Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Island of Dr. Moreau - Review

Sarah and I just finished reading The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells.  Amazingly, it was first published in 1896.  It is an extremely interesting and kind of dark science fiction novel.
Spoiler alert:  I can't really say much about the book without giving away its main twist.
The main character, Prendick, becomes lost at sea.  He is picked up by a boat going to an out of the way island run by Dr. Moreau.  He quickly sees that Moreau's assistants are strange and awkward in their movements.  Eventually, he discovers that they are half-human, half-beasts. 
In Moreau's secret lab on this deserted island, he is reshaping animals into human forms.  In the process, he is also able to reprogram their brains to develop some higher form thinking - such as speaking and some reasoning. 
However, the major problem is that the Beast Folk's beastly flesh is more powerful than Moreau's reformatting.  Left to their own, they continually revert to their beastliness.  Moreau combats this by installing The Law - a set of commands to keep the Beast Folk on the human path (no eating meat, no walking on all fours, etc.).  Without giving the whole story away, the end result is that the beastly flesh wins out in the end.
One one level, this is a simple science fiction novel.  Even on this level, it is worth a read.  Its teasing unfolding of the plot is captivating.
On another level, it is a critique of religion and religious morality.  The idea is that we are beastly people and that religion's manifold rules are simply intended to keep our beastliness in check. 
However, I'm not sure Wells is trying to say that we should let our animal nature run wild.  Prendick is appalled by the Beast Folk, and the Beast Folk society finally self-destructs.  Perhaps this is the future Wells sees for humanity.  Or perhaps, Wells is trying to direct our attention beyond the priests and religious representations of God to the great unseen God himself.
Either way, this is a good read, and I recommend it.  I'm starting to believe that anything that people are still reading after 100 years is probably pretty good.  This book holds true to the rule.   The Josh rating: JJJJ.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Culture Shock Therapy

 These days, we are talking about what it means to be the church.  So far, we’ve talked about hospitality, family, living the mission, and conflict.  Today, we’re picking up an issue that is really important for our local church: Culture Shock.
    I want to start with a simple example.  Words are like bags or containers for meaning.  The words themselves are packages in which we store meaning, and different cultures pack words with different meanings.  Sometimes, we’re surprised at the meanings other cultures pack into their words.
    Here’s one example of how this might work.  Jereme and Adam both went shopping.  They both brought home a bag that says E-Mart. 
  • They both bought noodles.  (Jereme shows Korean “glass” noodles.  Adam shows spaghetti.)  They might look a little different, but they’re pretty close.
  • They both bought red sauce.  (Adam shows tomato sauce.  Jereme shows red pepper paste.)  Those are going to taste VERY different.
  • They both bought something fermented.  (Jereme shows kimchi.  Adam shows sour cream.)  At this point, both people might be saying, “You’re going to eat that?!  Sour cabbage?  Rotten milk?”  And both people are saying, “Oh yeah, that’s good stuff.”
  • They both bought fruit.  (Adam shows an apple.  Jereme shows a 참외.)  Sometimes, when you start unpacking cultural differences, you run into a total difference.  One person says, “What is that?  We don’t even have a name for that.”  Actually, the only translation I could find for 참외 is “oriental melon.”  Basically, the dictionary people were like, “Um ... it’s kind of like melons you have in other countries, but not really.”

This is how words and cultures work.  ...

To continue reading this post, click here.


Story of Change - Mark Groleau

Sometimes, a little time and a few good conversations make a big difference in someone's life.  Here is the story of my friend Mark, who found his way back to Christ while in Korea, and just graduated from seminary.

