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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Adventures in Water Pressure

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Once upon a time, the water in my apartment suddenly stopped.

Okay so actually, this had happened before, so I had an idea about what to do. The previous time, it stopped because the water bill was due, and instead of sending me a bill, the water company decided a more effective way to get the message across would be to shut off my water.

Because, China.

The previous time, I was horribly confused, and lived without water for maybe 2 days, while asking everyone- friends, my students, security guards- what to do, and most of them asked me if I'd paid the bill, and no one seemed particularly surprised/outraged at the idea of my water being shut off without anyone actually sending me a bill.

Oh China.

So anyway. Last week, when my water was mysteriously shut off, I figured it was the same thing, and I should go down to the water company and pay right away- get it fixed as soon as possible.

So I got to the water company, and told them my apartment had no water. They just treated it like business as usual, asked for my address and told me the amount I owed. It was less than 10 US dollars, by the way.

Problem solved. I went off to work, and my boyfriend texted me from my apartment and said the water was back. Yay!

Except not yay.

That night, my boyfriend (who was visiting me for a few days) told me he'd tried to take a shower, and the water pressure was too low to turn on the hot water heater.

Back up, let me explain about the hot water heater.

So when you turn on the faucet, and turn the joystick over to the hot side, after a few seconds you hear some noise like a big fan, coming from a large box on the wall, and then after a few more seconds you get the hot water. I don't get it- I've never seen this design in America- but the point is, you can hear the hot water heater turn on and off, and it's caused by pointing the faucet joystick to the hot side, plus a decent water pressure.

And my boyfriend found that in the shower, the water pressure wasn't high enough. So no hot water.

He had then called the water company and told them, and they closed and opened the valve while he was still on the phone, and it seemed to be fixed.

Sort of.

Later, when I was about to shower, he told me he had some advice to get the shower to work. See, the water pressure is high enough when the faucet part of the shower is on, but when you switch to the showerhead, you better not have the showerhead mounted up on the wall because by the time the water gets up there, the pressure's not high enough to keep the hot water going. (A photo of my shower is here, for reference.) So you have to hold the showerhead with your hand, don't lift it up too high, and hope that the hot water stays on.

So... Yeah. That was an adventure. But I showered successfully.

The next day I called the water company and told them what the problem was. The woman on the phone asked me my address, and then she was saying something about how they were going to check it or something, I didn't catch all of it (she's speaking Chinese, obviously) but I kept saying "okay, okay" and then she was like "okay bye" and hung up and I was like WAIT WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

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Anyway, there are several more (shockingly similar) phone calls involved in this story, but in the end it got fixed. Yep. Always an adventure.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The First Thing About Hell

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Turns out, I missed the first thing about hell.

I've always believed in hell, a place of eternal infinite suffering, the destiny of everyone who does not claim Jesus as Lord, because "that's what Christians believe." But I somehow didn't believe the first thing that one must believe about hell.

I've always been on the "no, God CAN still be loving and send people to hell" side of the argument. Because I learned the correct apologetics arguments that a Christian needed to have, and I argued those. I knew how to answer any question about the compatibility between God's character and the existence of hell, but I had never asked that question myself.

And I never believed the first thing I must believe, if I'm going to be saying that people will go to hell.

And what is "the first thing about hell"? That I should go there.

See, I always thought like this: "Hell is really painful and terrible and infinitely bad and horrible and- BUT IT'S OKAY! JESUS! NO WORRIES! Yay I'm not going to hell! Jesus is great! Heaven!" I never ever considered the possibility that I might go there.

But isn't that what I believed? That no one can earn God's love, everyone is a sinner and deserves to go to hell, but thank you Jesus for providing a way for us to be saved.

But really, I should be going to hell.

I never really thought about what that meant. Me, me personally, going to that place with fire and torture and being stuck there forever. No hope. Just pain and loneliness. I never ever imagined it happening to me.

I never thought about that. I never paused to truly understand what I claimed to believe about hell. I just skipped to the "YAY JESUS" part.

And then I told friends about this gospel, not realizing that since the "YAY JESUS" part didn't apply to them, I was basically telling them they should and would go to hell. And I had never even thought about what that meant.

If you really believe everyone deserves to go to hell but Jesus got you out of it, think about what that means before you start "warning" everybody.

And me? Yeah, I don't believe in hell anymore.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Blogaround

Yep. Image source.

1. Sir Nicholas Winton: 105th birthday party for man who saved 669 children from the Nazis (posted May 20)

2. Chick Training. Training a baby chicken to distinguish between colors. Cool.

3. This dog:

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4. Five Two Zero So Much (posted May 23) "It presupposes (for some reason that is mysterious to me) that numbers MUST sound like SOMETHING else!" Oh China.

