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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chinese Food (Photo Dump)

Here's the February edition of what I'm eating in China! Great stuff. ^_^

Delicious cakes for sale.

Pineapple bread. I love this stuff.

Halves of pigeons.

This vegetable looked like pumpkin and tasted like oranges. No idea what it was.

Noodles of some kind.

Fancy hot chocolate.

Broccoli and shrimp.

Shellfish with noodles and some other seasonings.

Soup.

I made pot stickers! (锅贴 guō tiē)

Here are the potstickers I cooked. So tasty. Put some vinegar on there.

I buy frozen dumplings and just boil or fry them. So simple.

Some appetizers at a fancy restaurant.


Fast food. Chicken curry with some rice and other side dishes.

Sprite. (雪碧 xuěbì)

I believe this was pork. Plus some side dishes. Did they give me a fork because I'm white?

Fruit pizza- expensive because it's "Western food."

 腐竹 (fǔzhú), a type of tofu, at the grocery store.

Rice for sale.

You can also buy rice in massive bags.

肉夹馍 (ròu jiā mó). Has spicy pork and lettuce. It's kind of like a taco.

Cotton candy.


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

Fast food.

虾 (xiā). Shrimp.

Making dumplings with my boyfriend's family.

Some people are really good at making pretty ones!

The filling has pork and vegetables.

Various kinds of tofu, plus rice noodles. We ordered this at a hot pot restaurant- we then boiled the stuff in the hot pot and ate it.

年糕 (nián gāo). Little sticks made from rice. (Also to be boiled in the hot pot.)
Tasty dumplings plus some side dishes.

Pizza from an Italian restaurant. Super good.


香锅 (xiāng guō). You choose your ingredients and then they fry them up for you.

Lotus.

Tofu, pork (or beef?), and beans.

Broccoli plus a mystery vegetable.

Tofu with tomato flavor.

Noodles.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What if God is too big?

Image source.


"You turn people back to dust,
    saying, 'Return to dust, you mortals.'
A thousand years in your sight
    are like a day that has just gone by,
    or like a watch in the night.
Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death-
    they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new,
    but by evening it is dry and withered."
Psalm 90:3-6

What if God's just too big to notice me?

He made the world, he loves the world, he loves people- but does he see individual people? We're all just here in a massive crowd... does God just see the crowd and love the crowd, or does he love each of us?

What if God's too big? And what if the world's too big?

The world is so big, you guys.

The earth turns and I get up in the morning while my family in America is sleeping. And I can't even call them because my phone doesn't do international calls. I can just email and skype.

The world is so big, and I live my life while my brothers and sisters in other countries live their lives, with their own cultures and habits I've never imagined. And we all just go on, oblivious to how the world works in other places, ignorant of what the human race is really like. We can only experience a small part.

There are billions of people, and each of us is just lost among them. The earth doesn't care. Does God care? Can God care about each person, or just he just see the big picture?

What if he just sees our lives come and go like blades of grass, and he blinks and a thousand years have already gone by?

What about when God sent the flood to kill everyone in the world, except Noah's family, because everyone was evil? Really? Everyone? God judged each individual person and decided each one deserved to drown, except for Noah's family? Or did he just look at society and make a sweeping generalization?

How about when God sent Moses to bring the Israelites out of slavery? They'd been slaves for 400 years. 400 years? Why did God let so much time go by? What about the people who lived and died and God got there too late to free them? 400 years is a long time.

Maybe it's not long for God. Maybe he just cared about saving the nation, not the individuals.

And when Joshua led them to take over the promised land, God said to just kill everyone who was living there. They'd just be a bad influence, apparently. But couldn't God see the individuals, each one with their own personality and ideas and character flaws?

Oh right, he had them not kill Rehab. Because she helped the Israelite spies. Right, just like in a movie, where the nameless character starts showing the hero pictures of his family, right before they have to face the enemy- you know that guy's not gonna die, because now we all like him and his family. And everyone else is a red shirt.

Does God really think that?

Does he see me? What if God is too big?

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This post is part of a link-up on the topic of Psalm 90. To read other people's posts, click here: Numbering Our Days Aright.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Blogaround

Image source.

1. Speaking is Painting: Why No Translation Can Be “Perfect” (posted February 13) This is exactly how I feel about Chinese and English.

2. A Closet Comes Undone (posted February 9) "It’s happened and I’m all the way out and people are talking about me without me."

3. Popular Chinese Websites (posted February 20) The basic ones you gotta know if you live in China.

4. How to cut a bagel into 2 interlocking halves:



5. Church Signs, a Blurred Lines Parody Video (posted February 20) WOWWW I love this video. Not your typical cheesy Christian parody.