It was the spring of 2006. I was living in Korea, teaching English as a Second Language. Recently, I had registered for a Teachers’ Diploma Program at a university in Brisbane, Australia; it was slated to begin in the fall of the same year. My wife, Naomi, had applied to the same school for an MBA program. Our five-year plan was set. She would go into business, and I would fulfill my dreams of becoming a high school teacher at a public school in Canada. But our plan was about to change.
I grew up in a suburb of Ottawa, my family’s house backing onto a pasture where horses grazed and strawberries grew wild in summer. Even on the hottest of days, I couldn’t wear shorts; even when my sister rode her bike with me on the dirt track near our house or we went swimming, she wasn’t allowed to wear pants. These were just two of the “standards” on which salvation depended. They were not rules set by my parents, but by our pastor. They were the rules I grew up with, because one Sunday morning just before my third birthday, my father had taken me along to check out a tiny new church that had started up near our house. His decision to become a member would shape the rest of my life.
By the age of twenty, I had graduated from the one-room-schoolhouse-style church school that each child of the church was mandated to attend, and I was an undergrad student in the University of Ottawa’s English Literature program. Weekdays were spent reading Chaucer, Shakespeare, and literary criticism in the library; weekends were spent preaching and leading music in the sanctuary. As my time between school and church became increasingly divided, so did my mind. I began to question the legalism and the doctrine that had become my way of life; when I asked the pastor and other leaders for answers that might justify some of the more dogmatic claims, I found that there were none. One fateful Sunday morning, much like the one that  had  determined the trajectory of my life eighteen years earlier, I met my father at the door in my pajamas. I told my family I would no longer be attending church.
Four years later would find me graduated from university, teaching in Korea, and attacking Christianity on every level I could conjure up. But there was a Canadian girl. And an American pastor. Both Christians who would not let me go ...

To keep reading Mark's story, click here.

You can check out some of his sermons at:  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Interview with Hermann and Nathan

Our church recently hosted two leaders from South Asia - Hermann Gschwandtner and Rev. Nathan.  (For safety reasons, we don't post his full name on the net.)  On May 16, we went up to Seoul to meet the Nazarene leaders for the Korean district and to discuss how Koreans can partner with the church in South Asia.  Between some of the meetings, Korea Nazarene Broadcasting interviewed Nathan and Hermann.  You can watch the interview here.  (I'm the fly on the wall who never says anything!) 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Korea Tip 109: Local Blogs, Sites, and Facebook Groups

(Yu KwanSoon - Korean Patriot from Cheonan)
You might be surprised what kind of information is out there on the net.  Usually, there is somebody somewhere writing about almost everything.  Even in Korea.  Even in English in Korea.  Here are a few of my favorite local sources of info for Cheonan.
  • Cheonan World - The management blog/portal is passed down like a local inheritance among the semi-long term foreigners of Cheonan.  It is a good way to find out the local scoop on entertainment, pool night, group meet-ups, regular events - like open mic night, and a brief overview of helpful info for expats living in Cheonan.  It has a few extremely helpful tools like a bus map and an English annotated KimBap Nara menu.
  • Cheonan - Wikipedia - This site seems to be growing every week, always adding new little bits of history and local info.  This is a must read for people who want to get a quick overview of the city.
  • Facebook Groups - I am a member of 12 different facebook groups that relate to Cheonan or life in Korea.  One of the most active groups is run by my friend Jackie.  Eating Out in Cheonan invites people to meet up for a meal at a different restaurant every week or so.  It's a great way to see new places and meet new people. 
  • Jackie's Squidoo - Jackie also posts a huge variety of articles about life in Korea, restaurants, ESL teaching, and whatever other random stuff she happens to be interested in at the moment.  If we want info on a new restaurant in Cheonan, we go to Jackie first.
If anybody out there has other local recommendations, please pass them on.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Korea Tip 108: KOREA Magazine

One of my favorite ways to learn about Korean culture is KOREA Magazine.  It is a free, monthly, English-language magazine produced by the Korean government. 
Each month's issue contains some standard components:
  • The cover theme -sometimes pop culture, sometimes historical, sometimes economic.
  • Pop culture updates.
  • Sports features.
  • Stories on Korean businesses and upcoming industries.
  • Updates on governmental issues and international politics.
  • Profile of a famous Korean author and/or artist - with samples of their work.
  • One article by a foreigner living in Korea.
KOREA magazine blends information giving with a bit of national propaganda.  ("Look how great we are.")  But it's still one of the best ways I've found to learn about many aspects of Korean culture, history, literature, and economics.  My copy always goes on the back of our toilet until I've read it cover to cover.  (I know TMI.)
You can download the pdf from the website or subscribe for free delivery of a hard copy.  To subscribe, just go to  Look in the bottom left for the subscribe button.  The whole site is English friendly  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pride of the Yankees - Review