5. These Dogs Are Being Trained to WAIT, but What Happens After They Hear “OK” is Absolutely Hilarious!!! I lolled!

6. Gay Christians Go to Your Church. How Should the Church Engage Them? (posted May 14) "We need to learn to give gay Christians space, too — to live consistently with their conscience — even if we disagree with their decisions."

7. Updated marriage maps (posted May 21)

8. Wearing a Crucifix (posted May 21) "I believe God is found among the victims of the world. God is hanging on crosses all over the world."

9. Honoring liars & silencing gays: The NRB epitomizes the toxic pathology of white evangelical tribalism (posted May 21) "Matthew Vines’ book about the Bible has been officially classified as 'unbiblical material.'"

Friday, May 23, 2014

Legalism is Easier

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"Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

This week we're reading Matthew 16:5-12, about the "yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

Which turned out to be the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The disciples were confused about it, and then Jesus gave them some examples about how much bread they had coming out of their ears in the previous chapters, and they figured it out.

I'm not sure if we're supposed to make fun of the disciples for being so easily befuddled. Please discuss in the comment section.

Anyway, there are 2 things I want to talk about from this passage: legalism and being "led astray."

Legalism

I believe this was what Jesus was warning the disciples about. He generally gave the Pharisees and other religious leaders a hard time for how they keep little rules while not actually doing anything good in the world. That's legalism, yes?

Some examples:

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother' and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.' But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is 'devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition."

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel." 

"The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’"

But I know why people are drawn to legalism. It's easier.

All you need to do is analyze and make rules and check them off a list. Okay, don't swear. Check. Okay, read the bible every morning. Check. Don't wear a shirt that shows a bit of your bra strap. Check.

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And then judge other people who don't follow the "rules." I mean, clearly you're so much better and more devoted to God than them, right?

It makes God and our relationship with God something that we can control and manage. It makes it all about us- if we can complete certain duties and avoid certain sins, we're good.

We're not supposed to follow legalism. We're supposed to be like Jesus. We're supposed to love. We're supposed to live as citizens of God's kingdom.

How? Well that's way harder to quantify. You can't just make a list and check stuff off. It's not about what you do, it's about the kind of person you are. And perhaps we need God to help us change and become that kind of person.

The kind of person who lives like the resurrection is real and ongoing in the world. The kind of person who deeply believes that God loves every person in this world.

And man, you guys, every week (or, you know, whenever) when I write these posts about Matthew, it's so convicting. Somehow every time, it seems like I come to the conclusion "love your neighbor."

And like, do I do that? I mostly just take care of myself and my cat. I could give some excuses for why I don't have the time/energy to spread the love (I'm in my first real job and I'm busy, I'm living by myself in a foreign country, etc) but remember last week, about the people asking for a "sign" just to put off doing what they already knew they should do... yeah.

So... I decided every day for a week, I'll pray for my coworkers, and also I've thought of a couple friends I should contact to see how they're doing, because you know, I care about them. BUT WAIT. I don't want to make this into more rules.

Where's the balance between legalism and "here are some good things we should probably do because good reasons"? For me, possibly because I have Asperger's, I tend to latch on to the rules and emphasize them WAY too much.

So where's the balance? Discuss in the comment section. ^_^

So, this picture pretty much captures exactly what's wrong with the whole "watch out or you'll be led astray" thing. Image source.

On being "led astray"

When I read Jesus' words to "be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees" of course it reminds me of all the warnings I've heard about being "led astray."

Apparently, our minds are weak and sinful and if we listen to "false teaching" too much, we will believe it and be "led astray" and TERRIBLE THINGS WILL HAPPEN.

You know, you start watching the wrong TV shows, hanging out with people who are a "bad influence," reading books... Next thing you know, you start thinking sin isn't so bad, you start believing all this false religion, doubting Jesus, etc.

So we shouldn't even find out what that other stuff is. We shouldn't listen- we'll be "led astray."

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Remember "The DaVinci Code"? How many of you read it? Okay, how many of you didn't read it, but you read another book, written in response, about how evil "The DaVinci Code" was?

Umm, yeah. Anybody think it's a little weird that I never actually read the book itself, I just read about how evil it was?

But of course. We can't read it- we'll be lead astray.

And why is it that everything I've ever read about evolution was about how evolution is SO not true? Well, it's so I won't be lead astray, you know. (And I'm thinking it's time for me to hear from the other side.)