6. Does Frozen feature Disney’s first animated gay couple? (posted February 18) Cool!

7. "Hey Jude / your make is bad / you should fix that / compiler error."

8. 3D Printing Helps Fix Child’s Heart, Save Life (posted February 22) Awesome!

9. And this dog:

Image source.
Have a good week, everyone!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

"I don't care what people think." Well, you should.

This advice is often given: "Just be yourself and don't worry about what other people think." I believe sometimes this is right and sometimes it is very wrong, and the distinction is this:

Category #1: Maybe people will think I'm a loser, but I don't care what people think.

Category #2: Maybe people will think I'm insulting them, but I don't care what people think.

For category #1, yes, absolutely, go for it! Do what you want, and don't worry about other people judging you. Wear what you want, dye your hair, follow your dreams, whatever. Don't let anyone hold you back.

But I do have some opinions about having a purse dog. Image source.

For category #2, whoa, slow down. If I am being misunderstood, and people think I'm insulting/judging them, then I need to stop and reevaluate what I'm doing.

I absolutely need to care what people think.

And so many Christians (including me) are guilty of not realizing this distinction.

The bible warns us that Christians can expect to be persecuted. I've heard people wonder what will happen if they mention the bible in conversation- will all their friends abandon them? In my experience, that totally hasn't happened. I just try to be honest all the time about who I am and what I believe. Nothing to hide, nothing to be embarrassed about. Haha, I guess I don't care what people think.

But when you talk about God, and then someone doesn't react so nice, what do you conclude about it? "Eh, shake it off, the bible said we'd be persecuted. How noble of me to be doing this, putting my reputation at stake for the sake of the gospel!"

No.

Were they "offended" by the bible, or because you weren't listening to them?

So often I have heard pastors say that people nowadays are so "politically correct" and so easily offended, but you just have to tell them what the bible says anyway, and don't worry about it, because "the gospel is inherently offensive."

NO!

So we can just go around saying whatever rude things we want, and then claim that hey, it's in the bible, if anyone has a problem with it, they can take it up with God.

It is NOT OKAY to offend people just for the sake of offending people. Yes, I know that Jesus offended people by what he said. (You may remember that he ended up getting killed for this?) But he didn't go around telling everyone "you're a sinner" and saying whatever popped into his head.

And I know I'm exaggerating with that example. But I'm writing this because I've often been guilty of it, in more subtle forms. So many times, while talking with friends, I just wanted to steer the conversation so that I could say my bit about Jesus, regardless of whether the other person was interested, and then later I could tell my friends "I shared the gospel!"

We can't treat people like this. As if all they need is for me to spew out information about Jesus. Yes, as a Christian I believe people need the gospel. But the gospel is not an arrangement of words that comes out of my mouth. The gospel is God's love and mercy which rescues people and calls them to begin a new life following Jesus.

And any words I say, in an attempt to explain Christianity, will only be effective if the other person feels the reality of that love and the depth of their need for God and a longing for the awesome life that Jesus promised.

It does matter what people think. God loves people, and I want to somehow communicate that love. If people are feeling insulted or judged by Christians, then we're doing it wrong. I pray that Christians would be known for treating everyone with love and respect. I pray that we would just be honest and not scared of people persecuting us, and that we would be ready to listen and even have our ideas challenged (and maybe even admit that we were wrong about some things!).

And yes, I have biblical support for this: Ephesians 6:12 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." People are not the enemy. We are fighting against sin and satan and evil in general. No, people are not the enemy- we love people.

And if someone misunderstands because of my actions, I need to find out why. Is it because I came across like I was judging them and not listening to what they think? People have actual reasons that they believe what they believe- I need to listen and do my best to understand.

Christians, go tell the world about God's love and how he's changed your life. Seriously, Jesus is the best. Go tell everybody you can. But above all, demonstrate God's love by loving people. By friendship, respect, and honesty. There's no trick. I don't care how many times you "shared the gospel" if you did it by monologuing at someone who didn't ask for it.

If we really believe this stuff, if we really believe that "God so loved the world", then we will strive to really demonstrate that- to be a friend, to help others, to listen and understand.

And I never again want to hear "the gospel is inherently offensive" used as an excuse for not caring about people. It does matter what people think. Because if we get this wrong, they might think God does not love people, and Jesus does not change lives.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

3 Surprising Moments in "Frozen" (which really shouldn't be surprising)

Image source.

I recently watched Disney's "Frozen" and was shocked by 3 things which really shouldn't be shocking. They should be completely normal and obvious things. But for some reason, movies never seem to treat them as so obvious...

