at an international hospital in Shanghai. Where we trusted the quality of medical care a lot more.

It was just like an American hospital, except that the nurses talked to each other in Chinese.

So. Bring on the reverse culture shock.

Image source.

They took me into an exam room and the first question was "Are you allergic to any medication?" Wow! At the other hospitals, nobody ever asked me. Nobody seemed to care. But I had told them anyway- I had written down, in Chinese, a whole page of information to show the doctors, and it said in very large characters that I'm allergic to ibuprofen.

One of my colleagues was filling out a form for me, with my personal information and medical history. Wow! This hospital requires patients to fill out forms when they get there! How about that! And they want to know about family history of various things! Just like in America! Oh also, they asked to see my passport. Wow, asking for ID? Crazy town.

(It was at this point that I remembered I'd had a hepatitis vaccine before my first visit to China, a few years ago. So it can't be hepatitis. Write that down on the form.)

The nurse took my blood pressure. Oh my goodness! It's like she's following a standard procedure- whenever a patient comes in, first you take their blood pressure, weight, etc.

Never in my life have I been so happy to have my blood pressure taken.

A doctor came in and talked to me in English. He was Chinese and wow his English was good. He said they'd need to take a blood test, and I asked if I could have some water or something, because I usually feel really weak after I get my blood drawn. He said I could have some juice and toast.

Toast? I almost didn't dare to hope... could it be toast like American toast? Not a really thick slice of strange sort-of-sweet-flavored bread, which Chinese refer to as "toast"? I tried not to get my hopes up, but I couldn't help but think of butter and jelly, spread on some toast... ohhhhhhhhhhhhh toast...

They took my blood, then took me upstairs to the room where I'd be staying. (I said to my boyfriend, "This room is bigger and nicer than your apartment.")

You know those beds in hospitals, with the little buttons to make the end come up so you can sit up? Yeah, it was a bed like that. Awesome!

Image source.

I asked the nurse if I could have some water. She said she had to ask the doctor first, and make sure they didn't need to do any tests or anything before I could eat and drink. Wow, it's like there are actually rules and procedures at this hospital. Crazy!

I got permission to drink some water. My boyfriend found out where they keep the toast, and he got me a few slices.

You guys. It was toast. It was toast like an American means when they say "toast."

You guys. There was a little jam to put on the toast. Just like in America. (I wasn't allowed butter because I don't have a gall bladder so they wanted me to avoid fat.)

Oh I had toast!!!

(Like I said, reverse culture shock.)

And on every wall there's a dispenser for hand sanitizer, and the nurses are going in and out of my room, constantly throwing away their gloves. And every time they gave me medication, they made me confirm my name and date of birth, to make sure I was the right person. Oh it was great.

(Funny story: so I looked at the paperwork from the little "local" hospital where I stayed one night, and apparently their thought process was like, oh she said she's 24? Write down her date of birth as 24 years ago today. Close enough.)

The hospital provided me with 3 meals a day, and gave me a menu so I could order them. It was all western food! I'm flipping through this menu exclaiming, "OH! Pasta! Pancakes! ... They have cereal!!! Cake! Caesar salad! ... Oh my gosh, pita and hummus! French toast!"

You guys, the food at that hospital was so good.

Image source.

Okay. How about we talk about the actual medical treatment part now?

At 11 pm the first night, a doctor burst into my room and said "You're going to die!" Oh no wait, that's not what he said at all. That's just how I interpreted it. He asked me a whole bunch of questions about everything, and he said my blood tests showed that my red blood cells were breaking down for some reason, and that's why I was yellow. And it could be a very very serious problem.

They put me in a wheelchair and took me down to get an x-ray and some other tests. I could barely stand up to get on the x-ray table.

Later, I lay in bed thinking, "I'm gonna die. I'm gonna die, and then who's going to take care of my cat? ... Actually... you know how every day in China when I cross the street and there's cars coming from every direction and I think 'oh my goodness, I'm going to die right here, on a street in China,' well I much prefer dying in this nice hospital."