Basically, this whole "being led astray" thing means we have to fear new ideas because we can't trust ourselves not to fall for them. Yeah. Who's read a blog post in the past week lamenting how some Christians are just following "what sounds good" instead of obeying the bible? Yeah. Totally led astray.

But I don't think that's what Jesus is saying here, when he says to "be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." I think he's saying don't believe everything you hear. He's not saying you have to run and hide and plug your ears lest you be sucked in to their evilness.

And you know what, "don't believe everything you hear" is a much better idea that completely avoiding certain things while completely trusting other things. (You know, your mind is too weak and sinful so just listen to the "Christian view" on whatever topic and you're good to go.)

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Anyway, that's all for this passage. If you have any opinions/questions to add, please leave a comment. ^_^

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This post is part of a series on the gospel of Matthew.

Previous post: In which Jesus mentions both science and the bible (Matthew 16:1-4)

Next post: The Most Important Question (Matthew 16:13-28)

Click here to go to the beginning of the series.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

To say paper in Chinese, you have to understand paper in China

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One day, I was walking around a mall with a friend, and I told him I had to use the bathroom. So we found a bathroom, and then he said to me, "Do you have paper?" and I said yes, don't worry, I'm fine.

Back up. You may be thinking, "umm what?" Let me explain.

So I was in China, and my friend is Chinese- but he talks to me in English. And here's what you have to know about China: There's probably no toilet paper in the public restrooms. (Probably no soap either, which scares me to death...) You have to bring your own toilet paper. Except, not really. People bring little packs of kleenex to use as toilet paper.

The confusing part is that, in Chinese, all of the following are referred to as 纸 (zhǐ): paper, toilet paper, napkins, kleenex, paper towels. So native Chinese speakers, when they speak English, refer to all of them as "paper." (Yes there are more specific names to differentiate between the types of 纸 (zhǐ), but Chinese people don't use them in regular everyday conversation.)

Oh, another thing: We don't really buy napkins and paper towels in China. Napkins, you can get one at a restaurant when you buy food. Yeah. One. Maybe they'll give you two, maybe. And there's no napkin dispenser where they're giving out free ones. And paper towels, well it's been months since I've seen a paper towel.

So instead, people just use kleenexes as napkins and paper towels. As an American, at first I thought that was REALLY WEIRD. Because napkins are VERY DIFFERENT from kleenexes, right? But now I've gotten used to it, so, whatever.

(Culture shock is a helluva drug, I guess.)

Recently I went to a restaurant with one of my students. We ordered the food up at the counter, then sat down. I was asking him a question about Chinese, and he was telling me how to say a word, and then he suddenly says, "Do you need paper?"

My brain is like, no I got it, I don't need to write it down. Or you know, I could just use my phone, type it in to see exactly how the characters look.

But I stopped myself and realized what he actually meant was, "Do you want a napkin?"

Or, from an American point of view, "Do you want a kleenex that you can use as a napkin?"

And he went up to the little kleenex box at the front counter and got us two kleenexes, which we later used as napkins.

Yeah.

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Basically, little things like this mean that in China, a whole separate dialect of English has been created. Where people refer to toilet paper as "paper" and everyone's fine with it- even the foreign teachers- because it's such a common mistake that it hardly even counts as a mistake anymore. Everyone who's spent a bit of time in China can understand what they mean.

As a teacher, I don't know if I should even try to correct it or not. The point of language is to communicate with other people, and if you're speaking English with someone who already knows the situation regarding toilet paper and napkins and kleenexes in China, then they'll understand if a Chinese person just refers to something as "paper." If you want to travel to America, where the average person has strong opinions about the difference between napkins and kleenexes, well you better learn the American way to say it.

And my job is to teach English- not necessarily to teach American English.

So I guess I'll let that one go, maybe because it's too hard to correct that error anyway, in a culture where toilet paper, napkins, and kleenex are all used interchangeably.

(But man, when someone comes up to me after class and says, "You left your clothes in the classroom"- an error whose cause is very similar to this one, and makes it sound like I'm walking around the school in my bra- I feel like I gotta correct that one. What they actually meant was, "You left your jacket in the classroom." But that's a whole other post.)

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Blogaround

1. More Oh Happy Day: In Which I Tell the Rest of the Marriage Story (posted May 12) "As each couple returns its marriage and receives a marriage certificate, the couple comes walking through all the rest of us, who are standing in a long line on either side of a long hallway, and everyone cheers and claps."