[SPOILER WARNINGS!!!!]

1. "You can't marry a man you just met."

This should be really obvious, right? You can't marry a man you just met. But for some reason people are ALWAYS doing that in Disney movies.

Right near the beginning of the movie, Anna and Hans got engaged, the same day they first met each other. Elsa says no, you can't get married so fast. Kristoff also thinks it's ridiculous when Anna tells him about it.

And actually, Anna's and Hans's relationship doesn't work out, which was also very surprising to me. In what children's cartoons do the characters break up?

2. True love.

So unfortunately, Anna's heart becomes frozen and she can only be saved by "an act of true love."

When they find this out, Kristoff races her back to the palace so they can find her fiance, Hans, and have a "true love's kiss."

But, once Anna and Hans are alone, he reveals that he doesn't love her, he just wants to marry a princess so he can have power. Hans leaves her alone and freezing.

Fortunately, the talking snowman shows up to help her, and they try to think of another "act of true love" to save her. The snowman defines love as putting someone else's needs before your own, and AMEN TO THAT! Usually in movies, love is just romantic feelings, but dude, this movie has the ACTUAL definition of what love ACTUALLY is. Mind blown.

And the snowman gives the example of Kristoff loving Anna enough to rush her back and find Hans and leave her. Yes, that's love. Especially since it turns out Kristoff was attracted to Anna too. But he put her needs first, and took her to find her fiance as fast as possible.

And actually, in the end, the "act of true love" that saves Anna is between her and her sister Elsa. Because "love" doesn't just mean "romance." WOW! I mean, yes, obviously "love" doesn't just mean "romance," but in movies it usually does.

Queen Elsa. Image source.

3. He asked permission to kiss her!!!

Near the end of the movie, Anna's love interest, Kristoff, is so happy and exclaims, "I could kiss you!" and then stops and kind of stammers about "only if it's okay with you" or whatever, and she says "Yes you may!" and they kiss.

And I was freakin' speechless. Are there any other movies where somebody asks permission before kissing someone?

Even though that's what EVERYONE should do! Consent! You can't just kiss someone without their permission. Good on you, Kristoff!

And even when Kristoff and Anna were traveling together and working together, he knew she was engaged to someone else, and he never tried to make any romantic moves toward her. When he found out she needed "an act of true love" to save her life, he hurried her back to the palace to find her fiance- even though Kristoff himself was attracted to her.

Now there is a guy who respects women. Even though he doesn't agree with her getting engaged to someone she just met, he takes her seriously and doesn't try to flirt or anything.

(Which, by the way, is what everyone should do. It shouldn't be such a surprising thing to see in a movie. But it was.)

Princess Anna. Image source.

So, have you seen "Frozen"? What did you think?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Psalm 89: Can I be both?

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The first bit of Psalm 89 (verses 1-18) is all about how freaking amazing God is, with all his love and power and everything. And "I will sing of the Lord's great love forever," and, you guys, me too.

I really really believe God loves everyone and God loves this world, so much that he became a person and experienced pain and emotion and everything. And someday he will right all the wrongs. I think that's pretty freakin' awesome and I do want to tell people about it, like the psalmist said.

And then the next bit (verses 19-37) are about how God did so much for David and for the nation of Israel, and how God gave them so many great promises. And yeah, I believe this stuff too. God's done a lot of great things for people.

And then the last part (verses 38-52) is kind of different. "But you have rejected, you have spurned, you have been very angry with your anointed one" and "Lord, where is your former great love, which in your faithfulness you swore to David?"

Like, what the hell, God? You love us and you did all this great stuff in the past, so where are you now? And yeah, I'm there too. What is God doing? Why does he seem far away? Why are things so confusing and there are no answers? (You'll notice this psalm does not provide any neat answers.)

A commitment to declaring God's love forever, and bold statements about how God has "renounced", "broken", "put an end to" the success of his people. How is this all in one psalm?

Can it be both? Can I be both?

I just wanna be honest and say how I feel about God, how I love him but I don't know if he really loves me, how I know I want to be a Christian, how I feel like I have to figure stuff out on my own, how I'm done with believing someone just because they say they know "God's way" to do something.

I'm done with advertising Christianity. You know, only telling people about the good parts. Putting everything in a nice package where each part has a clear explanation and everything makes perfect sense.

I want to sing of his love. But I also want to say "what the hell?" when it's time to say "what the hell?"



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This post is part of a link-up on the topic of Psalm 89. To read other people's posts, click here: A Surprise Ending with An Important Lesson.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Blogaround

1. It’s Just Sex (posted February 6) "But they were all lists of what not to ever do if you wanted your life to remain unruined by the hydra of sex. No one told me what I could do." AMEN!