Over the next couple days, I was constantly getting fluids through an IV, and there were so many blood tests and other various tests. I think that hospital is secretly run by vampires. Several doctors saw me and asked lots of very concerned questions- I had my gall bladder taken out last year, could this sickness be related? Is there something worse going on? What's wrong with my liver?

But it turns out I just had mono. The worst case of mono some of the doctors had ever seen. (According to wikipedia, "In developing countries, people are exposed to the virus in early childhood more often than in developed countries," so I guess a lot of Chinese people have an immunity to it. Actually, a lot of my Chinese friends had never heard of mono before.) And getting that IV back at that first hospital was what caused the jaundice.

I was in the hospital for a whole week. Some days my throat hurt so much I couldn't even talk. But by the end of the week, my skin had changed back to white-people-color, and I had enough energy to leave the hospital and go back to regular China.

So that's the end of the story. Now I'm back at my apartment (still in China), just resting, and my dad is here too. He came all the way from the other side of the world because he was worried about me. Isn't he the best?

It could take weeks or months to fully get my energy back after having mono. But I'll be okay.

Image source.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Adventures in Chinese Hospitals

A few concerned people gathered around me, asking things like "why is she sitting on the ground?" and "does she understand Chinese?"

"I'm siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiick," I told them in Chinese. I had come out of my apartment because someone was coming to take me to the doctor. But she hadn't arrived yet, and I was too weak to stand, so there I was, sitting on the ground, crying.

The security guard got a chair for me, and a few minutes later, my friend arrived. Actually I had never met her before- she was my dad's colleague who worked at one of the China branches of the company. We'll call her Lydia.

At this point, I had been sick for about 10 days. A few days before, I had gone to the hospital and gotten an IV, but things had gotten worse. I had turned yellow. My skin was yellow. The whites of my eyes were yellow. It's kind of terrifying to look in the mirror and OH DEAR GOODNESS I'M YELLOW.

Image source.

I hadn't gone to work the past few days either. I was so weak I couldn't even go out and buy food- but still, when Lydia called and said she was coming to take me to the hospital, I tried to tell her "no no, I'm fine." But I was too weak to even tell her that, so... yeah.

So we drove to a hospital- a different one than before. We waited in the waiting area to see a doctor, and I heard my name called and we went into the doctor's exam room. (Again, we used my Chinese name and nobody ever asked for ID.)

The doctor examined me, and we told him all about how I had a cold and everything. And how weird it was that I was yellow. I remember showing him a photo on my cell phone, telling him "this is how white I'm supposed to be."

The doctor was very concerned and thought I might have hepatitis. He sent me to get an ultrasound and said maybe I'd have to stay overnight at the hospital.

So we went down to the ultrasound room. I laid down on the bed thing, still wearing my big winter coat, and the ultrasound doctor told me to pull my shirt up. Uh... I'm wearing like 3 thick layers of clothing here... So I took my coat off first, then pulled up my shirt so she could move that ultrasound tool around on my stomach.

Oh also the door to the room is open, and other patients keep popping in during the ultrasound, waiting for their turn.

Right.

Then Lydia said we had to go to a different hospital. Oh, and we can't mention that I might have hepatitis because then they won't treat me. At this point, another guy showed up- a friend of Lydia's. He drove us to the next hospital (there are many hospitals in this story). We'll call him Shen, because he doesn't speak any English.

So at this point, I was starving, so Shen dropped us off at the hospital and then went out to buy me some food.

Lydia stopped by the cashier to pay and then we went to wait to see the doctor.

I will try to describe what "wait to see the doctor" means. So, in a medical exam room, there's a doctor (or was she a nurse?) sitting at a desk with a computer. Crowded around her desk are a bunch of people, maybe 6 people. She seems to be talking to one patient, and everyone else is crowding around, waiting their turn. Lydia and I stood there in the little crowd, and then I sat down on a bed because I was too weak.

Shen showed up with the food, so I ate some, and eventually Lydia pushed her way in and the doctor saw me. I don't remember much, just that she ordered a blood test and urine test.