2. Photos Of This Husky Raised As A Cat Are Exactly What You Need Right Now (posted May 16) Adorable.

3. When Church Hurts (posted May 12) "When it is time to start, he has the choice to attend with us where the worship music that everyone else seems to enjoy is overwhelmingly loud and painful, the lighting is weird and makes his eyes hard to focus, and the pastor is talking into a microphone, which blurs the words into a series of loud or louder sounds that he can’t make out. It’s all just noise, painful and overstimulating."

4. It's Not About Conforming to the World (posted May 13) "I am concerned that we are placing yokes on other people that are not of Jesus Christ. I am concerned that we are slamming the door of the Kingdom in people’s faces and tying up heavy burdens and placing them on their backs. I am concerned we are straining gnats and swallowing camels."

Friday, May 16, 2014

In which Jesus mentions both science and the bible

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The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.

He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,' and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.

Matthew 16:1-4

Pharisees, signs from heaven, weather, Jonah, what's going on here? Let's start at the beginning:

They came to "test" Jesus.

They weren't interested in an actual answer. They just wanted to make trouble. Have you done that before? Picking a fight with someone just because you want to argue? Or asking a question in order to classify the person into "us vs them" based on their answer?

Yeah. I've done that. It's not nice.

"A sign from heaven"

So, here's the thing. Back when I was a good Christian who knew all the answers, I knew that when people ask for a sign or some evidence of God's existence or whatever, and that THEN they would believe, they're LYING.

Well maybe not lying, maybe they actually think the reason they don't believe in Jesus is lack of hard evidence, but nope. The real reason is deep down, they know it's true but they don't want to obey God.

Even if God gives them that sign, it will never be good enough for them.

Just like the Pharisees and Sadducees, who asked Jesus for a sign from heaven, but not because they wanted to believe.

Umm, right. SO IN REAL LIFE, maybe some people are like that, but man, I shouldn't assume everybody is. That bit about "everyone deep down knows Jesus is Lord- they just don't want to follow him", that's bullshit, okay?

In case you missed it: THAT'S BULLSHIT, OKAY?

Right.

It's totally normal and reasonable to doubt and ask for evidence before signing on.

Then Jesus talks about weather.

People know how to predict weather stuff based on the sky.

This involves science and logic and stuff. Keep that in mind for later.

"Signs of the times"

See here's the part where I start to get a bit lost. What "signs of the times" were they supposed to see? What were they supposed to conclude from them?

There was something about Jesus that should have been obvious but the Pharisees and Sadducees couldn't see. What was it?

Was it about how he was doing miracles to help people- to feed them and heal the sick- and therefore they should support his work instead of opposing him?

Was it about Jesus' teaching and his message of acceptance and love, and the way he spoke out against the religious rules that hurt people? (You know, even though those rules came from the bible.) Was he saying that, just as you USE YOUR BRAIN to figure out the weather patterns and how to predict them, you should USE YOUR BRAIN and see that even if those are the rules, they're doing more harm than good so let's ditch 'em?

Or was it supposed to be obvious that Jesus was the Messiah? I'm not sure- I really don't think the Old Testament is clear enough on the subject- so it's not reasonable to expect them to know it's him just because they know the bible. (In hindsight, you can say "oh this part here was a prophecy about Jesus" but I'm not so sure they would be able to get it the first time around. Kind of like how you have to watch "Ocean's 11" a few times before you get what happened.)

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I want to say it's something that's as simple as predicting the weather based on observations. Something you don't need a ton of knowledge for- you don't have to go into a ton of arguments.

What was it? Something that should have been obvious about Jesus, but they missed it. Ideas?

"The sign of Jonah"

Matthew 12:38-42 explains this a bit more. There are 2 aspects:
  1. Jonah was in the fish for 3 days before he got barfed up, and Jesus was dead for a day and a half and rose on the third day.
  2. The people of Nineveh repented when Jonah came, so they're going to judge y'all.
So perhaps Jesus is saying if they want a sign, they can have the resurrection, the sign to end all signs. That covers part 1.

But what about part 2? Jesus is saying repentance is the part that matters, not sitting around unconvinced because you haven't seen the right "sign." (Also the people of Nineveh were Gentiles, so, there's that.)

And I believe that's why Jesus said "a wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign." People want to pretend they're not sure yet, that they haven't seen the right sign, while there are OBVIOUS things right in front of us and we KNOW we should do something about it.

I'm not talking about knowing that Christianity is true, as I mentioned above. I'm talking about things that actually ARE obvious, like we need to love others.