2. Re: Immanentizing the transcendent and ‘Why are you a Christian at all?’ (posted February 8) "So why not just get busy loving one another and not bother with the God stuff at all? As Richard Beck suggests, and I agree, that’s a fine approach." Wow. This is what I believe too.

3. The Church That Loved (posted February 4) "But he did let us know that, technically, the Alliance denomination does not affirm same-sex couples, and would probably not be happy to know we help out in ministry at Cove, let alone want to become members. But he said we would go ahead anyway."

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Purity Prosperity Gospel

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I was always a good Christian girl. I started reading the bible as soon as I learned how to read. I went to church every week. I memorized more verses than anyone in my Sunday School class. I knew the answers.

I didn't date at all until college. When my first boyfriend broke up with me, and I felt like my life was over, God saved me, and maybe that's the first time I understood what it meant to trust God and live fully committed to God. Which is exactly what I did for the next few years.

And then, as I was finishing undergrad, I saw the happy news on Facebook: a girl from my Sunday School class (whom I hadn't talked to in years) had gotten engaged! And another girl from my Sunday School class got engaged! And another! And then she got married! And then she got married too! Etc etc.

Why not me?

I did everything right when I was a little kid in Sunday School. I read my bible more than anyone else. Surely I was on the fast track to the awesome life God planned for me- which would of course include getting married right out of college and living happily ever after.

And even in college, I did my best to live fully committed to God, and I saw my friends dating, and some of them eventually engaged and married. What about me? Didn't I deserve that too? How are they better Christians than me?

------------

All of this is rooted in a story that teenage girls are told in church: Don't have sex, don't go around dating every guy that hits on you. No, you don't need those guys who don't value you, because God has created one perfect guy for you, destined you to be together from the beginning of time. (Because all women are straight, didn't you know?)

Yeah, just stay pure, be obedient, keep saying no, pray and listen to God, and God will give you that perfect guy and you'll be happy together forever.

That's the story purity culture sells. Don't have sex now, because God will give you a husband if you wait, and the sex with him will be way better.

And even though, when God changed my life, I learned to value God above all else, no matter if he "gives" me a dude or not, I guess this "purity prosperity gospel" was so ingrained in me that I really did think it was unfair that other girls from my church got married before me.

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What is "the prosperity gospel"? It's an ideology that says God will give you health and wealth if you have enough faith, give money to the church, whatever. And if bad things are happening in your life, well it must be your fault for not being obedient to God.

Evangelical Christianity is very much not a fan of the prosperity gospel. Because it views God as a "vending machine"- good deeds and prayers go in, blessings come out. Because it sees God as a tool to help us get what we want. Because it's selfish. I reject the prosperity gospel, and so does the evangelical Christian background I come from.

So why the #$@! is purity culture within evangelical/conservative Christianity preaching a prosperity gospel? "Do everything right, obey God, don't have sex, and God will reward you with a wonderful marriage. You'll have a perfect spouse, specifically created by God just for you! Honeymoon sex will be the best sex ever!"

And this story can take on many different forms. I've read so many testimonies by Christian women that went like this: "I thought my value was based on having a boyfriend. I was so sad, but God came and changed everything, and then I saw that God is all I need, and I was content to be single! And then a few years later, when I least expected it, God brought this wonderful guy into my life and now we're married and it's great!"

And I think it's so easy for single Christians to interpret this as, "In order to get God to give you a husband, you have to pretend you don't want it, long enough to trick God into giving you one."

And since the first half of that testimony is something I have personally experienced, I really hope that when (if?) I do get married, my story won't be interpreted that way. My story is that God is God. End of. Maybe I'll eventually be married, but that's unrelated to my discovery that God is God. I really meant that.

And I see this "purity prosperity gospel" in more subtle forms. Advice about "being content in your singleness" and that will be what brings that special someone into your life. Advice about "don't focus on FINDING the right person- focus on BEING the right person." The way I used to read Christian books about dating, hoping to discover the secret to what I needed to do to make God give me a husband.

And every piece of Christian advice on how to find a spouse, which doesn't include "go out and meet a lot of people and see if anything goes anywhere." Or, "go ahead and ask that guy/girl out and see what happens!" No no, we're not allowed to say PRACTICAL things like that. Because for some reason, we feel like we're not allowed to want to get married and to do things to try to make it happen. No, we have to WAIT for God, we have to pretend we don't want it, but then God just put us together.