We went down the hall and a nurse took my blood and I cried a little. Then I went into the bathroom... so... the "toilet" is a trench in the floor, and you squat down and straddle it, and of course there's no toilet paper and no soap. Oh China. So I did that, got the urine sample... oh geez.

Then we had to go to another hospital where I could spend the night.

So we get there and tell the doctors what the deal is, and they said I would have to stay for a month. I then told them that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, because they don't even know what sickness I have yet.

So they took me up the elevator, into a room with 2 beds. One bed had an old woman, and her husband was sitting beside her. The heater was turned way up- my glasses steamed up when I walked into the room. (Whenever anyone suggested turning the heat down, the old couple was like "we're freezing!!!")

So, they put me in the bed, and gave me a stupid IV. Also a wristband with my name on it, and under "allergies" it said "无 (wú)" which means "none." Umm...? They never asked me. Oh wait, they hadn't asked but I had TOLD THEM ANYWAY, that I'm allergic to ibuprofen, and yet it says "无 (wú)" on the wristband. Upon seeing this, I immediately told the nurse, in Chinese "Hey you should write I'm allergic to ibuprofen." So she did.

Makes me wonder why they even have a spot on there to write allergies...

I slept there, and in the morning they wanted a urine sample. The room had a bathroom attached, and did I mention that the bathroom was a Chinese-style hole-in-the-floor toilet? And there's no soap? Hey, if I have to squat down and pee in a cup, over a hole in the floor, you know I'm gonna pee on my hand... and there's no soap.

Image source.

While I was in that hospital, I mentally prepared a list of all the places that should have soap in the bathrooms:
  1. Hospitals.
  2. Everywhere else.
YOU ARE A HOSPITAL. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

(Am I just biased toward American culture, or is this objectively wrong?)

They brought porridge and mantou (馒头, kind of like a little bread-like thing) for breakfast, and gave me an IV again. Everyone's always getting IV's in China. I had that stupid needle stuck in my hand for hours.

Meanwhile, I have a group of friends and coworkers and people who know someone who knows my dad, and they decided to drive me to an international hospital in Shanghai, where the medical care would be much much better- like, American-quality medical care, and the staff speaks English. That afternoon, I checked out of the shady little hospital and we drove a few hours to Shanghai. I threw up once on the way there. Yay.

[to be continued...]

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My First Doctor Visit in China

So I'd had a really bad cold for a whole week. I was so tired and had massive headaches and such, but it didn't stop me from going to work.

Right.

And that's when my boyfriend decided something was very wrong, and came to get me and take me to the doctor.

Image source.

In China, when you "go to the doctor," you go to a hospital. The doctors are at the hospital. We didn't have an appointment or anything, we just showed up, pretty late in the evening. Apparently you don't have appointments in China.

So anyway. We get to the hospital and go over to the cashier window, and the receptionist gives us a little blank booklet with a bit of personal information to fill out on the cover- just simple things like name, age, gender- not actual medical information. (Later, the doctor would write things in this booklet and it would be my medical record.) We used my Chinese name and nobody ever asked for ID. Okay then. The receptionist scribbled a few things onto the page- she put down Han Chinese for my ethnicity. Given the fact that I'm pretty obviously a white person, I began to question why that form even asked for ethnicity. She probably just writes Han Chinese for everyone.

Then my boyfriend says we want an IV with cold medicine, hands over some money and gets a receipt.

(In China, they give people IV's all the time. Like, when you're sick you go get an IV. Instead of like, pills.)

And I was like, "wait wait wait, you don't know that's what I need, are we going to actually see a doctor first?" and he said yes we will.

(Keep in mind the majority of this story is actually happening in Chinese.)

So we went into a medical exam room to see a doctor. We tell him I have a cold and it's been going on for a week. He tells me my Chinese is good, hands me a thermometer and wants me to take my temperature under my armpit. Okay so I guess I gotta take my coat off. But it's cold... also why is the door to this room open? Do we not shut the door when we see a doctor in China? ... I shut the door, then take off my coat and take my temperature.