Like how, for a while after I moved to China and started my job, I didn't give any money to charity. Because like, this is the first time I have a real job, I'm not sure yet how to spend my money, blah blah... That's true, but what's obvious is I can afford to give like 50 bucks or so every month, so I should do that. I'm sure I can afford more, but it's better to give a little than to be like "well I don't know how much I should give..." and not give anything.  

Things like that. Things that we know we should be doing, but we're putting them off because we claim to not have enough information yet. It's easier to just keep the status quo. It's easier to just do nothing.

They wanted a sign to see if they should listen to Jesus or not. But you don't need a "sign" to tell you whether you're supposed to love your neighbor.

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This post is part of a series on the gospel of Matthew.

Previous post: Jesus didn't want to break the rules? (Matthew 15:21-39)

Click here to go to the beginning of the series.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What's the big deal with Jesus coming back?

"After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."
1 Thessalonians 4:17

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I don't know if I was ever explicitly taught about what "the second coming" would be like, but I absorbed what Christian culture had to say about it.

Supposedly, Jesus was going to suddenly show up- and you wouldn't want him to catch you in the middle of a sin, so be good! (Or maybe you're afraid that he might come back just in time to ruin your honeymoon sex- darn!) (Wait, did you think that was a joke? A lot of Christian teenagers legitimately worry that God will end the world before they finally get the chance to have sex.)

Or maybe we assume that things will go down as they do in the Left Behind books: all the Christians will suddenly disappear in "the Rapture", and the UN will take over the world, with the Antichrist as the new world leader. Maybe you've heard little conspiracy theories spring up from time to time... A middle school is requiring its students to wear ID tags? CLEARLY THE MARK OF THE BEAST! THE END IS NEAR!

Oh yeah, and this is totally happening SOON. Like, in our lifetime. I mean seriously, look at all the violence in the Middle East. Signs of the times, people.

So all my life I've been reading the bible with these assumptions about how the world is supposedly going to end, in supposedly this manner. And I read things like "You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him" and I never bought it.

Like, why does it matter that Jesus is coming back?

I mean really, I don't care, and I never saw any reason we SHOULD care.

First of all, the bible was written back in the first century, and it said it would happen "soon." (I have some questions about whether this is actually referring to the end of the world.) If we read that now and go "oh my, it could be any minute now!" then what about the people who read it 1000 years ago? What about the original audience, 1900 years ago? If they read "soon" and thought the world would end "any minute now" and we're still kicking around today, then they were wrong. And so was every Christian throughout all of history who's been anticipating the end of the world. If it didn't happen in their lifetimes, then why would I think it would happen in mine?

I mean seriously. Everyone who's ever said "Jesus might come back before I finish this sentence" has finished that sentence. I don't buy it.

And also, even if I did care about being "ready" for Jesus' "second coming," what would I have to do? Like what do "be ready" and "keep watch" mean? No one's ever given me a good answer on this- just statements along the lines of "be good, don't mistreat other people, you wouldn't want Jesus to come back and find you doing that." Umm... aren't there a thousand OTHER reasons not to be mean to people? I'm pretty sure I shouldn't be doing that anyway. Actually, didn't Jesus generally promote loving each other, completely separate from when he talked about (what we assume, based on stories from Christian culture, to be) the end of the world?

Nope, I never bought that. I never saw any reason I should care about Jesus' supposed "soon" return. Because I'm sure it won't happen in my lifetime, and seriously, what would I do differently anyway? Haha, I remember reading Matthew 24 at church and being pretty open about the fact that I seriously don't care and I completely disagree with Jesus about the whole "be ready" thing.

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Yep. Whatever.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Psalm 101 and How I Changed My Mind About Abortion

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Psalm 101 kind of scares me, you guys.

"I hate what faithless people do;
    I will have no part in it.
The perverse of heart shall be far from me;
    I will have nothing to do with what is evil."

"Every morning I will put to silence
    all the wicked in the land;
I will cut off every evildoer
    from the city of the Lord."

Ohhhhhhhhhh dear.

So the psalmist is totally totally going to have NOTHING to do with those he labels as "faithless" and "perverse", but he's also going to "silence" and "cut [them] off."

That's pretty much exactly how you hurt people because you don't understand them. That outlook leads to judging those who are different from you, and fighting against them, making no attempt to see their humanity and understand their point of view.

You already know they're "wicked" and must be stopped. There's no point in listening.

Psalm 101 is basically the conflict in "Pocahontas." Image source.

So. About abortion.

Well my whole life, I always believed that abortion was very very evil and we need to fight it and make it illegal and do everything we can to stop people from getting abortions, and SAVE THE BABIES.

Because, you know, that's what Christians believe.