Like, how many times have I heard a husband or wife tell the story of how they got together, and it's "I didn't even want to date, but God brought him/her into my life and brought us together!" I feel like there's this pressure for people who are dating to pretend that dating is NOT a thing they sought out, it's a thing that "just happened." God did it. We're not allowed to actually want it ourselves and take steps to make it happen ourselves.

No, instead we just tell the single people to be better Christians, to listen to God more, to trust God more, to ignore that desire for marriage. These are the things you need to do in order to MAKE God give you a husband/wife.

The purity prosperity gospel treats discipleship as a means to an end. A way to become a good enough Christian that you earn a husband. 

Can we acknowledge that people want to get married and that's totally normal and people have choices?

Are we allowed to say that people have control over their love lives- it's not just "wait and pray and God will do it all"?

And can we say that everyone is different and some people get married young and some people don't, and some people get divorced and some people get married a second time, and some people never want to get married? There is no "God's plan" that's the same for everyone.

Nope. As I've said before, in purity culture, everyone is straight and gets married exactly once. Better pray more so you can get to that happy married paradise sooner.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Did God do it? (plus a Chinese lesson!)

Image source.
In Psalm 88, the psalmist is crying out to God for help, but, strangely enough, also saying it was God who caused bad things to happen to him.

Take a look:

"You have put me in the lowest pit,
    in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
    you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
    and have made me repulsive to them."

Well that's... odd. God did those bad things to him? Really? What does the writer mean by that?

Here's the thing: I highly suspect that, as this was written thousands of years ago, in another language and in the context of a culture completely foreign to me, I can't just take this "God did it" idea and run with it. When an American Christian says God did something, I'm willing to bet that has a different meaning than an ancient middle-eastern person saying God did something.

So there's no point in speculating and analyzing this until we know more about the culture.

Here's another example: 2 Samuel 24:1 says, "Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, 'Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.'"

But when the same story is recorded in 1 Chronicles 21, it says, "Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel." So which is it? God or satan?

And how about when Moses was confronting Pharaoh about the "let my people go" thing? Sometimes it says God hardened Pharaoh's heart (Exodus 7:3, 9:12, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:4, 14:8), sometimes it says Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:15, 8:32, 9:34), and sometimes it sounds like it just happens on its own (Exodus 7:13, 7:22, 8:19). So which is it? (And isn't it kind of messed-up for God to punish Pharaoh for something God did?)

Who did it? Who caused it? I bet this confusion is because the biblical writers had a different understanding about what it means to say God caused something.

So unfortunately, I can't start to make a big deal out of "oh my gosh, God caused that?" Because I don't know their culture and what they meant by that.

Image source.
Here's an example from Chinese. Suppose you went on vacation, but unfortunately there was a typhoon while you were there. In English we say, "There was a typhoon." Chinese people would say, "我遇到了台风 (wǒ yù dào le táifēng)" which literally means "I met a typhoon."

(And this is why, even though I can speak Chinese, I structure my sentences differently than a native speaker. My brain's OS is English.)

To me, as a native speaker of American English, "there was" has a slightly different feel than "I met." Maybe Chinese people would say it does too. But that's not something I can really understand until I spend a lot more time studying Chinese.

At any rate, it wouldn't make any sense for me to say "wow this translation says 'I met', that is super interesting, it puts the focus of the sentence on the person who's telling the story, I wonder why." Umm, no, that's just a very normal thing to say if you're speaking Chinese. There's no magical hidden meaning. It's just a different language.

Same thing with Psalm 88 and how it says God made bad things happen to the psalmist. How would the original audience have understood it? I don't know. Maybe it's a big deal, maybe it presents a crazy view of God that we need to wrestle with- or maybe not. We can't know without knowing their culture.

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This post is part of a link-up on the topic of Psalm 88. To read other people's posts, click here: Depression is Biblical.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Blogaround

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1. "Reading Rainbow" with LeVar Burton - on Star Trek TNG. Behind the scenes of Star Trek.

2. Bootstraps and Safety Nets: Some thoughts on generational poverty in America (posted January 27) "A broken down car means you can't get to work, and missing even one day of work means you can’t make rent that month. A sick child means you can get fired from a job that keeps you at "part time" status because they don't want to pay you for sick days and holidays."

3. Teens as Young as 13 Rescued From Super Bowl Sex Trafficking

4. A Peaceful Death: Aborting my son was not about when life begins, but how to end it humanely. (posted February 5) "The more surprising and hurtful responses, however, have been from people like my staunchly pro-choice friend who told me that she was jarred by my use of the word son to describe our fetus, as though the moral basis for abortion depends on denying the fetus any semblance of humanity, no matter how close it is to the point of viability, no matter how the woman herself chooses to define her relationship to the fetus." 

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