So I have a fever. Have I had a fever all week and I'm just oblivious?

I had written down, in both English and Chinese, the medications I take every day, why I take them, and the fact that I'd been taking Tylenol cold medicine while I'd been sick. And that I'm allergic to ibuprofen. And had surgery last year to remove my gall bladder. Because in America, these are things the doctor will ask. Probably multiple times. In China, not so much. My boyfriend helpfully read this paper to the doctor, who asked "did you have to wait in line?"

And I'm like "...what line?" completely baffled at the meaning of this question. Sometimes knowing the language can only take you halfway. I guessed he must be asking about waiting in line for my surgery last year, and I'm like "... no... I had an appointment...?"

At this point in my telling of the story, I could say, "And that's when I should have realized something was off." But this is China. If I stopped and questioned every completely bizarre thing that happened, well I would never get out of my house in the morning, would I? I simply filed it under "amusing things to post on facebook later" and went on with life.

So the doctor sends us to get a blood test. This means first going back to the cashier and plunking down some more money. And then the next thing I know, I'm sitting at a counter looking at a nurse with a needle and some gauze. And that's the first time I kind of freaked out. EVERYTHING IS GOING TOO FAST FOR ME! WHY IS THERE A NEEDLE? WHAT'S GOING ON???? And I frantically said some stuff to my boyfriend in Chinese, and then let the nurse take my blood. Ugh.

We had to sit in the waiting area for 15 minutes or so, then we got the results and went back to the doctor. The whole thing is kind of a blur- I don't remember if he actually examined me or just told me I have a cold and fever and sent me to get the IV.

Ah but before the IV, we need to do "the skin test," to make sure I won't be allergic to the medicine. So we go to a different room, called the "emergency injection room" (we can just walk in? we don't have to wait to be called or anything? okay) and OH DEAR GOODNESS why is there a massive needle I thought this was a skin test, and then I had to go out in the hallway and cry on a bench for a little bit, because everything is weird and there are so many needles and everything is happening too fast and I have no idea what's going on at this hospital and I'm so sick...

This is called culture shock, kids.

Okay so after I got done crying on that bench with my boyfriend, we went back in to do "the skin test" where a little bit of something is injected under the skin, and then you have to wait a bit to see if your arm falls off or whatever.

I was fine, so it was time to go back out to the cashier and hand over more money so we could get the drugs for the IV. We got a receipt and went down the hall to the pharmacy to pick them up. Got a whole bag of drugs, then went down another hallway to the room where they do the IV's.

So. This room. It has a ton of chairs with soft padded seats, and each one has a pole sticking up next to it, where you would hang the IV. Several people are sitting around, with a needle going in their hand, just waiting while their IV goes into their body. Kind of a creepy place.

Another stupid needle, then all that was left was to wait. I was hungry, so I sent my boyfriend out to find a convenience store or something. I told him I wanted orange juice and Chips Ahoy. Why did I want Chips Ahoy right at that moment, when I haven't eaten them in years? No one knows.

He didn't know what Chips Ahoy was so I had to find a picture on my phone. I'd encountered them in China before and I was pretty sure a convenience store would have them. Sure enough, he soon returned victorious with the orange juice and Chips Ahoy (趣多多 in Chinese).

So yeah. We sat there for maybe 2 hours, and then the IV was done. I would have to come back the next day for a second IV.

And there you have it- the story of my first doctor visit in China. I went home, so tired, hoping that the next day I would feel better.

The next morning, my skin turned yellow.

[to be continued...]

Not yellow like Asian people. Yellow like the Simpsons. Look up "jaundice." Image source.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Blogaround

1. 10 Photos Of Plus-Size Models We Deserve A Pat On The Back For Running (posted November 26) "Please share this slideshow and tell everyone how astonishing we are."

2. This video of Stephen Colbert doing a "liturgical dance":



3. You can’t have a 10,000-year-old house in a 7,000-year-old universe (posted December 2) "Young-Earth creationism creates a kind of faith that is vulnerable to being falsified by something as simple as a highway expansion project in Israel."