I owe this one to my friend, Bruce.  Pride of the Yankees, considered one of the best sports movies in history, tells the poignant story of Lou Gehrig. 
Gehrig was an all around athlete, but he was also a socially awkward Momma's boy.  His mom strongly pushed him to pursue a career in engineering.  Despite his outstanding success in sports, especially baseball, Gehrig reluctantly agrees to fulfill his mother's dreams instead of his own. 
However, when his mom becomes ill and the family can't pay the hospital bills, Gehrig signs on with the Yankees.  His mom resists Gehrig's initial success, saying she wishes she had died instead of Gehrig wasting his life in baseball.  However, after he becomes one of the best baseball players of all time, even his mom comes around and acknowledges the value of Gehrig pursuing his dreams and doing what he does best.
Gehrig led the Yankees to several World Series, won a host of batting crowns, and set many records that stood for decades.  His most famous achievement was playing in 2,130 consecutive games - despite illness or injury.  That record was only broken in 1995. 
Gehrig's sudden decline is a poignant picture of how disease can take down our strongest lions.  In the height of his career, Gehrig, suddenly and unexplainably slumped.  He lost his power, his speed, and his coordination.  Finally, when he realized he could no longer help his team, he sat down.  The doctors confirmed that he had a life-ending neural disease.  His nerves were basically shutting down - slowly decreasing his control over his exceptional body.
Through it all Gehrig operated with a quiet humility and confidence, which warms my heart and inspires me to follow.  He didn't make much of his success, and he didn't make much of his decline.  He just did his job, used his outstanding gifts, and sat down when it was over.  Also noteworthy is his beautiful relationship with Eleanor, his wifely anchor and friend.
This is a simple, but profound movie.  The Josh rating: JJJJ.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Family of God

Part 1:

    Today we are celebrating several holidays: Children’s Day, Parents’ Day, Teachers’ Day, and Family Day - and while you’re at it, you can throw in Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day.  We had some debate about how we should deal with these secular holidays in our Christian worship service.  However, as we began to think about our series on the Church, we remembered the Christian teaching that God is our Father and that we are God’s family together. 
    Listen to how Paul explains this in Ephesians 2.

 19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners.  You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people.  You are members of God’s family.  20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets.  And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.  21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.  22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.

    We are one family, one house.  God has carefully joined us together in Christ, so that together we are a temple for God’s Spirit.  When we are together and committed to Jesus, something amazing and mysterious happens.  Somehow, our togetherness and our foundation in Jesus makes God’s Spirit real among us. 
    One of the beautiful things of God’s family is that we are all in God’s family - whether we are single, married, divorced, or widowed.  No one is excluded.  If you have put your faith in Christ, God has given you a new family.  We are all related to each other - like it or not! ...

To continue reading this post, click here.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Korea Tip 107: Kakao Talk

If you have a smart phone, you can use one of the coolest new programs out there: Kakao Talk.  This is a Korean program, but it is available in English and Japanese.  Kakao now has some 10,000,000 users in 216 countries - so basically everywhere. 
I'm not a techie, but this is a cool app.  Here's what I like.
1. You can create a group chat, where everyone is chatting in the same window and can see everyone's comments.  I use this with the pastoral staff to set meetings and to solve issues that involve multiple people.
2. It recommends friends to you.  You don't have to go hunting and requesting friends.  As soon as someone in your phone contact list becomes a Kakao user, the system invites you to add them as your Kakao friend.  This is hugely convenient.
3. It's free - almost.  You have to pay for data transmission if you're not in a wifi zone.
4. There's no character limit.  Your messages can be as long as you want.
5. Virtually every smart phone user in Korea is on it.  That greatly reduces texting fees.

You can also share photos, videos, files, and links, but I don't really do all that stuff.  Like I said, I'm not a techie.  I use it for simple communication - kind of a hand-held modification of email, texting, and chatrooms.  You can download it for free at the istore or android market.