I never ever heard anything from the pro-choice point of view. All I could think was "why would anyone ever think it was okay to kill their baby?"

Until one day in college, when I was hanging out with some friends, and one of them mentioned how totally unreasonable it was that there was a new law banning abortion after 6 weeks or 8 weeks or whatever it was. Because, you probably won't even realize you're pregnant til like 4 weeks in, and then you won't even have time to schedule an appointment to have an abortion.

And, wow.

I had never thought of it that way before- in terms of how somebody I know could actually BE in that situation, and how in the world she would navigate the logistics of it.

Before, it was just evil faceless women/monsters out there, who for some unknowable and OBVIOUSLY VERY WRONG reason wanted to KILL THEIR BABY, and we have to do everything we can to stop them. And if we can't overturn Roe vs Wade, well let's make a ton of other laws so it's logistically impossible to get an abortion anyway.

I'd never heard the other side.

And to make a long story short, since then I've read a lot more about it, a lot of stories about the reasons people get abortions and how the laws passed by people like me who just want to "silence all the wicked of the land" end up being a bunch of bureaucracy that gets in the way of REAL PEOPLE'S health.

And now, I think abortion is a hard moral question. In some cases, there is clear right and wrong, but sometimes maybe not. And you know what- I think the person who best understands the situation and what is right and what is wrong is the person who is pregnant.

I'm pro-choice.

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This post is part of a link-up on the topic of Psalm 101. To read other people's posts, click here: Commitment: Thoughts on Psalm 101.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Blogaround

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1. VIDEO: You’ve never heard me make this argument about same-sex marriage. (posted April 24) My favorite part was the point that this is about how he actually lives his life. The church needs to do more than say "homosexuality" is right or wrong. If a church doesn't allow gay marriage, will it support its members who live celibate their whole lives?

2. Saturday Mornings With Abortion Protestors: On Being a Clinic Escort (posted March 3) "...if I die, and discover that the creator of the universe believes that the proper way to worship him is to chase a woman across the street and down the sidewalk waving a pamphlet full of false science at her and calling her a murderer two inches from her face, I will be glad I opted out of such a corrupt system during life. I’ll dance all the way to hell."

3. The Secret Messages Inside Chinese URLs (posted May 1) "Buy and sell used cars at 92.com. Want to purchase train tickets? It’s as easy as 12306.cn."

4. How Humans And Squid Evolved Separately For Millions Of Years But Ended Up With The Same Eyes (posted May 7)

5. What If It Was My Daughter? #bringbackourgirls (posted May 6) "The easy answer is Nigeria is out of sight and out of mind. The harder answer is we tend (whether intentionally or not) to care less about people who don’t look and sound like we do."

6. What Would Characters From The Bible Really Look Like? Here's One Photographer's Idea (posted May 7) And they're not white.

7. 'Do You Wanna Go To Starbucks' Is The 'Frozen' Parody That Perfectly Sums Up Finals Week (posted May 7)

8. Other People’s Magical Experiences (posted May 8) "When I was a lot younger, I imagined I did talk to God, but I have a vivid imagination. I can talk to Gandalf right now. Once I realized what I was doing, that I was just talking to myself, I started simply talking to myself instead."

9. Safe :: Saturday Stories (posted May 3) "I vowed to myself in that moment that I would never talk about my sexual orientation to anyone. I made crazy promises to myself. 'You will check into a mental hospital before you ever tell anyone. You will move to a foreign country before you admit to someone that you are gay.' Even this one, which I hesitated to write here: 'You will take your own life before you ever come out of the closet.'"

10. What I Wish Women Knew About Men (posted April 30) "Although men dress ourselves based on comfort, taste, and social appropriateness, it’s selfish of you to do the same. It’s almost as if you forget that what matters most is what men think of how you look."

Image source.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

What is Worship?

What is worship? The way I hear most people use it, it's synonymous with church-related music. But I remember all those Sunday school lessons that said "worship is not just music." Let's look at some of these different definitions and then analyze the bible's definition of "worship".

Dictionary.com definition:
  1. Reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred.
  2. Formal or ceremonious rendering of such honor and homage.
  3. Adoring reverence or regard.
  4. The object of adoring reverence or regard.
  5. (British) A title of honor used in addressing or mentioning certain magistrates and others of high rank or station.

"Look, Your Worshipfulness..." Image source.

Definition implied by the way it is used in mainstream American Christian culture:
  1. Music that says good things about God.
  2. Participating in such music (singing, playing guitar, dancing).
My definition:
  1. Always living in a way that is consistent with the fact that I belong to God.
  2. Things I do that please God.
  3. Love and obedience to God.
Notice how my definition is drastically different from the “mainstream American Christian culture” definition. That was driving me crazy, so I decided to find out what the bible says worship is.