4. What An Amazing Dam. Wait... What’s That? Are Those...? No Way! (posted November 29) These goats. Wow.

5. Amazing Grace (Gotta Catch ‘Em All) (posted December 13) Yep.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cake: The Final Frontier



I may have made a Star Trek: The Next Generation cake.

Start with 2 rounds and 6 mini cupcakes.

Cut up one of the round ones to make the Enterprise.






Riker

Worf

Picard

Data

Dr. Crusher

Troi






Boldly going where no cake has gone before.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"For which of these do you stone me?"

The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep up in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly."

Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father's name testify about me ... I and the Father are one."

Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"

"We are not stoning you for any good work," they replied, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."

Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are "gods"'? If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came- and Scripture cannot be set aside- what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

- John 10:24-39


Jesus' line "I have said you are gods" is a reference to Psalm 82. And, when the bible quotes a line from the Old Testament, don't just read that one line, you have to read the whole context where it comes from.

So, to briefly summarize Psalm 82, God is above the other "gods"- which I interpret to mean kings and governments and powerful systems that exist in the world- and God tells them to quit defending the wicked and start helping and rescuing the poor and weak. And sure, they're like gods, but they're going to die too someday, and God will judge them.

Huh. A psalm about justice- defined as helping the poor and bringing down the oppressors. It's almost like the whole bible is about this.

Anyway, for some reason Jesus feels this psalm is applicable to his situation in John 10. Jesus was making a lot of confusing statements about "I am in the Father" and "the Father is in me", whatever, and some people wanted to stone him. Because how can he talk like that? Calling himself equal with God! THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!

And Jesus is like, "Hey doesn't it say somewhere 'I have said you are gods'? So apparently it's cool to just throw around terms like that. Plus I actually am the Son of God."

Is that it? Or perhaps there are other parallels to Psalm 82?

I wonder if, when Jesus went on to talk about "doing the works of the Father", he meant the justice that was discussed in Psalm 82. He tells them to believe in him if they see him "defend the weak and the fatherless", "uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed", "rescue the weak and the needy", and "deliver them from the hand of the wicked."

And I wonder if, by referencing that psalm, Jesus was making a comparison between the religious leaders who gave him a hard time and the "gods" who will soon fall and be judged for how they ignored the suffering of the poor.

(Doesn't seem like a good move if you're trying to convince people NOT to stone you.)

Also, this raises some questions about whether following God is about what you do or what you believe. So what if someone comes along and helps a lot of people? You gotta check if they've got their theology straight. Because it's better to be right than good, yes?

I was always taught to be careful of being "led astray" by something that seems good but doesn't line up with "what the bible says." That's why Christians aren't supposed to date non-Christians, ya know- because everything will seem good, and then farther down the road you'll get married and then have problems because actually non-Christians are secretly bad.

(Full disclosure: My boyfriend is not a Christian. Please leave your panicked, over-the-top warnings in the comments section.)

Or giving to charities that aren't religious. Sure they're doing good and helping people, but it's all worthless because they're not sharing the gospel, right?

But here's Jesus, saying to believe in him because of what he does. Even though his beliefs seem blasphemous.

Really?

Apparently so. This line sums it up well:
Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"
Not for what he did, but for his beliefs. And maybe Jesus thinks that's absolutely ridiculous.

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This post is part of a link-up on the topic of Psalm 82. To read other people's posts, click here: Calling leaders to account.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Blogaround

1. Are you being persecuted? (posted November 21) A handy chart.

2. "Biblical Grounds" (posted November 19) "When I first told people what had happened, what my ex had decided, someone close to me asked me 'What’s your theology of divorce?' and I was just devastated."

3. Legalists Make Forgiving Legalistic (But We Still Need to Forgive) (posted November 16) "This is the place where legalism cannot enter. Surface forgiveness will never set us free."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Small Talk

When I was little, I never talked to anyone.

Yeah sure, if someone asked me a question, I would answer. And I talked to my family. But other than that, nope.