(Yeah and it turned out to be closest to the dictionary.com definition. How about that.)

Well here’s what I got.

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The word “worship” and its variations (worshiped, worshiper, worshipers, worshiping, worships) appear 256 times in the bible: 176 in the Old Testament and 80 in the New Testament. (I’m using the NIV bible here.)

For the ones in the Old Testament: the Hebrew word “hawa” is 75 of the occurrences. I looked up all of them and determined this means:
  1. If at the temple or some “house of God”: making a sacrifice, attending a ceremony to show devotion to God. (1 Samuel 1:3 “Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh”, Psalm 86:9 “All the nations you have made will come and worship before you”.)
  2. Elsewhere, in the middle of doing something else: stopping to honor God, always includes something like bowing down (Exodus 34:8 “Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped”, 2 Chronicles 29:30 “So they sang praises with gladness and bowed their heads and worshiped”) or other physical action (Exodus 33:10 “they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to his tent”), sometimes includes something they say to praise God (1 Kings 1:47-48 “And the king bowed in worship on his bed and said, ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has allowed my eyes to see a successor on my throne today’”).
  3. In a few rare cases: worshiping other gods. Participating in their religious stuff rather than the Lord’s, giving other gods a place in your life, often “worshiping and serving”, sometimes with “forsaken the Lord.” (Jeremiah 16:11 “’It is because your fathers forsook me,’ declares the Lord, ‘and followed other gods and served and worshiped them.’”). 
I sum up definitions 1 and 2 as “an act to show devotion to God explicitly/ by name,” by which I mean, you’re doing something that everybody watching recognizes as a God-related action. Like bowing down or attending religious ceremonies.

Another Hebrew word, “abad”, is 54 of the occurrences. Here is how I’ve summed this word up:
  1. Any allegiance to a religion.
    1. 32 instances are about worshiping other gods, often with “bow down/ worship/ follow other gods,” sometimes with “turn away”.
    2. 15 cases in Exodus along the lines of “let my people go so they may worship me.”
  2. In a few rare cases: by offering sacrifices/vows/songs (songs are only mentioned once, Psalm 100:2) to God.
To sum up this word (ignoring definition 2): This one is kind of a binary thing. You worship God. You worship idols. No details of what that looks like (besides “turn away/ bow down/ serve other gods”)- it’s like what religion do you claim to be part of (check all that apply).

So it’s like “hawa” is the specific actions of worship, and “abad” is the long-term lifestyle of allegiance to a religion/god.

These 2 Hebrew words are 129 of the 176 (73%) instances in the Old Testament. I didn’t look up the rest.

In the New Testament: 51 of the 80 (64%) instances are Greek word “proskyneo”.
  1. The times when people worship Jesus: often totally not explained what exactly they are doing, but comes right after a miracle, possibly with a confession of faith. (Matthew 14:33 After Jesus walks on water, "those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God.'")
  2. Used 9 times in John 4 when Jesus says “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”
    1. I’m guessing this is important, because it’s JESUS’ teaching on worship.
    2. Does “spirit” mean emotion?
    3. Does “truth” mean your worship is based in facts?
  3. 5 times in Revelation have a very dramatic “fall down and worship” God.
  4. 10 times in Revelation are about worshiping the beast.
  5. A few cases of bow down, honor, give gifts (Magi in Matthew 2:11), attend religious service (the Ethiopian in Acts 8:27).
(I didn’t look up any other Greek words.)

The uses of the word “worship” in the New Testament are way harder to pin down. When the bible says that people "worshiped" Jesus, well, what were they doing? What does it mean? I guess you can just use the definitions I came up with for the Old Testament ones, “an outward action that explicitly shows your allegiance to God, such as bowing down, attending religious services, or a lifestyle of following a religion”, but it seems like in the New Testament there is less explained about how the “worship” is outwardly shown, so maybe the definition has expanded to be a more inward thing, an attitude of devotion/faith/reverence for Jesus, not necessarily explicitly shown outwardly though.

Also the Old and New Testaments were not in the same language, so that has something to do with it.

To summarize: "worship" in the Old Testament means doing some religious acts or being a member of a particular religion, while in the New Testament it seems more like a feeling of awe toward God. And it's fine if language changes and we use it differently in American Christian culture now- but let's not let that skew our interpretation of the bible.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Best Chinese Worship Songs

This week I read Psalm 100, another psalm about praising God. So I thought I'd put together a list of my favorite Mandarin Chinese worship songs. Enjoy!

宝贵十架 (The Precious Cross)


宝贵十架的大能赐我生命
The power of the precious cross has given me life
主耶稣,我伏俯敬拜你
Lord Jesus, I bow down and worship you
宝贵十架的救恩是你所立的约
The salvation of the precious cross is what you promised
你的爱永远不会改变
Your love will never change

和散那 (Hosanna)


和散那,和散那
Hosanna, hosanna
和散那归至高神
Hosanna to the Most High God
和散那,和散那
Hosanna, hosanna
和散那归至高神
Hosanna to the Most High God

(original English lyrics here)

奇异恩典 (Amazing Grace)



(original English lyrics here)

Revelation



哈利路亚,荣耀归给他
Hallelujah, give him glory
耶稣基督,神的羔羊
Jesus Christ, Lamb of God
哈利路亚,荣耀归给他
Hallelujah, give him glory
神羔羊,万王之王 
Lamb of God, King of Kings

如鹰展翅上腾 (Soar on wings like eagles)



神已听见我的呼求
God has heard my cries
他也明白我的渴望
And he understands my desires

神羔羊配得 (Worthy is the Lamb)



神羔羊配得
The Lamb of God is worthy
坐在宝座上
Sitting on the throne
头戴着尊贵冠冕
Wearing a noble crown
你做王到永远
You are king forever
来尊崇赞美
Come, exalt and praise
耶稣神儿子
Jesus, the Son of God
从天降下被钉十架
Came down from heaven and was crucified
神羔羊配得
The Lamb of God is worthy

(original English lyrics here)


这一生最美的祝福 (The greatest blessing in this life)


这一生最美的祝福
The greatest blessing in this life
就是能认识主耶稣
Is to know the Lord Jesus
这一生最美的祝福
The greatest blessing in this life
就是能信靠主耶稣
Is to trust in the Lord Jesus

Happy Day


Oh, happy day! Happy day!
你洗净我的罪
You washed my sin clean
Oh, happy day! Happy day!
生命完全改变
My life is completely changed
永远不再一样
Never the same again

(original English lyrics here)

Readers: Do you have any favorite non-English worship songs?

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This post is part of a link-up on the topic of Psalm 100. To read other people's posts, click here: What I have learned in 100 Psalms.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Blogaround

1. Report: China to Be ‘World’s Most Christian Nation’ in the Next 15 Years (posted April 21) “A recent study found that online searches for the words ‘Christian Congregation’ and ‘Jesus’ far outnumbered those for ‘The Communist Party’ and ‘Xi Jinping’, China's president.”

2. 'You don't get to pick and choose' (posted April 23) "I simply do not agree with those who say that love is not the fulfillment of the law."

3. Grace and Sex (posted April 24) "We don’t need a new law to pretend to be the Holy Ghost in our lives. We need the Holy Ghost to straight up do the work of holiness in us by grace."

4. Animals Sitting on Capybaras. A delightful little tumblr.

5. seeing old stories in a new light (posted April 17) "What the. It took me a little while to wrap my head around it, but it was the passage that was the push I needed to start looking into Inclusivism."

6. On White House press releases and being a Magnificat Christian (posted April 28) "Are you more of a John 3:16 Christian, or a Matthew 25 Christian?"

7. How Not to Debate an Atheist (posted May 1) "If morality comes from God, then people without God can't be moral, right? Wrong. This isn't only offensive, it's provably false."

8. Programming Sucks (posted April 27) "You discover that one day, some idiot decided that since another idiot decided that 1/0 should equal infinity, they could just use that as a shorthand for 'Infinity' when simplifying their code."

9. Woman A Leading Authority On What Shouldn’t Be In Poor People’s Grocery Carts (posted May 1) "Indeed, sources confirmed that she is also nothing short of a savant on such matters as whether young children should be given electronic gizmos to play with instead of a book, what homeless individuals are doing with the spare change you give them, and what on earth would motivate someone to go out in public like that."

10. She’s Saving Handholding for Marriage—and He’s Looking for a Modern-Day Esther. It’s a Match Made in, Well, You Know. "When you keep it in your pocket and you're on a date, it'll send an alert every time your phone goes from portrait to landscape."

11. Nigeria's Stolen Girls (posted April 30) "Boko Haram, an Islamist terrorist group, kidnapped Sanya and at least two hundred of her classmates from a girls’ secondary school in Chibok more than two weeks ago. Sanya, along with two friends, escaped. So did forty others. The rest have vanished, and their families have not heard any word of them since."

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