At school, I did everything the teachers said. And they were always telling the students to quit talking and pay attention. They never told us we were supposed to talk sometimes.

And you know how little kids are taught, "don't talk to strangers"? Well my mom made sure to never tell me "don't talk to strangers" because, you know, I already didn't talk to anyone. She knew I would "take it too literally" and then never make friends. (Which, seriously, please explain to me how I was supposed to understand "don't talk to strangers" as anything other than "don't talk to strangers"? That's not "taking it too literally," you guys.)

So anyway, the point of this little story is, I totally never got the point of "small talk." You know, when you just talk to people about little unimportant things, but not because you need information, just because... well I never understood why.

(Probably because I have Asperger's.)

But in college it was different. Every new freshman, including me, was trying to make friends. People were friendly. And I understood the purpose of small talk: to welcome a new person into the group, so they don't feel alone and awkward. Ask them questions about themself (yeah I'm an English teacher) to show you care about them.

And then once you've become friends, small talk is fun. I'm interested in my friends' lives.

So I had a lot of friends in college. That was cool.

But, you know, still a little clueless about the small talk.

Image source.

But now my whole life is small talk.

Because my whole life is language learning.

My job is teaching English to Chinese people. And at the same time, I am trying to improve my Chinese. How do you learn a language? Lots and lots of practice.

Lots and lots of small talk. Talk to everybody about anything and everything.

My school has a rule: English only. (A rule that is constantly broken, but at least the idea is there.) The students hang out between classes and chat with each other and with the teachers, sometimes in English, sometimes in Chinese. The classes are all taught in English (you know, with an occasional word translated). The "English environment" is super-important.

And perhaps my biggest goal, in every lesson, is this: Get the students to talk.

Put them in pairs, with a question to discuss. What do you like to watch on tv? What do you think the world will be like in the future? Which animal makes the best pet? How would you go about asking your boss for a raise?

It's all small talk. The information contained in their answers doesn't really matter. (It doesn't even have to be true!) What matters is that they're practicing English.

(Don't worry- I do also teach them things about grammar, pronunciation, etc. But they could learn that from a textbook. What really matters is the opportunity to practice. To make small talk.)

Same thing for me learning Chinese. I know I have improved a lot in the few months I've been here. But how? I don't really feel like I've done much studying... It's the small talk. (Plus the fact that I need to speak Chinese in order to like, buy food and stuff.)

My job is small talk. My life is small talk.

To speak a language well, you must do a lot of small talk.

And perhaps, back in school during my childhood, perhaps the purpose of that small talk was also to practice something. Practice getting along with people. Practice being a friend. Something like that.

Discussion question: What is the purpose of small talk?

Friday, November 22, 2013

You can't find those answers in the bible

Image source.

"Maybe some people think this is ridiculous because of the whole 'swallowed by a whale' thing. But I believe the bible." And that is the sum of all the thoughts I've had, in my entire life, exploring the idea that the biblical story of Jonah might be anything other than a factual historical account.

Until a few days ago, when I read this post by the Slactivist: No, the book of Jonah cannot be read as history. Do go and read the whole thing.

First of all, well, yes it can be read as history, because that's the only way I've ever read it. I've read apologetics books that referenced cases of people surviving a few days inside a fish- many many times I have heard Christians defend the story of Jonah as something that totally IS possible. (And I also read one which said those kinds of explanations were totally misguided because you guys, it's a miracle, quit trying to explain it naturally and thus make God less powerful. Umm, what?)

But the Slactivist says Jonah is satire, that it's BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS that Jonah is satire.

And the reasons he gives... how in the world did I never see these before?
  • "everything about Jonah is overly dramatic and over-the-top." He is sent to Ninevah, the capital of the Assyrian empire. You can't pick a worse city than that. And then the entire city repents. What? The entire city? Suddenly? And then, because God didn't destroy Ninevah, Jonah is angry enough to die. Yes, overly dramatic.
  • And "the omniscient third-person narrator." Hmm. Now that you mention it, that is suspicious.
I want to say, "How in the world has this never occurred to me?" But I know the answer. It's because I always believed (never even thought to question) that being a Christian means believing the stories in the bible really happened.

This isn't about believing the bible or not believing the bible. I just want to know what the author of Jonah meant. Did he/she intend it as satire? Did the original audience understand it to be an actual thing that happened, or not?

You can't find those answers in the bible.

That's an unavoidable conclusion. You can't find those answers in the bible. The bible doesn't explicitly tell us how to read the bible. (Indeed, if the book of Jonah started with, "This story-teller gives us an amazing bit of satire here..." that would kind of ruin the whole satire thing, huh?)

So. Yeah. Jonah as satire. This is entirely new to me. Maybe I have to read the whole bible over again.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chinese Food (Photo Dump)

And here's this month's edition of what I'm eating.

Dumplings before being cooked. During off-peak hours, you always see the people who work at those little restaurants making these things.

Fried rice. I can't eat this anymore, too greasy.

筷子盒 (kuàizi hé, chopsticks box) 已消毒,请放心使用 ("They've been sterilized, don't worry, you can use them.")

Little dumpling-like things. Probably with pork inside?

玉米汤 (yùmǐ tāng) Corn soup. I have no idea why this restaurant gives out spoons in baskets.

烧烤 (shāokǎo) Chinese barbeque. You pick out which sticks of food you want and then the guy fries them and puts on a ton of oil and spices. The ones cooking in this picture are eggplant, bread, and tofu.

Just like Dairy Queen in America! <3 Oreo blizzard and strawberry-banana blizzard.

宫保鸡丁 (gōng bǎo jī dīng) Kung pao chicken.

Eggplant.

My attempt at making 青椒炒蛋 (qīngjiāo chǎo dàn), fried eggs and green peppers.

I taught my students to make worms in dirt! Oreos, gummy worms, and imported chocolate pudding. It tasted just like it does in America, and therefore the majority opinion was that it was completely unreasonably too sweet. Dude, Chinese people don't eat like, real dessert. They have stuff which is referred to as "cake" or "pie" or "pudding" or whatever, but come on. Where's the sugar? It tastes like foam.
Drives me crazy. Also, this is probably why Chinese people are so skinny. Also, when I ate my worms in dirt, I was kind of overwhelmed/felt a little sick from the sweetness too. I've gotten used to eating less sweet stuff in China.

Subway (赛百味 sài bǎi wèi) They don't put on half as much meat as American Subway does. But I still like it. China doesn't really do sandwiches, so it's nice to go to Subway now and then.

You guys! The cookies taste like American Subway cookies! None of this "flaky little biscuits with no sugar masquerading as cookies" (which is what other "cookies" in China generally are).

锅贴 (guō tiē) Potstickers.

This restaurant brought out bugles and cherry tomatoes to snack on while we waited for a table.

I eat peanut butter because I'm American.

Rice, egg, chicken leg, tofu, veggies.

Soy milk. I don't know why it's gray. I used a few of those sugar packets and it was good.

I don't always eat so healthy... (KFC in Chinese is 肯德基 kěndéjī, it means Kentucky.)

I cook my own dumplings! Well, I buy them frozen and then just boil them. It's really simple.

I put soy sauce on them.

Breakfast from KFC. 粥 (zhōu, porridge) and a 油条 (yóutiáo, deep-fried breadstick). This is totally what the Colonel had in mind.

Some sort of cake with coconut icing.

Noodles.

A "Chinese hamburger." That's either pork or lamb in there.

Purple sweet potatoes, I think.

You know this restaurant is fancy because they stacked the cucumbers.

What's this? Your guess is as good as mine.

Some kind of vegetable? With jam? Again, your guess is as good as mine.
The watermelon was sliced all fancy too.
Ah, eggplant.

Mango smoothie.

Taught the students how to make sandwiches. Then we had a contest for the most creative sandwich.

Birthday cake! With fruit and stuff on top.

Curry with eggplant and chicken.

Delicious tofu.

Leeks and tofu.

Curry with chicken and vegetables.

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